“No RAW Please, We’re Reuters”

No RAW for Reuters freelancers anymore, we saw yesterday:


The Verge gets it right in this article. The policy, while somewhat understandable, is shortsighted, because:

  • A JPG can also be manipulated, so mandating “JPG” is no guarantee of an unedited image.
  • Some cameras, like my 1Dx, even allow editing of RAW pictures in camera to produce an edited JPG.
  • Now journalists have to get exposure and white balance right in camera, when shooting. As well as colour space, sharpening, contrast, saturation. These are in fact all set in camera prior to the JPG being made, so every JPG is a “manipulated RAW”. Why does it make a difference whether you do this manipulation in camera or in Lightroom? If you have to do it all in camera, you waste valuable shooting time.
  • [edit:]Now, journalists cannot “expose to the right”: a technique designed to limit noise and hence to obtain maximum quality.
  • Size. Often, news editors have requirements like “a 1MB file”. You have control over this in Lightroom, but not in camera.

A much better policy would be: do whatever you like, but if the JPG you send us was edited in Lightroom, make sure you include all the EXIF data (i.e. do not restrict that when making an export).


World Naked Bike Ride photographers: RAW, or In The Raw?

As for the ethics angle: sure. It is sensible to set limits to what you can do, namely:

  • Exposure, colour, colour space, and white balance adjustments are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Saturation, clarity, and vibrance adjustments are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Cropping is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Rotating is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Lens corrections (e.g. architectural corrections) are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Removing chromatic aberration is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Noise reduction is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • B/W conversions are fine, but only with “standard” channel settings, and not to manipulate the truth.
  • Sharpening is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Not fine: vignetting, graduated fill, spot removal/the healing tool, adding grain, and any other change to the image, especially, of course, changes designed to manipulate the truth.

“Manipulating the truth” means changing anything that changes the facts. That can include removing or adding objects. Changing sizes and shapes to change positioning or distances. Making skies darker using graduated filters. Anything, in other words, that causes a photo to be interpreted in such a way that it does not reflect the actual truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Above all, it is important to have a clearly stated policy. Nothing worse for a photojournalist than to have uncertainty over what is, or is not, allowed.

And that, for the record, is my $0.02.


Sure you can do good photos with just one flash. Look at some examples from last night’s Sheridan College class.

One flash, fitted with a Honl photo 1/4″ grid:

One flash, fitted with a small Honl photo 12″ softbox:

And one flash, fitted with a shoot-through umbrella:

As you see, all these are acceptable or good. The umbrella is a little softer, but it throws light all over the room. The softbox is probably the best option here.

I used the standard “studio settings”: 1/125 sec, f/8, at 200 ISO in order to keep the ambient light out.



Why do I decide on certain camera settings?

Look at an example shot (the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, where if you weigh over 350lbs you eat for free).

I used my 50mm f/1.2 lens that night: I wanted small size, good quality, and the ability to open the aperture if needed.

That’s 1600 ISO, f/5.6, and 1/30th sec (in that order).

And here, the menu:

That’s 1600 ISO, 1/60th, f/4. Yum, a septuple bypass burger!

OK, so why those settings?

At night I decided 1600 ISO would be a good starting point. (experience told me this).

Next, I wanted f/5.6 to get depth of field with my 50mm lens (ditto, experience told me that also). I also wanted f/5.6 to be able to decrease that number quickly, all the way to f/1.2 if needed, in case of lower light.

That f/5.6 gave me 1/30th sec with this kind of lighting, which also I knew I could do handheld (I am quite steady). If it had given me a slower speed I would have increased the ISO to 3200, say.

If I had wanted more depth of field, ditto: this was f/8 at 3200 ISO (one stop smaller aperture = one stop higher ISO).

That’s the thinking process. Can you see how it works? With a bit of experience and application of the basic rules of aperture, shutter and ISO, you get there. That’s really all you need.

Note that all three pictures are similar in exposure value, since all three are artificially lit objects that are not far apart on brightness.

My 12-week course at Sheridan College started yesterday night – 20 students who will know all this within weeks. Do learn! And do consider my e-books to help in that. And come back with great pics.

Magic Recipes

We all want simple starting points, Right? So here’s five of my simple flash “recipes” – great starting points. This post you may want to print!

The following are four great, simple to remember, starting points. They are no substitute for proper learning, but they are very good in the context of that learning. And you can try them today. Now. These recipes all have you using one or more small flashes (speedlights). Adjust them as needed!

I .Indoors Flash, Warm Backgrounds:

For this, you use the Willems 400-40-40 recipe as your starting point:

  • 400 ISO
  • 1/40th second
  • F/4
  • Flash aimed behind you upward at 45 degrees, bounced off a wall/ceiling
  • Increase ISO when needed!

II. Studio Style Flash (big flash):

  • 100 ISO
  • 1/125th second
  • f/8

III. Studio Style Flash (small flash/modified):

  • 200 ISO
  • 1/125th second
  • f/5.6

IV. Outdoors, Sunny Day, Dramatic Portrait:

  • 100 ISO
  • 1/250th second
  • f/11 – f/18
  • You may need to use a close-by. direct (unmodified) flash.

V. Outdoors, Sunny Day, Blurry Background:

  • 100 ISO
  • 1/2000th sec
  • f/4
  • High-Speed Flash / Auto FP flash enabled!
  • You will have to be close to your subject; if modified with a softbox, extremely close.


TAKE IT FURTHER: These are some quick start points. get into depth by having me teach you. And buy my “recipe book”: 52 recipes with tips and tricks. Click here.


You can do this too.

Here’s a quick portrait of Ivan, the manager of Mississauga’s Vistek store.

Took about… oh, all of one minute.

Here’s how.

  1. Set camera to manual exposure.
  2. Select values for Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed that will make the room go dark. Here, that was 1/160th sec, f/8 at 100 ISO.
  3. Put a flash on the camera in MASTER mode (a Canon 600EX here, set to using light, not radio, as a master). (You can use the popup flash on a Nikon or on modern Canons like the 7D, 60D, etc.)
  4. Make sure that this master flash will not fire during the shot – it fires only commands (“morse code”) to slave flashes, prior to the shot. Set this on your flash or camera.
  5. Hold a slave flash (in my case a 430EX in slave mode) in your left hand.
  6. Ensure that this flash in in TTL slave mode on the same channel as your master flash.
  7. If the room is very small, put a grid (eg a Honl Photo 1/4″ grid) on the slave flash.
  8. Aim that flash directly at the subject (really).
  9. Focus, recompose
  10. Shoot!

It really was as quick as that. When you learn good technique, you too can be quick with creative shots like this.