“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (Robert Capa)

You have heard me on this theme many times. Getting close can often make your images better. You get close and intimate with the subject, your images have more impact. Like in these two, from that recent shoot:

Now of course you can do this by getting close. But be careful: closer than a couple of metres means you distort faces.

A better way is to use a longer lens. My favourite lens for this work is the 70-200, therefore. That has the additional benefit of not forcing you to be “in your subject’s face”. Yes, you have to have space, but that’s the entire point!

An alternate way is simply to use a somewhat long lens and then to crop for the rest. Those two were taken with the 85mm lens and cropped afterward. That is why you have all those megapixels, after all.

Next time you shoot anything, do yourself a favour and shoot the way you would normally shoot, but also shoot closer. Then when you look at the results, consider carefully which ones you like better. Where you like the close-up better: why? Where you like the wider view better: why? This is how you become a better photographer.

There’s still space on tomorrow’s Travel Photography session in Oakville, Ontario: 10AM-1PM, Sat 12 April 2014. $125 and it’s virtually private tuition!

What lens?

My current love, as you all know, is the 85mm lens. The Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens, to be precise, on my full-frame Canon 1Dx camera.

I love this lens for many reasons. One is that f/1.2 is great when I want to shoot in a classroom without using a flash or going to very high ISO values. As a bonus, I get great separation between foreground and background.

As in these three very recent shots of students:

This lens is the perfect length for half body shots like this; and it is long enough to get blurry backgrounds even at f/5.6. Witness this, at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto (see here for the whole story):

If I move farther back, it is usable for full body shots too, of course:

Because it is a prime, it gives me the consistency I love: f/6.3 is f/6.3, and 1/100th sec is 1/100th sec. (With a zoom, on the other hand, you have to get used to motion blur effect and blurred background effect being different at every zoom setting.)

With this lens, I need to remember to move back and forth, and to leave enough space. But the point is that you can do that easily enough.

If you use a crop camera, a 50m lens would give you a comparable effect.

OK, and as a final shot, a screen shot from Sun News TV that aired two days ago, with the two Topfree Rights women and me taking photos of them:


Travel Photography Opportunity

This Saturday, 12 April, 10AM in Oakville I present “Travel Photography”. A three-hour workshop about, um, travel photography.  Go to to book: seating is strictly limited: no more than five people. This is your chance to learn how I do it, and to immediately improve your photography. What to bring? Composition tips. People tips. Technical requirements. Lens choices. Storytelling tips. All this and more!

Here’s Fremont Street, Las vegas; January 2014

Night shots mean that you either carry a tripod, which you probably will not, or you:

  • Expose carefully and know how you are doing it. Night is not always dark!
  • Carefully handle the differences between light and dark, which can be extreme.
  • Use wider angles if you want to keep things simple (you will learn why).
  • Stabilize yourself (I will teach you some techniques).
  • Choose an appropriate ISO value.

All these are simple things once you know how, and night shots are often essential to really capture a place. Do not put your camera away when the sun disappears!


So today I shot Serenity Hart, the feminist activist who is touring Canada to emphasize women’s right to go topless. I shot her when she was being interviewed by Michael Coren on Sun News:

See here for the entire video, and see here for some still and a few portraits we took afterward (the latter contain toplessness, so if this is not your thing, do not click the link).

Here’s a “suitable for work” shot:

You can support Serenity’s tour via this link.

For most of today’s photos, I used a flash off-camera shooting through an umbrella.

  • No flash gives bright backgrounds and flat light.
  • Straight flash gives flat light and hard shadows.
  • Off-camera flash rocks.

To see an example or two of each of those lighting style, look at the pictures in detail: — these contain toplessness).

More about the light:

  • For all these, I used TTL off-camera flash.
  • For the second set, by the boat, using the umbrella was impossible: too little light from a small flash. So I used the flash direct and unmodified. That gave me enough flash power. Just.

Good light is a necessity for good pictures, so when you are shooting, always think about the light. And I assure you that that is what I was thinking about today: not breasts, but light.


Miscellany Musings

Learning opportunity: Tomorrow AM and Friday PM, you can see me talk at the Coast To Coast arts convention at Toronto airport. Come learn about camera basics (tomorrow) or Landscapes (Friday).

Cat Opportunity: always be ready to shoot your cats with a wide open lens in available light. And I never waste an opportunity to post a cat picture:

Theft opportunity: that is what you are giving thieves by leaving gear in your car. A good friend last night had her multiple cameras, multiple expensive lenses, and laptop stolen from her parked car. So sad, a terrible loss. The lesson can benefit us all: DO not leave cameras in cars. Even if you do not have a license plate like mine (NB: link is not suitable for work!).

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel: your home insurance, and if you do not have this your car insurance, may well cover part or all of this loss. Immediately make a police report, and then immediately contact your insurance company. Meanwhile collect serial numbers. in the EXIF data of each photo, things like camera serial number and often lens serial number are present. You can use a free utility called EXIFTOOL (Google it) to see the full EXIF data, if need be.