Lenses distort?

A wide lens, if you aim it upward, will give you converging verticals at the top:

If you do not want this, go into Lightroom’s “Lens Corrections”:

This gives you a corrected view, from which you then crop the excess:

Leaving you with:

The venue above is the venue where tolivetolove.com (my venture with Kristof Borkowski) is joining Jane Dayus-Hinch’s “Wedding Café”, which opens next month.


See me next weekend in Toronto:

Explore, network and discover an inspiring array of new photographic products, services and techniques. You will experience the latest photography and video gear and creative solutions at our Photo Network EXPO. Admission not only includes the trade show but also access to hours of free professional imaging presentations each day. To register or for more information visit www.photonetworkexpo.com/.

  • Saturday April 6th, 2013 9am to 6:30pm
  • Sunday April 7th, 2013 9am to 5:00pm

Location: Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre (Formerly Maple Leaf Gardens), 50  Carlton St. Toronto, ON


The Outer Limits of Flash

When using flash, as you know, I very often use just one off-camera speedlight in an umbrella, like this:

But as you have read here before, there will often be limits to what you can do in practice. These limits and how we handle them are “what separates the men from the boys”. Usually, they are not coincidence: flash makers have made their flashes to be just the right power, for instance, to meet normal earth sunlight conditions. To help you, here are a few limits and solutions:

SHUTTER SPEED: You will run into limits w.r.t. shutter speed: when using flash, normally 1/200th to 1/250th sec will be the fastest shutter speed you can use. Solutions: be aware of this limit, and use low ISO/small aperture to control light.

POWER: Most of all, you will run into power limits. At 1/200th, in bright sunlight you will have to go to f/16-f/24 for a proper exposure, and this means the flash will have to be very powerful to equal or overpower the ambient light (we call this “nuking the sun”). Solutions: use no modifier but fire direct (a direct flash has much more power than a modified one!); or move the flash closer to the subject; or use multiple flashes.

LINE OF SIGHT: Outdoors, your off-camera flash must be able to see the “morse code” light pulses emitted from your on-camera flash. Make sure that the little round light sensor on the side of your flash (Nikon) or the red area on the front of your flash (Canon) can see your camera!

HEAT: Nikon flashes like the SB-800, SB-900, SB-910 and so on, and to a lesser extent Canon flashes, will overheat (and depending on model either break, or shut down, or slow down) when you use the flash repeatedly at full power or anything close to it. Solutions: fire the speedlights at lower power.

CONDITIONS: If the ceiling you are trying to bounce your flash off is 50 feet high, you will have to go to a very high ISO setting. Solutions: do use that high ISO, or use very fast prime lenses, or ask people to move to a better location.

FOCUS: In the dark, focusing your camera is very difficult. Solutions: use a flashlight, or a laser pointer; or focus manually.

TTL INCONSISTENCY: In fact, TTL systems like E-TTL or CLS work very consistently. Solutions, therefore: learn exactly how the TTL technology works; learn exposure and metering; adjust by using Flash Exposure Compensation; avoid reflections; use Flash Lock (FEL/FVL).

There are many more challenges, and the good news is that for each such challenge there is a set of solutions. Learn the tech, and then you will be able to concentrate on what really matters: composition, light, moment!

Enjoy Passover / Easter / the start of spring; and let me leave you with the Thursday News Roundup:

  • LEARN… Join me to learn studio shooting on April 10, and join me in many other courses: see www.cameratraining.ca/Schedule.html
  • WEDDINGS… Watch for news on The Wedding Café: Celebrity planner Jane Dayus-Hinch’s new initiative, which colleague Kristof and I are part of!
  • DESTINATIONS… I am off April 14-21 to shoot a wedding in Jamaica.
  • And finally GEAR: Nikon Canada is lending me a D4 and a few lenses and a flash for two weeks. I shall report on them in detail here.. excited!

If you have any time, then use this long weekend to learn and practice some new photography skills. I vote for “Flash”. Here’finally, a sample snap taken with one flash in an umbrella:

What is wrong here?

Look at this picture – a demo shot I made during a recent course, to show what not to do.

Can you see what is wrong here?

Yes, her eyes and face are all shadowy. Becuase I aimed my on-camera flash straight up. I see many people do this; it is seldom a great idea. Instead, of course, aim it behind you:

Note you need to have some kind of ceiling or wall behind you above that will reflect light. You may need to go to a higher ISO; in a large room, much higher, which is fine nowadays.

You can drive this “the umbrella is where you aim your flash” thing to extremes. Aim at the floor for eerie light – simply rotate your camera upside down, and you get:

Nice warm floor reflection!

Now, to see how fine modern cameras are with regard to ISO: a camera like my 1Dx goes to ridiculously high ISO values. 51,200 ISO with some noise reduction in Lightroom:

Yours will probably not be quite as good, but no problem if you want to go to a higher-than-usual ISO. Do it, and live with the grain – better than bad light or motion blur!


I shot a few pictures featuring light, Monday night.

Light can be depressing.

Light can show as bright, in courtyards that to us look pitch black. Just turn up the ISO, lower the f-number, and slow down the shutter speed:

Light can leave trails:

Light can show you things we cannot see… to my eyes, this sky was pitch black:

In other words, light can help make your image in more ways than you might at first imagine.

Tip: when shooting and looking for “creative light”, look for:

  • Shadows.
  • Ways to make “what we see as dark” light, or vice versa.

That way, you get intriguing images. Give it a go. The images above took about, what, three minutes. Given half an hour, what could I have come up with? With eyes wide open, a lot.



Here, from Friday’s workshop, is a photo of Rhonda:

Wonderful smile, truly! So that photo is good before we even start – how can you fail with a subject like that?

And yet, we have to get the focus and exposure right. Especially exposure is worth mentioning. hence this post.

Yesterday’s shots (scroll to yesterday to see them) had a pale-skinned subject in light clothing. Today, a darker-skinned person with dark clothing. So after the first person, do I need to, like, adjust anything?

If you are using manual flash settings (a typical studio shoot, with flash power set manually, perhaps using Pocketwizards): no. It’s set right, then it’s set right, never mind the subject.

If you are using TTL flash (automatic flash), then yes. You need to adjust flash exposure compensation – down. Down, somewhere between, say, -1 to -2 stops perhaps. Else the metering circuit will try to expose this shot just as light as the last one, and Rhonda will look light grey.

So remember: TTL (automatically metered) flash is convenient, but you have to know how it works and realize that depending on the subject, it potentially works differently each time you click.