Category Archives Lighting


Going to Photo Plus Expo in a couple of weeks? Come Shoot Portraits with Me!
Hi gang — it’s Monday. Here’s what’s up: If you’re going to Photo Plus Expo in New York, I want to tell you about a hands-on “Portraits on location” workshop I’m doing with the folks from Lexar Memory.

It’s limited to a small group of people, and we’re going to head out into the streets of Manhattan with two professional models. I’ll explain the technique, then you’ll split into two groups and try out the same techniques yourself with the models. We’ll be using both natural light and flash, and we’ll pack a lot into those two-hours — you’ll learn a bunch, and you’ll be shooting’ plenty the whole time.

Here’s the link to sign up for the workshop

These workshops [Photo Plus Expo calls them “Photo Walks” but they’re really hands-on workshops], are very limited to the number of participants, so if you want to join me (and Brad), then sign up right now before it’s sold out.

Another side of Street Photography on “Photography Live and Uncut”
I recently was a guest on the UK-based Web show “Photography Live and Uncut” with host Paul Griffiths (great host, and really nice guy), and we got “into it” on the topic of Street Photography. It’s a discussion you don’t hear very often, and if you’ve got a few minutes, just let this run in the background — it’s more entertaining than a Presidential Debate (but then, what isn’t?). ;-)


Honored to be included in “Get Inspired” Magazine
It’s a magazine of creative inspiration and in their current issue (issue #31) they included one of my portraits, and I’m very excited and honored to be included among such great photographers in this issue. Here’s the link to download the magazine.


Photographers in Charlotte and Sacramento — I’m headed your way!
I’m in Charlotte next Monday, the 17th, and then I’m in Sacramento the next week, on the 24th, with my full day seminar. Hope you can come out and spend the day with me. 🙂

That’s it for today! Hope yours is a great one!



Hi Gang: Ready for some serious learning this weekend? Here’s my pick for five classes (including a coupla my own) to make the most of these next few days. Check these out:

(1) Master Post-Processing: 10 Mistakes Every New Photographer Makes and How to Fix Them” with Kristi Sherk
People are absolutely raving about her class. Start with it. You’ll love it, too!

(2) Going From Flat to Fabulous in Photoshop (with me) 
Come with me as I take a bunch of flat images straight out of the camera, and show you exactly step-by-step how to make them fabulous. Plus, I give you the practice files to download and follow right along.

(3) Post Processing Landscape Photos in Camera Raw with Moose Peterson
Moose truly gives you a different perspective on post processing landscapes, and really talks about the “Whys” in a really significant way, and of course, you’ll learn all the “hows” too. You’ll learn a lot.

(4) Inexpensive and DIY Photo Gear Tricks with Larry Becker
Larry is the master of saving money on gear, and his class is a hit. Very clever stuff (and he’s really entertaining just to listen to).

(5) Photo Recipes: Dramatic Lighting with…me!
In one of the installments from my new series of lighting, I cover Dramatic Lighting, and we do some fun, creative things, and I even include the retouching, so you see the entire process from start to finish.

There ya have it. If you’re not a KelbyOne member yet, you can still watch all these classes for free this weekend – just take the 10-day free trial and you can start watching them immediately.

Here’s the link to get started.

Next week, let me know which ones were your favorites. Have a great weekend, and I hope to see ya back here on Monday.



P.S. It’s just 11-days until Photoshop World 2016 in Vegas kicks off. If you want come and join us, it’s not too late. 



On Wednesday morning, the folks at Westcott announced their brand new portable, collapsible beauty dish, the 24″ Rapid Box Beauty Dish (designed by awesome photographer and beauty dish master, Joel Grimes himself), and just a few hours later we were in the studio doing a live shoot showing how it works.

Here’s the live shoot
I’m there in our photo studio with Westcott’s own Brandon Heiss, and I’m sharing a clip from “The Grid” that aired on Wednesday afternoon where we showed the shoot, and talked about the dish. I embedded it here, below:

Again, that’s just a short clip from the show – we talked about lighting, answered questions, and generally had a lighting love-fest, so if you want to catch the full episode, you can watch it here. 

Photoshop World 2016 is almost here!
It’s just over a month way, but it’s not too late to join us for three in-depth days of learning Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom – you’ll love it, and you’ll learn a ton. Here’s where you get your tickets (and you get $100 off if you’re a KelbyOne member).

OK, that’s it for this Friday, folks. Hope to see you back here on Monday. :)

Have a great weekend!


Figure 5

Happy Friday everybody! Today I’m going to break down the  simple one-light bridal portrait you see above (camera settings, lighting and post production). Keeping it simple like this is ideal because it lowers the bride’s stress and yours, too. Plus, by just using one simple light you can focus on emotion and expression rather than fussing with a bunch of lights (it’s another one of those “less is more” things).

In this beautiful small church, there was a short hallway leading to an exit door, and some storage closets, but the doors were a vivid red color, and I thought that would contrast beautifully with our bride (who had a white dress and a pinkish bouquet). I thought we’d try posing the bride in that short hallway, but getting a light in there with the bride, without being seen in the shot, would be kind of challenging.

Lighting Gear
I used just one small flash head running an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kit, which consists of a very lightweight battery pack (I believe it’s about 2-3/4 lbs.) with a strap on it so you can just sling it over your shoulder, and a very small, very lightweight flash head (literally just 10 ounces ). This is one of my “go-to” rigs for location lighting because:

(1) It’s very lightweight and portable — it all fits in a small carrying case that’s smaller than an airline carry-on,

(2) You get studio-quality light and a much brighter, more powerful light than you would with a hot-shoe flash,

(3) It has a built-in wireless trigger and lets me control the power of the strobe from right on my camera (the other matchbox-sized trigger sits on my cameo’s hot shoe mount),

(4) You can use two strobe heads with just this one pack if you decided you did indeed need a second light. And..

(5) …it’s designed so I can use any of my studio softboxes with it, and in this case it was a small 24×24” Elinchrom Rotalux square softbox.

Figure 1

Above: The Hallway with the red door. 

Here’s an over-the-shoulder view of the short hallway with red doors I was talking about. It’s actually much darker in the church that it shows here – this behind-the-scenes production shot was taken in Aperture Priority mode at a high ISO, so these behind-the-scenes shots look properly exposed, but in reality it was quite a bit darker, especially in the hallway, which was lit with just a few harsh overhead floods).

Figure 2

Above: Finding a place to hide the softbox was a challenge in this tight hallway, so we opened a closet door and had our 2nd assistant tuck-himself inside the doorway a bit to keep the soft box from extending into the frame.

If you look at this behind-the-scenes image, you can see me sitting in the pews, quite a-ways back from our bride — that way I could capture either tight or full length shots. The position of the light was pretty standard: at around a 45° angle from the bride, up higher than the bride and aiming down at the bride.

Figure 3-2

Above: Here’s the shot that resulted from me shooting full length from out in the pews. I’m not super-digging it, and it took a lot of post-production to tame the red light spilling everywhere and tinting everything, so the search continues for a better shot. 

GRIP TIP: We normally use a monopod for shoots like this (it’s easier to “run and gun”), rather than a lightstand with legs, but since we started our shoot using a lightstand in the back of the church, we just kind of picked it up and kept shooting. Normally, we’d prefer to have the strobe mounted on a monopod for faster and easier mobility between pews, and in tight situations. The only downside? You have to keep holding a monopod — it doesn’t “set down” very easily (there are no legs and feet) without crunching the soft box, so you wind up leaning it against things, which means you run the risk of it falling over. It’s a tradeoff (like everything, right?).

The Lighting Problem with the Red Door
I wasn’t happy with how the overall color looked because of how the light was reflecting off the red door. So, I thought we’d try one where the bride would be backlit, with just a little of the light spilling over onto her.

Figure 4

Above: Back lighting our bride 

I left the bride in the exact same spot, but I had our 2nd assistant take the strobe and softbox move to the other end of the hallway to position the light behind her and off to the side (so it’s pretty much the same lighting set-up — 45°-ish angle, up high aiming down, etc. it’s just positioned behind the bride this time, as seen above).

I did crank up the power of the light for this backlit shot, because I wanted to make sure it was powerful enough not just to put a rim of light around her shoulders, arms, etc., but that it also spilled over enough so you could see her face. I also made sure to have the bride turn her head and body toward the direction of the light. Had she been looking the other way, we wouldn’t have had enough light spilling on her face or bridal gown.

Camera Settings:
I shot in manual mode, so I could make sure the shutter speed didn’t get past the normal sync speed (this pack lets you do hyper sync, but I shouldn’t need to do that in a dark hallway), so my shutter speed was 1/60 of a second (I normally use 1/125 of a second, so I have to imagine at some point I accidentally hit the dial on the back of my camera). My ISO was set to 100 ISO (the cleanest ISO on my camera), and my f-stop was f/5 in case there was any background visible behind my subject, it will be a little bit soft. Using such a wide-open f/stop meant keeping the power of the flash at less than 1/4 power most of the time.

Post Production:
Light picks up the color of whatever it hits, so when white light hits a red door it reflects red light. Once I saw the color image of her backlit, it looked very red from the reflected light, so I knew right then it was a candidate for being converted into a black and white image.

Figure 6

Above: Converting to Black & White in Silver Efex Pro 2

I used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 plug-in to convert the image to black and white (I used use one of their built-in presets — my three favorite preset choices are (in no particular order): (1) Full Spectrum (2) Fine Art Process and (3) High Structure Smooth, so I usually wind up choosing one of these three.

Figure 7

Above: Adding the Duotone look in Lightroom CC

Once I converted the image to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2, I added a Duotone look in Lightroom using the Split Toning panel, but then only moving the Shadow controls; putting the Hue at 25 and the Saturation slider amount at 21. Don’t touch the Highlight settings up top or the balance slider — this is all done just using the Shadows Hue and Saturation sliders, so leave the other stuff untouched. It works wonders (and prints beautifully, by the way).

Figure 5

Above: Here’s the final image with the Duotone look applied in Lightroom (same as the opening shot).

Hope you found that helpful, and I hope your Tuesday is already off to great start! . :)



P.S. I’m up in Boston with my seminar on Wednesday, March 30th — just a few weeks from now. Hope I see you there.  

This is the written tutorial of something I did in my course on using Westcott Speedlight Modifiers over on KelbyOne, and the trick is a very effective, location lighting technique for a formal portrait of the bride, and part of the technique is done in camera, and then the other part in Photoshop, and the good news is — both parts are really easy (but the final result is really sweet!).

Westcott Wedding 1sm

Above: Here’s the final image with the light hidden

The Lighting Set-up
We’re only going to use one simple hot-shoe flash for this technique. Lately I’ve been using the Phottix Odin hot shoe flashes, and I’m super-digging ’em as their just released new Phottix Odin II TTL Flash Trigger is hands down the easiest hot shoe flash transmitter I’ve ever used (it even has hard buttons for each group, which makes it incredibly easy to change groups, turn on/off flash, change the power [using a simple dial], etc.. Very smartly designed, and the price is right, at around $209).

Then, we’re going to use a collapsible softbox made for hot shoe flash — it’s the 50-inch Recessed Mega JS Apollo from Westcott (around $169 street price) Note: anyone who has been to my “Shoot Like a Pro: Reloaded” seminar would recognize this bad boy!

Figure 2

Above: The flash is mounted inside the softbox on a light stand, and then it aims inward at the back of the softbox, and the light returns back out toward the subject, giving you softer lighter without a bright hot-spot right in the center like usual.  

There are five really nice things about this softbox:

(1) It’s pretty huge, and the bigger the softbox the softer the light, so when I have a choice, I go “big” like this.

(2) It’s collapsible like an umbrella, so despite it’s large size, it’s super-portable, lightweight, and sets-up fast.

(3) The flash aims backward — toward the back of the softbox, not directly at your subject, so the light reflects and bounces back toward your subject, which avoids a hot-spot in the center and creates even softer more wrapping light all the way around.

(4) Since it’s so large, you can light groups with it

(5) For a softbox this large, $169 is really a bargain.


Camera Settings
When I’m shooting with flash, especially indoors like we are here at a very popular venue for weddings and wedding receptions, I’m setting my ISO at the lowest, cleanest native setting for my camera, which for my Canon 5D Mark III is 100 ISO. Since I’m using flash, I’m always shooting Manual mode so I can get my shutter speed at what I would say is a very safe, kind of “default no worries” shutter speed for flash, which is 1/125 of a second. Lastly, my f/stop is usually around f/5.6 if I want the background a little soft but in this case I went with f/4 (I probably accidentally hit the dial on the back of my camera at some point and it moved my f/stop).

The lens I’m using for this particular shot is in vast contrast to the price of all the lighting gear, because it’s a high-end lens — Canon’s new 11-24mm ultra wide-angle lens shot at 11mm (which is just insanely great). Of course, you don’t have to use this lens (but man is it sa-weet!) — any nice wide angle will do the trick (like the 16-35mm).

You’re going to take Two Shots. Shoot this one first.
First you’re going to position the light right near your subject, in this case I’m positioning it right next to our bride and as you can see from the production shot here, the lighting isn’t aimed directly at her — it’s kind of aimed a bit past her so the light is just skimming her a bit. That way, the light is more subtle and softer because the light that’s hitting her is from the edges of the softbox, instead of from the center (you’ve heard this technique referred to as “feathering” the light). You can also see my photo assistant Brad “The Beard” Moore standing by as I take the shot. This is important (more on why in just a moment).

Figure 4

Above: Here’s the shot with the softbox fully visible in the image. That’s OK – you’re supposed to see it in a wide angle shot like this, but it won’t be there for long. 

Then comes the 2nd shot
Once you take that shot, where you can clearly see the softbox, ask your assistant (or friend, or friend of the bride) to pick up the light (it’s not heavy) and move it far away so you don’t see the light at all in the scene, and take your second shot. You want to keep your camera up to your eye the entire time, so minimize your movement between frames. Of course, if you’re shooting on a tripod, it doesn’t matter — you can theoretically take all the time you want, but you need to tell your subject (the bride in this case) to please hold her pose until you’ve taken both shots, so you don’t want to take too long between shots.

So, the process is this:

> Get your light in place
> Take the first shot, and keep the camera up to your eye.
> Have someone move the light out of the scene quickly and take the 2nd shot. Pretty easy stuff.

Figure 5

Above: Here’s the second shot, once the light has been removed. All you’re getting is the ambient light in the reception hall and no light from the flash. 

The post processing part is easy
Now open both images in Photoshop. Go to the image that has the bride lit by the flash; select all and copy that entire image into memory.

Figure 6

Above: Open both images in Photoshop; copy the shot with the flash in it into memory. 

Now go to the image with no flash (the ambient light image) and paste that image with the lighting visible right on top. If you used a tripod, you can skip this step and go on to #8, but if you handheld the shot (like I did), you’ll need to have Photoshop automatically Align the two images so they were perfectly aligned with one another.

You do this by going to the Layers panel; selecting both layers, and then go under the Edit menu and choose “Auto Align Layers” as seen below. When the Auto Align dialog appears, use the default setting of “Auto” and click and in just a few moments your two images will be perfectly aligned. Note: you’ll need to slightly crop the image to hide the white edges created by the alignment, but we’ll do that later.

Figure 7

Above: Paste the lighting shot onto the unlit shot, then select both layers and use Auto Align Layers to perfectly align them. 

Go to the Layers panel and click on the top layer (the layer with the lighting). Next, hold the Option key on Mac (the Alt key on a Windows PC) and click the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (it’s the third button from the left). This adds a black layer mask over your entire layer, so the lit layer is now hidden behind that black mask, which is exactly what we want. Now, get the Brush tool and choose a small soft-edged brush from the Brush Picker up in the Options Bar at the top of the screen. Make sure you Foreground color is set to white. Now take the brush tool and simply paint over the bride and now she appears “lit” as you’re revealing just that one part of the lit image layer that was hidden behind that black mask (this is similar to the trick we used last issue for creating a cityscape at dusk).

As long as your bride isn’t close to the background in the shot, you won’t have any trouble painting her in — it’ll take all of five seconds. If she’s close to the background, then you have the worry of spilling light onto the background as you reveal the lit version of her. You can still do it, you just have to be more careful, take more take, and use a smaller brush.

Figure 8

Above: Add an inverted Layer Mask (hold the Option key on Mac, or the Alt key on Windows, then click the Layer Mask icon) to the lit layer; take a brush and paint over the bride in white to reveal the lit version of her in just that area. No spill on the ground, or the walls, or anything.

The last step is to use the Crop tool to crop away those white edges created by the Auto Align move. Lastly, I hate to say just “Add contrast” but — add some contrast in Camera Raw; sharpen the image, and you’re done.

There ya go: Some camera work, some Photoshop work, and a beautifully lit final image without spending a bunch of money.

Hope you found that helpful, and if you’re a KelbyOne member and want to see the full video on it, here’s the link.



P.S. Next week, I’m coming to New York City with Part 2 of my “Shoot Like a Pro: Reloaded” seminar. Hope you can join me. 

Mornin’ everybody – here’s a few quick things to start your week off:

  1. A quick tutorial on getting soft, beautiful portrait lighting using continuous lights

The video above shows a super-simple way to use continuous lighting to create really soft, beautiful light, and I show two variations, including adding a second light for more of a beauty-headshot look. It’s a clip from a KelbyOne online class I did on using Westcott continuous lighting and their soft boxes. To watch the full online class, follow this link. 

2. A couple of shots from Yesterday’s Buc’s vs Saints Game



Above: I was happy to see two of my shots made the Sports Photos of the Day picks for the wire service I shoot for. The Bucs lost a game they shouldn’t have lost (again), but the Saints played a great game. One thing: is it really supposed to be 82° outside for a mid-December game? Even in Florida, that is…well…super hot. When does “football weather” arrive?

3. I’m interviewed by an Italian photography Website


Luckily, the interview is in English — if you’ve got a sec, here’s the link. 

That’s it for this morning (and isn’t that enough?). Hope you all have a great Monday, and hope you’ll pop by again tomorrow. :)