Category Archives Photography

A big thanks and shout-out to Flipboard for including my Flipboard 2.0 magazine “Cool Photography Stuff” on their Inside Flipboard blog last week in a post about Flipboard magazines for photography.

If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, it’s a killer App for the iPad and Android tablets that transforms your Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other social media feeds into a beautifully laid-out magazine, and it changes your social media experience to a much richer, more visual experience (perfect for photographers and designers).

Two years ago, Apple named Flipboard their “App of the Year” (yes, it’s that good), but this year Flipboard took things up a notch by allowing anyone to create and curate their own custom Flipboard magazine, using content shared on the Web and social media, so I launched my own (they’re free to create, and free to subscribe to. In fact, even the Flipboard 2.0 App is free. It’s all free, free, free!). :)

I was really tickled to see this, cause I really enjoy curating my little daily magazine (see above).  Each day I “flip” any cool stuff I see on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a dozen other sources around the Web into this free daily Flipboard mag, including news, tutorials, beautiful images, and interesting articles. So, if you want to know what’s happening out there in photography every day, it’s kind of a one-stop-shop.

Above: Here’s the link to my mag (it shows it’s by skelby — that’s me). The cover story photo is by one of the hottest up-and-coming sports portrait photographers out there today, Matt Hernandez. I’m a big fan Matt’s work. You can choose a new cover (from things you’ve flipped) each day if you like (and I usually do). 

Here’s the link to Flipboard’s blog post (with a number of great Flipboard magazines listed as well), and if you click on the cover  of mine, it takes you to my “Cool photography stuff” mag: — Thanks again Flipboard for the shoutout, and for making such a cool App. Also, thanks to the 6,000+ photographers who have already subscribed for free and get my magazine in their Flipboard daily feed.



P.S. Hey, don’t forget, on Thursday we have our free “Photoshop World-a-thon Sneek Peek” where me and the “Photoshop Guys” are sharing some of our favorite tips from the upcoming conference in September in Vegas. Everyone’s invited this Thursday at 7:00 pm. RSVP at this link (it’s free, and of course, we’ll have lots of cool giveaways and loads of tips). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss an hour goodbye! LOL! See you then! 


(Above: a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, in a dark grey with a hint of blue. Thanks to Tony Pinero for the car). 

Ever since I started shooting cars, I’ve wanted to shoot one in a studio, but there have been a couple of obstacles. One being finding a studio with a really large white cove that’s big enough to drive a car into, but the really big obstacle is to find one that has a giant car-sized softbox overhead (like the 10-foot x 30-foot F2X from Chimera, but the price is……the price is…well….see below).

That gives you some idea of why, outside of Detroit, finding a studio with one of these with an affordable rental rate is pretty challenging. Well, it would be for a regular guy, but not for the amazing Brad Moore, who found Studio 75, a commercial rental studio set up for automotive photography, that’s only about 25-minutes from our offices. It’s affordable, the guy seemed really easy to work with, and although they didn’t have the Chimera, they did have a home-made rig that works, so we booked it.

Above: In this behind-the-scenes shot, you can see the cost-effective lighting rig Dan created himself. It’s five 1,000 watt White Lightning strobe heads (bare bulbs), mounted on two long poles, hoisted up with a pulley-system, and then firing through a large 20’x20′ Matthews overhead silk diffusion panel (around $700) mounted to aluminum fence top-rail (you can buy a Matthews 20’x20′ collapsable frame for around $975, but the fence top-rail DIY route would be much cheaper at around $88 for the tubing (Eight 10′ x- 1-3/8″ round inter-connecting rails at Lowes for around $11 each. Then you’d need four 1-3/8″ corner connectors at around $4 or so each).

OK, back to the production still above: To get the right look, I’m nearly at the back of the studio. To get the perspective right, I’m laying down on the floor (not a big fan of that part), and I’m tethered directly into Lightroom so I can see the shots at a very large size as I’m taking them.

Once the lights are in place, you set them to full-power and adjust the f/stop until it looks right, so it’s a pretty straight ahead set-up from above.

Welcome to my World
While you could get a car in the studio without any trouble, maneuvering once inside is quite tricky, but luckily this particular car had a backup camera, which made things easier. However, having Brad Moore giving you directions in that back-up camera…well…just watch the video below (shot by Dan as I was backing the car) and you’ll see what I mean. Welcome to my world.

Above: For shots where the front of the car is visible (like the one you just saw), we used a large softbox to fill-in the shadows. We also used a large black bounce card to help create some shadow areas on the car (more on this in a moment). You can see my low shooting position here (production shots by Brad Moore). It was a bit more comfortable here — sitting on the floor and laying back on the first step of the stairs leading to the studio’s loft.

Above: Sony had loaned me some of their DSLR gear to try out, and I thought this would be a great opportunity since the Sony A99 had a swivel-out LCD monitor, so I could place the camera on the floor (for the lowest possible perspective —- one where the photo would clearly show the rear tire on the far side) and then I could just angle it up a bit and do all the composition using the tilt-up display. This sounds easy, but try it with a sneaker coming out of the front of your head (see above)

It worked even better than I thought (though the electronic viewfinder is kind of…well…kinda weird when you work in a studio environment. It has a special mode for it, and perhaps you would eventually get used to it, but seeing something on screen that looks so different from what you’re going to create really threw me. Maybe it’s just my inexperience with the Sony, so I don’t want to totally trash it, because I know a lot of folks love it, but it would definitely take some getting used to (for me, anyway). So, I shot both my Nikon D4 and the Sony A99 during the four-hour shoot in the studio.

Above: Here’s a two-thirds view, where you can see the side the front. It was the first shot we tried that day. You can really see the black bounce card in the bottom half of the doors. That really made a huge difference.

Above: Here’s the production shot. I’m lying on the floor again, but I did mount the Nikon on my Gitzo tripod but we splayed the legs way out so I could get it just a few inches above the ground. I kind of leaned on my elbow to compose the shot, then I’d lock down the ballhead.

Above: When we were all done, I thought I’d take a shot from up above, from the loft (where the studio’s office is), and I kinda like the angle. Plus, it was a LOT easier because at this high angle, we didn’t have to deal with many reflections that appear on the car (which is what turned out to be the challenge of the day for the rest of the shots).

The Tip of the Day
Before we left the studio, the studio owner, commercial photographer Dan Gaye, told Brad to bring a circular polarizer, and man did that thing absolutely work wonders!!! The lighting part of this is actually pretty straightforward — it’s a bunch of lights aiming straight down from directly above through some material that softens and diffuses them. If you need a fill for one part or another, just add one more strobe with a soft box. That part was surprisingly easy. The real challenge is eliminating reflections in the car.

First, the Polarizer helps darken scene, but more importantly it helps you nearly eliminate the hot-spots and reflections from the strobes above in the windshield and side windows. Without that polarizer, you’d have a serious retouching nightmare. You just rotate the circular polarizer and you can literally see the reflections in the windows disappear. I told Brad — learning that was worth the studio rental right there!

Above: Of course, since I had the car there, I couldn’t help but do a few detail shots, using the standard set-up: a single large strip-bank (we turned the overhead lights off), and shooting at f/22 (hat tip to Tim Wallace), just like always.

It’s not the Lighting that’s hard. It’s managing the reflections
Dan said something that really stuck with me. He said “Cars are like giant mirrors. You see anything in front of it like you’re aiming at a mirror” and he wasn’t just-a-kiddin’. It was amazing to see this in person, because you could see everything from the kitchen in the studio, to Brad’s head, to a blue Kayak mounted up near the ceiling, to beams in the ceiling, light stands, me, paintings on the wall, cables on the floor — EVERYTHING!

I have to give Dan big credit and major love here, because he is a master of hiding all these things using black drop clothes, black seamless paper (we had to bring out a 15-foot wide roll), black 8-foot ball bounce cards, and more. You had to take a shot — zoom in tight and you can’t believe all the stuff you’d see — just like you were looking at a big mirror aiming back at the studio. It took 5 minutes to get the lighting right for the very first shot I posted at the top of the page, and about 50 minutes to minimize the reflections.

Now that I’ve seen the process of dealing with all these reflections, it really is just a trial-and-error case of being a “Reflection Detective” but I could not have pulled this off without Dan’s experience and help (and he was incredibly helpful throughout. Since it’s his studio, he knows every trick in the book).

Above: Here’s another detail shot; this one of the rear of the car, with the name plate and tail light sections.

Above: Here’s the emblem on the trunk, lit with that same single strip bank, held diligently by Mr. Moore.

Above: Thought I’d give you one more look at the overall full-car lighting set-up (and the blue kayak which had to be cloned out of just aobut every shot). This one gives you a great view of the White Lighting strobes and the diffusion silk.

Above: I wanted to include a shot of studio owner and photographer Dan Gaye because he was just an incredible help all day. He designed this inexpensive overhead lighting rig back in 1995 and it still works really well to this day. His system of ropes and pulleys lets him raise/lower/angle the lights and diffusion panel pretty much however you want it.

He was super-helpful and really made me understand the challenges of minimizing reflections and the techniques to hide distracting stuff, which is somewhat of an art unto itself. Needless to say, I learned a lot. So, a big thanks and high-five to Dan, but also thanks to Brad for finding Dan and his studio, and for all his hard work that day, and for all the production stills. Way to go Braddo!

Of course, me being me, I see all sorts of stuff I’d do differently next time
That next time will hopefully be in just a few weeks from now, because I’ve already found another cool car that needs shootin’ and I surely need the practice, but I’m totally OK with that. It was just my first studio automative shoot, but hopefully it’s just the first of many, and you know what they say about practice. :)

Last week on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I posted a link to a Great article on Annie Leibovitz on “Getting the Shot, and the Future of Photography” over at FastCompany (shown below).

I have to say, her new campaign for Disney has made me a Leibovitz fan. Really brilliantly done, and the article has some great insights about shooting portraits. Worth a read (and the Disney photos are seriously very special).

Well, after I posted the link to the article (here’s the link by the way —- definitely worth the read:, a conversation started where some we’re trying to give anyone but Annie the credit for the amazing shots. They wanted it to go to anyone from the set designer to the post production people to the hair and make-up — anyone but her (and yes, it does take all of those folks and more to do something on the scale of what Disney hired her to do).

Anyway, it was our topic this week on “The Grid” and there were lots of great comments from the live audience, and of course, plenty of debate because we took it a lot further than that. The episode is at the top of the page if you’ve got a few minutes to check it out.

Also, the previous week, our in-studio guest was the amazing Peter Hurley, and he was there for our monthly “Blind Photo Critiques” episode and we featured nothing but critiques on portraits. There’s a LOT to learn from him in this episode. Here’ s that episode (below):

Shooting cars!
OK, today I’m in a local photo studio doing my first in-studio automotive shoot with a giant overhead softbox longer than the car. Wish me luck, and while we’re wishing, here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend. See you Monday! :)

I had one of my favorite shots from last football season made into a HUGE print with acrylic-photo mounting, and although you can’t really tell from this picture, it is just insane!!! The clarity and quality is just off the hook (I got this one from By the way, look how calm Brad looks holding this print. He had been drinking for hours. Well, as far as I could tell anyway.

One thing you can’t see from our photo is that the acrylic sits on top of the image, so I made a screen cap of their site (above) and you can see how it plays out. See how thick the acrylic is on top of the photo? That’s what gives it its look. By the way, if you’re wondering if all that acrylic adds to the weight of the image, it absolutely does. Big time! (Now, it’s not quite that thick on my giant wall-sized print, so it’s not crazy heavy, but on smaller images like one Brad had made of a concert shot, you can really feel the weight, so you probably don’t want to go walking around all day long carrying it. Just sayin’).

Anyway, I’m always looking for some new interesting way to display printed images, and I thought this one was pretty unique (Everybody that’s seen it in our offices always raves about how it came out). Once we get it hung (later this week, I hope), I’ll share a photo of it hanging over on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Hope you all have a great Tuesday, and we’ll see you here tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday. :)

This weekend I ran across an Interesting article over on CNN about wedding guests taking photos when there’s already a pro wedding photographer hired by the bride and groom. Of course, sadly today that’s the norm, and different photographers deal with it in different ways.

Going “unplugged”
I think the really valuable takeaway from this article is the “unplugged” wedding concept (which they outline in the article), which basically has the bride and groom asking the guests not to take photos of any kind during the actual ceremony itself. Afterward, at the reception, or during the formals, it’s OK, but during the ceremony they’re asking them to please allow the photographer to do the job they were hired to do, and the guests can just enjoy…well…being guests.

Not only do I love this idea, I wouldn’t take a wedding gig where the bride/groom didn’t buy into this concept (which means I would probably starve to death as a full-time wedding photographer), but I believe I could make a pretty convincing case to the wedding couple that it will: (a) lower their stress (b) let their guests actually experience the ceremony as it happens, and (c) they’ll get the kind of images they hired a pro photographer for in the first place.

Sadly, (a) I wouldn’t always be able to convince them of this, and (b) some of the guests would complain that they can’t take photos during the ceremony (in fact, I believe the article mentions that very situation).

Besides the very timely and thought-provoking article, I learned about a new App you can integrate into your next wedding shoot (and use as part of this unplugged concept). Some very useful ideas here:

Here’s wishing you a totally unplugged Monday! :)




Hi Gang: Each year for Independence Day (observed today, the Fourth of July, here in the US as a way for all Americans to celebrate our independence from Dave Clayton), I share a quick post on how to photograph Fireworks (a traditional part of the 4th of July celebration). I'm posting the technique that I included on page 175 of my book, "The Digital Photography Book, Part 1." Here we go:

This is another one that throws a lot of people (one of my best friends, who didn't get a single crisp fireworks shot on the Fourth of July, made me including this tip just for him, and the thousands of other digital shooters that share his pain).

For starters, you'll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you're going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you're really after.

Also, this is where using a cable release really pays off, because you'll need to see the rocket's trajectory to know when to push the shutter buttonâ”if you're looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.

Next, use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) so you can get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the background (like fireworks over Cinderella's Castle at Disney World), then use a wider lens.

Now, I recommend shooting in full Manual mode, because you just set two settings and you're good to go:

  1. Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
  2. Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.

TIP: If your camera has "Bulb" mode (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great-hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. (By the way; most Canon and Nikon digital SLRs have bulb mode). The rest is timingâ”because now you've got the exposure and sharpness covered.

There you have itâ”-hope you all get some great shots tonight; remember to stay safe around fireworks of any kind, and we'll see you back here in one piece tomorrow. :)