model photography

20 Tips for Home Studio Portraits

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Guest Post by Ann Marie DiLorenzo

 At the Canon booth at the 2018 Photo Plus show in NYC, Rick Sammon promised the audience that he’d give at least 10 tips during his presentation. Well, Rick actually gave 20 tips. Here they are!

Note: For the portraits in this post, Rick used a Canon speedlite in a Westcott Apollo Soft Box.

1) When you think you need 2 lights, use 1 light. When you think you need 3, use 2. (A Frank Doorhof quote)


2) Be aware of other lighting in the room; you want your speedites lights to be the main source of light.

3) Umbrella spreads light evenly; soft box allows you to control and shape the light. 

4) If you want an interesting portrait, don’t light the subject’s entire face. 

5) For a portrait with few shadows on your subject’s face, you want the subject’s nose to follow the light; have their nose face the lighting source.  

6) The size of a subject’s pupils affects our impression of the subject. The advantage of using a speed light is that the pupil doesn’t have time to close down, making the photo more inviting. 

7) Never touch the model. 

8) The larger the light source, the softer the light. The closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light.  For a soft constant light source, check out this Westcott lighting kit.

9) In lighting, inches matter. 

10) Shadows are the souls of the picture. 

11) Never underestimate the value of a good model.  

12) Use your camera like a drone - move the camera up and down to effect the viewer’s perception of the subject. If you move the camera down lower, the model has you get a greater sense of power. 

13) When looking through the viewfinder or at your LCD monitor, use border patrol - look at the boundaries of the photo and make sure what you want is in, or not in, the 

14) Don’t amputate the subjects at the joints.  

15) Name of the game is to fill the frame. Fill the frame with the subject.

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16) The background can make or break the shot. 

17) Most important thing in a photo is the mood/feeling. Backgrounds create moods. 

18) Dead center is deadly. If you place the subject in the center of the frame, the viewer’s eye gets stuck on the subject and doesn’t look at other things in the photo. 

19) Use gels over the light source (speed light)  - red or blue to create an effect. 

20) Focus on the subject’s eyes in a portrait.

• • • • •

Want more tips on home studio portraits? Check out Rick’s KelbyOne on-line classes.

"Photo Failed It to Photo Nailed It!" #2: Add lights to add drama to a scene

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From time to time here on my blog I'll run a post: "Photo Failed It Photo To Nailed It!" The concept is twofold:

1) I'll share a pair of pictures, along with tips, that illustrate how you can nail a shot;

2) You'll see that with a little effort - and sometimes by using accessories - you can turn a snapshot into a great shot.

This post: Add lights to add drama to a photograph.

Above is a failed shot from the shoot. The picture is flat and boring for two main reasons: boring and flat light and a boring pose. What's more, the background is overexposed.

To nail the shot, I . . .
• took an exposure of the background (a painted background) and then set the exposure exposure compensation to -1.
• used two Westcott Ice Lights – one positioned near the windshield and one positioned over the sunroof - to add shadows to the scene. Shadows are the soul of the photograph.
• directed the model and then moved in closer. The closer you are to the subject, the more intimate the photograph becomes.
• added props (sunglasses and cell phone).
• tilted my camera for the "dutch" effect.
• applied the Duplex filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. (All the plug-ins I use are listed on my Save on Plug-ins page.)

My camera/lens: Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24-105mm IS lens.

As you can see, it did not take a lot of effort to nail the shot.

If you like model/people photography, I have a few 2015 photo workshops that you may enjoy.

Explore the light,

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.