Lighting Advice: Ringlight?

Problems making Clients look good? Following on from my chat with a MUA on lighting I wanted to share this quick video to explain why the directionality of lighting is very important and this advice can be used to great effect if you work in the beauty or fashion industry, not just for photographers but also MUAs, beauticians, boutique owners and anyone else wanting to make their customers or products look amazing.


Photography Advice: Importance of interesting light

I was  having a chat witha MUA on Friday and she inspired me to do a few videos about lighting, it is something everyone who works in the fashion or beauty industry can learn a little more about, so I decided to start a little series to show some of the things that can be done.  FIrst up, colour for interesting lighting effects.

Pursuing my Passion full-time: Mathieu Decodts Photography

Just a quick note to say I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and that it is a big change for me today, on the first of January 2016.  Today is my first day as a full time photographer!  As many of you may know I have been a part time photographer for 5 years while working a day job, but I have now been able to quit to pursue my passion full time.  Stay tuned for many more exciting things in 2016!

Free issue of Good Light Magazine!

As a bonus for featuring I can share this months Good Light Magazine for free! Just follow the link and put your email address in and they will email a code too you.

Come back soon too, lots more great things on the way.



Gorgeous curves!

Gorgeous curves!

Along side Lindsay Adler! Thanks Good light magazine

So today I got my first big international acclaim by being featured in Good Light Magazine.  What I didn't know what until I saw the final magazine was that I am being featured along side Lindsay Adler!  Lindsay is a New York based photographer who's work I really admire.  She has such creative and vibrant work.  It is so great to be featured in the same magazine with someone I look up to so much!

Obviously I cant publish the article here, it was for the magazine, but please do check it out at the link above. It was based on a concept I came up with to create beautiful light trails in a portrait photograph.  I also did a little video explaining how the light painting tool works and showing of some of the pictures from the main article. Check it out below.


This is one of a number of videos I am planning on photography so please like, comment and subscribe.  I dont know of any other Northern Ireland based professional Photographers running a youtube channel so I would really appreciate your support.

I am back! Now with added video!

Well I havent been on the blog for a long time, but I had good reason.  I needed some time to move to becoming a full time Photographer! Starting January 2016 Mathieu Decodts Photography will be a full time photography business, and youtube channel.

The break away was used to refine my filming and editing skills as well as for a rebranding of the website with a new logo.  

For a quick teaser of my youtube channel take a look now, more video will follow. At the minute I am planning to show off great photography locations around Northern Ireland and provide advice that is universally applicable to improve your photography. I also have a number of exciting projects ahead so subscribe and share with all your friends.


Photography Help: Real smiles

I mentioned this before but I figured it deserved a post of its own.  Today I want to give some help getting real smiles in photos. Watch the 2 minute video for a quick explaination or read the more in depth post below.


Here are two photos both of my son smiling:





Hopefully one looks a lot better than the other, but can you tell why?


Look more closely at this specific element




The reason I wanted to post this is that, as usual it's nothing to do with cameras or gear, so this can be done with any camera, even a phone.  However its actually quite a complex skill to master. So what is this technique?

Engagement with your subject.  The first picture is my son smiling to get his picture taken, the second is him talking with me about his favourite thing at the minute (happens to be a computer game, Monster Hunter 4 for anyone interested)

In the second picture he is more alive and engaged in the picture and there is a real twinkle in his eyes.

This is what folks mean when they say "your eyes are smiling".  It is extremely hard to fake, the best way to catch it is to draw it out of your subject by engaging with them on something they love.

These are just snaps to illustrate a point and all it took from me was a question about his game to get his face to light up.  So try not to force your kids or subjects to smile, make them smile with a joke or a story or some questions about their lives.  Everyone likes to talk about their hobbies or passion, it works with people of all ages, you just have to find that hook.


So try and talk to the people you want to photography, dont ask them to smile, its a sure fire way to get a fake smile.


Great Scott! Always carry a camera!

So I was in Belfast this morning meeting a model to hand over a big ass framed print she ordered.

DSC02859-3 (Large).jpg

As she doesnt know town well we agreed to meet a Belfast CIty Hall. 

I was early like I always am, and for a change was rewarded!

This was just delivered and unveiled and I caught the creators snapping some pics with their amazing project.


Taking a chance I introduced myself and asked if I could take a picture, they obliged.


Im such a Sci-fi nerd and a massive fan of the films too.

Because its an awesome 80s film, here is is again 80s style with a lens about the same age as the film!


Such a treat to see such a labour of love in person.

Check out the project on

or the carpenter who built it!

I need an excuse to hire a carpenter now...... 

Photography Help: Think Outside The Box

So what is the difference between being an Artist and a Photographer?

I have always been an Artist but only took up photography properly about 5 years ago. So I have done both, though they are not mutually exclusive.

In my view I would say the difference is creative vision.  Anyone can buy a camera and call themselves a Photographer, but could you buy some paint and brushes and call yourself an artist? (Maybe, having seen some of the modern art about at the minute !lol!)

Seriously though I call myself an Artist because I am always thinking of new creative ideas. Even when I am not shooting I am looking for locations and thinking about fresh new ways to do something different with my photography.

For example I have been interested in shooting a UV style shoot for some time. I was thinking a Scifi theme, something that looks like it was done in photoshop but is actually real.

I shot this as a test with my daughter. Isnt she cute?


It was shot using a UV light and UV lipstick and nail polish.

So why isnt it like a normal UV picture, all purple?

Well it was to begin with, I just took a test shot with a colour chart to correct it to normal afterwards.

I want to do something very modern and unique as a fashion shoot so I of course am testing my ideas out first!  That is maybe what defines an artist, having an idea, testing it, planning it, then making it real?

So why is this post called think outside the box? The UV source is just some cheap purple theatre light gel from ebay on my flash and the bracelets and hair band are actually those little road safety reflectors for your arms or legs when riding a bicycle at night!

So try new things and when your are deciding what things to try think outside the box!


Photography Help: Ring Light Recommendation

I often get asked how I get such lovely beauty lighting in my head shots. 


Photographers look at the catch lights in the eyes of the subject and can see the shape of the light modifier. In most cases for my head shots it is a ring of white light, like a polo mint :)


Photographers usually assume it is a beauty dish, its actually not though. If you are not familiar with them these are big, clunky, heavy things that need to be added to a light stand to use.


The reason I don't use one is because I couldn't shoot on location with it, at least not easily.


The next option would be the ring flash modifiers. These are portable but don't in my view have a nice quality of light, they are too small and the size of a light source directly affects the softness of the light.




The next thing to try would be a macro led light.




These are cool because you can use them for video, but again the quality of light is harsh. They are really, really awesome for macro lighting, I used this same light for this cool macro coin shot.



There are all useful for what they do, but not what I wanted. I needed the softness of a big modifier without all the problems associated with a large modifier, like weight.

So on to the point of this post!

I saw one of these in use at a workshop and new it would be perfect.  Its actually for macro work but I have been putting it to great use as a head shot light.




It is light in weight and big in size, and creates a nice diffuse light with your own flash jammed in the back.


For a straight up flash modifier its a little pricey, but worth every penny.  Look at the results:

But that is with a professional model.....

However pretty much anyone I take a photo of with this looks awesome straight from camera!

This is just a normal Dad at a Judo event, no posing!

This is just a normal Dad at a Judo event, no posing!

A Security Guard with cool mutton chops, at a dance event in Belfast

A Security Guard with cool mutton chops, at a dance event in Belfast

Grace, from Starbucks, just a regular member of staff, looking awesome with the ring at more of a distance

Grace, from Starbucks, just a regular member of staff, looking awesome with the ring at more of a distance

a two second shot with one of the dancers at the event.

a two second shot with one of the dancers at the event.

Its a lovely light modifier, but the main reason I love it is its light, I can use it anywhere and move about covering an event, but with professional lighting :)


Its rare for me to recommend kit on my blog but a few fellow photographers have asked me about this so I figured I should share my findings.  If you want to buy any of these click the links in this post, ill get a few pennies as reward for letting you into my secrets, or just visit your own favourite retailer, its no big deal.  I hope you found this useful either way.


Get out and shoot: Macro Flowers

Photography is an expensive hobby, or so the big camera manufacturers would have you believe.

Fact is you can get great results with simple means.

Take this lovely shot made today:


Hours spent in the studio with expensive lights and gear?


1 piece of black card costing a few pence and a reflector (total cost less than a tenner!)



The sun was the light source and  the reflector was used without the shiny cover so it became a transparent way to reduce the light falling on the flowers (called a scrim) If you can't stretch to ten pounds for the reflector then try a piece of tracing paper or grease proof paper.

Put you scrim over the flower so it creates a big shadow over the subject. This shadow is actually some really soft light,  but to you outside it will look like a big shadow. Trust me though your camera will be fine and the picture will be really cool.

Here are a few more from the same time, some with and some without the background paper.


Today was our first proper spring day here so I got out to shoot something that feels like spring, I hope you like them.

A lucky find, a sign maybe?

I like a nice cold Pepsi Max.  I also drink far too much of it so I usually go look for the best deal for a cold Pepsi around Belfast and at the minute that is none other than Dunnes stores, or Dunesé as posh folks here like to say. 


So the other day I was getting my fix with a 99p bottle of Pepsi Max, the fat one with 33% extra free and obviously enough I got a penny change.


Or At least I didn't think I did, I used to work in a bank and a supermarket and as anyone who handles coins will tell you they can immediately feel when one is "wrong", like a fake or a foreign coin. 


This one felt wrong so I took a closer look:


It was a 1979 penny, minted the same year I was! It was a 35 year old penny, barely recognisable because of all the oxidation and nicks it had accrued over the years. Pennies were thinner back then, when 1/2 pennies still existed, so that is why it felt wrong in my hand.


I had to do some macro with it to see how it held up, so here it is.


My twin, of sorts

My twin, of sorts

Well it is in pretty bad shape, but on the other hand the patina on the coin has created a beautiful rainbow sheen!

Patina = experience.  No longer perfect but unique and beautiful because of it.

Patina = experience.  No longer perfect but unique and beautiful because of it.


So while old and battered it has a particular charm.


Maybe like me? I don't know.


The back side has a few more nicks and dings, but equally fascinating.


So why the post? Two things, it was cool to see the Queen's 2nd portrait from 1974, a younger woman then, with no double chin! The other reason was it reminded me how old I am, and I am not getting any younger.


I was making a lot of difficult decisions this last while about my future and it made me think for a long time about how long I have been around and how long I have left.  I met my childhood art teacher recently and she was surprised to see me working on art part time with a "normal" day job.  Something she said got me thinking a lot.


The timing was perfect too, I was actually giving careers advice in my old school at the time on the subject of my non-art day job.

Lots of soul searching later and I was left thinking there is so much more I can do! I decided that was what I was going to do, do more art.

So expect to see more from the site and me in the next while, I am planning big things coming up in the next year or so. 

Practice makes perfect, even for me!

My artistic vision has always exceeded my photographic ability. That's a good place to be but its means sometimes I have ideas i can't realise in practice.

Take this shot a few years back:



I lacked the Photoshop skill at the time to remove a lot of the issues around Colleen, so I just amped up the contrast to cover them up. 


It is a decent picture but could be much better.


Here is the original for reference:




Thats right the ball is real. I hated photoshop back then, in fact I still do! So I made the light from some LEDs, a big plastic present holder bauble and a battery pack! 

(See the wire around back?)

Now though I am finally building up a skill set in Photoshop, so I tried to go back and revist this so it better matched my original artistic vision. 

Much happier with it now, wires and arm rail are out, so the reflection in the dome can now stay, I had to sacrifice it last time!


What do you think? I actually met the model, Colleen, in Starbucks before the shoot. The reason I mention it is because I turned on the globe in the coffee shop to show her it before we headed to the shoot. I can still remember the shocked looks from all around :) I knew it was awesome as a prop but the picture never captured that, until now. As always keep practising, be that shooting, posing or editing, you can only get better.

Macro photography

Hey folks, just another quick picture to share what has been keeping me off the blog.  Got myself a new macro LED ring light for portrait use.  Its great for portraits but decided I would try to use it for macro work, what it is intended for!  Woa what a cool area of photography, loving the pictures you can make up close.  Look at the lovely rose I bought my wife for valentines day (waste not want not after the big day!)


It just seems so much more intense up close, dont you think?


All made possible with this super cheap light, check it out if you are interested, the Nikon one works on my Sony a7r  without  one minor feature (preflash focus adi) but if you have a Canon or Nikon just pick the right one and this will work too. It also doubles as an awesome video light (more on this if I every get my youtube channel up and running!)

Photography Help: Manual mode

Just a quick post tonight to share a great short video from Chelsea and Tony Northrup.

If you are scared of using the "M"on your camera, otherwise known as Manual mode, check this video out.  These guys are great because they pitch their beginner videos at non photographers and use practical examples of why you would choose certain settings based on pictures normal folks want to take.  So have a watch of this free short video and practice yourself at home.

Photography help: Leading lines

Nice quick one today, leading lines. Very easy to explain this, there are lots of examples. You might have noticed a lot of pictures of people on train tracks on the web, the tracks leading up to them?  Its a bit of a cliché but the idea was to find something to lead the eye through the picture to the subject.

Train track pictures

It has been done to death now though so I stay away from it.  But the concept is still great.

Here is an example of leading lines:


Guess what the leading lines are?

Guess what the leading lines are?

Great so we have some leading lines.  But what use are they?


Where is the subject of the picture?


Having leading lines with no "pay off" is a bad idea, it leaves the viewer unhappy and unsatisfied. But they do focus the attention on the subject when used properly.


Hence the overuse of train tracks for portraits! Basically plonk person on train tracks and put tracks in a corner leading in or stand in tracks so you get a vanishing point.


ZzZzZz boring and over done.


As soon as I saw these car tracks in the snow this morning I wanted to do something with them.  So I had my daughter walk up the verge to a patch in the distance (so as not to make foot prints).

ok a subject!

ok a subject!

Great but too far away for a "normal " portait.

So I had her turn around for a dramatic moody shot:

Interesting and moody but something still not right?

Interesting and moody but something still not right?

Last step, this "feels" like a portrait shot for me because the tracks lead from bottom up.  However there is a lot on the sides that doesn't add anything, so....

There, finished, a little moody, why is she there? how did she get there? Why is she facing away?

There, finished, a little moody, why is she there? how did she get there? Why is she facing away?

So have a go yourself, with any camera at all, even your phone.  Fences, walls and pavements can be used too if you haven't any train tracks near you ;)

Photography help: A new camera is not just for Christmas, it is for life.

So maybe you are one of the many people who got a new camera for Christmas, congratulations!

Have your pictures improved dramatically since you got the new camera? 

I am guessing probably not and here are a few reasons why. 

The new camera is new, so you dont know how to work it yet! Cameras are really complicated. It takes time to get used to how to put the battery and memory card in, where all the buttons are and what they do.

When you get a professional photographer dont be surprised if they have a camera a few years old, its normal for us to hold on to one camera or stick to one brand.  I am a "Sony Shooter" which means I like to use Sony cameras.  If you hand me one I will be able to work it very well very quickly because they all have the same kind of setup and button layout.

Hand me a Canon or Nikon and it will knock me back to being an amateur, at least until I learn how the controls work and were the battery goes! 

My point here is that getting a new camera actually sets you back on your learning, it rarely, if ever, suddenly improves your photography.   The camera might be "better" but buying it doesnt inprove your skill.

A lot of new camera owners go through a buyers remorse because they think it should have improved their pictures and they struggle building up their skills again with the new camera.

Many give up and sell the camera on second hand and forget photography as an art and skill based hobby. 

So now to the point of this post.

I am a good photographer, sometimes even brilliant, but it wasnt always that way!   

I started out as an artist, I learned to use brushes, different strokes, different paints and techniques.  I sculpted with clay, wax, wood, all sorts.  The difference in pencil types, how to hold a pencil to draw a straight line, or a curve, it was a range of skills I built up over time. 

Some really old still life sketches from my teenage years.

Some really old still life sketches from my teenage years.

I had a big thing for installation art...

I had a big thing for installation art...

 ...taking shiny objects and placing them in interesting places and drawing still lives of them.

 ...taking shiny objects and placing them in interesting places and drawing still lives of them.

Then an art teacher got me interested in cameras and asked me to see them as another artistic tool.

What a disaster, buttons, winders, waiting days or weeks to see the results (back in the film days)  

I hated it, at first. The camera took all my control away, I couldnt see how my work was shaping up. Then over the years they grew on me. Mainly because I has less and less time to paint, draw and sculpt.  So when Digital hit I was an early adopter and got on board with a 1.3 MP camera.

And ever since I have been improving and developing. The key thing is the time invested. I have had a few new cameras but I recognised early on they are just tools, like pencils and paper, clay or paint.

So stick with your camera, I promise you the more time you spend with it the better you will get. If you keep trying to buy a "better one" you will be dissapointed and waste your money its just a tool after all, you are the photographer.





Under Crumlin Road Jail a nice dramatic B&W composition.

Under Crumlin Road Jail a nice dramatic B&W composition.