Set-up a Portrait Studio Almost Anywhere

I'm just back from my weekend workshop organized by Amy Davies, who heads up Photography Events by Amy in Plymouth, MA. Great fun as always, and I can't wait for our 2013 workshop.

Day two was about speedlites. My goal was to illustrate that you can set up a portrait studio almost anywhere - and get cool results - with two speedlites and a few inexpensive accessories.

Our "studio" for the shoot was the hallway of an office building in Plymouth. Above is a behind-the-scenes shot.

The main light was positioned above and in front of the model, and to camera right. A grid was placed over the speedlite to focus the light. The speedlite was aimed at the model.

The background light was positioned to camera left and slightly behind the model. It was aimed at the background. A blue gel was placed over the speedlite, which was fired through a cardboard cutout.

Both speedlites were set at TTL. The main speedlight was set to 0 EV, and the background speedlite was set to – 2 EV, so as not to blast the background with light.

Both speedlites were fired via a radio transmitter/receiver set. My camera was set on the Manual exposure mode.

I demonstrate this and other speedlite set-ups on some of my workshops and at my seminars. I hope to see you there.

Gear for this shoot:
Canon 5D Mark III.
Canon 24-105mm IS lens.
Canon Speedlite 580EX II (two), which has been replaced with 600EX- RT.
Phottix TTL wireless transmitter/receiver - transmitter on camera, receiver on each speedlite.
Two stands from Westcott Apollo softbox kit.
Honl gel kit.
Honl grid.
Honl speed strap (for attaching grids and gels to speedlite)
Hand-made and expertly crafted cardboard cutout :-)

Explore the light,

P.S. Learn more about light in my latest Kelby Training class - Light, the main element in every photograph. My apps also include lighting tips.

Speedlite Session at N4C Convention in Des Moines

Emily Weber was our talented model for the session.
A big thank you to the folks at the N4C convention and Des Moines Camera Club for inviting me to present two sessions at their annual event yesterday. Great folks, great fun.

After my presentation, Exploring the Light, I gave a speedlite session, using two Canon 600EX-RT speedlites and my Canon ST-E3 RT radio transmitter.

Photograph by Shane Abbitt
My goal was to demonstrate that even in a hotel meeting room, creative speedlite photographs are possible . . . if you "take the darn flash off the camera," which is my #1 flash photography tip.

I also demonstrated how easy it is to control the flash output of the new Canon speedlites with the new ST-E3 RT wireless transmitter.

I took the opening image for this post while my new friend and assistant (and scientist in real life) Jerry Ranch held a Westcott 28-inch Apollo softbox above the model, who was positioned against a black background. I added the Diffuse Glow filter in Photoshop CS4 to add an additional glow to the glow of our model, Emily Weber.

During my demos, I like to get the attendees involved. Left: voice-activated light stand Shane Abbitt, another new friend, helps out. Right: Jerry Ranch adds some fun and light to the session.

Here are a few quick lighting tips: light illuminates, shadows define; the larger the light the softer the light; the closer the light the softer the light. Want a dramatic portrait? Don't light the entire subject.

Above: Another hotel meeting room shot. I used one speedlite (grid added to focus the light) positioned to camera right to illuminate the model, and another speedite (blue gel added) fired through a cardboard cutout to illuminate the white background.

Jerry "Huevos" Ranch and Rick "The Godfather" jam after the session. Shane Abbitt photo.
One of the many reasons I enjoy traveling and giving seminars is that I get to meet interesting people, many of whom become my friends. Des Moines was no exception. I hope to be back soon for another photo session – and another jam session with photographer/scientist/musician Jerry Ranch.  

My next speedlite session and seminar is in Canada later this month.

Click here for all my events.

You'll find more lighting tips in my apps, Rick Sammon's 24/7 Photo Buffet and Light It! See my apps page.

Explore the light,

Here's another post I did on the new Canon speedlite system.

"Tough Love" is Now "Photo Makeover"

On-line, I've been helping photographers make better images for about two years with my Tough Love Portfolio Review sessions. 

On my live workshops and seminars, I've been offering photo advice to photographers for more than 20 years.

I'm still giving tough love during my on-line sessions, but after follow ups with the photographers, I see that the end result is often a photo makeover and a business makeover. So, Photo Makeover is the new name for my on-line sessions.

I offer these one-on-one photo sessions in your home via Skype. I can help you with your photography and Photoshop/Lightroom techniques – and of course the business side of photography.

I am very honest in these sessions. See the comments below to see just how honest I am with photographers.

Here's how it works: 
1) You shoot me an email and we set a time. I am on NY time. 
2) You prepay with PayPal. $95 for the one-hour, private session.
2a) PayPal account: ricksammon@mac.com.
3) You send me a link to your work.
4) You tell me your time zone.
5) You tell me your goals.
6) Half-hour follow up sessions are $40 . . . if you want one.

If you live in the U.S., I'll include an autographed copy of my book, Exploring the Light as part of the session. Shipping and custom forms makes international shipping difficult.

Why choose me to review your work? Well, I have been involved with photography since 1978, when I began interviewing some of the photography greats. I have also written 36 books and have 9 apps. Plus, I do lots of on-line training, lead workshops and give seminars. And, before turing pro, I worked in the an advertising/PR agency for 10 years, so I have some experience with marketing your work. I also teach social media marketing.

Explore the light,

Backlight is Nice Light

Here's another image from the Westcott NJ event. See post below for info on the event (and upcoming events), model, basic lighting set-up.

For this image, in addition to the main light (Canon 580 EX II) that was positioned on-camera and bounced into a reflector, we positioned a second camera flash (Canon 580 EX II) behind the subject for what's called "Hollywood Lighting."

Try this type of lighting, you'll like it. Experiment with reducing the flash output of the second flash so that you don't blow out all the hair highlights.

Seminar attendee Joseph Konrad took the original photograph (with my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens). I enhanced the image a bit in Photoshop (Diffuse Glow filter) and with Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro. Get a discount on Nik Software by clicking here.

I used the Canon ST-E2 to fire both flashes remotely. For wireless flash photography, also try the PocketWizards.

Explore the light,

To learn more about lighting, check out my latest app, Light It!