Tip of the day: Events

For all of you, but for event photographers in particular, here’s your tip of the day: get one of these:

For about $10, you can get a battery tester like this. It is not a regular voltmeter; rather, it is a meter that tests batteries on load, with a load appropriate to the battery type.

And before each shoot, test your batteries: the ones in the flashes, and the ones in ancillary equipment like pocketwizards, light meter, and so on.

This way you avoid unnecessary changes while ensuring that you never run out mid shoot. There are few things as embarrassing. Ask me.



Or rather, de-fringe.

Look at this photo of my garage during last Sunday’s garage art sale:

But look at original size and at the very edges, where there is back light (think: a tree against a sky), you will see some colour fringing (known as “chromatic aberration”). Look at the black picture frame, or perhaps even more clear, at the model’s head, and you will see purple/red on the left, blue/green on the right (it may help to look at the image full size):

Now, in the “Lens Corrections” panel, you see the option “Remove Chromatic Aberration”? Let’s click that on. Now we see:

Can you see how it is now gone? You can go into the “Color” tab within this panel and tune the settings, but you usually do not need to do that.

Now, back to the exhibit. Look at the full image at its original size. That was my Garage Wall Art Sale. Now “was”: it is my sale, since it is ongoing. I am selling framed prints and unframed prints, mainly at 13×19″ size, some larger, in categories including:

  • Colourful: images whose bright colour is the main feature
  • Travel and cities: images of iconic cities like New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, London, Jerusalem, and so on: I have worked in 40 countries.
  • Black and White: images that look great as artistic B/W prints on any wall.
  • Nudes: artistic nudes, of which I have hundreds, featuring my muses
  • Sailing: showing that even “Lake Onterrible” can look great.

These prints are handmade by me on permanent museum quality paper using permanent pigments (not dyes, which can fade after just a few decades). They are also autographed, and are made in limited editions or even as one-offs.

In other words: they can form the basis of your wall art collection. Collecting such wall art can be an amazing hobby. See www.michaelsmuse.com for more detail, and remember: if you buy out of the garage, Garage Sale prices apply, and these can be as low as one quarter of art gallery prices. So, come see what’s in the bins and display racks and decorate your home with originals today.



Another repeat post:

I regularly mention that the lens is the most important part of your equipment. Great lenses especially add to your photo-taking capabilities. Now let’s look at one aspect of that greatness again: the “speed” of a lens.

Speed is of course a misnomer. When we say “a fast lens” we simply mean “a lens with a large aperture (low “f-number”). This large aperture lets in a lot of light, which makes it possible to shoot at faster shutter speeds at the same ISO, hence the word “fast”. So a low f-number means you can obtain faster shutter speeds under the same conditions.

Like the 50mm f/1.2 lens I am selling (sadly; but I bought the 85 f/1.2 and I cannot financially justify keeping both these lenses; and for wedding portraits, the 85 will be more useful).

Here’s student Becky with the 50 f/1.2L mounted on her Canon 6D:

I was able, by using the large aperture of my own f/1.2 lens, to take that picture at a fast shutter speed, handheld. And I get a blurry foreground and background at the same time,  which helps me to emphasize the subject.

How fast? Let’s look at a real example.

A shot of a glass of wine. That is what I focused on, so that is, of course, sharp:

I shot that at f/4.5, which is typical of the kind of lowest “f-number” that a kit lens would allow you to use. At 1600 ISO, that necessitated a shutter speed of 1/30th second. That is at the limit of what I can hope to do handheld; in fact it is beyond that “rule of thumb” limit, with an 85mm lens. So I am lucky that the shot is sharp. Also, I am lucky that nothing in the photo moved, because pretty much any motion would show, at that slow a shutter speed. And yes, the background and foreground are blurry – but they could be blurrier.

Now the f/1.2 lens, this time wide open at f/1.2:

The “f/1.2″ means that:

  1. At the same ISO value, I now needed only 1/320th second shutter speed. I.e. a much faster shutter speed (i.e. less time; shorter time period; all these mean the same thing).  That means I can easily hand-hold, and also I need not be afraid of motion.
  2. The lower f-number also allows me to through both Becky and the chips in the foreground way out of focus. The glass is still sharp (I am, after all, focusing on it!), but the depth of field at this low f-number is extremely shallow; meaning that foreground and background are very blurry indeed.

Now, I do not of course always want shallow depth of field; but the point is, that with a fast lens, I can. And that expands my picture abilities; in a dark evening setting I can shoot handheld without flash, and if I want, I can get extremely blurry backgrounds. And that is one of the reasons that I use an SLR in the first place. And any SLR would do this – it’s the lens, not the camera, that determines these things.

Which is why I am happy to spend on lenses. What’s not to love?

And a good lens lasts decades, both in technical terms and in value. So if you are going to spend, and why not; then spend mainly on lenses.


Today again repeat post, because this still happens all too often: People confuse the DPI setting in an image with something meaningful. News Flash: By itself, saying “300 dpi” or some such means nothing at all about the quality or size of the picture. So here goes, from 2010:

I keep hearing people say “I want this picture at 300 dpi”, or “send it to me low quality at 72 lpi”.

When talking about a given image, that by itself is meaningless!

Let me see if I can explain. I will simplify and assume that dpi (dots per inch), ppi (pixels per inch) and lpi (lines per inch) are the same. They are not, not exactly; but assume for a moment that they are, since it makes no difference for this explanation.

Folks, the dpi (or lpi) setting makes no difference to the quality of an image. Not by itself. It is just an instruction to the printer.

It is the number of pixels that makes the difference. Not the number of pixels per inch, which is just an instruction to the print device.

Let me try to explain.

Let’s start with the image. You have taken a picture. It is a certain number of pixels in size. Say, 640 pixels wide, or 1,200, or 4,500. That is the resolution of the picture. The more pixels, the higher the resolution. Very simple. So let’s say your camera is a 6 Megapixel camera – that means your image is 3000 pixels wide (3,000 wide x 2,000 high = 6,000,000 pixels, or 6 Megapixels).

When someone says “send your picture to me at 72 dpi” or “send it to me at 300 dpi” that means nothing by itself. Try it: export your photo from Lightroom (or whatever you use)  as 72 dpi, and then again as 300 dpi, and compare the two images. Identical number of kilobytes, and when viewed full size, identical detail.

DPI means “dots per inch”. So by saying “take this image and make it 300 dpi” that is just telling the printer “take this image and print it ten inches wide” (3000/300 = 10). Setting it to 72 dpi means “print it  42 inches wide” (3000/72 = 42). But it neither increases nor reduces the quality!

What people need to say if they are talking about image quality is:

  1. “Send it to me 10 inches wide at 72dpi”.
  2. Or “send it to me 10 inches wide at 300 dpi”.

Which just translates to:

  1. “Send it to me 10 x 72 pixels wide, i.e. I mean 720 pixels wide”
  2. or “”Send it to me 10 x 300 pixels wide, i.e. I mean 3,000 pixels wide”

So if you mean 720 pixels wide, or 3,000 pixels wide, why not just say that?

That is the essence. After all, it is easier to set one variable (pixels wide) than two (dpi and size); and pixels mean something real.

Unless we are printers, we are talking about it from this perspective, so we should use clear terms. Telling me “send it to me at 72 dpi” is only meaningful if you also add the inches. So be clear, and say “send it to me 3,000 pixels wide”.

Wall Art

I held a Photographic Art Garage Sale today at my home. And it was literally a Garage Sale:

This taught me a few things. First, how important it is to have prints made of your photos. The tactile experience of holding a print is something special. Prints go on walls and add something when they do. Prints do not get lost when a hard drive crashes. They do not need batteries. They can be seen by many people at once. They have a certain value that an LCD display cannot approach.

Also, it reminded me that there is benefit in starting a wall art collection and adding to it over the years. Add a little here and a little there and before you know it you have a great collection. And it is “a little bit here, a little bit there” because there is a cost involved in prints, especially in framing.

Third, I was reminded how nice a wall looks with prints. Even my garage wall. Any wall livens up with prints, and its character changes completely when you switch the prints around. And the more you have, the more switching around you can do. Do not keep the same prints in the same place forever.

Fourth, I learned again how taste differs and how you cannot argue over taste. Sold prints included:

A sailboat and three urban scenes: Old Stockholm, Toronto under construction, and Utrecht. I can see the attraction of putting major cities on your wall in suburbia. But there are some prints I think are great that attracted no-one; conversely, there was a lot of attention for some photos I thought interesting.

In fact most people looked at the black and white photos, but bought colour photos. perhaps B/W is more artistic, but colour fits better in most people’s homes.

In conclusion, prints have something special, and I strongly recommend you buy, make, and shoot for prints.  You will not regret it.

Did you miss the sale? If you live in the Toronto area, come for a private viewing: the prints are still available.