Brantford, listen up

Live in Brantford, Ontario, or nearby? And like photography? Then I am organizing a free learning meetup for you! See and I hope to see you there. Limited space, just 10 people can be accommodated, and it is already half full as we speak. :-)

I will brief all my readers on what I do in such meetups.  So that even those of you not in Brantford get benefit out of it.  And so that you can all, before long, make photos like this, that combine manual exposure, manual off-camera flash, using the sun as back light, good composition, and deliberate use of flare:

Hope to see y’all Sunday, 11AM. Right here, 48 Wilkes Street:

Logistics: There is street parking available. I will have water; perhaps if you like, bring a bottle of pop or something (of course at paid events, I will always have snacks and drinks available).


The studio

A studio is all about convenience, I find. I can work without one, but in a studio I have everything set up and ready to go. This is my Brantford studio a day ago, before I had finished tidying:

Notice that a studio need not be tidy. It needs to be well organized, large, and it needs all the equipment ready to use. All the equipment being

  • Cameras and lenses
  • Backdrops,
  • Many small flashes, many strobes
  • One or two hotlights (for video)
  • A host of modifiers
  • Light stands
  • Reflectors
  • Gadgets, like brackets
  • …and so on.

In my studio, I have two stations set up permanently. One for traditional portraits like this:

(Standard Studio Setting: 100 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/8)

And one for edgy portraits like this, of my friend Adam pretending to be a pregnant woman:

(Standard Studio Setting: 100 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/8)

So do you need a permanent studio? Of course not. But it sure makes life easier and shoots faster to carry out. And it takes the guesswork out of photography.

My Brantford studio is now open for individual and class training, and portraiture. Just 20 minutes west of Hamilton, Brantford is centrally located, between the GTA, London, and Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph. Come see me if you need a portrait for LinkedIn, a family portrait, or any form of photography training.



OK… I can do my job again: I have moved to Brantford, Ontario, and am open for business with a newer, larger studio. Need a portrait for LinkedIn or your company web site? Or need a family portrait? Or have a corporate or family event you would like photographed? Or a wedding? Whatever it is, I am here for you: let me quote.  Or if you want to learn: I teach privately, as well as at Sheridan College in Oakville, and I talk at photography clubs.

At the Ex: the Krispy Kreme Donut Burger was great

Please do photograph yourself and your events: life is short and the days pass you by and can never be replaced. The universe had 20 billion years without you; then you and your loved ones get here; then, an infinity of nothing. That blink is everything: photographing it is the way to keep your precious moments forever—and every moment is precious.

Today’s lesson is a reader question:

“Do you use TTL when shooting events? My results are inconsistent with a lot of under- and ocverexposed shots.”

Yes I use TTL, and I am very consistent. How? Read this article: “TTL: 10 problems, 20 solutions”. Practice all that and you know how to get TTL event consistency!

Give me a call: 416-875-8770 or email


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.