Category Archives: portrait

Alone in the Dark

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Here’s another from my series I like to call “Well, I’m in Texas, let’s get some models and see what kind of photos we can make by tearing apart hotels.” (I’m not that great at naming collections.)

Here I wanted to explore some different things in content and technique (which, of course, heavily relate to each other). To bring in the exterior lighting where I wanted (the greenish one), I had to shoot at very high sensitivity (f/1.4, 1/60th, ISO 4000), and augmented it with the blue light of an ungelled Litepanel MicroPro. That meant making the interior light as dim as possible — throwing two thick red towels over the desktop lamp that works as the key light.


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Stepping Out

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One thing about being a wedding photographer is that you spend a lot of time in hotel rooms, thinking about how to photograph in them, the lighting of them, the obstacle of overcrowding … but it’s the one part of the wedding day that is always, always at daytime.* So with the modicum of free time I had in my recent trips to Texas, I’ve been playing with shooting in relative darkness, giving me total control over the light I do and do not want.

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro backlighting.

*Assuming you aren’t photographing in the Arctic Circle.


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Photo of the Day: Pure Grace

Pure Grace

Lens: Sigma 85mm f/1.4 — 15 image “Brenizer method” panorama
Camera: Nikon D3s
Light: LitePanel Micropro

I had a wonderful time teaching at the Digital Wedding Forum conference in San Antonio, and I got to do some really fun shoots along the way, testing out new gear for B&H Photo. Great weather, even better people. If you hate beautiful women, you might not want to visit the blog for a little while.


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Photo of the Day: Shining Through


Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: SB-900
EXIF and GPS data

Once again, at the workshop I deliberately took people to terrible locations to show them how I would work through it. The key to making a nice, attractive negative space for Kelly to play in was using the off-camera lighting to kill the ambient light. Without it … well, the space doesn’t have quite the same effect, as you can see below:
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Photo of the Day: (Light-)Painted Lady

Not everyone can make trying to stay warm look as good as Mae does.

I processed through all the photos from my last workshop just in time for my upcoming lecture at the DWF Convention in San Antonio. At the workshop the shooting scenarios were all about options to create attractive work in bad situations, such as, in this case, night-time. So we used light-painting to get the job done.

Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro
EXIF and GPS data


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Family Photos in an Urban Playground

I had a wonderful time at Allie and Vilas’ wedding, especially with the constant entertainment of Vilas’ adorable, energetic neice and nephews, so I was thrilled to get a call from his brother to do a family shoot. As I said in the preview, as someone who grew up in a forest essentially like Huck Finn, I’m always fascinated to see how excellent, personable well-adjusted kids can make the city their playground, from games of tag on cobblestone streets to energetically relating about the times they’ve seen a rat. Of course, there’s a bit more culture in TriBeCa than in the forest — my main exposure was trying to stay up late to watch Airwolf.

I had a great time shooting this family, and keeping up with them meant I didn’t have to go to the gym for about three days.


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Workshop photos: 28,800,000 Percent

It’s been a week full of teaching for me. First I gave a lecture on flash composites at Adorama on Monday, where I also taught the additional, MacGyver-friendly lessons that yes, you can use an Adorama plastic bag as a flash modifier, and yes, you can use gaffer tape to mend a pair of jeans. It’s the photographer way.

Then came the big show, a day-and-a-half-long workshop aimed squarely at photographers knee-deep in the business of wedding photography. This was a more talking-heavy workshop than some of my previous ones, since I wanted to share any and every business trick I’ve learned along the way to building a successful photography business — and I left nothing out. I don’t have any secrets — if you want to be a successful photographer, work hard, capitalize on whatever luck you have, and don’t stop working hard. That’s about it. If your business model is based on not letting your competition find out your secrets, then, in the Information Age, you might be on shaky ground.

Still, we did some shooting, because we’re photographers after all, and I wanted to show both how I work with clients, and some of the things I do to solve problems in photography. The first is how I stopped being a slave to the sun. If you only like shooting outdoor portraits at golden hour, then you’re going to run into some interesting problems on hectic wedding days — or maybe even cause them. Sometimes you’re going to be forced to shoot at noon, and sometimes the best decision will be to shoot in the dark.

Since it was a night-and-day workshop, we got to tackle both. First, night:

We did a number of different night tricks; this one was based on the idea that sometimes your best friend at night is as weak a light source as possible. To get the tonality I wanted from the background, I had my Litepanel Micropro, which was my key light, just about set to “OFF.”

Next, day:

Wait … day?

Yes, I wanted to show that you don’t have to be afraid of daylight, that a speedlight can easily conquer the sun if you use it right, and that you can have the choice to have nice, blue skies even in a backlit, bright, cloudless mid-day sky, like we had.

But I really like to drive home a point, so I thought “Why stop at blue? Let’s take this glaringly bright sky and make it black!” So I went to 11 — f/11, ISO 200, 1/8000th of a second. Obliterating the sky. No dodging here — other than a bit of a crop, this is right out-of-camera. And it only took two SB-900s to light.

Here’s the really geeky part. A few back-of-the-napkin calculations showed me that in the first photo, my exposure settings are 288,000 times as light-sensitive as in the second photo. With the right techniques, we really can conquer any situation, day or night. More important is that they’re still compelling photos, thanks mostly to my wonderful subjects, Mae and Kelly.

Who said mixing linear and logarithmic math couldn’t be cool. Am I right?

Well, I think it’s cool.


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Photo of the Day: Streets Ahead


Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 70-200mm VRII

I don’t do a lot of family shoots, but when the best man from one of my recent weddings said he wanted some captures of his beautiful family, I knew it would be a good time. And man, it was. To get all sorts of angles of three energetic, playful kids … if I did more shoots like this I’d never have to go to the gym again.

As someone who basically grew up like Huck Finn, with a 300-acre backyard out in the middle of nowhere, I’m always fascinated by kids who grow up with the city as their playground. But whatever this family is doing, it’s working, since everyone was an absolute pleasure.

They decided to run a little race down a cobblestone street. Little brother here was a big fan of false starts — he took off when I said “Ready!” But no one seemed to mind.


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Photo of the Day: Lounging about the Mansion

I said in my very last post that I don’t do much boudoir … and then I set out to shoot some. But you can’t blame me; my muse was my wonderful girlfriend. She’s a professional dancer and skilled fitness trainer, but, like most of the people I shoot, has never thought of herself as photogenic. If a gorgeous woman with an eight-pack doesn’t think she looks good in photos, what chance do the rest of us have? So I rose to the challenge, and we had a great time doing (clothed) boudoir in a style sometimes inspired by the noir lighting you can create when you’re doing a portrait shoot at 1 a.m., and also by 1940s pin-ups. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

But what made it even better was the setting: The Mansion in Saratoga Springs, NY. We both fell in love with the place, through and through. With gorgeous Victorian styling and a large backyard for a party, I didn’t know if I wanted to shoot weddings at The Mansion or save it for myself one day.

More to come! (You’re welcome, in advance).


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