Archive for 'Coffee Shop'

I love the use of off camera lighting in my portrait work because I don’t have to compete with the sun, I can have greater control of my lighting, and above all else, I believe it allows me to offer something unique and different to my clients. Plus, I enjoy it. In a growing market of photographers with a low barrier to entry, I see a lot of  work being produced with the same back lighting and the same click of a purchased photoshop action.  In short, it allows me to differentiate. I’ve been utilizing off camera flash in my work for the last 18 months, and it’s been a wild ride that has changed stylistically over that time frame. In my work as a denver commercial photographer as well as my personal work, I tend inject more contrast and an “edgy” feel when compared to my bridal work. Lately, I’ve been addicted to using my Paul C Buff beauty dish to get that “punchy” feel. But as I peruse through a portrait session I did a while ago using a Paul C Buff Octabank, I realize what a truly beautiful and versatile light source it really is.  There are a myriad of different ways I have used this light modifier for photography portraits. It’s allowed me to get some truly soft, painterly looking transitions in my shadows to a more edgy, contrasty look. For me, it’s the swiss army knife of my lighting bag.

With this colorado senior photography session sprinkled with hints of semi-post-apocolyptic flavoring, I wanted to demonstrate how I used this Octabank in an almost completely feathered nature. By feathering, I mean pointing the light modifier almost completely away from the subject, so only the softest light hits the subject. You see, at the center of each light modifier, you have a hot spot. If you point it directly at your subject, the hot spot will appear as just that…a hotter, more contrasty light source.  You can fix this by purchasing a double baffled modifier (one that has two diffusion sources spread out inside the box), but I’m cheap. By feathering your light so only the rim of light falls on your subject, you get the smoother light source you intended to purchase as well as some great control of shadows.

Technical Notes for this shoot. 

Camera stuff  - 5Dmk2 | Lens 24-70L (version 1, since switched to 24 1.4LII |

Lighting: Alien Bees 800 | Paul C Buff Large Octabank | Vagabond Mini II |

Wireless Trigger: Promaster  *Note* I’ve wanted to switch to Pocket Wizards for a long time, because, well, they are the industry standard and can fire from insane distances away. But to be honest, they are over $400 to get started for a set. These cheap Promasters are about $50-$100 and over 2 years, I have never had a misfire. I’ve even left them in a park overnight, had a downpour, went back and found them soaked, and they worked just fine the next day. I don’t need the High Speed Sync for my Alien Bees, and never shoot from over 50 feet away.  One day I’ll definitely upgrade to some Pocket Wizards, but for now, that $350 is 7 months of diapers for my kid. Priorities… even if it makes me appear less “professional.”

Let’s take a look at the first set up.  Right or wrong, this is my thought process. I took the talent to an area that had the environment I wanted that happened to be in complete shade. But since I was going to light it with off camera flash, that didn’t matter. I metered the scene and underexposed it by about a stop to a stop and a half to bring about that moody feel I was going for and to separate the subject out from the background that much more. Once the talent was in place, I started to slowly introduce my light. I know a light meter would be quicker, but once again, those are  10 months of diapers. (I find as a new parent, I convert all currency to the monetary value of diapers. For non parents, that’s about $300-500 bucks. Inevitably, this leads me to wonder how many diapers I’d charge for a sitting fee…I’m sick.).  With my lights to 1/8 power, I set up my light camera right and slightly above my subject angled slightly down to help create slightly more dramatic shadows.


ISO 100,F8, 1/200

How to light senior portraits

Here’s the lighting diagram, courtesy of Strobox. Notice how only the edges of the light modifier are actually hitting the subject.

To help the session move quickly, I usually do two or three shots with the same lighting set up. Here is another variation with the same lighting. I turned him a little more towards the light source, which resulted in less of his face falling on shadows.

EXIF: ISO 100, F8, 1/200

How to light senior portraits stebner photography

Set Up 2

The next series is all done within about 5 minutes of each other. We had waited about 20 minutes at this location (an old 1800′s sugar beat mill) for the setting sun to cast light through the windows on the lookout tower above right. We didn’t have much time to waste, so we set up our lights and the talent did a great job with everything I had asked of him.

About the light set up: I kept the light as close to the subject as possible while keeping it just out of frame. In general, the closer your light source is to your subject, the softer the light source appears. The further away your light source (i.e., the sun), the more contrasty and harsher the transition of shadows becomes.  The light was coming from camera left. Normally, I would have the light coming from a more natural direction (in this case, camera right to match the direction of the sun), but I wanted a more surrealistic scene with competing light sources, so I opted to place the box against the direction of the sun, and use the sun as a filler. The same feathering technique was used.

Exif Data again ISO 100, F8, 1/200. We shot everything within 5 minutes, so there wasn’t too much of a change.


How to light senior portraits stebner photographyHow to light senior portraits stebner photography

A few more subtle variations with this lighting set up. The only changes were the position of the model, and the height of the modifier.

How to light senior portraits stebner photographyHow to light senior portraits stebner photographyHow to light senior portraits stebner photography

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer them within a day or so. Thanks for reading, be blessed!

I (Scott) absolutely love photography with a purpose. Part of that is I’ve always believed we are given gifts for the explicit reason of giving back. That philosophy led me to Africa twice and hopefully Thailand this year. This week we organized a photo shoot for our Church’s Mission Team with the purpose of encouraging others to pick up and go help those who truly need it. These photos will be used in a video slide show and print material for a campaign to call people to action and service to others who are less fortunate.

The theme behind it was having people who have gone on Relief / Missions trips around the world stand out and say “I went”. Not only I went to a foreign country, but I went to make a difference. I went to make a lasting impact with the purpose of bettering a person, a life, a culture. I went to give up my own desires and focus on those who truly need it. In these photos represents trips to Ethiopia, London, Australia, Thailand, Guatamala, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, India, the Philippines and more. The challenging being something simple. There are people who have a need in this world and they are desperate for people to help…will you go?

You’ll get a kick further down when you see our Home Made Studio set up.

Northern Colorado Wedding Photographer

Northern Colorado Wedding Photographer

And a quick composite for some banner work. Yeah, yeah, I’m modeling it up too :)
Northern Colorado Wedding Photographer

And some behind the scenes fun

Now for some basic lighting set up that anyone can do. Here’s a picture of our “Studio” which was actually the children’s room at our church. We had a white sheet for the backdrop that we “blew nuclear” with a bare bulb Alien Bees 800. I chose  a bare bulb light so it would also put a little Rim lighting on the back of the subjects.  On left was my favorite light modifier which is the 54″ Octabank and a little “kicker board” on the right. You can either pay a ton of money for an expensive reflector or go back to your old science fair project days and buy  a cheap white board. This was done to help fill in the shadows and ease that transition from the left to the right. I usually wouldn’t include a shot of such a “ghetto” studio, but I wanted to show everyone you can get amazing photos with very, very simple set ups as long as you understand the basic principles of lighting and creativity.

Scott and Alyssa Stebner are Northern Colorado Wedding Photographers available for weddings throughout Colorado and California. But, they will gladly travel to cool and exotic places :)


I (Scott) write this post with my heart and mind still in San Diego. For me, San Diego is home. I absolutely love living in Colorado and Being a Northern Colorado Wedding Photographer, but something about Spanish Arches, the shoreline, and tropical plants just calms me down. I love it.

Back in Northern Colorado going over my 30+ pages of notes, I’m inspired!

So when I found out this year’s Partnercon Convention was going to be in San Diego, I booked my flight immediately (seriously, it was within like 10 minutes). Now I realize the vast majority of people out there don’t know what Partnercon is (and may not care), but here’s my attempt to explain.

Partnercon is a photo convention where Photographers from all over North America come together, educate each other and just have fun.  I’ve always tried to be a life long learner, so continuing  my education as a photographer was just as important as my Degree.

Overall the conference was very, very well put together with excellent speakers, great meals, and a great “Non Rockstar” atmosphere

Enough with the talk. Now to bullet points

  • It was awesome to hear legend Photographer Joe McNally talk. Even more special was his salute to my Uncle Carl Mydans at the opening of his speech.
  • New friends. I had so much fun meeting everyone, having the “beeriest” beer of all, and creating new words.
  • Cruising San Diego downtown and getting yelled at by about 5 police officers. Apparently you can’t use a government building as a backdrop anymore.
  • The Hard Rock Hotel. Where else can you find Fergie’s Chain Saw next to boots worn by Janice Joplin?
  • Epic classes by Ned Johnson, Jared Platt, Jared Bauman, and more! It’s so nice to see photographers giving back to the community
  • Having authentic Mexican food with my Mom. Sorry Colorado, what we call Mexican food doesn’t really cut it.
  • Seeing my family’s horses and my dogs. I’m always amazed at how a horse can just give you peace and calm.
  • Meeting Leon from Colorati, awesome guy and a great company

You’ll notice these photos are a bit “warmer” than normal. Was inspired by warm weather :)

Joe McNally giving an all around heartfelt and Epic presentation on the power of imagery.

Joe McNally Partnercon Stebner Photography

And a Panel Discussion on Content Marketing and Business Structure

The Hard Rock Hotel

And back to my country roots and time spent at home on the “farm” where I grew up.

Finishing up my time in San Diego in my family’s Dining Room going over my Partnercon notes…while on Facebook…I know. Efficiency killer but I’m addicted

Scott Stebner and Alyssa Stebner are Northern Colorado and Denver Wedding Photographers. Contact Us: 720-266-8008

We’ve been using our Alien Bee strobe kit for a little over 6 months and have been just loving the results we are getting from it. We’re buying some new goodies soon and can’t wait to write about them. But in  he meantime, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we lit these two images from a session we did a few months ago, so here ya go.I wish I took a few pictures on the lighting set up, but a description is just going to have to do. So from one Denver Senior Portrait Photographer to another photographer, here’s how we did it.

Image 1:Canon 5Dmk2, 24-70L, f9 @ 1/200th at ISO 100

This was one of our last photos from Matt’s Senior Session at the old Sugar Mill in Sterling, Colorado. I noticed the sun was just about to set during the “golden hour” and loved the look of the sun peaking through the window in the upper right and how it shined on these barrels. I knew I wanted the sky to be a little on the moody end of things and for all of the clutter on the right to be darkened without having to do it in photoshop. So I placed my Paul C Buff Octabank about 3 feet from Matt’s face to the right and up and shined it almost completely away from him towards image left so only the softest of light would be hitting his face. I knew this would accomplish a few things, darken all of my space to the right. Secondly, since my light source was so close to the subject, I knew my background would be less affected by my soft box and more affected by the warm sun rays you see on the windows and the grass behind him. Lastly, I wanted to create some subtle shadows and light on his face, and knew by using the softest part of my 52″ Octabank that I could achieve the look I was going for.  I chose a very wide angle lens which gave a little distortion to his feet and legs, but I wanted that “layered” look you tend to get with wide angle lenses over more telephoto lenses. Plus, since my light was so close to the subject, it allowed me to get in where I needed to. This is pretty much how the image looked right out of the camera. I boosted clarity in Lightroom 3.0 to 8 and dodged the window subtly, but it’s an honest image right out of the camera.

Image 2: 5Dmk2, 24-70L,  64mm, F8, 1/200 , ISO 200

Matt is a super cool kid and we wanted to be really different in his senior photo session and incorporate some unique lighting, posing, and locations in his shoot.  I really wanted to play on some shadows with this image to give it a lot of attitude. I put the main light about 5 feet from him to give a little more contrast and that way the hottest part of the light would be hitting his face and hopefully creating some cool shadows. Below is the image right out of the camera

I overexposed (in my opinion) the image just a little bit so I brought the exposure down to -26 to bring the sky, shadows, and general lighting and introduced fill light of +7 in Lightroom 3.  I added clarity of +10 and brought down the blue channel luminance to -58 to darken the skies as well as the green channel saturation. Lastly I cloned out the distracting telephone pole.  All of this resulted in some slight tweeks that I like a little more.

If you have any questions, please let me know and I’d be glad to answer


Contact Me: 408-440-6281

Scott Stebner of Stebner Photography is a Denver Senior Portrait Photographer specializing in edgy, artistic, and non traditional senior portraits.