Two Stops

Taking flash photos of events, like family get-togethers, is easy. Here’s how.

Use a speedlight, i.e. a flash on top of the camera (not the pop-up). Put that flash on your camera. Aim it backwards, behind you, 45º up.

Now set your camera to manual mode, 400-40-4: 400 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4.

(Adjust your exposure, if needed, until the meter shows about minus two stops. That way the ambient light is not too dark, not too light: just right. Goldilocks. Use aperture or ISO to achieve that (or, if it’s too bright, you can use shutter speed instead)).

Now the meter reads -2, And you are bouncing your flash against a wall or ceiling behind you. Then you get this:

Mission accomplished.

‘t Is The Season…

……for family pictures. The studio (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) in Ottawa has been incredibly busy, as everyone wants a photo of their loved ones, if not always themselves. And a lot of these images are fun, as is taking them. A few samples, just of the last days:

This is all enormous fun. Pictures should go on walls, not just on Facebook walls.

Of course I still find time for watches:

…and for art:

Come to the studio to have yours done too, or to buy courses for a loved one, and I’ll teach them how to do all this!

Product Work

Product photography IS work.

Here’s another picture of my Hamilton Jazzmaster GMT:

The photo didn’t take long to make. But the post-production work, taking out the little specks of dust, would take all day – literally, all day – if I did it fully. The way watch adverts look. All I did was the minimum… which is this:

See the little circles, each of which represents an area where I took out a speck of dust?

The first, completed, picture isn’t bad, but it’s not completely done. It would not be good enough for an advertisement, for example. Click on the image above, and you will see many more imperfections that I would remove if this was an advert.

Just saying: Love a photo editor (and a photographer) today!

And yes, I did all this work in Adobe Lightroom. If you have Lightroom, try this. Edit a photo; select the Spot Removal tool, and click on “Visualize Spots” on the bottom left. Now you can see them clearly! That feature alone – among hundreds more – makes Lightroom actually (I hate to say!) worth the fee and the annoying licensing, where you pay monthly for the rest of your life. There’s no good alternative. Yet!

Warhol

At least, “Warhol-like”. That’s what I like to call my Lightroom preset, that slightly enhances a picture taken by student Sebastién in yesterday’s Flash Photography class.

The image was lit with one single gridded off-camera speedlight, connected to the camera via non-TTL Pocketwizard triggers. Knowing flash is a good thing!

Glasses off?

I hear this question all the time. “My glasses must come off so there won’t be a reflection, right?”

And the answer is “Nope”. If you have your lights 45º above the subject, not 30 or 40º, you will be fine. As you can see in yesterday’s portrait:

Use them.

I am flattered that a charitable society in Timmins, Ont. decorated their event hall with some of my Black and White pictures–specifically, pictures of European scenes. Like this:

I am sharing this for two reasons. First–to show how impressive B/W photography can still be. Not everything needs to be in colour. Setting a mood can often be done better, I think, without it. Black and White photography reduces things to their essence.

Second, to encourage all of you to do the same with your pictures: print them, hang them, and look at them. Don’t just have them on your Facebook wall: put them also on your real wall.

Adobe Lightroom, incidentally, does a great job converting colour to B/W, with full control of all the shading. Give that a go.

The charity people have now asked whether they can keep the photos on the wall for a while longer–to which my answer, of course, is “sure thing. Enjoy”.

“What do I buy?”

The most common question I get. “What should I buy?”.

That’s a tough one to answer. It’s a little like asking “what car should I drive?”. It depends entirely on your needs, wants, budget, and many other factors.

“Wildlife” – of sorts

Someone just asked:

My wife is wanting to get into wildlife photography.

What would be a camera to start her out with? Thanks!

So without knowing anything, I would at least say this.

Get a camera that is not too heavy for you, but that does have a traditional viewfinder – an SLR. A Canon DigitalRebel (like a T5i or similar) would do just fine. Or a 7D Mark 2 if you have the budget. (Weatherproofing, dust-proofing: if these are important, spend a little more.) If you want “full frame”, a Canon 6D Mark 2 would be great.

Then the most important thing: the lens. A long lens. But it does depend on the kind of wildlife. Small bugs? A Macro lens. Deer? A 70-200 mm lens should do. Birds? Something longer – or a 200mm lens with a 2x tele-extender (that makes it into a 400m lens). In any case: the “faster” the lens (meaning, the lower the minimum “f-number” that lens can go to), the better. That way you can get fast shutter speeds without high ISO values, and blurry backgrounds, and you can use a tele-extender and still have useful aperture left.

Then do carry multiple memory cards and a spare battery or two; a flash just in case; and maybe also a tripod, depending on, again, your wife’s circumstances. And finally, a hood loupe. And have fun!

I teach photography. Take my courses in Ottawa/Orléans to learn all about this: cameras, lenses—and what you do with them, and how. See www.michaelwillemsphoto.com and kick start your photography today!

Don’t forget Black and White

I see a lot of photography every day, and every day I am reminded of the way Black and White, or B&W, can work so very effectively—and of the fact that this seems almost a forgotten art. Even in landscapes:

Azores, 2019

…or in storytelling Wall Art:

Say What?
Guitars, Vegas
Bicycle, Schoonhoven

..or in so much else. Everywhere where colour is distracting. Where colour isn’t the story. Or where colour tells the wrong story.

So how do you do it? Well – set your picture style to B&W but shoot RAW. That way you can see a rough preview in B&W but do the actual conversion in post (Lightroom comes to mind as an excellent tool).

However you do it: When you shoot, try some B&W and see how powerful it can be.

Portraits Galore

You know—every photographer eventually starts doing portraits. Even landscape or bird photographers eventually take photos of people as well. And that’s important. People are everything to us in our lives.

That’s why I love to do portraits. Like this one, done in the michaelwillemsphoto.com studio last week, of Abraham, an excellent soccer player who just won a tournament with his team:

He clearly shows he is happy about the whole thing. And of course his parents have the picture on their mantlepiece, right now. And it will stay there forever.

Your pictures are better on your living room wall than on just our Facebook wall.