Posts tagged “Studio

Finding a Vision



Vision is seeing the potential purpose hidden in the chaos of the moment, but which could bring to light new possibilities. In our current and probable future environments a certain amount of chaos is inevitable. Often emerging possibilities must be sought out and acted upon before all relevant information is known. Old predictable patterns must be relinquished as comfortable as they seem. For many, this is a terrifying prospect. Vision is seeing what life could be like while dealing with life as it is. Vision deals with those deeper human intangibles that alone give ultimate purpose to life and in the end, vision must always deal with life’s qualities and not with its quantities.

If we wish to be open to new possibilities we also need to be aware of the unexpected ways in which they can surface. Limiting the creative process to officially designated “brainstorm session” we may miss something that may have been there all along, something not visible catching the sun. We must be aware that spontaneous moments of possibility exist, the things that owe cannot touch but know instinctually that they are there.

Take a moment to think about your own experience, core values and what you truly care about in your life. What types of habits, people, things, situations do you gravitate towards and what do you avoid and move away from? Recall your past and identify times where you felt closest to inspiration and vision, and the times you were furthest from it. This should provide a few useful signposts.

In the words of a great German writer, Goethe, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”

It all starts with a vision…

Pearls of Wisdom


Epictetus was a Greek philosopher that lived about 1900 years ago. When he was young he was a slave in Rome but was later released and started to teach philosophy first in Rome and later on in Greece. Epictetus was somewhat of a lonesome minimalist. He lived with few possessions and by himself for a long time. He also seems to never have written anything, but luckily his thoughts were recorded by his pupil Arrian. Here is one of his Pearls of Wisdom:

“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

This one is interesting because it deals with how we relate to each other. What someone says something negative about you, it may not so much be a reflection of you but of the person that said it. This is a good thing to consider and also applies whenever you are feeling negatively about someone else. It can not only help you forget about your negative emotion, but can also help you learn more about yourself and how you perceive things and situations.

This is another in our series of water drop shots. Using a ten gallon aquarium, we dropped various objects and captured the action with some high-speed strobe lights, or flash units. They key is timing the flash. Freezing the action is easy as the speed of the flash is very fast, so your camera shutter speed should be set at its Flash Synch Speed. Using a small aperture (f-stop) and low ISO (Film Speed for us old timers), a couple off camera flashes with remote triggers, a Nikon D7000 and Nikkor 105mm Macro lens all mounted on a sturdy tripod allowed us to record this dynamic event. Oh, and keep a few towels handy and cover those flash units with freezer storage bags…things can get a bit wet! Drop us a note if you would like to learn more about this relatively simple shot and how to do this yourself!



In the blink of an eye

In a blink of an eye, a lot can happen. A lot of astonishing things happen in a split second, but they are moving too quickly for us to see. High speed photography is the art of recording  just such events.

Depending on the event to be photographed, methods range from use of ultra-short time flash exposures to producing lots of exposures in a split-second, using for example, a strobe light, or a more exotic sound triggered system (useful for popping balloons, gunshot punctures and the like).  A typical camera flash lasts around a few thousandth of a second which is easily quick enough to freeze most anything.  The speed of the camera’s shutter is not really that important provided it is open when the flashes fire – synchronizing the camera shutter opening with the flash firing is the key…as well as deciding when to trip the shutter itself.

In this series of pictures, I constructed a setup in my studio which consisted of an aquarium, two inexpensive speed light flashes, wireless flash triggers, black muslin backdrop, DSLR on a sturdy tripod and various veggies and fruits. I filled the tank brimming with water and set one flash above the surface pointing down and the other below the surface pointing in. The tripod mounted camera (Nikon D7000, 17-70mm lens, ISO100, f18, 1/250sec) was in front of the tank and equipped with a wireless transmitter that would trigger the flashes when the shutter was tripped. The veggies and fruit were dropped from various heights depending on their size and density – I found that limes descend much faster than bell peppers, eggs and coconuts being the speediest.

The lighting angles and intensities of the flashes were adjusted periodically. One should also use a plastic zip-lock bag over the flash units, have plenty of paper towels at hand and check the camera lens after every drop – this technique can be a trifle wet! I also discovered that eggs are super fast and tend to crack upon impact on the bottom of the tank and other materials, such as yogurt just make an awful mess and cloud the water. I was contemplating dropping my small dog in the tank, but he quickly caught wind of my thoughts and beat it out of the studio!

Our “Birthgifts”

Truly wonderful, the mind of a Child is ….”Yoda”

The power to discover our true voice lies in the limitless potential that was given to us at birth. Here the seeds of greatness were sown. We were blessed with magnificent “Birthgifts”, such as talents, intelligences, opportunities, capacities, privileges that would remain largely unopened except through our own decisions. The potential within each of us is  tremendous, if not infinite – we really do not know what we truly are capable of.

All children are born geniuses – only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things we don’t expect to see. A baby may be the most frail and dependent creation in the universe, yet within a few short year, becomes the most powerful. The more we exercise our given talents, the more talents were are given and with that, our capacity just keeps growing.


The Year of the Dragon

This is from the Studio of Kerstenbeck Photographic Art in San Diego and commemorates the Chinese Lunar New Year for 2012, The Year of the Dragon! Again, the lighting here was quite simple with a large softbox to wash over our model’s back, black backdrop around ten feet in the rear. Nothing fancy at all! No Catch Lights, not even in the Dragon’s Eye!

Dragon, as the name suggests, is the boss of every affair. If a dragon stands in front of audience and delivers a lecture, everyone keeps quiet and calmly listens to it. The dragon always has his head high. Dragons are the winners eventually at any cost. They are on their toes always and lead others. They are born to lead. The well-earned reputations of Dragons make them loud with their voice and imposing gestures.

Down to earth nature of Dragons is his/her trademark. Delightful, spontaneous, go getter, triumphant and learned Dragons are profound thinkers. Their egos are quite evident at work but people are still forced to respect their views. They have a big self-respect. They can make loyal and trustworthy friends. Dragons most often sit at the top of the corporate affairs. They have a congenital power of pulling crowd towards them. They want their subordinates to act in accordance with Dragons and they like to select the way for others to follow. It is really tough to say “no” to them and dragons don’t understand or accept the word either.

Although the Dragons are truthful but they never consider other’s emotion. Angry Dragons are not open to criticism. Sticking to the old issue is not their cup of tea. They want to move ahead of time. They never follow the past; rather thrive for a smooth and nice future. They don’t consider themselves irritating and arrogant. Dragons always desire to be forgiven for their booming effusions. They think themselves as the greatest and brilliant creation of the all mighty.

Dragons always want to be in the action. They always push themselves for something new. They crave for back to back work. Restlessness for getting into a new venture is one of their hallmarks. It is difficult to keep them away without any challenge. Dragons want to see themselves busy all the time.

Happy New Year!




Red White and Blue Shoe

Jimmy Choo - Next Stop!

This was shot during a Studio Session with our Model, Dinah Wolf. We experimented with High Key Lighting. The idea is to use a white backdrop, light it up with strobes from behind the Model to wash out the scene and then light the Model from the front using strobes from left and right. You can reverse Engineer the front lighting from the reflections in the shoe. This is a great tip for Photographers for Studio work. It is often very easy to tell how the lighting was set up by looking at reflections, especially with Portraits. Look for “Catch Lights” in the eyes of the Model. Often you will see one, or several. If the Catch Light is circular, they used a Beauty Light which is quite popular.

Now a bit about Catch Lights!

Catch Light is a photographic term used to describe either the Specular highlights in a subject’s eye from a light source, or the light source itself. They are also referred to as eye lights or Obies, the latter a reference to Merle Oberon, who was frequently lit using this technique. A catch light may be an artifact of the lighting method, or have been purposely engineered to add a glint or “spark” to a subject’s eye. This technique is useful in both still and motion picture photography. Adding a catch light can help draw attention to the subject’s eyes, which may otherwise get lost among other elements in the scene.

We experimented with Catch Lights during this shoot, not with eyes but with the shoes – fun!

Thanks for visiting our humble Photoblog! If you have any questions, just leave a comment and we always answer!

Kathleen and Erik

Closing Time

This is another shot from our Studio in California – not a complicated lighting set up at all. We used one Alien Bee strobe (you can see the rectangular reflection), the Martini Glass was lit with some LED Lights from Stage Ape. The multi-color reflections came from a Wallace Ting piece we own. Glass empty – time to go Home.

Now a bit about “Closing Time”

Closing Time is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Tom Waits, released in March 1973 and was produced and arranged by former Lovin Spoonful member Jerry Yester.  Closing Time was the first of seven of Waits’s major releases through Asylum, the final being Heartattack and Vine (one of our favourites!). The songs on Closing Time are often noted for their lyrical content, which like the music, vary in form. “Ol’ 55” narrates the story of a man riding “lickety split” in a car and is often seen as a song about escapism.

Closing Time features an eclectic mix of musical styles. While tracks such as “Ol ’55”, with its “gentle slipnote piano chords”, and “Old Shoes”, “a country-rock waltz that picked up the feel of ‘Ol’ 55′”, are usually considered folk-like numbers, other songs such as “Virginia Avenue”, “Midnight Lullaby”, whose intro features an instrumental segment of the nursery rhyme “Hush Little baby”, and “Grapefruit Moon” reveal a quieter, more jazz-like temperament. “Ice Cream Man” is often noted as being the most “up-tempo” song of the album, whereas “Lonely” is toned-down and slow-paced. The sophisticated piano melodies are often accompanied by trumpets, typical of the jazz sound that Waits originally designated for the album. Noticeable string arrangements are also featured on the album, on “Martha” and the final “Closing Time”, the latter being purely instrumental.

Thanks for visiting our Humble Photoblog! If you have any questions, just drop an email to

Breaking News: Huge Blob Consuming Jupiter

Jupiter, yummy!

OK, so this is not Astronomical History in the making but rather a Science Fiction Scene created in our Studio. The concept was executed with some selective studio lighting, a picture of Jupiter, a glass pane suspended above the picture and selective placement of Dishwashing Soap. We used a Nikon D90 with a Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Macro lens mounted on a steady tripod and waited until the bubbles had burst and the soap began to flow – consuming this wonderful gaseous giant! Somewhat abstract, kinda cool! Now a bit about this planet before it gets eaten by the Blob!

Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly  ammonium hydrosulfide. The clouds are located in the tropopause and are arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These are sub-divided into lighter-hued zones and darker belts. The interactions of these conflicting circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence. Wind speeds of 100 m/s (360 km/h) are common in zonal jets…perfect for extreme Sailboarding!

The orange and brown coloration in the clouds of Jupiter are caused by upwelling compounds that change color when they are exposed to ultraviolet light from the Sun. The exact makeup remains uncertain, but the substances are believed to be phosphorus, sulfur or possibly hydrocarbons.

The best known feature of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a persistent anticyclonic storm that is larger than Earth, located 22° south of the equator. It is known to have been in existence since at least 1831, and possibly since 1665. Mathematical Models suggest that the storm is stable and may be a permanent feature of the planet. The storm is large enough to be visible through Earth-based telescopes! Check it out before it The Blob has it for Dinner!

Boudoir Part 14 : Dramatic Lighting

This stunning image of our model Danila, was taken using very simple techniques. A black backdrop stretched from floor to ceiling, Two strobes left and right provide the wash over Danila. We converted this to Black and White for added effect. Kathleen is “The Mistress of Posing” and just has a way to bring the best out of all of our models! One Professional Model once asked if KK would help with some Pro Sessions – wow.

Studio Lighting does not need to be expensive or complicated. The best source of light is the Sun! For soft light, take your subject to a window. Have her/him turn the nose towards the light and watch as the sunlight goes from Dramatic to Rembrandt. These shots are the easiest and perhaps the most complimentary since they convey a subtle mood. The most important thing is to get your DSLR out of “Portrait” or  “Auto” mode and learn a bit about Exposure, Light and just have Fun! You will be amazed with your results!

Thanks for your kind visit and if you have ANY questions, just drop us an email

Kathleen and Erik

Boudoir Part 10: Nude Implied

We have found that shooting nude models, although it sounds exotic, is really hard. Nobody is perfect and light can be a harsh reminder of that. It is up to the photographer to bring the best out of the model, and out of the vision of the shot. We have discovered that imagination bests everything when it comes to nude.

In this shot, our lovely model, Jovis was naked. We covered her up on the bottom and had her front face away from the camera. The lighting was very simple. Large Softbox which washed light over her back. We instructed her to look a bit left to silhouette her face. We think this is very subtle and delicate – somewhat classic in composition.

What do you think?  Thanks for visiting our Blog. We are currently on location in Maui and will bring to you many spectacular shots of Landscapes, Tropical Rain Forestst, Surfers, Sail Boarding and More. Stay Tuned!

Boudoir Part 9: Simple Lighting

This continues the series of Boudoir and Studio Photography. The previous post detailed a bit about Complex Lighting and showed a behind the scenes shot of the lighting set up. There were Speedlights everywhere, large Soft Box etc. The results were wonderful, but to haul, set up and fine tune all of this equipment is quite a chore. To do things right, many practice shots need to be taken before the model should even consider entering into the set. It is somewhat boring for a model to have the photographer give instructions like, “Just stand there. OK. Can you wait a second while we adjust the brightness of this light? OK, one more. Hmmm, looks like the angles are all wrong”. You get the idea. Everything should be set up and ready to go – a model’s job is to help create the vision of the photographer, not to be a dummy for light balancing!

The point of this is that sometimes simple is also good. For this rather dramatic shot, a large Softbox was used in a dark room with black background.. This is an easy set up to haul, construct and dynamically adjust as the session progresses. It is also relatively inexpensive and can be used for dramatic Profiles, Rembrandt, Flat and High Key. There is no Hair Light from behind or fancy edge lights, but sometime you just don’t need this – and often all that stuff just gets in the way of a nice shot!

Thanks for you kind visit to our Photo Blog!

Boudoir Part 7: Use of Props

Ready for The Show

When we were studying The Art of Boudoir Photography we noticed that there are some common props that are used, like the acoustic guitar. The guitar is typically used to hide portions of the model to generate an “Implied Nude” shot. Here we tried something a bit different – we went Electric and Rock and Roll. One can imagine a lead guitarist walking onto a smokey stage, her “axe” ready for a great show, high heals and fish nets. Somewhat Eighties feel like Pat Benetar, don’t you think?

What is fascinating about this shot is that the female form follows the lines of the guitar in a very flattering way. Perhaps the designers at Ibanez had this in mind? We think it worked. As far as lighting goes, black backdrop, low lights, great music and as one can see from the reflections on the guitar, a huge gridded softbox. The grid (aside from adding complementary textures to our models fish nets) allows one to create soft lighting and yet it is very directed. Think about shooting a flash through 100 straws, very similar to a single Snoot but a lot more of them.

Please let us know what you think of this shot and thanks for visiting our humble blog!

High Key Lighting Part II

Here the shot of our Thai Model, Dinah, was executed with two banks of Speedlights to illuminate the backdrop to wash it out. Another two banks of Speedlights were aimed left and right at 45 degrees to fill in her face. Although not true High Key Lighting which requires highly ever exposed and washed out shots, we still like this one because Dinah was getting into the Concept. Sometimes the technical aspects have to adapt to the space and time one can afford to a Photo-shoot.

This was not at own Studio, so time was limited, the Dinah was on a schedule, and the owners of the Studio became increasingly involved with direction of our Vision. This became increasingly frustrating as it started to turn into another “Rent some time in a Studio Snap Shoot”. As well, as we posed Dinah for our concepts, other Photographers were just shooting the same image. We would never take someone elses shot. Artistic Respect…and we paid for the Studio time. Lesson learned!

For that reason, we have our own gear, space and can create our own Vision. Dinah is a member of Model Mayhem ( – you should check out her portfolio if you would like to work with her. (#2291268). Thanks Dinah!

Thanks for the kind visit to our Humble Photo Blog. We have so many new projects on the books this year including some Runway Shots as well as an exposee of one of Kathleen’s Personal Trainers. We are so excited!

Behind The Scenes

There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at a Photo Shoot. Lighting and Concept needs to be determined, Models needs to be prepped. Then technical issues need to be fixed, like exposure, lens choice, test shots. From the first image you can see we used a large Soft Box on the left and a couple of Speedlights from behind. The idea was to get nice light on Dinah and have the Speedlights give back fill on the hair. There is deliberate over power to the flash on the upper right – shows a bit of Glam.

As we are still learning, the experimentation will continue. We hope you are enjoying our journey!

High Key Lighting

We continue our Series of Studio Shots. Here we were at a Pro-Am Studio in California and had the wonderful opportunity to work with Dinah. She is a member of Model Mayhem (#2291268) in case you would like to shoot with her. The concept was High Key Lighting. Sometimes one needs to branch into different lighting styles. High Key is complementary, up beat and subtlety beautiful. Our inspiration was from a T-Mobile image of their cute model which we saw in Time’s  Square! We will post a few more of  Dinah shortly and also a bit of “Back Scene” so you can see how we captured the great shots!  Now just a bit about High Key!

High key photography uses unnaturally bright lighting to blow out most or all harsh shadows in an image. High key methods were originally developed as a solution to screens that couldn’t properly display high contrast ratios, but has developed into more of a stylistic choice.High key images usually convey a positive or upbeat tone. This method is perfect for a subject that is funny, lighthearted or beautiful.

Many thanks for visiting our Photo Blog – please visit our website for all of our other Images of amazing International Landscapes and just Cool Stuff!

Kindest Regards, Kathleen and Erik

Glamour: A Practice Shoot

We spent the afternoon in San Diego’s Pro-Am Studios practicing High Key Lighting. The idea is to flood a white backdrop with lights and illuminate the Model from left and right 45 degrees. The Camera is then adjusted for a slightly over exposed shot. This gives a washed out look which is, in some well executed images, quite flattering. We found coming into someone else’s Studio and adapting to their concept of lighting to be challenging. We like to be able to control all aspects of light right down to subtle minutia, including props, angles, poses.

We also like to have a High Definition Monitor hooked to the camera so that both the Model and the Photographer can immediately see the image and mutually adjust poses, lighting and camera settings. This makes the shoot a joint effort. It was a bit frustrating to have the Instructor start shooting and directing the Shoot – we paid for it after all (She is a super nice person, BTW). We were spending time to learn about High Key Shooting.

Our expectation was that the session would begin with concept pictures, how lights would be set up to achieve the concepts, followed by some time with our wonderful Model. Then, a review of the results, corrections and critique. After that we could refine our techniques and arrive at the expected results. Being and Engineer (Erik), he is very analytical about all aspects of Light and The Art of Photography. That is why we love and hate these sessions. The Studio Owners set up the Lighting and let folks snap away, however for seasoned Photographers, perhaps this is not really optimal. Our Visions clashed many times. We still did manage to get some great images if Dinah and would love to work with her again in some other setting.

Thanks for the kind visit to our humble blog. Kathleen and Erik

Boudoir Part 6: It’s For Everyone

Hot Mommasita

It is easy to take stunning pictures of the people who are in their twenties and thirties. They have not yet developed their “experience” lines. In the Studio, they can be illuminated with harsh flat light, 90 degree light, Rembrandt and essentially anything (even Monster Lighting) and they look wonderful. The job of the Photographer is to make their models look fabulous, period. This requires some analytics technically for lighting and also knowing how to pose the model during a shoot to make them look fabulous! Boudoir is for everyone – as mentioned in previous posts, this is not about “Gentlemen’s Magazines”, it is all about subtle and sensual images that are shared with a loved one. Implied is always better than displayed in our opinion.

Standards of Glamour Photography have changed over time, reflecting changes in social acceptance. In the early 1920s, United States photographers like Ruth Harriet Louise and George Hurrell photographed celebrities to glamorize their stature by utilizing lighting techniques to develop dramatic effects. During World War II, Pin-Up pictures of scantily clad Movie Stars were extremely popular among US servicemen. However, until the 1950s, the use of glamour photography in advertising or men’s magazines was highly controversial or even illegal. Magazines featuring glamour photography were sometimes marketed as “art magazines” or “health magazines”. How times have changed!

Thank you for visiting our Photography Blog!

Boudoir Part 5: Different Perspectives

Are those Handcuffs?

Sometime the use of different perspectives makes the model provocative without going over the top. In this shot, immediately the eye is drawn to the red shoes, the tattoo and then follows the lines down to the model who is on her back. What an Ab Workout! Her hair flows into darkness. Often these types of shots are about subtle suggestion and not necessarily how fancy the britches are (We purchased all of the garments for this shoot from K-Mart by the way) and how “The Girls” are displayed.

A great deal of “Boudoir” is now created in the Photographer’s Studio or in luxury hotel suites, where it has become very fashionable to create a set of sensual images for women in “Boudoir Style”. This often takes the shape of partly clothed images or images in lingerie, and has become more than just a passing fad for Brides to surprise their future Husbands. Although in the past there were many negative connotations associated with Boudoir Photography, in recent years the trend has begun to gain momentum, and the entire look of Boudoir Photography has begun to change.

Bridal Boudoir Photography is becoming particularly popular. Brides often have an album of Boudoir style photographs made as a present for their soon to be Husbands. Other common themes for Boudoir Photography are anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, weight loss, maternity, any form of body change or alteration (breast augmentation or reduction, etc.), and for soldiers overseas.

We have been increasingly developing our Portfolio in these areas, working hard and producing eye pleasing and tasteful images. We welcome any inquiries. Thank you kindly for the visit to our humble Blog!

Boudoir Part 4: Implied Nude

We have shot several sessions with Professional Models in a Studio Setting and found that nude is truly challenging. To give credit to the models, they are typically in fine form, but tuning in posed and lighting to get the best representation of their full form takes years of practice. Glamour Photography allows the photographer to use props to enhance the image and bring some mystique into the story. Here, the use of a simple rd towel implies that our model is disrobed – perhaps yes, perhaps no, but this does not matter. This helps both photographer and model to be more comfortable and allows both to concentrate on what is truly important – the character of the shot and the emotion of the model. Now a bit about this Genre and some History!

Glamour photography is a genre of photography whereby the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a Romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or semi-nude, but Glamour Photography clearly stops short of ‘Playboy-Type” shots.

While there is some overlap in the time periods, the term glamour photography did not begin to be commonly applied to such photography until the 1960s. Before then, the term erotic photography was more commonly used. Early types of this kind of modeling were often associated with “French postcards”, small post card sized images, that were sold by street vendors in France. In the early 1900s the PinUp became popular and depicted scantily dressed women often in a playful pose seemingly surprised or startled by the viewer. The subject would usually have an expression of delight which seemed to invite the viewer to come and play. Betty Grable was one of the most famous pinup models of all time; her PinUp in a bathing suit was extremely popular with World War II  soldiers.

In December 1953,  Marilyn Munroe was featured in the first issue of  Playboy magazine.  Bettie Page was the Playmate of the Month in January 1955. Playboy was the first magazine featuring  nude glamour photography targeted at the mainstream consumer. We will stick to Glamour, much more suggestive and comfortable for all!

Monster Lighting

Monster Lighting

These are two poses from a Studio Session with our wonderful Model, Jovis. We were experimenting with our lighting set up. We had a large soft box at around 45 degrees and really low and had Jovis on a black sheet with a black backdrop. This first shot is what would be described as “Monster Lighting”. It is somewhat uncomplimentary, harsh and unnatural shadows under the eyes, nose and kinda creepy. One can execute this effect by having a strobe very low to the model and the shooting from down below. This can be effective to create high drama, but not for a glamour shot!


This shot we simply reoriented Jovis so that the light flowed over her. All of the harsh shadows disappeared, and this is a killer image. The lighting set up did not change, only the perspective of the photographer!

Soft Lighting

The Soft Box

This is another example of a lighting technique that is often complementary to both young and somewhat older models. Young models with flawless skin are easy, one can use essentially any lighting and they look great. Older models pose a bit more of a challenge. If one uses low-key lighting, like in the previous post, it highlights imperfections and wrinkles – not very complimentary. One solution is flat light. Here one would employ a large soft box and shoot the model at almost zero degrees (straight on). This smooths out the shadows cause by “experience” and make the model look fantastic. The closer the light is to the model, the smoother the image and the bigger the box, the softer the light. Now a bit about a soft box!

A soft box is a type of photographic light modifier, one of a number of photographic soft lighting devices. All of the various soft light types create even and diffused light by directing light through some diffusing material, or by “bouncing” light off a second surface. The best known form of bouncing source is the umbrella light where the light from the bulb is bounced off the inside of an umbrella to create a soft indirect light.

A “soft box” is an enclosure around a bulb comprising reflective side and back walls and a diffusing material at the front of the light. The sides and back of the box are lined with a bright surface – an aluminium fabric surface or foil, to act as an efficient reflector. In some commercially available models the diffuser is removable to allow the light to be used alone as a floodlight or with an umbrella reflector.

A soft box can be used with either flash or continuous light sources or “hot lights” such as quartz halogen or tungsten bulbs. We use an Alien Bee Strobe (flash) inside a large stand mounted soft box. Typically to get soft light we cover the soft box with a white diffuser, sometimes to get more directional lighting, a grate is added to focus the light. Here the model was laying on the floor, as was the photographer. The strobe was controlled by a radio trigger.

The beauty of using Studio Lighting is that the Photographer is in control of all aspects of how the light is cast upon the model! During a shoot, we always connect our camera to an HD TV monitor. This allows us to fine tune the lighting dynamically and show the results to the models so they can adjust their poses. We discovered that showing models a shot from a 2 inch square LCD on the back of the camera is not really effective. With this feedback, the shoot can be dialed- in  in minutes and the the models are really engaged. Oh yeah, it is also a lot of fun!

Low-Key Lighting

The Snoot in Action

We were practicing some lighting techniques in advance of a Studio Photoshoot the next day. Kathleen wanted to re-create a Michael Jackson like shot with our model – you probably recognize the spotlit fedora pose that became iconic. We used a black Muslin backdrop and tried many different light modifiers to get the light to mimic a spotlight. This was shot in the evening. Here we employed our workhorse Vivitar 285HV strobe which we mounted on a light stand and equipped it with a “Snoot” which directs the light to a very specific  area, hence the spotlight effect. We controlled the off camera flash with radio triggers.This is also an example of a low-key lighting and off camera flash.

Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light and a back light for illumination. Low-key lighting often uses only one key light, optionally controlled with a fill light or a simple reflector.

Low key light accentuates the contours of an object by throwing areas into shade while a fill light or reflector may illuminate the shadow areas to control contrast. The relative strength of key-to-fill, known as the lighting ratio, can be measured using a light meter. Low key lighting has a higher lighting ratio, e.g. 8:1, than high key lighting, which can approach 1:1. Throwing the majority of the model into darkness was what we were after, similar to being on a darkened concert stage with a single focussed spotlight.

Boudoir Shoot

We set up our Studio for a Boudoir Session. We used a large Soft Box for Main Light and Umbrella for fill, all lit with Alien Bee Strobes controlled wirelessly. A small Nikon SB600 Sppedlight was also used as a Hair Light (not in this picture). The trick is controlling the light and being able to see The Light.

We like to shoot all Portraits, Boudoir using a HD Monitor which is connected to the Camera. This way we have immediate feedback for both the shooter and The Model about lighting, poses, blinking or other things. This makes the shoot flow quicker and with superb results!

Historically, the boudoir formed part of the private suite of rooms of a lady, for bathing and dressing, adjacent to her bedchamber, being the female equivalent of the male cabinet. In later periods, the boudoir was used as a private draw room.  A boudoir was a lady’s evening sitting room, and was separate from her Morning Room, and her Dressing Room.  As this multiplicity of rooms with overlapping functions suggests, boudoirs were generally only found in grand houses. In the United States, in the same era, boudoir was an alternative term for dressing room, favored by those who felt that French terms conferred more prestige.

A great deal of “boudoir” is now created in the photographer’s studio or in luxury hotel suites, where it has become very fashionable to create a set of sensual images for women in “boudoir style”. This often takes the shape of partly clothed images or images in lingerie, and has become more than just a passing fad for brides to surprise their future husbands. Although in the past there were many negative connotations associated with boudoir photography, in recent years the trend has begun to gain momentum, and the entire look of boudoir photography has begun to change.

Bridal boudoir photography is becoming particularly popular. Brides often have an album of boudoir style photographs made as a present for their soon to be husbands. Other common themes for boudoir photography are anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, weight loss, maternity, any form of body change or alteration (breast augmentation or reduction, etc.), and for soldiers overseas.


Looking Back

We spent the entire afternoon with Master Photographer, Ben Chen from LA. Along with his private and commercial work, Ben’s work has been used in national and local publications such as Cosmopolitan Magazine, USA Today, The LA Times, The New York Daily News, Popular Photography Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Sporting News, PC Photo Magazine, Professional Photographer of America Magazine, Range Finder Magazine, The Magazine, The Pasadena Star News, and the San Gabriel Tribute, as well as used as cover art for a sports photography book. Recently, several Ben’s photos were published in a Professional Wedding Photographer’s book.

It was humbling to listen to him speak about Portrait Lighting – we learned more in 4 hours than 6 months of study. He brought his Guerilla Lighting Kit to the course and showed us his basic kit which he “humps” to the beach and other places. Essentially some Speedlights, Quantum Flashes, Light modifiers, Battery Packs, Cheetah Stands, Pocket Wizards. He has refined this kit over the years and discussed its benefits and pitfalls!

This brings me to the posted image – this was one of our first Studio Sessions after learning some fundamental lighting techniques. Looking back, it is pretty good, but compared to a Master Photographer, we are Rookies! We look forward to honing our skills and perfecting our style…”Fresh Classy Fun”