Category Archives: Portraits

Becky Homecky

For Christmas gifts, this year, I’m giving a recipe book I’ve been making using Blurb’s Book Wright software. Over the course of the year, I’ve been taking photos of food I’ve cooked. Some of the recipes I made up, some of the recipes are my sister’s that everybody loves, some of the recipes are keepers I’ve taken from cookbooks, and some of the recipes come from online. Not all of the recipes have exactly been keepers – they’ve been ok, but I won’t ever fix them again. In truth, this is a way to keep all the really good recipes together within easy access. And of course, I give credit with each recipe, along with the website or the book name. These books can only be gifts and not something I’m selling.

Anyway, I when I realized I needed to get cracking on putting the recipe book together, I started sifting through my food photos and discovered somewhere along the line, I either forgot to get photos for certain recipes, or else I’ve lost them onto other hard drives along the way (and I can’t remember which portable HD they are stored). So, I’ve been cooking up a storm in order to get photos to go with the recipes in the book. Tonight’s recipe is a slow cooker cream cheese chicken chili recipe with homemade guacamole on top of the chili. I’m serving prosecco margaritas with dinner, too.

A friend of ours, who likes to give people nicknames (my sister, Kathy’s name, for example, is Kathella), gave me the name Becky Homecky since I do 99.9% of the cooking in the household. As such, earlier in the year, I also ordered from Etsy an embroidered apron and chef hat, as you can see in the photo.

I decided to set up the camera and tripod to get posed photos of me in the apron and chef hat for the cover of my recipe book gift. Please notice I am wearing makeup, including bright red lipstick. I haven’t worn makeup in three years, and I learned a couple of things. First, you really *do* lose it if you don’t use it – I had a hard time trying to put on eye makeup and finally gave up on that – it was difficult enough to put on the lipstick neatly. Second, makeup has a shelf life. The mascara was all dried up in its tube, and if I had any lipstick (which I didn’t, so I had to go buy some), it would have probably been dry/gummy as well.

One of the most important things you should have for your camera for shots like this one, is a wireless shutter release. Vello is a pretty decent brand for that, and I purchased mine from BH Photo online. Mind you, the plastic used to make this little wireless wonder is pretty cheap, and it wouldn’t take much to break it. Nonetheless, it’s an integral part of any good selfie or group shot with you in it. It works better than your camera’s 10-second timer, because with that, you pre-focus before running to get into the photo, and unless that focus is on Infinity, then more than likely, you’ll come out a little on the blurry side. Truth.

Oh, and just how did I manage to click on the remote, since you can’t see it anywhere in the photo? I placed it on the floor, then took my shoe off so my toe could push down on the remote’s shutter release button. And, as mentioned before, I had to be very careful not to push down too hard and crack the plastic casing. 🙄

This image is not the one I used for the recipe book cover. It’s more of a test shot, because I was trying to figure out what to use for foreground food objects on the cutting board and had to get some test shots, first. It’s how I realized I needed lipstick – My face looked far too washed out without a little color.

Here’s something else you need to watch for: glare on glasses. Sometimes, it can be removed simply by the way you hold your head (turning it one side or the other, or bowing your head a little). Other times, it takes more than just a head tilt. I used only the ambient light around me – no light stands for the shots – so I knew it wasn’t a matter of moving the lights to eliminate the glare on my glasses. Because of these test shots, I discovered I needed to pull the shades down on some of the windows to keep reflections and glare off of my glasses.

And yes, that glass of bubbly is real. I was shooting around lunchtime, and figured it must be Happy Hour somewhere in the world. 😃

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Cooking, Photography, Portraits

A Fun Way To Shoot Portraits Using Strings Of Christmas Lights

Christmas Becky

I subscribe to Petapixel.  It’s an online magazine with all sorts of neat articles about the latest photography news (did you know and LensProToGo are merging?), cameras, camera gear, projects, etc.  The other day, I read an article that piqued my interest and I ended up sharing it to my Facebook photography page (Rebecca Latson Photography).  I thought I’d share it in a blog post too.  To read the actual article, click on this link.

After reading the article, I decided to do some experimenting with strings of multi-colored Christmas lights (since I had 5 strings of them and only 2 strings of the white lights), using the same settings that the photographer, Irene Rudnyk applied (ISO 500, f1.2, 1/250 shutter speed, 85mm lens).  Heaven knows, I didn’t have anything better to do, like laundry, dishes, or packing.  It was a fun little experiment and I gained some valuable insights.   Photography is about experimentation as well as about learning new techniques and ideas and stepping outside one’s own comfort zone to apply something new that they’ve learned.  That’s how a good photographer becomes a great photographer.

  1. Ignore the clutter in the room and concentrate on the camera/light/backdrop/light setup. Just as in Ms. Rudnyk’s room, this light project can be accomplished in a very small space.
    8001_View Of Setup8009_Setup View From Camera Angle8005_Looking At The Camera
  2. Yes, you can do this project with just one person (yourself), but it’s not as easy. Because I was both photographer and model, and because I was using a remote shutter release instead of being the one to look through the lens at the subject, I kept checking the images to ensure I was positioned correctly in front of the lens and that the string of lights did not get in the way of the lens.  You can see what happens when a colored light is in front of the subject and too close to a lens wide-open at f1.2.  You also may notice just how shallow the DOF is on a 85mm lens wide-open.  I didn’t mind that too much, as it added a teeny bit of dreamy quality to the shot.
    Christmas Becky Green BlobPink BlobChristmas Becky
  3. I carried out this project twice, over the course of 2 days. During my first attempt, I wasn’t using an 85mm lens, nor did I have the aperture wide-open to get the maximum bokeh.  I used different  settings as well, since I didn’t remember what Ms. Rudnyk’s settings were – I didn’t learn that until I actually watched her YouTube video embedded in the article.

    Christmas Becky - Day 1White Lights And A Christmas Tree

  4. Ms. Rudnyk used white lights in a light, neutral-toned room with a large picture window letting in natural blue/white side light. Her model was pale and wore light-colored clothing. I was in a cluttered spare bedroom, in the evening – so no natural light – using a black backdrop and strings of multi-colored lights. The strings were dark (as opposed to the white strings used in Ms. Rudnyk’s images, which is why I used the black backdrop).  I used a tall lamp near the camera for side-lighting.  Sometimes the strings still showed through, but I don’t consider them too distracting.
  5. Because of the darker atmosphere, I used Curves to lighten, and sometimes Levels to brighten the composition.  I also had to clone out a dark spot on my front tooth – I have a natural indentation on the tooth and it catches the shadow, so in some photos, it looks like a speck of food (sigh).
  6. I used my Canon 5DSR for this shoot. I love this camera, but it totally stinks regarding low-light, higher-ISO noise (what’s up with that Canon?).  So I applied some Imagenomic-brand  Noiseware noise-reduction software to the overall composition, which reduced/removed grain and helped my skin look a little more even (I’m definitely not as young as Ms. Rudnyk’s model).

All-in-all, it was a fun project and I like the results.  Plus, I learned a new technique for neat portrait shots.

Note:  If you are doing this all yourself:

  • Use a wireless remote rather than the timer on your camera.  Really, it is easier.
  • Make certain you have a sturdy step-ladder and/or a spotter to keep you steady while you hang the light strings from the ceiling.
  • Unless you want to put holes in your ceiling, I would suggest using something like duct tape.  Gorilla-brand tape works really well.  If you use any other kind of tape, it may be too weak to hold up the light strings for any length of time.  I noticed this morning that the tape and lights had fallen from the ceiling to the floor.
  • If you want light strings to lead to your lens, don’t use tape or anything else to secure the strings to the lens.  Simply wrap the string around the lens itself to keep the string in place.
  • Remember to stand in front of the light strings to get the nice bokeh.
  • Have fun!  Despite getting all sweaty and hot as I hung the lights up, set up the camera and ran back and forth to take a shot then look at the result, it was a neat, educational project.

Christmas Becky

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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Christmas, Equipment, Exposure, Photography, Portraits

Veterans’ Day 11/11/17


Today is #veteransday . My father was a veteran of #WWII. Handsome devil, wasn’t he? He was a paratrooper who jumped over Normandy, Nijmegen, and The Bulge. Dad fought against some “very fine people” (if you get my meaning) He returned from the war with what we now believe was a form of PTSD. He had bad dreams and bad memories for years and never wanted to discuss any aspect of his experience during the war unless he was drunk. He did, however, before he died, write down many of his experiences and I have them and my sister has copies. Dad returned from the war a functional alcoholic. He apparently thought alcohol would dull the bad memories but instead, it amplified the feelings. Dad worked a day job and saved his heavy drinking for the weekends and holidays. Mom and my sisters and I HATED Christmas Eve. We also hated Saturdays – every one of them. We were ok with Christmas Day and Sundays because that’s when Dad would spend the day sobering up. He was verbally and emotionally abusive when he was drunk, but never physically abusive, that I can remember – of we three sisters, I lived with it the longest. There was only one time that I was afraid he was going to hit Mom. So I spent the better part of my growing up worrying that he would hurt Mom. Dad never made use of any VA program to help him, because in all honesty, the VA never thought about PTSD as being a huge issue until Dad was in his 80’s. So, just from my story here, perhaps you can see what a horrible thing war is. It is so easy for those of us who have never fought in a war to bandy about the lives of men and women in the armed services as if we were playing a checkers game or something. For those people who return from any war or conflict, they *are* ultimately changed. If you happen to meet a veteran, please thank him or her for their service, because protecting our country and allowing us the rights we have right now (and that includes the right to kneel or stand), comes at a high price.






Filed under family, Portraits, Veteran's Day, World War II

Happy Halloween, Bitches – er, I mean – Witches!

Halloween Becky 3

Halloween Becky 

I recently received a new hand-made felted-wool witch hat from Etsy.  I decided to have a little fun with some self-portraits and studio lighting in my “studio”.  Actually, I live in an apartment and don’t have an official (aka proper) studio.  Instead, I have a couple of lights on stands with translucent umbrellas, all in my living room.  I covered the livingroom window with a black fleece sheet and set up my tripod and Canon 5DSR and Canon 85mm f1.2L lens at the other end of the room.  One studio light was above and looking down at me while the other light was below and looking up at me.  After I processed the photos using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I ran them through Perfect Photo Suite 9 Effects presets and filters for the final product.

Halloween Becky 3

Halloween Becky – original shot

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky #2

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky – Original Shot

Halloween Becky 2

And for good measure, I decided to have a little fun with black & white (Silver Efex 2) and Adobe Photoshop’s history brush tool.

Halloween Becky 3

Happy Halloween, Everybody!  May you receive all the good candy (Kit Kat, Snickers, Starburst, Heath Bar).



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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Halloween, Portraits

You Don’t Need A Large Studio For Fun Portrait Pics

Becky-New Dress-Camera I’ve been recuperating from some outpatient surgery and haven’t gotten out for a couple of weeks.  I’ve enjoyed my “stay-cation” of napping, watching TV and reading, but my thoughts always turn to photography in some form or another. I recently received an order of three really cute vintage-inspired dresses and some extra studio light bulbs to replace the ones that burned out on me.  So, I decided to put two and two together and get some self-portraits of me in my new dresses while having fun playing with the studio lighting. Becky In A Blue Dress I don’t have any large rooms to use for dedicated studio work;  I’ve got clutter, luggage, etc. in every room.  But, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t get some great photos within a very small space. Becky-Camera-New Dress As you can see from the photos, I used continuous lighting with a couple of white umbrellas, one on each side of me for equal lighting.  I also used a wireless shutter release which ensured the focus on me was always nice and sharp.  I used both my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX; my 85mm f1.2 lens was attached to the 1DX while I alternated between the 24-105mm and the 40mm lenses on the 5D Mk III.  My favorite images ultimately came from using the 85mm f1.2 lens on the 1DX.  That combination is killer for portraits and great lighting, I feel. Becky In Blue Moral of the story:  you can get some great portrait images without alot of space or a special background.  And, playing around with the cameras helped me eliminate my bout of the “stir crazies”.


Filed under Canon, Equipment, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Meet Kyle & Adrienne

Kyle and Adrienne - Color

Hello everybody! I know, long time, no post. I’ve been a busy gal. I’m getting ready for a late April 2014 return trip to Big Bend National Park.  I’ve also been  putting together my packing list for my August Alaska 2014 trip, and I just purchased a plane ticket for an October visit to Hawaii where I have a reservation for 4 days at Volcano House in Volcanoes National Park. On top of that, I am trying to get into better (waaaayyyy better) shape in order to do the hikes I want for all of these trips. And, I admit, it’s been a little “dry”, photographically, since my last post.

A week ago, however, I traveled north and west of Houston to a lovely home for some engagement photos with Kyle and Adrienne. I’d been hired to photograph their June wedding and Adrienne told me her mother wanted an engagement photo session.

The day dawned overcast with a few sprinkles; the photos were supposed to be taken in Adrienne’s parents’ backyard garden. We’d scheduled a time of 11:30AM, so I knew the light would be flat, but I figured we’d still get some great shots and I’d bring along some fun umbrellas as props to keep the couple dry if it rained. As soon as I parked my car in front of their home, the sun came out; an auspicious omen.

I used my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX. I placed the Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on the Mk III and the Canon 24-70mm L II lens on the 1DX. I brought along my flash, too, which was good since several of the settings were interior shots. For those of you who have been following my posts for awhile, you know that I generally eschew flash because I simply don’t like it. I did use it for a couple of shots, but I also used just the ambient lighting and increased the ISO to compensate for the low light.

Below are some sample images from the morning’s session.

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes - Garden Closeup

I’m starting to get the hang of this multiple-shots-in-one-image thing and thought it would be a fun trick for a couple of images.

Kyle and Adrien Azaleas - Color

The pink azaleas perfectly matched Adrienne’s sundress.

Kyle and Adrienne - Yucca - Original

Adrienne and Kyle - Tree BW

Among the many images taken, I also made sure to get some poses that might make for a nice photo to put into the engagement section of the newspaper.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano

This image was taken using a high ISO and the ambient light.  I chose to keep it the golden color of the interior lighting.  That beautiful charcoal drawing in the background was done by Adrienne’s mother.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano - Vignette

This image was captured using a flash.  I processed the image in Photoshop then applied some presets from OnOne’s Perfect Effects to soften and create a bit of a glow to the scene.

Kyle and Adrienne Stairs

Once again, I used only the ambient light and a high ISO to capture this image.  Then, I added a very little bit of vignetting to focus the eye more on the subjects.

Kyle and Adrienne On Stairs

I used a flash for this image, then cropped it a little more tightly around  the couple.

All-in-all, it was a fun morning and I’m glad I was able to meet the couple prior to their wedding.  By the end of my hour with Kyle and Adrienne, we were all feeling more relaxed in each other’s company.  Engagement photos are a fun way to introduce the photographer to the prospective bride and groom, discuss what kind of images they have in mind, and get everybody comfortable with each other.

If you would like to see more images taken on this day, click on this link.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Photo Shoots, Photography, Portraits

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.


Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights


Bear Face

I captured a lot of images of the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.  The majority of the photos I took were with a rented Canon 500mm f4L Mk II lens on my Canon 1-DX body.  I duplicated many of the originals which I then cropped quite a bit in order to focus only on the faces of the bears (thank goodness for full-frame cameras).  After a time, I began to notice unique differences in each face, their shape, their scars, expressions, and – to some extent – the color of their fur. Here are some of the portraits I took of the denizens of this park.   FYI, I have also created a 2014 calendar with brown bear portraits in addition to other 2014 calendars.  Here is the link to the site where I am selling the calendars, or click on any the calendar images to the left of this screen.

*Note:  the park has stringent rules regarding human/bear interaction.  If’ you read my article about Brooks Lodge written for the National Parks Traveler, you will have read some of the rules I listed and know that all of these photos captured were taken from the safety of the viewing platforms constructed for the viewing of the bears with the super-telephoto lens and then cropped.

Bear Closeup CROP

Portrait Of A Droopy Lip

Sniffing Around

Hiya Becky CROP


Look at these portraits and you, too, will notice the characteristics that make each one of these bears as unique as you and I.

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Portraits, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife

A Wedding In Galveston: The Gear

Newly Wedded

Originally, I had written a 2800-word blog post (give or take). Yikes! Way too long! I think the human attention span tends to get a nervous tic over anything past 1200 words (which is the length I try to stick to but oftentimes never successfully manage). I personally can’t stand reading uber-long posts, no matter how helpful they may be; I tend to skim over them and just look at the pictures. I’d forgotten about this, though, in my 2800-word zeal to get everything down about my experience photographing this wedding. Then, I started reading some short but neat blog posts by Scottseyephotos about his photographic trip to Hallo Bay, AK, and I realized I was far more interested reading his numerous, interesting short blog posts than I would have been had he combined all of his bear articles into a single post. So, I’ve separated this original post into several shorter ones.

Here’s the First Post, which I hope whets your photographic-blogospheric appetite for the next post:

I had the great fortune to photograph Josh & Maegan’s wedding in Galveston, Texas, back in late April (2013).  The venue was the San Luis Resort.  I reserved a room for the weekend and prepared for the event.

What I took with me:

I’ve written a TripAdvisor review including photos of my room and the resort.  Suffice to say that I enjoyed my stay, liked my room, loved the view, but wished they had provided me with a different type of coffee maker .  A small complaint, but coffee is a mainstay for me when traveling and working with photos on my laptop.   I usually pack my own coffee and filters with the assumption the room has a 4-cup coffee maker.  It didn’t work with this particular room.

Setting Up The Wedding Venue

Looking down at the wedding venue from Josh & Maegan’s 16th-floor penthouse suite.

Now you have the location and the venue.  Next post:  my first photo op with the bride and her crew.

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Filed under Equipment, Events, Photography, Portraits, wedding

A Belly Dancer, A Violinist, Some Lights And A Couple of Cameras

Zaras Veils

Meet Zara

Tsura On The Floor Smiling

Meet Tsura

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I think I’ve written in an earlier blog post that I used to consider myself primarily a landscape photographer , i.e. I never photographed people that much.  Then, I moved to Texas and became involved with the King’s Feast at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  One thing led to another and I was capturing images of festival actors, dancers, families, weddings, and other people-populated events.

Because of an increase in portrait sessions and weddings (yay me), I finally decided to invest in some relatively inexpensive studio lights and umbrellas that would be portable enough for me to use on-location (as long as there are nearby outlets or as long as I can afford to rent a portable battery source).  My own home is not set up with any sort of studio and I live a good hour’s drive away from the Houston metro area.  Because of this, it’s much easier for me to go to the client rather than have the client come to me.

Note:  this is a long post because of all the info I want to share, along with the resulting photos.  I could have broken this up into shorter blogs, but I am hoping your attention spans will not be so short that you don’t soak up a little bit of what I have learned that I want to pass on to you for your own endeavors.  I’ve personally read through extremely lengthy blog posts written by others, so I figure I’m not an anomaly.

Recently, I spent a couple of hours working with a belly dancer and a violinist, both members of the Gypsy Dance Theatre as well as artists in their own right, performing at other (mainly evening) venues such as coffee houses and cozy atmospheric restaurants and cafes.  Both Zara (the belly dancer) and Tsura (the violinist) needed some portfolio shots.

The time spent with them was rich not only in wonderful photo ops but also wonderful challenges and learning lessons.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In my own mind, when I think of studio photography, I am thinking of a space with plenty of room to move around the model(s) and a backdrop anywhere from 7 feet to 20 feet behind the model(s).  In reality, the studio setup for this session was a small living room full of furniture and one soft little dog that kept wondering what was happening to his world (and who, on occasion, wanted to be a part of the scenery).

Lucky and Zara

I arrived on location an hour early in order to move the furniture around, set up the lights, and run a few practice shots to see where best to place the umbrellas.   I’ve been reading one of Scott Kelby’s books “The Digital Photography Book 4”  and he notes that for great lighting, one needs a large soft box (or umbrella, in my case) quite close to the model (the closer the light source, the softer the light on the model).   According to Kelby, keeping things simple is also a key factor so only one light is really all that is needed as opposed to a plethora of lights; the more the lights, the more the complications.   To get really soft light over a lot of the model, a soft box (or umbrella) of greater than 50” is recommended.

I used two Interfit EZ Lite 500 watt tungsten lights that I purchased as a kit. One of those lights was behind a Westcott 7’ parabolic white umbrella  which I used in lieu of that 50+ inch soft box close to the model (an umbrella was cheaper and I still claimed ignorance regarding studio lighting at the time I purchased the umbrella). The other light was attached to a smaller white umbrella for rim lighting.   The room was small so there was maybe 1 – 3 feet of space between the models and the beige living room wall (I liked that better than using a white background).

Studio Setup1_U9A0136

Studio Setup

I utilized both my Canon 1-DX and Canon 5D Mk III cameras. Ultimately, I liked the 1-DX better because it was much faster – particularly for the veil dancing images.   I used the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II lens for the wider compositions. For the headshots and closer comps, I initially started out using the Canon 85mm f1.2 lens.   I LOVE this lens.   It’s my absolute favorite and my ultimate go-to for portrait work.   However, because I had very little “wiggle room” in terms of where I stood while using this lens – which in turn restricted what I could fit into the composition – I ultimately changed over to the Canon 50mm f1.2 lens for a bit of a wider view.   I started out on tripod but quickly abandoned that in favor of handholding the camera (which is another reason I preferred the much faster 1-DX over the 5D Mk III).

I know many photographers use aperture priority for this kind of work, but I like to do things the hard way and stick to total Manual Mode, setting both the aperture and shutter speed to my own liking rather than the camera’s liking.  It makes me think about things and situations more.  Plus, I am a control freak and like having that feeling of total control over the settings.   It’s sort of like owning a car with a stick shift (which I do) rather than one that’s fully automatic.

Shutter speeds, ISO, and apertures varied.  I used an aperture anywhere from f2.8 to f5.  ISO was between 200 and 400, and shutter speed was between 80 and 160, depending on whether I was photographing a still model or a twirling, veil-waving model.

I used Adobe Lightroom 4 and Adobe Photoshop CS6 for my photo editing.  I also applied Imagenomic’s Portraiture plug in to all of my photos.  I own and have used a couple of different portraiture applications, but this one, by far, is my favorite.  And, of course, I had to clone out other things like pimples and stray hairs across the face and also hot spots (overly bright areas) on the face.  Plus, I brightened the whites of the eyes and sometimes the teeth in a number of shots.  These are portfolio images where the models wanted to look their absolute best.

Smiling Zara

Twirling Zara

I once read on a Facebook comment that “Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the full extent of the situation”.   I was relatively confident throughout the photo session (but only after I became comfortable with the continuous lights and umbrellas in action).   I can also tell you (with confidence) that portrait post-processing takes much longer to accomplish than editing a landscape photo.

All that being said, I am very pleased with the results, some selections of which I share here with you.

Zara Full Length

Aqua Zara Full Length

Scott Kelby’s book mentions that the look (and length) of the model can vary quite a bit depending on the height from which the photographer is aiming the camera.  The top full-length image of Zara was taken with me standing atop a small step-ladder aiming the  camera down toward her.  The bottom image of Zara was taken with me sitting on the step-ladder aiming the camera slightly up toward her.

Hissy In His Box

Looking At Each Other

Zara and Hissy

Zara kept talking about how she wanted lots of pictures taken with Hissy.  I thought Hissy was the nickname she’d given to the other model coming to this photo shoot.  Turns out Hissy is Zara’s pet snake which she uses in a number of her dance routines.

Pinup Perfect_Special Effects

Cool Tsura - Original

Tsura_Perfect Effects

Zara Full Length_Perfect Effects

In addition to the regular editing tools I utilized  in Adobe Lightroom 4 and Adobe Photoshop CS6, I also applied this wonderful plug in by OnOne Software called Perfect Effects 4.  This plug in allowed me to choose from a bunch of different presets (one on top of the other, if I wished) to which I could make my own tweaks.  Depending upon my preset choices, I was able to add a little kick, edginess, softness or glamour to selected images.  For those of you who are not familiar with a preset, it’s a file composed of a number of settings  which – much like a spreadsheet macro – may be applied to any photo you happen to be editing.

Zaras Veils

Zaras Veils Velveteen Effect

Zara - Darker Background

Zara_Veils_Dark Background

Ah, the background.  As you noticed from the photos of the studio setup near the top of this post, the workspace was limited.  The model stood anywhere from 1- to 3-feet away from the beige wall background.  So, in the editing stage, I took some liberties to change up the background a little.  I either used a preset from my Perfect Effects 4 plug in, or, I created a separate layer and then used the Magic Wand tool or the Magnetic Lasso tool in Photoshop to select only the background (and in some cases, the floor as well).  I then used the Gaussian Blur filter at an extremely high pixel count (977.2 pixels, to be exact) to totally blur out the background and floor.  This effect also created (to my pleasant surprise) a certain amount of color bleed from the costume and the veils.  I then created a mask for that particular layer in order to “paint in” only the blurred background and floor, leaving the model alone.  This process turned out to be pretty cool and I was able to show Zara how she looked against a dark background (she’d been worried that a dark backdrop would totally hide her dark hair and dark costumes).  I told her that with good rim lighting, that wouldn’t have been too much of an issue.

Tsuras Profile

Speaking of rim lighting, I read in Kelby’s book that you can get a neat rim light profile silhouette by doing the following:  have your model stand very close and to the side of your rim light.  So, as Tsura was walking past the umbrella, I had her stop, face the light, then take a few sideways steps so that she wasn’t smack dab in the middle of the umbrella, blinding herself in the process.

Pinup Girl_Special Effects

Tsura Headshot

At one point, I turned off the rim light and simply used the large 7’ parabolic umbrella turned so that the open end of the ‘brella was facing the models and the light source was bouncing off of the umbrella, rather than shooting through it.  This created a harder light which was wonderful for those side-lit images that allowed the shadows to outline parts of the face and body.  It also created some neat side shadows as well on the wall.

I used to pooh-pooh studio photography thinking I would never be doing that sort of thing.  Never say never.  I now admit that I enjoy playing with the scenes afforded me by continuous lighting.  I also enjoy the creativity I can apply to such challenges as limited studio space, backdrops, and the overall final image.  Oh, I’m still a landscape photographer, and am still in the learning stages of studio shoots, but I LOVE stretching my photographic “muscles” to broaden my photographic experience in order to produce an image that elicits some type of reaction from the viewer.

Tsura and Zara


Filed under Equipment, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights