Archive for 'Seniors'

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!

July 16

Wow, I LOVED this session. About a year ago, Robyn (Phil’s Mom) started talking to me about doing his Senior Photos this year. Well, one conversation led to another, and it turned out that Phil (who is awesome) just happened to have a super awesome girlfriend that needed senior photos as well, which resulted in a super awesome epic dual senior-photography session.

These seniors are a perfect match for us. They want trendy, different, out of the box photos but want to have a fun time doing them.

Phil and Brandie, enjoy your senior year and thanks for being involved in making epic. Thanks to Amanda Baker for assisting and holding lights, you rocked!

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So…I originally got an email from Phil saying he was going to bring his superman undies and cape to the session in Boulder. First thought…”hahaha, that’s funny.” Second thought. Well, he’ll fit in, it’s Boulder…Then I realized he was serious and this is what they thought up.

Boulder Senior Photography

Scott Stebner is a Denver, Greeley, Fort Collins senior photographer.

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.


August 02

Matt is just cool. No other way around it.  Aside from the fact that he’s the most chill senior ever, he wants to be a criminal justice major, how cool is that? Matt and I go to the same church, and he’s always a happy, enthusiastic, and hilarious person.

We went to the old mill in Sterling, Colorado to create some high fashion senior photos using a one light source. Believe it or not, almost every image was created this way in camera, with very, very little tweaking in Photoshop. I’ll be discussing more about our lighting in this month’s “Free to Create” workshop on August 12th. It’s free to attend so make sure you come.

Contact us: 408-440-6281

Scott Stebner and Alyssa Stebner are Denver Wedding Photographers and Sterling Colorado Wedding Photographers specializing in weddings, senior photos, and family sessions. They are available for travel throughout Colorado, California, and for destination weddings.

May 26

This year we’ve branched out a bit (ok, a lot) from strictly Wedding Photos and are now offering Senior Sessions as well. So, consider today’s post a little bit of a treat as we kick off our 2012 class of students.

However, I didn’t always have this warm place in my heart for senior portraits, probably because of what mine looked like and felt like.

Well the end of 2010 didn’t quite happen how I wanted it to, snowed in our house with most of the roads impassible with ice, but 2010 was seriously an amazing year.

Some Personal Highlights

I got Engaged (Wohoo!)

I got Married (Even bigger Wohoo)

We moved to a small town but we’re still super close to Denver

Found a Church I love

Realized just how much I love being a Denver Wedding and Senior Picture Photographer

Visited my parents in Sunny San Diego and finall had REAL Mexican food again

Met tons of new people in Colorado with many awesome photographer friends

Went on a great Cruise to Mexico

December 06

I recently provided a free Senior Session for a fundraiser for the Fleming High School FFA Chapter and Steven’s mother was the winning bidder in the auction. Steven is new to Colorado is an FFA Member at Fleming. Steven, you have a bright future and congratulations on your upcoming graduation.

November 06

Jackie, you were so much fun on your senior session as we walked around Denver finding amazing light and backdrops.

November 06

Alyssa shares the same name as my wife, so I knew she rocked! We met in downtown Boulder, Co to do her senior session and she brought with her cupcakes, great outfits, and a whole lot of awesome! Alyssa, your passion for life and dedication to your studies will make you go far in life!!! Congrats on graduating this spring and wish you the best as you go off to study dermatology!

July 20

I can’t say enough awesome things about Tyler and her family. I had the chance to meet them at my old work just as Tyler was finishing up her Junior year in High School and when they asked me to shoot her senior portraits, I was so excited. Not only did we have amazing light, but some other situations we had no idea would happen…like the garden sprinklers turning on in the middle of our portrait shoot soaking all of us and making me very thankful I shelled out the extra cash for a camera that is water sealed.

Tyler plans on going to NCU and