NYC photo sessions – Sarah & Mark

New York photo session – Sarah & Mark

I have already posted several images from the extended photo session with Sarah and Mark – but here is the epic video.   The intention with these photo sessions was to expand Sarah’s portfolio as much as we could.

We started off at Coney Island, doing a session with Sarah and Mark at the edge of the beach with Sarah in swimwear .. and from there it went into more of a lifestyle shoot with the two of them on the boardwalk.  Later on we had Sarah run towards the camera in sportswear.  But we rained out with a massive thunderstorm rolling in over New York.  We picked up the photo session again in Battery Park.  Much of this session and onwards weren’t caught on video since the-other-Neil, who assisted me, had to stay with the van and drive around looking for parking while we continued with the shoot.  There is a short section though, showing some of the Battery Park session.  From there we moved up to Times Square to photograph a very glamorous looking Sarah in evening wear in Times Square.

Hopefully all of this will be a great view of the approach during a photo session, and how there is no single static way of doing things.  Various techniques are used; the lighting too is varied; all to give a wide range to the look of the final images ..

For the photos in swimwear, I used the the Profoto AcuteB 600R lighting kit (B&H) with 2×3 Profoto softbox, as mentioned in the previous post.  For the rest of the day I used a Q-flash in a softbox, which was either held up on a monopod, or placed on a lightstand.  Some of the images were with only available light.  So it was a mix of lighting equipment, and a mix of techniques.

Oh, in the video clip where I mention the test shot, that is without flash so I have an idea of what my basic ambient exposure would look like. And that is the image that appears on the video – the test shot without flash.

From the swimwear sequence:

Sarah, from the sequence posted in a previous article.
1/250th @ f3.5 @ 200 ISO
The background is the approaching storm.  Lighting is with the Q-flash in a softbox off to my right, held up high by my assistant.  And some Photoshop fairy dust to make the image pop even more.

With the next image of Sarah running towards the camera, the lighting had to be even more mobile. As you could see in the video clip, Mark was running alongside Sarah, holding up the Q-flash in the softbox.  Quite a feat!  He more or less matched her pace, but any change in distance, was mostly compensated for with it being TTL flash.  TTL flash should, in theory at least, take into account the change in distance.  With Manual flash, any change in distance between the light and the subject would affect the exposure.
1/250th @ 5.6 @ 800 ISO

Here I wanted to show an out-take.  One of the test shots so that you can see the position of the softbox (on a light-stand), relative to Sarah.  Here the flash was manual again since she remained static in relation to the light source.  Manual flash just makes more sense then for consistency of exposure.  My settings:  1/250th @ f4 @ 800 ISO.   The settings were chosen to expose for the background in a way that I felt retained the mood perfectly of the city scene just after a rain storm in the early evening.  I pulled the flash power down to give me just enough light in comparison to that.

As the sun set, the entire city was bathed in an orange glow.  Really beautiful to see.   1/125th@ f3.5 @ 800 ISO was just right in my estimation based on my camera’s meter reading and the LCD preview.   Instead of manual flash though (which would make more sense), I decided on TTL flash because I suspected the security guards in the area would chase us off the moment they became aware of us.  (Turns out I was right.)  Shooting with TTL allows me to set up faster than with manual flash.  Less consistency between exposures, but the speed of setting up helped me more.   It is whatever technique is more appropriate at the time, rather than sticking to a dogmatic manual-flash-in-a-softbox approach only.

Driving around the corner, I saw the entire street scene just bathed in that soft light – a perfect backdrop against which to place Sarah.  But in post-processing the image, I ended up preferring this version over the more natural version.  My settings: 1/40th @ f2.8 @ 1600 ISO, handheld.  My tripod was in the car, but I couldn’t set it up in the middle of the (quiet) street.  So I used the machine-gun technique to make sure I did get images which were crisply sharp.

And finally we hit Times Square in Manhattan.  Here is Sarah  in evening dress, still looking strikingly glamorous after a long, long day.

1/250th @ f4 @ 800 ISO // Nikon D3, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S
The lighting was with a Quantum T5d-R in a softbox;  TTL flash controlled by Quantum FreeWire system. (When the FreeWire works it is great, when it doesn’t … it just doesn’t.)

Sarah and Mark, the two of you were just fantastic to work with.  Thank you!

41 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Tom K. says

    The first thing this video made me do was smile. A genuine smile. Truly outstanding work on this Neil. The images are gorgeous and the video is really well done. I am learning so much from you.

  2. 3john says

    This is some fantastic work with some great models.
    In the battery park section, with sarah by the benches I strained my eyes looking for that flash shadow! and none to be found .
    The ambiant looks like maybe 1/2 stop under? but on the flash did you keep chimping and bring the flash down so there was no shadow?
    And on the time square did you hold the ambient under again with the same chimping the flash.
    Again fantastic work thanks for the lessons.


  3. 4 says

    John, the reason why you can’t discern any shadow, is more likely to be because the background is bright there from the reflection of the sun.

    The softbox will also disperse the light enough that the shadow won’t be sharply defined.

    I did chimp to get the exposure correct for the manual flash. (I had forgotten my flashmeter at home.)

    Neil vN

  4. 5michael says

    Hi Neil, Stunning stuff.

    It amazes me how you use such a large aperture. What do you pictures look like
    at 100% and how far are you standing when shooting at say F4.


  5. 6 says

    Michael, these had better be sharp! They are Nikon optics. ;)

    btw … I don’t quite think of f4 as being a large aperture. f2.8 or wider is a large aperture. At f4 most f2.8 zooms will be crisply sharp.

    Here is a 100% crop of the one image above, at the default sharpening setting that ACR uses. So the sharpening is fairly low.

    Neil vN

  6. 8tim wong says

    neil, thanks for your video, one question, how can you mount the qflash with the softbox (24×32?)?

  7. 10Rehan says

    Neil, great work, I am really hooked on your blog. Great stuff you are sharing with the community. Thanks

  8. 11Tyler Brown says

    First off, I love these, it is great to see you would… if I could change one thing, I would mic you, and tone down the music. I would much rather hear your interactions with your models then the music.

    Keep them coming.

  9. 12 says

    Tyler, thanks for the note. I do intend making proper educational little clips as well, and there we will make sure that I am properly mic’d up. (I did purchase a set of Sennheiser wireless mics. The clips so far were more intended to be fun vignettes. Keep checking in. :)

    Neil vN

  10. 13Thilo says

    Neil, i´ve been a quiet but admiring reader for about two years now.
    Since you started posting videos i think you made a quantum leap in explaining your techniques since even I am able to understand (and sometimes even apply) them much better.
    So i wish to really thank you!

  11. 15 says

    Mickey … no gels used this time. Most of the images were taken at either Daylight WB (when used with the Profoto or Q-flash), or Cloudy.

    With the Daylight WB, I have the camera set to +1 for a touch more warmth.

    A few of the images did have an AlienSkin Exposure 2 film type added to them, and that does warm up skin tones.

    Neil vN

  12. 16Kim Nodurft says

    Wow! Excellent work! I can’t wait for the Denver workshop. Will I be shooting like this afterwards? :)

  13. 18Brian Daly says

    Hi Neil,

    Not directly related to this session, but how you place your signature on each picture?
    I know you could use a brush or a pre-saved image of the signature, but do you have a quick way of automating the placement and sizing?


  14. 19Tim C. says

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing…. great shots and models. I see you used the Profoto Acute, would you mind sharing some insight about how one sets up their camera and lighting equipment in compensating…. tall order, I know! Can be a later post!

  15. 23 says

    Roger .. I checked my ACR settings for that RAW file, and it says ‘as shot”, which meant Daylight WB. No further adjustment to the WB in ACR / Bridge or Photoshop.

    Neil vN

  16. 25 says

    To my Russian friends discussing this thread on livejournal ..
    no, I did not use any warming filters.
    No warming filter on the lens, and no CTS or CTO gels on the flash either.

    Neil vN

  17. 27 says

    Renee … Photoshop fairy dust is my description for the combination of filters / add-ons / actions and things I do to an image to sweeten it a little bit.

    I’ll post more about it with a future blog posting here.

    Neil vN

  18. 28Jet Decena says

    Neil I really love this set of images..It was really a joy to watch and makes me want to go out and shoot!!! Thanks again and I didn’t say thanks for the workshop you had here in California..


  19. 29Artur Ocubaro says

    Hi Neil!

    I ve just watched the video of Sarah & Mark NYC photo session! Wonderful! Beautiful photos! And with all due respect she’s gorgeous! Congratulations!
    Its kind of the perfect shot…..Nice places, beautiful couple, photogenic couple, perfect ambient…….and of course your magic touch! Bravo!!
    In the amusement park did you use the softbox? They are splendid!
    And the lenses that you were carrying were 24-70 and 70-200? And just to say…the music of this video is beautiful too! LIke I said, perfect!

  20. 32Eric says

    Questions about the logistics: how did your Sarah change the wardrobe during the shoot, in your car or somewhere else? They carried the wardrobe themselves (I don’t think so) when you changed the location or you have a second assistant who managed these stuff?

    These questions really make me feel tied up. Give me some tips.

    Thanks, you great Neil.

  21. 33 says

    I have a big red soccer-dad van, and Sarah changed in the van as necessary.

    My assistant on the day carried my lighting equipment and handled the video camera.

    Neil vN

  22. 34Eric says

    Got it, thanks.

    Here’s another two quick questions:
    1.Do you provide recommendations for the wardrobe which models bring or it’s just up to the model?
    2.For a chosen location, is it your call to decide the specific wardrobe or it’s also just up to the model?


  23. 35 says

    With this photo session, we wanted to expand Sarah’s portfolio – so I left it entirely up to her.

    With clients’ photo sessions, I do give recommendations. Same when I use models, although I leave it up to them as well. Most models have a good selection of clothes.

    For example, with these photo sessions of Ulorin Vex, I relied on her for her choice in clothing, since she has such an unusual wardrobe.

    Neil vN

  24. 36Artur Ocubaro says

    Hi, Neil!

    Is that possible You telling me the name of this music and where do You get this kind of music? Thanks!

  25. 38Artur Ocubaro says

    Hi, Neil!

    Thanks for Your feedback. I went there but its a little pricey for me….60 dollars per music! But, Thanks anyway! I ve bought the Spinlight 360 but still did not use. Thanks for Your great work!

  26. 39Artur Ocubaro says

    Hi, Neil!

    Its me again! I do not intend to be a pain in the a…but is that possible to narrower the possibilities of that song…I cant find there, there are 8 choices for searching the song….and for paying 60 dollars….I just really need the best song…and that is one that I could pay that value. Of course, that song matched Your perfect shot and the beautiful couple, but I really loved that song. Is that possible? Thanks!

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