I am musing about contracts, since I am sending out quotes and event photography agreements all day today. That gets me thinking about the work I do.

The work behind the shot

Some of the work behind the shot…

One though is about my hourly fee. It is $125 plus tax per hour.

Perhaps that sounds like a lot of money, but it is not.

It is not, because it includes, free of extra charge, things like, say for a typical wedding:

  1. My travel time (often two hours);
  2. The fee for my assistant;
  3. The time I spend around the agreement (like when writing proposals);
  4. My preparation time (a few hours the night before);
  5. My post-handling time (several hours after I return);
  6. And especially my post-production editing time, which can be several days;
  7. Of course the fee also includes the use of all my tools (expensive cameras and ancillary equipment) and its maintenance (just got a camera back from Canon repair!);
  8. The basic fee also includes a preview web site for a bride’s family to look at (for at least 6 months);
  9. …and of course all the images supplied to the couple, professionally finished, as large format JPG files. You’re paying for the result. Just like for a lawyer, the cost is not just “the paper she writes the contract on plus the ink”. 

For other things I do (like training) there are similar inclusions that the hourly fee pays for: equipment, enormous time writing the courses, feedback,preparation of materials, and many other things included.

Of course I should not need to explain: a plumber also charges an hourly fee, as does a dental hygienist, and no-one wonders why. But now at least you know!


EXIFtool magic

I have talked about EXIFTOOL before. A free command-line utililty that aloows you to read all the EXIF data in an image. And there’s a lot. A LOT!

But for those of you who use it, a little gem here: extracting the built-in preview images from a RAW file. You do it like this:

exiftool -a -b -W %d%f_%t%-c.%s -preview:all /Users/Michael/1DX_9187.CR2

This causes it to generate a file for each built-in preview (in this case, it creates thumbnail and “large” images:

  • 1DX_9187_ThumbnailImage.jpg
  • 1DX_9187_PreviewImage.jpg

So now you know how to extract the preview images from a RAW file. Just in case you ever want to do that!




Keys To Being a Pro: Predictability

Predictability of your results, and of your ability to deliver these results in the first place, is one of the most important key factors that determine whether you can legitimately call yourself a “Pro”. It’s not whether you get paid, or even whether you can shoot a pretty picture: it’s whether you can be relied upon to do this when needed, instead.

Take this photo, for example:


A pretty picture, taken under bad circumstances: harsh sunlight at noon. But it works:

  • The sky is blue, not white;
  • In general, colours are saturated;
  • It has red, green and blue in it;
  • The subjects are the “bright pixels”;
  • The drop shadows are hardly noticeable and are not annoying where they are;
  • The composition is good;
  • The focal distance is spot on;
  • Exposure both of the ambient and of the flash part of the photo is good;

…and so on. Yes, a lot goes into the making of a good photo, and those of you who have taken one of my Dutch Masters courses, workshops or seminars, or have attended my Sheridan College courses, know all about that.

But there’s more, namely predictability.

Quick, solve this:


OK: assuming your shutter speed is under your fastest flash sync speed, leave the ambient part alone, since it is already good; just add an off-camera flash:


Yeah, that can be done even unmodified, as it is here (a couple of hours ago). As a student of mine you will know the recipe: 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, f/8 and then vary only the aperture (here, to f/11). And after you do this a bunch of times you will even know (without metering) to set the flash at 1/4 power if it’s a couple of feet away from the subject.

Quick, solve this:


Not enough ambient. You could solve this by increasing ISO or opening the aperture, but then you’d have to also set the flash to a lower power level. There’s no time for all that. So instead, you slow the shutter, from 1/200 sec to 1/100 sec:


Bingo, a brighter background (by one stop) without varying the flash picture at all.

My courses and one-on-one coaching teach you this. But they cannot teach you the essential additional requirement: predictability. The ability to come to the above conclusions within a second or two, by yourself, while shooting.

Only practice can teach you this. I’ll hand you the tools; now it’s up to you to practice using them until you are comfortable. That will make you a pro, and this ability to handle any shooting situation that can be handled means that you will face shoots with a lot more confidence.

And don’t worry. This is all, in fact, very simple. When the metaphorical light bulb in their head turns on, a lot of my students say things like “but I thought this was supposed to be complicated?!”. Nope, once you know it, it’s simple. A bit like brain surgery, really.


Schedule a workshop with me now. A one-on-one, or come with a few friends and make it a group thing.See or if you prefer, call me, to schedule an appointment. Finally, the ability to confidently translate your vision into a photo!


Today, Rockwood conservation area in Guelph, a field workshop I taught for

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This type of walkaround course is very good at helping you put theory into practice. If you want to learn, really learn, consider coming on one of my get out and shoot courses!