An interesting observation

I am wrapping up my 13-week winter “The Small Photography Business” course tonight, at Sheridan college. And one subject we discuss in this course at length is production and pricing of images, books, prints, and so on. For all purposes, weddings, graduations, events, fashion portfolios, etc.


Modern people, like the young woman above, do not do what older people did. Each generation finds this out, to their consternation.

As an example, I love to make beautiful albums, like the ones I produce at Beautiful, metallic paper, hard pages, covered to make them invulnerable to spills and fingerprints, that fold fully flat, hand-bound: super stuff for little money.

But one young person, when shown this type of album, just told me “I hate that. It’s like a small kid’s picture book. Quality doesn’t matter, how many people will look at it anyway. I’d rather have more pictures and lower cost”. She would rather have a crappy book with horrible pixelated pictures, printed on the equivalent of toilet paper, because it’s more modern, cheaper, and less like what grandma had.

And the cost of an album is considerable. An album may only cost me $300 to buy, but by the time my time is included, which can be a day or two, it’s going to be $800-$1200. Which is good value, in my opinion. But I am not the market!

Kodak made the mistake of thinking they could dictate what the market should want. No, best not to make that mistake. Please do not undersell yourself, but also please do not engage in wishful thinking regarding market desires.

Makers of albums and wristwatches, watch out.


New Beauty Light Technique

I have illustrated many lighting techniques here, from “Terry Richardson Amateur” to “Studio traditional”. Let me add one I use. I call this “bright-bright-blur”.

What I do here is use a bright room with reflected light. I then use settings, and flash to achieve three things:

  1. Bright ambient light
  2. Bright flash light
  3. Blurred backgrounds

I do that by first, setting my exposure so that the meter reads +1 stop. Yesterday that meant 800 ISO, 1/125th second, f/2.0. I wanted f/2 to blur the background. I wanted 1/125th sec to reduce motion blur. That gave me the need for 800 ISO.

Then, I put on a flash, aimed it behind me 45 degrees up, and adjusted Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) to +1.3 stops. That gave me added flash to the already bright picture. That flash fills any of the darker areas. Great skin; great beauty light!

The pictures now look like this:

That is basically straight out of the camera.

Clearly, this is light suited to glamour and beauty, more than to my usual corporate headshots. The point is: it is yet another light type you can use; another tool in your creative toolbox. Master it, and then decide for each shoot what light type to use. photography is talking emotion. The more you master light, the more you can tell stories with your photos.


Shampooey Goodness

You have heard me talk about this many times. Without “shampooey goodness”, a standard executive portrait can look a little lifeless. This is straight out of the camera (“SOOC”) from yesterday’s executive headshots session in Toronto:

Add a hair/rim light and it becomes much more lively:

In these portraits, the main (“key”) light is on our right:

Fill light and hair light are on our left:

Now, it is important how you add that light. Very important. Aim it a few millimetres too far over and you get much spill onto the cheeks, as  you see in this test shot of my assistant:

For reasons of skin smoothness, I generally prefer to keep it on the hair:

That aiming is best done by an assistant, who fires the flash by means of the test button to see where the light hits the head.

And one more thing: when someone has no hair, you call it a “rim light”!



“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (Robert Capa)

You have heard me on this theme many times. Getting close can often make your images better. You get close and intimate with the subject, your images have more impact. Like in these two, from that recent shoot:

Now of course you can do this by getting close. But be careful: closer than a couple of metres means you distort faces.

A better way is to use a longer lens. My favourite lens for this work is the 70-200, therefore. That has the additional benefit of not forcing you to be “in your subject’s face”. Yes, you have to have space, but that’s the entire point!

An alternate way is simply to use a somewhat long lens and then to crop for the rest. Those two were taken with the 85mm lens and cropped afterward. That is why you have all those megapixels, after all.

Next time you shoot anything, do yourself a favour and shoot the way you would normally shoot, but also shoot closer. Then when you look at the results, consider carefully which ones you like better. Where you like the close-up better: why? Where you like the wider view better: why? This is how you become a better photographer.

There’s still space on tomorrow’s Travel Photography session in Oakville, Ontario: 10AM-1PM, Sat 12 April 2014. $125 and it’s virtually private tuition!