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Kelby Tours, DC Stop

Oct 27

In Lighting, Seminars & Workshops at 7:53am


As I always say, what could go wrong? 5 hours of live lighting in front of 950 people. Thankfully they were very gracious, easy going people, who were an enormous source of support and good will all day long. Very cool.

Day started with Drew, Will and I on the loading docks at 6am getting a boatload of gear up into the Wash. DC Convention Center. Ah, the glamorous life of a shooter. At that point, it’s just a matter of racing the clock to get ready for the doors opening at 9. Both Drew and Will worked incredibly hard, going full blast with only 3 hours sleep.

We started simple. Basic TTL strategies, using umbrellas, Tri-grip reflectors, diffusers, you name it. The guys are very tolerant of me, cause, while there is a general plan or outline to the day, I often riff a bit here and there, and try stuff just for the heck of it. We were blessed with two terrific, talented people in front of the lens, Jen and Tory, who worked with us. Tory didn’t even hold it against me that I called him Corey a good deal of the day.

Simple umbrella and a fill board for Jen.


Then a single Tri-grip diffuser for Tory.


Which became two Tri-grips, with Drew and Will hand holding both, along with the flashes.


Tory has one of those faces that really work well with all manner of light, and most folks reacted well to the idea of doing moody, simple light, TTL, really quickly. The two pics above took about 3 or 4 minutes to do, even with me burbling incoherently into the microphone.

Then Tory went the exec route.


This was an interesting set, in that I got myself into the woods using 4 flashes, all of which needed different power settings, but  only had 3 groups to put them in to set those power ratings. Something hadda give. Luckily, I was able to play with positioning of the lights, and eliminate the 4th flash when the low flash directly in front of Tory put enough catch light in his eyes. It was a good place to be, though, cause it was good information for everybody in the room. We were on the doorstep of either making TTL work, or sending the flashes a message to all go manual, then ratio one of them down, power wise, with the time honored method of neutral density gels, or just forgetting about wireless hoo hah and going with a radio/manual power solution. Everything we tried was valid, and it was fun for the audience to kind of participate and work this out.

Then Tory got into athletic duds, and we tried another iteration of rim light with gels, and a Honl grid light for the face. Never really finished this photo, but it was going in a good direction. Will is just off camera to the right, hand holding the gridded speedlight.


For the last hour, we bring out the Rangers, just to show how strategies might vary between big lights and small lights. Went with an overhead beauty dish for Jen, with a small softbox underneath of her, for a pretty straightfoward beauty light look. Popped an SB900 into her hair for good measure, again taking a look at ways to mix different types of flashes. Will employed the wind machine, aka the eyeball dryer. I couldn’t resist dropping in a little glamour glow on this in post. The post stuff is really seductive, I tell ya, even for a goober like me who doesn’t know how to use it. I mean, I’m capable in a meager way of doing basic darkroom stuff, but I look at PhotoShop and filters and stuff like I’m a twelve year old holding a rocket launcher. “Wonder what this button does? Holy shit! I just blew a hole through my photograph!” Personal opinion? There are some filters and sliders and moves out there now that should be labeled, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”


Then at the very end, we put a Ranger Elinchrom with a long throw reflector at the back of the auditorium, along with an SB900. Just threw light at the stage. Any guesses which this one is?


Then of course, at the end, we asked for some audience participation to be Jen’s entourage/bodyguards. Da guys were a hoot.


Lotta fun. Hectic day. Each setup transpires in minutes, and we go non-stop. Many thanks to everybody in the audience, Will, Drew, Jen, Tory, and the Kelby gang, who really know how to pull this stuff together. More tk….

Jake says:

on October 27, 2009 at 8:20 am

Hey Joe fantastic class, well worth my drive from Detroit. Non stop laughter and learning. Oh and can I take a guess as to which light you used to throw light from the back of the auditorium to the stage? j/k!

Eli Silva says:

on October 27, 2009 at 8:23 am

Very cool Joe…. love the basketball and the crowd shot/white bg shot…

Valerie says:

on October 27, 2009 at 8:26 am

Awesome day, I really learned a lot. Worth my time and money. And you’re a riot too. Not bad. Thank you!

Rob Dutcher says:

on October 27, 2009 at 8:31 am

Had a great time, Joe. Thanks to you and the gang for all your hard work.

Kevin Blackburn says:

on October 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

Joe great time great to meet you and I truely mean it when I say your comment on attitude and your spirit have changed my career…..

Kristina says:

on October 27, 2009 at 9:08 am

Wonderful live learning experience. I wish you would post the last shot of the two models together – that was pure Joe-induced laughter and a beautiful frame!

Randy Smith says:

on October 27, 2009 at 9:46 am

Thanks for sharing Joe, i had a great time and learned alot. I would do it all over again…but you’d probably tell me to go out and shoot..LOL!

Gary says:

on October 27, 2009 at 9:54 am

Thanks for the fun and informative seminar. Can your opening slideshow be found anywhere online or do I need to come back for another seminar? Also, what was the music you used as background? Thanks.

T.J. says:

on October 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

Had an absolute blast, Joe. Thanks for the great day! I drove about four hours to participate, and it was absolutely worth it!

David says:

on October 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

A great day Joe–thanks a lot, learnt a lot — well worth the Atlantic crossing —- Any chance o a UK visit?

Smiles from miles

David says:

on October 27, 2009 at 11:31 am

should read “of a UK visit” I would appreciate a correction.

Danny Douglas says:

on October 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Joe, you made it look so easy on Friday! I had a great time and enjoyed meeting you and Drew. I hope to meet you in the field someday for another lesson on flash photography. Thanks a million!

darren_c says:

on October 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Great series Joe! I was wondering though on the 3rd to last photo of Jen. Perhaps a plain noobee question…How did you trigger the Rangers vs. the SB900? Did you use the same triggering device or did you need 2?


All hail light master Joe!

ekcj says:

on October 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Great day, Joe. Thanks. I learned a lot and look forward to trying a few of the things I learned. Any chance you could make a link to a larger version of the crowd shot above? Just want to prove to people I was actually there. Thanks again.

Jeff says:

on October 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Joe, Drew, Will,Jen, Tory, the MUA and everybody at Kelby Media,

thanks for coming to DC! You guys and gals are true professionals! You rocked the DC convention Center. I loved the seminar and would go again if possible. Now I really need to make one of Joe’s small workshops!!!
Only one thing I can say would have put it over the top. Having a third screen showing you live on stage. I was difficult to see from the back of the ballroom. I got both of my books signed, but darn it, I forgot to bring my Speed of Light dvd!!!!! One smart young lady got her flash autographed! why didnt I think of that!! LOL!
Joe, you’re the greatest! Thanks!!!!!

John Leonard says:

on October 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Hi Joe,

Great shots, but just a thought (Dangerous for me) and this may not have worked but….the above shot of Tory in the tie. You said you needed 4 flashes but only had 3 groups. True, but If you link a SB900 to the body via a SC-29 or two your commander then becomes movable up to 18 feet (Assuming two cables). So your commander (SB800 or SB900) is it’s own group too. Of course you could run into some triggering issues depending on location. Or you could have needed that fourth light further than 18 feet from your camera, or I’m just off base, you tried and and most likely your reading going. “No S*%t Sherlock, do you know how long I’ve been doing this?”

Either way, hope it helps someone =)

jakob says:

on October 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Very Cool Joe!

Ade Russell says:

on October 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I was there too – that’s my hand shaow in the left 😉

A day to remember! Fantastic!! Many thanks!!

Wayne says:

on October 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm


The seminar was, without a doubt, the best I have attended. It’s so amazing that all these incredible shots took place live in front of all of us, and they look like they were done in a completely controlled studio. You are the consumate professional and controller of light.

I also couldn’t believe how hard Drew and Will worked. You all must have been exhausted.

I agree with Kristina, my favorite shot was the last one you took, with both models laughing. How great it was that this image stayed up on the big screen to end the show.

john hildebrand says:

on October 27, 2009 at 10:42 pm

very nice simple tips

Paul says:

on October 28, 2009 at 12:45 am


I’m taking your Los Angeles workshop next Friday. Can’t wait. Aside from a good attitude and patience, is there anything we’re supposed to bring? Camera? Strobe?


David Brown says:

on October 28, 2009 at 2:34 am

Looks awesome, guys. Any chance you’re going to bring that out to Hong Kong at any point?

leo says:

on October 28, 2009 at 6:42 am

Thank you Joe, Drew, Will, Jen, Troy, and the Kelby team. The seminar was awesome and a very good platform for all level of photographers, who want to get the wisdom from the masters. Had a blast and couldn’t wait for the next one.

Mats Lie says:

on October 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

Given the shallow dof, I’d go with the sb-900 on that pic 😀

Thanks for the wonderful blog

Jeff says:

on October 28, 2009 at 10:26 am

I also would like to know the name of music you used for your opening slideshow. The slideshow set the tone for the day! Awesome!!

Dawnita Alston says:

on October 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Thanks joe for not posting that pick of me on the stage i felt i looked crazy with my dark circles under my eyes i really enjoyed the seminar the shots you did were amazing thanks for signing my book wish i could have thought about getting you to sign my flash darn! missed that one but maybe next seminar i’ll bring one thanks again for such a great lesson your the best!

Rob C says:

on October 28, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Thanks Joe! I had a blast at this session and learned a ton. Absolutely amazing how many different looks you can achieve with just a few off camera lights and a few minutes! Of course, it helps to have some great assistants. I need to train my 4 yo daughter to be a better VAL! 😉

Guy says:

on October 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I attended this event and it was outstanding! If Joe comes to a city near you by all means do whatever you can to attend. The high quality content combined with Joe’s fast paced and humorous presentation style made this perhaps the best one day event of any kind that I’ve ever attended.

Guillermo Hakim says:

on October 28, 2009 at 10:59 pm

I enjoyed the workshop from beginning to end. The building blocks starting with one flash all the way to the big lights were excellent. Lots of street wisdom from years of experience, great tips. Very relevant. The best workshop I have attended.

blonnie says:

on October 29, 2009 at 12:08 am

I learned so much!!! Lighting is the most important thing in photography and flash photography is not a strong-point of mine – I’m much better w/natural light. It was so helpful to see the arrangements of equipment and changes live.

My one regret: Not getting my National Geographic camera backpack signed. :p I realized my mistake after I got home – stupid. Hopefully I can get that remedied sometime in the future @ another workshop or convention.

Angela says:

on October 29, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I really enjoyed your workshop and learned so much for you. It was a great eye opener and I love your style.

bronson says:

on October 30, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I bought tickets for this event within seconds of reading about it. How sad was I when the project I was working on grew to the point that I couldn’t get away – even for a day – to see this seminar. Joe – I’m begging you please – come back to DC. I won’t take work for months around this time. I swear! :)

Larry says:

on November 2, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I am an amature and only take pictures for my personal gratification, I really learned a lot from the seminar. So much so that I took your advice and took my SB800 off my D700 and positioned it in a window above my doorway. The light went through the window and bounced off of the front porch cieling on the vistors for some really great halloween shots as the trick or treaters came to my house. I was amazed at the significant difference my pictures to on. Thanks again for the lessons and I really enjoyed the session as well, great laughs.

Feel free to check them out on my blog at

Thanks again.

Ade Olumide says:

on November 2, 2009 at 6:44 pm


Thank you for an informative day. What I really enjoyed was how you addressed the problems you encountered as they presented themselves while shooting the models. Well worth the money spent.

All the best to you, Sir. Drew, way to go, man. All the best.

Desiree says:

on November 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Best Friday I’ve ever had. You were amazing, and your assistants were great too! So glad I was able to take part in this seminar. I’ve already put so much of your techniques to use in my everyday photography. Thank You Thank You Thank You!!! :)

Karissa says:

on November 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Thanks for this post, Joe! I love your blog and how you go into detail behind the set-ups of your shots and give us a fresh perspective on what a pro’s work flow is like. I am a nineteen year old photography student, and you have inspired me so much! I have recently got into small flash work (I took David Hobby’s advice and bought a bunch of SB-26,24, and 28s and adjust them manually instead of TTL). Now, I’m starting to experiment with mixing big and small lights in my studio work. Thank you for the inspiration and this great blog!

Marcel Hauri says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

The tricks are so simple and the results are just fantastic, thanks a lot Joe for sharing.

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