DIY grids and snoots...

Back in May I posted about making your own grids and snoots and have (finally) put together a video with several tips and tricks for using the resources that were listed to make your own.

As usual, if you are a subscriber you will need to return to the blog to view the video, or jump over to YouTube and watch it there.

And just in case you were wondering, it's 81 and sunny here at Disney World.


Big thanks to Mark for his efforts in putting these videos together.

Happy Thanksgiving!...

It's 5am and I am sitting here thinking about what it is I am thankful for. I won't bore you with the list, but as blessings go I feel like a wealthy man.

I hope that today (and always) you are surrounded by those you love, that you feel blessed, and you carry hope in your heart.

There are those who are struggling and I hope even more for you... that people reach out to support and comfort you, that your burdens become lighter, and I pray that in the days to come you can worry less and love more.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mark December 12th on your calendar...

I came across this today and wanted to share it before I headed out on my trip tomorrow.

Help Portrait has come up with a great idea for folks who own a camera.

1. Find someone in need.
2. Take their portrait.
3. Print their portrait.
4. And deliver their portrait.

From their website:

"The brainchild of celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart, Help-Portrait is a movement of photographers, coming together in every major city, to use their photography skills to give back to the community.

On December 12th, photographers around the world will be grabbing their cameras, finding people in need, and taking their picture.

When the prints are ready, the photographs get delivered.

Yep. It really is that easy

And by the way, we don't want to see your photos. This is about GIVING the pictures, not taking them. These portraits are not for your portfolio, website, or for sale. Money isn't involved here. This holiday season, you have the chance to give a family something they may have never had before - a portrait together."

Luckily (for me) I will be back in time to participate and I hope you will seriously consider it as well.

If you are wondering what it would be like you can read about photographer Jean Labelle's Help-Portrait shoot here.

I am leaving on a jet plane...

Actually... I'm leaving in a minivan.

In the wee hours of November 24th we (me and my gaggle of girls) are heading off to North Carolina for Thanksgiving / family reunion celebration and as if that wasn't enough we leave from there and head to Disney for a week with my mom and stepdad.

I don't share this with you just because I'm squealing like an excited little girl, but also so you'll know that for the next 2 weeks posting on Weekly Photo Tips will be more fluff than substance (mostly images I capture during my trip).

Speaking of images, if you know of any cool shooting opportunities in the Raleigh North Carolina or Orlando Florida areas PLEASE leave a comment or drop me an email.

And for you funny folks out there, I know Disney is a cool shooting opportunity, I was thinking of something outside the park.


The only down side is I'm going to miss my dogs. When my wife saw the 2 pages of instructions I put together for the person coming to stay with our dogs she just walked away shaking her head and mumbling something.

You can click on the image for a better view of my three girls (the image will open larger in a new window).

More on the LiteDome xs...

Yesterday I posted a review on the LiteDome xs (watch the YouTube video here) and I wanted to share some images from a recent shoot where the only light source was a LiteDome xs.

All three of the images were taken using a single Nikon SB-800 in a LiteDome xs (hand held), and a 4' x 4' white reflector.

That's it.

It's very lightweight and portable which made moving from shooting location to shooting location quick and easy.

Click on any image to view larger (and in a new window).

Review of the LiteDome xs by Photoflex ...

Recently I reviewed theDavid Honl DVD "Light" and in it he uses the LiteDome xs from Photoflex extensively and since it hit my doorstep, so do I.

This is a great little softbox, I use it on a light stand in the studio, I use it hand held outdoors or on location, in fact rarely do I shoot and not use the LiteDome xs.

The quality of the materials and the construction is outstanding.

So is the price, it has a "suggested" retail price of $79.95 but you can get it for less (Adorama has it for $75 with free shipping).

This past Monday I lent my "bag of light" to a friend who was shooting Inuit artifacts for a major university and of all the flashes, pocket wizards, flim flams, and doo wizzies that I gave him to use he liked the LiteDome the best.

It is not uncommon to get the same two responses from other photographers when I show it to them, the first is "wow", the second is "where can I get one?".

You're probably thinking "Scott is pretty wishy washy on this one, I wonder if he likes it?".


If you want more details check out the hardware, components, and instructions here.

Better yet, take two minutes (and forty seven seconds) to watch the video below and I think you'll get my point (subscribers - make sure you come back to the blog to view the video or watch it on YouTube because videos still don't get pushed through with your subscription, sorry).

Review of David Honl's DVD "LIGHT"...

For $39 you will get two DVD's that contain one hour and fifteen minutes of instruction covering nine different portrait shoots and wraps up with a talk about the equipment David Honl uses.

In "Light" David Honl will walk you through each shoot using from one to three small strobes (he uses Nikon SB-800 & 900's) to shoot portraits both indoors and out.

He will show you how to overcome existing light and rebuild it with the light you want and where you want it.

The equipment is minimal - a camera, strobes, pocket wizards, and the occasional snoot, grid, gobo, and reflector to move light around.

"Light" is extremely well produced, better than most photography DVD's, and you feel less like you are being taught and more like you are hanging around with David for a day of shooting and he is sharing with you how he works

There is even a cooking lesson thrown in... I know what you are thinking "how does that fit in?", trust me, it fits in quite nicely.

What you won't get is details, you won't get the settings for each flash in a given shoot (other than they are set to manual), that's not what I am looking for because I don't want to robotically reproduce a lighting set up.

What I want is concepts, I want to understand light shaping, I want to be exposed to ideas that make me think so that when I walk into a given situation I can bend and adapt the ideas (and the light) to fit the situation and walk away with a great shot and that is exactly what you will get from David in "Light".

Though it is laid back style, it is also fast paced so have your remote handy because you will want to pause, rewind, and re-watch.

I invited a friend and fellow photographer to watch this with me and then asked him to write a paragraph about what he just saw, here it is:

"The first thing that should be noted about David Honl’s DVD “Light” is the laid back style of the entire presentation. Unlike many DVDs which seem to be making a video attempt at being a 500 page “How to Book”, David Honl’s DVD takes the viewer leisurely through diverse portrait photo sessions. In each David starts by describing the setting, what he wants to accomplish, and the tools he will use. For those that are either new to photography or the advanced hobbyist the first thing that will be noted is that David makes use of dedicated speedlights to achieve his amazing images almost exclusively throughout the DVD. For the budding photographer, I think the idea that the dedicated flash they may already own has much more creative capability than they may realize once they take it off the hot shoe.

After each session David breaks the shoot down, giving the viewer the exact position of the lights used. He also details how he modifies and shapes the light with modifiers like grids, snoots, reflectors and gobos. By keeping the video laid back David subtly conveys that with application of the right modifiers and some basic planning for light placement, a photographer can walk into just about any situation and shoot with confidence."

There you have it, two photographers, four thumbs up.

If you are starting your list for Santa, this should be on it.

Here is a trailer to help wet your appetite:

Between now and January 1st 2010...

I have a three prong attack for this blog between now and January 1st:

1. If you are a pro photographer (translation = if you make money with your camera either full or part time) I want to make you more successful next year. It's actually something I am going to do for myself and hope you will come along for the ride.

It's a jump start on my new years resolution. In 2009 I have worked too inefficiently and left way too much money on the table either because of poor implementation or worse, no implementation (another translation = laziness).

It's been like driving a car in need of a tune-up, it still works, but with a little effort it could work sooo much better.

My plan is to take the things I have learned this year and incorporate them into my studio workflow to increase efficiencies while presenting my work in the best way possible, this will serve my studio and my clients better - win/win.

To give you an example of one thing I do poorly is product presentation, when I finish processing the images from a shoot I upload them to an online gallery where the client can view and order if (and when) they want. No input, no direction, no assistance from me.

That's it - that's the extent of my sales process.

I have learned from other photographers who do online sales and those who do in studio projection presentations and my plan is to incorporate both.

Bringing each client into the studio to present their images in a relaxed and fun atmosphere will not only be a better sales tool, it it will also help develop a better relationship, a stronger bond with my clients.

If an in studio presentation isn't possible I have learned from Joyce Smith how to present images online in such a way that it maximizes sales.

Where I host my images needs to change as well. I currently use SmugMug Pro and there is nothing I dislike about them, they do a great job and I was perfectly happy with the arrangement until I was asked a question that made realize I needed to change what I was doing. "What do you say to folks when they ask why they can order images directly from SmugMug at a much lower price than they can from you?" It was a good question and one I still don't have an answer for.

I can tell them until I am blue in the face all the time and expense (studio, software, etc.) that goes into producing their image but all they hear is "blah, blah, blah" as the look at their SmugMug print price for an image uploaded from their point and shoot camera and wonder why my image that is the same size is 3 times more.

I need to remove that obstacle, I need to find a lab that does not sell to the public.

So for the rest of the year I will be sharing/reviewing products that have helped me (and hopefully you too) run a better studio in 2010.

2. If your only interested in photography as a hobby I am going to share with you products that will help make you a better photographer or at the very least make it easier and more fun. So there will be stuff here for you too.

3. Re-invigorate our Flickr group. It has languished as other things positioned itself for my time. If there are things you would like to see, or happen at our Flickr group PLEASE let me know by posting a comment here or drop me an email.

So, there you have it, the Weekly Photo Tips plan for the rest of the year.

More Lightroom 3 beta resources...

I recently posted about the Lightroom 3 public beta program and I wanted to add some more information and newly released resources.

The public beta will be lasting until April 30th 2010, giving us a full six months to really give it a thorough workout.

Here are some resources that will give you details, insight, and training so you can truly explore and use Lightroom 3 to its fullest.

1. Here is the link where you can get Lightroom 3.

2. Terry White has forgotten more than I will ever know about Lightroom and he has a detailed write-up and a 30 minute video that will take you deep into Lightroom 3.

3. Adobe TV has 3 videos (almost 60 minutes) showing what is new in Lightroom 3.

4. NAPP has put together their (video & links) Lightroom 3 learning center.

5. Stop by Lightroom Killer Tips to read Matt's Q&A on Lightroom 3.

6. Victoria Bampton (aka The Lightroom Queen) has a a detailed list of what's new in Lightroom 3 along with her own list of Lightroom 3 links.

That should keep you busy until we meet again.

Great deal on 8 GB memory cards...

Adorama has SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III memory cards on sale.

You can get a 3 pack of Compact Flash Memory Cards for $69 and/or a 3 pack of SDHC cards for $129. To sweeten the deal even more shipping on either set of memory cards is free.

Here are the details:

The 3 pack of SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III Compact Flash Memory Cards is $149.95, has an $80 rebate, making the final price $69.95 (yup, that's just $23 per card).

A 3 pack of SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Memory Card (Class 10) is $219.95, comes with a $90 rebate, with a final price of $129 for three cards.

I just checked the web site of another (well known) photography retailer and their price (after rebates) for the same SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III compact flash card is $45 per card.

These are the same cards I use (and just bought more of) and regardless of how fast I shoot I never have to wait for an image to be written (read/write rate 30 MB/s). Of course this is nice on the other end as well, when downloading these images after a shoot they go pretty darn fast.

Christmas is coming up fast and these (with a very well placed hint) would be a great gift.

It's Veterans day...

And it saddens me that too few towns have parades... too many people have to go to work... and the sacrifices made by so many men and women are slipping into obscurity.

But not here.

The first has to do with a post I did a few weeks back about the documentary film "The Way We Get By" which is about the tireless troop greeters in Bangor Maine.

Well PBS is airing it today and I encourage you to watch it, you can learn more about "The Way We Get By" here and can check your local schedule here.

And here is offering number two:

If there is a Veterans Day parade in your area today, please go, because they gave their best to us.

Wanna shoot with Chase Jarvis?...

Seriously, do you?

This past May I reviewed the "Strobist Favorites Gallery" cards from Trade Secrets Cards.

At the time I had two thoughts (which is essentially max capacity for my head), I really liked the cards (I can actually see them on my desk as I write this) and I wondered how they would follow-up on these gems.

No need to wonder anymore, yesterday they announced the release of their second set (in what I hope is a long line of cards) "Chase Jarvis: The Portrait Sessions Vol. 1".

Though I don't have my set in hand for review (but will soon) I am sure those of you who already own the first set won't want to wait until then to place your order.

At first blush they appear to be a continuation of a great educational experience, the same high quality Trade Secrets is known for, and I can't wait to have them laid out in front of me.

Something new in rechargeable batteries...

It was after watching the "Strobist Lighting Seminar" DVD's that I made the jump to rechargeable batteries for my flashes. Why, because only an idiot would listen to advice from David Hobby and then ignore it.

If I had to pick one thing I have not liked since making the move to rechargeables (and there only is one thing) it would be the fact they they drain rather quickly (and completely) when doing nothing other than sitting in your bag.

Since reading a couple of reviews this past week I am seriously considering making the move to the (relatively) new Sanyo Eneloop batteries.

What separates them from the rest of the herd of rechargeable NiMH batteries (addressing my problem) is that the Sanyo Eneloop's have "low self-discharge technology" (translation = they stay charged in your bag).

Just how low and slow is their self-discharge rate? This image pretty much says it all:

In a review done by Betsy Finn she tested standard NiMH batteries (2650mAh) against the Eneloop batteries (2000mAh) with the Eneloop batteries coming out on top in many ways including quicker recycle times.

Another was done by Stefan Vorkoetter, he tested Eneloop head to head against other low self-discharge batteries and the Eneloop's came out on top here too.

You can read more about Eneloop on the Sanyo website, you can also find the user manual here.

Today is a big day...

It is my wife's birthday today, one of those "milestone" birthdays.

Won't say which one because that would not be considered "good manners", but I can say that she was 49 yesterday.


In our house birthdays are considered sacred, if it's "your day", about the only thing you do for yourself is bathe.

And by no means is it drudgery, it's fun for everyone, even those who are doing the serving - I think because you get to act like the person you wish you were everyday.

Despite the fact that this picture is ten years old, was taken with an old point and shoot film camera and scanned in (horribly) by me, it has always been one of my favorite pictures.

My wife told me once that when she was a little girl her dream was to be a mother of daughters and when I look at this picture I have to believe that this is what her dream must have looked like.

Life is good.... really good.

Ladies and gentlemen... Kirk Voclain...

When it comes to senior photography (or any other field of photography) there are some photographers who are at the top of the food chain, Kirk Voclain is sitting at the big table.

There are several ways to measure success, not the least of which is your average sales per session, for Kirk it is just over $2,000 per senior.

Now if he were based in Hollywood $2,000 would not be all that impressive but he's not, his studio is in Houma Louisiana, a town of just over 30,000 people (it is neither large or rich).

I have seen Kirk speak and though he is a bit irreverent and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously (if he did would he put the above picture on his website, really?), but don't be fooled because he does take his photography and his business very seriously.

And one of the rules of success is to learn from those who have blazed a trail before you.

Kirk Voclain has cut a very wide path.

Take a look at his website and blog to get an insight into what he is doing.

If you ever get the chance to listen to him speak, run (do not walk) to the event.

This video is just under two minutes and will give you a good representation of Kirk's shooting style.

Learning from others...

If you are interested in senior portraiture, either improving what you are already doing or adding it as an option in your studio, chances are pretty good that there is another photographer out their that you can learn from.

Laura Daniels is one such person.

Her website, Senior17, is crisp, clean, and extremely easy to navigate.

It contains great senior portraits, instructional information / FAQ's for her seniors on hair, clothing, and makeup that serves two purposes - it will keep her from answering the same questions over and over again and if the guides are followed they will help ensure the best possible image for her clients.

I guess what I am trying to say is Senior17 is a good example of form AND function.

This year I have done more senior portraits than ever, they are fun, they are challenging, and can certainly help make any studio more profitable. I didn't reinvent the wheel, I looked at what successful studios were doing and adopted their good practices.

Be sure to check out Laura's website and blog, I bet you can learn from her too.

Man am I tired...

It is very unusual for me not to post for consecutive days... and I missed you guys!


A friend of mine has a small internet company and late Sunday night his mail server crashed so I spent 36 hours (from late Sunday night to Tuesday morning) building a new server, restoring backups, blah, blah, blah. Bet you didn't know in my previous life I was a geek (pocket protector and all).

Of course the process was regularly interrupted with phone calls from ill mannered people with self important chest pounding about who they were and how important their email was.

I got home Tuesday morning just in time to take one of my daughters (who had gotten sick overnight) to the doctors.

While I sat in the waiting room I thought about all the things that had been put "on hold" for the last several days, things that I enjoy, that are important to me, and this blog is one of those things.

Writing this blog is both fun and an educational experience for me. I learn new things, try new products that I otherwise would never have had access to, but best of all I make new friends. I get to "meet" and talk to folks from all over the world. The number of emails I received asking if I was okay, what was going on, was pleasantly surprising.

Weekly Photo Tips is a joyful part of my life.

Things are back to "normal", mail is flowing and children are well.

Tomorrow we'll pick up where we left off, finishing up with seniors. I have a few more helpful links and senior specific products to review.

See ya Then.