The “41 Essentials” Digital Guide.

We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a very long time, but never seemed to find the time.
Well, today’s the day.

To take the guesswork out of your next gear purchase we’ve picked the best tools for photographers and filmmakers in our “41 Essential Items” Guide. The complementary download is available HERE.




Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Mini Courses.

Why Filmmaking Essentials?

One of the main chal­lenges pho­tog­ra­phers face when starting to shoot video is to focus too much on hardware and software, and for­get about the most important part: the story. While this informative course includes some tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion, the main goal is to provide an overview of the many aspects of filmmaking, and identify potential business opportunities with motion. Click HERE.

The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography,, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.

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Click on the Image to access FREE Tutorials.

Why these Mini Courses?

Sometimes we don’t have time for three-hour lessons; rather, we just need a quick and concrete answer for a very specific question. Because of that, in addition to longer courses we’ve released these mini courses, averaging three-to-five minutes each. Click HERE.


Click on the Image to access FREE Tutorials.


Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers. Online Intro Course.

In 2011 I was invited along with National Geographic photographer David McLain to present a series of two-day workshops nationwide. The events were produced by Photo Quest Adventures and sponsored by PDN, Sony, Adobe, and other leading brands. The main goal was to help photographers transition into video by simplifying key concepts and providing shortcuts, resources, and advice on what gear to buy.

I have been honored to teach “Filmmaking Essentials” at all major industry events, from PhotoPlus to Imaging USA to NAB, from South America all the way to Dubai, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and at home in New York.

Few people know that I never use the same presentation twice. Each and every time I add things I’ve learned, plug in valuable feedback from attendees, students, and this website’s readers, and I strive to improve the educational experience with better examples and shorter explanations.

When looking at the advancements in digital technology since those first workshops it seems like decades have gone by. Today, we have access to a variety of brands and models of very compact cameras that can see in the dark, shoot 4K or higher resolutions, offer incredible frame rates, and even offer GPS and WiFi features so they can be easily controlled by smartphones and tablets. The future is definitively here.

But something quite odd has been happening to my personal and professional focus. The more gadgets we have at our disposal, the more I’ve shifted towards the craft of storytelling. Instead of getting more stuff, I’ve been increasingly interested in constructing and enhancing my stories to better engage the viewer. Naturally, this approach has been reflected in the educational content I produce.

Now, and for the first time, I’m proud to offer an awesome version of my one-hour presentation online. Click HERE

The “Filmmaking Essentials for Photographers” course is based on a popular event we have been presenting for several years, but it has been greatly enhanced with additional visuals and examples. Some of the clients and sponsors for the live event include Adobe, Adorama Pro, B&H Photo, Cinevate, Future Media Concepts, Gulf Photo Plus (Dubai), HOW Design Conference, International Center of Photography,, McCann Erickson, NAB Show, Panasonic, Photo District News, PhotoPlus Expo, Photokina (Germany), Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Sony, and X-Rite, among others.

Who is this course for?

Well, as the name implies, this version of “Filmmaking Essentials” covers concepts already mastered by advanced filmmakers or by experienced photographers who are very technically savvy. But I’m confident everyone else could learn a thing or two.

As often as possible we’ll be adding new courses, covering topics like pre-production and post, tips for one-man crews (like journalists) working stills and video assignments, advice on getting started with Color Grading, and many other fascinating subjects. As mentioned above, most of these courses are not and probably won’t be hardware or software driven, but would focus predominantly on answering the why’s, not the how’s, of the fascinating craft of filmmaking.

Also as a first, we are offering several mini-courses (averaging three minutes each and many of them for free) for those who need concrete answers to very specific questions.

So, if this is the kind of content and format you desire, vote with you wallet and let your voice be heard.

Thank you for your continued support. Click HERE to start learning. 

Eduardo Angel Visuals2

Click on the Image to access FREE tutorials.


Video for Photographers: Filmmaking Essentials.

As we have covered in numerous articles before, still photographers can reasonably quickly learn the most essential filmmaking techniques and greatly expand their creative options and the range of professional services.

In our latest course we help bridge the gap between still pictures and moving images, by explaining and showing, what it takes to transition from one craft to the other. We tried our best to include the most essential video productions techniques; from framing and lighting for continuous shots to directing the viewer’s attention and incorporating camera movement and sound, and even offering a brief overview of our post-production workflows.

This course, our fifth on is the “theory course.” Our goal is to explain why certain techniques, steps or tools are important. Other topics include:

• Understanding the 5 Cs of cinematography
• Choosing the right camera
• Framing for continuous shots
• Lighting techniques
• Using camera movement to enhance your story
• Leading the senses with sound
• Working with different microphones
• Editing and post-production considerations

A follow-up “practical” course (available in a few weeks) will cover hands-on composition, camera movement, sound and lighting techniques, among other useful tips like packing and working with very small budgets and crews.



Hybrid Assignments Equipment List: The Essential 41 Items

In aviation, an MMEL (Master Minimum Equipment List) is a categorized list of on-board systems, instruments and equipment that must be operative in order to flight. Any additional equipment not included in the MMEL may break temporarily but it won’t make the aircraft inoperative. Here’s an attempt to create a hybrid MMEL for three different crew sizes.

Let’s start with the definition of “Hybrid.” What I normally mean by this term are productions or assignments where one or two people are required to be the photographer, filmmaker, sound recordist, producer, and even editor. And, these gigs are becoming increasingly popular. It sounds crazy and these sorts of shoots can be. One of the keys to making them run smoothly relies on great planning and working with less equipment that gives you more control in less time. It also helps to team up with other people who can complement our weaknesses.

Short and one-man crew hybrid projects

One substantial challenge for photographers shooting video is how to travel as light as possible while carrying a full production and post-production setup that is literally on their back. Here’s a picture of my backpack, which contains every single piece of gear that I’d need for from one up to three days, except some clothes and toiletries that will go on a small backpack.


Bag for a 1-day or 2-day gig by myself.

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1. Media Credentials which sometimes, but not always, can give you special access, get you discounts and the most important part, allow you to travel with some heavy or oversized gear without paying a fortune. Here’s a link to Delta, American, and United Media Baggage policies.

2. Two external portable hard drives. I suggest this one, or this one.

3. Audio field recorder like the H4n (or a more current model and smaller version like Tascam’s DR-05) to capture interviews and my own production notes.

4. Camera A for video, in this case a Panasonic GH4 (Amazon and B&H) with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens (Amazon and B&H). I’m in love with this lens. So small, yet so sharp!

5. Camera B for video, another Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 12-35mm 2.8 lens (Amazon and B&H)

7. Camera for stills and location scouting; I always carry my Fuji X100s (Amazon and B&H)

8. A variety of Tenba Tool Boxes (Amazon and B&H) to pack all the batteries, chargers, cables, adapters and other small accessories.

9. A small tripod (Amazon and B&H)that sometimes serves as an improvised handheld rig. A car mount works great for time lapse and even to hold the H4n or small lights during interviews.

10. At least one Rode VideoMic (Amazon and B&H) to capture some ambient sounds or  interviews.

11. A 15″ MacBook Pro (Amazon and B&H) with Adobe Creative Suite (Amazon and B&H) and Shot Put Pro.

12. One of my favorite photo bags ever, the new Tenba Shootout (Amazon and B&H)

13. In terms of lighting, for these assignments I try to use mostly available/natural light, but I bring a 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector.

And here’s my typical outfit and setup for some of these solo hybrid gigs.


My outfit for hybrid shoots.

1. My good ol’ Columbia jacket/vest has been traveling with me to more than 40 countries. It has lots of pockets, a hoodie, and because it has a self-stowing pocket, it sometimes doubles as a pillow on the road. A priceless item, to be sure.

2. Benro S4 Video Monopod. Small, relatively light, and sturdy. Works great.

3. Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens.

4. Rode VideoMic Shotgun

5. I always bring gloves unless I’m going to the Caribbean in July. Montreal was pretty cold and wet!

6. Obviously, the most important tool if you are crossing any borders: the passport. This website compares the “power” of passports from many different countries, and, as Americans, we are blessed to have the most powerful one.

7. I like to dress in layers and in dark colors when shooting on the road. Black hides dust and stains very easily. A cashmere sweater is worth its weight in gold.

8. Camera for stills: The Fuji X100s is especially handy after a very long day, when I don’t want to carry more gear but still want to capture a few night scenes of nice-looking dishes during my evening meal.

9. A hat—another essential item.

Longer projects and bigger crews

For a longer hybrid assignment where I’ll have one or two more people (gaffer/grip and a second camera/DIT) I’d bring a few more items. In this case we wouldn’t  need to carry everything on our backs, but we definitely need to pack as little and light as possible.

We would bring a Tenba Transport Rolling Tripod/Grip case, to pack one or two Benro S8 tripods, a Benro S4 monopod, a very compact and portable slider that would take the same fluid head from the S8 tripod and/or the S4 monopod. Some grip accessories that I consider essential are at least a couple of adjustable Gaffer Clamps, and a couple Collapsible Reflector Holders which also double as boom stand. These two light and inexpensive items effectively function as one, and sometimes two, additional crew member. A no brainer if you ask me.

On the camera package I’d include an external monitor/recorder like the Atomos Shogun with plenty of Solid State Drives (you can also rent them for only $28 per day!), and all the charges and cables you can imagine, and a power strip (get one with a long cord) that becomes essential when downloading all the footage every night AND charging all the batteries for the next day. I use one Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag for the most expensive, essential and fragile items, namely cameras, lenses, Shogun and hard drives. The brilliant design of the Roadie Hybrid allowa me to treat is as a standard rolling carry-on, but I can also use it as a (very heavy) backpack on uneven terrain, subway stations, etc.

Here’s a view of my carry-on bag.


My carry-on bag for longer jobs and/or when I have a bigger crew.

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1. Tenba Roadie Hybrid bag

2. Media pouch with ten 64GB SD cards

3 and 4. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and Sigma 24-105mm f4. These are the same lenses I used last year on another one-man Hybrid project in Istanbul and Europe

5. SanDisk Solid State Drives for the Atomos Shogun

6. Two external portable hard drives

7. Sekonic Color Meter

8. Sekonic Light Meter

9. Rode VideoMic

10. H4n Audio field recorder.

11 and 12. A couple of Panasonic GH4 bodies with Varavon cages, one with a Metabones Speedbooster (for the Sigma and Canon lenses) or a couple of Canon C100 Mark II or C300 Mark II bodies if the job doesn’t require stills.

13. USB 3 reader for Solid State Drives (included with the Atomos Shogun kit)

14. 6TB G-Tech External Hard Drive (compact, super fast and awesome)

15. Atomos Shogun

16. My sharpest and heaviest lens, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 [

17. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm 2.8 lens and Panasonic GH4 with a Lumix 35-100mm 2.8 lens. These lenses are the equivalent to a 24-70mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8 but super light and small

18. In terms of lighting I usually bring two or three 1×1 Bi-Color LED Panels with batteries and two Chimera 1×1 Lightbanks with grids. That pretty much covers all me needs. Another option is a Fiilex kit, which I like a lot, but find it way too expensive. I’ll need light stands and cables.

19. Depending on the job we would add another camera movement tool, like a Glidecam or a Ronin or even jibs and dollies. It depends on too many different factors.


All the bags packed. The LED lights are in the back seat.

Well, there you have my little setups for hybrid assignments. Obviously, there isn’t a perfect setup of gear list, just like there isn’t a perfect camera, but these items have been working great for us.  I hope this article benefits some of you involved or interested in run and gun, single-operator scenarios like weddings, events, corporate shoots, documentaries, red carpet premieres, product launches, sporting events, video podcasts, and even student films.

If you are interested in some packing and traveling tips, especially when shooting overseas, or what to do the day before your video/shoot shoot, we have written about that too. Did I forget anything? Let me know here!

And of course, there are those crazy long, crazy hectic, crazy complex and crazy awesome projects that require everything and the kitchen sink.

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In the Mood for Love Redux.

I love Asian cinema and I feel a strong and special attraction and respect for Wong Kar-Wai’s work, especially his earlier collaborations with Chris Doyle. Wong Kar-Wai is known for his “romantic and stylish films that explore—in saturated, cinematic scenes—themes of love, longing, and the burden of memory.” In terms of photographing urban landscapes, especially at night, I can’t think of a better cinematographer than Doyle.

For the past couple of months I’ve been revisiting his movies, his video interviews, and reading as much as possible about his production methods and unconventional approaches to filmmaking.

Check out the following books to learn more about this amazing director:
The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-Wai” by Gary Bettinson
Wong Kar-Wai: Auteur of Time” by Stephen Teo
Wong Kar-Wai” by Peter Brunette
The long-awaited and complete Kar-Wai retrospective with more than 250 photographs and film stills will be released in September but it can be can pre-ordered now.

In order to better understand his compositional and directorial choices I imported “In the Mood for Love” into Premiere Pro and selected my favorite scenes, including those critical to the story, those that are brilliantly original, and scenes that are flawlessly executed or contain a number of technical achievements (like the impeccable use of dolly moves). I then re-cut all my favorite scenes from the original 94 minutes into a single 18-minute clip (below), always trying to keep the integrity of the story. My goal here is to help someone who hasn’t seen the movie grasp its (very convoluted) story in one 18-minute clip.

If you haven’t see the movie, I highly recommend it, and I’d love to hear from you once you see it.
If you have seen the movie, did I leave any key cinematic moments out?


Lighting Design for Video Productions on

Understanding the importance of lighting and the proper use of a light meter and colorimeter raises an average shot to a more sophisticated visual level. And it doesn’t take a Hollywood budget. In this course, we show you how to use simple tools and techniques to make your lighting and your location work together, how to make the most of natural light and augment it with artificial lighting, and how to reveal or obscure objects and subjects in your scene. Along the way, we’ll show you how to evoke certain moods and feelings with light.

Topics included on this course:

• Understanding the role of lighting
• Lighting interior and exterior scenes
• Directing the viewer’s attention
• Enhancing mood in a scene
• Achieving great light under harsh conditions
• Deciding on the right lighting style for your story

If you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for TEN days of unlimited access.

Here’s one of MANY examples provided during this course:

 The complete course is currently available on  As I mentioned above, if you aren’t a subscriber, feel free to use my link for 10 days of unlimited access.

Many folks have been asking about the equipment used for this course. Here are the answers:

We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

And here’s  list with our standard camera package.


Photography Updates Android App.

Finally! just announced a new Android app where users can download courses and watch them offline. I believe a premium membership is required, but this is something I’ve been requesting for a long time. I can now keep up with new courses on my daily subway commute!

Another welcomed update is that we can now stream courses via Google Chromecast. I’ll definitively take advantage of this in the winter while exercising on a stationary bike and learning something new!

Lynda also added an “Article Center” which is full of great and free content. If you are not a subscriber, here’s a free 7-day trial on us:

Here’s our “Lighting for Video” course. We’ll have another one on “Camera Movement” available very soon. Stay tuned!


How to desaturate shadows for 3D contrast.

Digital capture technology is really awesome and has truly changed photography, improving it in a multitude of ways. But sometimes, digitally captured images have a certain exaggerated colorfulness, that just looks a little off, for those of us raised on the old fashioned film days! I have found that this has to do with the way color gets saturated as contrast increases. Even standard rendering presets increase contrast a bit through a global RGB composite curve, often indirectly. It seems that when contrast increases this way a global increase in saturation results that increases the chroma, or colorfulness, evenly throughout the image. This makes shadow values unrealistically colorful. Our natural perception of color decreases with reduced light, such that, as a shadow approaches black, color saturation is gradually reduced to zero. If you can correct for the tendency to increase color in the shadows as contrast is increased, you can achieve a more natural sense of contest and 3D shape in the image.

Lets take a look using the following example:

The RGB values in the arm, right before it goes to zero black is 31, 1, 1 – way too colorful for a shadow this dark!

Looking at the deep shadow at her right arm, we can see a subtle region of exaggerated color in the deep shadow. Reading the RGB values confirms this—the reading of 31,1,1 is unrealistically colorful—we can see a sort of band of extra deep color right next to the black shadow. This is the bane of digital capture, in my humble opinion! Lets see what happens when we fix this.
Start by selecting Solid Color from the adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel – this type of layer is not available from the Adjustments panel, so you have to get it there! The idea is to use this gray color to desaturate the underlying layers selectively – right now the solid gray covers up the whole image! Now we will use Blending Options to change how this gray interacts with the image – select Blending Options from the layer options flyaway menu at the upper right corner of the Layers panel.
Select “Blending Options…” from the flyaway menu in the Layers panel

The Blending Options dialog is where we can adjust the layer blending so that the gray is only covering the shadow parts of the image. To do this move the white slider to the left until most of the image is revealed with only the darkest parts covered by gray!

Move the white slider to the left to reveal the brighter parts of the image.

Now we have to soften the transition of the gray color so it blends smoothly. To do this, break apart the white slider into two haves by option/alt – dragging it apart and to the left! Don’t hit “OK” yet – there’s one more thing to do…

Option/alt drag apart the white slider into two halves to soften the transition of gray into the shadow parts of the image.

The gray color now blends smoothly into the shadows…

The gray color blends smoothly based on how wide the slider is split.

Of course, we aren’t going to use the image like this—we can change the layer blend mode from normal to color, right in the Blending Options dialog or in the Layers panel!

The de-saturated shadows actually look darker, even though they are the same luminosity as before – the eye sees less saturated color as darker!

Compare this image with the first in the series. The de-saturated shadows look darker, giving the image better contrast in the shadows, eliminating the band of rich color next to the darkest shadow. I often reduce the opacity of the de-sat layer just a bit and sometimes work the layer mask selectively to bring back a little color where I might like it—I did that here, masking it off her right side to “highlight” the shapely curves of her torso.
It is surprising how powerful this simple technique is! The subtle de-saturating of shadows most often results in more dimension of shape in the shadows and makes the image look more natural and less “digital”

To see a more detailed version of this post go to Lee’s website.

Lee teaches techniques like this in his PPSOP class: Portrait Retouching Fundamentals:
And he also teaches a Photoshop Layers class.

For even more advanced techniques, check out Lee’s Photo-Illustration course.


6 Lighting Tips for Shooting Video.

Here’s the thing — we can make a film without sound, without color, and without a single camera movement, but we can never make a film without light. Wehile we can sometimes use available light or cheap practical lights, here are a few things to consider:

1. The biggest advantage of natural light is the price. It is readily available and doesn’t cost much to harness or enhance. If nothing changes and everything can be accomplished in one shoot, one can probably get away with this method.

2. Unfortunately, video often requires shooting over extended periods of time, and tear down and reproduce scenes shot days or weeks before. Additionally, as professional photographers and filmmakers we can’t rely on clouds, having enough windows, or even the weather forecast.

3. We often have to work fast with limited tools. A typical example for us is shooting B-roll the same day we arrive to a new city. Understanding simple techniques like harvesting harsh noon sunlight, or harnessing available shade can make or break a day on location.

4. Even when we can carefully plan our shoot, we need to truly understand the role of lighting in our story so we can select the ideal tools and techniques to develop it.

5. I find it fascinating how warm tones pop out of the frame, while cool colors recede into the frame. Or how through proper lighting we can make the same exact scene look peaceful, enigmatic, elegant, happy, or even scary.

6. As photographers and filmmakers, light is our palette. With light we can provide a sense of space and establish a time of day. We can create beautiful morning light in the evening as well as spectacular moonlight at noon.

Light is such a powerful and adaptable element that by understanding it and mastering it, we can greatly enhance our video productions without breaking the bank. Check out this tutorial, using ONE utility light during daytime:

Like these tips? That’s exactly what my course “Lighting Design for Video Productions” is all about.
Additional free video tutorials are available here!

UPDATE: May readers and subscribers have been asking about the equipment we used on our Lighting course on Here are the answers:

We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.


How to Color Correct for Skin Tones.

I have found that careful attention to basic color correction principles can help re-calibrate our subjective evaluation of an image to a point where effective adjustment choices can be made. I also find it extremely helpful to get as much practice as possible working on other people’s images, as this helps us become more objective about our own work! I have the good personal fortune of benefiting from the work of my fiancé, the amazing Bobbi Lane, who happens to be a really extraordinary portrait photographer! I will examine my decision making process in a recent color correction of one of her images in this post.


The original image is on the left with the final corrected version on the right. The original isn’t horrible, but it suffers from what I call “pumpkin skin” – just a bit too saturated an orange color. I always use the info panel numbers in Photoshop to help me decide how to approach color correction. The key to evaluating a skin tone is to look at the CMYK numbers at the upper right of the info panel. A good skin tone is all about the ratios of CMY in the secondary color readout. Ideally, yellow and magenta should be closer to each other than either is to cyan – cyan should be between 1/3 and 1/4 of the average value between yellow and magenta, and yellow should be a little higher than magenta – for a fair skinned blond, about 10% higher!


The screenshot above shows a reading from the skin color at the chin – there are two columns of numbers here because I had already added a Curves layer when I did the screenshot, normally there is only one for RGB and CMYK. The two columns are identical at the moment because no adjustment is being made, this allows you to compare adjusted with non-adjusted numbers. As I said, the cyan should not be much lower than 1/4 of the average between magenta and yellow. In the numbers above, that average would be 53 – cyan at 10 is just a little low, not horribly low, but that combined with the slightly elevated yellow (relative to the magenta) confirms my suspicion that the skin is just too colorful. In fact, this skin color is very reminiscent of an artificial tan, spray-on type of color that is sometimes used by body builders in competitions!

In order to correct the skin I want to affect the RGB numbers to get the ratios in CMY to change. If we look straight across from the top row of numbers we can see that R lines up with C – if I want the cyan value to go up, I need to do the opposite to red, the red value has to go down! In this image the red channel is very pale (a higher number in the info panel) if I want the red value to go down, I need the red channel to be darker in the area of the skin)a lower number). I could potentially use a Curves adjustment, targeting a point on the skin, but this point is very high up on the Curve so it will be harder to lower it without adversely affecting other tones.

The trick is to blend in the darker skin tone from the green channel using a Channel Mixer adjustment…


Here 30% of the green channel is blended into the red, replacing part of the red channel to darken, or lower the red value. This sets up the image for the final adjustment, a Curve adjustment raising a point in the blue channel to lower the yellow value just a little bit, resulting in a pinker look to the skin, and a better CMY ration in the color. To see a more detailed step-by-step tutorial on this process go to my original blog post on the subject.

I am teaching all about color correcting for skin tones as part of my Portrait Retouching Intensive at Santa Fe Photo Workshops June 21 & 22nd – sign up here!


Portraits: Natural and Flash.

The photographer’s best tool is light. It is used to mold, define, describe and set the mood of a portrait, so knowing how to recognize the light or control it, is of ultimate importance to the artist. I’m both a natural light, or Portraits Unplugged, kind of photographer, and also have a lot of experience with using studio strobes or portable flash, which gives me huge control. Knowing how and when to use artificial vs natural can be a challenge. I just recently photographed Ceasar deSilva in Dubai, a young, smart executive originally from Chicago, for his modeling portfolio. I scouted several locations in the afternoon with the help of my good friend, Issa Al Kindy, and we found a construction site across the river from downtown Dubai. In other images we utilized the Burj Khalifa in the background, but for this set of images I was intrigued by the construction fence that was falling down at one end. By the time Ceasar arrived, the late afternoon light had already faded in the haze. Nothing wrong with it, the light is still beautiful, and I posed him and shot with the Fuji XT 1 with the 56mm f 1.2 lens wide open for the smallest depth of field. Only his eye is sharp and the bokeh of the fence just rocks.

Fence natural light_blgpst

The whole scene and Ceasar in his power suit seems to me to require more drama. If the late orange sun was still illuminating his face, I might have stopped there. But I wanted to make it more edgy and define the mood more with directional light and darker shadows. I pulled out my Nikon SB 900 and put it in a 20” Lastolite soft box. Issa did the great honor of being my “voice activated light stand”, and with my direction, fine tuned the direction of the light.

Fence natural light2_blgpst

This now required balancing the background ambient light and the flash. I still wanted to keep the background mostly out of focus, but now I wanted his entire face in focus, not just his eye, so I decided to use f 4. The true background reading was about 1/20 or 1/30, but I chose 1/60 so that the background would go darker, both the sky and the fence. This helped his face to really pop out from the fence. I did a test at 1/125 as well, but then the background was too dark. The shadows on his face are dark, no fill, which adds to the drama. This is a more powerful portrait, as if he is the man in charge, ready to take over kick some butt!

The point? Fine tune your light to match the story of your subject, and don’t settle until you find it!

If you want to learn more about lighting, I’m teaching a workshop next week at the Los Angeles Center of Photography, formerly the Julia Dean Workshop, May 5-9. It’s five days of lighting: two days of studio strobes, one day of portable flash, one day natural light and the last day combining them all. A great experience with studio, models, equipment and plenty of shooting time and feedback.

All my upcoming workshops are listed under “Education” on my website.


5 Video Lighting Tips. PDN May Issue.

I’m SUPER happy to see five of my (many) Lighting Tips for Video included on PDN’s “Lighting Issue” (May 2014). You need to be a PDN subscriber to access the article online so the best I can do is share a low-res JPG version of the article. Hope this works!
Feel free to reach me on Twitter (@EA_Photo) if you have any questions or comments.

To learn more lighting techniques check this out, and watch our Lighting Techniques for Video Productions on


UPDATE: May readers and subscribers have been asking about the equipment we used on our Lighting course on Here are the answers:

We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.


Light Painting the Nude.

Light Painting the Nude
By Lee Varis

As some of you may know, I have been teaching workshops on still life photography using a special lighting technique I call “Lighting in Layers,” where separate exposures with different lighting directions are combined to create one image. Of course, this technique is especially well suited to objects that don’t move, but everyone always asks if you can use this technique with people. Well… yes, you can, and I recently had the opportunity to prove it in a workshop setting at FOTOfusion 2014, this past January. I conducted a studio lighting workshop for light painting the nude, the first time I’ve taught this particular workshop, and everything turned out great.


This image was the result of several separate exposures with light “painted-on” using a small led flashlight.

The process I teach, allows for complete flexibility and control over the lighting color, intensity, and direction. The results transcend the sum of their parts to create stunning lighting that literally cannot be achieved any other way.


The light painting technique requires the model to remain motionless during and in-between exposures.

Your subject has to remain motionless, during and in-between the separate exposures.This can be facilitated by careful posing on over-stuffed chairs and couches. This allowed for the necessary comfort and support to keep most of the figure still during 6-second exposure “passes” with a small LED flash light. During my FOTOfusion workshop, I had a group of 9 photographers, assembled in front of the model, cameras set on manual w/ ƒ11-16 @ 6 seconds. I counted out “1, 2, 3…” they would all open their shutters, and I would “paint” light onto the model. Each pose received several different “passes” with the flashlight illuminating different parts of the body. I often start with a very soft overall light that will become the “base” ambient fill. The Westcott Ice Light is ideal for this, but all of the other, more dramatic lighting comes from small inexpensive LED flashlights!

Once you have your separate exposures, you assemble each exposure file into Photoshop layers, and change the blend mode to either lighten or screen to build up the exposure, from the bottom layer up, until you have the effect you want.


This image used 16 layers, including the blank “Background” layer and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to colorize the couch a bit.

This lighting technique has an almost unlimited set of applications for static subjects and is well worth exploring, especially since it does not require expensive or exotic lighting gear! In addition, it is easy to generate variations by changing the color of individual lighting layers or using slightly different exposures – here are a couple of variations of the first two shots:

LeeVaris_Nude04 LeeVaris_Nude05

To see a more detailed blog post on this process, go to Lee’s blog post here.
You can find some other blog posts on the subject of lighting in layers here.

Lee has two classes on Photoshop at the Picture Perfect School of Photography, an online photo school with 4-week classes, assignments, and critiques for just $169:
Photoshop Layers Fundamentals
Portrait Retouching Fundamentals


The Importance of Lighting for Video.

A few days ago our very first online course at went live. As is always the case, when we look back at a finished project we find little things here and there that we could have improved or done differently—but I am very proud with what we have here. (more…)


It’s all about the Squinch!

Check out the video we shot for Peter Hurley where he generously shares one of his best kept secrets: The Squinch. There’s a lot of crazy and awesome content coming soon, including a series of workshops for photographers transitioning into video. Stay tuned!


Wall Street’s Inside Job – good and bad examples.

I recently watched “Inside Job” a fascinatingly disturbing documentary about the reasons that caused Wall Street’s last financial meltdown. Rotten Tomatoes said it best:

“a disheartening but essential viewing, Ferguson’s documentary explores the Global Financial Crisis with exemplary rigor.”

Besides the story, and the shocking realization that most of the culprits are still in positions of power, I was very intrigued by the lighting, framing and camera placement. My guess is that the documentary was shot by different crews, one skilled and one not so much.

Let’s take a look at the following good examples:


Nice establishing shot, very nice lighting, a well-framed extreme close up that makes sense, and even a well organized room. This is good.

Now, let’s take a look at a couple of not so great examples:

Click to keep reading  (more…)


Canon EOS 5D Mk III, 5D3, 5D Mark III has arrived.

Ok. Let’s start from the beginning: We are looking at a 22.3 Megapixels, Full Frame (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor system, powered by a DIGIC 5+ processor. Check this article if you want to fully understand the differences between the DIGIC 4 processor on the 5D Mark II, and the new DIGIC 5+ on the 5D Mark III.

canon 5D M3

EOS system - view from the top

Some of the highlighted features include:
• Dual card slots (1 SD/SDHC/SDXC and 1 CF). Sorry, no XQD on this one. What is awesome about the dual cards is that you can a) record the same data to both cards, or b) record different file sizes or types to each card, or c) automatically switch to the second card when the first card is full. That’s great when shooting long interviews, or concerts, for example.
• HDR with +/- 3 stops
• Improvement in noise reduction by 2 stops
• Multiple exposure mode
• 63 zone dual metering system
• +/- 5 stops (the 5D Mark II has only 3 stops)
• iFCL metering system with a 63-zone dual-layer sensor
• File Formats: AVI, RAW, JPEG, H.264, MOV, MPEG-4
• Full HD video recording: 1080/30p, 24p, 25p; 720/60p, 50p; 480/60p, 50p

All the typical features are here: Minimum Shutter Speed (30 sec), Maximum Shutter Speed (1/8000 sec), 100% coverage viewfinder, etc, etc, etc. As expected, durability on the Magnesium Alloy chassis has been improved including a 150,000-cycles shutter, and water and dust additional resistance.
These are the specs that REALLY got my attention:
• It is now possible to check two images side-by-side for sharpness, exposure, etc at different aspect ratios (1:1, 4:3, 16:9) with the new “Comparative Playback” function.
• There’s a Q button that will process RAW to JPG on camera.
• The new camera shares the same exact 61-point High Density Reticular AF system found in the EOS 1D-X (for half the price).
• There’s an iPod-like button to make changes in the movie mode without adding noise to the clips. Smart!

Canon EOS system
• The 5D Mark III uses the same batteries (LP-E6) as the 7D and 60D.
• The ISO war keeps getting better. The Mark III offers ISO 100-25600 (expandable up to ISO 102,400) for stills, and 100-12800 (up to ISO 25,600) for video. Wow! Now we really could use an iPad as a Key Light!
Here’s an interesting set of high-res JPEGs samples shot at ISO 50 to 102,800. The test was performed under low level halogen lights, which are perhaps the most challenging to digital sensors and noise reduction systems.

Video Features.
There are several serious improvements on this front:
•There are a couple of new video Modes: “Silent and Low Vibration,” but I don’t recall seeing them on the prototype I tested.
• The video resolution is Full HD (1920×1080), and the video format is the same H.264, which I personally love because it runs natively on Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom 4, and plays extremely well with online sharing platforms like Vimeo and YouTube.
• The recording buffer has been extended from 12 minutes to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. The 4GB limit is finally over.
• Following Nikon’s D800 improvement, we now have a 3.5mm head­phone jack for live audio mon­i­tor­ing and a Wind Filter. Other ports include USB 2, HDMI, Mic Input, and Wireless.

HDMI port on Canon EOS 5D Mark III
• The LCD screen is virtually the same 3.2″ 1.04 million as the Nikon’s D800. With a screen this size photographers are out of excuses for not using Histograms the way they should.
• There’s a built-in info menu while shooting video, which comes super handy to quickly check important settings like White Balance, Resolution, ISO, Picture Style, etc.

Regarding audio, the changes are pretty exciting:

“The camera includes manual audio level control with 64 levels, adjustable both before and during movie recording. There is also an automatic audio level setting, or sound recording can be turned off entirely. A wind filter is also included. Sound can be recorded either through the internal monaural microphone or via an optional external microphone through the stereo mic input.”

—Click to continue (more…)


How to use Histograms to improve your images.

Histograms display a graphic representation of the exposure on a captured image. They provide highly accurate information, but their use is often misunderstood, or, worse yet, ignored. This is why we wrote an article for Canon U.S.A., explaining how to use histograms to dramatically improve your images.

Photography 101 - Understanding Histograms

As always, let us know if you have any questions.


Video Lighting Tutorial.

Bobbi Lane shares a 30-second tutorial on lighting techniques for digital cinema using only two Lowel Tota 1000-watt lights (more about this on a future post). Before and after images and lighting diagrams are included.

Is this too short? Too long? Would you like to see more 30-second Tutorials? Talk to us.
UPDATE: May readers and subscribers have been asking about the equipment we used on our Lighting course on Here are the answers:

We used a variety of lights, but the main ones were Bowens Limelite Mosaic 30x30cm Daylight LED Panel.
As our A Camera we used a Canon EOS C100 Cinema EOS shooting to an Atomos Ninja-2 recorder. As our B and C Cameras we used a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark III. We used a variety of lenses, but the main one was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.


Weekend Wrap up.


What a great weekend! Tons of new friends, and a few exciting announcements at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York. My Adobe Lightroom and Digital Cinema seminars went great, big thanks to Victor Ha from Cinevate for his awesome hands-on demo on High Production Value. The 2-day HDSLR Workshop at B&H was really fun. We had a great group of photographers transitioning into digital cinema!

Thank you all for the great feedback and support. Here are some pictures.

If you are interested in HDSLR Cinema, check my upcoming workshops in Washington D.C. (Nov. 5-6), and Los Angeles (Nov. 11-12).