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Flash: Off or On Camera? That is the Question.

Both have their benefits and drawbacks. One camera flash is faster to set up and allows for more subject movement. This is ideal for street fashion, when you may be trespassing or blocking traffic and need to work quick. It also has a more paparazzo, raw feel to it, a la Terry Richardson. So when I am shooting a skater or hip hop brand, I often opt for this technique.

Off-camera flash is nice because of it’s dynamic quality. You can highlight a specific part of your subject and really get creative (especially when you start using colored gels and multiple strobes). But setup takes a bit longer, and is tough without an assistant there to manage the umbrellas and sandbags, etc. 

Above is an “A” and a “B” shot for T-Squad apparel. In shot “A” I opted for an off-camera flash. One of the models simply held the strobe just out of the frame to the left. It is a nice, dramatic image. But I think it comes off as a bit too dramatic for an image selling a tank top. In the “B” image, I opted to leave the flash on camera. I actually prefer this image. It feels more gritty and street, and thus more appropriate for a tank top line.

Exif Data in image “A”: 1/200, f/10; 75mm; 50 ISO; Flash zoomed to 85 and set at ¼ power.

Exif Data in image “B”: 1/200, f/5.6; 25mm; 50 ISO; Flash zoomed to 85 and set at ¼ power.


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Lighting Watches

Your goal, when lighting watches, is to illuminate the face, without getting glares from your strobe or from ambient light. This is a tricky task. The tools I am working with a a LumoPro LP160 strobe, silver umbrella and an LP621 mini-boom arm for my stand. The strobe is being triggered by a Radiopopper JRX remote.

As you can see above, I have a piece of cardboard, covered in black cloth, placed on a stool. The light source is about 4-5 feet above the watches. I then angled the watch faces at a 45 degree angle to the light source. I turned off the overhead lights, rather than cranking up the flash output to kill the ambient, in order to conserve battery life. However, if I had been shooting a watch with an illuminated display, the only way to capture that would be with a slow shutter speed, so there could be no other competing ambient light.

Exif Data: 1/200, f/8; 200mm; 200 ISO

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The Athletic Aesthetic

When you are shooting athletes and athletic gear, the rule of thumb is typically to show off their strength and rugged features. So you can go as hard as you like when it comes to environment and lighting. For these Saucony running shoes, I wanted to have a rugged terrain that didn’t distract too much from the product. I picked out a spot near some train tracks, where there was a large, flat and wide open rocky terrain. The issue was that the sun was out and almost directly overhead. So I would need to overpower the sun with my strobes. I decided to gang up two lights on one stand and shoot bare-bulb, directly overhead, to allow for a strong, focused output. I added one strobe behind the shoes as an accent light. 

The image looked pretty good straight out of the camera, but I decided to pump up the contrast and clarity in Photoshop and then desaturate the rocks from their brown color. One nice trick in boosting your contrast in Photoshop is to create a duplicate layer, desaturate it and overlay it. Then you can use a layer mask to paint back in some of the shoe color from the bottom layer.

The tools I am worked with: Three LumoPro LP160 strobes and an LP621 mini-boom arm for my stand. The strobe is being triggered by a Radiopopper JRX remote. The two main lights are mounted to one stand and there is one back light. They are all set to ½ power and zoomed to 105mm.

Exif Data: 1/200, f/13; 200mm; 50 ISO

Side Note: A documentary focusing on portait photographers, including yours truly, is currently on Kickstarter. Please consider supporting the project. Thanks!
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Using Colored Gels

You can a lot with a little. Most of these shots were done with an already-colored wall in the JackThreads building. The walls aren’t even especially vibrant to begin with. But once you start bouncing light off of them, especially colored light, you start to get real colorful real fast. 

If you take note of the captions under each photo, you can achieve completely different colors by adding colored gels to your background light. Thank you Color Theory 101! If you add red or magenta to a blue wall, you get purple. Add cyan to a red wall and get fuschia/pink. Add red to a yellow wall and get orange. Add yellow to an orange wall and get a vibrant gold. The only combinations that don’t work is when you add the complementary color gel to the background color. For example, don’t add green to a red wall or blue to a yellow sweep. These colors just get muddy and cancel out. 

Keep in mind how you are modifying your light and also how much light is pumping through your gels. The more hard your main light is, the more the background color washes out. Similarly, the more light you pump through the gels, the whiter the light is. So if you want saturation, use soft light and low outputs in your gelled strobes.

And as always, just keep experimenting!

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Business Portrait

Typically, when shooting a business portrait, time is an issue. Not only do your subjects need to get back to their job but they also hate getting their picture taken. So the goal is to work quickly. 

This specific seamless white setup was done with three speedlites, though seamless white head shots can be easily done with two lights. The main thing to remember is that your background light needs to be 4 stops brighter than your main light. Also, for group shots, set your main light far enough away (and high enough) so that there is minimal fall off from the left to the right of the group. 

And in the case of the second shot, where the group of subjects was larger than the white backdrop, I chose to make it work for me. It has a behind-the-scenes feel to it which makes the company seem more friendly and approachable.

Exif data: ISO 250, 1/200th, f/4.5

Watch on rglr-blog.tumblr.com

Getting the Shot: Emulating a Brand (e01)

Presented by the Run & Gun Lighting Resource (RGLR), this is the first episode in a new web series that focuses on street fashion photography. In the episode, we explore emulating a brand. The brand, Amongst Friends, is a contemporary New York brand.
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I’m Bringing Glossy Black (sung to the tune of Sexyback)

Nothing is sexier than a glossy black surface. And it actually doesn’t even take a black backdrop sweep to achieve it. 

In the top photo, you can see that all I have is a 2'x3’ piece of wood, covered in black fabric and a sheet of glass. For lighting I have one LumoPro LP160 attached to an LP621 mini-boom arm, fired into a silver umbrella. I angled the umbrella slightly and placed it just behind the sunglasses, to keep the light from spilling onto the black board. This angle also allowed the sunglasses to be lit from above and behind, which complemented the translucent frames. 

Exif Data: 1/200, f/8; 68mm; 500 ISO 

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The Slow Shutter Product Shot


For Creative Rec shoes I wanted to make sure to capture the patent leather elements as well as communicate a street-vibe to the shot. The art director has been pushing for more color in my images lately since it is so dreary outside. I made a run to the craft store and picked up a range of colored plastic tablecloths. I decided to go with pink for this shot. 

I was using my strobe on camera. I wanted to infuse energy into the shot, so I started slowing down my shutter speed. I slowed it all the way down to 1/6 of a second. It worked a bit but the ambient light was reading really orange and didn’t look good. So I added a ½ cut orange gel to my strobe, set my WB to tungsten and eliminated the orange. But the energy still wasn’t quite there. Finally I started playing around with zooming my lens from 70mm out to 24mm, during the exposure. This allowed me to get the final image.

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Using Colored Gels

For both of these product shots, I had an identical setup. I placed my product on a sheet of glass, placed my gelled strobe underneath the glass and that’s about it. For the Invicta watch image, the gelled strobe was my only light. In the BLNQ sunglasses shot, I used an un-gelled second strobe, shot through an umbrella. The thing to remember is that you want a lower strobe output on your gelled flash because the more light that is pumped through the gel, the more washed out the color will be.

For both images I used my 70-200mm and my settings were around ISO 800 at f/8.