WPPI Atlantic City - finding Mona Lisa

I just finished a program in Atlantic City for WPPI Road Show called, "SImple Answers to Things I Learned the Hard Way". If you were at the program and are looking for the notes to download, you've come to the right place!

During my program, I talked about a lot of different things that have made a difference to my business, and I wish I would had known about sooner. I guess it's always easier to look back and say, "If only I'd known". Right? I try to do that with advice to my kids too, but it never seems to work. I tell them, "trust me, if you start doing this now, you'll be a millionaire by the time you're mid 20s! But all they can say is, "Squirrel!"

To download the program notes, click here. Don't forget to use the password I gave you at the program!

One of the things we talked about in the program was the concept of finding your Mona Lisa. I learned years ago that showing my clients too many similar images was not "giving them more choices", but was actually overwhelming them and preventing them from making a purchase decision. When I started showing less images – only my favorite, best, "Mona Lisa" images, they actually made decisions quicker and ended up buying more.

The other reason I call it the Mona Lisa is that items that are scarce are perceived as more valuable – just like the one-of-a-kind Mona Lisa. If there were 5 slightly different variations of the priceless painting, each one just slightly different, then she wouldn't be nearly special, nor as priceless. Only somewhat priceless. You follow my drift? 

When you buy stuff off a rack of similar items, you inherently feel the value is less. When you see just one, and only one, of something you like, you covet it more and the perceived value goes up.

Edit diligently in your workflow and show only the best of the series of images to your clients. They will appreciate it more, select quicker, and chances are good that you'll increase your average sale as well. 

Thank you again to my program supporters! WHCC for their beautiful lab services, amazing service, money making backdrops. Thank you Asukabook for giving me boutique quality coffee table books that separate me from the masses. Thanks B&H for feeding my gear habit with phenomenal selection and prices! Expo Imaging for the lighting tools I use every day, Triple Scoop Music for the groovy tunes that bring life to every presentation, and Tamrac for the camera bags and cases that have been at my side for nearly 20 years. I appreciate your great products and services!

Ah, the original, in all it's solo glory

Ah, the original, in all it's solo glory

Wedding Workshop in Brasil!

Muito obrigado por participarem do meu workshop no Brasil. Gostei de conhecer todos vocês e de compartilhar algumas ideias. Espero que tenham sido proveitosas. Como combinamos, eu disponibilizei um arquivo em pdf com as informações da aula. No final do arquivo há uma página com os links dos produtos que mencionei, inclusive as laternas mais baratas. Essas informações são para uso pessoal. Por gentileza não copiem ou compartilhem. Elas são direcionadas aos alunos que participaram do meu workshop. Vocês vão precisar da senha que escolhemos para baixar o arquivo. 


Download the workshop notes here

I had a great time teaching Lightweight Location Lighting to my new friends in Brazil yesterday. We've loved visiting Sao Paolo and discovering great food and great people! This week I'll be signing Lighting Notebooks (translated to Portuguese) at their wedding convention, then giving another short program at the convention on Thursday evening. After that, we're off to the Amazon to visit another photographer friend and see more exotic things!

PhotoPro Expo in Kentucky is a blast!

Remember that girl who hung out with the bears and found something right in the middle that was “juuuust right”? Well, that’s sort of how I feel after teaching at the PhotoPro Expo for the first time. I love the energy of the giant conventions, like WPPI and IUSA, but somewhere between the mega conventions and the backyard puppet show lies a convention that captures the energy of a larger gathering with the intimacy of something much smaller.

We finished off our weekend here with a full-day workshop on lighting and workflow and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the wonderful people! Thank you to all who took time to share it with us. As promised, the notes from the day-long program are available to download here. I’ve included the link to the lighting tool we talked about too, at the end of the PDF file with the resources. Be sure to enter the password I gave you in the workshop to download the notes! (the password is unique to this program and different from the password from the 3 hr. program)

I used a couple of new products during my shoot that worked out really well and thought I would share. First was the new Leash strap from Peak Design. I used the quick-release strap in sling mode and taped a CamRanger wireless transmitter to the strap so that I could stream images I shot during the class to my iPad for the students to view while we were out on location. The CamRanger creates its own wireless hotspot so I didn’t have to worry about an internet connection – it works anywhere. And it actually works. It was tremendously helpful to the students to be able to see the images immediately, large on the iPad, about 4 seconds after I shot them. No more passing the camera around for people to peek at the little LCD! It worked perfectly the entire day with not a single dropped connection or missed image. I was thoroughly impressed and will be finding many more ways to use this wicked gadget.

By attaching the compact CamRanger to my Leash strap, I could carry the camera in the sling position – swinging it down and to the side when not in use and quickly back to my eye in one swift motion. Using a camera on a slider strap system, like the Black Rapid, wouldn’t have worked here because the CamRanger couldn’t be attached to the strap without interrupting the movement of the camera. The Leash slides over your shoulder, rather than the camera sliding on the strap, which made this setup possible and very efficient. The unit comes with a standard USB cable to attach to your camera, so the transmitter could also be stuffed in a pocket instead of attached to the Leash, but then you'd have to remove it every time you put the camera down. Attaching it to the Leash made it unobtrusive to my normal photo flow. The video below explains the setup:

Cam Ranger peak designs leash setup from Kevin Kubota on Vimeo.

UPDATE: I just talked to Robert at Dury's, who sells the CamRanger and he has a special deal for readers of my blog! Call or email him directly for more info:  or call: 615 574 9295

Here are some of the images we made. The lighting techniques we were working on are described below each image.

Above: 24mm f1.4 Nikon lens at f1.4. 1/250th second ISO 200. 2 – Nikon SB910 speedlights in a Photoflex small Octodome triggered by a PocketWizard Plus III receiver. A Singh Ray vari-ND neutral density filter was used to reduce the outside light to a flash-syncable 1/250th. I wanted to demonstrate how to balance bright natural light with flash using the ND filter and still shoot wide open at f1.4 for the beautifully softened background.


Above: I used the same settings as the previous photo, but this was a composite of two images. The first was shot for the light on the model and the softbox was fully visible in the shot as it was only about 3 feet away. The second image was shot with the softbox out of the scene and everything else unchanged. Then, in Photoshop I quickly merged the two images using the Auto-align layers command and masking out the softbox with a quick dab of my brush on the layer mask. This technique is great when you want to shoot with a wide angle lens but can’t move your light source far enough out of the scene.

The original image included the OctoDome. A second image was taken as well with the light source removed.


Above: 50mm f1.4 Nikon lens at f1.4. 1/250th second ISO 800. I wanted to demonstrate how to take a bright, sunlit room and make it feel like moonlight. I set my camera to 2500K white balance to create the blue light and underexposed the ambient light by about 2 stops. Then, in the 3 ft. Octodome I used 2 – SB910 Nikon speedlights with tungsten flavored Sticky Filter gels to bring the skin tones closer to normal.


Above: 70-200mm f2.8 Nikon lens at f2.8. 1/40th second. This lounge lizard image was created with a speedlight in an Octodome for the main light and a speedlight with a Rogue Grid and warm Sticky Filter gel on the ground behind her for the edge light. To illuminate the drink and make it glow the model held my flashlight and pointed it directly in to the drink. Everyone is a helper!

Above: 24mm f1.4 Nikon lens at f1.6. 1/00th second ISO 800. We moved to a new location for this series and used only the existing room lights and my powerful little flashlight as the main light on her face. I covered the flashlight with a tungsten Sticky Filter to match the color temperature of the room lights. An iPhone was placed on the table behind the drink and the flashlight app was turned on to illuminate the beverage. So simple, so beautiful!





Above: 70-200mm f2.8 Nikon lens at f2.8. 1/250th second ISO 200. For this final image, I wanted to create a soft, au-natural looking image so a large Photoflex diffusion LitePanel was used to create beautiful window-esque “daylight”. I placed the panel just outside of camera view and illuminated it from behind with 2 – SB910 speedlights. I wanted to shoot at f2.8 to soften the background so the bright scene outdoors required the use of my ND filter to tone down the cityscape.