Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year End Review

I managed to get one last post in for the year!  The blog has been fairly sparse this year due to quite a few, big home projects and a lot more time with my finger on the shutter... which is a good thing!

That being said, after reading this blog post by the Strobist, I decided to do exactly what he recommends, and that is taking the time to sit back and review all of my favorite photos from the year.   I honestly don't think I have ever done this before, at least not on any techincal/official basis so this was a bit of a learning experience for me.

One of the things I figured out was, always have a camera with you, as about a third of the photos taken this year, were taken with my iPhone... and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  I upgraded to the iPhone 4S this year and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the photos it produces, not to mention all the cool apps it has to edit your photos with.  I wouldn't use my phone for clients, but again, having any camera with you is better than not having one at all.

There are a few other things I also figured out from my looking at my favorites from the year, but I will spare the details, suffice to say, I think this is a really good idea and if you haven't done so already, take the time out to pick 20 or so of your favorites from the year and see what they tell you about your photography.

Have fun with it, and Happy New Year!  See you in 2013!!!

If you're on a mobile device or can't see the slideshow above, try this link on Flickr.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers 2012!

It seems like the holidays are already on us, man where did this year go?  It seems like 2012 just started not all that long ago, and now its screaming to an end, and hopefully, not THE END.  In any case, if you have a photographer in your life that you need to shop for, then check out my gift guide for photographers below.

This list is actually geared a little more towards lighting photographers, but there are other goodies in there for every kind of photographer.  All of the items in this list are either things I have and use, or things I would like to have.  Some of these are less than $20 U.S. but there may be one or two that goes over the $1,000 dollar mark ...only of course for those photographers that have been REALLY good this year. ;)

In no particular order, here we go...

1.  Kelby Training without a doubt, has to be one of the single best resources on the net.  There are articles on there for every single kind of photography imaginable, including editing and lighting.  You can buy a monthly subscription, or pay for a full year in advance, and right now, they are offering a lot of cool deals!

2.  One of my favorite photographers of all time, Joe McNally has a mammoth volume on manipulating the intricacies of light.  If the photographer you're shopping for is a reader, and wants to learn more about lighting, there may be no better source.  Check out his book, Sketching Light:  An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash

3.  If your photographer shoots outside, then the Hoodman Loupe will become their favorite tool!

4.  My favorite camera straps of all time are the Black Rapid straps.  They are simply the most comfortable, easy to use straps I have used yet.  Mine is the Black Rapid RS-4 Strap, but there are other styles that may suit your needs better.

5.  The Lumiquest Softbox III (SB III) is my favorite, all-time, small light modifier for speedlights.  It creates much better light than a bare flash, and will fit in to almost any camera bag.

6.  If you're in to shooting boudoir and pinup style photography, then you have to check out the book Shoot Sexy by my friend and fellow photographer Ryan Armbrust.  Ryan's book covers everything about pin-up and boudoir photography, from poses and wardrobe, to lighting and editing.

7.  This next item is slowly becoming my absolute favorite modifier for off camera flash.  Its the Westcott Apollo 43" Orb, which is basically, an octabox style softbox for speed lights.

8.  Another cool necessity for photographers who use flashes off camera is the Frio Cold Shoe.  This is my favorite way to attach flashes to lightstands.  I have one on every stand I use.

9.  My new favorite shoulder camera bag is the Think Tank Retrospective 30.  Its roomy, soft, rugged, has tons of pockets and is pretty inconspicuous for a camera bag, which when in the field, is a good thing!

10.  $$$ ALERT - If the photographer you're shopping for needs some serious portable light, then you can probably do no better than the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra.  A super compact pack-and-head system that cranks out 400 watt seconds of light!  I don't have one of these, but I have frothed at the mouth for one ever since they came out!

11.  Photographers are notoriously eating up AA batteries like M&M's, so ideally, rechargeable batteries are the way to go.  The PowerEx 8 Cell Battery Charger has to be one of the best on the market.  I've had one for a few years now, and I honestly can't figure out how I ever lived without it!

12.  Chances are, if you do have a ton of AA batteries, then you need a good way to manage them too.  My favorite method is to use the PowerPax Battery Caddy.  It just makes my life more simple... and I need all the help I can get!

13.  My favorite, small softbox for speedlights is the Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe.  Its a little more pricey than most, but its super easy to use, very well built and collapses down so its easy to carry.

14.  If the photographer in your life likes to read, and wants to master lighting, then check out the book Light, Science and Magic.  Its a little technically oriented, but still easy to follow and probably the single best book out there on understanding the properties of light and how to harness it.

15.  The Westcott 43" Double Fold, Shoot Through Umbrella with black backing is probably one of my most used, and compact speed light modifiers.  Its cheap, effective and easy to use.

16.  Photographers are always looking for good backgrounds.  One of the most versatile I have ever used is the Botero #023 Collapsible Background.  Its a dark mottled gray one side, and a light mottled gray on the other.  Its 5'x7' when open, but collapses down to roughly a three foot diameter.

17.  Gaffer's Tape simply cannot have enough of this stuff!!!  It's cheap too!

18.  A-Clamps - another cheap, but indispensable tool for photographers of all types!

19.  Another highly effective tool that any photographer can use, is a good reflector!  I use the Westcott 40" 5-in-1 Reflector.  It has gold, silver, and white reflective surfaces, a 1 stop diffusion panel and a black cutter panel.

20.  Another awesome book for photographers is The Passionate Photographer:  Ten Steps Towards Becoming Great.  This is a really great book for learning how to train your eye and how to delve in to documentary style photography from a highly skilled photographer.

So there you have it, 20 gift ideas for that special photographer in your life!  Happy hunting and Happy Holidays!!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today in the U.S. is Thanksgiving Day which is a holiday us Americans celebrate to give thanks for all the fortunes in our lives. Some say its about a bunch of uptight pilgrims who share their first celebration dinner with their neighbors, but I'm dubious about that.

For most of us, its a day to share with family and friends, eating tons of turkey, taking long naps and watching football. Folks travel all over the country to be with their loved ones and to share memories of good times.

There are so many things in this world to be thankful for, that they are just to numerous to list. That being said, I can honestly say I've been quite fortunate in my years to have a blessing of family, friends and a roof over my head to keep me safe. I truly am thankful for all these gifts and also that I've managed to keep my finger on a shutter button over the years, documenting some of these blessings.

I'd like to say thanks to the few folks that find the time out of their days to take a peak at this blog (however inconsistent it may be) and for all the people that have taken the time to share bits and pieces of their lives with me, including those I've had the good opportunity to photograph, and those that have decided to stick with me through the long haul.

I have always been a family oriented guy in some way or another so I thought I'd share a few pics of how my family has grown over the years. I'm thankful for the family I've had to share this holiday with, including those that have passed, and those that continue to grow my family... its a motley crew to be sure!

(I'm not even in this one yet!)

 (for any of those who might be disgruntled about how they look in this photo, this is a friendly reminder to think about that the next time you see me with a camera in hand ;)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Off Camera Flash Photography Workshop!

Want to learn how to juggle those off camera flashes?  

Confused about what modifiers to use to make your small flashes look better?

Are you intimidated by using your flash off camera?

If so, you will definitely want to attend my first, small group, off camera flash photography workshop---just in time for the holidays!!

One of the things I've seemed to learn over the years, is that I tend to learn new materials when I'm in a smaller group of students (perhaps because I have such a limited attention span) and I think most others do as well.  So I'm going to start periodically offering small group, off camera flash photography workshops for those interested in a more one-on-one type approach.

By working in small groups, its much easier to field specific questions and problems and its easier to take in all of the information presented to you, without having to wade through a mountain of questions by a multitude of eager minded folks.

Some of the things that will be covered in this class include...

- Determining the direction, quality and color of light
- When and how to use various modifiers to shape and control the light
- Using multiple flashes
- Balancing ambient and flash
- Subject driven lighting
- High speed flash sync
- Creative lighting

While these will be the major topics of each class, by having a limited number of participants, we will be able to cater each class to the needs and desires of the group, which basically means more specialized instruction for each attendee.

So if juggling your flashes has you stumped, then this may be the solution for you!

In order to give everyone more bang for their buck, this first class will be limited to 5 participants only.  This will be a 4 hour class packed full of as much off camera flash technique as you can take and will be held in my home studio in Crestwood, Kentucky (just a short drive from anywhere in the Louisville, Ky. area) on Saturday, Nov. 17th from 1pm to 5pm EST.

Cost for this class will only be $129 for a full 4 hours!  Click the "buy now" button below to reserve your spot for a fun-filled class packed to the gills with off camera flash goodness!  After signing up, shoot me an email at john(at) to let us know you're in, to get directions to the studio, and also if you have any questions!

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Looking for a Good Point and Shoot Camera?

iPhone 4S

I just recently upgraded my old iPhone 3GS to the more recent iPhone 4S and I have to say, I am more than surprised at the quality of the photos from the built-in camera.  The reason I didn't upgrade to the iPhone 5 is that I'm a cheap bastard a bit on the frugal side and always look for the best bargain.  Since the iPhones have been around, I have always upgraded phones when the latest one comes out, going for what was previously the newest release.  This way, I feel like I still get a worthwhile upgrade, and still save a little money.

Back to the camera part.  If you're looking for a good, point and shoot style camera, why not consider getting yourself a nice smart phone with a quality camera?  Sure they still don't do *everything* that most quality point and shoot cameras do, but today's phones have amazing technology and produce photographs of superior quality compared to the early cell phone cameras.  Another reason to consider a smart phone as opposed to a point and shoot is that, everyone these days carries a phone and they are much more compact than most small cameras.  So basically, at least in my opinion, its just one less thing to carry around with you... which I'm starting to appreciate more and more these days. ;)

A photographer I really admire has said "the best camera is the one you have with you" -amen

The iPhone 4S has a 5 megapixel camera with HD video recording, 720p up to 30 frames per second, a built in LED flash and the ability to geo-tag all your photos and videos.  Its truly pretty impressive for a cell phone camera.  Another feature I have noticed (not by reading any specs) is that it also performs exceptionally well in low light with minimal noise.  I'm not familiar at this point with the ISO settings but so far, after quite a bit of field testing, I've been pleasantly pleased with the low noise results.

Another great benefit to the iPhone 4S (or any iPhone for that matter) is the thousands of camera apps available to edit and augment your photos with, not to mention apps like the ever-popular Instagram where you can share your photos on the fly with your friends.

Some of the apps I use on my iPhone are (in no particular order):

Dynamic Light (HDR)
PS Express (editing)
Snapseed (editing... and my favorite)

....I could honestly write a blog post on just the apps alone, so I'll leave it at these.  Many of the apps above are also available for Android users!

Also, with the latest iOS 6 update, the iPhone 4S and 5 now have one of the best, easiest to use Panorama apps I have seen, built right in to the camera.  There is also a new HDR option that comes standard with this update.  I haven't used the HDR option that much yet, but am looking forward to experimenting more with it.

For more info on the iPhone 4S, you can check out the technical specs here.

One last bonus to smart phone cameras are the cool lenses and accessories that are available now, like the new Schneider Optics iPro lenses ...drools.

So, long story short, if you're thinking about getting a point and shoot camera just to have fun snapping a few photos here and there, take the time to consider getting a smart phone with a good built in camera.  You'll be saving a little money, and its really cool to have a camera that takes phone calls too. ;)

To check out more about iPhone photography in general, check out the really cool blog: iPhoneography Times

If you'd like to check out some of my iPhone photography, check out my Tumblr Blog.

Also, if you're already snapping away, you can follow me on Instagram - jwaii

Happy shooting!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Armstrong, Eat your Heart Out!


This summer has been one hectic time!  Had many home DIY projects to do, and several shoots on the side as well as a few fun projects to boot so the blog has been a bit sparse.  Hopefully though I can get back on track with the fall and winter months coming.

Personal projects are a good way to keep you busy and sharp when not shooting for clients and also are a very good, low-pressure way to improve your craft.  I've been fortunate enough to live in an area that has a plethora of interesting folks and places to photograph.  With a little imagination, some negotiating skills and a smile on your face, its pretty darned easy to find things to shoot.  That being said, I've had an on-going project for a while now to photograph folks in my community that stand out, make a contribution to the local community, or are interesting in one way or another.  Which brings me to my latest subject...

Every once in a while (actually, much more frequently than that, for me at least) you meet someone or see a person that you just absolutely know should be in front of your camera, so much so that you can picture the image in your head just as surely if you had already taken it.  That was the case with a good friend of mine.  I have actually been wanting to photograph her for sometime but just got around to finally trying to talk her in to it.

You see, not only is my subject an avid cyclist and athlete, but she's also an accomplished photographer, and one thing I've learned is, we tend to be the hardest people on the face of the planet to get in front of a camera.  I think partially its because we know what an absolute mess we can make of a situation without a little forethought, and also because all of those years behind the picture maker has given us a sense of security, knowing that we are hidden from prying eyes that may want to dissect every single little nuance of our appearance ...wait, that doesn't really happen does it?  I digress...

Long story short, I talked Christina in to modeling for me (which most definitely wasn't an easy task) in her cycling gear because in my mind, her athleticism may not be something that others knew about her but also because I admire her physical ability and desire to excel at something that can be very difficult for others.

So we picked out a general location and set a time and date.  If you're with me this far, then you know I already had an idea of how I wanted this portrait to look, so the location and time of day was crucial in to achieving that.  I had envisioned a portrait of her, looking like a powerful, assertive athlete with a gorgeous sunset behind her, and lo-and-behold, even scheduling this a week or so in advance, we got an afternoon sky full of gorgeous, puffy white clouds... which is akin to gorgeous sunsets, that is of course until right up to the time of the shoot.  Really???

Yep, come time to snap a few photos, there were only a few clouds in the sky and since I knew the chances of me getting an opportunity to photograph Christina again might be slim to none, we decided to go with it and see what we could turn out.

After getting to the location and realizing the sexy sunset was a bust, I decided to scout the location quickly for a few other ideas.  Initially I didn't want anything in the background but the sunset, but after eyeballing the local area, I decided on a location that provided plenty of leading lines and symmetry that would draw the eye to my subject and still not be a total eye sore.  Since we were photographing in downtown Louisville on the Waterfront, its hard to not get a big bridge in the background, uhhh... because they are everywhere.  But as Christina pointed out, since she is a native Louisvill-ian, it really added more to the scene than it was a hindrance.  Sometimes its nice having a photographer as your subject!

So now that we had the location picked out, it was time to set up the lights... you knew there'd be lights right? ;)  Man oh man, was I so fortunate to have an assistant with me for this shoot, because had I not, I would have never got this photo to look at all how I wanted.  Sometimes, little details can slip your mind; for instance, anytime you shoot close to the Ohio river, there seems to be an ever present breeze, and on this particular day, it was nothing short of gale-force winds, which meant that any lighting modifier I was planning on using, could potentially turn in to a sail that could power the Santa Maria!  It was seriously windy, and I knew I wanted to use a large, soft modifier for my main light and had no sand bags with me.  Even if I did, they wouldn't have been enough to hold down my light rig.  This is where my assistant saved the shoot.

My key light was just a Nikon SB-800 in a Westcott Apollo Orb, which is basically a 43" octabox style softbox for speedlights.  So in this wind, I literally had to have my assistant keep one hand on the stand, and another tight grip on the softbox itself.  I actually held it myself for a minute and it was not easy I can tell you.  After I took my first test portrait, I quickly realized that the light was just a tad too neutral for my tastes, so I decided to add a full cut CTO gel... which quickly made my subject look like the great pumpkin!  Ok,switching gears a little, I swapped out the full cut for a 1/4 CTO and that worked perfectly.  I tend to prefer warmer skin tones in portraits so I just about always have a set of CTO gels with me.  Initially, I was thinking that my softbox was going to eat up quite a bit of light, which might also lessen the strength of the color of my gel so I went heavier, but to my surprise, the Apollo Orb is highly efficient, and reflective which meant that the color stayed pretty true to form.

Now that I had my key light set up, and colored how I needed it, I was off and running.  The sun was coming in and out of a cloud from behind her and camera left and even though I wanted the sun in the shot, it was unpredictable at best, so I decided to make my own sun!  I took another Nikon SB-800, added a full cut CTO (knowing that would work this time) and placed it back in the rear camera left to almost the same angle the sun was coming from, so now even if the sun did take a nose dive behind a cloud, I knew I could still get the warm highlight that I was looking for and that it would look reasonably realistic.  If the sun came out, it would just add that much more, and as luck would have it, it did.

On a technical note, I normally like to use CLS for triggering my lights but due to the location of my light in respect to me, and the fact that my key light was buried deep inside a softbox, I knew radio triggers were the only option.  So I used my trusty Cybersyncs, with a CST transmitter on my camera and one CSRB receiver on my key light.  Now this is where the cool part comes in.  Since the Nikon SB-800s have incredibly sensitive optical eyes (slaves), I set the rim light flash (my fake sun) to SU-4 mode (optical slave mode) and dialed the power in manually on that flash.  My key light, even though it was a small speedlight, easily had enough power to light my subject at my chosen aperture AND trigger my rim light which was about 15' away from the key light.  Since that rim light was unmodified except for the gel, I had no worries about leaving it on a stand in the high wind... almost none, but still it worked out.

Just so you can see exactly how much the speedlights were contributing to the scene, you can check out this accidental misfire where the lights didn't go off---user error on my part.  You can see that without the flashes, to get a good exposure on her, I basically would have had to blow out the background losing all of my detail in the sky.

All things said and done, I managed to capture a portrait that I really liked (even though it wasn't exactly what I had pictured in my head previously) and more importantly, created a portrait that my friend liked as well... so much so that I talked her in to another session somewhere down the road. :)

Also, take the time to check out some of Christina's photography on her Flickr page!

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Artist Goes Home

A local artist, photographer and friend has passed.  Its hard to see someone so young and talented move on to the ever after but I'm certain that the memory of him, his art and photography will live on in the minds and hearts of so many that he inspired and reached.

I didn't get to spend as much time with Scott as I would have liked, but the few times I did, he always had something funny, or interesting to say.  His work was an inspiration to me and I know, many others as well, photographer and artist alike.

There's no doubt in my mind, that he's in a better place, and if I had to bet, his finger is still pressing the shutter button!

Always remembered and admired, and never forgotten.  Rest in peace brother!

Please spend a little time checking out Scott's work, I know he would be pleased.

Scott Slusher Photography
Scott Slusher Facebook Fan Page

Monday, August 6, 2012

Off Camera Lighting on the Cheap!

Are you one of those folks that would like to try out off camera lighting but are hesitant to because the gear is too expensive?  Or maybe, you're fairly competent on the shutter but find that those expensive dSLRs we so know and love are somewhat limiting.  If either is the case, then this next bit of info might inspire you to try something different.

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by a video (see at the bottom of this post) of Zack Arias being challenged by Kai of Digital Rev TV to try and take interesting portraits of folks on the street with a 'junky' point-n-shoot and (I think) a Nikon flash.  Now Zack is a highly well-regarded, talented photographer and educator, but if you think this was an easy challenge, you might think again.  Street photography is not an easy thing to do... or at least be good at, but aside from that, Zack had to figure out on the spot how this cheap little camera worked and how he could get an off camera flash to work with it.  So that had me thinking...

Practically everyone these days has a point and shoot camera.  They're everywhere, and with good reason too as most of them these days, take extraordinarily good pictures if you're not too overly anal about the process.  That being said, I knew I had an old one around that I let the kids use from time to time so I thought this might be a good moment to try something new.

The point and shoot I have is an old Fuji FinePix F10 that in one point in a not-too-distant-past, was considered to be pretty darn good in low light with its fancy ISO settings... which now is quite laughable.  So the trick was, how to get my off camera flash to fire with this particular camera.  Since the Fuji doesn't have any ports for attaching a sync cable or even a hotshoe for flashes, the only option was to use the built in flash to trigger my off camera flash optically.

This is actually where you can get by pretty cheaply doing off camera flash photography.  All you need is a camera that has a built-in flash (one that you can ideally, dial the flash power in manually--mine doesn't) and a flash that can be triggered optically.  NOTE:  if your flash can't be triggered optically, then a cheap fix is to get an optical peanut like this one to attach to your flash.

So now I've figured out the syncing method, its time to see what in camera settings I can get control of.  Unfortunately, the only settings the Fuji has is Manual (sorta) and full auto.  In 'manual' mode (if you want to call it that) I can only dial in exposure compensation up or down to two full stops different... so not a lot of manual control really, but it might be enough to do the trick.

For this first portrait, I simply dialed in minus two stops of exposure to darken the background a bit, then, I placed a Lumiquest SBIII modifier on my flash, set the flash to SU-4 mode (optically syncing) and took a quick test shot of my more than thrilled model.  I was hand holding the flash above and slightly to the left of my subject.  Several things I noticed right off the bat is... since my Fuji has an electronic shutter and not a physical one, its not limited to a flash sync speed, meaning that this camera will fire at any shutter speed and still fire its on camera flash.  Another bit of useful info is that the on camera flash really isn't powerful enough to contribute anything to the photo at the exposure settings I created other than a minute amount of fill (which is actually kinda cool) so it really has just enough power to trigger my off camera flash.

This first photo didn't turn out to bad and I was actually quite pleased with the quality of light.  I don't remember what my actual flash power setting was, but I'm sure I started off around 1/4 power or so and adjusted it as necessary to get the exposure I was looking for.

So I decided to get another, more slightly easier-to-work-with model and try a few more.  Again, the great thing about the Fuji is, no limiting sync speed which allows me to really create more interesting and saturated backgrounds by dialing in a little negative compensation and relying on those higher shutter speeds.  Unfortunately I would have preferred to be able to dial in my own aperture and shutter speeds but I was working with what I had available to me.

Trying to find a more pleasing background... um, in my yard, we switched spots and I tried another few portraits.  I realize none of these photos are Pulitzer material btw, I was just trying to test what this technique would yield.  Something else I noticed to be beneficial, was to get my model in a little open shade, which meant my flash would not have to work as hard, then I simply exposed for my background... which is essentially how would do it with the dSLR.  Also, note that all of these photos were taken on a bright, sunny afternoon around 3pm.

One off camera flash, nowhere close to full power (and modified with the SBIII), and one outdated point and shoot camera were cranking out relatively decent pictures with little to no planning involved.  Giving a different set of parameters, like forethought to background and a model who's hair and makeup were less just-got-out-of-bed, this simple setup can yield some pretty cool results... and on the cheap too.

Would I use this setup for a client?  Most definitely not, but this setup does get more seasoned photographers out of the same line of thinking making them do something a little more off the cuff, and for folks that don't have the money to drop on $1500 camera body, this could be a good way to start experimenting with off camera flash.

All of these portraits were taken with shutter speeds in the neighborhood of 1/600 to 1/1000 of a sec and apertures anywhere from f/5.6 to f/8 ...which I really didn't have control over.  The cool thing though is, those shutter speeds!  I will be taking the time to experiment with this setup a little more, using better composition and lighting techniques just to see what it will yield, but a small point and shoot camera and one flash can fit in any bag and go with you just about anywhere.

To see what Zack accomplished with his shoot (and some of the troubles he dealt with) check out the video below!

I challenge you! Knock the dust off your old point and shoot camera, grab a flash and see what you can come up with, you might be surprised!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

Today in the U.S. is the day we celebrate our independence as a newly formed country and by remembering the powerful words of the Declaration of Independence, a treatise that created the backbone of democratic power and freedom throughout the land and even abroad.

We Americans usually celebrate this day with fireworks, cookouts, parties and (if luck would have it) a dip in a nice, refreshing pool or lake ...its usually pretty darn hot all over the country during this time of year.

For me though, the holiday is a bit bitter-sweet because two years ago today my dad passed away from a nasty bout of cancer.  My dad was not only a voice of reason and discipline in my life but also became a close friend so it was hard to deal with his passing, especially on a day that most of us should be celebrating.  That being said though, my dad was also a fierce patriot, served his country in the military and fervently believed in all of the principles of our democracy and freedoms bestowed to us by our founding fathers. 

So, if it was possible to choose the day when our time comes, I know dad would be most pleased that his passing occurred on the day we celebrate the founding of our country.  Today, not only will I be remembering those that paved the way for this great country through their own hardships and lessons learned, I will also be remembering and celebrating the life of someone who was so dear to me, and helped me gain a respect and love for my country too.

Happy 4th of July dad, missing you!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paramount 100th Anniversary Portrait

If you're a photographer who's in to lighting at all, then you have to admire this amazing portrait done by Art Streiber to celebrate Paramount Pictures 100th anniversary.  I'm totally in awe by Streiber's work in general and even more so by the logistics it took to put together a shot like this.  Click on it for a larger view.

Fstoppers has an awesome interview with Art Streiber on their website about the shoot and what it took to pull it off.   In a nutshell, there are 116 actors and actresses in this extravaganza group shot and Mr. Streiber mentions something like 57 Profoto heads were used to light this.  57.  WOW!

Also, if you'd like to see who all of the actors are, check out this post over at Vanity FairYou can scroll your mouse over the image to see the name of each individual actor or actress.  There's also a short behind the scenes video below.

So the next time you're fretting about doing a group shot, just keep in mind that at least you didn't have to photograph 116 of the biggest stars in the movie industry with umm... tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear!  Don't think my insurance would have covered that one. ;)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

TriFlash Brackets

I have a new tool to throw in my bag of tricks now (thanks to my awesome artist-in-residence) and I have to say, it has come in quite handy now on numerous occasions.  While I have never really had any problems lighting portraits or subjects outside in broad daylight with small flashes, I have never been able to use any kind of light modifier with them when the sun is high in the sky, usually between the hours of 12pm EST to around 4pm EST.  The reason being is that while my flashes have enough power (barely) to light a subject at this time of day, they don't really have enough power to use a large softbox with them and still light my subject.  That's where a triflash bracket comes in very handy.

I did a shoot recently where I wanted to shoot a model outside, on a bright, sunny afternoon and wanted to use flash to light her.  I also wanted to use a relatively large, soft source so I knew that one speed light wasn't going to work.  This is where the  triflash bracket makes the difference. 

My modifier was the new Westcott Apollo Orb, which is basically a 43" octabox style softbox made for speedlights (which incidentally is one of my new favorite lighting mods).  I simply mounted three Nikon SB-800s on the triflash bracket and dialed in 1/2 power on each one.  I thought I would start with half power just to see if it would be enough and if not, I would raise the power on each to full power.  Fortunately, half power was good enough.  I always like to use my flashes at a power setting less than full power to give me quicker recycle times.

Now normally, since I'm a Nikon shooter, I would use Nikon's CLS system to trigger my off camera flashes but since all three of these flashes were inside an enclosed softbox, I knew that the flashes probably wouldn't see the signal from my on camera flash so I opted to use radio triggers, Cybersyncs specifically.  Here's another sweet tip, because my Nikon SB-800s have built-in optical slaves (which are very sensitive) I was able to use just one radio receiver on one flash and then set the other two to optical slave mode (SU-4 mode on Nikon flashes) and all three fired!  That is a serious bonus as I only needed one transmitter and one receiver.

So I had my lights setup now it was time to get my exposure down.  I didn't want a blown out sky so I specifically set my exposure to give me a little detail in the sky.  I believe it was around f/11 at 1/250 sec at ISO 200 but I could be mistaken.  At this exposure, my background looked the way I wanted it, but without the flash, you can see in the photo below that my model is a little underexposed.

By adding flash, using the triflash bracket and a softbox, the quality of the photo (and the light) improved drastically.  Also notice that by composing the photo with the sun behind her, it gave a nice rim light to her camera left side and also kept her from squinting in the bright sunlight.  And since I was using three flashes at half power as opposed to one bare flash in close at full power, the light has a softer, wrapping feel to it and my recycle times were much shorter.

If you want more nuts and bolts information on using triflash brackets, check out the awesome post over on the Strobist blog.  Not only does the Strobist get more in to the numbers but he also reviews three different brackets.

For anyone who's curious, I have the Lastolite TriFlash bracket, but Interfit makes a cheaper alternative that probably works just as well.

Also, I'm sure some of you might be thinking, wouldn't it make more sense to just bring out a bigger studio style light?  Well, yes and no.  For sure, using a higher powered light like an 400 watt second monobloc or something bigger enables you to light your subject very easily regardless of the ambient exposure.  However, when using the big boys, you're going to need electrical power to run those bad daddies which means you'd either need a helluva long extension cord, or a battery pack to power your strobes.  While this is definitely an alternative, I can tell you from practical experience that three little flashes, a light stand and a collapsible softbox are MUCH easier to carry when you're working by yourself than a studio light and a battery pack.  For most of my work, I try to pack as lightly as possible and a triflash bracket has really added value to my current kit.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to drop a comment and I'll try to address them.  Now if you're a speedlight shooter and don't have a triflash bracket, go get one, you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Phottix Easy-Up Softbox Review

(Edit:  It would appear that this softbox by Phottix is no longer available in the U.S., so the only option to get one of these may be via EBay.  Otherwise, the Apollo 24" softbox is nearly identical, although it costs a little more.)

There's a new kid in town!

Are you in the market for a softbox for your speedlights but not sure what to buy?  With all of the choices out their nowadays it can be a bit daunting because over the last few years the market has been flooded with all types of modifiers for speedlights with every kind of design, feature and price tag you can imagine.  However I have to say, after experimenting with many of these new products, I think I may have found a new favorite!

Let me introduce you to the new, Phottix Easy-Up Softbox, made by a company that is already producing a lot of cool photography tools at very affordable prices!  The Phottix Easy-Up softbox is a 28" softbox built on an umbrella frame that folds down just like any standard umbrella which takes minimal room in just about any gear bag.  It produces a directional, soft quality of light, that comes with a front diffusion panel and also (perhaps my favorite detail) an included egg-crate grid!

The Phottix Easy-Up is a reflective softbox meaning that your flash actually faces towards the back of the softbox filling it with light before being channeled out the front diffusion.  This allows the light to marinade around in the box completely filling it with light which prevents hot spots on the diffusion face.  This softbox also mounts on any standard umbrella swivel adapter as you can see in this detail shot.  Any umbrella adapter will work but I also prefer to use Frio coldshoes on all of my adapters for an extra secure fit.

The Phottix Easy-Up also has a recessed front which helps to make the light more directional and if that isn't enough control, it also comes with an egg crate grid for maximum shape and control of the light!  Most softboxes on the market don't come with grids so this is a very welcome addition.  Not only can it be hard to find grids for some softboxes, but sometimes the grid themselves can cost as much as the softbox itself!  The included grid simply velcros in to the recessed front right over the diffusion face.

So how about the quality of light from the Phottix?  Well I have to say after initial testing and also using it on two assignments already, I'm very impressed!  It produces a really nice, rich quality of light with little specularity on your subjects.  Also, by having the recessed front, its very easy to feather the softbox away from your subject so that you can create a more wrapping light with a noticeable edge.  The size of this softbox also makes it perfect for portraits, headshots, 3/4 poses and can even be used for full-length poses albeit with a little fall off of light.

The Phottix also appears to be a rather efficient light modifier barely using a stop of light with the diffusion fabric on with no noticeable color casting.  In this series of photos you can see the quality of light it produces by noticing the highlight to shadow transfer areas, the minimal lack of specular reflections and also how using the grid can really create a more dramatic look.

In this first portrait, the softbox is to camera left and approximately 3 feet away from my lovely model.  All of these portraits were taken with the same settings of f/5.6 at 1/250 sec ISO 200 with my flash power dialed in at 1/8 power.  As always, you can click on any photo for a larger view!

For this next portrait, I used all of the same settings but attached the grid to the softbox.  Notice on the camera left side of her arm how it appears darker and also on the camera right side of her, the fall of light is more noticeable.  Another detail to notice is that the background is a tad darker from the first photo.  The included grid really helps to channel the light more and create a slightly more dramatic feel.  My model is about 2 feet away from the white, paper background so you would think that the grid wouldn't make that much difference on the background but it does.  Also, all of these photos are straight out of camera with only rotating and resizing for the web.

I thought it might be a little difficult to notice the difference in using the grid and not using the grid in the tighter portraits above so I did some full length portraits which should make the difference much more apparent.  In this first portrait the grid is not being used and you can see that it lights the model fairly evenly with a noticeable fall off of light down the body.  Granted my model is a tad bit shorter than most so results would be different with a "full sized model". :)

However, in this next portrait you can really see what a difference using the grid makes ...and also what a crappy condition my background is in lol!  The light falls off much more rapidly and really creates a more dramatic feel with much less light on the background.

Now I do have only one small complaint about this softbox and others similar to it, but there are plenty of work-a rounds as you can find in this post.  In order to mount this softbox to a light stand, you have to run the stand up through a zippered slot in the bottom of the softbox.  Because of this design, you get very limited mobility when try to tilt the softbox up or down.  If you're using an assistant then this isn't so much of a problem as they can tilt the softbox for you, but if you're shooting by yourself, as many of us often do, this can be a frustrating problem when it comes to getting the softbox in the exact position you need.

So my solution to this is to use a boom arm, or in my case, a spare reflector holder I had lying around.  Using a boom arm, or a reflector holder enables you to tilt the softbox in any manner you see fit and gives you much more flexibility in creating different angles of light.  However, if you decide to go this route, be sure to use sand bags or another type of weight on your stand because the added boom arm (or reflector holder) tends to throw the center of balance off and can cause your whole rig to come crashing to the ground, especially outside!  A little bit of wind or a clumsy photographer can cause a costly accident.  Actually, the best ethic is to always use something to weigh down your light stands or simply have someone hold them for you.

Ok, if you've made it this far, I have probably saved the best detail about this softbox for last.  The Phottix Easy-Up Umbrella Softbox is literally half the price of its next closest competitor and that's including the grid!!!  HALF THE PRICE!  That is a steal if you are in the market for one of these, so much so that you may want to run out and get two or three!

Hopefully this review was helpful and if anyone has any questions, just give me a shout!  Now time to go play with this thing... see you next time!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Creativity with John Cleese!

One of the hardest things for many photographers to develop is a sense of creativity.  You might be the most technologically proficient person with your gear and know how to edit photos better than the best Photoshop gurus out there but what about making interesting pictures?

Creativity, according to John Cleese is not a talent, but rather a quality that can be learned by the biggest embecile... fortunately for me.  So while you might have the technical know how, where do you rate on the creative scale?

Check out this video by the very talented and humorous John Cleese.  Many of you may know him from Monty Python fame, but what you may not know about him, is that he is a highly educated, imaginative, and persuasive writer and educator.  Maybe this video will help you to unlock your own creative abilities and also allow you a little laugh or two.  Its a little over 30 minutes long, but full of useful info regardless if you're a photographer, an artist, an engineer or a teacher!

Here's a big tip, humor can spawn awesome ideas!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Photographing a Memory

Probably one of the most important things to me about photography is, creating memories and capturing moments.  While we as humans are subject to the aging process (some of us more so than others), photography is eternal.  These small slivers of emotion and feeling we photographers capture can be powerful reminders of events in our history, both good and bad and hopefully, will live on long after us in the minds of those who have them to enjoy for times to come.

Most of us with megapixels to burn, have photographed every conceivable subject matter possible, from our pets, to large commercial assignments to what we had for dinner the night before, regardless if it was for us, or one of our clients.  One of the things I always try to do with my photography is to shoot for myself and/or my family.  Shooting for myself covers an incredulously large spectrum of subjects even though I tend to think of myself as more of a portrait photographer.  However, if you have one of those large families that have members who shoot out kids like a pez dispenser on steroids, its a great opportunity to get better at photographing people while making pictures for the family that they might not otherwise have.

Almost two years ago, I was blessed to be part of a family that brought me a little granddaughter.  While considering myself to be a grand parent in whatever capacity I'm able to produce, is more than I care to think about (again, damn aging process), I have had an absolute blast photographing the life of a very precocious, and curious little mind running around in the family.  Since I have never had any children of my own, its actually been enjoyable watching a little thing that can't even feed itself mature in to something a little more advanced with long curly hair, large dimples and a grin so sweet it can even melt my cold heart.

Angel will be two in just another month or so, and man has she grown!  She's been in front of a camera since poking her hairy little head in to a new world, and for the most part is fairly cooperative in front of the lens.  She's gotten so use to being her own little diva in a baby fashion modeling world, that now she even knows how to view photos on the photographer's camera and offer constructive criticism in the realm of lights and shadows.  I guess this is a good thing, because I can always use a little constructive direction.

I did a quick portrait session of her a little while ago and while I was photographing her, her grandma (my artist in residence) shot this quick video which to me is more entertaining than the photos so I thought I'd share this quick, funny clip.

I can't make up my mind whether Angel is going to end up being a super model, or the next Martin Scorsese, but from the looks of it, she gives direction well.

Oh, and for those wondering, I did this entire session with two speedlights in shoot thru umbrellas camera left and right at only about 1/2 stop difference in settings between the two.  This setup works great for fast moving little divas.

See you next time! :)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Basketball Day!!


If you're local, chances are, even if you're not a basketball fan, you probably know what today is.  If you're not local, chances are you still probably realize that there are a few basketball games going on.  However, for those of us who are from Kentucky and are basketball fans, today is our Super Bowl!!

The NCAA College basketball tournament has been going on for a few weeks now, and if you've been following along, today is the semi final games for who will be decided to be in the big show down, the final championship game.  The big match up for us local folks is the University of Kentucky Wildcats versus the University of Louisville Cardinals and it is probably one of the most hotly contested rivalries in all of college basketball!  Both teams have equally shined this year and have played their hearts out.  At times, both of these teams have played like NBA teams with today's hottest up-and-coming stars delivering a menagerie of shots from slam dunks to 3 point miracles.

While I will be the first to admit, that I am not a huge sports junky, I do have a considerable amount of pride in the fact that the state I live in has sent TWO college teams to the final four!  Not only is this an amazing feat for both colleges represented in this game, but it is also a huge bonus for the entire state of Kentucky regardless of which team wins.

That being said, I have to say that I am fiercely rooting for my favorite team, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the all time winning-est team in the NCAA!!  However, should my team not come through today, I can definitely say that while I will be upset, I will still be rooting for the Cardinals in the final game.  Why?  Because its good for my state and I would much rather support a local team than any other team in the country.

A lot of true, die hard fans probably disagree with me saying that you can't be a true fan while rooting for its arch nemesis, but I just don't see it that way.  I definitely want UK to win, and I'm even wearing my Kentucky blue today, but if they lose, I will whole heartedly be rooting for the Cards to deliver the championship because I have pride in that my state has consistently proved itself as a leader in college basketball.

Ok, off the soap box, time to fire up the grill and settle in for the Battle of the Bluegrass 2012!!!

Go CATS!!!!

...oh, and if you're curious as to how the photo above was lit, just click on it :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Snow Angel!

Snow Angel

Winter in my neck of the woods this year was a little less than ordinary.  We really only had one or two days with snow, and even then it was just a light dusting... which is highly unusual for this area.  So, since Spring is officially right around the corner for us, I thought I'd share the only 'snow portrait' I took this season.

I absolutely love shooting flash lit portraits balanced with ambient light, so when I saw how nice our backyard looked with the first real snow, I decided to take a quick portrait of our resident snow angel Lexi (well, she can be an angel at least some of the time. ;)

The first thing I did to get this portrait was to find a background that wasn't too distracting but still showed some of the new snow.  So fortunately, a view from our back deck did the trick.  Then I simply set my shutter speed to its fastest flash sync speed (1/250 sec) then dialed in my aperture til the scene looked the way I wanted.  (FYI, I had my ISO set to L 1.0 which is my camera's lowest ISO) Typically, I will "zero" out the scene first using my D300's built-in light meter, then I usually drop that exposure by another stop or two, simply by closing my aperture down ....its totally a preference thing.  In this particular portrait, I think I only dropped the exposure by one stop to just create a little more contrast in the sky.

Once I had my ambient exposure locked in where I wanted it, it was time to bring in my light.  I used one of the new Westcott Apollo strip boxes with a Nikon SB-800 to light this portrait.  So why did I decide on using a strip box?  Because I already had it set up with a flash in it :), but also, because I knew that this strip box, relative to my subject, would create a nice soft and somewhat wrapping light.  Lexi is still quite petite so this softbox in relation to her appeared to be a slightly large light source.

I triggered my flash with a set of radio triggers (I use Cybersyncs) because since the flash is enclosed in the softbox and we were outdoors, I had the feeling that my trusty, built-in, Nikon CLS system would not work in this instance because it requires line of sight from the triggering flash to the receiving flash.  So I dialed in my flash at (I think) 1/4 power and took a test shot of my trusty stand-in model... (see below)

This gave me a good enough guess on how my light was going to look on my subject, so all I had to do was bring her out, and snap a quick portrait.  I rely on my hand a lot when I'm shooting wide because the exposure on it, will be very similar to the exposure on just about any person I throw in front of the lens, although sometimes I still may have to make a minor adjustment.  The whole point of doing this, is to have everything set up and ready to go, so that I only need my model to stand in for just a few minutes to get the shot.

So you can see this is a pretty quick and easy method for creating flash and ambient balanced portraits with not a lot of work to get you there.  Taking this portrait took about 10 minutes from setup to snapping the last portrait.  I hope this seems like a pretty straight forward process, but if anyone has any questions, just sound off in the comments!

See you next time!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Westcott Apollo Orb vs. Photek Softlighter II

Just got the new Westcott 43" Apollo Orb octabox for speedlights and I have to say it is one sweet light mod.  Since there are already several good reviews of the Orb out there, instead of doing a review of just of the Orb, I decided to do a comparison of the Orb with its closest competitor, the Photek Softlighter II.  Both are really nice lighting modifiers and while they have many similarities, there are a few noticeable differences as well.  Let's check 'em out...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Powerex 8 Cell Battery Charger

Looking for a reliable battery charger?  Well then, go get this one now, right now, I'll wait.

Seriously though, if you're using speedlights (or any AA rechargeable battery consuming device) then you know what a hassle it is keeping them charged.  At one point, I literally had every outlet in the house littered with little 4 count battery chargers that took all night to charge and sometimes wouldn't even charge one or all of the batteries in the deck.

So after a few years of frustration with small chargers, I finally sprang for the PowerEx 8-Cell battery charger.. and I am in love.  This charger simply rocks!  It has individual charging circuits for each battery and can charge either AA or AAA rechargeable batteries.  What's so great about the individual circuits is that you can mix batteries of different charge levels at a time.  With most standard chargers (the cheap-o ones) if you have batteries of different charge levels, it won't charge them.

Another great thing about this charger is that you can charge your batteries in 1 hour!!  When I first used this charger, I was able to charge 16 batteries in less than 2 hours!!  That is awesome.  Also, it has a "Soft" charging cycle which extends the battery life and only takes 2 hours to cycle.  If you have a bunch of AA rechargeables lying around that won't hold a charge anymore, this charger will condition old batteries and bring them back up to optimal performance.  It also has a LCD display that tells you the status of each battery.

There are many other cool features about this charger, but the ones I listed above were enough to sell me on this product.  I seriously may buy another one soon.

I haven't yet switched to the PowerEx series batteries because I have so many Energizer batteries lying around that still seem to kick out the juice, but over time I am planning on slowly migrating to them.

If you're on the fence about getting a good charger, then go ahead and make the jump.  I can't believe I waited so long to get one of these, it simply makes my life easier.

See you next time!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Website, New Look!

Well, its certainly been a long time coming, but I finally got around to updating my website with a new design, new photos (and hopefully) easier navigation.  The blog got a facelift too and hopefully its easier to navigate as well.

With both the main site and the blog, text is bigger and I went with a simpler, "clean" look so that photos would stand out more, and articles would be easier to read.  It was certainly a challenge for me committing to a white website and blog because I always felt that photos looked better on darker backgrounds, especially dark gray ones, but I've noticed over the last few years, that most of the websites I like, have white backgrounds so that's why I went that route.

Also, I have to say that I am definitely not a CSS/HTML guru by a long shot so to get most of the customizing done to the site, I had to spend a lot of time on Smug Mug's help blog Digital Grin.  I certainly could not have made all the changes I did so seamlessly without the help of a few of the Smug Mug "Heroes".  Their support is really incredible and made things really easy on a dumb button pusher.  So I have to say a big THANK YOU to all you guys and gals at Smug Mug who stepped up and helped a fella out!

There are a bunch of new blog posts on deck and should be rolling out in the next few weeks as time allows.  Having an uncanny busy first part of the year so far (which is a good thing) so the blog has been a little sparse but hopefully some new info will be coming down the pipes soon.

In the meantime, I'd really love to know what you think of the new look and layout!  I'm sure I will be making a few more changes here and there, but if you have any input, I'm always all ears in that regard so if anyone has any suggestions or comments, please sound off in the comments section, and thanks for following the blog!

Oh, also for past clients, if you find you're having problems locating or accessing any of your galleries, please send me an email and we'll get that taken care of!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Right Tools for the Job

Many of you probably know my absolute love of my Nikon 18-200 VR lens.  I've blogged about it, always have it with me and use if for almost 90% of the work I shoot.  It simply will do just about everything I need it to.  Its plenty sharp for me, has a huge zoom range and renders colors exceptionally well.  Every now in then though, you have to put aside your "preferred" way of doing things for the "right" way of doing things.  Let me 'splain...

A local artist and a friend of mine recently asked me if I would take some photos of his paintings so that he could get them on the web.  I've photographed paintings before and knew this wouldn't take much time so I told him I would.

He came over with a selection of recent works and I immediately started setting up my gear.  Once I had one shot done, the rest would simply be moving the other paintings in and out.  I know from past experience that when shooting paintings there are three things to always consider.  First off, you don't want to leave a big glaring reflection of your light source in the painting, and two, because it is a painting, you (usually) want to show a little texture in the image.  Lastly, you want to make sure the photo you produce renders the colors of the painting as accurately as possible.

Fortunately for me, my studio is actually my downstairs living room which has neutral gray colored walls (planned it that way) and a glorious, white ceiling (also planned).  I like the gray because that color doesn't seem to throw back odd colors when there is a little spill, and I love the white ceiling because I can easily bounce a light source off of it, creating any size "soft box" feel simply by zooming the flash.

To light the paintings, I decided to use one Nikon SB-800.  I positioned it close to camera axis, zoomed it wide to 17mm (that's with the flip down diffuser in the down position) and raised it up to about 2 feet away from the ceiling.  This light would give me a very large, diffused and even light to light the paintings with.  In order to not let any of that light directly hit the painting, I used a Honl Gobo on the side of the flash facing the painting.  This flash was triggered with my pop-up flash on my camera.  I also held my hand in front of the pop-up flash so it wouldn't add any reflections to the painting either (even though, that light is so minimal, it most likely wouldn't have added any reflections anyways).

After setting my light up, I mounted my camera on my tripod ...HOLY SMOKE I ACTUALLY USED A TRIPOD!!!  Actually, whenever I'm shooting any product photography or perfectly still subjects, I always use a tripod because it makes making adjustments so much easier.  I used a shutter speed that would completely nuke the available light in the room, set my aperture to f/5.6 and ISO to 200, turned off the VR feature on my trusty 18-200 lens, set the timer for 5 seconds (so I wouldn't introduce camera shake when pressing the shutter) and took my first shot.  It was a little dark, so I cranked up the power on the flash a stop.  Bingo, looks great!  Now I'm ready to shoot the other paintings.

Everything was going right along, the photos were looking good, so before tearing down my setup, I pulled the card out of the camera and went to the computer to double check everything just in case I saw something that would need an adjustment.  Glad I did.

After I got the photos on the computer, I noticed right off that the rectangular canvases looked bowed... i.e. not square.  I didn't think about it while I was shooting, and didn't notice this on the LCD but on the computer it was blatantly obvious.  So I put the card back in the camera, and went to try again.  I zoomed that lens to numerous different focal lengths and just moved the camera backwards and forwards, but every single shot looked a little bowed.  Then it occurred to me, that zoom lens is distorting my shots.  See below for an example....

I've read about this many times, that zoom lenses and the wrong subject-to-camera distance can distort your images, but honestly this is the first time I had it happen so noticeably.  Now since my living room is not the most spacious in the world, I only had one other lens that might be a good option, my nifty 50mm 1.8.  So I swapped out lenses and took a few test shots.  It wasn't perfect, but in my eyes (and to my buddy the artist who was right over my shoulder the whole time) it looked way better, see the image at the beginning of the post.

So, in a nutshell, while I know its easy (especially for photographers) to get comfortable using a particular piece of equipment or a certain technique, its always important to consider the right tools for the job.  In this case, I just happened to have a lens that worked and got me away from shooting with my precious.  Always try to let your subject drive the lighting, composition, technique, equipment choices or whatever else to give you the best results, don't always go with what you know you're good at or with.

Hope this post helps a few others out there in some fashion or another.  I know for one that I am a creature of habit (or OCD) so a good jostling of the senses every once in a while is a good thing.

Also, my friend Josh is an extremely talented artist, check out his Facebook page!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rogue Flash Bender Diffusion Screens

Do you already own a Rogue Flash Bender made my ExpoImaging?  If so, then you will definitely want to pick up one of the new Diffusion Screens.  These handy screens improve the light from the flash bender by diffusing the light giving it a softer quality, especially when used in close to your subjects.

The Rogue Flash Benders are handy speedlight modifiers that simply velcro on to your flash, and can then be adjusted and formed to better control and shape the light.  The new Diffusion Screens simply velcro on to your already existing Flash Bender and help to spread and soften that light.  The new Diffusion Screens also come in two sizes, one for the large Flash Bender and another for the smaller one.  The large screen creates a 9" by 8" source of light and the smaller one is 9" by 4.5".

To give a frame of reference of the differences between using a bare flash and the Flash Bender with the new Diffusion Screens, check out the images below.

You can see in the photo above and to the left, what a hard shadow a bare speedlight creates, while in the photo to the right you can see how softer the shadows are and how much more diffused the light is by using the Flash Bender and Diffusion Screen.  The flash used to light both of these photos was the same distance from the subject and also at the same angle.  This modifier also appears to use roughly 2 stops of light.  The only post work done to these photos was cropping, and combining them on one frame.

For something a little more useful, check out this portrait of my beautiful model using just a bare speedlight.  While this particular model looks good in just about any light source, notice how hard the shadow lines are and how there is a little more texture and detail in the face.  Also notice the shadow on the back wall and how sharp it appears.
In this next portrait, I used the large Flash Bender with the Diffusion Screen and right off you notice the better quality of light.  The shadow lines appear much softer and the fall off of light on the background is much more subtle and diffused.  Its hard to notice in these photos, but also the Flash Bender creates a larger catch light in the eyes, especially when using them in closer to your subject.

Another nice benefit of using these modifiers, is that they are light weight, and fold down so that they can be stuffed in just about any sized gear bag.

To see how the Diffusion Screens attach to your speedlight, check out this short video clip below...

The Diffusion Screens are sold separately from the Flash Benders so if you already own a Rogue Flash Bender (or two), you definitely will want to pick yourself up one of these.  Maybe in the future ExpoImaging will come out with a deal for those folks that don't have either, which will include a Flash Bender AND a Diffusion Screen in one package. (hint, hint) :)