Category Archives: behind the curtain
I created this portrait with a 4 light set up. I placed 3 lights bare bulb: 2 pointed at 45 degree angles toward the camera and one placed really low to the ground behind Emily and pointed up at the flag in the center. The fourth light was shot though a small octa box onto her face. We placed the 8’x 12′ flag behind her outside in the snow storm attached to my tripod backdrop holder. The settings on my camera were ISO 64- shutter 200th- aperture 5.6 and my lens was an 85 mm Nikon lens.
I created this portrait of Rico for his acting portfolio. We wanted to tell a sad story of a man having a terrible day. The problem, it was actually a lovely day.
1st we had to get him wet because it wasn’t actually raining out.
Then we added “Rain” which was just a regular garden hose, clamped to a ladder and pointed in the air. This is what it looked like in real life.
My settings on the camera were ISO 400 shot on a 70-200mm lens at 70 mm. Shutter 125, and Aperture of 2.8the light above Rico was set with a small Octa box and had an orange filter. The light behind him was bare bulb set to a wide “spray of light” this light really made the water feel like rain because it back lit every single droplet of water. Here is what it looked like with the lights from the side. Notice the back light looks blue and the top light is warmer.
Here is the final product
I created these portraits of Alyssa Sullivan owner of Synergy Power Yoga in Barrington RI for her social media and for new marketing material to help promote her business. With all business portraiture that I do, I had a couple of objectives. These are different for every business that I work with, but for this one I wanted the photos to not only get across the love and joy that Alyssa brings to the Yoga she teaches, but her showcase her incredible talent and beauty as well.
Below I will be sharing exactly how I created these portraits that I am super proud of! Tell me what you think in the comments!
I wanted these photos to have a very clean and pristine look about them, so I put her on a solid white background and lit the whole scene with 4 separate speed lights. My ISO was set at 320 with a shutter speed varied from 1/125 to 1/200 with an aperture of either 6.3 or 7.1
The speed lights were shot though 3 octaboxes from behind up and behind right and left. With one big one from the front right. You can see below my light placement. The three smaller lights from behind her were set to 1/16th power and the big light off to the right was set to 1/4 power.
Here I am lying down on the job again on the stage of the beautiful and historic Garde Arts Center
People often comment on the strange positions I put my body in while taking photos. For me it’s kind of and unconscious maneuvering. I just move my body until the composition looks correct through lens. After I’m done, if someone has snapped a photo of the moment, I am usually as surprised as everyone else at the way I look…
We were creating the next cover photo for Grace Magazine This one is going to be really FUN, can’t wait for it to go to print!
*Edit #2* So in less than 24 hours this story has been seen, commented on and shared by about 10,000 people. I received what seemed to be a genuine apology from the person that wrote me originally, and a personal apology from the owner of the magazine. I accepted both and felt like they meant it. I’m definitely not getting hired by them in the future… But even so, this seems to have made a small difference. Thank you all so much for the incredible support, kind words and for standing up for not only me but all artists. I believe this is an important issue that we need to stay vigilant about.
*Edit* I have gotten a ton of very supportive kind and thoughtful responses to this post. THANK YOU! As it turns out this is a universal experience for artists of all kinds… I have also had quite a few people asking me to publish the name, email address and publication that I am referring to. But I’m not going to do that, I don’t want to hurt the publication, or get anyone fired, I DO want to take this experience and use it to make a positive instead. Please share this blog post around on social media. I have already had many thousands of people see it. Wouldn’t it be something if this message could reach 150,000 people? This is the number that they were using to try to make me give up my work for free, in order to be exposed to… Let’s use the power of the internet to spread this message around. Maybe just maybe we can do it!
As a photographer I get TONS of requests for free work. It is an unfortunate part of doing what I do. Today after the 3rd email of its type this week (and its thursday),
I snapped… It is SO HARD to be a small business owner. Some days it feels like I am floating in the sea by myself on a small life-raft constructed from only my ability to create nice photos.
I got approached by a large local magazine for free work, and according to their website, the publication goes out to 150,000 people a year. Now the back story here is that I already do work for a number of publications and they pay me well for my work. Here is a link to some of the covers I have made
And for those of you that don’t already know, a magazine works like this: They create interesting things for folks to look at and read, this is called “content” and then hopefully people will want to look at the magazine and read it. The tourism publication in question was asking for “content” from me. That means the actual magazine part, because without “content” all they have to print is Ads and who wants to read a magazine of only Ads? Depending on how many people it gets distributed to the magazine then sells ad space with varying prices. So in short they are willing to accept payment for the ad space but not pay the content creators of the substance for what the magazine actually is.
If you are a photographer and are reading this now, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t give away your photos for free. No one can eat “exposure” you can’t pay your rent with “exposure” it undermines not only you, but the other professional photographers out there. They stated in an email to me that they have some “extraordinarily talented photographers who are willing to let us use their work for free” and when I said that I wouldn’t give them my photos for free, they responded like this.
“I will happily oblige your request to bow out.And I will be sure to pass along this response to the other three art directors on our staff, not including myself, to let them know—paid or unpaid—your attitude does not warrant consideration for any future work here. They will be copied on this email.Further more, if someone ever asks me for a reference of a local photographer—which surprise, surprise, happens in a small state with a burgeoning art community—who shoots anything related to people, landscapes, still-lifes, editorial, or any other form of photography, I’ll make sure to let them know the same. There’s your long e-mail explanation on how we do things here at this large organization.“
Now to be clear, I understand when an organization like The Matty Fund or The Domestic Violence Resource Center, or The Jimmy Fund, or Camp Carefree, or Butler Hospital come to me and ask for donations. I have, over the years donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of photography to these very organizations, and will continue to do so. But this organization in question is a for profit (and doing quite well I might add) business.
I will end by saying this. While I do get discouraged by interactions like this, I have had the opportunity to photograph thousands of grateful, kind and generous people who have kept me in business since 1999. THANK YOU to these folks. Tomorrow is another day.
Marcus Roberts has been a musical hero of mine for many years now. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing him perform last night with the great Béla Fleck, Jason Marsalis, and Rodney Jordan at the Historic Garde Arts Center go check out some of the wonderful events they have at their incredible theater in New London CT. Below are some of the photos I made at last nights performance. They were touring together to promote the album “Across the Imaginary Divide”
Here is a video about their project together
This is a very complicated photo I pieced together from 3 separate images. I took all of the photos in the same session with all the participants on hand the whole time. But I simply didn’t have enough lights to adequately cover everyone in my composition. So what I did was place my camera on a tripod and move the lights around to where I needed them for each grouping and then blended it all together in Photoshop later on.
The Roller-rink was closed and quite dark (if you look in the back you can see the concession stand is closed and dark looking something I wish I had seen when I was shooting)
Here are 2 set up shots
Once I got my Composition figured out, what I needed to do was light each group but make it look like they were all lit the same way even thought they all had completely different lighting. I placed one of my lights right in the photo (top left hand corner) on purpose this gave the illusion of a unified lighting scheme. Your eye automatically wants to believe photos and this helps inform the lighting so you can believe what you are seeing.
You can see here I had 3 lights on this 1st photo. A 7′ reflective umbrella, a bare bulb light and on the right hand side in the back a gridded light just on the Ref. who was showing up too dark in test shots.
The Next photo was taken with a very similar lighting set up just moved closer toward these ladies the 7′ umbrella is off camera here but still in use and the gridded light was set behind them exactly to give a little back light in addition to the back light you can see on the top left.
The last photo was shot using 2 lights a smaller shoot through umbrella up and over the subjects the spot gridded light creating the shadow on the wall. With all the photos taken all I had to do was stitch them together in Photoshop Here is how it appeared in the magazine.
I photographed Daphne Martin for the cover of Grace Magazine. Daphne is a wonderful musician and song writer, and I met her in her home to photograph this portrait. The photo came together sort of organically after looking at the space and seeing the clothes she had picked out for the shoot. Being a big fan of thematic colors, when I saw the red hat, red dress and red walls, I immediately saw the photo in my head.
Here is our finished portrait
I created this portrait using 2 lights one up and camera left with a spot grid on the flash, creating a very harsh light that shone down mostly on her head and shoulders, and a Ring flash to fill in the shadows a little so the dark parts of the portrait weren’t SUPER dark. I positioned her just off the wall and the ring flash made a wonderful shadow all around her body which looks super cool too!
The technical info on the photo for those of you that are interested was
Nikon D700 ISO 100 F5.6 shutter 1/200th
Here are some set up shots to show you the scene I changed my lens to a wide lens which allows you to see the ring flash on the camera itself and the other photo you can see that there is an umbrella which I tried but ended up not using in the final shot.
I photographed Kelsey Kaiser for the Cover of Grace Magazine recently. Here is the cover image and inside spread as well
This was a fairly complicated photo to produce, with multiple conversations and meetings to discuss the photo with Kelsey and the folks that run the Gym where she practices. From the very 1st time I walked into the Gym which is located in New London CT I saw this image in my head. They have a large Flag on the wall next to the ring in the gym and I knew that was the shot. As some of you might know the only formal training I have in photography was from a class I took in highschool. I was lucky enough to have a great photography teacher that taught me some very important fundamentals for creating beautiful images. One of those lessons that Mr. Z imprinted on me was that a photo starts in your mind’s eye. If you can’t see the image before it’s created then how are you going to make it happen? That vision is very important to making beautiful photos but I am getting off topic here.
SO Here is a few photos showing the place and what it looked like with and without my lights
The main photo was taken on my Nikon D700 ISO 560 with a 50 mm lens set at F/5 and a shutter of 1/125th I wanted to get some of the ambient light of the gym to show up so that we could see the flag behind her but I wanted that to be a little dimmer than her. So I set my exposure for that background first and then added lights to create a dramatic feeling photo. You can see I had a large Octabox set up high above Kelsey to drop that sweet soft light down on her this is the main light working on her. From behind her I set 2 lights at 45 degrees pointing at the camera crossing her on either side this light you can see on her shoulders and the side of her face. They were all triggered at the same time using Pocket wizards. Also I wiped her down with baby oil to give her skin a little extra shine. Now that it is over and done I am very proud of the portrait.
Here is the finished photo and another that I really liked that didn’t make the magazine
This was a fairly involved portrait to create with a many meetings/phone conversations/and text messaging to talk about the concept and feeling that we wanted to create and capture. We created this cover shot of Theresa in what is the oldest working court room in the United States. Below are some iPhone photos I took for reference in advance of the portrait as well as set up photos in process of creating the portrait.
I wanted to have a very dark portrait but the room was filled with light so I set my camera to way underexpose the photo and added light to that dark exposure using my flashes. The photo was shot with an 85mm lens ISO 100 shutter 1/200 Aperture 5.6 The main light on her face up and camera left I wanted to be kind of harsh and I wanted the light to be only on her not the back ground, so I put a spot grid on it. I didn’t want the shadows to be too dark though so I put a ring flash on my camera at a very low setting this just nudges the shadows up a little but doesn’t get rid of them all together. And the 3rd light I added was shot through a soft box with a strip modifier on it I used this modifier because I wanted the light coming from behind her to be soft and just kiss her cheek and hair.
Here is the final portrait
For the camera geeks, and photographers that want to take their images to the next level
This is how I created the portrait of Joan Dwyer from “All That Matters”
1st the concept: I sat down with Joan 2 times (with multiple phone calls and texts in between) and we chatted for about an hour each time about this portrait, this time is a very important part of my process. We talked about who she is as a person, a business woman, a mother, a friend ect… And I floated ideas for how to portray her in this portrait. One thing to note is that she was very nervous about being photographed as most people are (including myself) This time we spent together is so very important to making folks feel comfortable with the idea of being photographed. My idea was that I wanted to photograph her as a Goddess at rest. I wanted to tell the story of what I think All That Matters represents and what roll it plays in our community. She was very reluctant to be portrayed as a Goddess, because, understandably, she didn’t want to give the impression she thought of herself as high and mighty… But this is (as are all the Rhode Island Portrait Project series photographs) my conception of who she is. Who I think of her as, not who she thinks of herself as…
2nd the execution: We built this composition over time using different things that Joan had on hand at her place I wanted it to be symmetrical and balanced visually because Yoga is all about balance. I decided to light her with candles mostly, so I went to Job Lot and the dollar store and bought about 200 candles! We used every single one! I constructed the composition slowly, and when I had everything placed where I wanted it to go then I set the exposure for the room (see 4708) then I added the one speedlight shot through a softbox (see 4710) and last I lit the candles and made sure the light was right coming off them (see 4713) when I had everything set which took about 1.5 hours then we started taking photographs and pretty quickly we got the winner (see 4733)
Here is my exposure info: ISO 800 (thank you Nikon) Shutter 1/25th and F 4 on my 50mm lens
With a little photoshoping the portrait was complete! I removed the leg of my light stand and some debris in the back ground as well some optimizations of contrast ect…
Here is a backed up shot so you can see where my light was positioned
As you can see above we had a 3 light set up for this portrait with an octabox set up pretty close to them camera left and about 3-4 feet away, a shoot through umbrella up and about 8-9 feet from the subjects off camera right, and a strip light up high and behind them to just kiss them with some soft light from behind. I set my ISO to 560 so that I could have a smaller Aperture and not use up tons of battery power. The exposure was shutter 1/60th at F/6.3 just to make sure that they were both in focus. I changed the color of the yellow paper back drop in Photoshop because I wanted the beige clothes and chair to be matched by the background a little more closely to make it all the more plain and uniform looking visually. This took quite a long time to set up and plan getting just the right clothes ect… But I think it was worth it, I love this portrait! My favorite little details are the paper and coffee on the side table and the heart-shaped Danish on the platter with a doily and everything!
I photographed Jeanne Sigel at The Garde Theater in New London CT for Grace Magazine. After meeting with Jeanne and seeing this spectacular venue, the photo became clear in my mind. We needed to have this be not only a photograph of Jeanne, but a portrait of The Garde itself as well. After some test shots I realized that I needed to get up higher so that the photo had even edges and wasn’t so tilted up looking. I also wanted the photo to have the color more balanced as it was heavy on the orange and red tones, so working with the lighting designer at The Theater I had him put two blue spot lights right on Jeanne. This created almost a face as if Jeanne was looking at the Theater and the Theater was looking back at her. They had a lift there that I set up my tripod on and climbed a ladder to get up next to the camera (as there wasn’t enough room on the lift for me and the tripod) after composing the photo and getting my exposure correct (ISO 560, 20mm lens, 1.6 seconds shutter, and F9 aperture) I tripped the shutter using a cable release cord because the lift was very wobbly. Here is the final photo as it appeared in the magazine as well as some set up shots.
lighting techniques and posing in a dynamic, hands-on workshop?
I am very excited to announce a new portrait project. I have been hired by Grace Magazine to photograph women that are pushing creative boundaries and making a contribution in an artistic and humanitarian way to our world. Nancy Parent was the first subject in the series for the October/November 2011 issue of Grace magazine. I am very happy with the results.
Here is how I created the portrait for the folks that are interested in the geeky techy stuff… The photo was taken with a Nikon D700 camera and a 50 mm lens ISO 100, aperture 3.5, shutter speed 1/250th which is the fastest sync speed for speed-lights (of which I used two) I chose that exposure because it was just about a full stop under-exposed on the background making it a little darker than it would have been if the landscape were the focus of the photo. This allowed her to really show up nicely and “really Pop” when lit properly. I triggered the lights with Pocket Wizards attached to the speed-lights and my camera, which make my lights fire at the same time as I push the shutter. You can see from my set-up photo that the main light is about 7 feet in the air and about 5 feet away from Nancy, just barely camera left. I put a diffusing dome right on the speed-light and then shot that through an umbrella which creates a very soft, sweet light shining down on her. The second light was positioned about 4 feet away from her, hard left, and I shot that through a spot grid to give a very specific focused light to define her and make her stand out more from the background. We got lucky with just the slightest breeze which blew her hair back and that is how we created this beautiful portrait!
To read more about Nancy and read the full article, visit www.graceforwomen.com
Here is the set up photo for Nancy’s portrait
This beautiful portrait was created outside using three lights I am going to explain here how it was created. from a white balance point of view and how the photo turned so blue in the back ground 1st the lights: 1 soft box above the model slightly off camera right shining directly on her and 2 lights down below her on the right and left shining up at her.
In the photo above you can see the 2 lights shining on Kelly from below. Right about now is a good time to talk about white balance a little. When a photo is taken the camera has to decide what colors to assign to all of the different values it is looking at, because to a camera it doesn’t care if it is looking at a mountain or a person it simply decides this color is red and this color is blue ect.. but you want to get the colors correctly identified, so for instance when you are looking at this red like this
you don’t end up with Red like this
The camera does this by assigning value judgements on what pure white is as you can see in the set up shot above the 2 lights below Kelly are showing up as white light. BUT BELOW those same lights are showing up as blue? Cool ha? But why is this happening? Because we added an orange filter onto the main light soft box and orange is at the opposite end of the spectrum to blue so in order to make the light shining on Kelly white it automatically makes all the other light in the photo turn blue! Like magic!!!
The first photo of Brian Being splashed by the SUV was taken outside in a real puddle and he REALLY got doused as you can see.
The shot was done with all natural lighting ISO 800 I wanted a SUPER fast shutter speed to make sure that I stopped the water in place as it was hitting him so that is why I chose such a high ISO. Plus the Nikon D700 I shoot on makes very sharp images even at that high of an ISO so no problem… I took it on my 70-200 VR zoom set to 190 mm Aperture of 2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/600th! Here is a set up shot to show you what the parking lot looked like
The second shot was taken inside an apartment using a white sheet for a background and 3 speed lights and Pocket wizards used to trigger the speed lights. 50mm lens set at aperture 3.5 shutter 1/100th Iso 100
You can see the two rear lights here in this set up shot. One set on the floor pointed up at Brian to define his legs and also add a little fill light on his face bouncing off the ceiling, and the other to define him on the top.
And here is a full on set up shot
I am SUPER proud of this one! We got the whole enchilada right on this one. Great weather, great location, and a wonderful couple that relaxed into being photographed and we got a superb portrait! We showed up at Beaver Tail in Jamestown RI and it was a little breezy and cloudy which was perfect! I set the exposure to underexpose the background a little, and set up an umbrella which my lovely assistant Lucia held in place because of the breeze (see set up shot) Lit with a speedlight and using my Pocket wizards to trigger the light, I waited for the light house to spin around and shine the light in our direction and Click we got it!
Jeremiah is a confident and talented young man I wanted to capture that in his portrait. I think we got it! This was taken out side with an ISO of 160 on my 70-200 lens zoomed to 116mm F7.1 with and a shutter speed of 1/250th which is the maximum shutter for syncing with off camera flash. I used an off camera flash held up and camera right see photo by Josh his younger brother. Straight flash no modifiers to make it a little more dramatic.
This is the nuts and bolts behind the scenes of Calvin Campany’s “James Bond” portrait
The final shot was taken at ISO 200 Shutter 1/200th F/6.3 on an 85mm lens Using 3 lights to see the what the main light was doing which was bounced off an umbrella about 3 feet away from Calvin see here
As you can see above the main light left quite a bit of darkness on the left side of the photo, so I used a ring flash set to almost its lowest power to fill in the shadows a little but leave some darkness so it would still feel dramatic. Shadows and darkness bring drama to a photo and I wanted this to feel kind of intense. I wanted another light set up behind him to just act as a rim light around the edge of his body camera left and while I was setting up the lights and doing test shots Calvin took a call. I accidentally got the actual light in the shot but ended up LOVING the effect so actually just pulled in the light intentionally into the composition. This little “mistake” ended up making the photo as far as I am concerned!
And here is a rough diagram of my lights to show you how it was all set up. I apologize for the terrible drawing…
I did some photoshoping in post production as well but if you are interested in that email me…