Photography 105 – how to be successful in your photography business

When days are dark, these slivers of light shine extra bright. Yes, I received a check for $1.05

Clearly I need to raise my prices … or something. (Actually I have no idea why this company would just throw more money at me.)

Seriously though – the reason for this blog post is that I want to put in a proposal again to speak at WPPI 2016 in Las Vegas. (WPPI takes place March 05 – 09 next year.)

The previous four occasions where I presented a masterclass at WPPI, the topics had been about flash photography and lighting. So I feel I have mined that subject well enough – I need to have a wider scope.

I would like everyone (whether you’re going to WPPI or not), to give suggestions as to what topics you’d like to hear me touch on in a presentation. (The title – how to be successful in photography business – is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the riches that flow in.) What would you like to hear more about on the Tangents blog, and during presentations? Post your suggestions in the comments section.

To make this interesting, I will make two random-number drawings on Friday (by comment number), and each winner will get a complimentary copy of one of my Craftsy classes on photography.


flash photography tutorial: balancing flash and ambient exposure

This topic – balancing flash and ambient exposure – seems to one that many newer photographers struggle with. The big hurdle seems to be the basic starting point – how do you decide on the exposure for each?

I’d like to explore this topic a bit with this post.  The trigger for this was a question that someone emailed me regarding an image in one of my books on flash photography. Instead of answering the question directly, I thought that a wider answer might be more illuminating. We’re still on that perpetual quest for more aha! moments. So let’s see where we head with this. (I’ll come back to the specific question and answer at the end of this.)

Why do we even want to add flash to our subject? The answer is that with flash we can control the direction and quality of light, and create a more dynamic image.

We don’t necessarily just use flash to avoid camera shake and / or poor exposure in low light. We use flash to create better light on our subject. We can ‘clean up’ the light that falls on our subject. Or to create more dynamic and interesting light. It’s about control. We decide. So where do we start?

Learn more inside…


creative portraits on location – allow opportunities to happen

There was an interesting challenge for me during a recent individual photography workshop in NYC – Don (who arranged the workshop), already knew the essentials of lighting techniques, and said what he really wanted was insight into the way that I see a photo before I take it.  How do I know something will work or not. Don was particularly impressed with the series of photos of Anelisa that I shot for the review of the Profoto B2 Flash. The shallow depth-of-field images was a particular draw-card.

Serendipity – I love that word. A bit of chance favoring you. When a tiny bit of serendipity comes your way during a photo shoot, you have to be open enough to see it and then run with the idea. In effect, you have to be open to opportunity and allow it to happen to you.

There are a number of examples on the Tangents blog where I stumbled on interesting found light, and used it for effect:

These are the kind of opportunities that you need to allow to happen, and not get fixated on the ideas you had in mind. Grab what is happening and work with it. Here is one example from the workshop in NYC:

Learn more inside…


recap: flash photography workshop – New Jersey / NJ (2015)

The format of the flash photography workshops that I present, are constantly evolving. Gradual changes as I adapt the program to be fluent. Always with the ideal that anyone who attends will see a marked improvement in their understanding and use of flash, and on-location lighting.

I wanted to give a glimpse again of one of these workshops – in this case an Individual Workshop attended by two photographers, with Adrienne as our model. The tempo of the workshop is nice and relaxed, giving everyone time to shoot and practice, and let it all sink in. There are also hugely funny moments …

Learn more inside…


Feminine Portraiture / Boudoir Photography workshop – May 31, 2015

I’m pretty chuffed about this – teaming up with Genine Gullickson, one of the best boudoir photographers I know, we’ll be presenting an all-day workshop in Feminine Portraiture and Boudoir Photography. The workshop will be held in Genine’s studio in Schenectady, NY. And if like me, you don’t quite know where Schenectady is, it is a short hop away from Albany, NY.

Date: May 31, 2015
Time: 9am – 6pm
Fee: $495

With this workshop 2 experienced models will be available wearing a variety of clothing as well as lingerie for boudoir. Attendees will have the opportunity to apply posing and lighting techniques learned throughout the entire day. The workshop will be limited to 15 attendees.

We will provide morning coffee and snacks, lunch, two models, two stylists, loft styled studio, and outdoor shooting spaces!

Learn more inside…


informal / candid portraits on the street – applying what you know

New York City abounds with characters – interesting and colorful people. This is one of those constants if you’re out on the streets in NYC, especially when taking photos or busy with a photo session … or as in this case, during one of the individual photography workshops in NYC. This man approached us to sell his artwork … and we ended up taking a few photos of him. With a few quick, automatic steps, the informal portrait is improved.

I’m one of those people, who, if tourists in Times Square give me their cameras, I will also pose them and correct a few things. Adjust an awkward pose. Hide shopping bags. Any quick fixes that will immediately improve even a camera phone snapshot.

Similarly here, I immediately asked him to go to this doorway a few yards away – the gold trim and black of the facade would perfectly match the dark suit and warm tones of this flower and his skin. Working in this doorway also meant we had shade – no struggle with hard sunlight. The pose is all his! He immediately went to this pose.

If you look at the 4 images in the entire sequence, you will notice the first image he had his left hand out in the sun. I asked him to drop his hand a bit so that he was entirely in the shade. Then another 3 quick photos, as I adjust my composition slightly to pull in more of the blue sky reflection. I knew the blue tones would balance the warmer tones to the bottom of the frame.

All of these micro-decisions to adjust an informal portrait, are done in a few seconds. Decisively, but gently. This is all done with the idea of elevating a random snapshot into an informal portrait that could hopefully stand on its own as an interesting photo of an interesting character we met out on the street.

Learn more inside…


A Guide on How to Calculate Photographic Exposures 

Tilo Gockel, the author of Creative Flash Photography (Amazon), has made a part of his book available as a free download!

You can download the PDF tutorial here.

There are also other freebies available from the publisher, Rocky Nook.


Rocky Nook’s Guide to HDR & Panoramas with Photo Merge in Lightroom CC

  • How to use Lightroom CC to merge your photos into editable HDR files.
  • Techniques for simplifying your Lightroom workflow for Photo Merge projects.
  • Tips for capturing the best source files for panoramas and HDRs.

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book: On-Camera Flash (2nd ed.) – flash photography demystified

If you think I’ve been quiet on the Tangents blog the past few months … here is the reason why: I’ve been hard at work on the revised edition of On-Camera Flash …  it’s just been announced for a Nov 2015 release date, and is available on pre-order with Amazon. I really am excited about this updated version of the best-selling book!

On-Camera Flash (2nd edition)  – Amazon USA

On-Camera Flash (2nd edition)  – Amazon UK

Based on the best-selling 1st edition, this is more than just a cosmetic overhaul. Combining older material which have been polished and streamlined, with lots of new material and trawling the Tangents blog for the best material.

At 35,000 words (the maximum the publisher would allow me), this is a concise introduction to on-camera flash photography, with the accent on demystifying flash. I concentrated on bounce flash photography for the latter half of the book, since I strongly believe that is where the magic lies with using on-camera flash.

One way in which this book has been radically changed from the first edition, is that it is now more of a work-book. There are several examples where you have to have your camera (and flash) in your hands, to step through the instruction. All the better to make sense of flash photography, and become confident in the use of flash photography.

For those of you who had asked for the images in the video of the review: comparing various light modifiers for on-camera flash – they are in the book!

The cover image was specifically decided on, and shot for this cover. I wanted an image that is striking. It really had to stand out. And it had to be truly illustrative of the beautiful light you can easily create with just your on-camera flash.

Here is how it came about …

Learn more inside…


photographing portraits with a personal connection

One of the portraits I’ve taken over the years that I am most proud of, is this of my friend Petra Herrmann. This photograph, for me, shows her strength as well as vulnerability.

I’d mention her sense of humor, and her warmth and kindness .. but she’d just tell me to fuck off. So there’s that. But it’s true. She’s a remarkable person and friend … and I am glad she’s going to be around much, much longer.

Petra is a well-known boudoir photographer in Kansas City, who also co-maintains the The Business of Boudoir site. Somewhere late in 2014, Petra was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though she is still going through the second round of chemo, the good news is that it looks like she is bouncing back from it, with the prognosis very good.

This photo was taken in March 2015, while at a photography convention in Las Vegas. Catching up during a long afternoon of conversation and laughter, I asked if I could take photographs of her. I felt it was important that we capture this. This time in her life. I loved the series of photos then, and even more so now. There is a quietness and strength there – and as much as friends can rally, this is a solitary battle.

Perhaps with portraits where there is connection and intimacy, it becomes this transaction between the photographer and subject – a deeper, unspoken conversation taking place during the taking of the photographs. And it has more to do with your subject giving you those more revealing moments, than it has to do with your technical skills as a photographer. Then the existing friendship and trust can fortunately take precedence – and with a little bit of help with the photographer’s personality to elicit some response – create an evocative portrait. In other words, the success of this photo has much more to do with Petra ‘giving’ me this photograph, than me taking it.

Learn more inside…


review: comparing various light modifiers for on-camera flash

Many of the tutorials and articles on the Tangents blog deals with getting the best from your on-camera flash. My approach has always been one of – what technique would give me the best light? Of course, there are so many different scenarios we could find ourselves in – so we have to adapt to where we are, and what we want to achieve.

With on-camera flash, I’ve always pushed back against the idea of there being a single do-everything device that will make your flash photography look better. Specifically with light and lighting, We need to be aware of where we are, and then adapt to get the best results. It really is up to us as creative photographers, to either take control or to adapt.

This is the main motif in my book, Direction and Quality of Light – once we understand and see this underlying principle of lighting – that it is all about the direction and quality of light – we have much more range in our abilities as photographers. And that has been my approach to using on-camera flash as well – I want good clean light.

Over time there has been many requests for a comparative review of the various on-camera flash modifiers on the market. So I decided to use a representative selection of them, and show the results from them in a very specific environment – bounce flash indoors. Keep in mind that I did not edit the photos of Adrienne, so that you’d have an idea of how much glare there is on her skin with some of the modifiers.

The focus of this video review is limited to just that scenario then. We don’t look at how these flash modifiers perform outdoors, or in venues where there isn’t much of anything to bounce flash off. The caveat of course is that we might just surprise ourselves when we find out how effective bare speedlight bounce flash is indoors in cavernous areas: high-ISO bounce flash photography.

Still, there is a huge amount of curiosity about how these flash modifiers compare and how well they fare against each other. Check out the video, and follow the linked articles for more.

Learn more inside…