Category Archives Photo Shoots


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.

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).


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).


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.

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).


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


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.


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).

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!).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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



The spread above is from my book “The Digital Photography Book, Vol 2.” It’s my opener for the chapter on shooting portraits (click on it for a larger view), and the reason I’m mentioning it is that I found the shot below, showing the set-up for that shot (taken just moments after I took the shot above). I found it this weekend while I was searching for a completely different shot.


The set-up photo above (click for a larger view) was taken by my buddy Dave Moser, and that’s my buddy Terry White holding a Lastolite 30″ TriGrip Diffuser (here’s the link to it on B&H) in front of the window. The sunlight was pretty harsh and direct, so I had Terry hold the TriGrip in front of the direct light to soften, spread, and diffuse it, to give you the shot you see at the top of this post.

The lighting is a little flatter and less directional than I usually go for, but when I looked at the shot on my laptop (which is what I’m doing in the shot above), I was happy with the overall look. So basically, I just tamed the light with a simple diffuser—no flashes or reflectors—just that one diffuser.

TECH SPECS: Shot with a Canon EOS 1D Mark III, with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens (at 100mm), at f/4 at 1/200 of a second in Aperture Priority mode.

Anyway, I thought since I found the set-up shot, I’d share it here. I usually have that Lastolite 1-stop diffuser with me on every location shoot, and its paid for itself many times over (I also use the Lastolite diffuser to spread and soften the light from a Nikon SB-800 off-camera flash).


I mentioned on Friday I had a shoot this weekend, and this was it—-one of the most famous college football rivalries; The Ohio State Buckeyes vs. the Michigan Wolverines.

I flew up to Columbus, Ohio on Friday night (with my brother Jeff who came along to hang with me), and when we woke up Saturday morning (game day) it was 17° (-8°C) Brrrrrrr! Luckily by game time it was up to a toasty 32° (0°C), but I was dressed really warm and the cold wasn’t a factor—-in fact—it was a blast!!!!

It was the most crowded sideline I’ve ever shot on, and I had to jockey for position all day long, which made it one of the most challenging football shoots.

I shot with two bodies; my Nikon D3 was my main rig, with my Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens (mounted on a Gitzo carbon fiber monopod), and when things got close-up, I switched to my Nikon D300 with a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 wide angle lens.


I used the R-Strap (link) on my D300 with the wide lens on it, and I can tell you this; I won’t shoot another football game without it! Being able to reach down and have my 2nd body ready to fire in a split-second is a sports-shooter’s dream. (That’s me shooting with it above—photo by my brother Jeff, taken with an iPhone).

Even though the game started at 12:00 noon, it was so overcast that I had to crank up my ISO to between 800 and 1250 (on my D3), to keep my shutter speed at the minimum of 1/1000 of a second (needed to freeze the action). I left my D300 at 800 ISO, and son of gun if I didn’t get a little blur here and there (I really should have pushed it to 1200, but that’s the point where you start to see noise on a D300, so I hesitate to push it past 800). I shot wide open all day, at f/4 on the long glass, and f/2.8 on the wide.

Here’s a few shots from the day (click on them for larger views):


I was set-up in the end zone for this one, (you’re required to be on your knees when shooting from the end zone), when Ohio State Running Back Chris Wells broke out and headed straight for me. I shot this with the 200-400mm until he was all the way up to about the 15 yard line then I switched to the 24mm wide.


Here’s Chris again, later in the game, after being gang tackled by Michigan.


Ohio State Quarterback Terrelle Pryor on a keeper putting the stiff-arm to Wolverine Safety Stevie Brown.


This is one you have to click on to see the larger size, to appreciate because it’s the crowd that tells the story, with the Ohio State fans on the left side cheering wildly as the throw connects with Wide Receiver Brian Hartline for the score, while the Wolverine band remains stoic on the right. I also like the way you can see Ohio State Quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the foreground signaling for the touchdown.


Hartline does it again, and looks to the ref as he confirm that it is indeed—a touchdown.



Above Two Shots; the reason why I was at the game—my assignment was to cover Ohio State superstar Middle Linebacker James Laurinaitis (2007 Butkus award winner for best college linebacker) in his last game as a Senior (he led the team in tackles that day, with 12 tackles and one sack).


Here’s another one where what’s happening on the sidelines tells the story, as Ray Small starts what turns into an 81-yard punt return.


Bodies flying everywhere as Wolverine’s Running Back Carlos Brown breaks a tackle.


Lastly, here’s something you don’t see every day; a football pano —-click on it for a much larger version.

All in all, it was a great day, and I got lots of shots of James in action, which is what it was all about. The excitement and sheer mania of a Big-10 rivalry like this was just amazing to see, and it made the cold weather, cramped shooting conditions, and dragging all that gear around in small Delta Connection jets all worth it. Can’t wait to shoot my next game! :-)


My buddy Jeff Revell, who lives in Northern Virginia, invited me to come up for the day to shoot the International Gold Cup Horse Race, held each year in Great Meadow near The Plains, Virginia (some of my shots from the event are shown here—click on them for larger views).

It was a quick trip for me; I flew up first thing in the morning, and back that same evening, but it was totally worth it. We had a wonderful day—-absolutely perfect weather, full access photo passes, lots of laughs (as is always the case when Jeff and I get together), and access to a wonderful hospitality tent that was packed with yummy hospitality. What a great way to spend a Saturday!




My Sport Photography Gear Air Travel Test
I didn’t have time to buy a new camera bag (though I got some great leads from you guys after my last NFL shoot travel trials), but I came up with something that worked surprisingly well in the interim. My problem was the same; I needed at least three carry-ons, but of course, the limit is two (one large, one small). Here’s what I take for a sports shoot (minimum):

  1. My camera bag, with body, lens, backup stuff, etc.
  2. My Mac laptop
  3. My Think Talk Photo gear belt system
  4. My 200-400 f/4 zoom lens (which has a carrying case of its own).
  5. My Gitzo Monopod
  6. My Husky Gel Knee Pads

So, here’s what I did (as seen below [photo by Jeff Revell]–click for a larger version):


I used my rolling Pelican Case Cruzer again (by the way; I learned that the Case Cruzer is made by a third-party that customizes Pelican cases, a company called aptly enough; “Case Cruzer” (link) and not by Pelican themselves), and that covered me having to have a separate camera bag and laptop bag. I put the 200-400mm lens inside the Cruzer, but to make the D700 fit vertically, I had to remove the Battery Grip. Hidden under it is my Epson P-5000 (which I use for on-location back-ups). I also have two backup batteries for my Laptop in there as well.


Now, here’s where I tried something new and it paid off: since I wasn’t spending the night, I didn’t check any bags, so I had to find a way to get the Think Tank Photo Belt System there, so I put it inside the empty Nikon lens bag. One big benefit of this is; it has an outside holder for the monopod (as seen above). Then, I attached my kneepads to the outside of the bag, and that was all it took; I had everything in two bags; and best of all, the 2nd bag weighed much less than normal, since the lens wasn’t in the bag.

It’s not pretty, but it worked!


This was also my first outing with the long-awaited new Hoodman Loupe 3.0, which lets you see your LCD in direct sunlight. (that’s me using it above—photo by Jeff Revell). A lot of the photographers out there were asking me about it (and borrowing it), and every one of them said the same thing; “I’ve got to get one of these.” I’ve still been using the older Hoodman Loupe, but it doesn’t fully cover the new larger 3″ LCDs found on most new mid to high-end DSLRs. The new Loupe doesn’t really seem much larger than the original (which is good), but the unit, with it’s built-in diopter for getting perfect focus on the screen, feels really well made—-it was worth the wait.

One of my readers, Dave Bergman, is a regular shooter for Sports Illustrated, and he shared a great post from his blog about how he packs for a sports shoot, and if you’re into this stuff, it’s definitely worth check out (here’s the link).


The Press Passes
Getting the photo passes was easy; there was a section on their Web site where you could just apply for a freelance photo pass–after the event you just have to give them a few of your best shots for their PR purposes, which I was more than happy to do. I met several NAPP members who were shooting the event that day, including one guy who had been to three Photoshop Worlds, and another shooter who reads this blog daily. Small world.


Lastly, above is a photo I took of my buddy Jeff Revell during the event, who was toting not one, not two, but three bodies that day (two Nikons and a Canon 50D). As Jeff says “I hate to change lenses.” Thanks Jeff, for inviting me and for a really great day!