November 23, 2009

speedlight : final episode (live shoot) - lighentenupandshoot

Sorry folks, Michael decided to post the final video of the speedlight series before we posted the Flash to subject distance and the ISO video. He keeps blaming the beer but I just blame his genes!
In any case, we'll go along with destiny and keep the final video posted and you guys/gals just make believe it's in the correct order.

Angels Models of Colombia called us to do a casting for one of their models and we agreed. They are a brand new agency so they wanted the images to be a little different. We thought about what we wanted and wrote down a couple of ideas. The model was Carolina, 18 years old and she had never modeled before. It was a little bit of a challenge for a couple of reasons. Her english was about as good as our spanish, she never modeled before and the shoot was outside and at 2 pm. That's life, when it hands you lemons, you start juggling them and ask for donations.

Examples and shooting diagrams after the break...

So off went the three of us to a wall we had scoped out the day before for our graffiti shot. When we arrived at the wall we had this great idea to do some flaring. It was a beautiful idea on paper, but we made one big mistake. NOT ENOUGH FLASH POWER at 2PM. Being one of the brightest parts of the day, and having a white wall did not give the poor little speedlights a chance to do their magic. They simply aren't powerful enough to overcome all of the light that was shining on us. So for you folks that want to try this setup, just wait till it gets a little darker and you should have no problem.

Here is the shot we gave the client as a final. ZERO PHOTOSHOP!!!

This is the shooting diagram for the shot. We had to be very careful that the main light, which was the softbox on top of our models head was not illuminating the wall. So we had the model move forward about 3 feet from the wall, and I held the softbox on top of her head slightly tilted forward facing the camera. The 28" Westcott is a recessed softbox so feathering the light is easier (recessed softbox means that the white fabric is not flush with the frame. It is recessed inside the softbox about 2 inches).

We tried to do the flare/hazy look that Michael talked about in the video, but the time of day and the power of our flashes made it impossible. Speedlights are awesome, but they do have some limitations and power is one of them.

The two speedlights against the wall where angled towards the camera so they would just slightly hit the wall. The orange gels gave the wall a nice touch, shooting without the gels would just have given the wall a flat looking white illumination. Pretty much a drivers license shot with graffiti in the background.

We used a fast shutter speed of 1/250 to try to darken the background as much as possible. The ISO was at 100 to try to make it as less sensitive to light as possible, further darkening the background. Our aperture was set at f/4.5.

This is our favorite shot and one that was not planned at all...doesn't that always happen!! It started raining so we took shelter under a red tin awning. I kid you not is was about 6 feet by 6 feet max. The red window metal thingy was awesome. I told Michael to take advantage of it since the rain was not going to stop and it would be the perfect situation to try this weird "butt lighting" technique (I'm going to patent the name shortly so don't even think of stealing it). We used Photoshop to burn the corners a little (Michael says too much but I like it).

Here is the shooting diagram of the butt lighting technique, yes I can say butt lighting twice in one sentence. As you can see, we have a speedlight with a red gel behind the models butt, the red gel gives an awesome contrast to the red metal window thingy. In hindsight, we should have moved the butt flash (going to patent that name also) a little more to the right because we did blow out her arm a little too much. Live and learn I tell you. Actually we'll just blame it on the rain and the cramped working area.

Our settings for this shot where, ISO 100, Shutter speed at 1/250th and aperture at f/3.5. In post process all we did was burn the edges just to give it a little more of a dramatic feel to it. Like I said in the video, I'm a retoucher but like to do very subtle retouching that many times is not possible during the shoot.

This was our last location that we had scouted inside of a hotel. This was finally a dark enough room to be able to do the haze. I shouldn't say dark, because it was well lit and I don't want you to think that we put the model in some broom closet. This was shot in the lobby of the hotel. The wall was a medium gray. We knew we wanted to make the background completely dark so we had the model stand about 6 feet from the wall and we used a shutter speed of 1/80 (sounds a little slow but since the wall was medium gray and our model was so far from the wall, it didn't take much to darken the background). Also, at this shutter speed it brought a little detail to the background, preventing the image from being a complete black mess.

This is the shooting diagram. I know the flash position of the 3rd flash looks weird, but this is what gave us our hazy look. The flash behind the model is just for rim light purposes and a little flare. The soft box was extremely feathered so that only a tiny portion of the light would hit the model. The third flash was located on top of the camera shooting at about a 45 degree angle directly at the lens. Crazy, maybe...but we liked the results.

Hopefully you liked the images. The point of this is to show you that you can try crazy light configurations...they sometimes work very well for your shots. Don't get stuck on one lighting boring can that be.

And remember, if you like the image, then the image is amazing!!

OK, you know the routine, tell a friend or 1,230 of them, leave a comment and get out of here. Don't you know that the internet is bad for least for your portfolio. GO TAKE PICTURES!!!!!


  1. Great stuff guys, love the videos!

    Please keep them coming.

  2. Hello Andy & Mike!
    Very nice pictures you're making in Medellin. And great behind the scenes VDO too. But hey! You're mixing your VDOs with great music. How about letting us know on the credits part of the VDO which songs are being played so the rest of us can also enjoy!
    Francisco Monteiro

  3. Francisco,

    First, we love Medellin. This is truly one of the most beautiful cities on the planet!

    We have started mixing the videos with royalty free music provided by the kind folks at Apple. All editing is done with iMovie.

    We need great music! If there are any musicians who would like to donate music...we will give you credit in the videos!

  4. Cool video guys, very informational!

  5. Great post! I love how you did the butt lighting! :) The fact that you can render a photo this nice SOOC (straight out of camera) is awesome! I'm definitely a fan and will follow your blog...I'm tickled to death that I found you guys, you are KICK ASS good!!!

  6. Also, I have a 40" umbrella, however, I see a lot of pros use the soft boxes... very quickly, why soft boxes v.s. umbrella, is it because it diffuses the light better? I'm just starting to learn my flash and I want to learn to use it Off Camera. Thanks for your help! :)

  7. I am from Puerto Rico and I love when people from different cultures go ahead and mix in. I must say you guys are amazing and gave me a lot of ideas with this photo shoot. I have two flashes sitting not doing much and I need to use them and experiment, experiment, experiment.

    I absolutely love you subscribe to what seems to me a zero to minimalistic photoshop- and getting it right. Bravo.

  8. Raist3d,

    Yes, get out there and shoot! Experiment...that's what we do. We honestly never know what we are going to do. Before we shoot we say:

    Michael "Andy, uhhh...which lens are we bringing? How many flashes?"

    Andy "I don't feel like toting gear today. One stand and two speedlights. Bring the 50mm...backpacker's studio delight!"

    Send us some funny video of a shoot from the streets of Old San Juan.


  9. I always thought taking pictures with softboxes and flashes is difficult and expensive... now i just starting to get it. I wanna go and grab some used SB-28s, and a softbox. Put it in a backpack, call a friend to assist, find a girl to volunteer and get to the streets. I'll post the results!

    Thanks, and greetings from Hungary!

  10. This is the best blog ever.

    Sorry to spoil it by this very boring question.

    What about WB?


  11. That misfire by the graffiti wall was actually a good one to post as you can see the effect of the rim lights. Thx!

  12. Ah Michael, I am from Puerto Rico but been living in California for 10+ years now ("SoCal"). I go to Puerto Rico about once a year. Have shot a few weddings, street night life (Hollywood Blvd) though need to come closer. And now between landscapes, abstracts, people, and other happenings trying to learn more.

    Shot this two days ago at lunch (all natural light):

    and this last week in Burbank:

    My other job is software developer in the video games industry.

    Are you going back to Colombia? I guess you are! :-)

    - Raist3d (Ricardo)

  13. Hello everyone!! Just for those that haven't seen the post we listed everything that is in our Backpackers studio and where to buy

    Sandor, we started a flickr group here
    so post your results there so everyone can see!!

    Anonymous thanks for spoiling this entire blog with that very boring question but I'll answer it. Our white balance is almost always on Sunny when shooting flash. And another thing...ask any question you want no matter how boring!!

    Ricardo, the second shot ROCKS!!! I love the mood!!

    Alright my friends, keep posting but most importantly keep shooting...and join our flickr group so everyone else can see that you are not just some lazy photographer that never does anything but read our blog!!


  14. Thanks Andy, I'll check the flickr group. I'll probably share a few. At the moment I am admiring some of the stuff you guys do on the streets with flash and thinking about a few things on my own. I usually tend to be more a natural light guy but would like to try flash & come up close and convince people... I normally don't so it's a new thing for me to try.

    This is probably the last street night life shot I have done-

    Ill check the Flickr link now....

    - Ricardo

  15. Ricardo,

    Love the grainy image you posted. I'm glad that my camera doesn't produce clean files when I get past ISO 640. I sometimes want that grainy look.

    Approaching people: I think this is an interesting topic we should discuss. It's not nearly as hard as you think. I think our biggest fear is being rejected. This is something that I want to cover in a future video. One tip...don't approach people from behind! You will come across as a stalker. I find that 95% of the time people will say yes. Ask nicely and give them a compliment about their purple shoes or whatever. Tell them that you are shooting for your portfolio and you would like to take their picture. Also tell them that you will email them a copy of the amazing photo you are about to take. Be sure to show them the image in your view finder. More to come on this subject...

  16. I agree that approaching people behind them is a stalker, but just to be clear, in the case of the photograph I posted it was just me waiting for them to cross the side walk.

    I mainly have shot from afar with telephoto but I don't hide the fact I am taking the photograph. I have been told about 4-5 times to "please no photos" and I tell them I will delete them (which I do right away). Funny thing is the people that *want me* to photograph them.

    I had one time where a guy interposed himself between me and something else I was trying to photograph and until I took his shot and noded he wouldn't move. Another was at a traffic light.. I was trying to photograph some people looking at a shoe store's insides at night in front of the glass, when an SUV stops at the traffic light in the 2nd track closest to me.

    A young guy repeatedly tells me "please take my picture! take my picture!" So I position myself an when I was about to take it, a car ran by in the closest lane to me and he yelled at the car saying "you ruined my shot!" I couldn't believe it :-) I recomposed quickly and took the shot then he said thanks and off they went with no further contact (!).

    There's a few shots where I have taken photos of people that have a mix of approached me and me them. What I want to do is increase to take shots closer and ask more point blank. But yeah, I don't take shots of people following them from behind :-)

    Anyway, I could certainly use a major tune up about approaching people and talk about this. I think you are right about the fear of rejection, I guess it's also maybe the fear on how that rejection is expressed.

    - Ricardo (raist)

  17. great series, so glad I found you guys. Really well explained for something so mind boggling (the text and diagrams helps too). Now to put your advice into practice. So often are these video's shot by people who can't take a photo, your work is proof of your knowledge, very edgy and well executed.

    p.s. burning is perfect!

  18. Mucho Gracias! from Amsterdam. Via Youtube i found the dudes and their excellent (tutorial)video's and they are the best. Im a newbie into the lighting stuff and the video's helped a lot to understand the whole enchilada. Keep up the good work!! and thanks!



  19. nice video. carolina was en fuego. mucha caliente. lucky guys.

  20. Catching up on all the posts. Great work guys keep it up!

  21. may i ask what softbox you were using? does it come with stand or do i need to buy a separate stand and all the other accessories? if that is the case, can you share with us what brands were you using in this video? thanks