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

That red jacket

The reminds me. When I was shooting the red jacket, the red jacket ended up, well, not red, at the bottom. More purplish. Look:

The reason: overexposure at the bottom, specifically of the RED pixels, when I expose enough to get the top lit. The model was too far from the window, so the light hit mainly her bottom half. Hard to see in person, but easy to see in the camera.

The solution: In Lightroom, in the DEVELOP module, go to the HSL pane; select LUMINANCE, and drag the RED Luminance slider leftward (minus). Now you get this:

Now that I am not blowing out the reds, I get a red coat!

Then the last step: I brighten the top with a graduated filter with exposure set to +1 stop. Now I get the final result:

This is all a matter of simply recognizing what is wrong. I was not able in time to fix it on site, but I knew I had enough leeway in my RAW files to fix it later. Sometimes, that is how it works.



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 artisanstate.com. 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”!