Black Senior Portrait Background


For this blog post I’ll be sharing my technique for getting a busy background to look like a Black Portrait Background (similar to what you’d find in a photography studio). The final image was achieved with four flashes and camera settings that helped me to take the background right out of my final shot (without using Photoshop).

I was on a photography assignment in Michigan when I received a call to see if I was available for a senior portrait shoot in the area. It turns out Nichole already had a senior portrait session but she was really unhappy with the entire experience. It turns out Nichole was a beautiful girl and her bad experience was completely the fault of her previous photographer. I quickly said “yes” but because of the time of year we couldn’t go out to a nice location for her shoot. I love a challenge and this was sure to be fun. We created a bunch of images I really loved right in her living room. We started our shoot by simulating a black background.

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Photographing Liquor Bottles | Behind the Scenes of a Product Shoot


For this blog entry I want to talk about Photographing Liquor Bottles and give a look Behind the Scenes of a Product Shoot. After my recent trip to Kentucky I wanted to take some pictures of some special bottles of bourbon I received at the Maker’s Mark distillery. The bourbon inside the bottles was aged in a barrel that had my name on it (along with names of some other really cool Maker’s Mark Ambassadors). I was surprised to learn that I’d be putting custom labels on the bottles before I dipping them into the signature red wax to seal them. I’ll be sharing my experience at the distillery in a future blog post.

For this blog post I’ll be sharing my techniques for setting up and lighting a product in my studio. It may seem simple but when the goal is to create a specific look for your final shot it can get super complicated really fast. For the shot above I used a total of 5 flashes (three groups each set to different power levels).

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My Top 12 Pictures from 2012


According to my Lightroom 4 “2012 catalog” I captured close to 40,000 images in 2012. That’s a whole lot of pictures! I had a great year and I captured some of my all time favorite shots in 2012. WIth 2013 right around the corner I wanted to look back and pick 12 shots from 2012 that represented my work for the year. I’ve always tried to tell stories with my photography and this year was no exception. Sometimes the story was there in the picture and sometimes the adventure of capturing the shot became the story. For this blog entry I’ll share my twelve favorite shots from 2012 and the stories behind each of them. Continue reading

Different ways I use flash gels


People that have known me for a while know how much I enjoy using shoe mount flashes to get different looks for my photography. While I often share my wilder shots I’m happy to report that I can take shots without flashes, light modifiers and colored gels. In fact, when I’m shooting for clients I start with simple shots and when I’m certain that I have shots that they’re happy with I’ll see if there’s some interest in pushing things into more creative places. Most of the time my photo subjects have grown comfortable enough with me near the end of a shoot that they’re willing to try some different lighting setups to see where the shoot goes.

To get different looks I’m big on using flash modifiers like grids, barn doors, softboxes and colored gels. I use velcro straps from Honl Photo and LumiQuest and I use gels from Flash Zebra, GAM and Honl Photo. I take a ton of gels with me on a shoot and to keep things organized I’m using Case Logic CD cases (I picked mine up for about $5 each at my local Best Buy). For this blog entry I want to talk about colored gels and some of the different ways that I like to use them on a shoot.

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Dusk Photography (with Flash)


Location photography is all about showing your environment and making it look like someplace others want to visit. Location portraiture is all about getting great portraits and including a cool background (but not letting the environment dominate the shot). An easy way to get killer shots (and tone down the background in your portraits) is to shoot early in the morning or really close to sunset. Having a little less brightness in your background lets you bring out your own lights to take control of your final shot.

Whenever I walk into a location shoot I start by looking around and trying to figure out the story I want to tell with my final image. Sometimes I see my shot immediately and sometimes I have to search a bit to find my image. The bottom line is that you have to look past what’s in front of you and think about what it could become. For this blog entry I’ll be talking about how I get into the mindset of finding my shot and how I work through the process of setting up a shot using small flashes.

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Photographing Hummingbirds


Where I live in northern Virginia I see a lot of wildlife “in the wild”. In late spring/early summer I see lots of birds, owls and butterflies right in my yard. Outside of my office window I have a Mimosa tree and it really attracts the various winged creatures. I’m not what I would consider a wildlife photographer but I do enjoy taking pictures of animals. This year I’ve been seeing lots of hummingbirds so I thought I’d try my luck at getting some hummingbird shots. I learned quickly that this kind of photography is a huge challenge and with this blog entry I’ll talk a bit about how I got my shots and the camera settings I used.

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The Coffee Shop Shoot (part 1)


Recently I’ve been working with a local business owner on a new photography assignment.

The owners of the Common Grounds coffee shop just opened their business and they needed some images to use on their website, in print advertising and for any future projects. This kind of work is great because it will involve lots of different styles and techniques for me to successfully deliver everything they need.

I’ll be taking exterior shots, interior HDR shots, shots of employees and customers (portraiture), shots of their products (food shots) and even some animal shots (they are service dog friendly). After a week of scouting and planning I began shooting some exterior shots last night. For this blog entry I’ll begin talking about how I use my photography on special assignments for business owners like this coffee shop.

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Creating a complicated light setup (next steps)


This blog entry is part 2 of a series about building up a complicated studio lighting setup one step at a time. If you haven’t read part 1 you can read it here. We already had a really good start that could have been the finishing point for this portrait. But we’re photographers and we are always looking for something better. Let’s see if we can improve the shot by changing the umbrella orientation to a shoot though to get even better looking light. And if you own a second flash we’re going to take advantage of it next by creating a rim light to really separate our subject from the background. But first, let’s turn that umbrella around.

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Photographing a Gazebo at Night


One of my recent assignments was a property shoot for a horse farm owner in Northern VIrginia. I was asked to show more of the beauty of the farm and to de-emphasize the working environment. This is a farm I know very well and I instantly had some shots in mind. With over 100 acres to cover I made sure the farm owner understood that I’d need to return for sunrises and sunsets to get the best shots and that the weather would play a big part in how long this assignment would take to complete.

In the weeks after getting the assignment I took plenty of killer sunrise and sunset pictures but I didn’t just want sunrises and sunsets. I needed some daytime shots, detail shots and even a night time shot. I also needed to get some people into some shots. Here’s a thought, how about a night shot with some people in it?

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