Category Archives Photography

On Saturday, I hopped an early morning flight up to South Bend, Indiana to shoot the Notre Dame vs. Tulsa game, along with my buddy Jim Workman (a lifelong Notre Dame fan), and his son Kevin.

So, first—how did I wind up shooting “The Fighting Irish?” At this past Photoshop World, one of the two inductees to the Photoshop Hall of Fame was NAPP’s Help Desk Director Peter Bauer. He brought his wife Mary Ellen O’Connell along to see him receive the award, and during the opening night party, Pete mentioned that Mary Ellen was going to be honored with the game ball at halftime, and that they were watching the game from the University President’s suite.

That was all I needed. I’m like “Pete….buddy….do you think you can use some of that juice to get me a sideline pass to shoot a Notre Dame game?” and Pete said he’d see what he could do. Well, after a few well placed calls, and Pete “working the system” he wrote me back to let me know he had arranged a pass for me to shoot the Notre Dame vs. Tulsa game (of course, this was all made possible in no small part by the fact that Pete’s wife, Mary Ellen is a Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution at Notre Dame, and quite famous in the world of law, and plus, she’s just really cool). Anyway, he worked it out, and I was on my way.

It was an absolutely perfect day in South Bend, with temperatures in the low 60s, under a bright blue sky. Pete offered his season tickets so my buddy Jim could come along (Jim hadn’t seen a first Notre Dame game in person since his dad took him to one back in 1971), and Jim was incredibly psyched!!! Pete had great seats—right behind the goal—10 rows back. Sweet!

(Above: That’s me during the game with my new 400mm f/2.8. Photo by one of my blog readers, Troy Breidenbach, who was also shooting the game on the sidelines that day).

One thing that struck me was how friendly everybody was there. Every one you met working at the stadium was just as kind and helpful as they could be. They all said “Welcome to Notre Dame. We’re happy you’re here.” This was a stark contrast from spending the first of the week in New York, where most of the people I met said, “Welcome to New York. Now give me your wallet” (Totally kidding).

(Above: Tulsa’s coach apparently didn’t agree with one of the ref’s calls during the third quarter and sent his clipboard flying. I love how everybody’s looking at the clipboard).

Camera Settings
Nothing new here. Shot the same two lenses and used the same settings I always do (see my Bucs vs Rams post [link] for all these details. I did use my D300s as my 2nd body this time, because Brad had a concert shoot Saturday night I didn’t want to send him there with a noisy camera, so I left him with the D700, since I really didn’t have any noise issue with a day game, and the D300s worked great (We did put the extra AA batteries in the battery grip to get more frames per second).

(Above: Let the end zone celebration begin! It looked like Notre Dame had this one in the bag—they were trailing by 2 points with less than 30 seconds left to play, but they’re on Tulsa’s 22 yard line, and all they had to do was kick the field goal, but then…..)

(Above: …they went for six points instead, and Tulsa intercepted a Notre Dame pass in the end zone, and it was all over). :(

(Above: I made the commemorative print you see above for my buddy Jim, so he could remember this day. Hopefully, it won’t be almost 40 years before he catches another ND game. I used a 10mm fisheye lens on my D300s, then I used Lightroom’s built-in Lens Correction Profile to straighten the image out. Took all of 10 seconds).

(Above: This shot of me was taken with my iPhone by Eric Szajko, a NAPP member who was also shooting the game. He and his wife Michelle had been to 10 Photoshop Worlds, but we had never met. He came up and introduced himself to me before kickoff, and we hit it off right away, and I pretty much wound up shooting the entire day with him, and we had a lot of laughs).

Well, that’s all from the shoot. I do want to thank Pete Bauer and Mary Ellen O’Connell for arranging all this for me (and for the incredible dinner they hosted at their beautiful home after the game), and a special thanks to Notre Dame’s John Heisler for being so gracious as to let me shoot the game. It really was a wonderful day (the only thing that could have made it better was an Irish win), but I really had a lot of fun with Pete, Mary Ellen, Jim, Kevin, Eric, Troy, and the wonderful people of South Bend.

UPDATE: I added 10 more of my favorite shots from the game over at my Facebook Fan Page. Here’s the link.

OK, it was really “Fashion Shoot” Wednesday. Last Wednesday, in between my taping a “Another Day with Jay Maisel” on Tuesday in New York City, and my presentations on Thursday at the Photo Plus Expo. Since I had this day in-between, I set up a fashion shoot as one of the projects for my upcoming book, “Photoshop CS5 Professional Portrait Retouching.”

I’ve been shooting a lot of portraits for the past couple of months, because I wanted all fresh, new images for the book, and even though we have an in-house studio, I’ve always wanted to do a fashion shoot in New York, and do it right—-using a professional fashion stylist to coordinate the look, and finding really great hair and make-up artists, along with New York fashion models who would take the whole shoot up a notch.

I started my search with the fashion stylist, and after looking at dozens of different NYC stylists, I fell in love with the work of Sophia Batson (link). She’s only been in New York a couple of years now, after working in London and Milan, and she was absolutely marvelous to work with and lots of fun on the set (that’s Sophia and I above, with Gemmy, one of our two models for the day mugging behind us on the set). Sophia picked out all the clothes, brought all the accessories, worked with the agency to arrange the models, and basically left me completely free to just focus on the photography. Sophia is truly awesome!!!!

We found a great rental studio called “Two Stops Brighter” (link) that was coincidentally owned by a NAPP member, and it worked out great. He had loads of stands, v-flats, fans, reflectors, so all we had to ship up there were my Elinchrom strobes and a few soft boxes.

Brad and I got to the studio 30-minutes before the call time for the models, hair, and makeup team to arrive to get things set-up, and in no time at all, we were set-up and ready to shoot. It helped that I wanted to keep the lighting very simple, and most of the day, I used just one Elinchrom BRXI studio strobe with either a 53” Midi Octa or an Elinchrom beauty dish. If we used a second light, it was either with a small softbox as a fill from below, or just to light the white seamless background, though we left it off most of the day so we’d get a light gray background instead.

While the models were in hair and make-up, I had some time to kill, so I created a fake set-up to use as the opening slide for my presentation at the Elinchrom booth the following day. Before we set up the white seamless, I moved a bunch of lights into position on the set, leaving a big space in the middle where I wanted to add some text (as seen above). I turned on the modeling lights, then I stood back and took the shot you see above with just the ambient light in the room (I had to set the ISO to 1,600 to get a high enough shutter speed for a sharp hand-held photo. This is a daylight studio, and normally there would be a flood of light coming in, but it was a gray, overcast, rainy day outside). You can see the image, with the text added (using a simple text layout technique I taught in my class at Photoshop World on Designing with Type), by clicking here.

I had sent Sophia sample images of the look I wanted to achieve, and we talked quite a bit before the shoot, so once we were on the set, she took over working with the hair and make-up team (that’s our hair stylist Linh Nguyen on the left, and our Make Up Artist Cassandra Renee on the right), so all I had to worry about was the photography and the lighting. Lihn & Cassandra were incredible—both incredibly talented and very hard working and focused the whole day.

There’s a big advantage to having separate hair and make-up artists, because you can keep the shoot moving quickly all day, because while you’re shooting with one model, the other can be in either hair or make-up, so at least one model is always ready to shoot.

The first model out of make-up was Gemmy, who is shown at the very top of this post, and the image of her you see up there is the exact image I used in my Wacom retouching class at Photo Expo the next day (that’s me during the retouching class above, in Wacom’s booth. Photo by Adam Rohrmann).

In the class, I showed the entire retouch—starting with the raw image out of my camera, to the image you see above. It’s not the final retouch I would do (it’s hard doing a detailed retouch in front of an audience, with a tight time limit), but I still thought it would be cool to share it with you so you guys would get a chance to see what I did in that class.

There is one additional retouch I did to the image you see at the top that I didn’t do in the class, and that was remove a few stray hairs in the front that I told the class would need to be cloned out, but I didn’t want to make them sit through any more of that process than I had already made them sit though.

(Above: Here’s a Grid from the first shoot of the day (click on it for a larger view). These are completely unretouched photos, raw straight out of the camera—-I just made a screen capture of them in Lightroom 3). For the image at the top, I just converted it to black and white after the retouching to finish it off.

Here’s a behind the scenes production shot (photo by Brad Moore), which shows the simple lighting set-up I used. Just a beauty dish up top, and a small 24″ softbox on bottom. Both lights are inexpensive 500 watt Elinchrom BXRI’s. I’m shooting tethered directly into Lightroom 3, and I’m using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at f/11. The strobe on top (the one with the beauty dish attached), is powered down as low as it will go. By the way: the beauty dish attachment runs around $150. Worth every penny.

(Above: I know the totally blown-out skin look is really popular right now, so I shot one group of shots with the washed out look you see above, which I actually thinks looks pretty cool. Even cooler when you convert them to black and white, or just really desaturate them, but the ones you see here are just straight out of the camera. Afterward, I turned the power back down, and shot with a more normal exposure for the grid of images you saw earlier).

OK, onto the rest of the shoot:

We did seven different looks during the day, and I shot three styles for each look; (1) Head Shots, (2) 3/4 and (3) Full Length. The softbox and sometimes even light-stands got in the frame (as seen above), but I knew I could easily clone them out later. I did a two-minute retouch after the production shot below to give you an idea of what they’d look like once that stuff is cloned out.

(Above): Here’s a production shot (by Brad) of the simple lighting set-up used. Just one strobe, off to the left, with a 53″ Midi Octa softbox. My camera’s in Manual Mode, f/11 at 1/125 of a second.

(Above: Literally a two-minute retouch just to show you what the image will look like with the softbox and light stands cloned out. It still needs a lot of work, but you get the idea. Also, to make full length shots look right, with this perspective, you literally have to get way back from your subject and lie on the floor).

(Above: Dani, our 2nd model for the day, had a totally different look. Although we had been shooting full length and 3/4, I had Brad hand me a 24-70mm f.2/8 lens, and I set it wide to 24mm and got down really low on the floor for this much different style. Although you can see the ceiling, and mounts for the seamless, and the V-flats all in the shot, I’m going to leave them in the final images).

(Above: Here’s a few more shots of Dani, with me trying out different lighting and looks. First the headshots, then a full length, then some more 24mm wide angle, low angle shots, and then finally a dramatic silhouette type of shot).

(Above: Here’s the lighting set-up. Two lights–one with a beauty dish up top, and the 2nd down lower lighting her legs for the full length shots. To get lots of balanced light, we put up two V-flats (giant 4′ x 8′ reflector boards you buy from your local sign shop) on either side of her to bounce all that light back onto her for a even distribution of light. You don’t need V-flats to do this–you could use just two really tall white reflectors.

(Above: Here’s one of the totally un-retouched shots, and you can see the lighting gear and V-flats and all in the shot).

(Above: Here’s the three-minute retouch just to get rid of the lighting gear, and some minor retouching to the subject. It obviously needs a lot of work, but at least you can see what it will look like without all the lighting gear).

(Above: here’s another un-retouched grid, straight out of the camera).

(Above: Here’s another production shot. Photo by Brad Moore).

The whole shoot reiterated to me once again how important having a top notch team working with you is to getting these types of looks. The lighting stuff was easy. The photography was easy (Well, except having to shooting lying on the floor a lot, which I wasn’t crazy about), but it’s all the other things that come together to make the shoot.

I want to thank Sophia for all her hard work, and for putting such a great team together in Linh and Cassandra, and Gemmy and Dani, and to Brad Moore and Kathy Siler for helping me coordinate everything on pretty short notice, and thanks to you guys for letting me share the day with you here on the blog.

My Photoshop CS5 Professional Portrait Retouching book will out after the first of the year, but you can pre-order it from or Barnes &, or wherever you buy your books online.

P.S. Did I mention that I shot up to South Bend, Indiana to shoot the Notre Dame vs. Tulsa game on Saturday? Check back tomorrow for some shots from the sidelines.

I’m teaching two FREE sessions on the Photo Plus Expo floor today in New York City:

(1) Studio Lighting: Behind the Scenes

When: 12:15 pm
Where: Manfrotto Distribution’s booth/theater (they distribute Elinchrom lighting, Lastolite modifiers, Gitzo, Kata, and more).

(2) Portrait Retouching Secrets

When: 3:30 pm
Where: Wacom’s booth/theater

Hope to see you later today (make sure you come up and say “hi”).

On Sunday, I shot the Bucs vs. Rams NFL game on assignment for Southcreek Global Media (Both teams are having decent seasons so far and the Bucs ended up winning in the last 15 seconds, taking them to a 4 and 2 record. Whodathunkit?).

(Above: Cadillac Williams early in the day, not yet knowing he would make the game winning catch with just seconds left on the clock. CLICK ON IT FOR A LARGER VIEW).

The Dream Lens
I couldn’t hold out any longer, so I went ahead and bought the dream lens—the 400mm f/2.8, and after shooting with it for just one game, it truly is the lens for football. Scary sharp, great shallow DOF, and the 400mm length is really ideal. It definitely is heavier and larger than the 300mm f/2.8, but it’s worth it.

Camera Specs
My main camera was my Nikon D3 (with the 400mm attached, mounted on a Gitzo monopod), and my 2nd body was a Nikon D700 with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I shot in Aperture Priority mode, wide open all day with both set at f/2.8, at ISO 200 on both cameras.

(Above: Quarterback Sam Bradford hands off to Steven Jackson, an amazing athlete, who had to have rushed for at least 100 yards on the day. Every time he touched the ball, I held my breath because he was always one step away from breaking for a touchdown).

(Above: Freeman was hauling in the ball from bad snaps all day, but I particularly like this one because of the way Cadillac Williams is ready to block up front).


(Above: with 15 seconds left in the game, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams catches the winning touchdown. I was really happy for him. He’s a great guy, and struggled back through two long, painful knee injuries that end most players careers).

(Above: Quarterback Josh Freeman heading in after winning the game in the final seconds. What I like about this shot is the way you can see the stadium in the reflection on the back of his helmet).

My Camera Settings
Here’s how I set up both cameras for shooting Football.

(1) I set the Focus Mode to Continuous (technically called “Continuous-servo AF”

(2) I set the Auto Focus area mode to “Dynamic Area AF” (So I can move the focus point using the multi-selector button on the back of the camera). If the ball carrier moves off the point, it automatically uses the surrounding points to try and lock on the focus.

(3) In the Custom Menu, under Auto Focus, I go to the AF-C Priority Selection and choose “Release”

(4) Also in the Auto Focus Custom menu, I change my Dynamic AF area to just 9 points (ideal for sports tracking)

(5) The last change I make in the Custom Settings Auto Focus menu is to go the “Focus Tracking with Lock On” menu and lower the length to “Short.” (this gives you better response when you quickly change subjects at different positions on the field, like when you’re swinging from the quarterback to a receiver down field).

(6) I shoot in High Continuous mode so I can shoot a string of continuous shots if need be. I sent my camera to Nikon to have the buffer upgraded so it holds literally twice as many shots in the buffer as normal. It’s a $500 upgrade, but if you do this type of thing, it’s worth it. Here’s a link with the details.

(7) I use really fast 600X Lexar memory cards, which not only helps in camera, but it helps big time when you’re downloading the images to your computer at halftime (I upload a handful of shots during halftime to Southcreek so they can get them out there to media outlets while the game is still in progress).

(8) The 400mm f/2.8 is the first lens I’ve had that has a special “Tripod” setting for its VR (Vibration Reduction), but since I didn’t know enough about it, I didn’t want to take a chance, so I turned VR off on the lens. If a sports shooter out there knows whether this applies to shooting sports on a monopod, let me know.

Well, there ya have it. That’s how I set my gear up for NFL for NCAA shoots. Hey, speaking of College football, Notre Dame would be a fun game to shoot this coming weekend, dontchathink? ;-)

It’s kind of weird shooting your home team (or my adopted team, the Bears), because you have a lot of emotion on the outcome of each play, whereas guys who flew into town to shoot the game, probably don’t care that much one way or the other. It’s funny to me because I’ll be shooting and we’ll get a first down or make a big play and I’m yelling right there on the sidelines with my eye pressed up to the view finder. Then once the play’s over, I make the “First Down” gesture. I’m all alone at that point. ;-)

(Above: OK, I’m a sucker for these types of shots. What you can’t see in this frame, is that Buc’s Tackle Donald Penn had to literally jump up in the air a decent ways to reach the fan’s hand. I have shots that show this, but this one was my favorite because they’re actually touching).

(Above: Me with my new baby—the 400mm f/2.8 on the sidelines. iPhone photo by Matt May).

All in all, it was a really fun day, and my first chances to see the Bucs this year. I had some self-inflicted problems during the halftime uploading process that made things take a lot longer than they should have, but outside of that (and the fact that I didn’t get my parking pass in time, and had to park about a mile or so from the stadium), it was a pretty darn sweet day. I love this stuff! :)

Last week was Joe McNally’s workshop down in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, and I was there as a guest instructor (teaching some Lightroom and stuff), and man, did we have a ball. (NOTE: Joe posted the final image of what you see him shooting above over at his bloghere’s the link).

Of course, Joe was the main attraction, so he had to work his butt off, and well….I only had to teach on Friday, so I could hang out with the class and go on shoots, or sleep in (which I did a lot of), or just hang out on the beach and do nothing (ditto). It was an awesome week of relaxing and fun, at one of the top-rated luxury resorts in the world (and yes, I totally know how lucky I am). :)

Joe does a pretty cool thing at this workshop. At the beginning of the week, he takes his students through all the gear he uses (off camera flashes, portable softboxes, hot shoe EZ-box, Lastolite tri-flectors, and so on), and then he splits them into small groups, and gives each group their own set of gear for the week, in a carry bag, so they have access to the gear on each shoot.

One of the shoots I went to was in the jungle, on a mountain biking trail, where Joe had arranged with some local riders to work with the class, and I went out with a group, and we set up and lit a rider with an SB-900 flash. We used Rear Curtain Sync and dragged the shutter to get movement at the beginning of the exposure, and then the flash fired at the end to freeze some of the rider. That’s the team I was with above working the shoot.

Above: I only took about four frames, because I didn’t want to take any longer and take time away from the students, but this was the general idea of what we were going for. Some of the students got much better shots than this, and when that happens, you really win, because that’s exactly what you want.

Then I brought our rider inside the bike shack and we did a quick 5-minute portrait with one off camera flash. Weird side note: What are the chances that I’d shoot two mountain bikers, within 10 days of each other, 3,000 miles apart—one in the desert, one in the jungle, and wildest of all—-they were both named “Tyson.” (Insert twilight zone music here).

For some of the location shoots, Joe would do the shooting, and honestly, I found this more valuable because just watching Joe work with his subjects is really a learning experience unto itself. Getting that connection with your subject is such a key part of all of this, and Joe did an amazing job I learned a lot from how he talked with, and directed his subjects.

That’s Joe above, shooting a local singer/guitarist at some ruins out in the jungle. She was amazing, Joe was hilarious, and yet focused, and of course, we all learned a ton.

Of course, his lighting is insane. Simple, but just so perfect, and he does it all with such ease. He really reminds you that you don’t need to have a bunch of lights to create some really captivating looks.

One night we went down to the beach and shot a local saxaphone player, and Joe had her get in the water (up to her knees anyway), and he lit her with just one light (An Elinchrom Quadra with a deep octa softbox) and a reflector, and the final image is just really magnificant (I’m sure Joe will be posting some of the finished images on his blog soon).That’s one of the students holding the tri-grip reflector, and Drew is holding the deep throw octa mounted on a painter’s pole.

Above: Another side note—there’s a art gallery there. In the gallery they sell a canvas print of a shot that I took from my room at the Jade Mountain Resort when I was there last year, and I grabbed the shot you see above (hey, while I was there they had just sold another one. Sweet!) They send me the orders, and I have Artistic Photo Canvas print and ship the panos directly to the buyers (APC totally rocks) and it works out just great!

The woman that runs the gallery asked if I could create another pano to go with it, so while I was there I arranged to have a boat take me out, and I got a nice companion pano to go with it. I haven’t finished the high-res version yet, but when I do, I’ll post a photo of it here on the blog.

The week in paradise was over all too quick. Friday came, and I did my Lightroom training, and we got a lot accomplished that day. That night, class was back on the beach for a sunset shoot, and then the next day my wife and I were on our flight home.

It’s NFL Game Day!
I shot an NFL game on Sunday (no rest for the weary), and finally got to shoot my home team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, vs. the St. Louis Rams, and the Buc’s pulled out a win in the last 15 seconds to go four and two. Whodathunk it. I’ll have photos on Tuesday (with any luck).

More Jay is a Good Thing
Speaking of Tuesday, I’ll be up in New York City shooting (wait for it….wait for it….) a follow-up to our incredibly popular online class at Kelby Training Online with Jay Maisel. This one’s called “Another Day with Jay Maisel” and we’re off again to different parts of New York learning while we walk (and ride) around the city. I can’t wait.

Catch Me In New York on Thursday
Also, I’m speaking at Photo Plus Expo in New York on Thursday, at Wacom’s booth, and at Manfrotto’s booth. I’ll have details tomorrow, but if you’re going, I hope you’ll stop by.

That’s it for today. I want to thank Joe for letting me be a part of his incredible workshop. It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime for his students, and to be a guest instructor alongside Joe, is a real honor (plus, Joe and his wife Annie are the most gracious hosts on the planet—my wife and I had an amazing time—thanks you guys!), and thanks to you guys for reading today.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

You guys already know that I’m a huge fan of Elinchrom’s strobes (they’re the only strobes I use in the studio), and in particular their BXRI’s compacts. So, I was really psyched when Elinchrom asked to use some of my images for their new print ad campaign (seen below).

The first ad features a studio shot I took of professional model Julie Anna Cole (above), using three BXRI’s 500 watt strobes (but one of the strobes was just used to light the white background, so there are only two strobes lighting the subject). This ad appears in the new issue of Professional Photographer magazine.

Above: Here’s a production shot from the shoot taken by Brad (of course, at this point, she had a fur hat on, which you’ll see that shot below, but it wasn’t used in the campaign), and you can see the simple set-up I used.  We have one strobe up high on a boom stand as the main light with a Beauty Dish attached, and a diffusion sock over the front. I have another strobe below with a 24″ Elinchrom softbox for fill light, and to the left on the floor you can see a short lightstand that holds another BRXI 500 to light the white background. Really, a pretty simple set-up.

Above: Here’s the shot with hood on the fake fur jacket pulled up.

Above: Here’s another ad in the series featuring Linebacker Blake Johnson (it’s running new issue of Digital Photo Pro magazine), but it’s using just two lights: one overhead with a beauty dish, and a 2nd bare bulb strobe (no softbox, just the round reflector) directly behind his head (so his head is hiding the strobe). I powered the front strobe (the one with the beauty dish), all the way down to act as a fill light—the main light is really the one behind him.

The ads offer a rebate of up to $100 on BXRI heads and kits, and you can find out more info at this link. Elinchrom makes a great two-light with BXRI 500 watt strobes, two softboxes, wireless transmitter, two 9′ stands, cables, and carrying case). B&H and Adorama both have these kits in stock.

Just So You Know….
I don’t get paid any endorsement fees from appearing in these Elinchrom ads (or from anybody else for that matter) and I don’t get any kickbacks on sales of the kits either. I only recommend products I actually use myself and believe in 100%. I love the BXRI’s, I use them all the time, and I was honored when Elinchrom asked to use my images for their ad (plus, I ain’t lyin’—it’s a kick to see some of your shots in ads in big magazines!). :)

Hey, those Look Familiar…
By the way, if those photos from these ads look familiar to you; it’s because I used both in my Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers book. By the way, if you buy that book, I do get a kickback. Here’s a link to it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.