reviews

I broke my camera

I haven't really but it has happened. 

So, what if you did, what do you do? Firstly obviously have a little cry and say "why does this always happen to you" once you've gotten over that rubbish you have a few options. First, take it to your local camera store. They normally will be working with a camera repair company that will charge a set rate and they will fix your camera for you after a few weeks. In theory, you can pay twice by doing it this way once to the camera shop and once to the repairers, so the price could add up. You could always go straight to the manufacturer, that's what I did. 

 With any product, you get a warranty. Sadly if the problem is accidental the warranty doesn't normally cover it,  some times they do might as well ask first. That's the same when taking the camera to your local store, if it's in warranty it could be covered. 

Taking it to the manufacturer you are guaranteed the work is done properly and it's not someone who learnt to repair the equipment by watching Youtube videos. I always recommend going to the source. They made it they should repair it. 

Best thing to do is keep your camera safe this way you won't need to go through the repair process. Keep a strap on your camera, always have a bag. it may be weatherproof but keep it out of the water. Safety first. 

What camera should I buy

When you first start in photography it can be a little tricky to know what to buy. Well here are my tips that hopefully make it less stressful for you. Firstly the make does not matter, get that out of your head. If you like Canon you're going to get a Canon if you like Sony you're going to get a Sony. What matters is, does it have a manual mode. Thats it. If it has manual mode great. Firstly if you don't know about photography and modes best thing to do is, put your camera in Shutter priority mode or Program mode and see what the camera's light meter is telling you. Normally the flashing lines will give you the information, then switch it back to manual mode and mess around with the settings. Thats the beauty of digital photography you can change all the setting and keep snapping until you're happy. Photography is a form of art so a really under exposed photo could look great compared to the "correct" exposure. 

 There are lots of things in photography you might need to know at some point but at the start as long as you get a correctly exposed image thats all that matter. It sound be fun not stressful. 

The thing I'd buy if I was starting fresh with photography 

  1. Camera with a standard zoom lens say 24-105mm or 70-300mm 
  2. Tripod
  3. Spare battery 
  4. Memory card
  5. Bag

That's about it really, you can pick up good starter kits from most camera manufactures, they will give you camera and a lens and I'm sure whatever shop you buy them from they will do you a good deal on spare battery and memory. 

Try SRS Microsystems in Watford,UK. Not only will they help you  on what camera to buy but they will help you set up your camera so you'll have no problems starting out. 

 

Be Creative

You can be very creative with photography, either in camera or in post. Long exposures, double exposures, light painting. They are the kind of things you can do in camera. in post you can do all that in theory and then some. 

This is both light painting and long exposure. Very simple really, just make sure your camera is on a tripod the room is dark. With a touch while the shutter is open light paint. Going over areas you want to stand out more. 

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Shot with flash and low ambient light to bring out the subject. I then moved the image into photoshop and edited in the sparkle effect. You can do sparkles in camera but that would mean doing a long exposure and over exposing the subject, not the look I was going for. 

In photoshop you can create actions and even purchased action from website. This image was created by using an image from Unslash.com and the Energy action by Seven Style. You can see and buy more actions by Seven style by clicking here. With all actions you can tweak them to your own style, add things and so on. 

Photoshop has change photography for the better. Be it removing spots to doing extreme things like above. The best photographers now days must be good at photoshop. 

Music videos

Any good photographer needs to offer more than just photos luckily most DSLR's and Mirrorless cameras do video and film in 1080p. High definition or HD for short. The newer models are filming in 4k, or UHD.  The more you spend on a camera the better the results. High-end, full frame, 4k cameras can cost a lot. If you're not looking to spend a lot you can get a low budget camera that will give you good results, not the best but way better than the miniDV cameras they use to produce.  I've had the chance to film a few music videos for some musical acts. Most of my video I go for the comedy angle. Stupid and silly, with good music as the key. I've seen far too many videos of bands playing on top of cliffs or in the woods. If you want people to view your videos you have to keep them entertained. That's my opinion and yes there are many good music videos with woods and cliff but I'd mainly stay for the music. I find laughter the way forward. 

Here are some of the videos I've filmed and edited 

If you're looking for a cheap, simple, funny and fun video for your musical group let me know. 

Equipment update

As a photographer, you always here gear isn't everything. It's true you can use your phone and get an amazing photo nowadays. Though when you have the right equipment you can get that amazing shot nearly every time. I recently sold my Canon 70-200 f2.8 mkii lens, for a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro as I wanted to concentrate on shooting jewellery and products. I do miss the 70-200mm yes, but I wasnt using it as much as I would have liked. 

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The 70-200 is the best portrait lens I've ever used. If you're shooting a wedding its great due to the focal length and the wide aperture. You can be some distance away and get a great portrait. A lot of photojournalist have them to get them celebrity shots. If you're shooting portraits it's definitely the lens you'd want to invest in. Saying that I don't mean only if you shoot with Canon. The new mirrorless systems are taking photography to the next stage. The new Sony A9 which is being focused mainly as a sports camera, would also be great as a wedding camera and with the 70-200 on an adapter you wouldn't miss a shot.  

The canon 100mm f2.8 lens in theory is an  upgrade. Upgraded is a odd word when the cost is nearly half the 70-200mm but this lens does what I want it to do. I'm actually looking to get a wide angle macro as well in the future so I can cover all the products I wish to photograph. You can get such detail with this lens, its 1:1 macro so the whole sensor will be covered. If shooting small objects its something you'd want to invest in. 

 

Moving forward, an upgrade of my camera body is needed. Having the Canon 5d Mkiii for nearly 5 years now, I feel it is being left behind. Not only by Canon themselves with the MKIV being released earlier this year but also the mirrorless systems. I had looked at the Canon 5DS for more megapixels due to product work but Sony had the A7Rii which has a larger number of megapixels than I'm using now, not as many as the 5DS but it was smaller and had a lot more gadgets built in. I kept hearing bad things about Sony and there battery life and single memory card slot. So I've held off, and mainly because they cost a lot. I don't mean a few hundred, a few thousand. Even with selling all my gear I could maybe afford the body, so no lenses, and a camera with out a lens is pointless and stupid.

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Sony then come along and bring out the A9 which is only a few more megapixels than I'm using now, the extras 20 fps, when would I use that? Probably never, unless shooting a wedding or sports event. How often does that happen, not very. Which is sad actually. I like shooting weddings. 693 focus point, my Mkiii has 60ish thats a massive jump. Total silent shooting mode, perfect for golf shots or even weddings. This camera does it all it seems. Dual SD card slots and a battery upgrade and ability to add a grip. Oh, and also no black out. No black out?  On normal cameras the shutter opens and the viewfinder or screen goes black well, with the A9 this doesn't happen, you just keep shooting. The focus tracking is working all that time too. So you're never not in focus. Again why would I need this if Im only shooting products? It's better to have and not use than to not have and need. BUT, a big but there, the cost. £4,499. no lenses. This camera is to compete with the Canon 1Dx and the Nikon D5 both professional sports cameras costing around the £5,000 to £6,500. So the Sony is cheaper. Does a product photographer need one. No. I don't believe they do.  Do I want one, 100% yes, if money wasn't a problem, yep I'd think I'd fully change from Canon to Sony. 

Till then I'm still using my Canon 5D mkiii, with the 100mm attached and when doing some landscapes I have the 24-105 f4.5 and for portraits I use the 50mm F1.8 and the 85 f1.4, though I still miss the 70-200 f2.8 it's still the best lens for portraits. 

Top Ten Christmas films

Christmas is a special time isn't it. A time for family, giving, love, booze and all that jazz. It's actually about what films are going to be on the normal telly box, the first 5 Channels and maybe that freeview crap.

 Every year, I bet, when the TV/Radio times comes with the Christmas listings you're all "ooh whats on?" Every bloody year, ITV love to put "Hot Fuzz" on, not like its been on ITV2 10 times already this year along with "The Mummy". Anyhow, lets not get into how bad ITV are with their movie choices. 

Christmas films. Well you've got to have the main ones in your list and mines no different. I won't go into those ones you already know.

Lets start 

" It's a wonderful life",  "Home Alone" and "Jingle all the way 2", Ok I joke about "Jingle all the way 2", that one can go in the bin. Yes, the Christmas lists must consist of the main two "A wonderful Life" it's something for the older generation and "Home Alone" for the youngsters, or 30 somethings. They need to be on every Christmas list. 

Now the rest is the tricky part. Is 'Die Hard" the greatest Christmas film?  Sad to say, No. I'd love it to be, I love that film. It has a brilliant performance of a bad guy by the late, great, Alan Rickman and so much action it's silly. The only Christmasy bits, really, are the music and the Christmas tree that falls over near the end. We know it's Christmas Eve, but if this film was set at Easter or in July or whenever it wouldn't matter and would still be a great action movie. Thats why It's on the list. 

So we have 3 films already, what's next. More 80's?

Ok then, "Gremlins" This is a classic. A lovely American town, covered in snow, a child that dresses as a Christmas tree and tiny monsters going ape shit. What more do you want? Ah, I know, Santa falling off a roof. 

"Gremlins" is a story of a boy that doesn't listen to his Grandfather. Basically if that kid at the start didn't sell the Dad the Mogwai none of the troubles would have happened and people wouldn't have died. No one wants a death at Christmas. Even that mean old hag Mrs Deagle didn't deserve to die. It's a much darker film than you think. They tell you Santa Claus isn't real and in the original script by Chris Columbus the Gremlins eat Billy’s dog and roll his mother’s decapitated head down the steps of the family home. Merry Christmas. See, listen to you're elders when it comes to freaky little creatures.

Next on the list is "Elf", the modern classic, loved by all. It's so stupid it's fun. It brings a smile to your face. Some of the lines Will Ferrell says are genius "Good news, I saw a dog today"  are being used on a daily basis whatever time of year. I do have one bit of negativity on the film, well, more on Santa really. When they find Buddy in the bag, why don't they take him back? You stole a child! Ok it was from the orphanage but at least one of the Nuns are going to get into trouble, they lost a child. Thats the only problem I have. The film as a whole is spot on. More than enough for children to be entertained for a few hours and humour for adults to enjoy. 

Love is all around, well maybe not in "Love Actually" but it is a good British Christmas film. Eight different stories and in some way all connected. So many stars. Ah, Alan Rickman again. This time he's a bad guy. Hang on a second did he only play bad guys? I find Bill Nighy's character really interesting, some of his lines are really on form and well written by Richard Curtis"Yes I have, Ant or Dec. It's a - it's a personalised felt tip pen" "Hiya Kids, Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free"

The film shows so many different ways love can be all around. Setting it at Christmas really makes the film. I think without the Christmas backdrop it wouldn't be as good. 

3D is a thing that came and went didn't it, well, did you know the third Harold and Kumar film was called "A very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas" The 3D parts are a gimmick really but the film as a Christmas movie is something else.  A good buddy movie with the standard stupidness of Harold and Kumar you've come to expect in the past. It's a film not for the children if you were thinking about putting it on. The jokes are offensive and some of the scenes are in bad taste but you can't not laugh. As for Neil Patrick Harris doing a big musical number. He steals the movie again, just like he did in the other two. Worth a watch if you're over 18 and don't find drugs use and rude naughty words offensive. 

Muppets, no not that guy you know from the pub, the Jim Henson lot. "The Muppet Christmas carol" is one of the best film versions of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol". The muppet twist makes it funny and well worth a watch, the songs will stick with you for years. The buddy comedy between Rizo the rat and Gonzo the great as the narrators will have you in stitches. Some of the lines from the pair are spot on and good for adults and children. "Mother always taught me: Never eat singing food"  It also shows Michael Caine isn't just a "geezer" actor and has a soft side. Must be hard acting with The Muppets.

EDDIE MURPHY!!! The real hero of the 80's films, I don't think I can name a bad Eddie Murphy film from the 80's. Well, he starred along with another big name of the 80's Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places" a film by John Landis who already had hits with "An American werewolf in London" and "Animal House". Based slightly around the story of "The Prince and Pauper". Being a dark comedy and very funny it still holds up as a classic Christmas story of revenge. The bad guys, played by film legends Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche really keep the film moving. Their bet between each other to see if Eddie Murphy's character can do the job that Dan Aykroyd's character is doing is to do with race and class. The story shows you can lose everything but if you have people around you at Christmas you can come together and get revenge, thats the true meaning of Christmas, right? Revenge! Classic film and definitely one of my favourites.

"Bad Santa" is a story of a drunken conman with the skill to crack safes that dresses up as Santa in big department store to rob it on Christmas Eve with his little helper. Billy Bob Thornton played the role of "Willie" drunk most of the time. That is commitment to the role. The film is stolen from Billy Bob by Brett Kelly playing the kid "Thurman Merman" His stupid questions to "Willie"  that annoy him constantly. He calls him Santa, knowing he's not . It's a story of friendship, where even if you are the bad guy you can still have a heart and how the Christmas season can make you know your life is a mess and it's not all about having money. Bad Santa is a very funny film and one you can watch year in year out. 

This is my list and here's the order i'd have them in.

  1.  Elf
  2.  Home Alone
  3.  Die Hard
  4.  Trading Places 
  5.  It's a wonderful life 
  6.  The Muppet Christmas Carol
  7.  Gremlins
  8.  Bad Santa 
  9.  Love actually 
  10.  A very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas 

It changes depending on the year. 

Other films you should see around the Christmas period are

A miracle on 34th street, Home Alone 2,  Krampus, Scrooged, Die Hard 2, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Holiday and The Grinch