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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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Tripping the light fantastic

Working in the studio I try and keep my lighting simple.  It’s easier, and helps me concentrate on getting the best images for our portrait photography clients.  It’s very interesting how you can change the feel of an image by some simple lighting changes.  I’ll illustrate this with some recent portraits.

In this first image there’s a main light (a softbox) to his right, and what’s called a fill light to his left.  This lighting gives nice modelling to the face whilst filling in any shadow areas.  It’s a classic style of portrait photography lighting.

"Classic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Classic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

Here a simple change to the lighting direction relative to the subject’s face makes for a much more dramatic image.  He’s now looking straight at the main light, and the fill light has become a light for his hair.  He’s closer to the light, which means an exposure change, so the background has become much darker.  I’ve added to this photographic mood change by slightly changing the colours of the image in Photoshop.  It’s now a much more creative image.

"Dramatic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Dramatic Portrait" - by Gale Photography

Next, I’ve used a large window to light the subject.  This light is strongly directional, and gives her face some lovely modelling.  I’ve asked her to turn her head sufficiently towards the light so that both of her eyes were lit, and so that her hair on the left of the frame got enough light to show its shape.

"Window Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Window Portrait" - by Gale Photography

In this final image, lit with a studio flash in a softbox, the lighting on her face is more diffuse, but I’ve balanced the ambient light outside and the flash to separate her from the background.  This gives a slightly surreal feel to the image.

"Balanced Portrait" - by Gale Photography

"Balanced Portrait" - by Gale Photography

To see more of our portrait images, have a look at the Portrait Gallery on our website    If you would like to see images of yourself, why not book a Portrait Experience with us?

Squire StarsquidDecember 24, 2009 - 1:34 pm

Great tips there, thanks!

Derek GaleDecember 24, 2009 - 2:03 pm

Thanks for your comment. Keep looking at my blog for more Tips!


Once is not enough!

A great way to improve your photography is to take a series of images of something that has caught your eye, instead of just taking a single image and moving on.  It helps you with the process of looking for images, and with getting the best from a subject. 

Let’s take this stack of chrome and laminate chairs as an example.  I’ve turned the images into black & white to simplify them:

"Chair pattern 1" by Gale Photography

"Chair pattern 1" by Gale Photography

I’d seen that they made an interesting asymmetric pattern, so after taking the first image I moved round them looking for other patterns and found a more symmetrical one.

"Chair pattern 2" by Gale Photography

"Chair pattern 2" by Gale Photography

I really liked the way the strongly directional light caught the  chrome tubing on the right-hand side of the composition, whilst leaving the left-hand side more in shadow. 

"Chair pattern 3" by Gale Photography

"Chair pattern 3" by Gale Photography

In this third image I’ve used the strong diagonal lines as my main compositional element.  The lower left of the image has some lines coming in from the other direction, and there’s a vertical line about one third of the way across from the right, both of which help balance the composition. 

In this last image I’ve used the shadows from some of the chairs that had been set out in the sun.

"Chair pattern 4" by Gale Photography

"Chair pattern 4" by Gale Photography

The chairs themselves are absent, but it’s their effect on other things, and the shapes the shadows form, that gives us a point of interest. 

All I did was notice a stack of chairs…

These images were taken in Canterbury Cathedral, and I did get a few strange looks from other visitors while I was photographing the chairs.  Clearly they were wondering why I wasn’t taking the standard “tourist shot” down the aisle.  Looking for a different type of image, of something that most other people don’t even see, is part of our development as photographers.  If you want the “tourist shot” you should buy a postcard!

If you want to improve your photography, and start looking for images like these, you can join one of our training courses.  Have a look at the Training & Treks page of our website at

“They’re just holiday snaps.”

How many times do I hear people say, “They’re just holiday snaps”?   Well, your holidays are the time off you’ve earned as a result of all the hard work you’ve done during the rest of the year, so shouldn’t your holiday photographs be the best they can be!   Luckily, there are techniques you can learn to get great holiday images. 

Here are some of my recent holiday images.  They were all taken with a digital compact camera, which shows that you don’t need a fancy camera to get great holiday images.

Holiday images need to capture the feelings you had on your holiday, or recreate the experiences.  This image of the sky at Whitstable in Kent sums up my feelings of relaxation on that day, and also the superb view.

sea-&-sky by Gale Photography

"Sky at Whitstable" by Gale Photography

Once you have chosen your subject, you should then compose your shot to give the greatest impact.

"O2 arena at dusk" by Gale Photography

"O2 Arena at dusk" by Gale Photography

With this image of the O2 Arena in London I’ve waited till sunset so I got the arena’s lights with an interesting sky behind the arena’s supports.  I’ve then cropped off  some of the foreground to give the best composition.  This is the “fill the frame only with interesting stuff” rule.

Some of our trips on holiday involve going to historic buildings where photography can be a bit of a challenge.  Here’s an example from Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral ceiling by Gale Photography

Canterbury Cathedral ceiling by Gale Photography

I wanted to capture the fantastic vaulted ceiling on the “Bell Harry Tower”, but the exposure set by the camera meant that hand-holding wasn’t practical because of camera shake.  The little flash on my Lumix digital compact camera wasn’t anywhere near powerful enough to light it, so what could I do?  Easy !!  Put the camera on the floor underneath the centre of the ceiling, set the self-timer, press the shutter, and move out of the way.  The result is a sharp image showing just what I wanted.

"Ightam Mote panorama" by Gale Photography

"Ightham Mote panorama" by Gale Photography

Finally, there are times when you just can’t get everything in because your camera’s lens isn’t wide enough, or you just can’t get far enough away.  I had this problem at Ightham Mote in Kent.  I couldn’t fit it all in because a hedge stopped me going far enough back.  The solution was to take a number of images (6 I think) that covered the whole of the building, and then stitch them together afterwards to give one complete image of the whole building.  Sounds a bit complicated but it’s actually very easy.  I used a free program called Autostitch, but there are plenty of others available.

All of these tips, and plenty more, are covered in our “The Creative Eye” photographic training course which we’re running in the New Year.  Our website has details of the dates and venues.

Happy Holidays | EichyNovember 5, 2009 - 5:25 am

[…] So what are you waiting for? Hop on a plane, get in a car or just take a walk somewhere. Take your friends or family and don’t forget that camera:) […]

Making an exhibition of myself!

My, what a busy weekend we had! 

We were exhibiting in two places at once on Saturday.  The first was at the National Trust “Coleshill Food Festival”.  Astute observers will notice that we’re not involved in producing food, but offer creative portrait photography and photographic training.  Well, at the show there were some craft stands, and that’s where we come in.  Mind you, the sort of thing we try and do with our portrait photography also applies to food…

Stuffed peppers by Gale Photography

It’s a nice off-centre composition, and shows the food to its best advantage.  It works with people too. 

Our stand at the Food Festival was busy all day, and we had lots of interest in both the portrait photography and the photographic training courses. 

The second place we exhibited was at Pat Elmore’s sculpture garden in Longcot as part of Swindon Open Studios.  The weather was great on the Saturday, and it looked more like the Med than Oxfordshire!  

sculpture by Gale Photography

I also had lots of interest in the Fine Art abstract images printed on aluminium.  You can check my previous posts to remind yourselves what they look like. 

Whilst I was there I took the chance to go round Pat’s sculpture garden, and to take some creative images using the sort of techniques we cover in our “The Creative Eye” course.

Roof Spider by Gale Photography

This “spider ” on the glass roof of a greenhouse caught my eye, as did this fabulous pattern on the leaf of a large plant.

Plant stripes by Gale Photography

In the “Spider” image I’ve put the main subject well off-centre, and with the pattern image there’s a lovely diagonal curve.  You can find out more about these and other compositional techniques at one of our courses.

See you soon!

It’s only words…

All around us there are words.  Our environment is full of notices, adverts, signs (mostly directing, allowing or forbidding!) and other visual paraphenalia.  These words can make for interesting and thought-provoking images, especially if you deliberately remove the context.  Here’s an example…


Who, or what, or where, is “VERY OLD”?   Who carved the letters, and why?  The image of just the words and sky doesn’t actually help you answer these questions, so you need to let your imagination take over.

Sometimes the sign seems odd even when you know the context.  At first glance this sign is laughing at you – like the Nelson Muntz character in “The Simpsons”.  It’s actually to indicate the presence of a “ha ha” or sunken ditch to keep animals from straying.  Use a low angle to remove the background and you have an instant mystery.


Finally, here’s an Extra image.  Like the other two images it works well because it’s been simplified with a low angle, and a plain blue sky.


As a project you could think of a well known phrase, go round looking for the words in that phrase, take a series of images of those words, and then put together a composite image showing the whole phrase.   Try it!

To really get your photographic ideas going, why not come to one of our Training courses? Check out