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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

    Hello, and welcome to my website! I'm Derek Gale, photography trainer and Fine Art photographer.

    If you are looking to improve your photographic creativity, skills or knowledge, check out the Photography Training pages.

    For beautiful Fine Art images that showcase my personal vision take a look at the Fine Art Photography pages.

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“And so this is Christmas”

OK, so it’s traditional at Christmas/New Year to summarise how the year has been.  Why should I be any different?  

This year has been fun!!!   Let me tell you why…   

Being a social photographer and photographic trainer is as much about working with people as it is about photography, and it’s people that make life interesting.  Every portrait shoot, every wedding, and every photographic training session is different.  It’s because the people involved are different, the circumstances are different, and if you are shooting outside the light is always different.  Take this recent portrait shoot at my studio. 

"Off camera flash portrait" by Gale Photography
“Off camera flash portrait” by Gale Photography

I’ve used this background many times before, but during the portrait shoot the sun came out low to the right and turned her hair golden.  A quick balance of the sunlight with off-camera flash, and it’s a very stylish image.  The light changed everything.  On another day the images would have a completely different feel to them.

At weddings the brides and grooms have reacted to their day in different ways.  Some were calm & collected taking the day as it comes, some were excited & wanted everything to be “just so”.  However they were it was a real privilege to have been their wedding photographer, and to have helped them remember their day. 

"Bride arriving" by Gale Photography

"Bride arriving" by Gale Photography

Here I was able to shoot with available light, which gave a nice pale background, and record the emotion in the bride’s face as she arrived in her wedding car at the church. 

On our photographic training courses we’ve had a great mix of people, from serious amateurs, to people with simple compact cameras who just want to take better photographs.  Every course has had its own atmosphere and direction, I’ve had a lot of fun, and I always learn something too! 

"Window abstract" by Gale Photography

"Window abstract" by Gale Photography

So I’d like to say a big “Thank You” to all of our portrait photography and wedding photography clients, to our photographic training course delegates, and also to our blog subscribers.  I’m looking forward to another year of photographic fun in 2010!

Have a great New Year.


AlisonJanuary 8, 2010 - 5:21 pm

Really looking forward to taking The Creative Eye course in February … I was lucky enough to receive not one but TWO new cameras over Xmas/birthday – a Canon EOS 1000D DSLR and a Samsung pocket camera – just need the creative inspiration now!

“Wiltshire’s Favourite Radio Photographer”!

Now, given that there are no pictures on the radio, it may seem odd to you that I am “Wiltshire’s Favourite Radio Photographer” but please bear with me.  After all, in the days when “the wireless” meant the radio instead of 802.11n or Bluetooth, there was a BBC radio programme called “Educating Archie” that had a ventriloquist.   “I swear that I heard his lips move…”  

"Christmas Present labels" by Gale Photography

"Christmas Present labels" by Gale Photography

You will recall that the last two blog posts have been all about creative Christmas photography.  Well, you can now listen to those tips on the radio as well as reading them.   They’re called “Cold Snaps” (I didn’t think of the title!), and are being broadcast on BBC Radio Wiltshire.  You can listen to my dulcet tones on Annie Weston’s splendid Sunday afternoon programme on 20th December between 1pm and 4pm.   

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

The first set of creative Christmas photography tips was broadcast on Sunday 13th December, so you’ve missed them!   Well actually you haven’t, because you can listen again on the BBC website.  The first Tip starts at 43m 13 secs into the programme.  You’ll have to be quick though as the listen again programme changes every week! 

"Creative camera movement" by Gale Photography

"Creative camera movement" by Gale Photography

So, you can read the creative photography tips on the blog, listen to them on the radio, and come along to one of our training courses.  So there’s no excuse for your Christmas photographs not being as good as they can be! 

 Have a great Christmas!!!

Creative Christmas Photography: Episode 2

Hello, and welcome to the second and final episode of my “Tips for better Christmas photography”.

Here’s the next tip…

Photography Tip #3. Opening Presents – Shoot in Continuous Mode

There are certain moments during Christmas that give you lots of photographic opportunities and the opening of presents is one of them.  There’s loads of emotions, expressions and excitement – especially if you’ve got kids around. 

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

Set your camera on burst/continuous-shooting mode, and take lots of pictures. You’ll find you get a great series of shots that capture everything from anticipation, to the excitement of unwrapping, to pleasure of seeing what’s inside.  Don’t forget to shoot the reactions of those who GIVE the gift as well.  When you are the present giver get someone else to take the pictures!

Photography Tip #4. Capture the preparation stages

The actual Christmas meal or party is obviously the best part of the day, but there are other photographic opportunities, particularly in the preparation stages; putting up decorations, food preparation, wrapping gifts, excited children, Santa outfits hanging on the door, setting the table, lighting the candles, relatives arriving. 

"Christmas tree candle" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree candle" by Gale Photography

All of these add to the Christmas atmosphere. You could also take a series showing how a room has changed as it’s decorated – or a series showing the different ingredients for the meal – or before and after images of kids in fancy dress.

Photography Tip #5.  I’m dreaming of a grey Christmas

Lastly, if you are lucky and have a white Christmas, you may be disappointed at how grey looking the snow pictures are.  This is because camera exposure meters are set to record scenes with fairly equal areas of dark and light all over the frame.  Scenes with lots of white in them, such as snow, make camera underexpose, which lets in too little light to make the snow properly white. 

"Underexposed snow" by Gale Photography

"Underexposed snow" by Gale Photography

You can make the snow whiter by setting the exposure compensation on your camera.  (Read your camera manual if you aren’t sure how to do this).   Try a setting of +1 first and see how it looks.  If you need more just dial +1½ or +2 of compensation.  Ideally it will be white but still with some texture; if it’s just plain white then you’ve gone too far.  Remember to reset it once you are away from the snow. 

"Properly exposed snow" by Gale Photography

"Properly exposed snow" by Gale Photography

Tip within a tip: If you’ve got your camera cold by using it outside, don’t take it straight back into your nice, warm, humid house or you risk getting lots of condensation on, or inside it.  Delicate electronics don’t like this!! Leave it in your coat pocket in the hall for ½ an hour or so to let it warm up slowly.

I hope these tips help you get better Christmas photos.  Remember even though it comes round once a year, things change in our lives and it’s important to get the best images we can every year.

Have a great Christmas and a phabulously photographic New Year.

If you’ve enjoyed these tips, do tell your friends about them.  If you would like to enjoy a whole day packed with tips and techniques for great photography, come along to one of our photographic training courses.  Have a look at for details.

Creative Christmas Photography: Episode 1

Ever wondered why your Christmas photographs lack a little pizzazz or atmosphere? 

Want to do it better? 

I’ve got some tips to help you, but firstly here’s some very important advice. 

If you are going away for Christmas then ensure that you’ve packed your digital camera.  Sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget.  Make sure your digital camera battery is fully charged – and take your spare battery and the charger.  Delete or transfer all of the files from your memory cards, and take spare cards – they’re really cheap these days.   You don’t want to miss the best shot because your card is full! 

Here’s the first tip… 

Photography Tip #1.  Get in close and fill the frame 

It’s very tempting to try and get everything about Christmas in just one photograph.  The classic image is the whole family round the Christmas lunch table, or round the tree.  By all means take that image, (in fact take three or four to avoid “blinks”), but also try and get lots of those magic little details that make up the whole; single tree decorations, the pile of presents, a nativity scene, mistletoe, sweets/chocolates, Christmas candles, holly berries, the wreath on the door, crackers, tinsel, the remains of the turkey, the flame on the Christmas pudding, in fact anything that says “Christmas”.  For the really small things you may need to set your camera to close-up or macro mode.  

"Christmas tree decoration" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree decoration" by Gale Photography

Make sure when you are getting these details that you fill the frame with what you want to record.  Look at the subject, decide what the most important thing to record is, and record just that.  These simple compositions can work really well, and having unrelated objects in images can make them less successful. 

"Christmas wreath" by Gale Photography

"Christmas wreath" by Gale Photography

When you put your Christmas photographs together on a page, or show them on your digital media, they’ll tell a great story about your Christmas. 

Photography Tip #2. Christmas Tree Lights 

Photographing Christmas tree lights at home is something that can be tricky to do. The secret is to balance the lighting in the room and the tree lights.  You don’t need to use flash, so switch it off; the lights are already illuminated!  Put the camera on a tripod or table, and use the self-timer (to reduce vibration) and a long exposure so that you get some light from the room lights well as properly recording the tree lights.   Then try turning the room lights off and photographing the lights by themselves, and seeing how different it looks.  You may need to experiment with the White Balance setting (check your camera’s manual to see how to change this) to give the right colours. 

"Christmas tree lights" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree lights" by Gale Photography

 Lights also make great images if they are very out of focus.  Try focussing on a close object so the lights go out of focus, and then reframe to make the lights your subject.  

"Christmas Tree lights bokeh" by Gale Photography

"Christmas Tree lights bokeh" by Gale Photography

Tip within a tip:  If you want to photograph displays of Christmas lights on the outside of a house, then your car makes a great “tripod”.  It’s great for getting sharper images without camera shake.  Turn off the engine, to reduce vibrations, and rest the camera on the car’s roof.  Again, you don’t need the camera’s flash turned on. The best time to photograph lights outside is at twilight after the sun has set, so there will still be a bit of light in the sky. 

So, there’s the first couple of tips for better Christmas photography.  Check again next week (or subscribe to our blog feed) for the next set of tips… 

…and have a great Christmas!!!

A healthy crop.

Is the world made up of rectangles?   Of course it isn’t, but our digital cameras make us look at the world as if it was, because most digital camera sensors are rectangular.  

The sensor may be in the classic 35mm film format proportions of 1×1.5, or in the somewhat squarer 4×3 proportions of most compact digital cameras.  Whichever shape they are, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to leave your images in the shape that they come out of the camera.  You can often improve them by changing their proportions.  It’s called “cropping” and simply means that you take off some of the top/bottom or the side/sides. 

In this landscape photograph of the Corbiere lighthouse on the Channel Island of Jersey, I’ve left it as it came out of the camera.  I think it’s a good image, with the waves splashing, the light reflecting from the sea, and the feel of a black and white photograph.

"Jersey seascape uncropped" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 1" by Gale Photography

With the next version of the image I’ve cropped off some of the top and bottom to make it longer and thinner.  It certainly helps, by taking away some of the grey sky at the top, and the grey sea at the bottom.

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

In this final version I’ve cropped off even more of the top and bottom.  This helps you concentrate on the really interesting central parts of the image, and fits with the horizontal elements of the rocks and the waves.

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 3" by Gale Photography

To me this is the most successful crop, but you may prefer it uncropped, or partly cropped.  That’s one of the great things about photography; it’s down to your individual preferences.

Try cropping your images!  You can use simple programs like Google Picasa, or more complex ones like Adobe Photoshop.  Whatever program you use, it’s best to save your cropped image with a different name to the original file so you can revisit the original later if you need to, or if you want to write a blog post about cropping images!

Image enhancement by cropping is part of creative photography, and is covered in our “The  Creative Eye” course.  Check it out at