Why a MUA is needed.

[a repeat from 2014]:

I generally recommend doing things only if they need to be done. And one of those things is a make-up artist (a “MUA”). You can be pretty sure that TV producers, for example, would not use make up artists if they were not necessary. But they are.

Witness this “before” and “after”:

Make up artists do not just fix blemishes. They also shape the face so it is suitable for the shoot. Here’s MUA Melissa Telisman doing her thing:

And here’s what that results in:

Glamour and perfection without “photoshopping”, which I am not a fan of. But make-up is not just for glamour; not at all. I recommend a MUA and a hair stylist for corporate shoots, too, especially—but not only—if women are involved. If TV shows do it, you can be sure it is necessary, and not a luxury.

Incidentally: do we need the entire person in every shot?

Decidedly no. You get a much more intimate feeling when you do an extreme close-up (an ECU, in movie terms). Try it; experiment in your next shoot and do some shots like the one above. You’ll love them.



A recent encounter with a photographer leads me to re-iterate my message here: technical prowess can help expand your available options.

One of those is the use of light. Getting creative can involve any kind of light. Not just “available”, not just “Flash”, not just any type.All types. Why restrict yourself?

Take a portrait in a sunflower field. a “natural light only” photographer can do this:


Nice. But I prefer for my subject to be the “bright pixels”, because 0f Willems’s dictum that:

Bright Pixels Are Sharp Pixels.

So I, an “everything” photographer, can do the above, but I can also do this:


Which one do you prefer? The point is not that one is better. The point is that with flash added, you have a wide range of opportunities.

The above shot was made with nothing more than my camera and my usual portable umbrella outfit:

20140807-MVWX8477 (1)

By the way: My Dutch Master Class® courses teach you how to do this; how to think about flash; you learn the Three Essential Recipes: you get everything you need to get your vision into your work.


Portrait lenses, anyone?

“The closer you are, the bigger the nose will be”. So a wide angle lens, which needs you to be close, gives you distorted portraits.  On the other hand, an infinitely long lens (say, a 1,000,000mm lens) will give you zero distortion.

Time for examples.



Can you see that the wider 20mm lens, which needs you to be closer to the subject, distorts that subject more? While a longer 100mm lens makes the image look more neutral. In fact, the longer the lens, the less the distortion.

My favourite headshot lens is my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. For half/full body fashion shoots, it is the 85mm f/1.2 lens.

Fur full body only shoots? 50mm, maybe.

Anything environmental? Wider. Maybe 35, 24, or even 16 or even 10mm. Enjoy!


It is December, and I hope you will be taking pictures over the holidays. Pictures, no doubt, like this one I took of a friend a Christmas or two ago:

It occurs to me that I am not the only one doing some photography. Hence, a few tips for you for the parties of the next few days.

  1. Make sure your camera and flash batteries are fully charged, and that you have spares.
  2. Ensure that you have a formatted memory card in the camera.
  3. For “party shots”, you may want a lens in the, roughly, 35mm focal length range, or 24mm on a crop camera.
  4. Put the flash on the camera and aim it upward behind you, if you can find a white or white-ish wall or ceiling.
  5. Use the “Willems 400-40-4 rule” as your starting point setting. That gives you a warmer, slightly dark background, as in the photo above.
  6. Adjust the ambient/background part of your photo as needed:
    • If the background is too dark, go to 800 ISO and 1/40 second or 1600 ISO and 1/40 second.
    • If the background is too bright, go to 400 ISO and 1/80 second or 400 ISO and 1/160 second.
  7. Adjust the flash part of your photo as needed:
    • If the flash part is too bright, use “Flash Exposure Compensation” to decrease the flash power.
    • If the flash part is too dark (eg because ceilings are dark or high), go to 800 ISO and 1/80 second, or even 1600 ISO and 1/160 second. You may also need to use use “Flash Exposure Compensation”.

Do these simple things and you will get good pictures, better than ever. And I am telling you this now so you have two days to practice. Enjoy. And: Happy Holidays.

A trick, revisited

With the holidays approaching, it is time for a refresher on an “event shooting” flash trick I have mentioned here before.

You all know how important it is to avoid, at least when the flash is on your camera, direct flash light reaching your subject. Both in order to avoid “flat” light, and especially to avoid those hard drop shadows, like this:

But you have also heard me talk (and those who come to my upcoming flash courses will learn hands-on) that you should “look for the virtual umbrella”. For most lighting, this means 45 degrees above, and in front of, the subject.

So when you are close to that subject, you aim your flash behind you to get to that point. Good.

But what when you are far, as when using a telephoto lens? In this situation, which happens at events, like receptions, the “virtual umbrella” may be in front of you. And aiming your flash straight, or even angled, forward is a no-no, since the subject will be lit in part by direct light, which will give you harsh shadows, and even worse, shadows from thesubject on the wall behind him or her.

A-ha. Unless you block the direct part of that light!

Like this:

As you see, I use a Honl Photo bounce card/gobo to block the direct light. Simple, affordable, and very effective. I use either the white bounce side, or the black flag side, depending on the ceiling and position.

Simple, effective – done!

And one more thing. Direct flash is not bad per sé. Not at all. As long as it is not coming from where your lens is, it can be very effective, like in this “funny face” shot of a student a couple pf years ago (you know who you are):

Lit by a direct, unmodified flash. And the hair light, the shampooey goodness? Yeah. The sun. Just saying.

So, you now have yet another trick in your basket. Go try it out!