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

Zoom zoom zoom.

Your flash has a ZOOM function. This allows the light to be sent “where the lens looks”. If you use a telephoto lens, why send light to the sides, where the lens cannot see? This would waste energy.

Normally, the zoom factor is set automatically, depending on the lens. Look at the back of your flash and zoom your lens just after touching the shutter button: the flash will alter its zoom as you move the zoom lens through its range. No work for you. So the light goes only where the lens looks.

But you can override this. Set flash zoom to “M” (manual). Like here: Wide lens, but I zoomed the flash in as much as I could:

See? A small oval of light.

Why would I want to do this?

  • Sometimes, I do this for effect.
  • Sometimes I do it to get more power: A concentrated small beam is brighter than a wide area, of course.
  • And sometimes, I do it for correction.

Like here:

My garage during the recent garage art sale.

Without flash, it looked like this:

The back was dark, so I needed flash. But I did not want that flash to light up the close areas, which were already very bright. Solution: zoom the flash in manually. The lens was 16mm; I zoomed the flash to about 50mm if I recall correctly. That sent light only there where it was needed.

Problem solved. More even, without overexposure of the foreground.

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Opportunity Knocks: Learn everything I know. See http://learning.photography for all my photography learning books. And decorate your home or office with wall art: the garage sale is permanent. Contact me if you want to see my prints.

 

Daily tip: Power

Flash TIP OF THE DAY:

Say that you are ready to take a TTL flash shot. Once you have set your camera to a certain ISO and aperture and flash exposure compensation, and you have decided how to point the flash, you can do your test shot.

Say it is too dark. Why? Is it “incorrect metering, subject too light, etc”, or is it just “not enough power at this ISO/Aperture” (the shutter makes no difference)?

To ascertain that, and to see how much reserve you have, set your flash to manual, full (1/1) power:

The example shows half power (1/2); you should select full power (1/1, or 100%).

If you now have an overexposed picture, you know you can do the shot. Go back to TTL (press “mode” until “M” changes to “TTL”) and try again, changing flash compensation until your picture is good.

But if instead, your picture is too dark still, then there is simply insufficient power available. So no amount of flash compensation or metering changes will help. Instead, you have to lower the F-number or increase the ISO until that is no longer the case. (Or you could move to a room with a lower ceiling, if you are bouncing the flash).

I.e. if I were to sum this up, I would say:

Never go to TTL unless in full power manual, your picture is overexposed.

Simple, no? But you would be surprised how many photographers struggle with this simple check.

 

Jane and hats

This is Jane Dayus-Hinch at today’s Bridal Show in Toronto:

As you see, Jane wears hats. Large hats. And these are extremely challenging, photographically. You will get very dark eyes.

What you can do:

  • If using flash, lower your lights a little, and perhaps move them a little farther away.
  • Tip the hat up a little.
  • Add a reflector underneath.
  • Use a white floor with a lot of ambient light mixed in (as I did here).
  • Do some post work.

Even with these, the conditions will still not be perfect, so you may have to live with slightly darker eyes. But at least the photos will be acceptable, as this one is. And as Jane’s photographer, I have to be able to handle hats!

 

 

Business note for a changing world

According to Poynter in an article dated today, Sports Illustrated has just fired all of its photographers. Story is here (click).

A sad story, but it is perhaps not quite as sad as it seems at first sight. After all, the magazine will still be illustrated. Someone is still going to be sitting there with big lenses snapping away. The magazine will just have to use freelancers instead. Meaning varying quality levels and logistics challenges, but also meaning (or so the accountants in charge hope) savings.

No more vacation time. No sick leave. No travel cost, hotels, or airfare. Now, the freelancer has to buy his or her own lenses. No cost except a fee per shoot. An accountant’s dream.

But a manager’s nightmare: it also means no loyalty, no common approach, no consistency of skills. And debatable cost savings once all that is taken into account.

Uncommoditize Yourself

What it shows very clearly is that the accountants see photography as a commodity. The perception is that photography is what you do with a camera, so if you have the camera you have what you need: just aim and shoot. “My uncle has one of those” means “my uncle is therefore a photographer as well”.

So what you need to do if you want to make a living (or continue to make a living) as a photographer is to ensure that your product or service is not seen as a commodity. From beginning to end, you need to educate your clients and potential clients. Some of the ways are photography related; many are almost trivial:

  • My product says “quality” from beginning to end.
  • I use large cameras. Uncle Fred has a smaller camera.
  • I write this blog and I write books.
  • I have a good web presence.
  • I use techniques (like dramatic flash) that ensure I am seen as different.
  • ‘I develop a personal style, a recognizable one.
  • I produce prints, with a nice margin, on pro paper.
  • I handle them with gloves on.
  • My emails have a good signature file.
  • My envelopes have printed labels, not handwritten scribbles.
  • I do professional post work in Adobe Lightroom, again with a recognizable personal style.
  • …and so on.

It’s not so difficult to make your product stand out. But it is essential. The small, almost trivial things can in fact be very important (consider the “out of the box experience” or the magnetic power supply connection when you buy an Apple product). Offer value, and once your clients see this value, they will appreciate it.

It may of course mean moving out of photojournalism and into, say, weddings, or something else. The world keeps changing and nevertheless there will always be successful photographers. Just not as many of them as there were before. Start thinking now and you can be one of them.

 

By all means join the comments (above, click in the bubble).

 

Macro tip

A repeat post, from a year ago: because it still matters.

Whenever you take a close-up photo – and it does not have to be one taken with a special macro lens – try to ensure that your object is clean. That saves so much work!

Take this image (taken for my fourth e-book):

That may look fine, but if you click and look closely, you will see there is a lot of dust, as well as some scratches, hair, etc.

To make it usable, here’s the dust I had to “remove” in Lightroom: this work image shows one circular marker per bit of dust, etc, that I removed:

..which leads to this resulting final image:

Looks the same? Not when you zoom in. When you zoom in, you see that this one is really very much better.

I hope you take two things away from this. First, the obvious “clean things, especially black things, before you shoot them”. But second: what you see is not always what there was. A professional image often has a lot of work done on it before it is a professional image. There’s no such thing as “click and shoot”.

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Michael Willems writes blog posts. He also shoots, writes books, and teaches. Check him out on his web site www.michaelwillems.ca, and check out the services and products on the online store, http://learning.photography. If you want to learn to shoot like a pro, or if you are already a pro, if you wish to shoot like a better pro, then you have come to the right place.