Reverse Engineering the Pros Lighting Setups

Or, How to Read a Catch Light or Two

I’ve been studying images for longer than….well, a long time, dammit. Just take my word for it.

Whenever I pick up a glossy magazine or a music CD or even a movie poster, I try to figure out how it was lit.

I study catch lights the way some people study baseball stats.

Apparently Other People Do This Too

It’s  nice to know I’m not the only fool geek nerd photography lighting aficionado out there.

Annie Leibovitz, Jill Greenberg, Patrick Ecclesine, Dave Hill and others laid bare.

Check out It’s All in the Lighting, Baby! by Melanie Mann, a photography assistant to the pros out in L.A.

This is a fantastic blog post, replete with awesome diagrams and behind the scenes videos.




Low Key Lighting for Still Life

Or, Finding a good excuse to show off my latest work.

I bought some new lighting equipment several months ago.

I got 3 new strobe heads, two new soft boxes, and light stands. Other than the initial post-UPS delivery inspection, I haven’t done a thing with any of it.

Part of the excuse reason is a change of domiciles after the arrival of the equipment, which entailed weeks of packing, planning, loading, hauling, unpacking etc. Not to mention the earning a living thing.

Enough is enough.

I would also like to interject at this point that I have been exceedingly antsy to create some ART UP IN HERE. In particular, I would like to co-create some art with other people.

Yep. I would like to lure some person or persons to sit down in front of my camera lens and embody some strangeness for me.

Model Mayhem Frustration

I could try to connect with potential models through Model Mayhem. I have certainly done that successfully in the past.

However, most of the ‘models’ on Model Mayhem are looking to get into fashion and glamor work. They have delusions aspirations of becoming the next tall-skinny-girl-who-gets-$10K-just-to-show-up super model. They are also very concerned with updating their ‘port’ which, despite its nautical sound, has nothing to do with maritime adventures.

Be like water.

Sometimes you have to take the path of least resistance.

Last night in a fit of utter physical BOREDOM and stupefaction, I decided to ‘play’ in my art room. Cranked the music and set about setting up my new lights….or at least one of them.

If there was no person to photograph, I would at least photograph…….something. Damn it. Janet.

Going back into the closet.


Fetish Photography with Low Key Lighting

Recently I arranged a shoot just for fun.  To quote one of my favorite perfomers (Eddie Izzard) – who can live at that speed???  I have become a member of an online community called Model Mayhem.  This community allows photographers, models, designers, makeup artists, hairstylists and others to connect.

A word about ANY online forum/community – BUYER BEWARE.  There are many fine, upstanding citizens out there using these forums, with no harm, no foul.  However, flip that rock over and out will crawl lesser mortals and lower creatures….and you can get slimed.  Use your common sense and listen to the little bells and whistles sounding off in your own wee noggin.

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial


Studio Lighting for Headshots – Tutorial

Or, The Other Money Shot

There are at least as many ways to shoot a headshot as there are ways to skin a cat.  We won’t go into WHY someone would want to skin a cat, but I can tell you why people would want to shoot headshots.  This is a great basic skill to have in your repertoire.  Think of it as The Little Black Dress of photography.

It’s amazing at all the different types of people and professions who need headshots; realtors, editors, authors, entertainers, models, CEOs, dancers, moguls, rock stars, travel agents, ministers, entrepreneurs, business owners, internet marketers and even the occasional porn star, just to name a few. Being able to shoot reliable, polished headshots can bring in infusions of cash, and hey, who doesn’t like a little infusion, from time to time?

Studio Lighting for Headshots - Photography Tutorial[…]

Make a Beauty Dish for Studio Lighting

Or, How To Whip Up A Little Something In The Kitchen For The Studio

Occasionally in my web surfing I come across things that strike me as quite clever.  One such example is a homemade beauty dish I stumbled upon on  Well, actually the lifehacker page was really the entry to a rabbit hole I eventually went down, that lead to  David Tejada’s blog for commercial photographers, where he references Tyler Burk‘s instructions for this clever little item on Flickr.  Such is life in cyberspace.[…]

How To Photograph Large Groups in the Studio

This past weekend I had the COMPLETE pleasure of working with a group of people so warm, vibrant and energetic I may be walking on cloud nine for weeks to come.   It’s shoots like this that keep me highly enthusiatic about photography in general.   I really do have a dream ‘job’.

I could take this post in any number of directions. I could talk about bold color in portraiture, how to transform virtually any place into a photography studio, how to work with children of varying ages or how to work with a larger group of people. Let’s roll with the last one.

How to Photograph Large Groups in the Studio - Photography Tutorial


Using Bold Color in Portraiture – Tips and Techniques

Do not be afraid. Come on in. Shut the door behind you. Put on your shades, if need be. Throw caution to the wind as you enter the High Color Zone. Two of my absolute favorite things in life are color and photography.  Let’s combine them and see what happens.

There are several ways you can create a rich, saturated backdrop. Many of them involve multiple light heads, specialty brackets and hardware, and colored gels. I will focus on the easiest and most economical way to do it, which is with a basic, one light set up. You don’t need to light your background and can just let the light fall off. This will render your backgrounds richly saturated. You can view the basic lighting set up in my Photographing Young Children with Low-Key Lighting tutorial and view suggestions and links in How To Set Up A Photo Booth In Your Home.

Using Bold Color in Portraiture - Tips and Techniques