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Profoto: Legends of Light

This is both exciting and humbling. Profoto USA has included me in their list of ‘Legends Of Light‘, alongside some of the biggest names in the photography world … some of whom I can even count as friends and peers. Check out the list! Now the challenge is to live up to this!

Here are the articles on the Tangents blog where I show how I use Profoto flashes on location and in the studio.

The post Profoto: The Legends Of Light appeared first on Tangents.

Lighting a white seamless studio backdrop

There are a number of variations on how to light a white seamless studio backdrop – but it all comes down to the same essentials. You want a spread of even light on the background, and a big swathe of light from the front. All of this with as little fall-off in the light as possible.

We’ve covered this topic in previous articles, showing how it is done with speedlights …

… but I would like to share how I do it now in a larger studio space, using studio flashes.

The pull-back shot below will show the setup that I default to. There is a small (2′ x 3′ softbox on the background), at near full power to make sure the white background is actually white. The trick here is that I use the histogram. I want to push the white to the very edge of the histogram, and perhaps even a little bit over. I don’t want to blow out the background too far, because then I risk some lens flare, and some kind of halo around my subject from the over-exposure. Always the ‘Goldilocks’ approach – not too little, not too much. Just right.

Our model here is Taylor Wells, and we were adding to her fitness portfolio. (She just started a new Instagram account.)

The main light is a Profoto D1 500W/s studio light in a Profoto 5-ft RFi Octa Softbox (affiliate). Then I also add another light that cleans up the white paper in front of my subject. I just use the Profoto beauty dish (affiliate) here, for no other reason that it is already on the boom arm that I keep it on. Nothing magical about it being a beauty dish – it’s just handy.

The metering is such that I blow out the background, by checking where the exposure is on the histogram … and then I add the other lights. I start with the background.

Here is an example photograph, pretty much straight out of camera:

To get that wind-blown effect, we use a fan (or wind-machine, if you will). Of the two fans I have in the studio for this purpose, this Vornado fan (affiliate) is my favorite. It’s powerful enough but not industrial-strength crazy. And it is on a handy stand. And it looks elegant.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/125  @  f/9  @  100 ISO



The images shown above, are pretty much straight out of camera, with only minor skin retouching. While I am happy with the level of white shown there, it isn’t 255; 255; 255 white. If you need that kind of absolute level of white, then you will most likely have to do that in Photoshop.

The Photoshop technique is well-known: the Magic Wand Tool is used to mark areas of a similar tone. And if your lighting is even enough, it is super-easy to just select the white area.

With this photograph, I liked Taylor’s dynamic in-air pose, but she had jumped too high, and the background was in shot. I’m too lazy and inexperienced to mask her hair from the black softbox, so I pulled in her hair from another photograph where it was easier to mask.



As described in the article – Studio portrait lighting ideas – it’s a good idea to continually mix things up a bit, but without completely change the lighting setup. Just a few adjustments. Still staying with nearly the same lighting setup as above, I switched off the light on the background, and moved Taylor closer to the white paper backdrop. I wanted to see if we could use her shadow as part of the design.

For the spot-light effect, I took the Beauty Dish off the other light, and changed it for the Profoto 10° Honeycomb Grid (B&H / Amazon). I turned the power much lower on the 5′ Octa so that it acted as a fill-light. I changed the power on the flash with the grid to be the same exposure settings as we had used before.

A few minor changes, and we have a completely different look. And then we move on again to another idea. And on.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/125  @  f/9  @  100 ISO



Related articles



The post Lighting a white seamless studio backdrop appeared first on Tangents.

I'm so used to seeing advertorial writing on DPReview that I was a bit amazed to see this reasonably well written article that calls into question whether the investment(?) in a (smaller than) medium format camera, such as the new Fuji, is really going to deliver the things you might think are exclusive to the larger format.

It would be nice to see more writing like this and less gushing about sponsored Canon topics. Give it a read and see if you agree.

Every time I practice lighting portraits I end up porting that knowledge over into video lighting. After all, what is an interview but a nicely lit portrait that moves and has sound? By the same token, as I learn more about shooting video I learn that there's more than one angle and more than one visual point of view in a photo session. More options give me more choice. And, by being a better interviewer in the video world I've learned how to "lead" a portrait subject into a pose and expression that is more exactly what I am aiming for rather than being a session of endurance; predicated on random connections and fast reflexes.

It goes both ways. In doing both I find I am more prepared for each discipline. The more fluid I get with each practice the better my results get for each. Being able to blend the strengths of the two media is a fun exercise and a real plus. Try doing a great interview and following it quickly with a great portrait in the same set up. You'll already have the rapport on tap.....
I should have noted that the Visual Science Lab blog hit (and passed) the 3200 post milestone. I did the math, that's millions and millions of words and thousands and thousands of photographs. How do you get to 3200+ posts? One post at a time.

On a different note you may have noticed that I'm diving deeper and deeper into the discipline of recording sound. Every good videography needs to know about audio. It may be the most important component of video and probably the hardest to get just right.

I have one little kernel of opinion that I want to pass on. I've been told for years now that still cameras which feature video capabilities all have very noisy and low quality preamplifiers in them and that the only way to record "professional" sound is to skip using the camera's input and start recording to an external audio recorder which, presumably, has cleaner preamplifier stages.

Hmmm. In theory I'm sure that the good digital audio recorders do have somewhat better circuitry and, perhaps, demonstrably better noise but I also think there is a prejudice floating around that has more to do with noisy headphone amplifiers than noisy camera preamps.

I've noticed for some time now that when I monitor the sound coming into my Sony cameras (including the RX10 series and the A7rii) with headphones I get some low level hiss and noise. It's there whether I've matched the microphone to the camera inputs or not. I always freak out when I hear it but I'm usually on a remote location and don't have another option.

The funny thing is that when I get back to the office, import the video files to my editing software and then listen to the output on my studio headphones I don't hear the same, obvious noise. What I hear is fairly clean and accurate audio. I have a short attention span so I hadn't tested my hypothesis until recently. My hypothesis is that the "dirty" audio is a result of crappy headphone amplifiers; not only in the consumer, all purpose cameras but even in most of the separate digital audio recorders I've worked with.

Recently I bought and received a new microphone. It was a well reviewed Aputure Diety shotgun microphone. I was anxious to test it out and wanted to give it every opportunity to excel. That would mitigate any post cognitive dissonance I might have had about spending yet another $360 on my always expensive occupation.

To that end I ran the microphone into the Zoom H5. It's a portable audio recorder that is well known to have low noise preamplifiers. The Zoom H5 supplied phantom power to the microphone and the recording I did was right in the optimum level area for voice (between minus 6 and minus 12 Db, as shown on the meters). There was no indication of overload and the levels were high enough not to be anywhere near a noise floor.

When I monitored via the headphone jack I heard a similar kind of noise that I often hear with signals coming from the camera headphone jacks. A high frequency hiss that's not terrible but not optimal. I was taken aback. All other owners/reviewers of the H5 were effusive in their praise of this model's low noise. Ditto concerning the noise profile of the microphone.

I moved the audio file to my computer, plugged in some Audio Technica headphones and took a listen to that set up. The noise I was hearing went away. It dawned on me that the real culprit in many cases might not be the camera but the camera's headphone circuitry. How could this be?

Well, I looked no further than to the car industry for an analogous comparison. Takata airbags were defective across a range of manufacturers and models, from Toyota and Honda to BMW and Ford. Seems like one airbag maker supplied a lot of different companies. By the same token the headphone amp is probably a feature on a small chip. Easier to spec a universally used microprocessor than to create a custom one for each camera line. And, an inexpensive product to make and sell.

The engineering/marketing rationale for using a noisy preamplifier chip is probably that, historically, so few people who purchased "hybrid" video/still cameras ever ended up shooting video, and the ones that did probably didn't use external microphones. Few would complain about the sound and, if they did complain then customer service could tell them that while it may affect monitoring it would not have an effect on the sound being recorded. Everyone saves money, no sound quality on the video files gets sabotaged.

But, of course, the product manufacturers omit any caveats about monitoring performance and so the urban legends are born and spread. And the legend in our industry is how awful the audio is on our cameras.

My experience reminds me to test, test, test and not to rely on urban legends.

I'll tell you right now that the audio I get from the Zoom H5 or the Tascam DR60ii is better than the audio I get from the RX10iii but in the same breath we are talking about 88 versus 85 and not 95 versus 42. You can do good work with the built in audio circuits of most current Sony and Panasonic cameras. I had good luck, audio-wise, with my Nikons as well. It's more a question of maximizing every step of technique than it is searching for the one "magic" solution.

Do your own tests. Listen to the output of a good system. Listen to the way it sounds through a set of monitor speakers, or through good headphones plugged into a high quality playback source. Don't blame your camera right off the bat.

I finally had some free time this weekend to get out and try the fz2500 in some freeform shooting. I made the same rookie mistakes many people make with a new camera. I lost a good shot because my nose touched my touchscreen and moved the AF cursor over to one side. Couldn't figure out for a few seconds why the nice young lady directly in front of my camera would not come into focus. I put the camera in "A" priority and shot, blithely unaware, for the better part of an hour never checking the shutter speed the camera was setting. Ooops! All of the moving/action/street scenes were recorded at 1/80th of a second. Too bad good image stabilization can't save photographers who don't pay attention to subject motion blur.... And then I started processing some of the images shot later in the evening and, of course, I was having so much fun shooting and weaving in and out of the enormous SXSW crowds on Sixth St. that I never bothered to check the ISO, and I have to confess; this camera gets a bit noisy at ISO 800. More so at 1600. 

Of course the noise reduction kicked in and I had the factory preset engaged. Hello water color detail at 100%. Of course I know better. I should have been in control of the ISO. I should have set a faster shutter speed. I should have fine tuned the noise reduction for the Jpeg setting. But in reality I didn't  care. I was out walking on a beautiful day and I had a camera in my hand. The stuff I was watching right in from of my face was a hell of a lot better than anything I see on Netflix or Network. In addition to endless action, drama and comedy you get a couple more dimensions of sensory candy that no (current) screen gives you. The smell of cigarettes and perfume, and sausages sizzling over a butane flame; all mixed in with the smell of the disinfectant the bars use to clean. The yeasty smell of spilled beer and the glorious aroma of pizzas cooking all over the place.

You also get multi-layered sound. Dialogue. Chanting. Rapping. Flirting. Clapping. Sirens. More flirting. Verbal posturing. Different music blasting through portable speakers every ten feet or so. A guy playing an old, upright piano at the corner of Congress and 4th. More sirens. 

You walk in and out of shadows. You keep one eye peeled on the screaming homeless person wrapped in blankets like a Caesar's toga even though it's 85 degrees outside. 

The camera gave me a tertiary reason to be there but my real goal was just to sample.....the multitude. To see what was making this little corner of Austin tick on this particular day. To slip into the crowd and walk with the flow.  And then, like a hungry homing pigeon, disengaging and "flying" toward  my car, parked two miles away. And then home to the quiet and serenity of affluent suburbia. And a decent restaurant. Cameras are fun. But they are largely meaningless if you don't have something interesting to put in front of them...

Is all social exchange about the smartphone now?

I met a student. I think his name was Justin. He was shooting a project with this 4x5 field camera. He was smart and engaging. He knew all about Richard Avedon. His camera was on a rickety tripod. If he remembers to get in touch with me I have an extra Benro tripod that I'd be happy to pass along to him. It would be better than the skinny Manfrotto the school loaned him....

Google took a beautiful and iconic building downtown and did everything in their power to make it fucking boring. Not swearing, really, it's a technical, architectural term.

At the W Hotel.

Flash Photography: The difference between a grid and a snoot

We use grids and snoots to control the light from our flashes. We want to control how the light spreads, and we want to light only a part of our scene or subject. However, strongly favoring softer light when using flash, I don’t regularly use grids on my flashes.

The article on using grids with flash for a spot of light, had someone ask when I would use a snoot and when I would use a grid with flash. When in the studio, I would use the Profoto 10° Honeycomb Grid (B&H / Amazon) – it is made of metal and can withstand the heat from the modeling lights of the Profoto D series flashes. On location with the Profoto B1 though, I use Profoto OCF Grid Kit (B&H / Amazon). With the OCF grid kit, I used the wider 30 degree grid as my default. My loose reasoning (not based on actual comparative testing until now) was based on the idea that in the studio I have more time, and can accurately place the spot of light. On location, time is usually a constraint, and then I am happy with the leeway that a wider beam gives me.

When the question came up about what the difference was in the results that a snoot gives compared to a grid, I had to do a more formal test. For my own curiosity too. (If you’re not sure what a snoot or a grid might look like, there are examples further down in this article.)

Before we start – I used the Profoto series here. Even though other brands of flash modifiers might give slightly different results, I think the results will be similar enough that the results will follow the pattern we see here. So even though you might not use Profoto, read through this. I am sure it will be of value to anyone who uses flash photography.

For this discussion of grids and snoots, photographing Anastasiya in the studio, I wanted to illustrate how the narrower beams of light might be used. In this case, a look reminiscent of the Hollywood Glamor style of lighting, where they used Fresnel lights / hot lights. These lights (and style of lighting) generally gave a harder light.

If you’re interested in studying the Hollywood Glamor style of lighting, I  strongly recommend this book where the authors analyze and break down some of the best known portraits and describe how the images where lit – Hollywood Portraits, by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos (Amazon).

The pull-back shot to show the lighting setup used here:

Camera settings & photo gear used during this part of the photo session

  • 1/60  @  f/5.6  @  400 ISO

With this pull-back shot, I brightened the Profoto B1 flashes in Photoshop so that it’d be more apparent where they were placed.

I used the Snoot to limit how wide the light fell on Anastasiya, forcing light fall off away from her face.

The background effect is via a speedlight with the MagMod MagBeam Kit (affiliate), as described in this article: Using the MagMod MagBeam kit for projection effects.


Books on Hollywood Glamor lighting



Photo gear (or equivalents) used for this photo session



Profoto grids and snoots


The (metallic) Profoto 10° Honeycomb Grid
(B&H / Amazon)

The Profoto OCF Snoot
(B&H / Amazon

The Profoto OCF Grid Kit:
A set of 10°, 20°, 30° grids
(B&H / Amazon)



Here we come to the actual comparison of the snoot and the grids. Again, it needs to be mentioned that even though other brands of flash modifiers might give slightly different results, I think the results will be similar enough. There should be a similar pattern to the results you see with other brands. So even though you might not use Profoto, read through this. I am sure it will be of value to anyone who uses flash photography.

The setup: a Profoto B1 flash pointed at a grey wall, 10 feet away. Then I add the various modifiers so we can see how the spread of light (and perhaps the exposure) is affected. I had the camera on a tripod so that it was a static viewpoint. I tried to minimally move the Profoto B1 when I changed the modifiers. The camera was set to f/8 @ 100 ISO. The power level on the Profoto B1 was kept consistent.


Without any grids or a snoot, the spread of light is fairly even, as one would expect.
More here: Comparing output: Studio lights vs. speedlites / speedlights.

The exposure with the snoot is noticeably less than with any of the grids. There is an unexpected dark spot in the center when I used the Profoto OCF Snoot (B&H / Amazon). I don’t think that darker central spot would matter greatly in general photography, but it isn’t ideal. You would most likely notice this if you do product photography, which is more exacting. As a further test (not shown here), I repeated this at various distances to see if distance had an effect on that central spot, but it didn’t.

With the metallic Profoto 10° Honeycomb Grid (B&H / Amazon), the beam is tight, and with a nicely controlled fall-off to the edges. The metal grid is important in the studio when using the Profoto D1 flashes, since the modeling lights of the D1 run hot enough to damage the plastic OCF series modifiers.

The Profoto OCF 10° Grid comes as part of the Profoto OCF Grid Kit (B&H / Amazon). Not surprisingly, the beam from this is quite similar to the metal Profoto 10° Grid.

The Profoto OCF 20° Grid is also part of the OCF kit (B&H / Amazon), and throws a wider beam, as expected.

And an even wider beam with the Profoto OCF 30° Grid (B&H / Amazon).




There were no surprising reveals here – the grids behaved as expected. But it is good to have a visual reference now. The one surprise here was the snoot with that darker central spot, and just how much light it kills. It looks like we would be better off using either the 20° or 10° OCF grids since they would provide a better spread of light.
What I learnt from this – for my use, there isn’t such a difference in the results between a snoot and a grid, that I would choose a snoot for any particular reason. I have a snoot to sell now, if anyone is interested. I’m fine with just the set of grids.


Related articles


The post Flash Photography: The difference between a grid and a snoot appeared first on Tangents.

Using the MagMod MagBeam kit for projection effects

The lighting pattern on the background here, unhealthy is 100% in-camera, allergy created with a gobo and a light-projection kit: the  MagMod MagBeam Kit  (B&H / Amazon). So no Photoshop going on here (aside from mild retouching of skin blemishes.) Even that little bit of a halo around Anastasiya, traumatologist is part of the effect. In-camera. With the test shots, I noticed there is a brightening of the pattern in the middle, so I placed Anastasiya directly on front of it. A bit of serendipity that I took advantage of.

Several articles on the Tangents blog about projection effects with gobos shows how you can use this to create a more interesting background without a backdrop. One more tool available to use to add some spice to our photos.

Here the basic MagMod2 Kit (B&H / Amazon) was used with the gobo included in the MagMod MagBeam Kit  (B&H / Amazon). In the recent article – Studio portrait lighting ideas – The MagBeam kit was also used, but with a gel. Of the other brands I have used for projection effects, the Light Blaster (affiliate) has the advantage that you can focus or defocus the effect as you want. But where the MagBeam kit excels, is in putting it all together, or changing it, or adding gels … all because of magnets!

If you’vealready bought into the MagMod system, then this is an  interesting addition to your lighting arsenal. I need to add that I didn’t use the MagBeam kit for its other use – creating a narrower, brighter spot of light. It’s not something I would need in my photography, but others might have a use for it. I just checked out the gobos … and in this instance just explored the one gobo. Next time, something else.

Let’s have a look at the lighting setup, and other examples of this photo session with Anastasiya:


Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/180  @  f/4.5  @  100 ISO


The main light on Anastasiya was used exactly as described here: working with a large Octa Softbox. By posing her towards the light, and having her move forward or back, I could affect the contrast of the light, without having to move the light. You move your subject by increments for a change of lighting!

I half-circled the MagMod setup in the background so that you can more easily see where it was positioned. With a slight angle to the effect, the slats of light weren’t exactly horizontal, but at a more dynamic angle. As mentioned above, I specifically positioned myself so that the brighter portion fell behind Anastasiya for that halo effect.

That’s it. Simplicity itself … but the effect is quite striking.

The test shot to position the light, and get the correct level of flash exposure on the background for what I wanted.

And more of the results:



Related articles

The post Using the MagMod MagBeam kit for projection effects appeared first on Tangents.

People are slow to adapt to change. They hold onto ideas that have lost their deep roots and reject innovation because it comes in a form that they don't recognize; or reject it because of anachronistic prejudice. It's kind of dangerous because change is accelerating at a rate that's so fast we can barely recognize what exists today and few can imagine the change and innovation that will happen by next year. Who, in 2005, would have imagined that Nikon and Canon's biggest challenge
Read more »
Temporary billboards for SXSW.

We had a nice photo assignment booked for today. One of my healthcare clients sent me a box full of products last week and we'd made arrangements to meet at my place at 9:00 am this morning to start shooting 25 thingies on white backgrounds.

Here's what I do when a day long assignment like this comes up: After we confirm the day, and get a good idea of what we're going to shoot, I dive into how I'm going to shoot. None of the products move and none of the products needed to be shown on live models so I knew I'd be safe lighting everything with LED lights. I also knew that we'd be shooting with a longer focal length and not with wide angles so after figuring out the distance of the object to the background, as well as the maximum object size I knew I could shoot everything with a 50 inch wide, white seamless paper backdrop in the background and I built out from there.

Here's the tricky part of the shoot: The products are generally black. They are things like back braces and neck braces and things that are generally worn by patients recovering from things like accidents and back surgeries. So, all of the objects are either black or gray and black. The clients has a style established and it consists of shooting these products on shiny, white, featureless mannequins. So, deep black products on shiny white mannequins against white backgrounds. Got it.

Shoots like this mostly mean that you need to control the light on the background separately from the lighting on the product. Usually, I would make the background one third of a stop hotter than the light on the foreground but since I needed to do clipping paths of the shiny, white mannequin and the product I couldn't blow out the background to put white or I'd never stand a chance in cutting out those backgrounds. Where would the edge be? I wanted the mannequins to have some detail in the whites but I also wanted there to be good detail in the deep black material the products were made of. I decided to pull down the exposure on the background to keep a good edge between the background and the foreground. This would help give me an edge to cut against without adding too many wraparound highlight on the main subject.

To evenly light the background I used two Aputure LightStorm LS-1/2 lights, set in vertical orientations, to either side. I used them far enough from the background to give me an even wash of light and used barn doors made of BlackWrap (tm) to block any direct light from hitting my subject. A quick incident meter reading let me know that if I wanted f11 @ 1/4 second, ISO 100 on my main subject I would need to dial the background lights down to 60% each. The LS-1/2s are controllable from 10% 5o 100% in single digit increments so no problem there.

I lit my main subject (the mannequin with the product applied) with two LightStorm LS-1S lights shining through diffusion material on Chimera 48 inch ENG panels. The panels were set 45 degrees to each side and fairly close (about two and a half feet from the subject). This allowed me to move the actual lighting instruments back to make the light spread on the panels more even across the surface. When I wanted one light to take precedence in the lighting scheme I could bring that light in closer, creating a bright spot in the center of the panel fabric which made the light brighter overall and contrastier (since the size of the light relative to the subject becomes smaller). This gave me more control and quicker control that I would have had using an umbrella or soft box.

Finally, I used a small Aputure Amaran portable light panel just in front and below the camera position to provide fill into specific areas. This worked to help me control small shadows adjacent to the products without having to increase the overall illumination.

I used a Sony A7Rii on a very big Benro tripod for the photographs. I used it in its full on raw mode; 42 megapixels of uncompressed pixel happiness. This might seem to be overkill for a photograph destined for a catalogue or a small inset image in a brochure but the extra resolution and detail comes in handy when one is making finicky clipping paths.

I used the trusty and sharp, 70-200mm f4 G series zoom lens for nearly every shot. Its well controlled flare characteristics and high overall sharpness make it a perfect choice when you don't need a lot of close-in magnification or wide angle coverage. Every Sony shooter should consider this lens as part of their toolkit. Boring but close to perfect.

There were several shots that needed to be made with much higher magnification and in these cases I used the Rokinon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. On one shot which needed deep depth of field I stopped down to f16.5 and, on 100% examination, was pleased with the results!

I had three guests in the studio for the duration of the shoot. One was the product manager, one was the graphic designer for the company and the third was the advertising and marketing coordinator.

When I have guests in the studio I always make an effort to keep them happily hydrated and fed. We offered them five different kinds of energy bars, whole wheat croissants with the option of adding peanut butter and blueberry preserves, fresh apples and bananas as well as yogurt. Hell, if someone had come really hungry I would gladly have fired up the range and made them a pan of migas. Or huevos rancheros.

We have a big Keurig on the counter and lots of coffee brands to choose from. Sparkling water, sparking water with lime, and still water.

We have a guest share for the Wi-Fi network as well. It's great to work at the home base because I have all the tools and modifiers I'd ever want immediately at hand and, when we hit a spot where styling takes time, I can head into the house and check on Studio Dog.

But every once in a while the photo gods love to toss a wrench in the works. Just before hitting the rack last night I was washing some pots and pans in the kitchen and the sink began to back up. Wouldn't drain! I tried a plunger and boiling water and finally (grumbling) pulled on my shoes and headed to the grocery store to buy a bottle of Liquid Plumber. I followed the instructions and.....still no joy.

I let everything sit until this morning. I guess I was expecting that time and the Liquid Plumber would do the trick, if I was patient. I headed to the kitchen and the sink had drained. I tried running some water before turning on the dishwasher and creating a catastrophic emergency (you can see how tough life can be for us photographers....)

Still no joy as the sink filled up again and refused to drain.

Didn't much matter in the long run. We shot photographs. We made coffee. We ate croissants. We shot more photographs. The only thing different is that instead of rinsing coffee cups as we went along I had to round them all up after the shoot.

One thing I should mention that really helps in studio still life shoots is the use of a monitor tethered to the camera. I hate tethering to laptops or desktops. I want the screen close to the camera and moveable. I used a clamp on the tripod leg to hold a small (7 inch ) monitor a couple of inches to the left of the camera. This gave the product manager and graphic designer constant access to either the preview of the shot or a review of the shot. It made for an efficient feedback chain. I loved having the live histogram and all of the camera info right there on a bigger screen.

When we finished the shoot it was about 1:30pm. No one wanted to go back to work so we headed over to my favorite Chinese restaurant for a late lunch. Never a better time to get to know your clients better than over lunch.

When I got back home Studio Dog was waiting by the door and helped me decide which plumbing company to call. She must know her stuff because we had a plumber here in less than an hour and the sink is righteous once more. Old cast iron pipes. Some oxidation. Some clog somewhere.

Now everything is once more right with the world and it's time to download those files and to sit down and start working on clipping paths. I've spent too much time thinking about the kitchen for the last 24 hours. I think that means Belinda and I should head out to dinner tonight. Gotta be able to read the signs.

The monitor is now pretty much mandatory for shoots where art directors or product managers are attending. The ability to share images without slowing down the shoot is good. It's quicker and easier to use an HDMI monitor, originally purchased for video production, than to go the fully tethered route. A benefit beyond good seeing and sharing is that running the monitor shuts off the screens in the camera and vastly increases the run time for the camera batteries. Important for some stuff. Very useful when doing long form video.

Nothing fancy here. Just a Super Clamp attached to one of the tripod legs, anchoring an arm that allows me to position the monitor where I can get the most use out of it. We get much use out of Super Clamps and Grip Heads. Everybody should have a bag full. (We don't sell them...). 

I use "nets" for lighting control. Nothing's better than pulling unwanted light off a subject without introducing hard edged shadows, etc. I used this net to pull light off the shoulder of the shiny, white mannequin we had in the studio earlier in the day. It's not in its "working position" for this photo...

While I am happy to work on various locations nothing really beats working at home base. My 600 square foot studio/office is about ten steps from the front door of our house; which makes the daily commute very manageable. It's fun to be able to reach into a bag and grab three or four extension cords. Reach into another bag for an assortment of microphones. Turn around and grab five or six different rolls of tape off a shelf. Etc.  It's also convenient to be able to walk into the house and check on Studio Dog. She always appreciates a visit and some time outside.  

Above is an itty-bitty Aputure Amaran LED light. Amazingly, it matches the color spectrum of my much more expensive lights. It's great to be able to grab a little, battery powered light and reduce a shadow in a single spot --- instead of having to make more "global" corrections. 

Abstract: Don't bother gelling a scene that is completely lit by a single flash. But if a second light is involved—even ambient light—it's always better to control color at the source.

PIctured above is Midwest Camera President Moishe Appelbaum. He wandered into a lighting class I was teaching at Midwest last fall, so we pulled him aside and shot him. He's lit by a single LP180 speedlight, fired through a white bed sheet.

(Pro tip: A speedlight fired through a bed sheet will rival the light of the most expensive octabanks in the world—in quality if not in quantity. It all comes down to square inches in the light source. And a bed sheet has a crap ton of square inches.)

After our previous lesson, you might think that this photo is an ideal candidate for a warming gel: caucasian skin, warm background, warm-colored clothing. Why not unify this with a little added warmth?Read more »

Karen Roy Talks About the Ottobock OBSS Chair Back from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

On a cold, clear day in January Ben and I had the opportunity to do an interview with Karen Roy for our client, Ottobock. I'll have Karen tell her story in the video.

Ben and I got up early and packed the car for the half hour trip to Georgetown, Texas where we would set up and be ready for a short interview in a private home. My focus early on was to set up and light for lots of b-roll (most of which we ended up not using...). Ben was on the second camera and he was getting details (which we did end up using...).

The main interview footage was done with a Sony a6300 camera recording 1080p. The interview was lit with three Aputure LightStorm LED panels and the audio was provided by an Audio Technica AT835b microphone.

We picked up additional video in a nearby park and at the offices of our client.

Since the day was bright and sunny I was happy I had thought to bring variable neutral density filters for both cameras/lenses.

While it might seem that Karen is miraculously delivering a perfectly crafted statement her interview is actually made up of audio (and video) from about nine or ten different clips. And some of the clips are interwoven in a different order than which they were recorded.

Ben handled the editing for the project. It was the last one he worked on before heading to Seoul, S. Korea for his long semester abroad.

For the kinds of projects I do I think the perfect crew size (including myself) is three. A first camera, a second camera and a sound person. That gives us plenty of hands for moving gear around as well as lighting in the minimalist tradition. More crew makes for more logistical moving parts. I like to shoot and move a lot in a day and I love a very small crew who can move with me without having to give them detailed instructions.

I'm sure that on bigger projects every crew member adds to the efficiency but on smaller, more intimate jobs, a larger crew is just more friction.

This is the last of the videos I'll share for a while as every video shared seems to drop readership of the blog by about 25%. At the rate we're going we'll be into negative numbers by the next three shares.

I guess I'll just go back to the old "Nikon Versus Canon!!!" & "DSLR Versus Mirrorless" routines. People never seem to get enough of that. Or maybe I'll explain how to use fill flash in sunlight for the thousandth time. That seems like a mystery that never gets solved....oh well.

In a world where technology is quickly advancing and products are constantly being upgraded, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which version of a device to get.

This applies to phones – for example, choosing the latest iPhone might be difficult. You might be unsure if you should wait for the next iPhone model to be released. But, what if the next model doesn’t have any additional features that make it better than the current iPhone, and you could have just upgraded to the current model without having to wait?

This situation plagues consumers. Just like in the smartphone industry, drone consumers deal with this struggle, too.

DJI, the leading drone manufacturer in the world, has revolutionized the drone market and introduced the latest drone technology year after year (and sometimes within the same year). DJI not only created the foundation for the drone industry, but the company is still dominating the market. With its success, DJI has seen competition emerge through the years – 3DR, Parrot, and Yuneec, to name a few.

As if the market wasn’t already cluttered with DJI’s lineup alone, adding in these brands have created even more of an overwhelming decision for consumers. Sure, with added brands and versions, professional drone pilots now have more options to choose from. But for the average person who simply wants a drone for recreational purposes, the surge in drones over the years has become daunting when it comes time to purchase a product.

DJI Phantom drones in detail

Like many consumers, I struggled with deciding which drone I should get. I had always practiced with a toy Hubsan X4 drone, but I wanted to enter the big leagues. (By the way, cheap toy drones like the Hubsan X4 are excellent beginner drones. Most drone enthusiasts will encourage beginners to start on a cheap toy drone first for many reasons. First, they’re cheap. If you crash, you won’t be out thousands of dollars. Second, they don’t have GPS, so you’ll learn to fly much better in windy conditions. Speaking of wind, the size of my Hubsan X4 is tiny, which wind is no friend of. I had to master the controls of a small aircraft so I could become skilled and prepared for an expensive piece of technology that has GPS to combat wind, a screen so I can see what my drone is recording, and naturally a larger device to fly in the air.)

At the time of purchasing my drone, the latest DJI model was the Phantom 4. As of now, DJI has released the Phantom 4 Pro Plus.

Below the Phantom 4 series is the Phantom 3 series. In the Phantom 3 series, DJI released the Phantom 3 Standard, Advanced, and Professional. After the release of these models, DJI decided to release the Phantom 3 4K, a crossbreed between the Standard and the Professional. After conducting hours of research, I decided to purchase the DJI Phantom 3 4K. Here’s why:

The Phantom 3 4K’s camera produces the same quality as the Professional. What does this mean for aerial photographers? Video quality up to 4K @ 30fps. 1080p @ 60fps. Single picture shooting, three, five, or seven burst shots, Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), and a Time-lapse feature. Plus, photographers have the option to shoot in DNG, JPG, or both at the same time.

Personally, I am a videographer, so the video capabilities of a drone are what I care most about. For smooth and slow video, 1080p @ 60fps is the perfect video mode to be in. By recording at 60fps, pilots will be able to slow video down by 50%. I also like how the Phantom 3 4K can go beyond 1080p, and, as the name implies, reach 4K. I use my Phantom 3 at this setting when shooting subject I don’t necessarily care about slowing down when editing my footage.

The 4K has five Intelligent Flight Modes that make it your above average drone. Course lock, Home lock, point of interest, follow me, and waypoints all allow pilots’ the chance to do more than just fly a drone. Most notably, the waypoints feature allows users to set custom points while they control the camera. Pilots can save a set of points into their database and fly the same route over and over again.

4K vs. Standard

As all of the Phantom 3’s and 4’s can do, the 4K’s camera tilts -90 degrees and +30 degrees, giving users complete flexibility when framing and angling shots. Aside from the better camera quality, one of the main reasons I chose the 4K over the Standard was for the tilt feature on the remote controller. This feature enables pilots to control the camera’s position while simultaneously flying. Tilting the camera is easy, as the controller has a rotating dial on the upper left-hand side. This drastically improves visuals when recording, as shots with upward or downward camera movement give video a creative twist. Plus, the 4K’s controller, like the Advanced and Professional, has a record on/off button on the upper right side of the controller, meaning pilots don’t have to move their hands from default position in order to begin or end a video recording. Pilots can take pictures using a shutter button on the upper right side, too!

The Phantom 3 4K is most like the Standard in that they both have the same flying range – about ¾ mile. This is the downside of the 4K, as many pilots enjoy being able to fly farther than a “measly” .75 miles. For example, the Professional and Advanced can travel up to 3.1 miles. This is an extreme difference to .75 miles. For those who wish to travel over 1 mile with their drone, the Phantom 4K and Standard are not for you. For me, distance isn’t necessarily the primary reason I wanted a drone, so I sacrificed this feature and went with the 4K. I also chose the 4K over the Standard because it features a powerful Vision Positioning System (VPS), which allows users to fly indoors. The Standard does not have this feature.

Another downside to the 4K (which clearly didn’t dissuade me from purchasing it) is that the live video feed back to the DJI app broadcasts at 480p. Surprisingly, the Standard has a worse camera than the 4K, yet its live video feed comes through at 720p HD. Those who wish to have a better live video experience while flying, rather than higher-quality recorded video, the Standard is for you. 480p isn’t terrible, though. All images that are fed back through my app are crisp and clear. I’m sure most people care much more about the final video quality than the temporary live feed any day.

My review of the DJI Phantom 3 drone



Final thoughts and price

While DJI no longer sells the Phantom 3 4K, websites and retailers such as Best Buy and B&H Photo Video sell the drone new, used, and refurbished. The Phantom 3 4K drone has drastically dropped in price to $595. It used to cost $200 more, at $795. Plus, the Standard costs $499, so for less than $100 more, I “upgraded” for better camera quality and a better remote controller. Those interested in the Advanced and the Professional, those now cost $698 and $799, respectively. All in all, the Phantom 3 4K is a great drone that encompasses video quality a professional pilot desires, with total distance like that of a beginner’s drone.

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Studio portrait lighting ideas

Shooting portraits in the studio has a challenge all of its own compared to shooting out on location – you are limited by the confines of the rectangular box that is the studio. You’re also limited by your imagination of course. Part of the challenge is that when you photograph a new client, viagra 60mg remedy you have to shoot consistent with your style – that’s why a client chose you – but at the same time, more about you have to bring some variety to the sequences of images. Even if it is just a slight tweak, I feel there has to be something else that you offer during every portrait session, even if just to keep it fresh for yourself.

I had the pleasure of photographing RJ Harper who is a professional scuba diver. Charismatic and with a big personality, RJ was fun to photograph. You can check one of his underwater video clips here on his FB page. He is certified with PADI as a Rescue Diver which means he’s experienced in saving people underwater. That skillset is the third level of professional certification in America.

With me in the studio was my friend Yasmeen Anderson, a  fitness photographer in NJ, and together we collaborated  on matching the brief given (photograph him with some products that he use and endorses), and also expand his portfolio with photos of him.

With this article, I want to walk you through four of the lighting setups we used in the studio. I need to mention that my studio is available as a Rental Studio in NJ.  I also present Studio Photography Workshops where we explore studio lighting.

For started the shoot with a straight-forward lighting setup for portraits. (The pull-back shot is shown below.) The photo shown at the top was one of the initial portraits, but with the smallest of changes … I asked RJ to shake his head to and fro. Gentle movements turned out better. We did about 40 frames out of which 4 or 5 worked, and this was the best of it. (Most of the photos had some of the dreads in the way of his eyes or mouth.) I also love his expression here – it shows confidence and pride, but with a calmness.


Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/80  @  f/9  @  100 ISO

The main light was a gridded 3-ft Profoto Octa softbox. Gridded softboxes are my staple light modifiers. This video clip shows some of how I use gridded strip boxes in the studio. The back-lighting helped etch the strands of hair to separate them better from the background. The glow on the background wall is from a 7″ reflector dish with a grid on it.Again, the grid on this smaller light modifier helps control the spread of light.

One thing that I often have to explain to photographers using the studio – that grey wall in the back can be any shade of light or dark that you want. It isn’t the way it appears to the eye when you enter the studio. The lighting changes everything!  This is true, even for a grey wall.



For this next sequence was to show some of the products that RJ endorses as a diver. The lighting remained very similar to the previous setup, but with a change to the background. We wanted to hint at the diving element, and used a blue gel from the MagMod2 Basic Kit (B&H / Amazon), which we projected on the wall with a gobo included in the MagMod MagBeam Kit  (B&H / Amazon).  This gave that abstract blue pattern, which hopefully is reminiscent of water.

The MagMod system is versatile and with the magnet fastening, really quick to change.

I marked position of the gridded Profoto 3′ RFI Octa Softbox o better show how it was angled more to the side for more dramatic light. The image at the very top had more even / flat light since the light was coming directly overhead from the photographer’s position. Moving the light to the side, created a more dramatic effect. Just that – the position of the light in relation to our subject. This simple idea also relates to this: Change your position, change the direction of light.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/180  @  f/4.5  @  100 ISO



For this sequence, we wanted to go even more dramatic, and minimize the elements in the frame that would take your attention away – we wanted RJ and the relevant products.

Here I didn’t use the studio flashes at all, instead opting for continuous lighting. We used 4″ LED fresnel lights with barn doors to control the spill of light: Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights  (B&H / Amazon).

The light on the background had a 1/2 CTO gel on it for a slightly warmer cast to the background highlight.


The pull-back shot shows how the two LED Fresnel lights were positioned. I marked the rear light in this image for clarity. The highlight on the wall is only lit by that LED light. None of it from the main light on RJ. This light’s effect and how it fell across RJ, was controlled by a set of barn doors. (As an aside – this set of lights is also available for use as part of the Rental Studio.)

The beauty of continuous lighting of course is that you can see the effect of the light immediately. This makes it easier to sculpt and shape the light for your needs.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/160  @  f/11  @  100 ISO




This next lighting setup is going to need some extra explaining. RJ is the subject of a proposed new superhero comic book series, created by John Jones. The motive behind this aquatic superhero is to inspire young people, and to promote ocean conservation.

Yasmeen had a specific idea in mind here in what she wanted to do with the final images. She wanted to mostly rim-light our subject, with the intention of manipulating the selected photographs in Photoshop, to show water cascading over RJ.

The lighting setup involved 4 studio lights with various gridded softboxes. The two lights overhead were easier to position on booms. The main light in front of RJ was just as fill-flash.  The three stripboxes on the side (and overhead) were the dominant light sources in order to give the rim-lighting we needed. We intentionally under-exposed his face. We really just wanted the outline of his body and arms.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/125  @  f/7.1  @  100 ISO



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The post Studio portrait lighting ideas appeared first on Tangents.

David Sims C-Leg Video. Rev. 1.2Z March 13, 2017 from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

I'm not sure there's ever a point at which video producers feel their editing is done. I could wake up every morning and change something on every video I've ever done. There are two things that bring projects to completion. One is budget; but if you enjoy a project budgets prove to be weak firewalls against spending more time fine tuning, or trying different approaches.

The other thing that serves as a giant stop sign in the editing process is a deadline. Hitting the deadline nearly always trumps one more set of tweaks.

As in the previous videos we used a Sony A7Rii, shooting in 4K (APS-C) mode to record the main interview footage and used a Sony RX10iii in 1080p mode to shoot our b-roll "footage."

The word, "footage" sounds a little zany to me given that there are no longer linear feet of film dragging through a film gate. We may have to revise our language around motion pictures as we head toward the future....

Everything that was lit was lit with Aputure LightStorm LED panels. Our primary microphone (into the Sony A7Rii) was a Sennheiser MKE600. We were working in the middle of an ongoing business and we could not always control background sounds but we did the best we could.

The main target for these videos is our client's website. They were not shot with theatrical distribution in mind and, in all likelihood, they will never be broadcast. The switch between black and white and color (which I also like) is part of the client's style guide.

I like David's interview because it was so personal and honest. This was a very rewarding project that put me in touch with some wonderful people. People with great stories about overcoming trauma and setbacks.

I want to do more like this.
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