Work. Flow.

Your workflow needs to be exactly that: a flow. A logical sequence of actions.

In my case, that means:

  1. Import the images.
  2. “Asset Manage” them: add keywords; rate them 1-5; backup.
  3. Then from the ones marked 3 and over, pick the ones to actually use.
  4. Edit only these.
  5. Mark the edited ones as finished.
  6. Select the finished ones and output them for use.

So it is basically “input – handle – select – edit – use”. And whether you are a pro or an amateur, it is going to be the same flow for you.

And that flow is where you need to save time: you do not want to spend an hour making photos, followed by two hours in Photoshop.

That is where Lightroom comes in. Lightroom is a one-stop workflow tool. It handles all the steps above: ingestion—asset management—editing—using. And it does it in an amazingly efficient way.

Evidently, if you can save time in Lightroom, it saves time overall. And that is where Wacom comes in. I now also use a Wacom Intuos tablet, which I find very useful; much more useful than I would have imagined. Part of the reason is better quality than the last time I looked, years ago. And part is new functionality. Like customizable buttons per app.

This tablet is especially useful when editing, and especially because of its pressure sensitivity. When using the brush, the harder I press, the more brush effect I get.  Very cool. Skin fixes and other local edits are now much quicker—and that saves me a lot of time. This functionality is simply not available on a mouse.

In the next weeks I will keep you up to date as to how I am using the Wacom tablet. I will start with customizing the buttons: how do I do it? What functions are most useful? As I sort it out, I will give you my recommendations. Stay tuned.


Open up opportunities

I am often asked “do you always use flash?”.

The answer is “no, but I always consider using flash”. In other words, flash gives me so many more options that I feel it would be a mistake to ignore those options.

One of yesterday’s students in the sun, the way you would have to do it without flash:

But with flash, we have options. Like this:

Isn’t that 100 times better? Emphasis on subject, saturated colour, modeling with light. And the setup is not complicated:

You may notice that I have two flashes shooting into the umbrella. That way, I can get both of them set to half power, which is a lot better than one flash at full power: full power tends to overheat flashes, and the recycle time is slower.

Camera settings for the “proper” shot were: manual mode, 100 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/8.

A couple more examples:

The green gelled flash was there to show it could be done. In a “real” photo I probably would have aimed that green gelled flash at the darker area in the background.

And even with one off camera flash you can have fun:

So now that the summer is here, bring your flash, take a lesson and learn to use it—and have fun creating images that you can be proud of; images where you are in charge of the light.


Light and dark

Ciaoscuro is all about the play between dark and light.

Take this student at Vistek, the other day. Lit from where the camera is, you get this:

Fine, I suppose… competently lit, just barely.. but is that creative? Not really.

Now, lit from the side, with a simple flash with a grid on it, no other modifier, we get this, instead:

I think you will agree that’s a lot better, and for several reasons. One is that there is less stuff. Only what’s important is lit: the rest is simply not lit at all. Second is that the face is now shaped (modeled) by the light. Third is that what is important is lit; what isn’t is simply not lit. Light direction as well as distribution and quantity are now totally under your control.

(Note that the grid is essential: without it, the flash light would spill onto the walls and ceiling and floor and from there to the rest of the room: no black room)

What I used? A 5Diii with a 600EX flash on the camera set to be master (but not to fire itself); and a 430EXii slave flash on our left. that’s all. “Studio setting” (1/125, 200 ISO, f/8) ensures that the ambient light is black.


Only one spot left on my Mastering Flash course this Saturday, 1—4:30pm in Oakville. Let me know soon if you want it.







Wishful thinking

A quick note on learning.

The other day, I met a photographer, a nice person, who shoots things for pay all the time. He knew nothing about his camera. I mean nothing. Auto mode, auto focus, auto everything all the time. He did not know how to set aperture or shutter, or what these were. Or how to focus. Or what ISO was. And so on.

That is fine, but it will seriously limit your options. Seriously.

And I just saw an ad flash in front of me on Facebook that contained this risible claim:

No. No. No, and no. This is wishful thinking. The reason photography costs money is that it is a serious skill that takes some time to learn. Yes, you can learn it. But not in 10 minutes. Please—learn properly, and while properly does not have to mean a three year degree course, 10 minutes is obviously not enough. I mean… really.

My courses and books may help (, as may be my Sheridan College courses and my Vistek Toronto workshops. As will this blog, as will the entire Internet. All this combined with lots of exercises. Trying different things. Testing. Running into problems and then solving those. All this will get you there.

But not in ten minutes.



Workflow and Lightroom

I talk about Lightroom a lot, as you will have noticed. The reason is that Adobe Lightroom is hands down the best workflow tool I know. Workflow meaning “what happens between arriving home with the camera to the finished product”.

Lightroom 6, as you will have seen, is a step forward. It has its issues—for now, the speed of the face detection module is way below par—but you can work around those, and they will be fixed.

But you do need to learn how to use it. Thank God it’s not Photoshop: it takes days to learn, not years. But it does take days.

Enter some help.

On May 30, I teach a workshop at Vistek: Lightroom and Workflow”. In it, you will learn backup strategies, computer strategies, Lightroom workflow and editing, and much more. Seating is limited, so sign up soon.

The same is true of the Flash workshop this Saturday in Oakville.If you missed the Vistek workshop, come on Saturday: 1pm, see Seating limited, so be quick if you want in.

Now, a (repeat of) a little flash tip.

If your flash looks too dark in the photo, why is it? It could have two very different reasons:

  1. Metering is wrong; the TTL circuitry decided on too low a level.
  2. With the current ISO and aperture, you simply do not have enough power (eg the ceiling you are bouncing off is too high).

To know which one: set your flash to manual mode, full power (1/1). Shoot. If the picture is overexposed, you had reason 1; if not, you had reason 2.

To solve the issue: For reason 1, go back to TTL and use flash compensation. For reason 2, go back to TTL and lower the f-number and/or increase the ISO.

That’s all – pretty simple, but often overlooked.