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


A photo is not a photo until it is printed. And you should print your photos. Today, I am making a case for doing that.

You are reading this post because you are into photography. You are a beginner, or an advanced amateur, or a seasoned pro who would like some new techniques. Either way, you have come here to learn about something dear to your heart: making images. And for many of you—especially the beginners—this means you have hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of images that live only on your disk drive.

Great. But that is not the whole job. You are leaving out the last step. A very important step; I would say an essential one. Creating a print from the best of those electronic files.

Like here, in my living room, which as you can see is decorated with one artistic nude, three travel photos, and one “selfie”:

Why is printing images so important?

For many reasons, of which I am going to mention the top six.

It is the only way to preserve the image. Digital images get lost. Let me repeat that: Digital images get lost. All information carriers (Papertape. Magnetic tape. Floppy disks. Hard disks. CDs. DVDs. CF cards. SD cards. USB keys. Every single type!) lose their information in anything from a year or two to a decade or two. I cannot stress that enough. You will lose your information. CDs, DVDs, hard disks: all of these are meant for temporary storage. there is as yet NO permanent storage solution other than cuneiform clay tablets. “The cloud” is no solution either: things get lost.

Also, even if by a stroke of luck you do not lose the data, you cannot read old media (try to read an 8″ floppy disk: I challenge you!). We may be the generation that takes more photos than any preceding generation; we are also the generation that will lose more photos than any preceding generation. This is a tragedy. Please.. print, to preserve.

They decorate your living room very nicely. There is a reason there is no hotel without prints on the wall. Prints add style, class, to your environment. Not just to hide stains: prints look beautiful on your wall and you can choose something to complement your environment (e.g. urban scenes in a country cottage, and vice versa).

Prints look much better than displays. Prints can be much larger (the nude above is 40″ wide); they can be on metallic paper (that one is); they have wonderful colour saturation, and they are, when done properly, much better than a display. Yes, printing needs to be set up properly, but it is worth doing.

They are a great way to share. Having photos on a hard drive is ok, but how often do you show them? A print on a wall is seen every time someone walks by that wall. And not just for ten seconds: for the entire evening, if you have dinner guests.

There are many possible formats. I love fold flat photo books with hard pages. There are many formats, from canvas wraps to such books: you can go wild. All this amounts to much more than just your LCD screen!

You will feel good about your skills. There is a special thrill in seeing your work large, as it is supposed to be, on your own wall. Your work instead of some IKEA artist’s work! This is an important motivator to keep shooting, as well.

My recommendation is a strong “go make some prints from your best photos—today!”

EXTRA: TIP for readers in the Toronto area: for great prints, in a wonderful variety of types, go to Fotobox in west Toronto, on the Queensway. Tell them I sent you—they have done my large metallic prints, and I am delighted with their service, attitude, skills, quality and pricing. Fotobox, 936 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z 1P4(647) 430-8499. See www.fotobox.ca. (And no, before you ask: I am not being paid for this mention.)


Starting Year Six

I am today starting year six of this blog, the Internet’s only daily photography teaching blog.

My mission is the same as it has always been: to educate. I aim at everyone from beginner to pro. Short posts, all designed to educate in some way or form. And it’s daily: whenever I miss a day or two, I make up for it later.

www.speedlighter.ca is, and will always remain, free of charge. All I ask in return is that you:

  • Tell all your friends and acquaintances about this blog. “Like” the posts you like (click on the facebook share button). Better still, share the posts you like with your friends. In other words, help me reach a larger audience.
  • Consider training, private or in a small group. A half day’s course/seminar can turbocharge your photography.
  • Have a look at my e-books and, if you like them, buy them, as many hundreds of you already have.
  • And finally, last but not least, that you consider me as a photographer, for photographing everything from corporate headshots to industrial to models to family photography and weddings. If it can be photographed, I can do it.

Today, a short note about make-up.

As you will see in my price lists, I offer make-up artist and hair stylist for shoots as an optional extra, at $125 each. If you want to be shot for a formal photo of whatever kind, do consider a good MUA. Even if you are a man it can be worthwhile. Sure, it’s more money, but it’s amazing what make-up can do.

Look at this recent example (Make-up by Melissa T, one of my regular super-talented MUA’s):

Obviously she is very pretty with or without make-up, but I think you will agree, the attention given to make-up and hair do put the second photo in an entirely different league.

TIP: if you cannot afford one, go to Shopper’s Drug Mart: they have MUAs in the store who will do it for you, when you buy some make-up. Some of them are very good.

Here’s another example, from a shoot earlier this year. Here, the theme was Desi (pertaining to the Indian subcontinent) and henna.

Yes, that was on the same day, just an hour apart, No tricks involved. Just make-up. Stars and celebrities look great on TV, in part because they have make-up done. So if you hire me for a headshot (for press releases; your company’s annual report; newspaper announcements; LinkedIn; your web site; even for Facebook use!) consider having a MUA (Make-Up Artist) present as well.

I’ll finish with one more photo, from last Friday, the beautiful Vanessa Scott in Timmins, Ontario:

SOOC (Straight out of the camera). Canon 1Dx with 85mm f/1.2 lens, set to f/5.6 and 1/80 second at 200 ISO. Lit by two flashes:

  • One on our right with a Honl Photo half CTO gel and fired through an umbrella;
  • One on our left fitted with a grid and a quarter CTO gel, as the hair light
  • Both set to manual power; half on the right, quarter on the left
  • Both fired through Pocketwizards.

This is not rocket science. I can teach you how to do this in one three-hour lesson. What I cannot teach you is how to be Vanessa, or failing that, how to find your own Vanessa to shoot.

And when you do, do consider adding pro Make-Up and Hair.




In yesterday’s shoot with Vanessa Scott in Timmins, Ontario, I used gels to recreate the sunlight that was fast fading below the hills. All shot with Canon’s amazing 85mm f/1.2 len.

(1/200th, f/4, ISO100)

Vanessa looks like she is in that light, because I put a CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) gel by Honlphoto on the main flash, like so:

You will see also that I am using a second flash, fitted with a grid, for the hair light. Two flashes driven by Pocketwizards—that’s all.

One more from this amazingly versatile young woman:

1/60, f/5, ISO100 — I had to adjust for fading light

Again, the flash allows me to offset the subject against the background, which I keep dark. Without the flash, I would lose the nice colour and I would have to make everything, including that background, very bright.

And that’s how the cookie crumbles.