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

My must-have. My preciousssss….

I actually have many “preciousssses”. But this one is among the most precious. My lightstand/bracket/umbrella combo. This here:

This kit, which is just about glued to me, consists of:

  • A light stand.
  • On it, a bracket for mounting flash and umbrella.
  • A pocketwizard. (Plus one on the camera).
  • Cable from pocketwizard to flash (from Pocketwizard or from flashzebra.com).
  • A small flash, e.g. a 430EX/SB710, or any other flash. Any brand will do if I use “manual”. As long as you cam disable the timeout and set the power level manually.
  • Umbrella. Shoot through as well as shoot into (i.e. removable cover).

It folds into a very small package, and often, it’s all I need. Since I know how to mix ambient and flash, that umbrella allows me to do so much. Including this:

Oh, and a student spotted me and took this photo, of the exact flash stand used for that shot:

 

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Want to learn? I do remote training over the Internet, using Google Hangouts, so you can now do my courses wherever you are in the world. Better still, for a limited time, it’s cheaper than here, in person. See learning.photography to order now.

 

Dragging the shutter

You have seen me talk about this many, many times. Flash pictures start with the background, And to get light into the background, often you will want to use slower shutter speeds. These affect ONLY the background, not the flash part of the photo. Look here; an example from the course I taught today at Vistek:

Like here. f/8, 200 ISO, 35mm prime lens, flash on manual on 1/4 power, fired through an umbrella. The only thing I will change is the shutter speed.

1/125 sec:

1/30 sec:

1/15 sec:

You see? The background gets brighter, the women in the front, who are lit primarily by the flash, do not change. Analyze that carefully.

  • The woman on the left: lit by flash, so does not change.
  • The store in the background: lit by ambient, so changes with every shutter speed change.

And that is how the cookie crumbles.

Why did I use manual flash power setting? Because it is consistent. The same for every shot. No variation. Once I have it right, it’s right for every shot.

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See http://learning.photography/collections/books for my collection of e-books. These contain my collected knowledge, both of photography and of how to teach it. They are all 100-200 pages long and are simply PDFs, so you can put them on all your computers and tables and large-screen phones, for convenient reading and reference. Enjoy!

Aperture

Aperture (the “f-number”) controls several things in a photo. One is light (the lower the “f-number”, the more light), and the other is depth of field (“DOF”). Low f-numbers mean shallow DOF.

But DOF is also determined by proximity (the closer you are, the shallower); and lens focal length (the longer the lens, the shallower).

So this is f/1.4:

I was walking to my class last week at Sheridan College Oakville.

f/1.4 and sharp? Huh??

Well… read above. I am not close. I am using a 35mm lens. I am printing a small image, not a large image where every detail is visible. So while I have a low f-number, I am doing everything else to get enough DOF.

So yes, you can get enough DOF even at a large aperture (low f-number). Which I wanted to avoid high ISOs.  This was 1600 ISO at 1/60 sec. Handheld.

 

The difference is…

Question: What is the difference between two photos? Why?

Hint: I used a 16mm lens.

Answer:

Can you see that the flash is concentrated in a small circle in photo 1?

Well… you know that when you zoom, or change lenses, the flash changes its zoom, right?  But the widest zoom is 24mm, and I shot at 16mm. That is the top picture. The zoom circle is too small for the picture.

In the bottom picture, I pulled out the plastic “wide angle adapter”, the transparent plastic square you can pull out to cover the front (not the white sheet). This is not a softener; it is merely the 14mm adapter”. The zoom device for wider than 24mm. It makes the beam wider, see picture 2.

That’s all: when you zoom wider than 24mm, pull out the wide angle adapter.


Only if necessary

I generally recommend doing things only if they need to be done. And one of those things is a make-up artist (a “MUA”). You can be pretty sure that TV producers, for example, would not use make up artists if they were not necessary. But they are. Witness:

Make up artists do not just fix blemishes. They also shape the face so it is suitable for the shoot. Here’s MUA Melissa Telisman doing her thing:

And here’s what that results in:

Glamour and perfection without “photoshopping”, which I am not a fan of. Vut make-up is not just for glamour; not at all. I recommend a MUA and a hair stylist for corporate shoots, too, especially—but not only—if women are involved. If TV shows do it, you can be sure it is necessary, and not a luxury.

Incidentally: do we need the entire person in every shot?

No.

Decidedly no. You get a much more intimate feeling when you do an extreme close-up (an ECU, in movie terms). Try it; experiment in your next shoot and do some shots like the one above. You’ll love them.