All posts in Lighting

  • How I Got This Shot – Broadway Ballerina Stephanie Kim

    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting I have been wanting to do a shoot with a ballerina for quite some time.  When Stephanie contacted me asking me to make some images of her I was ecstatic since I have had several ideas for a ballerina shoot floating around in my head for almost 8 months.  The main idea was to capture her in motion and then freeze her at the end of the shoot.  I have seen, hell, we all have seen too many shots of ballerinas in static poses.  Beautiful poses, of course, but static and a little cliche at this point.  The biggest issue is to find a location with fresnel lights and the space to capture her overall motion. The location for this shoot was at a place with a massive stage and stage lights.  These are constant lights, fresnels with various colored gels on them (red, blue, neutral, purple and green).  Once we arrived at the location I started scouting the stage and lights to see the overall space with which I have to work and how best to bring my vision to life for Stephanie.  When I talked with owner of the location, Steve, I was informed that all the fresnels are on a board and can be individually controlled.  After I learned this I was running up the stairs to the control room to start playing with the various combinations of colors and intensity so I can make my vision come to life.  After a little trial and error I found the right combination of lights that I wanted to use for the shoot.  They were a combination of red, blue and neutral (lights without the gels). The whole purpose of making certain I had constant lighting for this shoot is because I want to create the motion with the constant lights and then freeze her with the strobe lights at the end of her movements.  By running up and down the stairs to the control room for the fresnels I wanted to make certain I had the overall look I needed for the "moving" parts of the shot.  I knew the strobes I place at the end of her movements would freeze her motion and I wanted to keep those lights daylight balanced (no gels or coloring) to create a nice "POP" or separation from the other lights.  I am also a HUGE fan of late night infomercial barker Ron Popeil and his "Set it and Forget it" mantra.  So, by setting the lights to get what I want allows me to just focus on the ballerina, her moves, expressions, gesture, etc.  The more you can learn about "Set it and Forget it" the easier it is to make the photos you want. In case you are not aware of the infamous infomercial from Ron Popeil then you can see it below I truly believe in the "Set it and Forget it" principle especially when it comes to something like this type of shoot.  That way I can focus on getting the image we want from the shoot.  The finished shot above was the SECOND in the process.  The first shot (below and in RAW format) was used to get the feel of the shoot.  And, when I first started I only set the camera to a :02 second exposure.  I quickly learned (after one image) that I needed to be in BULB mode with my remote trigger so I can pop the flash when she finished her movement.  I say that because by only letting her move for :02 seconds limited her in her movement.  It's like trying to time, to the EXACT tenth of a second when she will finish her movement.  Rather than rely on chance, I stood back and watched her movement and then let go of the cable release as soon as she finished her movement.  In the image below you can see a little bit of trailing movement but in the image above you can see her more clearly and crisply.  That's because I fired the flash as soon as she was done with her movement.
    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting

    This is the first, RAW, image from my shoot with Stephanie. This image relied on timing and chance rather than precise firing of the strobe. Fortunately I recognized that and quickly changed things a bit.

    Perhaps some of you are wondering why I just didn't make one image of her with the fresnels and then another image from the strobes and then combine them in Photoshop.  I could have done that and did, for the purposes of this blog, make images to demonstrate how those images look separately.  But as you will see, I believing getting the image right in camera and in one shot saves me a TON of time in post production.  Plus, why make extra steps when I can get it right in camera and have a better, more organic image.  The sequence below shows what the images look like with just fresnels, just strobes and when I made one single image from getting it right in camera. Fresnel lighting to create movement in a photograph Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic LightingLastly, I wanted to provide a quick description of what gear I used, the settings and the lighting set up for the shoot.  Please feel free to ask any questions or comment on this process.  I would love to see your images like this as well. SETTINGS
    1. Nikon D3s (Manual Mode)
    2. 70-200mm 2.8 Lens (Manual Focus)
    3. Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
    4. Bulb Mode for Shutter
    5. Aperture f8.0
    6. Nikon Shutter Release Cable
    7. Had model stand in roughly the finished location of her movement and pre-focused
    8. Rear Curtain Sync
    9. Broncolor Move 1200L Pack (both lights)
    10. Broncolor 5-Foot Octabank
    11. Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank
    LIGHTING/SHOOTING SET UP Stephanie-Kim-Lighting-DiagramUntil next time... SH

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  • Photo Shoot with “Two Broke Girls” star Matthew Moy

    I always like getting the phone call or email from people asking me to photograph them. Heck, it's why I do what I do. But I have to say I was completely blown away when I was asked by Matthew Moy from the hit Sitcom "Two Broke Girls" to make some new images of him for his own portfolio.
    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Kat Denning

    This is a great image of Matthew as it shows off his wonderful personality.

    We met through a mutual friend and when Matthew saw my work he instantly wanted to work with me and I was utterly flattered.  In talking with Matthew initially it was clear to me that he wanted some dramatic, more serious shots of him.  After all, his character on the television show is a great supporting character who is, at times, the butt of the joke.  But, hey, that's his character.  With that in mind, I wanted to make something GRAND for him and he gave me carte blanche to come up with something that was different, unique and dramatic.  That was easy because I know different, unique, funny and dramatic. I sat down and started coming up with some ideas after watching a couple of episodes of his sitcom.  While watching I noticed he never really had a love interest or came off as a "ladies man" (again, that's just his character) so I wanted to give him something that was a bit of a departure from the character so people can see the real Matthew Moy.  Someone who is playful, funny, smart, sincere, humble and just a really nice person.  That said, I started racking my brain trying to come up with some ideas and then it hit me... let's make Matthew Moy THE ladies man and have some fun with it in the process.  I ran the ideas and concepts by Matthew and he was completely down with and excited about the shoot and various concepts. THREE CONCEPTS The first concept was to do something a little more "tame" in the sense of positioning Matthew as a bit of stud.  At the same time, I wanted to throw in some humor with the concept as well.  So the first concept was all about Matthew being surrounded by beautiful, scantily-clad women who were worshiping this man.  But, I still needed some humor in the shots so I scoured the interwebs looking for the funniest book I could possibly find.  That's when I found the book "How to Live With A HUGE PENIS" and I knew I had to incorporate this book into the shot.  When the was presented to Matthew and he was fine with the idea I knew we were going to have a lot of fun that day.  That hardest part was to get all six female models to create the right facial expressions in each of the shots (without laughing) so they would be believable... over the top and campy, but believable. Here are the three images from the first concept.  
    Hugh Heffner Matthew Moy

    This is a reproduction of a famous image of Hugh Hefner from the 1960s.

    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Ladies Man

    Matthew Moy being surrounded and worshiped by the beautiful models.

    Matthew Moy Ladies Man Two Broke Girls

    Oh the problems Matthew Moy must face

    The second concept was to create more of a "vibe" with Matthew and the models.  In the three images above, the models are wearing more traditional lingerie and that was done on purpose to create scenes that could be viewed as more "timeless" than from a particular period.  After this series of shots the models changed into more current or trendy lingerie as to create the "Party scenes" from the shoot.  I have to thank one of the models Christine Idiivil for putting me in contact with Clare Bare Lingerie.  As an aside, Clare was so awesome in CUSTOM MAKING the lingerie for each model.  I had to send Clare each model's measurements and she cut and sewed each piece to accurately fit each model.  Once I had the second set of clothing I could create a completely different scene/vibe for Matthew and the models.  I added the AMAZING sofa from Circa Vintage Rentals here in Los Angeles as well as a nice painting of kittens from Hollywood Cinema Arts as well as bubble machine.  Here I was wanting to put a more modern spin on the '90s rap videos while still positioning Matthew as a really strong, dynamic figure in each shot.  I also had Matthew change clothes so he could fit into the scene and make it even that much more believable.  Here are a couple of images from that set up.
    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Photo Shoot Party

    This was the party shot and my homage to some great '90s and early 2000s videos.

    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Photo Shoot

    Changing the overall look of the shoot just by changing clothes.

    The third and final setup consisted of Matthew in some solo shots.  I, once again, had him change clothing into something more sophisticated for the final shots.  I left the sofa and moved it away from the back wall a bit, took down the painting of the kittens and tweaked the lighting.  The idea for this shoot was to match the lighting with his personality and what I was trying to convey.  For the shots of him with a more serious tone I drop the third of the three light back a bit (by a stop or two) to create a mood.  When the shots were more playful and fun I brought the light back up to create a more fun, playful scene.  Then, about an hour into the shoot, my wife shows up with one of our dogs, Rocky.  Rocky is a two-year-old Doberman who LOVES attention and has a great personality.  He was getting attention from the female models who stuck around and so I thought I would ask Matthew if he would want to pose with Rocky.  Again, he said YES!  I love clients like these who are down for anything that may work.  I made some of the images of Matthew by himself as to keep the dramatic lighting and then brought in Rocky, boosted the lighting a little more and made some images with Matthew and Rocky.  I think you can see personality in all of the following images.
    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Dressed Up Serious

    Matthew Moy getting a little serious in this great set.

    Matthew Moy Actor Two Broke Girls Photo Shoot

    Matthew Moy showing off his more serious side.

    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Kat Denning

    This is a great image of Matthew as it shows off his wonderful personality.

    Matthew Moy Two Broke Girls Dramatic Actor Pose

    I love this powerful, candid image of Matthew Moy.

    All in all, it was a great day.  Matthew Moy has to be one of the nicest people with whom I have worked and his attitude made this day possible.  If he hadn't been down for any of these ideas then I think we would have made some great images but nothing like what was created in concepts 1 and 2.  So awesome to work with people like him. For all the lighting people out there, I just want you to know I created all of these images with 2-3 lights.  Overhead was a Profoto Pro Globe with a Profoto Acute B600R pack attached (all for overhead, ambient lighting).  The key and fill lights were from a Broncolor 1200L Move Pack.  A five foot octabank was the key and 3'x4' Chimera Medium Softbox was the fill. Here's a little Behind The Scenes Video of how these were made and how much fun we had that day! I want to thank the following people for their hard work, positive attitude and dedication for making this shoot a reality: Adam Horner - My friend and trusty assistant Tracey Taylor - Great MUA and Hair Stylist Models - Crystal Brooke, Kenzie Harr, Shannon Dee Lewis, Christine Adams, Paige Feddersohn and Zenani Che.

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  • DIY – Profoto Pro Globe (complete with testing)

    I just made my very own DIY Profoto Pro Globe.  Here I talk about HOW I did it, TESTING it to light a large room and WHAT I found out about the overall light color and usage. I love my Profoto lights as well as my Broncolor lights.  But, one of the biggest issues I have found is that I am always balking at spending what seems to be outrageous money for some of their great modifiers.  For instance, I have wanted to use/own the Profoto Pro Globe for a couple of years now but I am often taken aback by the nearly $700 price tag.  Sure I can get it without the mounting ring for $370.00 but, really, what's the point.  I would still have to affix it to a light and the globe is glass so that's certainly not a DIY project.  And, forget about getting the Broncolor Balloon Lamp.  That modifier costs a WHOPPING $1481.05.  Why the extra $0.05?  Because it's Broncolor... oooooh! Profoto Pro Globe Broncolor Balloon Lamp With those outrageous prices looming over me I started looking at how I can create a Profoto Pro Globe without spending almost $700.  I went online and saw this guy making an DIY Pro Globe and I thought, "Hey! I can do this too!"  Here's his video on Vimeo - Pro GLobe DIY.  So I went to Home Depot, got all the pieces and parts, disassembled one of my Profoto Speed Rings and started the project.  I am specifically creating this Pro Globe to work with my Profoto Acute B600 R pack.  I set aside some time today to create this Pro Globe and use a product I have been coveting for quite some time now. The Set Up At Home Depot I bought the acrylic globe, some bolts, nuts and washers.  I already had the drill and drill bits.

    All the pieces and parts needed to make my own Pro Globe

    Then I disassembled the speed ring so that just the base of the ring was ready for usage.  I then realized that the speed ring and bolts would fit inside the opening of the acrylic globe and I would use the bolts and washers as a way to secure the globe.  Here's the image after I drilled the holes in the speed ring base and began to screw in the bolts.

    Profoto speed ring with bolts already in place for mounting to the DIY Globe

    Once I screwed all the bolts into the speed ring (flush with the speed ring but not tight - that will be done later), I placed the ring onto the globe and started to put the washer and nuts onto the full assembly.  In all honesty, I had to have my wife help me put the nuts and washers on since my hands are a little too big to do that process.  Here's what it looks like assembled.

    Here's the Pro Globe with the Profoto speed ring attached

    And, now, with the Acute B head in place.

    Profoto head in the DIY Pro Globe

    Here it is with the modeling light illuminated.

    Here you can see the globe illuminated by the Acute B 600R modeling light for my DIY Profoto Pro Globe

    The Test So for the test I wanted to put this thing to quick use and see what I could illuminate.  Our bedroom is the perfect place to test this light.  Since our bedroom faces southwest we get a tremendous amount of light in the bedroom.  In order for my wife to take her occasional (well, almost daily) naps she bought these curtains that block about 95% of the outside ambient light.  I wanted to show how dark it is in our bedroom at 3:30pm here in ALWAYS SUNNY SoCal.  The first shot is what I normally like to set the camera for studio shoots and the second image is opening up the camera by five total stops to show there is ZERO difference in light getting into the camera.

    Camera - Nikon D3s, 1/250, f8.0, ISO 200

    Camera Nikon D3s, 1/60, f2.8, ISO 200 - increased the ambient by two full stops and aperture by three full stops.

    As you can see, it's SUPER DARK at 3:30pm in our bedroom that faces directly where the sun is shining into our bedroom.  That done, I turned on the Profoto Acute B 600R and set the flash power to half (300w/s).  And started firing away just to get a couple of shots.  The first I purposely framed so that the light would not be seen in the image.  All of the following three shots are SOOC (Straight out of Camera).  The camera settings are like the original black photo (Nikon D3s, 1/250, f8.0, ISO 200).

    First shot of the Pro Globe. No other lights were used and the Acute B600 was set at half (300w/s) power.

    Next I wanted to do a really wide shot (Nikon 24-70mm lens set to 24mm) to see what the overall light looks like in the room.  Again, this Pro Globe is the ONLY light being used as the Acute B 600 pack allows for only one light.

    The second shot is much wider (24mm) to show the coverage the DIY Profoto Pro Globe has in a large room.

    The final shot is, once again, a tighter shot.  I believe the 24-70mm lens is somewhere around 55mm.

    The dogs are playing and completely oblivious they are my test subjects for the DIY Pro Globe.

    The Takeaway The overall assembly time took less than I had imagined and was pretty easy once the screw holes were created AND I saved over $500.00.  The light is great and does an amazing job in illuminating a room. I am so happy I finally took the time to do this. My biggest concern going into this was more about light color/temperature and how this acrylic globe would affect the overall color temperature.  I do understand that the overall light color is going to come from the Profoto Acute Head but I was hopeful the acrylic globe wouldn't alter the temperature. The images above from the test were taken straight out of camera and when I brought them into Capture One Pro after the quick test I wanted to instantly look at the temperature.  It should be noted that I shot these three test shoots with the White Balance set to AUTO.  The result is all three images came in at 5200k in color temperature and was without any custom white balance.  For a straight test shoot I think this color temperature is pretty satisfactory. The next step is to put it to the test in a real world shoot and that will take place next week!  If you want me to make one for you then please don't hesitate to contact me.  I can make one for most lights on the market. Until next time. Seth  

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  • Changing White Balance for a Better Look

    About a month ago or so I was shooting a model for a personal portfolio shoot.  We went into the studio for a series of shots that I had thought about, sketched out and planned prior to the shoot.  It was a great, full day of shooting this gorgeous woman.  I had seen a recent post on The Slanted Lens about changing white balances and I thought I would try my hand at it based on memory from reading that post and seeing that video. One of the shots I had planned incorporated a nice window with sheer curtains.  However, we were shooting at around 11am and I knew the light would be very bright and overpowering when coming through the window and I wanted a darker, night time look to the image to create more of an elegant, moody scene. What to do...? I could over power the light coming in with my massive Elinchrom Rangers and try to darken up the area with a really high aperture and strong lights but then I would run the risk of blowing out my model too in order to make the scene work.  Or, I could just use the natural light coming through the window for the shot.  But neither of those sounded great to me and didn't make for an interesting image.

    The camera is on AUTO white balance here and while the image is not bad and looks nicely balanced it's just not as interesting as I would like.

    So I chose OPTION #2! Option 2 was to change the white balance on my D3s to a TUNGSTEN white balance in order to turn the white light coming through the window to blue and make it look more like a night scene than a day time scene to make a more interesting shot.  This shot shows how I took the light from day light to night without all the lights in place on the model.  If you look very carefully on the right on the image you can see my assistant, Judy, moving the curtains and getting everything ready for the shot.

    Changed the white balance from AUTIO to TUNGSTEN to get this look and start to make the image more interesting and colorful.

    VOILA!  There's the shot and look I am going for here.  Something as simple as changing the white balance can completely alter a scene like it did here.  Even though the lights are not in place and adjusted I already have a more interesting scene that can now be built with lighting, (IMPORTANT POINT) It should be noted here that in order to make this shot work I need to add a CTO to any of the lights hitting the model (Key and Rim).   If I were to use my strobes "as is" the color of her skin would be way off and she would look just as blue as the background.  In order to make this happen I placed a full CTO gel on the rim and key lights to ensure her skin tones are preserved and to create a nice separation from the scene.  I prefer to use these Rosco Color Corrections Gels but you can find large size CTO/CTB gels at most photography retailers. The lighting set up here was pretty simple and I will provide a diagram at the end of this paragraph.  All I used to get the desired effect were two lights since I had an abundance of window light coming through to camera right and creating a nice, but subtle rim light on the model's left shoulder.  More importantly, I used that light to do the heavy lifting for me by lighting the scene.  Because I had so much light coming in from the window I could concentrate all of my lighting efforts on the model.  The light modifiers used were a Calumet medium softbox (30" x 40") with a Grid placed to camera right and a Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank with 2/3 of the light flagged off so that only the top 1/3 of the light would directly light the back of the model's head and shoulder on her right side set behind the model on camera left.  This was so that the strip bank acted more as a really small softbox than a strip bank for my desired effect.  The last piece was a 48"x72" Scrim Jim Large White Reflector used to fill in shadows on her right hand side. Here's the diagram

    The lighting diagram from the shoot.

    And, after a little touch up in Photoshop to eliminate a gap in the wall by the curtains and  cloning in the foliage outside to window so that it covered the entire window I pretty much had a finished image.  I did do a little retouching to the face - very little retouching needed here though.  Other than that, there was very little extra work done here because I was able to get the lighting precise and controlled after planning for this shot and visualizing the shot  well in advance.

    Here's the final image processed with the lighting set up chosen for this shot. The clients were extremely happy with this shot and, frankly, so am I. Better look all around.

    I hope this inspires you to try this trick outdoors as well as indoors so you can create a mood within the photo and not just settle for what the light is giving you.  We have the power to control most every element of light when we pick up the camera by changing color, look and feel right within the camera so that we don't have to spend too much time in Photoshop. Until next time, SH

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  • VIDEO TUTORIAL: Freezing Water/Splash Photography

    I have been asked about getting the Diet Coke/Water Splash images from several people so I decided to create a video tutorial.  This is my first video tutorial so please go easy on me.  Let me know here, on the blog, if you have any questions so everyone can learn from the questions and discussion.  Enjoy this short video tutorial - I hope it helps!   SH

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  • Some great FREE learning tools/inspiration from Profoto

    Here's a really quick post about something I discovered a while back but never got around to sharing.  Check out Profoto's Masters Series on lighting from some of the best photographers working. PROFOTO MASTERS SERIES LIGHTING VIDEOS If you are a working photographer or someone building a business in photography then you have to check out this site.  It doesn't matter if you are a Commercial, Wedding, Portrait or Pet Photographer.  There are great tips to learn about lighting, visualizing the scene, being prepared for all kinds of shoots and knowing how and where to place your lights.  And, the best part... THEY'RE FREE TO VIEW! Most of these videos are relatively short so with today's Attention Deficit Society they won't take up too much of your time.  However, I think these are worth watching and you'll find yourself watching several of these videos in one sitting because they are just that great.  Make sure you check out the video by Kareem Black on his shoot for Burger King.  Not only is it HILARIOUS but it is brilliant too. There's lots of great stuff to learn here so make sure you check it out and bookmark it as it is a great source or learning and inspiration. Until Next Time, SH

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  • Now this is how to shoot wedding announcements!

    Here's something I never thought I would create that would end up as a wedding announcement.  If you know me, you know I don't shoot weddings but have the utmost respect for those who do.  This post is about creating something, knowing your clients and being able to adapt to situations that present themselves on location.  It's also about creating a rapport with your client's and earning their trust so you can get creative and make something memorable. While on my trip to NorCal to do some shooting for a winery and a new clothing designer, I contacted an old friend and someone I have worked with before to see if she would want to work together again.  Her name is Amanda Craven and I love working with her.  Sometimes you find those models who are willing to do whatever needed and have some fun working together.  When I have worked with Amanda in the past, we have just started shooting and before we both knew it several hours had passed and we walk away with some great images.  What I also like about Amanda is that I can throw several ideas her way and she is amenable to almost anything I suggest.  In fact, here's an image I created with Amanda a couple of years ago.

    This image was created in 2010 with the wonderful Amanda Craven in my studio in Northern California.

    This image is a composite.  I shot her in a studio and then placed her onto this background image I had, changed the lighting around a bit and made an image of an otherwise pleasant, sweet person into a menacing, pouncing monster wearing shorts and a shiny white shirt.  The idea behind the shot was to put someone who looks harmless into a position of power and fear.  Amanda is a sweet, nice, honest and sincere person and I thought having her in this pose/image is a complete opposite take on her (as I know her - some people may think this is spot on.) When I revisited her on this particular trip we wanted to do something that Amanda normally doesn't shoot.  Amanda is a beautiful person who has a lot of sexy images (did I mention she has A LOT of sexy images of herself) and I wanted to make some images that show the nice, sweet and interesting Amanda I have been able to get to know.  With that in mind we created some different and thoughtful images of Amanda like this one below. And, another image of here like this one here as well. But, after a while I realized that we have taken this image/look as far as we could go and I wanted something more interesting for her.  With her fiancee´present and at this great location, I thought it would be fun to get her fiancee´, Mark Davis, into the mix.  While looking around I noticed that Mark could hide in the weeds while Amanda stood on the rocks.  BTW, I loved these rocks and wanted to incorporate them into as many shots as possible.  While they are pretty to look at they are treacherous to stand on and I applaud Amanda for posing on these rocks in heels and barefoot.  So we had the water, rocks, sky and weeds and I thought this would be a great place to make a creepy image with Mark hiding in the weeds.  Once I had the idea I started to assemble the lights and position them around to get the shot.   Here's the final image... I used three lights on this shoot.  One was placed behind Amanda (camera right), the second was placed camera left to illuminate Amanda's face and Mark's right side.  The last light had a grid on it and was placed in the weeds and pointed directly back at Mark's face, chest and hand.  The lights and modifiers used are as follows:
    • 2 Elinchrom RX/AS 1100  (Full Power)
    • 1 Elinchrom Quadra 400 (Full Power)
    • 2 Paul C. Buff PLM White Shoot Through Umbrellas
    • 1 Elinchrom 8" Reflector with 30˚Grid
    They loved this final image and are considering using it for their wedding announcements.  Again, this is why I love working with Amanda and think these will make the most entertaining and memorable wedding announcements.

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  • Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 2)

    As I mentioned in my previous post about this subject matter - Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 1) - I had already knocked out the individual shots of the artists and now I am left with making a photograph (well, two to be exact) of the owner of Studio City Tattoo, Clay Clement.  Clay is not only a really great guy but he is also an author of a highly received and award-winning children's book.  So going in, I knew we were going to make an image for the Studio City Tattoo website as well as a publicity photo for his PR team to use in promoting the book to magazines like People and US Weekly.  Simple right?  Well, nothing is really ever that simple.  We had 30-40 minutes of his time and he was only available to shoot at the most unflattering time of day at 11:30am.  We had our work cut out for us but fortunately I was able to be somewhat creative in the process of where we shoot and the overall look.

    Sunny days in LA don't always provide great light.

    As you can see in the above image, the sun was really bright on Ventura Boulevard at 10:30am.  We arrive around 10:15am to start setting up so that when Clay was ready at 11:30am we could get him in and out with no other delays.  I knew it would take about an hour to set up and we used every bit of that time to get things ready.  For this shoot (See Images Below), I knew battling the sun would be our biggest problem so I brought out three lights, a 10" high performance reflector, a beauty dish and an 86" parabolic umbrella.  I needed as much power and reflectivity to overpower the hot, bright sun.   I needed to work with two Elinchrom Ranger packs and one Elinchrom Quadra pack for this Portrait/Lifestyle photography session.  The other essential element in this shoot was to make certain I would be able to get the settings I needed.  I wanted to get f8 - f11 and a shutter speed of 1/250.  For that the lights were still not enough so I needed to bring my Variable 2-8 stop ND Filter.  That way, I can specifically dial in the exact setting for the shots and the changing sunlight.  While most days in LA are sunny with no clouds, this particular day posed some changing elements because of the changing light with some small, wispy clouds overhead.  The changing light meant that my Variable ND filter would be the best tool in my arsenal for this shoot. HERE IS THE LIGHTING SET UP 
    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting Set Up - Specifics The Tree - We started with the shot of Clay as the owner of the Tattoo shop.  There is this great prop of a decayed, burned skeleton in a rusty cage.  This is a perfect prop of the "Pirate" themed tattoo shop.  In lighting this set up I wanted to make sure each element had it's own light since it was so bright outside.  There was a perfect parking space in front of the shop where I had Clay park his van.  Just to camera left is a nice tree that added some green and color to the shot.  So, it needed it's own light.  I put the Quadra here with the 10" High Performance Reflector at full power.  I didn't want to blow out the tree but just to add some color to the shot.  Adding a "kiss" of light to the tree was something I wanted to do since we would see other trees in the distance/background and it would help to brighten the image since a lot of the other elements are dark (the van, Clay's clothing and the black, burned out skeleton). The Van - Since the van is the largest element in the photo shoot I needed something big and bright to bring out the details on the van without giving me a tremendous amount of reflective highlights.  So I went with a Paul C. Buff 86" Parabolic Umbrella with the silver interior.  I positioned the light about 6 feet away from the van and raised it as high as my C-Stand and boom arm would go.  And, last, I angled the light down to a 45 degree angle so I could get as much coverage of the van and ground area around it.  Here I used an Elinchrom Ranger pack at full (1100 w/s) power. The Subject - Setting up the light for Clay was probably the easiest of the set ups.  I used a 27" Elinchrom BD with no diffusion sock and a silver deflector as to match the specular highlights with the BD to all the other modifiers used.  Also, Clay was being side lit by the sun as it was moving East to West.  The light on Clay was specifically placed to light his face.  I wasn't worried about lighting his legs because I knew the spill from the Parabolic Umbrella and ambient light would do enough.  The purpose here is to light his face and make a portrait with this photography session.  I also used a Ranger pack but only needed to use it at a little more than half power.  Below is the final image chosen from the shoot.  I did do a little work in Photoshop to darken the sky and make it look more ominous.  I also used a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad to give the image it's final look.

    Final Lifestyle/Portrait Photograph of Clay Clement

    PUBLICITY PHOTO For this image, I already had the lighting in place.  So we changed out the skeleton for Clay's "Pirate Santa" children's book.  I then had to just make some minor adjustments in camera to make this image more bright, warm and friendly.  I adjusted my shutter to allow a little more light into the image.  Once again, I finished the image with a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad.  Once finished, I received approval from Clay and his team and sent the publicity photo off to them for their use.  I know these are going out to People and US Weekly magazines but I just don't know their timetable.  Believe me, when it happens I will let you know.

    The final publicity photo for Clay Clement and his book "Pirate Santa."

    SH  

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  • Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 1)

    Early in March of 2012 I landed a gig shooting the great artists, piercers and owner of the famed Studio City Tattoo (SCT) in, of all places, Studio City, CA.  I am a little biased here because all 4 of my tattoos were done at this shop but I am not biased in calling them the "famed" location because when you look at the best tattoo shops in LA then you will see Studio City Tattoo is constantly one of the top three tattoo shops in all of Los Angeles.  And, if you know anything about LA, being one of the top three in all of LA is a pretty big deal considering the insane amount of tattoo shops in the city.

    Seth Hancock Photography Studio City Tattoo Los Angeles

    The famous Studio City Tattoo

     

    The assignment: Create images of the artists, piercers and owner that will be used on the web site, media, advertisements and publicity photos.  I say publicity photos because the owner, Clay Clement, just published a great children's book this last November called "Pirate Santa" and he is going to use my photos for publicity and promotion for his book.  As a side note, Clay is getting a tremendous amount of critical success from his book and has already won several awards including the prestigious "Mom's Choice Award" for children's books.  Also, he is in talks with a couple of media and animation companies to have this made into a Christmas special.  One company is owned by a pretty big celebrity who has taken a huge interest in Clay's book.  Also, I learned that the images I am taking of Clay will be used for magazines like People, US Weekly, etc.  So... I can't suck at these photos.

    Here's a test image of Mike Irwin. It was shooting here that I realized I needed to cut out all light and just use my lights

    I was looking at another angle and testing the light and just didn't love all the background light and clutter.

     The biggest challenge in shooting something like this is the timing of the artists since most tattoo artists don't work 9-5 and some work mornings, some work evenings and some only work weekends.  So coordinating schedules was my first obstacle.  My second obstacle was the actual size of the tattoo shop.  SCT is a really small tattoo shop - and when I say really small I am not exaggerating by any means.  When you walk into the shop you walk up a small ramp with a hand rail and then have to turn right.  Directly in front of you are four tattoo chairs, a piercers chair and the appointment desk.  From front door to the piercers chair (the farthest chair in the shop) is a whopping 14 steps.  Space is limited!  However there is a nice little space on the other side of the ramp walkway leading into SCT.  Here there is an aquarium and then the restroom.  The area from the desk to the restroom and end of shop (heading back toward street) is about 6 steps.  So this area is what I used for the shots of the artists and piercers.

    Shooting layout for the project - Click to view larger

    As you can see above, there was not a lot of room, a nice bit of clutter and colors that were not the most interesting for a portrait.  I therefore decided to completely darken the space through the camera by dialing in 1/250 shutter speed and a small aperture so I could completely darken the space.  And, since the area is really tight I couldn't bring in my Elinchrom Ranger Lights so I decided to go with two lights: a Nikon SB-900 shot through a Lastolite Tri-Grip and a Ring Flash.  These two lights were able to get me the images below.  I did a little tweaking in Photoshop but not a tremendous amount.  I just wanted to do enough to get rid of any other distracting pieces and parts around my subjects.  All in all, there were 6 Tattoo Artists, 3 Piercers, 1 Owner and Exterior Images.  Here are just some of the images from the shoot and big thanks for Gary Quart for assisting me in the process.

    Images from the two light setup Studio City Tattoo Jose Studio City Tattoo Captain Dave Studio City Tattoo Ilya Studio City Tattoo Steven Studio City Tattoo Will Only using the Ring Flash while the artists worked
    Captain Dave Tattooing

    Captain Dave Tattooing

    Ilya Tattooing

    Ilya Tattooing

    Will Tattooing

    Will Tattooing

    On the next blog I will focus on shooting Clay, the owner, and the different challenges that I faced in shooting him outside at Noon in Los Angeles on a busy Ventura Boulevard.  I only had about 30 minutes of his time so I needed to nail the shot.  I think the images look great and you can check out PART 2 of this project here - Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 2).

    SH

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  • A great model & inspiring location

     

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything. I wanted a futuristic look here.

    A client of mine asked me to photograph her in my studio a couple of weeks ago.  It was, however, during this shoot that I noticed something great about her.  She has an insanely unique look and a very fit figure so I thought I needed to get her out of the studio and shoot her up against one of California's most unique areas in El Mirage and the Dry Lake Bed.  I threw out the idea to Anna (the model's name by the way) and she loved it.  So we coordinated schedules and set a shoot date for Sunday, February 26th.  I am glad we set that date because the rest of this week has been bone-chillingly cold - well, it's cold for California. I have become a CA pussy in the sense that when it drops below 60 degrees I start to shiver.  Fortunately, we didn't have that problem Sunday. I grabbed my friend and assistant, Crafty and had Anna come over to the house so my wife could do her makeup.  We got started at 9:30am and finished with the car loading and makeup about an hour or so later.  Anna and I got into my Jeep and picked up Crafty and then drove to El Mirage.  I had never been here before but knew a lot about it.  Actually, I had been wanting to shoot here for a year now but haven't had the time or the right model.  Working on the documentary had a lot to do with my availability but now that it is in the hands of an editor my photography business is back to almost full strength with 7 shoots already this year.

    El Mirage, CA at sunset

    When we arrived at El Mirage I was a little apprehensive considering my last shoot in the desert (Joshua Tree) proved to be a challenge with wind, dust and cacti.  I noticed a lot of dust initially but then realized the dust was from the off-road vehicles driving around the dry lake bed.  I knew we would be stationary and that's when I got really excited.  There was some wind swirling around but nothing like Joshua Tree. For this shoot I wanted to pack light knowing wind could be an issue and I wanted to spend more time shooting than setting up and tearing down softboxes.  That said, I packed only a few stands and light modifiers.  Here's the list of what I brought for the shoot:
    • 4 light and C-Stands
    • Nikon D3s and D300
    • Elinchrom Ranger RX, Elinchrom Quadra, Elinchrom RX600 (with external power supply)
    • 27" Beauty Dish with diffuser
    • Paul Buff 86" PLM (My new favorite light modifier)
    • 2 SB-800 Speedlights
    • 1 Elinchrom shoot through umbrella
    • 3 Lastolite reflectors/scrims
    • 8 stop variable ND Filter
    • Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens and 70-200mm 2.8 lens
    While this seems like a large list it really is not.  It's about half of my gear but all of these light modifiers are easy to put on and easy to take off.  But the BEST item I had in my arsenal that day was my Singh Ray variable ND filter which allows me 8 stops of light with which to play.  On a day like this where we were dealing with sunlight from 12:30pm to night, the light is bright, harsh and challenging.  I knew going in I needed something to combat this sun and allow me to shoot at a shallow depth of field while being able to see detail in the sky and the surrounding hills and texture of the dry lake bed.   It was very, very bright considering the earth at this location is a light tan color and was reflective.  Looking toward the sun always caused me to squint even when the sun was starting to set.  It was considerably brighter than I had expected. Here are the images from the shoot.  The first 5 images are from my assistant shooting the D300 with everything averaged out.  He was not trying to make a picture just wanting to document the day.
    Annalyn posing at the Jeep

    Annalyn posing at the Jeep

    Annalyn getting shot at sunset

    Annalyn getting shot at sunset

    Shooting Annalyn with the 70-200mm lens

    Shooting Annalyn with the 70-200mm lens

    Annalyn getting shot at diusk wearing the gas mask

    Annalyn getting shot at diusk wearing the gas mask

    Annalyn wearing the gas mask at dusk and looking somewaht apocalyptic

    Annalyn wearing the gas mask at dusk and looking somewaht apocalyptic

    These last images are what I shot and post processed.  Enjoy and thanks for reading; I hope this location and images inspire you as much as it inspired me.
    This is RAW and straight out of the camera.  This was taken at 1pm with an incredibly bright sun.

    This is RAW and straight out of the camera. This was taken at 1pm with an incredibly bright sun.

    RAW file taken straight from the camera showing the great detail I got with a ND filter and the right lights

    RAW file taken straight from the camera showing the great detail I got with a ND filter and the right lights

    Another RAW image taken straight from the camera with NO processing

    Another RAW image taken straight from the camera with NO processing

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything.  I wanted a futuristic look here.

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything. I wanted a futuristic look here.

    This was processed to look like a TV promo piece

    This was processed to look like a TV promo piece

    I call this Apocalypt-chic

    I call this Apocalypt-chic

    Until next time, SH

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