Category Archives Photography


Last Thursday I flew down to a very cool photo studio complex in Miami, near South Beach, for a photography training project I’m working on. Brad and I spent two days on location with a video crew filming behind the scenes footage of a bigger, more ambitious “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” project (that’s one of our models—Jerrid shown above—click on him for a much larger view).


Above: Stevie during a one light shoot with a very powerful turbo fan, run by Brad.

We actually did 19 different photo shoots, setting up—and taping—each lighting set-up from scratch over a two day period, and we filmed segments in three different studios and on location on Miami’s South Beach. We used everything from one light, two lights, to three lights, and quite a bit of off-camera wireless flash, too. We did shoots with scrims, diffusers, reflectors, and about everything in between.


Above: This is Wanderson (that’s his real name) during our sunset off-camera portrait shoot on the beach.


That’s Vanessa above (a model friend of Dwayne’s who lives in Miami) during one of our daylight shoots. Those are the Raw untouched originals from the camera (Click for a much larger view). The red labels are the ones Vanessa chose as her favorites.


Here’s Shay caught between snaps joking around with the crew.


Above: The regular version of this shot is part of the project, but the all-white blown-out look you see here won’t actually be in the class—it was just me trying something new in Photoshop, just for fun.

We knew we’d be swamped (and on a tight schedule), so we contacted one of one my buddies, Dwayne Tucker (a frequent commenter here on the blog), who’s going to school down in Miami, and got him to come be our 2nd assistant on the shoot, He was a great help (well, when we weren’t all cracking up about something—-we usually have a pretty fun time on the set).

Duane 1

Above: That’s our 2nd assistant on the set, Dwayne Tucker, taking a break between shoots.


Above: That’s ‘The Scriv,’ Creative Director for Video at Kelby Media Group, with his trusty Steadicam. Also, notice how nicely his “tips” are in bloom (that happens every year right around Photoshop World).


That’s “Beach Blanket Braddo” above, on Miami’s South Beach, holding a diffuser—-ready to spring into action at the first sign of harsh light). Also on the shoot was video cameraman Eddie “Fast Eddie, Easy Cowboy” Lynn, but I don’t have all the production shots here, so sadly, I don’t have a picture of him I can post right now, but he was everywhere! (and a huge help the entire shoot).

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few shots from the shoot. I’ll have more details soon about this project (The Light It, Shoot It, parts are done, but I still have 19 shoots to retouch, and record every step along the way).

Thanks to Brad for all his hard work in setting this up, and to Dwayne for helping us out, and to the five professional models who worked pretty much non-stop for two solid days to make this whole thing happen.


Thanks to everybody who shared their views on the HDR issue last Friday (link). When it comes to HDR, it seems like most folks are on one side or the other, with very little middle ground—-you either like it or you really, really hate it.

One comment posted by a reader named Cory really stuck out to me. It’s short and sweet, but says volumes.


The biggest trigger point for most commenters seemed to be the amount or style of HDR tonemapping applied to a photo, and they seemed to feel that the over-processing was strictly to hide bad photographic technique.

So, if a photographer creates an HDR photo, and even if they over-process it, does that somehow instantly mean that they’re now a bad photographer?

Not everybody that uses over-the-top HDR effects uses them as a crutch. They may just like they way it looks—plain and simple, and the photo they tone mapped may have been a strong photo without the processing, but they just like it better with the effect. Is that wrong?

Somebody I talked with this weekend about Friday’s post posed a really fascinating question, totally on the other side of the gamut from what I just wrote:

“If a photographer took a photo, and they looked at it on their camera’s LCD and thought it wasn’t a very good photo. But then they were able to add an effect to it in Photoshop (or whatever) that turned it into what a lot of people then thought was a good photo, is that a bad thing? At the end of the day, they created a photo that people like. What’s the harm in that?”

I mean, we all take a bad photo or two now and then, but the fact that the photographer knew a process that turned that boring photo into an interesting photo, is that all that bad?

Apparently, for a lot of people, it is.


A week or so ago, by buddy Dave Cross had a great post called “The Debate about HDR”, which talked about the strong feelings photographers have about HDR, both pro and con (here’s the link). But what really caught my attention was a comment posted by one of his readers, because I’ve heard other photographers say the same thing, but none as succinctly as this reader’s comment:

“I too use to love it…now, not so much…and for some reason, once I quickly identify the HDR effect, my opinion of the picture drops a notch.”

This reminds me of something my teenage son does. If it hears a song on the radio from one of his favorite new bands, and I tell him, “Oh, that’s a remake of an old song from the 70s or 80s—no matter how much he liked that song—it now drops a notch in his book.

So, what is it about HDR that, once identified, that kind of taints the overall photo for these photographers?

Is it that they feel like it’s “Cheating” to use HDR, because it transforms the photo so magically? I have to admit that I’ve taken an HDR shot or two that, when I looked at the original base exposure, the shot was totally unimpressive, but once I applied lots of HDR Tone Mapping, and then take it back through Camera Raw for the final tweaking, it looks much more interesting. (the HDR photo above is courtesy of /photographer cinoby).

Personally, to me, HDR is an effect like any other effect. It’s a strong effect, but it’s still just an effect, and I totally understand that when it comes to visual effects, you either like them or you don’t (especially if they’re overdone). But I think there’s something more going on here, because creating a duotone is an effect but nobody seems to complain about duotones.

One of my photographer friends once said, “The photographers who don’t like HDR are the ones who don’t know how to do HDR—just like people who complain about the use of Photoshop in photography—those are people who aren’t very good at Photoshop. You don’t hear HDR experts complaining about HDR, just like you don’t hear Photoshop experts saying “There’s too much Photoshop!”

I’m not at all saying that’s the case, but I’ve heard and read that argument a dozen times or more. So what is it? What is it that makes people so emotional about HDR? When you learn that an image has been “HDR’d” does it taint your opinion of the shot? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Hi Gang: We had so many questions yesterday about my new Flash-based portfolio that RC Concepcion put together for me, that we thought he might be helpful if he did a Q&A for you guys, and RC being RC, he was more than happy to. Here’s a quick Q&A from RC himself:

Q. Great Job with Scott’s Portfolio! I love it!
A. That’s not really a question, but an awesome statement. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

Q. I’m having a hard time figuring out the navigation. It took me a little bit to figure out how to advance the pictures/see the arrows/move around
A. In the portfolio, all you really need to do is move the mouse slightly and you can see the navigation icons. From there, I would think the next impulse you’d have would be to click.. it’s what I do.

Q. I miss the Thumbnails
A. This is one version of a component that doesn’t include thumbnails, and I have to say – I really prefer it over having them online. The best way that I can equate it is like this: When someone handed you a physical portfolio, how anti-climactic would it have been to see all of the pictures on a small contact sheet before you even began. Part of the portfolio process (hard cover) was to turn that page and “Ahhhh..” See the next image in the series. If you really spent time looking at the portfolio, you used those images to carry a theme along and move the ‘energy’ of your work up, up, up. All of that just becomes “Photo Collecting” when its on a thumbnail list. Does this mean that this is wrong? Not at all.. there are components that -have- thumbnails. Just means that this one is different.

Q. Did you design this component?
A. Absolutely not! That honor goes to Tomuta Tiberiu from Flash Web Design in Romania. Tibi just knocked it out of the park on this one by providing something that is modular, engaging, AND cheap! All of that code cost 50 bucks to use. Think of that next time a web design service wants to charge you 2 grand for a site! When my class comes online – I’ll show you how to take pieces like this and put it together with a strategy.

Q. Hey, no fair! You didn’t even build this!
A. Hey! Not a question! But I will address it this way. I had a conversation with Scott in NY some time ago that set me on this course.. so I invariably owe it to him. As a photographer, your job is to develop the best Pictures. The website is a means to an end. You’re not trying to win a website design award with your site, but you want it to look clean, sharp, engaging, and stylish. I’d argue you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing so AND you don’t want to go back to college to do this. In this, components can help.

If I design a site to sell pocketbooks.. would it be cheating if I bought a shopping cart solution and didn’t hand program one from scratch? Nope. I don’t write my email program from scratch either – I use Outlook. Look at these components as what they are – Tools- and you’ll realize you can be better spending your time taking pictures than sweating the technology.



My buddy, and photography Web wizard, RC Concepcion set me up with a totally new online portfolio layout, and what I really like about it is that is kind of takes up the full size of your Browser, giving you a much larger view of each image (which was the most common complaint about my old online portfolio). You can click the Portfolio link on the left side of this page, or what the heck–-just click here.

The way I wound up with having RC do this in the first place is, he’s working on an online class on how to find inexpensive Flash components and use them for things like custom portfolios which you can easily maintain yourself without having to know Flash at all. They’re all XML-based, and even though his class isn’t up live yet, he was kind enough to let me try it out, and once I saw it—I was hooked.

At this point, I haven’t really updated enough images, and I only have three categories (I probably want to split Travel into two categories: Travel and Landscapes), but you will be happy to know that I kept it to around 20 images per category.

Anyway, I think it’s a step in the right direction, and hope you guys like the new look. Also, a big thanks to RC for hooking me up with this new layout (RC has really taken on the role of the photographer leading other photographers to the Web), and I’ll be sure to let you guys know when it goes live. Anyway, Thanks RC. I love it! :)


Man, did I start this year off right!!! I started by shooting the Outback Bowl (Auburn vs. Northwestern) on New Years Day for Southcreek Global Media (some of my favorites are shown below), and then on Saturday I caught a flight up to Detroit to shoot the Lions/Bears game at Ford Field on Sunday (I’ll post some of those Thursday).


The Outback Bowl was kind of dicey because it rained just about the entire first half, so I had to use (and improvise) some rain gear. I had some Kata rain gear my buddy Dave had bought me a while back, and I used it to protect my D3, but I didn’t have anything to cover my 200-400mm lens, so I had to improvise with a black garbage bag and some rubberbands (it wasn’t pretty—but it worked). A note about protective rain gear: I wound up talking with a photographer there using the AquaTech rain gear and I asked him about it. He told me he was switching the new rain gear from Think Tank, and once I heard Think Tank had rain gear—I was sold!!!!


I pretty much my kept my second body hidden under my jacket until I needed it, but it got fairly wet (luckily, Nikons from the D300 on up are sealed, so I didn’t have any problems whatsoever).


One challenge in shooting this game was something I hadn’t expected. At the NFL and College games I’ve shot from the sidelines this year, there was plenty of room on the sidelines. But at the Outback Bowl, there were literally about 200 people just hanging out on the sidelines, including (I kid you not) at least 50 children under the age of 14. They were everywhere (along with their parents).


In the last quarter, I literally had to fight through four and five rows deep of spectators to get an open shot at the field. They were nice about moving out of the way, but it was a bit of a struggle all day. I missed an important play (a touchdown no less) because I got behind a dad with his daughters as we were running from one end of the field to the other, and I just couldn’t get around them.


As a dad myself, I can’t complain, because I’d love to have my son with me on the sidelines, so I don’t blame them—I just didn’t expect it. There are also tons of teens shooting the game with their iPhones and Blackberries. It made things a bit more challenging, and more than anything it made you not want to give up a good spot once you found one, but if the game moves—you move.


But that wasn’t the biggest challenge—it was that both teams chose to go without huddles the entire game so the time between plays was incredibly short. It was a big passing game, so they’d run a play; complete a pass downfield, and then you’d have to haul butt to the other end of the field and try to get set before the snap. The whole day was like one long two-minute drill. I haven’t run so much since I was a kid.


Camera Specs: Same as always; I shot wide open (f/4 on the 200-400mm and f/2.8 on the 70-200mm all day). It was very gray and rainy so I had to shoot between 800 ISO and 1600 ISO for the entire first half. In the second half I was able to back it down to 400 ISO.

Tips: If you’re shooting with a lens that has VR (like I was), and shooting at faster than 1/500 of a second (like you would be when trying to freeze action—-I aim for 1/1000 of a second or faster) then Nikon recommends you turn the VR off to get the sharpest shots. Also, I know it’s a pain but shoot from on your knees—it totally changes the perspective and helps make the players look bigger than life. You usually can’t lay down in the end zone or sidelines (it depends on the stadium), but if you can’t (or don’t want to) you can try the Hoodman Right Angle view finder accessory to lay your camera on the turf and then look down into it to shoot from that super-low angle (I learned that trick from Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Reed Miller during his class at Photo Plus back in November).

Anyway, I had a ball—-the game itself was a real barn-burner (it went into overtime), and the 2nd half weather was actually decent. I made some mistakes (mostly with my preparations for the game and also I took longer than I wanted to pick, metadata tag, caption and upload my images to Southcreek Global during halftime), but I learned from those mistakes and won’t make them again.

Ahhhh, next football season just won’t come soon enough for me! I don’t think I’ll get to shoot any playoffs this year (rats!), but hey, isn’t it time to shoot some NBA games? I think it just might be. ;-)