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,


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.



Night time.

It’s early night, here in Brantford, Ontario.


The full moon pretty much guarantees that the local police will have a busy night. And I am taking a snapshot on my way from the convenience store to my home. The moon needs “Sunny Sixteen” (search for it here). Meaning it is as bright as earth at noon on a sunny day.

So getting them together is impossible. And when you want to get a photo like the one above, your best bet is to slightly over-expose the moon, so that you can get at least some light into the dark part of the picture.

Why don’t you go outside right now to take a few snaps?

Lowlife miscreants.

…have hacked this blog. Apologies to all. There’s always going to be criminals, I guess.

I may now need to simply take the blog down: many files appear corrupted and fixing that needs an expert WordPress programmer. This would be a shame: after 8 years of posts, taking down the blog would be horrible. If you see no blog here, apologies.

Also, getting the content back on a new blog may be impossible. Stay tuned and we will see.

If www.speedlighter is unreachable, please check out for more news.