Tuesday Tips & Tricks | Rockin the Perfect Silhouette!

“We are taking time off spending time with baby Gray, but have put together our favorite Tips and Tricks from the last two years for us all to review!” Tuesday Tips & Tricks..REVISITED! Hey all! Today’s tips and tricks is all about how to get that perfect silhouette of your client every time! Have you ever been shooting your client and decided that you wanted to get that really nice silhouette shot of them, but then started to wonder what to base your exposure off of? Should it be a sliver of light on the rim of them from behind, or the sun, or somewhere in between? Here is how we do it. We were out shooting a new pop-rock band last week, Red Letter, and we were doing this wild lit shot with 3 strobes and Jody leaned over to me and reminded me to grab a silhouette shot. Whew! Glad she did! So, in the midst of shooting a completely different shot, I did a quick change up and got the next image without using the White Diffusion Westcott Parabolic Umbrella that you see in the above shot. The trick that we use to get great back-lit silhouette shots is we set our camera exposure for the sky. When the sky is perfectly exposed, that is when our subjects will turn black like you see in the above shot. Here is how we do it: 1. Point our camera to an area of the sky that is being lit by the sun, not at the sun itself (in the shot above, we pointed our camera between the... Read More
Nashville, TN Photography Workshops, photography workshops, nashville, tn photography

4 Ways to Backlight your Clients

This week, we are going to focus on a simple topic of lighting our client with background lights, and what angles to use when doing it. Background light on our subject is awesome because it creates a great deal of added contrast and separation to our final image. It can also be really cool when it is in the shot and creates flare which gives a cool glow to our couples. So, the question is, where do you put the light in the background to give it the desired effect? Let’s look at a few shots and break them down. Shooting Through In this first image, which is a photo from an engagement session from 2008, we have some serious background lighting going on, so let’s show you exactly what we were thinking to pull this one off. As you can see in the above lighting diagram, the main light is off to camera right lighting the face of the couple and our background light (top left) is at a 45 degree angle to the guy’s back and 45 degrees from the cameras perspective. It is pointed directly at his head and shoulders and is about 7 feet high (the best angle for the light to come down at, is also about 45 degrees so that it lights the head first, then trickles down to the shoulders and feet). The easiest way to use a background light, no matter where the light is coming from (strobe, window, sun) is to use the 45 degree method. This puts the light onto the shoulders and hair, but keeps it off of... Read More

Controlling Large Off-camera Lights (Video)

When Jody and I were in Vegas for WPPI we shot a series of videos for Westcott‘s new University demonstrating some of their lighting modifiers and lighting techniques out in this cool old “ghost” town about 45 minutes from the city. We are super excited to finally share the first a few different videos that we produced together and they are all FREE and here on the blog! This first video shows us using the Westcott 7′ parabolic umbrella with the optional DIFF– USER to demo what you can do with one, large powerful light in the worst of lighting conditions. We use some feathering techniques (the details of how to do that are broken down in THIS post) in order to create an extremely soft lighting look, and also used the LEE Filter System in order to shoot at a very shallow depth of field when using high powered strobes. We also used the Elinchrom Ranger (not the Quadra that we use for weddings, but the bigger brother version) so we have plenty of power for the techniques used. Watch the video, then come BACK here to the blog to see in more detail the final images from this part of the shoot! More videos to come and more images!   Behind the scenes of the first set-up (more videos and locations to come!). You can see the light was harsh and not flattering. Here you can see the harsh natural light with NO flash on it. Now you can see the incredible difference it makes adding the flash. The great thing about this LARGE light, is the coverage you... Read More

Seattle Bridal Shoot + Behind the Scenes

Whew! I (Zach) just took my 7.5 month prego wife to Seattle for 6 days and she rocked it like a champ! She is a trooper! :)   We spent a day doing a 1 day Bridal Shoot on creativeLIVE and then popped in to Photo Week with a presentation on how to keep your business from failing. We had a blast and are excited to share some of the images from the shoots that we did!   We went out the day before the live show and shot some outdoor shots in Kerry Park in Seattle. We set up some cool lighting images and some very organic natural ones as well. Below us a breakdown of some of the shots and some behind the scenes too! We will post a few more blogs from the rest of the shoots we did coming SOON! Check it out!   This first set up the natural lighting was pretty flat due to the overcast morning. We decided to do a 4 light set up and had our main light to camera left, fill light to camera right, then the 2 kicker lights (show here) for some wow factor. While I was shooting the lit shot, Jody was grabbing some details of the brides shows and dress. Here you can see the shot with just one of the kicker lights firing. This gives you an idea of what the lighting was doing and how much we were overpowering the ambient light (about 2 stops). Here in this behind the scenes shot, you can see the look of the natural light and how... Read More

In The Raw Video Series | Smoke Shot part 1 (Video)

What up everyone! We are excited to bring you a brand new series of lighting videos all about studio lighting. One of  my passions and something that I (Zach) have undertaken during our year sabbatical from shooting weddings, is finally getting to do more personal work. I love shooting controlled portraits and am excited to share more of how I have shot some of the images I have been doing lately.   Now, many wedding and portrait photographers have moved away from studio shooting due to the high costs of renting spaces and the complexity of the gear. Well, this video series is going to show you how to shoot in a simple space and create some dramatic lighting with some really cool techniques. If you shoot bridal shoots, senior shoots, family or other portrait sessions, then adding some studio style shots could be a great creative outlet for you and give your clients something really unique that many photographers are not doing.  The shots you will see were photographed right inside our house (garage or other spaces) and even though we are using some Elinchrom gear, you could do this with equipment that costs much less. To download our entire gear list, go HERE to get it for free!   Now, on to today’s video and final image:   (Video Part 1 of 2) Thanks for checking out the video and come back next week to see how I composite the smoke and final image into the completed shot! If you like this video, share it by using one of the sharing links below and leave a comment letting... Read More

Compositing Backgrounds into an Image

(for a full list of ALL the gear we use and why, get the FREE download HERE) This image is from a video series I am creating called In The Raw where I take complicated lighting scenarios and break them down piece by piece and show you EXACTLY how it is done to the smallest detail. Today, I am going to break down how this shot was done here on the blog and show you some of the tools used and needed in order to create something like this without having to be at this location praying for an awesome sunset. :) Here is how it was done   This is the original image straight out of camera with no editing done to it. I shot the image in my garage on a grey colored seamless background. The reason I used the seamless, is because it gives me a clean consistent background that is easy to remove in Photoshop. The reason that it is gray, and not white (or any other color) is so that we don’t have lots of light bouncing off of it from the flashes and adding more light to the image that is unwanted. Here, in this behind the scenes image, you can see the entire set up. We have a few things going on in this complex set-up which are broken down below. Main Light head – Elinchrom Ranger AS Speed with S Head The main light is powered by this head. It is 1,100 watt seconds and is portable so I can take it on location, use huge modifiers, and overpower the sun at any time of the... Read More

Gear Review & Live Shoot | Westcott Rapid Box

Today we are reviewing a brand new ultra portable light modifier for your Speedlight that Westcott just came out with called the Rapid Box!     This modifier comes in 20 or 26 inch sizes and we currently have the 26 inch version. The light is really cool because it sets up like an umbrella (which means it’s easy) and it allows you to do indirect lighting with it. There is a small, optional deflector plate that you can add inside the box that reflects the direct light from your Speedlight, bounces it back into the rear of the box and the light then spreads back around very evenly when it exits the front. This mimics the effect of a beauty dish in that it creates a dead spot of light in the dead center of the box (instead of a hot spot like most do). If you use it in close, this will create a wrapping around effect of the light on the face for that painted on look. Awesome! When used further away, it simply produces very even lighting.   Check out the two review videos below that we created! Video 1 talks about the light itself, then video 2 showcases us on a shoot we did in Vegas demonstrating the light quality.         As you can see, the light quality is pretty amazing and we are excited to use this modifier for more upcoming... Read More

Behind the Scenes In The RAW Videos | Coming Soon

Coming Soon!! We are putting together some video tutorials on how we create dynamic portrait shots and will detail EVERY SINGLE part of the shoot! If you want to be able to create incredible, creative and hyper-real portraits, then this series will be for you. We will show you the idea and thought process, the gear, the lighting, angles and all the post-production to create the final images. These videos are going to be called In The Raw and are being created as we speak!   Want to be the first to hear about this series when it arrives? Sign up for our FREE newsletter HERE and get it before anyone else.... 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

Behind the Scenes of Red Letter Artist Shoot

  Back in September of 2011 I (Zach) photographed new artist’s Red Letter for their promo packaging and album. We had a blast working with these really young and talented kids and got some cool shots for them. The tough thing about shooting like this, is you have no control of how they further adjust and edit images and how they design around them. :) Today we are going to break down one of the more complicated images and show you how we did it.     This image was hard to pull off and has 3 lights and was a tough location to shoot at. I knew from the weather forecast that the sunset was going to be awesome that night, and there was no way I was going to add the sky in afterward since at the time, that was not my style. I wanted to nail it in-camera with no post-production work. Commercial photographers have it really tough when the label and marketing team wants a specific look and the weather or other factors simply do not permit that, so there are times on shoots like these when you need to add a sky or do some serious photoshop work to get the shot how they want.   For this image, here was the set up, then we can break it down.   As you can see from the ambient light shot, flash was an absolute necessity in order to get the final look that they wanted. Here is what we did: Step one – Control the ambient light The first thing I do is determine (from our pre-production meeting) the type of look they... Read More

On Location Groomsmen Lighting

Happy Holidays!! It’s crazy to think Christmas is right around the corner!  As you’re settling in for the end of the year we want to bring to you a few tips on groomsmen lighting and break it down for you. Today we are going to look at two shots that we did at a recent wedding with the groom and groomsmen and how we shot them. These images were shot on-location at Belle Meade Plantation a few hours before the ceremony. The sun was still pretty high in the sky and we wanted to do more than just stick the guys in shade and take some bland shots, so we looked for a cool composition we liked and then brought out our powerlight to make the shot work. I set up the light and took two test meter readings as the guys were walking over. Once we got them set up as you see them in image one, we took the shot and this was the result. HOW WE DID IT: We metered the main light so that it was twice as bright as the light that was already there (the sunlight). The trick to nailing this type of lighting fast is by understanding how the meter works. The last thing we want to do is take test shots of the guys while they are there, then change settings and so on until we finally get it right. The other trick with shooting more than one person is that many times the person that is closest to the light will be blown out, and then those that are in... 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

The Perfect Ring Shot | Guest Post by Photographer Katelyn James

We are super delighted to bring to you a Tuesday Tips & Tricks post from a fellow photographer and friend Katelyn James! We met Katelyn a few years ago when she was new to the industry and now, four years later, her business is rocking and has been super blessed. Let us brag on her for a moment – she’s not only one of the nicest people you’ll meet, but this lady has killer branding that you need to check out and her work has been featured everywhere! From Professional Photographer Magazine to The Knot, Southern Living Weddings, Virginia Bride, to big, high profile blogs from Grey Likes Weddings to Style Me Pretty to Green Wedding Shoes, Wedding Chicks – the list goes on and on! Without any further ado, we bring you Katelyn! Well HELLO to all the wonderful Zach and Jody fans out there!!! It’s such a huge honor to be over here on their amazing blog today!! I’m Katelyn James and I’m a wedding photographer based out of Richmond, VA. I share life with my sweet husband Michael and our little Bichpoo puppy, Bokeh! …. Yes, I named my dog “Bokeh”… NERD ALERT! So when Zach and Jody asked me to do a little guest post sharing some tips and tricks, I was so excited… until I realized I had to decide WHAT the post was going to be on! This was QUITE the decision! Thinking back to my first year or two in business, I had numerous problem areas (don’t we all?!) but one area that always drove me crazy were the RING SHOTS! I... 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

Dramatic Studio Lighting | Burst Shoot

A few months back we had the privilege to shoot a commercial gig for BurstClub.com that happens to be owned by our dear friends Nathan and Jenni Oates. These guys were amazing to work with and we all had a blast on the shoot! The images are for their new promo material and for their 4 DVD set. The images needed to be very slick and styled, so we had to change up our shooting style to get the job done!   This shoot was a lot different then what we normally do for wedding images where our brides want that soft, pretty light that makes their skin look painted on. This shoot needed much more of an edge to it with the lighting, but also keeping some of that Zach and Jody style with the soft buttery look. So the first thing we did to achieve that look was to not use our typical 24×32 Wesctott soft-box that we use on all of our lit wedding portraits, and opted instead to use a 22 inch silver beauty dish from Paul C. Buff.   The real benefit and difference between using a soft-box (which is basically like having a big soft window), is with a beauty dish, you still get that soft buttery light when it is used in close, but you have much more dramatic shadows and highlights. Because of the design, it shoots out a narrow, 45 degree beam of light that allows the light to be shaped and placed much more specifically then with a soft-box. The cool thing about the silver vs buying a white... 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

Studio Lighting | Perfect Separation on white seamless

So, if you have ever shot in the studio, you may have shot images on a seamless backdrop which is a simple way to get great looking images without much distraction from you client. You can also easily cut clients out from a seamless if you need to do a composite. Sometimes though, you need a classy, simple shot on a pure white or gray seamless, and although it may seem straight-forward, it can be very tricky to nail it.   There are tons of blogs, ideas and systems out there for shooting on a white seamless and getting the background blown out so it turns pure white or grey, but not blasting so much light back into the camera that it hazes out the images, or loses the contrast between your client and the background. Today I will show you the easiest way to get that perfect separation.   Some photographers say that you need to have your main light at f/11, then your background light at f/16 to blow out that background just right. Some say that you need to have them a certain amount of feet away from the background. Some say that you need to get your blinkies on the back of your camera flashing on the background and not your client, then it will be right. Zack Arias, on his Tumblr Blog, suggested using the blinkies, then adding 1/3 more or less and learning your system then checking them to see what needs to be adjusted. So which method is correct?   All of that can work with lots of guessing, but there is... Read More

Flash + Direct Sun

With our IN-CAMERA tour quickly approaching, we thought we would post some serious lighting tips!! When photographing any type of on-location portraits, whether for weddings, families, or even sometimes commercial work, we don’t always have the benefit of great natural lighting to help compliment our flash shots. Sometimes we are stuck shooting in direct sun, and that can be very problematic even when using flash. So, today we are going to break down a simple system that you can use to get great flash shots in direct sun!   There are two ways that we do direct sun flash shots and both are dependent on the time of day. If it’s NOT that time just before the sun is about to set (the golden hour) then we use this our sunny 16 approach, and if it IS that time just before the sun sets (but we still have direct sun on our client, just not as bright as mid-day) then we us our double metering technique.   Sunny 16 approach: If your client has the sun blasting in their face and it is NOT that last hour before sunset or that first hour of sunrise, then use this process. Step 1. Put your client and flash in desired position, power up your off-camera strobe to closer to full power. Step 2. Set your meter to ISO 100, 1/100th of sec, and meter ONLY the flash until it meters f/16. (note; if you meter the flash AND the direct sun together, it can throw the meter off and read incorrectly) Step 3. Set your camera to ISO 100, 1/200th of... 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 www.framednetwork.com 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

IN-CAMERA Tour | ReCap of Charlotte

As we are about to head out to New York City for our last stop on the IN-CAMERA workshop tour, we wanted to post up our images from the SOLD-OUT Charlotte, NC stop we did a few weeks back!! We had a blast hanging in this city in the south and all the attendees were super cool! We had a stellar studio location and lots of awesome behind the scenes images shot by past attendee Lucy from Smitten & Hooked Photography! A HUGE thanks goes out to hosts Lucy (Smitten & Hooked Photography) & Julie (In His Image Photography) (pictured below) and their fab husbands for making these workshops happen!   (photo credit Hayley Juliet!)   Enjoy the shots from the day! Day 1: Shooting & Post – We started off in this awesome studio space talking through our shooting style and how we get the images 90% of the way there in the camera, so that our editing workflow can be lighting fast! We headed out to start shooting in the city and had tons of cool locations within just one blog. We always start off demoing our system that we use to get our camera’s aperture, ISO and shutter speed set with the lighting and posing that we want. Then, the attendees take over and start shooting!   Day 2: Light – We started off day 2 just like day one going over gear, lighting, composition and our system for setting up super fast off-camera lighting shots so we can shoot in any lighting conditions with zero guess work.   Then we headed out into the heat... Read More

Behind the Image, Salt Barn

Jody and I just got back from Toronto where we were guest Keynote Speakers for the Exposure Show and now we are back and rockin out today’s tips! Today, we are going back to a series we started last fall where we take images from weddings and workshops, and break them down for you guys so that you can do them as well! Ready? Here we go!!   So this image above, although it can seem crazy looking, is actually not that difficult to pull off and the entire look was done all in-camera with zero Photoshop! Images like this are something that we do for workshops, for engagement sessions and for bridal shoots (or if we shot senior sessions, this would be something we would rock out) because we have a little bit more time to set them up and light them. The above shot was taken later in the afternoon (about 45 minutes before sunset) in front of this cool salt barn that is just near our house in Franklin. Here is how we did it.   Exposure Settings on the 5D Mark 3 with 24-70L 2.8 lens ISO 100, 2.8, 1/100th of a second Here is an image that we took of the barn with a down the middle exposure trying to capture a little detail in the sky and a small amount of detail in the salt barn itself. As you can see, it is MUCH brighter in the sky (the sun was setting behind the salt barn so it is back lit) and much darker in the foreground of the composition. We wanted to... Read More

Behind the Image

Welcome to this Tuesday’s Photography Tips and Tricks! Your place to get the inside scoop on running your photog biz, shooting stellar in-camera images and more! Today, we are breaking down an image from our January wedding we shot of the amazing Taylor and Matthew. These two were a JOY to work with and we got to shoot so many awesome portraits of the two of them! We are going to break down one of the more difficult scenarios that we had to deal with, and show you exactly what we did to make sure the final result was something our couple would want to hang on their wall. After we had shot their portraits and after the wedding ceremony was over, Matthew and Taylor wanted a few shots in one of their favorite spots in town, the Nashville walking bridge. This location was tough to shoot at because it was freezing cold (24 degrees out!), has cool light on the bridge, but no lights on our couple, AND had the potential to look less than dramatic if not shot right. So we made sure to bring our Elinchrom Quadra lighting rig (our gear list can be downloaded HERE) with our new Elinchrom Deep Octa 39 to rock this out! This is the before.. Here, in this natural lit photo above, you can see just how awful the existing light was. The lighting is flat, has no (good) contrast on it, and their eyes are dark from the direction of the light. This image was also shot at ISO 6400 at 1/60th of second, and the noise is getting... 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