Category Archives Photo Shoots

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!). 

Mornin’, everybody! Not sure if you’re following me over on my Facebook page, but I’ve been sharing lots of behind-the scenes shots from shoots over there, along with all the lighting set-ups and camera settings.

They’re really popular so far –  if you get a chance, you can check them out over there on Facebook. 

Are you into guitar? Or Van Halen? Or both! :)

Tonight I’m talking guitars and amps (and even a little photography), with guitar god Eric Broadbent (and btw: if you think they’re going to win any points with me by referring to me as “Photography’s Eddie Van Halen” in their graphic above, well, you are absolutely right. LOL!!).

Who: Me and rockin’ guitar player and show host Eric Broadbent
What: Lots of talk about guitars and amps and music and some photography
Where: Follow this link (the podcast is free and open to everybody)
When: 9:00 PM EDT Tonight
Why: Guitars, Music & Photography? Why the heck not! I’m in!  :)

Have a great weekend everybody! Here’s to breaking your high e-string!

Best,

-Scott

Hi everybody and happy Friday. I was taping a segment to a new class I’m doing — a follow-up to my “Just One Flash” called (wait for it…wait for it…) “Just one more flash.”

Anyway, when the taping was over, I wanted to try something a little different portrait wise (well for me anyway), so I did a very simple portrait where the goal was to try and give it a window light look, and I thought I’d share the final image, some behind-the-scenes shots, and talk a little about camera settings and post processing. I’ll do that all in the captions below.

Above: Here’s the final image. 

Above: Here’s an over the shoulder view of my shooting rig. I’m using a Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (my go-to lens for portraits). My camera is tethered into Lightroom CC on my laptop using a 15′ TetherPro USB cable from Tethertools. It’s supported on a Really Right Stuff tripod with a Tethertools Rock Solid Tripod Crossbar; an Aero Table, and the strap that keeps my laptop from sliding around is an “Aero Secure Strap” and you can’t see it in this photo, but my tripod is on a rolling rig that is designed to let you easily roll the whole thing called a Rock Solid Tripod Roller.

Above: Here’s a clean view of the lighting set-up. I used just one Elinchrom ELC 500, and put it close enough to the cloth backdrop that some of the light would spill onto the backdrop. I didn’t want a bunch of light because I wanted kind of a dramatic portrait, but I needed a little spill. You can see from the shot above that my subject is seated way at the back of the softbox (a technique called feathering where your subject is far away from the hotspot in the center of the light).

Above: The softbox I used was an Elinchrom 53″ midi-octa, which is kind of my go-to big octa for portraits (and it’s not too expensive considering how awesome it is. B&H Photo has ’em for $324).

SETTINGS:
I had the power of the Strobe pretty low because it was so close to my subject (less than 18-inches and at times less a foot). My camera was in Manual mode, with my shutter speed at that nice happy 1/125 of a second; my f/stop was f/9; and my ISO at 100 (the cleanest native ISO for my camera). Just one single light, and some simple very repeatable settings for a set-up like this.

Above: I started in Photoshop doing some standard portrait retouching stuff (removing blemishes, some skin work, a little work on the whites of her eyes and her iris – pretty minor stuff overall).

I’m embarrassed to tell you how easy the rest was — I opened MacPhun’s Luminar plug-in; I went to their Presets (I have my own set-up presets you can get from MacPhun), but I actually wound up going with one of their built-in Portrait Presets called Smooth Portrait. I like the glow and the color grading it gave, but once I applied the preset, I backed off the amount to 48% strength. I also pulled back the highlights a bit and increased the amount of edge vignetting. That’s it. Easy peasy. I clicked OK, and that’s what you see at the top of the page as the final image.

Hope you found some of that helpful. :)

Have a great weekend everybody! I’ll be working on my new book all weekend — almost done (a brand new one!).

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Next Friday I’m in Minneapolis with my Lightroom On Tour full-day seminar. Hope you can come join me if you’re up that way. :)

Hey, it’s Photoshop World week, and to celebrate, today I thought I’d share some shots from a recent bridal shoot I did for a project I’m working on.

The shoot took place at Casa Bella – a beautiful 9,000 sq ft. luxury home/venue for weddings and events in our area. I teamed up with my awesome wife Kalebra who did all the styling and art direction for the shoot (she’s just a blast to be on a shoot with — she brings an energy, and fun to the shoot that’s contagious. Also, seeing how she sees things, and how she works with our subjects is really something to see — she should do a class on it).

Above: Here’s the behind-the-scenes shot (photo by Juan Alfonso) of me taking the image at the top of the page. I’m sitting on an Apple box (see below) so I’m not quite on the floor (maybe 6″ up from it) but I put my camera (a Canon 5D Mark III)  directly on the ground in front of me, tilted up at the bride, using a Canon 14mm super wide-angle lens. You can see I’m pretty close to where the bride is standing, but look how much farther away she looks in the image up top.

Above: These Matthews Apple Boxes come in really handy. This is a half box (just 4″ high), but in a lot of cases, it’s a whole lot better than sitting on the ground. They are sturdy as anything, and you can stack ’em, too! We have them in different sizes, and use them mostly in the studio, either to get a higher angle or a much lower one. 

Two things that super wide angle does:
(1) When you put it on the floor like this, it makes the entire scene have more of an epic sprawling look — even in small spaces like this.

(2) Putting it on the floor like this, makes the floor appear MUCH more reflective than it really is, and you get a shine and reflection that you won’t get standing up, or even shooting on your knees. I can’t tell you exactly why it works like that…but it sure does.

Above: Shooting w inith our bride the same spot— I just stood up, backed way up, and used my 70-200mm f/2.8 zoomed in to 140mm.

Camera Settings:
I’m at 200 ISO at 1/400 of a second at f/2.8. I shot at f/2.8 for two reasons: (1) To get the background behind her a bit soft and out of focus, and because believe it or not, even though she was standing in front of a door with glass panes, the door is inset from the front of the house by quite a bit (there’s a large covered entryway), so the light wasn’t that bright. That’s also why I had to increase my ISO to 200 — there’s not as much light there, at that time of day, then you’d think.

Above: A third look with her in the exact same spot — I just walked closer, and then zoomed into 142mm. 

Lighting
When we first walked in, I asked Kathy (who was assisting me on the shoot), to rig up a flash with a Westcott 26″ Rapid box octa mounted to the end of a monopod, but as it turned out — we were able to just go with natural light the entire 4-hour shoot, and we never used it once. That’s pretty rare, but the lighting throughout was pretty good, even though a few times I had to raise my ISO to 200 or 400 here and there.

Above: More of an editorial look for this shot taken in the bride’s dressing suite, just using the light from the windows. f/2.8 at 1/80 of a second at 200 ISO. Again, not as much light as you’d think, which is why I had a slower shutter speed and higher ISO, even at f/2.8.

I converted the image to black and white in Lightroom CC, and added the duotone effect using Lightroom’s Split Toning panel (shown here).To get the duotone look, I boosting the Saturation amount and moved the Hue slider to a brownish hue in the Shadows only (no adjustments to the Highlights split toning at all). TIP: When you’re setting the Hue and your Saturation amount is low like it is here, it’s sometimes hard to see exactly which hue you’re choosing, so hold the Option Key as you drag it, and it acts as though the Saturation amount is set to 100 which helps a lot.

Above: This is one of my favorites from the shoot, taken in the bridal suite. I switched to the 70-200mm for this one, and I’m at 70mm (I would have liked to have gotten back farther and shoot at 150mm or so, but my back was against the wall, so I couldn’t go back any farther, and didn’t want to switch to a wide angle — I wanted the look that the 70-200mm gives. I’m at f/2.8 at 1/250 of a second shutter at ISO 200).

She’s far enough away from the window that the lighting is very soft and subtle, which I really like.

Above: The “dream-like” quality is provided with a soft glow in post. While you can get a glow effect in Lightroom, it’s not awesome, so I usually use a plug-in. I’ve been using Luminar a lot more lately (a plug-in from Macphun that’s gotten really popular in the past few months), and they have a great built-in glow effect. I also have a bunch of presets that I made (that MacPhun is giving way with a promotion they’re doing), but in this case, I’m not using one of my presets — just the Soft Glow filter.

Above: I loved this hallway, and since our bride had been in ballet, she was cool with doing some dramatic poses. All natural light coming in from a nearby door.

Above: That’s me, sitting on a 1/2 height Apple box again, with the camera directly in front of me, right on the tile floor, with the 14mm lens aiming up. Once again, note the reflection on the floor.

Above: Finally, a shot with lots of light — I let the windows totally blow out again, and I intentionally overexposed the whole image for a bright, airy look. I had to go down to 1/30 of a second shutter speed to let this much light in, at f/2.8 at 200 ISO and I’m at 85mm on my 70-200mm. Again, my back is up against another wall. Would have liked to have gotten back further, and zoomed in tighter, but it’s still one of my favorites from the shoot.

Above: Taking advantage of our subject having been a ballerina, Kalebra had her strike this pose, with her positioned in front of one of the French Doors in the estate. We pulled the sheers to cover the window and somewhat control the light, but we wanted that blown out, over-exposed look — we just wanted it soft.

Hope you found any/some/part of that helpful. Can’t wait to share the whole project with you when it’s done. :)

A big thanks and shoutout to Kalebra for the styling and art direction, and for being my partner in this production from the start, and to Jen Coffin for helping with the production side big time. Thanks to Kathy Porupski for assisting on the gig, keeping things moving, and helping all the way around, and to our bride Julianna for being so patient, and easy to work with. :)

Have a great start to your week, and see ya back here tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday.

Best,

-Scott

Happy Monday everybody! I’m out doing my Lightroom seminar tour this year (I’ll be in Chicago and the Detroit area with my seminar next Monday and Tuesday respectively), and I get lots of questions about the tethering rig I use, so I thought I’d share a few Behind-the-Scenes shots from a studio shoot I did a few weeks ago (shots for an upcoming book), where I can break down the set-up (and the lighting while we’re there, right?).

Here’s the basic set-up:

The Cable:
The long orange cable is the essential thing you need to connect your DSLR to your computer (and into Lightroom). It’s from a company called Tethertools, and their entire company is dedicated to making stuff for tethering (so, with the exception of the tripod and ballhead and lights, all of which I mention shortly, all the tethering gear itself is from Tethertools (btw: great company, great people behind it, great products, and awesome customer service – I totally dig them!). Anyway, the cables come in different lengths and different connectors to fit your particular make and model of camera (USB 2.0, USB 3, Firewire, Micro-B, Mini-B, etc.). The bright orange color is to help you see the cable in a dark studio environment so you don’t trip on it. Prices vary based on length and ends chosen, but figure around $32 to $55.

The Bar:
It’s all sitting on a tripod (in this case, it’s a heavy duty Really Right Stuff tripod I believe), and the crossbar attached to it is the ‘Rock Solid Tripod Cross Bar’ from Tethertools (it holds a laptop table on the right, and my Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead on the left, which gives me a place to put my camera between frames, while I’m tweaking the lights, or looking at the images in Lightroom). It’s $129.95 at B&H Photo.

The Laptop stand (and safety strap):
It’s called the Tethertools ‘Aero Table’. NOTE: If you get this Aero Table, I would strongly (in the strongest most strongly of strong terms) suggest that you get the optional SecureStrap that keeps your Laptop from sliding off the table, which is most likely to happen when you and a friend/assistant pick up the rig to move it). It has saved me countless times. Get the strap. It’s a must. It’s optional, but shouldn’t be. It’s strap time. Strap it on.  The Aero Table is $195 for a 15″ MacBookPro, and the SecureStrap is around $18 (btw: all the prices shown are what they’re selling for today at B&H Photo).

External Hard Drive Holder:
The little box under the right the side (seen more clearly in the shot above, taken from another shoot that same day), which is currently holding the “brick” for my Apple charging cable, usually is holding an external hard drive (that’s what it’s really designed for). That little external drive holder is called the ‘Aero XDC‘ and they make ones that hold one drive or two drives. Super handy because if you don’t have one, then your hard drive is just kinda sitting there leaning against your computer, waiting to fall off during the shoot (said from experience). Around $54.

 

 

Rolling Base For Your Tripod
The accessory to this system that I just started using in the past few months, and one in which I have deeply fallen in love with is their Rock Solid Tripod Roller, (seen above) which lets you easily roll the entire rig around, rather than having two people pick it up and carefully move it around the studio, which I often have to do a dozen or so times during a shoot. This way, your tripod sits right in special mounts on the roller, and it just glides around. Much safer, faster, and you don’t need a 2nd person to wheel it around (nor do you have to worry about your laptop falling off when it’s just gliding across the floor, much like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. But I digress). It’s around $79. Can’t recommend it enough.

Not Seen, But Felt…
You can’t see it in this photo, but it’s super awesome is their optional Aero Cup Holder accessory, which slides under the Aero Table and you slide-it-out when you need it. It can hold a water bottle, coffee cup, but it’s also awesome for holding your phone during the shoot, or extra batteries, or whatever you need handy during the shoot. It’s $29.95. Totally worth it.

My Entire Kit
The folks at Tethertools are putting together an entire kit of all the stuff I use, and doing a bundle deal for all of it. I don’t have all the specifics, but one day, it will be available, somewhere, somehow. How’s that for specific info? ;-) BTW: When it does come out, I don’t get a commission or kickback (sadly), it’s just for the convenience of folks who come to my seminar and want the same rig. I’ll share the details here on the blog when it’s available. 

Now, let’s look at the lighting
Since we brought all this up, we have to take a quick look at the lighting, right? It’s simple Clamshell lighting with both lights directly in front of our subject. The top light is an Elinchrom 17″ beauty dish (no diffuser — you can get away without using a diffuser if your subject has really clear skin), and the bottom light is a 24″ square Elinchrom Rotalux softbox. Both strobes are Elinchrom ELC 500-watt strobes, and I’m triggering them with a Skyport Transmitter sitting in my camera’s hot shoe.

Hope you found that helpful. :)

Pop Quiz: what happens one week from today?
I’m in Chicago with my brand new Lightroom OnTour full-day seminar. Guess what happens the next day? That’s right — I’m in the Detroit area (Livonia, Michigan to be exact) with the same seminar. Two days. Two seminars. What could go wrong? ;-)  – Hope you can come out and spend the day with me (you can still grab a ticket right here).

Hope today is the start of a great week for you, and we’ll catch ya here tomorrow for a slick little Photoshop tip I’ve got fer ya! :)

Best,

-Scott

Hi gang, and happy Friday. Today I thought we’d do a simple lighting tutorial — one where we’re working on balancing the existing light in our location with the light from our flash so the image doesn’t look so much like it’s lit with a flash (even though of course we know that it is). We’re going to do this by adjusting our shutter speed to control the existing room light (the ambient light) behind our bride to get that perfect mix between it and the flash.

Above: First, here’s the final image 

We’re not breaking any new ground here positioning wise — it’s a classic “Bride standing in the aisle” shot. The area behind her is dimly lit but we want to see it in our image (seeing the church she was married in is very important the bride), so we’re going to work to control the lighting in the background so we get a nice blend.

Above: Get the flash in position, then turn it off for Step One

This behind-the-scenes shot shows the simple, one-light set-up I’m using for this shoot. I’m using an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, with one flash head running off a small portable battery pack and a small square 27 softbox. Of course, you can do this exact same thing with a hot shoe flash and a 24” Lastolite pop-up EZ-Box soft box (after all, they both create the same thing — a bright flash of light).

The flash is mounted on a lightweight regular ol’ light stand. So, why not a monopod mount like I often use? It’s because when you want a break between shots, you don’t have go looking for a place to lean it against or a table to sit it on — you just put it down on the floor, so it’s totally a convenience thing.

When I’m shooting on-location flash, I have a three-step formula for getting the look I’m after:

(1) Turn off the flash, switch your camera to Manual mode and set your Shutter Speed to 1/125 of a second.  This is my standard shutter speed starting point when I’m shooting location flash. It’s kind of a nice, safe starting point that just works. Now move your f/stop until the meter inside your viewfinder shows your exposure is correct (it’s not under or over-exposed; it’s the proper exposure). On Nikons, this meter appears on the right side inside of your viewfinder; for Canon cameras, it’s along the bottom of the viewfinder. If you can’t get to an f/stop that makes a proper exposure (it can get pretty dark in a church), you may have to raise your ISO a bit, maybe from 100 to 200 (or 200 to 400).

Above: Now under-expose by around two stops

(2) Now, I darken the exposure by around two stops (so now I’m intentionally under-exposing. If my camera said that at  f/2.8 my exposure was correct, I’d raise it to at least f/5.6 or higher to darken it by at least a full stop) and take another test shot. I’m trying to make the bride so dark she’s nearly a silhouette. I’m doing this because I want the bride lit with only the light from my flash — not the ambient light in the church. I want the ambient light to only light the area behind her.

I do see one problem with the shot above, and it’s that the background (the church) is a little too dark. This is where the Shutter Speed control comes in because it controls the room lights. Think of it as a dimmer switch for the church lights. If you need to turn up the lights a bit, all you have to do is lower the shutter speed a bit so lowering the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second would add more light behind her (as seen in the following image, where I did that).

Above: Now turn on the flash with a very low power setting

Once your subject looks like a silhouette, turn on the flash with a very lower power setting (like 1/4 power) and take a test shot (seen above). The light from the flash itself looks “OK” but the whole scene just looks a bit too bright and that keeps the light from mixing well so it doesn’t look really beautiful quite yet. However, you can really see the difference lowering the shutter speed from 1/125 down to 1/60 did — the church behind her is much brighter. In fact, I think it’s now too bright, so that was too big a drop in shutter speed, so I’m going to have to split the difference — trying 1/80 of a second. That will dim the background lights from where they are now. This doesn’t change the power or brightness of the flash — this just affects the background room lighting (remember the dimmer analogy).

Above: Another Behind the Scenes shot: I’m raising the Shutter Speed to 1/80 of a second and taking another test shot

So here I’m turning the camera to get a vertical shot and trying that slightly higher shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. I haven’t changed the power of the light yet at all — it’s still at 1/4 power.

Above: Here’s the shot and you can see we’re starting to get there. The 1/80th of a second seems like the sweet spot, so now if I make any changes, I’ll probably slightly raise or lower the power of the strobe itself to make sure the light isn’t too bright — a very common mistake and the thing that makes your shot look too “flashy.” If we want it to blend and look natural, it can’t look “flashy.” It has to make you wonder, “Is that lit with a flash?”

Above: Using Photoshop’s Camera Raw to enhance your lighting (you can do this in Lightroom just the same)

To make the lighting look even better and more dramatic, I edit it with Photoshop’s Camera Raw (or Lightroom’s Develop Module — they are the exact same thing), where I go to the Effects panel, and under Post Crop Vignetting I drag the Amount slider to the left (as shown here), which darkens the edges all the way around your image. This helps to create a more directional look to your lighting — it looks like the light is centered on your subject and it falls off to dark around here. It’s a simple thing, but it has pretty big impact.

Above: Adding a reflector

After looking at the previous image up close, I felt that the area around her eyes looked a little dark, so I had my First Assistant Brad Moore bring in a reflector to bounce some of the light from the flash back into her eyes. We took a test shot using the silver side of the reflector and it was just too bright and too harsh, so we flipped over the reflector to the white side and that did the trick.

There’s still a problem…
Which someone pointed out when I posted the image on Twitter. They noted the bright area of light in the stained glass window to the left of the bride and pointed out that if this was someone else’s image and I were critiquing on our weekly show “The Grid” (where once-a-month we do blind critiques of submitted images), that I would point out that it was distracting. He was right — that’s exactly what I would have said, and so I used Photoshop’s “Patch” tool to remove it.

Above: To use the Patch tool to fix that bright spot in the stained glass behind her  — take the tool and draw a loose selection around what you want to remove [as seen here].

Above: Then click inside that selected area and drag to an area with similar tones somewhere else in the image (as seen here where I dragged the selected area to a lower area of the stained glass.

Above: Now release the mouse, and it snaps back into place and the problem is gone! It really works amazingly well in most cases. 

Above: I finished the image off with nothing but the standard portrait retouching stuff (removing blemishes, smoothing skin, etc.). 

To finish up:
I hope this article helped you “see the light” (totally intended pun) on two things:

(1) The shutter speed controls the amount of light in the room (if you wanted it completely dark black behind her, raise the Shutter speed to 1/200 of a second with strobes, and 1/250 of a second with hot shoe flash). And…

(2) your job is to balance the flash and the room light, while keeping the lighting looking soft and subtle by doing test shots and then looking at the shot and seeing if it looks too bright and thus too “flashy.” Less is more in situations like this, so if you were going to ‘under-light’ or ‘over-light,’ it’ll look more natural underlit (but the goal, of course, is simply to balance it correctly).

If you dig flash stuff like this, and you want to get more into lighting, here’s a class to watch this weekend — it’s called “Just One Flash”. It’s one of our most popular (and I love the instructor. So devastatingly handsome he is). Here’s the official trailer:

Hope you’ll catch that class this weekend.

Hope you found this tutorial helpful, and that it helped ignite your fire for one you can do with just one light.

Have a safe, happy weekend and we’ll see ya here next week. :)

-Scott

Close