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Three workshops in one week is a lot for even me; I took that architectural shooting workshop last weekend, then I taught that sports shooting workshop on Tuesday for the Chicago Bears, and then this past weekend my buddy Terry White and I took a weekend workshop with well known Detroit-area photographer and instructor Mary DuPrie.

My buddy Dave Moser had given me one of Mary’s excellent DVDs last year for my birthday (it was a DVD for photographers on how to work with and pose models), so when Terry told me about her workshop, I was already very familiar with her work, and signed on right away (she only allows four photographers per workshop, which gives you lots of personal one-on-one instruction).

The workshop started with a Friday night “meet and greet” with Mary, her assistant Chris, Tammy the make-up artist, and the other photographers (Blake and David). Mary’s large natural-light studio is ideal for a workshop like this, and besides having just about every prop and background known to man (I told her it was like shooting in a Pier One store), she also had about every style of strobe, softbox, and accessory, too, so everything you’d want was just an arms-length away the whole weekend.

The next morning we got right to work. While the make-up artist was getting our professional model ready, Mary started the day with a session on how to work

with someone who has never done any professional modeling before. One of the other photographers in the workshop, New York based photographer David Rogers had brought his girlfriend Genevieve (‘Gen’ for short) with him, and Mary convinced her to be be our ‘stunt’ model (which was perfect because Gen had no modeling experience, and in fact generally hated having her photo taken).

She showed us the typical mistakes first-time models make, and how the photographers can lead the model and help them avoid falling into the traps that make for bad clunky looking photos. It was all about posing, positioning, posture, hands, and even how to smile, and by the end of it, not only had we learned a lot, but Gen wound up with an amazing final image. Mary did an incredible job with her transformation, and seeing her do this “start to finish” posing job was absolutely eye-opening.

After a short break, we set up for a beauty shoot with Carly, our incredibly patient model for the day. Mary has a very slick lighting set-up for this kind of shoot, using only two-lights, and we all got to work with Carly, tweak the lights, or any part of the set we wanted (not just for this shoot—but for all the shoots during the workshop). Mary encouraged the students to experiment, try different looks, different poses, direct the shoot, and even critique the shots with the model during the shoot (Mary shoots tethered directly to a television screen).

I took the shot above of Carly using that simple two light set-up (I’m not going to go into the set-up here, since it’s part of what Mary teaches in her workshop), but I can tell you how the photo was shot and processed. I started in Lightroom where I dragged the Black slider to the right to darken up the shadows a bit. Then I jumped right over to Photoshop where I did the absolute minimum of retouching:

  1. I removed any small blemishes using the Healing Brush
  2. I removed some tan lines by sampling her fleshtone and painting over those areas on a separate layer and changing the blend mode to Color, then lowering the opacity until it blended perfectly.
  3. I lightened just the whites of her eyes (I didn’t touch or adjust the color of her eyes whatsoever).
  4. I sharpened the photo using an Unsharp Mask.

I took the shot with a Nikon D-300 at 200 ISO, at f/5.6 at 1/125 of a second with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens at 105mm.studio.jpg

After a great lunch in the studio, we went onto a very dramatic lighting set-up in the afternoon and worked on different lighting and posing scenarios. Mary is really brilliant at posing, but she’s also an absolute MacGyver-like wizard at creating backgrounds that look so simple, but photograph incredibly well when you use them right. She has so many shots you’d swear were shot on location in a fine home, or in an office, or on a rooftop, etc. but they’re all shot right there in her studio.

The next day (Sunday), we had a different model for the day (Tiffany), and ran through an entirely different set of looks, poses, and sets, including mixing in natural light with strobes as well as lots of Westcott Spiderlights. Mary also set up a really slick beach set-up that looked just like it was shot at a cabana at the beach. We even set-up a shoot with flashes firing through holes in a hall and a smoke machine to make the beams really stand out (it looks much cooler than it sounds).

Overall, the workshop was fantastic. I have to hand it to Mary; she worked us hard, but she worked her butt off the entire time, too. She never took a break. She didn’t stop to check email, or take calls, or anything—she was totally attentive to her students, and she really focused on making sure it was worth our time and money (and it absolutely, positively was).

Since most workshops just focus on the lighting aspects, Mary’s workshop is unique, because hers focuses on posing, backgrounds, and the business side of things as much as anything. I would highly recommend her workshop to any photographer who wants to take their posing and composition skills to a new level.

She only does a handful of these workshops each year, and her next one is coming up in September (remember; she only takes four photographers per workshop), so if you’re interesting in going—I’d sign up right away (here’s the link).

Thanks Mary, for all your hard work, dedication, for a lot of learning and some fun and laughs along the way.