Why manual?

Especially when shooting with flash, your camera (though not necessarily your flash) needs to be in manual mode. I’ll show you why.

This is Aurele Monfils in Timmins today, in auto mode:

And here is Aurele in manual mode:

In manual mode, I made a few adjustments. Namely:

  • Shorter shutter speed
  • Higher ISO
  • Flash TTL minus one stop (FEC, Flash Exposure Compensation).

After these, as you can see the dashboard is no longer unnatural looking, and you can actually see what little late afternoon sky blue there was.


Portraits… plus ça change.

A repeat post from 2015, showing that things do not change much…

I very often hear people who are a little ahead of themselves. They do paid portrait shoots before learning how to focus, that sort of thing. They do not want to learn formally, for instance from a course, or books, or seminars; and yet they expect the knowledge to come to them for free, somehow.

Wishful thinking, and you know it. So let me grab a few of these things by the horns. Starting with portraits. You are doing a studio portrait; you have a backdrop; but the rest is mystery. So your images end up:

  • Badly lit.
  • Under- or overexposed.
  • With a background that is sharp instead of blurred.
  • With the subject not separated from that background.
  • Out of focus.
  • With the background white, not coloured even though you use gels.

That is because you never learned the basics. But there is good news: studio portraits are simple. All you need to learn is:

  • Lighting. A main light, 45 degrees away from subject. A fill light, same on other side. Hair light, opposite main light. See diagram, from my new book:

  • Exposure. Set your camera to manual mode, 1/125 sec, f/8, 100 ISO.
  • Turn the flashes to half way (obviously  the flashes are on MANUAL too).
  • Now meter the main flash. Adjust main light until it reads f/8.
  • Same for hair light.
  • Fill light: meter this to f/4 (i.e. adjust this light until meter reads f/4 when it flashes).
  • Background light: same as main light, again.
  • White balance to “Flash”.
  • Focus using one focus spot. Focus on the eye using that one spot.
  • Use a lens longer than 50mm. I prefer my 70-200 or my 85mm prime.
  • Move subject from background as much as you can. Then you can gel the background light. If, whoever, much of the normal light falls on the background, you cannot gel. Test this by turning OFF the background light: the background should be dark.
  • Turn subject toward main light, then head slightly to you.

Like this:

That really is all. Click., You have a competent portrait.

What you must not do is pretend that no learning is necessary. Go find a course, go buy my e-books; read this free resource www.speedlighter.ca; take private training; sign up at Sheridan College; : whatever you can do, do it now.

It really is simple. But not as simple as “I just bought a camera and next week I am shooting a wedding”—and believe me, I have heard that very statement more than once.


Subscriptions are not the way

Apple, Adobe, but also makers of smaller apps like 1Password and many others are trying to go to a model where you pay monthly instead of a “buy a license once” model. Well, this “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model is not the way to go, and I’ll give you seven reasons why not.

First, and foremost: it is financially disadvantageous to the user. Under the SaaS model, you will pay much more than if you bought individual licenses, even if you pay for updates when needed. That $10-$20 a month for the rest of your natural life really adds up when you do the math.

Second: under the SaaS model you become a hostage to the software company. You basically have no choice but to keep paying or else. You pay even for months where you are not using the app at all (yes, that happens!)

Third: the companies no longer need to innovate. When you have captive users (see above point) who pay you on an ongoing basis anyway, why bother to write great software updates?

Fourth: licensing becomes complicated. See the article I wrote two days ago about Adobe Lightroom: with SaaS for all your apps, it becomes even more ominous. Shudder the thought.

Fifth: the software company thinks they are the app. In reality, they are one of maybe 25 apps you will have on your laptop or tablet. So now we’re talking about 25 times $20 per month – that’s enough to lease another car. Which you’ll need to do anyway, in order to get to your second job so you can pay said licensing fees.

Sixth: many people want to simply “own” what they buy, instead of “rent”. This is true in apps just like it is in music. It’s an emotional things and I completely understand.

Seventh: the licensing assumes a good Internet connection, and a stable location. That’s not always given. Travel can stop Internet connectivity cold. And recently, Netflix refused to reconnect me because, they said, “you live in Jamaica”. Huh? And when they make a mistake like that, you, the client, end up clenching your fists while listening to voice response systems that tell you to “listen closely as our options have changed”, and waiting forever due to “unusually high call volumes”.

Seeing trends can be disheartening. I see the societal trend to populism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and fascism. I see the trend to less autonomous car travel. And I see the trend to more SaaS. But like the others, this latter trend can be stopped too, if we all just say “no”.


Reminder: I teach privately or in small groups. And for all my students, there’s now a 30% discount for any orders (for training or anything else) paid by Dec 31, 2018. To benefit from this, all you need to do is to use discount code Student2018 on http://learning.photography. Happy festive season!


I just bought a new MacBook Air, to replace my older, and failing, MacBook Pro. That in itself was a mixed blessing: Apple is doing everything to make life for its users miserable. No more connectors: no Thunderbolt, no Lightning, no HDMI, no SD card slot, no USB, even… a dongle is now needed for, well, everything. I cannot even use the new laptop to connect to a second screen or to a projector—which is what I do for a living!

So I have had to order two dongles. Which I will lose an hour after they arrive, I know myself. Also, no more magnetic power connector. New and different passwords required for, well, everything. And a lot more inconveniences. Apple is dead, l as far as I am concerned: this will probably be my last Apple product. SMH.

But this post is about a subject for photographers: Adobe. Lightroom, in particular. Lightroom licensing, even more specifically.

Lightroom version names are a mess. See my previous posts about this—just the search field. Confusing, and they change mid-stream.

But anyway, onward and upward.

I use the perpetual Lightroom 6 license. Because I do not want to give Adobe the power to shut down my business any time they desire; and I do not want to pay Adobe $10, $20, or whatever it is or will be, every single month for the rest of my life. So I use the perpetual license, not the “Creative Cloud” version for which you must pay every month.

This perpetual (“stand alone”) license is still available, but it is very, very difficult to find. Precisely because Adobe wants me to pay them money every single month for the rest of my life (as said, the “creative cloud” version), and if I don’t, they will shut down my business, because that is what shutting down Lightroom would do.

So anyway—I need to install LR 6. Fortunately, I kept an install file (a “DMG”). So I install that. Next step, I need to enter my serial number. But there is no way you can read that from an existing installation. So I contact Adobe support, and they send me the serial number.

Then the install fails because “no qualifying product is found”. It turns out I also need the serial number I was provided for a previous version of Lightroom—and I need to remember what v version that was. 5? 4? 3? 2?1? How the hell would I remember that? I have used (and paid for) every version since 1.0.

In the end, I figure this out with the support department. So now I enter two serial numbers and two version numbers. But then the install fails, for unknown reasons. So I reboot and re-install, once again entering both serial numbers. This time it works. Then I need to update the freshly installed version.

Finally, I am done. Whew. That took over an hour, for something that should have taken one minute. This is why I cannot wholeheartedly recommend Adobe products to my students. Life is too short to spend it Kowtowing to Adobe’s need to make infinite money.

Ny all means use Lightroom, it is excellent—but be careful, you will end up either spending too many hours, or spending too many dollars. And in the process, you will lose too much control.

Incidentally, talking about control: a new laptop, and so I have had to enter various passwords (mainly Apple passwords) over 90 times so far. All without being allowed to see what I type, so I get them, wrong half the time than I even remember them, which its rare.

When I was young, IT was about making life easier and about empowering end users. Now, it seems that all too often, it is the complete opposite. Oh, how the pendulum swings.