Monthly Archives: March 2015

Photography tips: Shooting Square

Photography tips: Shooting square

As a photographer that shoots for a living I’m a big fan of always going back to why I started this in the first place and that’s because it’s something that I enjoy doing. Practice not only makes you better but more importantly it keeps the passion alive and with that work never feels like work. My favorite form to practice is with my Polaroid camera or pulling out my iPhone and using Instagram.

Shooting square is nothing new and has been around since 1929 with Rollei. As for the purpose of it, there isn’t one really its just different. Strong composition happens by making things simple and a square image places your subject dead center usually and thus fills in that negative space and makes everything simple.

So why shoot square? Essentially you’re taking cropping one third of your image and leaving the strongest two thirds. This is something you’d do when shooting in a rectangle anyway but now you’re taking that strong image and really bumping it up a few notches. Now keep in mind an image with poor composition will not suddenly be great because you went back and shot it square, a poor image will always remain a poor image.

When shooting square look for shapes that are consistent and line them up so that the viewers eye follows through the image.  Also if you’re shooting a flower place the flower dead center and now the stem becomes a line for the viewer’s eye to follow to the flower itself.

Another thing to consider is keeping the colors in your image to a minimum. To keep things really simple try shooting square in black and white. Now you’ll really start looking for strong lines and shapes and you’ll really start looking for shadows.

Finally there are also toy cameras such as Holga and Diana that also shoot square but now you’ll be shooting exclusively on film. Not entirely bad and my favorite medium but if you’re raised on digital just keep in keep mind there is no photo shop and getting it right the first time is key.

As for me I like to shoot portraits square and still life objects that I find when I’m out. Below are some images posted to my Instagram account that just caught my eye. So try going square and see what you to can come up with. Happy shooting.

You can find me on Instagram here

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Ten items to always take on a shoot

Ten items to always take on a shoot.

First let me clarify these are not exactly on my person at all times but they are packed in the car and not that far away if I need them. Over the years I’ve come up with a list of ten items to always take on a shoot. There is nothing worse than having to suffer and stop everything to go run to a store to get something or worse yet not get the shot you had hoped for. The following is what I need to get by and fix the unexpected.


You just never know when you’ll need one. Yes they are bulky and heavy but when it gets you out of a jam their bulk was worth the effort to carry. I’ve even used them to hold a flash for me so it’s not always your camera that is mounted on them.

When it comes to which tripod to purchase? Buy the very best you can afford. Yes, Manfrotto are spendy but I’ve had mine for seven years and it’ll be around long after I’ve gone to.

Lens Cleaning Cloth

You’d be amazed how many photographers I run into that do not carry one of these. When ever I shoot a fashion show I at least get two or three photographers come up to me and ask if they can borrow mine. My favorite is the spray and lens cleaning paper by Tiffen.

Memory Card Wallet

I was always that photographer that just threw his memory cards in his bag with the logic it’ll be there when I need it. This also made me the photographer who was forever buying new memory cards to replace ones that I’d lost.


As a child I was a boy scout and have never forgotten how to use a compass. Smart phones are great but they do not always have a signal and batteries do die. With a compass in your bag you have a way to find when and where the sun is setting and also a way home if you happen to be shooting in the back of beyond. I say this as fashion shoots have taken me to some pretty remote areas.


You’d think this was pretty obvious but always bring water. Now not just a bottle but a whole gallon jug if not two gallons. You just never know and its better to be safe than sorry.


There should always be a pocketknife or some sort of multi tool in your bag. You just never know what you’ll need to cut, trim, or shave off when out there on a shoot. I even go the extra mile and bring a pair of heavy duty scissors to.


I’ve held back tree branches, propped up flashes and even pulled dresses tight in the back on shoots. You can never have enough A-clamps and its good to have some small ones and large ones.


You cant always use a flash and sometimes you need a massive amount of concentrated light so always bring a couple of reflectors. Once again these are not cheap and its been my experience to always buy the best you can afford.

Step Ladder

Although not exactly easy to carry you should always throw at least one in the trunk of your car. In my studio I have a three foot, six foot and 20 foot ladder. I’ve used all three on shoots and always bring my three foot step ladder.

Duct Tape Duct Tape Duct Tape

I can not stress enough how important this stuff is. It’ll fix anything but world peace so NEVER leave for a shoot with out it. I believe in the stuff that much that I carry three colors of it (silver, black and white) if you’re asking. I’ve even hemmed a brides dress with it, hence why I carry white duct tape, and photo shop takes care of the rest.

Now this is not a hard ten and you may find other items you’d like to carry or wish you’d have packed. I could easily add a flashlight but I always have one in my car anyway. Happy shooting.


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Photography tips:

Photography tips: These are 8 things that I do every time I’m out shooting.


What camera do you shoot with? Oh I wish I had a better camera! I’ve only got this cheap beginner camera, what one should I get?

The above questions I get on a weekly basis and in reality it’s not down to what type of camera I use but how I how use what ever camera I’m shooting with. These photography tips are the 8 things that I do every time I’m out shooting. You can be a full on professional, amateur, or just want better photos in a frame on your book case at home of family and friends.

Being Prepared.

This is a huge advantage to taking better images. Always have your gear ready to go, have back ups for your back ups, extra memory cards, extra film, batteries charged, and my personal favorite duct tape…… A good way to organize your equipment is to have a camera bag. I myself have two, one is very large and the other is a tiny little thing that holds one camera body, a flash, and an extra lens. For jobs large or small I can pretty much be ready in just under 10 minutes if I need to be. Does this happen often? Not really but there have been a couple of times when I needed to be though. So being prepared paid off.

For you professionals don’t forget a rain poncho and always have an umbrella in the trunk of your car….

How to hold your camera.

Holding your camera steady is key to a sharp picture. Place your camera in the palm of your hand and then hold the side of the camera body with the other where the shutter release/button is. If you do not have a tripod brace yourself against a tree, car, or building, I’ve used chairs, tables, cars or any solid object for that matter. Also place the camera up against your forehead and frame your images through the viewfinder and not the screen. You’ll get a much stronger image this way.

Also practice pressing that shutter, breathe in, exhale and then press at the top of your exhale just before you breathe in again.

Getting up close.

When it comes to portraiture get up close and get to know your subject don’t be afraid as you may make a new friend to. Fill up your cameras frame and fill it with your subject.

Now of course if you’re on safari I’d advise against this as becoming a meal is not making a new friend.

 Shoot Shoot Shoot.

Nothing makes you a better photographer than practicing constantly. Get out there and shoot, be known for always having a camera on your person. Also get your worked critiqued, there are plenty of camera/photography clubs out there that offer a bring your work in event where a group will give feed back on your progress.

I myself offer a work shop for beginners and more advanced students and I always encourage my students to keep in touch and stop by if they’d like me to look at their work. I’m always game to sit in a coffee shop and to look at images and offer feedback on a fellow photographers work. I only have one condition and that’s bring your thick skin.

Change Your Lighting.

Another question and concern I get is “how do I use my flash?”. If you’re afraid of flash then get rid of it. Use natural light to your advantage, place your subject close to a window or move them away from the window while doing this watch how the shadows fall on their face and how they increase and decrease in intensity.

As for out door light play with the sun and angle at which it falls on your subject also shoot out doors on a cloudy day and see the differences you can create. Once you’ve mastered this then move on to using a flash.


We’ve all seen that family album with that family member who always has red-eye. The reason for red-eye is because the flash passes through your subjects eye and then reflects back straight into the camera.

The easy fix is to just not use a flash but then when was life easy? So what to do instead is to bounce your flash off of the ceiling or go with a off camera flash and place your flash off to the side. Now I agree this is more than some people are willing to do just for simple family pictures so just bounce your flash off of the ceiling and you’ll never see red eyes again.

Go for Candid

 This is my favorite shot to get when shooting a wedding. Just blend into the crowd and shoot away. You’ll capture interactions between your subjects and take your photography to a whole other level.

When you go back and look at your images your subject should have no idea you even took the picture. To practice this go out on the street and take random images, street photography is my favorite but it can also be very challenging so patience is key here.

Create Your Scene

 I tell students in my photography class that photography is about telling a story sometimes that story is fiction and sometimes non-fiction. As your work progresses start to create scenes with your subjects, use random props and most of all create images that you want to create.


Finally, anybody can do the above with any camera and every budget level. So keep shooting and practice everyday. –Alister Photography



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