Digital Memories, Technology and You

I received an email out of the blue the other day from a previous wedding client. I had photographed her wedding at the beautiful Langdale Vineyard, just west of Christchurch, some three years ago.

She was writing, as since receiving her hi-res photos on a DVD, she hadn’t actually backed them up to another device and she could no longer access the photos on the DVD (that’s the thing about DVD’s and technology - they don’t last forever).

Fortunately, I have a copy of every single wedding I have ever photographed, archived and backed up on my server. Those same photos are also stored off-site on their own hard drives, in the event my office is robbed, flooded or burns to the ground in a fire.

Put simply, I place value on photos and I take the necessary steps to ensure I will have them in decades to come. It is part of my cost of doing business and it is just one thing that separates me from any person with a camera. I can pull your photos from my archive and provide them to you, three years down the track, within 48-hours of you contacting me. There is a small fee to cover my time and hosting costs.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed there has been an enormous shift in how we take, consume and share photography in the past decade. Where we once took photos using film with relatively expensive cameras, now anyone with a phone can take a photo and share it instantly with the world, courtesy of the new printing press called the Internet.

And while that has helped make us all content creators and dare I say ‘photographers’, it has also led to a loss in the understanding of the true value of photos.

If you have photos on your digital devices and you haven’t backed them up, please back them up.

Right now.

 Holly on the dune track with her camera, New Brighton, Christchurch, New Zealand.


This photo instantly reminds me of an afternoon I spent with my daughter walking along the beach together. Captured at 1/2500 of a second, this slice of time, is a memento I will have for years to come.

Snap-Happy But Easy Come, Easy Go

Snap Happy But Easy Come, Easy Go, is the title of an article I read on Stuff yesterday, which touches on the value we are placing on photos. The article raises two really good points, which I believe people need to start thinking about in this digital age of instant photography.

First up, is simply downloading and archiving your photos so you can show them to friends and family say twenty or thirty years' down the track.

Back in the good old days, you would take your film to be developed and in return you'd receive a box of slides or an envelope filled with prints and the original negatives. While many of those photos would go on to be stored in a shoe box in the corner of a cupboard, at least you had a physical copy of your photos. The only way you could really lose those photos was by theft, house fire or flooding.

Fast forward to the present day and most people use a variety of digital devices to take photos. You've got digital SLR's, digital point and shoot cameras and of course, smart phones. The problem is of course, if you are taking photos on any of these devices, you are then responsible for downloading the photos and at a minimum, backing them up - you do back up your digital photos, right?.

If you aren't doing these basic steps with your digital photos, then you may be setting yourself up to lose irreplaceable memories. And while losing a couple of months worth of photos' is something most people can live with, sit back and think about losing a decades worth of imagery. Imagine losing all the photos of the first ten years of your child's life, all because you weren't diligent enough to download, catalogue and back up those photos.

This photo is a scan of a print. It is of my father as a young man, rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. It is an irreplaceable memento for me and something I am glad to have 50+ years since it was first taken with a camera.

This photo is a scan of a print. It is of my father as a young man, rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. It is an irreplaceable memento for me and something I am glad to have 50+ years since it was first taken with a camera.

Which brings me to the second point of the article.

Get in the habit of actually making prints of your photos or books if that is more your thing.

Creating prints is as easy as creating a folder on your desktop and adding copies of photos you want printed. Then once a month or every second month, take those files to the lab and get some prints made. Pick up a photo album while you are there and start filling it with your memories.

As the years pass, you'll begin to build up a collection of albums, which will have far more intrinsic value than digital photos in an album on your Facebook profile.

If books are more your thing, do a book a year or after each holiday. Blurb and Artifact Rising are both great print on demand book publishers.

What ever you do, don't become complacent because it is so easy to take photos these days. Download your photos regularly, back them up and make prints of your favourite photos, to show family and friends when they come around.


Christchurch wedding photographer - How to take photos with an iPhone part III

how to take photos with an iPhone How to take photos with an iPhone part III, is the third installment on how to take better photos with an iPhone or any smart phone for that matter. Read the previous two posts at these links:

How to take photos with an iPhone part I

How to take photos with an iPhone part II

In this post we are going to talk about apps and post-processing your images.

1. Apps

If you were like me, the first time you purchased an iPhone you probably didn't even know what an app was. Only yesterday a friend of mine asked me that very question - 'what's an app?'

An app is a piece of software that does a specific task, which runs on your phone. App is short for application - as in software application. If you go to the App store with Apple, you'll find more apps than you can poke a stick at.

Once you've taken a photo, nine times out of ten, you'll need to run that photo through some post-processing. On a smart phone this is done with an app. A photo app turns your smart phone into your very own portable digital dark room, which when you think about it, is pretty amazing really.

2. Which App?

Given the huge number of apps out there for photographers, it can feel pretty daunting trying to decide which app is right for you. Popular apps include:

Instagram (50,000,000 downloads so far); HipstamaticCamera+, Adobe Photoshop Express and VSCO.

My advice with apps is this - purchase one app, learn it, then master it, then add another app to your iPhone.

Only by slowing down and really learning one app, will you begin to produce iPhone photos with a consistent visual aesthetic.

3. App Traps

Apps have some traps that you should watch out for.

Instagram - I use Instagram a lot, but there is one thing I really don't like about it. You can't process an image in Instagram and just save it on your photo roll. Whatever the reason, each time you process an image with Instagram, it will automatically be uploaded to your Instagram feed online. Unless I've missed something really obvious over the past two years, there is no way around this. The flip side is, you can make your Instagram feed private. Just go to your Instagram account online and dig through the Preferences.

Hipstamatic - This app is like using film. You select the film type you want, the lens you want and then you take your photo. The app actually processes the photo based on your preferences and spits out the final image. Unlike other apps where you take the photo, then process with an app, Hipstamatic is the reverse. This means you can end up with a lot of photos with a look and feel, that you may not like. And which you can't really change.

Another trap with apps, is ensuring that you are shooting at the highest image size possible. Always check this when you download a new app. Just go into the app settings and make sure you have selected the highest possible setting you can for image size.

Check back later in the week for Part IV How to take photos with an iPhone.


Christchurch wedding photographer - How to take photos with an iPhone

how to take photos with an iPhoneHow to take photos with an iPhone is inspired by a stranger I bumped into a couple of weeks ago while standing on the outside deck of Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. To say their phone photography technique was sloppy, was an under statement. In this post I want to get back to the basics when it comes to taking photos with your iPhone, Nexus, Samsung, insert your smart phone name here.

Part 1: Know the Limitations of your iPhone

Smart phones as camera have some serious limitations in terms of speed, controls and quality. Understanding these basics will help you on the road to better iPhone photos.

1. Keep the iPhone lens clean

Nothing gets grubbier faster than the lens on an iPhone. Before you take photos, do a quick check to see if it is clean.

2. Turn the screen brightness up

If you are taking photos in the middle of the day in blazing sun, you'll barely be able to see the image on the screen of your iPhone. Turn the screen brightness to the highest setting. It sucks the battery power, but at least you can see what you are photographing.

3. Hold it steady!

This is the number one mistake that people make. To get good results, you have to hold your phone steady. Even more so when you are shooting in the low light typical of sunrise and sunset. Ditto for when shooting indoors. Just trust me on this folks - that tiny iPhone sensor needs all the help it can get.

For vertical shots, I hold my thumb against the left side of the iPhone and my fingers wrap around the right side of the phone. I then use my right hand to release the shutter. More on that in a minute.

For horizontal shots, use both hands! One on either side of your iPhone. You can then frame the photo, hold it steady and use a finger from your left hand to release the shutter.

4. Shutter release and lag

Unlike other cameras, the iPhone takes a photo when you take your finger off the shutter release button. This took me ages to master, in part because I've spent years depressing a button to take a photo. To make matters worse, there is a lag between when you release the shutter and when the photo is actually taken. Coming from using high end Nikon cameras that take a photo the instant I depress the button, the lag on my iPhone feels like an eternity.

The only way to master this is to practice taking photos and to learn how long the actual lag is. In time, you will become better at getting the photos you want, when you want.

5. Focus

To focus your iPhone, open the Camera app. Touch anywhere on the screen and you'll see a square appear before you. This is your focus control. It is also linked to the camera's exposure metering, but we'll get to that in my next post.

And if you want to see some inspiring iPhone photography, check out these photos I produced at the end of my year long stay in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

Check back Friday for Part 2: How to take photos with your iPhone.