It is time for ASMP and NPPA to combine

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100

For the past few days I was at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference. Through the years some of my colleagues and friends who have attended the conference have been member of either NPPA or ASMP. Many like myself have been members of both organizations.

Don Winslow is the editor of the News Photographer Magazine for NPPA and is in the photo above. I commented to him how we should just combine the two organizations. Don said that sounds like a great blog post.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/4, 1/250

I am tired of being a naysayer about things in the industry. I can continue to be a whiner about the changes that I don’t like or I can put forth this idea that many of my friends and I have talked about through the years.

The reason I think they should be combined is when I looked around the room I see people like Stacy Pearsall, Anacleto Rapping, Brad Smith and Dave Black and none of them are staff. They are now all freelancers or a better term independent contractors.

The biggest difference when these two organizations were founded is that NPPA was primarily made up of staff photographers and ASMP was freelancers.

In an earlier blog post I wrote:

You’ve probably heard that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, there are already 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) that fall into this category. That number is growing based on a number of factors. Some from employers who see this as a better choice and many employees who want more control over their lives as well. 

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:
“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

Many of my friends like Bill Bangham [pictured above] who were members of NPPA are joining ASMP for many of the similar reasons I did so back in 1987. They see how important it is to help the freelancer.

NPPA has had to do a lot of catching up with ASMP to help it’s members with understanding business practices.

Due to the decline of staff jobs and even the number of independent photographers there are less members for these two organizations. At one time the NPPA had membership of 15,000+ and today they are closer to 5,000.

I believe that the members of both of these organizations have more in common than different and therefore would benefit of combining the two organizations.

How all this would happen I do not have that worked out in my head, but I do know that they need each other more today than at any other time.

I do know that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the cost of membership. We have so many NPPA members who are either living in poverty or so close that every little penny counts.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/100

This is Anacleto Rapping here teaching a class at the workshop. He has always been on staffs like the LA Times and Brooks Institute before the past couple of years having to run his own business. We need his talent and knowledge to help grow our industry.

For many members the cost of membership for their $24,000 salary is like the cost of their food for a week.

I know that for the freelancer that the cost of ASMP membership is well worth it. It is actually more valuable early in your career since they can help you navigate the business aspect of the business better than you going it alone.

Since the executive director of ASMP was on the board of NPPA and NPPA needs an executive director why not just combine the two organizations and let Tom Kennedy and the boards help lead us to a healthier organization than two struggling organizations?

Create that triangle with your flash, camera and subject to improve your photos outside

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900 ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/3200

Photographing this year at the Fort Worth Stockyards I encountered noon day sun combination with cowboy hats.

The hats are suppose to shade which means you don’t see their faces unless you add some flash. I added the off camera flash to fill under those hats as done here to make the faces pop out.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/2000

Now to get an idea of how much light difference it is, just look at the cowboy in the background on the other horse. You cannot really see his face like the buy in front.

Here is an earlier post going over the technique. Get the camera, flash and the subject to form a triangle. Here the flash is held to the far left off the camera and zoomed to 200mm to create a shaft of light to just light the cowboy’s face.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 4, 1/1600

This is a great way to just improve the photo of the cowboys, because now I see their faces.

Photographers what is it that you provide your customers?

Link to Amazon

Today I met and listened to Matthew Kelly who is the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life and twenty other books that have been published in more than twenty-five languages and have sold more than 15 million copies.

Kelly says, “To win their hearts, you have to take care of their legitimate needs – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.”

Professional photographers need to know they are problem solvers if they want to stay in business. People don’t need photos, they need photos that solve their problems.

When you learn to tap into other’s dreams and aspirations and help them attain them you are connecting with the real issues of their hearts.

Read his book to help you understand why people dream. Kelly says, “If you help your people accomplish their dreams, they will massively invest in your company.”

Now earlier in the day another Keynote speaker I listened to help me to understand Habitudes.

Dr. Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders (, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization created to develop emerging leaders.

You may want to pick up his book Habitudes Book #1: The Art of Self-Leadership.

He shared one thing that I think many photographers need to hear. He shared how one company that made bits had a sales meeting with a new CEO. After everyone spoke on the sales that quarter about how they were #1 bit manufacturer. Then the CEO got up and said we are not in the bit industry–We are in the hole industry.

When you lose focus on what you are there to do then the industry can leave you.

Photographers you have been too long in the picture business. Our pictures help people in industries solve their problems by helping those bit makers to visualize the holes they are creating.

Tip today is to analyze what you are actually doing for customers. Are you making bits or making holes?

Four tips to grow your photography brand

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 5600, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

I am in Orlando, Florida covering a great meeting. I learned about four key elements today to grow your business.

  1. Avoid Complacency
  2. Know the Customer
  3. Focus to Win
  4. Work Together
Now actually I already knew this, but the speaker packaged them in a neat package for the audience.
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/500
Here is my interpretation of these points for photographers.

Avoid Complacency

If you as so dependable that your coverages all look alike you have become complacent. You need to mix it up. 
If you are struggling to do this, then just buy a different lens and force yourself to work differently.
Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/500
I did this recently by buying a 35mm ƒ/1.4. Let me tell you I tossed out a lot of shots tonight from shooting due to the depth of field was so shallow the photos looked like I missed the focus.
Now I actually owned this lens when I first started shooting in for a newspaper in 1984. However I hadn’t owned the fast prime in maybe 25 years. 
I used this lens to push me to do something different tonight.

Know The Customer

I work really hard to understand the problem I am solving for the customer. It isn’t about me just taking pretty pictures. They need photos of specific things.
Way too many photographers think they know better than the customer. Actually most of these photographers don’t know as much as they think.
Always know exactly the requirements that you need to fulfill for the customer so that their problem is solved. Now if you choose to go and shoot more stuff for fun in addition that is not only OK that is great.
In Matthew 5:41 they talk about people having to carry a Roman soldiers gear for one mile if you were a Jew in the time of Christ. Jesus told people to carry that load 2 miles. 
Many companies today talk about 2nd mile service and this is where it comes from. The mistake that many make is they actually think they are doing 2nd mile and they really didn’t do the first mile to begin with for the client.

Focus to Win

To get a customer and to KEEP them you need to really understand the customer’s beliefs and behaviors. You want to influence these.
A wedding photographer understands they are not just taking photos of the wedding and documenting it. They understand they are writing the first chapter of the book of the bride and grooms life together.
When social media was first starting the photographers who understand how to influence customer’s beliefs and behaviors would Tweet photos from the day. They also helped them create those no look but touch photos of the bride and groom before the wedding. This is a new phenomenon that didn’t exist before photographers started offering this and then all couples wanted it.
The photographer who first started this and other ideas quickly became in high demand. They influenced the beliefs and behaviors of engaged couples and their choices for photographers and what was concerned good wedding photography.

Work Together

Even if you don’t have a staff and it is just you this still applies. If you are married your spouse can make a huge difference and you in their lives. As you work with your client you help them to see this is a collaboration. 
I learned today about how Uber delivering puppies for you to play with. Just read this story. Not only does a puppy cheer someone up like flowers it also helps the local humane society with a donation. Uber is working to make communities better in many ways.
In what ways can you do something that when someone does business with you benefits your community.
Check out Warby Parker Eyeglasses for another example of a company that when customers work with them the entire community benefits. Buy a pair give a pair.
While these four ideas are not anything new, they can revolutionize your business. However each of these requires a commitment at a pretty high level to execute them wisely.
Are you up to the challenge?

How a photo agency/agent can help you

This my good friend Ken Touchton with me on a photo shoot in Maryland. Ken has been one of my best business mentors.

Both Ken and I worked with the photo agency Black Star.

Black Star, also known as Black Star Publishing Company, was started by refugees from Germany who had established photographic agencies there in the 1920s. Today it is a New York City-based photographic agency with offices in London and in White Plains, New York. It is known for photojournalism, corporate assignment photography and stock photography services worldwide. It is noted for its contribution to the history of photojournalism in the United States. It was the first privately owned picture agency in the United States, and introduced numerous new techniques in photography and illustrated journalism. The agency was closely identified with Henry Luce’s magazines Life and Time.

Black Star was formed in December 1935. The three founders were Kurt Safranski, Ernest Mayer and Kurt Kornfeld. In 1964, the company was sold to Howard Chapnick.

He taught annual workshops at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 1994 he published a book called Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism, summarizing his many years of experience in the field of dealing with photojournalists and sharing it with those who wants to be one.

Howard Chapnick was a principal founder of the W. Eugene Smith competition and Memorial Fund, which awards grants for projects in humanistic photography. After his death in 1996 this Fund established in his memory a grant to encourage and support leadership in fields ancillary to photojournalism.

 I was talking with Ken the other day and he let me know how he first started to work with Howard Chapnick.

Now the way it worked in those years 1970s – 1990s the agencies signed on photographers and if you signed on first in New York City then if the job called for your skills then you were the first they contacted.

Well when Ken was talking to Howard about working for them, Howard pointed out where he lived or mentioned moving to they already had photographers.

Ken said to Howard, “Well Howard I really need you to handle my administrative side for me. I will find the clients and bring them to you and ask you to help to negotiate rates and collect my payment.”


If you are starting out and don’t know the business side of this industry then what Ken Touchton did in the 1970s was a brilliant move. While taking this approach Ken was giving up a sizable chunk of money for the clients he found. Agencies often take 20% – 50% of the billings and this can be substantial amount.

Ken knew and admitted up front to himself that Black Star and specifically Howard Chapnick could do a better job of knowing what is a good rate for the work he was doing and be able to negotiate a better deal than Ken could do by himself.

Put yourself into Howard Chapnick’s shoes. Which photographer do you want to represent? Do you want to represent someone you have to go and find business for or the photographer that is bringing you business?

It didn’t take long before Ken wasn’t just bringing business to Black Star, but now getting business from them as well.

Now there are so many things I learned from Ken about business and also my time working with Howard Chapnick as well, but I do want to be sure and point out what Ken and I discovered through the years.

We learned to listen to those photographers whose business success was extraordinary. Sometimes their photography was mediocre, but we did notice they understood how to put food on the table. One of those was Howard Chapnick. He didn’t take photos for a living, but helped administer some of the greatest photographers ever careers.

Noted Black Star photographers include Robert Capa, Andreas Feininger, Germaine Krull, Philippe Halsman, W. Eugene Smith, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Charles Moore, Lee Lockwood and my mentors Don Rutledge and Ken Touchton.

Summary: If you are not good with the business side of the industry then partner with someone who is and you will do much better than going it alone.

Are you all Sizzle or Steak?

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

“All About That Bass”

Because you know I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass… bass… bass… bass

Megan Trainor’s pop single “All About That Bass” made it to the top of the charts. Many women have felt they are not good enough for years because the only body types celebrated in our culture was that of a Barbie Doll.

Stanley’s top five strengths after taking the Clifton StrengthFinder Test.

As you may know, the Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of talent in 34 categories called “themes.” These themes were determined by Gallup as those that most consistently predict outstanding performance. The greater the presence of a theme of talent within a person, the more likely that person is to spontaneously exhibit those talents in day-to-day behaviors.Focusing on naturally powerful talents helps people use them as the foundation of strengths and enjoy personal, academic, and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.
Today we still celebrate certain traits in people. However, if everyone in the band only played the trumpet the type of music you would hear would be very limiting.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.2, 1/500

Here the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band take the field during half-time at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. It is the diversity of the instruments that brings the full musical experience to the audience.

Sizzle & Steak

Today in communications field we have two major parts to communication. I tend to talk about these as the Sizzle [Presentation] and Steak [Content]. 

In many songs we might think of this as the music and the words, but that might be stretching the metaphor a little. To make my point about two parts however this might be a great way to see them.

Often many people love a song so much because of how the music makes them feel. Often people mishear the lyrics.

Top 20 most common misheard lyrics:
1. REM – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
Real lyric: ”Call me when you try to wake her
Misheard lyric: ”Calling Jamaica”
2. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
Real Lyric: ”Excuse me while I kiss the sky”
Misheard Lyric: ”Excuse me while I kiss this guy”
3. Aerosmith – Dude Looks Like A Lady 
Real Lyric: ”Dude looks like a lady”
Misheard Lyric: ”Do just like a lady”
4. The Foundations – Buttercup
Real Lyric: ”Build me up buttercup”
Misheard Lyric: ”Fill me up buttercup”
5. Adele – Chasing Pavements
Real lyric: ”Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements”
Misheard lyric: ”Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing penguins”
6. Bon Jovi – Living On A Prayer
Real Lyric: ”It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”
Misheard Lyric: ”It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”
7. ABBA – Dancing Queen
Real Lyric ”Dancing queen, Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah”
Misheard Lyrics: ”Dancing queen, Feel the beat from the tangerine, oh yeah”
8. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – One That I Want
Real Lyric: ”You’re the one that I want”
Misheard Lyric: ”You’re the wobbly one”
9. Nirvana- Smells Like Teen Spirit
Real Lyric: ”Here we are now, entertain us”
Misheard Lyric: ”Here we are now, in containers”
10. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Real lyric:  ”Spare him his life from this monstrosity”
Misheard lyric: ”Spare him his life for this one cup of tea”
11. Johnny Nash- I Can See Clearly Now
Real Lyric: ”I can see clearly now the rain has gone”
Misheard Lyric: ”I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone”
12. Madonna- Papa Don’t Preach
Real Lyric: ”Papa don’t preach”
Misheard Lyric: ”Poppadom Peach”
13. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Real Lyric – ”Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango”
Misheard lyric: ”Scallaboosh, Scallaboosh, will you to the banned tango”
14. Bee Gees- Stayin’ Alive
Real Lyric: ”Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”
Misheard Lyric: ”Steak and a knife, steak and a knife”
15. Prodigy – Out of space
Real lyric: ”I’ll take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention”
Misheard lyric:  ”I’ll take your brain to another dimension.  Hey close the kitchen”
16. ABBA – Dancing Queen
Real lyric: ”See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the dancing queen”
Misheard lyric: ”See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen”
17. ABBA – Mamma Mia
Real lyric: ”How can I resist you”
Misheard lyric: ”Have I got a sister”
18. Take That – Babe
Real lyric: ”Babe”
Misheard lyric: ”Dave”
19. Blue Oyster Cult- Don’t Fear The Reaper
Real Lyric: ”Seasons don’t fear the reaper”
Misheard Lyric: ”Jesus don’t fear the reaper”
20. Annie Lennox- There Must Be An Angel
Real Lyric: ”Must be talking to an angel”
Misheard Lyric: ”Must be talking to a ninja”
Many people fall in love with the music and mood that the song conveys and the words are not all the important to them. This is where the Sizzle is dominate in the song.

[youtube]Now with the song “Cats In The Cradle” I believe it is the words that really connect with the audience as much as the music. Here the Steak is king.The emphasis in Japanese business culture is on the ritual of gift-giving, rather than the gift itself. For this reason, you may receive a gift that seems too modest, or conversely, extravagant. Here the Sizzle is more important than the Steak.

What am I talking about

Too often we fall into the trap of thinking it is all about one or the other. We either overly emphasize the Sizzle or the Steak. Photographers may forget to include captions helping the message be understood or Designers may get carried away about the design and forget the message is suppose to be king.Great communication is not one or the other it is when both the Sizzle and Steak are well executed together.This is when the total package is actually stronger than the individual parts.Many people who come over from the entertainment industry into corporate communications make the mistake of thinking that just because they like their song they got the message.When the task is to communicate a message you cannot have the lyrics misheard and be successful.REM – The Sidewinder Sleeps ToniteReal lyric: ”Call me when you try to wake herMisheard lyric: ”Calling Jamaica”At the same time you cannot afford to create content that doesn’t pull people in because the Sizzle is just not there.

Combining Sizzle & Steak

Start with always asking WHY?

  • Why am I writing this press release?
  • Why am I creating this video?
  • Why am I taking this photo?
  • Why am I creating this poster?
Once you understand the purpose of what you are doing you need to also ask the second question.
Who is my AUDIENCE?
Is your audience toddlers that will more likely connect to Teletubbies than Metallica? How you package that content is your Sizzle.
Test your MESSAGE
Too many communicators make the mistake of asking did you like it only? Show your product to some people in your audience demographic. Then ask them to tell you what they got from it.
If they articulate the message you were trying to get across–SUCCESS!!. If however they cannot tell you the message but they loved it, you have a case of Sizzle and no Steak.
If they got the message but weren’t really giving you high marks for delivery, then you may have all Steak and no Sizzle.
If you were creating advertising your success will be measured as to if sales go up, down or stay the same.

Warning Signs for Becoming a Professional Photographer

[Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/18, 1/500]

While taking my drive around the Big Island of Hawaii last week, I turn onto the 4 mile scenic route
of Old Mamalahoa Highway just outside of Hilo, Hawaii. About halfway on the road we came across this beautiful view of a bay area.

This was next to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a wonderful exotic part of the Big Island. Through the years the views have been changing. More and more fences are going up alongside these views with signs of warning.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/18, 1/500

You see the entire Island is a volcano. The rocks are quite porous and can easily break off. One of the years when I visited a large section of the Volcanoes National Park broke off and fell into the sea. It was about the size of a football field. Some people died when that happened.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500

Scenes like this of Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii are one of the things drawing people into thinking that if this is what a photographer does then sign me up.

The lure of what photographers get to take photos of is what draws way too many people into this industry and then without warning many people have the ground fall away underneath them and they often do not survive the industry.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

There are signs when you go to the Black Sands beach telling you to not touch the turtles and to stay 15 feet away and that includes when taking pictures.

Photographers it seems need a lot of signs to tell them what not to do, because they seem to just take unnecessary risks.

Signs are now going up

I think slowly people are getting the message that being a photographer isn’t as easy as it seems. There are now warning signs all over the industry.

My friend called me while I was in Hawaii. I had asked if he could help me with a project and be a shooter for me. He was sick when I asked and was going in the next day to work and would check with his boss.

He was calling to let me know half of the staff was laid off. My friend was now very available to help me.

Just in the past few months other icons also were slicing their staffs.

More and more of my friends no longer had staff jobs.

Shortly after Sports Illustrated laid off the staff of photographers even my friend Brad Smith the director of photography lost his job with a few others.

What this means

If you want to be a teacher, lawyer, fireman and most any other profession you just go and study and become that professional. You graduate from a degree program and apply to be a staff employee somewhere.

Well that has majorly changed in photography. When I graduated from college I was hired by a newspaper. While there are some staff jobs, the number of them is drastically less than just a few years ago. Not only are there fewer staff jobs there are fewer newspapers.

You’ve probably heard that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, there are already 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) that fall into this category. That number is growing based on a number of factors. Some from employers who see this as a better choice and many employees who want more control over their lives as well.

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:

“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Freelancing vs Staff

You need to know a lot more about the business side of your profession than if you were a staff employee. You need to understand the Cost of Doing Business and your business needs to solve a problem for someone or you are just not going to be in business very long at all. Here is a great blog for you to follow about the business side of photography

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000

Just like these cowboys trying to rope a cow, it takes a lot of practice before you can turn pro.

Lighting Assignment: Combining Studio Strobes with Available Light

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/50

This last shooting assignment I have given my class this week is to take a studio strobe out and make a photo where this is complimenting the light already in the scene.

Before they shot in the field I did two different shoots. This is the second shoot I did with them where we left the classroom and I showed them how to talk to folks and get them to pose for an environmental photograph. This is an environment that tells us something about the person.

Here we are showing the guy doing his job as a barista in the local coffee shop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

I first made this photo of him working and showed it to the class. I showed them the light on the subject just didn’t make him pop. As he continued to work I took another photo with the studio strobe to make him pop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

The setup was like this for the shot:

I put a 10º Grid as well as a neutral density filter on the flash and it was still pretty bright. I used the grid to keep the light from going everywhere and lighting up too much in the scene.

Then I just had him turn and look at the camera for the very first photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/500

We heard sawing nearby so we went to check it out and see if we could get another person in their work environment. Here is the first photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/80

After adding the flash I took this photo and adjusted the shutter speed to where the background wasn’t blown away.

When I first talked about the assignment we walked outside the studio and I did these photos to give them some understanding of the assignment.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

After making this photo I then added a flash.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

Then I added a CTO Gel which is an orange colored gel to the light. I then took a custom white balance and shot the photo again.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/250

I also underexposed the background by 1 1/2 stop by turning the strobe up in power but keeping everything else the same. This meant I had to then close down the aperture from ƒ/10 to ƒ/22. This made the background darker since the light didn’t affect it.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/18, 1/250

I then added a CTB to the light and then did a custom white balance. This is a blue gel and by correcting the white balance the background went orange.

Make this your assignment as well. Here are the directions that I gave to the class:

Mixed Lighting
The goal of this assignment is to demonstrate when you are out of the studio you can use your strobes to improve an otherwise dismal situation.
Whatever you choose, you must provide 2 photos. 
  1. Photo without strobes. In other words your subject needs light to make it look better. You want to make this the best exposed as possibly you can do. (exactly the same as with strobes)
  2. Photo with the strobes.
Some Blog Posts to help get your juices flowing and walk you through the steps:

  1. 20% for proper exposure
  2. 20% for focus
  3. 20% Showing rules of composition
  4. 20% Demonstrating each technique
  5. 20% for expression

Lighting setup 2 assignment for my class: 3:1 Lighting Ratio

Photo by: Maile Powell

The first assignment I gave the students this week with one light gave us wonderful Rembrandt lighting. The downside to this type of lighting is sometimes you need to fill in those shadows.

The second assignment for the students in my photo class this week is 3:1 Lighting Ratio.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200

Here is the setup

Assignment Description:
3:1 lighting ratio.  This photo is classic lighting.


Octobox closest to subject
This light is your main light. Get a light reading with just this first. The light should be 45 degrees off the axis of the camera and 45 degrees above the subjects eyes.

Your subject should have the main light lighting only part of the face and the shadows should be just a little to show the 3:1 ratio.

Choose the lowest ISO.  Ideally on full-frame camera a lens close to 85mm and on cropped sensor a 50mm. Set your shutter speed to the sync speed for your camera [in your camera manual] or slower. My camera was 1/250 but I shot at a slower speed of 1/200.

Octobox behind the camera
This is your fill light and get just a reading of this 2nd.  Be sure it is 1/2 the power (1 f/stop less) than the main light. After this is done get a 3rd light reading of both lights which will be the setting for the camera. It can be level with the eyes, but you may have to move up with glasses to avoid glare.

First set the main light and here is what that will look like:

Due to using such a large soft box the shadows are not as severe as in our first assignment using the grid light. Some of the light is bouncing off a white wall a few feet to the left of the model or right of the camera position.

Turning the main light off after finding out your setting you need to take a reading and get the fill light to 1 stop less than the main light. The main light was ƒ/4 so the fill light should read ƒ/2.8.

This is what it looks like without the main light on. You can see a little darker but no real shaping of the face as the main light which is 45º to the side.

When you combine them you get the first photo of the model we started with.

The main light is twice as bright as the fill light. So to show this using math we would say the main light has value of 2 and the fill light has the value of 1.

Where both the main and fill light fall on the face is getting the combined value of the 2 + 1 = 3. However in the shadows only the fill light is hitting those and therefore the value is only 1.

So the bright areas get 3 and the shadows 1 giving you a 3:1 lighting ratio.

Now I showed the students how they can add a background light. I put a blue gel over it to show them they can also color the background.


Seeing Rembrandt lighting and then creating it

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/500

This morning while eating breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo, Hawaii I noticed what appeared to be a mother and daughter together. Now analyzing the photograph I know that the reason they caught my eye was the lighting on the mother’s face.

It is what we call Rembrandt lighting, which is named after the famous painter known for using this lighting technique in many of his paintings.

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There is a little triangle of light on the dark side of the face when a light is 45º to the side of the subject as well as 45º above the subject.

Tomorrow the students in the class will learn how to create the triangle on a person’s cheek to create Rembrandt lighting. This is my first lesson in lighting, which I think is a great place to start.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, , ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200–four Alienbees

To get this triangle the students will use a similar setup to this shot. For this shot I used four lights. the students will only use one.

They will use just the one light with a spot grid on it.

Here is there assignment they will get tomorrow. How about you try it yourself.

Rembrandt Lighting Assignment

I gave the class an assignment on making a Rembrandt light portrait using just one light with a 10º or 20º spot grid.

Most everyone in the class has never even turned on a studio strobe before.

Here is the assignment:

Rembrandt portrait using one grid light


Please get the best possible expression.  You need to see a triangle on their cheek.  Be sure the triangle includes lighting their eye.

Monobloc with 10 or 20 degree grid
You may use any power setting you choose.  Be sure skin tone is properly exposed and correct white balance.

Choose the lowest ISO setting for your camera.  Use a portrait lens 85mm – 100mm or if you don’t have full frame then 50mm will be OK.

You may use a black background as well.  No other lights to be used in this assignment.

Here one of the students shot from the past:

Photo by: Lauren R. Tercero