Category Archives Behind-The-Scenes

Every week we release a new online class, and last week’s class was one of mine — it was a “by request” class on lighting location portraits.

The idea to do this course came comments in the KelbyOne Community forum from folks who had watched my course on using the Profoto B1x’s on location released a couple of months ago. At the end of the course, I did a Safari-themed fashion shoot, and they said they really liked the live shoot part, and wanted to see more live shoots. So, I went ahead an did an entire course of nothing but live shoots using lighting on location (nothing really about the strobes themselves — just setting up different scenarios and such from scratch. The whole course is seven different location shoots in around 45 minutes photographing a male and female subject).

After this week’s class, a gentleman asked this question:

“Any tips on finding a good outdoor location for portraits?”

I replied:

“I would recommend watching both of Jeremy Cowart’s courses on taking any location and making it work here on KelbyOne. When you watch his courses, it will change the way you think of finding locations. Highly recommended. One is in Venice Beach, CA and the other in Miami South Beach. Let me know what you think of them.”

He came back the next day with this reply:

“Scott, everything you said about Jeremy Cowart’s courses is true. THANK YOU! They’re amazing.”

It reminded me of how much I learned just by co-hosting the two classes with Jeremy (I was just there as kind of moderator — asking questions during the shoots). Anyway, Jeremy is an absolute master at turning the most mundane locations into perfect portrait backgrounds, and today I wanted to point you to both of them — they are that good. If you’re not already a KelbyOne member, it would be worth joining for a month ($20) just to watch them, even if you watched nothing else.

Here’s a clip (below) from his course shot on location in Miami — it’s just a 3 minute or so clip, but in this short time, you’ll pick up some great tips.

Here’s a link to Jeremy’s full class:

Below is the official trailer for Jeremy’s class shot on location in Venice Beach, California. As he says in the video, he shows you how to make maximum use of a very simple location, and he only uses one light throughout.

Here’s the link to that full course.

I hope you’ll check out these courses — if you shoot portraits on location, they will change the way you think about finding locations, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do this just one light. Really great stuff — he is the real deal. Here’s the link to KelbyOne in case you want to join (and I hope you do).

Thanks everybody, and here’s to a rockin’ Spring Break kinda week! :)

-Scott

Above: That’s our awesome group of ice warriors!

Hi, everybody — I’m back from four wonderful days up in Canada at snow-covered Banff National Park with my friend and KelbyOne instructor Ramtin “Rammy” Kazemi at a workshop he was hosting, and it was just glorious! Great weather (not too cold and not windy at all); great food, met some really great folks (that’s us above after a dawn shoot), took a bunch of photos, just had a ball all the way around – and best of all — I wasn’t there working; I was just there to learn and make images. Absolutely loved it!

Above: That’s Rammy. On ice. Such a great trainer, and a really great guy all around. I loved his workshop and learned a lot. Here’s a link to his photography site. 

A lot of times we were down on a frozen lake, shooting from a low perspective (either splaying out our tripod legs or using Platypods), and to get everything in focus from the ice chunks down low directly in front of us to the mountains off in the distance, just using f/11 or f/16 won’t do it. Instead, to get we used a focus-stacking technique. Focus Stacking is where you focus on the object right directly in your foreground, then you move your focus point up a bit and focus on the next area back, and then move it upward to the next, and the next, and finally the mountains in the back, then in Photoshop you put them all together (actually, in many cases Photoshop will do all the work for you).

Above: Q. Scott, where’s your Platypod? A. Out on loan. I took two of them but offered them up to other students to try. Q. Hey, isn’t that a Nikon D-850? A. Yup. Q. Wait…did you switch back to Nikon? Q. Well yes, I did. Well, just for this one picture (that’s Rammy’s camera). Had ya going there for a minute, didn’t I? 

If you’re a Lightroom user…
…head over to LightroomKillerTips.com for my post today which shows how to take your focus stacked images in Lightroom over to Photoshop to where you just two clicks away from a perfectly stacked image. Here’s the direct link.

For Photoshop users, here’s what you do: 

STEP ONE: If you’ve already got your focus-stacked images open in Photoshop, go under the File menu, under Scripts and choose “Load Files Into Stack” (as shown above).

STEP TWO: Doing that takes each open image and puts it into one document with each on its own separate layer in Photoshop’s Layers panel (shown above).

STEP THREE: In the Layers panel, select all your layers (in this case, all five images), then go under Photoshop’s Edit menu and choose “Auto-Blend Layers.” When the Auto-Blend Layers dialog appears (shown above) choose “Stack Images” and turn on the checkbox for Seamless Tones and Colors.

STEP FOUR: Click OK in that Auto-Blend dialog, and it analyzes the images on each layer and only leaves the sharp areas, masking away the areas that aren’t sharp with a layer mask and it creates a new merged layer at the top of the layers panel (as seen above). The layer masks are handy if the Auto-Blend didn’t do a perfect job — you already have a mask in place which you can edit.

STEP FIVE: That merged layer on top has that expanded depth of field where the bubbles trapped in the ice in front are tack sharp, and so is the ice behind it, and behind that, and even the mountains in the background — all in sharp focus, and all in one image. There’s also a manual way to combine the sharp part of each image — I’ll cover that in a separate post with a video sometime soon. Again, all of this only works if you focused on different parts of your image during the shooting phase, then the rest is up to Photoshop.

Hope you found that helpful (and don’t forget to head over to LightroomKillerTips.com for the other part of this tutorial.

Win a free trip to Photoshop World 2019
Just a few days left to register — if you win we fly you to Photoshop World 2019 (your choice, Orlando in early summer or Vegas in late summer), and we pick up your hotel and meals, and you get the whole VIP experience on us. But you can’t win if you don’t enter. Go right now, enter the giveaway, and here’s hoping you win and we’ll see you at the conference. :)

Have a great week everybody!

-Scott

OK, I’m not the first one to come up with the idea for a Safari-themed fashion shoot. I’m probably about number 500, but I wanted to do something different and fun, and this seemed like it would both (and we could do it without breaking the bank).

Here’s how the shoot came about
I was working on a class on how to use the location strobe I’m using now, (the Profoto B1x), and I was going to do the whole thing in the studio because the class was about how to use the light and the wireless remote, but since the strobe is made for location shooting, I thought at the end of the course, I would go on location and actually do a shoot, so the photographers watching the course would see how easy and awesome they are to use in the field.

Kalebra is my art director for production shoots like this, and while she usually comes up with the concept for our shoots, I knew this time I wanted to try this Safari Fashion look and she was happy to help. I did some upfront research (on Pinterest, Google Images, and Instagram), and I compiled a list of what we would need to pull this off.

  1. A Luxury Safari tent. I found ones you could rent for $500 a day (yikes!), but that’s kinda outside our budget but then we found one that looked nearly as good that we could buy for $249 from Walmart — we would just have to cut a slit in the back so you can see through the tent to the field behind it (I wanted to have some depth behind it). As it turned out, I’m so glad we didn’t rent and bought the tent instead because the shoot was canceled three times due to rain. The rental house doesn’t care if you got rained out — you pay for the days you have it.
  2. A rug or two, for the floor of the tent, or for in front of the tent.
  3. Some steamers or luggage as props
  4. Some chairs (I originally wanted something nice Safari-looking chairs, until I saw the prices) so Amazon to the rescue with a director’s chair and HomeGoods came through with the other.
  5. And some side tables and props, many which we literally took on our sets at the office, and people’s desks, and well…we kind of borrowed them for the day

Kalebra went to work on getting the outfits, hair and make-up concepts, finding the right model, and figuring out the props; Christina (our super awesome in-house producer for our online courses) set about to find us an outdoor shooting location that didn’t look “Florida-ish” (it’s supposed to look Africa Safari-like), and a rental jeep (I thought it would be cool to have a jeep out of the focus in the background, but the jeep actually broke down on the way to shoot and never showed up, so scratch the jeep).

The biggest challenge was the cows. This was a cow-pasture in Plant City, Florida (about an hour from the KelbyOne HQ), and from time to time the cows would wander behind the tent and become part of the scene, and nothing says ‘this isn’t Africa’ like some dairy cows roaming behind your model.

Above: Here’s my first test-shot of our model Gabi on the set. The lighting looks pretty bad. The idea of this location shoot was to show how to mix your flash with the available light, and this looks way, way too “flashy” (looks like I used a big utility flashlight from Home Depot), but hey — we just set up the light; aimed it at her, and took a test shot. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere, right? Also, during this “setting the lights” stage I tell the model they don’t need to pose while I’m working on the lighting.

After all the work she had done, I felt bad that Kalebra couldn’t actually be at the live shoot, but she had a scheduling conflict, so we set everything up as best as we could, but we knew it didn’t look right, so we had Kalebra FaceTime in. That way she could see the tent, the props, and the outfits, then she worked directly with our make-up artist (whom we all adore and use every chance we get), the awesome Hendrickje Matthews to get everything right on set, and Christina and Rachel from our crew to get the set looking good, so I could focus on dialing in the lighting.

Above: Hendrickje (L) and Rachel work on tweaking the outfit after Kalebra FaceTimed into the shoot.

Above: The first thing Kalebra did was remove most of the junk (see above) we had piled in and around that tent. It was “over-accessorized.”

Above:  Once we started removing stuff per Kalebra’s guidance, the set was starting to look much better. The light still isn’t there, but at this point, we’re mostly focused on getting the set right, and the outfit, and stuff like that.

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the set-up. Just one light (the Profoto B1x 500-watt battery-powered strobe). Special thanks to Kathy Porpukski and Erik Kuna for the behind-the-scenes shots. :)

Above: I take my tethering rig on location every chance I get — it makes that big a difference. Shoutout to the folks from Tethertools.com – they make awesome tethering gear!

Above: It’s every educator’s dream to teach standing in a cow pasture. 😂

Above: The glamour of shooting on location is real. Real smelly.

Above: The awesome Julio Agular assisting me on the shoot. Look how small that strobe is. Sa-weet!

Above: Here’s the overhead view from our drone. A cow pasture in the middle of nowhere is about the only place you can still actually fly a drone.

Above: Here’s what it looks like with the light off, and just the available light.

Above: Here’s what it looks like when your flash is too bright.

Above: Here’s the final image, with the light from the flash balanced with the natural light.

The lighting is supposed to look natural, not too bright, not too flashy. The goal is to make it look like natural light. It shouldn’t be obvious you used a flash. It’s a dance between adjusting the shutter speed (which controls now much natural light you’re letting in – the slower the shutter speed, the more natural light you get), and the power of the flash (which I try to get looking natural by not overdoing the power of the flash). Believe it or not, it just takes a couple of minutes to dial it in and get it looking right. We also feathered the softbox (so it’s not aiming directly at the subject) to create an even softer more flattering light. As much as I already loved the B1x, I feel even deeper in love during the shoots for this class. It’s such a brilliantly designed light — I’m thrilled to finally get to use them.

Also, I wanted to make the grass in the background look more “Safari-like” so in Lightroom I desaturated the greens quite a bit (using the HSL panel). You can also see the addition of the prop binoculars and the hat over her back (both Kalebra’s tweaks via watching the shoot via FaceTime).

Here’s the trailer for the full online course (in case you want to check it out)
I start in the studio and go through how the light works, and how the remote works with it (it’s super simple), and then we head out for the location shoot. I also added a bonus lesson which is a quick-start guide, so if you watched the class, and later want a quick recap when you’re out on a shoot, you’d be able to just watch that one lesson as a refresher.

Here’s a link to the class.

I hope you found this behind-the-scenes stuff helpful. In just a few weeks I’ll be recording a Part 2 of this class, where the entire class is all location shoots (based on feedback from the class – folks wanted more of the live shoots, so I’m happy to add another three shoots to the mix).

Here’s to a great week. Hope you’re staying warm (wherever you are) and see ya here tomorrow for Travel Tuesday’s with Dave. :)

Thanks,

-Scott

Buongiorno, everybody! I’m back from an amazing (and quite yummy) week in Venice, where I was leading a travel photography workshop, along with long exposure photography expert Mimo Meidany.  I put some of my favorite images from the workshop together, along with the story and behind-the-scenes shots, in a Spark Page.

Here’s the link if you’ve got a sec: https://spark.adobe.com/page/1iHJGY3Gku9Es/

Thanks in advance for checking it out (and I hope you’ll share it if you do).

I’ll be back on my blogging schedule next week now that I’m back, and until then, here’s wishing you an awesome weekend!

Ciao, ciao!

-Scott

Yesterday I got the opportunity to fly up to Atlanta to photograph the Falcon’s incredible new stadium with Michael Benford and the wonderful Falcons photo crew (this was the debut regular season home game for the Falcons in their new stadium, and the Falcon whooped the Packers, so it was quite a night!).

The shot you see above, which shows the light streaming into from the retractable roof in the center of the dome, was actually taken with my iPhone using Portrait mode (thanks for the tip, Kalebra). The lens used in the shot you see on the back of my Canon 5D Mark IV was an 8-15mm fisheye lens at 15mm. Such an amazing stadium – can’t wait to share more with you.

I had truly planned to do a post with all the images and stories using Adobe’s Spark Page (the photo storytelling site/app that is absolutely ideal for this type of thing), and oh yes, there are plenty of stories, but by the time I got out of the stadium and got to Terry White’s house (Terry lives in Atlanta, and was kind enough to let me stay in his awesome guest suite), well…it’s no literally 2:48 am as I write this, and I have a flight back home to Tampa in the morning, and blah, blah, blah, it ain’t happening tonight.

Check back later today ’cause it’s entirely possible (Hey, anything’s possible) I have the Spark Page story up with photos, stories, and other stuff. Lots to share so I hope you’ll check back (and I am hitting the sack).

Hope you all have a rockin’ Monday!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. I’m in Denver on Friday with my Lightroom seminar. If you’re out that way, I hope you’ll come spend the day with me. It’s only $99 for the full day, and it’s 100% money-back guarateed if it doesn’t totally rock (dont’ worry — it will totally rock!). 

Happy Monday everybody. I’m sharing one of my favorite portrait lighting set-ups – one that creates lots of drama and shadows yet it’s super easy to set-up.

Above: We’re using just one light — an Elinchrom ELC 500 strobe (but this technique will also work, or course, with a Canon, Nikon, Phottix, etc. flash as well), with an  Elinchrom Rotalux “Deep Octa” softbox here (but you can do this technique with whichever softbox you have). It’s not so much the type of softbox — it’s how you position it. The key to this technique is putting your softbox way up high — a bit in front of your subject, and aiming down at your subject at a really steep angle, almost like it’s a shower head.

Why does the background look black?
You can see there’s a 5′ wide roll of gray seamless paper behind her — so why does the background look black? It’s because there’s no light hitting that background at all. The light is literally aiming down at the floor, and since she’s not too close to the background, no light makes it back there at all, and the background turns solid black.

Above: When you have this light way over to one side like this, you’ll have to remember to tell your subject to “play towards that light.” If they turn the other way, you’ll get a really well-lit shot of their ear. You can see the position of the light pretty well in this example, and how I’ve had our subject turn toward her body toward the light.

Camera Settings
As far as camera settings go: I’m in Manual mode (as always when shooting flash), with my Shutter Speed at my standard 1/125 of a second, my ISO at 100 (I always try and use my lowest native ISO when shooting flash to get the cleanest shots possible), and my f/stop was f/6.3. I’m using my go-to lens for portraits, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, and I stand back and zoom in tight to take full advantage of the lens compression (I feel it’s much more flattering for portraits).

Above: Here’s another view of the set-up, just so you can clearly see the placement.

Well, there ya have it. I hope you give this one a try. :)

Got 30-seconds?
If you want to really dig in further on this type of lighting, (including adding a 2nd light, and some really helpful accessories) I did an entire course on this type of dramatic lighting – but using a regular rectangular softbox (I’m putting the official trailer below – it’s just 30-seconds – hope you’ll give it a quick look).

Here’s a direct link to the class (you can watch it right now, free – just take the 10-day free trial and start learning immeidately).

That’s it for today. I’ve got a cool little Photoshop Camera Raw tip for ya tomorrow. :)

Best,

-Scott

Close