Digital Camera Straps?

I am struck today by yet another ad for a “digital” device, This time, a grey card.

Here’s the online product description:

Let’s parse that, shall we? Read all the bullets and you see that they are either circular (it is for digital because it was “designed for digital”), or irrelevant. Or dumb (“susceptible to damage”: what, digital photographer damages cardboard more than film photography did?)

The only “advantage” that has anything to do with anything is “spectrally uniform”. Well, so are the old pieces of cardboard. There is really nothing in there that has anything to do with “digital”, so why they say “these will not work for film cameras” is beyond me.

Or rather, it is not beyond me.

It’s called “marketing”.

Companies want you to buy things, and re-labelling everything “digital” takes advantage of gullible innocents, who think they must buy new UV filters, grey cards; anything they can stick the word “Digital” in front of. Soon we will have digital camera straps!

So, my advice: when something you already own is re-marketed with the word “digital”, be very suspicious. It’s quite probably just a money grab.


Those of you who live in, or near, Brantford: I am holding a meetup Saturday, 10AM… read all about it here. There is still space.

What a mess!

Let’s talk for a moment about your studio.

A studio is a space where you make photos like this typical studio shot of Evangeline just days before she gave birth to her son:

That’s straight out of the camera, unfinished.

And where was that made? Right here:

Messy eh! But that does not show up in the photo!

Studio requirements:

  • Large enough
  • High enough (hence my unfinished ceilings)
  • Power everywhere
  • Ability to hang backdrops
  • Ability to have things easily at hand. Things like light stands, flashes, modifiers.

My studio meets all those requirements, and then some. It is one large space, which is what I like most about it.

Sunday, I am doing a Meetup here: a free workshop for would-be pro photographers who live in or around Brantford. Check it out if you like here and want to learn about photography!



DEALS – DEALS – DEALS! A good friend is selling photo equipment. Here’s the next lot. If you are interested, let me know and I will forward your email/message to the seller immediately! (I love the Bowens lights, I use them too; and just for the record, I am not profiting from this sale in any way)

FOR SALE: Bowens Gemini 500/R TX UM/SB Kit with Battery – Lighting Kit

In mint condition. Used about 6 times. Bowens Gemini 500/R TX UM/SB Kit with large Bowens travel kit battery, 2 strobes and stands, softbox, bag, spare 3 meter cable, 3 year warranty and quick ring for softbox and upgraded to Westcott 45″ white satin w/black removable cover umbrella. Great for on location shoots – powerful. Paid $2600 in Sept/14. Asking $1900.


Email me at



Travel photography is a popular reason for people to buy a camera, and to actually use it. Before you go, buy my book on travel photography and have me put on my Impactful Travel Photography seminar for you and a few friends (see  And let me give you just a couple of starting notes in this post.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

First: research where exactly you are going to go. I use Flickr and to a lesser extent Google image search to look for great images in the location I am going to. Then I look up where exactly they were taken, and at what time of day (Flickr usually retains the EXIF data). I look for best viewpoints and then research where they are: “where was that great photo taken from, and at what time”. I even look at what lenses were used. Not that you should copy, but you can draw conclusions from that kind of data.

View from the Hotel Chelsea, NY, NY

I also look up attractions’ GPS coordinates, since attractions do not always have a street address. You can google that: Searching for “latitude and longitude of Zabriskie Point” gives you “36.4200° N, 116.8111° W”.

I also look for shooting locations of Hollywood movies: why not let Hollywood do the heavy lifting of finding great locations?

On location, I always ask the hotel reception, the concierge; I buy postcards of locations, and I look for events, since people often do not mind being photographed at them; they expect, rather than resist, cameras.

Bring an app like Daylight to check exact sunrise and sunset times; an hour each way around sunrise and sunset , you get wonderful light.

Then check you have what you need. Camera(s); batteries; chargers; memory cards; lenses; flash(es); perhaps an ND and Polarizing filter or two; some cloths for cleaning (anything that is small, light and cheap is good!); whatever you need, think about it now, not just before traveling.

In other words: preparation does wonders when traveling.

Make it better.

Here’s a typical outside flash shot. (Taken by the über-talented photographer Lisa Mininni while I was teaching her flash tricks yesterday):

What did we do to make this?

[A] Take the shot:

This was a flash shot, of course. So outside in bright sunlight the settings are very, very simple.

  1. Pocketwizard on camera.
  2. Second Pocketwizard connected to the flash by means of a “Pocketwizard to hotshoe”–cable from Modify with a softbox or umbrella (the latter is smaller but will blow over more easily in the slightest breeze).
  3. Flash set to manual, half power. (Be ready to increase to full if you need to—but the flash may overheat, and recharge time between shots will be long).
  4. White balance to “Flash”.
  5. Camera manual, 100 ISO, 1/250 sec.
  6. Then, determine the aperture you need for a good background. Start at f/8—and then vary from there. On a day like yesterday, I needed f/11 to f/16.
  7. Once your background is right, look at the flash part. If the flash is too bright, reduce its power level or move it farther away from what it is lighting. If the flash is too dark, increase its power level or move it closer to what it is lighting. Or add a second flash, Worst case, use direct, unmodified flash.

[B] Finish the shot:

That finishing (not “editing”!) is just as important as taking the photo, and it consists of:

  1. Verify exposure and tweak if necessary. (If you have taken the shot properly, this should not be needed.) Pay attention also to “highlights” and “blacks”.
  2. Set white balance to “Flash”, if it wasn’t already. (Ditto).
  3. Correct lens and “architecture”–distortion.
  4. Crop and rotate if/as needed.
  5. Sharpen if/as needed.
  6. Perhaps add a very slight post-crop vignette.

Those steps are pretty much standard, and a typical picture takes me less than 30 seconds to finish.

[C] Options

I could of course add another flash, for the background. Set that to quarter power.

OK. How was this shot lit, then? Here’s how:

That’s right—always make a pullback shot, where you can see the lighting setup. You’ll forget. I used a third pocketwizard connected to the second flash via a second hotshoe cable.

Is this rocket science? No. But it is fun and it does open up untold creative possibilities.


Come to me for a private lesson and I will teach you how to do this, how to use modifiers, how to balance light sources, how to use gels, and much, much more,. You don’t need much, other than an SLR, a flash, and knowledge of the basics (“what is aperture and shutter speed and how do they work”)—but I can even teach you those if you like. See or give me a call on +1 416-875-8770 and never look back. I can teach you remotely, too, using Google hangouts, too, even if you are in, say, Australia.