Remember these?

That’s my Nikon FE. A film camera.

I shoot film every now and then.


Because it disciplines me and keep my skills sharp. When you shoot a roll of film you get no instant replay of the photo you’re taking. You also know you are spending a dollar every time you click. This means both that you have to get the pictures right and that you have to pay attention.

You end up taking 36 photos, not 360. And you will have carefully considered each one. You will spend perhaps a minute focusing carefully, composing carefully, and exposing carefully. No room for mistakes. You are, in other words, being a real photographer.

If the shoot is really important, I carry a little digital camera to try out my exposure settings every now and then. Just like in the past I would have used a Polaroid camera to try out the settings. There is no shame in that.

This is why I recommend everything should shoot fill up every now and then. Go buy a used, good condition film camera. This will cost you perhaps $150. Use C – 41 color film. This is the easiest to get developed. And then, scanned so you get digital files to edit, too.

Try it and feel the satisfaction that comes from having done a good job. Go on, give it a try. If you can shoot a roll of film flawlessly, you are a real photographer.

If you cannot do this, then at least turn off the review function on your digital camera. Pretend you’re digital SLR is in fact a film SLR, and do not look at the pictures until after the shoot. That way you will still grow the same set of skills.

A difficult shoot

A shoot Saturday. A club, with no good ceiling or wall to bounce from. And no light to focus. And an audience that did not stand still for a moment, meaning focus was even more difficult. Those were the three main problems.

And yet:

Wow, eh. 325 photos like that.

So what’s the secret?

Boiled down to a few bullets, it is:

  • Expose for a “–2 stops” background, as you know from my Flash courses.
  • Feel free to use high, or very high, ISO values. Use noise reduction in post-processing (e.g. in Lightroom).
  • Use prime lenses, or at least have them available.
  • Shoot a lot: as much as twice as much as you need.
  • Be within about two stops of perfect, and shoot RAW.
  • Take any portraits at least twice, in case focus is off, etc.
  • Look for “moments“, not just steady “grip and grin” images.
  • (Hence): do not be afraid to throw out half your pictures.
  • Be willing to do post work on many pictures.

In Saturday’s shoot I had over 700 pictures, and that boiled down to about 600 usable ones, of which I used 325 (Why? Well, if you have five pictures of a specific moment, you may want to use just one).

I shot the majority of my images at 6400 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/2, using a 35mm f/1,4 lens). And even then I had to push many of the images. 

But with a modern camera, it is doable, and even an impossible venue like Saturday’s can lead to a great shoot.

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