The Golden Minute in the Golden Hour

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 250, 1/500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

We are often enjoying photographing sunsets and even talk about the Golden Hour of light for photography. The Golden Hour (sometimes referred to as the Magic Hour) is often defined as the first and last hour of sunlight in the day when the special quality of light yields particularly beautiful photographs.

I have found that when it comes to matching the manmade light of buildings within the Golden Hour it shrinks to just minutes of opportune time for great light.

Dinner at The Fish Hopper, Kona with my wife Dorie. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 18000, 1/500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Now the difference between this photo where the light outside is balancing well with the light of the restaurant was just a few minutes between too much light and too little light from the sun.

Dinner at The Fish Hopper Kona [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

The top photo of my wife was shot at 6:32 pm. Right about the time of sunset. This one just above was shot at 6:18 pm.

Dinner at The Fish Hopper Kona [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 51200, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

From my many years of shooting I have noticed that from the time of actual sunset to when balancing light with man-made lights like here you have about 15 to 20 minutes tops for good photos. I think there is really about a 5 minute window for the best photos at most.

Dinner at The Fish Hopper Kona [SM-G973U, , Mode = Normal, ISO 800, 1/17, ƒ/2.2, (35mm = 13)]

My favorite shot was done on my Galaxy S10 phone and shot with the wide angle lens. That is 13mm equivalent with the 35mm camera. This is shot at 6:40 pm 13 minutes after sunset.

By the way, the food and atmosphere of The Fish Hopper in Kona, Hawaii is excellent. The waitress was one of the best we have ever had. Big shout out to Bridget Kaleki Butler for the recommendation.

A week in paradise teaching studio lighting & business practices

Photo above [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/60, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 35) flash used was Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Monolight w/ R2 2.4GHz using the R2 Mark II ETTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Nikon -1 EV setting with TTL]

Every year since 2006 Dennis Fahringer has invited me to teach to his School of Photography 1 students at the University of Nations in Kona, Hawaii studio lighting.

Stanley teaching “Butterfly Lighting” photo by Dorie Griggs

While I was originally asked to teach only studio lighting, I have also taught some on business practices.

I believe every successful business starts first with the customer and discovering what needs/wants they have and creating a business that meets those needs/wants. Too many photography programs only teach how to do photography and never give their students the one thing that will determine their ability to do this as a career and not a hobby–business skills.

selfie taken with the class in the photo studio

Dennis caps the class at 16 students. Normally he has a waiting list. This year we only had 4 students. This just meant this class got even more one-on-one time with their instructors.

The students were from four countries this year. Columbia, S. Korea, Canada & USA. Some years we had as many as 9 different countries represented. They fly to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and spend 3 months of doing just photography. I believe that Dennis has put together one of the best foundation courses for photography that I have ever seen.

My first day I teach how to turn on the studio flashes and how to adjust their power as well as how to make them work with your camera. Their first lighting assignment is to start with just one light and learn how to place the light in the starting place for most portraits. That is 45º to the side of the camera and then 45º above their eye level. When done correctly and the subject is looking at the camera you will get the classic lighting style of Rembrandt.

Here is a link to that first assignment they do in case you want to also try it yourself: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/08/seeing-rembrandt-lighting-and-then-creating-it/

This is Alden Engelbrecht, from South Africa. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10) © Kate Covington 2020, USA

Day two is learning how to do Butterfly Lighting.

Butterfly lighting is a portrait lighting pattern where the key light is placed above and directly centered with a subject’s face. This creates a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly. It’s also known as ‘Paramount lighting,’ named for classic Hollywood glamour photography.

Here is a link to that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2019/03/02/students-butterfly-lighting-examples/

Brandon Albers was doing homework until 4AM last night and this is him celebrating He is done and can go to the pool after 3 months of hard studies. © Diego Antorveza 2020, Columbia

Day Three we tackled 3:1 Ratio Lighting.

Lighting ratio in photography refers to the comparison of key light (the main source of light from which shadows fall) to the fill light (the light that fills in the shadow areas). The higher the lighting ratio, the higher the contrast of the image; the lower the ratio, the lower the contrast.

Here is a link to that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/10/lighting-setup-2-assignment-for-my-class-31-lighting-ratio/

This is Ireland Rash. She struggled when deciding whether or not to come to YWAM Kona, but knew God was calling her to it. She now confidently states that it was the best decision of her life. © Raylene Neill 2020, Canada

Mixed lighting assignment was to just use one light to improve the photo. I asked them to hand in 2 photos. One without the light and then the second showing how the light improved the photo.

Here is that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/12/lighting-assignment-combining-studio-strobes-with-available-light/

I also asked that each photo have a caption. There are two reasons for this. First it is easier later to find the photo if you have text embedded in the metadata. Second is most clients will also benefit from having this information. We were not using the AP Style for captions, but more of a social media style for the captions. This was their first attempts for most of them in writing captions.

Myoungsuk Kim said, “This week has taught me that I can take photos not just for me, but to make photos for others.” That was one of the best things I could have heard.

You see most people want to do photography and get paid, but are usually self-centered in their photography. It is when you realize that when you make photos that others enjoy and more importantly use that they will pay you to do this and therefore make it possible to do this for a living.

“The evidence is overwhelming: The best way to get what you want is through serving others.”

anonymous

“. . . Stand in front of more interesting stuff”

The photo above is of Don Senas, Fire Dancer [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/320, ƒ/4, (35mm = 75)]

This week I have been teaching how to use studio strobes to help improve one’s photography.

Last night was the only time I have had the class join me for a real photo shoot that they can watch, take some photos to help remember the occasion, but primarily have the opportunity to watch a pro and what they do on a photo shoot using studio strobes to improve the lighting.

Fire Dancer Six hula keiki (children) in Hawaiian [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/250, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

My wife Dorie Griggs took a video on her phone of me taking the photos and the students watching. Here is that video:

You can see the strobes off to the side at about 45º from the camera angle.

All those were shot at these settings: [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/160, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Brooke Valle Anderson [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/60, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

These photos are of Brooke Valle Anderson, Hawaiian Dancer. She is with Island Breeze. They do luau shows on the Big Island.

Hula keiki (children) in Hawaiian dress [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/60, ƒ/8, (35mm = 28)]

Brooke also works with a Hula Keiki (children’s) after school program where the children learn the different dances.

Dorie Griggs photo of me teaching [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]
Hula keiki (children) in Hawaiian [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1600, 1/60, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Earlier in the day I taught the class how to use off camera strobe to complement the existing light. Here are some of the shots I did to show them how to do this, before they each went and spent the afternoon shooting an assignment to do an enviornmental portrait and use the flash to improve the photo.

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2500, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 68)]

They were to hand in a before and after photo like I am showing here.

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 125, 1/500, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 75)]

I also gave them a PDF for the assignment. Here is a link to that project in case you want to try this as well.

Here are a couple examples I showed them that are “Environmental Portraits”

Now here are some that would work for this assignment as well from my photo shoot in a Chick-fil-A. All of these also use a strobe to improve the light.

Catering delivery vehicle

This was the last assignment for my time here on the Big Island of Hawaii teaching the students in the School of Photography 1 at the University of the Nations. The last assignment they did is the one that I do more than any other lighting setup.

I am adding just one light off the camera to help light a person’s face to help draw the audience to them quickly in a photo.

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”

Jim Richardson

Using Strobes to Enhance Your Lighting

Settings for photo above: [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/6, ƒ/9, (35mm = 24)]

I shoot a lot in restaurants. The hardest part for these photo shoots is that there are four walls and three of them are all glass. Just the front counter isn’t backlit during the daytime hours.

Dining Room [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/160, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

I love to hang strobes from the drop ceilings using a bracket.

Not the light I use but same bracket

I just used the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight as a bare bulb and point the light straight up.

That lets me keep the outside windows from being blown out in the background and gives me most of the time great light on people’s faces.

Dining Room [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

The light from the window is lighting the employee and the strobe in the ceiling is lighting the customer in this photo.

The other great thing using this setup is the strobes are battery powered and so there are no cords. I am just adjusting the power with the Godox X1T-N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Transmitter.

Godox X1T-N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Transmitter

I could change the power of the lights even tho they were mounted on the ceiling away from the camera. I first check to see what the existing light settings would be and then set the camera to use that ISO and settings so that the flash is just cleaning up the light and where there are shadows [like the man’s face would have been] are no longer silhouettes.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/6, ƒ/9, (35mm = 24)]

Now to get the photo like the one here and the very top photo, I just slowed the shutter speed to 1/6 and cranked the aperture up to ƒ/9 and ISO 100. The flash is on the ceiling as I mentioned and since it is TTL it just popped in to get a clean light on the face and then me panning blurred the rest of the photo.

Dining Room [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 75)]

Just get the flash off the camera is the best tip I can give. Try the mounting of the flash to the ceiling rather than on a light stand.

Try some experimenting. You don’t always shoot the lowest ISO and at the flash sync speed when shooting with the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight.

Dining Room [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/320, ƒ/4, (35mm = 52)]

New brick background for that location feel

If you don’t have a good headshot, you need one in today’s business world. For actors they need them for all the shows they are in. For the average person you need one as part of your resume, which many use LinkedIn as the way to deliver a resume.

I have steered away from picture backgrounds, because they can look really fake. However, recently more and more people want photos outside on location.

Katie King [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 85)]

So while the traditional solid background works for inside portraits, outside portraits on weather challenging days is difficult to do with your model.

Bought this on Amazon. Click on image for more information.
[SM-G970U, Mode = Normal, ISO 640, 1/39, ƒ/1.5, (35mm = 26)]

So this is the setup I was using to do actor headshots at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.

Photo by Dorie Griggs [SM-G970U, Mode = Normal, ISO 640, 1/29, ƒ/2.2, (35mm = 13)]

Before I shot the models with it on location, I did some testing in my house.

Photo by Dorie Griggs [SM-G970U, , Mode = Normal, ISO 320, 1/39, ƒ/2.4, (35mm = 26)]

I tried a few lighting setups. I went with the Pall Buff 86” Soft Silver PLM™ Umbrella. It produces a controlled, feathered falloff with very soft shadows.

Photo by Dorie Griggs [SM-G970U, , Mode = Normal, ISO 1250, 1/9, ƒ/2.2, (35mm = 13)]

I had two setups. One with a large white muslin background that I could make grey or white depending on the light I put on the background.

Katie King [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 85)]

Here is a video my wife took when I was shooting my daughter on the brick background.

Here are some of those photos:

I did less coaching with Chelle since she has done this many times before she needed no real direction. For others who are doing this for the first time I did more direction.

I shot with my Nikon Z6 with the focus setting on AF-S and Auto Area with the AF face/eye detection turned on. If you use the Nikon ViewNX-i software it will let you see where you were focused when the photo was taken as you can see here. This is great for trouble shooting your focus.

I find that actors/models love having the freedom to try new expressions and just experiment.

This was the setup I finally used after experimenting.