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 and 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.


Enough Modifiers to Keep It Interesting… Real Interesting

It's Like a Grip Truck for your Speedlight: Modifiers to take the small flash into big light territory.

I use my speedlights frequently when on location, but truth be told I would rather have a more robust selection of tools to modify the light. I will admit to sucking pretty bad at the DYI approach. I will simply not go into a shoot with grubby or ‘home-made’ equipment unless it really looks compelling.

That all changed with the tools that I am telling you all about on this post. There are softboxes, softlighters, grid-spots, bounces, color filters, barn doors and even some little softlight tops similar to the Stofen. The Speed Light Pro Kit is an amazing set of tools and modifiers at a price that anyone can work with.

Here’s the cool thing, at least one of the cool things, they all fit flat into a tiny space. I can throw them into a small bag or my suitcase and be off knowing I have enough modifiers to do the job. From small softbox, to tightly contained grid-spots, I have enough gear to be effective with my lighting for most challenges.

This will be an bit different post. I will run it until this weekend, updating as I go along with new images taken with the different tools. Saturday will culminate in a webcast where you can ask questions and I can show you how I use them. We are scheduling the webcast for 11AM on Saturday, Phoenix, Arizona… we are on Pacific Time here, so mark your calendars appropriately.

There will be a link here on Saturday morning, March 21, and you will be able to click and visit the webcast.

Some items before we begin. Upcoming workshops are filling, so get signed up. We are very small in our groups, and that gives us lots of shooting time as well as learning the tools and techniques that will lead to more control in your lighting.


Spend a Day Shooting Portraits

Spend a Day Making Portraits with Lighting Essentials

Sorry for the long absence. A stolen laptop put me back a lot farther than expected. Add to that the traveling and being without internet, well, reliable internet anyway, in some of the locations. Whew… Hey, enough whining. We will make it up to you really quick with some great tutorials and lighting focused posts coming up soon.

The Monday after the recent Florida workshop was one of fun and relaxation. For me that means running all over the place making pictures and working with some of the attendees who decided to take a day from work to hang out. I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided to focus on portraiture for the day. We had some models come in from Miami (long drive – thanks girls) and one of our models from Sunday took the morning off to come along. Let’s take a look at some simple techniques to make portraits on location with minimal tools.

First some housekeeping: Kansas City is the next workshop. I have some openings. We have a place and will be notifying everyone of the address. This KC workshop is really going to be a lot of fun. See the Learn to Light page for more information.

We have our February Contest winners announced and the new contest is underway. See the contest page for all the details.

I have a lot of requests for the workshop, so we will be setting up some more dates this week as well. Filling out the summer and entering fall.

April 2009

Dallas 4, 5
Nashville 11, 12
Atlanta 18, 19
Mexico 24, 25, 26

May 2009

New York 2, 3
Washington DC 9, 10
Detroit 16, 17
Cleveland 30, 31

Let’s look at some pictures and talk a little about the art of portraiture.


Shoot Thru Umbrella and Bounce Umbrella – a Comparison

Shot-Thru and Bounce Umbrella on same shot. A comparison.

There is so much talk on some forums about the ‘softness’ of shoot-thru umbrellas and how much it works to provide a soft light. And there is certainly some truth to that statement… especially with umbrellas at a distance.

But finessed lighting that is done close to the subject finds that the shoot-thru umbrella has no ‘wrap’ to it, instead it scatters the light from the source instead of focusing the light. And those of you who know me, know that I don’t usually run in a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ mode on lighting. I only want the lighting to be what you want it to be… and learning lighting from someone who tells you to always do ‘a’ to get ‘b’ will do you no good.

You must get out and work with the tools, see the results, tweak and repeat. And repeat. Learn what the light does, then reconstruct it to provide the light you want.

We are going to examine a couple of shots we did with both in the same light. I also shot the setup so you can see how simple it is, and what I am referring to with the light.

NOW: Workshop News.
We are so excited about the workshops coming up. Please let me know if there are places you want to see Lighting Essentials Workshops. I am looking to book July and August now. And, of course we have all the workshop signups working so you can get signed up and ready for the workshops in your area… from San Diego to Montana to Washington DC… even Nashville!

I hope you are aware of our new Lighting Diagram tool. It is awesome and really can help with sharing the diagrams with friends. Treat the grid as 1 foot square and be precise about placement.

Now, let’s go look at some shots with shoot-thru and bounce umbrellas.


Tech Sheet: Beating the Sun with Small Flash

Using a small strobe to 'beat the sun' on Lighting Essentials

Our Tech Sheet on using a meter will be next time, we decided for a variety of reasons to bring you this Tech Sheet on beating the sun for effect instead. Explanation could come soon on why, but I wouldn’t wait for it… heh. It just happens when you are a one man publishing mogul. LOL

OK, there are times when you want to be able to beat the sun, that is, provide light that is equal to or brighter than the sun. When using small strobes it becomes even more tricky because there is a limit to the speedlight’s power. And to beat the sun we do need some power.

We are going to take this in two parts, the first being this tech sheet with small speedlights, and later this year with some large strobes. We will be using one and two lights for this exercise, so it should be something most will be able to do easily.

Before we get going, I want to say how cool it is that people are calling from all over the country asking me to bring the Lighting Workshop to their town. We have added Montana, Omaha, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, and they are filling up pretty fast. I have decided to lower the attendee count a bit because of how well they have done with a few less photogs. We would like to keep it at 12 with an assistant.

Now, let’s get on with the Tech Sheet for the end of February, how to beat the sun with small strobes.


Using a Speedlight for Environmental Images that Pop

Shooting The Natural Environment with Speedlights

I have been working on a personal project, shooting some of the old mining towns in Eastern/Central Arizona. Sometimes I shoot natural light and sometimes I like to pull out my speedlights for a little drama.

Let’s take a look at some easy ways to add a sense of lighting drama with a single speedlight. I use a 430EZ on a tethered hotshoe cord. I could use wireless remotes, and sometimes do, but the tether keeps me working within a set of limits that I like for this kind of shoot.

The tether means it fires every time, and there isn’t a bunch of things hanging off of the strobe or extending it. Anyway, if it wasn’t actually attached to my camera I would probably lose it.

We are shooting the towns of Superior, Miami and Hayden which are just east of Phoenix about an hour or so. They are very damaged towns, and I want to document where they are, because I really don’t know if they will make it or not.

We are working on Friday’s tech sheet now, and it will be really cool so check back.

Now, on to some fun, and easy ways to use your flash to pop the natural landscape and make some cool shots. If you want to try some shots like this, all you need is a camera and a flash that can be fired off camera… not on the hotshoe, but from another place. I handhold mine a lot.