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Behind the curtain with The Rhode Island Portrait Project (Katherine Quinn)

Katherine Quinn for The Rhode Island Portrait Project

I photographed Katherine Quinn for the Rhode Island Portrait Project using a 70-200 mm VR Nikon lens on my D700 body set to ISO 800

I used 3 lights a 43″ Octabox set up and camera left about 5′ away from Katherine this was my main light, a smaller soft box set about 15′ back and camera right this light you can see on her neck and cheek. I wanted this light to be very subtle and barely show. And last I used a ring flash to fill in again in a very subtle way some of the shadows on her. The location we chose Fete club in Providence RI has this wonderful art piece which has a spot light on it, as well as having some purple lights on in the club which show as well.  Here is a set up drawing for your dining and dancing pleasure

And also Thank you to Brad Smith for providing me with these set up shots!

Behind the curtain on “The Big Picture” Portrait for Grace Magazine

The "Big Picture" Portrait for Grace Magazine


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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Here is the set up photo for Nancy’s portrait

Lighting Set up for Grace Magazine portrait session

Portrait photography behind the curtain

Portrait Photography Providence RI

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.

See below

backlights set up photo

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

not red...

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!!!

lighting set up shot

Portrait Photography Providence RI

I photographed a portrait tonight in Providence RI. This was an interesting photo shoot because I was working with the very talented photographer Brad Smith, and the talented and beautiful photographer Kelly Meyer as a model. Brad and I worked together with Kelly in front of the camera for a change. She’s a pretty good model ha?

Portrait photography Providence RI

This photo was taken right at dusk on a beautifully cloudy day. We put an orange warming filter on the main light which was a soft box (which was set about 6 feet away from Kelly,and I shot with a white balance for tungsten light to match that warming filter which made the background go super blue. Cool effect ha? As you can see there were also 2 speed lights set up about 12 feet away from her on the right and left. I shot with an ISO of 400 on my 85 mm F5 Shutter 1/20th which was slow enough to catch a little movement from her leaving that wonderful dark edge on her left hand side making the image even more dramatic! She looks like Super Woman! I made some minor adjustments in Photoshop but this is pretty close to right out of the camera.

As always click on the photo to see it at the right size!

lighting set up shot

Rhode Island portrait project behind the curtain Pier Cleaners

Briand Fish of Pier Cleaners for the Rhode Island Portrait Project

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

Engagement Portrait Beavertail, Jamestown RI

I had the real pleasure of working at one of my favorite places in the world today, Beavertail in Jamestown Rhode Island! What a spot! I have photographed here many time and it is always a challenge to me to create a portrait that is beautiful and different from the last time I was here. I think I got it! and here is how I did it!

It was a SUPER windy day with bright sun almost straight up over head. Which if you don’t know makes it REALLY hard to photograph… So I put Jim and Nicole is a small patch of shade next to an old abandoned building. in order to get a good exposure for them I had to make the background to bright as you can see here

beavertail portrait with no lights added

This test shot was taken at ISO 100, shutter of 250th at F6.3

Here is a crude drawing to show you the lighting set up

Then I dropped the exposure down to make the sky show the beautiful clouds behind them and put speed light off about 5 feet to my right with no modifiers just a bare flash at full power again ISO 100 shutter 250th, and F8 and here is what we got! Awesome !!! I am excited about this!

Portrait at Beavertail in Jamestown RI

Portrait Photography at Beavertail in Jamestown RI

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!

Jennifer and Andre portrait at Beaver Tail in Jamestown RI



Set up for the portrait with my lovely assistant Lucia!

TSR lights behind the scenes (or lighting a light)

I had an interesting job come my way this week. I don’t do a lot of “commercial” photography, very little in fact, but I had the time and they had a need so why not take on a challenge right? So I pushed myself a little and photographed this very interesting new lighting set up. TSR Thermal Solution Resources makes these lights which are bright, don’t get hot… Very cool in fact, as I was photographing this light I was impressed at how cool it stayed the entire time it was on which was a few hours. Here is the TSR website by the way

SOooo to the lighting set up and technical info.

Here is the shot

This was shot on my D700 at ISO 160 Shutter 30th of a sec, at F 5.6 on my 55 mm manual lens. This means there is no computer in the lens or any electronics of any kind. It is a manual focus lens made in 1977 long before digital photography even existed! this photo was taken using 2 lights both off camera. And the light itself on as well. One was placed just slightly below the subject and camera left about 1.5 feet back and the other camera right and high above the subject about 3 feet away. Also I had a silver bounce camera right and in front of the subject to fill in the shadows a bit.  also there was a window just camera left filling in soft light as well and the back ground is the side of my refrigerator… Here are some set up photos

Photoshopping behind the scenes

I get asked all the time what amount of photoshopping I do to my images and the truth is not very much. Most of the time I prefer to do my work before hand using good composition, good lighting, and just generally get the fundamentals of photography “right” in camera. But sometimes I do take extra time and really tweak and tweeze a photo in the computer to push it to another level. Also let me be clear I have NO problem AT ALL with using the computer to enhance, change or manipulate a photo. There is an erroneous idea out there that with the invention of Photoshop so came the invention of the manipulated image. This is simply NOT SO. Here two examples of people using the dark room, airbrushing, and other techniques to manipulate enhance or just change an image…

The great master Jerry Uelsmann

And Joseph Stalin not only wiped people out with guns, but in photos too…

But I am getting a little off topic here, I love the computer and Photoshop, and have no problem using them to execute my vision of what a photograph should look like. Maybe on another day I will spend some time writing about this and going into in with more detail, but for now I want to show you what I have done with this image of a beautiful woman who I photographed this week. This 1st shot is straight out of the camera no changes at all to the image. Pretty good ha?

This 2nd version has been adjusted in Adobe Lighroom 3

I added just a tiny bit of green and yellow to the white balance of the photo, removed the mole from her chest and brightened the shadow on her face just a little. It’s getting better…

This finished version was exported into Adobe Photoshop CS5 and changed a little more there.

I added a little more yellow to the photo softened just a tiny bit, and cleaned up the stray hairs on her head, and last softened the shadow on her chest. So this is my vision of what this photo should look like as realized by the computer. I hope this helps illustrate to those of you who are interested what can happen behind the scenes on an image. As I said at the beginning of this post, I mostly don’t do this much work on my photos. Because there is something to be said for a more “natural” look. But sometimes I feel the desire to push an image to that next level…

Lighting a portrait with one light

This beautiful portrait was taken for Yvette in her home using only one light mixed with natural light. At first glance you might think it is all natural light. But I was actually using a small light mounted on a tripod and triggered with a Pocket wizard. Here are the technical specs.

ISO 100/shutter speed 125th of a sec./ aperture 3.2

Taken on a Nikon D700 with an 85 mm 1.8 lens

What I did was set the exposure to be just a notch down from what the ambient light exposure should have been so the background wouldn’t be to bright, and then set the light shot through an umbrella just off camera left to light her up a bit with nice soft light. I set her with the natural light coming from behind her to add a small edge of light that you can see on her arm and shoulders. This defines her visually from the background more to your eye.

See the below for an illustration of the room light and where the umbrella was.


“Behind the Curtain” Lighting a portrait with a window in the background

Here is a portrait I created recently. Kristy was sitting down in a chair in her living room with the dog on her lap. I pulled the chair away from the small window into the kitchen behind her to give the portait some depth. I also made sure that the other window to the outside was in the frame. I exposed for the window which by the way was ISO 320 at F-stop 5, and a shutter speed of 200th of a second. The camera was my Nikon D700 with a 50 mm 1.4 lens.

I created this portrait using two speed lights, (or flashes) One light up above the subject and camera right shot through an umbrella about 3 feet away from her, and one behind her about 12 feet and up about 7 feet in the air shot straight at her through the inside window from the other room.

Here is what the shot looked like with no lights in her living room. Not so hot with out lights ha?

Lighting tips

My Birthday is coming up in a little more than a week. And so I thought it was a time for me to create a self-portrait to mark the changing of another year gone by. While at it, here is a run down on the lighting set up for those of your who are interested

This was shot on my D700 Nikon Camera at ISO 160

Shutter speed 160th, aperture 3.2 on my 50mm 1.4 lens

I set up the camera on a tripod in my kitchen with a 5 second delay, positioned an umbrella camera right with a speed light bouncing off the umbrella, another speedlight positioned to bounce off the ceiling very near the camera to fill in a little extra shadows, and hand-held a silver reflector low and camera left to bounce a little extra light underneath my face. I sat down on a stool and took the shot. I like it! Hope you do too! You can see the lighting set up here.

The Newport Bridge

The beautiful Newport Bridge! Taken on a foggy day just after the sun dropped over the horizon. Taken on my 70-200 mm  VR lens. Set on a tripod just to make sure it was sharp. Taken at shutter 60th F-stop 2.8 ISO 640 on my D700

the newport bridge by Seth Jacobson

Behind the curtain Johnette portrait

Here is a portrait I created today of Johnnette. She is pictured here in the final shot with almost no post processing. I think I added just a tiny bit of brighness slider in lighroom but that is it.


The photo was taken on my D700 with ISO 500, shutter 1/60, and aperature of 3.2 on my 50mm 1.4 lens. So how I created it was I had her sitting in front of her piano with the lamp you can see on top of the piano on and another you can’t see hidden behind the piano also on pointed at the statue in the back, and another camera right and low on the floor lighting the background a little more. I had a 4′ silver bounce about 5 ‘ camera left that I pointed my flash at filling her in with soft flattering light from the left. I am very happy with the results!

How to create a great portrait

This beautiful photo of my daughter was taken in afternoon/evening light. The sun was getting pretty low in the sky and directly behind her. I had an 85 mm lens on the camera. My aperature was set at 1.8 which makes that wonderful blur in the background shutter 1/640th of a second ISO 100

I was about 6 feet away from the subject, and just off to my right about 3 feet away from her was a gold bounce gently pushing light back on her. Very simple but effective

How to create a beautiful wedding portrait

Here is a beautiful portrait RIGHT out of my camera. NO adjustments at all on the test shot or the final version.

I saw a big window with some nice afternoon/evening light coming through but the curtains were big and unmoving so I had Kevin the Groom step in as my assistant and hold the curtains back. then I took a test shot to see what it looked like

beautiful light but WAY dark on one side so I had Stacey my assistant come in with a reflector and bounce a little light just off camera to my right and fill in that other side here are two photos from my iPhone showing the set up.

My settings on the final shot were ISO 250, Aperature 2.8, Shutter 1/50th

and again this is straight out of my camera

How to create a beautiful wedding portrait

First and foremost a good portrait comes from 2 main places in my opinion. 1st understanding photography, the fundamentals of light and composition has to be in place. But then you have to understand people and how to make them feel comfortable… I am writing about the 1st part. If you need help with the people part, I can’t help you. But if you can’t get someone to relax in front of the camera 99% of the time it is the photographers fault… not the subject


The photo you see here was taken in a hotel room. I was standing on a chair with a large window to my left. I had one of the brides maids hold up the brides dress high behind her to make a pleasing background and to bounce a little light back at her. This is all natural light. ISO 100 1/90th shutter and 1.8 Aperature on a 50mm lens. Here is a photo of me taking this photo to give you a perspective

Tara and Kevin Wedding photos in Newport RI

When I tell you that Tara and Kevin had a great wedding day, I am completely underselling it. This turned out to be one of the most amazing weddings I have ever been to. Why? While I know it sounds cheesy, it was because of the love, the true, deep, powerful love that Tara and Kevin have for each other… In addition to that they both planned very well, brought the right people on board to make it happen, and when the day of the wedding arrived they let loose and had a great time.

The wedding happened at The Atlantic Beach Club you can view their website here what a beautiful place! well organized and professional staff. Everything went off just right!

Golden gate studio’s did the flowers view their website here and the flowers were amazing!

Kristin Butterfield Green did the make up for the bride, and she looked AMAZING here is her website!

Nancy Palino and the Black Tie Band Provided the music visit their website  here What a great band!!! You know the music is good when it is midnight and the band plays their last song and the dance floor is packed…

Kevin and Tara decided to do their “formals” before the wedding so we set up a place for them to see each other for the first time alone and I can’t tell you how moved I was by those moments. Kevin was crying, Tara was crying, (I was crying) Later on in the night after the ceremony Both the Bride and the Groom had surprises planned for each other. The groom is Irish and so the bride had Irish step dancers come and perform for everyone. WHAT A SHOW!!!  At the end of the night the groom had an icecream truck come as a surprise to the bride. The bride and groom ended the night in the truck, serving icecream to their guests and anyone who happened to be walking by. What a lovely way to end the night. With a gesture of service to all their loved ones! OK I will stop gushing now Enjoy the photos!!!

Portrait behind the curtain

This portrait was taken in a hallway right next to the bathroom (really) see set up shot #2 It was taken on my Nikon D2x 100 ISO 50mm lens 1/125th shutter Aperature F 2.2 I had a large window on my left and dry eraser board on my right bouncing a little light back at him. I am super happy with the results! It looks like a studio lighting set up don’t you think?

Behind the curtain of a wedding photo

This photo I am showing you here was taken with my 50mm Lens on my Nikon D2x, ISO 100, 1/25 shutter and 3.2 aperature. I was on the second floor of a big building with a wide open window behind the bride. We had almost but not quite direct sun streaming in onto her from behind and to my right. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon so the sun was way high in the sky. You can see the tree tops in the back ground out of focus because I was shooting at 3/2 Aperature and they were about 100 yards away. I had one of the brides maids hold a reflector low and bounce light right back onto the Brides body and face. so the reflector was bouncing exactly opposite of the sun light. (Thank Megan!!!) Here is a behind the scenes photo of me taking the photo (thanks Danielle!!) and the final version of it. I worked it in lightroom 3.2 beta and made it B/W with just a hint of brown/yellow added to the dark areas for warmth.

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