By Popular Demand. Behind the scenes stuff. Or, "Does this lens make the photographer look fat?"

Since I posted photos from my shoot yesterday I've gotten dozens of requests for "behind the scenes" shots that would show how everything was positioned.  Fortunately my friend, Amy Smith, was assisting me on the shoot and she kindly provided some behind the scenes coverage.  I hope these will be help you more accurately visualize how I was placing the lights and how it affected the overall look of the shots.  

The first one is a studio shot done with my favorite light source, the big-ass 6 foot by 6 foot scrim.  I'm using a Photoflex frame and one layer of white diffusion. As you can tell I like to use the light source as close in as I can.  I have black panels on the shadow side to make sure that too much bounce from the studio's white walls doesn't fill in too much and degrade the contrast I wanted.  These are quick edits and no,  I haven't edited out fly-away hair, etc.  If the images were heading straight from here to a client we'd  retouch them first.  

While strobes might yield more depth of field and add a bit of sharpness I think you would agree that these images look more cinematic and life like.  Afterall, we chase fast lenses in all the reviews and forums,  doesn't it make sense to use them close to wide open from time to time?  Isn't that why we spent the extra money?

Yes.  You can do this with a small flash.  Really easily.  Almost as easily as just tossing up three small light panels and taking a look through your camera's finder....... Funny.  I worked at color correction and did a custom white balance.  Amy was shooting jpeg and seemed to hit the right WB everytime.  Live and learn.
I call this, "lights on a stick".  Love the wooden tripod.  Goes so well with the tennis shoes.

It's cruel to use small lights without even the tiniest bit of diffusion.  I didn't want anyone to report me for "cruelty to models" so I added some Rosco Luxe to each panel.  I think it's endearing that the little panels I use snap together to make bigger panels.  I have two more coming this week........

I'm no fashion photographer.  That's for sure.  But I kept hearing about clamshell lighting and I thought I'd try my own variation with my LED lights.  I tossed a couple of 500's on the floor, covered with some half stop diffusion and I put the 1000 through a two stop Westcott Fast Flags diffuser and blazed away, screaming, "Pout for me baby and I'll make you a star!"  Or something from "Zoolander".  I can hardly remember......

And guess what?  I had enough light to shoot hand held.  Miracles happen every day.......

That's it for the behind the scenes stuff.  Is this something you want?  Should I post more set up shots?  Just curious.  I'm not really comfortable flashing gang signs, participating is extreme snowboarding and saying "bro" and all the frenetic stuff we see on other blogs.  But I am happy to show you where we put the lights.......


Alex Solla said...

Definitely enjoy your behind the scenes shots. Your ability to bend light is wicked-inspiring. Keep posting it please.

Anonymous said...

Okay. I've read your posts since day one. You should stop fooling around and open a photo school to provide a year long, no nonsense training course for people who really want to be professional photographers. You could teach business, gear, techniques and philosophy. You probably have a waiting list for years and years. What say you?

kirk tuck said...

You guys are sweet. Keep reading. More to come.

Paul Feng said...

Yes, the BTS stuff is helpful.

I've been reading your blog for about a month, after discovering it via a a comment of yours in The Online Photographer. I really enjoy your perspective and voice. I read a tweet of yours a few weeks back where you contemplated being done with blogging - well, I hope you continue, but of course, it's _your_ time to decide how to spend.

Herrgard said...

Yes, I like behind the scenes.

And so much light... Don't you guys get tired eyes after a while with all that light?

kirk tuck said...

Herrgard, Interestingly enough it is much less tiring to shoot with the LEDs than with flash. Especially for the model. With the lower output modeling lights of studio flash the model's pupils don't stop down as much so every flash does a mini overload on the eyes. With continuous light sources the levels are stable and the eyes adjust nicely. Added benefit? Smaller pupil size and more sexy, bigger iris.

Patrick Snook said...


That's very interesting . . . I never thought about irises and pupils (apart from when avoiding the red-eye effect), their relative size and esthetics. I spend a lot of time noticing the muscles around the eyes, looking for the genuine smile, but little time worrying about the bits between the lashes. I do enjoy looking for a catch light, trying to arrange for one. I'm going to start thinking about this, and looking at the different effects, continuous light versus flash, etc.

Very nice pictures. Enjoyed the behind-the-scenes, too.

Always inspiring, Kirk!


ginsbu said...

Just wondering if I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing... In the clamshell lit shot, are those upward cast shadows from her eyelashes above her eyes?

Finding the BTS stuff fascinating and educational.

Robert said...

I like seeing your setups, but I would prefer more of the philosophy, business, humor and the other things that I come to your blog for. So if it bites into the time you spend writing the stuff that I can't read on every other photo blog, I would rather do without it. Besides, thats what your books are for.

kirk tuck said...

ginsbu, Yes. Exactly.

kirk tuck said...

Robert, Noted.

Paul Feng said...

Ditto what Robert said, which may be consistent with what I said earlier. If you are time & effort limited (and of course you are), I would prefer more of the unique things about your bloggin' voice.

kirk tuck said...

paul and robert, Here's one for you: http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2010/11/craft-vision-and-practice-stories-from.html

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Kirk> 'screaming, "Pout for me baby and I'll make you a star!" Or something from "Zoolander". I can hardly remember......'

Hehehe... something from Antonioni's "Blow up" maybe? Tho I hope you won't detect murder when pixel-peeping afterwards ;-)

Kirk, thanks for these BTS posts from time to time. Other than that, I think your blog is just spot on, and I hope you won't mind if I'll set a link from my blog to yours.

And, being just a year younger than you, maybe I might say: Keep up the good work, bro!


Anonymous said...

Behind the scenes stories are really usefull and fun, especially when one can see both BTS shots and the results, which are stunning IMHO!

Thanks for all these efforts Kirk (-:

Kim Walker said...


I think your idea of recommending books is great, especially $10 books. I just ordered Art and Fear, and of course to get the supersaver shipping I also ordered one of the Minimalist Lighting books.

I recently read The War of Art. It was good for me to read, I can't really say that I enjoyed it but it was good. It's never fun to have one's flaws exposed. Resistance… yes I know it well. The Painted Word certainly is an interesting viewpoint of the art world.

I'm not a photographer, I'm a guitar maker so the business stuff that you talk about works for me as well as it might for a photographer. Your photography blog I find fascinating because I just love portraiture. Really my only serious photography is my portfolio work documenting my instruments which has paid serious dividends. I have to say the LED lighting obsession of late I'm finding very interesting. And, the behind the scenes help the understanding. I'm wondering about the color accuracy which you seem to be getting a handle on. I find that if a lighting/camera combo does flesh tones really well then I'll be happy with how it renders guitar photos. I definitely will be following this with interest to its conclusion/integration. It seems like this could be a very good solution for product photography.

So, I've got a couple of book recommendations if you have not read them. I read them about the same time that I read Shop Class As Soulcraft and enjoyed all 3. And guess what, they're about $10! The first one would be Spark and the other one is Flow .

It's time to go set up some lights to take guitar photos.

Thanks for a great blog! So far, and I've been reading your blog for a while now, whatever you are interested in seems to make interesting reading.

Take care, Kim

Kim Walker said...


Sorry about addressing you as Kurt. It makes me feel less than intelligent.


Mike Strout (From the Internet) said...

I really appreciate your cinematic approach to lighting!

Would you be interested in getting together next time I'm in Austin?
I would love to meet up with you!

If so you can add me at Facebook.com/polaroidmike