Truth—a beginner’s tip

Theories are best tested. Like the theory of exposure. Which, as it turns out, actually works. Let me show you.

Think: You are filling a bucket. Your aperture is like a faucet. Your shutter speed is “how long do you told the bucket under the tap”. Together, the time and the stream of water fill the bucket.

So here’s f/22 at 1/4 second. A triple of water, so filling the bucket is a slow process:


That should be equivalent to:

  • f/16 at 1/8. We open the faucet, but reduce the time.
  • f/11 at 1/15. We open the faucet more, but reduce the time more as well.
  • f/8 at 1/30… and so on:
  • f/5.6 at 1/60
  • f/4 at 1/125
  • f/2.8 at 1/250
  • f/2 at 1/500
  • f/1.4 at 1/1000

And indeed it is. Here’s f/1.4 at 1/1000:


You should be trying this stuff, not just reading this. We lean by doing. Muscle memory!

Bonus points:

How do I know the first one is f/22? Look at the star from the lamp top right. Star means small aperture (high f-number).

Why is the other lamp green in the fast shutter picture? Because it is a fluorescent light. It goes on and off, and changes colour, 60 times a second or more. A fast shutter speed will catch that. Your shots are all going to be a different colour/brightness.


Tip: Get my books at Amazing books which will have you actually understanding your camera and what to do with it, in record time. 


If you use Pocketwizards, or other devices connected to your camera: always clean the contacts.

I just had a student call with a question. Her pocketwizards were working intermittently and incorrectly.

The solution: clean all contacts. On the camera as well as on the devices and cables. Once that is done, it all worked.

And I have had this experience many times. So if anything malfunctions: clean all contacts. Even the lens: move it about a little; disconnect and reconnect. Most of the time, your problems are gone.


Uh oh

You hear me say it so may times: redundancy. Spares. Backups.

Yesterday I taught a course in Ajax. Flash, advanced. A “Dutch Master Class” seminar and workshop.

Here’s a few photos:





Outside is even more fun:


So I say “A few”. Why, these are in fact the only few I captured.

My assistant packed the bags, due to my tennis elbow. And guess what? She forgot the cameras. All I got was an old 7D.

And guess what day the 7D chose to completely fail?

Yup. Yesterday. Dead. Removing battery, lens, flash, and memory card made no difference. Removing the little 3V memory battery did, but then it failed again each time after one shot.

And that is why you pay for a photographer with plenty of spares and backups. Just saying!



A student asks.

Here’s me, teaching a Sheridan College class just the other day:


My student asks:

How did you know you were ready/good enough to charge for your service?

You are ready when people think it worth paying you. Period. Of course yes, you should have the standard technical skills: know about exposure, focus, colour, metering, all those basics. And the basic composition rules. But that is not indicative of a successful photographer; those are merely “hygiene factors”. Like saying an author needs to own a pen, and paper, and know the alphabet. Well, yeah, d’oh! If you are not 100% sure you have all those skills, get my camera books from

But as said: you are good enough when you manage to make people part with their money. In other words, when people want to pay for your work, your work is good enough to be paid for. A truism, but a true one. :-)

Would you say there is a specific set of equipment you need to be able to charge for, say, a wedding shoot?

Yes. redundant equipment.

Lots of lenses, several cameras, lots of flash gear: all that is good but not necessary. Depending on your style and your clients’ wishes, you COULD shoot a wedding with just one wide angle prime, for instance. Or a 35 or 50mm prime. The equipment expands your possible styles, that’s all.

But redundant (spare) equipment and at least some form of flash is necessary. It is irresponsible to shoot a wedding if you do not have backups for everything. Because anything that can fail, eventually will. Count on it. And it will be during the ceremony, in the middle of the most important part.

…Or for a portrait shoot?

No. A digital Rebel with a 50mm prime lens is enough if you will. Sure, the more the better, but by no means is that necessary. Sure. Headshots: nice to own a 70-200. Environmental portraits? a 16-35. Available light? a prime. But all those are just means to an end. If you do one type, have one style, then you need only one lens. And an affordable prime is enough. For studio, even a kit lens is fine.

Then you do need a range of flash gear and modifiers. See my flash book, and my portrait book, from



A recent encounter with a photographer leads me to re-iterate my message here: technical prowess can help expand your available options.

One of those is the use of light. Getting creative can involve any kind of light. Not just “available”, not just “Flash”, not just any type.All types. Why restrict yourself?

Take a portrait in a sunflower field. a “natural light only” photographer can do this:


Nice. But I prefer for my subject to be the “bright pixels”, because 0f Willems’s dictum that:

Bright Pixels Are Sharp Pixels.

So I, an “everything” photographer, can do the above, but I can also do this:


Which one do you prefer? The point is not that one is better. The point is that with flash added, you have a wide range of opportunities.

The above shot was made with nothing more than my camera and my usual portable umbrella outfit:

20140807-MVWX8477 (1)

By the way: My Dutch Master Class® courses teach you how to do this; how to think about flash; you learn the Three Essential Recipes: you get everything you need to get your vision into your work.