Four Umbrella Madness: Shooting with Regina in Utah

Four Umbrella Madness: Shooting with Regina in Utah

We were having so much fun with Regina (our contest winner) in her Utah studio that I decided to do a bunch of videos of a few of the setups. (Here is Regina’s blog post on the past weekend.)

This one was made possible when Regina said she had four matching small umbrellas. I used to do this setup and haven’t done it in years, so we got them all out and built the “4 umbrella madness” setup.

Basically this is best with as small an umbrella as possible. I had 4 22″ Speedotron soft white umbrellas when I used to do it. Regina’s are 32″ Westcott’s and they were lovely.

Four AB800’s were at barely above minimal power settings and we placed them all around the camera. For the first shot of Clarissa, we had her about four feet from the bank of umbrellas. We used no fill on the sides, allowing the edge of her shoulders and arms to go dark from reflecting the dark studio.

Here is Megan’s shot from this setup, video to follow.

Carisa is about 4 feet from the umbrella bank

Next we moved her in close to the umbrellas – about 2 feet away. The light wraps more around her face and shoulders here.


Next up is Megan’s shot of Carisa at 2 feet from umbrella bank.

Carisa is now about two feet from the bank of umbrellas

More of Megan’s work can be seen at her Flickr site.

Bonus Video: Using the Four Umbrella Beast with the model against the backdrop can produce a subtle “ring light” look to the image. With the larger 32″ umbrellas, the soft shadow surrounding the subject is a bit wider, but it still looks pretty cool. My original setup with the 22″ umbrellas produced a smaller, edgier shadow around the subject. This is a fun little video, but no sample at this point… hoping we can get one in soon.

An additional video from the shoot.

More from the fabulous weekend at the entrance to Zion National Park and the wonderful Regina Pagles coming up. We have lots to share.

Discussing “Sculpting with Light” with Photographer Rick Gayle

Discussing “Sculpting with Light” with Photographer Rick Gayle

Rick walks us through his lighting thoughts while actually doing a shot. You can hear him discussing the thought process he uses, and you will learn a lot of great little lighting tips and tricks to make your next photograph even better.

Rick’s Website.

Rick’s Blog

I recommend signing up for Rick’s email updates if you are at all interested in real professional info and shoots – including some incredible behind the scenes at his food shoots.

Big shout out to Rick for doing this for you Lighting Essentials folks. And a big shout out to Charles Tibbs for handling some video duties as well. Appreciated, guys.

Photography by Rick Gayle

Photography by Rick Gayle

Rick will be doing a workshop for those interested in professional food photography. Here’s the link. This workshop will include a food stylist to show you all the tricks and answer the questions you may have about shooting food. Rick is a wonderful teacher – as you can see from the video – so this workshop comes highly recommended by me.


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Rick Gayle, Photographer: Phoenix, AZ

Rick Gayle, Photographer: Phoenix, AZ

I have known Rick for a long, long time. I did not know that he had a blog until this morning.

Funny how stuff like that goes around.

Rick’s blog is full of images and stories and shows a level of creativity that is rare indeed these days.

I will contact Rick for a sit-down interview later this Spring, but for now – take a look at his blog, read about how finding some apple cores leads to a brilliant photograph and take in his tasty lighting.

Rick Gayle Photography

Rick Gayle Photography

Photograph by Rick Gayle

Photograph by Rick Gayle

Photograph by Rick Gayle

Photograph by Rick Gayle

If you are interested in shooting food and still life, Rick provides a ton of wonderful behind the scenes shots, styling tips and lighting info.

Rick Gayle Photography

Posts to jump to immediately:

Summer Still Life

Photography Improv

An Apple a Day

Holiday Pancakes

Rick Gayle Website.

Rick Gayle Blog.

Beautiful work, Rick.

Still Life with One Light in the Studio: “LIVE” on LE


This article is a look at the creation of a simple still life with one light in the studio. See it after the jump.

At this point I want to remind everyone of the incredible opportunity this week. Selina’s amazing Clarion Call is this coming Thursday/Friday, February 10, 11. It is all day both days and the lineup of guests is amazing.

Check out who will be sharing their amazing insights with you all – for FREE!

Heather Morton – Through The Buyers’ Eye
Rob Haggert – Vision and Value
Gail Mooney – Motion? Pictures?
Nick Thomas – Repositioning For Your Best Shot
Louisa Curtis – Show and Sell
Frank Meo – The Secrets of Agents
Kat Dalager – Presenting You
Keith Gentile – Databases That Deliver
Adam Sherwin – Viral and Vital
Eric Kass – Designed To Sell
Don Giannatti – Visionary Web Site
Rosh Sillars – Socialize Your Media
Jack Hollingsworth – The Twitter Tutorial
Allen Murabayashi – Google and You

This will be something that will be talked about, imitated, shared and remembered for a heck of a long time. Be in on the first one. Register here, and be ready to be pumped!
For Selina’s Teleseminar, click on the banner.

PROJECT 52, Assignment 6 Information is at the Project 52 site this week. The assignment… Chocolate. You have been assigned a last minute shoot for a local chain of restaurants for a shot for their menu – and the specialty of February… Chocolate. NOTE: Image bust be a square format image. Square to fit their menu image slot.

Lots more info over on Project 52, so jump on over and get involved. It doesn’t matter if you have not been involved from the beginning… get involved now and get your stuff ready to go pro… or at least shoot like one.

A big shout out to the folks who took my Phoenix and San Diego workshops… thanks folks, we did have a blast. Special thanks to Christine at Arte Bella for helping he San Diego workshop with a ton of behind the scenes efforts and scoring some wonderful models for us. Thanks Christine.

Next up workshop wise is Austin, Texas. March will take us to Sacramento for a workshop, and in April we are back in Omaha and West Palm Beach for back to back workshops. Check the schedule out here. There is an advance workshop being planned for the first weekend in April, but we are waiting for a few things to get nailed down. The April advanced workshop will be focused on studio lighting and still life/product work.

OK – that’s enough shop talk, so let’s get to the still life shoot complete with short video and Photoshop screen shots.


Photographing A Dancer: Guest Post by Josh Brewster.

Photographing the Dance by Josh Brewster, Austin Texas Photographer
This and all photos in this post copyright Josh Brewster, Austin TX.
(Looking for Project 52? Hit the “52” link in categories for all the linky goodness. Visit for ongoing assignment notes.)

Josh took my workshop in Houston a couple of times. His work has really grown. I saw these images and asked for a write up from him. It is this guest post. Welcome Josh Brewster to Lighting Essentials. BTW, Josh will be assisting me at the Austin workshop. A great opportunity to meet him and learn a ton about lighting and photography. Let’s let Josh tell us about the dance images.

The Assignment
My girlfriend manages a dance studio, so occasionally small gigs float my way. A few days ago, I received an email from a parent whose daughter, Kaila, is enrolled at the dance studio. Her daughter was applying to a number of intensive ballet camps this summer; each application required her headshot as well as photographs of a few dance poses. The applications were due in less than two weeks so the images needed to produced and delivered quickly.

Research and Preparation
Dance, especially ballet, is very detailed and very precise. A pose or leap can be ruined by a shoulder that is slightly too high, or an arm slightly too straight. In real-time, an incorrect pose can be covered up by swift motion or forgiven due to the complexity of the dance routine. A photograph, however, freezes that motion and removes the dancer from any form of context. Any mistake, slight or significant, becomes glaringly obvious. So in terms of an application process, she had to look perfect.

With perfection in mind, I made a few executive decisions:

1) Big lights – I like to think I am a good photographer, and I know Kaila is a phenomenal dancer, but I was fully prepared to shoot the same leap over and over again until everything (my shutter finger, her pose) matched up. Wall powered units were a must; battery powered speed lights just would not be able to keep up the pace that was required.

2) Support squad – I invited my girlfriend, Kaila’s dance instructor, and Kaila’s mom to the shoot. Between two trained dancers, a high school musical theater teacher, and myself, we were able work with the subject through every aspect of the shoot. I made sure she was aware of the key light, the dancers scrutinized her movements, and the musical theater teacher (her mom) helped her project her personality.

3) Shoot tethered – Shooting tethered into Lightroom 3 allowed the aforementioned support squad to have quick visual feedback for Kaila. More importantly, we were able to decide as a group exactly when the winning shot was captured so we did not tire Kaila out through excessive repetitions of the same dance step.

4) Shoot low – For the poses, I knew that I would want to get my camera lower to the ground, perhaps just below Kaila’s hip level. This lower perspective would make her leaps look higher and her legs longer.

Artistically, I wanted to create images that really showcased Kaila and only Kaila. Something inside me screamed “gray seamless,” so I went with it, knowing that it was versatile enough for both the head shots and the poses.

Day of the Shoot
Since the dance shots would require Kaila to be leaping around and eventually putting her hair into a bun, we decided to start the shoot with her headshots while her hair was looking nice. I wanted to deliver two different looks: one that was open and one that was slightly more dramatic.

For the first look, I set up a large 6x6ft diffusion panel to the left of where Kaila would be sitting. Then I set up a strobe with a socked beauty dish to fire through the diffusion panel. I could have forgone the beauty dish and used a standard reflector, but I wanted to diffuse the light as much as possible before it hit the subject. I was also planning on using the socked beauty for the rest of the lighting setups, so it saved time when transitioning to the next setup. To the right of the subject, I placed a large white reflector for fill and positioned a smaller silver reflector to be in her lap to bounce some light up from below. A final low-powered, gridded softbox from behind and to the right brightened up her hair and added a highlight to one side.

Photography by Josh Brewster

Photography by Josh Brewster

The second look was a classic butterfly setup. I moved the socked beauty dish directly overhead and tilted it down towards her face for the key light. The silver reflector in her lap stayed in place and the power on the hair light softbox was increased significantly. A gridded strobe was aimed to hit the background right below frame, creating a nice gradient on the background.

Photography by Josh Brewster

Photography by Josh Brewster

Photography by Josh Brewster

After getting the head shots, Kaila went off to change into her first costume; I got to work modifying the lighting setup. There were a number of considerations that I took when I chose my modifiers and placed my lights. I knew I wanted my key light to be the beauty dish and I wanted it to project Kaila’s shadow on the background. I set it up camera right.

To prevent the shadow-side of Kaila from going dark, I setup a large softbox directly to Kaila’s side. This served a double feature of filling in the shadows and creating a kicker highlight to outline her figure. To keep the light from spilling onto the background, I added a grid to the softbox. The final light was a gridded strobe high and back to camera right, once again helping outline Kaila from the background.

Lighting Diagram by Josh Brewster

This lighting setup was pretty loose, meaning that there was a wide area in which Kaila would be acceptably illuminated. We shot the Kaila in her blue lyrical costume for an array of freeform poses and leaps, and then shot her in her ballet leotard for her more technical arabesque and second position en pointe poses (apparently it is really hard to hold this position on her toes… I tried and failed spectacularly).

The entire shoot went quite smoothly, with plenty of energy and laughter. Aside from being impressed with her athleticism, I was continually impressed with Kaila’s desire for perfection and great enthusiasm throughout the shoot.

Photography by Josh Brewster

After the Shoot
That night after the shoot, I sent off a proofing gallery where they could look at all the images and choose which would receive the final edits. Before I shut down my computer for the night, I did a quick check on Facebook, where I discovered that she had already posted eleven of the photos to an album and given me proper photographer credit and a link to my website. Nice. Part of me writhed, knowing that those images had not yet received the royal editing treatment. However, her friends were commenting up a storm despite my loose crops and slightly crooked horizons, so I did my best to cope.

The next day, I received a list of the photos they had selected. I edited them and sent them off. I got an email back asking if I could create a black and white version that they could hang on the wall; I obliged.

So far feedback has been pretty positive: “These are amazing. We are so happy with how they turned out! Thank you SOOOOO much. Everyone is flipping out over the pictures.”

As much as I liked hearing this, I will not be fully satisfied until I hear the news that Kaila was selected to attend the summer camp. My bet is that she will breeze on in. Until that time, however, I’ll just occupy myself by taking more photos.

Thanks Josh. Nice work and explanations as well.

Hope you all enjoyed this piece by Josh. Make sure you visit his website, and send a comment his way if you enjoyed it.

As always, follow me on Twitter, join us at Project52 and remember to check out Learn to Light for information on the workshops for this year.