Daily Photo – MC at Vicci

Every month or two a group of local photographers get together to shoot at an interesting venue in Austin. The emphasis is off camera flash techniques, and the group maintains a regular forum on flickr called, appropriately, Strobist Austin.

For the March gathering, 45 photographers descended on Vicci with five models in tow. Vicci has a fairly interesting and diverse interior, so we rotated groups of photographers and models around the site in an effort to keep everyone’s shots from being identical. Still, there’s only so much you can do with that many people (subsequent get togethers have had a better subject to shooter ratio).

I wasn’t too happy with this particular set up — the colors were all wrong, the outfit was weak and the background stunk. Michelle was a trooper though, and everyone did their best to make the most of it (did I mention the 4 or 5 strobes? Complete overkill). To be fair, these gatherings are supposed to be learning experiences, so the goal wasn’t necessarily to get a great shot as much as to deepen our knowledge of lighting.


  • Shutter: 1/125
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1ds Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • Lighting: 60″ softlighter camera right, SB800 camera right (further right than the softlighter and aimed more at the background), SB800 camera left as fill, plus one more strobe camera left and on background (I think, going mostly from memory on this and the fact three of the lights show up in the reflection from her eye).


Composition and Processing

  • We each had only a few minutes to shoot in each setup, so I thought up a few compositions in advance. There was a curtain hanging on the wall behind the couch she was sitting on (the couch you can’t see), and I thought we could do something interesting with it draped partly around her. Except that when we set the shot up I discovered it was tacked to the wall in a million places, allowing about as much movement as you see here. So I had her pull it as tight as she could, framing her face with the material on one side and her arms top/bottom.
  • I didn’t expect to crop so close afterward, but it really focused the attention on her face and, conveniently, got rid of most of the yellow dress. I often do off-center compostions like this, but I’d normally move it to the opposite corner (upper left) because her head is turned slightly down and to the (camera) right. Sometimes its better to go against your normal instincts.
  • I tried a number of other colors for the dress, but couldn’t find anything that matched the curtain better.
  • Her arms and face are blown out intentionally. I like that look when I use Nik’s bleach bypass effect. The original image was so monotone, it needed something, and the composition itself wasn’t strong enough to carry it otherwise. I do like the final color for the curtain, although that’s due as much to the bleach bypass effect as the color balance I did afterward to cool it off (lots of blue).

The rest of the Vicci shoot can be seen here.

September 14 2008 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – Semi-Self Portrait

This shot was taken with the help of Christopher Fergusen of Definitive Images. It’s the image I use for kevingliner.com.

I had a very clear idea what I wanted to do composition-wise for this shot, and I needed something that would fit the layout and simple color scheme I had planned for my home page. I tried repeatedly to take this as a self portrait, but the act of walking back and forth to the camera (which sat on a tripod) to evaluate each image was time consuming and somewhat futile: even if I could recognize the slight adjustments I needed to make, having stood up and walked away from where I sat made it very difficult to re-create the pose and adjust accordingly.

So I called up Christopher and asked him to lend a hand. He made a couple minor adjustments to the lighting, but left the camera where it was on the tripod and tweaked the pose (more on that below).


  • Shutter: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/9
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1ds Mark III
  • Lens: Cnaon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (at 68mm)
  • Lighting: Zeus head in 60″ softlighter camera right (at about 45 degrees from subject); 4’x8′ black foamcore left of subject; Second zeus head with 7″ reflector blowing out background and flagged with some black foil to prevent spill onto the subject (although enough came off the background to overexpose the bench).


Composition and Processing

  • Anyone who does studio work should really spend some time on the other side of the lens. It’s amazing how awkward an otherwise comfortable looking pose can be. I’m actually sitting on the very edge of the bench and my pants are pulled down as far as possible because they were sliding up too much off my feet in this posture. My neck is craned up and forward. And my shirt, which was drooping down loose as I leaned forward, is clipped behind my back with several gel holder clamps. All those little things were Christopher’s doing.
  • I obviously had to clean up the scene to make the edges all white and blow out the floor. But the more interesting question with shots like this is what to do with the shadows. You can always wipe them out entirely, but I think that makes things look like they’re floating. It doesn’t take much to ground the shot though — in this case, just a little bit of shading where the feet and the bench legs meet the floor.
  • I mucked around with color balance a lot but wasnt’ really happy with any result — part of the problem was the sunburn on my face, but in general nothing really jumped out as appropriate. I ultimately used Nik Color Efx’s bleach bypass filter and did a 50% blend with the original.
  • I prefer off-center compositions, and this particular one had the requirement of also framing (on one side) the menu items that would appear below it (hence my choice of a long bench, but sitting at one end of it).

September 08 2008 | Photography | 1 Comment »