Here, from years ago, is an assignment for you:

Put your 50mm f/1.8 lens on your camera and, using just available light, go shoot twelve things in your living room that show its character. Or shoot lots, but pick the best twelve.

Then put these together in a 3×4 arrangement, like this (yes that was my living room at the time):

Living Room Miniatures

This assignment forces you to look properly. What is it that shows the character? What makes for a simple shot? It also forces you to use the right techniques for simplifying and filling the frame. And you get to practice low-light shooting, selective focus, and so on.

But most of all, you get to think about subjects. Initially you’ll struggle to find ten – then suddenly 100 pictures will suggest themselves.

Show me your results!

Crop thoughts.

Cropping your photos is important. Of course you are doing that while shooting, but you often do it while post-editing, as well. Remember a few things.

  1. There is a “feels best–orientation” for many photos.
  2. Simplify.
  3. Simplify
  4. Simplify.

Look at this:


It is clear that a horizontal layout suits this best. It’s all about those four equal sized horizontal layers. Yes, I was lucky. And see how simple I kept it. The one bird. That’s the only item other than those layers. Every item you crop out makes your photo simpler.

And this:


Also good and simple. But it occurs to me that this would also make a good magazine cover if cropped vertically, thus:

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Often, the only way to know is: try. So in Lightroom, experiment with closer crops and with altering orientation.

Have fun!



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Shoot it all.

One piece of advice to you photographers out there: shoot everything. As do I: from news to portraits to industry to birds. So sometimes I go out with a friend for a few hours, as I did last night. Here’s a few of the results, from Hamilton, Ontario. An industrial city (“Steeltown”), and more; I go out opt my way to shoot that industry. Why on earth? Surely there’s no beauty there?

Well, I think there can be. Especially if you choose the moment right; in this case, around sunset. Here are a few samples:

For these, I needed to be quick. Back focus (no time even to change to AI Servo) and quick reactions meant most were good:

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For these, I had to wait until ambient light was almost gone:


This is out of focus deliberately:


MV Floretgracht (and you are Dutch if you can pronounce that):


And a few more samples:


Layer cake?


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I do not often shoot these things–which makes it important to every now and then do just that. Do the same: go shoot something you rarely shoot!



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 or if you prefer, call me, to schedule an appointment. Finally, the ability to confidently translate your vision into a photo!


Today, Rockwood conservation area in Guelph, a field workshop I taught for

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This type of walkaround course is very good at helping you put theory into practice. If you want to learn, really learn, consider coming on one of my get out and shoot courses!