I’ve really only started to take video seriously with the 5Dmk2, and since I’m really grateful for the help I’ve found on other people’s You-tube and Blog posts, I’m just passing on my initial thoughts.

1.  Always shoots in Manual shooting mode.

2.   Live View Menu: ‘Movie + Stills’, include ‘Movie Display’

3.  Disable Highlight Tone Priority setting.

 4.  Only shoot ISOs in multiples of 160 ISO: 160, 320, 640, 1250.

 5.  Keep shutter speed at 1/50s at 24 frames per second. This approximates the shutter

      of a film camera, including effects of motion and motion blur.

 6.  Picture Profile: set User Defined 1 with the following settings:

           Picture Style:                        Neutral

           Sharpness:                        0 (all the way down)

           Contrast:                           -5 (all the way down)

           Saturation:                        -2

           Colour Tone:                      0 (middle setting)

7.  Record at 1920 x 1080 @ 24 frames per second (this is closest ‘look’ to movie film)          

8.  Use ‘Live Mode’ AF mode (unless you shoot with manual focus): you can use the AF   button for working AF during recording(Although this will include momentary darkening while contrast aids the AF).

9.  Manual focus and zoom are both greatly aided by geared handles on a double rail assembly, for ‘follow-focus’ and ‘follow-zoom. After exhaustive searches of reviews and tests from other photographer/film-makers, I’ve come up with this great kit from ‘thecinecity.com’. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.thecinecity.com/eshop/PROAIM-DSLR-KIT-3.html.

I had them modify the rig to include two V-2 follow focus rigs, one for focus and the other for zoom (you still get the free Z-1 ‘follow-zoom’ handles, but these are not so good since they only go on 1 not 2 of the rails), and I’ll get back to them to order more of the right lens-rings so I can fit them on all my lenses. This kit is an obvious Indian knock-off of Red Rock’s gear. But at less than 1/3 the price, with good quality metal build, I highly recommend it! Be sure to buy from their main site, not their site on Ebay, which has much higher prices.          

10. Since the built-in sound on DSLRS is so bad, for the best stereo sound quality, use a separate recorder like theZoom H4N stereo recorder, which can also be fixed via a screw bracket to the hot shoe of the camera. In conjunction with a ‘Sescom  ‘LN2MIC-ZMH4N-MON3.5’ cable, you can ‘step down’ the line level audio tomicrophone level, and plug in a headphone set as well to listen to the audio as record both the audio and video. Cool.

 Here’s a write-up for it from Sescom:


      The Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON Line Out to Camera Mic In Headphone Tap

      Cable is designed to connect the line output of portable recorders, such as the Zoom

      H4N to the microphone inputs of compatible DSLR cameras. The cable measures 18″

      in length, features male 1/8″ (3.5mm) mini TRS connections, a female 1/8″ (3.5mm)

      TRS input for headphone monitoring, and a -25dB level attenuation pad for “stepping

      down” line level audio, to microphone level. The cable is magnetically shielded which

      eliminates RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) noise from cell phones, PDA’s,  & WIFI.


      Try these settings on the Zoom H4N:

      Headphone outlet: 50

      Built-in mikes: 90 degree angle (for close recording)

      Recording levels: 80 (meters at -12dB)

      48khz @ 24 Bit


11. Photographers will tend to concentrate on the visual aspects of video without paying equal attention to audio, only to find that their video is useless without equally good audio.

I’m taking friends’ advice on buying the best. Currently looking to budget two industry standards between shotgun and Lavallier: the Sennheiser MKH 416, and the Sennheiser G3 112P GB (make sure this uses channel 38). I’ll let you know how I get on.


The EOS 5D Mark II will record movies up to a maximum file size of 4GB. Depending on the level of detail in the scene, 4GB files equate to approximately 12 minutes of continuous video at full HD resolution, or approximately 24 minutes in standard definition. Video clips are recorded in .MOV format using H.264, an MPEG-4 movie compression. Sound is recorded using linear PCM without compression. The new camera features an input terminal for external stereo microphones as well as a built-in monaural microphone for convenience. Through its mini-HDMI port, it’s easy to display crisp, clear images on a High-Definition TV. 


SESCOM ZOOM HN4 Recording Duration Times (using 48khz@24 Bit)

2GB: 1 hour      4GB: 2 hours       8GB: 4 hours      16GB: 8 hours



After lighting and exposure are set up, hold up a white card to camera, filling frame. Take a picture in Video Mode. Go to Custom White Balance in the camera’s menu, and choose the existing photo of the white card as your choice for Custom White Balance for that shoot. This will give you a true white for the screen.



Use a video head on tripod for smooth panning movement.



You can use rechargeable batteries, but Nickeln metal Hydride (Lithium) batteries last for a lot longer in the Sescom HN4.



Never use Auto Levels. Set recording levels so that peaks (loudest sound) never go over between -12 to -6,decibels never more. Overloud sound (too ‘hot) distorts and over-modulates: you can never get this to a stage where you can use it. Sound that’s slightly too low can be brought up with gain, but not the other way around.



You can buy a clap-board and write scene information on the board to show it at the same time you synch sound and video; but if you say the info to the camera when audio starts, then do a hand clap to camera, this does the same thing.


Obviously much of the information here will apply to other cameras as well as the Canon 5Dmk2 or 3. More info as my experience gets better. Good luck. Feedback welcome.

JBlogoOne of my biggest influences in becoming keen to shoot good videos on my Canon 5DMk2 is Nic Askew and his ‘Soul Biographies’. His films are both moving and inspirational, and make me also want to reach out and witness people’s stories, without wasting their time by not having the right equipment. Preparation…

So, I’ve spent the last two months making exhaustive searches of reviews and posts by other photographer/film-makers, on all kinds of equipment and prices. Having finally found a workable combo-kit on a poor man’s budget, I’d like to share it with you. OK, you’re going to have to spend good money to get good equipment – but this is the kit I’ve found works best, at a greatly reduced price compared to the brands some of them have obviously copied. To avoid cumbersome reading, I’ll put prices and web links at the end. Happy reading!

1. Heavy tripod with a good video head:

You need a tripod with enough load capacity to hold the combined weight of a good ‘Video Kit,’ as well as the camera and lens. A video head gives you a smoothness to pans and tilts that normal tripod heads simply aren’t designed for. I started with my Manfrotto 190XPROB and a Manfrotto 701HD video head, but now I find that the Manfrotto video-camera plate is too narrow for the camera plate that came with the kit I bought, so I’ll get a Cinecity video head to fit the new CC camera plate. The tripod I actually prefer is my Gitzo Studex G1320mk2, which (if you can find one) is a serious set of legs, has a load capacity of 13kg, and is without a doubt my best tripod for its weight/load capacity ratio.

2. Magnified Viewfinder Hood:

You need to shield your camera’s LCD screen, to be able to see what’s going on in your video shoot. You might also want this just for stills. By far the cheapest good ‘hooded’ Viewfinder I’ve found (at a fraction of the cost of a Zacuto) is Calumet’s ‘2.5x HDSLR Viewfinder’, which attaches magnetically to your LCD screen. I love it, and it even has a neck strap for when you take the viewfinder off. It’s perfect.

3. Filter Holder & Lens Shade.

You’ll want to use filters with video, especially ND Grads (neutral density graduated filters) for skies. You also need a good lens shade for effectively blocking flare from sun or studio lights. The ‘Matte Box’ for these two things which came with my DSLR Video Kit (below) wasn’t up to par; I can’t use it with my wide angle zoom (Canon 16-35mm L f2.8), the ‘French Flags’ are enormous, and the whole thing is much too bulky. So instead I’m using my existing Lee Filter Holder with the 77mm mount, that screws into the lens (use step-up rings if your lenses are smaller diameter than 77mm), and the excellent Lee ‘Compendium’ Lens Shade. Instead of fitting on the ‘rails’, the Lens Shade slides onto the Filter Holder, and the two are light enough to screw into the front of the lens. Simples!

4. Audio: Microphones and Audio Recording:

After I’ve finished this post, I’ll put these other two vital areas of Video Production in a separate post, to keep this one shorter. Won’t be long…

5. Main Video Shooting Rig:

Instead of just mounting the DSLR onto a tripod with a video head, most photo-videographers opt for a ‘DSLR Video Kit’. This allows you to include and fit some or all of these accessories on the same rig; Follow-Focus, Follow-Zoom, Shoulder Mount, Cage Assembly with handle (for smoother hand-held shoots), a separate LCD Screen, and an Audio Recorder and a Microphone – most or all of which fit onto a parallel set of ‘rails’, usually 15mm diameter. Apart from the last three items , I’ll outline what the rest of the ‘Kit’ is about, and why they’re important.

The ‘PROAIM DSLR KIT-3’ from ‘thecinecity.com’ is simply a great piece of kit (link below), currently selling for £357, and is a very well-made design copy of a kit by Red Rock costing nearly six times the price! In one kit, you get the following: tripod mount, camera mount, 15mm twin rail system, V1 Follow-Focus, Z1 Follow-Zoom, a ‘Matte Box’ with ‘French Flags’ (lens shades) and 2 4×4″ filter holders, a very good Shoulder Mount, and various other very good quality accessories, arriving in a nifty custom padded case. It’s also 1/3 of the price of an exact copy of the Proaim kit, that Calumet sells for over £1000! Be sure to get the KIT-3 directly from thecinecity.com and not Ebay, where the same company sell the same Kit-3 for £430. Buyer beware…or at least shop around for the bet price.

Before I talk about the modifications I asked CC to make for me, let me go into Follow-Focus and Follow-Zoom a little, for those who don’t know what these are.

Whether your camera is on a tripod or hand held for video (don’t try H/H without a shoulder rig), focusing or zooming a lens with your fingers doesn’t work very well. First, you don’t really have enough hands – and especially with zoom lenses, there are so many lens elements inside the lens barrel, that zooming the lens is just too jerky in video, especially at the start of the zoom transition.

I’ve tried various ‘cheap’ options for both Follow-Focus and Follow-Zoom, including the clever ‘Trudeau Jar-Opener’ option. None of these methods, however, smooth out the inherent jerky movement of most zoom lenses. You need a system where by turning a large geared wheel connected to the lens, the movement displaces evenly to the lens and either the zoom or focus turns evenly and smoothly. This method (usually with a large white ring on the wheel) also lets you to focus the lens on the exact distance(s) to the subject for different scenes, then mark the place on the wheel rim with a wax pencil to show exactly where to ‘pull’ the focus or zoom to. This is what ‘Focus Pullers’ do when making a film, so the camera person can concentrate on composition and position.

Modifications to the PROAIM DSLR KIt-3:

CC make at least 11 Follow-Focus units, which is very confusing. The ‘kit version’ that comes with the DSLR Lit-3 is a ‘V1’ FF unit, and a complimentary ‘Z1’ Follow-Zoom. But reviews of the V1 are much less favorable than the ‘V2’, which is only £30 more. Plus, since the Z1 Follow-Zoom only attaches to one, not two of the 15mm rails, I didn’t trust it to stay in place. Also, one smart photographer finally confirmed my instinct: you can use a V2 on one side of the rails for focus, and another on the other side, for zoom! CC curiously aren’t interested to market this phenomenon, but the V2 does come with both a nifty speed crank, and also a 15″ whip so that your hand (or the puller’s) can be farther away from the camera. So I use both V2s on one lens, and leave the Z1 alone. A much better choice.

That thing about the ‘Matte Box’? By all means ask CC to change the usual one for their ‘Wide Angle’ version (their sale people are lovely and will no doubt put any kit together that you want), but both the Lee Filter Holder and Lens Shade are excellent and not too costly, so at some point you may want to bite the bullet and get a pair. If you’re in London you could always go to Teamworkphoto and get them to show you a set. They do excellent Lee soft ND Grads as well.

6. Accessories:

There are lots of other pieces of kit that you can use with your Video Rig, like a larger LCD screen than the one on your camera, and of course audio components like an Audio Recorder and the vital microphone. I’ll get into these on another post; but for now, the one accessory that I knew would be invaluable to fit any of the above to my camera, is a ‘Calumet 4.2 Articulating Arm with Shoe Mount’ (CF9310), which I currently use to mount my Zoom H4N Audio Recorder onto my camera’s hot shoe. Good product.

That’s it. I hope that by compressing two months’ worth of focused research into one blog post helps you with your DSLR/video  deliberations. Please comment, and get in touch if  you have any questions: I love to compare notes. One thing you can do to help me is to ‘like’ my Photography Facebook page (James Bartholomew Photography: the Artist) to help me promote my photography business and my teaching. Sorry this blog is so long: hopefully it was worth it.

Here’s a list of Equipment listed above, with UK retail prices and contact links. Happy hunting! James x

Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod (legs): £ 99.00                       http://www.jessops.com/online.store/products/49003/Show.html?clickid=1GfS-T1D725kx0V1Zj0Un3GbUkWUXRQxnTD6UI0&irmpname=CK+Net+Ltd.&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=cknet-cpa&utm_source=google-cknet

Manfrotto 701HD Video Head: £99.99                                       http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Manfrotto-701HDV-Pro-Fluid-Video-Mini-Head-701-HDV-Brand-NEW-/261202510286?pt=UK_Tripods_Heads_Stablisers&hash=item3cd0e201ce

Gitzo Studex G1320mk2 Tripod (legs): £287.00                                             http://www.digitalrev.com/product/gitzo-g1320-studex-performance-aluminum/MzUxMg_A_A

Calumet “2.5x HDSLR Viewfinder”: £ 49.99                                      http://www.calumetphoto.co.uk/product/calumet-2.5x-hdslr-viewfinder/CD1904/?tracking=|searchterm:2.5x|HDSLR

Lee Filter Holder 77mm: £ 59.98                                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lee-Filter-Holder-Foundation-Kit/dp/B00009XW3O

Lee Compendium Lens Shade: (no UK listing) $124.99                                  http://www.calumetphoto.com/product/calumet-compendium-lens-shade/LE5005/

Cinecity: PROAIM-DSLR-KIT-3: (from India) $357.00                          http://www.thecinecity.com/eshop/PROAIM-DSLR-KIT-3.html

Cinecity: PROAIM FOLLOW FOCUS: (from India) $175.00                             http://www.thecinecity.com/eshop/PROAIM-V2-Follow-Focus.html

Calumet 4.2 Articulating Arm with Shoe Mount (CF9310): £34.99

©James Bartholomew 2013

Email: james@jamesbartholomew.com



MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS: An overview                                                     JBlogo

For people becoming more interested in making photos with a camera, there are a lot of parts to this that more experience photographers have learned and take for granted.

As with anything (learning a new language for example), once you’ve had enough practice it becomes second nature, as something you do without thinking. But for new photographers, it’s worth documenting the variousingredients to making a photograph.

Basically this list is in the order that they happen, even before you pick up a camera. I show these points to new photography students, but often they will only make sense of them once they become more familiar with their cameras and can develop an evolving shooting style. This ability to make creative distinctions depends on the level of your commitment.

If you’re ready for what you come across,  can pick up the camera and start making good images, you can get into a connected mental state I call the ‘zone’. But this only happens when you’ve prepared properly for responding to good opportunities, and you’re comfortable with how to use your camera.

Be aware of why you picked up the camera and held it to your eye in the first place. What have you seen? What does it mean? What do you want to show from this relationship or connection with what you see? This awareness is necessary prior to any pre-visualisation.

The more you’re aware of what you’re looking at (for) actually means to you, the more clearly you can translate this message, and also communicate this to others through your pictures

Before you pick up your camera, you need to have decided whether to shoot in jpeg or raw format. Remember that shooting in raw means having the commitment to spending time processing the shots individually, but it gives you greater scope for image enhancement. Always shoot at the highest file size, and have a spare memory card if you run out of room.

Remember that if you’re shooting hand held, you need an ISO that will give you a high enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake (unless you want some blur, in which case you can choose a lower ISO). Using  ISOs above 400 generally causes loss of image quality.

If you shoot in raw format  you can leave WB on auto and opt to change this later. Otherwise it’s worth selecting the specific WB for the light conditions. Experiment and test these!

When you pick up the camera, you will automatically choose a horizontal or vertical position. Change this, do both, and consider angling your camera diagonally or up or down. Don’t be limited by not making more choices in this. Every photo is a unique and unrepeatable event!
Brace hold your elbows by your sides for more stability.

All visual artists become aware of ‘the light’, and special daylight effects (often early morning and late afternoon on sunny days) produce a magic time (the ‘magic hour’). But overcast days also give good muted soft contrast with even light, tone and colours. Be aware of where the sun is going (buy a little compass and carry it with you) in the sky during the day, and whether now is the best time for a shot, or whether it would be better to come back another time.

When you pick up your camera, you are designing what goes into the frame. Be aware of the  various elements of this, and research the classic visual tools used by both painters and photographers, to allow you more informed choices that will become instinctive. These include leading lines, perspective, rule of thirds, balance, space, colour, movement, timing, graphic elements, contrast and patterns.

Most people use zoom lenses, though technically these are not as optically sharp as prime lenses; be aware of pincushion or barrel distortion with zooms. When you look through the camera, zoom in and out, and change your position and distance before taking the picture.

Using a zoom lens shows how focal length affects perspective. Simply, wide-angle lenses foreshorten and exaggerate perspective so that objects close to the lens appear large, and background objects dramatically diminish in size. Wide-angle lenses have more inherent depth of field at a given aperture than telephoto lenses. Telephoto lenses flatten perspective, making background objects seem to be at the same distance. These lenses produce less depth of field at a given aperture than wide-angle lenses. When you change the focal length of a zoom lens, be aware of the differences found at different focal length settings and distances to the subject. Experiment!

A wider aperture (small number: f1.4,f 2, f2.8) produces less depth of field, and ‘fast’ prime lenses (e.g. f1.4) produce a softness of background (‘bokeh’) unobtainable with slower (zoom) lenses (even at f3.5). Using a smaller aperture (f11, f16,f 22) obtains more depth of field in the scene, though actual focus is only at one distance. For maximum (‘hyper focal’) depth of field, focus 1/3 into the scene and use a depth-of-field preview button to see the effect. Having said this, the actual sharpest focus at one distance is usually obtained by using a middle aperture, as lens sharpness (acutance) is best at this range.

Although 1/60 second is generally the slowest shutter speed to use with a hand-held camera, you need to use a faster speed on long telephoto lenses (1/focal length as a guide). People often want their pictures to be sharp, but photos can also show a more dynamic element by using a slower speed to show either camera movement (shake) or subject movement. Options for movement include zoom blur (moving the focal length on a zoom lens from one end to the other during exposure; not available on compacts), panning (moving the camera in synch with a moving subject with a slow shutter speed), and longer exposure abstract effects.

This is being aware of how the image will translate form what you see to the photographic image. ‘Thinking like a camera’ includes understanding the transfer from 3 dimensions to 2 (close one eye to see this); awareness of timing; knowing how tones and colours will translate (digital media renders higher contrast and lower tone values than your eye sees); and how the choice of lens format will affect perspective and the angle of view.

Both before you set out taking photos and after a session, be aware of whether you used or could have used one of any number of camera accessories; including tripod, flash, filters, cable release, compass, lens shade, spare battery, spare memory card. Make lists of your needs, and budget for them in order of importance.

One of the important things to be aware in your shooting environment is the safety of both yourself and others. Other things to notice are any restrictions on photography where you are, and whether you have appropriate clothes, shoes or money for your endeavours.

If you don’t know all the displays on your camera’s menu, learn them. There’s nothing worse than making a mistake that more awareness of the camera’s display would have avoided; starting with exposure (shutter speed/aperture), ISO, white balance, battery level and how many shots are left on your memory card.

This is probably the most important detail it’s important not to overlook. Checking your shutter speed and aperture are before you press the shutter is an instinct you must develop. Are you using the best ISO for the light? Are you happy with the white balance? In spite of the efficacy of using Photoshop to enhance your images, if they aren’t taken at the optimum exposure, you are not shooting at the best quality you can. If in doubt or in a hurry: bracket 3 images.

‘The decisive moment’ is a term coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and his photographs reveal the value of choosing the right moment. This will be different is you want to be unobtrusive, if you have a human subject, if the light is changing quickly or you are in a hurry. You can always take more pictures, but one will usually be the best one. Explore what things determine the best moment to press the shutter.

If you are photographing something that interests you, the more involved you are with it, the better your relationship. This includes inanimate subjects like buildings, as well as dynamic ones like people. Take time to ingest and be aware of what is going on around you, and that you are directing as well as witnessing and interpreting the event of the photograph.

Similar to timing, be aware of any changes from when you pick up your camera to when you view the fist image on your screen. This is the time to make possible changes in distance to subject, exposure, white balance, lens focal length, or any other modifications.

After you take a photo, always look at it on your review screen to see if it shows what you want. Not to do this wastes the opportunity to improve the image. This seems contrary to the idea of one decisive image (which some photographers adhere to by taking only one photograph), but you are only in that place at that time, once. Make the most of it.

The more photos you make at any time, the more choice you have as to what will make the best image. Most photographers take more than one shot of something, and editing is everything. Cartier Bresson said; “your first 10 000 photographs will be your worst”.

Be aware of what you could use your images for. Photo Libraries (see http://www.alamy.com) will pay you money for images you stock with them that they sell. Make a calendar, or a photo card to send on emails, or join http://www.lflickr.com or another photo community site and get feedback on your photos. Look beyond the even to what you can use the images for.

Whether you shoot images n jpeg or raw format, using Adobe Photoshop (version CS4) to enhance the quality

Increasingly, new photographers seem not to be printing out their images. This is a shame, since if you only view your photos on a computer, you are only seeing them at 72ppi, and not the high resolution produced by your camera. Think about getting an A4 inkjet printer, which (at best photo setting) will produce a photographic quality, 1440ppi image. If you send images as attachments in emails, don’t forget to reduce the file size by resizing the original image to 72ppi, and a smaller image size, to no more than 500kb.

Deciding on a project for your photos gives your intention a focus and attention you can’t get by just taking individual photos. If you want to take good pictures, choose a good subject for a project, and go back to photograph it (them) again and again. This will improve your camera taking skills, and increase your photographic abilities more than anything else. Good luck!

©James Bartholomew

Email: james@jamesbartholomew.com



JBlogoThink like a Digital Camera

Students often tell me of their disappointment in looking through their photos, especially holiday snaps. The reason for this is that their camera had a different understanding of the event than they did! This has led me to outline some ways to overcome this dilemma, by thinking more like a camera (in taking pictures) instead of hoping your camera can live up to your eye’s expectations.

Here are some basic tips.

1. Squint.

Digital media is limited, compared to what you see, because your eyes are more sensitive, in tonal evaluation, than a digital camera can record. This is why contrast is often higher, and tone range lower, than your eyes will see. To predict the results your camera will give, try squinting your eyes very tight. You’ll notice in previewing a scene this way, that you lose more detail in the shadows than in the highlights. The most effective way to overcome this limited tonal range is to take several exposures of the same scene (at least + and – 2 stops, though I often use a +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, and -3, seven stop bracket (changing only shutter speed to retain the – manual – focus). This is the basis of an HDR (high dynamic range) image, where the separate exposures can be merged togehter, in “auto – merge to HDR” with Photoshop. I’ll do a post on this.

2. Close one eye.

You always put the camera to the same eye, so you are by default, right or left eyed. Closing one eye mimics how the camera sees the scene, by going from three-dimensions, to a two-dimensional representation of what you see. The limitations of two dimensions are that actually you lose all relative distance between any subjects, and it is only your brain that is telling you these distances (just like you need to use both ears to hear the direction from which a sound comes). Use other means like leading lines, curves, sky, designing the composition (see my post, “a list of artistic things”) to make sense of what you are recording and ‘lead you in’ to an image of only two dimensions.

3. Take more than one photograph of the same thing.

Unlike your vision, which sees everything in continuous time (like film or video), when you push the shutter, that’s it. You only have one image, from one unique frozen moment of time. People blink, change expression. Light changes. Things move. The sun goes in and out of clouds. Give yourself more chances of having a good result by being able to edit out the best photo. You can’t have a choice with only one. Try sequencing.

4. Preview the zoom range, or change your position.

Your eyes see everything in one perspective (which is matched in 35mm format, by a 50mm lens, which gives the same perspective you see). Wide angle lenses (or the wide end of your zoom lens) distort perspective by exaggerating it, and give you a larger field and angle of view.Telephoto lenses (zooming “in” and magnifying the scene) distort perspective by compressing it, and give you a smaller field and angle of view. Look at the choices you have with your zoom lens by trying different settings (zooming in and out) before choosing one. Or choose several.

5. Learn how to predict the limits of your zoom lens.

There’s no point in going in close and using a wide angle setting if your lens won’t cover as wide an angle as you want. Or, zooming out and hoping for a tight crop if you’re too close. Using your hands straight out at either sides (180 degrees), learn how to estimate the limits, from wide to narrow, of where your zoom lens will be at both ends, and the middle, of the range.

6. Make conscious framing choices.

As with no. 5 above, be aware that while there is no limit to what you see (hold your hands outstretched on either side of you and wiggle your fingers; you have almost 180 degree peripheral vision!), as soon as you point your camera in front of you, you limit the view of something by putting a frame around it. Make good decisions in your choices, and only include in your viewfinder ‘design’, what is necessary for a good photo. Too close or too wide, and you might miss the point of visual focus or interest.

©James Bartholomew





Students taking photography at GCSE or A level need to make reference to photographers many times. Below is a list of tips for making notes that show you have a brain and know how to use it.

It’s not an exhaustive list, and not all the points here will apply to all images you use. Include other considerations of your own that are relevant to the photo.

Why did you choose this image? What attracted you to it?

Why did the photographer / artist make the image?

Is the image constructed or documented from a real event?

Is the photographer trying to say something? Is there a message to the photograph?

What function did the photograph serve within the time it was made?

Is the subject matter symbolic in any way?

Does the image tell a story, were there events that lead up to and followed the single moment of the picture?

Discuss the use of composition, light and shade, texture form etc within the picture (refer to my post, ‘A list of artistic things…”).

Are there any particular techniques used in the photograph?

Describe the image, as though to someone who cannot see it.

How does the photographer’s work relate to that of others? Who were their influences and whom did they influence (it is worth doing research on the photographer to determine these)?

Can you tell if there are any specific parts of the photograph that link or define the image to specific dates, eras, or cultural, historical, social, religious, gender, political or other references?

What can you take and use from the image? Ideas, techniques, composition, etc?

Don’t use this list in a question/answer format; introduce these and any other notes and considerations in full sentences and paragraphs as relevant methods of analysing the image.

Important: when analysing and commenting on any image that is not your own work, be sure to you credit the name of the photographer and include the date of each image.

When using work copied from books or articles or downloaded from the internet, be sure to give full reference (including web addresses) to where the image was taken from.

©James Bartholomew




PHOTOGRAPHING FIREWORKS (tonight is Guy Fawkes’ night)

My students this week have asked me how to photograph fireworks. Considering that tonight is the night (in the UK) where we let off a lot of rockets, here’s a quick answer to the question. I’m shooting some fireworks tonight, and will put the best results below.

1. Use a tripod if you have one. Use one anyway, as often as possible (look out for a future post of using ND filters during the day to create good effects with movement, especially water. You can’t get this result just by using a longer shutter speed!). If you haven’t got a triopod, brace the camera (in the vertical) against a tree, or nestle it in your clothes or on your camera bag.

2. Start with the following exposure: 400 ISO, Daylight White Balance, aperture f8 or f11, and shutter speeds between 1 and 10 seconds. Use Manual exposure settings, and manual focus, on infinity. Use RAW if you can.

3. Look at the results on your review screen (you’ll have to make any adjustments – change your aperture – sharpish, since the fireworks are over pretty quckly).

4. Set your camera (on the tripod) for vertical format, and use a wide angle view, with the baseline on the ground, and include losts of sky.

5. Using an exposure of 5 seconds or more lets you get several rocket launches in the same shot, but experiment with shots from 2 to 10 seconds, as too many explosions in the same shot makes the result very busy. One or two bursts is better.

6. Try moving your camera during exposure, and also use zoom blur (zooming in to out, or out to in) during exposure. Zoom blur is better on a tripod, but you can only do zoom blur on a DLSR, not a compact.

7.Use a cable release if you have one.

8. Go home and make some fireworks of your own, with someone you love. Fireworks are romantic.

Have fun. Send in some results and I’ll post them here.


Since I’m giving advice on how to photograph fireworks, I thought I’d better go and shoot some myself.

The photos aren’t brilliant, but I’m happy with the results from 15 minutes’ shooting. These events are expensive (£10 000 is not unusual), so try as many different techniques as you can in the short time avaiable. I was shooting ‘blind’ for this one, as there wasn’t time to check the review screeen since I was concntrating on timing. I think the nearly full moon makes a nice touch, though it’s overexposed. I’ll put the exposure information in the titles.

Talking to several other photographers at the scene (always a good idea) there was one Spanish guy, a beginner, who was experimenting with zoom blur during his shots, which were less wide than mine (you can see the distortion in the building and ‘leaning’ people on some shots). His were good, and I may try some zoom blur at another local display tonight.

Also since I shot these all on 16mm (since I didn’t know how high the rockets would go) and cropped the hell out of the results, there are a lot of specks in the sky, which are either debris (there’s a lot of that around) or I need to clean my sensor (I’ll write a post on this). Mind you, with 21mp to start with on the 5Dmk11, there is enough to play with.

Anyway, here are some of the results. There are probably too many but I’m just chucking them up here. May take some down later.


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/12 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/2 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/6 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/10 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/5 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/2 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/11 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/14 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/8 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/16 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/11 seconds/ f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/6 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/3 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/2 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/11 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/7 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/7 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/2 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/9 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew


Canon EOS5D Mk 11: 400 ISO/AWB/4 seconds/f11 (tripod) ©James Bartholomew

©James Bartholomew




Take Courage


In 1965 I moved to London with my family on the first of several cross atlantic relocations.

I was a precocious 5 year old; observant, serious, shy, and puzzled at the cultural differences of these two countries who shared (almost) the same language. I loved the old money, and the comics and sweets I could buy with my florin.

One thing I noticed right away were these two big signs that seemed to be everywhere, prominently displayed on the walls of buildings. Like commands, or instructions; one said, ‘TAKE PRIDE”. The other, “TAKE COURAGE”.

The signs seemed to speak to me as personal messages. If I was brave, I could be proud of myself. The small boy took heart in this.

It was years before I found out that Pride and Courage are beers. To me, this is one of the photos that speaks of the messages and symbols that abound for us in the visual world we experience. Yes, it’s an obvious one. So is advertising.

This photo below is one of mine from some time in the 80’s, and comes from one of the buildings facing Borough Market in south London (itself a very old place) The sign is still there.

And I haven’t had a drink in over ten years.


©James Bartholomew

Email: james@jamesbartholomew.com