Category Archives: portrait


I just finished three days of hosting meet-ups and mixers and workshops, oh my. I had the most amazing experience, which will get a full write-up tomorrow. But to start off with, let me publicly reveal my big, secret assignment: I challenged the workshop attendees to take portraits of a stranger … and, if possible, to take those portraits in their homes. This is an intensely challenging assignment for most people, and it’s one that I encourage photographers who are very interested in the documenting of people’s lives to try on their own. The lessons everyone draws are unique, but you learn a lot about making others comfortable, about being comfortable in your own skin as a photographer, about subject trust, and all of these skills that are very, very hard to teach in a one-day workshop.

I didn’t want to assign the attendees anything I wasn’t willing to do myself, so I went out and found a stranger of my own. Meet Tom. Unfortunately, Tom lives way, WAY out in Queens, and with the workshop planning I simply didn’t have time to go out there, so I photographed him at my office. But as soon as we started talking about the project, I knew I had to shoot him.

Tom saw this shoot as an opportunity to learn a bit more about himself. We got quite personal in our discussions and I won’t share them here, but he is 21 and sees himself in the middle of some major life transitions that have him searching for questions like “What’s next?” “What do I even want?” and “Who am I, anyway?” Trust me, these are questions that we keep asking ourselves, or should. But he also has a strong sense of whimsy — his role model, in ways, is Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes.” So I wanted to get at that a bit with these portraits. We started indoors, using a mix of warm video light and cool window light to visualize these transitions and melancholy, but as we got more comfortable I had him change into one of his favorite shirts, a colorful Simpsons shirt he happened to have with him, and we headed out for some portraits with a lighter feel.

The biggest lesson of this assignment? We all want our stories told. Make people comfortable, and they will share theirs. Thank you, Tom, for sharing yours with me.

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(The skyline is reflected in his glasses on purpose)


Photo of the Day: A Kiss from the Sledgehammer

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I freely admit that I am not, generally speaking, a subtle photographer. You don’t really have to spend much time looking at most of my photos and pondering “But is it … art?” I like big and brash and fun and crazy and romantic and daring and colorful and … you get the picture.

So I guess you’d think that the first shot I’d post with my new toy, the three-flash set-up I call The Sledgehammer of Light, that I really would have gone nuclear, right?

OK, if it had been a sunny day, I probably would have. But it wasn’t, and so I went with the murkiness to create an image with a feel of mystery. One of the other great things about the Sledgehammer of Light is that you can trigger it in full CLS mode, which means syncing to 1/8000th of a second … which means the shallow depth-of-field of shooting at f/1.4 with flash outdoors. Usually when you try that trick, the flash power gets *really* weak by 1/8000th. But, of course, we have three of them, enough for a subtle kiss of light from a distance.


Bonus Photo of the Day: Goddess Ascending

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I’ll try and get up as much new content this week as I can. Here was a photo I took in my recent foray to Nashville, with fellow photographer Lynn Michelle as the model. I bought a Lastolite Triflash to hold three SB-900 flashes at once. Usually people just use this to pur a giant amount of light on in one direction, but here I used it from behind her to send two beams of light out to the sides and one back toward me, making the light fill and shape the area.


Photo of the Day: Floating and Free


I love this photo but never really featured it. Emilie was just an awesome bride as you can plainly see. We took this at the end of the night, and Noel said “all I can do at this point is sit.”

“Good,” I said, “That’s exactly what I had in mind.”

Noel is lit by a simple speedlight, but Emilie got the big light treatment, a White Lightning 1600 blasting through a big octobox.


Photo of the Day: None Shall Pass

Stephanie finally gave in: "OK, you can do any weird lighting you want on me!" So we had some fun with light-painting. One exposure, painted with the Lowel ID video light.

Believe it or not, this was not the weirdest one we got. More to come.


Photo of the Day: Jump (For our Love)


Dara and Chris told me right from the start that they loved to jump, so even though we were shooting at night, I wanted to let them bounce around a bit. What I really love about the photo, though, is that Dara is being lit by the flashlight of a police officer telling us to “Move along.” Thanks, man, that helped a lot!


At What Cost, Beauty?

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I knew, heading to Puerto Rico, that I would be shooting some fashion for a friend of mine. I knew that I’d be shooting in bright sun, which means counteracting with powerful lights, but that I’d rather not bring my White Lightnings through airport security, so I brought three speedlights and PocketWizards to trigger them, as well as a buncha gear. All of the lights were turned on to full juice in this shot, so I could evenly light two (really great) models through an umbrella at f/18, to keep the skies blue and make the sun an interesting starburst.

Well kids, remember this: Never challenge the ocean to a fight. It will win. As we moved a bit closer to the surf, one of my friends says — “Hey, look at that big wave!” Always a bad sign.

What was shore is no longer. What were speedlights, pocketwizards, batteries, etc. are now really fascinating paperweights.

But this tale is not a tragedy — remember, MacGyver can bounce back from anything. You’re just going to have to wait for part 2.



I have a photo in the NY Times!

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If I made any New Year’s resolutions, it’s that 2010 is the year I might finally start submitting photos to publications — you know, like every other photographer does. But for now it’s always great to be surprised when major media comes calling! One of my photos is in the New York Times’ Book Review this week. You can see the article here or click on the photo above.

Here’s one from the shoot I like even better:



Photo of the Day: Surprise!


I don’t do many kids’ photos professionally … though as more and more of my wedding clients start having children, that may change. I have always loved babies, but they certainly do present an interesting challenge. Usually a couple will not cry through 95 percent of a shoot.


Photo of the Day: Beauty’s Halo


Through the magic of technology, I am posting all of these photos even though I am currently on a short vacation in Puerto Rico with some friends, including Mae, pictured above. She’s more entrepreneur than model, though, and we’re spending most of today shooting other models for a great new project has going, so watch this space!


Merry Freaking Christmas!


Who said that we don’t get into the holiday spirit?

The only Photoshop on this was high-pass sharpening for that contrasty look — that glowing door doesn’t lead anywhere, it was closed and only about four inches deep. The light was entirely accomplished by two SB-900s parked behind Brendan.

This has been the wildest year of my life by a very, very wide margin, and I have been blessed by being able to see and photograph so many great things. I’m already excited about the places 2010 is going to take me. Hope to see you along for the ride!


Feeling Festive

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I think Stephanie looks awfully noble here. Lit by a low-powered Lowell ID in my left hand.

I did the first of three portrait shoots I have lined up to test the capabilities of the new Nikon D3s, and it was so much fun to work with Stephanie again! You may remember her from my initial tests of the D3.

I knew the D3s had done its job when she picked out her favorites today. She just cares about the image, not the technical aspects — and one of the choices was taken at ISO 12,800! That, and many more, to come.


Lady in Black

I had a fantastic time shooting with Lydia yesterday. I’m prepping to do a review of my new video light equipment, but here’s a little taste:

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