Posts tagged ‘lighting’

Alien Bees vs. Elinchrom -for really big light

howdy folks,

Today I saw a new light modifier from AlienBees that reminded me of a light bank made by Elinchrom.

Here’s a link to how they would be used (a link to Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider where he used the Elinchrom Octa Light Bank).

I wanted to see how they compared.

Both products work like brolly boxes.  Both are modelled on the good kind – where you shoot into a reflector umbrella through a flat diffuser (not the bad kind – a shoot through umbrella with a black back). 

The AlienBee product and the Elinchrom unit are around  74 inches (190 cm).  The Elinchrom appears to be a deeper unit, but I suspect that is due to the light placement (see the next point).  I was a little misled by AlienBee describing their product  as 86 inches, but tucking in a disclaimer that that was the arc measurement of the umbrella and not the flat plane (face) opening measurement.  After I catching my error, I noticed other similar clarifications (covering the same info) tucked in around the product page.

The AlienBee modifier has the light attach outside the lightsource. The Elinchrom Light Bank encloses the light within the modifier. The elinchrom unit would probably have less of a blind spot from the light itself.

When it comes to price, there isn’t much of a comparison.  The AlienBee Silver 86″ 16 Rib Parabolic Umbrella runs $75 plus you’ll probably want the diffuser front ($28) and a light and stand.  The Elinchrom unit is self contained reflector and stand for a cool $989 .  It does come with the stand and diffuser but you’ll still need to provide the lighting unit yourself.

Call me crazy, but I think the AlienBee unit is a pretty awesome deal.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Elinchrom products and use my Elinchrom skyports almost every time I use my camera.  But…. with a 800 dollar difference, I think I could sacrifice a little build quality as a low volume photographer.  It’s probably the best of both worlds, my skyports still work with the AlienBee Lights and I get a killer light modifier on the cheap.  Now to find a battery pack to become mobile.


Shooting Smarter with Will Crockett

Howdy Folks!

I recently had the opportunity to watch a few videos from the shoot smarter collection.  In case you haven’t heard of them, is an online photography education site with alot (and I mean alot) of free content -called smarticles (all text and graphics – no video that I’ve seen).  It has pretty good advice as long as you can find the topic you are looking for.  You do have to register to access the info, but membership is free.

Back to the subject at hand.  The videos that I’ve seen range from brilliant to decent.  Most of the advice is sound – especially when concerning the importance of metering and “face mask histograms” (a concept created by Mr. Crockett).  He does give a few bad tips like “it’s okay to mix digital and film – your lab won’t mind”  or  ” Exposure control is hands down the number one problem with digital files” (these aren’t exact quotes but cover the idea of what he said.  To clarify, mixing media type is a surefire way to have problems in color and consistency between your images.  Also, although he is correct that exposure is probably the number one problem, white balance comes in at a very, very close second,  followed by file size and file type issues and unclear or impossible customer instructions (that’s neither here nor there – just thought I’d throw those last two out on the table). 

All in all, I would definitely recommend the Digital Exposure Control video (keeping my critiques in mind). I have seen the digital portrait lighting series (videos 1-3). The first is a great primer for novices. The second video covers various shooting scenarios and is a little boring.  The third issue felt like short attention span theatre with the content jumping back and forth so often, it felt like a commercial without any products to sell.  I think all four of these videos have pretty solid content as long as you disregard any advice about photolabs.  His advice may work well for the lab he uses, but I can’t help but cringe at the thought of one of my lab’s customers trying his suggestions.

I also thought I should mention that he appears to be heavily biased in many gear or software choices (probably due to sponsorship deals).

By the way, Mr. Crockett doesn’t host all of the videos on  From what I’ve seen,his videos are the best in the series. (for some reason he kind of reminds me of Chris Farley -don’t know why, he just does).

walking a mile (long range diy camera trigger)

Howdy Folks,

Today on they have an amazing article on how to build a camera trigger out of walkie talkies!  These things look amazing and it sound like they have enough range to trigger your camera at whatever the range of the radios have.  I would suspect that this could be modified to trigger lights.  In case you’ve missed my other articles on the topic, I am building quite a collection of articles about camera and lighting triggers in relation to building your own DIY photo booth.  Click on the dropdown box on the left (under “Topic Categories”) and select photobooth project for all of the articles.

Shooting Water

found a couple short videos on how to shoot water droplets:

Green Screen Tutorial (found on YouTube)

I found this great tutorial about chromakey backgrounds (green screens or blue screens) on YouTube and thought I would pass it along.

hope you find it as useful as I did!

My 2 cents (We need more Composition)

Maybe it’s just me, but I have grown weary of lighting. 

  Granted, it is a very important aspect of photography, but what about composition?  It seems to me that everybody and their cousin is a fan of the strobist (which I think is a great site also), but that is only half of the equation.

  Last Tuesday, David Ziser did a very nice piece on the use of the horizon line with respect to composition.  I wish more photographers would address the various parts of composition: Crop, Composition, Posing and POV (point of view).  Mr. Ziser’s article was a great example of POV. When you think about camera position, you first need to decide whether there is a horizon line or not (like a seamless backdrop). The general rule of thumb is that, depending on the portrait crop (bust, 3/4s or full), determine the height of the camera.  Mr. Ziser’s video made me realize that it’s not that easy and a horizon line requires a different line of thought.

Guidelines for Portrait Posing

 Here are a few guidelines to improve the quality of your portrait sessions.

1.  Have the subject sit up straight.

2.  Have the subject lean slightly over belt buckle (or where it would be).

3.  No squared shoulders. The subject should be at 45° to the camera.

4.  Project the chin to reduce or eliminate a double chin.

5.  No tank tops or sleeveless shirts. They tend to make the arms look fatter.

6.  For a formal group portrait – No bright or bold patterns unless everyone is wearing the same. If only one person has it, then they draw attention away from the other subjects.

7.  For a formal group portrait – No shorts. The eyes are drawn to lighter areas in a photo and you don’t need someone’s leg competing for attention with their face.

8.  For any portrait – avoid tight stripes or corduroy at they significantly increase the odds of developing a moiré pattern in smaller prints.

9.  Use directional lighting to add dimension to the subject by placing the key light off to the side of the subject. David Ziser has a great tutorial about this in one of his wedding portrait lessons on

10.  When shooting a larger group, try to make your light source a large as possible (like an extra large softbox), as close as possible (without interfering with the shot) and as high as possible (to cast shadows down instead of on the person behind them) to minimize problems from shadows.

11.  When shooting larger groups, don’t have them all face forward. Instead, have them face the camera (the people on the end will be angled towards the camera).

12.  When shooting groups, use a telephoto lens to prevent people in the front from appearing larger than the people in the back. (This effect is called foreshortening).

13.  Speaking of foreshortening, never have any appendage pointed straight at the lens. Instead, have them slightly off axis so that the length of the arm, finger, etc… can be seen. Or better yet, change the pose to avoid possible problems.

14.  When posing hands, feet, arms, etc… (Anything the subject has two of) try to pose them differently. It doesn’t need to be drastic, just a subtle difference to create a more natural look.

15.  If it bends, bend it. Elbows, wrists, knees, etc… all look more natural if there is a slight bend.

16.  Don’t crop at the joints if at all possible. Many fashion shows stress the importance of making sure that clothes to not stop at a joint area, but continue past a little bit. The same rule applies to photography.

17.  Avoid shooting groin shots or armpit shots. To avoid a groin shot simply move the front leg slightly forward in front of the rear leg to reduce exposure to the groin area.

18.  For couples, do not shoot both heads in a horizontal or vertical line; make sure they are diagonal for a more pleasing composition.

19.  When shooting people with glasses, shoot one image with the glasses and then immediately shoot another without. If you have Photoshop, this is the perfect time to use it. Tilting glasses or removing the lenses work, but often don’t look as natural and can cause a lot of stress to the subject. 

20.  Masculine Poses vs. Feminine Poses. When posing the head, men should tilt their head towards the lower shoulder, while women can tilt either way. Tilting a woman’s head toward the higher shoulder is considered more feminine.

21.  Masculine Poses vs. Feminine Poses. When posing the body, women look better when their body forms an S-curve, while men look better when forming a C-curve. To create an S-curve or C-curve start by having the subject turn their body 45° from the camera, then turn their head back straight and another 15° to 20° in the opposite direction. Here’s the catch: for an S-curve, tilt the head toward the high shoulder (as described in rule 20) for a C-curve, tilt the head toward the low shoulder.

22.  Proper camera position. When shooting head and shoulders shots the camera should be between eye to nose level. When shooting torso shots, the camera should be between chin to chest level. When shooting ¾ to full body shots, the camera should be between chest and waist level.

I have added this list to my main website:  It can be found in the composition section under “posing“.