Leading the Way with Leading Lines

(c) Jo Foo 2017

Leading lines.

One of my favourite ways to compose a shot to give it a little ooomph. And, from my experience, one of the composition techniques my students find most satisfying during my classes.

Many of them naturally compose shots with strong leading lines because the end result is very pleasing. Any lines in an image can act as “leading lines” and they pretty much do as described, they lead the viewer into the shot. Combine this with other composition rules like the Rule of Thirds, patterns, colours or symmetry (plus many others!) and you’ll have a pretty strong image.

(c) Jo Foo 2016

The lines work best if they grab your attention at the bottom corner of the image and take you on a journey through it. This is a useful technique to remember if you can’t quite find the angle you want for your shot. The lines should add depth by guiding the viewer into the image.

(c) Jo Foo 2016

The lines can be straight or curved, symmetrical or one-sided…

(c) Jo Foo 2013

As long as they are a strong feature, they should work as an impressive way to capture your viewer’s attention. They can even make a seemingly “plain” sign tell a story…

(c) Jo Foo 2016

Mei Photo Challenge: Week 2 Favourites

Well, as expected, week 2 of the #MeiPhotoChallenge has been significantly quieter! Well done to everyone who has managed to hang in there and a big welcome to a couple of new faces.  You’re doing better than me as I’ve still not edited and uploaded my shots since Monday.

Here are my favourite images from this week:

Day 8: Books


Day 9: Happy


Day 10: High-Key


Day 11: Rainbow


Day 12: New


Day 13: Sky


Day 14: Shadow

Baffled by Bokeh?

Bokeh? What is it? How do you even say it? And why is everyone talking about it?

Well, bokeh, pronounced bo-kay (at least that’s how I say it!), refers to the quality of blur in your photos. And by blur, I mean something a bit different to background blur (from a shallow depth of field or small f-stop value) and a lot different to motion blur (from a slow shutter speed or fast movement). And by quality, I mean the subjective feeling that this particular blur gives and onlooker and is open to interpretation and discussion. And by everyone, I mean photographers.

The word itself comes from Japanese language and literally translates as “blur”. For photographs, the simplest way to think of it is out-of-focus light. The light can be from a variety of sources, fairy lights, candle lights, street lights, lamps in the background, natural light and even reflected light in your image. Most often, it is shown as little discs or circles in the area of your shot that is blurred. In some cases the shapes are different (for various reasons) but you’ll see a cluster of similar shapes where the light is blurred and rendered by your lens.

It’s a great way of making the out-of-focus part of your photo more interesting and more pleasing to the eye. I like to think of it as adding a little sparkle to your shot and adding a bit more of a story to your image.

Abstract image of a fortune cookie, red bracelets and out of focus fairy lights (bokeh) in the background to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Fortune Favours the Brave

In the image above, the round circles of light are the bokeh. You can get this effect in a number of ways. I used fairy lights in the distance so when I took this shot I was close to my subjects (the cookie and the bangles) and I used a wide aperture (low f-number). Since my lens has a circular aperture (curved aperture blades), the bokeh is circular. Some older lenses have straight blades and the bokeh ends up heptagonal shapes.

Some of you will have noticed that towards the front of the image, on the bangles, there’s a bit of bokeh there too. That’s from reflected light in the shot. Looking for light reflecting back to your lens in the out-of-focus area of the shot is another way to get bokeh in your image.

New leaves on a plant with lots of out-of-focus leaves which are reflecting light back to the lens and causing circular bokeh in the background

Day 2: Leaves #MeiPhotoChallenge

For some people, all bokeh is good bokeh. For others, it can be distracting. In the above image, while I was enjoying playing with the reflections on the leaves, the discs are quite sharp and bright which might not be pleasing for some people. It may appear too harsh to be considered “good bokeh” by some, but again, like with most creative things, it’s subjective and depends on the onlooker.

Bokeh comes from the lens and not the camera. This means that some lenses will give “better” bokeh than others. From my experience and the overwhelming opinion of most photographers, fixed portrait lenses (e.g. 50mm) and telephoto lenses give the best bokeh. But you don’t need to worry about that right now. You’ll still be able to get this effect from your kit lens if you remember to keep a wide aperture, or simply what I mentioned before, bokeh is out-of-focus light.

Hundreds of circles of light in different colours and different sizes

Rainbow Sparkles: In this image the bokeh is created by taking a photo of sequins and playing with the focus to get a pleasing pattern of circles as the sunlight is reflected back into the camera.

So, now you know what it is, it’s your turn to give it a try. Fear not! I’m not leaving you just yet. Here’s how to get started…

(*** For those of you using camera phones or compacts, all is not lost, you can still get bokeh shots… hang in there til the end!***)

First off, you need a large aperture (low f-number), a short focal distance and lights in the background, i.e. your subject close to the lens (in focus!) and a light source in the background (the out-of-focus area).  Remember this can be something you’ve positioned there like fairy lights of candles or it could be something that happens to be in the background like streetlights or light filtering through the trees. The large aperture and short focal distance is what gives you a nice shallow depth of field allowing you to focus your subject and blur those background lights.

A champagne glass with rose wine and a christmas tree in the background. The christmas tree is out of focus so the fairy lights show as large round circles of light (bokeh).

Christmas Drink: Christmas tree lights make bokeh a lot of fun!

When you line up your shot, it’s helpful to be on the same level as your subject. Position yourself so the light source you’re intending to be out of focus is behind it, at least 4 feet away. The further the distance between the subject and the light, the bigger the bokeh shapes will be.  In the image above, there’s at least 6 metres between the glass and the Christmas tree. In the image below, the ornament and the fairy lights are on the same chair with only ~1ft space in between.

A silhouette of a fairy ornament with coloured lights out-of-focus behind it on a dark background.

Bokeh Fairy: In this image my fairy lights aren’t far enough away from my subject. The result means I get some bokeh but you can almost make out the lights themselves.

It’s good to start this in Aperture Priority if you can. This way your camera will work out the shutter speed to get the correct exposure. Remember if you’re shooting a dark shot (like the image above), you’ll need something to rest your camera on as the shutter speed will be slow so the exposure is correct. If you’re shooting in manual, low ISO numbers are best, otherwise the noise (grain) will distract from the bokeh.

***But what if I’m using a camera phone or compact camera??***

Well, the sad truth is that the “quality” of the bokeh will be better with an SLR or mirrorless camera. This is purely because the bokeh is to do with the lens and not the camera body.

However, you can still play with this technique by following steps similar to the ones above – set your light source for the bokeh in the distance and place a subject close to your camera (5-10cm away). Focus on the subject by tapping on it on the screen (on a phone) and, provided you have something newer than an iPhone 3G or equivalent Samsung/Android phone model, you should be able to take a shot with the lights out of focus and the blur will cause bokeh. Some newer smartphones and compacts allow you to change your aperture priority or allow “selective focus” which means you’ll have more control over this effect. Remember if you move the phone, your phone will refocus and might bring the lights back into focus. The easiest way around this is to use a mini tripod and have a subject that won’t move!

Alternatively, you can get some really beautiful creative shots by putting the whole image out of focus, like this one by my cousin!

A bright image of a barn wedding with chairs and people and the fairy lights out of focus to get bright warm white circles of light across the image.

Beautiful Bokeh by my super talented cousin @amazingrachael – check her out on Instagram!

Time for you to play! I love bokeh shots so I can’t wait to see how you get on. And maybe next month I’ll show you how to do bokeh shapes!

Here are some props you might find helpful for bokeh shots:

  • Fairy lights (Christmas is a perfect time for bokeh shots!)
  • Candles (lots of them!)
  • Sequins and sunlight
  • Streetlights
  • Reflective surfaces in your shot (usually they need to be textured to get the small discs of light – a smooth surface won’t yield much bokeh!)
  • Natural light being filtered by trees etc

Once you get good at it, you can start using bokeh to help you tell your story, or even create whimsical images…

A ceramic mug with a plum blossom tree branch on it, and blue discs of light rising out of it.

Cuppa Plum Bokeh

Have fun! x

Lovely Family Storrie

Soooo, I just realised I didn’t finish my blog about this shoot. It’s from last year and is a very special one for me. My cousin Dawn has always been a big part of our lives and when she asked me to take photos for them I was really excited to catch up with this part of our family. My mum is one of 6 so as you’d imagine, we’re a big extended family and we don’t spend enough time together these days.

So off to the Gleniffer Braes we went last autumn. An afternoon of love, laughter, tree-climbing and gymnastics. I thoroughly enjoyed capturing the moment for them all. Here are some of my favourite shots:

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A Family Portrait

It’s been a long, long time since I blogged. So much has happened this year and I’ve let blogging fall by the wayside. But after this shoot in Glasgow’s Pollok Park, I had to share my favourite shots with you.

I worked with Lynn many moons ago in Glasgow Science Centre and we reconnected through her business Paws On Pet Services and her brilliant blog: Glasgow With Kids. Sometimes Facebook has it’s upsides.

So we got together last month and I finally had the chance to meet Lynn’s daughter, the inspiration for her blog and her husband David. Lynn is pretty great with a camera herself so it didn’t take too long for everyone to feel at ease.

We lucked out with the weather for the shoot and caught the tail end of those delightful few weeks in June when the sun was shining. A walk through the park provided a lovely backdrop for this gorgeous, happy family!White Family Sneak Peek

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I had such a lovely morning with these guys. My job is pretty awesome! xx

#RealGirlsRealBeauty in the Press

Well, in an exciting start to 2016, I received an email from Heather Greenaway at the Sunday Mail late in the day on Monday last week. She’d been visiting my website and my #RealGirlsRealBeauty project and wanted to know it would be possible to run a feature on it.

Naturally I said yes.

Some lovely emails, phone conversations and late messages to the girls and Heather resulted in this piece in Sunday’s paper.

What a great start to the New Year!  I can’t wait for the shoots I’ve got lined up and to meet my next #RealBeauties!

Book your session and be part of the project!xx

Real Girls, Real Beauty Press WR

2015: What a year!

I’ve made it! To the end of another year! I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thanks so much for all your support throughout 2015. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2016 and wish you and your loved ones all the very best for the New Year!

Have a great time tonight! x

2015 YearInReview - Mei Photography

12 things I’ve learned in 500 days of Mei Photography




The number of days since I started my own business.

That’s actually a lie.

It has now been 523 days since I started my own business.

I’d fully intended on posting this more than three weeks ago but, as I’m about to write about, things don’t always go to plan. However this next part is true – I can’t quite believe I’ve been self-employed for over 500 days. I’ve learned so much from my successes and my many, many failures! So as a little bit of revision for me and hopefully some helpful tips and advice or even just a chance for any small business owners to see that they aren’t alone, here are a few things I’ve learned…

1. So many ideas, so little time…

more focus WR

I started this business the way I start pretty much everything. Headfirst with a million ideas all jumbled about in a heady mix of excitement and nerves. I’m a planner, an organiser and I’m ambitious. My original idea was to combine my 3 loves: photography, dog training and conservation science communication. My Business Gateway Advisor’s head was spinning when I first rushed in with all my ideas. And my “elevator pitch”? At best garbled and had to be delivered on a trip up the Empire State Building to get through it all. The truth was, I knew what I wanted to do but I had no idea how to do it all.

Since then, I’ve become a bit more realistic. I couldn’t do everything all at once. No matter how much I tried or wanted to – it just wasn’t a feasible business strategy. To survive as a small business owner you have to be focused and work out how to make your idea make you money. It seems a bit basic but the reality is, if your business doesn’t make money, it won’t survive. Successful, sustainable businesses need money.

So I focused on photography in this first year with a little bit of conservation thrown in.  This made most sense for me. I love taking photos and capturing moments for people. I also love the art of it.  The creativity and ideas behind it. I’ve temporarily shelved a couple of my other ideas until life becomes a bit more stable – then I’ll throw another ball into the juggling mix.

2. Value what you dowhat you're worth WR

This has been a tough lesson. Especially when just starting out and working in a creative business. Creative work is personal. We do it because we believe it improves other people’s lives even in just the smallest way.  We do it because we want to make a difference.

Figuring out how much to charge has as much to do with confidence as it does maths.  You need to cover your costs, have good enough profit margins to be able to reinvest in the business but still be competitive and also be able to take a wage so you can, you know, live. Simple? Yes? Not quite.

It takes a lot to put yourself out there and this becomes more apparent when the product you’re selling is a creative one, it’s like an extension of yourself and the way you feel about yourself is reflected in your prices. Getting the price you deserve for your work starts with you. Know your worth and value your work, or no-one else will.

Baby Toto Arrived!x

A few months ago I had the privilege of taking photos for my friend and her family of three as they announced another was on the way.  I was delighted to be asked to take photos of new arrival Baby Toto when he was just a few days old. He’s actually called Thomas but his big brother has renamed him and I think it’s going to last!  It was another afternoon of laughter, cuddles, kisses and smiles – plus a cuppa or two.

As always, Christopher charmed the camera and I focused on capturing natural relaxed moments of a family who are all smitten with their newest addition.  And who wouldn’t be?  He’s adorable!  Here’s to many more happy family photographs! x

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