Night time.

It’s early night, here in Brantford, Ontario.


The full moon pretty much guarantees that the local police will have a busy night. And I am taking a snapshot on my way from the convenience store to my home. The moon needs “Sunny Sixteen” (search for it here). Meaning it is as bright as earth at noon on a sunny day.

So getting them together is impossible. And when you want to get a photo like the one above, your best bet is to slightly over-expose the moon, so that you can get at least some light into the dark part of the picture.

Why don’t you go outside right now to take a few snaps?

Size Matters

Focal length, that is; i.e. size of your lens. For example, when doing portraits.

General rule for headshots: the longer the lens, the better.

But it is not the lens that does the magic. It is your proximity to the subject.

With a short lens, like a 50mm, you need to be close to the subject. That causes some distortion; the closer, the more.

With a 200mm lens, however, you can be far, leading to a much more neutral, less distorted view:

See the difference? And that is viible on real faxes, too:

…and that is why my 70-200 lens is my favourite portrait lens. Provided I have enough space.

And that is where the second advantage comes in: being farther away, you are perceived as less “threatening” by your subjects. Meaning less awkwardness.



Portrait of the artist as a… ehm… a young man.

That’s me, by a Sheridan College student last week. Standard four lights: key, fill, hair/edge, and background. All using speedlights with modifiers, namely umbrellas, snoot (for the hair light) and a grid (for the background light). Easy to set up, and easy to shoot.

Tomorrow, I will shoot a self portrait, and I recommend that you do, too, Self portraits are very good practice. They need you to have technical skills, as well as a feeling for personality and composition. Go wild!


Just a moment.

When I shoot events, of course I do many “smile at the camera” photos. People like those, and with good reason. They show you were there, having a good time. Photos like these:

It is easy to do them: use the right lens, make the background bright enough, use a high enough ISO, bounce the flash upward behind you, and ensure that both people are the same distance away from you. (move yourself, or move them, to achieve that). Most of my images that evening were made at 6400 or 3200 ISO, 1/30 sec, f/2, using a 35mm f/1.4 lens.

But I also like to shoot moments. People doing things. As my fellow photographer Story Wilkins put it to me a few years ago: “if it smiles, shoot it”.

Here are a few examples from my recent Halloween shoot:

Those give you a good idea of the event, n’est-ce-pas?

If you like those, try to do the same, next time you shoot a family get-together—or a commercial event.Reflect the fun. And have some fun yourself, too. Best way to get the mood down in photos.



Ever wonder why models never smile in advertising photography? Why they always look so serious… aggressive even, sometimes?

Because they want to look perfect, that’s why.

Smiles create smile lines… but unlike you and I, photo editors, Cosmo readers, and models who want perfection call these lines “wrinkles”. And they dislike them, and the shadows they create. Like so:

The aforementioned (and, truth be told, most women) usually prefer this, a very “no-shadow” neutral look where skin is perfect:

If you are shooting traditional model shots, like for a portfolio, that’s what you do.

  1. Puff out some air, like when you voice the letter “P”.
  2. Let face come to a rest; this takes 1-2 seconds.
  3. Leave mouth ever so slightly open.
  4. Ensure that all facial muscles are 100% relaxed.

Result: skin is flawless. No shadows, no unevenness, no wrinkles. No personality is shown. Just beauty.

But wait. The look you want depends on what you are shooting. When you want to depict personality, you can have a person looking angry, surprised, sad… even happy. Like this:

So relax and shoot what you want. Do not shout “smile!” for every shot; but do not avoid all smiles either. If only because your model will feel better. But also because you may indeed want to show different sides of a person’s personality.