studio lighting

Removing Reality Can Result in More Creative Images

Today I had a chance to enhance (after jamming with workshop student Chuck Pierce) a few more of my images from my recent NYC model/lighting workshop. Check out my previous post to read about the awesome workshop.

My idea for the images in this post was to remove some of the reality from the files to create more creative and artistic images.

Opening image: I was envisioning a painterly look for my portrait of model Minyoung Cheong. To reach that goal, I shot a three-image bracketed set of pictures with my Canon 5D Mark III and processed the files in Photomatix. Yes, the in-camera HDR (a JPEG) looked good, but I wanted more control over my HDR image, so I used Photomatix.

If you don't have Photomatix, give it a try. You will find that it is the most powerful and creative HDR program out there. Why? Because these guys invented HDR software. Get a discount on Photomatix on my Save on Plug-ins page.

After creating what I call my HDR negative, I cropped and straightened my image, played around with the Pastel Filter in Nik Color Efex Pro, applied selective saturation, and did some burning and dodging.

Quick tip: Remember that light illuminates; shadows define - and that shadows are the soul of the photograph.

Above: While "reflecting" on the awesome workshop, I started to play with this image of Minyoung. After converting it to black-and-white with onOne software's Perfect Black-and-White Premium 9 (also listed on my Plug-ins page), I used the Render Lighting Effects in Photoshop to mold and shape the light around the subject.

By the way, this is a natural, window light photograph.

Quick tip: Use reflections to add interest to your photograph.

Above: Here are two more of my favorite photographs from the shoot. Westcott Rapid Box Duos were used to illuminate our beautiful model with beautiful light.

Quick tip: The background can make or break a shot . . . which is why we chose the Metropolitan Building as our workshop location.

Quick tip: If you want an interesting/dramatic portrait, don't light the subject's entire face.

Above: These stacked, old trunks made a perfect background for our model, Tanya S. Our lighting: Westcott Spiderlight TD6 Daylight and 36x48-inch Shallow Softbox – combined with a TD6 in a Westcott 12x36 Strip Bank with Egg Crate Fabric Grid. To change the mood/feeling of the scene, I used the Polaroid effect in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Quick Tip: Use plug-ins to change the mood/feeling of a photograph.

Above: That's Westcott's Dave Piazza in the background checking the lighting . . . I think. ;-)

Thanks again to my fellow instructors, Dave Piazza and Joe Brady, for making the event a success. And thank you Adorama and Westscott for sponsoring the workshop.

I loved the group of 12 photographers, too!

I hope to see you on a 2015 workshop. All are welcome!

Explore the light,

Model/Lighting Workshop Added to My 2015 Florida Workshop List

I just added another workshop to my January 2015 workshop list. Here's the info:

South Florida Studio Model Shoot


• Learn speedlite lighting and model photography with me and my good friend Cesar Rivera. We'll have some studio lights, too!
• Shoot in a real photo studio.
• Use Westcott softboxes, reflectors and diffusers. Gels, backgrounds and grids, too.

• We’ll have Canon speedlites. If you use Nikon, bring them along.
• 14 photographers, two instructors, two models.
• Door prizes: Four 128GB Lexar Compact Flash cards, 8 Honl speedlite accessories.


• January 24, 2015 from 10:30 AM to 5 PM .
• AM: lighting demos by Rick and Cesar. Tethered shooting so all can see.
• Lunch (with group if you like, but not included)
• PM: photograph the models!

3001 Alhambra St.
Fort Lauderdale, Fl 33304
Parking in front of the studio $5 charge.

How to Register
Register here, and pay through my PayPal account:

You can use the photographs for your web site, but need to make arrangements with the models if you intend to sell an image.

Cost: One-time payment of $200. 50% refund up to 30 days in advance. Sorry, no refund after that.

For more info, shoot me an email.

Cesar and I hope to see you in the studio.

Explore the light,

P.S. If you live in the NY area, I have a similar workshop on November 4th, 2014.

Don't Be a Dummy When It Comes to Studio Lighting

One easy and affordable method for honing your home studio lighting skills is to practice lighting techniques with a mannequin, which you can easily order from

When working with a dummy, you can place lights in different positions for different effects – without a live “model” complaining and for charging you overtime - and without wasting a client's time.

Here you see in my mannequin photos, clockwise from the top left, the effects of using:
- one main light;
- main light, background light set to 1/2 power and a hair light;
- main light, a background light set to full power and a hair light;
- and main light and a light behind the subject pointed at the subject.

For my mannequin photos, I used Canon Speedlites and Westcott diffusers for this series of images. I fired the Speedlites with my Canon wireless transmitter.

My "Girl with a Pearl Earring" photograph was taken with a Canon Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo Softbox. Click here to read about the shoot.

Remember, when a subject shows up in your studio, you can’t waste time. Otherwise, you may look like a dummy.

My next lighting workshop will take place in NYC on November 4th.

Explore the light,

Deal of the Week!

Get a 41% discount on Photoshop Artistry: Fine-Art Grunge Composition.

Swing By My Lighting & Travel Sessions at PPE in NY: Oct 24 - 26


I hope you can swing by one of my sessions at Photo Plus Expo in NYC in Oct. Here's what I will be teaching:

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Canon Booth: Oct 24 at 1 PM and Oct 26 at 11:30 AM. I'll be demonstrating how to make portraits like the ones above - taken in the Canon booth last year with a Canon 600EX RT Speedlite and a Westcott Apollo softebox.

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Adorama Booth: Oct 24 at 3 PM and Oct 25 at 11 AM. I will be talking about the gear I used for my travel photography. All my gear is listed here.


Westcott Booth: Oct 25 at 2 PM. I will be teaching basic at-home and in-studio lighting. 

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If you see me at the show, ask for my 50% discount code for my on-line Great Sand Dunes Photography class. All my on-line classes are listed here.

Explore the light, 

Into speedlite photography? Check out the tons of speedlite accessories offered by LumiQuest.

Introducing My New and Improved Lighting Apps!

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They're here: My new and improved iPhone and iPad apps that are designed to help you make better natural light and speedlite photographs with your digital SLR.

The apps (basically on-line video classes with a photo gallery) are geared toward novice photographers. The apps were introduced a while back, but now all the how-to videos stream. Very fast.

Light It! is iPad version and sells for $1.99.

Light It Light! is the iPhone version and sells for $2.99.

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These are starter apps about creative lighting. However, as you will see, pros use many of these techniques and accessories to get great shots.

Two of the videos – Top 21 People Photography Tips and Top Ten Digital Photography Tips – feature some of my favorite pictures from around the world, accompanied with tips, of course!

The movies, shot by Emmy-award winner David Leveen, are divided into five sections totaling more than 1.5 hours of viewing time:

Basics: 33 Minutes
Outdoors: 15 Minutes
In Your Home: 16 Minutes
On-Location: 12 Minutes
Studio Shooting: 23 Minutes

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All updates: 
- Bug fixes and performance improvements.
- App size reduced to 22MB.
- All videos now stream.
- Optimized for IOS 5.1 and the iPhone 5
- New updated streaming RSS feature from Rick’s blog for almost daily new photo tips – like this cool video.
- Links to all of my social media sites including Google+ from within the app.

I hope you enjoy learning on your iPhone and iPad. I sure do enjoy this method of teaching. 

All my apps are listed on My Apps page. 

Explore the light,