How you think: an example

Often. it’s not the “what”, but “how”. How do you decide what settings to you in your cameras? What to shoot?

I shall use myself, and today’s shoot, as an example. I shot a house, for a real estate agent:

When shooting something like this, my camera is in manual model. So I need to make many decisions. And I need to be quick: cannot afford to hang around, for the home-owner’s sake, the realtor’s sake, and my own sake.

So before the shoot I decide :”outside, tilt-shift”. Arriving, I had my tilt-shift lens on the camera already. Using the sunny sixteen rule, before even starting I set my camera to 1/100 sec, ISO100, and started at f/11. I looked; that was a little dark, the meter told me, so I went to f/8. Perfect. Then came the fine tuning: I wanted a faster shutter for hand held, so I used 1/200 sec, which necessitated f/5.6. (shutter gave me one stop less light, which I fixed by aperture giving me one stop more light).

Then I focused manually, held the camera straight, and shifted the lens up. Click. Done. Time taken: Seconds.

Now inside. I already knew I would want the wide angle lens, so I put it on, the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Inside, I saw mainly simple white ceilings, so I decided simple flash bouncing with one flash, and combining that with ambient, would be fine. Then the sequence was:

  1. I set my camera to 400 ISO: that is my starting standard for bright indoors.
  2. I selected f/5.6: with a wide lens, that will give me sharpness from “near me” to “infinity”.
  3. Then I selected 1/50 second, which, I was sure, would give me visibility of inside light fixtures.
  4. I selected flash exposure compensation of +1 stop, and turned the flash upward behind me at roughly 45 degrees.

I got:

And that confirmed what I wanted: outside not too crazy bright; light fixture visible, room well lit. Done. Now for the rest of the shoot all I changed was the shutter speed:

  • I first tried 1/50 second.
  • Where “outside” was important, I went up to as much as 1/250 second. This gave a colder inside but better outside.
  • Where “inside” was important and outside could be a little blown out, I went down to as little as 1/20 second.

Once the basics were taken care of, now I started to think about what to shoot:

  • Diagonal into each room; straight-on in the kitchen.
  • I shot from slightly below eye-level (but not below cupboard level if that meant seeing the bottom of cupboards).
  • Of course I went wide, very wide… but I resisted going TOO wide: over-promising and under-delivering is not a very good strategy.
  • I ensured that all the lights were turned on in the rooms I shot.

And of course I avoided this error:

Can you see the error?

Yes, you need to be extremely cautious in a house with many mirrors.

I estimated an hour for this shoot. Time taken: Exactly 56 minutes. A good job, if I am allowed to say so myself, and it feels good to do a good job. This is a beautiful home, and I trust my photos (103 of them) will help secure a very quick sale for list price; perhaps even list price “plus”.



As you all know, Apple Aperture is end-of-life. And with that, end-of-competition: Lightroom is the only game in town.

And with that, Adobe is flexing its muscle; it is trying to get everyone to use their “Cloud” subscription model. That way, they get a fee (like $9.99) every month, instead of one payment of $150 for Lightroom forever. Clearly, they are interested in this.

Clearly, I am not interested.

  • First, I would pay much more (In five years I’d pay $600, as opposed to $150 for the app, and even with upgrades perhaps double that over that period).
  • Second, I want nothing with auto upgrades. This is mission critical. I am still using CS3 (very occasionally). If it ain’t broke…
  • The price is $9.99 per product per month, I think. But that is today’s price… subject to change.
  • Third, I want nothing to do with a product that has to go online occasionally to check if I am allowed to use it. No way. What if I lose my password? What if their authentication system fails? What if my Internet connectivity fails, e.g. because I am travelling? No, that just will not do. This is company critical: I need an app that is mine to run without authentication, permission, whatever.

Adobe is making it almost impossible to buy Lightroom today. But the key is “almost”. After a long while online with support, I was today given the “BUY AS A PRODUCT” links:

Normal Users:

Educational Users:

For as long as possible, I shall go on using Lightroom as  a normal license rather than a monthly subscription, and you all may want to do the same.



I shoot fun photos too. As you should. The other day, I went to a concert, and before the concert, I took a few photos at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. I used my little Fuji X100 camera, which has a fixed 24mm (35mm equivalent: 35mm) lens.

Jellyfish love?

I shot these at 1600 ISO, f/2. 1/125 second. close to glass. No flash, of course.

The biggest problem was focus. These darn fish move.

I would not want to be one of these little fish.

I suppose the moral of today’s post is: bring a camera everywhere. Try stuff you have not shot before. Use high ISO values if you need. Quality is paramount.

For a shark, food is paramount.



About EXIF data

You have read before that I use a utility called EXIFTOOL to read EXIF data embedded in files. And there is much more embedded than you think. One important piece of data: file creation date. Take this, of a funnel cloud over Oakville  few years ago:

Apple INFO thinks;

2009, cool.

But EXIFTOOL gives me the real creation date:

Now in this case, Lightroom would have also given me the right date. But there are many more pieces of information in the EXIF data than Lightroom tells you. Go install EXIFTOOL (search for it) and have fun seeing what hidden gems of information your pictures contain.