Viewing entries tagged
Louisville photographer

A Nightmare Before Christmas

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A Nightmare Before Christmas

My good friend and make-up extraordinaire Matt Goodlett, Mattgoodlettmakeup.com, asked me to photograph him and his make-up team for a haunt industry party to celebrate the end of the haunt season. Matt manages the make-up team for The Devil’s Attic, a local award winning haunted house. Of course, a haunt party for a haunt make-up team is not only the perfect opportunity to but almost necessarily a time to flex. Matt did a wonderful write up on the demon themed make-up on his site so be sure to check that out. So how does one photograph demons?

My approach to photographing make-up/body paint concepts is to highlight the theme with lighting and/or environment while being sure to clearly present and focus on the make-up. After all, with these types of photos the make-up is of paramount importance. I want the lighting and environment to enhance the theme without drawing attention away from the make-up itself. With demon make-up I wanted to avoid the usual accompaniments such as utilizing red, heavy shadows, or editing in fire. One they’re cliched and two, in the case of heavy shadows and fire, I believe it draws attention from the make-up. What I wanted, was a bit of chaos (thank you Warhammer 40k).

Rebecca - Subject/MUA

Rebecca - Subject/MUA

Chaos in a portrait, at least in this case, to me means movement. The challenge is that motion blur or movement must balance with showcasing the make-up. I decided on using a one second exposure with the modeling light of a Profoto B2 gelled blue behind barn doors to give ambient light for the motion. I manually trigged a Profoto B1 in a beauty dish with a grid at the end of the exposure, and subject movement, to freeze and capture the subject clearly. Took a bit of trail and error to get the subjects movement right and to trigger the B1 at the right time but we got it in the end.

Portia - Subject/MUA

Portia - Subject/MUA

Also, sorry but not sorry about that title.

Matt - Subject/MUA

Matt - Subject/MUA

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Adama

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Adama

A few photos of a fresh face in the Louisville area.

Model: Adama
MUA: Kelsey Eisenhut

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Kya in the New Studio

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.

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Mallory, in Two Parts 2

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Mallory, in Two Parts 2

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.

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Mallory, in two parts

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Mallory, in two parts

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!

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Kya

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Kya

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. 

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Donovan

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Donovan

I don't often shoot in black and white. There's not a particular reason why I suppose. But opening up a week for creative work seemed like a good opportunity to shoot in a way I normally wouldn't. Thus these black and white photos were made.

Model: Donovan

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Abbie

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Abbie

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. 

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Dwight Witten

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Dwight Witten

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.

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Frost

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Frost

My good friend and amazing make up artist did a tremendous write-up on this photo series on his blog here. I'm not going to be able to say anything better or more about this series so give that a read and enjoy the photos below!

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Changes

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.

Nikon D810

Nikon D810 - ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/125th sec

Nikon D810 - ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/125th sec

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.

Pentax 645z

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.

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

But... Why?

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. 

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

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.

Sony A7RIII

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.

Conclusion

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. 

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Dani

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!

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Kesley

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Kesley

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.

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Brittany (NSFW)

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Brittany (NSFW)

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:

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Making a Scene

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Making a Scene

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.

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

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.

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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!

Makeup Artist: Matt Goodlett. MattGoodlettMakeup.com
Head Piece: Jane Danielson, Velvet Rose Vintage
Model: RN
Assistant: Tia Marie

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How Gaffer's Tape Saved the Shoot

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How Gaffer's Tape Saved the Shoot

I hate wasting time. Not my own time, I'm spectacular at wasting my own time, but other's time. It's one of my biggest pet peeves which is why I show up 15 minutes earlier to any engagement, sometimes even waiting in my car if I'm too early to whatever it is I'm there for. I also try to have have everything ready to go in my studio before the subject arrives. If we have an hour to shoot, I don't want 15 minutes of that going to them waiting while I put lights on stands. Sometimes this doesn't always happen so my subject is then barraged with thank you's for your patience throughout the shoot if they stood by while I was putting things together. It's not just about being polite and courteous but being sure the subject/client/whomever knows I value their time the same as they do. So on a recent shoot when I left my Alien Bee power cables 40 minutes away some quick thinking was needed to save not my only subject's time but the entire shoot. 

So what do you do when you have Alien Bees with no power cords, no other light modifiers besides soft boxes with Alien Bee mounts, two flash guns, some bungie cords, and a roll of gaffers tape? You improvise and adapt.

(pun intended)

(pun intended)

The crude bungie cord and gaffer's tape adaptor luckily worked long enough to get the photo below. I say luckily but it was truly the skill of the model nailing the look so quickly that allowed a final photo at all to be made. Anyone else and the whole thing could have broken around us with nothing to show for it. The moral of the story here is to always have gaffer's tape. And bring the power cords I guess.  

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