Available light

Yes, available light rocks! Beautiful, colourful, soft, and so on. But when a photographer says “I am an available light photographer” or “I am a natural light photographer”, that usually means “I don’t know flash”.

Because it is often in the mixing of available light and flash light that things get interesting. Certainly in daylight.

Also–hiring a pro pays. Yes, you can get it done cheaper by Uncle Fred, but would you get pictures like these, from yesterday’s family shoot? (Hint: “no”.) A few hundred dollars and you have memories for life:






If you can see these pictures, there’s plenty of available light. But had I not had my assistant hold the flash off the side near the subjects, they would have been silhouettes! Or I could have exposed for the subjects – in that case, a very bright, blown out background–with very little colour.

So you hire a pro for this. Right equipment (that super sharp lens); Right technique:

You have heard this from me before:

  1. Use the magic outdoors formula, and only vary f-number.
  2. Use long(-ish) lens (85mm prime in this case).
  3. Subjects away from the sun: means no squinting and the sun becomes hair-light.
  4. Fill with flash, off to the side for modelling.avoiding “flat” look.
  5. Flash fired in this case with radio triggers (Pocketwizards), and on manual, 1/8 power, with Honlphoto 12″ softbox (click on the small ad on the right to order, and use code word “willems” to get an additional 10% off).

BUT THERE IS MORE. If I print, I ensure that the print is perfect. Permanent photo paper. Pigment printing (not dye, which can fade). If a face is too pale, I selectively increase colour saturation in the face. And so on. That takes time, and it is exactly what Walmart et al do not do.

All this is what I teach in my live or online workshops: contact me to learn more, or see http://learning.photography .

And take some fall pictures, or have me do it!



Today’s pics

I was hired to take some fall pictures of a woman and her dog today.

Like these:





In pictures like this one challenge is that the dog is the same colours as the background. That’s where (off-camera) flash comes to the rescue. That allows me to make the subjects brighter, and the background dark. And the sun is the hair-light. (all that is what I teach in my courses and books).

Lenses: 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200 f/2.8. Camera Settings: 100 ISO, f/3.2, and 1/250 to 1/400 sec.

1/400 sec? Impossible. That’s beyond the camera’s “sync speed”. But actually: very possible; you just don’t get the entire picture being lit. Which is sometimes fine.

And finally: a no flash/flash comparison:


Remember Willems’s Dictum: Bright Pixels are Sharp Pixels.


Photographer, or…?

…or illustrator?

I am a big fan of being a photographer–meaning you do the work in the camera. But sometimes even I do some post-production work. Like here in this edited flash picture:


That makes an OK picture a good picture, mainly because it dramatically simplifies it. See an earlier post for the “recipe” for this Andy Warhol-like effect – but I suggest you make your own. Much more fun. Simple (I used Lightroom) and quick.


Intermezzo, and, join me Sunday?

A bit slow this week as I have been in bed with flu-like symptoms. Meanwhile, here’s some depth – remember, to make your images “real looking”, use a close by subject against a farther background (“close-far”):


Now – flash. A long workshop, all hands-on, this Sunday. The last two sold out. But PLENTY of space for this one. Think about it: you’d find this VERY useful. Hands on, so you do your own pictures, build the sets, connect the Pocketwizards, etc – and it’s a LONG one.

Another view of Toronto

As seen from the Don Valley Parkway on Saturday around noon:


Made at 1/500 sec, f/11, 400 ISO, with a 16mm lens.

Why and how those decisions?

  • 16mm to get it in and to make it easy for me in terms of shutter speed and depth of field.
  • 1/500 sec because I am doing this handheld in one hand.
  • f/11 to ensure focus and DOF: I am focusing without truly looking.
  • 400 ISO to enable the above.

…in a hurry! You may notice the similarity to the “sunny 16 rule”: my settings are just 2/3 stop lighter than sunny sixteen. When you are experienced in these things, settings become simple. Just try.