“I need pro equipment”… ?

I hear this a lot: students almost apologizing for “only” owning, say, a Digital Rebel camera, or a similar “starter” model. Because, they say, “of course you need a pro camera for pro results”.

Pro lenses, maybe. But pro camera? Not always, not at all. And even the lenses: this, for example, is student Veronic this morning, using a Yongnuo 50mm lens for Canon (a clone of the cheap Canon 50mm f/1.8, but cheaper):

Veronic. (50mm f/1.8 Yongnuo lens, Yongnuo manual flash, two pocketwizards, Honlphoto grid.)

If you were to see this at full size, you would see it competes very well with photos taken with my pro equipment.

Those of you who take my lessons learn all about this; for the rest of you: be a little skeptical with regards to what you read. Yes, equipment is important. But no, it is not always needed for a quality picture.

Get Cool

Today, I was reminded of how I should not let you all down – the many people who read this blog. Like one reader, Dr Jason Polak, who kindly dropped by in the studio today to have a chat.

(Hint: anyone near Ottawa, feel free to come say hi. The store is open 9:30AM–9pm weekdays, and slightly shorter hours at weekends). So anyway… I promise I’ll write more. Starting today.

One thing to write about is portraits. And how I love doing them. And how I like doing not just the “stand there and smile” pictures, but also slightly more creative pictures. You do not need to look at the camera smiling, not in every picture!

So here’s one I took this weekend—one of a series:

A simple shot; I used two speedlights with Honlphoto grids, driven by Pocketwizards; and one strobe in a softbox, also driven by a Pocketwizard. Took two minutes to set up.

If you need to learn how to do this, it is remarkably simple. You might buy my books or attend my courses, for example. It’s worth the effort!

Here, another one, again showing action:

And that same day, a photo of a dog who was nearing the end of its life: it was sick, and was about to see its suffering ended. A sad event, but good to create a lasting memory:

The message is simple: shoot some portraits that are not just “stare at the camera and ‘smile'”. Worth the effort and you will be happy with your results.

One more, then:

And finally: a new course for those of you near Ottawa: “Take Better Photos Of your Kids”. Sign up soon, because as usual, classes are limited to four people.

Plus ça change…

…because some things never change. Like this, a repost from 2014:


A few things work very well in composing images. I shall reiterate a few of them here, using recent photos:

First, framing. It is often a good idea to frame the object you are shooting. Use overhanging trees. A window frame. Or get even more creative, like here:

Not that every frame leads to a good picture – but some do, so learn to spot them.

Another technique that we often like: use reflections. Like here, since water is often a good source.

What did I use in the picture above? Yes, my speedlight. On camera, and zoomed in to 125mm, even though the lens is wide. And as you see, I did not use the rule of thirds in the vertical sense: because I wanted to get the reflection in.

There there’s “close-far”. Use a wide lens and get close to something in order to show depth:

And one more picture just for fun:

That images uses the above, plus it uses the background in order to tell a story.

There’s more – like the use of colour, and simplifying. A bit of thinking goes a long way in composing your shots!

 

Which one?

Which one do you prefer?

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The point is not that one is better than the other. The point is that cropping a picture, or getting closer/farther, materially changes the nature of that picture. Think carefully when you compose (or afterwards, when you crop) a photo.

And by the way. B&W (Black and White, or monochrome) is still with us, and I suspect, and hope, that it always will be.

 

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from The Speedlighter! 

As for your 2017 resolutions, how about this one: Make this the time you finally perfect those skills you always wanted to hone! Skills that allow you to quickly and easily do pictures like the ones I took over the last couple of weeks. These include a few animal (and animal-plus-owner) pictures:

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All those were made with the 85mm f/1.2 lens, and used a single speedlight in an umbrella.

But I also did an executive portrait, just yesterday:

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Do you see the difference between the two above? For the first one, I did not want to show the outside (boring, homes). Easy, so the picture,like almost all my pictufes, was stright out of the camera.

For the second one, however, I did want to show the blue sky. So I exposed that one less (using the magic Outdoors Recipe–one of the things you will learn if you turn up). Both used flash, of course; fired by Pocketwizards and with their power set manually. The second one used much more flash power because I was using low ISO and small aperture to kill the outside light. I also had to, therefore, brighten the Apple logo in post-production.

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I would almost call that last one an environmental portrait.

The next ones are certainly environmental portraits:

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The one above used a 24-70mm lens and a speedlight with a Honl Photo 1/8″ grid. The one below, a 16-35mm wide angle lens and a speedlight with an umbrella:

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What do they all have in common? Simplicity, good exposure, and a thorough knowledge of the technical necessities.

You can learn this too. Why not do it? I have several great opportunities coming up!

All of these are excellent learning opportunities, and will broaden and deepen your knowledge significantly. Hope to see you there and then. 

 

 

It’s elementary.

The difference  between a snapshot and a good picture? Often enough it is simplicity. Simplicity does not necessarily mean taking things out of the picture. But it means taking things out of the picture that do not belong there.

Take this iPad snap, just now, of my new kitty Clio:

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Not bad. But what if we took out that unnecessary space, and especially that little black thing on the right.

Then maybe add a frame. And now we get:

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Can you see how much better that is than the original? Everything you remove that is not essential to the story makes the picture better. And you can remove it by cropping, blurring, recomposing: any way you like.

On Tuan the Celtics you pretty said “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. Or “less is more”.

And “On Tuan the Celtics you pretty” is Antoine de Saint-Exupery, World War Two fighter pilot and author of “Le Petit Prince”, that book about the little prince who lives on a tiny planet. The fact that Siri butchers his name shows how uncultured she is.  Back to hand-typing.

 

St James Cathedral, Toronto

I did a “Composition In The Field” tutorial walk in Toronto today for Digital Photo Academy. We mainly stayed in, or in the direct vicinity, of St James’ Cathedral.

Because it was cold. But also because there’s plenty to see in a given environment, once you open your eyes. And once you see it, you can apply compositional rules that are just about standard (and that I teach at gathering like this) . And then you can break them when you have good reason to. In the end, you end up with some good pictures.

Like this:

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A church, by the way, also has interesting insights into a world that is no more.

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Try to put yourself in M. Keating’s position: one moment he has a pregnant wife; then suddenly he has only a son; then a week later he has nothing. From happy and “everything is going our way” to two funerals in two weeks, and then Christmas. What a world that was, in 1832.

Back to here and now. Composition rules and camera use: If you want to learn the same, please contact me.

Meanwhile: why are you reading this, instead of going out to take some pictures of whatever is outside or inside?

 

Photographer, or…?

…or illustrator?

I am a big fan of being a photographer–meaning you do the work in the camera. But sometimes even I do some post-production work. Like here in this edited flash picture:

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That makes an OK picture a good picture, mainly because it dramatically simplifies it. See an earlier post for the “recipe” for this Andy Warhol-like effect – but I suggest you make your own. Much more fun. Simple (I used Lightroom) and quick.