Where I have been, what I have done, and why I did it

Off Camera Flash

9/25/14 A Maternity Shoot

I was asked earlier in the year if I would take some maternity pictures.  I enjoy shooting portraits so I agreed to a shoot.  Below is the planning from start to finish.

The planning period- Where?  I was reviewing locations when Brittany (my subject) sent me a maternity picture she liked.  The concept of the picture was using a big window for rim light.  This narrowed down where we would shoot.  She had access to the vacant farm house in which her mother grew up.  I had been there several times, and I knew it had large enough windows for the shot.

The planning period- What’s the composition going to be?  For lighting, the setup was going to be simple.  I knew I wanted to use a window for rim light.  I also knew I wanted to provide a soft light to the front of her.  For the front light, I planned on using my 28 inch softbox.  The unknown at the time was how to handle the background.  I planned for two scenarios.  Scenario one would be to blur out the background with an open aperture (around f2.0) and extra light through the rim window.  Scenario two would be to retain some of the background detail with a smaller aperture (f8) and no added light to the rim window.

Time had come for the shoot.  We arrived at the farm house and I spent a few minutes walking through it to find the best location.  I found the window I wanted to use.  It was a window in the front room that looked out to the street that went back to town.  For some reason it hit me that this is a window her mom has probably looked out of a million times growing up.

It was time to setup and I quickly noticed I did not have enough room to place my softbox in front of Brittany.  Luckily there was a window in front of her so I placed it outside.  Below is a diagram of the setup. (EDIT – I accidentally left off the lens info in the diagram.  Canon 85mm 1.8)


Below is a picture from this session.


I was pleased with the outcome.


1/11/13 Doomsday Shot Compilation

Last year, I was invited by my neighbors to go trap shooting.  It had been a good 20 years since my last call to arms (dove hunting in ’92) so off I went.

I decided to bring my camera gear and for fun take a few pictures to process as a “Doomsday” theme.  Once we arrived and the shooting began, I surveyed the best spots to place my off camera flashes.  Below is the setup I used-


Some side notes about the setup:  I typically like to use some type of modifier to lessen the harshness of the flash.  However with the wind and more importantly the gun fire, I really did not want a large target getting in the way.  I wanted the highest flash to be my main and the safest location for it was behind / to the side.  This meant the camera view would be from an angle that would be hard to see a face.  I watched them shoot a few times and I noticed as they followed the skeet, there was an opportunity to get to the side and capture a face.

After a few trial and error runs, this is the one I decided to work with…below is the picture out of camera and ready for post process in photoshop –


My first steps – I added some contrast using Nik pro contrast around 25%, then I added a bit of vignette and the barrel smoke.


My next steps – I added some tone mapping to the subjects (dodge and burn), increased the smoke effect from the barrel and I added some subtle smoke to the shell extraction.


Next it was time to work on the texturing to give if that grungy feel.  I layered a texture (set it to multiply) and then added a mask to it so I could control how much of it I wanted to appear in sections of the photo.


At this point it was time to start getting the colors more uniform.  For this I used channel mixer, hue/saturation, warming photo filter and a curves adjustment.


On my last step, I added a bit more punch to it by adding another curves adjustment layer and a vignette layer that I overlayed at %50.


Click here to see the larger version.

2/19/12 Lighting Setup And Your Model

In this post I want to go over some things I look for when I’m setting up a shot.  First thing I always look at is how the model’s hair falls across his/her forehead.  This will typically tell me where I want to place my main light.  In this example I noticed my model’s hair fell over the left side of her face.  So where ever I moved her, I wanted to place my main light on her right side.

With the placement of where my main light will go, I then look at my setting to see how I can incorporate separation by either using a strobe or ambient for back light.  In this example, I noticed the sun was at an angle that was providing a nice warm glow.  I also noticed that there was a dark background with the trees.  I knew that I wanted this to be the backdrop with the sun coming in from the side to provide a subtle hair/back light.

Below is a diagram of the setup-

Below are a few shots from this setup-

On a side note, this particular setup sort of contradicts lighting in that many people would have reversed her stance so the main light would have been on the right side with the sun on the left.  But I liked this angle because it seemed to give more of a dramatic look with the sun.

10/4/11 – Behind The Scenes – Off Camera Flash

About a month ago I did a shoot for my niece.  She wanted some pictures with a car that has been in our family for many years.   On a Saturday I dove a few hours south to go visit them and to find a location to complete this shot.

Luckily there was a road nearby that did not have much traffic on it so we got things ready and set up.  I used a vivitar 285 ½ power camera right thru an umbrella and a LumoPRO 160 ½ power camera left and behind.

I was having trouble getting focus on my niece’s face so I had my brother point my handy flashlight on her.  You can see this in the raw picture below.

And in this raw picture below you see where I had my camera left flash setup.

And now some different pics from this lighting setup that have been post processed-

9/27/11 A Band Shoot

A few months back I received a call asking if I would do a band promo shot.  I had not heard their music yet so I was kind of in the dark as to which theme I would try to achieve.  So after the call I started researching techniques/ideas for band promo shots.  I came across some neat photos that had different looks that I knew I could handle.  This gave me enough ideas so when I arrived and saw the band I would know how I would capture the mood.

I did not know how much time I would have to get the shots.  So I had planned on just shooting around their studio.  However just to be safe I pulled up google maps street view of the town I would be shooting in to find some areas that would make good backdrops.  (I’m glad I did this as it comes in handy!)

I arrived at their studio the afternoon of the shoot a little early to look around.  Immediately I saw a lack of space.  Luckily the band was running late from getting ready and I had some more time to go check on the other locations I had scouted out on google maps.  These spots were only about 3 miles away and were much better.

The band arrived at the studio and I convinced them that this other location was much better.  We loaded up and took shots at a few different spots.  Below is a diagram of the shot they are using-

And below is the shot straight from the camera-

And below is the shot after I processed it-

More pictures from this shoot can be found here. (By the way their band name is now Artifas… it was New Skin)

8/1/11 Low Light + Slow Shutter Speed + Off Camera Flash = Neat Effect

Back in April of 2011 my cell phone rings, “Hey… can you come down to Martin Tn and shoot this Soles for Souls event I’m putting on?”  I accepted the request and gathered the preliminary information I needed to prepare for the shoot.   I need to point out that during this time I was mainly setup and focused on individual portrait type work- in other words a 50mm lens, off camera flashes on a still target in a controlled environment.  This job required catching moments out of my control while moving around crowds in different light conditions. I accepted this offered as a learning experience and I knew it would push me to find ways to get the job done.

My main concern was how I was going to incorporate off camera flash in a crowded venue.  I knew I could raise my iso and get some decent band shots from the lights around them, but I wanted to achieve something more.  I spent some time researching night club photography and I came across a technique that I have not read before.  In basic terms the technique is to lower the shutter speed below the safe zone for hand held sharp images (for me that is anything below 1/60) and use a flash as the sharpening tool.  What is happening is the slower shutter speed is allowing for more ambient light to be processed and at the same time because of the slower shutter speed movements are blurred.  The interesting part of this is when you add an off camera flash to the equation.  Whatever the flash hits will keep it in decent focus as if the shot was like 1/1000+ shutter speed.

After I read this, I came up with a plan to have my wife hold one of my flashes with a grid on it to concentrate the light on the face of a band member.  She stood off to the side in the crowd as I worked my way around to the other side and this is the effect I was able to achieve at 1/10 shutter speed-

Now for the same angle at 1/80 shutter speed-

Below is the diagram of the setup-

6/26/11 First Impressions of the Apollo 28” Softbox

I first came across the Apollo softbox when I was watching an episode of the “Backpackers Studio” from Mikey and Andy of Lightenupandshoot.net.  I liked the fact that this modifier can control the light much better than an umbrella.

I received one a few weeks backs and I used it for several senior sessions. From these sessions I have gathered a few opinions from it so far.

First the negative (and there is only one) – the latch that keeps it open is not very sturdy and without the use of some pliers to ensure it catches, it will give away and close. Basically it has the shaft of a very cheap umbrella.

The positives  –  does not catch the wind near as bad as an umbrella and the recessed head really helps in the directional lighting.

Some other general observations – I typically have to power up one more stop on my flash than what I use with a shoot thru umbrella.  It is bigger than I had imagined and because I’m using a larger light stand for it(8 foot), I have to be more alert to check to be sure it or the stand are not in the shot.

Now for some shots using the Apollo 28” softbox-