Thursday, August 20, 2015

Photographing Portraits with LED Lights

One of my great challenges is management of lighting for a traditional head shot portrait session. My favorite lighting is a continuous lighting product using inexpensive LED lights. Continuous lighting means that the light is turned on the subject all the time instead of briefly lighting the subject with a flash or strobe.

1/100 sec at f/4.0, ISO 640, 50mm
I have both kinds of lighting, but the LED's provide a very easy way to measure the exposure exactly the way they will look in the camera.

 The lighting shows the main key light on the subjects left side, a hair light to highlight the top of the head, a reflector to bounce back some of the light on the right side of the face and a small light below and behind the subject to illuminate the backdrop. 
 The diagram below shows the lighting  for this portrait shot from a recent photo shoot


 The "Key" light, or the main light is created from three LED lights mounted together to provide more light from inside the softbox.

The softbox is a Westcott Apollo softbox that is designed to be used with flash strobes, but I have attached the three LED units to the triple holder that will fit inside the softbox and will provide about 2400 Lumens of very soft diffused light. 



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 Each of the LED units has a A/C adapter installed in order to run the light off of regular power and not have to worry about changing out batteries. 

The hair light is a single LED unit that is screwed into the end of a boom arm and this provides a diffused light above the head.  This LED unit also has an A/C adapter.  Sometimes I add a small fabric softbox made for the LED units to further diffuse the overhead light.

The final lighting touch is another of the LED units placed on the floor beneath the subject and pointed backward to light up the center of the backdrop.  I also sometimes add a white reflector on the side opposite of the key light to bring up the light ratio on the shadow side of the face. 

 This particular lighting setup is very inexpensive, fairly portable and provides a good quality of light for portraits.   The costs are shown in the chart below.  The total cost, if I had to buy everything new from Amazon would be $ 586.99.  I purchased many of the components over several years and only had to buy the LED lights to change to this most current configuration. 



The prices above will change over time, but the affiliate links below will have the most current price information for those links. 













Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe they will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” See my detailed disclosure at: My Disclosure

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lightroom 6 is Here!

On April 21st Adobe released the much anticipated Lightroom 6.  Actually they released two versions of Lightroom: Lightroom 6, the stand-alone version and Lightroom CC, the version included in the subscription service Creative Cloud.  On the release date both versions are mostly feature identical, but as time moves on the CC version will receive more updates and improvements.  One major feature that was not included in Lightroom 6 were the Lightroom Mobile features.

It appears that Adobe is moving toward a subscription only based model.   In my case, the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography bundle at $9.99 per month worked out.  However, you still have a choice with Lightroom 6 although I think losing the mobile features would be a major detriment.

The major improvements in this new release included: HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, Performance improvements, Facial Recognition, Filter Brush Improvements, Adding to Collections on Import, Slideshow Improvements, CMYK now supported in soft-proofing an Pet Eye Removal.

While the performance enhancements are hidden from view they are remarkable.  In my limited use of the new product I have seen up to a 200% increase in speed on some tasks.

You can now perform an HDR Merge from within Lightroom and it is impressive in its simplicity (as compared to third-party products) and its speed of operation.  I tested the feature with some of my HDR images and it worked great.  One of the great features of the HDR Merge is that the output is to a DNG file (in other words, it is a full dynamic range RAW file that you can adjust and enhance in Lightroom just like a regular image).


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe they will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” See my detailed disclosure at: My Disclosure

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Paintings


After a long drought of painting I have several new paintings being published this month.  All of these paintings are 16" by 20" gallery wraps with gel embellishment.  More of the techniques later in this post.  The subjects of the paintings highlight the spring time in Arizona with two related with Cactus League Spring Training,  and one scene from the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park Arizona.


Three time baseball All-Star Yu Darvish is the subject of this painterly rendition of an original photograph taken during the 2014 Spring Training season in Surprise, Arizona.  At 6' 5" and 215 lbs Darvish creates an imposing figure on the mound.  This particular composition shows what an opposing batter sees from home plate as the determined pitcher sends a 98 mph fastball down the lane.  

This painting starts with processing with several digital art software products that allow me to create impressionistic brush strokes following the lines and patterns in the original image. I simplify the detail of the photograph to capture the essence of the scene and then I intensify the colors and create brush strokes like an original painting.   

The painting is then produced as a GiclĂ©e print on a canvas medium.  I then embellish the print with a clear gel medium to exaggerate the brush strokes and impart an impasto effect to my paintings that exude a third dimension. Utilizing traditional artist's brushes and palette knives the resulting brush strokes emphasize the lines and form of the original photograph.   This method creates an original one-of-a-kind piece of art. There will be no two paintings that are alike.  Each canvas is numbered into an edition and hand signed.  


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe they will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” See my detailed disclosure at: My Disclosure

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A New Backup Plan

Along with the new year I discovered that my main disk storage for my photography was exhibiting some flaky behaviors.  I have utilized a Drobo (Generation two, USB 2.0 version) for my primary storage of my raw and processed images.
 By strange behavior I mean that it was forcing itself into a disk rebuild as if a drive had failed.  The rebuild was successful without replacing the drive, but it caused me think that I should upgrade my data storage solution sooner rather than later.

A Massive Amount of Images


Now I have a lot of images from a decade of digital photography.  I have over 121,000 images.  I organize by images into several folders based on my usage of images.  I use Adobe Lightroom for my primary photo editing platform.  After capturing an image I use Lightroom to bring it into my computer in an "Original" folder organized by date.  I load all images in the DNG format.  After bringing in the RAW files I select the images I am going to process further with Lightroom tools and then I use Lightroom's editing tools or I use Photoshop or other software to further process the images into my production photographs or art products that I print for exhibitions.

My original storage solution was a Drobo 4 bay unit with a USB 2.0 interface.  It was configured with two 1.5 Terabyte Western Digital Green Drives and two 2 TB green drives.  With a total storage capacity of 7 TB of storage Drobo's proprietary "BeyondRAID" architecture provided 4.53 TB of usable storage.  An explanation of BeyondRAID can be found on Drobo.com:

"Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology solves the fundamental issues that traditional RAID can’t. Built on the foundation of traditional RAID, BeyondRAID adds a layer of virtualization that chooses the correct protection algorithm based on data availability needs at any given moment. Since the technology works at the block level, it can write blocks of data that alternate between RAID protection levels.
If you need to add storage capacity to a Drobo, simply insert additional disk drives or replace the smallest disks with larger ones – no need to change RAID levels, purchase a new storage array, or go through the complex administration of pooling RAID groups."

A more detailed technical explanation can be found Drobo's e-book " Drobo Technical Innovation" that I have made available on my Dropbox site at Drobo e-book on Dropbox.

My Old Backup Plan

To back up that amount of data I was making a full backup of all my critical folders utilizing Acronis True Image 2014.  The backup files were stored on an Internal 2 Tb disk on my computer.  As my photo collection grew I started experiencing more and more issues with storage space.  I knew I would have to buy more disk.  The other problem with this scheme is that I had only one backup set.  If it was corrupted I didn't have any backup.


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe they will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” See my detailed disclosure at: My Disclosure

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A New Year

My last post was about lifetime learning and my unofficial New Years resolutions (even though this is almost February 2015) are centered around doing more shooting or at least adding to my photography portfolio each and every month. I also am going to be learning more about my artistic mission by repeating some of my courses on Kelby One, Lynda.com and Photoshop Artistry. I have talked about those before and they have more training than I could ever cover but certainly courses that would strengthen my skill levels. Another project I am doing is to join a group called Awake. This is Sebastien Michael's new year long endeavor to move 1,000 people from around the world into a new level of artistic creativity. This course will not necessarily be about the techniques of art and photography, but more about the reasons that successful artists succeed.

While it is still a little fuzzy to me I believe in Sebastien and know that he has the skills to portray a new way of thinking about our craft. A few words about Photoshop Artistry, the course I have been studying for the last two years. In this course I learned to work through dozens of pro-level techniques while compositing my own creations — achieving a profound expertise and absolute familiarity with the tools and methods that enable me to pursue my artistic vision without constraint. The courses covered everything from masking to blend modes to selective blurring. 

The art piece on the right shows some of those techniques where I composed two of my photographs: a butterfly from the Phoenix Botanical Gardens and a stylized part of a sculpture of reaching hands that I captured at a resort on the grounds in Sedona.  I added some textures, some words and some vector graphics and blended them into a pleasing presentation. 

The second piece of art that I created, based on Photoshop Artistry was a portrait of a dear friend from Santa Barbara that I captured one Christmas morning and proceeded to transform this beautiful young woman into a sophisticated  vision in a Europeon style background. 

These are but two of the new art projects that I created in 2014, but are indicative of many more that are to come. 

You can also join up to the Photoshop Artistry course at the link above.  Let me know and I will see if any discounts are available.




Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe they will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” See my detailed disclosure at: My Disclosure