Back with you…!

It has been very busy at the store (http://www.michaelwillemsphoto.com), so as you will have seen, little time to post. And yet, the need to learn does not decrease, so I will post regularly again.

Yesterday, we posted a composite photo of Maya, our intern, to support Pride Month:

To make this image, we did the following:

  • Take six photos, using simple lighting, with different props, taking care that the composition was mainly vertical (i.e. not wide).
  • In each photo, use a background flash gelled to the right colour – or almost the right colour. I use Honl Photo gels.
  • Take the photos to the computer and crop them to the same vertical aspect ratio and subject size.
  • In Lightroom, for each image select subject – invert selection – and then slightly tune the background colour if necessary, to make it the right primary colour (half of them needed slight adjustment to look right).
  • Export each one, 2048 pixels high
  • Put them together in a composite Pages document
  • Export from there (either Pages –> PDF — JPG, or screen grab)

And that’s how that is done!

And here’s the resulting TikTok:

@michaelwillemsphoto

At Michael Willems Photo, we support all sexualities and identities, Happy Pride Month! #fyp #pridemonth #photography #photo #ottawa #placedorleans #shop

♬ son original – ✨

Premium Prints

In my shop, we print, among the things. We print all day, and we do it well; so well that we call our prints “Premium Prints”.

So what is a Premium Print?

For these prints, we do the following:

  1. We help our customer get the photo off their device (mostly, a phone). This can involve some phone training, Bluetooth, Airdrop, and so on.
  2. We ascertain that the file is the best one there is. Often we get a tiny screen shot from Facebook Messenger etc, where there is in fact a better file available. We make sure that we get the best file available.
  3. We crop the photo is necessary. Sometimes, we have to fill in areas to allow printing at the required size (e.g. 8×10, if the original is square).
  4. We adjust exposure and colour, if necessary.
  5. Sometimes we need to make more extensive changes. These can include de-noising, sharpening, or even removing items.
  6. Then we print, using fine art papers, on one of our “Giclée” printers: printers that have at least 10 different ink colours rather than just three our four. These inks are pigments not dyes: prints made with pigments reproduce colours better and do not fade readily, like the usual dye-based prints.
  7. We then crop these by hand.
  8. If a frame is wanted, we can advice on the kind of frame that would best suit the photo.

Our staff are all trained photographers and phot-editors, so you get the benefit of their experience and knowledge with every print you make.

And prints are important. They should be on walls, not just on Facebook walls.

Cold

It is cold in Ottawa. Yesterday was -18ºC (0ºF), and that was warmer than the day before.

We get lots of snow, plus this kind of thing:

While I’d rather have this:

Sahara Desert, Libya, south of Ras Lanuf

Or perhaps this:

Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1980s

All of these environments present problems for cameras, through. Cold, heat +sand, and humidity, respectively.

Always carry a spare battery; keep your camera clean; do not change lenses when there’s dust; and when in the cold, carry your camera back inside within a plastic bag and keep it in that bag until it warms up.

Color or B/W?

When you photograph people, consider black and white rather than colour. For several possible reasons:

  • To avoid distractions
  • To create mood
  • To create “a look”
  • To make skin look smoother.

Nothing wrong with this portrait of Floor Manager Rose:

But this also looks great:

So next time you shoot portraits, consider also trying B/W. You can convert from colour too B/W after shooting – that gives you great control over relative shades.

Retrospect

Do you take photos when travelling? Yes, so do I.

And I suggest that you, like me, may want to go back regularly to old shoots, old vacations, old trips, to see them in a new light, with a new eye. And you will be surprised.

Like this for example. From a trip to Rome in 2005:

And from the same trip:

(See the wolf, with Romulus and Remus?)

And those are just two images from hundreds that are quite good and that I never even spotted before – even though I must have looked at these photos 50 times in the years since the trip.

Photos really are forever!

Back to the future – with film!

I have always recommended shooting a roll of film every now and then. Film – that stuff they used like in the 1800s. And if you are artistic, black and white film.

So I shoot a roll of film every now and then. Because it’s cool. And because I remember to respect the click. Every time you shoot, you spend a few dollars. And you need to get it right: no feedback, no second chances. So you think about photos.

I use my Nikon FE:

And that’s why in my store we also develop film – and in the case of most black and white film, we even do this in-house, right in the store. Here’s some of the equipment, and today’s film drying (35mm as well as 120):

But you don’t need a pro camera… sure, hipsters use cameras like mine, but young women instead love single-use cameras, or better, the simple brightly coloured Kodak snapshot cameras (yes, and we sell them):

And here’s why:

Food Tips

I love my local Facebook “foodie” group, and it is for that group that I would like to give a few tips for food photography.

A few suggestions, then, to make your food photos great – even when you just use an iPhone:

  1. Ensure there is lots of light – but not direct “hard” light, like direct sunlight. Ideally, I want open, soft light, and backlight. So I reposition the food to obtain that, if at all possible.
  2. As said, some back light, if you can arrange it, is also excellent: like here: it gives food that yummy look:

Then continue with the rest of the rules:

  1. The most important rule: Simplify. Compose carefully, to remove distractions. So tilt, move things, and get close in order to blur out backgrounds, all to get a simple image;
  2. Often, cutting off half the plate is a good way to simplify. Fill the frame!
  3. Look at the food carefully and ensure it is well arranged, the plate is clean, etc. Use garnish where needed. If food is older, use a brush with olive oil.
  4. Include some of “plate, fork, glass”: things to indicate that this is food in a nice setting. Turn the plate, or reposition the food on the plate if needed;
  5. If using a “real” camera, use a prime (fixed) lens, and ensure a fast enough shutter speed by using a high enough ISO.

Often enough, an iPhone will do just fine. The closer you get, the easier it is to get a blurry background. And remember, simplify. Everything you take out, is good.

If you have pro equipment: one umbrella or soft box above the food; one flash behind it aimed toward you:

Which leads to:

If not, simply use a window, or whatever else you have available.

Did I mention it is wise to simplify?

Finally: do the post work you need, in Lightroom or Photoshop, to perfect the photo.

Bring back the past: by popular demand

I tell all my students to shoot a roll of film every now and then. Because you have to think. And you value that click. And it’s fun to see “what you got”.

Young people have realized this too, which is why these are so popular all of a sudden, and why I now carry them in my shop:

Kodak M35: Re-usable (not single use) film cameras, in fun colours. And since I imported them directly from, um, yeah, China, they are affordable too.

Who’d have thought: back to film!

Passports and more…

I am having a lot of fun with passport/ID/Visa/Residence photos. As I mentioned before, every country is different…:

And the fun is to see a lot about a country by the requirements. As in…:

  • The Chinese are control freaks, with the most complex size requirements in the world – but the Dutch are not far behind…
  • For Iran, any muslim female over 9 years old must wear a hijab.
  • French photos have a “white background forbidden” rule, while the rest of the world requires white – just to be different?
  • Europeans are, to an extent, standardized – but only to an extent.
  • Bureaucracies are bureaucracies… invariably a country will have different requirements depending on which bureaucracy needs the photo (visa vs passport vs license: all different)… just imagine the efficiency gains that could be made by having one standard!
  • The Brits have strange requirements that involve being an approved photographer using some approved British system…
  • The Canadians are the only ones to do it right: great sizing requirements, bigger photo than anyone else, meaning lots of space for people, with an afro, or with a very long beard, our with a wide face, and so on.

Fun stuff! And we love doing them… and the one thing they al have in common is: no smiling, “neutral expression”… don’t blame us for that one!