Recently, a post of mine shared the planning process and the initial set build for a portrait session for Atlanta musician Jeff Paige. This one deep dives into the rest of the details.


Without question every photograph is all about the light. The tools available allow us to sculpt exactly the look and feel we want to create. The original concepts for this project included dusk, backlight-maybe headlights, a spotlight, mist, smoke or fog captured with a long lens. These are beginnings. The ideas are not fully realized. They are the framework on which the work will evolve into its final form.


The spotlight idea is to make Jeff’s face one of the brighter areas in the photograph to draw the view’s eye. A twenty-two inch beauty dish with a 40 grid placed above, to his left and about three feet away is the source of illumination that some call the main light. It’s the one that gets read with the Sekonic incident flashmeter. That reading is the exposure set on the camera. All of the rest of the instruments serve the source.

Strip banks

Jeff has dark skin. His wardrobe is a dark leather jacket and black pants. I want long highlights on either side to separate him from the background. One of my favorite tools for creating these highlights is the Dynalite RBTR-1271. A Light Tools fabric grid keeps the light from spilling onto the background or hitting the lens. Ideally these banks are positioned slightly behind the subject.BTS-Music Portrait Diagram


Smoke, mist and fog effects on demand are created with a Rosco Vapour fog machine sitting on the floor next to the red backlight. Professional fog machines are availible for purchase or for rent. PC&E, a major motion picture rental house here in Atlanta, charges $60.00 a day for one. That charge includes a two and a half liter jug of Rosco Fog Fluid. Trust me. That’s a lot of fog.

Fog control

The fog will wrap around a subject completely obscuring it in very short order. A fan at low power blowing across Jeff’s face keeps him from envelopment. An assistant adds fog as it starts to dissipate.

Coloring smoke

The electronic flash duration is so short that swirling wisps are frozen patterns that eddy into billowing colors and shapes framing Jeff as he performs. Rosco 3407 gel added to the strip banks produces light close to the color given off by a candle. The warmth of the fog on the left leads the eye to the orange bass and into the cool mist on Jeff’s right. This is the realization of the idea of headlights and mist.2856-0525

Without the gels the strip banks add white light to any smoke they illuminate, while the backlight with the orange red gel colors it crimson. Where the two lights mix the effect is pink. When the blue light on the slit drape adds to the mix the effect is purple. Put them all together and the result is M a g i c ! ! !2856-0486

No Photoshop

These two finals from the session are right out of the camera with adjustments made in Lightroom’s Develop module.