Buckhead Bottle Bar for The Atlantan Magazine :: + Lighting Diagrams

The great thing about shooting more editorial work is getting to shoot more editorial work. The problem with shooting more editorial work is there are times I have to sit on the images for 30, 60, 90, or more days before I can share them.

This is an assignment I shot for The Atlantan. The subjects are Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and ATL restaurant veteran A.D. Allushi. They just opened a new restaurant/bar in Atlanta called the Buckhead Bottle Bar. I shot this assignment while construction was still going on inside their new restaurant & bar. I had one little corner to work in that wasn’t covered in dust and was “nearly” completed. The rest of the place was in a state of chaos as they were trying to bring it all together for an opening a week away. There were a few issues on the shoot. There was only one working power outlet we could use and the lights in the onyx table top were not installed yet. Below is a portrait of the two of them and the table I’m talking about.

Here is where being comfortable with your lights comes in very handy. The lighting and design of this place is as much of the story as the menu is. It was important to show this table lit up so Dan and I spent about 20 minutes testing out several options for lighting the table with flashes. We ended up gaff taping three hot shoe flashes underneath the table and put them on a really low power. These were older Nikon SB flashes that have built in optical slaves in them. We set them to slave so they would fire when the main light fired.

I had everyone take a look at the photos to make sure it wasn’t straying too far visually from what the tables would look like once the lights were installed. We made some changes to the direction of the small flashes until it matched what it would look like once the tables were complete. Again, knowing how to use your lights is crucial to being a working photographer. Everyone was worried what these portraits would look like without light coming through the table. When you can solve that kind of problem you are the hero of the day. Especially when you can do it in camera. If you can impress your client like this then they trust you. If they trust you… they call you again. All that’s left is making the deadline. :)

I’m currently finishing up the OneLight companion book that’s going out to all of this year’s OneLight alum. It’s going to have images like this along with lighting diagrams and the thought process behind the shot. For the sake of this blog post I’m including the lighting diagrams and camera settings for the two shots here. The diptych above is what I call the grid spot with soft chaser sort of look. The two flashes used for this type of light are on the same axis. You put the umbrella or softbox or octa up and then fly a grid spotted flash right in the center of it pointing in the same direction as the soft light source. You’re looking to get the soft light to be 3 or so stops under the gridded light. It’s the same thing I did when shooting the Fences for the creativeLIVE studio class.

Click on the images below to see them larger.

This shoot is a good example of why having some big lights and some small lights are good way to go when you have to walk into unknown situations on a regular basis. A few Alien Bees and a few old hotshoe flashes will take care of just about anything that comes your way.

As for the Bottle Bar? Come this fall when I’m not traveling as much, I’m going to be hanging out there. It’s a very cool place. You need to check it out if you’re in the ATL. The bottles behind the bar are cool. I wish they were done when I was shooting this so I can show you how cool they are.

Cheers, Zack


  • Leroy said on August 5, 2010

    The grid is definitely more evident in the photo on the left. Looks good

  • Terrence Bibb said on August 5, 2010

    Dude, you are truly epic. Diagrams with the pics are awesome keep em coming. Do you do one on one workshops?

  • zack said on August 5, 2010

    @Terrence – I get asked a lot to do one on one workshops. I have not as of yet. Maybe next year? I don’t know.

  • Terrence Bibb said on August 5, 2010

    Thanks for the response. I did your One Light in the ATL last year and learned a huge amount plus your creative live workshop. You should sell your One Light update to past attendees. I would buy. take care.

  • Josh said on August 5, 2010

    Zack, this may be a dodo-bird question but I’ll shoot anyway. I may just have some concepts wrong in my head.

    In the grid spot with spot chaser setup, you say the soft light will be three stops under the grid. Since the general digital camera registers anything under -2 below neutral as black, would the soft chaser have great effect at -3 stops?

    I would just try it and find out, but I’m stuck in the cube currently and experimentation will have to wait.

    Thanks again for the great content.

  • zack said on August 5, 2010

    @Josh – You can go -3 stops easy with a DSLR. I know someone has math saying it can’t but that isn’t the case.

  • Janis said on August 5, 2010

    Awesome! Is there a chance you could contribute this on Strobox .com community which is all about sharing photos and their diagrams?

  • zack said on August 5, 2010

    Janis – Any chance I could use Strobox in a commercial application?

  • ken said on August 5, 2010

    diagrams are a good idea, but whare you using to diagram? Those are ughh.. :-)

  • zack said on August 5, 2010

    Ken – They are ugly as sin. I realize that. But these are going to ultimately be used in a commercial application so all of the cool diagram apps out there won’t help because they are for personal use only.


  • Olivier Lance said on August 5, 2010

    Hello Zack,

    I’m Olivier from Sylights.com, and we’d be delighted that you consider our diagram editor for your photos!

    We are a growing community aimed at photographers who want to share about lighting techniques through photo documentation with diagrams…. kind of exactly what you did here :)

    You are of course totally free to use created diagrams in a commercial application.
    Give it a try here: http://www.sylights.com/diagrams/editor
    It’s ready to use, no registration required!

    Hope you’ll like it!

  • zack said on August 5, 2010

    @Olivier – Thanks for the offer. Can those diagrams be exported for print?

  • Tim Skipper said on August 5, 2010

    Very good sir, very, very good.

  • Tara said on August 5, 2010

    I hope this book will be available to past attendees of the OLW.

    It would be very benefical to have that clearly drawn out visual picture.

    Experimentation is good. But sometimes frustrating when you know it can be done but just can’t achieve it!

  • Megan Case said on August 5, 2010

    Love these Zack…..thanks for including the diagrams. It’s nice to try out some different setups on a rainy day….

  • Mars said on August 5, 2010

    Hi there Squire!
    Had massive withdrawals from not seeing your updated blogs since CreativeLive.
    BTW Zack i’m guessing you’re using the SB800DX’s under that table? How on earth are you optically slaving those babies? I can’t seem to do it with my SB80DX, SB600 & SB900?

    Cheers Zack! Never leave town again!!!


  • Martin said on August 5, 2010

    Man, you are a genius and generous as hell. Can’t wait for the book. Which, btw, I would/will happily pay for.

  • Steven said on August 5, 2010

    Nice!!! You’re starting to get all McNally on us there… Taping speedlights under tables and what not… Next thing you know, you’ll be taping them under a 747 or something. =D Keep it up, bro!

  • Christian said on August 6, 2010

    Hey Zach! I love the tips you’ve been posting and planning on cathcing one of your classes sometime.

    My question is…do you work with the picture control settings in the body on Nikons? Such as, do you vary between settings…or stick with vivd, standard, nuetral…etc? We’ve been experimenting a bit to get outside of the typically “photographic studio” look. I’m trying to find that clarity and color from the camera and not do so much in Lightroom and Photoshop.



  • zack said on August 6, 2010

    @Christian – I shoot RAW and deal with that later in LR. I’m now moving to custom profiles built with the Xrite color passport. A blog post is in the works on that.


  • Olivier Lance said on August 6, 2010

    @Zack, could you contact me to my email address or to contact@sylights.com?!
    Print export is possible though not necessarily active yet…
    Plus, we should have room for improvements you might have a need for, so I’d like to discuss that to see if we can focus on those and make the tool better to your kind of usage :)
    (which obviously should better it for any photographer out there!)


  • scott said on August 6, 2010

    @Zack love the grid spot in front of a brolly – such a nice feel of light. Well done sir!

  • senorito said on August 7, 2010

    Holy cr*p !! Double on-axis light!! HOLY CR*P! Who would’ve thought that it can look good.

  • Takki said on August 8, 2010

    awesome lighting – thanks for the diagram –

  • Glyn Dewis said on August 8, 2010

    Loving these! The lighting is striking and yeah adding light under the table is killer!!!

    Motivating as always!

  • Christian said on August 9, 2010

    thanks zach, I appreciate it.

  • Stephen said on August 10, 2010

    Zack, what’s the relative height of the lights… are they straight on or are they above the subjects?

  • Stephen said on August 10, 2010

    Zack, I think you got the wrong assignment. I was just look A. D. Allushi’s gallery page — the Thrive print ad would’ve been a much better gig!

  • Bo said on August 17, 2010

    Zack, I’m curious about picture styles in the 5d mark ii. I come from a video background where the idea is to shoot as flat, neutral and lowest tonal range possible to give the maximum amount of latitude in post for color work. I understand that raw has more dynamic range that the h264 video that comes out of these cameras so I’m curious about your picture style settings in the camera. Thanks,

  • Bimal nair said on May 6, 2011

    Thankyou so much sharing info about strobox.com. This is such a nice site and though not the secret code of Ali Baba’s treasure, this site certainly has tons of work good enough to inspire creative variants. Thanks Zack for the insightful shoot you did for the mag.

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