On Assignment: Nathaniel Welch for Men's Journal

UPDATE: Adds available-light-only version of the photo, inside.

New York based photographer Nathaniel Welch shot the above photo to illustrate a story for Men's Journal on the flaws of sunscreen. I thought it really popped, and talked to him about the lighting while he was en route to Boulder Colorado.


Welch lit his subject with three Profoto 7B's, each in a white beauty dish which he prefers to the silver version. One was used as a key light directly in front up high, with the other two as rims on each side in back.

"Sometimes I like a silver in front," he says, but generally prefers the light quality of the white ones. He will occasionally remove the disc that blocks direct light in the dish (which he did for this shot) noting that it changes the quality of the light and gives him an extra stop of output.

UPDATE: Here it is, without the strobes. Ambient exposure is based on the sky, and the sun is pretty much a non-issue for the subject:


"The brief was fairly tight to be honest," Welch said, noting that is normal for a cover but not so much for inside photos. "This was one of the most directed editorial shoots I have had in a while. There was even a photo editor onsite."

He shot looser versions, which he preferred as it showed more of the subject's skin. But in the end end the magazine chose the tighter image and ran it almost full page.

"In the original, the reflection in the sunglasses was too dark," Welch said. So for this shot, he placed the sun behind the subject and lit him entirely with flash. The front beauty dish key light was angled to mimic the light of the sun, then they shot the sun separately and stripped it into the glasses.

Welch usually seeks to use minimal retouching, and has a very good blog post on the subject, if you are interested in that kind of thing. Actually, his whole blog is quite good and very much worth a spot in your RSS reader.

As for the platform, Welch uses a Canon 5D Mk II, which severely limits his sync speed. The 1/200th sync is tough enough. But like many Mk II's, he has to open his up to a 1/160th to get a full sync with no dark stripes encroaching on the bottom.

"It sucks. It really sucks," said Welch of the sync speed.

True. And the net result is that low sync speed forces him to bring more flash power to make up for the higher resulting apertures when balancing outdoors in full sun.

(If you cannot see the video above in your email or RSS feed, click here.)

To get a sense of who Nathaniel Welch is, check out his Redux interview/portfolio video above. And you can see more of Welch's work (definitely worth a look) on his site.

Next: Bionic Arm


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Blogger Balmore said...


An oddity, the after the jump link (for this post) does not show on on my iPhone (orange, uk), the link displays on my main pc.

Is this some international conspiracy to stop me getting nose prints on my phone when trying to get my fix in the morning.


August 30, 2010 1:19 AM  
Blogger Whargh! said...

Hi, is it using the sun as key light with 2 rim? (:

August 30, 2010 1:39 AM  
Blogger patpro said...

Canon really should fix the slow sync speed of the 5D MkII... It's ridiculous.
I'm using a Canon 40D and I can sync at 1/250 using the elinchrom radio trigger (with my ranger quadra). I can even push it to 1/300 when I use a sync cable!

August 30, 2010 3:35 AM  
Blogger patpro said...

oups. must read 1/320 with the sync cable, not 1/300 of course.

August 30, 2010 3:36 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hey, folks-

Thanks for the heads-up on the lack of a jump button. Code was correct -- something is not right in BLogger Land, maybe. I am trying to run it down this morning.

Thanks again,

August 30, 2010 7:23 AM  
Blogger David said...


"Welch lit his subject with three Profoto 7B's, each in a white beauty dish which he prefers to the silver version. One was used as a key light directly in front up high, with the other two as rims on each side in back."

It is all flash on the subject - three lights.

August 30, 2010 8:37 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Easy way to fix the sync speed - get pocketwizards. I believe the Flex and Mini will work with Profotos, and you can sync at whatever speed you want. I love syncing at 1/500th and 1/1000th, but I think I go overboard.

August 30, 2010 10:10 AM  
Blogger Ameed said...

Hi David,
I am really surprised keeping on reading how the Canon 5D MKII limits the sync speed capability. I am sure that Radio Popper and the New BW Mini are known by now!!

If any want wants higher sync speed can simply use one of these. Surely enough specially if they are on the professional line of the Business.
Am I missing something here?

Love and respect,

August 30, 2010 11:10 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Whats wrong with using a couple of Canon Speedlites and HSS technology to increase the sync speed? Looking at how he framed the shot, he could have quite easily have placed the speedlites close enough to punch enough light onto the subject, even in a beauty dish. I use the Interfit Strobie adapters with my Bowens fit beauty dishes and can comfortably get decent exposures even when using the speedlites at higher sync speeds. Given the cost of three Protos 7B's roughly equate to a dozen or so 580MKII speedlites, I reckon he might have been better off investing in the speedlites...

August 30, 2010 11:19 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

While that is a really kick-butt image - well executed and a nice run down of the lighting, I am interested in what the article was about -- any chance you could post a spoiler summary???

Boo skin cancer!

August 30, 2010 1:30 PM  
Blogger Anthony Kurtz Photography said...

IT DOES SUCK BUT...All you need is the new Pocketwizzards TT5 and TT1 to get hypersync. The other day we did a shoot with the 5D mark2 at 1/8000 at f2 in bright daylight. All we needed were speedlights with minimal output and the 5D did a stellar job.
Another thing I heard of is using ND filters to stop as much light from entering the lens.

August 30, 2010 1:59 PM  
Blogger info said...

Each to their own (method of operation), but I'm surprised at the choice to clone in the sun. Surely a single speedlite on a boom angled to reflect off the glasses into the camera would have been an easier choice? Either clone out the boom and body of the flash, or position it so only the flare shows.

Of course, I may have misunderstood the mention of the glasses being too dark.


August 30, 2010 8:17 PM  
Blogger Ryan S. said...

@Anthony - The newer PWs are nice, but that's an extra expense and the 5dmkII is such an amazing camera in every other aspect that it's still such a surprise that sync speed is lacking so much. As far as ND filters, you'd be knocking down all of the light entering the lens, including flash, so it would still require more power from your strobes to even things out.

In any event, the shot's awesome. I've really enjoyed Redux's video series of their photographers. What someone has to say about themselves and their style sometimes makes you look at their work a little differently.

August 30, 2010 10:39 PM  
Blogger Paco said...


August 31, 2010 7:58 AM  
Blogger Granjow said...

Hey David,

I've got a question about the Rosco’s filter set «The Strobist Collection». Namely: Why these colours?

When shooting with candle light I found the Straw filter necessary (together with one of the CTO filters). But there is only one straw filter.

When shooting fluorescent bulbs I needed a light green filter, but there was none. Only five Tough Plusgreen filters. Together with a full CTO (as far as I remember) to back-correct the green overcorrection I got near the desired fluorescent bulb color, but this also ate me several f-stops.

I want more Straw and at least one light Green filter, please.


August 31, 2010 3:36 PM  
Blogger John said...

I enjoyed that video of Nathanial at the end of the post.

August 31, 2010 5:32 PM  
Blogger Krista Lee said...

Very cool pic! Nice work Nathaniel.

August 31, 2010 8:53 PM  

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