One Light for Portraits: You Can Do It!

When you’re shooting people on location, you have to be able to work fast and move quickly. I work without an assistant and that means that I need to be able to do everything myself. This almost forces me to use a single light for most of my sessions so I’m not spending all of my time running around and positioning lights, adjusting them, and so on.

As the King of OneLight shooting Mr. Zack Arias has proven so well, you can make excellent photographs with just one light. Execution is far more important than size and power, so that’s why I shoot with hot shoe flashes (speedlights) instead of an AC powered moonlight like the Alien Bees B800.

I prefer speedlights over moonlights for a couple of reasons. Their lighter, require less gear, and I can still get a lot of light out of them without having to lug around a heavy light and an even heavier power pack.

So how do I do it? It’s pretty easy actually. My current favorite light modifier combo for lighting my environment and shooting large groups is my Westcott 60” reversible umbrella and my Lastolite TriFlash. I put three hot shoe flashes on the TriFlash and shoot them through the umbrella. I can get quite a bit of light and fast recycle times without having to wait until nearly sunset to do so.

For the shot above, I shot at f 5.6, 1/200th of a second, and ISO 100 with my D90. I had my SB800 and (2) SB80DX flashes all set at ½ power. I also left the diffusion domes on the flashes to further soften the light. I use the umbrella as a shoot-through because it gives a nice falloff of light without casting a shadow, as it would do when using it reflectively. I placed the light on camera right, slightly above my subjects. Another trick when shooting groups is point the center of the umbrella toward the far end of your group. This will feather the light a bit and your group will be lit more evenly.

So there’s a quick, easy lesson in how to light a large group of people with only one light, and pull it off! I would much rather haul around a few speedlights and a heavy moonlight and power pack, so this really works to my advantage. Remember, if you execute well, it doesn’t matter what kind of gear you’re using.

Have a great week!


Been Bitten by the Gear Bug?

It happens to all of us.  It’s that uncontrollable urge to go out and buy that new glass, new camera body, new flash, new… I think you get the point.  With all the technology there is out there for photographers, it’s hard NOT to fall victim to the sales pitches and splurge on some new gear.

But let’s come back to reality for a second.  Do you really NEED it?  Or do you just WANT it?  There is a huge difference between the two and knowing exactly what that difference is can aid greatly in your choice to save or spend.  As photographers and creatives, it’s pretty easy for us to come up with some way to justify our ‘wants’ as ‘needs’.  But sometimes it’s beneficial to get out of our right brains and head over to our left.

I define a ‘need’ as something that I cannont work without.  In other words, I couldn’t complete my job without this piece of gear.  For example, if I somehow managed to ruin both of my camera bodies then I would ‘need’ to buy a replacement.  Or, if all I ever shot were subjects in really, really low light then you could say that I ‘need’ a D700 and f2.8 glass just to make the job happen. 

‘Wants’ on the other hand are a totally different story.  In my case, I have a perfectly functioning D90 that helps me produce great images and I usually shoot in good light or I create good light.  Can I do most jobs with my D90?  Absolutely!  Do I ‘need’ a D700 to do my job?  No.  At least not on a day-to-day basis.  So that would fall into the ‘want’ category. 

If you’re trying to break into photography to make a living you have to be willing to make sacrifices and make good decisions.  Otherwise, all of your income will go toward the latest, greatest widget that’s on the market and that just doesn’t make good business sense. 

So next time you think you ‘need’ to buy that new piece of gear, do yourself a favor and take a really hard, honest look at what you’re buying and whether or not you NEED it, or WANT it.

Fotoflot Review: A Killer Way to Showcase Your Prints!

So a few weeks ago, I was chosen as the winner of Zenfolio’s ToW (Tweet of the Week) contest on Twitter, for answering questions in the photographic community about their awesome service. My reward was a free Fotoflot, which is one of the products available to customers through Zenfolio.

To be honest, I had never heard of them before so I went straight to Fotoflot’s website to check them out. I was in ‘photog’ heaven because I saw that this was going to be a really great way to mount and showcase prints.

In a nutshell, Fotoflots are prints that are mounted on a piece of acrylic that has magnets attached to the back. The mounted prints can then be placed on a desk stand or a wall mount and the magnets hold them in place.

What makes this really cool is if you decide you want to hang a different print, all you have to do is remove it from the mount and place the new print. You can simply use the existing wall mount or desk stand-provided you are hanging a print of the same size. [EDIT: The wall mount bracket I have will work for photos up to 12.5″ x 15″.  Sizes larger than that require a unique bracket for each size.  Also, the same wall bracket I have will allow you to easily rotate a photo from portrait orientation to landscape orientation and vice versa.  This is accomplished by loosening the screw in the arc in the bracket and rotating it.  (See photo of bracket below.)]  I really like the wall mounts because your prints look like they’re floating just off the wall! That rocks!

Price-wise, these aren’t the least expensive items around… but they are so cool! The least expensive product is $50.00 and that price includes all the necessary hardware. My prize was the 7.5″ x 10″ wall mount which is the smallest size they offer.  Also, all prices include USPS Priority Mail shipping.

Here are some shots that I took of the Fotoflot, the wall mount, and the finished product:

If you’re in the market for a cool way to display your art, I highly recommend you take a look at the products from Fotoflot! I know this first print won’t be my last because they just look so darn cool hanging on the wall! Check ’em out… you won’t be sorry!

10 Photography Blogs I Read and Recommend

Here’s a quick rundown of photography blogs that I read and I highly recommend that you read them too (in no particular order):

  1. Strobist – by David Hobby
    Lighting info, tips, tricks, hacks, and lots of really cool lighting stuff.
  2. Photoshop Insider – by Scott Kelby
    News, tips, tricks, updates, and more about photography, gear, and photoshop.
  3. Lighting Essentials – by Don Giannatti
    Lots of cool lighting info as well as some photography business gouge.
  4. Joe McNally’s Blog
    Info, news, happenings, and tidbits from one of my favorite photographers. (No HDR)
  5. Zack Arias’ Blog
    Info, news, happenings, and an occasional tutorial. Zack does more with less.
  6. Chase Jarvis’ Blog
    Chase is a well-known commercial photographer who isn’t afraid to share what he knows with the world. Definitely a good read. He takes better photos with an iPhone than a lot of people do with a DSLR.
  7. Photopreneur
    If you’re at all interested in making money with photography, this blog will provide lots of inspiration and guidance.
  8. Lightroom Killer Tips – by Matt Kloskowski
    If you’re a Lightroom fan like me, you’ll want to read this blog to get tips, tricks, and presets from one of the Photoshop Guys.
  9. The Mpix Blog
    The official blog of my favorite lab, Mpix. Promotions, savings, new products, and great gouge on awesome prints.
  10. Vincent Laforet’s Blog
    Although he doesn’t update as often as most of us would like, he posts a lot of great info and inspiration, both stills and video too!

These are the blogs that I check most often and that I depend on for solid and reliable information. I hope you find them as useful as I do! Have a great day!

Lightroom News (And Some Other News Too)

Hey everyone! Tuesday’s here and it’s time for some Lightroom news, updates, and some other news. I haven’t posted any big news about Lr in awhile, so this has been a long time coming. (Note: For a great, regular resource on Lightroom be sure to check out Wade Heninger’s blog too!)

First off, yesterday Adobe released Lightroom version 2.5 which includes some corrections to issues in previous versions of Lr 2 and also includes camera support for the Nikon D3000 and Olympus E-P1. Time to download the update and install it! I almost always install small version updates right away, but wait for larger (i.e. V2 to V3) updates to ensure stability and compatibility. (This is also why I haven’t upgraded to Snow Leopard yet.)

Second item on my Lr list: it appeared that Jeffrey Friedl’s website and blog had been down for a few days, as I wasn’t able to update my awesome plugins that he has written for Lr. However, I’m happy to report that his site appears to be back up and I’ve successfully updated my Facebook and Flickr plugins. If you haven’t checked out Jeffrey’s Lightroom plugins yet, you’re way behind the power curve!

I’ve been super busy with family over the weekend and the first couple of days this week, but I happened to receive my Fotoflot from Zenfolio and I’m going to write up a review of this awesome product. I actually won the Fotoflot as I was selected as @zenfolio’s Tweet of the Week winner a couple weeks ago. Thanks again guys, and I’ll have the review up shortly.

I hope you’re having an awesome week and I’ll be bringing you a couple of quick tutorials very soon, so be sure to check back in!

Zenfolio for Client Proofing – My Workflow

Zenfolio is not only a great service for hosting your photos and allowing your clients to view and order prints, but they are also a really great way for clients to proof and select their images as well.

Now, there isn’t really any type of ‘proofing system’ built in, but with a little creativity applied I was able to come up with a method that works without any intricate work involved. Here’s how I did it:

Zenfolio uses price lists that you can create and customize in any way that you like. There are also custom products that photographers can create and add to a price list that are not fulfilled by any of Zenfolio’s affiliates, but rather the photographer.

I created a custom product called “Proof Selections” and set the price to $0.00. Next, I created a new price list and called it “Proofing”, and added only the custom product “Proof Selections” that I had just created.

When I go into a client’s gallery that I have set up, I can select which price list I want to apply to their gallery. For clients who have chosen a package with limited select images that they will receive, this works well for them. They can go into their gallery and add the images they would like to their cart. Once I have the order, I can then delete the images that they didn’t select.

I usually upload low resolution images first in order to save time. (Space isn’t an issue with Zenfolio if you have an Unlimited or Premium account.) After the client has selected their images, I then upload the full resolutions images for them and change the price list to my regular price list so that they can purchase digital files, order prints, or order specialty products.

Zenfolio has a notification preset to let your clients know that you have received their order and also once it has been shipped. I use these e-mail notifications to let clients know that I have uploaded their high resolution selections. This also saves me time and gives me consistency with messages that I send to my clients. This way, I don’t have to go into Mail and draft and send an e-mail message. Zenfolio’s e-mails also have links built in, another huge time saver.

So that’s how I let my clients select images, which saves me a lot of time and it’s also convenient for my clients. Now, bear in mind that my business isn’t based off of trying to sell canvas gallery wraps, framed prints, or other high-end products. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) If I were selling lots of products like those I mentioned, I would want to meet with my clients to show them their images and close the sale.

There you have it, another one of the many reasons why I’m a customer and big fan of Zenfolio!