I’ve recently moved into a new studio space that’s just beautiful. I haven’t had a dedicated space in some time and while using space at home can work, it’s not ideal with three dogs who always want to be part of the action. You’ll probably see this space pop up quite in future photos but for now, here’s the first shoot I’ve done in the space with Kya.
Last week I posted the first part of a photoshoot with Mallory, our model, and MUA Matt Goodlett. In that post I mentioned that part 2 of this photoshoot was radically different and below might show as to what I meant.
I saw this technique years ago in a article on KelbyOne. I saved the article but never quite got back using it during a shoot. Having recently picked Nick Fancher's new book Chroma, which I highly recommend, I saw this same technique laid out in one of the chapters. Perhaps unsurprisingly Nick was the author of the original article on KelbyOne that described this technique.
If you're interested in learning how this was done I, again, very much recommend picking up Nick's book. It's a great study on using color in photos and techniques to achieve many creative styles.
This was an interesting set as it was done in two radically different setups. While you'll have to wait to see the second portion to see what I'm referring to, the first set from this photoshoot is below. Mallory was our model for the day with my good friend and amazing make-up artists Matt Goodlett, Mattgoodlettmakeup.com, providing makeup.
The idea is fairly straightforward, Mallory has this great Glen Plaid suit and I wanted to take photos of her in it. Burgundy is a great color to put this type of suit in front of but oddly a tough color to find in a seamless paper backdrop. Superior Seamless provided the closest match with their #27 Flame roll and I'm quite happy with how the color turned out.
Since this was done in my home studio, space was slightly limited. Initially I wanted to avoid shadows on the backdrop but given the space I had and the photos I wanted to get this wasn't going to be doable. Sometimes you have to accept the limitations of your space and, in this case, letting the shadows be helped increase the look of the photos overall.
Check in next week for part 2 of Mallory, in two parts!
A few weeks ago I set out with Kya, a local model, to explore downtown New Albany with a slight catch. I wanted to limit the amount of gear I brought along for this shoot. Having multiple strobes and flashes with a myriad of modifiers for each is important at times and creates endless possibilities for most photoshoots. But often I feel that I get lost in these endless possibilities and when I can do anything then nothing I do feels particularly great. By packing only a single light, a Flashpoint R2 Li-Ion flashgun, and a single modifier, a Photek 36" Softlighter II Umbrella, I felt I had more fully explored each location and what I was able to get out of it. Ultimately, I found the photoshoot to be more rewarding and I'm happier with many of these photos than I have been on many past shoots.
I'm sure you've read or even tried out the new app/social media network Vero by now. If not then the evaluative upshot of the app is that it's a mashup of Instagram and Google+ with a pinch of Facebook that gives you an ad free and chronological feed. Sounds good so far as, after all, algorithmic feeds are the current bane of every Facebook, Instagram, Twitter user and the dozen or so people left on Google Plus*. But while the idea is sound the implementation is less so.
Like Instagram, Vero lives in an app. Their website is basically just a sales page letting you know why Vero is the next greatest thing. Nothing out of the usual there except for their app only sort of works. In my time with the app, which admittedly has only been roughly 2 days, searching for users returns every user that has a first or last name that matches with either the first or last name of the person you searched for if it returns anything at all, it takes nearly a minute for a user's profile to actually load any of their content, and this is if the app will even open correctly. I get that many of these issues are related to a higher than expected amount of users signing up but with how fickle the internet and its users are this isn't a good first impression of the app.
Followers vs Connections
Vero is selling itself as the "true social" network with "smarter connecting." The idea is similar to Google+ circles in that if you connect with someone, similar to sending a Facebook friend request in that both parties must accept the connection, you add them to one of three groups Close Friends, Friends, or Acquaintances. This is supposed to give you control over who you share your content with but the system works in a hierarchical nature meaning its more of a sliding scale of privacy vs choosing particular groups. For instance, sharing a image with Friends means those in the Close Friends and Friends group can see the image while sharing with Acquaintances means all three groups can see the image. If you wanted to share with only the Friends group then well, tough. You also don't seem to be able to create additional groups nor rename existing groups.
Followers are more akin to well... Followers in Instagram. Anyone can follow you and you can follow anyone else. They don't have to accept any sort of request nor do both parties have to follow each other. This is where things get confusing, because connecting with someone doesn't mean you're following them and once you connect with someone you also seem to be locked out from following them. This won't affect what content you see of theirs as followers are the bottom rung of the aforementioned connection hierarchy so anything shared with followers is also shared with all the connection groups. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem except connections aren't currently reflected in the followers count, the only count visible to users, and since social media is entirely a numbers game actually connecting with someone is less valuable then just having them follow.
Vero has yet to announce when it'll switch to a subscription based platform or how much the subscription will be. Users signing up currently are getting the service for free for life until Vero decides to end that deal. Honestly, I have no idea how a subscription based social media network survives in a market where there's a plethora of other networks to choose from that offer similar if not identical services for "free" (selling of personal data and ads notwithstanding). Time will tell if people are willing to par for a non-monetized, non-algorithmic feed but either way it's going to be a hard uphill battle for Vero.
*I actually have no idea if Google+ uses a algorithm for their feed but I'm sure the G+ users will forgive me in thanks for acknowledging that G+ still exists
I haven't shot much in the way of fashion, something I'm trying to remedy, so I'm lucky to have worked with such a great team on my first fashion shoot. Abbie was not only our model but also did an incredible job of styling every look. Add Matt Goodlett in on makeup and the combination makes it hard not to get some great photos.
A recent shoot with an amazing local model, Justin Sinkler.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing Dwight Witten for a local magazine. Check his story out in the January 2018 issue of Tops Louisville.
I haven't sat down to write a blog in some time. There's been plenty I've been wanting to write about including switching lighting kits from Paul C. Buff to Elinchrom then to Flashpoint and switching camera systems from the Nikon D810 to the Pentax 645z. I still plan on writing those posts but life, both personally and professionally, has been busy lately so writing those posts have been difficult to say the least. But today, I'm making a point to write a post about my camera kit and switching from the D810 to the 645z... and then to a Sony A7RIII. Yeah, that last one surprised me too.
I've written before how the D810 was my end game camera. When I first started professionally that was the camera and after making enough to afford it I did put a lot of work in with it. I would be hard pressed to come up with any negative about this camera, it worked and it worked well. In a lot of ways, I think Nikon had made a perfect portrait camera. It wasn't the best all around and I wouldn't have recommend it for many genres of photography but it absolutely shined for portraiture. There wasn't an upgrade path for me with this camera, I was going to use it till it died and then pick up whatever the newer version of it was. But like most plans, it fell apart early one morning, before a second cup of coffee early, while browsing eBay.
The 645z wasn't a camera I saw myself getting primarily due to cost. Brand new the body itself starts at around $6000, lenses start around $1000, and, due to its size, new cases, which aren't inexpensive, would need to be bought. Medium format just seemed financially out of reach but, of course, I would still occasionally check eBay prices. I mean, no harm done by just looking right? Again, I loved the D810 so I didn't feel any need or want to buy a new system. But here's the deal, I'm browsing eBay in the morning and I find a post for a 645z for a great price. It's nearly half the cost of one brand new and although it has a scuff or two and it's closer to 20,000 clicks than 10,000 it still seems like a crazy good deal especially considering the amount of accessories it comes with. I send a few messages to the seller and she is willing to throw in two lenses for, again, great prices. Prices that put the whole system lower than what I know I could sell my D810 kit for.
Ordinarily, this sort of purchase would have been fraught over for days and probably up until the point that someone else bought the auction and it was no longer an issue. But life had taken a path out of ordinary and with everything else in chaos I thought, why the hell not. And like that, I became the owner of a Pentax 645z.
I don't have a great answer as to the switch. Don't get me wrong, the Pentax 645z is a goofy good camera. The files are incredible, the amount of detail it captures is insane, the dynamic range is huge, and overall it's just an amazing camera. Its build quality is also second to none, I'm pretty sure if it was large enough to fit a human inside, Indiana Jones could hide in it to ride out a direct nuclear blast. I've heard it called a good entry point or introduction to digital medium format and I think that completely undersells how impressive this camera is. If you look at it from a completely technical, spec to spec comparison it blows the D810 out of the water. But as a photographer, it's not always about being completely technical and as impressed by this camera as I am, it wasn't the camera for me.
I could and have made the excuses that the camera is too heavy, that it's bulky, that it's exhausting after a long day of use. There's been more than one occasion where I just sigh at the bag with the body and lenses because I know how heavy it's going to be when I put it on and make the walk to my next shooting location. And while I don't feel like those aren't invalid complaints they're not the real reasons I decided to sell my kit. The real reason is simple yet hard to explain because there's no real factor I can point to to say that this is why or this is the cause. To be honest, the camera simply wasn't for me and I don't have a specific as to why. I could spend the rest of this post giving analogies and explanations as to what that means but in reality its just comes down to personal preference with no objective reasoning.
At the time of writing the Sony A7RIII hasn't released and I haven't used it. I have it on preorder with a set of lenses but without using it I of course can't write about any experience with it. I've liked Sony cameras since the release of the A7 but I think it's only been recently when they've become a viable professional option. And before too much is read into "professional" I simply mean two card slots, viable zoom lenses, reliable battery life, and a line of servicing that caters to those who make careers with their cameras. I wasn't interested in the A9 as it seems geared more towards work I don't do so I would have been paying a premium for features I won't utilize. The A7RIII seems much more in line with what I want out of a camera. One question I am nagged with though is, why not the D850?
Choosing between the D850 and the A7RIII was a hard decision but it came down to a single feature, image stabilization. If the D850 had in body stabilization, or more of their lenses had it, then perhaps I would have went back to Nikon. But this feature is one that could be the difference between getting the shot or not or one of not feeling required to always pack a tripod. It is possible it won't have any impact at all on my shooting but only through use will I know.
I've made a big deal out of camera choice but in reality any of these cameras, and nearly all cameras manufactured today, are capable of creating beautiful photos. There's been plenty of ink spilled on whether or not gear matters and while that's a good discussion to have it's not one I'm interested in right now. I don't expect any gear to make my photos better or me a more capable photographer. But I do want tools that work with me and that I am comfortable with and confident in. Is the Sony A7RIII the right tool? Well, I guess I'll find out.
Dani is a local model I've been wanting to work with for some time. Again, it became a game of matching schedules so luckily last month we were able to find a time we were both available. This is also the first time I've used my home studio. There's still work to be done to get it full ready for clients and other work but it's getting there!
Kesley is a local model that I've wanted to work with for some time. She's done a ton of work and always nails the look. The problem, as there always is one, is that my work with models has been few and far between lately. Editorial work has taken up the majority of my time, not a complaint!, so finding time, much less coming up with ideas, has been a difficult task. Luckily one evening I was caught up on edits and had a bit of free time when Kesley invited me out with to shoot with her and another local photographer, Blake Randall, in a local downtown area. Although we did get rained out on the original concept for the shoot we did find an overhang to create the photos below.
The most interesting part of the evening was shooting with another photographer. This was my first time working when another photographer was shooting and it was an enlightening experience. Blake does great work and shoots much differently than I do. While I, for better or worse, nearly always use a flash or strobe of some sort Blake is, I believe, primarily a natural light shooter. I learned a lot watching his approach to model placement and use of available light. It's an entirely different approach than my own and a good reminder that there's an innumerable amount of ways to approach taking a photo that I should keep myself open to.
Getting schedules to align sometimes is more of a waiting game than it is actually planning. Such is the case with working with Brittany. It's not that we didn't try to get things to work out, but our schedules just never really worked. Luckily, a few months after we first met to discuss the shoot our schedules aligned and we were both available on the same day. The up side of this is that I had plenty of time to plan what I wanted to do. Brittany was on board and nailed every look we tried. Below are the results:
Over the past two weeks my friend and amazing makeup artist Matt Goodlett, MattGoodlettMakeup.com, has taken part in makeup inspiration challenges issued by another local makeup artist. I've worked with Matt on several occasions and regardless if it's SFX, beauty, or anything else there's never been a time when he hasn't absolutely nailed the look for the photo. So when he asked me to photograph the makeup for these two challenges I quickly accepted as I knew he would kill whatever look he was going for. But even after having worked with him multiple times before and seeing him work on other ideas it's still incredible to see how quickly and skillfully he draws from a source photo and creates something beautiful.
Mandarin Duck Challenge
Matt did a great write up of this challenge on his site here that I suggest you check out. Photographing this one was fairly straight forward, Matt knew how he wanted the photograph to look and I knew how to get that look. This was more or less a simple clam shell lighting setup with a gridded beauty dish as key and a silver reflector for fill. Using a gridded light with a reflector can be tricky but it does create a beautiful light when done correctly. If I had to do this one again I would probably try an even tighter grid on the beauty dish for an even more directional light. The beautiful Kaylynn Nyree was our model here who I suspect you'll probably see doing big things soon.
Drawing Restraints Challenge
This challenge, to me, seemed a bit more complicated. No colors, no defined shapes, white background, and a ton of possible interpretations. Going into this shoot I wasn't quite sure what Matt had planned. I thought we might go with a high-key look but after seeing the makeup Matt was doing I knew that wouldn't quite work. So white was out but I also wanted to avoid a pure black background as well. With the makeup as dark as it was I was worried that the model would get lost in so much blackness. Luckily the room we were shooting in provided a solution. Behind the model was white shelving which, when tilting the key light up slightly, is barely discernible but enough so as to help separate the model from the background.
Lighting this was a bit more complicated as I wanted to, of course, not only highlight the work Matt had done but help bring out it's character. For the face, a 24"x24" softbox provides soft, beautiful light but it's a small source so it quickly gives way to the harsher rim lighting from the 10"x36" stripboxes behind the model. This contrast between the softer and harsher light matches the contrast between the the chaotic nature of the body makeup and the more controlled beauty makeup on the face. Our model, Bec E. Bien, nailed the looks and helped create one of my new favorite photos.
I love being a part of these challenges and seeing Matt's interpretations of the inspirational photo as well as all the other makeup artists who participate in these challenges. Their approaches to the same subject are all different yet equally creative and well done. Be sure to check out more of Matt Goodlett's work at his website MattGoodlettMakeup.com and pop over to my Conceptual gallery to see more work we've done together.
Another shoot playing around with gels with the beautiful Portia.
Continuing my experimentation with gels, I recently did a shoot with the wonderful London Amore. Still have a lot in store for using gels so stay tuned.
At the beginning of April I had the opportunity to sit in a three day class by Joe McNally about photography. I'll talk more about that in another post but one of the biggest take aways I had was how to approach lighting a scene. One bad habit I had gotten into was setting up all my lights at the beginning, putting my subject in the frame, and trying to adjust the lights together to create the scene I wanted. And while this can work in some scenarios it doesn't work well when there's multiple lights, gels, different modifiers, mixed lighting, etc. To put it another way, I was throwing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle onto a table and trying to figure out why they didn't land as a completed puzzle.
Watching Joe McNally work made me realize that this approach of mine meant I was starting each shoot as an uphill battle. Instead of putting my subject into a lighting setup I needed to build the scene around the subject, one light at at time. I took this approach to heart, which is why below was the first picture from a shoot after Joe's class:
No lights but the window and I already have the mood and tone of the photo down. Starting here is like having the frame of the jigsaw puzzle already completed. Yes, there's still a lot of work to be done but I already know the scene in which the pieces need to exist. From here, I knew I would need a controlled light on the subject so as to light her properly but not overpower the natural light. Easy, bring in a beauty dish with a 30° grid, gelled with a single cut of CTO. Soft, beautiful light but not spilling everywhere. She also needed to be separated from the background so a gridded strip box with a double cut of CTO was put slightly behind her right shoulder. Then a lamp behind the subject to balance the composition more. The lamp was actually too powerful of a light source so it was turned off and a strobe was shot into it with a double cut of CTO as to make it appear on.
Last step, getting the pose right and small adjustments to ISO and shutter speed so the natural light was exposed properly.
I love how the photo came out and I don't believe I would have gotten as good of a photo if I continued with my usual approach. But it is important to keep in mind that there are no absolutes in photography. Joe McNally emphasized this several times throughout the three days and it's made me realize that there's not necessarily a right or wrong way or approach. While I did enjoy using a "building" approach to this photo and it was the better approach to create this photo, it doesn't mean its the best approach to every situation. Corporate head shots, for example, usually entails setting up lighting and making tweaks as each person comes through. Ultimately, neither approach is better or worse than the other but rather different tools for different jobs.
Matt Goodlett reached out to me last month and asked if I would be interested in shooting a body painting he was doing for a documentary. The idea he explained was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and his poem The Raven. Never passing up an opportunity to work with Matt, I quickly agreed with nervousness about the shoot. Even with his explanation I had trouble visualizing the outcome which made figuring out the lighting difficult. Lighting a body painting, like many other types of portraits, is all about brining out the best in the subject. Here's a few things I keep in mind when lighting a body painting.
- The body painting is just as much, if not more, the subject than the person wearing it. Lighting should compliment the painting, e.g. not put details in shadows, like it compliments the person
- Consider the mood. The lighting should work with the theme. In this instance, a gloomy Edgar Allan Poe body painting is probably going to look better low-key rather than hi-key
- The lighting should not be noticeable. The lighting should enhance, coincide, compliment, but never distract from the subject(s).
With that in mind, I created the portrait below. Matt and team did amazing work and I'm happy to have worked with so many talented people!