Foro Romano

After you travel, you will come home with photos. And then you will put them away.

My message is: look at them again. Months later. Years later. Even decades later.

Here’s a few images from a trip to Rome in 2005 – and still I find new photos there:

You find new photos because:

  • You change.
  • The world changes, and what is normal today is special tomorrow.
  • Technology changes. You can now save photos that were unsalvageable just a few years ago.
  • Art changes.
  • You overlook things, and looking again means that you are less likely to overlook it again.

So: go through your old phots and see what you can make of them. Always worth it!

Gear Matters…

…and with that, I mean, “matters concerning gear”. These matters are generally overrated. “What camera are you using” is usually not an important question. Gear does not always matter, in other words.

But that is not to say that equipment is not important – because it is. In the studio I use Canon 5D, Canon 5DSR, and Canon 1Dx Mk2 cameras, with a rage of “L”-lenses.

Pro equipment is usually expensive – but you can get good deals buying used. Like in the Michael Willems Photo store in Orléans:

I have an amazing 7D MkII available in the store right now: with only 8300 shutter actuations, this is at only 4% of its life – and it really is as new. And it comes with two batteries, a CF card and an SD card, and a new (and new generation!) 50mm Canon lens. And for just $995, this is an amazing deal. Used equipment can be fabulous if you choose well.

So next time you get “gear-itis”: consider good used equipment. It can often be had for less than you imagine.

  • One generation older is great; two generations is also possible; older that that may be possible but check specs carefully.
  • Watch shutter life – the most important measure for a DSLR.
  • in the case of lenses, try them.
  • In the case of old film cameras, ensure the the shutter works well, without strange sounds (these often indicate that the oil has dried up).
  • Make sure that you can trust the seller – take ID if you do not know the seller.

And have fun – in the knowledge that you saved money.

Control your light

I was in Oceanside, California, a week ago, where my son Jason got married. And although I was not the official photographer, I could not resist taking some photos.

As you see, I am using flash outside, to balance the ambient light with the subject light.

That is, of course, not the only way to do it. You can also just increase exposure overall. This I what the official photographer did. Here’s Daniel, Jason and me:

Nothing wrong with that – just not my style.

But as a photographer, you must be able to control light so you get to choose what style you get. It has to be a conscious decision.

So if you need to learn flash: learn flash!

Past and future equipment

At my store (http://www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) we buy and sell quality used camera equipment, like cameras, lenses and flashes.

Film equipment, like the equipment above, as well as modern digital equipment (like right now, a Nikon D3200, a Canon 1Dx Mk3, and a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera). You can see the full list on https://www.michaelwillemsphoto.com/specials.html.

Which prompts me to ask: when do you upgrade? Do you buy new or used? Film or digital?

That’s really two questions. My opinion:

Film vs digital: shoot a roll of film regularly!

  • It forces you to get good. No preview, and you pay $2 per click.
  • For the same reason, you think much more about the photos you take.
  • And especially B/W film has a grainy magic that is all its own.

Then: when to upgrade your digital stuff?

That’s much more difficult. There is no right or wrong answer to this. For me, I tend to like good used equipment. After all a used 70-200mm lens works the same as a new one – exactly the same, for a lower price.

Upgrading comes in three categories: better functionality you need, better functionality you do not need, and better category you just want. Many people upgrade for the last reason: new toys are fun. But that is good for the rest of us: that’s why there is such good used equipment available. You can buy a 5D Mk3 for under $1000. And it works great (I know: we use two of them daily in the studio), and unless you really need a GPS or whatever other new bells and whistles the new gear has, you might consider saving yourself a lot of money. $1000 for a fully professional camera, for example, instead of three times that: what’s not to like?

If you do buy used, be careful: for pro equipment, get shutter counts, and while eBay prices can look low – though very comparable to what I charge – once you buy there, you have to pay for shipping, customs, delays, and so on, and you deal with an unknown. Kijiji is local but full of, eh, flakes; Facebook Marketplace is better but does not have much to sell. That’s why I decided to add used equipment at the store, to take away those drawbacks for anyone interested.

Whatever you do: remember, photography is not about the equipment. It’s about your skills, your artistry, your being there in the moment. Have fun!

Fisheye Fun

I have some very good used equipment for sale at the store – some mint, as new. One of those is a Canon 8-15mm EF L USM Fisheye.

An amazing lens. And fun.

At 8mm on a full size sensor, you get a dramatic 180º view in a total circle:

Here’s the store itself:

(When using it on a crop camera rather than on a full frame camera, the image is cropped so you do not get the full circle.)

I prefer to make the outside white, by the way. Out of the camera, the outside is black.

This kind of lens is most fun when you get close to things. And this lens allows you to get close… here’s Alex at the store:

And my watch:

We also have a Nikon Mirrorless camera with a bunch of lenses and a converter, and a Canon 5D MkIII, and a bunch of other things. Come take a look at Place d’Orléans, if you are near Ottawa.

Premium Prints

In my shop, we print, among the things. We print all day, and we do it well; so well that we call our prints “Premium Prints”.

So what is a Premium Print?

For these prints, we do the following:

  1. We help our customer get the photo off their device (mostly, a phone). This can involve some phone training, Bluetooth, Airdrop, and so on.
  2. We ascertain that the file is the best one there is. Often we get a tiny screen shot from Facebook Messenger etc, where there is in fact a better file available. We make sure that we get the best file available.
  3. We crop the photo is necessary. Sometimes, we have to fill in areas to allow printing at the required size (e.g. 8×10, if the original is square).
  4. We adjust exposure and colour, if necessary.
  5. Sometimes we need to make more extensive changes. These can include de-noising, sharpening, or even removing items.
  6. Then we print, using fine art papers, on one of our “Giclée” printers: printers that have at least 10 different ink colours rather than just three our four. These inks are pigments not dyes: prints made with pigments reproduce colours better and do not fade readily, like the usual dye-based prints.
  7. We then crop these by hand.
  8. If a frame is wanted, we can advice on the kind of frame that would best suit the photo.

Our staff are all trained photographers and phot-editors, so you get the benefit of their experience and knowledge with every print you make.

And prints are important. They should be on walls, not just on Facebook walls.

Cold

It is cold in Ottawa. Yesterday was -18ºC (0ºF), and that was warmer than the day before.

We get lots of snow, plus this kind of thing:

While I’d rather have this:

Sahara Desert, Libya, south of Ras Lanuf

Or perhaps this:

Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1980s

All of these environments present problems for cameras, through. Cold, heat +sand, and humidity, respectively.

Always carry a spare battery; keep your camera clean; do not change lenses when there’s dust; and when in the cold, carry your camera back inside within a plastic bag and keep it in that bag until it warms up.

Color or B/W?

When you photograph people, consider black and white rather than colour. For several possible reasons:

  • To avoid distractions
  • To create mood
  • To create “a look”
  • To make skin look smoother.

Nothing wrong with this portrait of Floor Manager Rose:

But this also looks great:

So next time you shoot portraits, consider also trying B/W. You can convert from colour too B/W after shooting – that gives you great control over relative shades.

Retrospect

Do you take photos when travelling? Yes, so do I.

And I suggest that you, like me, may want to go back regularly to old shoots, old vacations, old trips, to see them in a new light, with a new eye. And you will be surprised.

Like this for example. From a trip to Rome in 2005:

And from the same trip:

(See the wolf, with Romulus and Remus?)

And those are just two images from hundreds that are quite good and that I never even spotted before – even though I must have looked at these photos 50 times in the years since the trip.

Photos really are forever!