Does “Diffusion” Actually Soften Light?

“Soft light is a thing of beauty in photography – finding it is the real trick.” -Zach Gray There is some information in the photography world that says diffusion can make your flash images look better by “softening” the light. Today we are going to explore this and see if it is true or false. When we first started shooting, the first thing we bought was a Canon 580ex speedlight so we could light our subjects at dark receptions. The issue with that light was if we pointed it directly at our subject, or even moved it off-camera and pointed it at our subject, we would get lots of contrast and “hard” lighting on our subjects. Hard lighting is caused by having a small light source and the result is having “specular highlights” or bright spots right next to dark spots that create lots of contrast. You can see when you use a small light source like the one used above, that you get a very defined line from highlight to shadow, and the skin can look worse than it really is. There are some hot spots on the right side of the frame and you can see that “specularity” we mention earlier.  This lighting is not right or wrong, but it definitely is not forgiving when not used just right. Does Diffusion Really Solve this Problem and make light softer?  Early on, we got sold on this idea that if you added “diffusion” (or something that evened out the light coming from our flash), we could then get soft light. The myth here is that there is only a partial truth in that.... Read More

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

Video | Behind the Scenes with the George Twins!

I finally can post up the video of the shoot we did last fall of the  George Twins! I shot their promo material for their YouTube Channel and their marketing and some of their recent videos have gotten up to 4.5 million views! These guys are about to explode and I am so stoked I got to shoot them early on! I just wrapped a second shoot of them last week and have more videos coming with some cool behind the scenes teaching you how I did it all! Check out the behind the scenes video at link below, and while you are there, follow our Youtube channel for more videos that will give your brand a kick in the pants! CLICK HERE to see the video! PS. Are you interested in learning more studio lighting techniques? Check out our RAW DVD for only... Read More

Multiple Speedlites with high quality lighting | Video

If you have ever wanted to have a super light flash set-up that is able to create studio quality lighting while shooting on-location, then you are not alone. We have used speedlites for years, but always felt like we were compromising light quality when doing so. Now, with these new modifiers we have, today we are going to show you how to create some really cool photos using speedlites and a steel wall!... Read More

Using speedlites in tight spaces (Video)

Today we have a brand new video that shows you a simple way to get great light from your off-camera speedlites and shows you how to use them in tight spaces with a simple piece of gear.   The Westcott Pro-Grip is a simple to use handle to get into tight spaces for those of us that don’t want to carry a stand around and need a fast and easy way to get light where you need it.   Do you have a good system that you use to get some flash into small spaces? Share with us below your secrets!... Read More

Table Rock Mountain Shoot + Business Interview | Framed

We are super excited to finally share our Table Rock Mountain shoot and extended (and exclusive) interview we did for the Framed Network! It is now available to see right here for free! Watch us in-action shooting an engagement session in the blistering winds of Table Rock in Boise, ID, hear an interview with us about what we believe, think and how we interact with each other in business, and watch it all from the comfort of your office or living room! Check out the video... Read More

4 Simple Steps to great Wedding Day Portraits + Video

Have you ever been on a shoot, and just KNOW that your client is feeling uncomfortable? Then you start to feel uncomfortable and things just go downhill from there? We have felt that way before and it is not a fun experience for anyone! (image from Daniel & Stacia’s super fun non-awkward wedding!) Because we know that clients are not always sure what might happen at a shoot, and there is a chance that they might feel awkward and not know what to do, a number of years ago we decided to create a system that gave us a great chance to combat the very beginning of the shoot and get our clients feeling calm and comfortable in no time! Making your client feel calm and relaxed is SUPER important.  The more calm and comfortable they are feeling the better chance you have to get amazing, natural shots of them (and of course, they then feel better their whole experience with you because they felt so comfortable!).   Now we want to share with you our 4 steps to awesome wedding day portraits! 1. Encourage Clients always have a fear going into their portrait sessions that they won’t look as good as what they saw in your portfolio. We realize that our number one job is to make our clients FEEL good about the shoot, and when we they feel good, they loosen up and we get great pics every time! Most of what we do and say to our clients is for the sole purpose of encouraging them in everything that they are doing. If a client moves in a way that does not work for a shot, we... Read More

IN-THE-RAW Video Teaching Series

We have just released the brand new In the Raw Video Series!       Why In the Raw?   – How to shoot more creative portraits – Using Multiple Lights indoors – Ground Glass photography for in-camera effects – Full Post-Production workflow for the entire shoot including Photoshop enhancement of images ….. Much much more! GUESSING IS FRUSTRATING How did they do that?? How many times have you seen an image from a photographer wondering how in the world they were able to capture that? What gear did they use? How did they shoot it? What were their camera settings? What post processing was done to the image? It’s so frustrating having to guess at all those unknowns.   WE ALL START SOMEWHERE When I (Zach) was trying to learn more about creative lighting and portraiture I was devouring any resource that I could – from books to blogs – you name it (and no, at that time big, online teaching resources were non-existent). I found it so hard to get detailed instructions on how to shoot creative lighting images, and was frustrated not knowing all the nitty-gritty details of how to specifically do it.   I DID THE HARD WORK After reading and watching whatever content was available, I went out, I spent hours practicing, and had a LOT of trial and error refining these techniques on my own. I finally was able to get my creative portraiture to a skill and level that I was proud of, and I knew exactly what I was doing. I could now take the knowledge I knew and add it... Read More

IN-CAMERA Color Correction with Flash (Video)

Have you ever walked into a reception, ready to bounce your on-camera flash off the walls, only to find out the walls are red, green or worse? What happens when you bounce that light off of them? Your flash reflects that colored light onto your subject, and then you are trying to edit your client in post so they don’t look like the Hulk. Bummer! Solution to this Annoying Problem If we can neutralize that color from the wall, then we can get great color on our subjects at each shoot!   We promised a video on our post from last Tuesday, so here it is! This video builds on last weeks ideas about using custom white balance to get natural looking skin tones and reduce editing time. This video is going to show you guys how we get a custom white balance when using FLASH. The first half shows you how we do it with off-camera flash, and the second half shows you how we use it for on-camera bounce flash when we have a weird colored green wall. (I know I am going hear about, so, yes, I say “awesome” WAY too many times in the video. I am working on breaking that habit. :)) Check it out!       PS. If you thought this video was helpful, then why don’t you Tweet about it by clicking HERE! You can also copy and paste the below to share this post on Facebook.   “I just learned how to get rid of color casts on my shots when bouncing light off of walls at a reception by... Read More

4 Fast Steps to Easily Light your Backgrounds (video)

Are you ready to take your lighting to the NEXT level and light up the environment? Today we are going to show you EXACTLY how to do it with step by step instructions AND a video showing it in action! In order to turn the image you see below (natural light) into what you see above, you need to follow these steps in order to get great resutls with NO guess work!   Step 1.  Have the right gear & Location The gear we use to do shots like this are any type of main light (like the Rapid Box from Westcott), and then a speedlight with a tungsten gel over it to really make it interesting.    Natural Light Shot:(ambient light reading was ISO 100, f/4 at 1/100th shutter)   The locations that work best for these type of shots are ones that have even overall lighting (this was on a city street in Nashville with all indirect lighting), and ones that have a small area with a little less light.   This area had a metal doorway indent that had less light in it than the rest of the wall around it. It has LOW overall light (so the speedlight can over-power it) and the background was reflective which makes the light look interesting.   Step 2. Under-Expose the ambient by 2 stops (ambient light under-exposed by 2 stops)    In order to have the background look dynamic, you have to make sure that the ambient light doesn’t wash everything out. So, to do that, we need to under-expose the background by around 2 stops. We metered the ambient light to read ISO 100, 1/200th shutter at... 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

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

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

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

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

IN-CAMERA: Light Video Workshop | The Simple Off-Camera Lighting Solution

If you want to shoot with off-camera flash, but have been wondering how to get over the fear, wonder no more! Our new Light DVD will teach you the exact steps we use to nail off-camera lit shots everytime like a pro! The system is simple, easy and adds a whole new dimension to your photography work! If this is inspiring you to attend the IN-CAMERA Light workshop, the Nashville class is sold out, but if we get 3 more people on the waiting list, we will open it up to another group of 6. There is still space in the San Francisco workshop class. For detailed class descriptions as well as dates and pricing, visit the IN-CAMERA workshop website. IN-CAMERA Workshop Testimonials: “This is the best investment I could have made in my business. I’m so thrilled I did it early on in my business.” “Loved it, Love it, Loved it! Learned so much it blows my mind!” “This is the most beneficial class to learn how to improve my photography. It was broken down in a way we could easily understand and apply it.” “This is truly one of the best workshops I have ever attended!” “This workshop is going to change the way I shoot receptions” “This weekend started with me knowing absolutely nothing, now I’m honestly full equipped to rock it!” “Great learning experience. What I learned will save me a lot of time” “I learned here more than anywhere else” On a scale of 1-5, How would you rate this experience overall: “26,432.84 Think that says it all.” “Excellent, excellent, excellent!!! This will give... Read More