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52 Photo Tips #11: Forget your flash

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Mood like this can be ruined with even the most subtle burst of flash

This is the 11th article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Electronic flash can be a lifesaver. Every smartphone, compact camera and entry level DSLR has one, giving frame filling light when needed. And flash can allow great photographs to be taken in challenging light, or to create the perfect lighting conditions to bring the most out of a subject. If you’ve ever spent time in a photographic studio you’ll know just how important artificial light can be, and how transformative it can be.

But when you’re starting out, it’s often best to leave your flash at home. While it’s true early flashes required manual input from the photographer to ensure they were exposing properly, most modern electronic flashes are blessed with a computer brain that takes all of the guesswork out of the picture.

But many of these modern flashes require a camera with an equally sophisticated brain. If you’re using a no-frills manual camera – the very best way to learn – then you’re often only limited to the camera’s X-Sync speed, which is often far slower than the camera’s fastest shutter speed. So if you’re not getting the best out of flash units – the kind of control that you would with a serious DSLR, for instance – it makes sense to concentrate instead on how to let the light around you work for you.

There are, however, ways you can get by with out flash – and most won’t require buying any more equipment.

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52 Photo Tips #10: Buy new film

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Back when summer wasn’t summer without Kodak (Pic: Insomnia Cured Here/Flickr)

th article in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

I try and take photos every weekend. Even when the weather is grey and dull, you can still find something worth capturing. And shooting on film makes me stand out from the crowd. The most common question I get asked, apart from “Can you still get it processed?” is “Do they still make film?”

They do, even if, for many people, the digital revolution killed film stone dead. And you can’t really blame them. The bricks and mortar, high-street photo chains tend to concentrate on DSLRs and digital accessories. Film, if they still carry it, tends to be kept behind the counter, freeing up all that valuable floor space for all those bits and bytes.

The number of films – and even film manufacturers – has dwindled, but appears to be reaching a natural level for those who still want to use it. But this will only continue if photographers keep buying new film.

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Paris without the landmarks

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Xpro blues and grain from the counter at Cafe Charbon

Photography and travel go hand in hand; there must be few photographers who are immune to the thrill of arriving in a new place and wanting to capture the atmosphere in their own unique way.

How do you do that with a place like Paris? It has been home to some of the world’s most famous and pioneering photographers, and become one of the world’s most photographed locations. You don’t have to have set foot in the city to picture its landmarks.

I was in Paris a few weeks ago to launch an exhibition. There was precious little time for sightseeing, but that wasn’t a problem; it’s not my first time in the city and I’m unlikely to take a better picture of the Eiffel Tower than the ones on the postcards. Instead of turning my camera on the city’s tourist landmarks, I turned it on my friends who’d come along for a weekend in Paris aswell.

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52 Photo Tips #9: Use morning and evening light

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Late afternoon light can make ordinary photos much more impressive

This is the ninth article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

Most photographers end up shooting the majority of their pics in bright sunlight. No great mystery there – we have our cameras with us when we’re on holiday or out on bright, sunny days. Photography needs light, and these conditions present us with a feast.

But it’s not the best light for photography. Hard, overhead summer sun creates deep black shadows – great, perhaps, if you’re shooting a colourful street scene, but ugly if you’re attempting portraits; the overhead sun creates hard blacks even under eye sockets.

Pro photographers almost never shoot in these conditions unless they can do so in open shade. Instead, they get up early or wait until the sun starts sinking. You should do the same.

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Exhibition: Soundcheck Sessions, Au Chat Noir, Paris, France

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Josh Rouse, taken during a soundcheck in Newcastle, England, in 2006

Last year I hosted my first exhibition of my soundcheck photography project, which I’ve been working on in fits and starts for the last 10 years or so. I live in London, but the exhibition was in a venue with the same name as this blog, the Zorki Photo Café in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The world can be a very small place.

If you find yourself in Paris before the end of March, you can see the second exhibition of this project at a bar called Au Chat Noir in the Parmentier district.

There’s 15 shots of bands including Manic Street Preachers, The National, Franz Ferdinand, The Maccabees and Lambchop. And the Au Chat Noir is just the kind of corner wine bar that brings hordes of tourists to the City of Light; fantastic wine for next to nothing, unpretentious surroundings, the buzz of French conversation. For a few weeks, some of my pics are gracing the walls.

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