Designs by Cristina Zani

I occasionally get to work with  like- minded creatives which is great. Sometimes arranging with them prior to the shoot, either to provide the make up, hair styling or style for the shoot.

Alternatively  if they contact me and want to collaborate with me in terms of wanting to have  certain designs or looks photographed and that way we both benefit from the arrangement. They provide the outfits or designs and I provide the studio or location and find a model, after the shoot I send them their chosen images. Occasionally someone might turn up with the some of the others involved with the shoot.

This was in fact the case at a recent location shoot in Morecambe with wonderful model dancer Kate C.

I had the pleasure to meet Cristina Zani, she is a jewellery designer and her work can be seen here

Cristina had come along that day with her latest designs as she was wanting some images of these designs to use for her forthcoming exhibitions and for publicity information for these exhiditions.

Cristina works with various media and that day her pieces where made of wood and were bold and had muted colours that looked good against the skin of Katy, and the tones of the location. So we shot a series of images featuring Cristina work.

Below is a sample of the images Cristina chose, the model is of course Katy C, and the lighting is just using the natural light of the windows of the location. Hair was done by Amy and Make up by Donna Graham from Southport.

kate 7
Design 7
kate 8
Design 8
kate 6
Design 6
kate 5
Design 5
kate 4
Design 4
kate 3
Design 3
kate 2
Design 2
kate 1
Design 1

The last image has been published in an online article about a jewellery exhibition


A Window 7 crash causes a lot of frustration and angst while you try and sort the problems – read on to find out what I learned from the experience and how to get back your Photoshop and Lightroom setting and preferences.

In the past I have let windows updates go ahead automatically but this is not a good strategy, as I found out to my cost recently. In fact it can and did cause me a lot of work and angst.

The PC had been working fine all day but a break was need so I had switched it off, and it did an install of updates and when I returned that evening to do some more image work it would not boot up. One of the updates  (most likely a driver update) had changed something and it was stopping the machine from booting up.

The splash screen error message was “unmountable boot error”.


Which after a lot of web research and the trying different approaches to getting the system to boot again, I decided that the best solution was to reinstall the operating system on a new hard disc. This is of course a real pain as all your programs have to be reinstalled and then you have to find your key codes and then for programs like Photoshop your actions and setting too.

Fortunately all my images are stored on a separate Raid 5 drive, so they were ok I just need my operating system and programs back to be able to work with the image again. The timing of this event was of course practically bad as firstly I was half way through rebuilding my website follow its crash and I had my first camera club talk of this season coming up in two weeks and my presentation was only half done.

So what did I learn from this exercise, that is worth passing on in this blog: firstly don’t let windows do automatic updating turn this off. Just remember to check once a week to see what is in the list updates and make your own mind up about what to install.

Here is the windows info for changing that setting  info

  1. Open Windows Update by clicking the Start button , clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Update.
  2. In the left pane, click Change settings.
  3. Choose the option that you want.
  4. Under Recommended updates, select the Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates check box, and then click OK.

As a photographer who uses both Lightroom and Photoshop making a back up of your preferences / setting files for both these programs is well worth the small effort.

These are located on a Windows machine in the following locations on your system drive

Users/[Username]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop [version #]/Adobe Photoshop [version #] Settings

Users/[Username]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Lightroom [version #]/Adobe Lightroom [version #] Preference

These can be found by searching for  (*.agprefs)

Here is also a list of location of other bit of the Photoshop program that might be of use too.

ActionsActions panel.pspUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings
Camera Raw.xmp files saved from Camera Raw dialogUsers/[user name]/AppData/Adobe/CameraRaw/Settings
Color settings (Color management)Color Settings.csfUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings
Custom Color settings (Color management)Userdefined.csfUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Color/Settings
Custom proof setups (Color management)Userdefined.psfUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Color/Proofing
Editing and painting toolsBrushes.psp, Contours.psp, Custom Shapes.psp, Gradients.psp, Patterns.psp, Styles.psp, Swatches.psp, ToolPresets.pspUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings/Presets
Filters and EffectsAdobe Effect CS5 Prefs, Adobe Filter Gallery CS5 Prefs, Adobe Lens Blur CS5 Prefs, Adobe Lens Correction CS5 Prefs, Adobe Liquify CS5 PrefsUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Plugins/[effect or filter name]/Photoshop
General settingsAdobe Photoshop CS5 Prefs.psp (32-bit version)(X64) CS5 Prefs.psp (64-bit version)Users/[user  name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings
Saved Presets[User defined]Users/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Presets/[feature name]
Workspaces[User Defined][Workspaces that have been modified}Users/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings/WorkspacesUsers/[user name]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS5/Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings/Workspaces (Modified)

You can also find these by searching using *.psp file

Armed with this info I was able to get most of my setting/ preferences back for both these programs as I could read the disc that would not boot in file manager so the various setting could be copy and replaced.

Always rename the original preference files before replacing it with your preferences that way if they are corrupt then you can go back to that file. I usually use .old as the file extension.

Here is one really useful but useless bit of information that I thought might solve my issue was that Window 7 can be re installed on top of itself, but only if Window 7 is running. (smile)

The other thing that is well worth doing is backing up your Lightroom catalogue, its file name is:  Catalog.lrcat. I now make sure that I back this up weekly and I would strongly advise that these backups are on a different drive to your Lightroom installation, a stand alone hard drive is well worth the investment for this purpose. Keeping them separate avoids losing your catalog and your backups at the same time.

I also now store a copy of my catalog off site.

The other important files that are worth making a backup copy of are paper profiles; on a Windows based machine these are located here:

C: Windows, System32, Spool, Drivers, Color

Well worth getting those backup too.

The EFIAP Distinction Award

I keep getting asked about the FIAP awards so this is a re-post of my original blog from the old wedsite that stopped working.

EFIAP (Excellence FIAP) is the second step on the FIAP distinction hierarchy, and it follows on from the AFIAP (Artist FIAP). It is awarded to “authors who, apart from having an excellent technique and an abundant production, have often been accepted in many international salons under FIAP Patronage “ and I am delighted to say that I have received the notification that I have achieved this award.

EFIAP requires a photographer to have a pretty substantial body of work and to have been actively submitting that work to photographic salons around the world. With the substantial requirements for this distinction, it really is no mean feat to achieve it.

The EFIAP requirements for 2013 were:

  • You must be the holder of the AFIAP Distinction, and have held that for 12 months.
  • You will have gained (including those used for your AFIAP award) at least 150 Acceptances with a total of at least 50 different photographs.
  • This success must have come from at least 30 different salons with FIAP Patronage, and
  • Those salons must be from at least 15 different countries.

I gained my AFIAP in June 2012.

For my submission, I actually listed 36 salons across 23 countries. Now this exceeds the requirements but when you achieve your EFIAP award all the images used in gaining the award are void for any future FIAP distinctions awards. So I listed all the countries and salons they were accepted into, regardless of the fact that the additional salons and countries, don’t really count.

I listed the following 36 salons

ArticBeauty of Face & BodyBelgrade Photo Autumn
BristolCakovecCarol Pop de Szathmari
FKNS – Grand PrixGB Small Print CircuitHolland – Circuit
MariborNorthern CountiesObsession of Light – Vantaa
Photo Art CircuitPhoto FocusPhotovacation
Port TalbotRockSAID Circuit
SwanseaSydneyThe Photogram Salon
Trierenberg Super CircuitTropical imageWelsh
Wervicq-SubWith Love to WomenYuanlin

This gave me acceptances in the following countries


The image requirements are again a large step up for AFIAP, and to try and reach the target I adopted the following approach to my salon entries. I always used a couple of new images with every entry I sent off, whilst also submitting a couple of images that had a good acceptance rate to hopefully get the required country acceptance – but of course nothing was ever certain. Once an image had gained an acceptance I ‘parked’ it and then selected another image to try at the next salon.
In the end I listed 60 different works totalling 303 acceptances. Now this is well over the top in terms of the acceptances listed above, but when I started out the requirements were significantly different. At the 2012 FIAP congress, new requirements for the FIAP awards were announced. One of the key ones was a large increase in the number of image acceptances, an increase of 100 on the previous number. So when I started out I was aiming for 250 acceptances and so this was the strategy I adopted.
Half way through the year it was announced that the new requirements would not come into force until the end of 2013.

So perhaps a waste of a lot of image acceptances but if the new targets were in place. I would still have met them.
The images below are my most successful images from 2013 and these had to be submitted on a CD as part of my application.

run like hell!
Run like hell!
hiding from the light
Hiding from the light
laura lou
Laura Lou
blue eyes
Blue eyes
interior leeds corn exhange
Interior Leeds Corn exhange

The Account Is Now Wiped Clean
When going from AFIAP to EFIAP you can count your acceptances that gained you your AFIAP award, however after EFIAP, your account is now wiped clean. The images that you used to obtain the EFIAP can never be used in any future FIAP distinction process. Future awards can only be gained from new images and acceptances after the date of your EFIAP award.
So it’s now looking towards the EFIAP Bronze (75 acceptances, with at least 25 different works and 3 photographs gaining  awards in 3 different countries) and the rest of the EFIAP levels!

Canon 5D Mark III thoughts

I have had a number of photographers contact me recently asking my thoughts on my recent upgrade to the Canon 5D Mark III.

So it prompted me to stop and think what I thought about the camera.

I had previously said a number of times that I could not see any need to upgrade to the 5D Mark III, for my type of photography (Working with models in the studio and on location) the MkII did its job well enough and produced good images.

However my main issue with the MkII was the focusing. It performed well most of the time but in low light it did struggle especially if you had the modelling light turned off; on the studio lights it was almost impossible to get a focus. You always had to move to move your focus point back to the central focus point to get any form of focus in those conditions. But I knew about it and worked on the central focus point when working in those lighting situations.

However this year I had started to be a little unhappy about the number images that were not as sharp as I would have liked and as I mentioned in a previous blog post  I took the decision to change a couple of my lens from zooms to prime lens. I also had the opportunity to handle to MkIII in anger a couple of time and was impressed with the new 61-point focusing system that it now had.  So the decision was made to change when Canon had the offer of a battery grip included with the camera.

The first impression when you look at the camera is not much has changed, however the body shape has changes slightly and for me the camera fits slight better into my hand (I have big hands so a plus for me) Most of the key specification have been upgraded over the MkII (details can be seen here) The menu system has also changed quite a bit, but if you are used to the MkII menu system then finding your way around is more or less the same. A number of function screen have been added for the Auto focus system, and a few useful custom setting have come forward in the menu hierarchy.  The rest of the Mk III shooting controls are in the use place here on the top or on the back plate to the side of the display screen. MkII owners would be familiar with most of what these buttons do. However there are three new buttons on the back; one labelled Rate, which you might use to rate your images on the back of the camera, one with a Magnify glass on it, which you use to zoom in and out of the image when pressed using one of the scroll wheels, the final one is used when shooting stills to allow you to access the Picture Style, Multiple Exposures, and in-camera HDR – In image review mode allow you to compare images side by side.

The button functions changes only really become an issue when you are shooting and you look at an image on the back of the camera. The old 5D MkII way of doing this is so in grained that you automatically go to the button which use to do it and then wonder why you are not zooming in. To zoom in on the 5D Mark III takes a different button selection and the use of the small scroll wheel on the front to the camera. You now need to bring up the picture as the MkII and then hit the magnifying button and then using the scroll wheel on the front to zoom in and out. This for me has been the main change when actually using the camera. The other is the focusing which is vastly improved over the MKII and is a really winner for me. You can select any of the focus points and they will focus on your aiming point in the low light condition that the MkII would not even pick up an edge.

So having now used it on two studio shoots, and outside for some landscape work what do I think of it, was upgrade worth it?

carla in red hat
Carla in red hat
Stripes dress
Stripes Dress
rolling downs
Rolling downs
overden moor windfarm
Overden moor windfarm

For me the answer is a firm yes: the new way of zooming into and out of images will eventually become second nature, but of me the 61 point focusing really does make it better than the MkII.


The Sigma 35mm F1.4

A recent addition to my lens collection is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM wide –angle lens.

Now I have to point out that I am not a lens snob, when I first purchased a Canon digital camera body my first lens purchase was a Sigma and it was pin sharp and worked well.

Over the years I have moved on to the more expensive and supposedly better canon L lens. However recently when working in low natural light I have been disappointed with the performance from some of my lenses.  Now I suppose the main reason that I have kept with the Canon brand, is that the top names tend to have the top lenses. Read any magazine review and the branded lens always seem to come out on top. Performance wise and of course cost wise too.

So with the magazines doing the testing and providing the comparisons, it is almost the simple choice to just get the lens which has the brand name. Of course, there is always the possibility of a disappointment which can be expensive too –  let us not forget that Canon et al advertise in these magazines. But generally, staying with the big camera brands is a decision that can be made with confidence.

However as I said above with the type of imagery I shoot I felt that certain lenses were not giving me what I was expecting in terms of sharpness and when I’m paying for a model and using a one off location, I didn’t really want to have as poor a keep rate as I was getting from my current lens setup. I also wanted to move more to prime lenses as they tend to be less heavy than a zoom.

So I felt it was time to do some research and see what was out there that might be worth investing in – and I started to look at the Sigma 35mm. A search of the web provided some good reviews and visiting various people’s blogs gave some good and useful information too.

A good place to start is DPREVIEW which always seem to give good factual reviews. They gave the lens a rating of 89% and the following headline conclusion:

‘The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is a truly excellent lens that performs as well in the field as its superb lab test results suggest. With fast silent focusing and solid build, its lower price makes it a compelling alternative to the camera manufacturers’ equivalents if you don’t need weather-sealing.’

So armed with that information I took the plunge and purchased this lens. The lens certainly has a very different look to the Sigma Lens I had in the past, and actually looks quite sleek and modern. It looks good and feels solid and is easy to put on and off the camera thanks to its new design. The lens hood is also easy to put on and take off too.

sigma 35mm

So now the proof of the pudding will be in how it performs in use. I have shot a couple of landscapes with it but will have to wait a short while to try it out in the studio. I will post some images as soon as I have used it.

Here are a two images shot using the above lens from a recent shoot with Carla Monaco, shot using natural light.

Canon EOS 5D Mk III Sigma 35mm F1.4
Canon EOS 5D Mk III Sigma 35mm F1.4








A New Start

A new start is need:

Follow a bit of a disaster when upgrading to WordPress 3.6 I lost my site, and posts and just ended up with a white screen.

The learning from that is don’t assume upgrades work all the time read the support forums first before pressing update now.

So I decided to take on a new challenge of working up a new site.

So hopefully a website will appear in the next few days – weeks !!

Stay with me if you can and see it develop.

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