April 14th, 2014

Spring in Miniature: An Introduction to Macro Photos


Spring should be the official season for Canadians—after our long winter, we crave the warmer wind, the melting snow, and those first delicate buds.

Spring foliage can be very subtle or bold and brilliant, providing a delightful range of subjects for macro photography. So with my camera and external flash in hand, I set out to practice snapping macros.

Here’s what I learned.

Consider Exposure: Using a Flash

When you are shooting something at a very close distance, light is a real issue. I filmed in late morning on an overcast day. I thought this diffuse light would be perfect and plentiful. I was wrong.

Take a look at these cherry blossoms.

To my eye, the blossoms were white and frothy, but the image looks drab.  I turned on my flash and took the same shot. The details in the petals are crisper and brighter, and the blossoms look more true to life. With a little practice with lighting and using the flash, I took this lovely picture. 

Shoot in Shutter Priority Mode

When you are shooting a macro, every little shake of the camera shows on your image. To offset this, I opted for a fast shutter speed. On my camera, this is 1/200 when I am using a flash. The camera automatically chooses a wide aperture to allow enough light in.


The wide aperture creates a very shallow depth of field. This little bloom is only about an inch in diameter. The blurred background is, in reality, only a couple of inches behind the flower. I used a flash for this photo, and an aperture of about f4.6.

Focus on focus

A wide aperture takes a lovely photo, but the shallow depth of field can be tricky to shoot in focus.

Autofocus uses several points in the frame to calculate the best spot to focus. With a shallow depth of field, the camera often calculates the wrong place. In the first picture, Autofocus zoned in on the green leaves, rendering the delicate new red leaves blurry. To fix this, I moved the camera over the scene until I found the right focal point, then I pressed the shutter halfway down. This sets the focus and allows you to frame the picture. The second shot has the proper subject in focus.

Fill your frame

Most digital cameras will focus from a very close distance, sometimes as close as an inch away.

For these two pictures, I positioned the camera about two inches from the flowers. Again, autofocus was an issue, so once I had it set on the stamen, I framed the shot and snapped the pictures. The entire frames are filled with the riotous red and sunny yellow of the blooms.

Sometimes, zoom out

As I continued on my macro walk, I noticed two things: my eye was drawn to the details of spring, and I was tempted to zoom in on everything.


Some cherry blossoms were peeking out around the tree trunks, something I hadn’t noticed right away. These little flowers were framed perfectly by the textured bark. My first shot was zoomed in tight, and I do like it. But when I zoomed out a little, I think I captured more of a spring feel, with the blossoms in the background and the shapes of the trunks. Try zooming in and stepping back—if you are new to this type of photography, experiment to see how different distances and angles affect the image.

Hey bud, be subtle

While I love macros for all of the bold, colourful possibilities, this type of photography can also capture delicate, subtle moments.

These images capture the season unfolding in miniature. I like them because they show details I wouldn’t notice in real life, the beautiful, natural shapes of foliage as it greets the new season. Remember to look at the gentler colours and lines too; they can convey the mood as surely as brilliant colour.

Spring all year round

London Drugs is now carrying a new, 12”x12” lay-flat photobook. Professionals use this style for high-end portfolios and albums. Your photos are printed on high quality photographic paper and the pages lay flat. This means you can print across the two pages—a 12”x24” panoramic shot—if you like. For more information, drop by your nearest London Drugs photolab, or download the free creation software . Available in PC or Mac.

April 14th, 2014

In time for Mother’s Day: Family Tree Calendar

London Drugs Moments Photo Calendars

I have a shoe-box in my closet that’s filled with vintage family photos. Every year or so I stumble on this box of treasures, and I take a few minutes to browse through.

This made me think, how can I get these little gems out of my shoebox and somewhere where I can enjoy them year-round?

This month’s photo project is a family tree calendar, one that incorporates all of your loved ones, past and present. Here’s how I put mine together.

Step 1: Gather photos from your family tree. Look for vintage pictures of your ancestors, as well as close-ups of the newest members of the family. My calendar did not include every aunt and cousin (my extended family is massive), just the family members who are particularly close.

Step 2: Create your digital photo file. An essential step to creating any calendar is to place all of your images into one digital folder. First, copy your digital photos into the file, then scan the rest Remember to use the colour scan setting, even for black and white photos—this will capture the nuance and character of the aging paper copy. If you don’t have a scanner or the time to digitize your images, we can scan the photos for you at any London Drugs photolab counter.

Step 3: Divide your photos into dates. Birthdays, wedding dates, special occasions, or times the photos were taken—any date that is significant to the photo and your family. My photo calendar has one main image and several small images on specific days. If you wish, you can place a picture on every day of the year.

Step 4: Decide how you will create your calendar. Home Edition software is free and easy to use, and our staff can always help if you have questions. Alternatively, you can bring your images into our store and let us build your calendar. It costs $25 for us to build a calendar without text—ask at the counter for details.

Step 5: If you are building your own calendar, open Home Edition and choose your calendar size and format. We now offer new sizes and formats for calendar—I selected the new 8”x12” coil bound calendar. It’s a smaller size that fits perfectly by my phone. You will then be prompted to select your photos. Choose your digital photo file.

Step 6: Choose your main pictures. For each month, you can have one or more main photos. For this calendar, I stuck with one main photo. To keep with the vintage feel, I opted for a sepia filter, black background, and a simple white border.

Choose Calendar Pictures

Step 7: Create ‘events’ for the special days in each month. You can add an image and caption that will be displayed on this day.

Special Days

Step 8: Upload your completed file to London Drugs. Your calendar will be ready for pickup within a few days.

Finished Calendar

My family tree calendar turned out beautifully. Each month is a lovely combination of the generations, a heartwarming way to look at the weeks ahead.

April 14th, 2014

Little tricks for first class Grad photos

grad photos


If you have a new graduate in the family, you are about to embark on one of the biggest occasions for photography. Along with weddings, graduation is a milestone event that we want to capture in gorgeous colour.

Photographing a special event, particularly one this big, can be a daunting task. We have some tips to take dynamic, beautiful images that will memorialize this big day.

Before the ceremony: Use your wide-angle lens
Sometimes taking fantastic photos means breaking the rules—and I am not talking about rules of composition here. When the spectators are told to take their seats, hang back. As the crowd thins out, you will be left with just the robed graduates lining up and beginning the procession. Use a wide-angle lens for a stunning, grand effect.

During the ceremony: High ISO setting
Auditoriums have terrible lighting, and their huge size makes a flash almost pointless. To capture the special moments on stage, try changing your ISO setting. The ISO setting refers to the image sensor’s sensitivity to light: the higher the ISO setting, the less light you will need for a proper exposure. This will allow you to take very low light photographs. You should be able to get a proper exposure with no flash.

After the ceremony: Fill flash
After the ceremony, the graduates will spill outdoors to meet up with family and friends. When shooting outdoors, particularly on a bright sunny day, the strong light can create harsh shadows. For the best pictures, move your subjects into a shaded area where the light is more diffuse.
Another little trick is to use your flash outdoors. Using your flash on a sunny day may seem counter-intuitive, but the extra puff of light helps to illuminate the shadows, giving a more flattering photo.

Group shots: Tripod
Between the formal ceremony and the celebrations afterwards, graduations call for many group shots. Perhaps the most important, but under-used, piece of equipment is the tripod.

Group shots require a little planning—check out the light, background, people, and poses. Setting up your tripod means you can carefully choose lighting and background before you introduce different people and different poses.

Setting up a tripod also helps focus the group on the photo. When your subjects are celebrating, they may be hard to corral for a nice photo. The tripod tells your subjects that you mean business, and helps to direct them into the right positions.

Snap lots: Continuous shooting mode
When photographing big events, don’t be shy about taking multiple shots. Take a look at the options on your camera: mine has the option to shoot several pictures in quick succession. This may seem like overkill, but when you are taking a group shot, it is better to spend a little time sifting through many images than to lose the moment because one person blinked.

Get the images off the card and onto your wall
Graduations are milestone events—don’t forget to print your images and share them with others. Enlargements, including 8×10 and 12 x18, are available in an hour; plus, we carry a lovely selection of frames to showcase your print for all to see.


Get creative!

Create a photobook with a collection of photos from elementary school or sports teams.  The options are endless.  Simply bring 10-20 of your favourite digital files to London Drugs and they’ll help you build a custom photobook – a memorable gift idea for any grad!

March 31st, 2014

Get started creating your Photobook and Calendar!


Get started! In 4 easy steps!

  1. Download the latest version of the London Drugs Home Edition Software (for PC and MAC) at: londondrugs.com/photolabhome
  2. Gather your best shots!
  3. Take advantage of the fast and easy Wizard that will help you build your custom keepsake. Explore our collection of backgrounds and layouts. Whatever your tastes, we’re sure you’ll find something for you!
  4. Upload the file to our website and we’ll take care of the rest! Pickup your finished product in-store or ship direct to your home!

Allow 5-7 days for in-store pickup. Shipping charges apply. See a photolab expert for details.

March 30th, 2014

Photo Clues for Your Easter Egg Hunt

By Alison Gresik

If you’re feeling inspired to do a little something extra for your Easter egg hunt this year, why not try adding photo clues to the festivities?

In our house, the Easter bunny hides little candy treats in random spots all over the house. This approach works great when the kids are small and even discovering a chocolate in plain sight requires a little help! But now that mine have gotten older and cleverer (aged 8 and 6), that rascally rabbit is adding clues to make the game more challenging.


March 28th, 2014

Spring-Cleaning Your Photos: Just Book-it!

By Alison Gresik

One of my spring-cleaning tasks is to collect up all the photos we’ve received over the year from friends and family. Living far away from many of our loved ones, we get a steady stream of cards and letters with these visual mementos tucked inside.

Does your bulletin board look like this one? Yep, mine too. Time to make room for a new crop of photos!

Does your bulletin board look like this one? Yep, mine too. Time to make room for a new crop of photos!

Some pictures are propped up on the mantelpiece, some are mounted on the fridge door, and some are tacked to the bulletin board. These are the school photos we get from our godchildren, the holiday portraits from our brothers and sisters, and the vacation pics from our parents. We also have snapshots of our own kids sent home from school and day camps.

It seems a shame to put these lovely pictures in a box, but I simply don’t have the room to display everything — and there are always more coming!


March 25th, 2014

Photo Mugs for Easter: A Spring Pick-me-up

By Alison Gresik

easter-mug-tulip-soloGiven the severe weather we’ve had in Canada and the US this winter, I’m sure that many of us are happy to see the tail end of the season. Thankfully, the Easter holiday and the promise of colourful spring flowers are right around the corner.


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