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LensDiaries.com, Let the Stories Be Told

In today’s world of being anyone, including a photographer, we have to constantly evaluate our situation and adapt to the changing times, so I’ve launched LensDiaries.com, my new hybrid photoblog created to spread the gospel of photography as I transition away from an exhaustive, 11-plus years of conducting over 450 photography workshops and seminars to thousands of people around the world. At LensDiaries.com you’ll find the stories and technical specifications of photos I choose for your insight in my photography. This photoblog is an extension of the five photography books I’ve published–so please help me spread the passion of photography.

With your support I will add photography tips and multimedia content along with photo critiques. For the inquiring minds that want to know, I will continue to conduct workshops and seminars, but on a very limited basis starting in the Fall of 2010. This will allow me more time to continue with my writings, future books and my photography. My focus is aimed at smaller, more exotic workshops to provide a more semi-private and a more intimate environment that you sometimes lose in a larger workshop environment. I’m always available for private photography instruction, just contact me here with your contact information and best time to call.

I will still blog on this site and inform you of my schedule and other items that I feel are better left on here, on my personal blog. On occasion, you will see a replication of content on both blogs, but remember, this site is a more personal blog and LensDiaries.com is a hybrid of a photoblog and blog, so both sites will have unique content too. I will also shift my focus from workshops to concentrate on Photographic Therapy, as a concept and the website, PhotographicTherapy.com. I hope you’ll visit all three sites.

Overtime, with your support, LensDiaries.com will transform into a more established photoblog–-this is a photographic journey we can accomplish together. Finally, I close by saying that I need your help to spread the gospel of photography by tweeting all the blog entries both here and on LensDiaries.com. Please tell all your friends and colleagues through all the social media networks—there are Facebook “like” and Twitter “retweet” buttons, please utilize them, every tweet and mention helps. Let’s spread the knowledge together. Let the stories be told! Thanks, Rolando

The Angle of Incidence Equals the Angle of Reflection

Often the Law of Incidence Equals the Law of Reflection is used to fill the "micro pores" of the face using this over/under lighting technique.  In this case, the ringflash fills the pores of the face since the camera is mounted on it.  The main light is slightly higher in power output above the ring flash.

Often the Law of Incidence Equals the Law of Reflection is used to fill the “micro pores” of the face using this over/under lighting technique. In this case, the ringflash fills the pores of the face since the camera is mounted on it.

The main light is slightly higher in power output above the ring flash.  The beauty dish is directly underneath to provide a “kicker” light, or softening of the shadows.  The photographer is shooting through a ring flash between the beauty dish and the main light above.

In physics, the law of reflection states that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. This tenet is fundamental to the understanding of light and can be summarized thusly: if light strikes an object at angle A, it will be reflected in the opposite direction, also at angle A, similar to the way a ball bounces off a brick wall. In photography, the law of reflection is rarely discussed; one typically hears more about the Inverse Square Law or that white reflects and black absorbs. While these are indeed important aspects of light, the angle of incidence and the angle of reflection are two components of physics that, once understood, can help photographers improve their images they create in both artificial and natural light.

The easiest way to comprehend this concept is to go into a place that has hard, shiny floors and overhead lighting (grocery stores work great!). Look down while you walk and you’ll see hot spots of light on the floor move with you as you walk. These hot spots are the direct reflection of the overhead lighting, and they evidence the law of reflection. These equal angles of incidence and reflection can cause hot spots on your subject too. Understanding the law of reflection will help you avoid hot spots on your subjects, whether you are photographing models, cars, food, or landscapes. In fact, managing these equal angles of reflection in your photographs allows you to add or eliminate texture and color in your images.

The white spots or highlights in this image of candles is where the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection, thus the hot spots.

The white spots or highlights in this image of candles is where the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection, thus the hot spots.

The law of reflection is also responsible for the red-eye effect that plagues ring flash users when shooting through the ring. Because the camera’s lens is at the same angle to the subject as the flash, the reflection of light against blood vessels in the retina at the rear of the eye produces red-eye. An easy way to eliminate red-eye is to brighten the room; this causes the subject’s pupils to contract, thus greatly reducing any reflection. Another method is to take a monolight with a 7-inch 20 degree grid and point it at your subject’s face with only the modeling lamp powered on (not the flash unit itself). Many flash units, including the Broncolor, Hensel, and Profoto brands have separate switches for the modeling lamp and electronic flashtube, allowing them to be powered separately.

The law of reflection is especially troublesome when glass or mirrors are present in the image. The equal angles of incidence and reflection cause hot spots in glass and mirrors when using a flash. The simple solution is to move the flash away from the camera so that the angles are not identical.

In the studio, you can use the monolight red-eye reduction technique described above in a darkened room. This will allow you to show more of your subject’s iris and less of their dark pupils. The technique works well with light-colored eyes, especially green and blue. Don’t be alarmed by the appearance of harsh shadows on one side of the nose, as the power of the artificial flash will knock this out when it fires

The stars created in the crystal flower are because the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection.

The stars created in the crystal flower are because the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection.

By moving the camera and light source(s) independently, you can use the law of reflection in your favor, almost like an added layer of makeup to smooth your subject’s skin. As you walk around your subject, you will notice that hot and washed out spots will appear and disappear based on the angle of reflection. You may also notice that your model’s face appears smoother from one angle and rougher from another angle, as the valleys of the pores are filled in with shadows. Through positioning your camera and light sources independently, you can eliminate hot spots and create the appearance of a smoother skin texture.

Because the vast majority of what we see is reflected light (as opposed to incidental light), we as photographers live in an illuminated world. Without light, we would have no images to capture, and humans would see nothing but perpetual blackness. Understanding the law of reflection will allow you to outshine your competitors, as your photographs will take advantage of one of the fundamental laws of the universe and stand out from those created by your peers.  Well that’s it for now, please don’t forget our military troops, their families and friends, as they all sacrifice to keep our nation strong and free–God Bless! Rolando

The Triangles of Photography

Often when you hear a photographer talk about a triangle in photography, they are referencing the correlation of exposure, or how the ISO, lens aperture and camera shutter-speed affect one another to create the correct exposure in a photograph. However, the word “triangle” in photography also applies to posing, specifically the great “three triangle” pose for a single subject, and the triangles formed in posing groups of people.

When posing a single model, three triangles are often seen when a model is standing tall, her body facing the camera, and the legs are close together forming a triangle from the base of the feet to where the knees meet, then from where the knees meet to mid-thigh, then mid-thigh to the bottom of the torso. This is often seen when a beauty pageant contestant stops and faces the judges on the runway too. However as in this photograph of Tess, you can use the arms and legs to form three triangles in the sitting position. (Note: If you look closely, the body itself forms one large triangle and the points of the triangle touch the points formed by the “rule of thirds” used for proper composition and framing.)

Tess uses her arms and legs to form three triangles in the sitting pose resulting in a visually pleasing image.

Tess uses her arms and legs to form three triangles in the sitting pose resulting in a visually pleasing image.

When photographing groups of people, great wedding photographers tend to space the front row so the people in the back row are directly behind each side of the person’s shoulder joint in front of them, thus ensuring that each person’s head forms, from each row, points in the triangle in groups of two or more rows of people. Portrait photographers also utilize this technique when photographing families of three or more.

When posing groups of people, form two rows and position your subjects so they form imaginary triangles with their head position.

When posing groups of people, form two rows and position your subjects so they form imaginary triangles with their head position.

Bill Hurter, editor of Rangefinder magazine states it best in his book, The Portrait Photographer’s Guide To Posing (Amherst 20004), “The triangle is one of the most pleasing and dynamic forms in all of photography. Because the triangle is a series of three lines, two of which are diagonal, it has the result of providing direction and visual movement in a portrait. Creating triangles and exploiting natural triangles in posing is one of the most basic skills of a good composition.”

Triangles in art composition was often practiced by some of the great painters, including Rembrandt, and as photographers, we all know Rembrandt lighting is one of the most popular forms of lighting in which a triangle of light forms below the eye. As a general rule in Rembrandt lighting, the triangle of light should be as long as the nose, but no wider than the eye.

While the triangle is easier to spot when replicating Rembrandt lighting, as it’s visually there surrounded by shadows on all three sides, in posing, it tends to be more perceptual and created by the arms and legs of the body when photographing one subject, or by the heads of bodies when photographing groups of two rows or more. Rembrandt lighting itself obviously is one of the elements in the triangle of exposure, and the triangle of exposure is evident in every correctly exposed photograph.

Finding and capturing triangles in posing is more difficult for photographers because we must direct our subjects in posing, however if we can focus on that direction through proper communication, it gives us the ability to move one step higher toward the top of the pyramid of photographers and our subjects will be pleased with the results.  Well that’s it for today, please don’t forget our men and women in uniform that defend our great nation, along with the sacrifices of their friends and family, God Bless! Rolando

Bring Out the Detail, The Black & White About It

Black cards were used to bring out the detail in Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough's hair.  Black cards were used to bring out the detail in Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough’s hair.

Often photographers are challenged to bring out detail in the clothing their model is wearing, especially black or white fabrics. The solution is to understand the 90-percent physics rule of light and reflection when it comes to black and white tones in digital and conventional photography.

The 90-percent rule simply means, whatever is pure white will reflect 90-percent of the light that hits it, whatever is pure black will absorb the light that hits it—the key word here is “pure,” as blacks and whites come in many shades.  Keeping this concept in mind, we can judge how fabrics and even skin tones reflect light, and since we normally expose for our subject’s skin tone, the camera exposure settings will directly impact our subject’s garments if they lean toward black (underexposed) or white (overexposed) tones.

Basically, normal human skin-tone rests closer to an 18-percent gray tone reflectance and when we expose for the skin tone, darker fabrics will photograph darker and lighter fabrics will photograph lighter when it comes to the final image if the photographer doesn’t take corrective measures. A simple corrective measure is to use V-flats.  V-flats are easily made for studio use by taking two 4- by 8-foot foam core boards and taping them together on their longest side.  The best foam core boards are the ones that come black on one side and white on the other side, thus making them reversible for more efficient use.  These gaffer-taped boards are called “V-flats” because they can be placed and adjusted to form a “V” that allows them to stand up without additional light stands or supports.  The V-flat is placed as close as to the subject as possible, but outside the camera frame.

For example, if a photographer had to photograph a bride in her white-gown, the V-flats, with the black surface facing the subject, would be placed on each side of the bride, thus the photographer would have two sets (four foam core boards total) two on each side of V-flats for the subject.  The black adds black tone into the wedding dress by reflecting at least 10-percent black onto the dress.  Some photographers will call this subtractive lighting.  California Sunbounce makes black on one side and white on the other side fabrics for their Sunbounce Pro (4- by 6-foot) frame, which makes for greater portability than a sturdy foam core board and the Sunbounces can be mounted on C-stands easily.  This is a great solution for on-location photography, especially when working on the beach where sand and water act as an additional reflector and foam core boards will deteriorate with moisture.

If a photographer has to deal with a subject, such as the groom, wearing black, especially when the background is black, then either by using a California Sunbounce Pro, white-side out, or V-flats, white-side out, the white surface would reflect light back into the black garments, thus bringing out more detail in the darker fabric.  While this technique is great for bringing out detail in your subject’s clothes, you can also use this technique when photographing dark or light colored animals, such as dogs or cats, or perhaps even a white rabbit.

This technique, though using smaller foam-core boards, is very helpful when trying to bring out detail in a subject’s hair, like the blonde hair of Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough on my first book cover, “Garage Glamour: Digital Nude and Beauty Photography Made Simple.”  Basically, small black cards were placed around her hair to form a tent of black reflectors to put detail in her much lighter hair since we exposed for her darker skin.  Another concept for using black cards is in jewelry photography.  While most photographers will use a “white tent” to illuminate their diamonds, adding small black cards close to the jewelry will help bring out the diamond facets, thought this is tricky as the photographer must still bring light around the diamond while keeping the miniature black cards out of camera frame.

The key to all these types of photography, bridals, glamour, pet or jewelry is to place your black or white cards as close to your subject as possible, but out of camera frame.  It’s all about the 90-percent rule of reflectance reminding you about what you’re photographing and that the human mind uses brain and psychology perception to help us see differently than a digital camera, as digital cameras capture detail based on physic rules that pertain to light and reflectance, thus the mind compensates while the camera does not.  Well that’s it for now, but please don’t forget our troops, their families and friends as they make the ultimate sacrifices so we can enjoy our freedoms.  God Bless!  Rolando

Capture a Headshot Easily!

Tess' headshot from a more glamour shoot in Philadelphia.

Tess' headshot from a more glamour shoot in Philadelphia.

Often you’ll hear photographers or models commenting on their need for a good headshot for their portfolios and indeed, the ability to showcase your talent as a photographer of models needs to include a nice headshot.  Models, especially agency models, have comp cards to showcase their talents to potential clients and the front image of an industry standard comp card is the headshot, though I’ve seen many variations of what people consider a proper headshot.

I’d say first, don’t confuse an actor’s headshot with a model’s headshot, usually those are two different types of headshots and for this quick blog post, my focus will be on capturing a model’s headshot—not so much the technical, but the approach.

Normally when a model comes to me needing a new headshot, I take a simple approach. I set up one of my normal photo shoots with the model and let her know that if I see the headshot I’ll take it, as I don’t want to plan a “headshot shoot.”  I let her know most models, even some experienced ones, will “freeze” up when they know the photographer is focusing on a headshot.  So I educate them with the idea, that the best headshot comes when the model doesn’t know I’m taking one, thus, I push for a regular photo shoot.

Elite agency model Jenni provides a great comp card image from a normal shoot.

Elite agency model Jenni provides a great comp card image from a normal photography session that include full-length poses.

Basically, when a photographer and a model agree only on a shoot to capture a headshot, it becomes too planned and everyone expects it to be done in 30-minutes. Based on my experience, the model becomes a different person and a great headshot is usually harder to capture in this mindset.  Not to mention, the photographer becomes too focused on creating a headshot under a short period of time and tends to lose their creative passion.  It’s this passion along with great communication and rapport with the model that normally creates a marriage of the minds to bring out that perfect smile—when the corners of the model’s eyes are in perfect harmony with the corners of her lips. Normally a great photographer won’t achieve this in 30 minutes.

I prefer to shoot a normal glamour, fashion or flamour photography session and as the shoot evolves and I “see” the headshot, I step up to the plate and capture it—usually the model doesn’t even know what I’ve captured it in my camera and assumes I’m still shooting her entire pose.  One advantage to this approach, if the model is posing for me in sexy clothes, she’s going to feel sexy and usually it’s easier to capture one of the four S’s of glamour photography, sexy, sultry, seductive, sensual or a combination of the four in her looks. This leads to a more alluring image, a more provocative but tasteful image.

Headshots are like portraits and in most people photography, if you don’t have “the face,” you have nothing, no matter what the model is or is not wearing.  It’s always about the face when it comes to a great image of your model, especially the headshot.  So if you or your model needs a great headshot, the best approach, treat it like a normal photo shoot and capture the headshot when it happens, not when it’s planned.

Well that’s it for now and as in all my closing remarks, please remember our men and women serving in the military along with their families and friends, as ultimately they sacrifice many things in life to give us the ability to enjoy our freedoms.  God Bless them all and may they all come home safe!  Thanks, Rolando

Found in Sports Illustrated Swimwear

Evan Williams Liquor Ad, Found in Current Sports Illustrated Swimwear

Evan Williams Liquor Ad, Found in Current Sports Illustrated Swimwear

Often I’m asked, “How did you do that?” Well sometimes the answer is simple and sometimes the answer is a bit more complex, but everyone that has ever met me at photography workshops, seminars and events knows I love to spread the gospel of photography and never hold back. Most recently, I’ve been frequently asked how the photographs of Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh were taken for the Evan Williams Liquor advertisement found in the current Sports Illustrated Swimwear edition and also in Maxim and Playboy.

Normally I like to keep my photographic lighting to a minimum, but in the case of that advertising photo, it was a bit more complicated as the art director, creative director, brand manager, account manager and others all wanted to provide their feedback—and when they are standing there watching you shoot, you have to treat them politely and work with them while reminding them that time is money and it’s a true team effort. Depressing the camera shutter is only 5-percent of the equation to deliver the results they demand in a short and allotted time period.

Behind the Scenes w/Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh

Behind the Scenes w/Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh

Basically I had less than a full-day to complete the shoot. Call (make-up and final set preparation) was at 7:00 a.m. and I was there bright-eyed and busy-tailed by 6:45 a.m., as no one got the message to me that call was moved to 7:45 a.m. because the model’s flights were delayed due to bad weather. However, the end time was still the same, end at 5 p.m., as the model had to be on an airplane back to Los Angeles that same day. Luckily for me, I’d arrived the day before to set the lights up and do some test runs so I’d only need to fine-tune for the model. I basically used the art director’s secretary as the stand-in for my light checks.

Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh gets a touch-up from the make-up artist

Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh gets a touch-up from the make-up artist

The set took nine lights, one main light for the model that was modified with a Chimera Oct57 Octabox (soft box) assembled in a 7-foot width. I added a medium Chimera Soft Strip with a Lighttools 40-degree grid as the fill from camera left. I also placed a small Chimera Soft Strip above the red window curtains fitted with ROSCO Cinefoil on the front so I could control any spill light to the front of the image.  This strip would highlight the darker curtains a tad. Behind the make-shift window, I placed a large Chimera Soft Strip with the modeling lamp at full-power and flash tube turned off, since my white-balance was at 6000K and the modeling lamp is 3200K, I knew the color of the box would mimic the warmth of an evening sun filtering through a window.

Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh modeled three dresses for the shoot.

Playboy Playmate Monica Leigh modeled three dresses for the shoot.

The other five lights were fitted with 7-inch reflectors and various grids of 10- through 30-degrees were placed on their fronts to control the light path. Two were used to accent the model on each side plus another light for her hair. Another was aimed at the small table next to the model to bring out the wood color and grain. The final light was used to help illuminate the model’s purse. Several were fitted with Cinefoil to reduce spill light and to control and shape the light so I could have it exactly where I wanted it.

Once the lighting was tweaked and placed exactly where the art director and I wanted them, we then focused on the common thread of the two images that would make the ad function, the curtain rods. If you look at the advertisement you’ll notice the curtain rods, though different in shape, connect the two photographs. The importance here was to ensure the top of the model’s head was the same distance from the curtain rods in both images and that the rods were perfectly straight horizontally. It was this requirement that made me breakout a tripod, something I rarely use as I’m more accustomed to a photojournalistic style of shooting and mostly use a monopod if I need some type of stabilization.

Ultimately the red dress was chosen for the Evan Williams Liquor ad.

Ultimately the red dress was chosen for the Evan Williams Liquor ad.

The camera I used was the Canon 5D with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM, image stabilized lens. The tripod allowed me to keep the curtain rods straight at all times, while also locking in my distance from the model so the background would be very similar in the compression created by the lens set around 90mm effective focal length. This was very important to keep uniformity through the shoot as the model would do three complete wardrobe changes plus both final images would have to match with the curtain rods.

While the original story-board sketch provided by art director was approved by the liquor company, I asked if we could add a purse and some keys as the concept of the after picture was the model going out for the evening. Obviously the before photo, taken to simulate a bathroom, was simple and only took about thirty-minutes to shoot. The after photo, plus a lunch break, various breaks for the designer to download the Lexar digital cards and check the images in the pre-made advertising templates took a bit of time too, though often I’d be shooting on another Lexar digital card while they downloaded the previous cards.

In the end, we were done by 5 p.m., though eventually we’d learn the model’s flight had been cancelled, due to weather, but we still completed the shoot on the allotted time. While I normally do my best to work with simple set-ups for lighting, this assignment called for the more Playboy feel and I was happy to have brought enough photographic lighting gear in my Lightware cases to get the job done. Thanks and I hope to see you at one of my photography workshops someday soon and to see more higher-resolution images from this shoot, please visit my pro site by LiveBooks.com at www.RolandoGomez.com.  Thanks, Rolando.

Art Director Keith Rios and the MUA prepare Monica for the shoot.

Art Director Keith Rios and the MUA prepare Monica for the shoot.

Photographing a Best Selling Author…

Well I’m not into romance novels but I was lucky enough to photograph New York Times best-selling romance author Lisa Kleypas. I shot these in 2007 originally for St. Martin’s Press for her first book with them, Sugar Daddy.

Lisa has written over 20 books in her career. The funny thing is when she first called me, I didn’t know at the time where she lived and I had insisted we first meet face-to-face before any photos would be taken as I always want to meet my clients/subjects at least a few days before a shoot. This is how you start to build rapport and learn about the inner-beauty of your subject. The outer-beauty is a always there. She agreed and I met with her and her husband.

What I didn’t know, her house, at the time, was only about 45-minutes up the road from mine. One of her biggest concerns was that she wanted to connect to her readers, mostly women and that she didn’t want anything too sexy, but at the same time something that still portrayed her beauty at her age (let’s just say very early 40’s), mother of two children and wife to a husband of many years.
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Observing Model Leads to Photo

The Moab existing light, photographic experience continues as we discuss how observing models can sometimes lead to some great ideas or concepts in photography. In this particular image, the model, Jenni, decided to check her make-up while resting as I was off shooting model KT.



A photographer should always look around, sometimes you’ll even get ideas from an assistant toying around a photographic set or location, but in this case, what caught my eye was the reflected light on the model’s face. In fact, I even had KT hold the compact, make-up case mirror from a short distance out of camera view so it would reflect light back on Jenni. Ultimately the final image, shot in existing light with a Leica M8 digital rangefinder camera, was from what I originally observed, though I had the model standing instead of sitting on the ground.

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Existing Light in Moab

This is first in a series of “How it Was Done” and I begin by taking you to the Moab, Utah’s Canyon Lands. While the concept of this section is to focus more on how a photograph is created, I decided for this first article I’d provide information on an entire photo shoot that created some wonderful images, rather than just one image. More of the images from the Moab Natural Light Portfolio are available for viewing in our portfolio section of this site, so here I’ll provide a couple of images and establishing shots to give an overview of the terrain and location involved for this one-hour shoot.

First, we flew three models into Utah, two to Salt Lake City, one to Grand Junction. All three I’d worked with before. The logistics to the Moab make it challenging at times, but since I had a fellow photographer and private instruction client, Brian W., who is more attune to the area, the trip was a bit easier. Brian picked one of the models up from the Grand Junction airport while I flew into Salt Lake City, where I’d pick up the other two models and the rental car.

(Two of many photos from the location, all done in one hour! For more photos, click here!)



While there is a small airport in Moab, it’s limited in what it can provide and based on prior experience, the drive from Salt Lake City, about 240 miles, is scenic and well worth the savings of flying into a major airport than a small regional airport. Grand Junction is about 120 miles and located in Colorado, limiting the airlines and flight schedules, hence I chose Salt Lake City. It’s best if flying into Salt Lake City that you arrive early enough to claim your bags, get a rental car and be able to drive while it’s daylight. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and plan on stopping half way there for a refill just as a precaution.
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How It Was Done

Coming soon, in this section, I’ll be adding a photo from my portfolios, at random, and how it was done. This section, will eventually include, not only the finished photo, but how it was done, from the lighting set-up, the rigors, challenges, and the experience. So stay-tuned, as we continue to revamp the site for your enjoyable experience.