Sunday, 4 October 2015

How to Improve your Photography


Natural lighting is key, but you have to admit that only being able to take decent photos during the day is pretty inconvenient, right? I have a solution! A while ago I redecorated my bedroom and in doing so I changed my light bulb from your standard interior light to a daylight bulb. It might not look like daylight when you're actually in the room - it just looks normal - but in a photograph you wouldn't know I'd taken it at 1am with my curtains shut unless I told you.

Which of these photos was taken at night with my light on? Picture 1 / Picture 2. I'd be interested to know your guesses!

You can get a daylight bulb for about £2-£3 and it's definitely worth doing if you constantly find yourself wanting to take photos at night. Or if you live in England where it's dull and cloudy 24/7.


Some photographers don't believe in editing a photo after it's taken because "you shouldn't have to." I disagree - even if the photo you've taken is beautiful, there are always improvements you can make. Have a look around for some good editing apps. I almost always use PicMonkey for blog photos, and for Instagram I use VSCOcam, Afterlight and Snapseed. I like VSCOcam for changing lighting, colour and sharpness; Afterlight for an extra filter (always Russ, I hate the others) and Snapseed to fix uneven exposure.


Know when to use the flash, because using it when you don't need to can easily ruin a photo - especially when it's the flash on your phone. On a proper camera you can change how much light emits from the flash so it suits your situation, but on most smartphones it tends to be automatic... and a bit rubbish. Do you really need to use the flash? Can you take the photo when lighting is better? Can you take the photo somewhere else? It's worth considering these things, especially when you're trying to take a photo of something shiny or glossy because if you use the flash it's going to reflect right back at you.


The amount of photos I've seen on Instagram where the photographer's shadow is over the subject they're trying to photograph is ridiculous. It's easy to just point your camera at something and take a snap without really thinking about it, but a few extra seconds of care can make all the difference. Which leads on to my next point...

Be selective

If you've taken a bunch of photos and they're all blurry, chances are you moved at the last second or your hands were shaking slightly. My best advice here would be... don't upload them. Take another one and keep taking photos until you get a good one. Do you want your Instagram to be full of quick, no-effort photos, or photos you took time over and can be proud of? I used to suck at this - I couldn't be bothered to try again, but it really is worth it.

If you know all of this already and you're looking to get a new camera, I've seen lots of bloggers recommending Panasonic's 4K camera range, so it must be good! I recommend the Fujifilm Finepix T200 and the Canon EOS 600D, both of which I've used for blogging.

Do you have any photography tips?

This is a sponsored post.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

EVENT REPORT: September Screenings at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the Harry Potter Studio Tour to attend one of their September Screenings. As well as the normal tour, attendees of the September Screenings were also given a free hot meal and drink, a cup of Butterbeer (which I tried for the first time - more on that later), and a ticket to see one of the films in the cinema as well as popcorn or a bag of sweets.

Basically, lots of Harry Potter and lots of free food. You can't get better than that, really.

We were given tickets for the final day of September Screenings and so we saw the final film, which just so happens to be my favourite. But before that, I had a quick look in the gift shop and picked up a few things. Bet you can't guess which house I'm in...

I wanted to get Ravenclaw robes too, but they were the price of a small house. One day, people, one day.

Then it was time for the tour!

The tour starts in the Great Hall and this is my favourite set by far. It's huge, and a few of us even got to open the doors.

I love looking at how detailed even the tiniest props are, some of which might have only got a second on screen or even less than that. It all looks so realistic and I wish I knew how it was done!

If I remember rightly, a team of 20 hair and make-up artists managed a cast of 800 actors every single day. Crazy.

I have been to the Harry Potter studios once before on my 14th birthday and so I'd seen most things already, but Platform 9 3/4 is a fairly new addition and I was so excited to see it! It was exactly like being at King's Cross but with less Nando's and more Butterbeer. You can go on the actual train used in the films, get your photo taken as you go through the wall with your luggage and, of course, buy lots of goodies in the gift shop...

And then I tried the Butterbeer. I only had one sip and I'm 99% sure it gave me Diabetes. That is all.

My parents got me a car. Look, I can drive it and everything. #blessed.

At the end of the tour is an art exhibition, I guess you could call it, with concept art lining the walls and early models of some of the sets. This leads to a big, dark room with a huge model of Hogwarts in the centre. It's incredible and none of my photos do it justice. It really is something you need to go and see for yourself.

After the tour, we made our way to the cafe where we picked up our free bags of popcorn which were DELICIOUS. I don't usually like sweet popcorn but this was like heaven in a bag. We then entered the cinema on the set of the Great Hall to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and were looked after by Jack and Hazel, two hilarious members of staff. The film stopped twice due to technical issues but I honestly don't think anyone cared because Jack and Hazel were so entertaining. The first time was when Snape gets his wand out - ahem - on Harry, and McGonagall leaps in front of him. You know, the scene in the Great Hall where we were watching it. Jack suggested we give up on the film and re-enact it ourselves seeing as we had the set right there. It didn't actually happen but we were all crying laughing. I guess you had to be there but they were both brilliant. Seriously, if anyone from Warner Bros. happens to be reading this, Jack and Hazel need a pay rise - and a chat show.

It was so weird watching the film where it was actually filmed, and I also appreciated getting to see it on the big screen because when it actually came out in cinemas I hadn't yet read the books (I know, terrible) so I didn't go. The atmosphere was great, too. It was like being at a sleepover with a bunch of Potterheads.

It was such a great day and I really, really enjoyed it. The September Screenings have finished now but from 16th October to 1st November is the Dark Arts event which is what I went to last time and it's brilliant - you can even get a selfie with a Death Eater if you want, although they might insist on posing as if they're killing you. That may or may not have happened to me... They've also just announced a Christmas event where you'll get to enjoy a Christmas dinner in the Great Hall. If that's not the coolest thing ever then I don't know what is.

Have you ever been on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld

Title: The Secret Fire
Author: C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
Published by: Atom Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 415
Genres: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Taylor Montclair is a regular girl from the quiet backwater of Woodbury, England. Sacha Winters is a darkly mysterious boy from the City of Lights - Paris, France.

While Taylor is focused on her dream of attending Oxford University, school couldn't be further from Sacha's mind... Sacha knows exactly when he's going to die. He's done it before.

On the appointed day, Sacha's time will run out. And his death will fulfil an ancient destiny that could unleash chaos and catastrophe.

Taylor is the only person who can save him. Neither of them know that yet. They haven't even met.

Hundreds of miles and a body of water separate them. Deadly forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart. They have eight weeks to find each other and unravel an ancient web of mystery and danger.

The clock starts now.

Introducing your new obsession, The Secret Fire series by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld.

Sacha Winters is cursed. He will die on his eighteenth birthday, just like the other first-born sons in his family. Until then, he can't die.

Across the channel, Taylor Montclair is the only one who can save him. But how?

This book is easily the best YA collaboration I've come across. In addition to Daugherty's usual fantastic writing, we also have Rozenfeld, a new-to-me French author. Her English is perfect and I love the sound of her books. Unlike other co-authored books I've read where it's startlingly obvious where one author's writing has stopped and the other has began, The Secret Fire is absolutely seamless and I fell in love with it instantly.

Taylor and Sacha are so interesting and their personalities excellently thought out. Their journey is just beginning and I'm unbelievably excited to see where they end up next. This is perhaps a small thing, but I also liked that The Secret Fire sees the girl saving the boy rather than the other way round. I don't think that happens often enough in YA.

Another thing I loved, which I probably don't need to mention as you all know I love books that allow me to travel, is that this book alternates between settings in England and France. #Wanderlust. (Yes, I did just use a hashtag in a blog post. Sue me.) (Don't.)

The reason I deducted half a star (well, a heart if we're being technical) from my rating of The Secret Fire is my own fault, I think. I found it took ages for this book to get going, so to speak, but the thing is I was only able to read a few pages every week or so. At the time, I was in a really bad reading slump and I was probably the busiest I've ever been, so it took a ridiculously long time to read. If I had been able to read it in one or two sittings like usual, I would have enjoyed it much more and I doubt the pacing would have been a problem.

I definitely recommend this book, and it's great if you've just finished the Night School series but don't want to let go of Daugherty's writing just yet. The Secret Fire is intriguing, different and completely enrapturing. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next, and I get the feeling Daugherty and Rozenfeld will continue to hurl massive surprises at us...