Monthly Archives January 2020

In the last chapter of all my “Digital Photography Books” (Parts 1 through 5), I do a thing I call “Photo Recipes” where I show a photo and then discuss how to take a similar shot (what lighting equipment was used, camera gear and settings and on). 

Today, in that vein, I’m doing a “Lighting Recipe.” When it comes to lighting, I’m one of those “less is more” guys, and my lighting set-ups tend to be mostly just one light, but someone two lights, and occasionally three. However, in this case, we’re actually going to use five lights—but don’t freak out—it’s really a three-light shoot because the other two lights are just “dumb lights” aiming at the background of white seamless paper to make it really white, so you can’t really count those, right? So think of it as a three-light shoot, using five lights. ;-)

Figure 1: Here’s our image (above). This edgy lighting look is usually used seen with your subject on a dark background, but you’re seeing it more and more on white seamless, so that’s what we’re setting up here. The key to this look is the strong highlights along both sides of our subject. 

The Front Light:

Notice I didn’t call this the “Main Light” because in this instance it’s the two backlights that are the Main Lights—the front light, which in our case is a strobe with a 17″ Beauty Dish, attached (it makes the light a bit more contrasty than a softbox) is just providing fill in the front, so we keep the power for this front strobe down as low as it will go.

You can see the egg crate grid on the strip bank on the other side of her.

Figure 2: You can see from this angle that the Beauty Dish (#1) in front is positioned directly in front of our subject and tilted down at her at a 45° angle, and it’s very close to her as well, which is another reason why you keep the power of the front light almost all the day down as low as it will go.

The Main Lights

The two Main Lights are actually in the rear (they’re marked as #2 below), and they’re doing most of the work for this look. The softboxes are two of my workhorse softboxes—-they’re 1’x3′ strip banks. Both strip banks have egg crate grids in front of them (more on these grids in a moment). You position these two strip banks behind your subject, on either side, up a bit high and tilted back down — aiming at your subject at around a 45° angle. 

The key to making this work:

The secret to nailing this look is to build this set-up one light at a time, starting with the strip banks and turn every other light OFF! Just turn on one (either the left or the right—doesn’t matter) and do a test shot so you can see the aiming of the light. You want it to light the sides of your subject without really spilling too much onto their face. It should be a rim light like the sun would backlight your subject. You’ll need to crank up the power on these since they’re your main lights, so I have them at three-times the power of the front beauty dish (so it’s a 3-1 power ratio).

Once you get one side in place, turn on the other side—-use the same power settings, and align the height and aim so both sides look pretty much the same (as seen in our example shown below). Once you get that all set, now you can turn on the front Beauty Dish (remember to keep its power all the way down). It will act to fill in front of her face so it’s not as dark as you see in the image above. 

This is just the two backlights on — the background lights are off and so is the beauty dish in front. These two lights as actually the main lights for this look.

The Egg Crate Grids

The beam of light that comes out of a tall-thin strip bank is already more narrow than what you’d get out of a large square softbox, but to make that beam even more focused and tighter I use two Egg Crate Grids.

Camera Settings

This image was taken using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, at a focal length of 135mm. My ISO was 200. I shoot in the studio in Manual mode, so I can set the shutter speed at 1/125 of a second and forget it. My f/stop was f/11 (pretty typical for me in the studio), which is an ideal f/stop for situations where you want absolutely everything in focus in a portrait. I focused on the eye closest to me; held the shutter button down halfway to lock focus, and then I recomposed the image (with it still held halfway down) and took the shot. 

The Background

It’s an inexpensive roll of white seamless paper. 9 foot in width, it only costs around $56 at B&H (link). 

Lighting The Background

It’s just two more of the same strobes, but with no softbox attached—just metal reflector to push a lot of light back there. They’re on either side of the paper (they’re seen above marked as #3) —positioned down low and aiming up at the background. 

Where to position the subject

I generally position my subject 8 to 10 feet from my background so the front lights don’t affect the background. In this case, since the background is going to be bright white anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered if the light spilled over, but the way the lights are positioned, there wouldn’t be much spillover anyway—-two of the lights are aiming back toward the camera, and one is aiming down at the floor, but as a general rule I keep the subject 10 feet from the background for spillover concerns. 

Here’s a final version – I desaturated the image a bit so her skin didn’t look too warm, and it has a more modern look to it. I simply lowered the Vibrance amount in Lightroom.

There ya have it. Hope you found that helpful. :)

Come catch my seminar – coming next to these cities:

Those are my next stops for my “Ultimate Photography Crash Couse” — San Diego and Phoenix in just a couple of weeks, and then LA and Houston in March. Come out and spend the day with me — you will learn a lot (well, that’s what photographers who have come out have told me). Details and tickets here (just $99, includes a detailed workbook and some other goodies). :)

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Photograph An Airshow Like A Pro with Moose Peterson

Learn how to photograph an airshow like a pro with Moose Peterson! Join Moose for two days of shooting during Aviation Nation at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this class Moose shares his process for preparing for the show, the gear you’ll need, what to look for when choosing your shooting locations, the camera settings he uses, and a host of important considerations to help you get the most out of your time. After two days of shooting, Moose reflects on what he’s seen, what he’s learned, and how to keep on improving over the day before. Moose wraps up the class with a look at his process for reviewing photos and post processing the keepers.

In Case You Missed It: Using Light to Bring Emotion into Your Images

Follow the light! Join Moose Peterson for an inspiring look at how to use light as a means to tell a story with your photographs. In this class Moose draws on his 40 years of experience as a photographer to teach you how to see light, how to understand the way the human brain responds to photographs, and how to bring all of that information to bear to create more evocative and impactful photos. Chock full of examples, stories, and insight, you’ll end up with a deeper appreciation for the qualities of light that you can blend with your passion for image making.

Photo by Reann Huber

Cultivating a Photographic Vision

First off, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity, it’s an honor to be a guest on here. I also want to thank Scott for hiring me back in 2013 as an assistant to help with remote cameras at an Atlanta Falcons game. I had been a Sports Illustrated assistant for several years before helping Scott, but that opportunity led to me shooting an entire season for the Falcons, which in turn led to many other opportunities (including being featured by Instagram for my Falcons work).

Adrian Clayborn. Atlanta Falcons, 2015

For this post, I’ve decided to write about having a vision for photography. It may sound grand and vague and only reserved for fine art photographers, but it’s something I think photographers from many disciplines, if not all, should aim for.

It can be hard to define what having a vision really means. It’s a lot like art itself; it can be easily recognized, but very difficult to put into exacting words.

Omar Shekhey, who runs the Somali American Community Center in Clarkston, Ga. Here, he drives a taxi for extra money. NPR, 2015

Talking to Chris Aluka Berry, a good friend and a remarkable photographer, we discussed what having a vision meant, and I think he summed it up well:

It becomes apparent that a photographer has a vision when you can see the photographer in the work. If a portrait captures the essence of a person, then the photographer’s body of work should capture the essence of what he or she is trying to say.

Chris Aluka Berry

But how does one go about doing something like this? I don’t pretend to be an expert on this topic or be able to give a step-by-step guide on obtaining a vision for one’s photography, but I am offering some experiences and what has guided me towards a personal vision of how I see.

A Bit About Me

It was about 15 years ago when I first remember hearing the words “vision” in this context. Barely a photographer myself, I was intrigued and wanted to begin working on my own. It was 2004 and I was attending the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, an event that attracted young and old, seasoned veterans to rookies like myself.

Several of the speakers mentioned finding and following your personal vision. I had an idea, but I really didn’t know what this meant. But I wanted it. I wanted to feel like all of my work came from a place deep inside, guiding me to make photos that were truly saying something.

I had been shooting professionally for a couple of years by this point. In 2001, I took my first journalism job as a reporter for The Moultrie Observer in South Georgia, a sleepy town with a magnificent courthouse and a downtown surrounded by what seemed like endless miles of cotton fields and pine trees.

Part of a reporter’s job at many small newspapers is to take photos to accompany his or her stories, and working at the Observer was no exception. I was one of two reporters — and though we had a staff photographer, I couldn’t count on him covering all of my stories because of the sheer volume of work he was responsible for.

But this turned out to be one of the biggest blessings of my life. I fell head over heels in love for photography and knew that capturing images would be my path. By 2004 when I was attending the Seminar, I had started working at another small town newspaper — but this time as a staff photographer. My dream had arrived.

Griffin High School baseball. The Griffin Daily News, 2006

#TravelTuesday here at means that Dave Williams is in the house! So here I am! I’m Dave, and I’m a travel photographer and writer from the UK. Today I have an awesome chunk of inspiration for you in the form of a list – everybody loves a list!

January is a challenging time of year. Those of you who haven’t yet received wages since December, my thoughts are with you! January can also be anti-climatic, and inspiration can come few and far between. It’s for that reason I want to share some inspiring landscape photographers with you today. If you want some inspiration, or you want some new accounts to follow, this is your lucky day! Let go!

Jaeyoun Ryu is a Korean landscape photographer who has an incredible way of showing trees and water in their absolutely best light. All the images on Jaeyoun’s feed seem to take anything hectic and slow it right down, expressing tranquility and solitude within incredibly peaceful scenes.

Kai Hornung hails from Germany and has a similar Nordic passion to myself. Kai excels at colourful, long exposure landscape photography, pushing into the realms of fine-art. There’s a gentle balance of light, and some superb compositions featuring familiar sights caught in unfamiliar ways.

Jan Erik Weider from Germany has an amazing account focussing on the details of the north. You’ll find triptychs throughout his feed, each focussing on a different element, including icebergs, glaciers, waves, mountains, rivers, it’s all there. Each shot is a careful balance of colour and tone, and perfectly representative of the cold, dark north.

Next up is AJ Rezac who is busy touring the world in his van. With no specific focus, his account is all about the freedom of exploring the beauty our planet has to offer. AJ does a great job in not only portraying the world in a great way, but in capturing some compelling and creative selfies in the process. AJ has clearly discovered his colour palette and the feed is on fire!

Last but not least, this is Asa Steinarsdottir from Iceland. Everybody knows that Iceland is my favourite spot on the planet, but I’ve tried to not let that influence the 5 photographers I’ve picked here. Asa has a gift for bringing warmth out of cold places, it’s truly inspirational. There’s literally ice and snow, yet it feels like you can give the photo a hug! Her adventures around Iceland and around the world combine with her awesome eye for landscapes in this lit feed.

And that’s 5! I hope to have brought some joy and some inspiration to your Tuesday, and I’ll be back next week with something a little different. In the meantime, don’t feel obliged to check out my Insta too, but if you’d like to it’s right here: –

Until next time, team!

Much love

I know it’s been in Photoshop since forever, and in many cases, there are faster and better selection tools, but to this very day I still wind up using the Magic Wand tool a decent amount. One of the reasons I get good results when I do use it it is the basis of this little-known tip — it’s how to control how much the Magic Wand actually selects. Here goes:

Above: Let say you want to select the floor area in front of the chair, for example. If you click the Magic Wand on the floor, it selects a lot of the floor, but because the color tones are somewhat similar, it also selects part of the door frame, and the door and sidewalk outside and part of the beach and…well…you get the idea. The trick here is controlling how big a range of colors the magic wand should select.

Above: See that field called “Tolerance” up in the Options bar (I circled it here in red)? That’s what controls how many color tones the Magic Wand selects, and the default Tolerance setting of 32 always seems to select too much. Lowering that number lowers how many different color tones out the Wand will select. Here I reset it to 20 (which, by the way, is what I leave the Magic Wand set to as my default — if you type 20 in there, it’s sticky and will stay at 20 until you change it to something else or reset the tool using the reset button).

Above: By just lowering the Tolerance from 32 down to down, and clicking in approximately the same area, look how much less the Magic Wand selects now. No door frame, no door, no sidewalk, no beach, etc. It didn’t do a perfect job, but it’s a lot better (I would probably use the Quick Select tool for this job in reality, but I just wanted you to see how much the wand selects at different tolerance settings). Now let’s look at something a bit more real world.

Above: Let’s say I want to select that blur frame to the right of the chair. I clicked the Magic Wand right in the center of the dark and lighter blue areas, and it only selected the lighter blue side of the frame, as seen above). In this case, I would have liked it to select both sides; the dark blue and the light blue tones as well.

Above: I increased the Tolerance to 48 so it will select more colors; I clicked in the same place, and now look — it selected both sides of the blue frame (as seen above).

In short: think of the Tolerance settings as an “Amount” slider for the Magic Wand. In fact, if you want it to act more like a slider, click and hold directly on the word “Tolerance” and you can drag left or right to change the Tolerance amount just like you would with a slider.

Hope you found that helpful. :)

Here’s to a kick-butt, a fantastic week, full of opportunities and fun. :)


For those of you who have read any one of my books, you already know that the introduction I write at the beginning of each chapter seldom has anything to do with what is actually in that chapter. I put these quirky chapter intros in there as kind of a mental break between chapters, and well…I’d be the first to admit, they’re kind of whacked.

I generally write these late at night, usually, while I’m tired after a long day at work, and well that alone explains a lot. Anyway, I’m doing a major update on one of my books right now, and when I got to a chapter about Landscape Photography, and read what I had written in the previous edition, I realized…there must be something very wrong with me. To prove that point, I’m going to run that very chapter intro below, because…well…there must be something wrong with me. Here we go:

I think one of the most appealing things about being a landscape photographer is not only are you coming back with amazing photos, but you get to experience some of the best of what nature has to offer while you’re doing it. I’ll never forget this one time I was shooting in Montana’s Glacier National Park. I got up around 4:15 a.m., so I could head out early and be in position before sunrise. When I reached the lake overview, it was still pitch dark, and I remember setting up my tripod and watching it blow right over in the freezing wind that whipped off the lake. I just laughed and set it right back up, attached my camera gear to the ballhead, and realized that I’d better not let go of the rig or it, too, might blow over.

I didn’t want to give up my spot, because I had a pretty good vantage point (at least it looked like a good one in the dim moonlight). So, there I stood, out in the freezing, bitter cold, where each gust of wind was like a thousand knives jabbing right through me. I’m standing there shivering in the piercing cold, and then it started to rain. Not snow. Nope, that would have been pretty. It was rain. A driving rain that felt like an army of Lilliputians were firing their tiny arrows right into me, but I just stood there in the bone-chilling cold like a wet, frozen statue, with my cracked, frostbitten fingers barely able to grip my tripod. I silently prayed for the sweet mercy of death to come upon me and relieve me of this frigid hostile misery.

It was just then when I looked over and saw another photographer, who had just set up his tripod about 14 feet from me, slip on the ice that had formed on the overlook. I stood there and watched as he and his tripod, expensive camera and all, slid down the side of the embankment. I could hear him moaning for help, but I just couldn’t stop smiling as I looked over and saw his Tamrac camera bag on the overlook beside me. I nearly pulled a muscle as I tossed his gear-laden bag full of lenses and accessories into my rented SUV and quickly drove away, thinking to myself, “Man, this is what it’s all about.”

Well, there ya have it. I wasn’t kidding about the ‘wacked’ thing now, was I?

Yes, it’s really “a thing.”

If you’ve read this far, well…I can’t believe you hung in there, but I’m grateful you did and I totally dig you (in a non-sexual way). Now, if this “wackness’ resonated with you (so, you’re messed up, too), I actually published an entire book of nothing but my handpicked favorite chapter intro from over the years. Yup, it’s a book of nothing but Chapter Intros (without the chapters).

If you’re a KelbyOne member, you can download the eBook version absolutely free from your Creative Toolkit on the member’s Website (it’s in the ‘Perk’ category in the sidebar on the left; click on Toolkit and it’s on page 2 in the list of perks).

If you’re not a KelbyOne member, you can buy the Kindle version on Amazon for $9.99, which is incredibly overpriced, but worth every penny. Here’s the link. You’ll be a better person for buying it, and if you do, as a sidenote I could use a review on Amazon. It’s rated only 3-1/2 stars since I got a one-star review from a guy who complained there was no training in the book, which is absolutely true — and it says so right on the cover. It literally says these words right on the cover:

There are no tutorials, no learning. Just intros. I’m not kidding. Buy it anyway.

In fact, on Amazon, the title is actually slightly different (same book though) than the one on the KelbyOne Website. On Amazon the title is “

Buy This Book of Chapter Intros Even Though You Won’t Learn Anything

He bought it anyway yet was upset because he didn’t learn anything. He wrote that (wait for it…wait for it…) it had no tutorials, no learning, just intros. Sigh.

So, if you buy it, and somehow actually like the book (hey, it could happen), I would love for you to share your review on Amazon. If you hate it, you can still post a review of course, but please only because you hated my quirky stream-of-conscientiousness chapter intros, not because it had no tutorials and learning stuff, ’cause if I read another one like that, I’m going to freakin’ jump out the window. ;-)

Here’s wishing you a weekend full of wacked stuff (in a good way), and a bunch of chapter intros that have no basis in reality. :)

Author of what may be the greatest useless book ever!