Category Archives Photo Shoots

Hi gang, and happy Friday. Today I thought we’d do a simple lighting tutorial — one where we’re working on balancing the existing light in our location with the light from our flash so the image doesn’t look so much like it’s lit with a flash (even though of course we know that it is). We’re going to do this by adjusting our shutter speed to control the existing room light (the ambient light) behind our bride to get that perfect mix between it and the flash.

Above: First, here’s the final image 

We’re not breaking any new ground here positioning wise — it’s a classic “Bride standing in the aisle” shot. The area behind her is dimly lit but we want to see it in our image (seeing the church she was married in is very important the bride), so we’re going to work to control the lighting in the background so we get a nice blend.

Above: Get the flash in position, then turn it off for Step One

This behind-the-scenes shot shows the simple, one-light set-up I’m using for this shoot. I’m using an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, with one flash head running off a small portable battery pack and a small square 27 softbox. Of course, you can do this exact same thing with a hot shoe flash and a 24” Lastolite pop-up EZ-Box soft box (after all, they both create the same thing — a bright flash of light).

The flash is mounted on a lightweight regular ol’ light stand. So, why not a monopod mount like I often use? It’s because when you want a break between shots, you don’t have go looking for a place to lean it against or a table to sit it on — you just put it down on the floor, so it’s totally a convenience thing.

When I’m shooting on-location flash, I have a three-step formula for getting the look I’m after:

(1) Turn off the flash, switch your camera to Manual mode and set your Shutter Speed to 1/125 of a second.  This is my standard shutter speed starting point when I’m shooting location flash. It’s kind of a nice, safe starting point that just works. Now move your f/stop until the meter inside your viewfinder shows your exposure is correct (it’s not under or over-exposed; it’s the proper exposure). On Nikons, this meter appears on the right side inside of your viewfinder; for Canon cameras, it’s along the bottom of the viewfinder. If you can’t get to an f/stop that makes a proper exposure (it can get pretty dark in a church), you may have to raise your ISO a bit, maybe from 100 to 200 (or 200 to 400).

Above: Now under-expose by around two stops

(2) Now, I darken the exposure by around two stops (so now I’m intentionally under-exposing. If my camera said that at  f/2.8 my exposure was correct, I’d raise it to at least f/5.6 or higher to darken it by at least a full stop) and take another test shot. I’m trying to make the bride so dark she’s nearly a silhouette. I’m doing this because I want the bride lit with only the light from my flash — not the ambient light in the church. I want the ambient light to only light the area behind her.

I do see one problem with the shot above, and it’s that the background (the church) is a little too dark. This is where the Shutter Speed control comes in because it controls the room lights. Think of it as a dimmer switch for the church lights. If you need to turn up the lights a bit, all you have to do is lower the shutter speed a bit so lowering the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second would add more light behind her (as seen in the following image, where I did that).

Above: Now turn on the flash with a very low power setting

Once your subject looks like a silhouette, turn on the flash with a very lower power setting (like 1/4 power) and take a test shot (seen above). The light from the flash itself looks “OK” but the whole scene just looks a bit too bright and that keeps the light from mixing well so it doesn’t look really beautiful quite yet. However, you can really see the difference lowering the shutter speed from 1/125 down to 1/60 did — the church behind her is much brighter. In fact, I think it’s now too bright, so that was too big a drop in shutter speed, so I’m going to have to split the difference — trying 1/80 of a second. That will dim the background lights from where they are now. This doesn’t change the power or brightness of the flash — this just affects the background room lighting (remember the dimmer analogy).

Above: Another Behind the Scenes shot: I’m raising the Shutter Speed to 1/80 of a second and taking another test shot

So here I’m turning the camera to get a vertical shot and trying that slightly higher shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. I haven’t changed the power of the light yet at all — it’s still at 1/4 power.

Above: Here’s the shot and you can see we’re starting to get there. The 1/80th of a second seems like the sweet spot, so now if I make any changes, I’ll probably slightly raise or lower the power of the strobe itself to make sure the light isn’t too bright — a very common mistake and the thing that makes your shot look too “flashy.” If we want it to blend and look natural, it can’t look “flashy.” It has to make you wonder, “Is that lit with a flash?”

Above: Using Photoshop’s Camera Raw to enhance your lighting (you can do this in Lightroom just the same)

To make the lighting look even better and more dramatic, I edit it with Photoshop’s Camera Raw (or Lightroom’s Develop Module — they are the exact same thing), where I go to the Effects panel, and under Post Crop Vignetting I drag the Amount slider to the left (as shown here), which darkens the edges all the way around your image. This helps to create a more directional look to your lighting — it looks like the light is centered on your subject and it falls off to dark around here. It’s a simple thing, but it has pretty big impact.

Above: Adding a reflector

After looking at the previous image up close, I felt that the area around her eyes looked a little dark, so I had my First Assistant Brad Moore bring in a reflector to bounce some of the light from the flash back into her eyes. We took a test shot using the silver side of the reflector and it was just too bright and too harsh, so we flipped over the reflector to the white side and that did the trick.

There’s still a problem…
Which someone pointed out when I posted the image on Twitter. They noted the bright area of light in the stained glass window to the left of the bride and pointed out that if this was someone else’s image and I were critiquing on our weekly show “The Grid” (where once-a-month we do blind critiques of submitted images), that I would point out that it was distracting. He was right — that’s exactly what I would have said, and so I used Photoshop’s “Patch” tool to remove it.

Above: To use the Patch tool to fix that bright spot in the stained glass behind her  — take the tool and draw a loose selection around what you want to remove [as seen here].

Above: Then click inside that selected area and drag to an area with similar tones somewhere else in the image (as seen here where I dragged the selected area to a lower area of the stained glass.

Above: Now release the mouse, and it snaps back into place and the problem is gone! It really works amazingly well in most cases. 

Above: I finished the image off with nothing but the standard portrait retouching stuff (removing blemishes, smoothing skin, etc.). 

To finish up:
I hope this article helped you “see the light” (totally intended pun) on two things:

(1) The shutter speed controls the amount of light in the room (if you wanted it completely dark black behind her, raise the Shutter speed to 1/200 of a second with strobes, and 1/250 of a second with hot shoe flash). And…

(2) your job is to balance the flash and the room light, while keeping the lighting looking soft and subtle by doing test shots and then looking at the shot and seeing if it looks too bright and thus too “flashy.” Less is more in situations like this, so if you were going to ‘under-light’ or ‘over-light,’ it’ll look more natural underlit (but the goal, of course, is simply to balance it correctly).

If you dig flash stuff like this, and you want to get more into lighting, here’s a class to watch this weekend — it’s called “Just One Flash”. It’s one of our most popular (and I love the instructor. So devastatingly handsome he is). Here’s the official trailer:

Hope you’ll catch that class this weekend.

Hope you found this tutorial helpful, and that it helped ignite your fire for one you can do with just one light.

Have a safe, happy weekend and we’ll see ya here next week. :)

-Scott

titletracksexp

I am so excited about this personal project! It’s a photo collaboration between Kalebra and I (she comes up with the concept, and does the art direction and styling, and I do the lighting, shooting and retouching), and I can’t wait to share the first shot in the series with you today.

The whole story; the final image; and lots of behind-the-scenes shots (along with camera and lighting details) are over at this link. 

Thanks so much for checking it out. I can’t wait to shoot #2 in the series! (more details to come).

Hope you have an awesome Tuesday!

Best,

-Scott

It’s going to be a great Tuesday, let’s kick it off with some football and remote stuff:

dolphinssocial

I had such a fantastic time shooting with the Miami Dolphins photo crew for the Dolphins big win against the Jets (shoutout to Surf, Jon, Brandon, and Jeff – these guys are doing some really progressive stuff photography wise and social media wise).

I was psyched to see one of my images on the Dolphin’s Social Media during the game. That’s one of my shots above, taken with a remote camera rig (see below), so I thought I’d break that down here on the blog.

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Above: Here’s the remote camera rig (I took this shot at the game). This is actually a surprisingly simple set-up.

(1) You need two PocketWizard Plus IIIs — that’s what wirelessly fires the camera. One goes on top of your remote camera (as seen here); the other goes on top of the camera you’re holding in your hand. You could just fire the remote by pressing the Test button on the other PocketWizard, but I prefer that it fires the remote automatically when I fire the camera I’m holding in my hands. All you have to do to make that happen, is put the second PocketWizard Plus III on the hotshoe mount of the camera you’re shooting. Boom. Done.

(2) You will need a little connector cable (sold by PocketWizard) that connects the PocketWizard to the port on the side of your camera where you’d normally plug in a cable release. Make sure you buy the cable that fits your camera’s brand, make and model.

(3) I use a Platypod Pro Max as my base. It’s very thin, sturdy as anything (made of aircraft grade aluminum), and I could do a whole blog post just about it and how you can use it. Believe it not, this will easily mount to a goal post. It’s the best ever!

(4) You will need some type of ballhead, so you can aim your camera. I used an inexpensive Oben BE-117 (around $79 from B&H Photo). Actually, a darn good ballhead for the price, and holds up to 17+ pounds.

Of course, you will need a body and a lens. I used a Canon 1Dx with a 14mm ultra wide angle lens to get a little more depth (since I had to position it kind of blindly).

Camera Settings
I set my f-stop at f/5.6, and my Shutter Speed was 1/1000 of a second, at 160 ISO (that ISO is courtesy of Auto ISO, which I always have turned on at the game, with the minimum shutter speed set at 1/1000).

dolremote1

Above: Here’s the placement. The timing is so tight that you don’t get a lot of time to precisely position it. Since the players and the smoke aren’t firing at full bore, the whole thing is a bit of crap-shoot, which is why having an Ultrawide 14mm lens is a good choice. It’s going to get everything — it’s all going to be in focus, and you can just crop it in later. dolremote2

Above: Here’s a better look. This was taken with a 70-200mm I’m holding in my hands to shoot the player intros. Again, when I fire my handheld camera, it automatically fires that remote camera at the same time. Well, pretty close anyway.

dolremote5

Above: Here’s the shot taken with my handheld 70-200mm, shooting down on my knees (oy!). Not nearly as epic looking or dynamic as the remote shot down super low, and plus you see the other photographers in the tunnel (special thanks to our buddy Jon Willey for wearing that bright green vest and positioning himself right in the frame). ;-)  The video guy behind him didn’t follow every player out — just the last one, so you wouldn’t normally see him. But Jon? Yes, of course, always. In every frame. Like a beacon in the night. Or in the smoke. Whatever…he was there. I took the last chicken wing in the photo workroom just to get even with him. ;-)

dolremote6

Above: Sometimes you get lucky and for just a few moments Jon gets hidden behind one of the smoke plumes. Ahhh, but you just can’t count on that smoke.

dolremote7

Above: This is the un-cropped 14mm lens shot so you can see how wide it really is. Now that is WIDE!!!!

dolremote9

Above: I had to shoot a couple of stadium shots with the 14mm, before they opened the doors to the public.

dolremote8

Above: The 14mm from the 50-yard-line up high.

dolremote10

Above: Of course, I had to try a 15mm fisheye shot, while I was there. There’s always room for one or two fish shots.

I hope you found at least some of that helpful. The remote camera thing is easier than you’d think, and it’s not just for sports — the last wedding I shot, I set up a remote camera behind the alter to get the expressions of the Bride and Groom.

The Dolphins Photo Crew Rocks!
A big thanks to Jon, Surf and the crew for the opportunity to shoot with you guys. What a first-class operation — everybody we met was so incredibly gracious and really made me (and my buddy Winston who was shooting with us), feel right at home. I was so impressed with how they’re running their photo operations (with 8 on-field photographers at home games) and their integration and support of social media. These guys are leading the way, and it was fascinating to see what they’re doing now, and what they have planned in the future. Also, my personal thanks to Dolphins photographer, the awesome, Rob Foldy, for bringing us all together in the first place. Feel the love, baby!

One for the road…
It’s a pano of the stadium taken with my iPhone 7.

pano

Have a great Tuesday everybody, and I hope I’ll see you tomorrow at 4pm ET for “The Grid” — we’re talking about Lighting and other fun stuff!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Hey Las Vegas photographers – My seminar is coming there in 8-days. Come out and spend the day with me. 

walkin1

This may win the award for “latest posting of photos from a trip” but I finally got them up there over at exposure.co (the photo storytelling site I’ve been using for a few years now). It’s perfect for when you want to tell the story with pictures and words, and that’s what I’ve done here.

Here’s the link.

Thanks for letting me share some of my photos from the trip with you.

Here’s wishing you your best Monday of the year (so far). :)

Best,

-Scott

Sorry for the late post, gang. I shot the Thursday night game last night and got home after 1:30 am and I was beat! Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post some pics from some of the games I’ve been shooting, but I’ve been shooting so sporadically (the Bucs have been on the road so much), but I’ve finally got a chance to share some of the my favorites.

After that long drought, now I’ve got three games in one week (Last Sunday’s Bucs vs. Raiders, last night’s Bucs vs. Falcons and this Sunday’s Dolphins vs. Jets down in Miami).

Today I’m sharing some from the Bucs vs. Falcons (last night); Vols vs. Alabama College game, plus Bucs vs. Raiders. I’ll post my gear and settings at the end.

Bucs vs. Falcons
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa (Bucs are in their red “Color Rush” uniforms for Thursday night)

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Bucs vs. Raiders
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

NFL 2016 - Buccaneers vs. Raiders

 

 

Tennessee Vols vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Shot in Tennessee with the awesome Vols crew, led by Donald Page (you’ll see him in the gallery with the sunglasses).

 

_k2_2508

 

Camera Gear
> Main Body: Canon EOS 1Dx with a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens on a Gitzo monopod
> 2nd Body: Canon EOS 1Dx with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
> Black Rapid Strap for 2nd body.
> Accessories as shown below.

Note: For the Vols game, I also used a 14mm super wide angle lens mounted on the end of the Monopod and triggered using a PocketWizard Plus III

loadout

Camera Settings
Aperture: f/2.8 (never changes)
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 of a second minimum (I use Auto ISO with the minimum shutter speed set to 1/1000)
ISO: Varies but it’s chosen automatically because I use Auto ISO

Hope you found that helpful.

OK, I’m off to shoot the Dolphins. Hoping to be able to set up a remote camera for the player intros, and I’ll be taking some shots of the stadium up with with it empty before they open the stadium to the public.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Photographers in Las Vegas — I’m there with my Shoot Like a Pro: Reloaded seminar in just a couple of weeks. Come on out and spend the day with me. 🙂

3dayinice

Hi Gang, and happy Friday!

I finally I posted my images, and the story of the trip, over at exposure.co (that’s the photo storytelling site I’ve been using for a few years now — it’s a wonderful way to share a trip like this).

Here’s the link

Thanks for letting me share some of my photos from the trip with you. :)

Hey, I’m in Minneapolis next Wednesday, and then Milwaukee on Friday doing my seminar – hope you can join me.

Best,

-Scott

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