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When taking a portrait, the most important thing in your picture is the main subject. The background should be cool but the subject should be the main focus. You need to separate your subject from the background by, for example, narrowing the depth of field to blur it, restrict the flash light with a grid spot so it only light the subject and leave the background to the ambiance light or throw the background to some motion blur and maintaining the subject acceptably sharp.

This technique does not require you to own a fast lens (with great aperture), you don't even need a moving background, but you need to own an external flash gun triggered off-camera. It will help you make the background less obvious by bluring it in a stylish way and also create some special mood to the picture.

Learning to light your pictures with flashguns is a great skill to have. These very portable light sources are very handy and put in a camera bag they become available light. Whenever you lack of light or the natural light needs some complement, just take your speedlight and make the magic happens.

One of the most important thing in taking photographs with flash is not only what you are lighting but mostly what you are not.

We often need to separate our subject from the background, make it stands out from distracting elements in the scene. For photographers using only natural light, there is the depth of field (DOF) that allows the isolation of the subject from the background scene by creating a blurr also called bokeh. This can be achieve by using a lens that has a wide aperture (smallest aperture value) like f/2.8, f/1.8 etc... the wider the aperture, the more blurr you can create without going too close to the subject. But for photographers using flash in their work, very often they need to use a small aperture when shooting outdoors due to the fact that the use of flash restrict your shutter speed to a max value of 250th sec (can be different depending on the camera). The brigthness of the ambiance and this max shutter speed make you need to close the aperture to expose the ambiance properly and thus loose the bokeh. So how can you make the subject stands out?

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It's become tougher to take pictures in the City nowadays, you can be stopped by an overzealous security guard or a police officer saying you are breaking the law by taking pictures on the location. They can even suspect you of being a terrorist or helping one.

"Set to become law on 16 February, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 amends the Terrorism Act 2000 regarding offences relating to information about members of armed forces, a member of the intelligence services, or a police officer.

The new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who 'elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces) ... which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'.

A person found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine."

London Strobist Logo

Using flash is something that a lot of beginners and even pro photographers are avoiding stating that available light is the way to go and natural light is the best light. But have you ever thought that by putting your flashgun in you bag, you make it an available light ready to be used wherever and whenever you need to complement or replace a bad natural light?

What if you need to do a bikini shoot in a dull cloudy day like we got here in London, UK? What if you are shooting indoor with low light level without those high end cameras? There are a lot of situations where a flashgun becomes handy and that's the reason why you should now start to use an external flashgun and learn to use it off-camera for a more creative light.

Learning to use your flash properly is not difficult. It's just a matter of practicing again and again. But once you get it, it will boost your creativity and make you go to the next level.

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China and Vietnam are sharing the same lunar calendar and astrology (except for the rabbit which is a cat in Vietnam). The Ox is going to govern this year starting on the 26th of January.

The Vietnamese New Year or Spring Festival, also called Tết, is the most important of our traditional holidays. It's the time for all the family to gather together around lovely food, forget about all the bad things that happened last year and start a new one in a happy atmosphere. It is believed that what ever happen on the beginning of the year is likely to be repeated throughout the year, so everyone tries to be happy, put any anger or bad feeling aside that's why kids are excited as they can do what ever they want (or nearly) without being reproved by their parents. They can also eat a lot of those lovely dried fruits and receive Lì Xì lucky red envelopes containing money, I wish I was a kid again :-P

This year, as every year, the London Chinatown Chinese Association has organized a celebration of the Chinese New Year in Centre London. There were traditional dances, songs, Lion dances etc... From Trafalgar Square to Soho, all the streets were very busy and full of colours.

If you are among the photographers that use lighting and like to share their techniques, you will probably describe your lighting setups for a particular photograph. But writting a description of a lighting setups is better if illustrated by a lighting diagram: one diagram is worth thousand words! Actually a lighting diagram can even save you typing a long description.

But drawing (by hand or with softwares like Illustrator) is maybe not your cup of tea. So one solution is to use ready-to-use lighting diagrams methods

One of the method is to use a template file containing a set of icons representing photographics objects (camera, umbrella, strobes...) and build your diagram from there. It is usually a PSD file with each object in a single layer. You then just need to hide/unhide a layer, duplicate it, rotate/move it to create your diagram.

A second method, which is more practical and does not require any software installation, is to use an online lighting diagram creator/editor.

I've been living in London since June 2006. By September/October 2006, if memory serves, I've joined the Ealing & Hampshire House Photography Society (EHHPS) after Googling for some camera club in my area. The club exists for quite some years now and meets every Thursday evening at 8pm at the Ealing Town Hall. There are two competitions per month, one print and one digital and we usually socialise in a pub nearby after each meeting.

After a little while I've joined few other clubs and groups such as the LPMG and the London Strobist group.

Joining a camera club is very useful and fun. It allows you to show your work and see the ones from other photographers. This is great as you can discuss ones technique and learn from that. Competitions from photographic societies are interesting, having good or bad marks does not always mean that your picture is a wow or a crap, but it helps with understanding and improving your skills in some areas.

Gadget Infinity is an online shop based in Hong Kong specialized in electronic gadgets that truly reflects the sophisticated design of every tiny invention. They provide a wide range of electronic goods for digital cameras such as batteries, charger, flashguns, GPS adapter, wireless shutter, wireless flash triggers etc...

One of their most popular product is the Cactus V2 and V2s, a cheap flash radio trigger that allows you to wirelessly remote trigger your speedlight. When the pro top level radio triggers (Pocket Wizard) cost around £300 the set of transmitter and receiver, the GI Cactus triggers cost around £22.

The down side of these cheap triggers is their reliability and range. Their range is variable, some photographers did witness a range of 45 meters, on the field I've noticed a max range of 4 meters on my ones. Depending whether you shoot indoors or outdoors and if you are close from any radio interference they can be more or less reliable, but often you will notice lots of misfires.

But then more and more photographers that happen to also be DIYers posted article on some antenna extensions mod to these 'el cheapo' triggers. A lot of them claimed that the mod has doubled or even quadrupled the trigger's range.

Christmas is a wonderful period where everyone is thinking of all their beloved. I think a lot of people, even if they are not catholic, are enjoying that date. It's not only because it is a bank holidays but also for the atmosphere and an opportunity to be with the family remembering every good things that happened in the year.

For people like me, far away from the family and that are not able to go back home, friends are the family.

I wish you all to spend a wonderful Christmas time in your family or among your friends, enjoy the good time together eating nice food and giving out meaningful presents.

May you end 2008 in joy and happiness and may 2009 bring you even more!

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Ever woke up on a Sunday morning feeling bored and wondering what you can do? Then you want to go out and take some pictures but drawing the curtains just reveals a dull and depressive cloudy day. Well I can tell you this happens to me quite regularly here in London... But what can you do? I can say bye to everything here and go back to Montpellier in the south of France or back to my parents there in New Caledonia that wonderful tropical island. But I can also accept Frank's invitation to go by the coast and instead of staying at home vegging out in front of the telly...

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