I did a photo walk yesterday, in Mississauga. And after that, a group shot of the people I did the walk for. Arrange the group nicely and I get:

Not bad, and it’s what a competent photographer might well do.

But wait. There’s more. I want modelling; less flatness. Saturated background light. And I want my subjects to be the bright pixels. So that they stand out.

Meaning I need light and control over that light. Meaning:

  • A flash for key light. I used one studio flash (a Bowens 400 Ws flash)
  • For power, a Bowens battery pack).
  • A modifier (umbrella, here).
  • A sand bag to stop the light from falling.
  • Camera settings that make my background go darker (ideally, –1 to –2 stops below ambient).
  • And do not forget,  shutter speed less than my camera’s fastest flash sync speed (1/250 sec for me).

All that looks like this:

So the resulting picture is:

(Canon 1Dx, 24-70 lens, 1/125 sec at f/6,3, 100 ISO)

Compare that final shot with the one at the very top and see if you can see, and appreciate, the differences. Then, you are on your way to lighting professionally.



Photos are good when they contain what’s needed, and no more. Often, that means they are simple.

This was outside my front door an hour ago:

Nice and simple. But I can make it simpler.

I could even remove some of those distracting things on the roof:

Since I do not think the stuff I removed was essential to the photo, the simpler ones are better for me. I say “for me”, because after all, it IS art, and you cannot argue over art. (Doesn’t stop people though.)

Now Google the most expensive photo ever sold. $4m. Look and tell me what you think.



In a forum I visit, a photographer just asked:

Hey friends! I’ve got an external hard drive which is giving me some problems and I can’t seem to pull files from it. My computer recognizes it, but doesn’t let me access the files. There are about 200 that i don’t have backed up elsewhere and I would love to figure out how to get them. Does anyone know any file recovery service which may help?

I am so sorry for her, but on the other hand I wonder why there are still people without backups. EVERY hard drive will fail. It’s not IF—it’s WHEN.

A student in my new Sheridan College course, which started tonight, a student told me she had previously lost two years of her young son’s life in pictures. We have all had this thing happen: please, please learn from these experiences of others, and

  1. Go get a new backup drive or two. Now.
  2. Make backups, perhaps using simple scripts like the one I have described here.
  3. Keep one backup off-site.
  4. Print as many photos as you can.

Then you can sleep, as well as enjoy your photos!



Tip for flash users.

When you use a flash off camera, like here, you often use Pocketwizards. Which means the flashes are on MANUAL mode. Like here, wedding organizer Jane Dayus-Hinch, whom I photographed at the Wedding Show today:

Off Camera Flash 1/8 power. Canon 1Dx, 1/80 sec at f/4.5, 1000 ISO

Those camera settings let in enough ambient to act as fill light.

So anyway… if you use an off camera flash, there is one problem. Every 60 seconds or so, the flash goes to sleep and turns off. Meaning you get a shot like this… fill light only:

The solution: You have to set a custom function on the flash to disable the timeout. C.Fn 01 on Canon (set to “1″); menu driven on the Nikon flashes.







Are you a pro, or committed amateur?

…then you may want to ask me to be added to the Speedlighter’s Forum on Facebook:

Please only ask if you are indeed a pro or committed amateur, and you know all about aperture, shutter, ISO, lenses, and so on. This private and closed Facebook forum is going to be high level, not for simple beginners questions. I welcome those, too, here. is for everyone, from complete beginner to 20-year full time pro.

So pro/almost pro: discuss things with equals on And everyone from beginner to pro: come here daily to read a tip, trick, mini lesson, shoot explained, etc every day. And here, too, I welcome a lot more discussion that there is. I know thousands read here; now also contribute by asking questions or leaving comments. First comment needs to be approved by me; after that, you can comment as much as you like.