To Flash… or Not To Flash

IMG_8385 copy … that is the critical question. Fleeting moments, it’s an instant call. You get one try… pick. It doesn’t come very often you get to shoot one with and one without flash. It’s a choice. Here David sat long enough for me to get two shots. The Canon G11 white balances automatically. Great! But it’s still ambient light you deal with. So it’s not quite right. The natural lighting gives less detail in the eyes and no gleam or catch light for the eye. Flash is a little too bright and a bit too artificial for my taste. I would pick the natural light. I’m not a fan of obsessive manipulation in Photoshop, so this is what it is.IMG_8384 copy



Technical: Nikon D90, 1/200 sec, f14, focal length 20


Just a couple of dudes sharing a moment, eh Susan? As to why stand on the plate…? If you’re environmental, you don’t want that plate to fly away. You’ve heard of flying saucers? You need the caption to tell what they are holding. Some illustrations need explanation. I did wonder why stand on the plate, too. To be picky, you could have moved the horizon down a little to isolate the heads and hands against that great blue sky background.

David, Sarah

Technical: iPhone 4s, 1/913 sec, f2.4, focal length 4.28

I’m not sure if this is a self portrait or it was done by a friend. David’s right arm could be holding the phone. There is background flare which highlight’s Sarah’s hair. The exposure is low in the foreground and probably could have used a fill flash to brighten up the colors and detail. Otherwise for the moment it was a shot of two happy people at a wedding.

Honey Crisp

Technical: Nikon D90, 1/200 sec, f6.3, focal length 34

Did focus…The Honey Crisp apple really is that big! Caption “OH…Snow White!” the not so evil queen! Sweet Matilda!

“Oh…Snow White!” the not so evil queen! Susan says that this is a big apple. It’s really a cute kid, too. I have no complaints here. She shared the shot at the apple orchard on apple picking day. Thanks.

Great profile shot. Most grown ups don’t look good in profile. It’s a nose and wrinkle thing. But the button nose of a cute kid is usually a winner. The eye is nearly center, which goes to show you that breaking the rules sometimes is a good thing. There is enough going on to make this work. Nice shot.


Technical: Nikon D90, 1/125 sec, f3.5, focal length 18

I like this portrait Susan shot of her grand daughter. The lighting is sweet. There is enough blurring of the background to make it pleasing. Yeah, it could be tweaked a bit. But mostly this is fine. It’s good as a horizontal image. I might crop/zoom closer. But the trade off is to loose the doll. I think it’s an important element. It’s something to think about. What to include or exclude? This is the decision of what the photographer sees to be important to their image. Again, I would encourage experimenting in the camera. Take a couple more images rather than think that you can compensate in Photoshop.

… Kidding Around

Technical: Nikon D800, 1/60 sec, f4, focal length 55mm

Stewart went wide angle on this shot. It’s still cute but is more cluttered in the background. Still cute. I would crop to a square. It’s stronger. And still cute, who wouldn’t agree when your daughter is in the image. Thanks for sharing this.


Technical: Nikon D800, 1/60 sec, f4, focal length 75mm

Stewart sent me this image today. He’s got a spiffy D800. The lighting is evenly done with the help of flash. That’s his daughter, her fiancé, and best friend (my daughter). All grown up and about to be married, we have known these kids for a very long time. Nice to see that their sense of humor hasn’t changed so much. It’s good to have a camera around for a spontaneous moment. This is pretty tight quarters with a lot os distracting background. Decisions need to made about cropping and whether to keep the hands in the frame or to focus in on the faces. I like Stewart’s shot.



Technical: Canon G11, 1/1000 sec, f4, focal length 6.1mm

Susan sent this shot and had already post processed with a vignette. I like this better than the original shot. She was unhappy about the pole. Photoshop and a bit of time can make about anything disappear. To me it’s too much work. I don’t object to the pole myself. And in the viewfinder if you find a pole, move the kids or the camera, or both. It’s been a while since I took an image thinking, “Oh, I’ll just fix it in Photoshop later.” I tend to move camera and subject and save a lot of editing time. Sometimes you can’t always do that, but it helps to think before you press the shutter.


Technical: Canon G11, 1/500 sec, f4, focal length 6.1mm

Susan cropped this image square and it’s a good example of getting away from the rectangular 35mm film frame. When most film was in this format, we ended with vertical or horizontal, boring and uniform. So it’s a good idea to experiment with the essential elements and crop accordingly. Which leaves me with the back of head shot. It does evoke a mood and feeling. I think you get a better image with the kids facing the camera. Technically it’s a sound image and if you like it I would not argue.

Illustration and Editing

Technical: Canon G11, 1/1250 sec, f4, focal length 6.1mm

This is an image you would use to illustrate a story. I don’t find too much merit as a portrait. There is some interest from the fence pattern. I agree with Susan that the kids are cute. There is an image here. But you need to explore the scene more. I realize it’s not easy to gain the cooperation of kids let alone a single kid. I would say that this image wouldn’t make it from the edit table. And you have taken so many other good images, that I think you might agree. One of the hardest tasks is to discard an image. Once you take the image it’s hard to disown it. But the hard decision will make your saved images stronger.

My process eliminates more than 90% of the images I take. In Lightroom, I use the 5 star system. The first star is for images that are technically Ok. Everything blurred and underexposed is eliminated. Also I try to anticipate what images will never make 5 star rating. Still, the bar is low. With each pass, I eliminate more images, often sorting vertical/horizontal and similar images. At 4 star I do a rapid gut sort of the images that strike me in the gut as ‘keepers.’ It doesn’t me take as long as it once did. Remember, that gorgeous photo in National Geographic was a single image culled from thousands… really! Finally I transfer copies of the 5 star images to a separate dated folder. It saves lots of time later.