Friday, February 26, 2010


When Sumi arrived at the studio, I asked her what she brought to wear. When she replied, "A cocktail dress, a wrap thing that I've never worn and a kimono," I knew it was going to be an interesting shoot. Interesting turned out to be inspirational and fun. The outfits were all so different, it was like three different shoots. To top it all off, Sumi had the most variety with her poses and facial expressions out of anyone I've worked with.

I think the best description I can come up with for Sumi is that she's a free spirit. She gives the impression of complete confidence, both in who she is and with what she's doing. This attitude came through during the shoot as well. It was not as if she was modeling, but more like she was acting, like there was an internal scene in her head that she was bringing to the room. Her movements and facial expressions were not typical model fare. They came from a little deeper and were a little more personal.

My favorite part of any shoot is usually when I put away the strobes and pull out the hotlights. These let me shoot in a style that I enjoy more, namely portraits. For the hotlights, Sumi chose to wear the kimono. The combination of my shooting style and her outfit gave me some of my most powerful portraits I've shot yet. She really connected with the camera and it shows in the photos.

By the end of the evening, we were tired and hungry, but we were happy. She gave me some new looks and she let me try a few new techniques. When people can work together and get into the creative spirit together, I think the results are special. Hopefully you think so too.

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Pocket Wizards

When I first moved into the studio, I was unsure if I should spend the money on a set of Pocket Wizards. I knew I didn't want to be tethered with a cable, but wouldn't the "Poverty Wizards" work just as well for what I needed? They don't have 100% reliability, but who needs that? Seriously, I've got better things to spend my money on. Fortunately, I decided to play it smart and safe and get a set of Pocket Wizards. I don't think I'll ever regret that decision.

So what are Pocket Wizards (PWs)? Technically, I got a set of Pocket Wizard Plus II Transcievers. They're radio transmitter/receivers that communicate between your camera and studio strobes so that the strobes fire when you take a picture. There are lots of products on the market that do the same thing. Some are simple cords that attach to your camera and to a strobe. They're not wireless, but they're cheap and are 100% reliable. The downside is that you're tethered! "Poverty Wizards" are cheap radio transmitters that are only about 90% reliable, meaning that for every 10 photos you take, the flash won't fire in one of them. The upside is that they cost a fraction of the price of PWs. There are others that are just as reliable as PWs and are even less expensive, but they are not as ubiquitous as PWs. Ultimately, because of the number of photographers who use PWs and the number of products that have PWs incorporated into them (strobes, power packs, even light meters!), I decided to suck it up and buy a set.

Using them is about as easy as it gets. Attach one to the hotshoe of your camera. Attach another to a strobe (you've got to have the correct cable to attach it, and different flashes need different cables, so plan on spending some extra money for it). You're ready to shoot! There are no settings to mess with. There are no calibrations to set or buttons to push. Turn it on and shoot. As long as both PWs are on the same channel you're good to go. If someone else is shooting on the same channel as you, just change them both to a new channel (takes about 1 second).

The most important thing about PWs is the reliability. Although I've only been using them for a few months, I haven't missed a shot yet. I have experienced what it might have been like if I had purchased a cheaper alternative. Since I only have 2 PWs, I have to optically slave a few flashes when I use more than one, which sometimes means using a reflective umbrella to "catch" the light for the sensor to see. During one shoot, I wasn't getting flashes 100% of the time from my background light, which was kind of annoying. It just made me more thankful that the PWs don't miss a shot.

Ultimately, Pocket Wizards are not that expensive. Compared to the rest of the gear us photographers use, they're really pretty cheap. I don't plan on going out and buying a bunch of them anytime soon, but if you're planning on doing a lot of studio shooting, they're worth every penny!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Working with Mandi was one of the best surprises I could have hoped for. It was the first time I had worked with a gray seamless background, which is now one of my favorite backgrounds to use! We started clicking pretty quickly, so her poses and expressions quickly started working very well. The lighting was doing some really good stuff for us. All-in-all, it was a great shoot!

Mandi made the drive down from Fort Collins for this shoot. She brought a good selection of clothes that gave us quite a few different looks. The thing that surprised me the most, though, was her face. It seemed like we got so many different looks with just subtle changes to the lighting or her expression. She's a lady of many faces!

I just had an opportunity to work with Mandi again this past weekend (I'll post a little something about that soon) and it was like meeting an old friend! She is definitely going places in the modeling world, so keep an eye out for Mandi.

You can see more photos here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Hot Lights

When you think about shooting in a studio, you probably thing about using strobes to create the light. I'm here to tell you that continuous lights (hot lights) are also an amazing source of light. They can be used for more creative images, as well as more traditional images. They're also a great tool for less experienced users, as they're pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

Hot lights are not typically as powerful as strobes. They come in a variety of wattages, but the most popular are 500W and 1000W. They're traditionally tungsten, but now come in fluorescent and LED as well. These newer sources are not nearly as hot (temperature wise), but I'd assume they're still called hot lights. Because they're not as powerful, they allow you to shoot at a lower aperture and get a nice, out of focus background, which isn't always possible with strobes.

Another advantage of using continuous light is that you can incorporate motion into your exposures. By using a slower shutter speed, any motion is recorded and blur is introduced. Depending on how fast your subject is moving and how long your shutter is open, your results will vary from very slight blur to ghostly images.

I've been using 500W hot lights and love them! I'm able to shoot at f/2.8, 1/80th of a second and ISO400 and get some amazing photos! Here are a few of my favorites I've taken recently using hotlights:

Now, compare that to this image taken with strobes:

Notice how in the first two images, the eyes are in focus but everything else quickly goes out of focus, while in the third image everything is nice and sharp, even with the wind blowing her hair? That's the power of hot lights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, February 14, 2010


When Shantey walked into my studio, there was one word in my mind: "Wow!". She's tall and she's pretty, but she's not intimidating. She's fun and friendly. She's goofy. She's not afraid to be a real person. Good photos started happening very quickly.

Out of anyone I've shot with, I think Shantey got into the music the most and that really made the shoot fun. Our mood was influenced by the music, which translated into the photos. She was dancing and full of energy, which in turn gave me more energy. This is how it should be!

She had a few different outfits and with each one came a different attitude. The collared shirt gave her power. The blue cowl-neck gave her a casual feel. The white sweater started out pure fashion and then, with a change of lighting, became slightly seductive!

It's not every time that I'm already hoping for another shoot before the first one is over, but Shantey made me want to work with her again. Her attitude, energy and emotion were contagious. I think the only cure is to shoot again!

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Favorite Photos Friday!

I tend to look at a lot of photos every week. Some for inspiration, some to keep current, some just to spy on other photographers! ;) I thought it would be fun to post some photos every once in a while just so you could see a little of what I see. I don't think I'll make this a weekly thing, but it will always be on a Friday for alliteration's sake! So, here are a few photos I've looked at in the past few weeks that really caught my eye:

Here's a few more: Beer, Wedding, Orchid, Dad

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - 1 Stand + 1 Umbrella + 1 Strobe = Awesome!

This past weekend, I went down to Colorado Springs for a photo shoot that Gary Barnhart with Imagery Light set up. I'll write more about the shoot in another post. Today, I want to focus on how just a little thinking outside the box can produce amazing results!

I had never done much shooting combining flash with natural light. I've done a lot of natural light shooting and adding the flash was usually more trouble than it was worth. If I was using just the flash with no umbrella, the results were too harsh. It I was using an umbrella on a stand, it was too unstable or too hard to position on uneven surfaces. Gary pretty much instantly made me a believer with one simple trick: Just pick up the stand and hold it like a boom!

How easy is that? Use one hand to hold the camera, use the other to hold the stand. It's really easy to position the light exactly where you want it, as you can keep the same composition and just move the light a little, since it's in your hand. No more walking over to the light, moving it just a bit taking another shot, adjusting the light some more... Just shoot! If a gust of wind comes along, you don't have to worry about your flash falling to the ground and breaking, or worse, hitting your subject. If you want to make a drastic change to your light, it takes seconds rather than minutes. It's just about the best trick I've learned in a while.

In the picture above, one of the models was holding the flash on another model. I looked up and saw them doing this, so I grabbed a quick shot (my exposure was set for shade, so the shot is a little blown out), but it should give you an idea of what I'm talking about. We had some assistants at this shoot, which allowed us to get a little farther away for our shots. That's the only downfall of this method, that you can't get very far away while still holding the light stand. But, with a little creativity and practice, I'm sure amazing shots are just around the corner for anyone who adopts the "Gary Method" of lighting!

Monday, February 8, 2010


In my initial conversations with Daniel, a model from Parker, he told me that he wanted something a little edgier for his portfolio. "Perfect," I thought, "I can do that." I'll use a darker background, lots of shadows and contours and set the mood with the right music (Massive Attack's "Mezzanine", in case you're interested). What really made the shoot work, though, was Daniel's attitude. He came in ready to shoot some edgier, darker photos. Without the right attitude, the photos would not have turned out the way they did at all!

Daniel came with the right attitude, but also the right outfits. He picked clothing that was not too heavy, not too dark, not too goth, not too biker... just cool guy stuff. Everything he wore, and the attitude he wore it with, said "I'm not just another pretty face!" What really took these photos to the next level was when Daniel decided to pop his collar for some closeups. Wow! Those shots are some of my favorites from any recent shoot I've done.

There are a few things I really enjoyed about this shoot. First, Daniel was not afraid to step outside of his comfort zone to get the shot. From the different attitudes and emotions he expressed to sitting and laying on the floor, he went the extra mile to make it work. Second, he was very enjoyable to talk to. He offered ideas for shots, he talked about previous shoots he'd done and even suggested ideas for future shoots, not to mention the regular chit-chat that goes on over the course of a 2-hour shoot. Finally, I love the images we got! Judging by Daniel's Facebook page, so do lots of other admirers! ;)

You can see more images from the shoot here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tanya Part IV

Tanya IV - The Return Of Tanya. Hmmm... not as catchy as I'd hoped. Anyway, Tanya's back and better than ever! You might remember her from one of my previous posts, creatively titled Tanya, Tanya Part II, and Tanya Part III. Once when we were shooting, I asked her if she'd be a guinea pig when I got into a studio. She agreed, so as soon as I got the studio space, she was the first person I contacted.

This shoot consisted of a bunch of messing with lights and trying to make things look right. Fortunately, Tanya was very patient and seemed like she was having a good time. We tried a few different looks. That's one thing that I didn't anticipate about a studio: It's much easier to change outfits! She came in with her entire closet (or close to it), so she had lots of clothes to choose from. She was able to change outfits 3 times during the shoot, which is something that is just not possible on location.

My introduction to the studio was made much more enjoyable by working with someone I know and am familiar with. Tanya was a real pro, both putting up with my crazy behavior and still giving me some great looks (as well as a hard time!). I am happy with the photos and so is she. I feel like I've made some huge leaps in my studio skills since this shoot, but that might not have been possible without: The Return Of Tanya!

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Spare Batteries

If I were to ask you to name the piece of equipment for your camera that you have never fantasized about owning, I'm sure the first thing you'd say is "lens cap cover". OK... but if I asked you to keep going, I'm sure that pretty quickly you'd say "spare battery". Let's face it. The batteries that come with our cameras these days last a long time (much longer than cell phone batteries, but don't get me started there!). They're also expensive. Wouldn't you rather spend that money on something that's way cooler? I know I would. But, ask yourself this: If your battery runs out in the middle of a shoot (or your kids birthday party/basketball game/graduation/wedding), what can you do? Answer: Nothing! Nothing, that is, unless you have a spare.

I learned the importance of having a spare battery when I owned my first digital camera. My wife and I were hiking and, of course, I was taking photos like crazy. I hadn't charged the battery in a while, but didn't think anything of it at the time. Then we came across some snakes in the middle of the trail. I still don't know what they were doing, but it looked pretty awesome, so I took a bunch of photos and then started taking some video. After about 5 minutes, the camera ran out of battery. "Oh well," I thought, "at least we were almost done with the hike." Just a few hundred yards down the trail, there were hundreds of butterflies landing on some plants. It was like nothing I'd ever seen (or have seen since). It was amazing! It was beautiful! My battery was dead.

I think it was that same day that I went out and bought a spare battery. Ever since then, I've had a spare battery for every camera that I use on a regular basis. They're small, light and when you are faced with a once-in-a-lifetime shot, are priceless.

Maybe you charge your battery every night. Maybe you never need to take photos for more than an hour. Maybe you're saving up for a new lens. Maybe you'd rather buy a faster memory card. Maybe you need to eat this week. Those are all good reasons not to buy a spare battery. Maybe you'll never need a spare battery. Maybe you'll never miss a photo because your battery died. Maybe. Maybe not. That's why I have two spares.