Why I…

…don’t live in Europe anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. Europe is great. History, culture, art; pragmatic politics; liberal philosophy; well-educated people; intellectual discourse on TV rather than clips for 11-year olds. All good.

But then this, at my local 24-hour supermarket:

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A typical Reuben sandwich. Has half a cow on it.

And in Europe, the Europe I remember, this would have one slice of meat. One. Not two.

Imagine a lunch table in The Netherlands, or an Autobahn restaurant on Germany, or any hotel with a “continental breakfast” pretty much anywhere in Northern Europe. One slice. If you take two, you are a waster, a bad person. One is plenty for a good person; two is for bad people. A 24-hour supermarket or two in every small town in Europe? Yeah. ten centuries after hell freezes over. Wasteful “American nonsense”. And it is “unnecessary”.

Like drive-through ATM machines (why park and waste time lining up?); drive-in cinemas; easy Internet banking; cheap commoditized goods; lower taxes; and much of what makes North America great. After all, we are here for a few decades and then we are gone. Why deny ourselves everything that makes life easy? We should try to make things easy. In Europe, it is my impression that the intention is to make life as difficult as possible. Here we say “Yes, unless”. There, they say “NO, unless you can show why it should be allowed”. NO, unless you can show why it is “necessary”.

Another example. Here, to get a personalized car number plate (mine are “MVW1” and “CAMERAS” (!) ), you look up the available names online, pay the government a couple of hundred bucks, and you’re done; your plates arrive in a few weeks. In Europe it is impossible to, because GOD FORBID that we make life more fun or easy for people. No, we can’t allow such :”American Nonsense”.

I wonder what those Europeans would make of a sandwich with about 40 slices. Heart attack, probably.

And photography has many parallels. Until not many years ago, photography was a “protected” (i.e. regulated) profession in much of Europe. Here: do what you like. Which is how it should be, however difficult it is for established photographers. Let the chips fall where they may.

And who wins, in all these circumstances? The consumer!




Yesterday’s Portraits

Yesterday, I shot a portrait session in my Brantford studio with a recent graduate from McMaster University (Congratulations). Here’s a little description of how I do such a shoot.

We did various shots (LinkedIn, Informal, Low Key, and the “Graduate Photo”. The latter because the one the university itself took wasn’t great. Here is a proof of mine:


A few notes about this picture:

  • The border is McMaster University’s official colour. The university describes exact CYMK and RGB colours on its web site).
  • The blue-green colour, made using two speedlights with Honl Photo gobos and blue-green gels aimed at a black background, was my suggestion; namely, a colour that contrasts nicely (on a colour wheel) with the university’s colour. It took a little use of the “HSL” tool in Lightroom to get the exact hue, saturation and luminance. This is important.
  • I made some adjustments to the background in Lightroom. Adjustments such as a slight sharpness and clarity reduction using the brush with auto-mask set to ON, and using the post-crop vignetting effect.
  • I made the frame in Lightroom also, with the extra help of an add-in called “LR/Mogrify”.
  • When a graduate does not have a robe, I rent the robe and scroll. And the “mortar board with tassel” hat, but of course this graduate has a turban instead.
  • The main and key lights were strobes with softboxes; the edge light was a strobe with a snoot.

As you see, shooting something as simple as a graduation picture does take a little more than just smiling, positioning the subject right, and clicking. All that is essential, but the rest is, too. It all has to come together in a successful shoot.

And these milestones are of course very important. Not just for parents and grandparents, but also for the person him- or herself. You need to have a visual record celebrating your life events, and one that is better than a bunch of cell-phone shots. Don’t get me wrong, those are great also, but an event as important as this deserves more.

If you want me to do yours, contact me. 416-875-8770, or better, michael@willems.ca


A Lightroom gotcha

As you’ve heard me say many times: turn on the xml file option in Adobe Lightroom “catalog settings”.

Look it up: “save settings to xmp”. That allows Lightroom to save all edits you do into a separate XML file. That gives you some redundancy, in case your catalog file somehow gets corrupted. And that is important, because the catalog IS Lightroom. And if you are a serious photographer, that means that the catalog is your life.

So I just noticed something that I never noticed before: this does not work for jpg pictures. It only works for raw pictures. So if your catalog gets corrupted and you shoot jog: you’re out of luck. Unless yin make daily backups. Which I hope you do.

But the main take-away from this? Shoot raw. Now you have yet anoth reason to do so.