Monthly Archives June 2009


I’ve been wanting to try out Lastolite’s new Kickerlite ever since I read about it back around the Photokina time frame, and while doing some shoots for my Digital Photography book, Volume 3 , I finally got a chance to use it, and I have to say, it’s surprisingly sweet (and a lot better than I thought it was going to be by just looking at it and reading the description of what it’s supposed to do).


So, here’s how it works: it sits on the floor in front of your subject (as seen above—photo by Brad Moore) and it’s in the shape of a wedge aiming up at your subject (kind of like a vocal monitor for all you rock heads out there) and it kind of looks like a softbox.

There’s a horizontal H-shaped pole and flash bracket in the back where you mount one of your existing strobes on it. Then you aim the strobe down into the kicker light wedge at a 45° angle, and that light hits an angled reflector inside and that light is bounced back up toward your subject, and it creates a wide, soft, flattering fill light on your subject (it diffuses the light from the strobe by two stops).

What makes this different than a standard reflector is that a standard reflector can only reflect light coming from another strobe. The Kickerlite actually has a light inside it (well, you add a light to the back and it aims inside) so you have full control over the amount of light that it creates. This does an amazing job of evenly lighting your subject, minimizing shadows under the chin, eyes, and hair, and it almost gives your subject’s face a glow (as seen in the image below).


Here’s the shot (above) I took using the set-up you see above (the main light is an Elinchrom RX-600 strobe with a Beauty Dish Attachment on it, and the strobe on the kicker light is an Elinchrom BXRI-500. However, you could also attach an off-camera flash like an SB-800 or a Canon 580EX II there instead.

I thought I’d show a quick comparison of the difference between using a reflector, and the same set-up using a Kickerlite instead (see the images below), and that pretty much tells the story right there.


The Bottomline
I initially thought this thing might be a bit gimmicky, but after trying it we were not only pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set-up and use, it had a bigger effect than we thought it would. It was a little weird using it at first because I’m not used to having much control over the light from what would normally be just a reflector, so I never had to make a decision about how much light should come from the reflector. I guess having that option of how much light you want from where a reflector would normally be is actually a good thing. It works well for lighting everything from beauty-style portraits to full length shots because of the large soft wrapping flow of light.

It does seems a tad expensive since you have to add your own light (I would think the pricing sweet spot for something like this would be in the $150 range, where it would be a no-brainer). I also think the name “Kickerlite” may cause some confusion because at the end of the day, its not a light; it’s a softbox (well, at least until you add a light inside it). Those two minor quibbles aside, it’s pretty a pretty clever unit all the way around and you can’t argue with the results.

The 3′ x 4′ Kickerlite comes with the softbox, the flash bracket, and a carrying case (it folds down to about 1/3 its size) for around $207 over at B&H Photo (here’s the link). You can learn more about it over at


Hi everybody. It was a late night at the studio tonight (just getting home at 1:00 am. Ugh!), so I’m gonna make this one short and sweet. Here goes:

  • McNally’s New Site Rocks!
    Joe McNally just intro’d a whole new look for his portfolio site (link) and his very popular blog (link) and I think the site designer did a fantastic job on both (and an especially tidy job in tying all of Joe’s many projects together in one central place). One thing I particuarly like about his new site (besides the amazing images of course), is that his new site doesn’t hijack your screen by expanding to full screen size (resizing my browser window without asking is a pet peeve of mine, which almost bugs me as much as a site that plays music without asking first). Anyway, love the new look of both the blog and his main site (shown above). Big kudos to his design team.
  • Catch my photography interview over at
    I did an in-depth interview about my photography with Scott Bourne over at, and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable written interviews I’ve done, because he posed some questions that really made me think and reflect on where I’ve been, what I’m doing, and where I’m going with photography, and I’ve gotten a lot of really nice feedback on the interview so far. Here’s the link to check out out.
  • Part 1 of our Special Series on Digital Camera Lenses
    Matt and I launched the first of a four-part series on lenses yesterday on D-Town TV (the weekly show for Nikon DSLR shooters), and we are so psyched about the great feedback we’re getting from our viewers (especially about our explanation of full frame versus cropped frame camera bodies and which lenses work best with which). If you haven’t caught this week’s show yet, here’s the link (you can watch it right online).
  • We Blew Past 12,000 Photo Walkers!
    First, I want to welcome the great folks at LensBaby as official Worldwide Photo Walk sponsors (thanks you guys!). Now the news: back on Wednesday night we blew past 12,000 walkers for my 2nd Annual Worldwide Photo Walk. Get on board right here.
  • Great Photo Retouching Before/Afters
    RC Concepcion is running a commentary on photo retouching today over at Layers magazine, so I thought I’d feature the top notch retouching of Richard Ray Ruiz. Very nice stuff, and not overdone. WARNING: Just so ya know, there is some fashion-style nudity in a few of the images. Here’s the link.

That’s it for this Friday folks. I hope you guys have a fantastic weekend, and I hope to see you back here next week—-I’ve got some reviews on some pretty cool new stuff that I want to share. Take care. –Scott


Happy Thursday everybody!

First, it’s Thursday, and it’s time for an embarrassing photo or two from my massive archive of embarrassing imagery. I debated about posting this one, not because I apparently had only one single “look” back in the mid-80s (the thrift store sports coat with the sleeves rolled up, a white shirt with a skinny tie, jeans and sneakers), but because it was taken on top of New York City’s World Trade Center. The Trade Center is a very emotional symbol for us Americans (it was even emotional for me when I saw it again), but this photo, taken by my brother Jeff, is also a part of the visual history of my life, and  so I thought I would run it in memory of a wonderful day spent in one of my favorite cities, and as a tribute to 9/11 and to New Yorkers everywhere (my folks were raised in NYC).

If you look at the photo, you’ll notice I’m sporting a very cool ‘film shooters” accessory—a camera strap that holds film canisters, whose contents eventually made their way into my Pentax SLR. You can also see my shopping back with goodies from the NBC Studios tour we took earlier that day.


This 2nd photo (above) was taken later that same day, also by Jeff, in front of One Liberty Plaza; the headquarters of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith (I was working for Merrill at the time as a Financial Consultant). I’ve really got to come up with a new look; it’s been 20-something years and all that’s changed is I don’t roll my sleeves up, I’ve lost the tie and traded my white shirt for a black one.

Before we get to the news: let’s throw up our “rock hands” for Scott Diussa’s kick-butt blog post yesterday. I was going to give him the award for the longest special guest blog post, but instead I’m going to give him the award for the “Longest special guest post that I couldn’t stop reading” award. What an amazing life Scott has led, and the range of what he’s done in the world of photography is inspirational just on its own. Thanks Scott for a really wonderful read, and some classic images (plus, I’m a sucker for the dueling guitars). ;-)  Now, onto the news:

  • RC’s Got Everybody Talking (Arguing) about HDR
    RC Concepcion did an excellent post over at Layers Magazine, called “Why does HDR bring out the best/worst in you as a photographer” and it’s getting more and more people talking about it every day (even though he wrote the post a few weeks ago). As you might expect, people are on both sides of the HDR fence, and it has started some pretty lively debate (and that’s being kind). Here’s the link to join in the fun.
  • Photoshop Curves vs. Levels Use
  • Matt, Dave and I had lunch together today (yes, we do everything together), and we somehow started talking about a topic I discussed here back on March 6th (here’s that link) about The Diminishing use of Curves in Photoshop for color correction (thanks to Camera Raw). I ran a reader poll then asking how your use of Curves has changed, and 60% of you indicated that you either use Curves somewhat less to a lot less and 21% said you don’t use Curves at all (that means 81% either use it less, or not at all).

    None of the three of us were surprised at those results, but what did surprise us was that all three of us are now using Levels more and more when we need a quick contrast tweek. Why Levels and not Curves? We all agreed—it’s just so quick and easy. So, I’m curious; do you find yourself using Levels more today than you did two years ago, or are you using Curves to create contrast instead?

  • Topaz offers NAPP members a 25% discount on any plug-ins
    Larry Becker saw my review of Topaz Adjust last week, and he comes by my desk today to tell me that NAPP members now get a 25% discount on any plug-ins they order from Topaz (not just Adjust). If you’re a NAPP member, click here to get the discount code.
  • McNally’s One-Day Lighting Seminar is going to sell out!
    I just saw the figures today on the sign-ups for Joe McNally’s new one-day location lighting workshop that we’re producing (at Kelby Training), and although it’s more than a month and a half away (July 31st in San Francisco), it’s already outpacing our upcoming Lightroom and Photoshop seminars in New York, Chicago and a half dozen other cities we’re going to. In short; it looks like it’s going to sell out in advance, so if you want to go, I’d go sign up right now (here’s the link).
  • Quote of the week
    “I’m lucky if I get to spend more than 20% of my work-time actually photographing.

    (here’s the link to read the story).
  • Some Thursday Photographic Inspiration
    I ran across the site of photographer Greg Sims, and I have to say; I love this guy’s look. He does have a very HDR-style look that he goes in and out of, so there’s a lot of post in his shots and although not everybody digs that, I think he’s got a nice marriage of great photography and great post production. Got a minute? Check him out right here. I also found architectural photographer Melissa Castro, and she had some images I was really drawn to (I particularly love her intro page shot, but she’s got some other real gems in her portfolio as well). I love her clean graphic style, and if you’ve got a minute, give her stuff a quick look, too.

That’s it for today folks. Have a really great day, and I’ll see ya tomorrow! :)

Photo by Bill Fortney

“Jack of all trades…”

Hey everybody! I can’t tell you how happy, excited, anxious, intimidated, honored and humbled I am to be today’s guest blogger! When Scott asked me to do this a few weeks ago I was speechless. It truly is great to be here today.

My first question to Scott was… who am I following??? ;-) I will say that it worked out perfectly for what I want to talk about that I am following the incredible post by Mike Olivella from last week. Mike’s specialty in sports photography, and the fact that he has so many other shooting talents as seen on his website, will bring home a point I want to make in just a little while. So, great job, Mike!

My thoughts on what to write about have gone in a multitude of different directions but they always come back to some basic points… creativity, learning and teaching. How can we, as creative people, learn as much as we can from others and also teach what we know to help others? My inspiration to write about something like this rather than a photography “how to” lesson was a quote I read recently in a book my friend, Bill Fortney, gave me…

…..wonderful photographer, gifted teacher, and manager of Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Scott Diussa.

You’ve heard me talk about Scott’s blog numerous times here on The Photoshop Insider (you might remember his excellent article on concert photography), or you might have seen him as a regular guest my weekly show for Nikon DSLR shooters; D-Town TV, but tomorrow I’m honored to have him here as my special guest blogger.

I talked with Scott last night and he gave me a hint about his topic for tomorrow, and I can’t wait to give it a read, so I hope you’ll join me here tomorrow as well.

Hi folks. Here’s what’s goin’ on.

  • Jay Maisel, a true living legend of photography, is hosting a week-long workshop this fall, and I’m telling you this early because like all his others, it will probably sell out months in advance. It kicks off Monday, September 14 at Jay’s studio in NYC and runs through Friday, September 18. For more details click here.
  • I did something special yesterday for the folks following me on Twitter. If you’re following me, go check it out (here’s the link).
  • We now have well over 11,000 photographers registered to be a part of my Worldwide Photo Walk on July 18th, and we have over 760 walks. We are totally psyched! :)
  • A big thanks to the blog “Inkd” for naming Layers Magazine to their list of “The 15 Best Magazines for Print Designers.” We are truly honored.
  • Our friends at Barnes & Noble are running a special 30% off promotion this month (in stores and online) on a bunch of Peachpit Press books (including some of my own, along with Jeff Revell’s new book and David DuChemin’s, among others), Here’s the link for more details (the promotion ends at the end of this month).
  • Our buddy and friend of the blog, Dwayne Tucker did a behind-the-scenes article on a recent on location lifestyle photo shoot on his blog. If you’ve got a quick sec, you can check it out right here.

That’s all I’ve got for today. We’ll see ya back here on Thursday after a very special Guest Blog tomorrow. Have a kick-butt Tuesday!