Fellow Photographers,

I wanted to follow up on the two extra emails I sent out last week – one about photographing the Northern Lights here in the UK and the other about photographing the solar eclipse.  My lead article this week is about both of those events and the photography lessons I learned from them.

This week I am highlighting my “Introduction to DSLR Photography” course and my “Introduction to Wedding Photography” workshop.  I know a few of you have expressed interest in both of these course and I am looking forward to running both events.

From the blog this week I wanted to draw your attention to a FREE Lightroom training resource from Scott Kelby and KelbyOne training.

Finally this week I’ve included a few images either from the blog or from my photos of the day, which hopefully will inspire and give you ideas to for things to shoot in the coming week.

So until next week for all this and more…. please read on…

Featured Post

Photo Lessons Learned

In a week where I sent out two additional emails to my newsletter subscribers, I wanted to follow up on both of those messages and talk about some lessons learned from both experiences.

In both cases the information there is nothing I would change about the advice I shared and I still believe the advice I gave to be accurate.  But none the less, there are still lessons I learned in both cases.

Northern Lights – Lesson Learned

Manchester isn’t Norway! The northern lights were relatively easy to find in Norway, and while they weren’t bright, they were visible.  Here in Manchester however it was a different story, although I went out looking for the lights, I didn’t see them or photograph them.  There was way too much light pollution.  I hadn’t really given light pollution much thought, on a clear night you can see the stars in the sky – right?  Well actually not really.  I went to a place, not far from my childhood home were I remembered watching the stars at night.  When I looked up I could see stars but number of stars I could see I could number on the fingers of one hand.  The sky wasn’t black as it had been when I was a child but brown with a glow of street lights making it almost impossible to see anything but the brightest stars in the sky.  This was exasperated by a general haze of pollution and mist in the air.  When I saw the lights on a plane coming out like search beam in to the night sky, I knew there was no chance of seeing the northern lights.

The primary lesson I learned that night was that to do any form of astronomical photography it is necessary to find a location where the sky is free from both haze and light pollution.  For me that would mean going quite some distance outside the Manchester area.

Solar Eclipse – Lessons Learned

I learned a lot of interesting lessons on Friday morning when I photographed the eclipse.  Here’s four of them:

Less than ideal conditions can make for more interesting images.
I think like most people I woke up, saw the clouds in the sky and my heart sank.  “Not again!”  I missed the 1999 eclipse due to cloud cover and I thought – here we go again.  In reality however the cloud cover was not 100% and the sun broke through on many occasions.  The clouds framing the image of the sun made for a much more interesting image than if the sky had been solid blue.

Too many filters can spoil a photograph
Having spent some time the previous day to working what combination of filters and settings I needed to photograph to eclipse, I went in to auto mode (that me in auto mode not the camera by the way!).  I attached all the filters dialed in the settings I had calculated and took a test shot – it was black.  Different time of day and with a light cloud cover I didn’t need as much light reduction as I had calculated the previous day.  Time to start changing the camera settings and removing filters.

Given the option to do both, I chose where possible to remove filters – some of my filters are old and are not as scratch free as I would like them to be, and besides which images are always sharper for having the light travel through less glass (or plastic).

A partially cloudy sky makes a great ND filter
There were a couple of times during the eclipse where the cloud cover was just perfect – you could easily see the outline of the sun and moon through it but it was not so bright as to need any filters at all.  When this happened I was possible to photograph the eclipse without any filters on the camera.  I still need a very fast shutter speed (1/4000s) and small aperture.  But it was possible – I am guessing but I think this is why so many of the iphone / point and shoot cameras were able to capture the event.

The general lesson here, which applies to most areas of photography actually, is be prepared to adapt to the changing conditions and don’t slavishly stick with the settings and set-up you have previously worked out.

If you go to the trouble of attaching a remote trigger…. use it!
I have some images where the outline of the sun is a double image.  I am not sure whether that was caused by too many filters causing odd reflections, or whether it was caused by vibrations caused as I pressed the shutter release.  The sad thing was that I had attached a remote trigger and failed to use it.  In my defense however my trigger is an intervallometer and if the sky had been clear I was going to do a time-lapse.  The light was changing too much from shot to shot that I didn’t bother and because I was thinking shutter speeds of 1/4000s or faster it never occurred to me to use the remote simply as a trigger.  I don’t need it for speeds like that.  However… with the cloud cover for quite a few of the shots I had to reduced down the shutter speed and in some cases, the act of pressing the button caused a very slight movement and created a double image.

Use post-processing techniques to add something extra
This only struck me when I was working on the images after the eclipse.  One of the things I had learned about photographing the northern lights in Norway was how much you need to do in post production to really bring them to life.  Applying some of the same techniques to the eclipse images makes for some very interesting photos.  Even if you feel changing things like saturation and brightness is cheating.  At very least think about cropping to make your images of the eclipse stand out.


None of us are perfect – even professionals make mistakes when making photographs.  The difference between a pro and an amateur is that you don’t get to see the professional’s mistakes!  In this case I am reasonably happy with the results I got of the solar eclipse – they aren’t perfect but I’m happy.

What is most important with our photography is that we learn from what we have shot.  It is good to stop and think after a shoot.  Is there anything I could have done better?  Are there things I would do different if I was doing that shoot again.  Failing to take that step after a shoot, could potentially condemn us to make the same mistakes over and over again, and make the process of improving our skill much slower.

My full set of image from the solar eclipse can be seen here:

Forthcoming Events

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 – Introduction to DSLR Photography Course


Location: Ian’s Studio
Time: 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Price: £149

This course will give all the basics to go out and start creating great images. The course is 7 sessions long and will be running weekly on Wednesday Evenings 7.30pm – 10.00pm. starting Wednesday 15th April.

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The course content will include the following:

  • Composition, seeing and finding great photos.
  • Camera settings – understand what your camera can do
  • Getting the camera off auto:  understanding F-Stops, shutter speeds, focal lengths and ISO
  • White balance – what is it and when to change it
  • Flash photography.  Creative ways to use your flash gun to enhance your photos
  • Controlling the light – reflectors, difusers and filters.
  • RAW and JPG – what’s the difference?  Why shoot RAW?  How to process it
  • Downloading, processing and editing.
  • Photography in difficult conditions:  at night, in the heat of the day, in the rain.
  • Photo critiques – learning how to assess your photos and teaching yourself to improve.

The course is aimed at beginners and those who wish to consolidate their photographic knowledge.  As with any course the time spent on any given subject will be tailored to reflect the current knowledge and experience of those attending. Printed course materials (over 100 pages of notes) will be provided to all attendees.  Throughout the course there will be opportunities should you wish to have your photographs assessed to help you improve.

The total cost of the course is £149.   A minimum deposit of £40 is required to reserve your place on the course.

Please note: The course is designed for users of DSLR cameras.  If you have a “compact” camera or a “bridge” camera please contact me to discuss its suitability for this course.

Please book via my website: http://www.ians-studio.co.uk/events/introduction-to-dslr-photography-course-7/

Saturday, 25 April 2015 – Introduction to Wedding Photography Workshop


Location: Ian’s Studio
Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Price: £69

At some point all photographers get asked to photograph a wedding – even if it is on an informal basis just as a favour for a friend.  This workshop will introduce you to what is involved.

While taking the photographs is relatively straightforward what scares most photographers is the fact that you have limited time and only have one chance at a wedding.  In this workshop we give special emphasis on the ‘stage management’ role that a wedding photographer has to assume.

We look at the planning side, and how to make sure things run smoothly from a photographic perspective.  We go through the day looking at different scenes that wedding photographers have to photograph.

We conclude the workshop with the chance to photograph bride and groom models.

(Please note: 4 or more attendees are required to be able to book both bride and groom models.  If there are 2 or 3 attendees on the workshop we will only have a bride model to shoot.  With only 1 attendee I can still run the workshop as a one-to-one training session but would not be able to offer the chance to shoot). 

Cost £69 (Includes lunch and notes)

Full payment or a deposit of £25 is required to secure a place – please book using the form below.  

Please book via my website: http://www.ians-studio.co.uk/events/introduction-to-wedding-photography-workshop-6/

From the Blog…

BLOG: The Lightroom Show

lrktlogo4Anyone who has been following me for any length of time will know that I am big fan of Adobe Lightroom.  One of the sites I visit regular for hints and tips on Lightroom is http://www.lightroomkillertips.com.  It is owned and maintained by Scott Kelby of KelbyOne training.

I have been sending people to the LightroomKillerTips for quite some time, but I think it is worth mentioning it again at this time as they have recently started a weekly VideoCast called “The Lightroom Show” – it comes out every Friday and each episode is under 15mins in length.  There’s loads of really useful information in the show – I always thought I knew my way round Lightroom pretty well but even I am finding out new things from watching the show.

You can find all the episode on the Lightroom Killer Tips website:
You can also subscribe to it in iTunes here:

New episodes are released on a weekly basis each Friday.

[Blog] Fri, 6 Mar 2015: Church in the Snow

Church in the Snow

Just wanted to share another of my images from the Norwegan city of Alta. This time it is the traditional church building.

This image was originally under exposed to preserve the details in the sky. The north of Norway has a fantastic blue light.

In Lightroom I used the adjustment brush to bring the church and the snow back to white. I also use the lens correction panel to sort out the verticals. Finally Color Efex Pro was used to bring out a little of the detail in the snow and the building. I tried to keep this quite subtle.

You can see other images from Alta here: http://photos.imb.biz/travel/norway/alta

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a source of free photographs.
This photograph is (c) Ian M Butterfield. All rights are reserved. No use Is permitted (including non-commercial use) without prior permission. If you wish to use any of my photographs please ask first.

Image Reference: FH0306B-G02513

Photo of the Day

POTD (3 Years ago today) Fri, 23 Mar 2012: Rachael by Candlelight

Rachael by Candlelight


Tonight’s event at the studio was all about taking photographs by candlelight. Here we see model Rachael apparently lit by the candle she is holding. The reality is however a little different. Yes the candle provides a significant amount of the illumination but it is added to by two speedlights behind and either side of her. Those speedlights have coloured gels on them to match the colour of the flash to the colour of the candle.

You can see more images from the event here: http://photos.imb.biz/model/shoot/candlelightnight

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a source of free photographs.
This photograph is (c) Ian M Butterfield. All rights are reserved. No use Is permitted (including non-commercial use) without prior permission. If you wish to use any of my photographs please ask first.

Image Reference: FE0323A-E05255

POTD (6 years ago today) Sun, 21 Mar 2010: Bible Love

Pages of a bible folded to create a heart


An experiment. Folding pages of a bilbe to form a heat – then using a flash with a coloured gel through to pages to add a bit of colour.

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a source of free photographs.
This photograph is (c) Ian M Butterfield. All rights are reserved. No use Is permitted (including non-commercial use) without prior permission. If you wish to use any of my photographs please ask first.

Image Reference: FC0321A-E04848

Stock Sales

For those who are interested in Stock Photography here’s some information about some of the strange and not so strange sales that I have made.

SALE 31 May 2005: Manchester


LICENCE: Rights Managed

A few weeks ago I mentioned a sale for the front cover of a map that got cancelled because the publisher wanted a different image. And by a strange coincidence the different image they selected from Alamy was also one of mine. This is that image.

31 May 2005
Country: United Kingdom
Usage: Editorial
Media: Travel guides -print and/or e-book
Industry sector: Retail books/magazines/newspapers
Sub-Industry: Travel Guides
Print run: up to 50,000
Placement: Front cover
Image Size: 1/4 page
Start: 31 May 2005
End: 31 May 2008

Alamy Link: http://www.alamy.com/image-details-popup.asp?Imageid={516FC59A-F646-4445-8862-31DB188AD47D}

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a source of free photographs.
This photograph is (c) Ian M Butterfield. All rights are reserved. No use Is permitted (including non-commercial use) without prior permission. If you wish to use any of my photographs please ask first.

Image Reference: EV1007A-D02918

The Full Programme

For full details of all our fourthcomming events please use the links below or click on the event eFlyer.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 – Introduction to DSLR Photography Course
Tuesday, 21 April 2015 – Intermediate Photography Course (8 Sessions)
Friday, 24 April 2015 – Shooting Silhouettes
Saturday, 25 April 2015 – Introduction to Wedding Photography Workshop
Monday, 4 May 2015 – 120:20 Challenge: Manchester
Saturday, 9 May 2015 – Night Photography Workshop
Sunday, 10 May 2015 – Comprehensive Studio Photography Course
Friday, 19 June 2015 – Falling Down and Floating Up
Saturday, 5 September 2015 – Learn to Use Your flash Workshop
Saturday, 19 September 2015 – Digital Rain & Wet-look Glamour Workshop
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 – In-Depth Art Nude Course
Saturday, 10 October 2015 – Messy Art Nude Workshop
Saturday, 24 October 2015 – Studio Photography Taster Day

Don’t forget our referral programme

£10 for each new photographer you refer to the studio who goes on to book for an event, workshop or course. More details here.