Nik Sargent Photography inPictures: Blog en-us (C) Nik Sargent Photography / / nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) Sat, 05 Mar 2016 10:47:00 GMT Sat, 05 Mar 2016 10:47:00 GMT Nik Sargent Photography inPictures: Blog 90 120 Awards and Commendations I've had a long gap from entering any competitions, as it was low down the priority list while we were building our new house!  However, after I'd created this image, I felt it was worth submitting to The Societies monthly international competition. And I was delighted to receive HIGHLY COMMENDED.

Dancing Without RainDancing Without Rain



nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended competition news photography swpp win Sat, 05 Mar 2016 10:41:26 GMT
"Desirable Destinations" competition win I was delighted to win the SITTP (Society of International Travel & Tourism Photography) "Desirable Destinations" competition with my image of Loch Sheil (below - previously a Gold Award in the SWWP monthly competition). Unlike the SWPP monthly competitions, where more than one Gold can be awarded, this represents an outright win - first place!

What's more, the rules allowed for 3 entries and both my others received commendations from the judges:

Loch SheilLoch SheilLoch Sheil, Glenfinnan

Here are the other two images.

Take me homeTake me homea view of Nevis Range from Loch Laggan

Eilean Donan castle on a dreich Highland dayEilean Donan castle on a dreich Highland day



It wasn't all about landscapes though - I also received a Highly Commended for the image below in the "Avant Garde Portrait" category of the SWPP monthly international image competition. As you can see, quite a variation in styles!

My Future SelfMy Future SelfSWPP "Highly Commended"





nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended competition gold landscape news photography scotland swpp win Wed, 09 Oct 2013 17:30:00 GMT
Awards and Commendations ii It was a bit of a rush to enter last month's SWPP image competition, as I'd been away on holiday and also busy preparing for the first of a series of 3 webcasts (more on that later) for the Tiffen Company. Nonetheless, I managed to enter a few images with just a few minutes to spare before the deadline.

I'm delighted to receive a couple of "Highly Commended" as a result, in the landscape and monochrome sections.

Planet Highland I call this one "Planet Highland" because to me it has a feel almost of first landing on a new planet - in a new, unexplored territory. It is, of course, taken in the West Highlands of Scotland, one of my favourite camera hunting grounds.

The Day of Beckoning

I call this one "The Day of Beckoning" - just my warped sense of humour. (Actually, when I think of the phrase "day of reckoning" I can't help but remember and chuckle at the Finnish Heavy Metal Eurovision song entry in 2006 that included the line "this is the day of rockoning" - anyway, I digress).

This was taken at a local studio with a lovely model, Azure Desire, who is starting her modelling career - and I wish her much success.

'Til next time,


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended competition gold landscape news photography scotland swpp win Thu, 05 Sep 2013 09:08:33 GMT
Awards and Commendations There's always a sense of nervousness checking for competition results, but I'm delighted to report more success, with a Gold award and two "highly commended" in some new categories:

First the Gold award - a landscape taken at Loch Sheil, Glenfinnan, Scotland. In fact if you were to turn round 180 degrees from the point of view of the camera here, you would see the famous viaduct that features on the railway line of the Harry Potter movies. But Loch Sheil itself is just as beautiful:

Loch Sheil

My first of this month's "Highly Commended" images is also Scotland (landscape category) - in fact this is one of my most "liked" and "shared" images. It's also in Scotland, a small, ancient church on a sacred site on the mountainside overlooking Nevis Range in the background. The threatening clouds were rolling in and it created just the right atmosphere. in fact I personally love this image so much, I have a large 30 inch x 20 inch framed print of it over the fireplace. :)



My second "Highly Commended" I was particularly pleased with, as it was taken on a local "photographer's night" where we meet on a semi-informal basis, amateurs and professionals alike, to share skills and experiences. This was entered in the Open Avant Garde category and entitled "Toast".

[image here once uploaded]


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended competition gold landscape news photography scotland swpp win Thu, 05 Sep 2013 08:44:34 GMT
Awards and Commendations I'm pleased to report more award success this month, in two separate competitions. First up was the SINWP (Society of International Nature & Wildlife Photographers) with their competition entitled "The Great Outdoors". The theme was open to interpretation and I entered the monochrome version of my Cille Choirill picture, as shown below - which received a Highly Commended from the judges:


In the separate SWPP International Image competition, two of my images were also awarded Highly Commended by the judges in the landscapes and monochrome categories. (It should be self-evident which is which from the images below! )


IMG_8683-hdr-tfn-v2  Loch Loyne in Winter - frozen solid


Cast in Stone Ely Cathedral


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended competition highly Sat, 08 Jun 2013 12:03:26 GMT
Awards, Commendations & Controversy It's been a slower start than normal for 2013 as February saw the birth of my delightful wee boy - our first child - and it's taken a good few months to get into a routine with him and start picking up the pace again. So, I'm especially pleased to have a few awards to kick off the season.

First up was a Highly Commended for this image in the SWPP Digital Art category (modelled by Suzy Monty):

Venus of Suburbia

In case you were wondering what on Earth "Venus of Suburbia" is all about, see Venus of Urbino

And second, winning the top accolade, a Gold in the Open Avant Garde category:

For Sale - Apply Willy Wonka

The previous month I was subject to a bit of controversy - well, perhaps life isn't interesting enough without some intrigue! In a standalone"Art Nude" competition I was initially awarded outright first place (including prizes) with this image (one of my all time favourites): 

The Dancer

However, there had been a mix up with the rules (one was missing) and after discussion with the competition organisers, I withdrew my image in the spirit of fair play. (Such competitions are subject to a lot of detailed rules, some clear, some less so, including how and when the image was taken, what it includes, how it was processed, who is in it etc.  In this case, the missing rule should really have been in there.)  The competition was, of course, re-judged with my image withdrawn.

While there is a sense of disappointment at withdrawing after such a success, it's reassuring to know that all-things-being-equal, the picture  was initially considered by the judges as best of the bunch.


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards competition gold highly commended photography winner Thu, 16 May 2013 22:18:14 GMT
Awards and Commendations I'm delighted to report being awarded a few more "Highly Commended" images from the SWPP International Image Competition for October. This means that both the images below were deemed to be "above standard" (and have the potential to be reclassified as Gold). 

Landed on Europa I call this image "Landed on Europa" because it reminds me of being on another planet - not that I have actually been on another planet! - but it has an "other worldly" feel. It's actually taken at Loch Loyne in the Scottish Highlands, and the loch is totally frozen over in the image - magical place. 

Starburst I call this picture "Star Burst" - it's a play on words, of course. I've tried to make it look as though the "star" of the show is bursting through paint, a bit like some of those TV adverts with exploding paint. The picture was originally taken at the "Max Power" motor show.

The latter very much demonstrates the range of styles I like to work with, particularly exploring the boundaries between photography and painting



nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) awards commended news photography Sat, 24 Nov 2012 22:18:43 GMT
Halloween Feature  

I was kindly asked by Tiffen if I would provide a short feature for their 2012 Hallowe'en newsletter - including an image and some details of how their software (DFX) was involved in the process. Of course, I jumped at the chance and it is reproduced below:


Keeping up with Nik !
October is the month to celebrate 'All Hallow's Eve' or 'Halloween'. A time of costumes parties and parades, ' trick or treating ', carving jack o' lanterns, and harmless pranks.  Also this month we catch up with Tiffen's ImageMaker Nik Sargent.  And as a special Halloween treat, he has shared his Dfx workflow on one of his fantastical images.


The House That Nobody Loved


About the picture by Nik Sargent

I use Adobe Lightroom as the hub of my workflow - because it allows me to orchestrate all the other software I use (including DFX3) as well as manage fine tweaks and all the publishing I do to my site, Facebook etc.
This photo, believe it or not, was taken on the bright summer's day. The first job was to tame the exposure and dynamic range, which is why I always shoot in RAW. I don't use Photoshop but use Corel Paintshop Pro instead, where the exposure and tone mapping controls were performed and then the warping of the building.
The whole purpose of this first step is to create a clean, good looking "standard" (albeit bendy!) image, before handing over to DFX3 to do the creative lighting and toning.
By my normal standards, this was quite a small filter stack in DFX3, mainly inspired by the built-in "day to night" filter - I really wanted to convert the summer daylight picture to a creepy night time picture. I actually used my own combination of filters to get the effect I wanted, which inluded throwing some dappled light around the scene with some Gobos.
The Dfx filter stack for this image was as following:
  • sharpen - to bring out the brickwork
  • overexpose - to control the light levels and add a subtle, hazly glow
  • gobo x 2 - to throw some soft dappled light in the foreground
  • looks (halo) - a soft way to increase the constrast
  • film stocks - provide initial colour toning and extra contrast
  • ambient light - more soft light control on the front of the house
  • photographic (light blue green) - used to simulates day to night
  • gels (forever amber) - re-introduce the right amount of warmth
I've been expanding my image concepts this year, pushing DFX further and trying new techniques, and combining it with other tools. 2012 was the year I definitely stopped asking "is it photography?" and started asking "is it good to look at?" So, more than ever, my images are testing the boundary of photography, digital art and painting.




nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) dfx halloween house news newsletter photography tiffen Sun, 04 Nov 2012 20:15:00 GMT
Awards and Commendations It's taken me a while to get round to entering the monthly SWPP photographic competition, where members submit their work within a number of specific categories. (The SWPP is a global organisation for photgraphy professionals).
The SWPP awards its marks as follows:

  • Gold: Awards will go forward to the annual judging and are deemed to be images of the highest standard and will be published in Professional Imagemaker
  • Highly Commended: Above standard. These images will be reviewed every three months and have the potential of being reclassified as Gold.
  • Not Awarded: Unfortunately these images fall below the standard required to be given an award.
    For August and September entries I received 3 x Commended and 1 x Gold, as follows:


Once upon a time...

Edinburgh Castle - Highly Commended in Digital Art (August 2012)

Water Nymph

Forest Nymph - Highly Commended in Boudoir & Beauty (August 2012)

Eilean Donan castle on a dreich Highland day

Eilean Donan Castle - Highly Commended in Fine Art & Pictorial

Goddess of the Cosmos

Goddess of the Cosmos - Gold in Boudoir & Beauty


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) commended competition gold high highly photography quality standard swpp Mon, 15 Oct 2012 21:00:00 GMT
Good Exposure I'm delighted, and of course honoured, to have had images featured on two separate gallery websites over the summer.

The first of these was "Goddess of the Night Sky", which was picked up by as "Editor's Choice". 

Angel of the Night Sky "Goddess of the Night Sky" is a piece of studio work - with a special background I created, inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt". Elements of painting is something that features fairly regularly in my work. 

500px is a site for aspiring and professional photographers to showcase their very best work - and it truly is an amazing place to find innovative and inspiring photography. It really is a privilege to have been selected by the editor. From what I can tell they pick one picture per day from the hundreds of thousands they have. 

The first I knew I had been picked was when my iPhone started going crazy in my pocket with email notifications of people voting and commenting on my picture after seeing it on the front page. 

Just before writing this I have been honoured yet again by being featured on the front page of

Viewbug, like 500px, is a place for photographers to showcase their work, but it also focusses more heavily on running competitions and contests. Again, they pick a new feature for the homepage each day. 

This time the photo was my "portrait" of the interior of Ely Cathedral, which I actually took as part of a test shoot with my new camera.

Light & Stone This time I actually got an email from viewbug saying it had been picked, but this too was then followed by a flood of email notifications with comments from viewers (comments that I am very grateful for). 

You can see my gallery on 500px at and on viewbug at - I look forward to seeing you there!


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) 500px awarded choice editors features viewbug Fri, 05 Oct 2012 10:30:00 GMT
Announcement: Now a Tiffen "DFXpert" - Get your discount codes here dfxpert logo

I'm thrilled to announce that I have been invited to become a "DFXpert" by Tiffen photo/movie company.

So, what does that mean exactly? Well, Tiffen® has been a leading manufacturer and supplier of photographic filters and lens accessories for the consumer/professional imaging and the motion picture and broadcast television industries for over 70 years.

Whilst their heavy duty professional photo and movie accessories and equipment are the renowned in the industry, their photo and video processing software is actually one of photography's best kept secrets.

I use their software - Tiffen DFX - as key part of my workflow; and hopefully the results speak for themselves. It's really one of the most intuitive, flexible, simple, yet insanely powerful pieces of photo (and video) processing software available on the market, emulating over 2000 effects and filters. Although I shouldn't give all my secrets away, Tiffen DFX is very definitely part of my "secret sauce".

iPhone picture of Edinburgh Castle processed in DFX3Edinburgh Castle

(Above is an iPhone picture, processed in Tiffen DFX3)

Anyway - what it really means is that now I can offer you, my good readers, a discount - a really good discount! - on the Tiffen software range (excluding bundles, which are already discounted). 

For a 20-30% discount on DFXv3 and selected DFX software use the code NIKDFX13

For a 10% discount on any other DFX software use the code NIKDFX

For a 10% discount on DFT (Digital Film Tools) use the code NIKDFT

The DFX products come as standalone, as a single plug-in and as a video/film plugin for producing a vast range of still and moving image filtering effects (everything from film simulation, to lighting adjustment, to glows, textures, you name it).

The DFT products are suite of individual products that focus on particular processing and effects types, such as film stock emulation, masking, lighting, matte-ing, light rays, object isolation, chroma-keying - many of which work with both still and moving images. 

The Girl


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) DFT DFX cheap coupon digital discount film filter processing save tiffen tools voucher Wed, 01 Aug 2012 21:32:15 GMT
Continuous Improvement I've had the great pleasure of recently receiving some one-on-one mentoring with the renowned Bjorn Thomassen.

I believe it's important, both for personal satisfaction and development, and even more so for the benefit of clients, to continue to master the craft of photography, explore new ideas and creative concepts and hone and expand one's skills as an image-maker. I've been photographing for over 25 years, but that's no reason to get complacent. 

So, that's exactly what I was doing with Bjorn, who is not only qualified at European "Fellowship" level (read "World Class") but is also a qualified examiner for formal photography qualifications and licensing. 

My interest in choosing Bjorn in particular was to develop my portraiture skills, particularly with a more fantasy and imaginative feel. We had several models lined up, both indoor studio and outdoor location work. But why not judge for yourself, here are some of the results. 

Water Nymph

This (above) was originally meant to be shot in a secret wooded location! But unfortunately we were prevented from being able to do so, so we ended up re-creating it in the studio. It's called "Water Nymph" - and my concept for the photo was: "As she bathes in the fading moonlight, she becomes one with the water once more..."

This type of concept is useful for clients when creating images like this, as it acts as a "brief" and helps to frame how the final image will look and communicate the idea. In this image, the concept was an "Angel flying".

Angel of the Night Sky


In both the above pictures the same sheet of fabric is used for clothing. This demonstrates, I hope, how the photographer himself or herself really brings something to the picture, indeed, is truly responsible for creating the image, not just capturing what the camera sees like a simple polaroid. This is something that separates good photographers from really great photographers and why the world's best photographers are memorable and have recognisable images and are not just "one hit wonders". 

It is quite difficult to get men to model (meaning there are not many that will volunteer, not that they are hard to work with!) so for the next shoot we had the beautiful baby Willow. Again, this was shot in the studio, but I wanted to explore the possibility of being out in a secret magical wooded area somewhere. (Again, this was the original intention, but the weather prevented us). So, I used lighting and texture to create the mood. Guess what - the same props again! 

We had planned butterfly wings too, but she was having none of it! But that doesn't matter - again, as a professional, it's the photographer's job to get the shot, even with a baby who might only give you 30 seconds' time. (In the end we got about 2 minutes with Willow, so we had loads of time :) ). 

If you go down to the woods today In the end we did get to shoot in some amazing locations down in the woods with ancient ruined buildings and wonderful textures, as well as do some more studio work - the images are all in my gallery, but here's a little teaser:

Blue Moon It was a hugely productive and pleasurable four days and shows just what is possible if you pack the work in and allow your creativity to expand unhindered. All of our clients were absolutely thrilled with their pictures - and if you like the idea of having something like these created for yourself, why not get in touch? It's a great experience and a lot of fun, with something memorable to take away and treasure for ever. 


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) baby bjorn cornwall fantasy models outdoor photography portraits studio thomassen training Fri, 15 Jun 2012 07:30:00 GMT
Topaz plugins added to the mix For the last few weeks I've been playing with Topaz Labs plugins.

I got started because I discovered their "simplify" plugin which has a number of controls for removing detail from picrtues which, with clever use, can create quite painted looking effects - and of course this fits well with my work.

You can try all the plugins free for 30 days, which is great (essential really), and I've been giving most of them a good run for their money. For Mother's Day weekend Topaz were running a 30% discount, so I finally decided to commit to a few of the plugins that I like the most and I felt offered the most benefit to my workflow.

The main factors that I considered were not just the overall utility and increasing the functionality of my workflow/toolset, but also seamless integration with Adobe Lightroom. In the case of Topaz plugins, which are designed as photoshop plugins, intergation with lightroom is achieved through a free bridge program called "Fusion". To launch the plugin from lightroom you choose "Edit in Fusion" and then select the plugin. So, it's one extra step/mouse click, but it's a tiny penalty well worth paying for the functionality offered.

The range of plugins available is quite large, hence the 30 day trial makes a lot of sense, but in the end I settled on the following as the ones that give me in particular the most value for now.

Topaz Adjust

The easiest way to think of Topaz adjust is a system to dynamically control the light in your image with specific attention to the underlying levels of fine detail in the image. This means you can create anything from HDR looking images with tone-mapping type effects through to quite "painted" looks, by simplifying the levels of detail. Of course all the usual controls for saturation, grain and noise are available, as you would expect, but in general I ignore these, preferring to use the non-destructive controls in lightroom. If you want to make your skies and expanses of water leap off the page, adjust is the one for you.

One of Topaz Labs "USP's" (unique selling points) seems to be the algorithms they have for identifying and controlling details within the picture. That is, the plugins don't just blindy work at a fixed pixel by pixel level across the whole image, but identify regions of detail and give you the controls to decide how they should be processed. I haven't seen this in other plugins I've tried and it certainly gives the Topaz tools an edge (ha, quite literally in some cases!) for producing some new and unique effects, particularly some interesting control of textures (tree bark for example).

These types of detail/simplification controls seem to exist in some form in the engine in quite a few of the plugins and in the end this is why I decided not to go with the "simplify" plugin, because both the adjust plugin and the clean plugin have some elements of this type of control and I felt the simplify plugin didn't offer enough for me over and above this (given the vast range of "paint effect" tools I have). I could certainly see myself revisiting this decision in future if I change the style/subject of some of my shooting - but for now, adjust is going to be my workhorse, allowing fabulous control of tone and lighting and rendering some of those multi-exposure HDRs obsolete.

Some examples below:

Neatly Trimmed Bush


Topaz Clean

Topaz Clean is described as "Advanced Edge and Texture Control". It's actually quite hard to describe what it does when pushed to its limits, suffice to say that it "does what it says on the tin" by allowing control of surface areas (e.g. smoothing) and controlling the detail of edges. Consquently it can be used to control noise as well, and in the example image below this is what I have done, with great effect on a very noisy, high ISO image. In the final rendition, you just wouldn't know.

This description over-simplifies what Topaz Clean is capable of, as when pushed to the limits it creates somewhat unusual and distinctly pleasing "artifacts" that add a certain painted / hand-created effect to the image. I say "artifacts" because these are not undesirable side-effects of processing, but quite deliberate effects (at a very tight level of detail) that enhance the overall look of the image. It produces sharp little whirls/curls/tails (very hard to describe!) that I think are quite beautiful on the right image.

In my example I have used Topaz Clean to bring to life an image that has been sitting in my collection for a decade looking for a bit of love. IMHO the plugin has worked wonders on this, removing all the noise and fabulously enhancing the wooden textures and (again, quite literally) the "edginess" of the picture. I absolutely adore what it's done here.



Topaz Remask

I've not used Topaz Remask in anger yet, but with some portrait projects planned for this year, I know I will and have bought this in preparation. It is definitely one of the most advanced (read accurate but simple) systems for masking I have tried. Until now I thought that OnOne Software masking was pretty effective, Tiffen DFX better still, but Topaz Remask is top of the class. It is based on a simple tri-mask system where you mark what to keep, lose and the edges. You paint the edges in about 4 seconds flat with a big thick brush and remask does the rest, sorting out transparency, fine details like hair and so on. On all my test images I was able to get excellent results in under 30 seconds - though the tool offers scope for tweaking and fine control, so it's possible to tame even the most unweildy of images.

The one downside to remask is it doesn't work from within Lightroom, I'm guessing because masking by definition requires layers and of course layers are not a Lightroom concept. This makes sense, but it would be nice if you could launch it from Lightroom and, say, just produce an image with a Chromakey style (coloured) background which you could then drop into another editor from within Lightroom.

It's a moot point, and it certainly won't stop me making great use of this plugin - it's just a slight change in workflow for images that need this sort of treatment. (Hence I don't have an example yet, but will post later).


All in all I think there is probably something for everyone in the full Topaz kit bag - and the plugins represent good value for money in my opinion. It is definitely worth taking full advantage of the 30-day free trial to identify which plugins work best for you and upgrading to full versions is a simple matter of entering a purchased license key. There's no doubt that the plugins I have chosen will be doing a lot of heavy lifting in future.




nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) adjust clean lightroom mask plugin review topaz Mon, 19 Mar 2012 09:09:00 GMT
Focus On Imaging 2012 IMG_4577-edit-LR

We had an excellent trip to Focus On Imaging today, which is the UK's leading exhibition for the photography industry. Everyone who's everyone from camera manufacturers, album producers, frame makers, camera retailers, lighting companies, hosting companies, societies, awards bodies and so on is usually there. This year was no different and after the shock of Canon pulling out in 2011 they were back there this year showcasing the new EOS 5D mark III. There is also the usual array of seminars and tutorials for software and technique, and these are often very interesting.


However, I actually completely avoided Canon's stand (didn't want to be tempted for a second time in as many months!) and I had some specific purchases in mind.

Focus is also a chance to meet up with fellow togs and I was delighted to meet up with some old colleagues/twitter friends and share a coffee and catch up with them. 

I got some great bargains, here's what I ended up:

  • A new top-end tripod, suited to the 5DmkII and for shooting video, with a pistol grip head and movement in about 11 dimensions! Saved about £100 on this. 
  • A Loweprowe "Flipside" camera bag (actually we got one each). Total bargain with about 50% off high street price - and it has room for oodles of gear and quick access without removing it from your waist. 
  • A set of two studio lights, stands and soft boxes (about 1250W total equivalent output) and carrying bag - these were a complete steal and a great way to get started experimenting with some indoor studio work.
  • An infra-red trigger system. This has yet to come in the post as they were out of stock at the show, but I am so excited about this. Again, it was much much cheaper than anything I have seen to date and actually supports IR, light and sound triggering (anyone fancy shooting a glass object?). I'm hoping (at first) to get some amazing bumblebee pictures with this kit! 

Once I get all this set up I will be able to post some pics, both of the gear and of the results... 


The pictures, by the way, were just taken on my iPhone 4.

nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) focus imaging infrared kit bag lighting loweprowe on studio trigger tripod Wed, 07 Mar 2012 23:34:52 GMT
Playing with macro The first few weeks of owning the new camera have been a real joy but up until now my shoots have been confined to working with the 17-40mm lens and testing out the ring-flash.

So, since this last week the bumblebees were coming out of hibernation I thought I ought to prepare and get some test shots in with my macro lens. It is by no means the world's most expensive macro lens: a Sigma 28-80 Macro - but it certainly used to deliver some reasonable shots on my previous DSLR (with a 1.6 crop factor).

This time, of course, it's on a full frame sensor, so I lose some of the benefit of that 1.6x "zoom" - but on the other hand, at 21 Megapixels sensor, there's a lot of scope for finding detail in the image and getting that 1.6 crop (or more) back if I want it.

The bumblebees are very hard to shoot due to their movement and natural vibration (to keep warm - they can only fly at 30C and above body temperature). But this lady bird was very obliging as she rested on our dried-out lavender. Once it flowers it will be a mass of incredible, intense purple, covered in hundreds of bumblebees; but for the time being it is a mute greeny-grey (very reminisent of Polaroid 669 film colours).

The shots below are basically straight out of the camera using the as-shot white balance and although it looks like I've selectively coloured the picture, that's not the case - the lavender is its current natural colour and provides a wonderful canvas for the bright red lady bird!

Lady in Red

Feb bee macro-0888

Feb bee macro-0890

Feb bee macro-0891

There are wonderful details in the face in the first picture and in the last one, the shell has an extraordinary texture when viewed close up in all its glory. You can also tell that the patterns are not quite symmetrical, which I hadn't really noticed before.










nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) garden ladybird lavender macro nature red Mon, 27 Feb 2012 10:48:56 GMT
Portraiture Ring-flash Test I took the opportunity this weekend to take the new, cheap Meike Ring-flash out for a second test, this time with a bit of informal portraiture in mind. We just headed down to the local Starbucks as they have a fairly subdued interior but some nice unobstructed windows with diffuse daylight. It was more-or-less a cloudy day, about 11 degrees, so a coolish colour temperature (which I like). 

Good results were very easy to get - I dialled the ring flash power level down to minimum and shot on "half-ring" (upper half with the camera oriented portrait as below) in order not to completely bleach out the shadows (e.g. around the nose and chin). 

The first two of these images are basically straight out of the camera - no colour balance change, just a little sharpening and lens profile correction (which reduces aberration at the far edges).

ely outabout-0828

ely outabout-0826

The remaining images contain a little (minimal) processing: toning and softening, just to create more of portrait feel. 

ely outabout-0826-tfn ely outabout-0826-3

I'm really very impressed with the flash - at least for these types of circumstances - as it is trivial to use and the results were so easy to achieve. In fact, it also proved useful earlier in the week shooting the year's first bumbles on the heather in our garden.

This is definitely going to be a standard part of my kit bag. ☺


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) flash lighting lightroom photography review ring Sat, 25 Feb 2012 18:57:08 GMT
First Ring-Flash Test Last week I ordered a fairly cheap Meike LED ring flash from eBay and this weekend decided to test it to how useful it could be. Now, normally Canon will stiff you upwards of several hundred quid or more for a branded ring flash, but for £25 - £30 you can get a simple LED flash and adapter rings that, in theory, provides much the same function. 

Ring flash on camera

My expectation is that this flash will only really be used for macro work, some simple shots (like photos for eBay) and for close up portrait work - and not intended to be the "fully monty" in terms of professional flash. For a start, the device doesn't communicate with the camera, so metering and distances are something that have to be worked out with a bit of trial and error - but I have to say, these results I've achieved with the flash after a bit of learning are delightful and it really delivers value for money. 

I've got some example shots below. 

My main setup for the 'close up work' test was this little bunch of soft toy characters: 

2012 ringflash test-0590

I chose them for the colours and texture and range of dynamics (black all through to white) to really put the flash gun and camera to work. Moreover, I went for pretty complex lighting conditions - with daylight coming from the front left (though it really dropped off by the end of the test), also a small amount of daylight from the far rear; and an indoor lamp in the background. Further I shot on a glass surface to ensure plenty of potential reflections! ☺


The flash consists of 32 LEDs with 8 available power level outputs and also a left/right control to switch on/off half the LEDs. Usefully it can also be set to permanent on to shoot video, or if you want to use TTL metering to set your picture up. 

I have to say, I was really pleased with the results once I'd got the hang of exposing correctly (about 2 stops under) depending on distance. I haven't adjusted the camera's white balance choice in any of these images. 

Here are some example shots for comparison: 

2012 ringflash test-0597

[Left side on only, matching direction of window light]

2012 ringflash test-0598

[Right side on only, to counter balance natural light]

2012 ringflash test-0602

[And finally a "full frontal" left + right - for comparison]

You can see that the full flash is actually a little overpowering at this distance, even with power down to minimum, but the "half side" modes work well, and the flexibility to complement (add to) or fill in missing natural light is very handy. In all cases the colour balance is very natural and there are no ugly shadow. The reflections are enhanced by increasing the evenness of the lighting (i.e. adding right side, to the front left window). Also a nice pool of light forms around the subject. All in all, very effective. 

I created a final edit that looks like this:

2012 ringflash test-0614

So, a few more examples of these little fellas before moving on to more fun tests! ☺

2012 ringflash test-0613

[Left only]

2012 ringflash test-0616

[left only]

2012 ringflash test-0623

[Right side - I've managed to disguise the reflection by careful shooting angle]

2012 ringflash test-0630 [Some "creative" use of the reflection]

After shooting my little bath buddies, I moved on to some colourful Nespresso capsules, testing both sides of the flash gun again. 

2012 ringflash test-0651

[Right side flash only]

2012 ringflash test-0648

[Right side only]

2012 ringflash test-0652

[Left side only]

2012 ringflash test-0685 ["creative" use of the Vignette created by wide angle (17mm); the 3 small white reflections are overhead halogen lights]

2012 ringflash test-0667

[using the reflection as part of the image]

2012 ringflash test-0675

[we're just playing now ☺ ]

Finally I figured I ought to take at least one portrait - I took a picture of photo-girl making scrambled egg. There is ambient natural daylight (low) and also fill in halogen lighting in front. The results, I think, are very acceptable,with natural skin tones, good balance and no ugly complete loss of shape, while no harsh shadows - in fact it's rather flattering. The colour balance is unchanged in this image. 

2012 ringflash test-0719

["out of the camera" portrait]

Of course, me being me, I had to have a play with the styling in homage to instagram :-)

2012 ringflash test-0719-2


All in all, I think this was £27 well spent :-) 


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) flash lighting lightroom photography review ring Sun, 19 Feb 2012 19:36:08 GMT
How I multiplied my Flickr traffic 20x times It's no secret any longer that Adobe Lightroom has transformed my photographic workflow and I love the power it puts at my finger tips. It seems each week I'm discovering a new way to put it to use and take my photography to better levels, using automation to reduce the need to perform hours of mundane tasks. 

The latest trick has been to implement publishing to Flickr - but not only that to deliver upto 20x the traffic views for my photos that had been the norm before I started using Lightroom. 

Here's an image of some stats at the time of writing:

At the start of this graph (start of Jan) I did a little manual test to see what effect was caused, and this explains the rise to about 35 image views per day. However, after this you can see the natural tail as traffic drops back down to its organic level of about 4 or 5 views per day. 

The I implemented my lightroom meets flickr strategy and the traffic rose sharply. The peak on this chart is 100 views, representing about 20 times the traffic of my previous normal levels. That's one heck of a turn around. 

So, what's the secret? Well, there are two:

1) replace the standard Lightroom Flickr "publish" plugin with a much cleverer version written by Jeffrey Friedl. His plugins are awesome and by far the most full-featureed and flexible I've found. 

2) Use the plugin to submit your images to relevant photo groups on flickr. This is something you can configure the plugin to do automatically for you when you upload an image. By posting to interested and relevant groups your images will be exposed to a wider audience and generate more traffic. 

However, there are, of course, a couple of cautionary notes. The main one is that different groups have different rules and you have to adhere to them. This might include, for example, a limit of one picture upload per day. Lightroom won't count this for you - you need to just tracj this yourself. 

Also, you need to be relevant to the group - so if you are posting to a group which accepts sunsets, but with no people and with the sun below the horizon then you need to be sure that your automation is able to control this - i.e. that your metadata is sufficiently rich and granular. There's always going to be a fine line over how much is enough and how much is too much metadata: so pick your groups with this in mind. 

After setting all that up, publishing to Flickr is just a one click process, and hopefully you can see the results I have, or better! ☺

nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) adobe automation flickr lightroom online photography publishing workflow Mon, 06 Feb 2012 12:52:56 GMT
I'm in love with Lightroom Adobe Lightroom. I remember trying it many many years ago in pre-version 1 form. It was disappointing. My overworked PC ground to a halt. I didn't really see the point of it - it seemed liked a bloated photo organiser. 

Half a decade or more on, my photo collection of some 30,000 images was languishing, unloved and closeted on a humming server in the corner of my underworked recording studio. The mere thought of sifting and organising my photo portfolio had become an insurmountable brick wall - too much to handle in one go; too much, even, to divide and conquer by hand. 

So, in summer 2011 invested in Lightroom version 3 - if for no other reason than all my photographer friends and acquaintances use or mention it, or its Mac "equivalent" Aperture. Lightroom has moved on hugely - now a superbly powerful workflow and editing tool, not just a photo organiser. I didn't even realise quite how powerful when I invested in it, but day by day I'm discovering more and getting increasing value and utility from it. Now I'm kicking myself: how did I manage so long without it

In the first instance, the major achievement Lightroom delivered for me was access to my photos again. That sounds like a bizarre thing to say, but the ability to browse, sort, filter, move, organise images with trivial ease and barely a click has made discovering what was in my collection a pretty straightforward task. This had previously become impossible - despite the superior abilities of Windows 7 to search and display files, I could still not easily get the 30,000 ft view, the 10,000ft, 1000ft and move with ease between them. In this respect, Lightroom totally delivers - working my way round 30,000 images is trivial. Identifiying those I like, those I hate and those I will decide on later is simply done. 

One of the other stresses I faced in the pre-LR era was the organisation and naming of my files. Was my folder hierarchy right? Should I have source and production images together? If not, how do I track forwards and backwards between them? How do I keep multiple exposures (e.g. for HDR photography) together? How do I know which are published and which are not? Keep them in a special folder? Move them? Copy them?

So, file organisation, naming and proliferation had become a total headache. That worry has gone now. And I mean totally gone. I let lightroom do pretty much what it wants. I know that I can move files around if I want to organise them physically, but by tagging them appropriately I can collate any group of pictures according to any criteria I want. Collections of images can be pulled together dynamically based on almost any criteria you can imagine. So, forget where they are on disk, they are always just one click away from you in Lightroom anyway.

These two benefits delivered what I wanted, but Lightroom had/has more to give: Publishing

This incredibly powerful feature allows you to set up connections between your photo library and online photo publishing on sites such as facebook, flickr, 500px, zenfolio. The king of this feature is a wonderful gent called Jeffrey Freidl, who has written a large number of plugins that enhance existing and add new functionality for a raft of photo hosting locations; including in some cases the ability to two-way sync between your online pics and your local library. Wow

At first I ignored this feature, thinking I wouldn't use it; that was until I started tagging my photos more effectively. I quickly realised that I could develop a tagging system and a set of smart collections that pull photos together and automatically publish them to multiple sites effortlessly. And keep everything in step. So, you want 5 star rated pictures, that are a final production version, containing buildings, taken at sunset, outdoors, not indoors, and you want them dropped into a collection on facebook? No problem - totally automated with one click in fact. Oh, and you want those same images dropped onto 500px and Flickr too? Yep, that's one click. Oh, and you want those Flickr photos cross posted out to 10 or 50 or 100 buildings and architecture groups? Well, that's no clicks - the plugin will do it all for you.  Of course if you need some resizing, watermarking, renaming and so on while you go about it, that just all happens for you to. 

For me, this has truly become one of the most powerful and time saving aspects of Lightroom. I've encoded my workflow using tags; I've classified my pictures by topic. Lightroom now decides if they should be published and where. I just push the button to say yes, make it happen.  I honestly cannot tell you how something that took hours to do (and thus rarely got done) now takes seconds, and I really mean seconds. It's almost insane. 

I've not even talked about editing lightroom - which is not only powerful, but non-destructive (i.e. applied virtually, totally reversible and modifiable at any time). It took me a while for the penny to drop how powerful this was; perhaps because my first experience of this many years ago was Google Picasa, which is lame in comparison. It was some sort of unhappy hybrid between destructive and non-destructive editing and limited in functionality. In contrast, Lightroom has wonderful and precision editing capability and hooks into external applications. I don't even have photoshop installed. 

There are a couple of features I really love. 1) Stacking - which allows you to virtually group images together like a stack of cards. Perfect if you are an HDR shooter and want to keep your bracketed RAWs together. Or if you want to produce a few versions of an image with different looks. Talking of which, number 2) Virtual Copies - without making a copy on disk, you can simply make a virtual copy of an image, and then edit that, leaving the original untouched. It's a wonderful way to play with and compare mutliple different looks for an image. I love this feature.

Which actually brings me back to the start - I love the whole thing. Lightroom as a tool has totally transformed my workflow, brought life back to a neglected photo collection and provided a platform to take my photography to the next level, without having to worry about underlying administrative issues about file systems and folder hierarchies, about multiple copies for multiple purposes and trying to keep track of every single picture and where it has been used.

This baby is awesome and I know it has even more to give. It's worth every penny and I love it. 


nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) adobe lightroom opinion photography review science & technology Wed, 01 Feb 2012 14:19:35 GMT
Interview with Khuan Tru I was approached recently by a wonderful vector artist, Khuan Tru, with a view to an interview about my work.

I was delighted to agree and the interview is now available to read. I hope you enjoy finding out a bit more about my art. 

nik at (Nik Sargent Photography inPictures) interview news Thu, 22 Sep 2011 13:36:50 GMT