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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Back from NYC (can you say EXPENSIVE!!!!) and Photo Plus. Here are some impressions:

Small continuous LED lights are being pushed as a new light source for still photography. This does make some sense when you consider that the newest crop of DSLRs includes models that offer high quality video capabilities. These LED continuous lights are small, light and powerful and can be used for both still and video photography. An added bonus is that the photographer can judge the light rather than trying to visualize it, a boon for  novice photographers. I’m trying to get my hands on one or two of these for review purposes and will keep you posted on how that goes.

Another big area of interest at PhotoPlus was output. All sorts of vendors were displaying some form of Photobook offering. Some were typical online efforts, while others offered some way for the amateur photog to create their own books or higher end products designed for wedding photographers.

Light modifiers of all types were also in abundance. This isn’t all that new though. This category has been big for years now as photo enthusiasts have learned the value of improved lighting. Still, every year somebody’s coming out with some kind of creative new option to modifying light.

Over the next few months check out my Brighthub articles to see reviews of many new products.

I’m going to be covering the Photo Plus Expo in NYC Thursday and Friday for Since Brighthub’s interested in stories with a long shelf life, I’ll be able to provide news announcements and opinions here while sticking to reviews and big picture event stuff at Brighthub. 

I currently have meetings setup with 8 or 9 manufacturers and will be visiting the booths of quite a few more to see what gear they’ve got in the pipeline and also to see if I can get my hands on some pieces of equipment for review purposes. 

It should be an interesting few days.

Sam "Old Hollywood" grayscale IMG_3321Got together with Sam in my studio on Sunday to work on a variety of images. One of the things we wanted to try was another take on the “Old Hollywood” style glamour photo. Since this was a TFCD (Time for CD) shoot, we were interested in trying some ideas and experimenting with different looks.

One of the things I wanted to do was create a shot similar to the one I’d done the day before with Lisa, but this time instead of using studio strobes, pull off a similar effect with a shoe mount flash unit.

For this shot I used a Canon 40D with a 580exII mounted on it’s own light stand and fired via an ST-E2 controller. I used a Zoot Snoot (see my review at: to produce the spot light effect seen here. This $23 light modifier is a handy tool for when you want to restrict the spread of light from your flash. (Camera settings: ISO 200, 1/125th, f11, 35mm, flash placed off camera about 2 feet to the left of the camera, see next image for setup.)

Sam flash illustration IMG_3369

Lisa on couch grayscale IMG_3129Brought the “Old Battle Axe” into the studio yesterday to do a Hollywood glamour style shoot. This is a new style I’m experimenting with (I get the occasional request for this look) and I’m still working on it. This was a two-light setup using an Alien Bees B400 at 1/2 power snooted  head on and an Alien Bees B1600 with Softlighter II (the big one) off to the camera’s right at 1/4 power to provide some fill. Camera settings were: Canon EOS 40D, ISO 200 1/250th, f16, 28m focal length. While this shot was made with studio lights, it’s not that hard to do something similar with a portable shoe mount strobe, although getting the strobe off camera is necessary for best results. I’ll write about this technique tomorrow.

Worked with Zowi on Monday for the first time. This nice young lady was a responsive and versatile model and we worked on a variety of shots (including illustrations for a couple of my Brighthub reviews).

I’ve already discussed the flash versus ambient considerations in an earlier post on this site, so this time will cover some figure lighting images we made. You can see a larger selection at my pbase site at:



This shot was entirely about controlling light shape and direction. I used a single Alien Bees B400 strobe on a boom arm to direct the light downward and at an angle to Zowi. To keep the spread narrow, I used a snoot on the light and positioned it fairly close to the model. Because she’s on a black background and there’s very little light spilling in any direction, very little of Zowi is shown to the camera.

While this is a nice shot in its own right, it’s also a building block for an image I’m planning with another model later this week. (You’ll have to wait until the image is created and posted to see what the idea is.)

The process often works this way. You work on learning a technique for controlling the light and then look to adapt it to more complicated images. I did another shot with Zowi under this light that is providing a starting point for a different concept (a kind of “Old Hollywood” glamour shot where it looks like the model is illuminated by a spotlight. I’m doing a shoot for this idea on Saturday with my wife. If things work out, I may do something similar with Porsche some time in the future.


Zowi with flash

Zowi with flash

Zowi available light

Zowi available light

Worked with a new model today — Zowi.

Nice girl from Lancaster, Pa., who posed beautifully and took direction well.

I worked on a variety of shots with her today including figure study images in the studio and then experimenting with ambient light and off camera flash in the stairwell outside the studio (same location as the crying shot with Porsche). There are plusses and minuses to each image. While I like the mood created by the ambient light better, the slow shutter speed necessary for a good exposure resulted in a little ghosting with her left foot and a slightly softer image (ISO 800 1/30 f4 28mm focal length). The flash photo (made with a Canon 580 EXII on a flash stand to the model’s left) provides a sharper image and greater depth of field and produces a more dramatic lighting effect, that is also a little harsh. This light is a little hard for a thin model like Zowi (ISO 400, 1/60 f13 41mm focal length).

Which is the better photo? I like the ambient light shot a little better. The light is softer and more flattering to Zowi, and I can live with the image being a little bit soft.


Amanda sees the light

Amanda sees the light

I talked about dragging the shutter in an earlier post. Now I’m going to talk about building on the technique by adding a carefully controlled light with a colored gel to make even more of the shot. 

Once again, my studio’s stained glass windows came into play, but this time the main light was powered way down and fitted with a snoot instead of the Softlighter II. I used a yellow gel to add to the glow coming from the stained glass windows and gently light Amanda (another wonderful model I get to work with from time to time).

The trick on this type of shot is to reduce the amount of light from the strobe so it doesn’t overpower the ambient light shining through the window coupled with a slow shutter speed (ISO 200 1/8 second, f16, 28mm focal length, Sigma 28-300 ).

Been a bit busy with school and writing articles for I did post more images from my shoots with Porsche and Christine at my pbase galleries.

I have posted articles today on tips for boudoir photography, choosing the right lens for your photography, proper lens cleaning techniques, selective focus and several equipment reviews.

The other big news is that I’ve been asked to write a chapter or two of a new camera guide. I’ll post more info as the project begins to shape up. I’ve got a quiet day planned for tomorrow with lots of writing and studying. Sunday we’re off to the Eagles game (we’ll be watching from the Fox Broadcasting suite).

I’m back in the studio Monday with another model I’ve never shot with before. Her name is Zowi and we’ll be shooting a variety of artistic nudes and perhaps getting creative with paint. After that I’m hoping to get back in the studio on Friday with Christine Mae again. Sadly for me, Porsche is out in California for the next two weeks so I don’t get to shoot with her again until late in the month.


A work of art

A work of art

Porsche and I got into the studio on Friday for the beginning of a long term mixed media project. While I’ll update this site on our progress, I’m keeping the nature of the project under wraps. You can try and figure out what we’re up do from my occasional update.

This shoot involved a concept I’ve used before, a beautiful model posed kneeling on mylar with paint drizzled on her body. The model then paints herself. 

Normally I choose the colors and distributions for these images, but since this is a much bigger project than usual, I wanted to get Porsche more involved in it (as an equal partner rather than just a subject of the photography). So for this image, I asked her to come up with a color scheme and ideas for how much of each color we should use. Her choices were red for anger, blue for sadness and yellow for happiness and she determined how much of each paint I drizzled on her. It was then up to her to move the paint around her body and create the final pattern. The combination of bright colors, dark background, reflective surface and engaging model combine to produce a compelling image.

Some comments on the technical side. This was a fairly simple lighting setup. I used an Alien Bees B1600 shot through a Photek Softlighter II (the big one) and used a pair of strobes bounced off my studio’s white ceiling for fill. Camera details were: Canon 40D, Sigma 28-300 lens, ISO 200, S/S 1/250 F13. One other thing to note, the mylar kicks a fair amount of light back up into shadow areas producing a nice, even exposure.

I chose not to use a background light because I wanted the effect of Porsche coming out of the darkness. Using a background light would have provided separation between her and the background. Was that the right decision? Well, I’m happy with the image, but you’re welcome to disagree with the choice.

I’ve only posted this image to my pbase galleries so far and my port, but I will be adding some others when I get the time. It’s been a busy couple of days and I’ve have some catching up to do as far as editing images from this shoot plus another shoot I did yesterday, plus I have some studying to do too.