Flow, or moment?

As every photographer knows, you use shutter speed to either blur, or freeze, motion. That is what the shutter is for, creatively speaking.

A slow shutter speed, like 1/10 second, gives you blurred motion, as in this photo I took at a country music event the other day:


While a fast shutter speed, like 1/800 second, freezes motion:


See the difference?


Q: If picture 2 was taken at 1/800 sec, why is it not darker than the first picture, which was taken at 1/10 sec? Over six stops darker?

A: Because at the same time as selecting a faster shutter speed, I selected a larger aperture: f/1.4 for the second picture, as opposed to the f/22 I used for picture 1.

Anyway. Here’s the core question I get quite often from students:

What drives the decision “do we blur or freeze?”

First, a flow looks better blurred, while something that happens as a moment in time looks better frozen. So generally speaking, for a fountain like this I would use a slow shutter speed.

What constitutes “slow”? See this excerpt from my Book 7, Pro Photography Checklists: 100 checklists, summaries, and Best Practices.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 17.04.29

What is slow, and what is fast? 

So, OK, slow or fast determines motion: blur or freeze. But there are other considerations. Like “do I want a blurred background” (which would mean a low f-number, which in turn would mean a fast shutter)? And like aesthetic considerations: the frozen fountain looks kind of cool, in this particular case.

And so it is with many photography decisions: you have a rule of thumb, a starting point; but then you interpret that creatively. That goes from everything from motion to colour to the rule of thirds. You are the creative driver, not the book or the camera or social pressure.

So if you have a reason to not use some established rule or starting point, then by all means do what you want. (In the absence of such a reason, though, go with the recommended Best Practice or Rule of Thumb.)


Some composition techniques

This morning, I ran an outdoors workshop in Toronto, for US-based Digital Photo Academy. And I took some snaps, although I was not there to shoot.  (I think I was there to melt: it was 30ºC and 95% Relative Humidity).

So anyway: let’s look at a few of the compositional principles I used.



What was it that struck me in the image above?? The perfect symmetry. Flat water, clear reflections. And white sky (and hence water). Learn to spot reflections–just in case. This is a case where you do put things in the middle, rather than using the Rule of Thirds.

Sightsseing in motion

Sightseeing in motion.

Above: Motion. I “panned” with the bus, i.e. I moved my lens with the bus, at 1/30 second. That way, the passengers are sharp, while the background is streaked in the direction I moved my lens (left-right).

Next, this photo of a certain well-known tower:

Coilour coordination

Colour coordination

…which is a good example of framing. I am using the buildings and the tree to frame the CN tower. So it’ll go to prison for a murder it didn’t commi…. oh never mind.

Next, some words.

Culture, and progressive values

Culture, and progressive values.

People in front of signs are interesting when the words mean something. Culture. And is that two men pushing the baby–stroller? Questions are good. rather than spoon-feeding your audience, make them work out what’s happening, You can spoon-feed babies, instead.

Now to bigger matters:

"Exit Stage Left"

“Exit Stage Left”. Waterfront

Great stage, especially when seen through a 16m lens (on a full frame camera). Sharpness, symmetry, and the Maple Leaf flag.

CN Tower

CN Tower.

In that picture, we see a blurred CN tower—but only blurred a little. The framing tree is sharp. And above all else, we see… simplicity. A golden rule of good photography:simplify, simplify, simplify, simplify, and simplify.

The same applies to this:

Master of its domain

Master of its domain!

And I presume you see the Rule of Thirds being applied there too. As well as in this picture:

Fun and joy

Fun and joy.

And that picture is, of course, all about the Right Moment. And about another rule: “If It Smiles, Shoot It”. 


People and their devices..

People and their devices.

A snap of a person wrapped up in her iPhone.

Short Final

Porter on (Very) Short Final.

An airplane photo. Because why not.

And then, back to progressiveness:

A progressive city

A progressive city, eh.

Toronto really is a very progressive city. (Though now, with a career politician at the helm, I wonder).

What I need not wonder about was today’s weather.  30ºC, and 95% Relative Humidity, interspersed with frequent heavy downpours, and air that looked like it was trying to start to rotate. Those clouds looked dangerous:

Dark skies

Dark Skies. Incipient Rotation.

What was I using there? Clear subject, simplicity, Rule of Thirds.

Do some of your own now. And think, consciously, about the principles and techniques you can use. Your pictures will be better for it. Take one of my courses if you need to learn. The good news, “it’s all just technique” and “it’s all simple to learn”.

Have fun!

Take a look at my e-books:

Another Booth!

I did a few more booths yesterday. Fun as before.

But not simple! This one took 45 minutes to set up, in a restaurant. Setup includes things like computer, printers, USB hubs, connected camera, backdrop, props, pro flashes, and much more:


Here’s the picture I produced and printed on the spot for everyone, except of course this sample is with my pictures, not my clients’:


Additional to that, my clients get the electronic files, as well. And a web site to look at them on. And I brought an assistant, who is a talented photographer himself.

Why this note? Because I realize how this is now an entirely new photography market. It’s got critical mass now. And it’s fun.

But before you take it on yourself, remember that it’s a) a lot of work, and I mean a lot, and b) complicated technically, and that c) it needs real photography- and especially people-skills. Maybe easier just to hire me: I am available for booths!


Here’s the booth

A photo booth, as said, includes:

  • The booth setup;
  • Pro photo and lighting equipment;
  • A pro photographer;
  • A customized template;
  • Lots of fun props to choose from;
  • A made-onsite 4×6 pro print per group;
  • Available finishing and extra files/prints, as per price list.

And all that looks like this:

20160710-MW5D8826-1200 20160710-MW5D8827-1200

I don’t often desaturate, but when I do…

I do it properly. During a portrait session with a client just now, I also did a few “desat” portraits. Because why not!


Also black and white and “standard linkedin” colour. And high-key (without jacket) as well as standard. What I mean is this: when you do portraits, do them well, so you are seen as not “Uncle Bob”.