it was one of those days ..

You know how some days you have the feeling that the day is just filled with all kinds of possibilities? Today was one of those days. I got to meet and hang out with someone’s whose work I admire – Frank Doorhof. Frank is a fashion photographer from The Netherlands who is highly regarded for his lighting skills. He is currently visiting New York to present workshops on photography lighting. (In fact, there are still a few spots open for the Monday workshop.)

A mutual friend, Richard Verlaque, arranged for us to meet, with the intention of us also doing a photo shoot, and possibly exploring some of New York. The exploration of New York was mostly us just sitting in traffic though. But we did get to hang out and chat during the afternoon and over dinner. We also spent time photographing our model, Meagan, who met up with us in Coney Island. It was a great day, filled with interesting conversations about photography. Equally good was to watch Frank work and trying out new ideas. Thank you to Richard for arranging this, and to our patient model, Meagan.

A little more about this photograph ..

That’s Frank Doorhof there, flat down on the boardwalk.
It’s not comfortable. There are splinters.

The lighting was with my Profoto AcuteB 600R power pack (B&H) that I use when I need a lot of juice to match bright sunlight.  The light modifier is the Profoto beauty dish (B&H).  Frank likes his light to be dramatic, so that’s what we settled for using for the first part of the shoot.  The light was set up to counter some of the harsh shadows of the sun.

In this photograph, I initially didn’t like that her hand was “touching” the Parachute Jump in the background.  I also wanted more separation between her feet and the ground, and didn’t like how her toe was “touching” the building in the background.  But looking at this image again in comparison to others, I felt it hinted more at a super-hero theme with Meagan towering over the background structures like that.

Camera settings:  1/250 @ f11 @ 200 ISO .. but our model moved closer to the beauty dish when she jumped, so I had to pull down the exposure by 1.5 EV in processing the RAW file.  To sweeten the final image, I used  the Spicify setting in Topaz Adjust. (If you do order a Topaz product through that affiliate link, use the code ‘planetneil’ for 15% discount.)

19 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Roel says

    great guest introduction…

    Just a question: is it actually pulling down the exposure that saturates the sky and increases the contrast or is it rather the Topaz add-on?

    I’m wondering since I’m often faced with washed-out skies when metering correctly for the skin…

    Best regs,


  2. 2Neil vN says

    Roel .. ideally, if I had shot the image at f16 or more, then the sky would’ve been darker / more saturated any way.

    This is in fact a side-effect of using flash like this outdoors – to saturate / darken the surroundings. (This isn’t flash as mere fill-flash, but as a main source of light.) We under-expose the surroundings to an extent, and then give our subject correct exposure with flash.

    But even with me pulling down the exposure of the RAW file, it still needed a bit more pop, so I used Topaz on another layer at reduced opacity, to just give the colours a bit more vibrance.

    I could’ve used a Soft Light Layer to give the image more snap as well. There are many ways of doing this. : )

    Neil vN

  3. 3Pasquier says

    Neil, great to see that you met Frank – a privilege – I admire his work a lot ….. just wonder if he has infected you with his medium format bug?

  4. 4Neil vN says

    Pasquier .. not quite. Medium format digital is a bit spendy for my tastes. I’d much more prefer a Nikon D3x. :)

    Neil vN

  5. 6Mika says

    Roel, as you can see the background is underexposed to a fair amount, as well as her legs. This also produces a well saturated blue sky. The important part with the underexposure is to light up the model with flash, which means a lot of power at f11.

    To get rid of your washed out skies try to underexpose the whole frame and push up the subjekt via flash light. Using a filter/plug-in to saturate the colors even more might just be the finetuning.

  6. 7 says

    You can also just use a 580ex or SB900 direct and get f11. The light won’t be as soft, but if the model is looking toward the flash the facial shadows will be minimized and it will work. Or, you could do it with 2 SB900s through an umbrella if you place the umbrella close enough. Those are work-arounds, of course. If you can afford (or rent) something like the AcuteB, then it would be the way to go.

  7. 9Eero says

    Love it, not very often do you see Frank at work in a photo.
    This shot gives me another idea for outdoor shoot. Need to find a wooden walkway near the beaches (Toronto) area…

  8. 10Jay says

    First, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Your blog is a great resource.

    In a situation where you could use either on-camera bounce flash or off-camera flash, what would you 1st choice be?


  9. 11 says

    Jay … I’m inherently a little lazy. If I can effectively sweeten the image with just bounce flash, instead of carting around & setting up off-camera flash, then I’ll go with on-camera bounce flash.

    Neil vN

  10. 12Thorsten says

    It’s a small world! I had the pleasure of attending one of Franks workshops when he visited Cork last year (sometime before you came to Cork, if I’m not mistaken). Having also attended your workshop here in Cork, I can honestly say that if someone were to ask me which one was better, I’d have to reply that they were both worth going to as I learned a lot from both of you.

    I’d encourage any photographer to attend as wide a variety of workshops as possible in order to benefit from the experience of people with different approaches. My own photography has improved more from attending workshops than it has from buying new kit (which I haven’t done much of recently) and I feel workshops are often overlooked by photographers looking to improve their skills and work output.

  11. 13David says


    I like it, her left leg must have been moving fast to still cause some motion blur at 1/250 sec while the rest of her body is frozen in time, or did you press the shutter just as she reached the apex of her jump? I also like the fact that Meagan looks like she is hanging onto the Parachute Jump, almost like she has just swung around on it.

    PS: On a different subject, have you had chance to try ACR 5.7 yet? (Since sending you my e-mail the final version for both Mac and PC has now been released) :)


  12. 14Neil vN says

    David … as you noticed, 1/250 isn’t fast enough to freeze action like this. So I did try to catch her at the peak of her jump, just at that moment that she is weightless in the air.

    I did the update for ACR5.7 but haven’t looked yet at how the shadow detail is improved. Thank you for the info email. The updated processing does look better in the samples you showed.

    Neil vN

  13. 15 says

    I love your blog, very informative and helpful! Would you mind sharing the focal length of your images in addition to aperature, shutter speed and ISO?
    I would like to get a better idea about the effects of different focal length on portraits. Thanks!


  14. 16Neil vN says

    Bjoern … I have started to add the focal length to the data when it is relevant.

    With this image though, an educated guess about the focal length will most likely be correct. Or close enough. The perspective tells all. What do you think it would be? :)

    Neil vN

  15. 17 says

    Hi Neil,

    Question… I’ve seen it posted before and you mentioned it here that you “need a lot of juice to match bright sunlight”. Or, in other shoots that you needed to overpower the sun with your light.

    From a technical stand-point, how did you overpower the sun? Did you incident meter the subject first and get the reading and then set your flash to be more powerful than that reading? Or, what is your method that when, in broad daylight, you can “overpower the sun” so the lighting “power” is then in your hands and controllable?

    You always explain your methods in easy-to-understand terms, so I’m looking forward to learning more on this. THANKS! -Amanda

  16. 18Neil vN says

    Hi there Amanda ..

    To over-power the sun, could mean adding enough flash to harsh sunlight to help ease the contrast. More often, it means setting your exposure such that the sunlight is under-exposed, and then adding enough flash to give you correct exposure.

    So a typical approach would be to meter for the scene, and under-expose by 2/3 or 1 stop. Or more. Or less. And then dump enough light from your flash to expose correctly.

    I hope this helps.

    Neil vN

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