I don’t often desaturate, but when I do…

I do it properly. During a portrait session with a client just now, I also did a few “desat” portraits. Because why not!


Also black and white and “standard linkedin” colour. And high-key (without jacket) as well as standard. What I mean is this: when you do portraits, do them well, so you are seen as not “Uncle Bob”.


ISO guideline

FROM SEVEN YEARS AGO: What ISO setting to use? High is good for shooting without blur or shooting in the dark but gives you noise (“grain”). What is optimal?

The following may help.

If you do not use AUTO ISO, my rule of thumb for starting points is:

  • Outdoors, or when you are using a tripod: 200 ISO
  • Indoors: 400 ISO (whether or not you are using flash)
  • Problem light, such as museums or hockey arenas: 800 ISO

You can vary from there of course, but you will not be far off.

Here’s an 800 ISO handheld image (200mm, non-stabilized lens). It won me a media award:

TODAY: so what has changed? Only that you can now shoot, on a modern camera, at higher ISOs before you start no notice grainy noise. What worked then works now—but you can now go higher, sometimes much higher,  without noticeable noise. Life is good.

One flash is enough?

Can you do anything worthwhile with just one flash?

Sure you can. This, of Sheridan student Steph, is a single flash, off camera, without softbox or umbrella, but fitted with a 1/4″ Honl Photo grid::


1/125 sec, f/8, 100 ISO (the studio settings); flash at 1/4 power with grid.

Learn to take your flash off camera and have fun!


Repeat Post from 2010

When I was 16, I first saw Patti Smith’s album “Horses”.

The cover photo of that album changed me: I know instantly I wanted to be a photographer. Here is that one photo, taken by Robert Mapplethorpe of his then girlfriend Patti Smith:

Everything comes together. The light, the high-key shot, the left-right angle, the way we slightly look up at her, her hands, the expression, the coat over her shoulder, the contrast, the greys.

I think I have been in love with Patti ever since. And with photography.

A few years ago I stayed at The Hotel Chelsea in New York, where all this happened. I felt in the presence of greatness, of history… everything happened here. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Andy Warhol. Dylan Thomas. Arthur C. Clarke. The list is long.

Hotel Chelsea, photo by Michael Willems

Hotel Chelsea (Michael Willems)

And the hotel has, um, character:

Hotel Chelsea, photo by Michael Willems

Hotel Chelsea, Reception Desk (Michael Willems)

And art. And a sense of history, and time. I mean… I actually stayed where this was made, the picture that set off my interest in photography: how cool is that?

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe together at the time, by an anonymous photog:

And Patti Smith, by Robert Mapplethorpe, at The Chelsea:

Another beautiful photo.

And finally, one more from me: the view from the hotel – what Patti would have seen if she looked straight ahead:

Chelsea, NYC, view from The Chelsea Hotel (Photo Michael Willems)

View from The Chelsea Hotel (Photo Michael Willems)

I just ordered “Just Kids”, Patti Smith’s autobiography of that time, on Amazon.

Inspired, I continue my day.