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

About EXIF data

You have read before that I use a utility called EXIFTOOL to read EXIF data embedded in files. And there is much more embedded than you think. One important piece of data: file creation date. Take this, of a funnel cloud over Oakville  few years ago:

Apple INFO thinks;

2009, cool.

But EXIFTOOL gives me the real creation date:

Now in this case, Lightroom would have also given me the right date. But there are many more pieces of information in the EXIF data than Lightroom tells you. Go install EXIFTOOL (search for it) and have fun seeing what hidden gems of information your pictures contain.





High Noon

Just let me dispel that persistent myth that you cannot shoot at high noon. In bright sunlight. Well, you can shoot, but you will get awful pictures.


Here. Look at this. Talented photographer Tanya Cimera Brown, yesterday, at noon, on what must be the brightest day this year so far. So this is in bright, harsh, horrible, colour-saturation-destroying, full-on sunshine. Straight out of the camera:

The sky is nice, the red-blue-green theme woks, the model is great, the sun provides a nice “shampooey goodness” hair light: what more can we ask for? And that is with a camera that can only sync at 1/160 second. With my 1/250 sec 1Dx I could do even better. With the old 1D I used to have, even better, at 1/300 second.

OK. That’s using a strobe. Can you do it with speedlights? Sure. You may need to go unmodified, to have enough light; and that means off camera. Here: two speedlights, aimed direct at the subject from off camera positions, do this:

And this: two of me, by Tanya, using the same techniques:

All those were also SOOC (Straight out of Camera).

So learn flash already!

For best results, do my Flash in the Plan program: take my course and get the book (for both, go to http://learning.photography); then follow with a hands-on session, and you will know how to do this. It’s not rocket science, but you need to learn the background, understand the constraints, and learn the artistic tips. Then, you can do this too (provided you have a model as beautiful as Tanya, of course):

Because yes, you CAN do great work at high noon. All you need is flashes and skills. And a camera, of course. Show the world what you can do!



I am busy with my amateur radios:

As we speak, I am talking to Bill, AK5WB in Texas on 20 metres, using the new antenna above, a 6 band tuned “Butternut” vertical that took me a day or two to set up and tune. But it was worth it.

And I was discussing pixels with Bill. He wondered why Canon went down to just 18 Mpixel from the previous higher pixel counts?

Because it gives you lower noise, which at higher ISOs becomes obvious.

But isn’t it a drawback, having fewer pixels/

Yes, but not as much as you might imagine. Like any log scale—just like power in radio, for instance. Going up from 100 Watt to 130, or down to 70, has no discernible effect. That is, the effect is so small as to be negligible. Not so with noise! Hence the fewer pixels in some top cameras.

73 de VA3MVW!


Simple is good

And that can also apply to black and white photos. These recent business photos prove the point, it seems to me:

Both work very well in B/W:

  • The colour is not distracting (a yellow hallway. a green kitchemn)
  • I can make skin lighter or darker by dragging “Orange” in the B/W slider (HSL section) up or down.
  • I cam make other items lighter and darker too, this separating subject from b/g.

That is why I always send b/w versions of my photos to clients. Properly finished B/W versions, that is.



I refer to this story, about a Vancouver wedding photographer who had her Macbook stolen from her car, with wedding photos on it. Not yet backed up.

There is so much wrong with this. Of course I don’t know this photographer, but the story as reported (i.e. if true) gives me no sympathy for her at all.

“No backup yet”? Huh? Her memory card is one, the laptop another, i.e. the laptop is the backup. Why did she wipe the memory cards? I am guessing, to save a few dollars. A very unwise choice; a very false economy. You must never have any photo in only one place. Every hard drive fails. Not if, but when.

She “normally backs up online”? Oh? An all-day wedding probably involves 1000 pictures. And if they are RAW (which they must be for something as important as a wedding) that is 1,000 x 15 MByte, i.e. 15 GBytes. Try uploading that.  So if she does back up online she is backing up small JPG files. Ouch!

In the video, she is holding the camera wrong; an amateur dead giveaway. It looks like she is using a low end camera with a kit lens. According to the news report, she is “relatively new to the profession”, and these were “among her first weddings”.

In my opinion, and again, if the facts are as reported, she has no business shooting weddings until she learns more. Weddings are very, very demanding. The most difficult photography. You need mad skills. Experience. In areas like fashion, food, product, event, portrait, and journalism. You also need high-end equipment, cameras, lenses. Spares for all that equipment. Flashes. Cameras that always save each picture to two cards at the same time (I would not touch a wedding without that!).

If you ever think “why is this photographer so expensive”… it’s because that photographer does things properly, so you do not end up the way these newlyweds did.