Shoots with Friends

I’ve been able to do some fantastic shoots recently thanks to some really wonderful and great friends. When model mayhem won’t provide the models, I have to get out of my comfort zone and ask non-strangers.


This was probably my first, with a two light set up. One light off to the right, clamped onto the counter by some grip stuff, was TTL’d and modified by a 36” soft box. The hair/rim light to the left of the frame was on manual, without a modifier. I used Pocket Wizards to accomplish this shot, with the D800e and a 100mm Zeiss lens. I wish I had slowed the shutter speed a tad so that the outdoors was a little more realistic looking and brighter than the inside. It was a great learning experience, and has been one of the few shoots to actually go as planned.

I grabbed a friend from salsa class (I've got moves now!! … only three, but we’re working on that) and asked him if I could set up at his shop for some photos.


I showed up and started to set up my stuff. In all honesty, I probably spent a good hour setting up; he was working, and I wasn’t getting in the way too much. It was relaxing to not be rushed or pressured for time, and it allowed me to find a couple different angles, and work a couple ideas. A similar setup to the kitchen shoot, only now I had two lights backlighting him, one on each side. The one off to the left was up high, and kept illuminating the backs of things too much before amply lighting him. A gripe about shoot was that I had to deal with the hanging outlets (distractor to the upper left) sure I could’ve moved them or something, but I was simply too lazy and wanted to work around them. Hindsight says I’m a dummy.

I also had another wonderful friend over for some wine, music, and talking/shooting. Since I cant multitask, it was mostly talking or thinking. Suffering my cold floor, was this champ:


I used the sliding glass door as a modifier for the setting sun and the light matched the model. I learned quite a few things on this shoot:

1. If I want pictures, I shouldnt talk.

2. My popup background was too far (was trying to get seperation, but with a plain background, not much is needed)

3. If the model is wearing beautiful dresses, dont only use a 100mm lens for detail shots.

Below is where I had the background in place, it was too far and I kept getting the edges in my frame. This genius had it propped up and jerryrigged to fit, but if I had been able to use my brain, I wouldve just moved it closer.


This was one of the instances that I regretted not using the 85mm for wider and more environmental shots which then prompted me to use it more. Good learning experience, but I badly want a second shoot. 

Also, since my ideas rarely work, I need to move around and get different angles, Ill get something so long as I dont stick to one idea.

Setting out to use the 85mm, for this shoot, weve gone up some trails to have the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges in the background.



In the shade!! I know its probably second nature to other photogs that do a lot of portraiture, but the shade is soft, unlike the sun causing peoples eyes to squint. This was my first time seeking shade (only took 30 minutes to figure it out). With the 85mm, and at f/1.4, the model is isolated nicely and gradually. I am really pleased with this photo, its a start of how I want some of my work to look. Sun as light source, and sky as diffuser.

This last series is wonderful because Ive gotten quite a bit of time to try different things out. A friend recommended calling up a place to shoot at, and finally heeding her advice, I tried and was semi-successful. Initially it was a verbal yes, but then they decided that since I had this website, I was a business and was to be charged an inordinate amount of money (appropriate for commercial use I suppose) for access when it only costs $15 for a tourist. Undeterred, as I am not a business, we paid the fee during the day (as opposed to the special night access) and shot off a couple of frames. Im a tourist like every other bozo in there.


The light was phenomenal. The sun came in and reflected off the red walls, giving wonderful color and punch to the photos (as NOT displayed by that first shot). It was a little odd as most of the fill came from below and cast shadows were not accustomed to seeing. Still, very soft light.


Though the focus is a little off, actually way off, but its tougher to see at lower resolutions, I absolutely love this photo. The red contrasts with the white dress so wonderfully crap, I meant to put a color photo in here. Youll get one soon enough, so stop being impatient!


Again, the 85mm. But holy crap! We moved around and got plenty of different angles and shots, and in such an environment the light and angles made everything work. Again, initial ideas fell through (was supposed to do a long exposure of her and I dancing I got all dressed up too! Still bummed about it) but the resultant photos of her are breathtaking.

Also, pay no heed to the washed out watermark. I see it, but Im too lazy, and people keep referring to me as Michael anyways. 


I’ve also recently bought the Westcott 7' White with Black Cover Parabolic Umbrella because I want the cheapest, largest light modifier I could get… and I’ve never worked with reflective umbrellas before so I figured, what the heck?

So here I am with a 7’ umbrella, but if I use a speedlight (Nikon SB-900) I need to have the flash cover as much area as possible, otherwise it’s as if I’m only using a 4’ or 5’ light source. Usually folks slide their flash right up to the umbrella and they get something like the shot below. Because this is such a large umbrella, I had to stretch the umbrella stem all the way out so it was barely being held onto the stand. That will give us the throw that we have in the first photo. 


Since it’s only partially lighting the umbrella (and the flash is zoomed to 24mm), we needed to flip down the diffuser to widen the spread. Below is our result. It’s a much more even spread, and fills the umbrella completely, giving us the full 7’ that we bought the umbrella for in the first place. Also note that the flip down diffuser pannel takes about 1 stop of light from your flash, so it’ll be a little less bright at full power. (This helps me since I like working at large apertures, and usually the flash is used at f/8 instead of f/1.4)


Another fun tidbit is that with reflective umbrellas they’re not all that soft up close, but are at a distance, whereas softboxes are soft up close, but fall off quickly at distance. That’s at least what I’ve read, I need to do some follow up work to see if that’s the truth, but after one shoot, I can already see how that may be the case. I didn’t get many usable shots from the night shoot I did with my friend, the imbalance of ambient and artificial light was just too great… but in this example below, we can see that it is indeed soft at a distance.


In the few closer shots I have, the light was still fairly harsh… 

And to end the night, we did one with the milky way. Flashlight up my shirt, reflecting off my 6-pack, and through the red fabric.. xD well Im glad youre laughing is how Ive lit her here. 


Key to all of it is doing a bunch of stuff and changing ideas around, some work, some dont.

Thanks for tuning in folks! Thats all I have for tonight!

Ah, and a very special thanks to Alex, Brendan, Harriet, Emily, and Elisa for putting up with my antics!!

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