You are your own worst enemy

I have said it many times.

  • Brides are their own worst enemy if they hire a $300 photographer.
  • Photogs are their own worst enemy if they include awful photos with the good.

Here’s an illustration of both points at once:

Singaporean Couple’s Awful Wedding Photos Go Viral After Hiring the Worst Photographer Ever

This is a meme now; google “singapore bad wedding photos” and recoil in horror…

Needles to say., a good wedding photographer a) does not take a significant number of bad photos like that, and b) does not share them if s/he does. (And c) does not do such an awful job editing). Bad flash! Bad composition! Bad moments! And Bad editing. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

You are as good as your worst photos.


Michael teaches photography to both beginners and pros. Flash and events are his specialties. See and



On a bright cloudy day today, I looked like this:


Wait. A bright day?

Yes, and that is the point of dramatic flash photos. I taught a workshop today, a hands on workshop, on the three basic modes of flash: “party”, “studio” and “outdoors”. This takes time, and “doing it” is the only way to learn. Today’s two students really learned.

Yes, in a few hours you can master flash. You still, of course, have to practice and refine, but you will do that yourself after the course. Contact me if you are interested in a private “Dutch Masters” course. A few hours and you are master: see for more details.

In the mean time: one tip to my readers. If you want to be extra dramatic as in the image above, and it is bright, you need a lot of flash to “nuke the sun”. To achieve that, remove the modifiers (e.g. the softbox or umbrella) and use direct flash.

Just one of  the things you learn from me, my books, and my courses.


Pro pricing: A note to pros.

There are continuous discussions on photography pricing. I lost several shoots recently due to “our director has a son who has a camera too, so he can do it”, because it is hard to argue with “free”.

But not impossible.

First, there’s the quality. Then, the reliability, the equipment, the speed of delivery, the options for delivery, and the list goes on.

But internally, there’s the decision of “how to price”.

So here’s four things you need to take into account when pricing your work.

  1. You cannot go up from being a McDonalds to an Exclusive Bistro with three Michelin stars. Trust me on that. McDonalds may try but it will not work. So if you start as a cheap photographer, that is what you will remain as.
  2. What is the regular competitive pricing in your market? You do not have to follow it but if you are far away from it, you need good reasons. Very good and clear reasons. If others ask $100 for a portrait, can you ask for $800? Only if you have those clear, good, valid reasons.
  3. What will the market bear? Contradicting the previous slightly (but there is overlap), if people want to pay $2,000 for a picture of pet poodle Fifi, because they love Fifi and want utmost quality, who are you to argue? There will always be a Rolls Royce, even though a Kia gets you from A to B just as snugly (well, almost) for about  a hundredth of the cost.
  4. An important one: your real cost. As a photographer you are running a business, not a charity. Work out how much that shoot really costs you. Work out your true cost (including a new camera every three years; spares; driving and parking; heating and electricity; the works). Then work out how much you are actually getting per hour. Do you want to work for half of minimum wage? If so, go for it. But if not, don’t go there and set realistic pricing.

Notice I did not say “how you feel about it”, or even “how good you are”. If you are good enough to charge a price, you will get that price, If not, you will not. But do not second guess the market, The market is king, because your customers are king.

You need, therefore, to set prices that meet all the above criteria.

This may help:

  • Price shoppers are not loyal. They will abandon you at a second’s notice. You want people who want quality, art, reliability: the things you supply.
  • Compare yourself to a plumber, a washing machine repair man, or a dental hygienist. Are you placing yourself that much below them? I paid a repair man $100+ for a three minute fix, recently. Worth it to me because else I could not have done laundry. I pay a hygienist whatever it costs to clean my teeth.
  • If you can convey the fact you are providing great value, you can ask for reasonable prices and you will be paid.
  • Think “This is the price. You do not have to pay it!”.
  • And finally: keep in mind what others charge, and do not go below it unless you are sure you can meet your actual, real, cost.

If you do all this, you will provide wonderful art at reasonable prices and you will have long term customers.


Summer is (almost) here

And with that, go outside and bring your flash!

You can learn from me this coming Monday, in Burlington. It promises to be great weather. Or you can learn in Brantford on Sunday, even earlier.

Either way: learn how to use a flash in outside light. To do that, buy my flash book, come to these courses, and in all cases, start here:

  • Manual
  • 100 ISO
  • 1/250 sec (or 1/200)
  • f/8

Then check background, and adjust only aperture. If flash is not bright enough, turn up power, remove modifiers, or bring it closer.

And have fun.

Here’s an example of outdoors on a sunny day:


Benefits: You get no annoying sunlight, and you avoid those horrible overexposed backgrounds. And you can direct the light. Control is everything!


Just now in Ajax.

So I just taught part three of a flash course in Ajax, Ontario.

In an excellent day, Ajax Photography Club creative Director Ron Pereux had arranged five of these:


Yup, brides!

And with very simple equipment we did some fun, creative shots using gels, snoots, softboxes (the excellent Honlphoto gear – use checkout code “Willems” for 10% off), umbrellas, and grids.

Some of the work needs some post-finishing when conditions are not right. Look at the backdrop:


And look at the finished product. Yup, a slightly more traditional photo:


And a more edgy photo, the type young brides are more likely to love, full of feeling:


Or even edgier:


Shooting brides is fun, and today I was able to help the Ajax club with a lot of very practical easy to put into practice tips and techniques. Flash photography is so easy once you know it, and so rewarding once you know how to do it well. Take a course – if not from me (, then from someone else who knows his or her business!