Category Archives Photo Shoots

Figure 1sm

Today we’re looking at a location shoot I did using nothing but natural light, but in this case we have to give Mother Nature a hand using an inexpensive trick that has big results. Although natural light can be beautiful, natural light is from the sun, and by its very nature, the sun is usually a pretty harsh light source (well, except for a short time about twice a day). So, we pull out one from our bag of tricks to help us make that natural light soft and beautiful.

We are on location in an abandoned old Mansion out in the middle of nowhere, Florida (I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, and I’ve never been to the town where this mansion resides — the town is called “Howey in the Hills” and this was Mr. Howey’s personal mansion back in the day.

I asked my wife Kalebra to do the art direction for the shoot, handling everything from picking the models, make-up, outfits, hair, and makeup, to directing and posing the shoot on location — that left me (and three assistants) to focus on nothing but the lighting and shooting.

Figure 2

I love the compression a long lens brings to the image, and you can see how far back I am from our subject in this over the shoulder view from my shooting position. I’m using a Canon 70-200mm lens f/2.8 lens here (that’s my go-to lens for portraits), and I’m usually shooting in the 150-200mm end of the lens, but to get the wide look I wanted, including the awesome location in the scene, I had to shoot at 70mm.

After a few test shots, I was already battling with her face being too bright. The storyline for the shoot had her looking out the window, so sunlight would be falling directly on her face. Here’s the narrative my wife came up with for the shot (which was told to the model in advance, so she’d know the story we’re having her play out with her gestures): “Everything she once knew has fallen down around her and now, Prince Charming has walked out the door but even as she falls trying to hang on to him (and searches the window after him) there is grace and hope still left in the light.”

So while the model and my wife Kalebra are working on the posing, clothing, and gesture, I’m trying to tame that harsh sun falling directly on her, and I’m even getting highlight clipping warnings on her face (I’m shooting at f/2.8 so at least I can soften the background behind her a little bit. I would have to zoom in much tighter to get the background way out of focus, which I did on some of the shots, but not the ones we’re looking at here).

Figure 3

Our trick is to turn that big harsh window light into a big beautiful softbox, by putting up a frosted shower curtain liner over the window (these are very inexpensive — only about $6 at Target and even cheaper at Walmart where I’ve seen them for $1.99. If you look at these shower curtain liners, they pretty much look just like the front diffusion panel of a softbox. Anyone who attended my first “Shoot Like a Pro Tour” learned this very trick — to keep one of these in your camera bag (they fold up really small) for situations just like this (and of course, we had one with us at this shoot as well, for —you guessed it —situations just like this).

It’s important to note — this is NOT a shower curtain. It’s the frosted liner that is sold separately that goes inside the shower curtain in a real shower.

Figure 4

Above: This is Brad using Gaffer’s tape to cover the bottom part of the window (the part hitting our model directly) with the liner.

Gaffer’s tape was invented in Hollywood for use on movie and TV sets because when you use it, and remove it, it doesn’t take the paint with it, or damage any surfaces, and it doesn’t leave a messy residue. It’s really pretty magic for stuff like this and we always have a roll with us for (wait for it…wait for it…) situations just like this (and a thousand other reasons). You can find Gaffer’s tape at any large camera store (I get mine from B&H Photo around $6 a roll).

Figure 5

Above: From this angle you can see the liner covering the window

From this angle, you can see the liner going right over the window, and you can even see in this behind the scenes shot, the light looks pretty soft now.

Figure 6

Above: Here’s the reverse angle view so you can see how far back I am from the subject at my shooting position. You can see the window covered with the shower curtain liner, but from the angle I’ll be shooting at it, it won’t be visible at all. 

Figure 7

Above: Here’s a closer look at my TetherTools shooting rig — I always try and shoot tethered like this on location if at all possible — seeing your images full screen as you shoot makes a huge difference.

My Camera Rig:
I’m shooting a Canon EOS 1Dx, but I could have just as easily used my 5D Mark III (the results would be pretty much the same since I’m shooting at 100 ISO with my camera mounted on a Gitzo Mountaineer tripod.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m using a Canon 70-200mm lens. I’m shooting in Aperture priority mode at f/2.8.

I’m supporting my laptop with a mounting bar from Manfrotto, and the laptop table is from a company called “Tether Tools” and they specialize in tools for tethering (I know, that was pretty self-explanatory). They also make that long Orange tethering cable (it’s orange so it’s more easily seen in a dark studio environment so you don’t trip over it), and I’m tethering directly into Lightroom on a Macbook Pro.

Figure 8

Above: A BTS from another shot that we tried; same location, different view.

Once we got the shot you saw at the beginning, we went for a different look in the same location (compositionally). I’ve moved a few feet over to the left, so the center of the room. You can also see two important accessories in this shot: (1) A powerful speaker system for playing Pandora radio from our phones. We feel that music on the set is very important, and the models love it, and it helps set the mood. We played some classical to get us in the mood, then we switch to whichever type of music the model likes best (that’s our rule — the model chooses the music — if they’re hearing music they love, it comes out in the image). And (2) a floor fan. We don’t want to blow her hair around, but we want it to move it just a little to add some volume to the hair, and it really makes a difference. Later in the day, we wanted the drapes blowing, so we cranked it up, and had two assistants right outside the window fanning the drapes with two large diffusers to make them blow, but that’s normally not how we use the fan — it’s just to add a little movement and volume to the model’s hair.

Figure 9sm

To create an epic feel for the image, I switched to a Canon 16-35mm wide angle zoom, and positioned my camera way down low to get a low, wide perspective. The fan is just out of the shot, so you don’t see it in the frame. We moved the couch much closer to the camera, to add more depth, and get the subject closer in the frame, so using the 16-35mm let me get lots of the floor and ceiling in the shot even with the subject and couch much closer to my shooting position.

To finish up: I hope this article gave you some ideas of how to control harsh natural window light (if it indeed is harsh), and some compositional ideas as well, and a few other little tips along the way.

That’s it for this chilly Florida Tuesday. Thanks to everybody who came out to my Tampa seminar yesterday — definitely one of my most-fun crowds of the year. Looking forward to visiting new cities next year, starting off in Richmond and Atlanta in late January — hope I’ll see you there.

Best,

-Scott

P.S. RC and I taped a “20-days of Christmas” series where each day we post another holiday gift idea — everything from lighting to camera bags and software. If you scroll down a few days here on the blog, you’ll see the first five or six, and we post a new one every day (including weekends). Hope you find them helpful. :)

photoplus

Hi Gang: On Wednesday I’ll be heading up to New York City for something I really look forward to each year — Photo Plus Expo. It’s a huge photography expo and conference, and I love seeing all the new stuff from vendors, and seeing all my industry friends, and heck, I just love New York, so it’s all good.

Here’s my teaching schedule for the week:

(more…)

OK, I survived the Wedding shoot Saturday, but just barely thanks to all the record-breaking flooding we’re having here in Tampa. It kept us trapped indoors for the entire day (and all my bridal portraits were scheduled for outdoors. Ack!).

The event coordinator let us in an empty meeting room, and when I had the bride open the drapes, it faced directly into a rental car agency and a multi-level parking garage (see image below). LOL!

Solution? Over-expose by 3 stops!
That was what’s outside the window just completely blows out and turns to solid white. I’m not sure if I’ve ever shot 3-stops over-exposed (well, not on purpose, anyway).
Bethany2lr1sm

Hero of the day? Auto ISO!
To take sure I never had to worry about my blurry pictures, I turned on Auto ISO and set my minimum shutter speed to 1/125 of a second (as seen above). That way, no matter what the lighting situation was where I was shooting that day (or night), my shutter speed would never fall below 1/125 of a second (it just raises the ISO until you get that shutter speed, which is why it’s important to have a camera that has low noise at high ISOs, and I brought my Canon 1D-x for that very reason.

> By the way, in a unrelated, but still kinda related thing since I just mentioned it â” I saw yesterday that B&H Photo had the lowest price I’ve ever seen on a 1Dx â” they had a $700 instant rebate bringing it down to $4,599. It’s not cheap, but I think it’s the best DSLR ever made. More details here (and now back to our story).

It especially works great at the reception where light is changing constantly, but even more than that, at just 1/125 of a second when you shoot people dancing you still get some movement from some of the dancers (some people are sharp, and some have motion blur all in the same shot, which makes it look like they’re dancing, rather than being just frozen in awkward positions).

More to share soon
I have a few more things to share from the day coming up, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope you’ll catch us on The Grid tomorrow at 4:00 pm ET (it’s our live weekly talk show for photographers) at this link. 

Best,

Scott

P.S. I’ll be in Vegas next week at the Photoshop World Conference & Expo. Did you know you can snag a FREE Expo-only pass (a $40 value, but thanks to our friends at B&H it’s free) so you can see all the latest gear direct from the vendors themselves, and catch some free classes in the expo floor theater and the Peachpit theater? Here’s the link to snag your free Expo-only pass for either next Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. See you there!

Hi gang â” I just posted a few of my favorite shots from my trip this past week to Paris with the family. After my seminar in London, we took the high-speed Chunnel train from there down to Paris (only about a two-hour and 15 minute trip, and the train was awesome!).

Anyway,  the images, and the story, and some tips for travel photography are here:

Here's the link

If you get a sec, I hope you can check them out. Have a great Tuesday, and we'll catch ya tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday.

Le best,

-Scott

P.S. Hi dave. Boom!

I’m not saying I’m old. I’m just too old to be making mistakes like this. I have to admit, it's very humbling â” no actually, it's worse than that â” it's embarrassing and a bit humiliating to be my age and still having to learn life lessons I should have learned long ago.

For the love of Paris
You only get to visit a city like Paris so many times in your lifetime. It's more than a treat. It's a privilege. A gift. A blessing. Every time I'm there, I just can't believe I'm really there. It's that kind of place.

It was my 9-year-old daughter's first visit, and my son's first since he was six (he's 18 now and off to college in the fall), and we had an absolutely marvelous time. Beautiful weather. Great meals. Lots of love and laughter the entire trip, and being in a city like Paris with my beautiful wife, and surrounded by our kids â” well, it's just hard to describe the feeling. The trip was everything I hoped it would beâ¦with one small exception (and that's what this story is about).

A unique opportunity for a shoot
I did lots of research before the trip, and I hoped to shoot in one special place while I was there â” one that would hopefully be a part of a photography "coffee table" book I've been working on for a while called "The Great Indoors." It's a book that celebrates beautiful classic interior spaces around the world. It's about 70-80% complete, so it's still a "work in progress," and it includes everything from concert halls to libraries; from theaters to cathedrals; museums, restaurants, palaces, mosques, hotel lobbies, even a train station or two â” gorgeous interior spaces from around the world, presented in hard cover coffee-table book format (a printed proof of which I showed at my seminar in London last week).

One of the things I’ve done in the book is to try and present the interiors without any tourists in the scene, which I was able to do in most cases with special permission from the location by shooting before or after hours, but in one or two cases there are just a few people in the scene at the time, but in those cases it's so few that it adds to the image, rather than taking away.

I've been very fortunate to shoot a number of interiors in France, including Versailles, the church of St. Sulpice; the interior of Le Train Bleu, Notre Dame, and many others but another place I've wanted to shoot for a while is the incredibly beautiful Reading Room of the Biblioth¨que nationale de France (the French national library). I reached out to my Parisian friend Serge Ramelli, who contacted the library and got the ball rolling for me, and before I left for Paris, I had the shoot all set up â” Friday morning between 9am and 10am before the library opened, so I could use a tripod and shoot it bathed in beautiful morning light.

I had to sign a contract beforehand about how the images would be used, and there was a fee for doing a shoot like this, but it was surprisingly reasonable and absolutely well worth it. Plus, the woman I was working with in the photo department at the Biblioth¨que nationale de France was a delight, and it was all coming together.

On a side note â” I tired to arrange a similar shoot while in England earlier in the week, and my buddies over there were doing some legwork for me in advance, but we learned that the fee for shooting in this location was nearly FIVE times what it was in France. I still considered it on some level until I got to the part where they retained ALL the copyrights to my images, so I bailed on that shoot altogether. It's too bad â” it would have made a wonderful addition to the book.

Anyway, I was psyched for this shoot for all sorts of reasons â”  I would get up while the family was still sleeping, do the shoot, and I'd still be back in time to join them for for the incredible French breakfast served each morning at our hotel. we'd head out for a day of exploring Paris (our three days there included a day trip to Paris Disneyland â” we hadn’t mentioned Disneyland Paris to our 9-year-old daughter but she saw a poster for it in the train station andâ¦wellâ¦you just can't get that close to a Disneyland and tell your 9-year-old she can't visit "the most magical place on earth”). One day, when she’s all grown up, it will hit her that we actually left Paris, the City of Light, to take a train trip to Disneyland Paris just for her, and she'll give us the biggest hug ever, and it will have all been worth it! (Of course, we got many hugs that day, so I guess she kind of paid it forward).

Preparing the gear for the shoot
The night before the shoot I stayed up late; charged the batteries, backed up my cards, took extra cards; made sure everything was in place for the big shoot. I brought extra gear just for this shoot, including the new Canon 11-24mm f/4 (I asked to extend the loaner from Canon for this trip), and my Canon Fisheye zoom, as well as my casual walk around lens, a Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/6.3, and my new favorite travel tripod from 3-Legged Thing (so sturdy yet very lightweight). I set my alarm early, and I was up and ready to go. I went back to the instruction email from the Library to confirm the address, and according to Google Maps, the Library was 12 minutes away by taxi, so I was in the hotel lobby at 8:30 for my quick ride to the Library, but there were no taxis to be found. The hotel tried calling a taxi company and they said "We'll call you back." Ack! They finally did call back, but it took about 10 minutes for the taxi to arrive.

Well, as luck would have it, there was much more traffic than the taxi driver or I had expected, and after leaving late, and encountering lots of traffic, I arrived about 6 minutes late.  Not good. Worse yet, as it turned out I was on the other side of the huge complex from where the entrance was, and the signs were in French but I finally found someone to point me in the right direction. Once at the main entrance, I had to go through security (including showing my contract so they would let me in with my "professional gear" as the guard called it), and then getting my gear x-rayed as well, and long story short, when I got through all that and asked for my contact at the information desk, I was already about 15 minutes late, and fairly stressed. I still have 45 minutes for the shoot, so I’m still OK â” that’s all the time I need.

The woman at the desk was very helpful (and spoke very good English) and tried to ring my contact several times, but then while she was trying to track her down, I got an email from my contact asking where I was (since I was late), and letting me know she was waiting in the garden. When I told the woman at the desk that she was waiting in the garden, she looked kind of puzzled. "The garden?" Then I showed her the email, and she looked surprised and upset.

This is where things got sticky
She said, "Oh no. You're at the wrong location,” and my heart began to sink. As it turns out there are two locations for the French National Library, and the Reading Room (the place I wanted to shoot) is on the other side of town. In my contact's email she told me which entrance she would be at â” she even gave me the exact street entrance where she'd be at, but I assumed (there's that word â” here we go), that the entrance she was talking about was at that main location. Sadly, it was not. Well, I was freaking out and I told the woman at the desk I would just jump in a taxi and race there, but she told me â” it's very hard to find a taxi there (which turned out to be the understatement of the year. She should have said "nearly impossible).

Panic sets inâ¦
I looked back in that original email and saw my contact had left her cell number, and when she answered I told her my mistake â” I apologized profusely and told her I would jump in a taxi and be there right away. But she told me that with morning rush-hour traffic, I was at least 25 minutes away (maybe more), and she had to return to her home office (which ironically is where I was calling her from), so she was very apologetic, but my shoot was now cancelled â” I would not be able to shoot the Reading Room. She had made the trip all the way to this other location just to meet me for this shoot â” she went way out of her way just to make all this happen for me, and I totally blew it. I was so disappointed, frustrated, mad, and justâ¦arrrgggghhh!

So, whose fault was this really?
Absolutely, positively 100% â” it was all my fault. I could give you reasons it happened, from me not picking up in her email that the address was different than the one in her email signature, or that if I had shown the taxi driver her short email with two different addresses, he would have told me they were at two different locations. Then, of course, as it turned out he dropped me off blocks from the entrance which didn't help, but at the end of the day, what killed my shoot was simply bad planning on my part by not giving myself enough time for anything to go wrong. If all of those things had happened but I had been there 30 minutes early, instead of 15 minutes late, I still would have had enough built-in extra time to get to the other location and still do the shoot. But since I was late, time was stacked against me from the start. My fault. No one else to blame. Period.

I know this stuff. Well, I should know this stuff.
Of course, I know to be at any shoot early, but my plan of being there 15-minutes early is a "best case scenario" plan and doesn't really allow for anything to go wrong along the way. This one really smarted, and when I walked out of the building, and I'm standing there trying to hail a taxi where there are no taxis (I finally got an Uber driver, but it was a loooonnngggg wait), I felt just as foolish as I could be. This is the type of stuff a kid does â” not someone my age.

I was so disappointed in myself â” I still am, but once I got back to the hotel; told the story to my very sympathetic wife (who totally resisted the urge for a well deserved "I told you so"), and my two awesome kids with big smiles and hugs, everything quickly came into perspective. I missed one shoot, but I'm in Paris, with my kids, my wonderful wife, it's a beautiful day outside, and I can smell the fresh baked baguettes. The rest of the day was immeasurably better, and I learned a valuable lesson I should have learned a long time ago. So, the shoot was a bust, but overall, I'd say the day was a roaring success!

Lots of other shots I actually did get, here tomorrow
I'm putting a few of my favorites together for tomorrow, and I do have a few stories and tips to share here with you here as well. Hope you'll stop by then. By the way â” stop by early â” I've learned that really makes a difference. ;-)

Merci mes amis,

-Scott

Editorial Note: Scott’s taking some time off from the blog, so he’s asked Brad Moore, Corey Barker, and Pete Collins to take over for a few days. Thanks for checking out Brad’s post today, and come back Monday to see what Corey has for you and Tuesday for a post from Pete!

Red Rocks Amphitheater… It’s one of the most iconic concert venues in the US, if not the world. It was on my list of places where I wanted to see a show during my lifetime, and thankfully I got to do that and more this past weekend! Here’s a rundown of what happened.

A few years ago David Carr, drummer for the band Third Day, started getting into photography. He found the Kelby videos and books, and through those found some of my concert photography and saw that I had photographed them before. He reached out to me to invite me to shoot an upcoming show of theirs, and since then we’ve been buds! During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph them a number of times, including at their sold-out Third Day & Friends show at Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta last year.

This year they decided to do another of these shows, not just in Atlanta, but also at Red Rocks. As soon as I found out about it, I contacted the band and told them I’d be happy to come out and cover this momentous show if they wanted. Thankfully they agreed, and out I went!

As soon as you arrive, you realize this place is just breathtaking (especially if you’re going up and down the stairs a bunch)! The band took the stage for sound check, and I wondered around snapping shots without getting in their way. Over the years I’ve learned that the stage is not just a performance space, but it’s also a workplace for the band and their crew. As I am their guest, I have to be very respectful of their space and make sure I’m not doing anything/going anywhere I’m not supposed to. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to cover their shows a number of times and gotten to know the crew a bit, this becomes easier to navigate. But if it’s your first time working with a band, you want to tread lightly and triple check with the crew before doing anything.

One reason you want to make friends with the crew (besides just to be a kind, decent person) is if you want to set up a remote camera on stage…

This is a Canon 5D MkIII with a 14mm f/2.8. On top is a PocketWizard Plus III, and it’s all mounted to a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Arm with Camera Bracket and Super Clamp. The clamp goes around the rigging for the lighting, then I positioned the rest of the arm and camera accordingly. Once everything was in place, I tightened it down and secured it with zip ties and a safety cable. Because of the wide variation of light, I set it to shoot bursts of three bracketed shots: two stops under, even, and two stops over. Auto ISO, aperture priority at f/5.6 (just for depth of field/focus safety), evaluative metering. I also focused the camera, then switched it to manual focus so it wouldn’t be focus searching during moments of low light.

Because of the size and uniqueness of the venue, I wanted to set up a remote camera at the top/back as well (also so I wouldn’t have to be going all the way up and back down throughout the show and missing up-close moments).

This is the same setup as on stage, but with the 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, also set to f/5.6. The fisheye allowed me to capture the full rock on the left side of the image all the way over to the stage on the right, as well as some of the landscape beyond that, which you’ll see later. I triggered both of these remotes with a third Pocket Wizard Plus III that I kept with me and fired by hand instead of putting it on one of the cameras I had on me. I did it this way because the moments I would be shooting with the cameras I had on me wouldn’t necessarily be the moments I wanted to capture with the remote cameras. The remotes were more about the crowd than the stage, so I had to wait for moments where the crowd was lit up and not just the stage.

After sound check, there’s a good bit of time to set up the above remote cameras, chill, and grab food before the show starts. Of course even the dressing rooms in this venue are amazing because the venue is built around the natural rock formations!

The first half of the show was the “Friends” portion featuring Warren Barfield, Peter FurlerPhil Wickham, Brandon Heath, and Matt Maher. During this portion, the acts alternated between performing on the main stage and a secondary stage that was set up above the front of house sound area in the middle of the crowd.

To cover the show, I had two Canon 1DX bodies on me set to auto ISO with a 1/250 minimum shutter speed, aperture priority, and spot metering. One had the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the other switched between my new favorite lens ever, the 11-24mm f/4, and the not as favorite but still very useful 24-70mm f/2.8, all shot wide open at f/2.8 or f/4.

After the Friends all performed, there was intermission, so I retreated back to the band’s dressing room to snap some candids of them getting ready.

Just before they took the stage, they took a minute to go sign the iconic tunnel that leads from backstage, underneath the seating area, and up to the front of house sound area…

Pretty much everyone who plays at Red Rocks signs the tunnel, so it’s covered in legendary names. You could spend hours searching for your favorite musicians if you wanted!

With that rite of passage under their belts, the band took the stage for their sold-out show!

As the band performed, I shot from on stage, in front of the stage, side stage, the front of house sound area, and anywhere else I could find a decent vantage point. And all along the way I kept an eye on the crowd waiting for moments where it was lit up, then laying down on the remote trigger and hoping for the best.

I learned a lesson about remotes that are a decent distance away from you in large crowds of people that night… Theoretically every time I hit the trigger, both cameras should have fired, thus having pretty close to the same number of shots by the end of the show. But that was not the case… The on stage camera fired over 3,300 shots, while the one at the back of the venue only fired around 500 shots.

When I set them up, I tested the trigger distance, and it worked from the back of the venue all the way to the stage. But my guess is that once the venue filled up, all of the cell phone and radio frequencies caused interference. Since I was much closer to the stage throughout the show, that remote fired more reliably than the one at the back. Should I do another similar setup in the future, the remedy to this would be to set up another PocketWizard Plus III halfway back in the venue to serve as a “repeater.” This would receive the signal from the trigger, then relay it on to the remote with a stronger signal to ensure it fires reliably.

At the end of the show, the band took a bow, then I ran out to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd in the background.

And that was that! It was an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget. A HUGE thanks to the band for bringing me out to the show and letting me have a dream come true experience!

You can see more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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