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I Can’t Believe I Just Said That….

Apr 29

In Tours at 9:31pm


You gotta stay loose and have fun, right? So does your subject. We had a great day in Denver Wednesday, doing a Kelby Lighting Tour stop there. Had a great audience, and two terrific folks to work with on stage, in Solomon and Lindsey.

Except that Lindsey was a bit nervous. Can’t say as I blame her. She’s up there in front of 700 people with a photog she had met precisely 10 minutes prior to taking her picture. And, trust me, my first efforts didn’t exactly inspire confidence. But we got it going after a few frames, and that magnificent smile of her’s flipped on like a searchlight at a movie premier.  I think I had something to do with that, ’cause back at the lens I tend to keep up a non stop stream of consciousness babble that ranges from mildly amusing to outright idiotic to veering close to legally actionable.

We gotta do that, right? I mean, here we ask our subjects to go along with us on what could be a long walk off a short pier, an adventure, in other words, so we in turn have to be adventuresome as well. I think the key part of that word is “venture.” We have to venture, to risk. We have to make a bridge. We have to create a comfort zone in front of the lens, a place which for many, many folks is very much just the opposite. Face it, lots of people would rather have their teeth drilled without novocaine than have their picture taken, especially publicly, with every frame going up on giant screens.

Lindsey, of course, needn’t have worried. With a face and smile like that, she made my job super easy, aand she was really patient with my antics to boot.

Solomon was great, too. Easygoing and amiable, he was also physically confident, which made him a magnet for the lens. (I’d be confident, too, if I looked like that.)

But alas, I am not as physically gifted or confident as Solomon. Quite evidently.


I never ask my subjects to do that which wouldn’t. Also, I occasionally try to play a bit of “simon sez” with them, by showing them exactly, or, in this case, a very ballpark approximation of what I would like them to do for my camera. Sigh. Perhaps I should change the title of this blog to, “I Can’t Believe I Just Did That in Front of 700 People.”


Solomon’s definitely got more hang time than I do. Perhaps that is because he doesn’t have a buttocks that is the weight and density of an anvil. Wild guess on my part.

Here he is, in a quieter moment.


Tech notes on the pix:

Beauty shots of Lindsey…Two Quadra units, one high, one low, both on c-stands. Overhead the Quadra head is in a deep Octa, a really nice, rich light shaper. Just under her face, in front of her, the other Quadra is into a smaller Octa, and it is running about minus one stop from the overhead, or main light. Pretty straight up, classic beauty light combo. Behind her head is an SB900 running on SU-4 mode, about 1/4 power, with dome diffuser still on the flash.

The, uh, leaping pix. Me, one Ranger unit with a long throw reflector from the back of the room. Solomon, one SB900 unit from about 50′. Zoomed to 200mm. No diffuser. That’s it. One light, far away.

Last, Solomon on black. Two 3×6 Lastolite panels, each with 2 SB900 units firing into them. He is much closer to the camera right panel, hence it is the main or dominant light. Very smooth light, due to the size of the panels, and his proximity to them. Shot at f11.

FYI: Drew found a way to make the pix bigger on the blog, if you just click on them, they will enlarge. More tk….

Jim White says:

on April 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

You’re too much Joe . . a buttocks that is the weight and density of an anvil . . LOL. Great work as always . .

clint bittenbinder says:

on April 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I mean absolutely no offense, but I cannot look at the picture of you without laughing… Thank’s for the continued inspiration!!!!

Todd says:

on April 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Hahaha… Honestly man, my favorite image is the one of you jumping. I scroll down, oohing over nice soft light, and I pop back up to you and laugh my ass off. I am not laughing at you, but rather with you 😉 But in all seriousness, the fact is that image evokes more emotional response from me than all the others, and in that respect, it is a fantastic photograph. Keep it up Joe – we all appreciate your work – struggles and, eh hum, triumphs (see white man jumping above)

James says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm

lest he forever be lost in obscurity the “lightbox” effect (that does that cool enlarging thing) was made by a young guy named Lokesh Dhakar. Many have now used his open source base to take it to different places. But he deserves a bit of credit here and there (and more really).

Jody Grigg says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Had a great day in Denver yesterday, learned heck of a lot since I never or very rarely take portrait shots. Thanks Joe!

Ajit says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm

You forgot to mention the Darth Vader soundbytes! Some of the stream of consciousness stuff was pure gold. Seriously though, we had lots of fun and learned a great deal. Thanks so much for being patient and answering all the questions during the sessions as well as in the breaks.

Rick Osborne says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Hey Joe, Stephanie and I really enjoyed the seminar yesterday. VERY helpful! P.S. Benny Dees would be proud of your hops in the photo above!

Zoran Vogrincic says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Nice shots.. Were SB-900 on iTTL in the last shot? I guess + 1 EV since its diffused? Otherwise nice wrap around the muscles.. Also nice glow on ball

Mark says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Ah, awesomeness. Love the “venture” part. It’s all a venture, ain’t it? You with the basketball…Bernard King-esque, if I may.

Armando says:

on April 29, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Thanks Joe for a great session yesterday. My friends and I really enjoyed it.

Dave Wright says:

on April 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Some great lessons, Joe! I’ve already been out practicing some of the new techniques you gave us and I’m really pleased with the results. Thank you!!

Helene of OHK Photos says:

on April 29, 2010 at 11:20 pm

This is such a great post, Joe. Many of my “models” or subjects are very camera shy and insist they are not photogenic. Thanks to what I’ve learned about lighting from your books and videos, I’m able to bring out the best in them and am always delighted when I see the boost in their self-esteem. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us!

Jason says:

on April 30, 2010 at 12:07 am

What technique is Drew using for the photo enlarge? Ajax windowing? Thanks for the seminar Joe, it was great to have you in Denver!

JLee says:

on April 30, 2010 at 12:32 am

I was at the lighting seminar and though I’ve seen all of Joe’s tutorials on Kelby Training (and all of them are great to learn from) it was even better to see Joe live in action. Reading Joe’s blog and his books you’ll find he always talks about how many “bad” pics he takes before getting the right one. It was great to see him in action and to truly appreciate the creative process. Though, it seems to me that number of “bad” pics Joe takes before he gets to the good ones are far fewer than the number of bad pics I take to get to the good one. :)

Thanks, Joe for coming to Denver! I have this list of people I would like to meet that inspire me. Glad I can put a check by your name now.

Thomas says:

on April 30, 2010 at 2:01 am

Good write up, thanks for sharing..

The keep talking thing is one of my favorite things about shooting. It’s kind of an excuse for just letting your mouth run of with stuff. We all know it’s about setting a mood and getting the model to smile (or not) – even if it’s a “damn, this guy is a total wacko” kind of fun.

And the end of the shoot – if the photos are good, everything is forgotten and we can go back to normal. Kind of …

Something different: The tight cropping on the last shot – could you say something about what made you crop like that? I’m struggling a bit with my tight crops, and have gone from very-tight to more space, but I really like how the elbow to the top of his head, kind of creates a line and keeps the photo together.

estella says:

on April 30, 2010 at 2:34 am

hi…i have seen your website recently…i think your photos are very nice and of course artistic …your sight from middle east was wonderful for me…i am a iranian and i try to write my sentences in a correct way! i think all of us believe to the world without pain and sad…have fun

Kholloud says:

on April 30, 2010 at 3:23 am

Ooh 700 people, I wouldn’t do that 20 people and i felt dying. love the pictures Joe… Thank you Drew 😉

Joe McNally says:

on April 30, 2010 at 6:30 am

Dude! Many thanks…Bernard….or should I say like we used to at the Garden….Berrrrrrnnnaaarrrrrrrd King! The best basketball pic (one of certainly) was Manny Milan’s shot of Bernard floating to the hoop and in the background the SI speedotrons caught the blue haze of cigarette smoke in the Garden…yep, the old days…..thanks K-Man….Joe

Surly says:

on April 30, 2010 at 6:36 am

I love those Lindsey shots. I actually guessed the lighting! Learning is fun. I was pretty close on the last shot as well thanks to reading your (and your friends’) books. I was actually impressed at how high you jumped. Keep blogging Joe, I need all the help I can get. /gush

Gregg says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:00 am

I dunno dude, even if you do have an ass like an anvil you still gained some (seemingly) impressive height.

Kelvin says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:19 am

Very Funny!

John ErDOVEgi says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:31 am

Your Dentist drilling totally reminded me of a thought anology I came up with. Seeing a H.S. senior girl so reluctant to get her picture taken. She was nervous and scared, as if she was going to get dental work.

A quote from my FaceBook-Info…
I said we are just like Dentists, Yes, as a Photographer I pull teeth without any pain or physical intervention. I pull them right out into a S M I L E !!

Yeah Joe, your smile is like a mirror to your subjects.

Mark Dunlap says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:31 am

I don’t know Joe. Looks like you’ve got some pretty good hang time. :-)

Mike Bryan says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:31 am

Thanks Joe! Learned so much – and thanks for coming to Denver. I felt very fortunate to be up close, even if you did make me come up on stage (with 5 other guys) to be a “body guard”. You answered so many questions for me, even the ones I didn’t even know I had yet! I also haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time.

Good times!

William Chinn says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

Uh, Joe, just got word from the editor. The photos need to be re-shot. The logo on the basketball are all upside down. Seriously, you were physically gifted with the photography gene, took advantage of it, and we are the better for it.

Daniel says:

on April 30, 2010 at 8:57 am

Wow Joe, lookis like you have some hops yourself…

Ken says:

on April 30, 2010 at 9:05 am

It was a great seminar. The models were great, and Joe was very entertaining. I only wish there was more time, since the day went by so fast. I always enjoy learning from those who are the best at what they do.

Arie says:

on April 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

Great blog as always Joe! Quick question – how do you get the pictures to pop out of the page like that when we click on it? I’ve been meaning to do that on my own site for a while so people can view the larger version of the pictures without leaving the page nor right clicking to save the picture.

Louis Pang says:

on April 30, 2010 at 10:11 am

Thank you Drew for adding the image enlarging function to the site.

Sid Stills says:

on April 30, 2010 at 10:14 am

Had a great time at your seminar in Denver, thanks for coming.
I learned alot. You’re the man!!

Matt says:

on April 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hey Joe, great seminar on Wednesday! Thanks for coming to Denver! I’m glad you decided to post the picture of you with the basketball! That was down right hilarious!

Neil Hanawalt says:

on April 30, 2010 at 10:24 am

Till now have considered TTL the “Dark Art”. Thanks for easing my fear. A departure from manual is in order…. now.

Lyndon Smith says:

on April 30, 2010 at 11:08 am

Pretty good vertical Joe – or did Drew give you another foot or so off the ground in photoshop?

Christina Wehbe says:

on April 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

You keep amazing me.

Jeanne Tubb says:

on April 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Joe…YOUR MENTAL CHECKLIST!! Everytime a shot wasn’t right, you verbalized your mental checklist. What a help! You did not do a canned presentation, with no variables, but rather re-created each portion of your presentation on the fly, which was inspiring to watch. Also, thanks for answering my question re: balancing out different colors of light on the model.

Thanks for being a consummate good guy, character, and very talented photog as well. A great package. Also, all thanks to Drew and the crew, who efficiently knew what to do to keep things moving.



Joe Pyle says:

on April 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Very nice. Love the smooth lighting on the last shot. Thanks for sharing how its done.

Jim Powell says:

on April 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I have to say, I think keeping your subjects comfortable is one of the most difficult aspects to photography (for me anyway). It can be easy with some people, but if they’re not comfortable or used to being in front of a camera, I’m sometimes not sure how to loosen them up.

So will this shoot be up on kelby training? Or was it not for that site?

Mikkel says:

on April 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Hi Joe;

Can I ask you;

1) What software did you use to browse the images in the screendump with Lindsey? Aperture?

2) What are 3×6 Lastolite Panels?

Kind regards, Mikkel

Pierre says:

on April 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Love the shots, as always. And the stories behind them, as always.

And we’re lucky that you have Drew…

Paul Childerhouse says:

on April 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Hi Joe,

Question on the penultimate picture, Solomon jumping – There’s a secondary shadow within the shadow of his right leg (cam left) – was this to do with the stage lighting or is there actually more than one light in play?

Brilliant stuff as ever, from me as a Canon shooter!!


Ken Toney says:

on May 1, 2010 at 8:03 am

Joe, thanks for the camera settings. Many of the other bloggers and photographers I read don’t put that in.

Alejandro Cerutti says:

on May 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I guess this is another amazing, interesting and funny post as all you write.
Sorry I couldn’t read it…
I got stuck to Lindsey pictures :)

Greetings from Argentina,

Girish says:

on May 2, 2010 at 1:35 am

How did I miss this !

Beautiful shots those. Thanks for the tech info as well. Good to know that the photographs can we seen on a high larger version as well.

Matt says:

on May 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Hey Joe,

There was a picture of Soloman where he was holding the basketball and you used a gel in your flashes that were blue or had a blue tint to them. Would you be able to provide the information on those gels along with the picture you snapped?! It was the setup where you had 4 SB900’s in the back, 2 left, 2 right (with that blueish gel) and you had Soloman in between your 3×6′ diffusers with flashes behind those as well. The blueish tint from the flashes was reflecting across Soloman’s head and arms.

Kind regards,

Nick Wood says:

on May 4, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hey Joe,

Great post. I’m a huge Utah Jazz fan and I could have sworn I saw you shooting on the baseline of the Denver/Utah game. I’m a big fan of your photography and would love to see some of your images from that game if that was in fact you. I would love to attend one of your workshops if you ever venture out to Utah. Sorry for the akward/semi-unrelated question/request.


Paul C. Miller says:

on May 14, 2010 at 12:06 am

Hi Joe,
I love your blog, your book “The Hot Shoe Diaries” and I thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and experience. Two Questions: I see you’re very connected with Nikon. When are you going to persuade those numbskulls to start making high-powered iTTL flashes with the power of three SB-900s?
And why did it take a third-party innovator like “Radio Poppers” ( to convert the mostly ineffectual IR signals into radio signals? It’s still a mystery to me how you managed to make all those flashes “see” each other.
Assuming you are close to the Nikon people, please pass along my comments to them.


Matthew says:

on May 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Oh, Lindsay… I’m in love.

fred says:

on September 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm

i am finally getting around to looking at this. i just wanted to say i was there in Denver and had a great time! your teaching skill are superb! i took everything i learned and apply it to all my shoots now. can’t wait til u get back to mile high!!

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