Category Archives Photo Shoots

….none other than Adobe Photoshop Product Manger (and all around cool guy), Bryan Hughes.

I got to spend some time with Bryan when I was out at Adobe’s HQ last month, and he really brings a totally different point of view to the evolution of Photoshop, how we work with it, what we want, and where it’s going. On a personal level, he’s a very dedicated, passionate, fun, and totally brilliant guy, and it’s a real honor to have him as my guest tomorrow here on the blog. I hope you’ll stop by and check out his Guest Post.

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Here’s another shot from my shoot with rapper “10 Minute.” After we lost all light at our location shoot, we headed back into the studio to finish up. Here are the details on the shot:

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Although you can see two lights in the production shot above (photo by Brad Moore), only one (the one directly above his head) was actually connected (the light in the background was left from an earlier shoot that day (the one I did with the clamp-on fan). The light directly above his head is a White Lightning 1200 watt strobe with a Beauty Dish reflector and I have the diffuser that goes over the beauty dish (to somewhat soften the edgy light that comes from a beauty dish). The reason the medium gray background appears so dark is because I used a high shutter speed, so it would fall off to black (I used 1/250 of a second). NOTE: In the production photo, it kind of looks like the beauty dish is in front of 10 Minute, but it’s actually directly above his head, aiming straight down.

Now, you might be thinking, “Hey Scott, I thought you only used Elinchrom strobes?” True dat. But I bought this set-up a while back, and at the time it was the cheapest route to getting a beauty dish look, so I picked it up, but Brad was bugging me last week to finally break down and buy an Elinchrom dish to go over my RX-600’s, which I’ll probably do because the big pain of the White Lightning is that I can’t use my Skyport triggers to change the power output. Each time I needed to change the power output, we had to pull the whole boom down, and not only is it a pain, it really slow things down during the shoot.

I had my buddy Rod Harlan on the set, because when I was finished with 10 Minute, I was going to shoot a couple of headshots for Rod (Yes, I had three different shoots that day—-I couldn’t have pulled that off without Brad’s help). Anyway, 10 Minute went to change clothes for another look, and before I changed the lighting set-up, I had Rod step in to the exact same beauty dish set-up I used for 10 Minute, and the  photo is shown below (though I did convert it to black and white in Lightroom).

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We had Rod hold the MacBook Pro, just so he’d have something to hang on to (a prop), and it was an easy choice since he’s such a Mac-head, but surprisingly enough while he was holding it, it started rotating his canvas (kidding, just a joke).

Anyway, just a little Monday morning one-light quickie to start off the week. :)

At Christmas I got a very cool new electric guitar from my wife (that’s not the accessory, by the way), and she wanted to make sure I got a guitar I really liked, so I went to the local music store to find one I liked, but while there, I walked by the drum department and that’s when I saw a small, specially designed fan for drummers that mounts right on a cymbal stand.

Well, I took a look at how it was mounted and realized that it would fit perfectly on a lightstand, which would make it an ideal fan for people shooting fashion, because you can easily control the height and angle of the wind (rather than having it sitting on the floor, where it’s harder to access and aim).

Anyway, the fan is called the “BLOWiT Personal Cooling System” (OK, the name needs some work), and I tried it in the music store, and it seemed like a perfect fan solution for portraits since you could mount it up high so easily. So, I got home and ordered one (it was only $69.99). It’s pictured here below mounted to a light-stand in our studio.

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Anyway, I did a shoot week before last and I got to try it out for the first time on a real job, and I have to say; it totally rocked! (sorry about that lame pun). But seriously, it worked out amazingly well. The shot below was taken using that fan on its lowest setting.

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Below are two set-up shots (taken by Brad Moore) so you can see the fan (and the lighting, in case you care) in use during my shoot.

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Lighting Info: I used two Elinchrom RX-600 Strobes for the shoot, one beside the subject with a 40″ Elinchrom softbox, and one behind on the opposite side with a Elinchrom strip bank softbox. Both are triggered by Skyport wireless triggers.There are no lights on the gray background, so it pretty much fell to black. The photo directly above is just to show more detail of the fan, but there I’m using an Elinchrom 53″ midi-octa softbox on the same RX-600 strobe.

Camera Info: Shot with a Nikon D3, with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, at 105mm. The ISO was 200, and the exposure was f/8 at 1/160 of a second. I shot in Manual mode. The post-processing was done in Lightroom (exposure, white balance, tone, etc.), and then over to Photohsop for some retouching (removing some minor blemishes, brightening the eyes, some dodging and burning, and I enhanced the highlights in her hair.

Fan Info: Usually, doing something like this (taking a fan made for drummers, and using for something entirely different), doesn’t work out, but here it worked just like I hoped it would. I let the subject be in charge of the angle and intensity of the fan, and during the shoot she would reach over and adjust the angle or speed (it has three speeds). Although we used it on the lowest speed most of the day, if I could add one improvement, it would be for the higher setting to be even higher (I’m not sure that’s possible with its light weight and size). Anyway, I’m pretty psyched about it and wanted to turn you on to this new discovery. You can order your BLOWiT Personal Cooling System direct at their Website (here’s the link).

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The image above is from a promo shoot I did last week for rapper “10 Minute” and I wanted to apply a “Dave Hill” like look to the images, but I cheated—I used a plug-in. (click on it for a much larger view).

Now, let me say this up front: From the research I’ve done, I don’t believe photographer Dave Hill actually uses a Photoshop plug-in; I believe he creates his look without a plug, using a series of layer blend modes, High Pass Sharpening, Skin Smoothing, and Dodging and Burning (and I am working on that whole Photoshop-only workflow as we speak, and will do a post on it when I’m finished), but since I needed to get this job done fast; I used the Lucis Art Pro 6.0 plug-in, and I feel like it got me pretty close to the look (a mini-review of the plug-in is coming up tomorrow in the 2nd and final part of this post).

First things first: I was able to use something that I learned previously when researching this look; when Dave Hill says a lot of the look is in the lighting—he’s not exaggerating. This look requires a specific type of lighting, and if you don’t light it that particular way (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the plug-in, or the Photoshop-only technique, just won’t look right. It’s a formula that requires a combination of both the right lighting, and the right Photoshop moves.

THE LIGHTING
We’ll start with the shoot, and I gotta tell you—-it was a train wreck (and that’s being kind). First, we got to the location a little late, so we were already losing daylight. Then once we got our strobes set-up in place, we realized that we forgot to pack flags (large black 24″x36″ panels that you use to keep the light from flashes placed behind the subject from creating lens flare), so we had to run back to the studio and grab them.

Once we got our flags on the set, then we learned that we had a lighting problem—there’s something wrong with our main battery pack—-we accidentally dropped it a while back, and it needs to go in for service, but since it usually works…….well…it didn’t, and we didn’t have time to track down the problem.

Anyway, it just wasn’t working, and now we had maybe 15 minutes left to shoot (the sun was nearly down, and we were already under a roof, so light—or lack therof–was really becoming an issue). Luckily, my assistant (and general boy wonder) Brad Moore had thought to bring some Nikon SB-800s and 900s as a back-up, with some lightweight stands and an umbrella. So, we quickly tore down the strobes and we went with off-camera flashes. It’s not the ideal set-up for this shoot, but we had to get it done.

There are a number of ways you can set-up the lighting, and it will change depending on location, your subject, blah, blah, blah but basically you want two flashes behind your subject —one on each side—bare bulb (we would have used two strobes with just reflectors—no softboxes—if all had worked as planned). You want hard, bright light coming from behind skimming the edges of both sides of your subject (see the set-up image below–click on it for a larger view).

Ideally, you’d put them fairly far back—like 10 or 12 feet back, up high aiming downward (the farther back you go, the sharper the light), but since he was down in front of the car, we had to quickly improvise and we wound up having to place them right up on “10” (that’s short for “10 Minute.” By the way; we were lucky—he was a really great guy; incredibly patient, and when we got ready to shoot, he just turned it on. He really couldn’t have been better to work with).

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So, here was the lighting set-up: Our main light was one SB-800, mounted on a lightstand, and shooting through a 43″ Optical White translucent Westcott shoot-thru umbrella. This was aiming down at “10” and was off to my right side (as seen in the photos above and below).

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In the image above, you’ve got a better view of the SB-800 shooting through the umbrella, and you can see how the flags work to blog the light from the bare SB-800/900 in back.

We had two more Nikon flashes on stands just behind and on either side of him. We had them down pretty low, and we had spent so much time trying to fix the strobe situation, we didn’t really have time to try and position them just right, so we just played the hand we were dealt. (Note: Some photographers shooting with this lighting set-up use a Ring Flash as their main light instead of a regular strobe with softbox). I triggered the flashes using an SB-900 sitting in my camera’s hot shoe—it didn’t fire—I just used it to trigger the other SB-800s and 900.

Now, I do want to make this clear; what I just detailed is NOT the recommended lighting set-up to get this look, and certainly not a “here’s how to do it.” It’s just a “here’s how we did it.” Ideally, we would have used more powerful strobes, and had the time to aim and position the lights correctly, but….sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

CAMERA SETTINGS
There’s nothing too interesting here. It was shot with a Nikon D3, with a Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens in Manual Mode at f/6.3 at 1/60 of a second at 400 ISO. My actual focal length was 31mm, so I was shooting pretty wide. I told you it wasn’t too interesting.

tiOh, another thing we messed up; we forgot to bring music to the shoot, so Brad quickly pulled his car up right next to where we were shooting, and put in the new CD from T.I. (from his new album Paper Trail, shown at left) and cranked up his car stereo. The funny thing was; it was the filthiest thing you ever heard! The lyrics we so explicit, when it started we were all just cracking up  (and Brad was hugely embarrassed—it was the first time he popped it in his stereo, which made it all the better). I’d be setting up to take shot, and then this T.I. song “Every chance I get” came on (Here’s the linkwarning; even the preview is explicit), and and it was so nasty Snopp Dogg would probably blush. You just had to shake your head and laugh or you’d die from embarrassment (especially with all the people we had on the set).

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Here’s the before shot (shown above) of the shot you see at the top of this post.

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ABOVE: Here’s another where you can see the side lighting a little better. While the side light looks kind of subtle here, look what happens after you run the plug-in (see below). NOTE: The plug-in isn’t the whole technique (but the whole thing only takes about 5 minutes at best), but it certainly does a lot of the work, as you can see below.

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Anyway, the shoot part was kind of a bust, and I’m even embarrassed to show you the unretouched shot (shown above), but I felt I needed to, especially for Part Two tomorrow, which is a step-by-step on the post processing, and includes my mini-review of the Photoshop plug-in Lucis Art Pro 6.0. In the meantime  here’s a link to 10 Minute’s site (Warning: Explicit lyrics).

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Well, let’s get this out of the way first. We lost. At home. Miserably. To a team that’s only won 4 games all season. We’re out of the playoffs. Our season’s over. Ugh! I don’t want to talk about it. Until next year, of course.

Now, onto the shoot. It was a warm beautiful day (as you might imagine; I had a blast) and I have a quick story to share: It’s very late in the fourth quarter, we’re a touchdown behind with just a minute or two left on the clock. I’m shooting from the sidelines, right near the Buc’s bench, and when one of our receivers drops a pass, I look to the guy standing right next to me, and say something along the lines of, “Oh come on–you gotta catch those–it was right in his hands.” He looks at me and nods in agreement. It was Tiger Woods. I kid you not. I had to step back and grab a couple of shots of him, but I didn’t post any here because it would have ruined the story, as you would have recognized him instantly.

Anyway, after I took the shot, I went over to him and said, “I’m having a problem with my short game. I’m hooding my wedge a bit on my backswing, and I was wondering if you had any tips that might help?” (OK, I didn’t really walk over and say that. I had ya though, didn’t I?). Anyway, it was wild seeing him there (I wish I had noticed him earlier, I probably would have at least said “hi”).

GEAR: All shots were taken with a Nikon D3 with a 200-400mm f/4 lens, or a D300 with a 70-200mm 2.8 VR lens. ISO 200 and wide open (at f/4 and f/2.8 respectively, all day). My thanks to Matt May and the Bucs for giving me such a great day that I can nearly overlook the loss. Nearly. (Click on the thumbnails below for a larger image).

So, here are some of my favorite shots from this heartbreaking, season-ending game (and of course, besides the Bucs needing to win this game, to get in the playoffs the Eagles would have also had to beat Dallas. Of course, they did. Double-ugh!).

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I’m finishing up the update to, “The Photoshop Elements 7 Book for Digital Photographers,” (co-authored with Matt Kloskowski) and each time I update a book, I always use all new photos throughout the book, which means I have to be shooting pretty much all the time (which gives me a great excuse to use with my wife, “Honey, it’s for work.” ;-)

Anyway, I shot a number of new images just for the book, and I thought it would be cool to do an on-location sports portrait of some local kids who play Soccer (which is called football about every place else on the planet). My buddy Jim Workman is president of the local Soccer (football) league and he set-up a shoot for me with a family that had three talented, fun, and really sweet kids.

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This was my first location shoot with Brad assisting me, and we had an awful lot of fun. One of the highlights was watching these little kids blast the ball past Brad, who is a much better photographer than he is goalie, and then watching him chase the ball all over the field.

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LIGHTING: We used one Nikon SB-800 off-camera flash, with a hot-shoe EZYbox softbox, (the one I talked about last week) mounted on a sturdy C-stand (if I had used a shoot-through umbrella, the wind would have taken it down about half-a-dozen or so times). Because this was a sunset shoot, we taped a 1/2 cut of CTO gel over the front of the flash to warm up the color. When the sun was completely gone, we added a second SB-800 on the opposite side of the player, with a HonlPhoto 8″ Speed Snoot to keep the light from bare flash really small and concentrated on the right side of the subject’s face.

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We did the shoot at a local playing field, rather than in a big stadium,  and there were some unattractive maintenance buildings and a parking lot in the background, so I had to compose the shots to keep all that ugly stuff out of the frame. I took nearly all the shots lying on the ground shooting up toward the kids. I positioned the kids so the setting sun was behind them putting great color into the clouds (we got lucky having such great clouds that night—the next night there wasn’t a cloud in the sky). The field was pretty plain, so I made sure the goal was in most of the shots, so it would be more obvious that we were on a field. I also tried to included some of the field lights in the shots, to give more of a stadium feel.

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CAMERA INFO: All the shots were taken with a Nikon D3, using a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens at 200 ISO. I shot in Manual mode, and most shots were taken at f/9 at 1/200 to 1/250 of a second (I used a higher shutter speed to minimize existing light and darken up the clouds).

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I’m planning on doing a special bonus video for people who buy the book on how to set-up a similar location shoot.

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