Video Interview with Charles Maring

Last week I jumped on Google Hangouts with my friend Charles Maring. This was my first time using hangouts in this way so I am sorry you have to stare at my face while he is talking 🙂

During this interview, Charles and I talk about his approach to lighting as well as where he finds inspiration. Below you will find information about Charles and his wife as well as where to find them online!

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Exploring Hollywood Lighting

My friend and mentor James Schmelzer is known for his hard lit images that echo the early Hollywood days especially the work of George Hurrell. Today I picked up a Cucoloris (Cookie) and worked on getting that signature Hollywood look. Below I share what I learned as well as the tools I used to create the images below! 

If you haven’t seen James Schmelzer’s work be sure to check out his instagram over at

To get you in the mindset, first here is the inspiration board that I was building off of for the shoot today:

As you can see from the photos these photos utilized what we would call “hard light” modifiers. Grids, Snoots, Barn Doors, and Flags are your best friend when it comes to this type of lighting. 


My goal for the background is to have light and shadows just to break up the otherwise plain background. To accomplish this I setup the Cucoloris ( with my B1 pointing through. 

 As you can see, there is some spill onto the background with this setup so I changed the grid to the 10 degree to focus the light more.
As you can see, there is some spill onto the background with this setup so I changed the grid to the 10 degree to focus the light more.

Key Light

For my key light I knew that I needed it to be very focused and not spill onto the background. As you can see from the image above, the light is very focused into a tight circle and it is very directional. I accomplished this by using the 20 degree grid on my 2nd B1. 

You can find a link to the grids here for Profoto:

Also I have these grids that also work quite well:

Here is a pull back using the gridded B1 as the key light, notice the harshness as well as the control that you have by using the grids. (Sorry for the iPhone quality) 

What I learned.

The nose shadow is KEY.

The nose shadow is what determines the look of the overall photo. I noticed during the shoot I was constantly having the model change just her face in order to keep the shadow exactly how I wanted it. In my head I was looking for butterfly, loop, and Rembrandt to give me different looks to pick from in post. 

Light spill is really hard to control

One thing I found while doing this exercise was how hard it is to control light spill from the flash head. I found myself using flags in order to keep light off of certain parts of the scene. Do yourself a favor and have some flags or cardboard handy to help block the light from spilling all over the scene. 

Using the cookie to light as the Key light creates a really cool look

I really liked the look that the cookie was creating on the background so I decided to use it as a key light in order to light just the face. Overall this created a unique look that I really enjoyed. 

In camera black and white is your friend

While I was shooting these images I had my camera set to both raw and jpg and I had my camera set to black and white mode. Doing both raw and jpg allows you to have a raw file that you can work with in post as well as a black and white jpg exactly how you see it on screen. There was just something about seeing the black and white, well lit image, in the viewfinder while I was shooting that got me super excited. Also having the black and white allows you to show your model exactly the look you are going for. 

Post Processing

For these images I used On1 Photo Raw to create a unique film look both in color and in black and white. Here are the 2 On1 presets I created to get a color film look as well as black and white. 



Black and White

Gallery of my faves

Overall this was a fun exercise. I really enjoyed the looks I was getting right out of camera. For this shoot I used the Panasonic Lumix Gx8 and the Leica 12-60. 

Check out George Hurrell’s Hollywood, a book full of inspiration from the man himself:

For all of the gear used in this shoot check out the full kit

If you give this a try, leave your images in the comments below! 


Friday Inspiration: 5 ways to get your creative juices flowing at the local mall

For years I struggled to find sources of inspiration for my shoots. I would constantly study posing cards and search Instagram but I never really pushed myself to try anything out of the ordinary. As I was walking around the mall last week it hit me. The mall or any shopping area is a GREAT place to get your inspiration in high gear! 

1. Watch the light

One thing I noticed as I was patiently waiting for my wife to come out of the store was all of the different lighting patterns, shadows, highlights and how they changed. If you look at the image below you can see how light is coming through the glass panels at the top and reflecting off of the building. You can see some of the stores on fall under brighter areas where some are in the shade. Ask yourself, if you were shooting here where would your subject be? Where is the best light? Where is the worst light? Doing exercises when you are out and about help to train your brain to start to see the light and when you are working with a client or model you will be able to quickly identify where to place them! 

2. People Watching

Taking the above exercise a step further, watch how people interact with each other, watch how they walk, watch their expressions. Just like the above exercise will help you with lighting, this exercise will help you to know how humans naturally interact with one another as well as their environment. Another great activity is to study their facial features. Do they have a long nose? How would you light it to hide the nose and make it look smaller? Do they have nice cheek bones that you could use a beauty setup with? Being able to quickly identify features will help you in studio to identify how to light a person. 

3. Find inspiration in the advertisements

The two images below show two really different types of shoots that I would love to do. One is very high fashion and the other is very edgy sports. I plan to use these two images to put together a styled shoot where I can create similar work for my portfolio. They key for finding images like these two is to find things outside of your comfort zone. Once you are outside of your comfort zone that is where the magic happens! 


4. Identify what the target demographic is by studying the ads

I challenge you to go into a store that you normally wouldn’t go into. For example maybe you are not a very active person and never shop at Under Armor. Go into under armor and figure out what are the ads trying to convey? Who is their target demographic? Being able to identify this will help you identify how you will sell to certain clients.

Example: Maybe you want to focus on high end headshots in your business. As you are identifying your target demographic, find out where they shop and then go there. What do you see? What are the ads conveying? What location are they shooting in? What props are in the photos? Doing this exercise is like having a highly paid marketing team working for you and doing the work for you! 

5. Figure out how images are lit 

The below image is the whole reason that I decided to write this article. I sat in front of this window for a solid 10 minutes studying the image. I found myself studying the lighting and figuring out how the photographer created this dynamic image and how I could re-create this. 

How was this image lit? What modifiers did they use? Was it natural light or was it artificial? 


Here is a video where I share the points that I made in the post above!


Hopefully this sparked your creativity a little bit and I challenge you to go out there and be inspired by the environment around you. Please share some photos of what you find in your local shopping area in the comments below! 


Self Image Critique: Soft Lighting Done Wrong (ish)

The purpose of this blog is to share what I learn with lighting in hopes that it will help you guys as well! In this video I share how I screwed up a portrait and what I would do to fix it in the future! Leave a comment below if you have ever had the same issue.

Here is the video where I go step by step on what I screwed up. In the future I would put more diffusion on the bottom and also make sure the face is the brightest part in the image. I will also use my meter and check the shoulder to make sure there is not to much light and not enough detail.


Here is a more in depth video that talks about soft lighting from James Schmelzer




Hope this helps!