9 Photo Composition Tips From Steve McCurry

I’ve just read this article on PopPhoto website, and loved the tips. Even if we’ve studied and read and reviewed the composition rules, I still think that it’s a tricky part of photography. Maybe I’m the only one that is struggling with it, and you have no problems, but sometimes when I’m out there in the field and I have this awesome sunset, or landscape or beautiful shimmering light, I’m so stressed to set the right exposition settings, and take my photo before the light vanishes, that I forget to really take the time and study my composition; followi the rules of third, or expressly breaking those rules. The result? When I see my pictures, my exposure and is fine, but the composition is not at all what I would’ve liked to have. Which finally it means that my image is only 1/2 satisfying one, yes I probably had done nice technical exercise and well set my camera, but would I be ready to print and hang that picture on my wall at home? NO. So, if you have the same problem as I have and you still need to get trained to achieve nice compositions, this is a useful reminder.

Thanks Steve Mc Curry for sharing those tips with us!

Have a nice day all of you!



1-1 A Story

Oak Tree (Vertorama) (Oak Tree by Panorama Paul) I was only a kid when they first contacted me, it wasn’t obvious, I just heard some voices, some thoughts passing through my mind. But how could I be sure that they were not my own thoughts? How could  I be sure that it wasn’t my imagination? That it was only my conscious trying to create my own  adventure? I wasn’t. That’s why I didn’t pay attention to those voices asking me to move here and there. Day passed by but the sounds never stopped, it always started with a cold sensation above my head, followed by the speech of a men asking me to go above the hill behind the house. I was 10, living with my parents and even at that young age I had busy days. I used to go to school in the mornings and help at the farm during afternoons. I loved to do that,  helping  father with the growing and the cows made me feel useful. I’ve always thought that the food tasted different when it came from your garden, and it was even better when they were grew up with love. I was born in a boring little mountain village, I said it was boring because the biggest event that happened was when last winter one of  Mr. Berliz’ Cows escaped and came back only one week later, when all the village thought that she was already dead. Here people passes by of old age, just because their time was come, sometimes someone probably more fragile, got sick and could not pass the cold season, but that were rare episodes. Winters were really long and cold with principal guest the snow, but as spring and summer arrived the white cold mountains became green lands full of perfumed flowers (loved by  father’s cows) and coloured butterflies. I waited until spring before starting to listen to the voice, first because I was kind of lazy and I didn’t want to walk outside in the snow, and second because it was easier to escape in the warm season, days were longer and I could easily stay outside without getting mother worried. I needed to know if I was just imagining or if I someone was really trying to communicate with me, so I did it, that day after lunch when I heard the same voice asking me to go out and and walk to the big tree on the hill. It wasn’t difficult to find, there was only one big oak the rest were meadows and pines. I finished to eat, helped mum with the dishes and as father had no chores for me, I took my backpack and walked up there.  as I arrived there were nothing, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and a light wind were blowing through my hear. I sat down and turned my eyes to the sky. There I saw it, a little dark moving dot in the blu, becoming bigger and bigger, it was approaching. I was like hypnotised, now the shining object was flying in the air, almost in front of me; I wanted to run, I wanted to hide behind the tree, I wanted I could have stayed at home and did not come there. But I remained crossed legs on the grass fixing it twirling in the void. That was the most extraordinary thing I had ever seen. The object, which was like a big shining pear, approached slow to the ground, stopped moving, and suddenly something changed and a door opened …….(to follow next week)

5 Photography Ideas to try in March

March is arrived and soon spring will be here and changing our environment with the beauty of green leaves, colourful flowers, jumping squirrels, later sunsets and early sunrises. But this month is a transitional month and here in Belgium we still have a winter decor  with only early signs of changes. So, if you are looking for some  inspiration you have here 5 Ideas to try in March:

1. Light Painting

The path Credits: Lucy J Hamilton ISO:100 35mm F/3.2 0.6 sec.

The path
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography
0.6 sec.

I know this is not a new technique, but have you ever tried it? I have and I adored it! You can have great results even on small subjects, and this is my advice, if you are starting, start small, you’ll be astonished to see how different are everyday objects when you  light paint them. You can shoot indoor, in your kitchen, living room, laundry room, bedroom, doesn’t matter or outdoor. Now, If you are outside, you should check the city lights, as you are shooting with a long exposure technique, your camera will catch all the sources of lights that surround you. It can be nice, or it can screw everything, all depends of what you want to photograph and how. With a 30s exposure time you can even have a nice starred sky behind your subject, if there are no other lights that pollute your place and that’s awesome! What do you need?:

  • A SLR Camera
  • A tripod
  • A source of light
  • Darkness

If you don’t know how to do light painting photography, or you want more tips, have a look here: Light Painting Tips.

The pine & the Cannon-7217

The Pine & The Cannon © Lucy J Hamilton’s photography 24 mm ISO 200 f/8 15s

Ced -0130

Night Experiment © Lucy J Hamilton’s photography ISO: 100 14 mm f 4.5 30 sec.

2.  Long Exposure Hand Holding Photography

Ghost Umbrella  Credits: Bones Tea

Ghost Umbrella
© Bones Tea’s photography

I love long exposures, but usually I use them when photographing the sea, water, or if needed in my landscape photographies, so, basically with a tripod and a remote control . Last month I’ve met a photographer (Bones Tea) that uses long exposures hand holding his camera and takes urban photographies. I can say the result is really nice, people moving seem ghosts in a frenetic town. So, if you are tempted of trying this is a challenging technique as you really need to stay as still as possible keeping your breath when shooting. What do you need?:

  • An SLR camera
  • A neck strap
  • Your Time, your creativity, your curiosity, your art  :)

How do you do it? First of all choose a place where there are people passing by, try underground stations, stations’ platforms, streets, zebra crossing etc. choose a place where you can stand motionless and shoot. The challenge is to find a good balance between your aperture and shutter speed. If you have nice coloured dresses, saturate the colours in postproduction, they will pop up in the movement, or at the contrary you convert your image to a black& white one and you’ll also have a really awesome effect. Settings: There is not a magic formula, as usually in photography, but as the aim is to have as many “ghosts” as possible, you can try with first setting your ISO to 100, then set your shutter speed as low as you can (it’s easier in the evening or at night, but you can do it also during daylight), you can go to 1minute, but 30 seconds is a good start. Once set that, get your aperture as open as you can, at daylight is very difficult as your images will be fast over-exposed, but you can play with the +/- exposure adjustments button and try to compensate. Your pictures will be really bright,so,  I know that it is not an easy technique, but once you have the right combination, the results worth the many attempts!


Rouquine © Bones Tea’s photography

The Zombies Credits: Bones Tea

The Zombies
© Bones Tea’s photography

 3. Birds Photography

Mandarine Duck Photo Credits: Lucy J Hamilton

Mandarine Duck
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography ISO: 500 300mm f / 8 1/250 sec

Are you in Wildlife photography? I love all kind of animals but I don’t always have the possibility to travel and explore exotic regions where live colourful tropical birds, monkeys, bears, white bears, penguins etc. and sometimes it’s a kind of frustrating. However, it shouldn’t be, because if I ask my self today, “if you have now a tropical parrot in front of you, are you prepared and ready to take a beautiful shot?” The answer is: “Not really”, I think I would panic looking for the best settings not to screw my photo, and I’ll probably screw it. So, what can I do? Just get out and take fauna pictures in my region, where actually live different kind of birds, foxes, rabbits, roes/deers … What happens if I screw up? nothing because I can get go out  and try again & again. And you know what? I feel that often we look into magazines and dream of far-off countries, and we don’t see the richness that we have just outside our door, we only need to open it, take a walk and observe. This is why I invite you to have a walk in your neighbourhood and look for birds, why in March? Because the trees are still without leaves ( at least here in Belgium) so, they are easier to be seen and to be taken in photos, and the temperatures are riding up, so, it’s less cold than the previous months. My Tips for this? Get well dressed because sometimes you have to stay in a place and wait for a long time, I mean that even if spring is coming you can get cold, and is really difficult to take pictures if you don’t feel confortable. What do you need:

  • A SLR Camera
  • A lot of patience
  • Maybe crumbs of bread, or a little bit of birds food, ( I know this is a little cheating, but sometimes if you really want to take a photo of that bird and you tried and could not, you can always spread a little bit of food, and wait them to come)
Seagull on Ice Credits: Lucy J Hamilton ISO: 1000 300 mm f/5.6 1/200 sec

Seagull on Ice
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography
ISO: 1000
300 mm
1/200 sec

4. Spring Early Flowers Photography

Exploring  Credits: Lucy j Hamilton

© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography

March is the first month of spring, and if we are talking of spring we can’t forget the snow drops & squills flowers that pop up during this month (here in Belgium) they can be white, or violet, and cover the ground with a perfumed flowered carpet. That’s can also be a good occasion to use macro photography and focus on their details, the vibration of their colours. Use your creativity and try to explore all the possible ways to photographs those delicate little spring flowers. My Tips for this? Go out as often as you can and check for them, because when they bloom they last 7-10 days and it’s better to photograph those beauty in their early days when they are at their best shapes and colours. What do you need:

  • A camera
  • All your creativity!
it's Spring! Credits: Lucy J Hamilton

it’s Spring!
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography

5.  After Sunset City Photography Bangkok Skyline We all love sunset, but look at this Bangkok Skyline here above, taken by Weerakarn Satitniramai, the camera catches colours that are invisible to our eyes with a fantastic blue sky. You can create amazing effects combining those blue colors with the city lights and passing cars. Pictures will be taken with a long exposure settings, and you’ll need a tripod to be sure you”ll have sharp beautiful images. My tips? Go scouting before, so you’ll be sure that you’ll be ready to take your picture at the right moment, without bothering people or traffic. Be there before the sunset, install your camera and maybe you’ll also have a nice sunset photo! Be patient and wait, because you have different stages of sunset:

  • Late warm dramatic southing light sunset
  • Sunset
  • Civil twilight / Alpine Glow: Sunset when sun it’s 6 degrees below the horizon, it lasts about 30 min after sunset ( depend your location on the Globe)
  • Nautical Twilight: It begins approximately 30 min after Sunset, and when the Sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon. It lasts t lasts about 30 min after sunset ( depend your location on the Globe) and planets & stars are visible. ( if you are taking urban pictures it will be difficult to see stars and planets because you have the city lights)
  • Astronomical Twilight: It begins approximately 1 hour after Sunset, and when the Sun is between 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon. It lasts t lasts about 30 min after sunset ( depend your location on the Globe). The camera still show colours with long exposures settings, but the naked eye can’t see any colour in the sky only the stars.
  • Night.
The Pier Credits: Lucy J Hamilton

The Pier
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography ( I took this picture during the alpine glow. ) 70 mm – ISO: 100 – f/8 – 5 s

So, as you can see, if you have time and patience, stay at least one hour after sunset and you’ll have beautiful pictures. If you are looking  for more ideas you can check here: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2015/03/01/9-creative-photo-ideas-try-march-2015/ Their ideas are really inspiring!

Share your pictures if you want, I’ll be happy to see them! Have a great creative March month!

You’ll be welcome if you want to see my photos you’ll fine them here.



Light Painting Tips

The Bouquet  Credits: Lucy J Hamilton 105 mm  ISO: 100 f/4.5 10 sec

The Bouquet
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography
105 mm
ISO: 100
10 sec

While writing the “5 Photography Ideas to try in March” I realised that light painting needed a full post for itself. So, I wrote another post dedicated to it. Enjoy!

What do you need? 

  • SLR camera
  • A source of light, anything can be used, the effects will be different, so, try and see what happens: -flashlights – led- mobile phones  – computers- candles etc.
  • A subject: if you are starting with photography, or if you gave a small source of light choose something small. Check out in your home: cutlery, plants, books, jars full of food, or coloured liquid, kids toys etc. Take the challenge to give another look and to create another dimension to your chosen object with the light. If you have time, or you want to go and try outdoor, then again anything could be taken as subject, trees, farms, barns, cars, rocks, even parts or details of something, like a wheel of a bicycle or only a part of a car.
  • A red lamp , why? Because you’ll work in the dark and you need a source of light for put your setting on your camera, and for avoiding to stumble in your tripod. You can use a normal led / white light, but the human eyes accustom faster to the dark when using a red light and,  it’ll then be easier for you to look back in your camera and focus. So, if you have one, use it, if not, don’t worry, just use another light and be a little more patient with your view.
  • A tripod, really important, you’re using long exposures and you don’t want blurry photos do you?
  • A remote shutter release /cable shutter release, same reason we wants to avoid any source of vibration.
  • Your Time, your creativity, your curiosity, your art 
  • A white paper (optional): it can bee a white sheet of paper, a paper towel, a tissue, or even a white piece of fabric, anything that you can place in front of your lamp, maybe it won’t be necessary but sometimes the light is too strong or too direct, and putting something white on your lamp helps you to soft your light ( and why not trying something coloured?).IMG_4661
  • A tube (optional): ca be a toilet paper roll, a paper towel one or can be made with a piece of cardboard that you’ve cut and rolled around your flashlight and attached with tape or elastics, again, this is only to modify your light bump, you’re not obliged to do it, but you can try to see the effects.

Here is what I used for taking the photos for this post:

here is what I used to take the photos for this post . My camera, a tripod, a paper towel tube, a white paper towel, an elastic and a led flashlight.

My camera, a tripod, a paper towel tube, a white paper towel, an elastic and a led flashlight.

How do I light paint?

Once your settings are set and you have pushed on your shutter release, as its name suggest, you have to paint with your light source like if you were holding a real paint brush. try to reveal the colours and the texture of your subject (for this try different angles, you’ll have more textures with a 90° light ray than with a vertical one). Be sure you’re not too close to your subject or into the field. Don’t stop moving with your light, or you’ll have spots ( except if that is what you’re trying to do). If you’re shooting indoor it is easier as you can adjust your focus with the light on and then just which it off and start painting. Place your subject on a table, or wherever you want to photograph it (even furniture can be great when light painted), and shoot! If you are outdoor, you probably scouted the place before, and my advice is: if possible go there before sunset, place your camera, focus and wait. If is  not possible, pay attention when installing your equipment in the dark, then light up your subject, set your camera and shoot!  Just three more tips: 1. if you can, close your viewfinder  to not accidentally pollute with light the sensor, and 2. remember to switch off your VR option, if you have one on your lens, to avoid vibrations when shooting on a tripod and the last but not the least 3. Pay attention to reflects if you choose to use a glass subject, it can be tricky! 

Settings: If you are indoor or outdoor, settings are almost the same, and as usual you have to try different combinations until you get the right balance for a nice sharp image. ISO: try to keep your Iso as low as possible, I always try not to go ove 500. The reason is the noise, every camera has his limits, and today you can easily get rid of noise with Lightroom or DXO, or other softwares, but I prefer to have less work with postproduction. Shutter speed: you can play with it, at the moment I’ve never get over 30 seconds, and for what I’m doing is large enough. The speed depends on the subject you’re photographing, the effect you want to have and where are you situated. If indoor, with small objects, you cas easily try 5s 10s 15s and even 30s. If you are outdoor, it’s the same, it depends on what you desire to obtain, but if you want a nice starred sky in your composition, then I think you should use the 15s / 30s exposition. In this last situation, remember to check the sunset stages, so your pictures will also have great coloured starred skies ( you’ll have a hint in my post 5 Photography Ideas to try in March under : 5. After Sunset City Photography ). If you take a look at the photo here below, you’ll see that’s a different picture compared to the first one at the top of this post, even if the subject is the same, we have 2 different dimensions, colours and atmosphere. Both photographies haven’t been retouched, the only difference is the shutter speed settings on the camera.

The Bouquet Credits: Lucy J Hamilton 105 mm ISO 100  f/4.5 30 sec

The Bouquet
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography
105 mm
ISO 100
30 sec

Aperture: Vary the aperture within the context, what focal lens are you using? Are you near/far from your subject? It’s a small/big subject? Do you want some shallowness in your composition? It’s obvious that you can’t use a close aperture, as you need to catch as much as light as possible, I think that the max you can go will be a f8, but again there is no formula, the only way is try try & try again. What if you decide to photograph a person, or any other living creature? No problem, you just have a more challenging picture to take. it’s really difficult not to move in long exposures photographies for a living subject, so a good piece of advice I can give you ( I read it in Dave Black‘s Blog) is to start painting the faces, so you’ll be sure that their expressions, will be as sharp as possible. Voilà, as we say in French, I think I’ve told you everything I know about light painting, I hope you’ll find it useful, and as usual, be free to post your photos, and your comments!

You’ll be welcome if you want to see my photos you’ll fine them here.

Thanks for reading



Olives Jar Credits: Lucy J Hamilton 105 mm ISO: 100 f/4.5 30 sec

Olives Jar
© Lucy J Hamilton’s photography
105 mm
ISO: 100
30 sec

My Photo Challenge


Hello all you beginners photographers, It’s since last Friday that I haven’t touched  my camera…. and I just realised it this morning while drinking my coffee, my eyes saw her  (yes my camera is a She and her name is Camera) on my dining table (she’s never too fare from me). I didn’t touched Her since I finished to take some pics that I’ve submitted for participating to an artist’s exposition here in Brussels last week. I submitted my pics Friday night and on Tuesday I have received a nice cold email saying that I could go fuck off with my pictures because they didn’t like them. (Obviously it was better written than that, it was written that they had received so many submission that it was really difficult to choose, that  my pictures were really nice but didn’t fitted perfectly the exposition theme (Shapes & Femininity) and that they would keep my coordinates for the next year event) All that in a sweet and polite French that transformed the “fuck you and you pics” message in an almost a nice email.

Working on

Working on: This is one of my submitted pictures, yes the theme was “Shapes & Femininity” and probably my pic is too abstract, but I thought that a heel was feminine shape.

Anyway I’m not complaining, and I’m not writing this post for talking about it, I wanted to write something about a challenge that I’m doing and that I really find useful. I’ve noticed that often when I go out for taking photos, the most difficult part is not the technical one concerning the manual exposure settings, the problem is to find an answer to this question: “What Lens Should I use ?”. It could be a silly question, because on paper is easy, you have wide-angle lenses, normal lenses, zoom lenses etc. However, except of my 70-300 that I use when I want to photograph animals, birds etc (and I dream of a 80-400 mm)  I don’t know what to use. Should I take my 35-80 mm? My 24 mm, my 50 mm, or my 135 mm? And you know why? Because I realised that I know when to use those lenses in the situations I’ve studied in my books, or I’ve seen in conferences,  for example, if I’m in the Grand Canyon and I’m doing landscape photography, obviously I’d take my wide angle, but unfortunately I’m in Brussels and not in the Grand Canyon, so things are different. Then, “What is the best lens to take the best picture and enhance the scene I’m looking at?” This is the question I wan to be able to answer. So, the challenge I’m taking since last month is that: WHEN YOU GO OUT TO TAKE PICTURES TAKE WITH YOU ONLY ONE LENS. Needless to say that if you are travelling, or you are visiting a place that you don’t know when you could visit again, take everything you have and borrow  more stuff ;).  My challenge is a learning process, it’s perfect if you take a walk in your town, in your parc, in a forest near home or you are just taking studio photos in your room, in those scenarios, choose one lens and stick to it. I know that it’s horrible because when you close the door behind you and in your bag you only have your Camera, one lens, your tripod (if you need it) plus your personal belongings but nothing else, you think “What if I see something awesome and I could not take a picture because I have the wrong lens with me?” Well I this is a risk, but I can tell you that you’ll find a way to take a picture with the lens you have chosen and you’ll learn even more. I did it, the first time I felt stupid and I was sure that I was loosing opportunities of taking beautiful pictures, today I feel great and I’m learning so much! Here below you have a picture I’ve taken with my 135 mm two weeks ago. I had a walk in town and I believed that my 135 mm could be a good lens to take pics of my mini figures with a nice shallow depth of field even in closed places , I realised that it wasn’t… I wanted to photograph my lego while eating french fries in a typical Brussels café, but I was wrong, I hadn’t enough place to take the picture I wanted, and the result is far from what I would have liked to have, but I learned and that’s is priceless! So, yes now I have to go back and take another picture, and eat another pack of those delicious french-fries…. oh what a terrible news! :) Try the challenge and let me know your feelings and adventures! And post some pictures!

Any French Fries?

Any French Fries?

Love you all!


February with a Stephen King’s Book

I would like to dedicate February to Stephen King, who’s usually known for his fictions, horror novels (that I absolutely love) however, in this review I would like to speak about another kind of book: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” which should be read (and will be appreciated ) by all passionates of writing.

The book is divided in two parts, the first one, is about his life, how he started to write and how he became the today bestseller author, the obstacles he had to face, the refusals he had received, and how his passion stronger than anything else, lead him to become the King.  I love this part, because it make Stephen King a common person. Sometimes I just think that those best seller authors have always lived with the VIP status during all their life and that life has always been easy for them, do you now any Editor, that today,  would refuse a manuscript from Stephen King or Neil Gaiman etc? Reading this book I realised that actually they are common mortals like you and I and when they started writing they were just like you and; a name in our big world, so, the real question is what did they do to get out from the “noone” and become “someone”? Obviously constance, improvement and passion, without excluding a dose of good luck, which somethimes can also be stimulated. So, don’t stop writing, if that is your dream don’t stop, and as he says in his book: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

The second part is full of valuable advice for anyone who loves writing and want to improve style, form, grammar, characters, or just stop having the dreaded writer’s block. I followed his notes, his precious suggestions and I’m so amazed how easily words are now appearing on my white page, filling it with a story. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m done and I’ll be the next bestseller on Amazon Kindle, I still have a lot to learn, many mistakes to do, a and a bunch to improve, but what I can affirm is that I won’t stop writing, and reading this book helped me much, and reading it a second time helped me even more.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” (Stephen King, On Writing)

So, thank you Stephen, and for all of you, try it and you’ll see!

“Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ” (Stephen King, On Writing)