Colour balance for fluorescent lights – Under Southwark Bridge

8413845800_34b7ff6238_cColour balance • Exposure compensation • High ISO

Daylight is the ultimate light source and its almost infinite combinations of characteristics and properties make it an endlessly variable, changeable and exciting type of illumination. And consequently it is by far the more popular form of lighting for most photographers. Your camera is set up to deal with daylight by default and all your systems expect it unless you intervene with a different manual instruction.
Photographers are so used to using daylight that when the daylight fades cameras are put to bed to await sunrise the next day, or portable sunlight is loaded with batteries and slipped into the hotshoe – a flash gun.
When you put your camera away after sunset you miss the opportunity to enjoy the multitude of different coloured lights humans use to brighten their world during the night, and to capture the atmospheres those coloured lights can create.

Fluorescent strip lighting

I shot the picture shown here early on a January morning under Southwark Bridge in London. The sky was just coming alive, but under the bridge the world was lit only with artificial lighting – in this case fluorescent strip lights. We tend to avoid fluorescent lighting because it can be ugly and it often creates a sickly green cast, but it is important to appreciate that fluorescents come in many different colours, from white to yellow to red, as well as green. The light here was old and dirty, and its bulb emitted a deep yellow glow that felt strangely warm at that freezing blue hour.
What I wanted to capture at this scene was the haven of warmth that the light was creating in contrast with the dank, wet brickwork and the wrapped up people using the tunnel at that time.
The obvious shot from the direction I approached the scene was from the other side of the road – shooting square to the wall, with a people walking into the patch of light.

White balance

Fluorescent lighting with fluorescent white balanceI know most people would have used auto white balance, or even switched to fluorescent, without recognising that the colour of the light is an essential element in the atmosphere. I had the camera on the daylight setting, as I do for 90% of my pictures. The first image shown here was processed from raw with the fluorescent setting selected so you can see the colours that most people would come away with.
In this shot wanted to make the most of the symmetry of the structure, and with the light striking the subject at such an acute angle we only get an outline of the front of the body. It’s not a bad angle, and I quite like that lit rim of head, face and trousers, but to engage an audience I think we need a bit more than just that.

A different angle with leading lines

I switched to the other side of the road, returned the camera to daylight, and tried to guess the difference in illumination value between the faces passing me by and the background. I set –1.3EV of exposure compensation so skin tones would be the right brightness and to control the camera’s desire to render the detail of the background. As the subjects were moving I wanted a shutter speed that would avoid a lot of blur, and I needed a depth of field that would allow me to guess and pre-set the focus, but balanced with a nice soft rendering of the background. I closed the 25mm f/1.4 lens to f/2 which, with the exposure compensation and an ISO setting of 3200, gave me a shutter speed of 1/200sec – enough to freeze most of the movement but without creating a completely static-looking image.
And then I just waited for someone interesting to come by.

Colour combinations

In the final image it is the warmth of the light that delivers the atmosphere. The deep yellows scream out ‘artificial lighting’ so we know immediately we are underground or working at night. I love the rich reds of the brickwork that is pleasing and comfortable without taking away the sense of the dereliction of the filthy water-soaked walls.
I was lucky with the greens, browns and blues of the two guys in the scene, and their poses that seem to echo their status relative to each other – the more confident becoming the dominant figure by his looking into the lens in a semi-challenging manner.

Panasonic Lumix G5 with Leica DG Summilus 25mm / F1.4 ASPH  – ISO 3200 f/2 and 1/200sec

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Making the most of fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent lighting with fluorescent white balance


Photographing light – when the subject isn’t an object

Light, No Light

When we talk about pictures we are taking, have taken or are going to take, most often we do so in terms of what that picture is of. We talk about that amazing giraffe, or the beautiful river winding through the landscape, the smiling child or the delicate flower. We rarely describe a picture by explaining the way the light was at that moment. And yet light is the most important element of any photograph, so perhaps that is what we should be talking about and when we go shooting that’s what we should be actively seeking out.
I shot this picture because I liked the way the morning sun was reflecting from the side of a modern office building in London, creating these coloured stripes on the pavement. It was the stripes and their colour that made me stop, and they inspired me to take the picture. The stripes aren’t an object, but they are the subject of the picture.

An added element

These pretty coloured bands are enough on their own to make a picture – an abstract set of lines bending from one side of the frame to the other – but I wanted to add some human life to the scene for scale and extra interest. I noticed that as people entered or left the lit patch they cast their shadow across the stripes, making a shape perpendicular to the flow of the scene, and creating a number of intersections that drew the eye.
I waited for the right person, with the right shape, to walk into the right place in the scene, and was reasonably quickly rewarded by this girl strolling into the area that cast her shadow between the green stripes, over the more brightly lit and colourless zone. Her shadow fits perfectly, and as her head’s shadow entered the frame her feet, with the catch-lights on her shoes, were preparing to make their way out. Everything came together in a cocktail of luck, anticipation, planning and patience.

Exposing for the more important tones

Stripes levels. Damien DemolderTo make the most of the colours of the light I had to take control of the camera’s exposure system. To the camera this is a dark scene that needs lightening. To my brain it was a scene in which the lightest areas needed to be a more moderate brightness so that the colours wouldn’t bleach out. I had to make a dramatic adjustment with the camera’s exposure compensation feature, turning the brightness down to -1.7EV. I have black in the scene, and there are light tones that are close to white. Although the picture looks very dark there are actually few real blacks and the histogram shows tones right up to 252.

It is a picture of light, and the exposure has to take that into account. Your camera is designed to take pictures of cats, humans, trees and buildings, so when you want it to just shoot light you need to take full control and tell it very clearly how to do it. Your brain is much bigger than your camera’s so don’t allow your camera to take charge of the situation.

Join me for a street photography class and learn first-hand how to take pictures like this. Choose between daytime classes and classes in the evening and into the night. For details see my street photography workshops page.

Samsung NX20 with the 30mm lens.


Stripes black display. Damien Demolder

This frame shows the areas of the image that are completely black

Green reflected light, by Damien Demolder

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Silhouette of a running girl – Exposure, coincidence and making your own luck

Running womanSilhouette of a running girl  – Exposure, coincidence and making your own luck

A silhouette can be a powerful graphic element in a photograph, but to work well it needs the right background so it can stand out and the right exposure to make it just dark enough. When we create silhouettes we reduce the scene we are photographing to just a collection of shapes, lines and edges, so we also need to be careful that they all interact well with each other and that they don’t overlap when they shouldn’t.

This is a picture I took one sunny morning on the pathway that leads to the north side of the Millennium Bridge in London. The sun was streaming between two buildings and creating a river of very bright light in the generally shady alleyway. What struck me at the time was the immense contrast between the area that was lit and that which wasn’t. As people walked to the bridge I could see that they were crossing from the two extremes – one minute light up by the sun and the next in the shadow of the building. By positioning myself at an angle to the path of the light I could get a view of the people in the shade while they were still passing part of the background that was still alight.


Thinking about the shot I wanted I determined that I should expose for the light levels on the sunlit part of the wall, as this would render the shaded part of the scene very dark. Exposing for the shaded area would obviously render the lit wall very over exposed and much too bright. If I let the camera do its own thing it would have made shade just a little bit dark and the light area a bit too bright. You have to take control in this kind of situation, know what the camera is going to do, and then set your exposure yourself. For this shot I set the exposure about 2EV darker than the camera would have done – because I wanted the shade to be black and the wall to bit a fraction too dark so the colour of the brickwork would become saturated and powerful.

I had to wait for people to cross from the light into the shade to take the shot. The area in which they could be to make this work was actually pretty small – probably about six foot – and they needed to be a particular distance from that background wall to be framed nicely. What complicated things more is that to get a completely clean outline they would also need to have cleared the triangular shadow created by the smaller wall on the right of the frame. As you can guess, I had to wait some time to get a person in exactly the right spot – even though it is a very busy area.

The right person

I also needed the right person. Someone with a distinctive outline that would give visual clues to what they were carrying, where they were going or what sort of person they were. I shot a few business people – singles worked and pair became confused very easily – and everything depended on the pose they were in when they hit that exact spot where the picture would work.

I saw this girl running quickly towards the magic paving slab, and with fingers crossed pressed the shutter when she got there. And I was delighted when the preview arrived on the screen. Her pose couldn’t have been better had I posed her myself, and her feet landed perfectly to be in the shadow but without being lost in the darkness. She had just cleared the triangular shadow and there is a comfortable space in front of her for her to travel into before she hits the wall of darkness.


The picture works because of all the coincidences that came together to make the shot. The position of the girl and her pose, and well as the position of the sun and the type of the light – I shot again the next day in overcast conditions to show how reliant the success was on the exact weather at the time.

That everything came together was a stroke of luck, but it was luck I waited for and luck I helped to make for myself. I spotted the potential and waited for the right person to be in the right position. That person may not have come along at all, but I did what I could and hoped for the best – and it happened. A fisherman will put himself in the best spot on a good river and use the right bait, but only luck will bring the fish, and it’s the same with this kind of shot. This fish just happened to have its hair up and trainers on!

Samsung NX20 with 30mm lens.

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Damien Demolder street photography





Multi-coloured artificial light for atmosphere – white balance and metering

Man at the bottom of Tower 42 in London, in the morning

artificial light for atmosphere –
white balance and metering

You don’t have to travel to the city to come across a wide range of different coloured artificial light sources, or to make the most of the multi-coloured displays they put on for the photographer. Unless you live in the middle of a field with no electricity in your hut, and no fire either, you will come across artificial light every day. These are lights such as street lights, the neon of the chip shop window, the warm glow of a domestic bulb or the green fluorescents on the office floor.  Your camera will render their illumination in different hues, and they play a very large part in your emotional response to the night or the place. In fact, there won’t be a night where an artificial light source doesn’t cast it orange, yellow, green or cool blue rays upon you, the sky or the place you happen to be.

There are so many different types of light that camera manufacturers can’t possibly make a white balance setting for each one. Your auto white balance will help you to get rid of some of the caste, but if you are interested in photographing what you see, and in showing the viewer what a certain place is like at night, it is a much better idea to think not about neutralising these colours but about making the most of them. And to do that you should always shoot with your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or the sun symbol. Your eyes and brain see using their own daylight white balance mode, and for your camera to see what you see this is the only setting to use.

In this shot I’ve used the colours of the lights in the scene to create a stage-like and slightly mysterious atmosphere. Remembering that photography is about photographing the light and not just the objects in front of the camera, I set my exposure to capture the colours. While the person in the middle of the scene is important as the eye-anchor, we don’t need to see what he really looks like – his silhouette is enough. The real reason he is in silhouette is that I dialled in a -0.3EV of exposure compensation to ‘under-expose’ the lights, which in turn increased the saturation and strength of their colours. And that is an important point. Left to think for itself the camera would have created a much lighter exposure and the colours would be much weaker and washed out.

Leading lines and colours

I was lucky here that it is not only the lines of the place that lead us into the scene, but also the graduation of colour from the warmth of the foreground and the railings, via the lighter yellow/greens of the middle ground, to the cool blue/white of the gap in the centre of the frame. Our eyes are drawn to cooler colours more quickly, and the warm surroundings only get looked at once the main attention-grabber has been dealt with.

I am pleased with this shot because the message it delivers is very clear and there are a number of elements that lead us to the same conclusion. There is only one place you can look when you first see the picture, as the passage of the lines, the structure of the place and the colours of the lights take you straight to the strong clear lines of the neatly posing human situated on the left-hand vertical third of the frame. He is looking out of the frame, creating a tension that you have to notice – even though he occupies a tiny section of the image area.

The scene looks to me like a still from a spy movie, so I cropped the photo to 16:9 widescreen proportions to deliver the viewer a subconscious sense of being at the cinema.

Black and white morning shot at the base of Tower 42 in LondonThe picture does work in black and white, as it has enough graphic character to remain strong and compelling, but in colour the sense of atmosphere, mystery and tension is so much greater and the scene ends up being far more interesting.

Canon PowerShot S95, f/3.5@1/125sec and ISO 3200

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Smoking in the sunshine – reading the exposure

Man smoking in the sun, Fujifilm X-Pro1This is one of those everyday scenes – man steps out for a cigarette and loses himself in thought. (Or stares blankly ahead with his mind completely switched off, perhaps.) It’s a situation that’s played out thousands of times a day in towns and cities all over the world, but this one made me stop to take a picture for two simple reasons – the curve of the part of the building the man is standing under, and the sun streaking up the street and showing off that curve so well.

I was lucky here. I didn’t have to wait for someone to come and occupy the right place in the scene, as he was already standing there waiting for the right person to see the potential. I love that curve and the way the side-on light defines its roundness and the texture of the material it is made from. What works so well is that it is set against the shaded area, and thus it stands out and makes its statement nice and clearly.

The main issue I was faced with here was that of exposure. The hard contrast between the lightest areas and the deep shadow at the top of the frame meant I had to concentrate for a second to read what was going on. The most important area is nearly always going to be the person’s face, but here we have the consideration of the almost-white concrete of the curve too. I didn’t want that to burn out, but I also wanted to show that it is nearly white. The camera would look at all that shadow and open itself up to allow more light in, but I guessed that the power of those highlights might just balance things out. I would normally have exposure compensation set to -0.3EV, but on this occasion I reckoned the multi-pattern metering would sort things out on its own.

I wanted a shallow depth of field and so opened the lens to f/2 – as wide as it would go, and the shutter set itself to 1/4000sec.

The man is set in to the left-hand third of the frame and I allowed the curve to sweep close to that left edge and then come gliding back in again. Shifting my position I slotted the smoker inside the curve, in a way to contain him, and then filled the rest of the shot with the funky white-on-black graphics on the glass.

The upright format suited the breadth of the action, and allows the pavement at the base and the deep infinite shadow at the top to demonstrate depth. And that emphasised depth forces the curve and the man to pounce out of the picture in to viewers’ eyes.

Exposure has to be a conscious decision and, especially when working in sunny conditions like this, can’t be left to the camera to work out for you. You have to read the scene and determine what the camera will see and what it will do. Then you choose to over ride it, or let it get on with it. The most important thing though, is that you thought it through and made that choice yourself. Then the picture can be yours, and not belong to the camera.


Fujifilm X-Pro1, 35mm f/2 lens at f/2. 1/4000sec @ ISO 200

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Using exposure compensation – Walking into the light

Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London

Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.

Here’s a simple but effective way of making a small subject stand out from the background. Early in the morning, or actually any time that the sun is low in the sky, we get great shafts of light that streak between buildings to carve streets in two. Usually, if we allow the camera to do its own thing, these powerful beams of light will appear white and burnt out in the frame, but if you measure and expose for the beam instead of the scene in general, you can use them to great effect.

In this instance I was looking for a way to pick out a single person in this very busy part of London. Often I will do this by using a very shallow depth of field, or by getting close with a wideangle lens. On this morning though the sun was acting as a spotlight on a stage, so all I had to do was use it.

The camera was set to evaluative metering, which obviously was reading for the whole scene. With no interference from me the exposure chosen worked well for the scene but left the area where the sun was falling as a burnt-out white line. Obviously this wasn’t making an interesting picture, or illustrating what I could see with my eyes. The excitement of the scene was that the sun could pick anyone out who walked through its rays – and that is what I wanted to catch.

I was using a manual focus lens at the time, so set the focus point for the paving right where the sun was shining. I guessed that I would need exposure compensation of about three stops (-2EV) so I set this and took a trial shot. It looked about right. I could have set spot metering and measured that way, but I would have had to have walked over to the spot to fill the spot zone, and a guess, with the chance to make corrections, seemed a better and quicker option.

Once I was happy that the exposure and focus were good, I framed the shot and waited for the right person to come along. This is a popular route for runners, school children and to workers travelling to the office. I didn’t really know what sort of person was going to make the best shot, but I knew that when that person came along it would hit me. I didn’t have to wait long for this chap to pass by and make the scene complete. The face, the pose of the arms and legs and the outfit all work to tell us the story of the moment.

Samsung NX100, with Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens in Nikon fit via a Samsung to Nikkor adapter. 1/500sec @ f/5.6, ISO 100.

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Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London
Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.
People walking near The Millenium Bridge, London
Without user intervention your camera will record the scene this way.

Shooting digital infrared – avoiding the obvious

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Infrared picture of a tree in a churchyard

Infrared photography used to be a firm favourite of the darkroom user in a days of film supremacy, but with the advent of digital photography the popularity of infrared capture died away somewhat. It didn’t disappear completely, as it didn’t take IR junkies long to realise that many digital cameras are also sensitive to IR light, and with an IR, or a deep red, filter in place a decent enough image could be captured. The number of digital cameras now that have sensitivity significantly extended into the IR wavelengths are few, as it actually has a detrimental impact on normal daylight photography, but some do still have enough ability to record IR light that an image can be made.

What is infrared?

Infrared is the name given to a group of light wavelengths that extend beyond visible red. The word ‘infrared’ means ‘below red’ in Latin – referring to the fact the wavelengths are longer than those of red. For creative photographic purposes the wavelengths we are interested in run between about 700 nanometres and 1000, but some forms of scientific applications use even longer wavelengths.
In IR photography we capture the infrared portion of the spectrum that is reflected from objects in the scene. In general terms live objects, such as grasses and leaves reflect most IR, and these objects appear very bright in IR images. It is commonly believed that IR photography captures differences in temperatures, or that certain objects emit IR light. Neither of these are true.

Fujifilm IS Pro

For this picture I used a fully infrared compatible camera – the Fujifilm IS Pro. This is a camera built into the body of the company’s S5 Pro DSLR, but with the infrared blocking filter removed, and with menu controls specific to shooting in IR. Originally designed for scientific work, it soon grabbed the attention of creative photographers as an extremely convenient way of recreating what they used to do with a tricky and complicated film process. The camera can shoot in colour as well as black and white, and with a ‘hot filter’ (which cuts out IR) over the lens it acts as a normal camera.

Is your camera IR sensitive?

An easy way to find out if your camera has sensitivity to light in the IR part of the spectrum is to cover the lens with an IR filter and then shine in IR light at it. Infrared filters are not cheap, but sources of IR light are common. A TV remote will work, and aimed in low light at your camera with the IR filter over the lens will record as a bright dot on the rear LCD screen when a button is pressed.
You can have your DSLR converted to shoot IR by having the IR blocking filter removed. Companies such as ACS will perform the surgery for you. Don’t try it yourself.


An infrared picture of Tower 42 with white clouds and a black sky

Avoiding the obvious

There is enough IR photography about for the effect to be easily recognisable, and most IR photographers do much the same thing. On a sunny day a blue sky records as a deep black, while clouds reflect large amounts of IR and appear bright and dramatic. Most photographers will try to use these characteristics to create a dramatic and impactful image. There is nothing wrong with that either, but I prefer to use the effects in a less obvious way that still creates an interesting picture, but one that does not scream ‘I’ve been shot in IR’.

IR film used to be very grainy, and could be used to create a coarse textured image that was very appealing. Here I’ve chosen a subject that suits that kind of treatment – an old building – and used the IR effect to have a mildly surreal impact on the grass and leaves to make the picture standout as being a bit different. The effect is very soft and almost dreamlike, without being obviously manipulated or part of a special process. I don’t want the first reaction to the picture to concern how it was done, but what it looks like.

There is no easy way to measure IR light with a normal exposure meter, so we end up having to guess. With film that could be a drama itself, but obviously with a digital IR camera life is much more straightforward – you can view the success of the exposure immediately. Generally small apertures are needed to ensure focus (IR light does not focus in the same plane as the light our cameras and lenses are designed for), and lengthy shutter speeds are needed to compensate.

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Fujifilm IS Pro f/11 @ 1/40sec – camera rated at ISO 100.


Infrared picture of a tree in a churchyard

Grass and leaves reflect IR and appear lighter in IR images


An infrared picture of Tower 42 with white clouds and a black sky

A blue sky turns black in IR photography, and clouds stand out with drama

Be prepared – lover’s hideout

Lover's hideout, by Damien Demolder

Lover’s hideout, by Damien Demolder

Try something out. Put your camera in its bag, and put the bag over your shoulder. Now, pretending you are Clint Eastwood in a cowboy movie, see how quickly you can ‘draw’ your camera, including switching it on and squeezing a shot off. Providing the settings are about right for the light levels and light types you are practicing in, it probably takes about four to five seconds. If you need to adjust the ISO to achieve a shutter speed at which you can hand-hold the camera and lens, that ‘draw’ time might extend to ten seconds – depending on how user-friendly your camera’s menu system is. It’s a good job you are pretending to be Clint rather than fighting against him, as you’d never get that shot off.

Whether you are a fan of Mr Eastwood’s movies or not you will have noticed that when the man himself is sliding round the side of the General Store in search of the bad guys he keeps his gun in his hand, safety catch off, so it’s ready to fire. And if you are into street photography and catching ‘the moment’ you need to take a leaf out of his book.

Keep reviewing your settings
The day I shot this picture it was heavily overcast and dark. It was also very cold, so I was wearing those fingerless burglar gloves, so that I would be able to hold the camera in my hands all day and still be able to work the controls. As the day got darker and darker I had been adjusting my ISO settings so that I would be able to maintain a shutter speed of at least 1/30sec – the camera had anti-shake built-in. I had a 28mm lens fitted, which gave me a 42mm equivalent focal length on my APS-C sensor, and I’d got it stuck wide open at f/2.8 to let in as much light as I could get.

Rounding the corner of a building I came across these two lovers hiding away from the world to share an few intimate moments together. Before I knew it I had the camera at my eye and was focusing the manual lens. As the shutter fired she just had time to look a little bit sheepish, and he just had time to hide his head behind hers.

Ready to shoot
I took one shot, smiled at them as they laughed at being caught, and then I walked on. It all took about two seconds, and I got the shot because the camera was there in my hand whirring and straining at the leash to take a picture. Had it been curled up snoozing in my camera bag this incident would have just been another one of those occasions when the shot got away. I wouldn’t even have drawn, as I’d have known immediately that as soon as I’d started getting the camera out the dynamics of the picture would have changed and the moment would be passed.

Composition in an instant
With practice I’ve learnt not only to get the subject in the frame in a split second but also to ensure I have a composition. I never know what the next composition is going to be, but I do know that even the sort of picture that is grabbed in a fraction of second needs to respect the viewer and respect the laws of image construction. I managed to keep the camera straight so those blocks wouldn’t create a distraction by sloping off to one side, and I positioned the couple at the bottom of a tall frame to prevent a centre-weighted or top heavy composition. I had to keep her feet in too, and his, and frame the pair of them in their alcove by showing some wall either side so the viewer can understand they were hiding away.

Wide aperture
The wide aperture has combined with the overcast sky to create an almost dreamlike softness that works well in the sooty black and white, blue/green channel conversion. There is romance in the softness that adds a fairy tale quality.

Pentax K10D with Ricoh XR Rikenon 28mm f/2.8 at f/2.8. ISO 400.

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Lover's hideout, by Damien Demolder

Lover’s hideout, by Damien Demolder

Picking the decisive moment – at the Bank of England

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Give yourself choices • adding depth • simple or complex • when it all comes together


Capturing the decisive moment - when is it?

Capturing the decisive moment - when is it?

There’s too much reverence attached to Cartier-Bresson’s mystical Decisive Moment – the moment in which all the elements of a scene come together to make the perfect picture. Of course decisive moments do happen, but there is no witch-craft, spiritual powers or crystal ball gazing required. Any ordinary photographer is more than capable of capturing ‘it’.

The two key skills required are the ability to spot a potential scene, and the patience and foresight to wait until the right people walk into it and occupy the right places. Of course it’s important that they are the right people, as they will be making up a significant part of your image – and they have to land in the right place to create a balanced and pleasing composition.

Everyday scene

I spotted this scene in the late spring on my way to work. I walk past it every day, but on this particular morning the sun was streaking up the street and lighting the columns and pedestrians in a way I hadn’t seen since the same moment last year. I always admire the contrast between the bumpy roundness of the stone columns and the smooth flatness of the walls – they have massive photographic potential, I just had to wait for the right conditions.

On this morning I saw that the scene had been set. I pulled my camera out of my pocket and framed the columns and wall in a way that would show both well, and then wondered at what sort of passer-by I wanted to complete the show. It was just after 7am so the street was still relatively empty. If I waited long enough I would be able to choose whether to have the street occupied or empty, with a few people, a single figure or a crowd, as well as whether I had people only on the other side of the road or close to me; to create depth. There were various traffic options too – vans, buses, bikes…

To experiment I shot lots of options, to study and pick between afterwards.

The background

In this type of shot, where the interest is in the relative positions of the moving elements (the people), you need to ensure the background stays in the background, and does not become a distraction. This is a strong background, but it doesn’t take over – and that’s because I spent some time positioning myself and the camera to ensure that uprights were upright and that I wasn’t going to have converging verticals and sloping horizons fighting for the attention of the viewer.

Below you can see five different versions of the same scene, each of which presents a different view and a different kind of composition – as well as different types of content. Even on the back of the camera I knew which I liked the best; actually as soon as I pressed the shutter I knew that I’d got the shot.

I didn’t know beforehand what I needed to create the ideal frame, but when the right elements came together before my eyes I knew that was the shot to take.

Shooting with a compact

Using a compact camera with an LCD meant I wasn’t holding the camera to my face. This risks camera shake of course, but it also means you are able to see around the camera at what is about to enter the frame and where. You can’t do this so well with a DSLR, so while compact cameras are not necessarily the best option for perfect picture quality they do have many significant benefits that often outweigh the quality issues. This is also a very small camera that is easy to carry absolutely everywhere – including places you wouldn’t normally take a camera.

Which picture do you think represents the most interesting moment?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33, 1/250sec@f/2.8 ISO 100 and 28mm end of the zoom

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To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site

Photographing the decisive moment - when is it?

Photographing the decisive moment - Lone man

I quite like ‘Lone Man’. I waited for him to be between the pillars before I took the picture, so he’d stand out from the smooth background.

Photographing the decisive moment - when is it?

Photographing the decisive moment - the crowd

Here’s the crowd scene that shows how full the street can be even at that time of the morning. It’s exciting, but maybe lacking in a clear focal point

Photographing the decisive moment - when is it?

Photographing the decisive moment - all on the left

I like the depth the near-and-far people create, but the frame is over balanced to the left – and everyone is walking out of the picture

Photographing the decisive moment - when is it?

Photographing the decisive moment - scooter

Although scooters, cars, buses and vans are a real part of the life on this street for me they spoil the timeless nature of the Bank’s architecture

Capturing the decisive moment - when is it?

Capturing the decisive moment - balance and depth

This is my favourite. It has depth created by the head in the foreground and a good balance of subject on either side of the frame. The people are also ‘right’ for the scene

 Capturing the decisive moment - the next day

Capturing the decisive moment - the next day, different light

I shot this the next day, at exactly the same time of day, to show that when the sun isn’t streaking up the street lighting the building and the people there is much less to photograph. The impact has gone. The decisive moment is as much able the hour, the day and the season as it is about that split second when all the elements gel to make the perfect frame

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