Stephen Studd Photography

Travel Gardens Plants

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Behind the Photo: New Shoots

Spring is bursting at the seams at the moment, each and every day bringing new shoots to the surface. I thought I would share with you some photography tips on one of my shots that has sold for a multitude of uses.

Organic kale seedling Nero de Toscana emerging in May planted in greenhouse

A very simple shot to achieve, just a little patience is required whilst you wait for the seedling to emerge.

For this shot I grew the seedlings in a large seed tray with the seeds spread wide apart as I just wanted one seedling in the shot.

The advantage of growing the seedling in a seed tray was once it emerged I could move the tray to the best light. I always prefer using natural light in my photography, so I placed the tray in a window, not one that has direct sunlight. Doing this gives the lovely fresh feeling to the seedlings leaves as they are backlit. I was after that feeling of fresh new growth and nature bursting out, the compost can be seen pushed away at the base of the seedling.

If you were to photograph with the window light behind you the seedling would look much duller as in the photo below.

Organic kale seedling Nero de Toscana emerging in May planted in greenhouse

For the main shot I used a macro lens, if you don’t have one, extension tubes can be used. I also used a tripod as this was essentially a studio style shoot. With the tripod I had control of where I could put the seed tray in front of the camera for the light I was after (backlit window light). I could also use a low ISO of 100.

I always use mirror lock and a remote release when I’m taking shots like this with the camera on a tripod, reducing the chance of camera shake.

I shoot on manual so I can control the exposure, look and feel of the shot. When shooting with the camera on a tripod getting the right exposure and depth of field is made much easier once you have the composition you are after as you are working in a controlled environment. Focus on manual, especially when using a macro lens.

I always shoot in RAW mode so I can process the image afterwards.

Finally for me it is important to know what variety the seedling is for captioning afterwards, so keep a note.

As the shot was intended for commercial use I left lots of room at the top of the shot for text, (for a magazine or book cover), with space at the bottom and sides for copy too. (Graphic designers will love you for it).

To recap for the shot:

  • Tripod used
  • Low ISO
  • Macro lens (or you can use extension tubes)
  • Mirror lock & remote release
  • Backlit window light
  • Control depth of field so just the seedling is in focus
  • Shoot on manual (especially when using a tripod)
  • Manual focus on the seedling
  • Use single shot drive mode
  • Shoot in RAW format

When the seedling first emerges like this act quickly, they grow and change very quickly overnight.  After I had finished photographing I grew the Kale Nero de Toscano seedling on and planted it on my allotment once the seedling had established. I was able to eat the leaves of the plant once it had grown to maturity, whilst receiving royalty cheques from it too.



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Photo Tip Friday; Equipment list

After leaving behind an important lead once on a foreign travel shoot, I now have an equipment check list. Nowadays there are so many electrical leads and cables to remember, plus all the other photography equipment, memory cards etc, you have to be sure all the equipment is going away with you. Making a tick list ensures everything is packed.

Angkor Wat Cambodia smiley face

Photo Tip Friday is taking a break and flying south until the new year. Next stop Cambodia where I will be making final arrangements for my Digital Photography Holidays to Angkor Wat in 2013. Really looking forward to getting back to Cambodia, the smiles, the people, the food and of course the amazing temples. So much still to explore and see as the temples are spread over 400 square kilometres. I will be adding a few posts while away to keep you up to date. Until then;  chum ree-up lee-ah

Details of the travel photography holidays to Angkor Wat and also Bangkok can be found at Also in late 2013 I will be hosting one to Myanmar, you can register your interest on the website too.

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Easy steps to photograp into the sun

My camera is always set on manual mode, if your camera is on auto and you photograph into the sun you will most likely get underexposed images.

When shooting into the sun your meter will underexpose the scene (the histogram will be way too far to the left). Photographing into the sun is a great way for you to learn to take control of your camera.

If you are after a warm glow around the sun then photographing at sunrise or sunset are the best times to achieve this.

Digital photography holidays Myanmar, Bagan,  temple at dawn, silhouette

Myanmar, Bagan, silhouetted temples at sunrise

Set the aperture you are after and meter for the scene without the sun in the frame as a starting point. Keep this meter reading then shoot with the sun in the shot and see how this looks.

For the shot above of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar I wanted to leave some detail in the silhouetted temples whilst giving a very warm feel to the image. You can try different exposures using the exposure compensation dial to see how the different exposures will look. The camera was mounted on my tripod and I focussed the scene manually, then avoided looking directly through the eyepiece to save my eyes from any damage. Between shots I put the lens cap on too.  To avoid flare it is best to remove any lens protection filters you might have on your lens.

If you are after a bright burnt out sun with blue sky then shooting around mid day can ahieve this, though this one is much harder on the eyes, so be careful. The shot below of the Allium Purple Sensation against the sun I wanted to convey the feeling of nature bursting into life with the power of the sun in summer. For this the sun had to be overhead with me lying on the ground. This shot was harder to achieve as I was hand holding and having to focus on the allium and meter.

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun
f11 1/400th sec @70mm 100 ISO

The backlit flower against the sun shows off its shape and form and the colour of the petals is accentuated. In this shot the sun is more burnt out and there is flare which adds to the feel of the power of the beating sun.

When taking these type of shots please be careful of your eyes, you don`t want to damage them.

I am leading travel photography holidays and tours in 2016 and 2017 to Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam and Cambodia. Details can be found on the Digital Photography Holidays website;

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Photo Tip Friday; Monitor calibration

After accidentally breaking my monitor calibrator what better time to stress the importance of having a monitor calibrated.

Have you ever been into a tv or computer showroom and seen a vast aray of screens and noticed they all look different? The reason is they haven`t been calibrated. If you work on a screen that isn`t calibrated then your images will look totally different on someones screen that is calibrated. Also when printing your photographs they will come out looking different to your screen.

Calibrating your monitor sets it to a standard so that an image on my calibrated screen will look the same as on other calibrated screens. This is vitally important in your digital workflow. It is very important when testing your monitor that it is turned on for about half an hour to let it warm up.

With my Eizo monitor an annoying but useful reminder pop up warns when so many hours have passed since the last calibration.

Now I have an updated calibrator after breaking the old one and after completing the test there was only a very miniscule change since the last one.

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Photo Tip Friday; Back up your photographs

Backing up your valuable photographs is a really important task that so often gets forgotten until it is too late. Incorporate this into your digital workflow.

Being extra cautious/paranoid with my extensive library of images I have 3 external hard drives with a back up of all my images on each. For  extra safety when leaving the house one of the hard drives goes with me.

There are lots of solutions as to where to back up your images, choose the one that`s best for you and remember to back up regularly.

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Photo Tip Friday; How do you keep those horizons horizontal?

In my camera bag I have a spirit level that fits onto the hotshoe of my camera. When the camera is on the tripod you get spot on level horizons. This one has been round the world with me. Camera spirit level

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Photo Tip Friday; keep an eye on frame counter & battery

After a Friday off last week back again with Photo Tip Friday.

If you are planning on photographing a sequence or you anticipate that light will be changing really fast, keep an eye on your camera frame count & battery monitor. If the memory card only has a few frames left, replace it. Same with the battery if it`s getting low change it.
It`s at these times when you will be working fast that you really don`t want to waste time changing memory cards or batteries and kicking yourself later for the shots that got away.

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Photo Tip Friday; The cheapest bit of kit in my camera bag?

After last weeks compass tip I was asked if that was the cheapest bit of kit in my camera bag? The answer to that is no as the cheapest thing in my camera bag is a rubber band!

I carry this as sometimes when unscrewing a round filter or an adaptor ring for Lee filters they become stuck on the lens and can be a pain to remove, particularly when you want to be quick when light is changing fast and your fingers are cold. When this does happen the rubber band gives a good grip making it easy to remove the filter or adaptor ring.

At a cost of under a penny you can even splash out and carry a spare, but hopefully not have to use it too often! You could also follow your postman as he usually leaves a trail of them saving you money!

Rubber bands

Whats the cheapest accessory in your camera bag?

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Photo Tip Friday, invest in a compass

One of the most essential accessories in my kit bag is a compass. It has travelled the world with me to some amazing locations over the years.

I use it when scouting locations to see where sunrise and sunset will be and is particularly useful when skies are dull and overcast. With the use of the compass you will then know if a location is good for sunrise or sunset light.

For the UK a sun compass can be used which tells you where the suns position will be throughout the year, great for location finding and advanced planning.

If you have a smartphone there are apps for this too, though I still stick to my trusty battery free simple compass which I`ve had for 20+ years.

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Photo Tip Friday; Lens Care

The world is seen through a lens in photography therefore it pays to see the world clearly. Have you ever thought the views from your windows are clear, then cleaned the windows and seen much clearer brighter light. The same is true for your camera lens, a clear clean lens lets the light in clearer without defracting through dust and smudges.

Lots of dust on a lens can create flare spots when shooting into  the sun.

To get rid of dust on a lens a simple blower brush does the job quite well. For smudges etc a good quality lens cleaning cloth is recommended. If using lens cleaning fluid make sure it is a good make and apply the fluid sparingly onto the lens cleaning cloth first, not directly onto the lens, working from the centre of the lens to the outside in a circular motion.

Maintaining a clear lens makes it easier to clean and will give you clearer crisper shots.

Join us next Friday for a regular Photo Tip Friday. Digital Photography Holidays run photo holidays to Cambodia and Bangkok;