Monthly Archives April 2009

….Hollywood Movie Poster designer, and Photoshop genius designer, Tom Opasinski.

I first learned about Tom back when he was still living in Poland. He was a NAPP member and had been in touch with my brother Jeff (who used to be NAPP’s Executive Director before he retired a few years back). Jeff showed me some of his work back then and I was wow’d. He had always told Jeff how he dreamed that one day he could come to a Photoshop World conference. Well, one day came, he did, and Tom walked away with a Guru Award to boot. The next time I heard about Tom he had moved to Los Angeles, and a little while later I heard he was designing Hollywood movie posters. Not bad, eh?

Well, tomorrow I have to honor of sharing Tom’s work with you, and I’m just tickled to see how far this talented young designer has come, and can’t wait to see what he has to share with us, so make sure you check out his story tomorrow.


I finally got around to covering a question that I get asked so often from readers here on the blog, and that is:

“What is the difference between off camera flash (like a Nikon SB-800 or SB-900, or a Canon 580 EXII), and a Studio Strobe?

If I have time, I sometimes answer people back with a direct email, but I’ve gotten this question so many times, I haven’t been able to answer them all. So, I thought I’d put together an example to show you my typical response to the question, which is purely my own opinion on the subject.

What I usually say is something along the lines of:

“Whether you use a small off-camera flash, or a studio strobe, what you get is a bright flash of white light aiming toward your subject.”

I know that sounds pretty simplistic, but that’s what it is. For example, two of the shots below were taken with a Studio Strobe with a small softbox, and one was taken with a Nikon SB-800 with the same small softbox.


First, see if you can tell which one of the three photos above was taken with the SB-800 (by the way; I know the shots themselves, which are unretouched right out of the camera) are kinda lame, but try to get past that part and just focus on  the light). Now, choose which one you think it is in the poll listed below. If you get it wrong; don’t feel bad. Joe McNally was in my office the day I shot it, and I asked Joe to tell me which one he thought was which.

He studied them for a few moments, and said something very telling; he said “The fact that it’s taking me a minute to figure out which one is which, says something, doesn’t it?” That’s the whole point right there! If you have to think for a few moments, the difference isn’t that obvious. Anyway, not surprisingly, Joe did get it right first time, but he too commented on how slight the difference was, and I agreed. It’s not “night and day.” It’s a subtle difference.

So, if the quality of light is at least somewhat similar (as long as you do something to diffuse it, like adding a softbox or shooting through a diffuser), then what are the advantages and disadvantages to using one over the other? (By the way, the correct answer is “The One On The Right”).

Here’s my short list of pluses and minuses:

Studio Strobes: Advantages

  • These are generally much more powerful than off camera flashes like the SB-800, 900 or Canon 580 EX II), so they can throw a lot more light when you need it.
  • They were made to have softboxes attached, so you don’t have to have special adapters, specially made softboxes, etc.
  • They come with continuous modeling-lights built-in. These help you see your subject, they help your camera’s auto-focus lock on (try focusing in the dark), and they give you a preview of how the shadows are going to fall on your subject.
  • Since they plug into the wall, they recycle very quickly, and so you can fire off lots of consecutive shots (great for shooting fashion, or kids), without waiting for the flash to recycle, which is something you always have to do with off-camera flash.
  • They don’t use batteries, so you can fire the strobes without ever worrying about the batteries dying, or the power of the flash changing as the batteries wear down during your shoot.
  • They have a light stand mount built-in, so mounting them on a light stand doesn’t take any special adapters.
  • There are lots of accessories like reflectors, grid spots, barn doors, etc. that are made for use with strobes.

Studio Strobes: Disadvantages

  • You have to plug-them in (though for some you can have a separate battery pack for on-location shooting, but these packs are fairly expensive, and like any battery—they run out of juice)
  • You can’t just toss one in your camera bag—-they’re too big, so they usually need separate protective cases to go outside your studio.
  • Although most decent strobes are fairly rugged, at certain points in the process, the flash bulb is exposed (like when you’re changing a soft box), so you have to take a certain amount of care not to break the flash bulb, especially if you’re shipping it for a location shoot.
  • These require a wireless transmitter and receiver to fire them wirelessly.
  • Good strobes are fairly expensive (though I think the new Elinchrom BXRi 500s are a steal at their price of around $600 each, with built-in wireless receivers).
  • You’re not mounting one of these on your camera’s hot-shoe.

Off Camera Flash: Advantages

  • They are small, lightweight, and you can mount them right on your camera’s hotshoe
  • They are battery powered, so you don’t have to have access to an electrical plug to make them work, so they’re ideal for shooting outdoors, in a church for weddings, at the beach, or anywhere that “plugging-in” doesn’t make sense.
  • You can fit one easily in most regular camera bags, so your flash is always with you.
  • You can set them to be wireless, so there are no cables to deal with.
  • The transmitter and receiver to be wireless are already built in (in most cases) so you don’t have to buy them separately.
  • A really great off-camera flash is usually cheaper than a really great Studio Strobe.
  • You can carry a bunch of these in a very small travel case.
  • These were made for location shoots, and that’s where they really shine (though they work fine in the studio, because after all—like a studio strobe; they produce a bright flash of light aiming at your subject.
  • You can place these little suckers about anywhere—inside a car, inside a box, down on the ground, up in a tree, hanging from a handrail, etc., which gives you incredible flexibility about where you place your light.

Off Camera Flash: Disadvantages

  • They’re not generally nearly as powerful as a studio strobe (though you can buy some high-powered off-camera flashes, like a Quantum Q-Flash).
  • There is no modeling light in most cases, so they don’t help with seeing your subject, auto focus, or getting a preview of how your lighting will look.
  • They need fresh batteries a lot.
  • There aren’t nearly as many softboxes or accessories available for off camera flash (although new stuff is showing up much more frequently now than ever).
  • You can’t fire the strobe as rapidly because they recycle slower than most studio strobes.
  • You need a special adapter to put one of these on a lightstand.
  • You need to have an accessory of some sort to soften and diffuse the light.

So which one should you use?
Well, here’s the thing; It depends on what you’re shooting, and what your budget is. If you primarily shoot on-location, then you’ll probably want an off-camera wireless flash. You can use these in the studio, too, and they’re not crazy expensive.

If you want to do just studio work, get a studio strobe called a Monoblock (or a monolight), which means it plugs right into the wall. You can buy some really inexpensive ones these days, but with stuff out like the Elinchrom BXRI’s, you can now get a really good strobe for near the cost of an off-camera flash.

If you need to do both: lots of studio work but occasionally some location work, you have two choices:

  1. Just use all off-camera flash. They work in the studio and out in the field (but know the limitations I mentioned above).
  2. Buy a studio strobe that uses a battery pack. That way you have the advantage of studio lighting on location. However, this is a fairly expensive way to go.

OK, so how does the pricing compare? Let’s take a look at two set-ups that I use myself:

Off Camera Flash (for Nikon Users):

Two (2) Nikon SB-900s off-camera flashes ($450 each)
Two (2) Bogen light stands ($56.50 each)
Two (2) Lastolite EZ-Boxes with light stand adapters ($164 each)
One (1) Smith-Victor carrying case for lightstands ($37.50)

TOTAL: $1,411.50 (B&H Price)

NOTE: If you have a Nikon D3, D3X, the new D-5000, or any lower-end model without a built-in commander unit, you will need an SU-800 Commander Unit to control your wireless flashes, which would be an additional $249, or you could buy another SB-900 flash, but a commander is much cheaper.

UPDATED TOTAL: $1,660.50 (with Commander unit)

Off Camera Flash (for Canon Users):

Two (2) Canon 580 EX II off-camera flashes ($420 each)
Two (2) Bogen light stands ($56.50 each)
Two (2) Lastolite EZ-Boxes with light stand adapters ($164 each)
One (1) Smith Vector carrying case for lightstands ($37.50)


TOTAL: $1,315.50

NOTE: To fire your wireless Canon flash you need either another Canon Flash unit, but it’s cheaper to buy their ST-ET Transmitter, which adds an additional $220.


UPDATED TOTAL: $1535.50* (with transmitter)

(Note: you could save some money on either system by buying a cheaper light stand, a cheaper softbox—or maybe even a shoot-thru umbrella to cut the cost more significantly, but what I broke down here is pretty much the rig I use myself).

Studio Strobes
Two (2) Elinchrom BXRI 500s studio strobes
Two (2) Bogen Lightstands
Two 26″x26″ Softboxes
Two Carrying Cases (one for strobes, one for light stands)
Wireless Transmitter (the wireless receivers are built into the strobes in these models).
TOTAL: $1,550 (B&H Kit Price for everything above)

(Note: you can buy cheaper strobe kits than this, but this is what I would recommend to a friend. A good quality strobe is like a great lens. It makes a difference).

I think the most surprising thing here is that the price difference between off-camera flash and the studio flash is not all that big. So, it really comes down to what kind of stuff will you be shooting; where you’ll be shooting it, and which type of system suits your (wait for it….wait for it….) personal preference. At the end of the day, that’s what it eventually come down to. Which set-up appeals the most to you.

I’m sure we’ll have people arguing back and forth to make the case that their way is “better,” but the bottom line is; they both will do the job. They both create bright flashes of light that aim at your subject. You just have to decide, for your type of work, which one works best, because the quality of light isn’t so much going to be determined by the flash or strobe itself; it will be determined by what you use to diffuse it, and where you choose to position it once diffused.

I think the cool thing is; we have some really great choices. We have great gear available today, that’s becoming more affordable, with great accessories that make our job easier, that are powerful, flexible, rugged, and a lot of fun to use. . :)


This weekend I flew up to Detroit to spend the weekend with my buddy Terry White, and to do a presentation for his Macintosh User Group, “MacGroup Detroit.” (There’s a funny story about the snacks you see above coming up in a moment).


They are just an absolutely fantastic group to present to, and I can’t imagine any group any where being more welcoming, fun, and gracious to a guest speaker than they are. It really spoils you (Photo above by Louis Levin). This year my presentation was on Retouching Portraits in Photoshop, and I had a full 90-minutes so I could really cover a lot of ground.

w-guest-prices1Of course, you can’t go up to Terry’s and not have a blast, because Terry really rolls out the red carpet, but this time was even more special because Terry had recently completed adding on a guest room suite at his house, and I was the first official house guest to stay there. The suite is awesome, (with a bathroom that would make the Westin jealous), but what really cracked me up was he had a basket of “mini bar” snacks just like in a hotel, and when I got there, sticking outside the basket was a card with a list of charges, just like in a hotel (of course, he did the thing as a gag, and I got Terry to give me the file he created—click on that thumbnail at the left to see it full size—it’ll crack you up! [Well, it cracked me up anyway]).

Anyway, we were doing totally fun stuff the whole time I was up there, and I really had a blast hanging with Terry in his totally tech’d out house. Thanks Terry for a wonderful weekend, and thanks Mac Group Detroit for such a warm welcome, and for the opportunity to share my latest photo retouching techniques.


On June 24-28, thirty photographers will join me, along with landscape photography legend Bill Fortney, and fine art photographer Joanne Wells, for a photography and digital imaging workshop in the beautiful surroundings of Savannah, Georgia that will change how you shoot and process your images forever. You’re invited to be one of those thirty photographers.

This workshop, produced by the wonderful folks over at the “Great American Photography Workshops,” will combine on-location shoots each day, with classroom time focused on one topic; how to create stunning landscape images.

We start each day with a dawn photo shoot at some of the most beautiful shooting locales in the entire South. Then, after we break for a yummy breakfast, we’re in the classroom where you’ll learn about digital photography, about processing your images in Photoshop, and about how to combine the two to create really captivating images.

After lunch, we’re back in the classroom for more learning, and then as the beautiful light descends upon Savannah, we’re back on location shooting landscapes. After our shoot, we break for dinner to unwind and talk about the day’s experiences.

Now, I have to tell you, this will be the third landscape workshop I’ve done with Bill Fortney, and Bill really knows how to make these workshops an awful lot of fun. You’ll learn a bunch, you’ll laugh a bunch, and you’ll come away with some images that not only will wind up in your portfolio, you’ll definitely be framing and hanging some of these on the wall.

Because of my schedule, this is the only landscape workshop I’ll be teaching this year, and as someone that reads my blog, I hope you’ll be able to come to spend these five-days with me, Bill, and Joanne shooting, laughing and learning in the beautiful scenery of Savannah.

It’s $795 for the workshop, and obviously, space is very limited (both of our previous workshops were sold out well in advance), so if you want to go, here’s a link to more details and where to register. I really hope I’ll see you there, because this is a workshop you’ll never forget!


Before we discuss the photo above (and sadly yes, we will discuss), first: Come on; did that post from Ree yesterday just absolutely make you fall in love with her or what? She has such a warm, genuine realness to her writing that I just love (and by looking at the comments, you guys did too–posting 134 comments). I just loved her post, and the totally different outlook and perspective she brought to us yesterday, and I’m so delighted she agreed to be my special guest. Thank you Ree, and please consider me one of your biggest fans! :)  Now, onto the stuff:

I’m your Boogie Man…
….That’s what I am. Yes folks, that’s me, in the dark brown three-piece suit, big open collar, gold chains, and sunglasses posing for a promo photo (circa 1982) for the band I was in at the time; “Second Wind.” (We didn’t keep that name for long. Once we heard us referred to as “Sucking Wind” we decided a name change was imminent). The musicians, (from L to R) where: Drummer Mike Schnitt, Yours Truly on keyboards, Vocalist Betts Johnston, Brian Ashley on Sax, and Mark Southwick on bass. Despite how we looked, we were actually a pretty decent band (well, as good as you can be for a disco lounge band, so ‘decent’ is a relative term); however we did manage play a collection of songs each night that, while today they would make you spit out your coffee, at the time, people seemed to enjoy immensely and would occasionally shout (with their hands in the air, mind you), “Yo baby, yo baby, yo!” These people were really, really drunk.

Free Wedding Photography “Webinar” tomorrow!
Tomorrow (Friday) the folks at Bogen Imaging are hosting a free online seminar: “Fashionable Wedding Photography: Roundtable with Claudio Basso” and you’re invited. According to Bogen: “Seasoned fashion photographer Claudio Basso and David Fisher, Bogen Imaging’s Metz and Gossen Product Manager, will discuss new techniques and what photographers need to know when it comes to capturing stunning and fashionable wedding photographs.” This Webinbar, (which is part of Bogen’s “Bogen Café series”), is from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EDT, and you can find out all the details and sign-up right here.

A Bunch of New Online Classes Are Up Live
I have fallen so far behind on letting you know which new online course have launched, here are some of the latest ones:

  1. RC Concepcion did a fantastic class on how to create “Online Photo Portfolios with Lightroom 2 and Dreamweaver CS4.” (link).
  2. Photoshop Hall-of-Famer Bert Monroy has a new Photoshop digital painting class called, “The Making of Times Square: Part 1″ (based on how the techniques he used in his amazing Time Square pano) (link)
  3. Corey Barker has a new class on how to Get Up To Speed with the Wacom Intuos 4 tablets (incredible tablet, by the way!) (link)
  4. We have Part 2 of Jack Davis’s Lightroom 2: A Creative Approach now online (link)
  5. David Ziser has a new online class called: Wedding Portraits – Getting the Perfect Shot at Tricky Locations (link)

McNally Sighting
Joe McNally is in town this week taping four new online classes for Kelby Training Online, and you can see Joe roaming the halls with a hand full of SB-800s at any given time. Yesterday he shot a full corporate on-location “Board of Directors” shoot; the day before he did a shoot at a trashy motel (I won’t spoil it for you), tonight he’s at the beach doing a shoot, and tomorrow I think he’s shooting an all-girl band promo photo (I doubt anyone will yell “Yo baby, yo baby, yo!, though). I can’t wait to see these!

Episode #8 of D-Town TV is On The Air!
The new episode went up this morning, and in it Matt and I cover:

  • D40/D60 Menu Setting tips
  • Focus Point Wrap settings
  • A Tip on how to make sure all of your wireless flashes are firing
  • An on-Location tip from our show’s Technical Adviser: Moose Peterson
  • Quick specs on the NEW Nikon D-5000 and the new 10-24mm ED Lens
  • Getting a handle on your Picture Control settings
  • A quick review the UPstrap Shoulder Strap

Here’s the link to watch the show free online.

That’s it for today folks. I hope to see you back here tomorrow!  :)

My Very Favorite Photography Equipment

Photo by Bill Nygard

Hi, everyone! I’m Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman. I’m so happy to be here on Scott Kelby’s blog. What am I doing here, anyway? Photographically speaking, I’m nothing but a punk.

But I’m here, and I might as well join in the fun. I’ve decided to call this post “My Very Favorite Photography Equipment” rather than “My Photography Equipment” for a reason. A very good reason. If I were to call it “My Photography Equipment” I’d have to show you ALL of my photography equipment. This means I’d have to lay all of my sins out in the open and come face-to-face with the reality of my addiction. This way, by simply showing you just a small handful of things I love, I can keep most of my sins packed away and hidden, and avoid admitting in this public forum that I have a problem.

It’s so much better this way.

As I repeatedly tell the cool folks who read the photography portion of my website, when it comes to photography there are approximately 1,986,334 people who know more than I do. I am no expert. On the contrary: I bought my first digital SLR camera—a Nikon D70—a mere three years ago this May. I took one lesson, then dove into the twisted, confusing, and wonderful labyrinth that is Photography. I’ve taken more bad shots than there are grains of sand in all the beaches of the world. But I’ve also taken a handful of photos that I’ve loved, and they’ve kept me going.

Nope, I’m no professional. This makes the fact that I’ve managed to convince myself that I really, really, really need this lens—or ooooh! THAT lens—even more hilarious. But still, I surge on.

What is it about lenses, anyway? Why do they suck us in? I think they emit some kind of addictive, invisible gas that renders us incapable of resisting.

Wait. Isn’t all gas invisible?

But I’m going to go with this gas theory: my penchant for buying lenses has nothing to do with my own excess or lack of control. I buy lenses because an invisible gas makes me do it.

But even if that weren’t the case, I have a backup rationalization: I hate shopping for clothes and shoes and purses and almost never do it. I also live on an isolated ranch and never go anywhere. So I’m actually saving money with this photography hobby if you really think about it.

Isn’t this nice? Scott Kelby invites me to write a guest post on his photography website and I totally blow it. So before he shows up and kicks me to the curb, let me show you my very favorite equipment as of April 15, 2009.

This is the stuff I can’t live without: (more…)