First Time in the US: Gulf Photo Plus is Coming to Seattle.

On Assignment: Antonio Beverly

I have posted a couple of the headshots from this job, but the main purpose of the shoot was to photograph Antonio in action as a dancer for the HCAC.

The combination shoot is appropriate, IMO, as what I have learned over the past few years shooting static portraits has really started to inform my more kinetic photos, too.

We had a nice-sized dance studio at nearby Howard Community College to work with for this shoot. Normally, I like to use the depth of the room to give me lighting options (i.e., shoot on the long axis.) But in this case, one of the long walls had a full-width mirror—the bane of lighting photographers everywhere.

But the mirror had a full-width set of gray curtains that could be drawn in front, thus killing the mirror and offering a nice backdrop with a little interest and texture.

So that became the background. That orientation also offered Antonio room to wind up for his leap, and me room to move the key far away from him. The key light distance is important as it gives us an even, predictable exposure across the shooting zone.

But it meant he would only be a few feet from the curtains. Maybe three feet of separation. So I treated it as if it were a portrait and lit it for good separation from the backdrop and a full tonal range.

The placement of the key is important. It needs to be on a hard angle to sculpt him and to move move the shadow on the nearby wall away from him.

So we placed a Profoto Acute head with a 10-degree grid far off to camera left, and as high as we could get it. We chose left because of the position of his head and face during the leap. The hard angle also give us great definition on his muscles.

To control the contrast range the fill was placed right behind, and slightly above, the camera. It was another Profoto Acute head in a 60" Photek Softlighter II. This light gave us legibility everywhere, and total control of the contrast range.

The latter was important, as it gave the option for a wide range of treatments in post. In this case I went with a black and white conversion and a yellow/blue duotone.

(You can see the photo before the BW/duotone conversion here.)

The compressed tonal range—and yet high local contrast—gave us the ability to push the contrast curves as far as we wanted and still retain detail in the conversion.

I never would have done this light, even just a couple of years ago. It's been lots of fun watching the lessons learned in portrait lighting creep into other subject matter.

Next: Director Joe Wright


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Blogger Howell tolentino said...

Job well done! Love that soft shadow behind Antonio and hard shadow beside him..

July 09, 2012 8:14 AM  
Blogger Bill Morgan said...

I realize you don't often talk about camera settings; would you mind revealing your camera settings for this shot? What shutter speed to freeze the action? I can tell you hit a point of least motion perfectly but it would be interesting to see shutter speed. Lovely photo.

July 09, 2012 8:58 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


THis is actually a good example of camera settings being a bit irrelevant and confusing. The shutter speed was 1/250th (or 1/200th, don't remember). But we were in a darkened room, so the *real* "shutter" speed would have been the flash's pulse length. That is what is stopping the action.

July 09, 2012 9:16 AM  
Blogger thetzar said...

And you found the flash speed on the Prophoto heads to be fast enough to stop time? I've had issues with some (non-Prophoto) studio lights not spiking the light cleanly enough to freeze action without a bit of blur.

July 09, 2012 11:15 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


It depends on the pack and the power setting. I was using Acute packs, which are relatively slow t.1 times compared to Profoto's other, more expensive systems. But at my power levels these obviously sufficed. You can also try Einsteins, which offer insanely fast t.1 times per dollar spent.

July 09, 2012 11:26 AM  
Blogger No Name said...

I love this shot! Thanks for explaining how the light was set up. That helps beginners like me!

I do wonder though, how many tries did it take to get this shot? Did you have to move the lighting around at all, or was your set up spot-on the first time? I ask not to judge, but as someone who is still in the "moving everything around to get the perfect lighting" phase. :)

Thanks! Michelle

July 09, 2012 12:17 PM  
Blogger Stanley Weaver Mendez said...

I really enjoy the idea here and for some reason your photo seems to come spot-on for me. I've been considering doing a similar approach for an ad campaign for a local theater. Anyways, there is a question in here somewhere... basically, could I achieve the same results with speedlights (power-wise)?

July 09, 2012 12:20 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Thank you! And yeah, there was some repetition involved. We blocked out the space he would work in, and got the lighting close. Then he showed me what he could do (i.e., leap, head back, etc.) and I tweaked the lighting to fit that.

Then it was a matter of him zeroing in on his form as I zeroed in on my timing. In the end, I think he did about 12-15 leaps and we both connected on about five of them. This was our favorite.

July 09, 2012 12:22 PM  
Blogger Jason Doiy said...

love the tie and outfit. What I'm not terribly crazy about is the stitching on the curtains, but that's pretty irrelevant.

July 09, 2012 12:34 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yeah, but at a different ISO...

July 09, 2012 12:45 PM  
Blogger Peter Tsai said...

Nice David,
Dance is a favorite thing of mine to shoot. You may want to mention it is one time where you do want your subject to chimp the images with you, because a dancers form is their image and what may look fine to us non-dancer types may be wrong to them. Much like our obsession with catch lights. :)

July 09, 2012 12:51 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


That's especially why I would *want* them to chimp with me. So we can work on those issues as they occur. Which ... is the only time you could really work on them.

July 09, 2012 12:58 PM  
Blogger Joe McCary said...

David, you always do nice work and even though I have been working for decades I still learn from your tips. I was wondering why you selected the placement of the lights where you put them. I would have had the dancer jumping "into" the light as opposed to out of the light as you did. Your is perfectly fine, I an not criticizing, just wondering why the placement as you did.

July 09, 2012 3:07 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


That's actually a really good question. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a discrete series of decisions, arrived at completely unconsciously.

It would make a long comment, so I think I will do it as a QA. Look for it within a coupla days.


July 09, 2012 4:56 PM  
Blogger Paul Bennett said...

Love the tones on the legs. Gotta get me some of that there fill!

July 09, 2012 8:11 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

George Hurrell lives. I'm in awe Dave.

July 09, 2012 9:04 PM  
Blogger RexGRP said...

Very cool shot, and the B&W conversion is a nice touch !

July 09, 2012 9:14 PM  
Blogger James said...

If I tried to make that move I would be dead instantly.

Nice shot David.

July 09, 2012 9:27 PM  
Blogger Graham Irvine said...

I really like the non-B&W conversion. It pops so much more. The whiteness of his shirt against the redness of the tie and the skin tone against the grey all seem to come together to make such a wonderful photo. I think a lot of what makes the photo so good is lost in the conversion to B&W.

July 10, 2012 9:50 AM  
Blogger dwbell said...

The human body can *do* that?

Props as always for having that be the subject and not the lighting, excellent though it is.

July 11, 2012 5:34 AM  
Blogger kmlPhoto said...

Nice job as always David. Back to freezing the action with flash: How dark was the room or better yet how stopped down were you to kill the ambient light? I have never been able to do this without some ghosting. I usually shoot 3 stops under ambient, but no joy.

July 11, 2012 7:36 PM  
Blogger spottheblogger said...

I love, LOVE the lighting. But I do NOT love the tie. Too phallic! Also, it bugs me that we only see one of the dancer's arms. I'm surprised the dancer was OK with this.

July 12, 2012 10:35 AM  

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