Black Friday Continues Through the Weekend!

This weekend everything in the store is 30% off. No minimum purchases or limits – 30% off across the board.

The e-book bundles are great value at these prices. Download some full chapter previews here:

Use discount code ‘BlackFridayWeekend’ at checkout for anything on Prices shown on the site are before applying the discount code! But hurry, these prices are valid this weekend only.

What’s in a name?

What IS in a name? Rather a lot, as it happens.

Take the company formerly known as Artisan State. They do great albums and other print-related items. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Except, that is, for their current name. It is now “Zno“, which every world citizen except an American pronounces as the monosyllabic Russian-sounding “zno”, Vaguely sounding like “snow”.

But the company thinks it should be pronounced as “Zeeno”. Because while the entire world calls the letter Z “zed”, since it is derived from the Greek zeta, Americans, and only Americans, call it “zee”.

And so, apparently, should we.

Except some of us—meaning me—feel rather strongly about language, and while I’ll gladly let Americans pronounce Z as “zee”, or “zoo”, or “za”, or “zeeblebrox”, or anything else they like, I just cannot get myself to do it. Z is zed, not zee.

But of course there is a bigger thing behind this. Namely American exceptionalism and ignorance of the world, and even, if you like, cultural imperialism. Much as I love my American friends, I think they should perhaps educate themselves just a little bit, and realise that the entire world is not America. And something as crucially important as a brand name… why on earth would you choose something that either puzzles or antagonizes the rest of the world? Unless, of course, you only want to sell in America.

So we have problems. Until I live in the USA, I do not want to start pronouncing Z as “zee”, even by stealth, and I do not want to buy from a company that is at the very least either ignorant or culturally insensitive at its senior levels. When I have pointed this out to the company’s support email, all I got was a “we think of it differently”, or some such non sequitur.

So just like I would find it difficult to respect a president who is a racist and a mysogenist (and I am not pointing at Mr Trump here: I suspect he is a lot more intelligent than we think), I also find it difficult to buy from a company that is either ignorant or is trying to push American culture down my throat.

So yes, there is a lot in a name. A name is culture and language, and people care about culture and language.

Am I making a big deal of this? Nah. No big deal. I can buy albums, even good albums, elsewhere. I can recommend other print companies to my students. No skin off my nose.

But I do wonder why a company chooses not to care about antagonizing a great proportion of their market. Are they ignorant, or do they want to push American culture down the world’s throat? I’d say both are equally likely.


Available light

Yes, available light rocks! Beautiful, colourful, soft, and so on. But when a photographer says “I am an available light photographer” or “I am a natural light photographer”, that usually means “I don’t know flash”.

Because it is often in the mixing of available light and flash light that things get interesting. Certainly in daylight.

Also–hiring a pro pays. Yes, you can get it done cheaper by Uncle Fred, but would you get pictures like these, from yesterday’s family shoot? (Hint: “no”.) A few hundred dollars and you have memories for life:






If you can see these pictures, there’s plenty of available light. But had I not had my assistant hold the flash off the side near the subjects, they would have been silhouettes! Or I could have exposed for the subjects – in that case, a very bright, blown out background–with very little colour.

So you hire a pro for this. Right equipment (that super sharp lens); Right technique:

You have heard this from me before:

  1. Use the magic outdoors formula, and only vary f-number.
  2. Use long(-ish) lens (85mm prime in this case).
  3. Subjects away from the sun: means no squinting and the sun becomes hair-light.
  4. Fill with flash, off to the side for modelling.avoiding “flat” look.
  5. Flash fired in this case with radio triggers (Pocketwizards), and on manual, 1/8 power, with Honlphoto 12″ softbox (click on the small ad on the right to order, and use code word “willems” to get an additional 10% off).

BUT THERE IS MORE. If I print, I ensure that the print is perfect. Permanent photo paper. Pigment printing (not dye, which can fade). If a face is too pale, I selectively increase colour saturation in the face. And so on. That takes time, and it is exactly what Walmart et al do not do.

All this is what I teach in my live or online workshops: contact me to learn more, or see .

And take some fall pictures, or have me do it!




To readers in the United States, is now available on the Amazon Echo. You can find it in the skills section of Alexa, listed as “Speedlighter”:


You can use it, for instance, with commands like the following “Alexa, ask Speedlighter for the latest post”, and have the most recent blog post read to you. Not every post on the blog lends itself well to dictation (some depend heavily on images, like Picture of the Day, or some exposure lessons), so blog posts in the “Audible” category will be read. 

New features will continue to be added, and it will be available in the UK soon as well. To readers outside of the US, as Amazon releases the Echo in more countries, this will become available in them. 

Have fun, and let me know how it works for you!

Today’s pics

I was hired to take some fall pictures of a woman and her dog today.

Like these:





In pictures like this one challenge is that the dog is the same colours as the background. That’s where (off-camera) flash comes to the rescue. That allows me to make the subjects brighter, and the background dark. And the sun is the hair-light. (all that is what I teach in my courses and books).

Lenses: 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200 f/2.8. Camera Settings: 100 ISO, f/3.2, and 1/250 to 1/400 sec.

1/400 sec? Impossible. That’s beyond the camera’s “sync speed”. But actually: very possible; you just don’t get the entire picture being lit. Which is sometimes fine.

And finally: a no flash/flash comparison:


Remember Willems’s Dictum: Bright Pixels are Sharp Pixels.