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Lighting is Easy Blog

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

Backup Strategy for Photographers

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, September 24, 2012

I've always said that there are two kinds of photographers; those who back up their files and those who eventually wish they had. Our photographs are priceless and irreplaceable and we should treat them that way. I've seen systems that range from nonexistent to insanely complex. Here's my backup workflow:

Here's how it works

In the field, as soon as possible I copy my files to my notebook computer and also to an external hard drive at the same time. Lightroom can do this simultaneously. I leave the files on the card also, which gives me three copies of the files.

Once back in the office, I copy the files to my desktop computer, which automatically back up to another hard drive hourly. The memory cards can now be erased and put back in my camera bag. I leave the files on my notebook and field external drive for now if possible.

As I work on the files, they are continuously being backed up to a second drive and once a week to a third hard drive.

One problem remains. If some kind of catastrophe happens at the office, my computer and all my backups are in the same building. The same condition that destroys my computer would also most likely destroy my backups as well. This is where off-site backups come in. Even though it's slow, my desktop is being continuously backed up online to an offsite server. I use Carbonite. Also, once a project is finished, I make a 300 year archival DVD and keep it in an off-site location. I use MAM-A gold archival disks for this.

Nothing is foolproof, but in 25 years I have never lost a file. I'm confident that as long as I follow my system I'll be fine. What's your system? Share your ideas in the comments below!

App for finding locations to shoot

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, August 23, 2012

ShootLocal is an app that allows you to take a photograph of a good location to shoot, add notes and it records the location of the photograph. Other photographers can search uploaded photos.

Here's what the maker has to say about the app:

ShootLocal is a social utility for photographers and videographers to scout, shoot, share and discover locations. The app is meant to simplify and enhance the process of finding and sharing new locations: connecting creatives to the world around them. In ShootLocal’s world, everyone is a location scout adding wonderful scenes and picturesque backdrops for you to capture in your next project. 

This app will be a utility to some and a game or a hobby to others.
For pros:
-> Create location databases for projects
-> Send or review locations across the country
-> Reduce resourcing costs for shoots
-> Set up a hunt for a particular element or location
-> Discover more, faster
-> Meet like-minded individuals

For play:
-> Share your favorite locations with friends 
-> Follow popular scouts and see through their lens
-> Know where to shoot and explore when you travel
-> Plan a photo shoot like a pro
-> Find nearby photo enthusiasts
-> Be rewarded with in-app badges

Features ->
Save your locations w/ multiple photos, tags and descriptions
Share locations
Find & Follow your friends/scouts
Search by location, tags or description
Twitter integration
Find nearby locations
Request a location (Location Hunts)
Reviews/Comment on locations
Save locations as favorites
Get badges
Download it for free today at the App Store or check out the web site.

An Adapter to Make any Paint Pole or Broom Handle a Light Stand

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Here's another one of those "I wish I had invented this" items. It's simple and solves a big problem for photographers who travel. Most of my assignments involve travel, and it's very inconvenient to travel with light stands by air. Stands small enough to get by as carry-on are too short and flimsy, and suitable stands have to be in a case and checked.That's where the Kacey Pole Adapter comes in. It converts any painting extension pole or threaded broom handle to be able to accent a standard photographic light. That and an assistant, some bungee cords or some tape and you have a light stand that you can find anywhere. Genius.

It's made of aluminum, small, incredibly light and very nicely made. I'll be ordering more for sure.

They're about $20. Here's a link to their web site click here. I got mine at Flash Zebra.

The Easy Way to use Fill Flash

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, August 02, 2012

Most photographers shy away from using fill flash because it seems complicated. Use this two-step process to easily get great results every time.

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Kimberly Ridgeway. Photo Editor: Jessie Adler. Photographer’s Assistant: Patricia McGlinchey. 

The Problem

The subject is in the shadows, so if you make the subject look good, the background will be too light or completely white. If you make the background look good the subject will be too dark. You want both the background and the subject to look good.


The Solution Step One

Start by getting a good overall exposure of the scene. Use Manual Mode on your camera and set the shutter speed to 1/125 second or less. Don’t worry about how your subject looks, just get the background looking the way you want it to by leaving the shutter speed at 1/125 second or less and change the aperture (f-stop) to adjust the exposure. 

The solution Step Two

All that’s needed to make this photograph look great is to add enough light on the subject to make her look good. If you have a light meter, this step is quicker, but for this example I’ll assume you don’t have a light meter with you.

Put your flash on a stand or have someone hold it. Put the flash on Manual Mode and set the Power to 1/2. Take a test shot and see if the subject is too light or too dark. In this example, the subject was too dark. Adjust the aperture up or down. Since this example the subject was too dark, the aperture was opened up a couple of stops. You can also adjust the power of the flash to make the subject lighter or darker, or move the flash closer or farther away.


What if my aperture is open all the way and the subject is still too dark?

If you can’t or don’t want to open the aperture any more, increase the power on the flash.

What if my aperture is open all the way and my flash is on full power and the subject is still too dark?

Move the flash closer to the subject take a test shot, adjust the distance until the subject looks good.

What if the subject is still too dark?

Increase the ISO on your camera or add another flash or a more powerful flash.

Why it Works

The flash will lighten up the subject, but since the background is pretty far away, the flash won’t reach it. A regular flash only reaches about 10-20 feet, usually closer to 10. Remember, the shutter speed must be slower than the sync speed of your camera. 1/125 second or less is safe. Read your camera’s instructions or experiment to see if you can go higher. The shutter speed controls the exposure of the background and the aperture controls the exposure of the subject. The flash power and distance can also be used to control the exposure of the subject.

The Setup:

Equipment Used:

Canon 5D camera body

Canon 70-200 lens

Two Pocket Wizard Plus IIs, one on the camera and one on the flash

A Canon 550EX flash held by an assistant

Controlling contour in portraits

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, June 29, 2012

Photographer, Chuck Vosburgh. Model: JoAnn Jensen

In studio lighting, it's often a temptation to use the largest soft-box you can to get maximum softness in a portrait. The down side to that is that the portrait can look flat, lacking contour and dimension. There are two ways to control contour and dimension in a photograph; angle and size of the light. The more you move the light to the side of the subject the more contour shows, and the smaller the light source is, the more contour shows. Like everything else in photography, it's a trade-off. Too much contour shows every flaw in the subject's skin and too little makes them look too flat. Taking your time and experiencing will help you decide what's best for your subject and your preferences. Take the time to adjust the angle of the light for each subject. The same angle won't be the best on everybody. Even though it looks good, careful evaluation and experimentation will make it the best it can be.

The good news is that it's very simple and easy

For this example, a large parabolic (bowl) reflector was used on the light as a main (key) light and the shadows are being controlled by a large soft-gold reflector. Start with the main light at 45° up and 45° to the side and about six feet away with no reflector to fill the shadows. Adjust the angle of the light to get a nice Rembrandt or Loop style lighting pattern on the face, along with a nice catch-light in the eyes. Shoot and adjust to suit you. Add a reflector to fill the shadows, moving it in closer to lighten the shadows, farther away to darken the shadows. Add a hair light to separate the subject from the background and a light on the background and you have a very nice portrait setup.

Here's the setup:

You can use any lights to make this setup: Strobes like in the example or flashes with an umbrella for the main light and a flash for the hair and background. You can also use clamp-on lights from the hardware store. Give it a try, it's easy. Let me know how you make out.

Portrait of the week

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, June 18, 2012

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: Michelle Knapp

Here's a simple portrait set-up that differs from my usual set-up slightly. This one uses a strip light for the hair light instead of a snoot or grid. The strip light offers a bit more flexibility for positioning the model without having to reposition the light and also puts more rim-light on the shoulders and arms than a snoot or grid.

Here's the setup:

Main: Large soft-box

Fill: Large soft-gold reflector

Hair Light: Medium Photoflex half dome with grid (strip light)

A very effective portrait lighting setup

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Last week I attended a workshop at the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association by well-known portrait photographer Michael J. In his workshop he demonstrated his techniques photographing pets and he used a complex but very effective lighting setup that is frequently used by in-studio portrait photographers. It typically uses between five and seven lights, and once you get it set up once, you'll be able to replicate it again.

Here's the setup:

Notice how the main light is feathered away from the background so it doesn't spill over onto the background. This allows total control of the background using the background lights. The rim lights provide plenty of light on the sides of the subject to allow this kind of feathering of the main light. Grids are used extensively to give precise control to the background, rim and hair lights and also prevent the possibility of lens glare. If you have access to several lights and modifiers, give this setup a try. You'll love the results!


Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, May 10, 2012
Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get the job done :) Posters are available.

Another vital tool for on-location work

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, May 08, 2012

If you've ever done a photo-shoot on-location you know that moving your equipment around is one of the hardest parts of the project. After many different failed solutions, here's what I have been using for the past few years and it works perfectly for me. It's designed for another type of creative professional that has the same needs we do in regard to moving lots of heavy equipment - musicians.

The thing I like best about it is that it folds down very small, can open up very large and can carry a lot of weight. It's like the swiss army knife of carts. Here's what the manufacturer has to say about it:

The Rock N Roller Multi-Cart 8-in-1 R6 Mini Equipment Transporter Cart makes getting your audio equipment in and out of gigs a breeze! We all know that load-ins and load-outs can be the worst part of a gig. Either you're sweating before you play or dreading the number of trips you'll be making after the gig through narrow corridors, cellars, and staircases, or over the length of several football fields. 
The Rock N Roller cart changes all that with its ability to instantly transform into any of 8 helpful configurations. Carry up to 500 lb. on the Rock N Roller R6 equipment cart's 2-rail frameextendable from 28" to 42-1/2"and 24" (front/rear) foldable sides. Weighing only 25 lb., the R6 equipment transporting cart carries huge loads but folds flat to fit even in the trunk of a compact car. 
Rock N Roller R6 Multi-Cart configurations: Storage-Transport, Short Furniture Dolly, Short Platform Cart, Short Hi-Stacker, Long Hi-Stacker, Long Platform Cart, Long Furniture Dolly, And 2-Wheel Handtruck. 
Applications for the R6 Equipment Transporter: Guitar/bass equipment, small drums, small PA's, DJ, photo/video, general use 

Never sweat before a gig againor hurt yourself trying to carry more gear than you should to save trips! Make load-ins a breeze and order an R6 multi-cart today!

This one is the medium-sized one. There's also a larger off-road version with larger wheels and a smaller one. I have the large and medium ones and they suit me just fine. I got mine here at Guitar Center.

Do you have anything that's worked well for you? Please share in the comments below!

An important tool for on-location work

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Knee pads. Yes, knee pads.

Changing your point of view from a standing position to a low angle almost always improves your image. But if you're like me, you're reluctant to get down low for fear of getting your pants dirty or hurting your knees. That's where knee pads can save the day. Knee pads make you more likely to get down low and more likely to get better images because of it. And they look cool!

What to get

There are two main types of knee pads; flat and round. The ones with a flat surface are a bit more restrictive to moving around, so I recommend the ones with rounded knees. Get the "pro" models, they're more comfortable and durable. The cheap ones are no bargain because they'll wear out fast. I got mine at Home Depot for about $30 and love them.

So, go get a pair and get down!

Do you have any tools you use that aren't originally for photography? Tell us in the comments below.