So after the poll on facebook was 50/50 split between Makeup skill and art background I decided to talk about my art background as I haven’t really talked about it before at all. With this video looking back at my old school artwork I can see how it influences my photography today. Have a watch and let me know if you have any questions.
today a quick video about a class in lisburn Island arts centre in October and November aimed at anyone wanting to improve their photography, regardless of current skills.
We will cover ISO, shutter speed and aperture, also known as the exposure triangle, which is core to understanding the technical elements of digital photography. We will also cover the artistic side with white balance, focusing techniques, composition, subject engagement and more.
This active class will be practical in nature and you will require a camera.
Hi folks, today I wanted to cover something I don't often talk about, me. Below is a little video explaining how I got my powers of observation due to some unfortunate circumstances in my childhood, give it a watch to find out how I became so good at noticing colours, body language and small details.
So this one is for my fellow photographers out there. Hopefully you have got to the point in your journey where you realise light is the most important element when creating photographs. Maybe you have also realised that your "studio" is in your head, it's the skills and experience you have to shape and use light so you can shoot anything you like anywhere.
If that is the case this is for you, one of the problems I have when I shoot out and about is the floor or ground. I'm always able to find a clean wall or backdrop to shoot "studio" style pictures anywhere here are some examples:
Unfortunately, it's never easy to find a nice piece of floor to stand my subject on. Maybe it's terrible 80s carpet, or maybe it's lovely carpet but a little worn, regardless of what the problem is I alway wish I had more control over what my subject was standing on when I'm out in their homes.
Now I do have a big grey canvas studio backdrop and I can have them stand on that but I much prefer a more solid floor because frequently the vinyl can show creases where the subject stands and it also gets scuffed which leads to lots of post processing work removing marks.
I have tried a few things over the years but they are always too bulky and complicated.
It was when hanging out with the wonderful Sue Bryce's Facebook group that I had a great idea. One photographer showed a picture of some fake skirting boards her husband made to help hide the seam between her canvas backdrop and the floors in clients homes.
I thought it was creative and ingenious. My second thought was why stop there? Why not have a fake floor too?
So I headed off to B&Q (a DIY store here in the UK) to have a look about for ideas. My first idea was a big piece of lightweight wood I could paint. Unfortunately, it was going to take a lot of time and effort to make, it would be very heavy and not in anyway portable. It would also get ruined as it was used.
I needed a real floor, tough and durable, but light and portable. I went over to the wood floor section, and began absent mindedly messing around with the samples. While playing with the way the modern laminate connects it hit me. I could have a foldable floor!
If you are attempting this yourself make sure the wood flooring you use has a hinging type of locking mechanism, like so:
It's hard to see here but the most important factor here is that the wood bends upwards when you are locking it in, then gravity holds it in place on the floor. This is vital for the next step. Just to reiterate, if it was laid down assembled it should be bendable upwards so the pretty sides are getting closer together, but not bendable downwards so the rear sides could bend closer together. Have a play about with the samples in your own wood floor store and you will see what I mean.
Once you have a pack of wood, I got 2 metres squared for £20, then you need to get some strong duct tape. Any colour is ok, you will only see it when transporting the floor.
When you get home, find a big open space, ideally something that won't scuff the new floor and get a knife, anything will do even a cutlery knife is ok.
Follow the pack instructions and assemble the floor but do it upside down.
Once everything is in place start making strips of tape across the back to hold the panels tightly in place like so:
I assembled mine bit by bit in two parts and joined them up in the top, middle and bottom. For the top and bottom, I left a lot of slack and stuck the tape to itself so it would create a tab, or handle to carry it with.
If you like though you could assemble the whole thing with tape and then cut it in the middle if needed with the knife, maybe even make an accordion design? But be warned the more folds you have the more assembly will be required when you bring it out to shoot. So I settled on one split, folding in the middle.
Also, be warned that while it is beautiful it is heavy and a little unwieldy. In the making of this floor I was not injured at all, but I did manage to crush a toe with it when moving it around my studio, mostly because I didn't have a sensible place to keep it after I made it.
Keep your eyes peeled on my work in future, this floor will feature a fair bit. I hope you have a go yourself and remember you can choose any kind of colour too. Any questions on this please get in touch and as always a like would be appreciated :)
So first up big thanks to those who turned up to the photography walk/class yesterday. We were very lucky to have a warm and dry day here in Northern Ireland. They are sadly not that common. It is lush and green here because it rains a lot.
When we started I asked what my fellow photographers where interested in shooting and learning and tried to tailor the class around that.
One of the things I wanted to show was how a little time and thinking can create more interesting shots. I took everyone over to the "big fish"
So I told them all to take this shot, and then set them the challenge of shooting something more interesting over a 10-15 minute period.
While I was talking to one attendee I mentioned a lot of tourists photograph themselves kissing the big fish and thought it might be cool to have the big fish kiss something instead.
So I positioned the big fish in such a way that it was a foreground element, out of focus. My thought process was, it's so iconic, even without any detail the colours and outline alone would say "big fish" and I could instead focus on what I wanted it to "kiss". In my head I figured another big landmark here, one of our H&W cranes, Goliath I believe.
This was my first attempt, but I wasn't happy. The fish was too in focus and the implied kiss wasn't obvious enough. So I repositioned and shot again (I was using a prime lens so had to move about, more on that later).
Much happier this time. There were some distracting elements in the frame, but I knew I could sort those out in post processing. This here is straight from the camera, and I promised an attendee I would show my editing process and thoughts on editing so that is what follows.
First up I corrected the colours and contrast a little, to emphasise the complementary blue in the fish and yellow in the crane. The lens I used was a 50-year-old manual focus nifty fifty f2 lens I bought the previous Sunday at the legendary Crumlin Road Car boot sale. It cost me £8 after a bit of haggling and came with an old 35mm camera body attached and a teleconverter. I wasn't worried if the camera worked or not because I knew I could adapt the lens to my Sony mirrorless camera. I specifically used this lens to try and teach something else.
Gear is just gear! Knowing how to use what you have is FAR more important than owning nice gear. Hopefully this article will teach that too. Now onto more fine tinkering.
I only removed one thing here, can we play spot the difference? You should be able to see it immediately if you look between this picture and the previous one. Colour theory teaches that red is the most eye-catching colour, and orange a close second. The marker buoy! It was extremely distracting to my eye, and might have been the first thing your eyes moved to when looking at the original picture. Now it's gone it changes the focus of the picture.
Next up, what I like to call border patrol. I didn't coin this phrase but it helps me remember it so I use it. It is the process of looking around the edges of your frame and thinking about distractions etc. I do this in the viewfinder while shooting, and I made a mental note to sort the vignette caused by the old lens and the tops of the bollards in the very bottom of the frame.
Last but not least I considered the picture as a whole. I looked at the sky and realised it wasn't how I saw it on the day, too much detail was lost because a camera can never capture the colour depth and dynamic range of a human eye. I wanted to recover some of the detail in the clouds so darkened down the sky. I also wanted to sharpen the H&W on the crane, so did that too.
While doing this I also considered the crop, I wondered what it would be like with a portrait orientation so tried a few different crops and settled on this. Very different but equally as nice.
Hopefully you found this interesting, few folks online talk about the artistic process of photography, what goes on in the head of the artist. For me it's far more important than any gear or techy considerations and hopefully taking a picture with a 50-year-old junk lens and showing you how I thought it through has illustrated that. If you like the article please feel free to share it or request other topics on my facebook page. A like would be appreciated too ;)
Capture some of Belfast's most iconic locations on this relaxed photography tour lead by a professional photographer, me, Mathieu Decodts. You'll learn how to take the best shots, frame images with your lens and how to manipulate lighting to your advantage and more as you make your way through Belfast's Lagan Weir area. Facebook event details here
The length of the class will largely be weather dependant. We will walk for as long as everyone is happy to, and if everyone enjoys it and doesn't want it to end we can stop for coffee and a snack midway.
CAR PARK CHARGES at SSE Arena, there is the option to pre-pay £4.00 up to 6 hours. Park in the corner nearest the weir as that is the start point. I will be there, wearing a LED badge.
If you can't make the start of the walk give me a ring when you arrive and you can join us on the route, we are going at a relaxed pace and won't be too far away. mobile: 07762 822022
This shoot was based on an idea a model friend had. She was inspired by another photoshoot she had seen with balloons in the background.
I hate just doing a shoot with random elements, I like these photography collaborations to be themed around a story. So we set about thinking up a story of why someone would be in a lovely dress and have balloons. I suggested a jilted girl, stood up on a big prom date. She would be dressed up fancy, with lovely hair and makeup and the balloons could have been an extravagant present like folks do on American prom dates.
So we set about planning. After searching locally for something suitable I ended up buying lots of red heart-shaped balloons on the internet. While we waited for them to arrive, from China if I remember rightly, we worked on the other elements. The model decided on a lovely little black dress with diamond accents and we both hunted for an urban location that could match our “stood up” prom date idea.
We finally decided on a landmark in Belfast, the “big fish” at the Lagan Weir in Belfast. The Belfast City Council had recently finished redeveloping the area around it with a nice urban park with some nice shrubbery and benches.
So to the day of the shoot, we both arrived at our agreed meeting spot, a cafe next to the landmark. The model had brought a party canister of Helium to fill the balloons and I had them and some ribbon. We both got a coffee and set about filling the balloons.
Never underestimate the preparations that go into a shoot. The model spent a lot of time on her hair, makeup and dress. And I spent a lot of time finding a location. Then on the day, it took us a good hour or two to fill the balloons! By the time we were finished the normally murky Northern Ireland weather had taken a turn for the worse. It didn’t rain too badly but the wind picked up substantially so my idea to light the shoot with an 8-foot umbrella had to be abandoned. We tried to make do with other lighting but the wind was so strong one of the key elements of the shoot, the big mass of balloons, just wasn’t working.
We decided to get another coffee and rethink, which is when the article head shot and this one were taken. I really like the portfolio shot because the model looks a little down heartened and upset, the outcome of being stood up? or the result of trying to shoot out in the wind and the rain in a thin evening dress?
While inside we spoke to the owner of the boat tours place next to the coffee shop who ended up offering us their boat to shoot on.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth we decided why not? The boat location would explain the windswept nature of the shoot at least. So we both did our first ever boat based shoot.
So the moral of this story? There is a lot of planning that goes into these type of shoots, but the real skill of being a professional photographer is being able to problem solve quickly. I had to change my location plan because of the weather and an unforeseen opportunity and my lighting equipment too but still got beautiful shots. I hope you like them. If you want to have your own story to tell get in touch. If you have a cool idea for a photography shoot I can make it happen.
I really enjoy helping people feel better about themselves. Being a photographer allows me to get the best out of them when I shoot. People frequently focus on a lot of perceived negatives during a portrait session. Problems they have with their appearance, they always surprise me, normally a tiny little thing nobody would notice. Folks also get hung up on attributes that frequently others would kill for.
This beautiful lady was a relaxing after a “formal” shoot with another photorgapher. We were talking about her hair of all things. Very much like my wife she is blessed with very beautiful, naturally wavy hair. Now of course she was complaining about how hard it is to manage.
This is something that always surprises me. I always see the beauty in everyone I shoot and frequently they don't themselves. For example women with beautiful shiny straight hair want curly hair. Women with voluminous curly hair see straight hair and want that. And women like my wife and this lovely lady with vibrant naturally wavy hair are not happy with it either.
I told her how my wife handles it, basically she washes it and then lets it air dry, and never ever brushes it! I always thought it was weird my wife didn't brush her hair until one day I offered to romantically brush it for her and it turned into an afro of sorts!
But I digress, I convinced this lovely lady to embrace the volume in her hair. Isn't it beautiful? She has a lovely smile of course too but her hair is so beautiful. I posed her and we took a few different shots to capture a relaxed headshot emphasising her natural asset, her hair.
So are you happy with your hair? I hope so, love the skin or hair you have been blessed with.
The next shot is a beautiful young woman who suffers from a terrible disability. Hopefully, you didn't see the second part, only her beauty. This was another shot from the event helping folks with disabilities look and feel fabulous. Despite suffering from a rare, painful and incurable condition that has forced her into a wheelchair she was an upbeat and a bubbly person to shoot.
What she wanted more than anything on that day was a picture of her standing, while she can stand with a stick her feet are swollen and painful so she can only manage a few seconds at best. I love this shot because she was a little nervous before the shoot so I told her I wanted to test my camera. She had just finished hair and makeup so I asked her to move over to a plain wall for the background and asked her about her plans for the shoot while I tested my camera. It is funny but frequently I get my best shots while “testing” my camera like this. People are relaxed when they think I am not working but a lot of the time they get stressed and stiff when a photographer says “let's start”.
By using this technique I got a nice quiet calm portrait as she reflected on what she wanted. It really puts your life in perspective when you meet someone who suffers so much every day but is able to be so thankful for small mercies like a picture without her chair in the backdrop, the handle of which I photoshopped out in this photo. It helps that she was gorgeous too, of course, it made my work as a photographer so much easier. She was engaged and soon to be married and I hope they are really happy together. I also hope she was able to stand for some of the wedding like she planned too. I got a lovely shot of her standing with a stick outside and her face lit up when she saw it on the back of my camera. Such a simple thing that we all take for granted, I'm glad I was able to give her a lasting photographic memory of her achievement. That is one of the really special things about portrait photography, capturing moments so people can remember them forever.
The next shot again came about from another deep-rooted idea I had, to have a starkly black and white woman with a colourful lighting set up and backdrop. A little back story, first, though. My favourite film is Blade Runner, a film set in a grungy neon future. In some of the scenes in the film, pedestrians use neon umbrellas as they walk the rain soaked the streets of a dystopian future.
For a long time, I wanted to use one of these umbrellas to cast colourful light on a monochrome model. This was many years ago and I had never worked with a model before. I figured I had to start somewhere and then by chance I saw the perfect person online. I didn't think she would respond but I figured nothing ventured nothing gained so I asked. Turns out she liked the idea.
I didn’t realise until I saw her online, but I needed a Goth model. The white skin, the dark clothing, a goth model would be perfect to emphasise the colours.
I learned a great deal that night, it being my first proper shoot with a model. I have of course gone on to shoot much more since, but this was my first.
I didn't entirely like the umbrella shots because it didn't rain that night. Does it remind you of Blade Runner? What do you think of the photo?
My favourite was the headshot though, to me a beautiful black and white, yet colourful, portrait late one cold winter night by the Lagan weir. It is a horrible location by day, but very beautiful at night.
I really like this shot because she’s so unique and stunning looking. While it is not the sci-fi idea I originally imagined I like it far more because I feel I captured her beauty perfectly.
So what do you think? Did you think this was taken somewhere like New York or LA? Most viewers ask me where and are surprised to hear this is our very own Belfast. If you enjoyed this story share it with your friends, and maybe visit the lagan weir some night yourself.
Next up in this series is this lovely metallic themed head shot. For a long time, I had the idea of a woman as if like a precious metal, coming out of a rock face. I had also done some experimenting with a metallic shimmer for lips and wanted to try it out. I will reveal the surprising secret at the end.
Anyway, the idea was to have a woman in gold leaning upon the rock face as if part of it. I contacted a local model interested in collaborating together and discussed the shoot. She got a dress from Amazon, I hunted down a bronze gold lipstick and a proper gold metallic nail polish and a location.
I looked at lots of locations. Despite searching high and low for weeks, I ended up finding the perfect place very close to my own home, Belshaw quarry, just outside Lisburn!
On the day of the shoot, everything went great, I got “the” shot. The one that makes me feel that I achieved what I set out to do when I can make real the vision in my head.
After the shoot, the model asked for a nice headshot for her portfolio, so I packed away the paraphernalia from the shoot and used a simple set up.
I deliberately posed her in front of the rock face to mirror her golden skin tone and green eyes with the rocks and moss behind her.
Oh and that secret lip trick? Cake frosting. A metallic gold edible cake topping! A normal bronze lipstick with a sprinkling of sugar frosting patted on top. Just be sure to use sugar-based frosting, not the decorative non-edible variation.
I hope you liked this story, if so, share it with your friends, maybe try the lip trick yourself and tell me about your results? Hope to see you next week for a uniquely colourful and black and white shot.
When showing my paper portfolio to people I always like to explain a little of what went into each shot, the story behind it. I decided that I would go through and explain why I recently chose each shot for my portfolio and a little of its story, once a week every Friday, here on my blog.
This is a shot of a young woman who participated in a project I was involved in helping folks who suffered from various disabilities look and feel fabulous. For the event Photographers and Makeup artists gave their time and skills freely to these folks with disabilities or health problems as a way of giving back.
I really like this idea because I know in my heart that everyone has some beauty, it is just a matter of coaxing it out and capturing it. I particularly like this shot because it was actually after the event, just before she headed home. I didn't get the opportunity to shoot her because there were three photographers volunteering, so we each shot different people. When she got changed to head home I could see she was a lot more relaxed and chatty, so I had her stand in front of a plain wall and posed her to accentuate her face and eyes.
Of course, the professional makeup artist did a great job with her, but it was her piercing blue eyes that really stand out for me here. I really like that I made her feel beautiful and for her, slimmer. She would call herself "plus-sized", but I hope this isn't the first thing you the viewer notices about the picture, just that she is beautiful, because she is.
How do you like this story behind the shot? Let me know If there is anything else you would like to know, I can include these details in future stories and if you want to support me please share it where ever you hang out online.
I know it's old fashioned in this day and age but I just updated my portfolio by adding an A2 paper version. It's nice sharing online or on a tablet, but nothing beats looking at big prints in person :)
What does it mean for me? Insurance renewal on my photographic policy! Always stings on the 1st of January but I would never do business without full proper insurance :). Having cover allows me to teach too. I must sort a class in Crumlin soon, any ideas on what to teach? How about something for folks with new cameras from Christmas?
First up I learned this a long time ago online so I didn't invent it and can't remember where I learned it.
A super cheap and extremely useful weight for your tripod/C stand/light stand/ anything.
(apologies for the hairy leg, it's mine :) )
My Art nude tutorial article has been published! Sign up for the site to get lots of free hints and advice on how to shoot sexy women photography. To note while not explicit in any way the article does include tasteful art nude photography. Any comments or questions sign up to the site and post them there, or get in touch on here or Facebook.
Thursday 7th July 7pm to 9pm Crumlin Leisure Centre, 2 Main St, Crumlin BT29 4UP. An introduction to working with Models and the chance to book one for future solo work. Come along and watch a live photography shoot. See what I am doing and what I can see through my camera on the big screen. Get live advice, hints and tips on every aspect of a shoot by watching and asking questions as we go. £50 for the class, and if you don't feel it was worth it, 100% money back guarantee. Post in the comments if attending or if you have any questions.
Here are some of the results from the UV shoot, maybe if folks are interested I might write a little tutorial, its not as pricey to shoot this as you might think (click on the pictures to go through the gallery)
Just sharing a little of the background to a recent scfi shoot. These are a few of the ingredients behinds the scenes and some of the boring normal shots before we brought out the UV lights
Awesome "normal" and UV fashion shoot to follow.
Interested in using off camera flash with a sony mirrorless camera, but dont want to break the bank? Read on for my buying guide...Read More