Archive for '• Resources':

The DarkSphere + "What’s In My Bag" ::


Many of you have asked about my DarkSphere that I used in the GPP group shot photo. It is pictured above attached to a Nikon SB-25. It is painted silver on the inside and black on the outside. I do not suggest painting it silver on the inside because it took about 18 months for the silver paint to dry on the inside. Paint it white instead or don’t paint it at all. This is for the soft squishy model of the Lightsphere. That is a Speedotron 10 degree grid bunjeed to the flash.

Why did I do this? I like for grids to be placed a little bit off of the face of the flash head. I find that it gives a cleaner circle of light and it is much easier to bunjee to a small hotshoe flash. So I took a Lightsphere that someone gave me and painted it black to act as a sort of parabolic reflector like you find on 120j’s and Q-flashes. It works exactly as I want it to work! The problem with painting one of these is that you can no longer use it as a food storage container or a cocktail glass. Oh well.

While we are nerding out and talking about gear, I thought I would do one of those “what’s in your bag” blog posts that were popular a few years ago.

For my bag I use the ThinkTank Airport Security roller bag. This is THE best camera bag I have ever owned and it has more miles on it than I can count and every stitch is still in place. I love that I can lock the main compartments as well as lock the tethered cable to something so someone can’t simply roll off with it. They have to show up with bolt cutters to take off with this thing.

I’m off to shoot a big Indian wedding in the morning and here is how it is packed.


In addition to my Speedo grids, I also keep two Honl Photo grids and a snoot in my bag. They are nice to just have something to slap on to a flash quickly. Here is the front flap compartments.


Yes, I’m packing both systems tomorrow. @Steve_Gray asked on twitter, “Isn’t that like packing matter and anti-matter?” Hahaha! So true. Notice I had to separate them or else they would be fighting to the death!

Which one do I love more? Can’t say. Can’t say at all. I will tell you this though… when it comes time to shoot the reception tomorrow night I bet you the 5d goes back in the bag because the auto focus is useless in low light. You’d think they could do something about that. The D3 can focus in just about any dark environment I find myself in. The 5d requires you to be standing on the surface of the sun to have enough light to focus. Ok, maybe not right on the surface but pretty close. The AF system on the Canon can not even be compared to the Nikon. In this area Canon sucks and Nikon rocks. The rest seems to be up for debate.

I’ve been shooting with them side by side for the past few weeks and I’m confident I can keep them straight now as far as the vast difference in controls on each one. If you have any questions about gear and such hit me up in the comment section.

Cheers, Zack

RadioPopper Is Changing The Game ::

February 14, 2009 | • Gear & Gadgets • Resources News

OMGosh… Kevin has changed the game.  He may very well be going down in the history books for this.

The image above was shot with the new RadioPopper.  The amazing feat is this image was shot at 1/8000 of a second with an Alien Bee.  NOT TTL high speed sync. Unbelievable.  I wish I was going to WPPI to shake his hand.  This changes the game.  If that isn’t enough, the new RadioPoppers can adjust your Alien Bee and White Lightning gear… wirelessly.  

If you don’t know WHY this changes the game, you need to get in the game.  :)  

Interestingly enough, Pocket Wizard is about to unveil a new model.  If it does not give us high speed sync with ANY strobe, they really need to get back to the drawing table.

Putting my order in now.



Judge, Jury, and Executioner :: WedComp

October 16, 2008 | • Resources News

As hard of a time I have judging photo competitions, I have taken on the role again!  I’m a sucker for punishment.  This time I get to sit alongside fellow ATLien Rachel Niesen from LaCourCliff Maunter, my new friend from the One Conference Jenn Bebb, and crusty ol’ me.

Wed Comp  

I’m a judge and sponsor of the Winter round of the WedComp competition. Check out the WedComp site for details about this great wedding photography competition.  I didn’t even place last time so I’m going to take out my bitterness as a judge.  Legislate from the bench!  I’m joking!  Really.  :)

Cheers, Zack 

White Seamless Questions :: Part 1 (Video)

June 27, 2008 | • Resources • Technique

I have now compiled the questions that have come in about the White Seamless tutorial that we have been going through here on the blog. Find parts 1 through 5 under the “technique” category to the left.

There were some questions that came through via the comments, email, and flickr about post production in PhotoShop that I discussed in part 4 of the white seamless tutorial. I done and went and got me a screen capture program to walk you through some clean up procedures, cropping, and that multiply mode change as well as showing an image shot WITHOUT the tile board and how to clean up the floor.

Please excuse the crappy audio quality and all that. I’ve now done and went and got me one of them dang ol’ audio interfaces that has more buttons than a 747 cockpit. I’m trying to figure that out now for future blog posts. I am working on all of the other questions this weekend and through next week. We are in the middle of the final editing and authoring stages of the OneLight DVD so bare with me as I get that priority off my plate first.

To view the video full screen, see it on the the blip page here. I’m not sure why it will not toggle to full screen on the embedded video above.

Cheers, Zack

PS – Tell me what you think about I like that I can upload widescreen videos and I love the user interface more than YouTube. What are your thoughts?

OneLight DVD – Disc 1 Montage

June 15, 2008 | • Resources • Workshop News

Here is a 7 minute montage of some scenes from the first disc of the OneLight DVD coming out very, very, very soon!

We have now finished editing Disc 1 for the two disc OneLight DVD set. Disc 1 has a run time of 2 hours. This is the basic timeline.

1. Introduction

2. Exposure Variables • Shutter Speed • Aperture • Flash Power • Flash to Subject Distance • ISO

3. Basic Gear • Flashes & Strobes • Triggers (Sync cord, IR, Radio) • Lightstands • Other needed accessories • How to put it all together and make it work.

4. Modifiers • Umbrellas • Softboxes • Grid Spots

5. Studio shoot with Christina.

We start off indoors with a very simple white wall as a background. I use a 60″ reflective umbrella and then move to a barebulb flash. I demonstrate how to find exposure without a flash meter and how to take a few simple white walls and use them to give us different visual options.

6. Alley Shoot With Christina

This is our first location. I use a 28″ Westcott softbox then move to a 60″ shoot through umbrella and then back again to the 28″ softbox. I talk through the process of what I’m thinking about, what I’m looking for, and the challenges I’m trying to deal with.

7. Field Shoot With Christina

We head out into an abandoned lot for the last light of day. When we get there the available light is still very bright so I use an Alien Bee B1600 and a Vagabond battery pack and a 50″ Westcott softbox to overpower the sky as we shoot back into the sun. As the ambient light begins to drop, I demonstrate how we can completely change the look of the location with grid spots.

As the last light of day hits we move back to the 28″ softbox and capture some amazing pink and purple hues in the sky while shooting portraits in the field. I also show some side by side examples of available light portriats and the lit portraits so you see exactly how much off camera lighting gives you different visual options as you are out shooting.

We shoot until sky goes dark.

I would LOVE to have 2 or 3 emerging local (Atlanta, GA) photographers who have not been to a OneLight come over to my house in Decatur this Friday night, 6/20/08, at 7:00pm to watch disc 1 with me and give me your feedback before I call it a wrap on this disc and get the mastering going. Weems, Harmon, Damron, Almasys… would love ya’ll to come over too if you could. J. Young, I think you are out of town aren’t you? I can’t accommodate too many people or we’ll be sitting on each other’s lap!

If you would like to be part of my totally informal focus group, please drop it in the comment section of this post with a link to your web site, blog, or flickr page. I’ll be in touch with you tomorrow. We’ll have pizza, NewCastle, and the like. For being part of this you will get a copy of the final DVD set. I want to make sure I’m communicating well. I know what I’m saying and I’m really tired or watching myself say it. I need some feedback.

For disc 2, you will follow along with me as I work with 4 different clients in studio and on location. There is more editorial in disc two about things like location scouting. You get to see us get thrown out of not one, but two separate locations! Run and gun… ATL style! We are now in the process of finishing up disc 2.

I hope you enjoy the montage above!

Cheers, Zack

PS – Happy father’s day dads! I hope you have had a chillaxing day like I have!

Call For Wedding Entries!

June 12, 2008 | • Resources

I became aware of WedComp when several friends and colleagues were picked to be judges for this competition.  

WedComp - wedding photography competition 

  This is a great thing for me since I am a glorified second shooter.  To enter other competitions you typically have to be a member of the organization to be part of the contest.  Since I love shooting weddings but don’t want to have my own wedding photography business, it doesn’t make any sense to join when all I would do is point people back to Marc Climie (my friend that I shoot weddings with).  

This is a new contest on the block and normally I would be a little skeptical about some new thing on the block but StriplingBrooks, The Nudds, and Beckstead on one judging panel?  Are you kidding me?  ClickbooqThinkTankKubota, and ShootQ are some of the sponsors of the contest.  There are more than $7,000 worth of prizes in the prize closet to be had.   A portion of the proceeds are going to Thirst Relief as well.  That is far more proof than I need to know that this is legit.  I think we’ll be hearing more from WedComp.  I would LOVE to win another clickbooq site for a personal project that I am working on.   

Only two more weeks to get submissions in.  That’s all fine and dandy.  I’m sure I’ll be getting my final ones into them about 30 seconds before the cut off time!     Cheers,   Zack 

$100 Off altpick* For Us!

June 10, 2008 | • Resources News


I have a deal for you commercial, advertising, and editorial photographers out there. Not only that, this is for the designers, illustrators, web artists, stylists, etc, who follow this blog. Read on.

For the past two years I have been planning my re-branding that I am now going through. I am pushing more into the commercial and ediorial world and the name of the game for survival in that world is self promotion. I first needed to get my website in order. Thanks to clickbooq, that has now happend. Thanks to FloSites for my new blog as well. Along with print campaigns that I am working on it is important to get listed in certain creative directories of which there are many. 

Last year I went through many of them and contacted photographers in other markets and asked them how well their listings were doing. Of all the photographers I contacted one site really came to the top and that was altpick*. Everyone I called said it more than paid for itself. At least 10 photographers told me that they got GREAT clients that have used them for several years now thanks to those clients finding them on Altpick. 

This week I have signed on with Altpick (Alternative Pick) and ended up having an amazing conversation with Altpick founder Maria Ragusa. So amazing that I can bring this to you! If you want to sign on with Altpick to get your work in front of thousands of art directors, photo editors, and photo buyers just mention OneLight and you can get $100 off of the annual membership dues. That’s $199 to get a listing on a major creative directory. It is normally $299 per year. When signing on with them, choose the option to have them call you for payment and mention OneLight to receive the $100 off. 

This is all very important for me to be getting in place now because I hope to be busy with publication work in 2009. I don’t expect a lot to happen this year and I’m ok with that because I learned a very important lesson about promotion and self employment. If you want to be busy next year… you have to be busy NOW looking for that work. You just can’t launch a site, get a few directory listings, and expect the work to flow in the next day. It is all part of running your own business no matter what you do. If you want to be busy next month, you needed to be busy six months ago. If you are just starting out in photography you need to be setting some long term goals and be working NOW on them so they actually happen LATER. Hard work and patience pays off. Always. 

You can find my page on Altpick here –

I specifically mention this for commercial, advertising, and editorial photographers. For the wedding and portrait photographers who follow my blog, this isn’t really going to put your work in front of the clients you need like an organization like PPA or WPJA will. But if you are wanting to break into the commercial and editorial world, this will be a great service for you. 

I have some more tweaking to do to my altpick page and work the bio some more but I wanted to go ahead and get this out to you folks! It’s a very generous offer that they have granted to us! Prior to making this post on my blog, my Altpick site has already had 90 hits in less than 24 hours. That means my work is in front of 90 more people (whether they be photographers or buyers) today than it was yesterday. I’ll keep you all updated on actual real work that comes from it. If you sign up, let me know! 

Also check out their 5th annual Altpick Awards going on now.

Cheers, Zack

PS – Speaking of WPJA, big congratulations go to my dear friend Hassel Weems for winning first place in their action category! 

PPS – I am NOT sponsored by anyone.  Any company I mention is based on my own personal experience with them and my desire to help those who help me.  I do not receive any compensation.  Not that I wouldn’t mind some!  I just don’t have those relationships.  Just wanted to say that so no one thinks I’m out here just advertising.  I use and pay for the services I like to mention here. 

White Seamless Tutorial :: Part 5 :: Wrap up, Questions, & Contest!

June 1, 2008 | • Resources • Technique

This is the final part in the white seamless tutorial. If you are just joining this blog, you can find parts one through four listed here. I wanted to end this tutorial with just a few more thoughts on lighting your subject so that you have a few more tricks in the bag.

We have talked about those bi-fold doors on the side of the set to block the background (BG) lights from illuminating the subject (see part 1). You can also use those as big reflectors if you paint them white. Mine are painted white on one side and I keep the natural wood color on the other side so that they can at times be used as a background. Take a look at these two images. These were shot using only the BG lights. 


To bring light around to the front, I positioned the BG lights in such a way that they were not illuminating the subject. I pulled one of the bi-fold doors and a tall piece of foamcore around to the front of Stephanie to act as large reflectors. Those picked up the light coming off of the BG and reflected it back on to the subject. To do this well, you have to bring those reflectors in really close to your subject. They usually end up in my shot but they are an easy thing to remove. 


Still shot the image vertically as you can see so that I can maximize the size of my subject on my image sensor. I simply made a marquee selection around the reflectors, made sure my BG swatch in Photoshop was set to white, and hit the delete key. Whatever is deleted goes to your BG swatch color. Easy peesy! Why did I use one bi-fold door and one foamcore? Um, it is just what I had on hand at that moment. You can use one or the other or whatever. I just want you to be thinking about that background being a large light source that you can then grab some of that light coming off of it and reflect it somewhere else if you need to do so. 

Here is another shot using the same technique. I like the light that it produces and I like the catchlights. 


And, as always, leave a little room around an edge for alternate crops. 


But wait! There’s more! My friend I shoot weddings with, Marc Climie, built two 4’x8′ frames out of 1×2’s and covered them with ripstop nylon. They hang out in the studio and for the following shot I used one 4×8 panel on each side of the frame as main lights on the subject. I shot a light through each one. So that would be four lights. Two on the subject. Two on the background. 


I’ve also used this exact same lighting setup for larger product work… 


For the image above, nailing the ratio of exposure on the subject to the background was critical because I needed to retain some amount of density in the clear acrylic. It took some time getting that set but once it was set, I could move other displays in and out of the set and keep the same lighting and exposure. Also note that it is great shooting on white because you can shoot mulitple angles of the same thing and place them on to one photo quickly and easily. For this type of application set your camera on a tripod so that your angle and perspective to the subject remains constant. 

Speaking of product, all of this stuff I’ve been going on and on and on about lately works for just about anything… 


You can take a sheet of that tile board and put it on top of a table for small product work. I have shot hundreds of small products using this set up. As always, I fill the frame and the expand as needed. For the image above I just used the BG lights. 

I’m a big fan of grid spots and I use them a lot when shooting on white. I also include elements of my set into my photos as well… 


For the image above I used a 10 degree grid to light my brother’s face and I composed my frame to include elements of the set. If you or your client do not want these elements all you have to do is set your BG swatch color to white in Photoshop and select and delete areas or use the eraser tool to remove them. 

Again, I’m a fan of the grid. This is legendary hip hop king, 8 Ball, from Memphis… 


Well, that is pretty much it. That is just about everything I do with a roll of white seamless paper. It seems as though this has been good for many of you. Thank you for taking the time to go through it. 

I am now open to questions! Leave them as a comment here. I will also go through the other seamless posts and pull out questions I haven’t had a chance to reply to yet. I’ll let the questions come in for a week or so and then I’ll make a post with all of them together with the answers. 

Also… Let’s have some fun with this. Go out and start shooting and upload your photos to the Seamless & Cyc group I have started on Flickr. Post as many images as you would like that combine the use of a subject(s) and a white wall, a roll of white seamless, or a cyc wall. I’m going to choose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner on August 4th, 2008. Here is what I’m going to put in the prize chest. 

1st Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon – OR – a 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox

2nd Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon – OR – a 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox

3rd Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon. 

2 Honorable Mentions will receive a year pro account on Flickr. 

(Uh… Ahem… if any of you manufactures or service providers have anything you want to throw in the prize chest just let me know! ( zack @ )   

I will place an image in the Seamless & Cyc pool on August 3rd declaring the contest is over. I’m going to choose the winners. I’m the judge, jury, and executioner of this since I’m filling the prize chest out of my own pocket. :) You can enter as many photographs as you want. If I feel something has been entered and it doesn’t belong, I’ll remove it. I will announce the winners August 4th here on the blog. 

So, hit me with questions about all of this in the comments here and I’ll collect them for a week or two and reply to all of them in one post. Thanks for stopping by! Drop suggestions for other tutorials in the comments as well. This has been a lot of fun for me… and more time consuming than I thought it would be… but fun all the same! 

Cheers,  Zack

OneLight DVD Trailer Online!

The company I’m working with just got this uploaded today and I just had to share it! 

There is some more info about the OneLight DVD after the jump. The next white seamless tutorial will be online tomorrow so check back in for part 5 of that!


White Seamless Tutorial :: Part 4 :: Simple Changes In Post Production.


If you are just joining us, this is part four in a multi part tutorial about the many uses of white seamless as a background material. You can catch up by reading part 1, part 2, part 2b, and part 3.

For part four we are going to look at making simple changes to our photos in post production. We are going to change the composition of our photos shot on pure white or pure black. We will also look at a way to add some color back into the background on the images shot on pure white.

The first thing we are going to do is change our composition. When I’m shooting on a pure white or pure black background, I shoot 95% of those images vertically. I fill the frame with my subject as much as I can. I want to maximize the image area they take on the sensor of my camera so that I have more options for enlarging the photo later if I want. If I want a lot of negative space in the final photo, I’ll add that in Photoshop later because it is easy to create white or black space and still have a full frame of the subject. Imagine the area of your camera’s sensor for a moment with the photo above on it as it is captured…


That is a lot of dead space thrown away on your chip. You can maximize the captured resolution of your subject by filling the frame.


There are two simple ways of expanding your photo to change the composition. You can change the canvas size or you can use the crop tool. I prefer the crop tool because it lets me visualize the new composition I’m trying to create. For the example below I want to deliver the vertical full frame shot to the client and I want to deliver a horizontal shot as well. I’m going to keep them set to the same dimensions by locking in my aspect ratio then flipping the width and height numbers. See the photo below.


The crop tool options can be blank if you want so you can free form a crop. Here are the step to expanding it.

1. Make sure the photo is a locked “background” layer.

2. Set the BG color swatch to pure white.

3. Select the crop tool and pull it out over the image. It will not pull out beyond the edges of the photo. Once you hit an edge of the photo LET GO of the mouse button. Some bounding box tick marks will show up on your crop rectangle.

4. Grab one of those bounding box tick marks and begin to pull the crop out past your original image.

5. Once you have the composition you want, hit enter or return to apply the crop. Since your BG swatch is set to white it will become the color of whatever is beyond your original image after it is cropped. Its magic and stuff!




From looking at the next image, you would think I have a massive studio space.


This is how it was done.


Again, the original image was shot vertically to get the most bang for the buck out of my sensor…


We can do the same thing with images shot on a PURE black background.


Going through the same steps as above, I have now just changed the BG color swatch to black instead of white. I have also moved the light source around a bit.



I made a selection around the light then used the move tool to drag it around. With the BG swatch still set to black, it doesn’t make a “hole” in the photo when you move it.


Here again is the final frame after about 20 seconds of work in Photoshop.


That’s the simple simple stuff. Now we’ll add just one more layer to the pure white image to change it up a bit more… I sit with my clients and walk them through a series of changes. I let them know they are getting an image shot vertically but with some simple changes it can go to a larger vertical image for a concert poster or it can go to a horizontal image for a promo card or CD artwork. Here is another thing I show my clients that can change the overall look of the original image. Let’s make a square crop like we are doing CD artwork or something. Here is the original image as shot in camera.


I’ve cropped the image to a square, turned the image into an unlocked layer, and added a new layer underneath the image. I’m going to be making a radial gradient fill on the new layer UNDER the photo.


Turn the photo layer off and select the new layer you made under it. I’ve made my gradient fill and stretched it out a bit. I want a soft white under my subject.


I go back to the photo layer and select it and turn it back on. Then I change the layer blending mode to “multiply”. Anything that is pure white will drop out and the color from behind will show through.


It looks like this.


You can change the color, density, and saturation of this type of gradient fill with levels, curves, hue/saturation, etc. Here is a change up to the bottom layer with hue/saturation.


Here is the image with this change.


This isn’t the way to just drop a subject into a whole new location. You have to get into some layer masking and a few more steps to do something like that. These are just some simple steps to show you how to change things up a bit for images you want to make for your clients or promotional images you need to make for yourself. You can create the perfect amount of negative space to add logos, text, etc. If you are into textures you can then start adding those into some of these steps as well. Using the multiply mode on white backgrounds opens up new possibilities for you. Note – It doesn’t work the same on images with a black background.

For the next post, I’ll show a few lighting options you can have when shooting on pure white backgrounds. After that I’ll have a post asking for questions you may have. I’ll also be going through all the comments on this tutorial so far and answering those questions in one single post.

Then we are going to have a contest! If you are starting to shoot this stuff or have been, you can now begin adding your images to the Seamless & Cyc Flickr pool I have started. Let’s see how creative you get. I’ve filled up the pool with my visual pollution to get it started. You add the rest. I’ll have prizes for first, second, and third place. I’ll give you details on it coming up soon. Add your images that have been shot with any of the techniques we have discussed here when using a simple white background. If you are just using a white wall to start you can post those as well.

Continue Reading :: Part 5 Wrap Up, Questions, and Contest!

ETA – If you have questions about any of this, drop them in the comment section here on Part 5 of the tutorial. I will be following up on this tutorial with a new post answering all the questions at once.

Cheers, Zack

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