Keys To Being a Pro: Predictability

Predictability of your results, and of your ability to deliver these results in the first place, is one of the most important key factors that determine whether you can legitimately call yourself a “Pro”. It’s not whether you get paid, or even whether you can shoot a pretty picture: it’s whether you can be relied upon to do this when needed, instead.

Take this photo, for example:


A pretty picture, taken under bad circumstances: harsh sunlight at noon. But it works:

  • The sky is blue, not white;
  • In general, colours are saturated;
  • It has red, green and blue in it;
  • The subjects are the “bright pixels”;
  • The drop shadows are hardly noticeable and are not annoying where they are;
  • The composition is good;
  • The focal distance is spot on;
  • Exposure both of the ambient and of the flash part of the photo is good;

…and so on. Yes, a lot goes into the making of a good photo, and those of you who have taken one of my Dutch Masters courses, workshops or seminars, or have attended my Sheridan College courses, know all about that.

But there’s more, namely predictability.

Quick, solve this:


OK: assuming your shutter speed is under your fastest flash sync speed, leave the ambient part alone, since it is already good; just add an off-camera flash:


Yeah, that can be done even unmodified, as it is here (a couple of hours ago). As a student of mine you will know the recipe: 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, f/8 and then vary only the aperture (here, to f/11). And after you do this a bunch of times you will even know (without metering) to set the flash at 1/4 power if it’s a couple of feet away from the subject.

Quick, solve this:


Not enough ambient. You could solve this by increasing ISO or opening the aperture, but then you’d have to also set the flash to a lower power level. There’s no time for all that. So instead, you slow the shutter, from 1/200 sec to 1/100 sec:


Bingo, a brighter background (by one stop) without varying the flash picture at all.

My courses and one-on-one coaching teach you this. But they cannot teach you the essential additional requirement: predictability. The ability to come to the above conclusions within a second or two, by yourself, while shooting.

Only practice can teach you this. I’ll hand you the tools; now it’s up to you to practice using them until you are comfortable. That will make you a pro, and this ability to handle any shooting situation that can be handled means that you will face shoots with a lot more confidence.

And don’t worry. This is all, in fact, very simple. When the metaphorical light bulb in their head turns on, a lot of my students say things like “but I thought this was supposed to be complicated?!”. Nope, once you know it, it’s simple. A bit like brain surgery, really.


Schedule a workshop with me now. A one-on-one, or come with a few friends and make it a group thing.See or if you prefer, call me, to schedule an appointment. Finally, the ability to confidently translate your vision into a photo!


Today, Rockwood conservation area in Guelph, a field workshop I taught for

20160716-MW5D8996 20160716-MW5D9000 20160716-MW5D8930 20160716-MW5D8933 20160716-MW5D8943 20160716-MW5D8962 20160716-MW5D8968 20160716-MW5D8939 20160716-MW5D8975 20160716-MW5D8987

This type of walkaround course is very good at helping you put theory into practice. If you want to learn, really learn, consider coming on one of my get out and shoot courses!


Walk With Me

Saturday July 16, I am doing a Photo Walk “Composition In The Field” for Digital Photo Academy, in Rockwood Conservation area in Guelph. This will be fun, so if you are interested, sign up and see you there. Contact me via email if you have questions.

Go here to register, and do it soon:


Hope to see you and your camera on Sunday!

f/2 and be there.

An old newspaper instruction to photographers was “f/8 and be there”.

My version is: “f/2 and an 85mm lens and be there”, if you want good informal portraits.  Sometimes I keep it simple, of course. Like today, some pictures of Addison. Here she is, in a nice chiaroscuro photo:


And here’s a few more:





All those are SOOC (“straight out of camera”).

As you see, the use of this lens “almost” wide open (it’s an f/1.2 lens, set to f/2) allows you to shoot in a normal living room environment without the clutter making the photo into a snapshot. Of course f/2 with a moving toddler means that you will be using continuous focus (“AI Servo”), and even then a lot of your shots will not be in perfect focus. But many will, and in any case, the moment and the light are also essential, and those will occupy a lot of your mindspace.

So the speedlighter does not always use speedlights?  Nope, not always.


CPS – Can’t Pay Service

In Canada, if you own Canon equipment, Canon CPS (Canon Professional Services) is the way you get decent service for your gear. But you have to have certain equipment (from a list of “pro” cameras and lenses that are new enough), and then in Canada you need to pay (in some countries this service is still free, as it was for Canada until a couple of years ago). If I recall correctly, it’s $125 for the middle service level, but it could be more than that. I’d have to check. The reason I have not renewed is exactly that: the cost.

So… my 7D camera broke. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Brampton (100km away) until just after my membership ran out.

So I had to go to the Hoi Polloi lineup instead of the “we respect you” lineup. Although I was a CPS member until a week or so before the repair, Canon no longer knew me and I had to re-supply all my details, address, and so on.

So that’s what buying $50,000 in of brand’s equipment gets you. Nothing. Good to know.

Oh, and Canon Canada “cannot” take American Express. Words fail me.