Small Flashes with Stunning Light (video!)

When out on-location doing portraits for weddings, seniors or any type of shoot, sometimes you need an EASY and portable way to get the job done AND make the images look beautiful. Speedlites are great for portability, but other than not having a lot of power output, their biggest issue is the QUALITY of the light is not so good. They look harsh and “flashy” and rarely produce AMAZING light. In this short video shot on-location in Nevada, we show you how to not only execute great flash shots using a speedlite, but how to make that light look AMAZING on your subject!     Gear used: Canon 85 1.2 L lens  Canon 5d3 Body Cyber Sync Transmitters and receivers (the CST and CSRB models) Rapid Box 26 inch from Westcott Lighting with the deflector... Read More

Reception Lighting Basics – Bounce Flash

There is NO greater photography fear than walking into a reception hall and not being sure if you can capture the moments the way you envision them. There are sooo many variables in dark-lit venues that can sometimes be daunting! You have to be able to overcome all sorts of lighting issues like bouncing light off of glass windows, mirrors, dark or heavily colored walls, walls that are so far away you don’t have enough power to reach them. There is a lot to talk about and we are going to cover all of it, and today we will start with the basics. BOUNCE FLASH. Today we are going to keep it simple and build our foundation for shooting the first dance. So, we walk into the reception and here is the scenario (in posts to come we are going to work our way through other scenarios that pose other lighting problems and how to conquer them). We have: – A dance floor with a stage or DJ in corner of the room – Light or white ceilings and white walls – Our super hot couple about to have their first dance What do we do to get great looking images in this scenario using nothing but our bounce flash that is on our camera? 1. We find the best place to shoot from The best vantage point to shoot from in this type of situation is NOT where the crowd of people are standing and watching the first dance. Usually, family friends are standing in a half-moon or U shape around the couple and everyone is facing somewhat... Read More

3 easy tricks to Take Locations from Boring to Brilliant

We are Zach and Jody Gray and we have had the amazing privilege of working with photographers all over the world enabling them to shoot better images, run more profitable business and live the lives they’ve dreamed of. We hope you enjoy this post on off-camera lighting! -Zach & Jody     Isn’t it great how EVERY time you go out on a shoot, all the locations are just picture perfect, the lighting is awesome and you don’t even need to think about what to do because all the shots just “happen” the whole session? I love that! Unfortunately, that actually never happens. MOST of the time when we are out on-location shooting, we create images in places that at first glance, don’t always appear to be amazing. Today, we want to share with you the 3 tricks that we use to make average locations look AMAZING! We will be using 3 set-ups from our recent New York City photo-shoot workshop that we did with Adorama.   Set-Up #1 – Reflective Background with BAD lighting: Our first goal at ANY shoot is to of course find great lighting (and that should always be your goal too). But, some days the lighting just all around stinks, so we will then start looking for good locations that WOULD look good if the lighting were better. Trick #1, Find Cool Backgrounds and add flash Once we find an interesting location, then we use lighting to make it work. Good locations that I personally tend to gravitate towards with lighting are reflective backgrounds (like metal walls, which are great because when my flash hits it, it... Read More

Lighting a Wedding Dress with Small Flashes

It is of course crucial that you shoot the bride wearing the dress so she looks absolutely amazing in it, but it is also important these days to get a great detail shot of the dress before the bride puts on the dress. We always strive to get a great shot of the dress because: 1. It is great for the bride to remember how that baby looked as it was “hanging on the rack” in a sense and… 2. It looks awesome as a detail spread in the wedding album. If you are currently not offering albums, as 50% of wedding photographers out there are not, then you could be missing out on providing a wonderful story for your bride. (If albums make you nuts with all the options and details and to-do’s, then check out the KISS Wedding Album Designer called SWAT which will simplify the process and change your life!). As Jody and I were shooting our most recent wedding, it was pouring rain and overcast, and the venue we were in did not have a ton of great natural lighting coming into it. So, we opted to hang up the dress in the best looking location that had some decent lighting to get a few shots. We hung it in this great doorway and composed it with the venue’s main staircase, but the problem was the only light source available was a big another glass doorway about 15 feet to camera right which was too far away to allow us to control it. Here is the natural light shot we got.   Not horrible, but... Read More

Our FREE 5 Week Photography Course is HERE!

Lesson 1: Must-have Gear Essentials You are receiving the FIRST week of this complimentary 5-week course just for being an awesome blog reader! You can SIGN UP for the entire 5 week course HERE! Welcome to the first lesson in the Five Keys to Rockin’ Your Portrait Sessions! Over the next few weeks, we are going to cover must-have gear, finding the light that any client can look great in, how to get the best moments and expressions from your client, how to get free help which allows you to focus on your clients, and how to make more money on your sessions! So, get ready because here we go with week 1! Portrait Session Goals When we are out shooting a portrait session, we have one goal in mind – To make our clients look their absolute best! In order to do that it’s important to have the right tools. Today’s lesson is about the two most important things you can bring out with you to your portrait shoots – the right lens and the right reflector. MUST-HAVE GEAR ESSENTIAL #1: A PORTRAIT LENS You have the power to make your subject look their best or their worst simply by the type of lens you choose to shoot with. This is why, unless we are trying to go for a certain look, we are usually shooting with a portrait lens. What makes a portrait lens a portrait lens? Any lens that is approximately 80mm or longer (depending on what expert you ask) is considered a “portrait lens.” Likewise, any lens that is shorter than approximately 80mm is not a... Read More

1 Simple Trick for Moody Backgrounds | Featured on Adorama

Not only Adorama is our favorite camera store to shop at, but did you know that they have a HUGE photographer’s resource called AdoramaTV? AdoramaTV has tons of videos from amazing photographers teaching and sharing their knowledge. We have the privileged of being on Adorama TV and our episode aired today! Click either image to watch the video! In our AdoramaTV episode we explain our off-camera lighting gear and one of our techniques in creating awesome off-camera lit photographs! This video is found on our HARVEST DVD and can only be viewed in the bonus section of HARVEST or right here, on AdoramaTV. It’s a little fun bonus for all of you out there! Enjoy!... Read More

Nashville IN-CAMERA Light Recap | October 2012

The final Nashville IN-CAMERA: Light workshop is over and we are glad about how awesome the day was, but sad that it is over! :( We had an amazing time with our attendees and can’t wait to reveal what we are going to do next! Stay tuned! For now, check out the images and some behind the scenes from the day! We started off shooting in the worst lighting conditions there are. Direct sun in the face! We overpowered it with the flash and got the below image. In this before and after you can see the flash shot to the left, and the natural light to the right and what a difference it makes having great, soft lighting. Check our advanced off-camera lighting section of the learn page to see how we created this shot!  Here is the crew! Thanks guys for coming out and rockin some off-camera lighting with us! If your interested in attending one of the last few in-camera workshops that we are ever going to hold and learn how to shoot like this (Kansas City & Orlando are remaining), we still have a FEW seats available! Use the code “YAYimGOING” to get $150 off any seat! Put your code in HERE!... Read More

Glamour Lighting How-To

Lighting styles are the direction you choose to have your light hitting your client to create different styling, or looks on them. You can make a client look 30 pounds lighter (or heavier) just by your choice and direction of your lighting. These styles work with natural light, and with flash, but we are going to focus in on the flash side with this post. But do remember, you can simply replace “soft-box” with sun, reflector or any other light source you encounter.   Mastering the effect of some of the basic lighting styles will not only add some new tools to your photography tool belt, but will also give you much more confidence when you encounter a client that can seem more difficult to photograph. Some clients have round faces, or features that they want minimized, and it is our job as pro’s to help make our clients look their absolute best! So in this series, we are going to show you how to handle tricky situations, bring out the best features of your clients, and take ALL of the guesswork out of it.   When we are headed out to a session (either a wedding or an engagement shoot), one of things that we are thinking about is our “client lighting profile.” Meaning, what type of lighting is going to look great on my client and flatter them, and what type of lighting is going to highlight features that they are not stoked about? You can even go as far as to make some personal notes of lighting that you should, and should not use on that... Read More

Interview & Watch us in Action! We Got Framed (video)

We are stoked that today our tips and tricks is a suh-weet video spot that the amazing team over at the [FRAMED] Network shot! Some of you may have seen the below image around… … and now it’s time to not only take you on the behind-the-scenes the above shoot with us, BUT to hear us talk about business & marriage in a fashion that you’ve never seen us before.   ***The episode goes live TODAY at 11am Central!!***   How do you join & watch the show? It’s fast, simple and free.   1. Head to and grab your Passport login by creating a username and a password.   2. THEN Come back to this page and click this LINK HERE to watch the show!! You will be able to view the show starting at 11am CST.   What is [F] Network? [F] Network is a FREE community platform that connects, inspires and educates the aspiring and professional photographers with weekly shows and tools stocked full of inspiration and tutorials from the industry’s most talented artists. With new shows weekly showing on the new tool, Flix, these shows include [FRAMED] hosted by Melissa Niu, LitUp hosted by Joel Grimes, PhotoPro with Kevin Kubota, and Film hosted by Ryan Muirhead, Tanja Lippert & Tia Reagan. And yes, we said it – the [F] Network is totally free!     Make sure to follow the link HERE to... Read More

Protected: 3 Simple Steps to better lit shots for Newsletter Subscribers Only

Hey all! Today we are going to give you 3 simple steps to taking better off-camera lit portraits of your clients! Here we go! 1. Soft light = easy light! The softer the light on our subject, the easier it is to make them look good, and our number 2 job is to make our clients look good (number 1 is to make them feel good)! So using soft light sources is the easiest way to do that. Soft light hides imperfections, softens wrinkles and makes our subjects look like light was literally painted on them. Soft light is simply created by large light sources, which is why we use a 24×32 inch soft box for most of our off-camera portraits. Let’s look at a few example images from our recent London workshop as we have great behind the scenes images so you can really see what’s going into the shots. As you can see from the above shots, the light on our subject look really smooth and silky and helps to keep skin retouching to a minimum since the light is so soft.   2. Make that soft light even softer! Many times we get a nice size soft-box to get that soft light, then we move it too far away from our client and end up having harsh light once again! Bummer! The further away that big soft light gets from our subject the harsher it gets, so our rule of thumb for soft box to client distance is to keep it as close as humanly possible without it being in the shot. Sometimes we are literally... Read More

Reception Lighting, Part I

It’s Tuesday!! Time to share some more goodness! Some of the biggest challenges in shooting a wedding is the dreaded RECEPTION! With low lit reception halls, or outdoor receptions with no walls or ceilings to bounce light off of, lighting can most definitely be not for the faint at heart… Today, we are going to tackle one part of reception lighting – how we shoot the details and get fantastic shots consistently and with some style. Pull up a chair, sit back and relax and watch us tackle Part I of Tuesday Tips & Tricks | Reception Lighting. Gear we referenced: 42″ 6-in-1 Reflector Kit Pocket Wizard Transceiver Westcott Lightweight Stand Westcott Adjustable Shoe Mount Canon 580EX Speedlights Micro Apollo 8″ **Make sure to come back next week for Part II, and don’t forget that once a month we are releasing exclusive Tuesday Tips & Tricks via our newsletter! Make sure you are subscribed to our photographer... Read More

Practical Off-Camera Lighting at Weddings

  This shot is very different than what you see with most modern wedding photography and we are going to talk about why. Now the pose and composition are obviously not something new, but the lighting and depth of the shot are and that is why it is not something you see a lot of at weddings. Lit shots like this one usually are not done because they take too long to set up, require lots of powerful lights which are heavy, and can be too in-your-face for some clients. So how do you solve all of those problems at a wedding so that you can get this kind of a shot that is really different and really cool? First, we will talk about how we captured the shot, then we will talk about how we made it practical at the wedding. The first thing you notice with a shot like this (and what many shooters ask us a lot) is that the background must be “photoshopped” in and how did you do it? The answer is honestly, I have no idea how to do something like that in Photoshop and it is all real and all done in the camera. Promise!  There is no retouching done on this shot either with the clients skin, no dodging and burning in Lightroom or Photoshop, and no color enhancements of any type. How we did it: Light – The lighting rig is a 500 watt mono light with a 24×32 inch Westcott soft box. Many shooters will use small light sources like 580 ex speedlights and so on, which are awesome,... Read More