Sunday, 23 January 2011

Rosco CalColor - One Flash Colour Effects

One off-camera flash to create a coloured background with Rosco CalColor

Following from my blog about creating an enhanced sky using Rosco ToughPlus Green gel and Strobist's blog "Rosco CalColor: Whatever You Want It To Be" I have created images using CalColor gels to change the background colour in outdoor and studio based images.

If you only have one off-camera flash or Speedlite and need or desire to change the background colour in a photograph, this is not as difficult as it may seem. You will need to get your head around some basic colour theory; anyone who has worked with colour correction filters or has experience of colour printing will understand the principle withe ease.

When you put a Rosco CalColor gel over you flash, it will create a local colour cast equal to the gel on the flash. When you correct this colour cast either in post-production or by using an in-camera custom white balance, the local colour cast is corrected by introducing the complimentary colour to the colour cast. The local colour cast will be corrected, whilst the rest of the scene will take on the complimentary colour. If you refer to page 22 of Rosco Filter Facts there is more information on the CalColor filter set and a colour wheel - on the colour colour wheel opposite colours are complimentary to one another.

For this exercise I didn't worry about an in-camera custom WB. I made sure I shot a white card with a flesh tone reference before the shoot and made my corrections during post-production. Using an in-camera custom WB will allow you a rough preview of how the finished images will look.

The first frame shows the scene as the camera recorded it - a grotty industrial area.

Left frame: ISO 400, f5.6, 1/125th.
Right frame: ISO 200, f5.6, 1/160th.

The second frame I've under exposed the ambient light to create mood. I wanted to warm up the background which considering the large area was impractical with lighting so opted for #4215 and #4230 to create 45 Blue CalColor gel on my flash.

Left: Uncorrected frame with 45 Blue CalColor.
Right: Corrected on Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

As you can see, the WB frame shows a distinct blue colour cast, which when corrected introduces yellow into the background warming it up.

Before WB correction in post-production.

This frame of Ollie is a bit too cool until the colour correction is applied. As you can see, the foreground is reasonably neutral, I do prefer warmer flesh tones and the background much warmer than the unfiltered version.

Corrected in post-production.

Choice of background here was critical; by using a Canon 100 - 400 mm f4.5/5.6 L Series IS zoom lens I was able to isolate Ollie against selected parts of the background. In this frame the background is the side of the building top right of the wide shot giving a pale tone to show the warming effect of the #4215 and #4230 to create 45 Blue CalColor gel once corrected.

In view of the distance I was working from Ollie, about 20 yards, Ben Potter acted as my Voice Activated Light stand. Ben is a talented photographer, Photoshop genius and excellent assistant - possessing more than the requisite 2 brain cells and a very well developed sense of humour.

The light was a Canon 580 EX II Speedlite with a radio trigger fired into an ancient Lastolite 2 feet square brolly soft box with the white diffuser panel removed. I particularly like this reflector as it acts like a parabolic brolly giving direction to the light but with soft gradation to the shadows.

One light in the studio.

In the studio we applied the same principle but used a plain white background cyc paper roll which was 4 feet behind Ollie. Again, one light, no reflectors or fill light.

Again, as shot and corrected in post-production.

Admittedly, there is a fair amount of ceiling and wall bounce as Paul's studio is what I refer to as a subtractive studio - you need to use black flats to control the light; whereas an additive studio is painted black and you add the light and reflectors where you want.

As seen on the camera preview screen without in-camera custom WB correction.

As you can see, this frame is as it was previewed on the camera screen. You may want to faff around setting a custom WB in-camera in order to get a rough preview of the images you shoot.

After corrections applied in post-production.

Once the corrections have been applied in post-production we have a relatively neutral foreground subject with a green background. In this example the flash was gelled with CalColor #4760 60 Magenta.

Do remember with this technique any light that illuminates the subject (fill, hair, kicker) should be gelled the same way as the key light otherwise they will take on the colour of the background!

The Rosco CalColor kit retails for around $50 or £40 and is widely available from pro photo dealers. For more information click here.

The 10" x 12" sheets can be trimmed down to create at least three clips of each colour for Speedlite use leaving a good size piece for use with your studio lights. Make sure when you trim the gels that you have a means of identifying each piece. I use white postal labels fixed to one of the narrow edges of each gel and store then in a clear CD sleeve.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 600AW - Ten Years On

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 600 AW

This bag is one of the original Lowepro Stealth Reporter bags from 2000/2001. I bought this bag just after they came onto the UK market about ten years ago and is testament to the longevity of Lowepro bags. It has been in daily use since I bought it and I see no reason to buy a replacement.

Close-up of the padded non-slip shoulder strap

These days I use it as man-bag in which I carry my Mac Book Pro and the various accessories for working tethered on location, together with my personal gear. What attracted me to this bag originally was the build quality and the number and placement of the pockets. Tucked deep inside are security pockets and single skin pockets for all manner or accessories and general cr4p!

Inside the loop material liner for the computer and gear is still going strong; the Velcro™still performs well

The front outer pockets a capacious with provision for pens and keys etc. There are pockets for memory cards or in my case card readers, USB leads, spares and earphones.

Close-up of the trim and strap fittings

As you would expect with a bag that has been in daily use for ten years, it does not look pristine but does  the job it was designed for. The metal fittings for the shoulder and hand straps show no signs of corrosion, which I guess means they are made from brass or the like. The stitching for the edging around the top of the bag has failed in places but this in no way detracts from use of the bag.

The seam on the shoulder strap has now failed, but again, this does not affect performance.

Sturdy nylon material

The material from which the bag is constructed has scuffed and is worn in places but has not holed. The wear is superficial, nothing else. The bag looks distressed which just adds to the character!

There is a nylon weather cover for the top flap together with the AW (All Weather) cover which over ten years have not deteriorated and still keep the bag and contents dry or dust free - don't forget that the AW cover is not black for a reason, they can be used as reflective protection in dusty environments.

There's a good reason why Lowepro bags are used by top pro photographers, they are an investment, as is any quality piece of kit, not a cost. They are built to last and perform under a variety of conditions.

The design of these bags has been improved in the new Stealth Reporter D650AW

Long live Lowepro!

Photography Notes:
12 x 12 inch Rosco Litepads HO top front key light with 7 inch off camera Halo HO ring light as fill. 200 ISO, Canon G12 compact.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Rosco Litepad Portraits

Rukon - Year 3 Photography Student UEL
Split Lighting. Rosco 24 Inch Litepad HO to camera right

For some time now I have been using the Rosco Litepad range of LED lighting for some of my work. The more I use these lights, the more I like the light they give. Rarely do I have to modify* the light and being continuous I can see the effect on what or whom I'm shooting without having to chimp shots on the camera back.

These lights are portable and 12 volt DC so will run from any 12 volt DC source including your car or a step-down transformer from the AC mains. When you dim these lights you maintain the colour temperature of 6000K, unlike tungsten lights whee the colour temperature lowers from the nominal 3200K.

Pete - Year 3 Photography Student UEL
Split Lighting. Rosco 24 Inch Litepad HO to camera right
with Rosco Spun Silver to camera left to lift shadows.

I deliberately shot this frame loose so that you can see the reflector in use. Rosco Spun Silver is a dual sided reflection medium. The soft white side is not as harsh or specular as the bright side so needed to be in close to Pete to be effective. Had I not used a reflector, this frame would have looked much like the shot of Rukon above.

Pete - The Final Crop

I could have cropped this shot as a conventional vertical format portrait but don't think it would have had so much impact. A crop like this is useful for magazine use as there is ample space to run type down the right side of the image without running into Pete's face.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you are one of the growing band of photographers who shoot video as well as stills then the Rosco Litepads, especially the Litepad Axiom range represent excellent value as a dual-purpose light source.OK

* No brollies or soft boxes. Narrow profile so take up little space. Ideal for small or tight set-ups. OK, I do like the 24 inch Litepad which does give more output from a car battery or from a mains transformer - but do remember that Litpads are available from a 3 inch circle to the 24 inch HO and customer sizes and shapes should you need this facility.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

12 Tips for Improving Portrait Lighting

Lit with a Rosco 24 inch Litepad HO in the foreground and Speedlite on the background.
One of series of test shots for a new lighting workshop on 29th January 2011.

One of the most often asked questions when I lead a lighting workshop is "how do I get better?". Training is important, but pointless unless you go away and practice what you have learned. Here are few tips from my experience which help:

1. To improve your techniques and get better at your craft you must practice, practice, practice and then practice some more.

2. Previsualise what you are going to shoot and plan the lighting before you start. I use rough sketches to plan my lighting. Don't be too ambitious. You can see examples here on my blog I strongly recommend only one or two shots a session. This way your model will not get bored and you'll be able to keep track of what you are shooting. See 3 below.

I keep a note book purely for lighting and photography.

3. Be analytical and critical of the images you create. Keep a record of what works and what does not. I use a Moleskin notebook as they are the perfect fit for my camera bags or pockets. Others use spreadsheets to record the data. Personally, a notebook is more spontaneous. You may also want to shoot a few wide shots of the set-up - much quicker than a sketch.

4. Set a time limit before you start and try to keep to it. This may mean either setting up your lights before the session, which is good practice, or even rehearsing before the day without a model.

5. Buy a dummy. Sometimes I work with Fred a polystyrene head I bought from a shop fittings supplier The advantage with Fred is he doesn't take breaks and whine about how long you are taking! Fred is fine for head shots, but you really need either a full or half-bust/torso dummy for longer shots.

Generally these polystyrene heads are white. All you need to do to make one look realistic is buy some water based emulsion paint testers from the local hardware or DIY store. Most of these are provided with their own brush.

6. When working with your model communicate clearly what you want them to do. If you are recreating an image, have a copy available and show your model.

7. Great images are about team work. Working in isolation can stifle creativity. Involve your model, maybe another photographer, make-up artist and hair stylist. Bounce ideas off one another. Working with another photographer gives you a VAL - Voice Activated Light Stand which is quicker than messing around with extending stands and sand bags. This is a task that can be shared.

8. If there is a group of you, make it into a social event;-)

9. If you are working indoors make sure the the "studio" is warm and maybe have some music playing to lighten the mood.

10. Don't forget to thank your model and team.

A team photograph is a good idea
24 inch Rosco Litepad HO on the pebbles just in front of the group
with a 12 x 6 inch Litepad HO rear left to separate the dark clothing from the sky

11. Make sure the model and team get a few prints or even a CD with a few images.

12. If you do intend posting the images to a photo sharing or social networking website, make sure that the model is in agreement with this before you start the session.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Portrait Photography Lighting Workshop - 8th January 2011

On Saturday 8th January 2011 I led a workshop demonstrating the fundamentals of lighting portraits using studio lights, in this case Speedlites. Here I am sharing with you some of the images created on the day.

Our model Lori was an absolute star - she stood in at the last minute after being persuaded by her colleagues at work to help me out. Thank you Lori, you did a cracking job.

The first image is the culmination of working through how a single light can illuminate the subject and make a passable portrait; then by adding reflectors and other lights creating some extraordinary.

This image of Lori was created with 4 Canon Speedlites, working in Manual mode and triggered by a combination of radio and optical triggers. The BTS shot below shows the lighting design for the image. The idea here was the create an image that was bright with a sense of depth achieved by separating the white background with a blue gel.

Lighting Design:

  1. White cyc-paper background.
  2. Background light - Canon 550 EX Speedlite with Gel Clip and Rosco #375 Cerulean Blue gel from Strobist Collection, flagged from model with Rosco Photofoil. Radio trigger.
  3. Key light - Canon 580 EX II, radio trigger into brolly softbox.
  4. Fill light - Canon 550 EX Speedlite into white reflective brolly held by VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) triggered with Flash Zebra optical slave.
  5. Hair Light - Canon 580 EX II with Gel Clip, Rosco 1/4 CTO to warm up light and Rosco Photofoil snoot.

The second image of Lori was intended to give more of a lower key nightclub feel. We used 3 Speedlites with the shadows cast from the key light filled with a brolly behind the photographer washing over the whole area, roughly 1 1/2 stops below the key light. The background was created by cutting holes in 24 inch Rosco Cinefoil and colouring the Speedlite with Rosco CTB Full Blue gel. Again, the BTS shot below shows the lighting design for the image with a breakdown of the equipment and accessories used.

Lighting Design:

  1. Key light - 24 inch collapsible soft box.
  2. Canon 580 EX II, radio trigger.
  3. Fill light - Canon 550 EX Speedlite into white reflective (not translucent) brolly held by VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) triggered with Flash Zebra optical slave.
  4. Black cyc-paper.
  5. Cookie or gobo* - cut from Rosco Cinefoil.
  6. Pattern cast on background from Cookie. Flash Canon 550 EX II, zoomed to 80 mm, Gel Clip, Rosco CTB Full Blue.
* This is one of those terms that can be interchangeable. I tend to look at a cookie as something to modify the light in front of the source. A gobo to me is a metal or glass disk or plate used in a special projector or spotlight fixture.

If you want to learn more about lighting, whether you're a beginner, enthusiast or even semi-pro or professional photographer. Keep your eyes on this blog for more lighting hints and tips and details of forthcoming workshops.

I'll be at the SWPP this week on the Rosco stand, number 209 on Friday 14th and Sunday 16th January. If you want to come along and talk lighting, it will be good to see you. You'll also be one of the first people in the UK to see the exciting new Rosco Litepad Axiom LED lights which are ideal for location portraits.

Macro and Close Up Photography Workshop - 15th January 2011

There are few places available on my Macro and Close-Up Photography for Beginners workshop this Saturday, 15th January 2011 at Park Cameras in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, England.

Strawberries - even what appear to be mundane everyday objects can make stunning macro images - especially when printed BIG and displayed on a wall

This is an indoor/studio based workshop which is totally practical and led by the requirements of the participants and is a great opportunity to explore the world that is sometimes invisible to the unaided human eye. Macro photography techniques allow you photograph subjects at life size (also expressed as 100% or 1:1) or bigger on your camera sensor.

So if you were lucky enough to be treated to a shiny new macro lens or ring flash for Christmas, or just want to learn how to create some amazing close-up images book your place here. You will need to bring along you DSLR camera, a tripod, macro lens or prime lens and extension tubes to get the best from this workshop. If you have a Speedlite(s), hot shoe flash or even a ring flash, even better.

The teeth of a rip saw, here reproduced approximately life-size. Printed to 20" x 16" or bigger this image looks amazing!

During the workshop I'll be covering how to focussing, depth-of-field, avoiding camera shake to get sharp images and a wide variety of lighting techniques including daylight, flash and continuous LED lights.

If you live outside of the area and need to travel the day before, there is now a Premier Inn within a short walk from the Park Cameras showroom and training centre, both are located within easy reach of the M23 and M25 between Brighton on the south coast and Gatwick Airport. Both the Premier Inn and Park Cameras have plenty of free parking. Burgess Hill is also served by a regular train service from London, Brighton and Gatwick Airport.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Rosco ToughPlus Green

Surfin' Bird! Abi is ever hopeful, especially on the English south coast.

Late in 2010 David Hobby aka Strobist posted a blog about using your camera FL or fluorescent white balance (WB) setting when shooting city skylines at sunset.

Basically, when you shoot a city sunset skyline there will be a whole load of horrible green fluorescent lights in the buildings - by setting your camera white balance to FL or fluorescent you dial in around 30 CC (Colour Correction values) of magenta which goes some way to neutralising the green of the fluorescent lights and adding magenta to the sky thus enhancing the sunset colour.

When setting any white balance in camera or setting a custom white balance, do remember that these settings will only effect your jpeg or preview file and not your RAW file. This technique demands that you shoot RAW - if you're not shooting RAW then now is a good time to start!

By setting a custom white balance in camera, you will be able to see a preview image of your filtration, which may then be tweeked in post-production. If you do not set a custom white balance, your image will take on the colour of your main or key light source. For these images I shot a white balance reference and then set my WB in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) along with a few other tweeks.

White balance card on left as shot; on right corrected in ACR. Notice the sky colour and flesh tone reference.

This is not dissimilar to the technique I described in May 2010

You can take this technique a stage further to create a coloured background to a flash lit shot by using a coloured gel on your Speedlites, hot shoe flash or other flash and then white balancing using a white card either in camera or in post-production. By shooting a white card in the light with which you will illuminate your subject, you are creating a point where your image processing software will add colour to neutralise the colour cast on the white card.

If you look at a specific colour on the colour wheel, in this case green the colour at 180 degrees or directly opposite is magenta which neutralises green. By putting magenta into the image, any area of the image not directly lit by the green gelled flash will be rendered magenta.

This the scene as it appeared to the naked eye and my camera - boring.

With addition of a little light and knowhow, the ambient light becomes a whole lot more interesting.

In these examples I have used two clips/cuts of ToughPlus Green from the Rosco Strobist collection, as one (to me) seems a bit pale or insipid. Had I remembered to take along my Rosco CalColor gels then I would have been able to fine tune the background colour more precisely.

Lighting design for the above lit images
Key to Lighting Design:
  1. Distant sky and pier.
  2. Abi, trying not to look too bored;-)
  3. California Sunbounce Micro Mini, supported by Laurie in VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) mode just out of shot, approx. 8 feet/2.6 metres.
  4. Rosco Spun Silver, white side clamped to Micro Mini frame. This gives reflectance somewhere between white and silver. Spun Silver is dual sided; textured silver one side, silver/white the other. Perfect when you need neutral reflection that's not as bright as silver or flat as white.
  5. Canon 580 EX II, Gel Clip and 2 x clips/cuts Rosco ToughPlus Green. Manual, 1/4 power; remember the light is reduced as it travels through 2 layers of gel and bounces from the Spun Silver! Radio trigger.
  6. Canon EOS 5D MK II, EF 100 mm f2.8 macro. Me laying in wet shingle.
Colour correction gels such as CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) and ToughPlus Green have been formulated with specific spectral sensitivities to correct particular light sources such as tungsten (Canon users) or incandescent (Nikon users). ToughPlus Green has been formulated to meet the particular spectrum emitted by most fluorescent tubes and the FL WB setting of most DSLR cameras.

There is another route to creating these effects, Rosco CalColor; The CalColor gels are pure narrow cut primary and secondary colours in 1/2, 1, 2 and 3 stop increments matched to the spectral sensitivity of colour film, digital still and video camera sensors. These filters can be combined to produce a wide variety of working filter colours.

More information about Rosco CalColor my be found here:

You may also download Rosco Filter Facts 09 from:
If you go to page 22 there's more information on the CalColor range of filters and a colour wheel.

Good luck and Happy New Year.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Portrait Photography Lighting Workshop

There are few places available on my Portrait Lighting for Beginners workshop this Saturday, 8th January at Park Cameras in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, England.

Beautiful portraits outside using an off camera Speedlite and softbox

If you live outside of the area and need to travel the day before, there is now a Premier Inn within a short walk from the Park Cameras showroom and training centre, both are located within easy reach of the M23 and M25 between Brighton on the south coast and Gatwick Airport. Both the Premier Inn and Park Cameras have plenty of free parking. Burgess Hill is also served by a regular train service from London, Brighton and Gatwick Airport.

Studio head shot on white background tinted with a green gel - two Speedlites and a reflector

This workshop is totally practical and led by the requirements of the participants. We will be covering studio lighting with Speedlites both inside and out (weather permitting). Studio lights will be available but for the last few workshops the participants have wanted me to demonstrate portrait lighting using off camera hot shoe flash.

Studio portrait on a black background lit with a cyan or blue gel - two Speedlites with modification

During my last Portrait Lighting for Beginners in November we worked with one, two and three Speedlites in a studio setting working with dark and light backgrounds and the outside where I demonstrated use of a single Speedlite with a softbox balanced with available light.

Single flash outdoors with the flesh tones warmed up locally by gelling the flash

All participants at this workshop will be given a copy of my Crash Course in Portrait Photography which contains all sorts of useful hints and tips together with a series of grids showing the effects of different studio light modifiers on the model - this is only available to my workshop participants.

After the last workshop I even produced a post workshop handout which I emailed to all participants with my shots from the day, my thoughts about the images, how and why we did things a certain way and breakdown shots showing the effect of individual lights in multiple light designs.

To book you place click here now as places are limited.