Using and Saving Custom Settings

If you have an dSLR you’ve probably got a dial that lists all the different modes that your camera can work in. This will include 3 modes; C1, C2 and C3. Some smaller cameras only have C1.

What are these modes?

Well, these are not set to anything when you get your camera out of the packaging for the first time. In fact they don’t really do much until you start to explore why they are there in the first place. These 3 modes are actually empty. They are there for you to store your own settings so that you can quickly switch into them by assigning them to one of the C modes.

Kuljit Athwal Photography

What advantage do they give you?

Bells should be ringing in your ears now and  you can probably see the usefulness in these custom modes already. If you are like me and you tend to take photos of anything and everything you’ll probably have some settings that you return to again and again for certain situations.

For example, you might want auto bracketing turned on for landscape photography. You might want to set a minimum shutter speed for wedding photography with an automatic ISO. You might want to have some custom flash settings  saved for use when you’re doing off camera flash work. The great thing about your camera is that you can have these settings saved to one of the custom functions ready for use the next time you need them.

Custom Function for Portrait

I’ve started to use them a lot. I’ve got one Custom function set to minimum shutter speed of 1/60 and an auto ISO setting for weddings and events. For landscape I’ve used my second Custom function to store auto bracketing settings as well as fixed ISO of 100 and an aperture of f10. My third one is set for strobe work.

Making use of the Custom functions can be a huge timesaver, particularly when you know you’ve got some settings to fall back on when you feel things are moving faster than you can work with. Also, when the weather has been as cold as it’s been lately, knowing that you can turn a dial instead of fiddling about with buttons in freezing temperatures can be such a boon!

Custom Function for Landscape

Life Savers

I bet there’s been times when you’ve gone out shooting only to later realise that you’ve been firing away completely oblivious to the fact that you’re in ISO800 or higher. Imagine all those unnecessarily noisy images. You could convert to black and white to give that grainy film look but then why be forced into that position in the first place. If you have all your settings saved in a Custom function you KNOW that the settings are going to be correct or at the very least close to what you need meaning that you don’t need to spend much refining them to your particular situation.

How to Develop Your Own 35mm and 120 Black and White film

With the emergence of mobile phone photography, digital SLRs and phone apps the art of film photography is going through a bit of a resurgence lately… a bit like vinyl records. I’ve been capturing images with my phone almost as much as my dedicated camera and one of the things you notice most about the photography apps is nearly all of them offer some sort of filter. Most of those filters are based on film formats from years gone by. The problem with the filters is that though they might improve your image, and in some cases completely ruin them, they don’t offer the same experience as shooting film did.

One of the reasons I started shooting film is because I felt I was missing out on 50% of the fun, the experience of using film cameras, and so I wanted a way to do that in a way that was accessible and cost effective. Developing your own black and white film is a good way to do this. There are so many cameras out there that shoot 35mm and 120 each of which has it’s own style and personality which is embedded in the finished image. Ranging from ‘toy’ cameras like the Holga and Diana cameras to the more expensive Bronica, Hasselblad and Mamiya medium format cameras there is something for every one at every entry level.

I wanted to write a guide that would encompass some of the main aspects of shooting and developing black and white film because I remember when I was beginning I had many questions and found the answers scattered across the web and I want to compile those answers in a nice friendly article that my friends and anyone else interested can use to get their feet wet, so to speak.


An Introduction to Editing Landscapes with Lightroom 5


This is the first in what I hope will be a series of articles showing how I edit some of my images, in the hope that the self taught techniques that I picked up through the years can be of use to others. I remember asking other photographers about techniques that they had used when editing their photographs and very rarely would I get a constructive reply. So I know how it feels to imagine a photograph in your head and not know how to make it come to reality when you get back to the computer.

Benefits of Shooting in Digital

Modern cameras offer us the ability to tweak and edit images to create the scenes that we picture in our head. Sometimes the camera doesn’t pick up light in the way you had wanted for whatever reasons or you’ve captured a photograph really quickly before the environment changes and although you’ve got the composition right the colours or the exposure wasn’t ideal.

RAW Files

The best thing digital cameras gave us is the RAW file format. This is essential your negative in digital format. We can record so much detail in a RAW file that it is possible to change a whole myriad of settings and end up with an image almost unrecognisable from the original in-camera RAW file. We’re going to be working with the RAW file in this tutorial.


I’m going to be using Lightroom 5 for this tutorial. I’d love to do it in Photoshop but I find Lightroom is good enough 95% of the time and it’s a relatively inexpensive piece of software that is worth having in your toolbox.

I’m hoping that this tutorial will give you some of the basics required to make the biggest changes in your photographs. This is not an in depth tutorial, those will come later but you can apply these techniques to your own photographs and give you the encouragement to go out and play with your photographs.

Let’s Go

You might have seen this image on my website. The image of the River Etive running through Glen Etive. I’m going to edit one of the other images that I captured on that day. Starting with the original we’ll reach a finished image that we can be proud of.

Start image

We can see from the image that it is relatively flat. We’ve lost a little detail in the skies as the image was exposed for the landscape and we didn’t have a filter on the lens at the time to compensate. The composition is ok but needs some work, we’ve got a lot of foreground with very little detail for example, and the river leads the eye but it struggles a little because its starting off the frame to the left.

Cropping and Composition

The first thing that I’m going to do is work on the crop a little in order to make the composition a bit more visually appealing. So if we switch to Develop mode and access the crop tool. Bring the crop in a bit from the bottom left so that we remove a fair chunk of grass and some of the river.


The image is looking better already. We’ve got rid of some of the grass and water at the bottom and made the crop a little tighter on the right hand side.

Bringing out the Sky

The next step is working on the sky. We can see that there are clouds there but they are not all that distinct. One of the  elements that that makes the biggest impact on a landscape image is the sky. Many people think that blue skies make for great photographs but this can often lead to an imbalance in the image; a little bottom heavy and the blue skies can be overpowering and a waste of space if there is nothing to hold the interest.

So here we are going to rescue our sky and try and bring out the detail in the clouds as well as the blue in the atmosphere. If we switch the the Graduated Filter option and from top to middle drag out a graduated filter on the image we can play with some of the attributes.

Lovely skies

In this example i’ve

  • increased the contrast
  • lowered the highlights
  • lowered the shadows
  • increased the clarity
  • increased the saturation

The difference that has made is plain to see. In fact because the graduated filter overlaps with the mountains in the distance we’ve also managed to increase the distinction between the landscape and the skies and added a little more depth to the image.

Foreground Detail and Leading the Eye

Next we turn our attention to the foreground. Because we’ve boosted the colours in the sky we need to pay some attention to the grass and the water. Particularly to the water because we need to make sure the water reflects the colours that we now have in the sky.

Using the graduated filter tool again this time drag from bottom to the middle and adjust a little so the gradient is tighter and raise the filter toward the middle of the image. We want to make the grass greener, add some depth to the rocks in the water and boost the blue tones in the water to reflect the colours that we now see in our sky.

Foreground Detail

In the screenshot above you’ll see the following changes:

  • increased contrast
  • a slight increase in highlights
  • a slight increase in shadow detail
  • increase in clarity
  • increase in saturation

Again, looking at the above screenshot and the one prior to that we can already see a major change in colour and balance of the image.

Colour Correction and Enhancement

Ok. We can start getting into some of the smaller, but none-the-less important details. I remember when I captured this photography the colour of the rocks in the water. An interesting orange / brown colour made all the nicer with the reflected sunlight. I want to make those colours a little more obvious. So we are going to have a look at the colour levels.

With colour levels we can play with the hue, saturation and luminance of different colours within the image.

When we alter the hue setting we change the amount of the actual colour in the image.

Altering the saturation changes the amount of grey in the image.

Altering the luminance of the colour alters the amount of white or black mixed into the colour.

Altered Levels

With our image I’ve switched to the HSL/Color/B&W section in the right pane. I’ve chosen Color because I want to modify a specific colour in the image, orange, and made the following changes:

  • Increased hue
  • Increased saturation
  • Slight increase in luminance

Looking at the image we have now there is a definite change of the colour tones in the rocks. The prominence of the rocks adds interest to the water and the eye follows the rocks up stream toward the mountains in the distance.

The same technique can be applied to the other colours, or you can switch the HSL and modify everything. So if you wanted to make the grass even greener you could. If you wanted to make the rocks grey instead of orange then you can do that too.

With a little sharpening and noise reduction in the Details section we can tidy the image up a little.


Because we’re editing the RAW file the image file has no sharpening. JPEG is normally sharpened in camera as well as colour adjustments which is why when you shoot JPEG+RAW the JPEG file looks different to the RAW file.

And we end up with the final image below.

End Result

A Photographers Guide to Backing Up Using RSYNC

Note : You follow this guide at your own risk. I’m in no way responsible for any issues that arise as this is meant to be a guide that you can use to come up with your own backup plan for your own circumstances.

If you are a photographer you’ve probably either already got a robust backup workflow on the go or have at least been thinking about it. This short article will give you a little idea about how to backup your photography using a tool called rsync which is available on OSX and Windows. This little guide will focus on OSX.

Let’s take an example of a situation where you might like to backup some photography. Say for example that you have a folder on your machine that you would like to backup to your external drive. This can be a hassle doing it manually; finding files and folders, dragging them into your external hard drive, double checking that you have not missed anything etc etc. The problem with this approach is it is very easy to end up with a folder on your machine that is out of sync with the backup folder on your external hard drive. Synchronisation is a term you’ll have encountered before if you’ve used Apple, Google and Microsoft products. The idea is that you keep two things identical through synchronisation. Rsync is a perfect tool for this. I’ve used it in the past for maintaining web servers and other nerdy things (like we’re not already nerding out with this article.)

Rsync lets you specify which folder to sync from and where to sync it to. In our case our ‘Photography’ folder on our computer into our ‘Photography’ folder on our external hard drive.

Firstly we need to check that we have the latest version of rsync available to us. Apple has a problem when it comes to keeping GPL software up to date, so the first thing is to go into Terminal and type


This will output some information, scroll to the top of the window and look for the version number. If it is anything less than 3.1.0 then you are out of date. Using the latest version will always be beneficial and version 3 has much greater memory performance than version 2.9+.

Updating Rsync

If you are on an old version of rsync you’ll want to follow these instructions on how to upgrade rsync.

1. Install Homebrew.

Homebrew is a software package manager. This will enable us to get the latest version of rsync. Follow the instructions on the Homebrew website for installation.

At the time of writing I did the following in Terminal

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"brew help
brew doctor

2. Install rsync, in Terminal

brew tap homebrew/dupes
brew install rsync

3. Update the paths file in your private folder

The private folder is hidden so you will need to run the following command in Terminal

sudo chflags nohidden /private/

This will expose the private folder in Macintosh HD.

Look for the paths file (/private/etc/paths) and edit, moving /usr/local/bin ahead of /usr/bin. This will allow your system to pick out the latest rsync version and ignore the old version that came preinstalled with your OS. Save the file and close.

Set the private folder to hidden again.

sudo chflags hidden /private/

Automator and Rsync

Now we can start looking at some rsync commands and executing them with Automator.

Automater is an application that comes with OSX that enables you to do all sorts of amazing things in an automated way, hence the name. In this example we’re going to use it to run rsync commands and then save this little commandlet as an application that we can run whenever we want to sync our photography folders.

In this example we are going to sync our /Documents/Photography folder with our Photography folder on our external hard drive. The hard drive is called Secondary. The rsync command will look something like this, of course yours might look different depending on where you are syncing from and to.

rsync -aE --delete ~/Documents/Photography "/Volumes/Secondary/Photography/"

You can run this in terminal and it will effectively delete anything that is in /Volumes/Secondary/Photography/ that is not in the folder on your hard drive (/Documents/Photography) and also move across anything that is in /Documents/Photography which is not in /Volumes/Secondary/Photography/.

By using Automator we can make this a much easier and less fiddly process.

1. Open Automator, choose New Document and select Workflow.

Create workflow

Create workflow

2. In the Variables panel search for Run Shell Script and double click it.

Run Shell script

Run Shell script

3. In the right panel type in the command detailed earlier.

Take a look at the screen shot below to see what our Automator window should now look like.

backing up using rsync and automator

backing up using rsync and automator

4. The next stage is to save this as an Application file which will enable us to run it like an application.

Save as Application

Save as Application

You can save it wherever you like but it’s handy to save it on the backup disc because that is where you are synching to.

To test it, double click on the file that you have just created and in the top right hand corner, on your status bar you’ll see a little cog running, click on it and it’ll tell you that a process is running. The cog will disappear when the process has been finished.

Before doing this for real of course I would recommend using some test folders before running this on anything important. I’m using this successfully and the same process can be used for external hard drive to external hard drive. With some reading and experimentation you can do some great things with rsync and Automator.


I referenced a couple of articles in order to put together this guide. Articles that I read when trying to put this together for myself. There were bits and pieces across different blogs and I’ve used that information to create this article which will hopefully provide a more streamlined tutorial on getting something like this to work in OSX Mavericks.

How to speed up rsync on your Mac (and stop the dreaded “building file list…”)
rsync + Automator = free and easy backups for your Mac
Brand new rsync for OSX


During the refinement process of my own workflow I discovered an issue with synching files that had extended attributes. Read the wikipedia page for information on what extended attributes are. The -aE flag means we’re wanting to archive files and extended attributes, however rsync seems to have problems with extended attributes of certain files. By removing the E I managed to get a sync to work. It seems certain movie files have meta information stored in other files. A quick Google search throws up a fair few results and I have yet to find a better solution.

Olloclip Macro Lens

I’m shooting on a tight budget these days and have not had a macro lens for a long time. In fact I’ve never had a dedicated macro lens and that’s not going to change now. However I did manage to get a cheap lens adaptor for my phone called the Olloclip. It’s fantastic and comes with three different lens attachments. It’s really small and fits in my pocket perfectly. It does look a little strange attached to a phone but to be honest it’s only going to be there when it’s being used for photographical purposes.

The macro lens attachment is the one piece that I’ve used properly so far. The following images are all shot on the phone using the Olloclip in decent light. It was a mixture of rain, wind and sunshine today so I tried my best to control the camera and subjects.


Hover fly. Macro photography on a phone?

Spiral. Playing with the Olloclip macro lens on the phone.

The build quality of the kit is actually quite surprising. The body is made of some sort of metal alloy and painted nicely and the lenses themselves feel great to hold. They are weighty which is nice given they are smaller than a 20p piece. The kit comes with a nice little pouch for keeping everything together and the lenses come with tiny lens caps which keep them free of dust and scratches.

If you’re interested in buying this you’re better off looking on ebay as the prices online and in some stores are borderline extortionate. I managed to get mine on ebay for very nearly half the price they officially charge on the Olloclip website. They do versions for the iPhone 4/4s and the iPhone 5. Handy thing to have.

Food and drink


Creating a bootable USB drive for Ubuntu on OSX

If you’ve got an old laptop lying around not seeing any use or if you feel like a change then why not try using Ubuntu as your operating system? The great thing about Open Source software is the wealth of knowledge contributing to it on a daily basis. For photographers this can be a real time and money saver. There are plenty of capable photo editing applications available on Ubuntu including Photoshop and Lightroom equivalents. There are applications available that will let you edit RAW files directly.

I had some serious issues lately trying to get Ubuntu to install on my old Acer Aspire One netbook, mainly due to my own incompetence and the fact I was using a SanDisk USB drive. The thing had been sitting around for a few years gathering dust so I managed to dig it out and get started with installing Ubuntu on it.

Here are the steps that I took for creating a bootable USB drive using OSX for use on the Acer Aspire One.

1. Firstly format and partition your usb drive using Disk Utility in OSX. In the Partition tab choose single partition (Partition 1) and in Options choose the MBR (third option). Go ahead and partition.

2. Launch terminal in OSX. Run the following command to find out what disk number you should be using: diskutil list

3. Run the following command fdisk -e /dev/disk0 (substitute the 0 for the correct number from the previous step. You should now be in fdisk.

4. Run the following command; f 1

5. Run the following command; write

6. Run the following command; exit

7. Use Unetbootin to create the bootable Ubuntu install on your usb drive. Download the Ubunto ISO from here :

8. Follow these instructions on the Unetbootin website :

If you have problems with syslinux hanging on bootup then read this :

On a 4 year old Acer netbook the whole process took around 2 hours. But those two hours you’ll make back in the long run simply due to how fast and responsive Ubuntu is. I’m already loving it.