Flash Method

Today’s excellent training in London, Ontario, reminds me of a few things.

First, a photo or two from the day:

As a result of today’s training, a few simple reminders come to mind:

ONE: Make sure your auto ISO is OFF at all times

TWO: Make sure your lens is set to autofocus

THREE: Make sure that the lens is securely screwed in and locked.

FOUR: Make sure you have enough power for the shot, given your aperture and ISO, For an inside flash photo where you are bouncing, this can be problematic. So you can set your camera to 400-40-4 (400 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4) , but before you take the photo, you should:

  1. Set your flash to M (manual).
  2. Set its power to full (100%, or 1/1).
  3. Take the photo.
  4. If you now see a clearly overexposed flash portion of your photo, good, carry on: go back to TTL flash and take your picture. If, however, you do NOT see clear overexposure, then either increase your ISO or decrease your f-number, and repeat.

If you follow those four simple steps, your photos will be better, more successful.

And I leave you with “me”, today, by a kind student:

(Want a course like this? Contact me any time,. These courses are enormous fun, both the theory courses and the practical follow-up we did today).

LR, Video, Flash: Learn Remotely

Lightroom 6 is out, and you need it. The End.

OK, not quite the end, but Adobe Lightroom 6 is an amazing workflow and editing tool, and no, you do not need to do the edits in Photoshop: you do almost all of them in Lightroom, as I do. Read yesterday’s post about some of the new features, and there’s a lot more. More description soon.

But how to learn it? It may be great and earth-shattering and all that, but most of us do not just intuitively learn a complicated app simply by playing with it.

Learn Lightroom Remotely:

Well: now there is a better way: I can teach you remotely. Using Google Hangouts, I can show you, and we can set up your workflow, edit photos, create cool presets: while we use the computer together. You see me; I see you; you hear me, I hear you; and we see each other’s desktops.mIt really is almost as good as being in the same room together. Whether you are next door, or in Australia (literally).

This method works so well that I have also started teaching video editing the same way. For my usual teaching rate I teach you individually. All you need is a reliable Internet connection, and preferably a computer with a built-in camera, speaker and microphone.

You see what I do, or I see what you do, while we talk and see each other as though we were in the same room. You will be amazed at how much more quickly you learn with this method.

Video Editing:

I also teach video and how to create video with a digital SLR. Here’s my desktop an hour ago, as I am creating a video export, combining video, audio, pictures, text, and royalty-free music, with a client:

This, too, lends itself very well to teaching remotely using Hangouts.

Pick up your phone and give me a call and from Lightroom to Video to Flash, I will teach you how it all works.  This, too, comes with my usual Full Happiness Guarantee: If you are not delighted, money back. It’s never happened, but if it does, I will honour my promise!

Finally: The Pro Checklist Book! IT WILL BE MADE.

Whether the Kickstarter campaign is successful or not (and you have about 12 hours left, if that) – the printed version of the new “Pro Checklists” book WILL be made. So in the last minutes, please go to Kickstarter (link HERE) now and support this print production, and at the same time benefit from interesting and fun rewards.

If the campaign fails to reach target, I will contact you individually, and I will honour the campaign promise, because come what may, this checklist/best practices book of charts and one-pagers will be made. Print quotes are rolling in as we speak!


Back to work, for me. No rest for the wicked, as they say.  —Michael

Lightroom 6

Yesss… Lightroom 6 is out. And that is a reason to rejoice.

After a complicated upgrade (I had real trouble finding the “buy it as an app” option: Adobe really wants the extra revenue of the Creative Cloud, so it pushes you there), and after a subsequent day of converting catalogs (my one catalog contains a quarter of a million photos) I am playing with it now.


First, the feature you do not see: speed. Reports talk of a significant speed increase. I have not seen a giant difference, but based on reports, I am sure I will. It sure is not slower. Faster is good.

Second, the one feature that was cool in iPhoto (now: photos): face recognition. It has now been added to Lightroom, and it works well.

The feature is intuitive: I have not had to read any sort of manual, so far. Lightroom recognizes where faces are in your pictures, and it guesses who they are with an amazing degree of accuracy. You start it; it identifies faces; you conform its guesses or correct it and name the people, and you are done. I did 2015, and am now am doing the preceding years. It will take me a while, but it’ll be well worth it.

Another new feature: HDR, “high dynamic range”. You are now able to take a photo multiple times (2, 3, 10, whatever) with varying exposure, and pull them together into one HDR image. Gone are the days that dynamic range was something to worry about. Select the various photos, do some settings, like deghosting (see below), and you are done.  Lightroom creates a new images named …-HDR.dng: a full DNG. Finally, a good use for the DNG format. And much better than creating a JPG.

Next: Panoramas. You can stitch together pictures that lie beside each other into one wide panorama. Another feature that until now needed additional software. Both Panoramas and HDR appear in a new PHOTO option:

So now you choose “Panorama” and wait as it is built in front of your eyes. You even have an “Auto crop” option: marvellous. And again, a huge, excellent file is built in front of your eyes, as it were. And again, it is a .DNG file, a huge advantage over other software, that creates JPG files. And look what I just created: the city of Las Vegas at this size:

Yes: 25,000 x 3412 pixels. That is, an 85 Megapixel DNG file. Wow!

Here is a small version, “just” 5,000 pixels wide, that I deliberately saved with a logo and at that “small” size and with high compression, i.e. low image quality (it is, after all, a copyrighted image). It still shows the point very well though when you view it at full size. Go ahead and view at full size:

Fantastic, no? I will be doing this all the time now.

I see all sorts of other advantages and incremental improvements in version 6.

Let me give you just one cool little timesaver. To use the entire dynamic range of your image, take a grey, low contrast image, where the bottom end of the histogram does not reach “0″ (the left end) and the top end does not reach 255 (the right end) (i.e. the blacks are not black and the whites are not white).

Now, in DEVELOP, in the BASIC module, shift-doubleclick on the words “Whites” and “Blacks”. Lightroom automatically drags blacks down and whites up until you are using the full dynamic range from 0 to 255. Cool, or what!

In the next little while I will document some more of these advantages and tricks, but for now, let this be enough reason already to upgrade. Enough reason by far. Have fun!


Opportunity knocks.

NEWS! My next project is being kickstarter-funded. And I am very excited to be able to tell you about it.

Kickstarter, as you may know, allows a business idea to take place without the investment capital: the public funds it. In return, people who fund it get benefits like funder pricing, extras, and so on.

And mine—wait for it—is a printed version of my new book. This checklist reference book:

A printed version is exactly what we all need. From beginner to pro, all sorts of tables, guidelines, checklists, and more. Here’s the table of content:

Interested yet? Now imagine this on thick stock paper, one sized, with a ring binding at the top, so you can flip it to the page you want; and it’s a 4×6″ sizem so it fits easily in your camera bag, even in your jacket pocket.

Want to help me, and at the same time get lower prices or extra benefits? Then get in nowwww.kickstarter.com/projects/1117812792/the-ultimate-checklist-booklet-for-photographers

Lost in…


“Lost they get, things in translation”,

as Yoda might have said, in a galaxy long, long ago and far, far away where they all had human-type vocal cords and all spoke English. And all breathed the same oxygen/nitrogen mix.

So… to your camera. Assume that you shoot in RAW or JPG format—which is the case for almost all cameras today. Let’s assume RAW.

When you translate that original file to what you see on the screen, you are doing exactly that: interpreting and translating that RAW file. And translations and interpretations always bring inaccuracies. They will rarely if ever improve your file; they may decrease the quality (and often do). When I say never improve, I mean that you cannot get extra information out of a file by interpreting it. You can’t pluck a bald chicken, as the Dutch saying goes.

When you import into Lightroom, you can change the translation. In the DEVELOP module, bottom right, you get CAMERA CALIBRATION options like these, for example:

All those are just different ways of interpreting the RAW data. “Portrait” is a little less sharp with more emphasis on skin tones; “landscape” sharper, with more greens. And according to Adobe’s best reverse engineering of what Canon or Nikon do, when you select thatsetting on your camera.

Now let’s get to the point.  Some people say “Adobe’s DNG format rocks: it is the standard”. Lightroom offers you the option to automatically change the original file into a .DNG upon import.

Here’s the problem with that, in my view: by doing this, you are throwing out the original data (this goes squarely against the face of non-destructive editing) and trusting Adobe’s interpretation of it; what’s more, you are trusting Adobe’s interpretation of it more than you are trusting your camera’s maker.

And then when exporting, you will in most cases once again make a translation, this time from DNG to JPG or perhaps TIFF, or directly to your printer driver via the printer profile, if you print directly from Lightroom.

And each translation brings with it the danger of misinterpretation. Like that game where you whisper into the ear of the person next to you, who does the same with the person next to them, etc, and by the time it comes back to you, “my mother is wearing a red coat” has turned into “why are the ancient Greeks developing antiserum in the library?”

It is nice that DNG is a standard, but it’s not a generally accepted one yet, and the advantage of that move to standard is not worth throwing away the original data that your camera produces. So until cameras themselves produce DNG files (as indeed some already do), my advice is: no, do not convert your files to DNG upon import. Leave them in your camera’s RAW format.