Anna. A studio portrait.


In the studio with a Rolleiflex 6008i camera. 150mm Zeiss Lens. On Kodak Portra TCN black and white C-41 film.

Studio Portrait Lighting


Technique in search of a subject.

Do you know what you want to photograph today? I do. I want to photograph a beautiful, interesting person and I want to do it with a big, soft light source in a quiet studio. It's the same thing I want to photograph every day. My search for subjects isn't a general search as in: "Do I want to photograph a landscape? A street shot? Richly colored glass bottles transluminated with sparkly light? My lunch? My dog? My navel? My car? A back lit athlete?  My search is much narrower. It's all about finding someone interesting to photograph.

It's hard to find people who have time when you have time and have the same degree of motivation to be photographed as you do to photograph them. The most interesting people tend to be the most busy. They are deeply involved in whatever thing it is that makes them so interesting and, if they had lots of time to spend doing other things they might not seem so interesting in the first place.

As I get older and read too much I find that we can break down most photographers into two camps. The ones who master their craft in order to photograph the subject of their passion and the ones who get really good at their craft in order to be really good at their craft. To the first group the mastery of technique is a means to an end. The mastery gives them the potential to make images of their chosen subject in a style and a way that is unique to them. These are the people whose work comes to mind in a heart beat. Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon as people photographers. Patrick Demarchalier and Peter Lindbergh as fashion photographers, and Ansel Adams and Mark Klett as Landscape photographers. They pursue their passion. They've found their passion. And they explore(d) it relentlessly.

The second group are the universal shooters. They can shoot food, shoot a car, shoot a model, shoot a sunset or a sunrise, shoot a factory or a building or someone hanging off an enormously tall tower, or fighter jets or a child lit by a sparkler on a Summer evening. And in every situation they bring a technical expertise to the image that is arguably correct but, because it is largely a generic solution based on satisfying or solving the technical issues of the image it is homogenous and boring. Forgettable.

The images that effect culture and our understanding of photographic art come, almost exclusively, from people who have passion for one subject and a relentless desire to pursue that subject to the exclusion of all others. They may change gear like the rest of us but they stick to the subject at hand.

This makes them incredibly boring to follow. The do the same thing over and over again, always attempting to find just a nuance of new but mostly to unlock the interesting thing that they already sense in their subject. They don't make big changes. They won't be blogging about the latest light or the hottest lens.

The little circuit breaker in the brain that separates the first group from the second, as far as I can see, is fear. In a professional capacity it's the fear that they won't be asked to cover a wide range of assignments, that people won't like the one subject they choose and will seek other photographers instead. The fear for amateurs is different. And I don't really know what it is. It could be that the fear of committing to one subject is that they'll miss out on another subject. I watched the swell of image makers who had previously done street or candid portrait photos rush to embrace HDR and all of a sudden everyone was whipping out wet streets at twilight and glowering landscapes, rank with color. They'd switched subjects in order to satisfy their desire to master the technique du jour. Ditto when photographer, Joel Grimes rolled out his gritty lighting and post processing and applied it to sports photography. The same people who rushed to follow Trey Ratliff on the Technicolor V train did a 180 and began to make tons and tons of grit-o-graphs. There was a palpable feeling of the fear of being left behind. Of not mastering the mainstream. Of being passé. Attaining new visual tools was the process.

I would dearly love to say that I am of the first group but I know it's not true. While I love process of the portrait, and I can think of nothing I'd rather shoot and look at, I fear the idea that my favorite art directors will pass me over for lucrative assignments in food photography (which is enjoyable but not a real passion) or product photography for the high tech industry (which is not really enjoyable but very rewarding financially). And then there are all the times when I'm too tired or unfocused to research who I want to shoot and how to set up the sessions, and then I just capitulate and walk around shooting in the streets because I feel like I should be doing something photographic with all this gear I own. Maybe I have the hope that I'll discover my next portrait subject while I'm out walking around. Maybe I'm just convinced that I need to try out a new camera and see if it changes the way I approach things.

One of my fears is a construct of the last five or six years. I have this blog. People seem to like it. Tens of thousands of people come here almost every day to read the stuff that I write. And I don't want to disappoint them or bore them. On one hand my early rationale for the blog was to drive sales of my books, and then workshops and then affiliate links. But the books are in the long tail phase of their lives, the novel never seems to be ready to launch and, I suspect, the workshops will take care of themselves. The real reason now is that I have an audience and it feels good to be part of the community. I feel like I'm adding to a discussion that transcends national borders and has to do with the art I like.

But the disconnection is that if I wrote only about portrait photography I would have run out of anything to say in early 2009. Maybe earlier. It's a cruel two edged sword. I long to spend the time just making portraits but I have an equal need to connect and stay relevant. And I know the blog brings other industry opportunities to me. I desire them even though I know they are a distraction.

I often wonder what would have happened to my career if I stayed on one path and didn't vary. Shoot my one passionate subject with one camera and one set of lights and keep incrementally trying to improve the rapport, the pose, the collaboration and the feel of the light. I think of all the money I would have saved that's gone into gear. But I also think of the tangential lost opportunities that the solitary course would have meant.

Not shooting corporate events would have meant not being paid to see Paris, Madrid, London, Lisbon, Italy, Russia and more. Not shooting products might have meant a diminished earning power just when I needed to stretch and buy a house and studio. Not exploring new cameras and new techniques would have meant that few people outside my little, local circle would have ever heard of me. It would have meant no books. No blog. No trip to Berlin. No online class in Denver.

Fear of being left behind or professionally marginalized means I made myself into the thing that is least satisfying for me. I've become a generalist. And now I'm adding video to the long list of tricks in my bag  not because I love story telling but because I'm afraid that might be the direction in which all of our business is heading and I don't want to be left behind. Not yet.

I guess the biggest fear that mitigates against doing what you really love is the fear that you might discover that you are not as good at it as you thought you might be. And no matter how disciplined and self-confident you might profess to be there's a little (or huge) part in all of us that tries to prevent us from failing. From falling on our faces. From over reaching. That's the thing that the first group has either conquered or come to grips with. That's the thing that keeps the rest of us practicing technique in the search of a subject instead of doing the art we wish we could.

Too heavy a blog for a Tuesday morning. Sorry about that. I seem to be turning into a Russian writer...

Studio Portrait Lighting


Comfort Zone.

Have you ever had photographic sessions where everyone felt so good they could laugh and cry and howl and be totally in the moment?  No? Loosen up the controls a bit and have more fun.

I made a portrait of my friend, Jeremy, yesterday. He won an award for something and needed a portrait to send along for an article. While I normally reserve Sundays for long walks and sloth I thought it would be fun to photograph him.

It dawned on me that a good portrait session is really composed of three or four discrete and almost unrelated sections. It's good if you can turn your brain on, do the work required in each section and then turn your brain off again. Some sections of the process are all about technical stuff and then the making of the actual images is non-technical stuff. It's best to get your stuff all set up and then get your technical brain out of the way before you start shooting.

So, what are the discrete parts? The first part is planning. This is your aesthetic and technical pre-production. It's the part of the process where you ask yourself:  How do I want the lighting to look? How do I want the composition to look? Am I looking for more compression? Am I looking for more limited depth of field? How will I handle color?

I generally start with the background. I decided that I wanted a neutral gray background for Jeremy's business portrait. But I decided that I didn't want it to be boring and uniform so I figured out how I wanted a light to slash across it. Once I had the background figured out I started working through the other parameters. My choice of lens is somewhat limited by my available space in my small studio. I have 24 feet from my back to the seamless background paper when I'm shooting. I don't want to place people too close to the background because I want enough distance to drop detail on the background totally out of focus. I ended up using the 85mm lens on an a99 figuring that I could crop in if the lens was too short for my taste in the edit.

I decided I would have Jeremy sit. It works better for my lighting and posing. It was my intention to use a big fluorescent light bank as my main light because I wanted to be able to shoot almost wide open with my lens. I ended up shooting a little shy (on the fast side) of f2.8. I knew that the raw fluorescent bank would be too bright and too hard to either be comfortable for my sitter or hospitable to his skin tone so I knew I would want at least one, and possibly two, layers of diffusion on a frame, in front of the light. I chose to use a 4x4 foot Chimera Panel with two layers of 3/4 stop silk on it. A nice blend of hard and soft.

I know that my little studio has too much reflection from the white walls so I know I would need a black panel to the "fill" side of Jeremy's face to cut out some of the unintended fill light. But I also knew that I would have to add back a bit of controlled fill so I did that with small, pop up reflector.

My final bit of lighting design was to add a small, almost invisible, backlight on the opposite side of the main light and from (of course) behind. I decided on the little Fiilex LED P360 as it's easy to match color with my flo lights.

The whole thought process is the planning stage. It sets how the overall shot will look, technically. It's subject to modification as we go but it's good to start with a plan that's a reflection of your style. This is what I started thinking about as soon as Jeremy described the final use of his portrait. It would be used in public relations for a major university. It needed to be well crafted and have a feeling of solidity.

Once I had the plan planted in my brain I went into the auto-pilot mode of "set-up." I like to have time to set up my gear. Not just exactly as much time as it should take but time to re-think and test. I set up one thing and look and then add the next piece and see how it will effect what I already have set. If my main light causes too much spill onto the background I'll add light blockers. Sometimes I set up the camera and sit on the stool and click a self portrait to see how the light looks. I'm always starting with the main light too far to the side and I inevitably move it but I like the idea of the side lit drama of a certain angle. My rational brain usually vetoes that early on....

Once I have all the lighting set and the camera and lens placed on a tripod I go through a process with my camera. I go through a pre-flight check list of settings. I start by formatting the memory card. My next step is to choose between raw or jpeg. Then I go through color settings, ISO, focusing controls and anything else that might affect the process of making the image. I make sure that my camera has setting effect on for continuous light set ups and setting effect off for flash set ups. (If you use a camera with an OVF this is a step that doesn't enter consciousness...).

When everything is set with the camera I get out an incident light meter and measure the light at the subject position. Then I measure the light on the background. Finally, I pull out a Lastolite gray target and set a custom white balance. When I've done all the stuff on my check list my brain relaxes and I know it's time to switch from technical to social engagement. 

I get out our make-up kit and put it on a tabaret. I want to make sure it seems like a natural part of the process instead of something I have to fetch under aesthetic duress. I make sure there's a fresh bottle of cold water, with a napkin, for my client. I make sure the temperature in the studio is a bit on the chilly side and I go over, once again what I want to get, image-wise, from the session.

The next part of the process is to introduce my subject to the studio. I know Jeremy pretty well but being in the studio is out of our usual context. I want to give him time to look around and get comfortable. I want to look at the clothes he's brought along and help him make selections that will work well with the camera. We make small talk. We talk about the process. I look at his face and realize that he'll need some grease wipes to take some facial oils off his face and that some translucent powder will go a long way toward minimizing some unwanted specular highlights. We talk about his kids and the upcoming school year. We talk about work (his).  When I feel like his pulse had dropped and his trepidation about being in front of the camera is lowered we start.

The actual taking of the image is a totally different process than everything we've done above. I ignore any thought of technical issues. If it's not right by now we'll just have to fix it in post. I may fine tune a light or make a small adjustment to camera distance or height but from this point on it's all about getting an expression that's positive, relaxed and really representative of Jeremy. No clenched smiles, no over the top expressions.  Just the real guy. This requires light hearted feedback from me. I keep the energy going. I maintain a feedback loop so my subject knows what's working.  There's no stopping and starting to deal with technical issues. There's never stopping and starting to answer a phone call, we just work through and keep the pace going so that I'm focused on how my subject looks and my subject is focused on enjoying the process. When I finally know I've got a handful of really good images, all of which will work well, we wind down.

I tell Jeremy what will happen next (I'll edit down the sheer number of images to 20 and also mark my three favorites. I'll do a global color, exposure and contrast correction and put up the 20 images onto a gallery on Smugmug and send him a link. He'll make a selection and then I'll retouch it using a variety of software tools. Since he has a pressing deadline I'm make folder with various file sizes of his selected image and upload it to an FTP server like Drop Box so he can send it along to the editor or PR person who started this whole process.

He's already pulling his tie off and putting his suit coat on a hanger. We talk about more about kids and swimming and he tells me, "This was fun."

There are two parameters that I want to satisfy at every session. One is a good image of my subject. The second is for both of us to have fun. It's nice when it works.

Adhering to this whole process with full attention, even though I've done it a thousand times, is what makes the comfort zone real. When you are comfortable you see better, you share better and you shoot better. Three real sections but your technical brain needs only to attend the first two. Having your technical brain on line and in attendance during the actual shooting and sharing is a good way to second guess yourself into a "safe" box with boring results. Let your tech brain go outside for a break when you get down to the human to human work.

Studio Portrait Lighting


Starting over. Starting for the first time. Starting at all.

When you work as a commercial photographer you acquire tools the way the tops of picture frames acquire dust. Photography is a moving and fluid target. It's rare now that your response to the business of photography can be one of maintaining the status quo. If you don't take photos for money I'll assume that you do it for fun and that you can shoot whatever the hell you want with whatever camera you want. We (paid professionals, collectively) stopped having that luxury as the whole world of imaging changed around the changing primary delivery systems for images. Clients want good images, they want good web video and they want it all right away.

At the present we live in a bifurcated imaging universe, split between the last remnants of print culture and accelerating onslaught of web display. Yes, there are still magazines but they are thinner and the images in many are just rehashed stock pictures you've seen a thousand times. Yes, there is still point of purchase advertising; big posters in stores and stuff wrapped around bus stops and in train terminals but it's quickly being replaced by screens. The benefits to advertisers are just too great to ignore. The super large poster is expensive to print and expensive to install. And the messaging remains the same, day in and day out until the physical art is exchanged for another poster. Large, flat, efficient electronic screens can contain messages that move, type that  changes and messaging that can be customized for the kinds of customers specific to each period of the day.

In fact, with the ubiquity of smart phones which signal to stores who you are, and the power of internet information about you, your buying habits and your income; even what you bought last time you were in the store, retailers can customize the messages on the screens toward which you are walking just for you. And they can do that in real time.  How much more powerful is that than a static, printed sign?

In the last decade professional photographers have largely been buying cameras to solve problems that their businesses really didn't have anymore. As more and more clients rushed to embrace the electronic marketing wave, both on the web and on freestanding screens we could see that they needed fewer and fewer images that required enormous, perfect files. But photographers chased huge pixel counts and expensive, infinite sharpness like dogs chase cars. And in the end we used these enormously capable and expensive cameras to deliver files that mostly ended up, at the most, two megapixels big on a screen. Once we photographers caught our "cars" we were as much at a loss about what to do with them as the dogs.

I was thinking about this as I swam this morning. I've been using a couple of full frame Sony DSLR-derived cameras, the a99 and the a850, in my business for quite a while. And before that I was using the 24 megapixel a77's and before that the Canon 5Dmk2. I've been following the righteous herd of professional photographers and carefully shooting images as enormous raw files with pristine custom white balances. And as I've done so the typical requests I get from the kind of ad agencies and clients I do work for is, "can you delivery smaller files?" What they're looking for are images they can drop into web files. The classic "style guide" for web images from one of the big agencies we do work for is this:  Profile=sRGB. Size=960 pixels wide. Save as jpeg or png. We're pulling children's wagons with Clydesdales...

The other request for more and more of the lifestyle and food shoots that we do is for instant sharing. Not on the web, per se, but on the set. The advertising crews, almost to a person, would love it if we were continuously flowing our test images and our actual shoot images not to a big monitor in a dark corner of the room but onto everyone's phone or iPad, individually. Clients would love to sit in their chairs on the sets or in the studio and watch the feed as a full screen display as we shoot. We older photographers tend to resist this because what we did in the olden days was really much less collaborative. We were used to getting our approvals on the Polaroids and then having a license to interpret. 

Now there is a trend to tight collaboration. The photographer is no longer the defacto captain of the ship he has become part of the crew on a rich man's yacht. He still has the responsibility for making the ship work but its direction and destination is at the whim of the owner and the adventure succeeds with the ready application of team work. Younger artists have grown up with the overwhelming press of the idea that teamwork is a positive thing while older artists remember a time when individual control and individual achievement was in vogue.

Collaboration only works if everyone is sharing and sharing the images as they spring to life is now part of the process whether I like it or not. But beyond whether one is comfortable with getting along in a group, or not, the real elephant in the room, where imaging is concerned, is video. It's not a thing anymore that you can leave to everyone else while you specialize in that still thing that you want to do. Clients want, need and will get both stills and video. Whether they get it all from you or they get it all from someone else---they will. And most would love to get it from the same source. It cuts down on all those meetings by 50%. And the vision of work, between stills and motion, matches.

So what does all this mean when it comes to what we use these days? Do we need Leica S2's for our still work and Arriflex Alexa cameras for our video productions? Do we need a Nikon D800 as our foundational camera? Can we do our businesses with Olympus OMD's?  Well, yes. I guess it's yes to everything. But I'm having the queasy feeling that it's not such a great idea to rush out and buy anything expensive right now. That doesn't seem to be where the market is headed....

If I were starting out today as a young and sassy photographer how would I approach the idea of buying gear? Honestly, I'd put together a small, practical system that consists of (imagine your own brand's similar offerings....) say a Canon 5dmk3 body with a 24-105mm lens and a 70-200 mm lens and call it quits. Anything else I really needed I'd rent. But that's old school thinking on one point; the Canon 5Dmk3 and most other cameras on the market today are not paragons of instant sharing or file sending flexibility.

There are interesting things on the horizon for pros, if they are open to change... Especially those who value quick sharing and flexibility over muscle and traditionally enabled cameras. Samsung has already announced their NX Galaxy camera. The sensor is the same as the one I've used in the NX 300 and it's really good. But the real power in that camera comes from it's ability to quickly and easily share pretty much anywhere and all the time. With built-in wi-fi and built in cellular capabilities you can continually upload images to your cloud or a local network as you shoot. Basically that means everyone in the room with a smartphone or an iPad can follow along on collaborative shoots. It might be uncomfortable for some photographers (especially those who depend on backend processing to make their images marketable) but it might be more comfortable and soon, more expected, by all our younger clients. And our older clients who are control freaks.

I can imagine a scenario where I go on location with a communications enabled camera and get fast approvals from an art director who is back at her office. That's cool enough. Imagine the next step. Suppose you run Snapseed on your communications enabled "smart" camera and you have a five inch screen and a full operating system on the camera as well. You've just shot 36 images of Bob, head of marketing at the WizBang corporation and, instead of driving back to the studio or setting up your laptop and downloading stuff to make a gallery, you whip the camera screen up and you and Bob sort through the images on the big screen on the back of your camera. You find one you both like so you fix it up in Snapseed. Maybe it needs some retouching so you open a program that offers cloning and fix the offending reality.  Then you resize and save the image and send it along directly, to DropBox and notify your client. She's using the image on a website design before you even get back to your car. You are on to the next thing.

That camera will exist in the next month. It will be cheaper than a big Canon or Nikon. It will take great images. But it will do more. And it will once again lower some more barriers to entry in our field. But as soon as it launches the smart competitors will be in line with their versions. The smart ones will extend the features instead of just copying them.

We can be aloof and snobby and reject the new tech as gadgets or distractions. Or we can leverage it as part of our proactive response to a continually changing market. We can be the first adapters. We can show off the tech and make clients happy first. We've seen how the aloof thing works in the markets. I think I'm ready to try early adapter.

In the future I'll be looking for cameras that are more about flexibility than raw specs. I don't need sports cameras. I don't need massive amounts of resolution. I want good video (wow! the video in the GH3 is amazing!!!). I want good sharing capability (amazed about what I've heard concerning the Samsung camera). If the camera is going to become more and more the epicenter of our work I also want a lot of screen real estate on it.  Make sure it has a standard hot shoe and an input for external microphones and I'm there. All the specialty stuff becomes rental.

It's about to become a brave new world. Again.

Random Pairing.


Experimenting with paint and color and everything else.

There was a time in the 1990's when everything was an experiment. It was a response to the conformity expected at work. When we did jobs for advertising agencies and corporate clients on medium and large format film everyone had financial skin in the game and we made sure no highlights were blown, the focus was were we (and the clients) intended it to be and everything conformed to the prevailing ideas of "high quality." 

What that meant, though, was that on our own time we spent a lot of our own resources experimenting and trying new stuff. I went through a meticulous hand coloring phase using Marshall's transparent oil paints and acres of cotton swabs. We cross processed film to see how it would look. We distressed Polaroid in mid-development. We built our own lighting rigs. And we spent a fortune out of our own pockets on just trying stuff out. And messing up was part of the process of learning a new process, and by extension, translating a new look.

Funny, now that we all have digital cameras I see much less real experimentation and more just goofing around with lighting and post processing. I'm guilty of the same thing. It's almost like it's become an article of religious faith to grab something into the camera in a neutral way with the intention of having a good, solid file as a jumping off point for frilly and risk-less post processing.

Like always shooting in color even when you KNOW you want the image in black and white. Why? "Because (whiny intonation implied) it gives you more flexibility and options."  That's so logical and so chicken shit. Sometimes you just have to fold up the safety net and get on the trapeze naked and with greasy hands. Why? Because we learn more from failure, and even more from near failure, than we ever learn from applying metaphoric goo over the top of a perfect file. If the safety net is too broad and too close to the trapeze the audience understands, in some informed way, that there's no real excitement to be had. We watch the high wire and the trapeze acts holding our breath because of the possibility that someone may fall to their death. If we don't have that in our work then it becomes lifeless and mundane. Without risk there is no joy. Only stale popcorn and tacky souvenirs.

I'm taking my old Kodak out tomorrow to see what I can really fuck up. I mean make art with.....

Studio Portrait Lighting


The Summer Doldrums.

Life slows down when it gets hot and sticky in Austin. I still go out for walks in the afternoon but I do them more slowly. When I get slower I start looking for subjects that are slower than me. I was cutting across the lawn that stretches between the manmade hill in Zilker Park and the Palmer Event Center to poke my head into the Psychic Showcase (only in Austin?) and I saw this elegant and bountiful tree right ahead of me. It's presence seemed so powerful that I stopped in my tracks and just looked at it.

The horizontal expanse of branches and leaves was impressive and the leaves were so thick that the shade under the tree was an almost unbroken blanket of shadow. It was much cooler and even quieter under the canopy. I stood under the tree for a number of minutes and tried to soak in what it must be like to be a tree. To be immovable and stately. I walked back to the point at which I first became really aware of the tree and made this portrait of it. I tried to make it look as serious and stately as it seemed but I also tried to make it give me an expression of welcome. It remained neutral and a bit aloof.

There will come a time, I am sure, when the land in central Austin will be deemed too valuable for trees and developers will cover every square inch of the inner city with concrete and buildings and black top.
When that happens I'll pull out this portrait of this tree and remember a time when trees were valuable. I'll be reminded of a time when people and trees coexisted in the city.

I carry my camera on my walks, in part, to record a way of life. I'm preserving my understanding of the soul of my city. That's my project.

Studio Portrait Lighting


One additional note about my Studio Portrait Lighting Class at Craftsy.com...

Since I am an instructor I am able to offer my Visual Science Lab followers the class at a 25% discount.
If you click through this link you'll get the discounted price: Kirk's Studio Portrait Lighting Class.

Thanks, Kirk

Studio Portrait Lighting

My Studio Portrait Lighting class launched on Craftsy.com This Morning.

Here's my big announcement: My two and a half hour course on Studio Portrait Lighting launched on Craftsy.com this morning. Here's the information page about my course on their website: Kirk's Studio Lighting Course.  If you go there you can scroll down the page and find a two minute video trailer that gives you detailed info and gives you an idea of the production values Craftsy.com brought to the project.

But let me back up and explain this all a little better...

Craftsy.com is a relatively new company located in Denver, Colorado. They create online education programs on a number of different subjects. They started out making classes about crafts (things like knitting, embroidery, even oil painting) and they are expanding to include food and cooking, more fine arts and now photography.  Their aim is to be the biggest and the best arts, crafts and all around education site on the web.

Craftsy.com is bringing in accomplished people in their fields who have written books and practiced their specialties for years and, with an accomplished crew of video producers, editors, and veteran camera operators, work with tight content outlines to produce well edited programs.  The programs are constructed as a series of 15 to 30 minutes segments that move logically through the information. 

The editors at Craftsy called me after researching my books and my blogs and asked me if I'd be interested in spending the better part of a week in Denver, working ten hour days, to create a program that shows people how I approach studio portrait lighting. From gear selection to posing to various lighting designs. I loved the idea.

The reason I loved the idea is that I've taught a lot of live workshops and I always felt that there had to be a better way to teach for both the students and the photographer teaching the class. A video workshop is a much better value for everyone involved. The students get to see the information with all the gaps and stop-and-starts edited out. It's much easier to keep the program focused and on task. Once the students buy a Craftsy.com workshop they can go back to it again and again to review concepts and to see details. Craftsy adds more value by having the instructors participate in a private online forum that's open to all the students of the class to answer questions about the material presented and to share information.

One of my last live workshops was a daylong event at the One World Theater in Austin. We had about 50 participants. Since it was a new space for us we had a few delays getting up and running. Even though we were in a big theater space it was hard for everyone to see and hear, in detail, what we were demo-ing. It's just not possible for 50 people to walk up and look into the finder of the camera or at the screen on the back...  And once I finished a marathon day we were spent. We had no workable way to answer individual questions. No way to continue adding value.

With a Craftsy workshop the students pay $59 and they can watch the program they've purchased again and again. Forever. There is also a very active community around the workshops. When I explored their website I found forums, specific to each class, for questions and answers as well as places to for students and instructors to share projects with everyone.

When the team at Craftsy filmed my class they did it the way a professional crew would film a television show. They used two or three cameras for most scenes and provided both wide and detailed shots that made it easy to see exactly what I was talking about. And while it felt strange to wear a lavalier microphone for 10 hours a day the resulting sound is great. Much better than seat 5, row D at the live workshop.

You can go to the site and see how the program is constructed. I'm covering basics like hard and soft light, types of modifiers, color control, some posing and a lot of my favorite style of portrait lighting. I worked with a model named, Victoria, so you can see demos of how the lighting turns out.  If you want to take the course you can do so without trepidation because Craftsy.com has a Full Satisfaction, Money Back Guarantee. If you don't like the course, if it's not your cup of tea, just ask for a refund.

I think the value proposition is great. The cost of the course, in my Universal Latte scale, equals just 13 large lattes from Starbucks (10, if you are in an airport...). And if you ever wanted to see what I really sound like then this is your chance to find out. I watched the entire program last night---for the very first time---and I really liked it. If you want to learn my style of lighting and shooting you probably will like the course as well.

Finally, the best thing about doing a workshop online is that instead of traveling around the country for weeks at a time doing live workshops I'm all done. Which means I'll be here blogging for you nearly every day instead of trying to get all my lighting gear in the overhead compartment of some tired jet heading for Des Moines... If you are interested in giving the Studio Portrait Lighting Workshop a try please click through the advertisement  below (or, this link) and I'll get credit for sending you there. Big brownie points for me! I think you'll like the course. If you don't you haven't risked a thing.  Thanks for your support. 

Studio Portrait Lighting

What am I thinking about reading in Chinese this Summer? All about Studio Lighting...

In 2009 Amherst Media published my book on Studio Lighting. Frankly it was a fun book to write and a nice follow on to the Location Lighting book I'd done the year before. Last year I discovered that the book was available in Chinese. I found it on Amazon.com but the price was astronomical. A few days ago I checked in to see how the books were selling and I found the Chinese version again but this time the price was much more in line with the original English version. I did what any self possessed writer would do and ordered a copy. 

I think I will leave it purposefully laying about the studio when clients come over. Maybe it will spark interesting conversations. I sat down last night to leaf through and see how the translation worked until I remembered that I don't know how to read Chinese at all. I flipped through the book and enjoyed the memory of making the various images.  The one thing I really about the book was my face on the front cover, partially covered with Chinese characters which I presume spell out my name.

This will sound like a plug but....I really like this book. Not the Chinese version which I am certain is very good and very well done, but the original book. I read it again this Summer and although the gear continues to change the basics are right on the money. I fear that the book is in the "long tail" curve of its life and I would advise you to snap up as many copies as you possibly can before it goes out of print and becomes unavailable. The actual title is:  Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography.  Drop by the studio and I'll be happy to sign your copy.....

Studio Portrait Lighting