Author Archives: Alister Photography

Photography on the Road

Photography on the Road


Taking your love of photography on the road is one of the really exciting assignments a photographer can get. Whether you are going out into nature to photograph a great sunrise, a phenomenal river or to capture some other wonder of nature or if you are going to an urban area to get photos that tell the story of a people, the safari nature of the trip is the same.


Safari is a good name for such a trip because like that hunter going into the deep jungle to bag big game, you are going to the unknown to get that perfect photograph. Your preparations have to be expert. Your discipline on the road must be focused. But above all, your determination to get what you came for must be relentless as you hunt the prize you want to bag, not with a gun but with your camera.


One mistake to avoid is over packing for your adventure. It’s easy to do because you may have the urge to bring everything in your studio “just in case”. First of all, if you have every piece of photography equipment you own with you, the likelihood that something will get broken or stolen is pretty good. So you have to know how to strip down your travel gear to just what you have to have to get the job done.


But how do you know that if this experience is new to you? One way is to do a few “dry runs”. Just as you went out and did practice photographs when you were learning your craft, take one or two test trips to the next town. Do these without the pressure of a deadline or a deliverable that you have to complete. An overnighter to take pictures at the zoo in the nearest big city will surface what is needed and what is not. Then repeat the exercise to take photographs out in the country where you may have to backpack your equipment in. You will find out pretty fast what “stuff” is worth the extra weight and what needs to stay home.


Your photography safari is a business trip to you and you have a mission. But your mission is about more than just going somewhere to get a snapshot. Just as every picture has personality and soul, the more you become part of the environment where you are traveling, the better your “eye” will be to capture the perfect photo.


Yes, you must stay focused on the purpose of the trip and stay on schedule. But don’t forget to enjoy the trip. If you are going to take a picture of a natural wonder, like Mount Rushmore, for example, spending time visiting with others going to that sight or talking to locals may surface some locations and secrets about the site that other photographers would not get if they just came, snapped a photo and left. Use the “down time” to charm the other travelers and let them charm you. Not only will your picture be a hundred times better, you will have a lot more fun.


Finally, as you reach your destination, your preparations need to pay off and you need to let them pay off. Here is where focus and the eye on the prize is crucial. It is so easy, especially when traveling, to become obsessed with the equipment, with the set up and with your settings.


Do all of that before you leave, or in the hotel room the night before. On location, the session is about your subject, not your equipment. Your equipment is there to serve you. Don’t worry about it. Trust yourself that you did a good job getting ready. You have quality equipment and you have prepared the lenses, checked the batteries and done all the right things. It all will work when it needs to work.


Now you keep your eye on the prize. Your expert eyes are needed to judge the lighting, the angle and every aspect of the shot to determine if it tells the story that you know this photograph has to tell. Here is where the artist in you works beautifully with the photographer to produce a photo that you will genuinely be proud of. And if you obey your disciplines and get that shot, it will be a photography safari that comes home having “bagged the big one” to add to your trophy room for sure.



Position of the Camera

Position of the Camera


Many aspects have already been said up to now that dealt with the position of the camera in relation to its subject when it comes to photography.

The camera, however, may be focused on the subject from various angles that can also affect the shot. The three basic camera angles are eye-level, high, and low shots. Among the three, the two basic angles are the high and low angle shots.

Basically, the angle of the camera has an aesthetic and psychological significance when it is seen in the context of the story. This is because the photographer can project an air of domination depending on the kind of angle that he wants to use or the way he wants to emphasize the subject through a distinctive camera angle.

With this, camera angle speaks only for the context in which it is found. You can’t surmise that the photographer wanted to express the whole concept or idea of the subject, in general, through camera angles. This is because camera angles only show a certain point of the story through the dominant position you may want to project.

Consequently, the correct determination of the best angle will render good picture of the subject that will, in some way or another, replicate the best view of the real scene. Keep in mind that the camera does not exactly capture the way the human eye sees a particular scene. Hence, it now depends on the expertise and skill of the photographer to determine the best angle to capture the best view.

There are many factors to consider in determining the best angle. Here are some of the basic and the most important factors in order to determine the best angle when it comes to photography:

  1. Point of interest

This is the most basic factor that every photographer must learn to master. Photography should always have a point of interest. This is where the story evolves.

After determining the point of interest, the angle of the camera will follow by emphasizing on the kind of drama the photographer wants to express in his shot. The idea is to attract attention, to compel readers to see the picture and derive it’s meaning.

  1. Lighting

In determining the best angle, lighting becomes a deciding factor in determining the personality of the subject in focus. This goes to show that the subject’s personality may change depending on the kind of lightning used in taking the picture.

Indeed, camera angles may seem ordinary but they best define what photography is all about. That is why the determination of the best angle in photography is extremely significant.

Rain Pouring Down

Rain Pouring Down


We’ve all sat, staring out of our window and cursing at the rain poring down or the flat, grey sky that just happened to cloud over for the few hours we’ve managed to set aside in our busy schedule to head out and shoot some photos. But all is not lost for the opportunistic and well-prepared photographer.

Be patient my little grasshopper.

After any rainfall or storm, comes a spectacular burst of light. Often this light lasts only momentarily, but is worth waiting for. But you’re never going to catch it if you’re still staring out of that window. Part of making good images is being an opportunist. Weather reports are easily accessible through the Internet or your smart phone, and on the radio, often with detailed information. You might be able to find out if the cloud cover or storm is about to pass. If not, head out anyway. Yes, it might all be in vain and remain gray and unappealing until nightfall and be a complete waste of time, but what if it isn’t? If you speak to, or read any book written by a successful landscape photographer, they will tell you stories about how they visited a place dozens of times and waited for hours before getting that one in a million image. Have a look at that image. Was it worth the time? Chances are it was. Imagine the satisfaction gained from someone looking at your image and letting out a breathless wow! Then you’ll be the one telling the stories.

A simple way to think about it is that you get out what you put in.

Be prepared!

Have you done any research on your subject? Have you visited your location at this time of day before? Do you have a list, or at least a mental outline, of the photos you want? Have you considered the equipment you might need to take? Answering these questions will take you a long way to being able to seize the moment when it does eventually arrive. Instead of fumbling around trying to attach lenses, tripods, filters and any other gadgets that might be necessary, (and I do mean might), you will simply be able to step out of your car, or hiding place, gear in hand, and calmly collect the images you’ve been imagining. A little foresight in taking care of these things beforehand allows you to focus completely on taking photos once in the field. As with anything else, if you can concentrate completely, you’ll likely get a brilliant image.

What’s your purpose? (Not to get too esoteric)

Think about what you are actually trying to achieve with these pictures. Do you even need blue skies? Many a moody, muted landscape has been created using the worst weather conditions. If you have an interest in shooting black and white images, you could be in for a real treat. Many subjects, such as outdoor portraits, can work better in overcast conditions, enabling you to pick up the lines in someone’s face and add character to the portrait without having to worry about your subject squinting their eyes from the sun or dark shadows appearing over half of their face.

Most successful photography, like anything else, comes from having a clear goal and taking the steps necessary to achieve it. It also comes from working with the elements and planning for various possibilities. Open yourself up to new ideas and you will find that your photography improves markedly.

Ten tips to taking a better image

Ten tips to taking a better image


If only I had a nickel for every time some one complained to me that the reason they can’t take good images is because of their camera. So here is a list of ten tips to taking a better image.


Tip 1 – Use All Your Available Space

Don’t be afraid to use all the space in your photo. If you want to take a picture of something, it’s perfectly for it to take up the whole shot with no or very little background. This will actually diminish distractions out of your shot and place the focus on your subject.

Tip 2 – Study Form and shape

This is a very important aspect to taking a strong image. Understanding forms in your images. Don’t see an object, she its shape and its form and find the best angle to photograph it from. Form and shapes are all around us and I highly suggest you read as many books on it as possible. If you’re not near a library and have some time to kill just Google form and shape on your phone.

Tip 3 – Motion In Your Images

Never have motion in your photos if you are photographing a still object. If there is something moving while you are trying to photograph a stationery object, your image won’t turn out anywhere near as strong. Also never put a horizon line in the center of your frame move the horizon off center as this will make the image more pleasing to the viewers eye.

Tip 4 – Learn To Use Contrasts Between Colors.

Some of the strongest images have shades of white, gray and black. You can take great shots with just one color on your subject, but the contrasts between colors in an image is what makes you a great photographer and not a bad one.

Tip 5 – Get Closer To Your Subject

This is one of the biggest mistakes most photographers make, not getting close enough to their subject. Get up and personal and close the distance gap. You can always reshape and resize a good shot but you can’t continue to blowup a distant object. Also if you cant get there with your lens then zoom with your feet. In other words, walk up to your subject. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement with your subject can make all the difference.

Tip 6 – Shutter lag

Shooting action shots with digital camera’s can be tricky due to shutter lag. What this means is, when you press the button to take the photo, it can take up to a second for the shutter to take a photo, by that time what you were photographing would have moved or changed somehow. This means you have to compensate for shutter lag by predicting what your subject is going to do and taking the photo just before it takes the action you want. More expensive digital cameras don’t have this problem. This problem is very common in point and shoot style cameras and cell phone cameras.

Tip 7 – Panning

If you are taking an action shot and your shutter speed is slow, pan with the object. Follow through with the subject, from start to finish and one of those shots will be a winner. You have more chance of getting a good shot if you take more then one photo. I teach this technique in my intro class, as it’s a good skill to learn and can really transform your work.

Tip 8 – Continuous Shots

To pan like I suggested above you will need a camera that does continuous shots and doesn’t need to stop and process after every shot.

Tip 9 – How To Take Fantastic Night Time Shots

Night time shots can be spectacular, almost magical…. if done right! If not they can look horrible. Without adequate lighting, even good camera’s can turn out crappy photos if the photographer doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Also key to night time images is a tri-pod and spend the most that you can afford. Going cheap on a tri-pod is a decision you will surely regret.

Tip 10 – Study your manual or take a class

Last but not least is to read your manual and/or take some classes.



Gentrification as defined by Webster’s dictionary is as follows: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

So what has this got to do with photography and my blog? Well it gives a photographer a subject matter to write about, a cause to pursue as it were. I’ve never understood why you would make an area better by displacing those that live there. Why not invest in bringing up the folks that live as well as attracting new residents also? Sure I understand it’s not a simple task and something that you do not do overnight but lets at least give it the old “college try” for once.

In May of next year I have my first show in five years and so for inspiration and direction I went to see a friend and very successful fellow artist Chris Fraser. I met Chris at his studio in West Oakland, which is where I took the images included in this blog post. It’s a neighborhood that is currently going through a very huge change which overall will be a negative and not for the greater good, my opinion, but that’s how I feel. I arrived for our meeting very early so I went for a walk with my camera in hand. Sure it was run down, homeless folks in tents on the sidewalks, and pigeons dining in pot holes in front of new lofts that start at half a million and the top out at just over a million dollars. The contrast of the haves and have not’s was vast but change is coming and the current residents will have to find new digs.

It certainly set the tone for my next body of work that day and also confirmed and changed some views of this photographer. How do you change society for the great good? Well that’s the $64,000 dollar question but I know you just don’t bring in the new and kick out the old because all you’ve done is move the problem.





The art world is often associated with being shocking or using shock value to get ones work across and recognized. Also shock value is not all naked body parts and sexual acts of debauchery sometimes it’s just words or even the shear look of something.


So how long has shocking been around? Well since the beginning of time really….. Where do we begin? Lets not go all way back, how about we start with the Victorians. They for one had an air of being tight lipped and conservative on the surface but lets not forget they came up with idea of ginger not being used in cooking (Google it) they also electrified the dildo, watch the movie Hysteria. Then there is Van Gogh who although not exactly shocking work he’s often associated with the shocking act of cutting off his ear. This of course later turned out to be just the lobe, but still shocking all the same.


As time progressed we come up the seventies and the era of punk music, my favorite being the Sex Pistols; a band that definitely shocked and discovered my Malcolm McLaren who also discovered Boy George of the Culture Club. This now brings us up today and social media the era of the many mini Andy Warhol’s as we’re all seeking our very own fifteen minutes, this photographer included. This past summer I was on Facebook and a friend of mine who I associate with being a bit of a “Southern Lady” and that if she was born a hundred years ago I see her saying “I do declare” had posted she was out with her “S.L.U.T.’s”. This of course caught me completely off guard but this group of southern ladies had come up with an acronym for their nights out at the cocktail lounge. So what did this acronym mean? Southern Ladies Unwinding Together, somewhat shocking but also easily explained.


So why do we do this? I have no idea…… It does however get you noticed and gets people talking about what it is you’re doing. I for one do like to shock I like the reaction it gets on peoples faces as they look at my work. I was once told that maybe I do it because of things that have happened in my life that shocked me so all I’m doing is shocking people back.


So the next time you’re shocked by something in the art world enjoy the moment after all it’s your choice to either be offended or understand the message behind it. I say and it has me thinking of those Victorians who were just really being human and living life to the fullest, all be it with a small serving of kink.

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography




Inspiration can come from anywhere really. Your favorite book, life, something you watched on TV or maybe something you saw while driving somewhere. Another place to look is at the bookstore and to peruse through coffee table picture books, my favorite thing to do by the way. Last but not least is to look around and see what is everyone else doing.

Now I’ve briefly touched on this before but for me Inspiration comes from what ever is going on in my personal life and also what ever it is I see as I go about my day. Most mornings I walk with my girl friend to her job which is about ten block walk each way and there is plenty of stuff to see and plenty of time as I walk back alone to think about shoots that I have coming up and which direction they are going to go.

Currently I have my first show in five years which will be in May of 2016 and I’m exactly sure which direction my body of work is going to go. I know the subject, I have a working title, I have locations but I don’t have a direction just yet. So is this a problem? Not at all, the first shoot shall dictate where it will go and that’s coming up so I’m getting very excited. In my head it’s coming down to the juxtaposition being slightly off with just a little side of peculiar. Now I’m not sure how peculiar I’m going to go but it’ll certainly be something different.

In the past I was all up for shock value and really causing quite the upset but I’ve moved on and those days are behind me for now. You never know what will happen in the future or where your next inspiration shall be coming from.



Being a Mentor

Being a Mentor 


Being a mentor certainly made me stop and think as now someone had looked at my work and had a thought of “I want this person to teach me and show me how it’s done”. This was a very different feeling for me, as this person wants my input and my opinion on how to build the foundation of their photography. Now sure they are a college student and are attending classes but they’d asked me for some extra input and guidance.


Sure I’ve taught classes I even have a basic intro class on Groupon as we type/speak. Although it’s a one time class and covers the basics of getting away from the auto functions of your camera it’s nothing like meeting someone every week and being on point and ready to answer questions that over time become more in depth. This was completely different and so far I love it. I’ve learned there is that fine balance of being asked a question and instead of just giving the answer rather making them earn the answer. On one occasion the student’s assignment was to show the difference between “form” in an image and “narrative”. Sure I can spit the answer out but instead I reversed the question. What if you just take a picture of that building today then return tomorrow to take a picture of it on fire or falling down, which image would be form and which would be narrative?


Another thing I’ve learned is that I’m growing to. No one can possibly know everything you are always going to learn something new. It reminds me of something my Dad told me about his job. That the young feel they know everything because they learned it at school/college so there can’t possibly be more to learn and that the more senior staff had an attitude of; well, we’ve done everything so there can’t possibly be anything new to learn either. So what am I learning new? Lightroom and histograms! Before I only used Photoshop and my light meter, both hand held and the one in the camera, but now I’m combining them all.


So, being a mentor is not only growing my students knowledge but mine to. Like I tell my students that take my class on Groupon when they ask what to bring to class. I always respond, bring your camera and an open mind.



That mythical creature known as The Friendly Dragon

That mythical creature known as The Friendly Dragon



So what is that mythical creature known as The Friendly Dragon? First I’ll start with the origins, which also involves knowing where I started life and my upbringing; so here goes.


I started life as an Englishman and grew up in middle England in a town called Nuneaton or an area commonly referred to as the Midlands. This was my mom’s side of the family as my Dad’s side hales from Essex or North East London. As is typical in England different parts of the country have different nicknames for people, actions, and objects. So “The Friendly Dragon” is a term commonly referred to describe ones mother in-law or as we say in wedding photography circles the mother of the bride i.e. MOB.


So why is this person important? Well they can make or break your wedding shoot. Lets not forget your customer is the Bride and Groom and by making their guests happy can affect their happiness with you. As a parent I can relate to the fact that we are always going to protect and look out for our children. So when its our child’s wedding being photographed and a couple of thousand dollars is being spent on that service, said parent can be very protective and stuck on you like glue.


My own experiences have been parents who are there to party and completely leave you alone and then the complete opposite and hover. My worst was a Mom who virtually stayed by my side for every major shot (group formals, ring shot, first kiss, cake cutting, first dance, introductions, etc….) and looked at the screen on the back of my camera giving either suggestions or her approval. Oh how I had wished this wedding were shot on film…..!!! What I’ve learned over the years is just to be extremely patient and understand that this type of parent is doing nothing more than looking out for their child.


How I handled this particular mom was to explain how each image was taken, my work flow after the shoot, why I took it that way and went as far as to show and explain histograms and white balance (don’t worry, I’ll have a blog post on this stuff to). Basically she got bored but more importantly I’d built up enough trust with her that I knew what I was doing that she left me alone for the most part. Through out the rest of the wedding I would cast a welcoming glance her way for approval and that worked wonders.


As a whole it pays to have the patience of a saint when shooting weddings and to also understand where the other persons intentions are coming from. That way the potentially flame spitting dragon of mythical tales can become The Friendly Dragon in the room.

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography

The Thirty-Day Blog Challenge

The Thirty-day Blog Challenge


As a small business owner I get tons of junk snail mail, emails, phone calls and managing that lot can get to be a challenge as customers trying to get a hold of me can get lost in the hot mess sometimes. There was one email though that I allow to get through as I liked it and knew that it was something that I needed to do more of to promote my business. What is this email that I allowed through the riff raff of junk, you ask? It was an email regarding blogging from Learn to blog .com and The Thirty-day blog challenge.


Over the years I’ve learned that customers want to know their photographer just as I want to know them so that their personality comes through in the camera. There is no better way to do this than blogging. You could argue that my personality comes through my pictures but that’s no going to work when one bride wants a dark Halloween wedding in a cemetery and another wants light and airy at her parents white picked fenced home in suburbia. Of course I want both jobs and definitely do not want to get type casted as a photographer that only shoots one particular style of wedding or portraiture. Also befriending customers on my personal FB page is not something I’d recommend so blogging comes across as a good way to get to know me typo’s and bad grammar included.


So what is my plan? Well the Learn To Blog has thrown out a challenge for its customers to post a blog every day for the next thirty days. Today is day one so expect another twenty-nine from this photographer.


Topics? They will be photography lessons, stories I’ve had happen to me on shoots, what inspired a particular shoot (currently my drag queen shoots are a very large source of inspiration), my largest show to date is coming up in May of next year so expect some writing about that and finally I’d like you my audience to suggest a couple of topics, I’ll do the research and then write about it.


So today is day one and my Thirty Day Blog Challenge Begins.

wedding photography

Wedding photographer

Wedding photographer

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engagement shoot

Wedding photographer

wedding photographer

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wedding photographer, wedding dress,

wedding photographer

wedding photographer

wedding photographer

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography