Why go pro?

This is why. Just one example, a builder selling a wonderful, large, home in a prestigious Toronto neighborhood. So we’re talking millions. And in selling that, visual imaging is everything.

So this is what a non pro produces:


And this is what I made of that on a few seconds:


Colour, geometry, sharpness, all much better.

Details matter, and quality matters, and when you are a pro you take great care to get all the details right, both when shooting and afterward.

And I would have used a tilt-shift lens to get it straight without having to edit.

Just saying.

Another Booth!

I did a few more booths yesterday. Fun as before.

But not simple! This one took 45 minutes to set up, in a restaurant. Setup includes things like computer, printers, USB hubs, connected camera, backdrop, props, pro flashes, and much more:


Here’s the picture I produced and printed on the spot for everyone, except of course this sample is with my pictures, not my clients’:


Additional to that, my clients get the electronic files, as well. And a web site to look at them on. And I brought an assistant, who is a talented photographer himself.

Why this note? Because I realize how this is now an entirely new photography market. It’s got critical mass now. And it’s fun.

But before you take it on yourself, remember that it’s a) a lot of work, and I mean a lot, and b) complicated technically, and that c) it needs real photography- and especially people-skills. Maybe easier just to hire me: I am available for booths!



I am musing about contracts, since I am sending out quotes and event photography agreements all day today. That gets me thinking about the work I do.

The work behind the shot

Some of the work behind the shot…

One though is about my hourly fee. It is $125 plus tax per hour.

Perhaps that sounds like a lot of money, but it is not.

It is not, because it includes, free of extra charge, things like, say for a typical wedding:

  1. My travel time (often two hours);
  2. The fee for my assistant;
  3. The time I spend around the agreement (like when writing proposals);
  4. My preparation time (a few hours the night before);
  5. My post-handling time (several hours after I return);
  6. And especially my post-production editing time, which can be several days;
  7. Of course the fee also includes the use of all my tools (expensive cameras and ancillary equipment) and its maintenance (just got a camera back from Canon repair!);
  8. The basic fee also includes a preview web site for a bride’s family to look at (for at least 6 months);
  9. …and of course all the images supplied to the couple, professionally finished, as large format JPG files. You’re paying for the result. Just like for a lawyer, the cost is not just “the paper she writes the contract on plus the ink”. 

For other things I do (like training) there are similar inclusions that the hourly fee pays for: equipment, enormous time writing the courses, feedback,preparation of materials, and many other things included.

Of course I should not need to explain: a plumber also charges an hourly fee, as does a dental hygienist, and no-one wonders why. But now at least you know!


Keys To Being a Pro: Predictability

Predictability of your results, and of your ability to deliver these results in the first place, is one of the most important key factors that determine whether you can legitimately call yourself a “Pro”. It’s not whether you get paid, or even whether you can shoot a pretty picture: it’s whether you can be relied upon to do this when needed, instead.

Take this photo, for example:


A pretty picture, taken under bad circumstances: harsh sunlight at noon. But it works:

  • The sky is blue, not white;
  • In general, colours are saturated;
  • It has red, green and blue in it;
  • The subjects are the “bright pixels”;
  • The drop shadows are hardly noticeable and are not annoying where they are;
  • The composition is good;
  • The focal distance is spot on;
  • Exposure both of the ambient and of the flash part of the photo is good;

…and so on. Yes, a lot goes into the making of a good photo, and those of you who have taken one of my Dutch Masters courses, workshops or seminars, or have attended my Sheridan College courses, know all about that.

But there’s more, namely predictability.

Quick, solve this:


OK: assuming your shutter speed is under your fastest flash sync speed, leave the ambient part alone, since it is already good; just add an off-camera flash:


Yeah, that can be done even unmodified, as it is here (a couple of hours ago). As a student of mine you will know the recipe: 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, f/8 and then vary only the aperture (here, to f/11). And after you do this a bunch of times you will even know (without metering) to set the flash at 1/4 power if it’s a couple of feet away from the subject.

Quick, solve this:


Not enough ambient. You could solve this by increasing ISO or opening the aperture, but then you’d have to also set the flash to a lower power level. There’s no time for all that. So instead, you slow the shutter, from 1/200 sec to 1/100 sec:


Bingo, a brighter background (by one stop) without varying the flash picture at all.

My courses and one-on-one coaching teach you this. But they cannot teach you the essential additional requirement: predictability. The ability to come to the above conclusions within a second or two, by yourself, while shooting.

Only practice can teach you this. I’ll hand you the tools; now it’s up to you to practice using them until you are comfortable. That will make you a pro, and this ability to handle any shooting situation that can be handled means that you will face shoots with a lot more confidence.

And don’t worry. This is all, in fact, very simple. When the metaphorical light bulb in their head turns on, a lot of my students say things like “but I thought this was supposed to be complicated?!”. Nope, once you know it, it’s simple. A bit like brain surgery, really.


Schedule a workshop with me now. A one-on-one, or come with a few friends and make it a group thing.See http://learning.photography or if you prefer, call me, to schedule an appointment. Finally, the ability to confidently translate your vision into a photo!

CPS – Can’t Pay Service

In Canada, if you own Canon equipment, Canon CPS (Canon Professional Services) is the way you get decent service for your gear. But you have to have certain equipment (from a list of “pro” cameras and lenses that are new enough), and then in Canada you need to pay (in some countries this service is still free, as it was for Canada until a couple of years ago). If I recall correctly, it’s $125 for the middle service level, but it could be more than that. I’d have to check. The reason I have not renewed is exactly that: the cost.

So… my 7D camera broke. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Brampton (100km away) until just after my membership ran out.

So I had to go to the Hoi Polloi lineup instead of the “we respect you” lineup. Although I was a CPS member until a week or so before the repair, Canon no longer knew me and I had to re-supply all my details, address, and so on.

So that’s what buying $50,000 in of brand’s equipment gets you. Nothing. Good to know.

Oh, and Canon Canada “cannot” take American Express. Words fail me.