Free content vs free publicity. by Alex Bamford


Yesterday, I was very happy to have the Observer newspaper publish a picture of mine - lightning striking the West Pier. Last week they had called out for photos under the theme of "Storm" for the reader's photos section in their News Review.

There was no money involved, which led to a couple of my photographic friends to question the morality of giving out images for nothing. It's a question that has been keeping photography online forums in hot debate for years now. Photographers are losing out as newspapers find cheaper ways to illustrate stories and fill their pages. 

Having recently switched from working in a long career in advertising, I am well aware of how clients' decreasing budgets have affected both agencies and magazines. But as a fledgling photography business I need to get my pictures out there by every means possible. Even at the risk of shooting myself in the foot.

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Guardian readers' photos.

Heart Murmurs by Alex Bamford


On winter evenings in Brighton, the starlings gather on the seafront and put on a free display as the sun goes down. I go as often as I can and wait for the moments when they get spooked and suddenly twist and turn in the sky, making beautiful abstract patterns. 

For a photographer, it's a great daily workout. It pushes both the camera and the photographer to extremes. The point where the starling's performance is at its greatest is just before they roost, which is also just as the light is failing. To capture a sharp image takes constant tweaking of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and in the half light, you can't rely upon autofocus. It's also generally freezing cold so you're making all of your fine adjustments with numb fingers. 

If you're planning on shooting them, the starlings normally appear in October and disappear suddenly at the beginning of March. Shows begin 15 minutes before sunset and carry on for 30 to 40 minutes. And if you want to avoid the thousands of other photographers, take the afternoon off work and come on a weekday.

You can see more of my Murmuration pictures here.