Monthly Archives March 2011

Above: Here’s the last set from my shoot at Fight Factory, and that’s Mo (you remember Mo from Monday and Tuesday’s posts) doing some curls. When he was done, he handed the dumbell to me, and I was pinned to the floor for 40 minutes.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore). Pretty simple set-up, but it’s the only one where we actually used all three flashes. The main light is to the left of me, and that’s powered by the Ranger RX pack. The kicker light behind him is a bare bulb flash with a metal Grid attached to the front to focus the beam. Then, on the floor right behind Mo, you see the third flash, positioned down low, aiming upward to light the white seamless paper. But, there’s a problem. And I caused it.

Above: When I first got there, I did a few test shots using just the available light in the gym, so I set my f/stop to around f/4. But then when we set up the strobes, I never switched back to an f/stop that would give me focus throughout the image, like f/8 or f/11. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I opened the images hours later in Photoshop and realized that only part of each image was in focus. Uggh!

Above: In this shot, the dumbell is out of focus, but his body is in focus. Although I hate having to use Photoshop to fix mistakes I should have gotten right in the camera, in this case I was thrilled to be able to use Photoshop to fix my mistake. My plan was to combine the in-focus parts of the two images, into one image where everything was in focus.

Photoshop To The Rescue!
I used the Pen tool to select the in-focus version of the dumbells, and dragged it over to the photo where Mo’s body was in focus, and positioned it over the out-of-focus dumbells. It took all of two minutes to get the size right (they were taken at different focal lengths) and the proper position, but it worked and created the shot you see at the top of this post. Whew! That was a close one.

I had some questions after Monday and Tuesdays post about my location lighting gear, and I posted some photos of it packed up in its travel case so you can see how small it all breaks down to. Those images are on my Facebook page at

Above: Here’s another shot of Mo on the rings. I showed the production photo of this shot on Tuesday (link), but I noted that the flash with the softbox was turned off—that other shot was just lit with the bare flash and reflector with grid. Here’s what it looks like when the softbox is on, adding a little fill light.

B&W Conversion
I converted this to Black & White using Nik Software’s just released Silver Efex Pro 2.0, which I have to say is absolutely amazing. Every pro I know was already using Silver Efex Pro 1.0—but 2.0 kicks so much @#$, I can’t imagine they all won’t upgrade as soon as they try it. Seriously great upgrade. Way to go Nik! BTW: I just used one of their built-in presets. Also, you can download a 15-day free trail copy of the plug-in right here.

Above: The gym arranged to have Dallas, a model and friend of the gym, do a few shots inside the boxing ring that’s the center piece of the gym (real fighters train here, too). They wanted a shot where Dallas looked exhausted between rounds, with her arms “on the ropes” and I got the capture you see here.

Above: Here’s the production shot for that image (thanks Brad) and I’m just using two lights: The main light up right and to my left, and the same bare bulb flash with a metal grid that we’ve been using all day coming in behind Dallas and to the right. We had to put the stand up on some workout pads to get it up high enough. I’m shooting with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Now, when you look at the production image versus the final image, you might be wondering why my final image is so dark. I intentionally underexposed the shot by at least two stops, so my subject would be mostly lit with the just the strobe, and not the flat even boring ambient light in the gym. If I hadn’t, the shots would pretty much look like the production shots you see above (no offense to Brad whatsoever—the production shots looks exactly as they should—they’re exposed for the ambient light).

Above: Here’s another shot, but this time I’m outside the ring, down low shooting upward (as seen below).

Above: Here’s the production shot for that image. Same two lights, same modifiers, positioned the same way (each facing each other diagonally), we’re just shooting from a different position. You can clearly see the workout mats we stacked up to get the main light high enough.

Above: Here’s Mo again (he had quite a workout that day) in a dramatic lighting look, as he gets ready to sprint. I added the text (at the client’s request). The large faded text in the background is the font Futura Extra Bold and the smaller text is Helvetica Condensed Bold Oblique (Oblique is a type geek word for “Italic”).

Above: This is just a one-light shoot–the light on the left side isn’t turned on. That’s the Ranger Quadra, with one bare-bulb flash and a reflector, aiming straight at Mo. You can see how small the Quadra battery pack is in this shot—that’s it hanging on the light stand.

That wraps up this shoot. A funny thing just happened: as I’m writing this, a commercial for Fight Factory: Tampa just came on TV. Too cool!

Photo courtesy of B&H

Hey gang, Brad here with this week’s pimpy stuff. We’ve got prizes, discounts, some exciting news, and more!

If you’re debating signing up for the Real World Concert Photography pre-conference workshop with Scott Diussa and Alan Hess at Photoshop World, here’s something that might help with your decision…Someone from the class will be going home with a brand new Nikon D7000! The person who gets the best shot from the workshop will win the camera that’s been called the Camera of the Year by Engadget, PDN, and Photo Focus, and received CNET’s Editor’s Choice Award!

There are only a few spots left, so sign up now if you want a chance to win, or even if you don’t… It’s a really fun way to spend a day!

Did you know that you can come to the Photoshop World Expo for FREE?? All you have to do is go sign up for a pass over at the Photoshop World website, then come take advantage of all the free classes from people like Cliff Mautner, Dave Black, Jeremy Cowart, Jack Reznicki, Frank Doorhof, and plenty of other amazing instructors! And, of course, you’ll be able to get your hands on all the latest gear too ;)

Speaking of great instructors, Rafael “RC” Concepcion’s book Get Your Photography On The Web is now back in stock at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Kelby Training Store!

Need a high end camera? Need a super telephoto lens for a special shoot or trip? Need to reserve some gear for the wedding you’re shooting two months down the road? Well, you’re in luck! Our friends over at LensProToGo are offering 15% off any rental of one week or longer till the end of March. Just enter the discount code MARCH15 when you’re checking out to take advantage of this great offer.

Just a quick update… The “Web Tech Guru/Geek” opening that Scott mentioned a little while back has been filled.

And, lastly (drumroll please)… The one and only Scott Kelby has been named the Top-Selling Photography Book Author for 2010! Let’s give him a round of applause!

That’s it for today. If you missed yesterday’s guest blog from John Paul Caponigro, make sure you check it out! Great inspiration and motivation for turning those ideas for personal projects into reality. Have a great Thursday!

Developing Personal Projects

As a fine artist, I advance my career with personal projects. Personal projects also create a clearer direction for and develop greater meaning in my life. My life would be unfulfilled without them.

You don’t need to have a fine art career to benefit from personal projects. Many commercial photographers find that personal projects re-energize them, add purpose to their lives and quite often lead to new assignments or whole new streams of income. Many amateurs, making images purely for the love of doing it, find greater satisfaction and personal growth through personal projects.

As an artist who mentors other artists in workshops and seminars, I’ve often been called to speak about the importance of personal projects; how to find them, start them, develop them, complete them, present them, and promote them.

Here’s an overview of what I share.

Personal Projects

Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.

Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Create a mission and set goals.

Define the purpose of your project and what you’d like to achieve through it. Many times, people adopt the mission and goals of others without first checking if those goals are personally beneficial. Some have professional aspirations, others don’t. Your goals will help you determine projects and timelines that are appropriate for you. The few moments (or hours) you spend clarifying why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’d like to see come of it will save you hours, months, even years by ensuring that you’re going in the right direction – a direction of your own choosing. When you take control of your personal projects, you also take control of your life.

Make a plan to achieve your goals.

A plan will help make your project a reality. A simple action plan is all you need to get started. Action plans define the steps that are required to achieve completion. Action plans should be clear and practical. Action plans should be flexible; odds are, things will not go exactly according to plan and you’ll need to modify your plan to accommodate surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. Reality happens. Grace happens too. Having defined what you need to accomplish, your unconscious will go to work on the task, generating many ideas. You’ll find yourself ready to make the most of unexpected opportunities as they arise.

Set a timeline.

A timeline can be used to combat procrastination and/or distraction and encourage you to produce work. Set realistic timelines. Unrealistic timelines simply produce frustration.

Identify where and when you’ll need and who will help you.

While many artists define and produce projects themselves, some artists engage a curator, gallery director, publisher, editor, agent, writer, or designer to help them realize a project, in part or in whole. Finding the right collaborator(s) can improve any project. Above all, seek feedback. Seek feedback from people with diverse perspectives whose opinions you value and trust. One thing you can always use, that you can never provide for yourself, is an outside perspective. People with different perspectives may identify ways to improve, expand, or extend the reach of your project. Remember, feedback is food for thought, not gospel. In the end, all final decisions are your decisions; it’s your project.

Stay focused and follow through.

You can work on multiple projects at a time. Be careful that you don’t get scattered. Starting projects is easy. Finishing them is hard. Make sure you’re working on the best project. List all your possible projects and identify the ones that are most important and the ones that are easiest to finish. If you’re lucky enough that the same project fits both criteria, focus all of your efforts there. Otherwise, you’ll have to strike a balance between what’s practical and what’s most important to you. Only you can decide this and the balance is likely to shift as time passes and circumstances develop. Look for a common theme among projects. Often your projects will be related. Focus your efforts in related areas. It’s very likely those areas have greater relevance for you than others. Your work will be perceived as stronger and more cohesive if your projects relate to one another, implying evolution.

What’s your project?

A project is a wonderful thing. It gives direction. It brings clarity. It increases productivity. It produces tangible results. It brings personal growth. It presents your work in the very best light. You and your work deserve this. Pick your projects well. They define not only how other people see you but also what you become. You are what you do. Take the first step today; make a commitment to create a personal project. (Write something right now – put your words somewhere where you’ll constantly be reminded of them and can continue refining them!)

You’ll find an extended version of this content and many other related resources here.

Now, let me speak in more specific and personal terms, as a way of sharing a few more of the insights I’ve found over the many years I’ve developed personal projects. (more…)

Above: This was probably my favorite from the gym shoot, and while it was fairly easy to make, the athlete (his name was Reeth) who had to do pull up after pull up until I got it just like I wanted it, had it a lot tougher than I did by a long shot.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore—click for a larger view), and although there are two strobes in the shot (one to my left, as noted in the image, and one behind Reeth, we turned that back one off for this shot after I didn’t like how it looked).

The one strobe we did use is a flash head connected to a Ranger RX, but to make the light punchier, we removed the front diffuser (you can see it hanging from the bottom of the softbox). We did leave the inner diffuser still on the inside of the softbox, so while it wasn’t a bare flash bulb, it was pretty darn close.

Above: Here’s why I felt bad for Reeth—he had to do pull ups and then hold himself there while I fired off shot after shot. After I took a few shots and looked at them on my LCD, I felt like Reeth wasn’t doing it exactly right, so I asked him to step aside for a moment, and I jumped up there and did a few reps to show him what I was looking for. I started by just hanging on the bar, and then I looked at Reeth and said, “Watch….and learn,” and then I….then I…. (ah heck, even I can’t keep this up this charade with a straight face). Hey, I had ya there for a minute though, right? No? No? Rats!

Camera Settings
The shot was taken with a Nikon D3s at f/9 at 1/80 of a second. The shutter speed isn’t very fast—what froze the powder was the flash—-I just had to time my shot to when his hand hit the bar, which was much easier than actually being the guy on the bar. My ISO is 200, and since I was using strobes, I was in Manual mode. I shot this with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (seen above) out at 200mm.

Post Processing
I wish I had an exciting story about the post processing, but sadly I don’t. In Camera Raw (well, Lightroom’s Develop Module) I added some contrast (using the Tone Curve) and I added quite a bit of Clarity as well. Then I opened the image in Photoshop and sharpened it quite a bit, using the Unsharp Mask with these settings: Amount 100, Radius 1.5, Threshold 0. This type of shot, where every detail can be really crisp, can really handle a lot of sharpening, so I wasn’t shy about pouring it on. That’s pretty much it.

Above: Here’s another shot of Mo (the stair runner from yesterday)—suspending himself from two rings. I went for a really dark dramatic look, because if I didn’t you’d see those darn wooden stairs behind him, and all that other distracting stuff.

Above: Here’s the production photo (by Brad Moore) and you can see where I positioned the lights—-on either side of Mo, facing each other diagonally. Once Mo pulled himself up on the rings, they would start to rotate, so once he was facing that strobe without a softbox (just a reflector and a spot grid), I would take the shot, and after a few tries I got the shot you just saw previously.

Camera Settings
I started by underexposing the ambient room light by a few stops so it was really dark, then I would light Mo with just the flash. Again, I got lucky that I got shots of him from different angles without me moving my position as Mo slowly rotated on the rings. Of course, since he was rotating, each frame looked different, both from a lighting perspective and a posing one as well. Some looked good (like the one above) and some stunk, but hey—I only needed one good one, right?

Same lighting and camera set-up. Same f/stop, ISO, and all, but the shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. Why the shutter speed change? My finger probably accidentally hit the control dial on the camera at one point or another.

Keeping it Simple Rocks
I hate to say—I loved having such a simple and portable rig for this gym shoot. Just two very small battery packs (an Elinchrom Ranger RX, and a Ranger Quadra), with just two small flash heads total. We used just one small softbox and a reflector and a Grid—that’s all we used for the entire shoot, and that’s why I was able to get 8 or 9 different looks done, in different parts of the gym, with different people, in just a few short hours.

I hope to post a few more images from the shoot, and some behind-the-scenes production shots as well for you all on Friday. In the meantime, don’t miss Guest Blog Wednesday, and Pimpy Thursday here, and then I’ll see you on Friday.

If you’re headed to the Photoshop World Conference & Expo at the end of this month (March 30 – April 1) in Orlando, Florida, here’s a quick heads up: a few more of the optional pre-conference workshops are about to sell out. Here’s where we stand as of yesterday close of business:

>> Jim Schmelzer’s “Quality of Light” workshop only has 5 seats left
>> The Real World Concert Photography workshop has only 8 spots left (and they’re giving away a new Nikon D7000 to whomever takes the best shot during the workshop—more on this on Thursday. That’s a shot from the workshop above).

Here’s the link for more details, but if you’re going to conference, I would nail down one of these pre-conferences fast before it’s too late. See you in Orlando!