Saturday, 20 June 2015

Photography, Snaps & the Salty Sea!

Ta-dah! That Photography post that I had been asked for which I have been putting off for a very long time. Thank you so much for bearing with me and sending over the questions that you'd like answered :)

Sorry about the derp face. I guess that's my 'power' face? but it mostly looks a bit angry! I promise I'm not an angry sort of person :P Just a silly sort of person.

Okay, So here goes; in this post I am going to try and cover everything I can think of related to my shooting methods and image treatment (Better put the kettle on, grab some biscuits and pour yourself a brew!)
I really want to stress that I am no authority in Photography. I don't pretend that I'm great or particularly skilled and knowledgeable or a super successful high flyer but this post was a request by a few readers and I felt it awfully rude if I were to ignore. How's the kettle going, boiled yet? Tea bag stewed good and proper? Okay. Let's go. Let's get to it.

I've divided everything up into categories to make it easy to scroll past things you might not necessarily be interested in. I tried to put them in an order that made sense - the sort of order that when I'm out taking photographs, I run through in my head.

F I R S T    T H I N G S   F I R S T 

Raw Materials

Okay dokie! What are we shooting? I photograph many different things from documentary style blog photographs, to shoots with narratives, landscape, fashion, couples and weddings and they all require different planning/contain different raw material. Sometimes, you may want props (Like an umbrella if it's raining) or a speed light flash (if it's a wedding), definitely a camera bag and lens cloth and you need to pack accordingly for what sort of photography mission you're on. Who's your subject? What kind of goal are you trying to achieve? I guess take this all into consideration before leaving the house and think about how that's going to affect your working process. Is there anything lying around your bedroom that would make a great prop? 


Lighting is so important to me in photography. It can be tricky in certain conditions: I personally struggle on a really hot sunny day around noon with strong light, contrast and shadows because so much of the subject can be lost in shadow, you can end up with hot spots and really struggle with the exposure. That's not to say you need to give up - I just work around it. On a really strong sunny day, I'll take photo's in the dappled light beneath trees, in the shade cast by buildings/nature. 
Some of my favourite conditions to photograph in are:
-Hazey days 
-Dark stormy skies 
-Autumn/Winter lighting when the sun is lower in the sky 

The lighting makes such a difference to the aesthetic. It's not all about the sunshine - some of my favourite photographs have been taken on stormy, grey weather conditions. However, if it's summer and you're looking to get out and grab some outfit snaps/portraits for your blog - the golden hour of sunset is always a great time because the light is softer and kinder and far more flattering. 


Composition is mega important. It can make or break a photograph. Is the landscape/seascape straight on the horizon or is it a little wonky? (I've made that mistake many a time!) Don't be afraid to move things about and play to get them just so. Sometimes silly things like placement of hair/shapes a body is making really affects a portrait. Posture, angles (views from below can often be unflattering) where you place the primary subject in the image - these things are all part of considering your composition.  Often, you'll see me doing a strange sort of squatting exercise whilst taking photographs in order to get my favourite angle/level of the subject. After a wedding or long day of shooting, I'm always left feeling like I've spent the day at the gym.

T H E  T E C H N I C A L  B I T S 

Ahhh, the technical stuff. This is my least favourite part and possibly my weaker part of photography. Although shooting on manual is my daily practice (I couldn't bear to shoot on auto) I still have soooo much to learn in my quest of taking a perfect photograph but here are a few things I always consider!

Shooting controls

RAW- I always shoot in RAW. If a sky is being tricky and overexposing, the data is still there so that if you need to, it can be rescued later in photoshop/lightroom. plus the quality of the image is generally superior. Jpeg is what I save a low res version of the image in eventually when I share on blogs/social media but if your camera/editing software/computer can support it, try to shoot in RAW if image quality is something you care about. If you don't want to - it's not the end of the world. For blog images it's no big deal but I'd probably cry if I accidentally did a client shoot all in JPEG. You can download software from your camera companies website that ensures your computer can read the RAW file if it already doesn't :)

Manual - I always shoot in manual. You have no control with auto, but manual allows you to adjust the exposure, shutter speed, white balance, ISO, everything that matters and generally if you choose the settings yourself you will get a better image and boost your skills as a photographer.

White Balance - there's a setting for white balance even in the most basic compact cameras. It's nothing scary, it's just the option to tell the camera what sort of lighting condition your shooting in and it will work accordingly to those conditions. Ie) are you shooting indoors? on a cloudy day? in the shade or harsh sunlight? Tell your camera, otherwise you'll end up with some strange colour casts happening in your photographs which can be easily avoided :)

Exposure - SLR's have an easily visible exposure meter on them with a + and - sign which you can normally adjust with a wheel to get the point in the centre. Sometimes, I might deliberately over expose or under expose a photograph a tad to experiment to get a desired effect/mood. To understand exposure, you need to think about these things: Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and something else I probably haven't figured out yet.

ISO - Despite looking into it and studying it at Uni, I had to admit I'm still not 100% clear on what ISO is and how exactly it works. But I do know it works. In low lighting conditions, setting the ISO higher will give a brighter image however you will get more grain depending on how high your ISO works. Back in the days of film, you bought a film for a certain ISO but DSLR cameras you can change the ISO for each image if you like. When it's bright lighting conditions you won't need a high ISO necessarily and so you can forgo the grain. Sorry I couldn't be more knowledgable on ISO - that's as far as I can go with that one. Dark Conditions = High ISO. Even compact cameras will have an ISO setting if you look for it.

F Number - how large or small your aperture is depends on how much light is going to be let in. Some lenses (my 50mm lens) goes down to F/1.4 which means the hole that lets the light in opens up really wide. This gives the beloved blurry background effect (bokeh) but can sometimes mean that the range of what's in focus could be small. On the other end of the spectrum, having your F Number/aperture set to something like F/22 will give a great deal more in focus and looking sharp but that is going to make your light hole really really tiny so you're going to need to have a really slow shutter speed to let in the amount of light that image needs to expose well so a tripod is advised. Having that sort of F number is great for landscapes etc.
Conclusion: The higher the F number the more is in focus but don't forget to tweak the shutter speed! 
Sometimes, getting a good exposure is a dance between the aperture, the shutter speed and ISO.

L E N S E S 

Different lenses do different things. My knowledge of all the different lenses is a little sketchy, I tend to think about what I need for my work and then research that specific lens. I currently use a Nifty Fifty which is my favourite: It's a Nikkor F/1.4 which means it can let in a lot of light if it wants to. This costs a little more than a lens whose maximum F number is F/2.8 because it has more possibilities. Does that make sense? I love my 50mm lens as an all round, light weight lens and then I have a 28-70mm Tamron lens which I'll use for landscapes and dance shoots. My next lens on my list which I'm saving for is a 70-300mm telephoto lens for weddings and (hopefully) puffins! :D (I really want to photograph a puffin) Anyway, I digress. You can choose between prime lenses (which are fixed, no zooming here!) and zoom lenses. Both have their advantages and I work with both ^.^ 


Depth of Field. I mentioned bokeh earlier - if you look at the above black and white image of Sharon in the rain, you can see the circles made by rain drops and by sunlight through the trees. Because that's an example of an image with a shallow depth of field (d.o.f) it gives that effect. I took that photograph with a wide aperture (see F numbers above). If I took the same photograph but on a smaller aperture it would look totally different because all of the background would be in focus. There is much more to D.O.F but I'm keeping it real brief, besides - I don't have it completely figured out.

P O S T   P R O D U C T I O N 

I use both Lightroom and Photoshop. Us students get a great discount and it's well worth taking advantage of the discount Adobe gives us before finishing Uni! I've only just recently started using Lightroom so I'm not quite as familiar and comfortable with it as photograph but it has really boosted my workflow immensely! I love the feature that you can synchronise your editing to multiple images - i.e.) If I have a few photo's taken in similar lighting conditions, I edit one and then synchronise many to share the tweaks. I used to play a lot with colours and I loved giving my photographs a film look/vintage effect. I'd achieve that with the photoshop colours tool and the curves tool but now I'm a fan of the more traditional film look keeping to the natural colours. I have phases and it depends on the aesthetic of the shoot that I'm going for, but you'll see a great variation in my photographs between the traditional film photograph look, the ethereal vintage look, the popular vsco matte look and black and white all depending on my mood at that time. I don't airbrush anything because I like something to look as authentic as possible however I have been known to photoshop out many an unwanted and unattractive sign/traffic cone/telephone pole who rudely decided to spoil a shot :P
My camera is pretty good and if I try and get the image right first of all, I don't have to do too much in the post processing unless I want to tweak colours like in the image above. The most useful tools I found are Curves, Highlights & Shadows and Colour adjustment.

I N S T A G R A M 

I've even been asked about Insta! I absolutely love Instagram and it's one of my favourite social media platforms (probably my favourite next to blogging). I love communicating through images, it's such a gateway into seeing different types of living and cultures! My Instagram images are all taken on my phone camera which is an iPhone 5 which is very temperamental and intermittent. I love the challenge of this stripped back photography - no fancy cameras, no advantages, just a standard camera that loads of people have access to and you get to try to make something of it. My favourite big about Instagram is the documentary side of it - My Insta feed is a documentary of my life and things that catch my eye. It's an expansion to my blog. It's so easy, so instant.

My favourite tool for editing my Insta photo's is Afterlight. I generally go through the tools, playing with the Clarity, Brightness, Exposure, Shadows and Highlights, Temperature and the other nifty little tools they have on offer! Sometimes (Most of the time) I'll throw on a cheeky filter but lower it's strength for as much as I can just to give it that dreamy aesthetic that is my guilty pleasure. I find that Afterlight is great value for money for such a nice and easy photo phone app and it was developed by Simon Filip who is a photographer whose work I rather admired back in the early days!

P E R S O N A L 

Here's a few bits about me that I hope answer your questions! 
First off, sorry Canon lovers, But I'm a Nikon user all the way! My first DSLR was a Nikon D3000 which I used for a few years and last summer I upgraded to a full frame Nikon D610 which in my personal opinion, is the business. I love it so much. Well worth working tirelessly 60 hour weeks for months alongside a degree for :P I love Nikon - I'm not sure if it's because I've gotten so used to them but put a Canon in my hands and I've no idea what I'm doing. I find Nikons so user friendly and *fingers crossed so far* durable! (clumsy dyspraxic speaking here).
I learned film photography on my Fujica retro SLR circa 70's but last summer the shutter speed dial packed up (R.I.P Soot) so I replaced it with a Pentax K1000. I also have another Pentax with a fascinating telescopic lens c/o my very kind step grandpa, 2 polaroids, a Holga and a vintage working Cine camera I inherited from my great uncle. I buy £1 film from pound land. 

I've never read a book on photography in my life (bad Sarah) but I've read plenty of books by photographers! I started taking photographs on a really terrible compact camera when I was about 14 of my many many rabbits and the beach and I would make silly videos about my rabbits on it. I was embarrassing :P I started getting into Photography during A level. I can't remember why I took A level Photography, I have no idea what set it off or inspired me... it just happened. Turned out, I rather liked it and so my amazing Dadda bought me a Nikon D3000 for my birthday and it all started from there. I did an Art foundation at Falmouth University post my A levels (After declining offers at Bath Uni, Warwick and York for BA French & Italian) where my tutors suggested I pursue Photography at University. You see, I'm very indecisive. I've changed my mind about a lot of things. I applied at Bath Spa to do Graphics and last minute changed my place to Photography which I studied for 2 years before deciding the course wasn't for me. I am an academic creature - I love books and essays and knowledge about dusty things and histories and so I transferred to a Humanities based course Creative Writing (Sort of like English, but broader) and haven't looked back since! I love Photography and the degree killed my passion for it and since studying writing, I've taken far more photographs. I launched a website last summer and a separate blog for weddings and couple shoots and I also photograph musicians, dancers and families. I love taking photographs - I love to document and tell stories and there is a story to be found in everything
I love spotting the small moments, tiny treasures and celebrating them. I love to celebrate places and folktales through photographs too and the joy that's found in every day life. That's what photography is to me: It celebrates people, it celebrates places, it celebrates life

A couple of photographers I love include Justine Kurland, Tim Walker and Kitty Gallanaugh. I have a backlist I could go through from 4 years of sketchbook research, but I love those three and they inspire me for different reasons. Justine for her incredible lifestyle in the pursuit of adventure, freedom and art, Tim for his eclectic, ambitious and flamboyant pictures of beautiful nonsense and Kitty for her quiet, delicate and authentic captures that are serene and addictively pretty. 

I hope you've found this post helpful! I really want to re-ittereate that I'm no photography expert (far from) but I put together this Q&A to answer your questions ^.^ Feel free to pop me a comment or email if there's anything else you'd like to know! For now - Here are some snaps from various Photoshoots that don't generally appear on this blog as they're photographs I've taken for other people. 

My very last FAQ for you, is the story behind the name, Salty Sea. 
When I came to creating my website, I had to settle on a name for my photography project that would be the brand that my work would forever be associated with. I didn't want to use my name because weirdly, that felt impersonal, bland. I wanted my name to tell a story, I wanted it to encapsulate the essence of what I want to celebrate, that which has been my biggest inspiration and influenced my life and lifestyle. I am 100% inlove with the Ocean (As many of you who know me, know full-well). Cornwall, and the Ocean has been an enormous part in my development and growth as a person and it's a massive part of my identity. That's what I wanted in a name - something that spoke largely of my identity. The Salty Sea was supposed to encapsulate my love of nature, elements, my upbringing, my inspiration and love of writing. I'd like to think it's somehow lyrical. The Sea is ever changing and vast and wild, it's a truly wondrous muse. 



  1. Sarah, these are fantastic tips! You really know how to work a camera's magic, you talented human bean. Definitely bookmarking this for future reference!

    1. Yay Carly ^_^ Aw shucks, you with your kind words :3
      I'm so glad they're helpful and make sense! :D


  2. Yay! It's me! Mwahahaha :P a lovely post as always!

    <3 (not quite sure why I'm putting this here...)

  3. I absolutely love your photos so am very happy you've written this. I'm going to keep it saved for future reference, I'm a very new beginner to photography and this is going to help me so much! Thank you x

    1. Horray! What a delight to hear :) Bestest of luck in your photography journey of adventures! :D It will be an exciting one ^.^ x

  4. Thank you for sharing all these tips! They're so useful and the most important of all, you speak in a language that I can understand. I really love taking photos and I want to learn more about it, but when I read about it, I usually don't understand a thing about ISO, exposure... But you explained it in a way that I can understand, so thanks for that! :) And your photos are so beautiful, it's always such a delight to look at them!
    Jennifer | Pretty as Summer

    1. You're most welcome! :D I'm so glad their clear and understandable! I know what you mean about books and websites where it's all explained in a very technical way that totally escapes me >.< I find them long winded and over complicated :P

  5. You have such fab tips! I think shooting in RAW has made my editing process so much easier! I feel like I need to read this post over and over again so I can remember all your tips hahah! I still have issues with WB and exposure.. But well, just keep practicing and figuring it out right? :) I love your message of how photography celebrates people and life. If you have the time, I hope to hear more on your post production process :) oh btw, what are some of your fav photographer written books?

    X Carina | Running White Horses

    1. Yay! I'm glad you like them ^.^ RAW is just the best isn't it :D
      Uh White Balance is forever a pain to get perfect :P Even when I've set it to the conditions, it still sometimes needs tweaking with the colour balance v.v Practice makes perfect though :D
      I'll have to look up the names of my favourite books I researched in class :) but Tim Walker - Pictures is definitely a firm favourite and I have a copy of it for my own ^.^ xxx

    I've been waiting for this and am absolutely going to be referring back to it!
    Excellent post - you're a total champ :)

    1. You're welcome! :D I'm glad you like it Abigail! :D I really hope it helps people and explains everything clearly and concisely :D Happy Snapping! :D xxx

  7. Interesting post! I've been meaning to get back into photography (particularly on my blog) so I will definitely save this post for future reference!

    I was just wondering if you had any tips for taking good photos on an iPhone/smartphone?


    1. I think the composition and lighting rules would stay the same :) the angle of the shot means a lot whether it's a smart phone or dslr camera. I find that 'research' is the best method for learning. Follow lots of really good instagrammers who shoot solely on their phones and watch how they angle shots/compose photographs :) Research, research, research is the best way to learn a good eye ^.^
      Make sure things like lighting and shadows are still good enough so your photograph won't be over exposed/underexposed/too shadowy :) i.e.) avoid aiming the camera straight at the sun because that's gonna put lots of things over exposed and others under exposed ^.^ Hope that makes sense :)

  8. This is so so interesting! I really need to get better at using my camera, I have a big SLR but totally always use it on auto. I need to get out and try the different settings and see how I get on. I have afterlight too but never seem to use it! I need to start!

    Jasmin Charlotte

    1. Manual can be so much fun! :D Especially when you start noticing the difference ^_^ just takes a little courage to start playing with it :) Good luck and happy snapping! :D x

  9. I love your tips, so in depth and helpful, thanks! I still don't know how to get the F number to go down on my D3100 but you've inspired me to actually look it up in the book now ;) Oh and I borrowed my friend's 70-300mm lens for shooting puffins and it worked perfectly, hopefully you see some soon!

    1. Horray! Oh man, Puffins! I am mega excited ^_^ Make sure you send me a link to those pictures when they're up! :D
      Glad you found the post helpful :D x

  10. Interesting post! I am a photographer too and there's so much we have to consider, isn't there?

    Ashleigh x

    ♡ Being Ashleigh - Lifestyle, Food, Photography and Fashion blog ♡

    1. Oooh! Horray a fellow photographer! It's lovely to meet you! :D
      At first, it feels like a juggling act but it becomes second nature later on ^_^ Now, I don't even realise when I'm flicking the dials to adjust the apperture/shutter sped :) xxx

  11. Cor blimey, you know a lot of stuff! I'm just starting to flex my camera wielding muscles so thank you kindly for being so jpgenerous (<< this was a typo...a serendipitous one! Keeping it.) with your knowledge.
    Hope you catch a puffin soon, they are most photogenic little sausages
    M x Life Outside London

    1. Thankyou Michelle! :D I love the typo :P Definitely the new cool uber specific photography word :p
      I'm off to the Scilly isles next week, so fingers crossed I get a puffin! :D
      Thanks for stopping by ^_^ xxx

  12. Amazing post! Loved all your tips! Maybe I'll understand better some of them as the years go by hehe!!

    1. Oh Sophia :D I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
      Some times the technical stuff takes a while to get your head around - It took me ages to figure it out! >.< x

  13. Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information.. Photojournalism Tips


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