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Lighting is Easy Blog

Free resource for learning how to use off-camera flash and studio lighting.

Cropping your images

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, December 06, 2013

Have you ever had to cut off something you like to make your image fit a standard size print? Here's how to plan ahead for cropping

Most camera sensors are a 2:3 ratio which fits some paper perfectly and others, not so much. Here's a breakdown of how it works with all the popular size prints:










So, the sizes that match your sensor and require no cropping are:

  • 4x6
  • 20x30
  • 40x60

All the other require some cropping to fit, so when you're shooting give yourself a little extra room around the edges.

Fill Flash Made Easy

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Here's an easy way to use fill flash

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Kristy Neuenschwander. Assistant: Pat McGlinchey

Fill flash does one thing; it lightens up shadows. By using fill flash, you can control the exposure of the background and the subject separately. Below is a photo taken with the sky the way I wanted it to appear. The problem is that it leaves the subject way too dark, and if I expose the subject properly the sky will be too light. Here's where the fill flash comes in.


It's a two-step process

1: Get the background exposed the way you want it.

2: Add enough light on the subject to expose it the way you want.

But there's a catch

Most cameras can't sync with an off-camera flash at more than 1/200 of a second. That means the shutter speed must stay below the sync speed no matter what. To make that happen, you may need to adjust the aperture and/or ISO. Also remember that like everything else in photography, there are always limits to what is possible.

So, getting back to the example, the first shot is 1/60 of a second at f-8 and ISO 100. The second shot is the same, except a flash was added. The way I do it is to set the flash at 1/4 power and either use a flash meter to determine the exposure or take a test shot and then adjust from there. Remember, you already have the background set, so all that we need to do is adjust the light on the subject. There are two ways to control the light on the subject; flash power and aperture. The shutter speed controls the ambient light (background). In this case, I increased the flash power to 1/2 power and it was perfect. Increasing the aperture to f-5.6 would have produced the same result if I left the flash power at 1/4 power. Open up the aperture or increase the flash power. Both are effective ways of making the exposure of the subject lighter.

The setup

The setup is simple. One off-camera flash.

The best way to master fill flash is to get out and use it, so get out and experiment! You'll master it in no time at all.

Photogenic Ion Product Review

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I've always been skeptical of batteries for studio strobes and have instead used a gasoline powered generator when needed or just made do with portable strobes and speed lights. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I ordered a Photogenic Ion ($399 from Adorama). When it arrived I was amazed at how small and light it is and wondered how it could possibly live up to Photogenic's claims. "This will probably be going back" I thought. I was wrong.

Putting it to the test

I'm not too big on scientific tests so I took it out shooting. It either works for me or it doesn't. The photo shoot was with a bunch of photo-friends so if it failed, no big deal. I plugged in two monolights; a 500 w.s. and a 250 w.s. Bowens. I used them on a variety of settings that ranged from 1/4 to full power. After well over 100 shots, the battery still had a plenty of juice left, so I let my friends shoot with it. By the end of the evening and a LOT of shots, the battery was down to 25% power. Amazing.
Next I used it on a real job. The job required nearly 150 shots at power settings from 250 w.s. to 500 w.s. and the battery still had not even gone down to 75%! This is not going back!

Final impressions

The recycle time is noticeably slower using the Ion, but not annoyingly slow. It is extremely portable and easy to use. It even has a USB outlet for charging your phone. Genius. I am very happy with my Ion and it will open up a lot of possibilities on locations where it was not possible to take high powered lights. Anyone want to buy a used gasoline powered generator?

Should you buy one?


Here's what the manufacturer says:


Eliminate your large noisy gas generators and old fashioned humongous inverters. The all new Photogenic lithium-ion battery powered ION pure sine wave inverter takes your studio flash units on location the easy way. The ION is a powerful, lightweight, get outta town AC power supply that features two AC outlets for two monolights. Weighing in at only 3.5 lbs with a compact 7.5" x 4.4" x 3.3" profile, ION is the perfect lighting travel companion. Pack the ION and a couple of extra batteries with your lights and head out to your next shoot. It doesn't matter if your destination is the top of Mount Everest, the middle of the Kalahari or your sister in-law's wedding, this powerful combination will give you over 3,500 flashes (about 1200 per battery) at an amazing 320 watt seconds. While on your way to the next job, use ION's built-in USB port to power-up your phone or other electronic devices. Charge time to 100% for the lithium-ion battery is 3-4 hours. A glance at the LED battery meter on ION's control panel verifies the battery power level. 

You can get more information here.

The Inverse Square Law Made Easy

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lighting a car inside and out

Chuck Vosburgh - Sunday, September 29, 2013

100 ISO, 1/3 second at f-8. Focal Length: 29mm. 

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Art Director: Michael Wilkinson. Models: Mirela Aldea and Rafael Hamis.

The best solution is usually the simplest and it took just three battery powered flashes to get exactly what the client wanted. The key to success was prior planning and getting there early enough to get everything all set up and do some tests before the models arrived. Once they arrived, all that was needed was simple tweaking and we were ready to go. Since the exposure was long, one third of a second, it was important to instruct the models to hold their position until the exposure was finished or there would most likely be a small halo around them. Each shot was done the way I thought looked best and also one stop lighter. That way, I would have more to work with back on the computer if needed. As it turned out it wasn't, but I'm not one to leave anything to luck.

The Process:

I started with the people in the car since it was the most difficult and vital part of the image. With that done, everything else will fall into place.To illuminate the models inside the car, a flash was used behind the back seat of the car firing toward the back of the car and bouncing the light back toward the models using a small white reflector. I adjusted the power of the flash until I could get f-8. I knew I needed a long depth of field and the combination of the wide angle lens and f-8 gave me enough depth of field to be safe. There are several apps you can get on your phone that can help you determine the depth of field. I use PhotoCalc to quickly make sure I'm ok. The little screen on the back of the camera can not show focus well enough to trust. I also recommend using a light meter to make your setup easier. Once that was set, the next step was to illuminate the outside of the car. A combination of ambient light augmented by a portable strobe with a small parabolic reflector to illuminate the side of the car and the guitar. The back of the car was illuminated by a flash with a small flag to block some of the light and keep the flash from casting a glare on the rear window of the car.

The Setup:

Equipment Used

  • Two Canon 550EX Flashes
  • Norman 200B Portable Strobe
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 16-35 f-2.8L Lens

Keeping it simple does two things; it minimizes the variables and the chances for failures and by doing so it reduces your stress and workload which allows you to focus your attention on the details of the shot. Attention to details is frequently the difference between success and mediocrity. How do you keep it simple? Please share your ideas in the comments :)

Does anyone see anything wrong here?

Chuck Vosburgh - Saturday, September 07, 2013
While walking through a mall in Paris I saw this mono-light on display. See anything wrong?

Who will get your camera?

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, July 22, 2013

Recently a friend and fellow photographer passed away and what will happen to his most prized possessions – his cameras, probably wouldn't please him.

My friend passed away without a will and with no specific instructions, his cameras will not be handled the way he wanted them to. He told his wife and a couple close friends what his wishes were and reckoned that would be enough. It wasn't. The problems started right away. There were conflicting accounts of what should become of his beloved camera collection and since there were no written instructions, there is no way to verify who is correct. You would assume that everything goes to the surviving spouse, but this case was complicated by a second marriage and in this state, certain personal items are to be sold and the proceeds divided in the absence of written instructions from the deceased. Now nobody wins.

None of us likes to think about it, but no matter how young and healthy you are, it's a fact that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You need a will. Think about it; you have a lot of expensive equipment. You may say you don't care about what happens to your camera, but there's more. What about your body of work? Your work is your legacy and depending on the laws of your state, and the state of mind of the survivors, your work could be lost as well. It helps your loved ones to know for sure how things are to be taken care of. With your instructions written, there will be no conflicting recollections and the inevitable disputes that follow.

I think you will agree, a will is something you owe to your loved ones. Why not make it even easier for them? I encourage you to do what my Mom did. Mom not only has a will, she also has a living will to provide instructions on what to do if she is incapacitated or if there are any difficult medical decisions to be made. She also has her funeral wishes written and  , and all the documents, names and phone numbers are all in a folder that I keep in a safe place. and there are copies with my sister as well just in case I'm not able to help.

Here are some things to consider:

  • If you are incapacitated, who will take care of your business while you are recovering?
  • If there are any medical decisions to be made, who will make them on your behalf, and what would you have them do?
  • When you die, what would you like done with your body and who should do it?
  • What kind of funeral do you want and where?
  • Is there a minister, priest or pastor that you want contacted?
  • Who else should be contacted?
  • What about your body of work?

There's a lot to consider and you need the help of an attorney. It doesn't cost much and it will be a great help to your loved ones. When you pass away, they will be mourning your death and lifting the burden of having to make decisions and arrangements will be the best gift you could give them.

Best quality images for FaceBook

Chuck Vosburgh - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Myth Buster!

There has been a lot of talk about different ways to make your images look their best on FaceBook. Not being one to just take someone's word for it, I did some tests. 

The Claim: Saving your image as a .png will yield better quality than  a .jpg when posted on FaceBook.

The Test: I chose an image with a lot of small details in it and saved it as a JPEG at maximum quality and did the same as a PNG. They were both uploaded to FaceBook at the same time and here are the results:

The image on the left is the JPEG and the image on the right is the PNG. See the difference? Me either. Here's why they are the same; when you upload an image to FaceBook, they process the image into a JPEG automatically regardless of what file format you are uploading. To confirm this, I downloaded both files from FaceBook and they were both JPEGs. I'm not a tech-person, but results don't lie.

So, how do you get the best quality from FaceBook? Sharpening plays a role and most of all, uploading the best quality image you can will yield the best quality you can get from FaceBook. No tricks about it.

Is there anything I overlooked or am mistaken about? Write it in the comments please :)

Executive Portraits Behind the Scenes

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, May 13, 2013
Here's a little behind the scenes video of a recent job where we photographed 90 executive portraits in two days on location at a conference.

Creating Executive Portraits from Chuck Vosburgh on Vimeo.

Quick Environmental Portrait with One Light

Chuck Vosburgh - Sunday, March 31, 2013

I had the pleasure of teaching at Photo Day Tampa Bay and my topic was environmental portraiture. Photographing someone in an environment consistent with what they are known for makes the image more interesting and personal for the subject. In this example, it was in the middle of the day with bright sun and the trees made hot spots all over the place. Here's how it was solved step by step:

Step one: Control the sun

The sun was brought under control by blocking it with a large reflector. 

Step two: Get some light on the subject

I used an 28" umbrella, slightly to the right.

Step three: Darken the background

To help the subject stand out better, I increased the shutter speed to darken the background. 
That's it. Easy.

Points to remember

F-stop controls the artificial light and shutter speed controls the ambient light.
Longer focal length gives a shallow depth of field making the background nice and blurry.

Here are the specs:

1/60 second
ISO 100
Norman portable strobe set at 100ws