Category Archives Photography

I mentioned earlier this week that back on Monday we invited some NAPP members to come to our headquarters (just outside Tampa, Florida), and be a part of a full dress rehearsal/dry run for my upcoming “Light It, Shoot it, Retouch It Live!” nationwide tour (inspired by my series of classes with the same name on Kelby Training Online). Well, I got some images from Brad and I thought I’d share them here with you guys on the blog.

The idea of this day was to get in front of a live audience, do the entire seminar from start to finish (with all the lighting set-ups, shooting, and then retouching, editing, and finishing of the photos in Photoshop), and then get live, on the spot feedback from the attendees about anything they wanted added, addressed in more detail, and generally anything I could do to make the day more valuable to them. Well, I’m happy to say, the experiment worked even better than I had hoped (and the tour will be that much better because of it).

OK, that’s me goofing off above while Brad was taking production shots (Nothing is more handsome than having a wire hanging off your face, eh?) Anyway, the audience was absolutely fantastic—I couldn’t have asked for a better group. They were totally into it, and a HUGE help with lots of insights, great questions, and requests that I was able to add directly to the detailed seminar workbook before it goes to press. By the way; you’d think I would have retouched that funky dent in my hair on the top left side, but after seeing this shot, I actually took it a step further and went and got my hair cut today. :)

Here I am doing bunny ears. It was that kind of day. We had three different professional models working with us during the day (two women and a man), and we went through different lighting set-ups for different looks, then we did the full portrait retouches, and ended each segment with finishing off the photos, and adding portrait effects and some fun Photoshop tricks (including a whole segment on compositing).

I really want this tour to be something that will help a lot of people by showing the complete process from empty room to finished image, and I owe a debt of thanks to everyone who came that day to help make the tour the best it can be. Thanks for all your feedback, great input, and for being such a great crowd to present to. You guys rocked it! :-)

This was, hands down, one of the most fun seminars I’ve ever taught, because we covered so much ground in so little time, and everything happened in real time. I’ll have cities and dates coming next week (the tour kicks off in just a few weeks), so stay tuned.

Yesterday our lighting set-up was pretty much for head shots (one beauty dish and a reflector), but for every look we did during the day, I also shot more traditional full length shots as well, but like always—I try to keep the lighting simple, using just one main light. This was shot with a gray background—I added the violet Split Tone effect in the shadow areas inside of Lightroom.

Here’s the lighting set-up for the shot you see at the top of the page. We used the same exact strobe (the Elinchrom BXRI 500), but we switched out the Beauty Dish we used for the headshots shown in yesterday’s post for the 53″ Midi Octa softbox, which is probably my most-often used softbox when shooting fashion (It’s priced fairly decent for its large size—B&H Photo has it $289. Link). The main reason I switched was because I knew I’d be shooting 3/4 length and full length shots, so I wanted the light to cover more area. Also, to make sure some of the main light bounces back toward our subject, we put up a large white V-flat on the opposite side of the Main Light to fill in the other side.

Since I was shooting tethered, positioning the single Main Light was easy—it was controlling the light on the white cove in the background that kept us busy during the day. We would change between a medium gray, light gray, and solid white for most every look, and when you’re using two lights (one lighting each side of the cove) you’re constantly having to mess with the lights to balance them (for dark gray, we’d turn off the lights; for light gray we’d put them on low power, and for solid white we’d crank them up).

Above: Here’s what you have to do when shooting full length shots to get the right look and perspective (I know—it’s not a pretty view of me so stop snickering. But that’s what ya gotta do to get the right perspective). Although this is Tanja in the shot (rather than Megan), I thought I’d at least show you how far back you need to be to shoot at 150mm to 200mm, and precisely how uncomfortable you need to be, which is plenty by the way.

Above: When I was back on my feet again, I moved in as close as my 70-200mm would focus to get this beauty-style shot. You can see the Midi Octa reflected in her eyes. Mmmmm. Midi Octa. I wanted to make sure her eyes were tack sharp, so I put the camera on a tripod before taking the shot.

Above: Since Sandbox Studio is a daylight studio, I wanted to shoot at least one look with natural light, but for this one I thought I’d try something different. I bought a backdrop that looks like the material from a tufted leather couch from Backdrop Outlet (link), and we hung it on a poll between two C-stands. What I wanted to try was to frame the shot so you see the entire backdrop, stands and all (like you see here), but to make it look more like a finished shot (and not a production shot), I laid down on the ground to shoot it like a regular full length fashion shot, and I got the image you see above.

Since I was shooting natural window night, I switched my camera to Aperture Priority mode, and set my f/stop at f/2.8 to get plenty of light into the scene. My shutter speed looked kind of slow at ISO 200, and I was afraid I’d wind up with some blurry shots not being on a tripod down so low, so I increased my ISO to 500 (there’s an ISO you don’t see everyday), and I was up to 1/1600 of a second, and good to go.

Above: After I got the full length, I stood back up and went into for some head and shoulders type of shots. Still using just Natural window light, and the same settings as the full length shot except I lowered the ISO to 400.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore), and as you can see, there’s not much going on here—-just natural light. It doesn’t get much simpler than this. By the way; I quickly figured out which window was the North-facing window by using my iPhone’s Compass App. First time I ever needed to use it.

Above: Here’s a full length shot of Tanja (the reflection on the floor is faked in Photoshop. Please don’t tell any one).

Above: Here’s a production shot (photo by Brad Moore). Again, it’s just one Main Light with the 53″ Midi Octa, and then two large V-flat reflectors to bounce some of the light back onto our subject. There are two lights just aiming at the background, but they’re powered down low to create a very light gray, almost off-white background.

Above: Here’s a different perspective from Brad, and you can see the background lights and the V-flats pretty clearly here (and the creative team all looking on during the shoot. While I’m shooting, they’ll quickly jump in and fix hair, adjust clothing, or touch up make-up as we go, which is incredibly helpful).

(Above: some unretouched frames from that set, shown in Lightroom’s Grid View)

Well, that’s it for this one, gang
I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look. Thanks to my photo assistant Brad Moore for helping throughout the planning and staging of the shoot; to Megan and Tanja for being so patient and keeping a wonderful attitude the entire shoot, and to Sopha, Linh, and Cassandra for all their hard work in making the shoot a success.

Well, football season is over (at least for me, anyway), so it’s time to move on to other shoots. This weekend I was up in New York City speaking at an event Friday evening (more on that tomorrow), but while I was up there, I managed to fit in a fashion shoot on Saturday morning at Sandbox Studio in SoHo.

I was lucky enough to work with the same creative team I did for my last shoot up in NYC (link) and the shoot was coordinated by the coolest Fashion Stylist ever—the wonderful Sophia Batson (link). She coordinated and styled all the outfits, and I got to work once again with Sophia’s hand picked hair and make-up artists: Linh Nguyen and Cassandra Renee (they rock!).

With Sophia’s help, we arranged two fantastic models (Megan [Seen above] and Tanja) through a New York City agency, and before you knew it, Brad Moore and I were getting the studio ready for our 10:00 am call time. (Note: in the photo at the top of the page, L to R that’s Susan (helping out on the set); Lihn, Megan, Sophia, and Cassandra).

(Above: Here’s the lighting set-up for the shot up top [production photo by Brad Moore]. That’s a 500 watt Elinchrom BXRI strobe right above her, with a 17″ Beauty Dish attachment on it, with a diffusion sock in front on it to soften the look a bit. Below and in front of her is just a reflector—–the other light isn’t actually turned on—I’m just using it as a makeshift reflector stand. I tried the shot with the bottom strobe turned on, but even powered down as low as it would go, I felt it was too bright, so I turned off the strobe, and instead just laid a silver reflector on top of it like you see here.

There is a second strobe on the floor behind my laptop lighting the white cove background. I’m shooting tethered directly into Lightroom 3. Here’s a link for details on the tripod accessory arm I’m using to hold my ballhead and my laptop. Here’s the link to the laptop stand itself. The tripod they’re mounted on is the new Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa Carbon Fiber tripod (link) and this was my first time trying it out (a full review coming soon). Incredibly well made tripod—sturdy as anything, and 100% made in the USA no less).

(Above: some unretouched frames from that set, shown in Lightroom’s Grid View)

Sandbox Studio also is a daylight studio, so I wanted to opportunity to try some natural daylight stuff while I was there, but you can also limit the light for shooting with strobes which is primarily what we did.

Above: Brad shot the short video tour of the studio with his iPhone (we had Pandora radio playing in the background), which gives you a better look at where we were shooting (plus, it includes a gratuitous shot of me texting before the shoot). Very cool place, really helpful staff (and five different studios available for rent).

(Above: Here’s a beauty-style shot of Tanja [originally from Serbia, and has a thick accent, but raised in Wisconsin. Probably a Packers fan, but she kept it well hidden so I didn’t kick her off the set. Kidding.]. I like this shot because it shows off Cassandra’s beautiful makeup job.

We used the same lighting set-up as the first image, but Brad got a great perspective of the lighting set-up with this production shot, so I wanted to share it with you. The reason the Beauty Dish light looks orange is because what you’re seeing is the Modeling Light only—not the actual flash from the strobe.

(Above: some unretouched frames from that set, shown in Lightroom’s Grid View)

Over the three hours of shooting, we did six “looks” with different outfits, hair, and make-up, and Sophia coordinated everything so all Brad and I had to do was focus on the lighting and the shooting.

I’ll share some of the other looks and production photos tomorrow in Part 2. See you then.

When I’m writing a book on Photoshop, Lightroom, or photography, I would have to say that at least good chunk of the time, if not the largest chunk, is spent searching for images to use in the book (for everything from tutorials to examples to chapter openers).

Luckily, I have all my images in Lightroom, but for my last book I created a new separate catalog of images before I ever started the book, to make the upcoming few months of daily searching that much easier. But during all this gathering and sorting, something happened which had an unexpectedly fun and fulfilling effect, and I’m hoping to pass this on to you, so you can have it, too.

I’ll Bet You’re Way Better Now!
Have you ever gone back and looked at shots you took three or four years ago? If you’re like me, when you see them, you cringe. You cringe because you know you’re so much better today than you were back then, and shots you thought were awesome then, seem kinda awful now. Unfortunately, in most cases, we can’t go back and re-take them, so from one angle, we’re kinda stuck. However….

Now think about your Photoshop skills. I’ll bet you’re dramatically better at your post processing today than you were even just a year ago, and you’re probably light years ahead of where you were three or four years ago. But not only are you better—-Photoshop itself has come along way, too and there are features and things you can do today you just couldn’t do back then (and even if Photoshop could, Photoshop can probably do them better now—everything from stitching panos to creating HDRs to making selections are all vastly improved in the past few years).

I Wanna Go Back….and Do it All Over…..
So, the special thing that happened to me was; as I was looking at some of these images I had taken years ago, I would run across one here and there that I still liked, but the first thing I thought when I saw them was, “Man, I could sure edit that photo a lot better today than I did back then.”In fact, some of the techniques I used back then are so dated now, that I wouldn’t apply those moves, or those filters, to any image today. So, I went back; found the original Raw or JPEG files, and post processed them from scratch, knowing what I know now, and it completely transformed those images, and made them new. It’s like I was seeing those images through a new set of eyes.

Here’s a weekend project you might just love
Since I imagine you’re way better at Photoshop today than you were a few years ago, why not at least go back and look at some of the stuff you shot years ago, and see if a new crop, a new treatment, a new way of post-processing the image might bring an image you once loved back to life with a fresh new look after being edited with the new skills and new tools you have today? Of course, you might go back and hate all your old stuff, but my guess is you’ll have some great and unexpected surprises that will absolutely make the time and effort all worth it.

Go back and look at your vacation shots from four years ago. Go back and scan in some photos from a trip you took 10 years ago, and then apply your latest post processing techniques to them, and see if those images don’t take on a new meaning for you. Warning: if you’re really successful on the first images you re-edit, it’s kind of like playing “Angry Birds.” There goes your whole weekend.

Happy Hunting! :)

Jim Begley sent me a link to an article on Gizmodo that was one of the best articles on shooting football I’ve read.

The article was written by Rod Mar, a Seattle-based photographer working with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. First, he’s a really fantastic sports photographer, but beyond that, he’s a great writer and teacher as well, and his article has great examples and great insights.

So, definitely read the article first (here’s the link), but after you do, if you’re into this stuff you’ve got to check out his Seahawks photo blog, called “Eye on the Hawks.” I absolutely loved his images, and how he shares off field moments and images you don’t normally get to see. Very well done, and definitely worth checking out. Thanks Jim for sending this my way. :)

As a Bears fan, the game sure didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, but getting to shoot a game like that was still an incredible thrill for me. The level of excitement in that stadium, and surrounding the stadium (out in the tailgate sections), was just amazing.

I was there as a guest of my buddy, and Bears Chairman, Mike McCaskey, who shot the game alongside me the whole time (though thankfully he wasn’t there when Rogers came crashing into me at the goal line—link).

I was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area, so naturally the Buccaneers are my home team, but through my friendship with Mike and his family these past years, I’ve totally adopted the Bears as if they were my own, and I’m so glad I did (football is even more fun when you get to root for two teams each week).

Shooting a Team you Care About is Harder Than It Looks
I stunk shooting this game. Seriously. My friends were all asking yesterday how I did, and I said, “I pretty much sucked.” I literally missed a dozen or more plays because I’m cheering (or cussing) as a play unfolds in front of me. Then I’d realize, I wasn’t shooting at all—-I’m just watching the game, and I kind of have to snap out of it and get back to shooting.

I saw a shot of me on ESPN’s Sports Center last night, where Green Bay had just intercepted the ball, and everyone else is shooting, and I don’t even have my eye to the viewfinder—I’m just watching in shock as the play (and the game) run away right in front of me. Needless to say, there’s another shot I missed. When it’s your team out there playing, it changes everything.

So, I’m going to Blame it on that. That and Rogers breaking my Monopod
I’m glad I wasn’t shooting for a wire service this time, because I don’t think I got anything—anything at all—in the entire first quarter. My monopod got broken during Green Bay’s first possession, and I tried hand holding the 400mm for a few plays, but it’s front-heavy, and really hard to wrangle (a 200-400mm or a 300mm f/2.8 would have been no problem). So it took me a while to get adjusted (and to get the dirt off everything).

Shooting with half a monopod
I could still kinda shoot with the stump that was left, but it was shorter than I would actually set it when I’m on my knees, so it was really awkward the entire game. Plus, there was no foot on the stick, so it kind of impaled itself down into the dirt. I lugged the broken other piece with me the entire first half, as a momento.  So, I’m going to assign a 22% “lame shooting blame” to my mini-monopod.

I’m going to assign another 26% of the blame to the cold weather, even though I was dressed so warmly, and it was such a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day that the 23° temperate at game time really didn’t affect me at all (Hey, these are all excuses, not actual reasons why I didn’t get good shots).

I wore Under Armor’s “Cold Gear” base layer (link) which worked great, and then I had layers and layers on top of that (I felt like the “Michelin Man”) and I was so comfortable I didn’t even ever consider putting on the face mask. In fact, it wasn’t until the last five minutes of the game, when it was already dark that I thought, “Hey, it’s getting a little chilly.” So, I should probably lower my “lame blame” on the weather to maybe around 17%.

The Refs. Ahhhh, the Refs
I think I broke my all time record for plays with the ref blocking my shot. Well, them and the video crew. There was one point where I was following a receiver running with the ball and a video camera man walked right in front of my lens—and stopped. Suddenly, everything went black. I pulled my eye away from the viewfinder and I’m staring at his butt two feet in front of me. I said a few choice words. However, it wasn’t their fault—it was mine. I wasn’t in position. I could have moved more, but having to be on your knees every single play gets old fast (I’m on my knees a lot during a game for a better perspective, but sometimes you need a break for a few plays. Well, at least you do at my age).

The end zones, where I usually like to shoot because you avoid most of the refs and video crews, were packed because the TV network had complained that photographers were getting in the way of TV cameras in the end zone. So, they backed the photographers up at least 20 or more feet from the End Zone, so there was just a little strip to shoot from, and it was always packed.

There were more photographers here than any game I’ve ever shot. I tried to take a photo of the photographer’s work room for you guys at half time, but my lens totally fogged up when I got in there. So, whose fault was it that I was not in the right position to capture the action? Mine. So to whom am I assigning a portion of the blame? The Refs and video crew. 14%.

So, it’s really not my fault
OK, it totally is. However, had I been there on assignment, I would have just manned-up and got the job done no matter what, but since I was there to hang with my buddy Mike, I get to blame anyone and everything for having a really off day of shooting (totally kidding—it’s all on me). Oh yeah, where’s the shot you got flattened for? Blurry. Even the ref is blurry, but not nearly as much as Rodgers. Ugh!

I felt bad for Mike
Mike and I were on the 10-yard line when the Bears were in position to tie and take the game into overtime, and Mike and I were watching more than shooting at this point, and then Green Bay picks off  Caleb Hanie’s pass at the 2 yard line, and I just saw Mike’s heart sink. (By the way: I thought Hanie did a great job coming in cold as a third-string Quarterback. Talk about pressure! That’s his reaction above after his first regular season/post season NFL touchdown).

After the game, Mike and I watched part of the Steelers/Jets game with his lovely wife Nancy (Nancy is an incredibly gracious hostess, and a really fun person all the way around) along with their daughter Catherine, (who is just as gracious as her mom, and funny as anything) while having a delicious dinner comprised of foods I shouldn’t eat. We talked and shared stories and made the best of what must have been a very tough night for them.

More Time For Photography
This is Mike’s last year as Chairman of the Bears, and I know there is nothing he would have loved more than to see his team go to the SuperBowl this year (Of course, I think particularly it would have been because he’d get to shoot another game. See how it is with shooting sports? It really gets under your skin). Afterward, they dropped me off at my rental car for the drive back to the airport hotel, broken monopod in tow.

Mike is a really passionate photographer, and he’s gotten really good at shooting football, really fast (he even had an amazing 10-foot long pano/collage of one of Devin Hester’s run backs that was being auctioned off for charity during the game).

I feel very fortunate to have become friends with the McCaskeys, who are some of the most genuine, friendly, and community-minded people you’d ever want to meet. Few photographers I know have worked as hard at their photography as Mike has during these past years, and it has really paid off for him. Although he’s been shooting a lot of football lately, he’s a people photographer, and that makes sense, because he’s a “people person.” (When we’re walking through the stadium, people recognize him and ask for autographs and to pose for photos with him. He treats everyone, from the elevator operators to the security guards, like they’re his personal friends, and Mike always has a smile and time for a quick chat with everyone, no matter who they are or what they do. He treats everyone like they’re important. He treats everyone like they own the Bears, and to me, that speaks volumes).

Joe McNally, who did a portfolio review of Mike’s work will tell you, Mike’s one heck of a people shooter—-so much so that Mike’s now selling prints of his work (RC designed his new photography Web site), and I imagine he’ll devote even more time to his photography now that he’s retired (though knowing Mike like I do, his first love and most of his attention will always be helping other people in need, which is probably why I feel about him the way I do).

I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made in the Bears organization, including Bears Team Photographer Bill Smith (who is very special person outside his amazing photography skills, and I’m trying to get Bill to be a Guest Blogger here so you can learn more about his work outside photography), and I want to thank Mike and his wonderful family for taking me in and making me feel like family every time I visit. GO BEARS!

One Last Thing
I went into this game wanting to try to capture a series of images I could apply a Bleach Bypass effect to, and I did manage to at least do that part. I know this effect isn’t for everybody, and some folks are going to hate it, but for certain things like this, where you’re just capturing the player’s emotions before the game, I thought it would look kinda cool, and I actually like the way these turned out.

These were all taken with my 24-70mm f/2.8 out wide at 28mm, and then post processed in Lightroom by increasing the Exposure until the sky totally blew out, then I opened each image in Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 and applied their Beach Bypass filter using the default settings. Hope you like ’em.