Soften Flash Shots

Cover your pop-up flash with a tissue for softer looking portraits.

This was one of the 101 Tips I offered at Toronto’s PodCamp 2015 in my photography workshop.PB180162

If you’re shooting with a point-and-shoot camera or most DSLRs (the big cameras) on automatic, the camera’s flash unit will popup and fire if there’s not enough light to produce a property exposed image.

The problem with this automatic pop-up flash mode is often the camera gets the exposure wrong and the pop-up flash just overexposes the photo (which is often a portrait thus washing out the face producing a pretty ugly image).

One of the easiest ways to modify your pop-up flash is to drape a layer of translucent tissue paper over the flash head. Add extra layers as necessary to reduce the amount of light hitting your subject. (BTW the photo above was taken at Jennifer Rozenbaum’s Boudoir Workshop which is returning to Toronto April 25. Check the Henry’s website for details. Highly recommended.)

If you’re in a room with a ceiling at normal high above you and if the ceiling is painted white or a light cream colour you can hold a blank piece of paper at an angle in front of the flash forcing the light to bounce up to the ceiling where it will bounce back down again gently illuminating your subject.

Experiment with modifying the light from your popup flash for much softer and lovelier images.


Advanced Lightroom – Oakville Camera Club

Tonight at the Oakville Camera Club I did a presentation on Advanced Lightroom.P2170013

As promised, here’s the PDF with active hyperlinks of the presentation.


One extra tip I just learned from watching Photoshop Week this afternoon on

Jared Platt was doing a mini-workshop on Lightroom development tools when he chanced to mention that Lightroom slows up when you’ve uploaded too many presets.

I have hundreds of presets installed on my Lightroom and while the software is running quickly on my MacBook Pro with a solid-state hard drive I will be removing the presets I’m not using tomorrow.

In Photo: That’s Oakville Camera Club president Bill Smith (center) and former Oakvillian and world-class podcaster and general good gal Donna Papacosta (right) of Trafalgar Communications.

PodCamp Toronto 2015 Photo Workshop

Pete’s 101 Tips For Radically Better Photos workshop is coming to PodCamp Toronto 2015.


I’m putting together a list (which I will publish here) of 101 tips to get radically better images no matter what kind of camera you use. IPhone, IPads, point-and-shoots, expensive digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, it doesn’t matter. The basics of photography remain the same.

This special workshop is free to anyone attending PodCamp Toronto 2015 (Itself a free event.) on Feb. 21-22 (my workshop is yet to scheduled) at Ryerson University in downtown Toront0.

Learn to shoot like a pro from a pro. I’ve been a press photographer (No that’s not me in the photo! But I do recognize the camera.) since the early 70s ending my career as a community newspaper editor and national magazine photographer and group magazine editor. Ever since I retired, I’ve been teaching thousands of students how to get radically better images regardless of what kind of camera they use.

Join us at PodCamp Toronto 2015 and enjoy my NO TECHNICAL TALK plain-language free workshop on how to shoot radically better images and love the photos you shoot for yourself, your blog, Facebook or your business.

I love teaching photography and you’re going to love the difference in your photos.

See you at PodCamp Toronto 2015.

Lightroom Lessons Learned

First a BIG thank you to the 75-80 members of the Oakville Camera Club who came out to hear my introduction to Lightroom 5 talk last night.

It’ a little daunting for a presenter when he knows he’s got people in the crowd who don’t know anything about photo editing and these folks are sitting in the same room as people who know Lightroom inside out and some who know it better than I do !!

I can tell you as a presenter it’s a shock when you ask the attendees to put up their hand if they currently use Lightroom and 60 to 70 per cent of the hands go up.

So we do the best we can and the members of the Oakville Camera Club were gracious (as always), connected to the talk and asked great questions.

One question I could have answered better was one about using Photoshop as an external editor (You had to be there as I couldn’t get my external editors to work as my computer didn’t think I had built Smart Previews — see below — and refused to open even though all was fine at my last class a week ago.) and I said that when you save your image in Photoshop it comes back to Lightroom as changes to the data file. Well it does and, more importantly, a TIFF image is actually added to the folder of RAW images that you’ve manually imported to your hard drive. I should have emphasized the TIFF (a RAW format) more. One of the experts in the front row rightly corrected me but I’m not sure everyone heard his excellent explanation.

Which brings me to the biggest issue most people have with Lightroom and that’s how to set it up.

Here again is my recommendation:

First import your RAW or JPG images manually to an external hard drive folder marked by the year (2014) and into a sub folder named for the event (Mary’s wedding). Now make a duplicate of the 2014 folder and all the folders inside it on a second external hard drive. So you have your original, untouched, unedited images in two external hard drives. That’s pretty safe. If you’re concerned about the security of your images you could load a copy of the images to DropBox (if you have the space) or one of the other online storage sites (which you pay for). You can also burn a DVD (or several) of your images.

Only now do you fire up Lightroom and in the Library module you use Lightroom’s navigator (column on left side) and find your original image folder (Mary’s wedding and all sub folders if any) and then click the import button. At the top of your screen click on the option ADD as you’re adding a reference to the original images to the Lightroom catalogue which is being created.

You can determine which size of JPGs you want to load (minimal loads relatively quickly and 1:1 previews take more time) and if you think you might wish to edit your images at anytime when you’re not going to be connected to your external hard drives click Smart Previews (which again will slow the upload and increase the size of the catalogue) which allows for editing without connection to the original images (a new feature of LR 5). When you reconnect the hard drives the data file changes you’ve made in the field are re-associated to the original images.

Once you’ve imported your images to your external hard drives using your computer’s operating system (This is a whole lot fast than letting Lightroom do all the heavy work of moving images from a camera or memory card to your computer. LR will also create a copy of all the imports in a second location of your choice if you decide to ignore my recommendation.) then always use Lightroom’s Navigator panel in the Library Module to move your original image folders around if you decide you need to change where the original reside. If you use your operating system and manually drag images or folders around, Lightroom won’t know what you’ve done and will present you with a big ? and will be unable to edit your images until you reestablish the Lightroom – Images connection manually. Best to use your operating system to bring the images in and Lightroom to move them around from then on.

I did get asked several times whether or not I thought Lightroom was the best photo editor for them.

Of course the answer is it depends.

It depends on whether or not you’re editing thousands of images from weddings you’ve shot or vacations you’ve had. Then Lightroom is the best IMHO because you can edit, search, develop, print or export images really really quickly if you use the presets and collections features.

If you’re editing fewer than a 1,000 shots a year or so, then any decent photo editor will do (Photoshop Elements, NX Capture 2 which was just discontinued by Nikon, IPhoto, Aperture and there’s a ton more).

Here’s my recommended 10-step workflow:

  1. Import the RAW or JPG images into LR.
  2. View rapidly all the images adding a one STAR rating for keepers. (This normally takes 2000 images down to 500-700.)
  3. View the one-star images and rate the keepers with two STARS. (This normally bring the 500-700 images down to 200 images or less.)
  4. Make a collection of all the two star images.
  5. Bring all the two star images into the Develop module.
  6. In the Develop module I crop, fix the white balance (try auto first) and using the histogram I start with exposure and work my way down the right-hand column of exposure changes.
  7. Before I adjust any sliders I will click Auto in the exposure section and / or use a development present from SEIM filters (Seim has free samples. i own everything this guy has made as they speed up work and often provide insight and inspiration into what I could do to my image. Best all the preset packs are relatively cheap.) and others.
  8. If necessary or desirable I’ll edit the image using an external photo editor (This includes Photoshop which I own and all the NIK editors which are excellent.)
  9. I’ll then export the image (usually as a full-size JPG to a folder on my computer’s hard drive) for subsequent emailing, printing or web gallery viewing.
  10. Once I’ve edited all the images I save the completed and burned JPG folder to my two external hard drives and if these are precious images I will burn a DVD and likely add them to my SmugMug and Flickr sites for save keeping.

Finally I want to thank the Oakville Camera Club’s executive for the warm email which was waiting for me today in my inbox and to the members of the Oakville Camera Club who took the time last night to attend (some came from as far away as Guelph) and to say thank you in person. It was a very nice conclusion to a great evening for me.

All About Lightroom

This week I’m finishing up several workshops on Lightroom 5 which I have been presenting over multiple nights.

Here, as PDFs, are the slide show I used as my talking notes and an accompanying document filled with how-to hyperlinks.

LR5 SS.key

LR Notes.pages

I want to thank all the students in the workshops I gave over the last month and trust you find that while Lightroom is a comprehensive photo editor it is very user friendly especially when you take the time learn how to make it work for you.

How To Shoot Your African Safari

A dear friend of mine asked my opinion on which camera to take to Africa where she was going to work for an International charitable agency.

I suggested a point-in-shoot!Panasonic-Lumix-TS4-front-side

Even worse, I suggest a waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof (It gets cold in the desert at night.) Panasonic DMC-TS4.

I mean what was I thinking?

Well turns out my recommendation was a good one. I know because right now I am editing her 500 three-star picks out of some 3,000 images she shot in total.

Sure there’s the odd shot that fooled the camera but overall the quality of the JPG images are superb.P1020127

But it’s Africa!

Wouldn’t my friend get better images with a full-frame DSLR and a bag full of lenses? Well it is Africa and knowing my friend, who I love dearly, my guess is she’d be relieved of her expensive equipment sometime in the first week of arrival. Africa or for that matter most of the world isn’t all that dangerous but the third world is filled with folks who can be opportunistic at best and downright criminal at worst. A camera bag left unattended or unwatched even for a moment will disappear in most of the major airports in the world including those here in North America.

When my wife and I travel she carries her Olympus camera with the standard zoom in a very small camera bag strapped around her neck. My camera bag goes over my shoulder and goes with me everywhere (Yes there too!) and never leaves my sight or my grasp. In high-risk countries I bring a steel net that can lock to a bed frame!

A $2,000 camera and $4,000 worth of lenses, aside from being way more than my friend can afford let alone carry just isn’t necessary for her and frankly that includes most of us as well.

Her rugged point-and-shoot fits in a purse or pocket and even if she dropped it, the camera would likely keep working and will do so even in a desert dust storm. Your DSLR won’t do that!

But, but what about those shots of lions and other animals. Yes there are a few shots her friend got with a Canon all-in-one but for the most part lions (and it’s especially lions) will come and sit in the shade provided by your parked LandRover.IMG_1256

If you’re a serious amateur or pro sure you want to take your best stuff but if it was me and I wasn’t going on a specific safari just to shoot animals I’d leave the DSLR at home and take my Olympus cameras and lenses.

Most of my friend’s best shots were taken at the ruins in Egypt and just about any decent ($300 to $800) point-and-shoot or all-in-one will do the trick even when shot on “automatic”! The shot of the lioness was shot with a Canon SX-40 which is a relatively ($400) cheap all-in-one DSLR-like camera but the metadata shows this shot could have been taken with just about any camera that had even a modest zoom.

And how do I know all this to be true?

Well I said I’d help her edit her images once she got the 3,000 shots down to under 500. What was I thinking!!

P1010137I’ve cropped, brightened, upped the saturation, lowered the noise in 200 shoots so far today using Aperture for a change instead of Lightroom.

At $79 Aperture from Apple is terrific and best of all my NIK software editors all work flawless inside it. I’m using Colour Efex Pro a lot with her landscapes as it really makes the image pop. (The shot of my friend on the camel is actually very very yellow from light being defused through a dust storm and I’ll offer her both choices as the gold one looks pretty good. My friend wants to make a slide show and a book from her picks in IPhoto and my work in Aperture should be transparent to IPhoto. They’re going to look amazing.

So in conclusion always carry a point-and-shoot when on vacation no matter what else you’ve brought along as you never know when that perfect shot is going to present itself even if it’s during a desert dust storm.