Gear… OK, Let’s Discuss Gear. Photographic Tools That I Like

Discussing Gear I Like at Lighting Essentials, a Place for Photographers

I get a lot of questions about gear at the workshops and by email. I have lots to say about gear, but I am not a gear-head. I love gear that helps make my work easier, and couldn’t care less about cost or prestige. If something works well I like it. And if it isn’t worth a premium price, I wont spend a premium price. Period.

There are lots of camera manufacturers, lots of lighting manufacturers and lots of gear manufacturers to choose from. And this article is in no way stating that other peoples choices are wrong. These are the tools I use and like a lot. I do not do negative reviews, so if I talk about it, it is because I like it.

Before we get to the specific items, I want to let everyone know that the workshops are going to be offered again next year and we will have the schedule up soon at Learn to Light. They have been very successful for us, and we are kicking them up a notch with a lot of interesting learning tools for next year. Everything will go up but the price. We are holding at our current price and still keeping to our very small 10-12 participants. If you are thinking about a workshop for your photography, I hope that you take a look at our schedule and mark one you like.

I want to link back to a few other gear articles we have done before getting going here.

Simple Setups for Dramatic Lighting
Mini Workshop: Location Portraits and Glamour
Speedlights: Unleash Their Creative Power
ON LOCATION: with Jerry OConnor, Jim Vigileos and Christina
Enough Modifiers to Keep It Interesting
Shoot Thru Umbrella and Bounce Umbrella – A Comparison
Twenty+ Non-Photographic Essentials For Location Photography

And a few recent articles you should be aware of:
Still Life Shot for a Magazine Ad
Modifying Natural Light with Simple Tools
And this 10 post long series on Going Pro. We are adding more to the Going Pro real soon.

Some new blogs and sites that I love are also something I want to share.

Heather Morton is an Art Buyer in Canada. Her blog is so damn interesting I cannot recommend it more. Absolutely amazing look at the real world of advertising photography. Also there is the wonderful blog by Nick Onken. Nick is one of my favorite shooters and his blog is very insightful. Rodney Smith is also one of my all-time favorite shooters. He now has a blog and it is fascinating reading.

I hope to meet more of you next year, and we are sure loving the fact that so many of you are telling your friends about Lighting Essentials. Thanks so much for your support.

And we still have a few openings in Pittsburgh and Boise. One spot left in Boston and one in Detroit. Florida is full. We will be starting next year with San Diego and Houston. See Learn to Light for more information.

So let’s get going on the gear post.

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Strobe and Ambient: Finding the Mix for Portraiture

Finding your ambient exposure first can make shooting a flash portrait much easier.

I get asked a lot about how my methodology works. What am I thinking about when setting the light? How do I know what the settings should be.

For this post I have pulled some shots from last years workshop tour. I will explain the exposure planning as we go along. From mixing the ambient with the speedlights or overriding the ambient altogether, the knowledge of what the image should look like will help you decide.

And what should the image look like? Well, that is up to you. In photography there seems to be an endless amount of possibilities and you can pretty much do what you want. Stylistically and artistically, you can make the image you want by working with the light your way.

The neat thing is that the light works the same way, every time. So you can “learn” the light and its abilities and controls and be comfortable that the light will do what you expect it to.

I always carry a little book with me to sketch ideas in and also to document how I do something for later review. I decided to scan those extemporaneous drawings so you can see how simple it is to do the shots, and how important it can be to carry a small notebook for making notes. You don’t have to be an artist, but it sure helps to LEARN what you are doing by writing it down. I don’t do every shot, but sometimes I like to just sketch it quick and then see if there is anything else I could do.

Before we get going on this post, I want to remind you about the upcoming workshops: Akron, Omaha, Montana and Chicago. These workshops are intense and full of information that goes even beyond lighting. From professional working methods to using social media to gain exposure, we talk about photography all day long. For two full days. Visit the Learn to Light website for more information.

If you are currently looking for a new way to present your work, take a look at our Professional Photographer Websites built on the power of WordPress. Just click the Essentials link on the menu bar for more information.

Now lets look at five different portrait setups that use speedlights and ambient light.

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Creating a Dramatic Dance Shot with a Speedlight and the Sun

Creating a Dramatic Dance Photo with Speedlights and the Sun

I thought I would break down another shot I did that involved pre-visualization, overcoming a challenge and using small lights for a big light look.

The shot was for a dance Calendar for Briana. In the calendar images she presents 12 different types and styles of dance. for the last shot I wanted to harken back to the film “Flashdance” for a water/splash fun shot.

Before we get going, I would like to remind everyone that the workshops in Omaha, NE and Missoula, MT are still open, but down to only one shooter each. We are so pleased to be able to bring the workshop to some of these smaller markets. If you are thinking about attending a workshop this summer, take a look at the Omaha, Nebraska, Chicago, El Paso, Memphis and Minnesota dates. More to come, so stay tuned.

Here are a few other posts you may enjoy:
Shooting on the Beach with Two Speedlights and the Sun
Deconstruction: Briana on the Pier (Speedlights and the Sun)
Tech Sheet: Beating the Sun with Speedlights
Tech Sheet: Creating an Ambient Look with Speedlights on Location

Also to remind you all that to check out the Essentials page. We have added full-featured websites to our offering as well as some very cool WordPress themes expressly designed for photographers.

So let’s go on and take a look at the steps we took to do the fun “Flashdance” shot for Briana’s Calendar.

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Mexico Workshop, April 2009

Mexico in April was a blast. We had a great time and it was an amazing weekend

Mexico was an absolute blast this year. We had about 14 models who were there for the “Girls of Rocky Point” calendar shoot. Weather was amazing, and the resort made us feel right at home. I had a chance to shoot a couple of shots with the guys and decided to share a few with you all.

We still have some room at the Cleveland workshop, and the June workshops have some space as well. Come on out and enjoy a really intense, incredibly fun and real-time-hand-on-see-do-learn workshop. Your photography will improve by several times no matter what your level.

Special thanks BTW to my wonderful sponsors BorrowLenses.com, SmugMugPro and the Las Palmas Resort in Rocky Point Mexico. All the attendees to any workshop will receive a 10% discount for any vacation rental at that incredible place. Don’t let the media hype scare you off… it is a pretty incredible place and easy and safe to get to.

I also should publicly thank my friends Megan, James, Jerry, JimmyV, Evan, Alex and Jesse for coming down and working with us. Some were there only to shoot the calendar, but spent time shooting with the guys and having an all out great time. Special kudos to Jesika (who came all the way from Houston for this workshop) and Christine and Laura, from Phoenix. They came with the calendar but spent a heck of a lot of time with the workshop guys and that was wonderful.

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Small Strobes with Dramatic Results: Nashville Workshop Images

Small Strobes with Big Results: Nashville Workshop Images

I have had some great workshops over the past few weeks. This weekend it is Mexico, then some recharge time. Shooting a lot of workshop images and images for the book in Mexico as we are working on the workshop itself. I have Megan, Jerry and Evan going down for some extra shooters to cover the workshop and finalize the workbook.

Kansas City was awesome, as was Dallas. We are still collecting from those workshops. The Nashville workshop got some great images out to me right away so they are being posted now.

I am very proud of this workshop. It combines visual learning, lecture/demonstrations and hands-on, real world shooting. We are booking as we go on through the summer, so make sure you check back and see where we are going to be for the next few months.

If you are new to the site, you should check out the archive pages for lots and lots of posts on light and photographic lighting. Just hit the “Tag List” on the right side for a great introduction to the works here.

Look what is coming up:
May
Cleveland 30, 31

June
Omaha, Nebraska 6, 7
Missoula, Montana 20, 21
Chicago, Illinois 27, 28

July
El Paso , Texas, 10, 11
Memphis , Tennessee, 18, 19

Let’s look at a few images and deconstruct the lighting, shall we.

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Using Ambient Light and Strobe for a Natural Looking Still Life

Using the Natural Ambient Light with Strobe for a Natural Still Life

This is a cover shot that we did for the fragrance company. We wanted a larger space and a more natural looking scene for the cover so we sought out a warm environment. Our AD found a beautiful home that fit the bill.

I knew the item that I would be shooting was small, and knowing that the idea was for a natural looking space, I didn’t need the big guns, I took a small, traveling kit we had at the studio and was off.

The space was a very pretty, large living room with 18′ of north light coming through floor to ceiling louvered windows. The room was simply awash in gorgeous, ambient light.

Before I get started, apologies for slow posting… I have been crazywickedbusy… and working on a book for final publication (although private) is taking every spare minute. I would like to thank SmugMug Professional for coming on as a sponsor. Every workshop attendee for the rest of the year will receive a free one year Pro Account at SmugMug. We also welcome Midwest Photo Exchange to the LE family. A big shout out to BorrowLenses.com and MightyImaging.com for their continued support.

Upcoming workshops are Atlanta and Mexico. I have openings for a few at both. The lineup for the summer is looking great. All attendees receive the workbook, a new DVD for the workshop attendees only, a copy of my book on PDF, the SmugMugPro account and more. We are currently doing weekly webcasts on New Media Marketing. As soon as we have the bugs worked out, that free weekly workshop will be available to all workshop attendees.

Well, let’s go on and take a look at how simple tools can be used to make a natural looking still life.

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