Photography Field Trip Class Sun, 18 August 2019 10:00 – 15:00 BST

Capture some of Belfast's most iconic locations on this relaxed photography tour lead by a professional photographer, 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. 

You will need a camera with the ability to change between Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual mode, like a DSLR, bridge or mirrorless camera. You will also need a “can do” attitude and a desire to improve as we will learn and practice together during the day. The content will be tailored to the needs of the group, but above all, will be entertaining, thought-provoking and fun.

The length of the class will be five hours in total. Two hours shooting in the area to begin. Followed by a one-hour break to review and discuss pictures, Q&A your photography problems and get to know each other. We will then finish up with two more hours shooting in the area to put this into practice.

The easiest place to park is in the corner nearest the weir at the SSE Arena and that is the start point for the walk. I will be there, wearing a LED badge.

Cost: £50

Please book with me on the phone, 07762 822022 to pay on the day or via Eventbrite to pay online with credit or debit card

Links also on my facebook page

Follow and like the page to keep up-to-date with future classes and events.

Photography classes 25th July onwards

Hey folks,

new classes on offer from Crescent arts Centre Belfast


The Beginners class is for total beginners, just bought a camera and have no clue at all, all you need is a camera and the will to learn

Intermediate is a little more involved, you should at least understand the concepts of the exposure triangle, or in other words the effect of shutter, aperture and ISO on your pictures.

Shags on a rock

I was out for a walk along the coast a few weeks back with my wife and noticed these birds, possibly Shags. I had to stop because in my head I saw a lovely symmetrical composition in the water reflection and also the strong black triangle of the birds and rock in the big overcast white sea. The original photo is attached, you might not see much potential but "seeing" is a skill too! In this case, I saw the potential in an overcast scene because of the strong compositional elements present. I had to pre-visualise and use my imagination to make a picture in my head before I pressed the shutter button. I also had to whistle loud to get the top bird to turn around too! Photography requires lots of different skills, you never know when one might be called upon :)


Facebook help needed! Foodie photography as your reward

Facebook has been teasing me with "you've just reached 400 likes" type notifications all week. But my page goes up and down! I really have to do better with the likes so here is some yummy Sea Salted Caramel Sauce to entice you! Whatever I do I'm always making things look good so if that's something you are in to share my page with likeminded friends and let see if we can finally get over 400 proper! #food #nom #foodporn #foodie #caramel #foodphotography

All home made with amazing ingredients

All home made with amazing ingredients

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Teaching in Lisburn

Hi folks,

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.


Enrol here 


Origin Story: Why I am so observant

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.

Photography Advice: Making a floor to shoot on.

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:

A beautiful kitchen wall

A beautiful kitchen wall

A rock face in a old quarry turned nature reserve

A rock face in a old quarry turned nature reserve

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:

Ignore the odd squares in the corner, they are just scrap bits I left stuck on.

Ignore the odd squares in the corner, they are just scrap bits I left stuck on.

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.

This was a test half way through construction.  Can you see the seam? 

This was a test half way through construction.  Can you see the seam? 

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 :)



Photography Advice: my thought process in taking an interesting shot

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"

It is big, it is a fish, this is about the most boring shot you can take of it. Also what most tourists do.

It is big, it is a fish, this is about the most boring shot you can take of it. Also what most tourists do.

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 ;)

Free Belfast Photowalk and lighting class 2pm 6th May 2017

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

Story behind the shot: Number 2

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.

Story behind the shot: Number 1

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.

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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.




Paper portfolio

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 :) 




1st January 2017

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?