'Portrait Photography' Category

Rick Sammon Keeps it Simple

Rick Sammon is a shooter we’ve admired for a long time. Last week he posted a great how-to article on his blog. Fashion Week Day 2: Try the KIS Lighting Technique has some serious gems regarding off-camera flash. Sammon details how he augmented the sun with his Cannon Speedlight 580EX II triggered by a PocketWizard.

Sammon includes the following gems, which we quote directly.

  • The closer the light, the softer the light.
  • The larger the light, the softer the light.
  • For a softer light, don’t aim the light directly at the subject. Rather, feather it (tilt it away from the subject) so that the light “spills” onto the subject.

Great post, Rick!

Rick is currently working on an iOS app called Light It!, which is about, of course, lighting, and should be available in September. Always a source of great information, tips, and examples of great off-camera flash, don’t miss the regular posts to Sammon’s blog.

Rick Sammon Photography

Rick Sammon Blog

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The Caytons and Their PocketWizards

Husband and wife photography team Sean and Cathy Cayton of Colorado Springs, Colorado, have a new blog post about the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and the FlexTT5.

Stating he usually doesn’t do product reviews, Sean calls the system “my new best friend, seriously.” Looks like this wedding photography team is just beginning to enjoy their entry into the world of PocketWizard. Congrats, and welcome, Catyons!

©Sean and Cathy Cayton, caytonphotojournal.blogspot.com

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Marko Saari and the Elements

Finnish photographer Marko Saari was profiled on the Profoto blog in April of this year. He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the making of a new series of photos which utilized PocketWizard Plus II units. Here’s what he had to say, along with images and settings.

Stylist, singer and make-up professional Cemile Nisametdin had an idea to make photo sessions about the five elements and interaction between five types of energy: tree, fire, earth, metal and water. She was inspired by the beauty of different energies from elements and wanted to collaborate with me to make photos for the “earth” element. The concept was for the photos to be filled with expressive energies from nature and color, but still keep the entire story and settings relatively simple. Shades of brown, yellow and green were most linked to the soil element so we ended up using brown and green seamless background in studio. Green is a balancing color and contains potential energy. It also matches brown because they are colors from nature. The backstory had strong emotions linked to the soil element.

©Marko Saari. Model: Katerina Suokas. Make-up, hair and styling: Cemile Nisametdin. Nikon D300, 50mm lens, 1/200 second, f/9, ISO 200. Profoto Compact 600 R with 5' octa camera left. Profoto AcuteB with white reflective umbrella as fill camera right. Elinchrom style 400FX with grid for background behind model camera right. PocketWizard Plus II and optical sensors for triggering.

Katerina Suokas was chosen as model. I have worked with her many times, and with her dancing background and good variation of expressions she was an excellent model for the project. A strong and penetrating gaze in the photos was part of the mood we wanted.

©Marko Saari. Model: Katerina Suokas. Make-up, hair & styling: Cemile Nisametdin. Nikon D300, 50mm lens, 1/200 second, f/10, ISO 200. Profoto Compact 600 R with 5' octa camera left. Profoto AcuteB with white reflective umbrella as fill camera right. Elinchrom style 400FX with grid for background behind model camera right. Elinchrom style 400FX with stripbox for touch of kicker light behind model camera right. Fan camera right. PocketWizard Plus II and optical sensors for triggering.

©Marko Saari. Model: Katerina Suokas. Make-up, hair & styling: Cemile Nisametdin. Nikon D300, 85mm lens, 1/200 second, f/10, ISO 200. Profoto Compact 600 R with 5' octa above & front of camera. Profoto AcuteB with white reflective umbrella as fill below it. Elinchrom style 400FX with grid for background behind model cam right. Elinchrom style 400FX with stripbox behind model camera right. PocketWizard Plus II and optical sensors for triggering.

The kimono dates back to at least the fifth century in Eastern cultures. Cemile originates from eastern Tatar culture as well, and that’s why she also wanted to preserve the restrained grace and femininity of the kimono dress. The kimono has a definite style and character. Books on the history of kimonos point out they have their own ethics and can also tell the marital status of the wearer. That’s why the use of a kimono was an essential part of this project. The woman wearing the kimono expresses harmony and natural flexibility.

©Marko Saari.

©Marko Saari

Marko Saari’s portfolio

Marko Saari on Flickr

Marko Saari on Twitter

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Photographing Models, by Mary DuPrie

Every so often you come across a photography product worth getting excited about, and it has nothing to do with corporate hype or industry buzz. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview PocketWizard user Mary DuPrie, of Mary DuPrie Studios. DuPrie also runs the well-written blog Photographing Models. To date, she’s released three instructional DVDs. This article will deal with one, Photographing Models.

In Photographing Models, DuPrie deviates from the norm, and does so in a wildly successful way. Most instructional products aimed at photographers are about lighting and equipment. They usually miss the most critical thing, and that’s the positioning of models. You can have a gorgeous woman posing in front of your lens, with a team of talented makeup artists and wardrobe stylists at the ready, plus all the lighting and camera equipment in the world, but if your subject doesn’t know how to move, the quality of the photos will be predictably disappointing. Crack all the dumb blonde jokes you want about models, but successful ones who keep working know how to move and pose. Good shots are typically not random, happy accidents.

DuPrie stands alone with this DVD. Not only will photographers learn what poses to avoid, but models will be fascinated to see how critical hand placement is, for instance. She demonstrates how to minimize hands, keep them relaxed, and have them add to the mood of a photo, and not, for instance, compete with a face. How many models know hands are such a deal-changer? More importantly, how many photographers know this?

DuPrie uses a monitor on set to explain to the model what poses work and why. ©Mary DuPrie

Over the course of this DVD, DuPrie does everything to physically detail to Sally, a young hopeful model, the problems with almost every standard pose imaginable, including getting on the floor and demonstrating the right way,  versus the drawbacks of the way most models naturally position themselves. Viewers follow along, learning how a head-tilt can hide a bad neck angle, how much to move eyes to avoid too much white area, and how to keep the rear of an upper-arm from bulging out unattractively. This and other critical minutia are not thought of or addressed by many professionals until it becomes time to spend hours in Photoshop fixing them. For any photographer, time is money, and the $80 DuPrie is charging for Photographing Models will be recouped during their first post-viewing shoot. For models, watching this DVD and putting the lessons into practice will mean getting hired repeatedly.

©Mary DuPrie

The other major content area of this DVD is the sets. DuPrie goes into some detail regarding how she creates, stores, and operates a veritable library of backdrops. Unlike many photography studios, DuPrie’s backdrops are solid and freestanding, not hung cloth. Most of her backdrops are styrofoam, and can be positioned and repositioned as needed. For instance, in one segment, she builds a V out of them, positioning her model directly in them. She typically fastens these backdrops with pins and Velcro: easy and non-permanent ways to transform her studio into a wide variety of looks. DuPrie paints each styrofoam panel herself, although this title does not go into the execution of that. It’s a fascinating and atypical way of creating scenes. Although this is a small part of the DVD, it’s incredibly inspiring, and will prompt photographers to consider working with these materials as a viable alternative to the cliched spattered hanging tarps.

DuPrie and a portion of her vast library of rigid backdrops. ©Mary DuPrie

Filmed with three cameras, Photographing Models is a professional production. The audio quality is excellent, and the editing does the subject matter justice. Although geared toward photographers interested in getting the most from their time with hired models, models themselves will benefit from understanding which movements and poses are camera-friendly, and which are not.

Making no claims this instructional DVD contains lighting information or best camera practices, DuPrie has filled a void in recent photography instructional materials. This is, however, everyday knowledge all photographers will benefit from. Instead of shooting with machine gun rapidity and hoping for attractive accidental poses, many hours and dollars will be saved employing the knowledge offered here.

In the future, we will feature our profile of Mary DuPrie, her own photography and techniques, including her use of PocketWizard technology.

©Mary DuPrie

Title: Photographing Models
Running time: approximately 110 minutes
Price: $80
Product and ordering information found here.

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Preston Mack, the Athletic Shooter

It takes an exacting attention to detail to keep clients such as ESPN, TIME, Reader’s Digest, BusinessWeek, Disney, Marriott, and General Motors coming back. Professional sports photographer Preston Mack has perfected his methodology, enabling him to shoot subjects he’s drawn to.

©Preston Mack

Originally from New Jersey, Mack left his hometown of Piscataway to attend the University of Miami as an Architecture major. He played baseball for two years while there, and began assisting two photographers during his third and fourth years of a five-year program. During his last year he also pursued a Photography minor.

“The mentoring you get as an assistant is the only way to learn, I think,” says Mack. “You can only learn so much in the classroom. After you learn what an f-stop is, you need to apply it in the real world.” After graduating in 1994, he went to The Los Angeles Times for a summer photo internship. When that was done, he did another internship at The Palm Beach Post, before a full-time job came up at The Sun Sentinel in 1995, where he stayed for five years, shooting every day.

©Preston Mack

“I wanted to shoot sports and portraits. That’s my focus,” says Mack. “The only way I could do that all the time was to leave the newspaper. I didn’t like shooting news, or other things you have to do.” Leaving in December of 2000, and went out to shoot sports on his own, full-time.

Mack considers his time spent at the paper critical. It was during that latter-1990s period when he took part in the transition from film to digital technology. “I was able to use all of the new digital cameras, like the Canon EOS DCS 3, which cost $15,000 at the time. I couldn’t have afforded to buy one of those on my own back then, but being a staff photographer, you got to play with the new digital tools, and learn how to utilize the technology.”

Being a full-time freelance photographer for over ten years proved the right move. “It was the best decision I ever made,” Mack explains. “A lot of photographers hang on to their jobs because they’re scared, or not trusting their abilities to get work. You can’t sit around and punch a time card. Leaving is the best thing if you want to take better pictures.”

©Preston Mack

Mack’s subjects of choice are directly linked to who he is. “When I first started, I was assisting for Sports Illustrated photographers in Miami. There’s so much going on in terms of sports in Florida. Sports are a huge part of my life. When I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching them. It was a typical guy-thing. I just loved sports, and understood them. Once I learned how to take photos, applying that to sports was easy.”

Crediting his knowledge of sports and his understanding of athletes with helping in his success as a photographer, Mack likes the bond he’s able to create with his subjects. “I’m able to relate to athletes,” he says. “Being almost 40 years old, I can still play a little. I think that helps a lot when I’m trying to connect with them for a portrait shoot.”

©Preston Mack

When asked his preference in which type of sport he enjoys shooting most, his answer is clear. “Football is the best,” he quickly says. “You can’t beat professional or college football for shooting. It’s designed for great photos because every play is 100% full-effort, and it’s over in five seconds. It has the most amazing emotion and atheletic effort. It’s incomparable. I love baseball, but baseball is the thinking man’s game. Not a lot of great photos are all the time. It’s a great sport, but for pictures, football rises to the top.”

Ironically, Mack isn’t a football player, and makes no illusion about being able to read plays the way he deeply understands the subtleties of baseball. At one photoshoot, the catcher didn’t show up. Mack put down his cameras, picked up a catcher’s mitt, and caught for none other than Roger Clemens. It doesn’t take much sports knowledge to imagine few people can catch a Major League pitcher. “That surprised him,” Mack reports. “Because of that, he respected me. That kind of stuff matters when you’re dealing with athletes.”

©Preston Mack

Corporate work is also part of Mack’s photographic services. He cites Disney as his favorite corporate client. As with football, there’s a reason for this. “They’re an amazing company to work for because their resources are almost unlimited. If you have a good idea and they need to get something done, almost anything is possible. I love working with them because they have the mentality of getting the best picture possible. The resources they provide are second to none.”

Mack was assigned to photograph Roy Edward Disney, son and nephew of the original founders of the Walt Disney Company, at MGM Studios. With the sun rising down Hollywood Boulevard, creating difficult shadows. The Disney machine sprang into action and a 30-foot by 30-foot silk was erected to block the sun. “Not many other companies will do that for a still photo production,” Mack says.

©Preston Mack

Now in Orlando, like most other Florida photographers, Mack is location-based. He writes his excellent blog, from there, and travels widely for clients. His blog has become a resource for photographers, as he breaks down his process and gear used on shoots, including details such as appleboxes and sandbags.

With his methodology so meticulously documented, it’s no surprise Mack is very concerned with his gear. “I know many photographers rent a lot of their gear, but I’m against renting,” he says. “I like to have my own gear because I can trust it. I don’t know the person who rented a Profoto Pro-7b before me took care of the battery, or they dropped it or got sand in it. I know my gear is available when I need it, and I know it’s going to work. It’s in tip-top shape. I take care of it.”

©Preston Mack

The well-cared for gear includes a Profoto 7B generator, a Profoto AcuteB 600 generator, a Profoto Acute2 1200 generator, a Profoto Acute2 600 generator, five various Profoto heads, four speed rings, two white domes, two small softboxes, one Octabank , one Profoto medium softbox, and four grid reflectors. A former Canon owner, Mack switched two years ago and now shoots a Nikon D3, a D700, and two D300 bodies. His lenses are a Nikon 20mm, 50mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and a 300mm f/2.8. He also has a Sekonic meter.

Mack is as passionate about his gear as he is about sports. “One thing I demand from my gear is reliability. It has to work. I can’t worry about it,” he says. “Whether it’s lights or PocketWizards or whatever, nothing is sacred. If I have any type of doubt, I can’t use it. If it starts acting up, I’ll switch brands. There’s too many other things I need to worry about. They’re paying me to concentrate on being creative, not to make sure a strobe fires.”

©Preston Mack

Triggering his lights with PocketWizards, Mack has stories about the old days. “I own two PocketWizard transmitters, two transceivers, and six receivers. The receivers are a mix of the Plus II and the Classic. I used to use these other optical slaves. They were never consistent, and wouldn’t fire all the time. It was very frustrating, and I had to hardwire all my lights. If you try to do that for a portrait in the middle of a grassy field, it’s difficult to run zip lines around and hardwire everything. PocketWizards are a blessing. Now everything just works for me. When you deal with high-pressure portraits and athlete celebrities, everything has to work and work reliably.”

Not lacking in examples, Mack was kind enough to share one with us. “I took 58 photos in 20 seconds when I was shooting a portrait of Tiger Woods about two years ago,” he recalls. “That’s 58 pictures they could pick from. If any of the PocketWizards didn’t work, I wouldn’t have one or more of those photos. Everything worked. All four Profoto lights fired and every reciever synched up the lights perfectly, and that’s what a professional needs: consistency when it’s crunch time. I never had a problem.”

©Preston Mack

Although Mack worked on the bleeding edge of digital technology in the 1990s, he doesn’t want to be a computer operator, spending hours retouching his work in Photoshop. “I believe you need to get almost everything in-camera in order to be a true photographer,” he adds. “A well-lit portrait is timeless. I see a lot of over-computerized work now. Photographs seem to lose their soul when you do that much digital work to them.” Mack uses Aperture to do RAW conversions, Photo Mechanic for digital editing and captioning, and Photoshop for cropping and minor toning.

Mack is not about to get typecast as someone who only shoots sports. He loves the excitement of shooting sports, but very much enjoys the intimacy of getting to know his subjects when shooting portraits. He is now accepting more advertising photography jobs. Adventures by Disney and Disney Cruise Lines are recent clients he’s doing such work for. His love of lit portraits, artistic eye, and professional execution ensure his future as a shooter in-demand both on and off the field.

Preston Mack Photography

Preston Mack Blog

Preston Mack on Twitter

Preston Mack on Facebook

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Rick Denham's Lighting, Saturation, and Hockey

Rick Denham’s Lighting, Saturation, and Hockey

Located in Ontario, Canada, Rick Denham likes to break rules. Like many young Canadian men, Rick was once a hockey player. He now finds himself either shooting photos from the other side of the plexiglass, or away from ice rinks altogether as he builds his reputation as a wedding photographer of note.


© Rick Denham

Although photographing sports of all kinds gives him thrills, working as an in-demand wedding photographer pays the bills. Sample photos from the latter category prove there’s no lack of emotion or technique in his deeply saturated and outstandingly composed shots. Shooting primarily in a photojournalism style, Rick still delivers photos with wedding parties positioned in ways which would’ve made many Renaissance painters weep with envy. Prospective customers intrinsically know this, and are often fooled by the end result.

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

“When a bride and groom meet with me, I always hear, ‘We want candid photography, we want journalism photography,'” he reports. “The first thing I have to explain to them is ‘most of these shots are set-up.’ It has to be set-up. You can’t get a candid group shot of twenty people and expect it to not be set-up.” A rule-breaker at heart, Rick believes whatever feels natural is the best approach. He encourages wedding parties to behave naturally as he shoots, until it comes time for some informal positioning used in his trademark group shots.

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

Attracted to low-stress situations, Rick loves the digital revolution and the benefits of shooting more exposures with more cameras, including remotely-fired cameras, which continue to play a growing part in his work.


© Rick Denham

Along with composition, Rick’s saturation is one of the hallmarks of his photography. “I bump my saturation up in my cameras, especially at weddings. Weddings, to me, are colorful. People like color. They pay to have lots of flowers. Even in classic weddings, that’s what I like to see. Even in my black and whites, I like to see a lot of contrast. I like my blacks black.”

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

Multiple lights and cameras are part of Rick’s arsenal. He typically carries four Canon 580EX II Speedlites, three MultiMAX units, three PocketWizard Plus IIs, and a 16-35mm wide angle lens, which he always keeps on one of his two Canon Mark III’s. In addition, a softbox, Honl grids and snoots, and two light stands are at the ready on most shoots. He also brings a Magic Arm and Super Clamp. Often these are employed low to the ground, where he says, “no one thinks of using them there.”

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

© Rick Denham

There are a few subject areas Rick has plans to branch out into, along with corresponding business plans. Although we’re unable to divulge details at this time, we can be sure Rick will be bringing his sense of composition, rich tones, and PocketWizard gear to these new endeavors.

Rick’s blog: http://rickdenhamphoto.blogspot.com/

Rick Denham Photography: http://www.rickdenham.com/

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Lauren Wright says, "PocketWizards make my job fun!"

We got a smile-inducing email today from Altanta photographer Lauren Wright:

Dear Pocket Wizard Blog,
I have a confession to make: I love to have fun. I can’t help it. It’s 
just so… well, you know, fun! For me, sometimes having fun means 
playing pranks on people. Sometimes it means eating lots of candy and 
watching a Pixar movie or two. And occasionally, as a photographer, 
having fun means shooting something outside my usual style. A few 
months ago, I got in contact with a designer whose line of wedding 
dresses I adore, and she allowed me to borrow a few of her dresses for 
a fun bridal fashion shoot. Originally, I had planned to just shoot my 
usual, relaxed, natural light work… and then I remembered I had 
Pocket Wizards!
With the help of my PWs, Alien Bees, colored gels and a small fog 
machine, I was able to create photos that I love, and have OODLES of 
fun in the process. I had to let you know that I love you, Pocket 
Wizard, for helping me keep my job fun :)
An energized fan and satisfied client,
Lauren Wright
PS. You can check out the pictures at the end of this blog post: http://laurenwrightphoto.com/blog/?p=436

Dear PocketWizard Blog,

I have a confession to make: I love to have fun. I can’t help it. It’s just so… well, you know, fun! For me, sometimes having fun means playing pranks on people. Sometimes it means eating lots of candy and watching a Pixar movie or two. And occasionally, as a photographer, having fun means shooting something outside my usual style. A few months ago, I got in contact with a designer whose line of wedding dresses I adore, and she allowed me to borrow a few of her dresses for a fun bridal fashion shoot. Originally, I had planned to just shoot my usual, relaxed, natural light work… and then I remembered I had PocketWizards!

With the help of my PWs, Alien Bees, colored gels and a small fog machine, I was able to create photos that I love, and have OODLES of fun in the process. I had to let you know that I love you, PocketWizard, for helping me keep my job fun :)

An energized fan and satisfied client,
Lauren Wright

PS. You can check out the pictures at the end of this blog post: http://laurenwrightphoto.com/blog/?p=436


©Lauren Wright

©Lauren Wright

Well, we did check out your photos, Lauren, and we could tell you’re having fun ;) Great work! Thank you so much for taking time to send us the email. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!  

Check out Lauren’s website and blog, too! If you would like to send us a your own story about what you do with your PocketWizard, use the “Contact Us” link on the left.

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Alycia Alvarez Video: What kind of photographer makes wild noises?

Actually, there are two kinds. One photographs animals. One photographs babies. Riverview, FL-based Alycia Alvarez is in the latter category. And, to say the least, she is really hitting her stride. As she points out in her blog she photographs “rattles to rings” i.e. babies to seniors to weddings. At the recent WPPI, Alycia used the new MiniTT1 and some Profoto ComPact R units to capture the warmth, smiles and cuteness of babies. See how she does it and ask yourself, “Can you make noises like that?”

Head over to PocketWizard.com to see her gearbox, some bird’s-eye views of the lighting and quotes from Alycia.

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Hanson Fong Video: From Classic to “Run And Gun” to Documentary…

…Hanson Fong and the new PocketWizard Mini/Flex system can handle it all! San Francisco-based wedding and portrait photographer Hanson Fong goes in front of the camera to clearly explain how the new PocketWizard system is perfect for weddings, where one minute you may be using classic portrait lighting but a minute later chasing the bride and groom like a paparazzi. And, of course, you’re not allowed paparazzi on-camera lighting. Hanson’s results are beautiful, of course, and so will yours if you follow his advice.

EDIT: Learn more about the shoot on our website.

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