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Kelby Tours, Hartford: Elex and Bleu

Sep 16

In Seminars & Workshops at 7:00am


Had a great time in Hartford yesterday, doing a Kelby Lighting Seminar. It’s fun, and a challenge, and a bit daunting, at least occasionally, to keep the ball bouncing and think up stuff to do when you’re shooting live in front of hundreds of folks. But, I lose myself in the process, and just try to have fun. On a big commercial shoot, there are often many people on the set with you, observing what you do, so I just figure on these outings, I’ve got a few hundred art directors in the audience, so it’s cool by me.

I make mistakes like crazy up there, but that doesn’t really faze me. For 25 years, at National Geographic, my editors there have seen every single frame I’ve shot, good, bad or indifferent. Every frame. It was true with film and is true now with digital. I don’t edit in the camera, I don’t tweak in post. Raw files out of the camera. Every picture, whether it’s a gem, or a giant steaming turd that might have just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass, goes to the building with the yellow border around it.

So at these seminars, every frame I shoot goes immediately to the screen. That’s one way to get naked really quick, but again, I enjoy the process of building a picture, and the audience tends to be right there with me, involved in the process. Yesterday, the folks in Hartford were great. Very patient and kind, even when I completely lost all sense of where I was and fell off the stage. Yep, that was a first. I was at the edge of the risers, pursuing a picture, and I just stepped out there on the air, which wasn’t smart. I felt like David Copperfield, minus the good looks and hot babes, doing one of those tricks where he just drops through a trap door. Oh, well, once a numnuts, always a numnuts.

The saving grace of yesterday, apart from my distracted antics, was working with two of the gentlest, most beautiful people I have ever worked with–Elex and Bleu.


They are a married couple who are wonderful in front of the camera, either singly, or together. (As I said onstage, I suspect their children are beautiful. Just a hunch.)


We experimented with decidedly big flash, up above, for the couples portraits. Those two images were made with the Elinchrom 74″ Octa, a truly wondrous light source. When you gotta go with one light, this is a good one to go with:-)

Elex, alone, is shot small flash. The main light is a Flashpoint beauty dish, and in the background are two raw SB900s. All TTL, hi speed sync at 1/4000 @f2. 200mm lens.

Below, we experimented lighting two surfaces, the subject and the background, with one small flash. The light is about 20′ away, camera left, and it is hitting the white background, ungoverned. In between the light and Bleu up front is a large Tri-grip diffuser, which steals some of the intensity of the flash and smooths it for a portrait. Hence the background snaps white and the foreground is lit nicely. One light, TTL. Fun to do.


More tk…..

rjg says:

on September 16, 2010 at 7:22 am

Thanks for the great time yesterday!
…everyone falls off the stage once and awhile.

Ban_D says:

on September 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

Great shots as usual – especially nice idea the last one with one flash for both bg. and model!

Raul Kling says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

Love your portraits! Beautiful! Thanks for the info, too.

Dennis Pike says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

Truly gorgeous light, even for you, which is saying a LOT. The shot with the 200 f/2 is something special, someting about it. just slightly warmer on the key is perfection

Joseph M. Arthur says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:29 am


Amazing seminar. You did a fantastic job. Watching you build these photographs from start to finish was so informative. Thanks for signing my book and shaking my hand at the end of the day!

– Joe Arthur

IPBrian says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:37 am

Joe, you crack me up. If you ever find yourself in Springfield, MO…let me know so I can buy you a beer!

Larry Smith says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

It was a good time. And watching you craft the lighting in the pictures was fascinating.

Ron McKitrick says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

After the fall, you are still continuing the tour, right? We hope to see you in Atlanta… Oh sorry did you hurt yourself? :-) I am blown away by the photos, Words are not need you show Elex’s and Bleu’s, beauty and gentleness.

Tim Skipper says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:05 am


I for one am grateful you show your good and bad. It reminds those of us who learn from you that learning is always a process.

BTW, hope your pride is the only thing hurt from the fall.

William Beem says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

One of the things I really enjoy about your lighting demonstrations is watching how you build the image, mistakes and all. For some reason, it makes it easier for me to shoot and work through my issues knowing that’s just the way it is. I’d be perfect every time, if I could. Knowing it’s OK to make a few mistakes in the pursuit of your final shot is actually one of the best lessons you share.

Agreed about the models. You have some wonderful subjects in these shots.

Tom Bricker says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:26 am

Great work, Joe. Because of being inspired by your videos on Kelby Training, I spent considerable time shooting a smoothbore cannon at Gettysburg, PA on my vacation to get the shot in camera rather than rely on post using Nikon CLS.

Mike Neale says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:32 am

“Have a nice trip?,…glad you could drop in!”,…;-)))

Beautiful models,…and BTW, Joe, stunning comps on these fine art ports, very well done!

Thanks for inspiring us all.


Alex Racanelli says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:35 am

Had a great time learning and laughing the entire day.

Craig Falbaum says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

I felt so fortunate to attend yesterday’s seminar in Hartford, Joe. I had planned to attend the Philly seminar back in April, but was unable to make. Thanks for coming and I can’t begin to tell you how much you encouraged me to continue my passion in photography after several months of self-discouragement. My only regret was not bringing your books for you to autograph! I won’t forget next time!!!

Doug Evans says:

on September 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

Joe –

The Hartford gig was a blast! Thank You so much for bringing the crew out. Absolutely every time you teach, something new, interesting or exciting clicks in the mind.

Your humor and humble nature is a gift to us – your work and teaching is simply inspirational!

If you ever felt nerves – you sure do hide it well. To treat 250+ people as friends and an extension of your photographic family while pulling off these beautiful shots – well again, inspirational.

The stage slip, from the folks on your right, didn’t know you actually fell – but that’s a sign of a guy totally focused on the job at hand.

Now, I’m off to try 1 SB-900 from 1001 yards!

Safe travels!


Sebastian says:

on September 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

Hi Joe

Great pictures… I really like the third one. (Elex alone )
The light works amazing together with the shape of his face :-)


Bob DeChiara says:

on September 16, 2010 at 10:49 am

Attending too many Aerosmith concerts perhaps? Is Steven Tyler’s stage antics rubbing off on Joe?

Well the good news is you didn’t hurt anything.

Richard Garrow says:

on September 16, 2010 at 11:15 am

Hi Joe,

I would first like to thank the models Elex and Bleu, as you said they were fantastic and the images were beyond belief.
Second I would like to thank you as well, for taking the time out of your schedule to share with all of us, you are so talented and yet you are so easy to learn from I envy the young folks who work for you as I feel my life might have been different had I had the chance to do what they are doing now, instead I went and fought a war. I am so looking forward to seeing you again in NYC at the photo show. I know your job is not easy, just by some of the things you have to do to get the shot, but as you have said it is made a little easier because you love what you do.
Thanks again and I look forward to your new book coming out. I would like to put on my wish list another Video like the one you did with Bob would be real treat or a real nice Christmas present..
Craig forgot his books I had mine but did not want to bother you to get the autograph as I know a lot of folks get up set, so I did not want to bother you.. Thanks again for a great day. I did mange to get a few pictures of you so I can hang on my wall at home..

Billy says:

on September 16, 2010 at 11:17 am

WOW…………Lots of stuff to try out! You’re work is very inspirational. It was really cool watching the process. You’ve got a beautiful wife, and a great crew Joe………And they all seem like they like you too ;P Thanks again!

Andrew Bitson says:

on September 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

Very excited to see this tour near me when it comes to Phoenix. I’m hoping to be able to attend! I’ve learned so much in concept of lightning through reading your books. I really enjoyed hot shoe diaries, left a really good impression.

Frank Burch says:

on September 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

I’ve always wondered if those mini beauty dishes were worth a look. Sure like the effect you got here.

MatusP says:

on September 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

If I posted a comment everytime I’m impressed by your work you would surely find me a spammer. This time I’m writing to ask about one thing. You said that you don’t tweak your pictures. Does it refer to RAW files as well? As far as I know, Raw files always require at least a slight post processing to look good.

Alex says:

on September 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I have to say, this was the best workshop I have been to in years. Tons of information, very well presented. You were not only patient but persistent too! Always pressing on, wanting to share more, do more in such an incredibly short time. Amazing! Now I have to find money so I can do one of your smaller workshops in NYC next summer. Damn.

Adam Sasim says:

on September 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I love that octa shoots ! Great work Joe !

Drew Gurian says:

on September 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

When sending files to Nat Geo they are just that– untouched raw files. Other stuff here in studio of course we process and work Joe

Eileen says:

on September 16, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Like Matus I don’t post a comment every time I like your work, but these I think are rather special. Very beautiful and full of emotion also. I love the third picture especially – so intense and beautifully lit. Good job, Joe!

Don says:

on September 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm

What a great experience watching you at work yesterday. Your team and the models were exceptional. I can’t remember the last time I was so attentive. What a day!

Simon Fleming says:

on September 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Joe I just read Anne’s guest blog over at Scott Kelby’s site – between you two there is a multitude of great photography, great stories & great humility. Thanks again (to the both of you) for sharing.

Ozine says:

on September 16, 2010 at 6:43 pm

How on earth do you get these colours straight out of camera?

Mike C says:

on September 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I had a great time yesterday learning as Joe brought us through the process starting with the plain and ending with the stunning. After watching yesterday, I realize now it isn’t the equipment because I use the some of the same stuff and haven’t been geetting anything close to the same quality.

This seminar was well worth the cost and I can’t wait until Joe brings his show back to the Hartford area.

Now what did I do with the credit card.. I need a few more flashes so I can practice some more of what I learned.

Thank You for a great day.

Ken Toney says:

on September 16, 2010 at 8:49 pm

See you when you come to Atlanta! Fire of Valley was not enough McCrazy for me!! :)

John Wells says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I had a great time at the seminar yesterday – thank you Joe! I thought you handled the “you’re speaking too fast” comment perfectly (“I’m only in 2nd gear!!…”). Special thanks to the unsung heroes – Drew, Cali, and Grippy – they seemed to be thinking four steps ahead anticipating what you needed, despite all the “abuse,” haha.

One odd thing was the jpg thumbnail which showed for a fraction of a second before the raw would show (jpg+raw being shot). The jpg seemed to be about 2/3 stop brighter. On a few frames I thought, oh yeah, that looks great, oh wait now it’s too dark.

Elex and Bleu were great, as can be easily seen in the above beautiful photos.

Anyway, great day, lots of information, thanks!

Tom C says:

on September 16, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Joe, yesterday’s session in Hartford was a blast – you were moving so quickly and seamlessly and rolling with the punches. The last demonstration with the SB900 shot at 200 mm at 1000 feet to look like sunlight blew my mind. I didn’t think you could pull it off, but you did it. Your assistants were fantastic too – Drew especially seemed to be reading your mind.

Ina says:

on September 17, 2010 at 6:42 am

Hello Joe,
I cannot tell you how informative and engaging your lectures/demonstrations were. I introduced myself to you as a high school Photography teacher here in CT at Amity HS. When I returned to school yesterday and shared my experience with my advanced students it was riveting to see their responses. I had invited a few of them but the cost was too much for a high school student to pay. I had forgotten that one of my current students had done an advanced power point presentation based on your work. I would love the opportunity to have her share it with you. Is that possible? She selected her favorite images of yours, interpreted them and then shot her own images trying to capture some of the essence, look and feel your images presented. When I told her it was you in the flesh who was the keynote speaker she screamed of envy. I was glad I could relay my experience to her and the other students.THANK YOU.

Kerry O says:

on September 17, 2010 at 8:09 am

Joe – had a blast at your class. Loved watching you build the light, starting with one small simple flash that anyone might have, all the way up to the big guns. Helped a lot seeing you add, subtract and move everything around. Thanks for a great day.

saquan Stimpson says:

on September 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

awesome images.

Todd Ward says:

on September 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Had a great time Joe, my face hurt at the end of the day from laughing so much! Can’t for the DLWS stop in NH next week!

Gabriel Hristea says:

on September 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

Great pictures Joe. The way you describe the shot will always make me laugh. Your unique style in photography and writing is just amazing. Thanks for that Joe!

Mathieu Wauters says:

on September 18, 2010 at 6:13 am

Great portraits Joe!

Jim says:

on September 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I would imagine that those giant steaming turds you speak of are far and few..your just too good..give yourself credit..we all love your work.

Stefano Aguiar says:

on September 19, 2010 at 1:01 am

The idea of TTL sometimes even cross my mind when I read your blog.

antonio mercurio says:

on September 19, 2010 at 11:03 am

wonderful works, as always !!!

Rob says:

on September 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Hi Joe

Would love to be in a position to attend one of your workshops. I wish I had the opportunity to work with some dark skinned subjects but not living in an ethnically diverse area I never managed it. Your portraits continue to inspire me.

Dee says:

on September 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Hey Joe,

I have a chance to attend your seminar in Calgary in November but am worried that it might be too much for my pea sized, TTL-impaired brain at the moment. Are these seminars for beginners and up or the more advanced student?

Glyn Dewis says:

on September 20, 2010 at 2:44 am

Beautiful, emotive series of images Joe but that final portrait of Elex is a killer!!!

Superb work as always,
Thanks for sharing,

M. Clay says:

on September 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Wow…very powerful looking models. Great lighting, as usual.

Bill Burkhart says:

on September 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I came away from the workshop with a sense of can-do empowerment. From you books and videos, I’ve always had the ‘oh yeah, easy for McNally’ attitude but no way can I do that. Since Wednesday I feel ‘heck, if Joe can fall off the platform, so can I….’

Now all I need is to get me a couple of those voice-activated light stands and I’m good to go……

BJ Madden says:

on September 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Cool. I want the MUA who did that shoot!

Kevin Duncan says:

on September 22, 2010 at 5:55 am

Awesome lighting Joe…I need to attend one of your phenomenal speeches or workshops…Great work!!

Thanks for sharing

Alex Herrea says:

on September 27, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I stumbled onto your blog site from Alltop. Love the blog man its what I have been looking for. A real blog on photography and life not just some content photography site. iI like this shot of this couple you took, you really bring out the life in a picture. :-)

fab says:

on September 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Great and Professional Work!

Terje Myller says:

on September 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

A great post! Thanks! So inspirational to see the spectre of possibilities with only one flash, like in last photo. Who needs four?

Eddie says:

on September 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

To anyone wondering if they should attend this Location Lighting Seminar…As a person who attended this with Joe it was by far the most inspirational thing I have done for my photography. I appreciated Joe’s skill and experience as he quickly corrected any lighting miscues but more than anything seeing a master work through those difficulties let me know I wasn’t alone in running into challenges! That I needed more than anything and walked away with a burning desire to shoot but most of all the confidence that I could even with my limited skills and gear. Wow! I just wish it was near me again, I would have taken it the next day!

John says:

on October 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

lovely light in these images

Neil phootgrapher says:

on October 6, 2010 at 5:04 am

anther great post

Tomek says:

on October 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

Hello Joe,
thanks so much for finding the time in your busy schedule to do those seminars , as they’re bot interesting and inspirational, I must say.
I was wondering if I could ask you for a favor; because we ran out of time, you didn’t cover the “taking a group photo with a single flash” scenario.
I am extremely curious about your way of doing it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Would you perhaps post a little of your know-how on the matter?

Much appreciated

Andy Domondon says:

on October 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

Very inspiring, thanks for sharing info on how small flash can do great images.

Andy D.

Lynwood Waffenschmidt says:

on March 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I figured every story and everybody needs a yang to their yin, right? 😀

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