Category Archives Guest Blogger

Photo by Chris Keels

Hello everyone. My name is Nick Fancher and I'm your guest blogger today. In case you don't know me (which is likely the case), I am a Columbus, Ohio based portrait and commercial photographer. A couple of weeks ago I released Studio Anywhere: A Photographer's Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations, on Peachpit Press. The idea behind the book is that photographers can get away with shooting without a conventional studio most of the time, as long as they can learn to make the most of their environments; all with the use of minimal, affordable gear.

This idea was born out of necessity. When I was in New York City last year, I wanted to do some test shooting in my free time. I began looking around for studios to rent for the day, and found the average price to be around $1,000. It'd be one thing if this was for a paying client, who would be footing the bill, but this was for unpaid, personal work. And even if I did shell out the $1,000, all the models would then be forced to come to me, which for an unpaid test shoot, would not exactly be a motivating factor for them. Instead, I opted to meet them at their homes, realizing that all I really needed was a white wall, and every home has at least one white wall. And it worked out just fine.

Setup: one light with grid

White walls work

Once I returned to Columbus, I started putting this practice to test, now opting to meet clients at their homes and offices for shoots. Not only did it allow for me to happen upon some pretty amazing environments to shoot in, I think it also gave me a +1 for convenience, in the eyes of the clients. It also led me to some particularly small spaces, which forced me to get creative with my lighting. As you may know, most of the time you need your light several feet away from your subject, in order to get a larger light spread. But if, say, your client lives in a 200 square foot apartment and the only spot to shoot is the spot next to his bed in his living room, you don't have that luxury.  To make my light source larger and softer, I turned the flash in the direction of the white wall on the other side of his bed and it worked smashingly.

Setup: one light bounced into white wall

White walls wreally work!

You may have noticed in the previous setup shot that there are white boards propped up behind the subject. I have two white and two black, 40×60" sheets of foam core that I bring with me to every shoot (leaving them in the car until I see if I actually need them). I often end up needing to use them in a variety of ways. Often I tape two boards together to make a v-flat, in order to block a light source or reflect light. Sometimes I use them as a backdrop, as in the previous scenario. Other times I stack them up so the model can stand on them, if I need a full body shot and the room has an unsightly floor, such as shag carpet.

My rule of thumb is to travel as light as possible, since I typically work without an assistant. I want to minimize the amount of trips I have to make to my car. So if I am heading in to shoot in an unfamiliar space, all I take in with me is my camera bag, a light stand and an umbrella, leaving my tripod, sandbags, additional stands and white boards in the car unless they are absolutely needed. And once I get a lay of the land, I scope out viable shoot areas. Large white walls are a plus. Areas with concrete or gloss wood floors will reflect light and make seamless, full body portraits a lot easier.

Setup: three lights gelled cyan, magenta and yellow

White wall plus a sturdy table = clean, full body portraits

I've even used grey walls or cream colored walls without issue. Of course white balance isn't much of an issue when your two lights are gelled red and cyan.

Setup: two lights gelled cyan and red

Cream colored wall is no problem when your white balance is not in play

Once you start working this way, you start noticing things that you can use to your advantage, such as a nice, red wall. I made a v-flat out of my two black boards and used a white board as a bounce, opposite the red wall. By firing a flash into the white and red surfaces on either side of the model, I had a large, soft spread on a black background, creating a stylized final shot.

Setup: two lights, fired into white bounce and a red wall

Large, soft, stylized light

Want a variety of backdrops for little to no cost? Browse royalty-free images on Google or buy cheap stock images to project onto a white wall. It's an old Hollywood trick, but it's a cool one to play with.

Setup: projector for back wall and one light, snooted

Free trip to Switzerland

What if you're just starting out and you don't own a strobe? Do you have a garage? It's a great spot for shaping available light. It's especially effective on a sunny day. By placing your subject closer or farther away from the open garage door, you can control the amount of light falling on them.

Setup: subject sandwiched in a black v-flat

Dramatic, available light portrait

Achieving a blacked out environment, sometimes referred to as "invisible black," is a lot easier than you may think. Find a background that's a mid to dark tone, not in direct sunlight. Make sure that you have enough space to keep the subject and light(s) away from said background. Get an ambient exposure and then close down at least three stops to get it to go dark/black. Add your light, output set to a high enough output to properly illuminate your subject. Flag light as needed, to keep it from spilling on to background, by using a grid, zooming in the flash head, angling the light away from the background, etc.

Setup: A medium-toned brown wall in the shade is a perfect backdrop to achieve a black scene. I used two bare bulb flashes on the model, one to light her upper torso and one to light her legs, below the tutu.

Black scene

Sometimes I want to add natural, visual elements to a shot, such as flowers or tall grass. To do this, take a black or white v-flat to a park and place it in front of said flower/grass element and have the subject sit/stand in the v-flat. Side note: if your camera case is nice and sturdy as is my Pelican 1510 case, it makes a fantastic chair for your subject.

Setup: Black v-flat in a field, flagging the direct sunlight from the model

Dramatic portrait on black, with added visual elements

As I mentioned earlier, I typically work alone, without an assistant. This means that I am traveling light, without sandbags, for examples. It also means that I can't put a large light modifier on my flash, such as an umbrella, without it blowing over with the smallest breeze. So I am usually looking for ways to soften a bare flash, when I am in the field. As was the case for the living room scenarios, lighter, neutral-colored walls are great for reflecting light. Simply place your light 2-3 feet away from the wall, zooming in the head, if applicable. Angle the light into the wall so that it's heading in the direction of the subject (think banking a pool shot).

Setup: A white wall found in park made for a great bounce surface for my flash

Soft light on my subject without an umbrella (and sandbag) on my light

I realize that many of you are likely already using some of these techniques/hacks, and you may even have some that I have not yet heard of or tried. Please use the comment section for sharing your ideas and experiments. If you feel so inclined, pick up a copy of my book/ebook, Studio Anywhere, here. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

You can see more of Nick’s work at, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, my name is Leo Trevino. My wife Brittany and I run a wedding photo/cinema company in Tampa, FL called Rad Red Creative. Recently, Brad graciously asked if I would be comfortable sharing a burglary/theft experience we went through in early February of this year. Sure, it’s an incredibly-terrible-devastating experience to have, but we both earned an enormous amount of wisdom from it and today I hope to impart some of that wisdom unto you.

Alright here we go; it was a dark and stormy Monday morning (no really it was) on Feb. 9th of this year. Pleasant dreams ended as my iPhone alarm went off, pulling me back into reality alerting me that it was yet again Monday and work had to get done. Like most mornings, I started through my routine, phone in hand while I sifted through Instagram notifications, emails and texts and indeed I received a text. It was from my neighbor, who is also a close friend, that told me about several cars at our town-home complex were broken into and burglarized.

My flat feet couldn't have moved faster as I hustled my way down the stairs, ripped my keys off the wall and bolted past the rain drops to my car. I unlocked the passenger door and found that my car was completely trashed. The entire contents of my glove compartment and center console were flung all throughout the front and rear seats. My car looked like someone went recreational dumpster diving; some of the trash didn't even look like it was mine. Although it was a mess, nothing seemed stolen. Regardless, I called my absentee landlord and made them aware of the situation and then called the police department and began to file a police report.

Phew! Nothing was stolen. A few hours later one of my best-friends and colleagues sent me a reminder that we had a shoot later that evening and to be ready by 5pm. "Cool, I'll be ready," I responded. Sure enough I started that beloved "prep" process that photographers do before a shoot. Check the batteries to make sure they're charged. Make sure you have enough memory cards. Pick out what lenses you want to use. Make sure your camera bodies have tripod plates if need be. Well it wasn't long into that checklist I started to realize I left some gear in the trunk of my car from photoshoots the day prior. "CRAPP!!!"

Again I found myself bustling down the stairs and out to my car. I popped the trunk and behold!!!!!!! NOTHING was thereâ¦. That’s right folks, my gear was stolen. I absolutely couldn't believe it. I ran right back upstairs to my office, double checked all of our Pelican Cases and camera bags and nothing. At the time, my wife wasn't home, so like any other photo/video professional at this time of devastation, I fell to my knees and started sobbing.

Never in a million, billion years did I think I would be a victim to burglary⦠at least not on this scale. Sure, growing up I've had my bike stolen. I've been bullied for lunch money and I may have lost a few high tech gadgets here and there but nothing like this. We're talking a Canon 5D Mark II body, a Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art, a Mamiya 645AFD body with Mamiya 50mm lens, (2X) Canon Speedlite 580 EXII, a Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens, a Canon 85mm, and a Canon 20mm lens which basically amounts to $5,000+ worth of gear just GONE. To any weekend warrior who may have a corporate full-time job with salary, this may not be a big deal. In fact, I WISH I had some form of salary to fall back on. As for us, my wife and I do this [wedding photography] full-time so there is no other paycheck. There is no other salary or form of income. Cameras, lenses and light are how we express ourselves as artists but it's also how we pay the bills and keep food in our stomachs; it's a way of life and someone just messed with our livelihood.

Later that evening we spent time talking to our parents and close family members about what had transpired, seeking guidance and solace. After we spoke with them, I decided to share our story with friends and extended family over social media asking for their prayer and support. I'll never forget how miserable we felt.

Let's fast forward.

It's now the end April just past the thick of wedding season and we're firing on all cylinders! Don’t get me wrong… it wasn’t easy. We had to rent lenses, camera bodies, and speedlites just so we could manage all the weddings we had the past few months. When we couldn't rent, we had generous friends and local professionals that let us borrow gear when they didn't have a shoot. Eventually, we spent a vast portion of our savings to purchase essential gear that we could afford to replace. One thing we will never forget, is the outrageous amount of love and support we received when we launched a GoFundMe account to help offset expenses.

Neither my wife Brittany or I are the type to receive handouts or ask for money but we were continually asked by loved ones to set up a fundraiser so they could help us and WOW! We were absolutely blown away! After the fundraiser, we also had some random jobs come our way that also helped rebuild our chunk of missing gear. Finally, after all the paperwork was filled out, our renters’ insurance company sent their check and here we are; alive, breathing and still living our dream of creating and capturing beautiful wedding moments. It's been a long and grueling process but we made it out alive, with better gear than we previously had.

"What gear did you end up buying to replace what you lost?"

"Yes sir, thank you for asking!" As you read what gear was stolen, it's obvious that we were still using pretty old gear. It also wasn't ALL of our gear. Once we had our finances in order, I made the obvious decision to buy the 5D Mark 3, making it our second 5DM3 body. I then bought the 50L (because it's dreamy and excellent), the Sigma 35mm Art series (it's so incredibly sharp OMG), as well as the good ol' Canon 85mm 1.8. I sold my Canon 24-70mmL and bought the 16-35mm L (what can I say I wanted to go wider). We needed one more camera body and that's where the Canon 7D Mark 2 comes in!

"But isn't that mainly a sports and wildlife camera?"

Yes and Yes. It's very clear the 7DM2 was aimed at sports and wildlife hence the mind-blowing FPS speed and 65-point AF system, but all of that can also be applied to the fast-paced world of wedding photography. Being a crop-sensor body, it's had my back in a few churches where I needed that extra reach! Our company, Rad Red Creative, also does wedding cinema, so the Dual Pixel CMOS AF comes in super handy when we do glidecam shots. The camera is a dream, and once I saw Scott Kelby's "Real World Field Report" on the Canon 7D Mark II, I was sold and bought it later that evening.

Okay back to my sob-story.

Honestly, the day we had gear stolen I wanted to give up. I wanted to hand over the rest of my gear to the first pawn shop I could find and just sip beer after beer underneath the nearest overpass while collecting cigarette butts. Yes alright fine, all of what I said reeks of melodrama. Still doesn't change my view of how badly that whole situation still SUCKED (for lack of a better phrase). Not only did someone mess with our livelihood and it was infuriating⦠but let's be honest, I too was a major contributor to my own folly. After all I was the numb-nuts who left $5,000+ worth of gear in the trunk of my car! I mean c'mon who else does that?!

Here are some lessons I've learned. **Keep in mind some of these lessons/tips may be obvious to some readers but perhaps there are other readers out there (like myself) who may not be aware of what could happen and what precautions to take.**

Duh! To be honest, I don’t ever leave gear in my car intentionally. The Sunday before our gear was stolen, we had two long shoots that day. When we got home, I grabbed my camera bag thinking all my gear was in the bag. Indeed it was not. Instead of checking to make sure, I just closed my trunk, carried my camera bag inside and got ready for bed. Big mistake. Always double check your car to make sure everything is inside your home, studio, office, hotel room – anywhere but the car.

2: You Can Never Have Enough Insurance
If you rent an apartment or townhouse, have renters insurance. If you own a home, obviously have home-owners insurance. Renters insurance was able to give us $2,500 because the theft happened while our car was parked outside our townhouse. If you're a professional photographer/cinematographer, have Liability and Business Insurance. Make sure your gear is covered under accidental damage, theft or any other catastrophe. I would name some companies but each state in the U.S. has different rules for these things. My sub-advice: Partner with a local lawyer or financial advisor on how to better protect yourself and your precious gear. My wife and I didn't know that our current business insurance didn’t offer theft coverage in the state of Florida. I recommend getting "Photocare" for extra coverage (available by itself or through PPA).

3: Be Discrete
If you live in a low-income area, don't go walking around announcing that you're a photographer unless you want to be mugged. I have friends with stories of coming home from a shoot and while lugging camera gear into their home, have been robbed at gun point. Buy bags that don't look like camera bags, keep light-stands and tripods in some sort of casing. It may sound excessive but you never know who could be watchingâ¦. okay that also sounds a bit paranoid but, just be wise and be discreet.

4: Keep Cards And Cameras Completely Separated
Two camera bodies were stolen from me but I did NOT lose any images. Why? After a shoot I keep memory cards in a wallet, on my person, always. When I get home, I dump them on to a drive and then back that drive up, and back that drive up again. That’s data safety 101.

5: Pay Attention To Your Gear
Treat it like a toddler, and by that I mean always know where your gear is; even if you have to have to bring an assistant or second shooter to help you keep track. I'm the top offender when it comes to this rule. When I'm on a shoot the only things I'm concentrating on is my light, my subject and where I put my camera. I switch lenses quick and fast and my wife says I'm notorious for leaving gear behind. Good thing she's there to pick up my slack! At any rate, it's something I need to work on and now I even limit how much gear I take on a shoot.

In this day and age, gear-theft/burglary is almost inevitable. I don't like being a pessimist but it's the world we live in. There are people out there, ready to make money any way they can even if it means putting your livelihood at risk. The important thing to remember is to stay protected by having insurance and definitely don't give up on pursuing your dreams. Although I say I wanted to quit and give up (due to a momentary lapse of judgment), there was something that kept me fighting for our livelihood and that thing was: Passion.

I hope this could be of some help and support to those who may have experienced or are currently sharing my experience. Just know that if you persevere and stay focused on your passions, you can make it out of most situations.

Leo and his wife Brittany are full-time professional wedding photographers/cinematographers based out of Tampa, FL and travel worldwide. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook, check out their short wedding films on Vimeo, and see more work at

My name is Robert Cornelius (as I'm guessing you've already gathered from the title of this blog postâ¦), and I've been given the honored opportunity to share some of my thoughts with all of you fine people. I've been shooting professionally since 2008, but my passion for digital art has been growing since 2003. That's the year I was first introduced to the majesty of a little program you might have heard of, called … Photoshop. I've always been an individual that thrives in any situation that requires tapping into one’s creativity and imagination, but once I discovered the power of Photoshop I really found my stride. I love for my work to balance somewhere along the line between a digital painting and a photograph, while bringing cinematic stories to life through the various characters I dream up.

I've decided for my guest blog to break down the process of creating one of my more recent images in hopes that it will inspire you to try something new and crazy, or at least add a few shiny new tricks to your work flow for whatever sort of art you love to create. This image, called "The Fate Sisters," is my interpretation of the Greek myth about the three witch-like siblings who control our fate through their powers over the thread of life. Basically all of the images I create come together in steps quite similar to the following. I end up doing all of these things to my pictures at one point or another during the editing process. Obviously there is no perfect formula for every image – any edit is going to consist of a lot of trial and error and just trying things to see what looks good. I don't always go exactly in this order, but for the most part my editing process goes something like this…

The Shoot
Whenever possible I try to plan out as much as I can before the actual shooting begins. This isn't always the case; I do love to just shoot a person on a whim once in a while and figure out something magical to do with the photos later on in Photoshop. For this image, however, I was plotting things in the back of my head for most of a year; I knew every last detail before I even took the first shot. I envisioned one girl  (my friend Laura of posing for all three characters, and could picture how each "sister" was going to be positioned. I even knew what colored lights were going to be where: I wanted a rich dark blue atmosphere with the thread and scissors glowing golden light. I made sure to light accordingly. It’s way easier to convincingly edit the light spilling onto their faces and hands from their various shining objects when the right quality of light was actually being cast on them from the get-go. I do love digital painting and could have done my best to just add the light in later, but that’s just never going to look as good as it will if you have the light actually there in the first place.

The first thing I do once I get my raw images tweaked and opened up in Photoshop is to combine all of my favorite pieces. I usually end up with a handful of images that each have something in particular about them that I like the best.  I'll edit together all of the more favorable attributes from different captures into one even better version. For "The Fate Sisters” I obviously already had to combine the three pictures of the different "sisters,” but each individual girl is comprised of several images. For the center sister (Atropos for you Greek mythology buffs), there was one frame in which I really liked her expression and the way the light was falling on her face, but wasn't too fond of the position of her hands – so I Photoshopped those in from another shot.

After I have all the pieces and parts pushed and pulled into place, I’ll cut the subject off of their background.  The pen tool is my selecting apparatus of choice for most parts of an image. I find it to be the easiest way to get a very precise and clean edge for the majority of the mask. I definitely don't skimp on my pen tooling. It's always worth it to get all up in there and take the extra time to really work my way around the little details of my edges. I know it can be tedious, but I find that the better selection you have on your subject, the more convincing of a composite you're going to end up with. Plus once you really get the hang of it, I feel like there is something very "zen” about pen-tooling things. Is that just me? (Also… "pen-tooling” is totally a word, just go with it.) The pen tool might be truly fantastic, but cutting out hair can be a real pain – so I use a plugin called Fluid Mask just for selecting out the hair. (The program is made by Vertus and is worth every penny!) However, you can also get some really great selections of areas like hair or very detailed fringes on fabric using the “refine edge” selection tool right in Photoshop.

General Retouching
This is where I do all of the standard Photoshopping. I'll run through the usual list of suspects like cloning out blemishes, doing some more skin tweaks using frequency separation, smoothing out a few clothing wrinkles here and there if I feel it's called for, and doing away with any other little details that pop out and make me think "I could deal without that." This is one of those steps that sort of happens constantly throughout the whole editing process as I see things I want to fix, so it's kind of hard to place where exactly in my process I do these sorts of things. I do tend to wait until a little bit later into the composite since I don't want to retouch a face or something that I might replace with a different one later.

For many of my other works of art the background can take quite some time to Photoshop together, and oftentimes I'll totally change it to a different location once or twice before I'm happy with it. For this picture, on the other hand, I wanted a backdrop that was less important than the overall image. My main goal was to have my audience be drawn into the faces and various luminescent items of the image; I didn't necessarily need to tell the viewer where the sisters actually were. Perhaps they are just dwelling in some sort of mysterious limbo-type-realm between worlds. It wasn't entirely relevant to depict an obvious location, so I just went with some nondescript murky foggy blue light.

Painting, Shading, and Detailing
This is probably my very favorite step of the process – it's were the digital painting technique comes into play. First I'll make a new layer and set it to a soft light blending mode, grab my handy-dandy Wacom Tablet (which I can't live without), and start painting in some broader shadows and highlights. Usually I'll do this using black or white with a completely soft brush, but often I'll select a color to paint with right from a shadow area or bright highlight in the image. After my first once-over with the soft light layer, I'll make another new layer and set the blending mode to overlay; I use the overlay layer to add in the smaller detailing. This blending mode is a bit harsher and more contrasty than soft light, so I prefer it for areas of smaller detail like the eyes, lips, hair, and maybe even playing up the edge light on a jawline or something of that nature.  After painting for a while on the overlay layer, I'll add a third layer with a normal blending mode and use this to add in more little details. I'll digitally paint on top of all the pixels to accentuate things that are there and even add in things I think should be there. I tend to refer back to these three layers throughout the rest of my editing process as I see things I want to highlight and enhance. I've even been known to add one or two orâ¦seventeen-zillion more layers on top of these three to really build up the details and effects.  Above you can see all of my paint layers overtop of a solid grey background to help you get an idea of the actual details I'm enhancing. Note that whenever I'm painting on a person I'll use “clipping masks” by holding alt/option and clicking between the layers. (You can also right click and choose "create clipping mask".) This makes my job way easier because it tells Photoshop that this layer should only paint on the one below it; sort of like a fool-proof "coloring inside the lines.”

Textures and Atmosphere
I'm a huge fan of floaty dust particles and creating a dirty hazy atmosphere; it's sort of become part of my "style," if you will. This obviously is not for everyone or every picture, but I rather enjoy the quality it gives to my images. Some people are into the very clean and smooth look, which I totally appreciate as well, but I always tend to reach a point in my edit where I want to add some "grit." I’ll usually layer anywhere from 2 to 5 textures, maybe even more sometimes, trying them set to different blending modes as I go to see what looks good. I usually go with soft light, overlay, or screen, and I'll always lower the opacity way down; usually it will be somewhere around 20% or less. Also, once my textures are in place, I'll do a bit of masking to remove some of the grunge from areas like faces and skin. Sometimes textures can leave people looking bruised or blotchy. This is one of those steps where you just have to experiment and see what you like – you usually don’t want this to be too overwhelming of an effect. When adjusted correctly, this technique does a wonderful job of blending all the different pieces of a composite together. It gives all your layers a similar quality and feel, selling the notion that everything in the image is indeed in the same location and not sneakily edited together. I use images of dust particles, smoke, clouds, fog, and tiny bokeh clusters a lotâ¦.like seriously a lot. I have a huge library of texture images that I've been gathering over the years. Whenever I see a nice grungy cracking wall or old tattered fabric, I’ll snap a few pictures and plop them into a folder to dig up later.  You'd be surprised by the amount of different interesting textures you can find even around your house – I have a whole folder of images of the various beat up old baking sheets from the kitchen!

Color toning
Next I start play around with some adjustment layers to affect the overall color and tone of my image. A lot of photographers seem to really enjoy "curves" for this, but I'm a sucker for sliders. To each their own. Thats one of the best things about Photoshop, there's a zillion ways to do everything! I really love the control I can get using the "selective color" adjustment layer. If you've never messed around with it before definitely give it a try. I already had a pretty good idea of what sort of a color palette I wanted this image to have (since it was lit that way), but I always commit some time to playing around with the sliders and trying different color variations to see what I like. As opposed to the the cooler blue tones I had envisioned for the background, I ended up going a bit more in the direction of purple than I had planned. The more I tweaked the colors in that direction the more I really liked the way it looked against the gold tones on their faces.  I also usually add a "color adjustment" layer as well – I like the way it can help add some color contrast and make the highlights pop a bit more. I often find myself pushing some warmer yellow tones into the highlights, which worked perfectly for this image seeing as how I already had the yellowy highlights throughout.  One of my other favorite tricks is to add a "hue/saturation” adjustment layer, check the "colorize" box at the bottom, and then pick a color tone that works for the image; for this picture it was a purple hue. Now stay with me, I know this will make your image a monochromatic color tone, but then I set that layer to soft light and lower the opacity to somewhere around 15%. This gives the whole image a nice subtle midtone contrast and everything acquires a similar overall color and quality. It's definitely a technique you should try out; it works wonderfully for basically any type of photograph. I usually end up using a warm orange-ish color to help give a tiny bit more life to skin tones, but it all depends on what looks good for whatever image I'm creating. Since it's an adjustment layer you can always come back later and try a different hue to see what you like best.

Finishing Touches
Once I'm happy with the image as a whole, I'll begin some of my “finishing moves.” I'll duplicate all my layers and merge them (“stamp visible”) so I have a flat version of my image on top of all my layers. Then I'll run this layer though some filters. I'm rather fond of HDR Efex Pro (from the Nik collection), and also Topaz Adjust. This is another one of the steps where you just have to mess around with different filters to see what sort of an effect works well with the image and what you're going for. Also, this is a step that can be MAJORLY overdone and you can start to make your image look way too overworked. I always run the filter and then lower the opacity of that top layer to bring it back to somewhere a bit closer to how it looked previously. I'm also a big fan of the shadow/highlight adjustment (that can be found in the "image” drop down menu, under "adjustments"). Note that you have to check off the "show more options" box at the bottom of that window (if you haven't already) to really unlock the potential of this adjustment. Again, this can be overdone quite easily and start to make your image way too flat and fake HDR-looking. These are all subtle changes.  Lastly I'll always sleep on an image, maybe even for a day or two, especially after this last step when it's kind of hard to tell if you've taken things too far. I always find it's best to step away from the project and give it fresh eyes the next day. I'll basically keep giving the image "fresh eyes" until I open it and don't immediately want to tweak something. My pictures just sort of tell me when they are finished.

Well everyone I hope you've enjoyed this post, and that you learned a thing or two or at least affirmed what you already knew.

Happy shooting and ‘shopping, and stay creative my friends! :)

You can see more of Robert’s work at, and follow him on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram.

Alright folks, let’s get girlie! Every so often I have people come up to me and ask me about the featured image on my website’s home screen. They say “I love the rainbow lips image! How in the world did you create the rainbow effect from scratch?”


My response: I'd shrug, and say “Honestly? I just played around with blend modes.” But to level with you, I honestly created the piece so long ago, that I don’t quite remember the actual steps I took to produce it. So I thought it might be time to do some detective work and dive back into my past to see if I can decode the steps I took to get this look. In this post, I’ll expose all the secret steps I took to get this effect.

As with any macro beauty image, the first thing I did was some general clean-up like skin smoothing, frequency separation, and fixing the color and tone of the original lip color; gold. (If you'd like to download my free portrait-in-a-pinch retouching action, then check out and scroll to the bottom to download it!)



Then, I played around with the skin-tones because I was trying to get the skin to look like porcelain. I did this by creating three new fill layers, filling two of them with white and the last one with aqua. I changed all of their blend modes to soft light, and then placed them in a layer group. For each of the three layers, I opened up the layer style dialog box and inside the blend if section, I split the black clipping arrow for the underlying layer slider into two parts (hold down option or alt to divide the arrow) and then I dragged the right portion of the arrow all the way so that it sat just next to the white arrow of the same slider.


To finish up, I used my brush tool to paint with black over the areas where I didn’t want the skin effect to show. I did this on the layer group mask in order to have one single mask apply to three different layers. This is a huge time-saver since you’re only painting one mask, instead of three! Lastly, I decreased the opacity of my skin tone layer group to 15%.

My next step was adding some 3D depth to the model’s fingers using dodge and burn. Here’s a preview of my dodge and burn layer, I switched the layers blend mode from soft light to normal to show this preview. (For more on dodge and burn, stay tuned to KelbyOne for my soon-to-be-released class on skin! Coming soon to a computer screen near you!)

Now comes the fun part! To add the rainbow colors to the lips, I first decreased the saturation of the lips using a hue/saturation adjustment layer, by dragging the saturation slider from 0 to -62. Then I created an empty new layer, and used my brush tool to pick out some funky, fun colors, and sloppily painted them over the lips area. Here’s what the layer looks like with everything else in the document hidden.


Next, I added a black mask to the rainbow color layer, and proceeded to paint with white over the lips area so the color would only show through where I wanted it to. I ended this step by decreasing the opacity of this layer to 60% and changed the blend mode to vivid light.

To finish up, I used a few curves adjustment layers to try and accentuate the highlights and shadows on the lips, thus giving them a more 3 dimensional appearance. And then added a high-pass layer on soft light blend mode to sharpen. And voila! I was finished!

In closing I hope this quick blog post helps to illustrate the importance of playing around and trying new things in Photoshop. If it weren’t for this, I would have never created such an out-of-the-box piece. And can anyone guess the extremely valuable added benefit I gained from this experience? I learned a ton!

Whether you’re new to Photoshop or an old, seasoned pro, you can always learn more by exploring tools you haven’t used before. Don’t be afraid to fail! It’s how we grow and continuously become better at our craft!

â˜Your challenge; should you choose to accept it:' is to choose one new tool a day that you've never used before and explore it! At the end of one week, you'll have seven new tools to add to your skill-set!

You can see more of Kristina’s work at, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

Photo courtesy of RC Concepcion

Don't Get Social, Be Social

A question that I frequently hear of photographers and creatives, which always makes my skin crawl, is, “What’s your approach to social?” Of course, the person asking wants an answer related to how to gain followers or boost their engagement metrics to drive revenue. Those are the questions we’ve been trained to ask as artists scrambling to find a consumer for our wares. While having a sound social media strategy is only a good thing, my challenge to you as an artist is to do something much more rewarding: don’t get socialâ”be social.

If you’re looking to gain marketing insight from the rest of this post, read no farther, as that nugget won’t follow. I’m going to talk more about that oh-so-rare interaction that won’t help pay the mortgage, but is what I feed off of as a photographer: a unique shared experience with awesome output that everyone involved will enjoy for years. The key is finding a dance partner who’s as adventurous and open to experimentation as you are.

A freelancing sports job introduced me to the lovely Natalie Taylor. While she was TV-facing and I focused on stills, our coverage was often of the same events and naturally I showed her some of my work over a coffee break. When she introduced me to her boyfriend, Walter I could tell she had found a solid guy and had hoped it would go the distance. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to hear good news before the rest of the world. When you’re really lucky, you get to play an active role in helping to announce that news as well! For my friends Natalie and Walter, this was the news of their unannounced engagement, which we (my wife Elise and I) were thrilled to shoot.

Since both are media personalities, we knew that shyness in front of the lens wouldn’t be an issue at all and were thrilled to hear that they wanted to introduce their new family to the rest of the world with Rookie, their fur-baby, in tow.

When hiring voice-activated light stands, I recommend asking them about their dog-wrangling skills early in the interview. They might prove invaluable one day. Creative personalities who were willing to be part of a collaborative and experimental shoot were the key to a great day that was personally rewarding for all involved.

This is going to sound silly, but you’d be amazed how many photographers I know that lament never having anyone fun to shoot. When I ask them who they’ve asked, they look at me like I’m wearing a Canon hat and a Nikon vest. Absolute honesty and transparency will get you very far. “Hello, my name is Ken and I’m a photographer. You’ve got a really great look, would you ever be interested in shooting?” It’s clear, it’s concise and it’s honest. If they’re receptive, you can immediately start getting a feel for what kind of shoot they’d be up for, but by all means, have an idea ready.

Meet Erica, by far one of my favorite people to shoot. We had chance encounters when she was an employee of my favorite hockey team and she wore her adventurous personality on her sleeve. Who better to ask to climb a utility tower with me on the edge of town? I had just acquired some new strobes and felt like test-driving them in a bright outdoor environment, and I let her know just that. The expectation was set that she’d meet up with my wife and me for the shoot and stroll around an area and experiment. We came away with some of my favorite photos that I’d made in a long time:

Not only did we have a great time making some great photos during our first outing but I now have Erica as one of the first people I reach out to when I start thinking about a shoot that might take a little bit more patience than most can muster because I know how well we work together. Normally when asked if my wife and I shoot weddings we find ourselves washing our hair that weekend but when I heard of Erica and her fianc© Liam’s pending nuptials, we jumped at the opportunity to be there on their special day because we know that we’ll have an engaging bride and groom that will want to make some memorable images.

Sometimes the key to your social networking will be the social networks of your subjects. Meet Chris and Steve, an incredible couple. Chris was a co-worker of mine, and (though he had recently moved on to other endeavors) Steve had worked with my wife. Chris and Steve have long been active members in the Columbus community, serving in roles that would help further local transit, LGBT advocacy, and initiatives to attract young professionals to the city. Our concept for their engagement shoot was to articulate their lazy Sunday afternoon routine as a couple and get some great environmental portraits in an urban setting. I remember sitting Chris down to ask him what their perfect lazy Sunday looked like, and he mentioned it was often hitting up one of their favorite local establishments for brunch and a beer.

Immediately I started trying to think about ways to emulate the vibe of that restaurant and Chris told me to stand by. Moments later, I got a message from him: we were cleared to shoot in the bar prior to their opening. We were given free run of the place, including a tour of the haunted basement and free pour at the taps while we were there. Since we were shooting in a bar at 9am, it was my task to set the lighting up to feel more like a late, cozy afternoon⦠so as not make my friends look like alcoholics. Their patience was key here. The beer certainly didn’t hurt.

Once we’d had our fill (of beer), we moved on to a great urban art cooperative which Chris and Steve had reserved for their local reception after eloping. Once again, because of Chris and Steve’s great social natures, we were given carte blanche to make some truly unique engagement photos that captured the two of them so well.

They may not be your money-makers, but that’s not always the point. Take time to make photos that are rooted in genuine social interactions, and aren’t driven by the trending social media metric. It’s here you may find your most rewarding experiences that you’ll treasure for as long as the photos themselves, if not longer. This certainly won’t help pay for your newest Nikon body or Canon L Series lens, but it will make you look forward to picking up your gear that much more.

You can see more of Ken’s work at, and follow him on Twitter.

Hi! My name is Regina Pagles and I am a portrait photographer residing in the rural community of Springdale, Utah (Pop. 450), just outside of Zion National Park. I have a small studio where I have been taking portraits of friends and family since I discovered studio lighting in 2010.

I have combined the techniques learned from my biggest inspirations, Peter Hurley (expression), Sue Bryce (posing), Don Giannatti (lighting) and Scott Kelby (post processing) to develop and hone my own style. In the spirit of â˜paying it forward,' I would like to share with you what I have learned and the techniques I use, in honor of those that have inspired me and who have offered their knowledge so graciously.

I will take you through my post processing workflow, using a recent image of one of my favorite subjects, model Yolanda Damon Harris.

Straight out of the camera, you can see the image doesn’t look too good…

I begin by making initial adjustments in Lightroom and the image starts to improve.

The first Lightroom adjustments are correcting White Balance, Exposure, Highlights, Shadows and Blacks.

Next in LR:

  • Add a little Sharpening. Amount = 60, Radius = 0.6 
  • Correct the table perspective. Under Lens Corrections, I adjust the Horizontal slider to +11. This distorts the entire image a little, but I'm ok with that.

Under Camera Calibration, I make these adjustments:

  • Change Profile to Camera Neutral
  • Under Red Primary, Hue = +8, Saturation = -10
  • Under Green Primary, Hue = 0, Saturation = -5
  • Under Blue Primary, Hue = +10, Saturation = -35

The red, green and blue primary adjustments are image specific, but generally very close to these settings for the majority of my images.

All finished in Lightroom, now onto Photoshop.

First thing I do is mask the subject.

Next, I add the â˜Oliphant' layer.

I photographed just the Oliphant backdrop at a darker exposure and place it in the document as a separate layer. I then mask the subject. The original texture of the Oliphant background is retained, but just darker. I made a large 5000 px soft feathered brush and added noise to it. Then, I put the Oliphant backdrop layer in it's own group and add a white mask to the group. I paint with black, using the large brush I made, right over the subject. Now I have a vignette, no banding and the hair blends seamlessly in to the background. Plus, the background is the darker shade I prefer and the texture is the original. Yay!

Next, I mask the table and correct the saturation in the yellow and reds.

Now on to the subjectâ¦

  • Add a Selective Color Adjustment layer for the skin, Red = +12.
  • Use Healing Brush to fix skin blemishes.
  • Apply a skin retouching technique learned from Calvin Hollywood, who learned it from retoucher Natalia Taffarel. I have it set up as an action, and I don't remember exactly what the steps are… sorry! Calvin explains the technique in his ‘Calvinize’ DVD. Not a deal breaker if you don't use this technique, especially if the face is so small in the image, like they are in mine.
  • Double check for any skin inconsistencies and add add'l healing, if necessary.
  • Even out the eyebrows and eyelashes, (only on females) using a 1 or 2px hard brush.
  • Use Viveza plugin by Nik to subtly darken the highlights of the face, if necessary.

  • Add very subtle contrast, only to the subject, with Nik's Color Efex Pro v.4 â˜Tonal Contrast' filter.*

  • Brighten eyes using Dodge & Burn.

I then make some image specific adjustments, such as removing the string on the cross in this image.

A few more minor tweaks to skin healing and I'm done.

Now, I just save and duplicate the image, then resize the copy to 2048px wide, which I read is best for Facebook.

Last of the adjustments, I will use Nik's Sharpener Pro v.3 and apply only to the subject, avoiding the edges.

I convert the profile to sRGB and use Save for Web, 75 quality.

*I am SO disappointed with the Version 4 of Nik's Tonal Contrast filter. I used to LOVE v.2, but v.4 is just awful. I use it still, out of habit and denial that such a wonderful filter could turn so bad.

Older behind the scenes shot (pre Oliphant backdrop and reversed main light position).

Black foamcore on left is not in use, it's just resting against the only available wall space.

Here are the Photoshop layers:

Lighting diagram:

I hope that this information will provide some insight into how I post process and light my images. Granted, posing plays a huge role, but I will have to save that topic for another post! Thank you for reading and I'll see you next time :)

Image samples:

You can see more of Regina’s work at, and follow her on Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram.