About Michael Willems

Michael is a professional photographer and photography teacher and private coach. Based in Ontario, he teaches and shoots worldwide. See more at www.michaelwillems.ca and www.speedlighter.ca

What a mess!

Let’s talk for a moment about your studio.

A studio is a space where you make photos like this typical studio shot of Evangeline just days before she gave birth to her son:

That’s straight out of the camera, unfinished.

And where was that made? Right here:

Messy eh! But that does not show up in the photo!

Studio requirements:

  • Large enough
  • High enough (hence my unfinished ceilings)
  • Power everywhere
  • Ability to hang backdrops
  • Ability to have things easily at hand. Things like light stands, flashes, modifiers.

My studio meets all those requirements, and then some. It is one large space, which is what I like most about it.

Sunday, I am doing a Meetup here: a free workshop for would-be pro photographers who live in or around Brantford. Check it out if you like here and want to learn about photography!


Brantford, listen up

Live in Brantford, Ontario, or nearby? And like photography? Then I am organizing a free learning meetup for you! See www.meetup.com/Brantford-Photography-School-Meetup/events/225583551/ and I hope to see you there. Limited space, just 10 people can be accommodated, and it is already half full as we speak. :-)

I will brief all my readers on what I do in such meetups.  So that even those of you not in Brantford get benefit out of it.  And so that you can all, before long, make photos like this, that combine manual exposure, manual off-camera flash, using the sun as back light, good composition, and deliberate use of flare:

Hope to see y’all Sunday, 11AM. Right here, 48 Wilkes Street:

Logistics: There is street parking available. I will have water; perhaps if you like, bring a bottle of pop or something (of course at paid events, I will always have snacks and drinks available).


Not enough? Then add.

To do a photo like this, just now of talented cellist Kendra Grittani, you need a lot of flash light:

So if one speedlight into an umbrella does not give you quite enough light, you can:

- move the umbrella closer to the subject
- turn up the power
- add more flashes

I did the latter. One more flash at full power on a separate light stand, but aimed at the very same umbrella. It worked. One stop more light.


I never say “posing”—instead, I say “positioning”. Instead of :”I am going to pose you differently”, it’s “I am going to position you differently”.

But we do pose. Models pose for a living, and they are good at it. My main model manages to position herself differently for every shot, even after we have done eight years of shooting together, and made tens of thousands of images.

Images like this, yesterday in an abandoned parking lot in Brantford:

(125 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/5.6; 24-70 lens; full-frame Canon 1Dx)

A good model turns toward the light (unless otherwise instructed by the photographer), and changes pose after every click. He or she seldom smiles (smiling causes laugh lines, a.k.a. “wrinkles”.

See the Rembrandt Lighting in the image above? One off-camera umbrella on our right, 45 degrees to the side of her face and 45 degrees up from her face.

Another note: as you see I am using deliberate flare in the image above. By shooting into the sun, basically. When you do this, you should probably remove any filters that you have on your lenses. If you can use a small aperture (e.g. f/16) you will get a starburst effect.

One of my favourites:

That soft shadow: beautiful. And the dark exposure beautifully shows the blue sky. And all I used is:

  • Camera,
  • A 24-70 f/2.8 lens,
  • Two Pocketwizard radio triggers,
  • A light stand,
  • A bracket on the light stand for the umbrella,
  • An umbrella,
  • A cable “from Pocketwizard to hotshoe”.

Easy to handhold and walk miles with. But I drove (remember: car parking lot?).

Flash outdoors rock, in case you have not picked that up yet from my writings.



DEALS – DEALS – DEALS! A good friend is selling photo equipment. Here’s the next lot. If you are interested, let me know and I will forward your email/message to the seller immediately! (I love the Bowens lights, I use them too; and just for the record, I am not profiting from this sale in any way)

FOR SALE: Bowens Gemini 500/R TX UM/SB Kit with Battery – Lighting Kit

In mint condition. Used about 6 times. Bowens Gemini 500/R TX UM/SB Kit with large Bowens travel kit battery, 2 strobes and stands, softbox, bag, spare 3 meter cable, 3 year warranty and quick ring for softbox and upgraded to Westcott 45″ white satin w/black removable cover umbrella. Great for on location shoots – powerful. Paid $2600 in Sept/14. Asking $1900.


Email me at michael@michaelwillems.ca