What to Wear: Transitional Rotations

Just a quick post this afternoon because as you read this I’ll be in London, preparing to go to the Cosmo Blog Awards. It’s set to be quite the event and hopefully I’ll have something exciting to share with you when I get back – keep your fingers crossed please!!

In the meantime, it seemed like an opportune moment to share my ‘other’ London Fashion Week Outfit – Day 1. (What I wore on Day 2)

Dress (seen as skirt) Zara // Jumper – Whistles // Heels – Nine West // Bag – Mulberry //

I always find ‘dressing for London’ tricky. That may sound odd, but every time I’m there, I’m on a mad dash to get as much done as humanly possible. I usually have appointments, often an evening engagement and might travel down and/or up on the train on the day so versatility is key, never mind the fashion fear of having to look representative of the stylish life I aspire to share with you all. It’s a complete nightmare involving heels, cool clothes to avoid getting sweaty on the train/tube, emergency flats and usually a hefty dose of compromise.

This was one such compromise although it’s also a great reminder to utilise your summer outfits over again as layered items for Autumn where appropriate. I still haven’t gotten over my love for this digital print dress (seen here and here before,) and the weather was lovely enough to allow me to wear summery styles. That said, I wanted to keep it a bit more muted to lend the dress-as-a-skirt to autumn. Enter my favourite jumper right now, my Whistles (did I mention they have 25% off right now?) ‘Angel’ jumper – Navy, slouchy, and scattered with sequins, it looks great with everything from jeans to fancy skirts like this one.

Finished with my lilac sky high heels, I was ready for Any Other Party.

Big thanks to Gemma for taking the pics 🙂


Photography basics: The Fuji x100 Part 2

So, last time I wrote about the x100, I talked about how in love with it I was already, but also how I had revealed a few little frustrations as I used it. Since then, I have been out with a few friends who are DSLR owners who also couldn’t get to grips with it. Is it a bad camera? Absolutely not. Put a DSLR on auto and usd a nice little 50mm lens to blur out your backgrounds and in the right light, anybody can take a decent picture. No really, anybody. The Fuji x100 however really doesn’t cater for the lover of the Auto function and honestly, I had been getting a little lazy. It’s really made me pull my finger out and remember what my camera functions are and how to use them.

Last week, I spent the afternoon with Laura and Peter Lawson (Remember Laura wrote this great piece on Digital camera’s for Florence Finds?) and tried to get to grips with the basic settings I needed to know to use the x100. So today, I thought I would share some of my new pearls of photography wisdom with you all in case you too are grappling with the settings on your camera. I did say that I was going to look at depth of field and exposure in my next post and hopefully you will see how all of these things come together.

There are three main settings you need to get to know to get started with your camera. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

1. Aperture
When you press the button on a camera, to take the photo, the camera opens up the shutters in it’s lens (you can see these through the lens if you look carefully on an SLR,) and captures the image. The amount the shutters open is what is called the aperture.

Using a big aperture to create depth of field and blur out the background in this shot showing off my glitter fizz nails (Chanel Orange Fizz and Deborah Lippmann Glitter in the Air)

Confusingly a large aperture actually has a smaller number, for example a 1.8 is much larger than a 5.6. You will also see the aperture referred to as ‘f-stops’ Each f-stop on a lens either halves or doubles the size of the aperture, depending on whether you are moving up or down.

The key thing to aperture is that what it does is let light in. Therefore, if you are in dark conditions you are always going to want to choose a big aperture, (a small f-stop,) to get the most light into your camera and prevent the shot being dark. It also impacts on the depth of field but I’ll leave that for now.

2. ISO
When cameras used film (and when I started playing with my Dads SLR,) ISO denoted how sensitive the film was to light. You therefore chose your film according to the conditions. However in digital photography, choosing your ISO changes how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light.

This shot was taken when I had some friends over for dinner. It was warm so we were eating outside and the light was low. The shutter speed was already as slow as I could get it without causing blurring from camera shake, so I put the ISO up. That made the first image too bright and I turned it down to 200 for the correct exposure.

What that means is that when it’s bright and light (outside on a bright day for example,) your sensor doesnt need to be as, well, sensitive to pick up the image. 1-200 would be fine here. On the other hand in a dark room you might have to bump up the ISO to capture the details.

3. Shutter speed
This one is exactly what it says on the tin. To capture the image as I said in point one, the shutters in your lens open and close in speed that equates to fractions of a second. The ‘shutter speed’ is how long the shutter remains open for. In turn, that controls how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to the image you are taking. The bigger the number 1/250, 1/1000 etc (or you might see these just as the larger number,) the faster the speed.

This shot was taken out one night with friends in low light outside, hence the high ISO. However initially I chose a slow shutter speed to let the most light in and it bleached the shot out with too much light. I could have turned the ISO down, but instead increased the shutter speed.

There are a few key points you need to grasp that relate to this.

  • Leave the shutter open for longer and you will capture movement. For example those street scenes with the car lights streaking across the picture have used a long shutter speed or when you see pictures of waterfalls with the water blurred. There are situations where you might want to see movement in your photograph.
  • For a long shutter speed you need a tripod. The human hand struggles to keep a camera still at a speed slower than 1/125 or 1/60 and that causes ‘camera shake’ or blurring to you and me.
  • On the whole and for blogging purposes you’re more than likely however to want to freeze the shot and capture everything crisply, so will want to choose a higher shutter speed.
  • Shutter speed interacts with ISO because of course when the shutter is open longer (for example) it lets more light in. So you might lower your ISO. On the other hand, speed up the shutter speed and you’ll have to increase your ISO to compensate.

Understanding the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture is the hardest part of photography for me and I guess it only comes with practice.

Just a pretty shot of my dressing table.

So what did I take away from my lesson with the Lawsons? For me personally and the way I use a camera or the situations I use it for, there is an easy way! Laura and Pete taught me that of the 3 factors above, really only one is negotiable. I like nice blurred out backgrounds, so 9 out of 10 times I’m going to choose a large aperture, on the Fuji x100, a 2 or 2.8. The ISO isn’t really negotiable, the lighting and situation again dictate what you need to use. Most days in good light it’s going to be a low ISO of 1-200 or I might bump it up in lower light situations. That just leaves me to play with the shutter speed and get the exposure right by increasing or decreasing it as I go. It’s not how a pro-photographer shoots of course, but I think it’s great advice to get started with!

So, have you learnt anything today? I’m no pro but these are just the tips that have been helping me get better shots so far. I’ll keep you posted!


~ With thanks to Talk PR for arranging my Press review of the Fujifilm FinePix X100

A [Bloggers] Guide to Camera Conundrums, by Laura Lawson

Recently I have been getting more and more frustrated. Like a lot of bloggers I suspect, I have a huge interest in photography. I also have a little knowledge, having been taught by my Dad how to use his fancy Canon SLR before I even hit my teens. A combination of the passage of time and little time to practice means that put my beautiful Canon 40D into my mitts and I cannot get it to behave.

Not only do I want my photography to get better but I want great images for the blog, and as it’s me who produces those images, in the main, I need to get learning fast. However, the ‘T’ word gets in the way again… time. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m not exactly swimming in the stuff. Things have gotten so bad recently that I have even thought of selling my camera and over the weekend I abandoned it all together in favour of our old Canon Coolpix then was hugely disappointed at it’s lack of function while we were in London. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that I can’t seem to get the images off the darn thing right now.) One of my biggest issues is that I need my camera to be be a little bit more compact and portable than the huge DSLR that is the D40. I always need it in my bag, literally everywhere and so when Laura Lawson offered to write a bit about cameras and how to use them, I knew my blogging readers and perhaps those of you interested in photography would love to hear her tips. It doesn’t hurt that she’s not only a brilliant photographer but a funny girl, and if you’re coming to the Florence Finds Afternoon Tea in Manchester you can meet her (and her equally talented husband Pete) too!

Thanks Laura – you’re a star. 🙂

– A guide to camera conundrums by Laura Lawson.

I have a DSLR and I’m scared to take it off Auto!

Your camera is simply a tool. It doesn’t have a life of its own, it just does what you tell it to do, and once you figure out a few simple things you will feel completely in control. There is nothing more freeing than flicking that little switch off Auto and onto Manual!

Image courtesy of Lawson Photography

Firstly, all cameras are different and it’s important to actually read the instruction booklet! You’ll come up against some stuff you won’t understand – google it. There’s nothing difficult about knowing what settings to use.

The three main things:

ISO – This is how sensitive to light your camera is. A lower setting is like sunscreen – protecting those precious pixels from ‘burning out’. When a pixel ‘burns out’ you get a white image (don’t worry – it’s not permanent!). If you’re outside and it’s sunny then go for a low number like ISO100 or 200. If you’re inside you might need to choose one of the higher ISOs that your camera allows like ISO1600. The higher your ISO the more grainy the picture will be (which is why you always get a bit of grain when it’s dark).

Shutter Speed – This is how long the sensor in your camera is exposed to light. If a shutter is open too long the picture will be too bright, and if it’s not open for long enough it will be too dark. If your picture is too blurry you’re probably using too slow a shutter speed.

Image courtesy of Lawson Photography

Aperture (or ‘f stop’) – This is the size of the opening in the lens, which controls how much light is coming in. A large aperture like f1.8 lets in lots of light, whereas a small aperture like f16 lets in very little light. It can seem confusing because a LARGE aperture is a SMALL number – but basically the lower the number, the better your camera will deal with low light (and as an added bonus, the more awesome and blurry your backgrounds will be!).

When you put your camera on Auto you are giving away the chance to get brilliant pictures. Your camera doesn’t know what you want a picture to look like! A good stepping stone to setting everything yourself on Manual is using Aperture Priority (or AV mode). This basically means you decide what aperture you would like, and what ISO you would like, and your camera will guess the shutter speed itself.

Image courtesy of Lawson Photography

Laura, can’t you just tell me a couple of settings which will probably work?!

  • Inside, with some windows so it’s not exactly dark: Put it on AV mode. ISO1600, f1.8 (or the lowest number your lens will allow).
  • Outside: ISO100 (or 200 if it’s cloudy), f1.8 (or the lowest number your lens will allow)

If your picture is kinda blurry it means the shutter speed your camera chose was a bit too low, put your ISO up a bit.


The lens you use is so important, and getting your hands on a good one can take your photos to the next level. Personally I am a massive fan of prime lenses as opposed to zoom lenses. A prime lens is a fixed distance, so you have to get used to moving your feet rather than standing still and zooming in and out! The benefit of a prime lens is that they have large apertures, and your images will have shallow depth of field. As professional photographers, we go for the top of the line £1000 lenses, but there are actually some great bargains out there which will make a big difference to your pictures and aren’t crazy expensive!

A 50mm lens is a great start and these f1.8 beauties are a bargain at around £100!

The biggest thing to keep your eye out for is a camera with a big sensor; an increased sensor size gives you better performance in low light, more depth of field (pretty fuzzy backgrounds!) and generally better image quality. The great thing is there are lots of great cameras out there that fit this ‘handbag friendly and much better than your iphone’ category.

Image courtesy of Lawson Photography



Image courtesy of Lawson Photography

Pro Tips…

Ok so you’ve got the camera and you’ve had a play with the settings. Here are some general tips for pretty picture taking:

1. Position yourself so the sun (or main light source) is BEHIND the person/thing you’re shooting. Although it may seem natural to have the sun shining on your subject, this kind of light is actually really harsh and nasty – it will give you bags under the eyes and no one wants that! By back lighting your subject you get a lovely flattering rim light and creamy skin. Even better – if you can choose a spot where a bit of light is bouncing back onto them (i.e. the sun is behind the person and a white wall is behind you – they’ll be lit by the light bouncing of the wall). You’ll have to shoot on Manual mode and have a play with your settings so your subject is exposed correctly and doesn’t appear too dark (slow your shutter speed down a bit if they’re too dark and speed it up if it’s all a bit bright!)

Image courtesy of Lawson Photography

2. When shooting products try to choose a background with complimentary colours. A popular look in magazine product shots is using a shallow depth of field; to emulate this get as close to the item as your camera will allow and use the biggest aperture you can like f1.8. Textures look great when they’re fuzzy in the background, so have a play using floorboards, patterned sheets, old doors etc.

3. Organise your pictures so you can find them easily! We organise our folders by date, so for example: ‘2012_03_09 Tea Party’.

4. Print the pictures you love. There really is nothing like flicking through an album, it beats scrolling through images on your computer any day! I love Blurb books for personal stuff, they’re a total bargain.

Happy snapping!

I’d love to hear if you are a camera enthusiast and have any tips on the right (compact-ish) camera or like me are learning the ropes and frustrated with set backs… Laura will be reading and available to answer any questions you have for her, and Pro togs, feel free to pitch in too! 🙂


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