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.


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.

Tamron 18-270mm Lens

It’s been about 40 years since I bought a non-Nikon lens so why did I buy a Tamron super zoom?

$365 at Henry’s, that’s why! It’s on a special sale price right now.tamron.jpb_g

Sure you can buy the Nikon 18-300mm (or the less expensive 18-200) for $1,000 but do you really want to?

Remember there’s also the 18-105 or 18-140 Nikon kit lenses if you want so more range than what’s available from the 18-55mm but why the Tamron?


Here’s what’s great about the Tamron 18-270…$365 and it works plus it’s very light.

A super zoom works perfectly well for what I want to use it for which is the World Gay Pride Day parade coming up at the end of the month and the Toronto Zombie Walk in October. Hundreds of thousands of people (estimates go as high as a million plus) will line the Gay Pride parade route (which closes downtown Toronto to vehicular traffic). This means for photography you’ve got to show up about two hours early to get a place along the roadside and once the parade is over the crowd walks into the gay area of Toronto so you’re going to be carrying your equipment around for five or six hours on what is often a very very hot day. You don’t want to be carrying around a ton of equipment.

Because I’m likely to be shooting very fast, the Olympus cameras that I own aren’t ideal but the Nikons are. You can shoot all day long as much and as fast as you want with the Nikons. The Olympus cameras are way better for shooting vacation shots when you’re carrying your equipment wherever you go but they aren’t as robust as the Nikons.untitled-2

There are lots of super zooms for sale these days. Sigma has a couple as does Nikon so why the Tamron? Well you know the answer when it comes to price and for outdoor special events it’s perfect.

But it’s not good at all for shooting indoors so I wouldn’t want to shoot a wedding with it unless I used the Tamron for the outdoor shots and my 35/50/85 f/1.8 combination along with my 12-24 f/4 and 17-55mm f/2.8 (which is one heavy sucker and not a lot of fun to carry for hours at a time) for the indoor stuff. Even if you paired the Tamron with a flash, it’s still not an ideal indoor setup.

The Tamron does have some macro capabilities but I already own the amazing Nikon 105 macro which you can pry from my cold, dead hands so macro isn’t an issue for me. Nevertheless the shot of the flowers in a hanging basket in shade turned out pretty well.

One thing I really like about the Tamron aside from price is the stabilization system. I’ve never found the Nikon stabilizer to be particularly wonderful but the Tamron worked well enough to get sharp shots of the cat at less than a 1/30th of a second (and no I’m not posting bad cat shots). The second thing that really delighted me was Lightroom 5 already has a corrective lens profile built-in for the Tamron 18-270.. It’s really impressive to watch Lightroom compensate for the distortion inherent in this super zoom.

So if you want a do-it-all lens be advised there is no such thing but for outdoor special event shooting any 18-200-plus super zoom is going to be a joy (with more joy shooting with the lighter lenses over longer times) but really folks $365. Insanely cheap and wonderfully useful (if you know what you’re doing).




Why Switch To Canon?

No not me (not yet) but Scott Kelby, world-famous football shooter and principal at Kelby Training has switched from Nikon to Canon.

This is big news in the Canon-Nikon never-ending debate.d800_mbd12_front34l

I’ve shot with Canons and I always liked the results especially when it came to how warm the image looked right out of the camera.

I’ve shot Nikons since the mid-70s and I’ve never had reason to change but if you’re shooting pro-level sports and you don’t have a big investment in Nikon you might want to consider a Canon.

Now having said that I do know that even recently some pro shooters who shoot with fast lenses opened wide say the Canon has problems finding a precise focus and I’ve never had this issue with Nikon so beware and be happy. Either of theses manufacturer’s top end cameras are state of the art.

How To Shoot A Lion

As I was saying in my last post I’ve been editing my friends images from her time in Africa. We took her 3,000 images down to 500 using IPhoto and its ability to rank photos using stars.

I told her I wouldn’t do more than 500 and now after two-and-a-half days of editing using Aperture I should have said 200 images !

What in the frijole was I thinking?IMG_1057

Anyway all is done and if I do say so myself the editing went well and most of the images came out looking very good especially considering most of the shots were taken with an all-weather point-and-shoot.

So what have I noticed in my friend’s shooting that I could help her with for next time.

Number one would be to shoot more! If this had been my trip and I was living in the country I would have taken upwards of 10,000 images. And why so many? Because when you’re shoot something like a lion which you may never see again outside of a zoo shoot more than one frame! Cameras can get it wrong. Sometimes we are shaking the camera more than we think we are. Sometimes the light is wrong and taking more frames might just save the day.

Second have a backup system in place. My friend showed up my door with all 3,000 images on her Macbook Air. Before I did anything I made a copy of all her images on one of my external hard drives and then I recopied that file folder to a second archival backup hard drive. Then I took a copy of all her images and brought them into my computer. Now that her images are existing in multiple places I feeling much more secure about working on one copy. I’ll be burning a DVD of her finished images and keeping a copy for safety on my backup system.

For travel photography I’d recommend shoot with 16-gig fast memory cards. These don’t need to be top of the line when it comes to speed but your camera will ingest images quicker if you’re using a medium to fast speed name brand card. Don’t go overboard here but don’t go cheap. These days decent 16-gig memory cards should cost between $30 to $60 each. If you want to have a bunch of cheaper, slower name brand cards as backup that’s fine but have a couple of decent cards as your primary cards.P1010115 (1)

If you’re shooting RAW images with a DSLR then buy the fastest cards you can afford and you might want to consider buying 32-gig or even 64-gig cards.

I’ve got two 64-gig slow name brand cards that I pack as emergency backups. Since each card can hold thousands and thousands of JPGs or about half that number of RAW images I’m never afraid of running out of memory. I just wouldn’t consider using them for action events like weddings or sports 🙂 .

If you’re going on an extended stay consider bringing a laptop with an external hard drive or at the very least one of the new devices that can download your images to an external rugged hard drive. Don’t even consider using the Internet to upload your images to your Cloud storage or online gallery unless you know for certain the cost per megabyte you’re going to be charged for this service. Hotels can have killer rates.

When it comes to cameras, based on what I saw from my friend’s shots, which were taken with a Panasonic DMC-TS4 98 per cent of all shots could be taken with this or similar cameras.

Only a few shots of animals in trees required a zoom range over 100mm and even then most amateur photographers wouldn’t have got the shot. (One of the reasons is most amateur “safaris” take place during midday when the sun is directly overhead causing huge issues with contrast. Pros want to shoot at dawn and dusk and hire the best drivers to take them and maybe one other person to the best shooting areas during the best seasons for shooting animals at watering holes. Shots taken at noon look washed out.)IMG_0700

Now if it were me I’d take my Olympus cameras plus an all-weather point-and-shoot for shooting in the pool or during dust storms!

If you’re willing to carry a slightly bigger camera than a point-and-shoot I’d highly recommend something like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 all-in-one. At $400 this camera is a steal.

FujiFilm has been making some amazing non-DSLR cameras and I’d be looking at what they have to offer if I was looking for a new camera.

But if you insist on bringing your big, expensive DSLR (faster, better sensor, cleaner images) with a bag of lenses (sharper, longer, faster) and I’d be tempted if shooting animals was my number one reason for the trip) then I’d bring two bodies plus a wide zoom (12-24), a long zoom (18-300 or the 70-210 f/4 zoom which at f/4 is about half the price of the f/2.8 and about half the weight), a macro lens (They have to pry my Nikon 105 f/2.8 macro from my dead cold hands!) and a fast 50 or 35 f/1.8 for shooting around the campfire or bar at night 🙂 Plus pack a flash that can be remotely controlled from the camera.

If you’re going on a pro safari you don’t need me to tell you that you’ll need a big empty bean bag (get the beans at a market in Africa) to support you’re 200-400 or longer zooms plus you might want to hire a kid to carry all your stuff.

Street Photography

Funny thing after being a news photographer for years and having no compunction about sticking my camera in somebody’s face without permission or notice, I find actual street photography very weegeeintimidating. But street photography has a great history and has been served by some amazing photographers.

If we go back to Weegee we can see street photography as it was in New York City decades ago. Weegee, whose real name was Arthur Fellig worked for New York dailies between 1935 and 1945 using a 4″X5″ Speed Graphic.

But he wasn’t the first. Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He started shooting with the newly introduced 35mm camera in the late 1920s using the iconic Leica rangefinder camera (You can buy a digital Leica M9 today.) 800px-Cartier-Bresson's_first_Leica

A modern street photographer Jay Maisel is one of my photo heroes. I attended a talk he gave when he was in Toronto last year and I loved it. Jay has shot New York City for decades. He owns a brownstone building from where he shoots often from his rooftop. Here’s a great video about Jay taken by Scott Kelby.

Now here’s a video that I just found. It’s from 1981 and it’s about Joel Meyerowitz who also shot in New York City. The video is an educational tour of street photography and despite its rather amateurish presentation is pretty neat to watch.

I do this in mind of Podcamp Toronto which is coming up next weekend. Think I’ll take the Olympus Pen E-PL5 with a fast lens and see what happens.

BTW I’ve got a copy of Robert Frank’s The Americans. Printed in Germany it has a forward by Jack Kerouac. Shot in 1955-56 it’s a classic.

Olympus E-PL5 First Impressions

I got my Olympus E-PL5 this morning and here’s my first impressions.olympus-PEN-E-PL5-16

First the E-PL5 is way smaller than I expected. it’s smaller than my E-PL2 and is even thinner than my older E-PL1.

The focus is as fast as anything I’ve ever owned including my Nikon D-300. It’s terrific.

The touch screen controls are incredibly sensitive and I shot a whole bunch of photos until I found how to turn it off. Even shot one frame with my nose 🙂

The controls on the back of the camera seem to be in a better position than on the other two cameras. For example, Olympus has put the instant movie on button higher up in the top right corner of the body no doubt so you don’t accidentally start taking a movie by mistake which happens a lot on the E-PL2.

It appears that the multi-function control has been moved lower on the body and is much smaller than previous models and again I suspect that the idea is to avoid accidentally moving the control.

The E-PL5’s multi-controller also needs to be clicked before it will change exposure composition, flash, exposure points or timer/single/multi shot controls. The E-PL2’s multi-controller is always on and I continue making unexpected changes which is not a good thing. Most causal shooters will never encounter these issues but when I’m shooting special events (especially after dark at an outdoor jazz festival) I am shooting so fast with two camera bodies that the controls on the E-PL2 were always getting knocked around.

I am not certain that the E-PL5 has solved this problem and only taking it out on a job will tell me for sure but this so looks hopeful.olympus-omd-om5

The clip-on external flash doesn’t bother me as I rarely use flash with the Olympus cameras and the promise of higher useable ISO levels is something I am looking forward to playing with when I’m shooting available light.

So why didn’t I cough up another $500 for the Olympus Om-D OM-5? First it’s a little bigger (although tiny compared to my Nikon D-300) but it was the price that did it for me. I got the E-PL5 body for half the price of the OM-5 and yet I got the same sensor which means the same image quality which at 16-megs is amazing.

Second my wife would have killed me!

I am really hoping all the hype around the image quality is true. If it is, I might be inclined to sell all my DX equipment and shoot all my non-paying and vacation shots using the Olympus cameras. For my paying commercial work, I’d go buy either a D-600 or a D-800 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens and the 70-210mm f/2.8 lens. With those two lenses I could easily shoot any of my commercial jobs. Sure I’d like a 14-24mm f/2.8 or a 20mm f/2.8 and maybe a 24-70mm f/2.8 but the body with two lenses will do it. A second body would be a must for some of my commercial work. I’ve got a 105mm f/2.8 macro that’s full-frame and delightful.

I’ve got a couple of none-critical jobs coming up and I’ll use the Olympus cameras and we’ll see how it goes. So far, I’m delighted and I haven’t even played with adding Wi-Fi cards yet 🙂