Saturday, 22 March 2014

Post processing story board - from bland to better in 6 steps

We all aim to get it right 'in camera' - to take pictures that will perform well on screen and in print. But sometimes, we don't quite get it right.  Take this dry grass shot at Wisley... it is flat, and frankly bland.  I was shooting Aperture priority and did not think through the impact of the light coloured foliage - I needed to dial in about a stop of exposure compensation.

I use Aperture3 for my post processing work and usually shoot Raw+JPEG.  I was glad of the RAW file on this one - boosting the exposure and contrast brought an immediate improvement.  The image is brighter and with much better definition.  Now it rather defies the dull day on which it was shot.

But when I framed the shot at the end of an early Spring afternoon at RHS Wisley, I was imagining it in black and white.  Aperture 3 has some B&W tools, so I did a quick, standard conversion with medium contrast to see if it might work - but again I was underwhelmed with the result.  Time to roll out the secret weapon - the Nik Software suite.

First I ran the image through Viveza, a delightfully easy plug-in, tweaking brightness, a tad more contrast and pulling in some selective structure on the seed heads.  From there to Silver Efex, a stunning little black and white plug-in with a massive choice of preset options.  Its rare for me not to find one of these providing a great starting point.  In this case, the "Wet Rocks" preset was most pleasing:

A little light tweaking to structure, and adding a very slight 'coffee' tonal change almost completed the job.  I thought there was one final change needed - the crop. But after listing the picture & publishing an early version of this post and discussing it on, I decided it would benefit from a flip.  So... the (current?) final version is below!  Do let me know what you think - and I'd love to hear what you think of the changes - what works, what doesn't for you?

The finished image is available here:

You can find more of my finished work at with opportunities to discuss work in progress a

Thank you
Colin Kemp
Sonning Creatives Ltd

Sunday, 10 November 2013

So just what does a photographer hang in his own hall?

Don't you just love decorating the hall?  (Really need an emoticon for 'heavy irony' after that statement!)

Kemp's Kingdom is not especially palatial, but when you add up the doors... reception rooms, loo, kitchen, cupboard under stairs, bedrooms, bathroom, airing cupboard... then they seem to go on for ever. And then there's all that skirting board, a zillion posts on the bannister (do they have a proper name?) endless skirting board and coving... and those bits of wall & ceiling cunningly located over the stairs that make you balance on the bannister (before you paint it!).

American Alium
And then when you are done, the whole thing looks bare and the fun begins... just what are we going to put on the walls?  EU negotiations, Iran nuclear talks and the US fiscal cliff negotiations all pale into insignificance compared to the debate here.   
This debate has  definitely taken longer than the painting did! 

Purple Depth

But we have a resolution...  

We are going floral, with a bit of a colour theme.We've got three A3 pictures going up in rather snazzy 20x16 frames:

the portrait dahlia (top right above), and then two pictures that I hope give you the sense of depth that they do me; 

Dahlia and raindrop

and dramatic 12 inch square dahlia print in an 18 inch frame.
Autumn in

And at the head of the stairs an 18x12 inch print of my most popular image (as reckoned both by sales and 'favourites' in my Etsy shop) - Autumn in Pastel.  This is the largest I have printed this - and it looks fabulous!  It's in a 24x18 frame.

On balance, I have to say choosing the photos was more fun than choosing or applying the paint in the hall!

Autumn in Pastel and Dahlia with raindrop are available in my Etsy shop.

The others could be.  Please do let me know what you think.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

How not to spend an extra £2,699,970 on a photograph?

Guardian newspaper caption from their article of 11/11/2011:
Andreas Gursky's Rhine II has set a record for the most expensive 
photograph ever sold.  Photograph: Andreas Gursky/Christie's

£2,700,000 is a pile of cash.  Translate it into the US$ equivalent and it's a mind boggling $4.3 million.
Quite a lot to spend on a photo - even a photo as big as Andreas Gursky's Rhein II.  But it sold for that in 2011.  At 140 inches x 80 inches, printed on acrylic glass, it works out at £241 per square inch.

There was lots of press comment at the time (here is the Guardian's piece:, some favourable, some less so.  Gursky is reported as envisaging the picture as a bleak reflection on modern existence - but achieves it by removing / photoshopping from the picture any element of that existence.  He is widely regarded as one of the premier art photographers, renowned for large canvases, often with incredible fine detail - but in this case turned that practice on its head, reducing picture elements to a minimum.

Many people have commented on the picture, with a particularly thoughtful, photographer's eye piece from Josh Dunlop at Expert Photography:

Ripples, Thames Estuary, © Sonning Creatives
So why am I talking about this nearly 2 yrs after the sale?  Well its a recent find for me, and it is a find at a time when I am thinking about how to value and promote my own photographs.  I've recently been privileged to sell a small number of prints of my minimalist seascape: Ripples, Thames Estuary - taken in a location almost as unprepossessing as Gursky's Rhein II.  

In my case, the effect was predominantly created by the camera technique, with just some tweaking of contrast and vibrancy in post processing.   Whereas Gursky wanted to strip back to reflect what he sees as a harsh reality, my own hope was to find the hidden beauty in a commonplace scene.  I'd love to hear whether you think I succeeded.

And then we come to value:  just how does one value one's own work?  I've sold A3 prints of this picture at around £30 - and was flattered that someone wanted to display my work.  While any aspiring artist dreams of a big sale, even the most megalomaniac won't dream of reaching Gursky's heights.  But do we as artists short change ourselves?  And how do we know?

In the meantime, if you would like to avoid spending an extra £2,699,970 on a photograph to grace your - or a loved one's - wall pop over to my Etsy site where you can buy Ripples, Thames Estuary at 19x13 inches for £30 - less than 12.5 pence per square inch!  Surely a bargain?

Visit my Etsy page for this image here:

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Christian Aid Week sale update

A few weeks back I promised an update on the sale of prints and cards for Christian Aid Week.  On the day of the sale I reported that we'd raised £38 from a handful of sales to colleagues who work for the charity.  I'm pleased to share the news that there was lots more interest during the week, and I have now been able to pass a cheque for just over £94 to Christian Aid to help support the work of their partners overseas as they seek to help communities build their way out of poverty.  My thanks to colleagues whose generosity about my photography made that possible.

In my last blog I reported a difference between the print sales - mostly fine art or pictures that challenge the boundary between photography and painting - and card sales - simpler landscapes and floral cards.  Small cards were outselling larger cards.
With more time for consideration, A5 card sales overtook the smaller square cards, selling at more than 2:1.  This probably reflects a donation dynamic - on the day of the sale, some purchases will have been as much about supporting Christian Aid, as a vote of confidence in the photographs.   Later in the week, people were reflecting on what they like and what they want to send to friends or loved ones - so while the charity donation was why they were buyng, the what was becoming more important.  Joint top sellers were Tower Bridge Blues - featured at the bottom of my last post - and Heels and Roses, the star picture from my collaboration with the talented Linda Anderson over at
For prints, the trend I highlighted continued.  Purely photographic landscapes and floral photos were admired but not purchased.  But venture into the fine art space, or the cross over between painting and photography and the sales continued - modestly, but continue they did.  Three pictures split top honours : for most of the week Ripples shared top billing with Monet at Stourhead? These were right in that cross over space.  But the late star was The Other Gate at Corfe Castle, including an A3 sale (to one of our key suppliers, Open Fundraising (thanks guys!)), and one special order of a canvas that will be travelling to Australia as a wedding present.  

This international photographer malarkey is very exciting - one picture is on a wall in Brooklyn, and now one in Australia!  Perhaps I should put my prices up!

I'm chuffed to have had such a positive response to my first sale / exhibition and would like to thank colleagues (and Open) for their support and encouragement.

Its all given me a lot to think about - particularly as a couple of sales to other contacts over the last two weeks have reinforced the message fine art message.  The question to wrestle with now is how to spread the word.  Know a friendly gallery owner anyone?

Finally… if you would like to purchase one of my pictures, or any of my cards and  help Christian Aid, then email me or pop over to my Etsy shop I am starting to add these prints, mention this blog (or just quote BlogCAW20) and I will make a 20% donation to their work from the sale.

Monday, 13 May 2013

An exhibition first...

I shouldn't over egg this, but today was an exciting first for me and Sonning Creatives, my first 'exhibition'.  Well more of a sale really…
It's Christian Aid Week - the key fundraising moment of Christian Aid's year.  Thousands of volunteers on door steps, services and collections around the country, and CA staff all get stuck in with fundraising around the office.  So I took a deep breath, prepared some stock and set up a sale, with 35% of all sale proceeds going to Christian Aid to support their fabulous work around the world.  As a result of today's sale I will be donating £38 to them, with a possible few extra sales to come later this week.

So what sold?  There were two clear winning images:  Ripples - a minimalist seascape, and Autumn in Pastel - a gentle, slightly muted shot taken at Westonbirt arboretum.  Most sales were of cards, but these were helped by having A3 and A4 prints on display in 20x16 inch and 16x12 inch mounts.  A few London shots were sold including St Paul's in HDR and St Paul's the dome, with Tower Bridge Blues also popular.

Among floral shots,Outstanding Lily was popular.

So what did I learn?  Well its fun discussing photos with colleagues... Price point is important for a work place sale - £2 cards (14cm square) outsold the £2.50 A5 cards.  Solid, middle of the road cards that people can keep in the draw for when needed.  Black & White shots are marmite:  you really love, or you really don't!  £15 A4 16x12s will sell if they touch people's interest.  But its not the chocolate box floral prints that really sell at this ad hoc sale.  Its the shots that are a little different, that succeed in bringing a little of the photographer's vision to life.  And when you can do that, people will purchase.

All I have to now is make more shots like that!

Christian Aid Week runs until Sunday 19th May.  I'm happy to continue offering the 35% donation on sales up till 26th May:
A5 cards £2.50, 14cm square cards £2.00.  Prints, mounted and backed:  6x8 inch, mounted to 8x10 £8.00; A4 mounted to 16x12 inch £15; and A3 mounted to an impressive 16x12 inch £25.  Carriage at cost - lets discuss.  Email me at if you would like to discuss an order.

Monday, 8 April 2013

New work on the cards...

Its been an interesting couple of weeks:  a hard working day with the fabulous baker Linda Anderson of to photograph some of her amazing cupcake creations.  

Selecting backgrounds and dressing shots - learning - again - just how unforgiving the lens is both to the quality of the cakes, and to the precision of the image.

Then a lot of hours at the computer shortlisting images, finding the right crops and processing to show her creations to best effect.  If only the taster on the right could bring you a real taste of her culinary work.

And it has all been preparatory to the launch of a new range of greetings cards to be sold alongside her cupcakes and elsewhere.  Linda will be rolling out the cards on her website and facebook page over the next few weeks, but if you can't wait, you can start to buy now on Redbubble too - just take a look at the cupcake gallery - and pop back to see new images being added over the next few days.

To celebrate the launch, I have reorganised all my images to display card options on Redbubble too - so please do take a peek.

See the beginnings of the cupcake collection at and don't forget to browse the rest of the card collection!  Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

To B (& W) or not to B...

I can't really argue that my dilemma is quite on a par with Hamlet's moment of indecision, but I want to risk the slings and arrows of outrageous opinion on this pair of images: not sure it its particularly noble, or even that I find myself in a sea of troubles.  In fact I hope you agree the sea in the harbour looks particularly untroublesome!

Taken last June in Boston MA, (a discovered country from whose bourn this traveller returned), and taken  later than the normal witching hour when there is still that good light in the sky that can make a great twilight image,  I pressed the shutter, expecting to be converting to black and white.  But then I looked at the original and found more of a wow factor than I anticipated.  So much so, that I published the original on Redbubble where it has had 165 views (at time of writing). ( original redbubble post here)

But I kept returning to my original intention: the picture in my head when I composed the shot: the black and white.  To convert or not to convert, that is the question.  So as a little experiment in digital dynamics and crowd sourcing of insight, I thought I would ask you to share your view: should I be offering this image in colour or black and white?  Which - if either - has the 'wow' factor for you?  Would either find their way to your wall? 

So, with apologies to the Bard for the liberties I have taken with his most famous soliloquy, help me end the heartache.  Tell me what you think: tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Its easy to add a comment to the blog: please do!

For those who like the techie stuff, this was taken on a Nikon D90, showing off its great low light, low noise capabilities with 16-85 lens at 22mm (33mm fx equivalent), 20 seconds at f14, with a dab of over exposure to allow the capture of the foreground detail. ISO 200.