No, not The Boss, although I’d be gushing about that non-stop for weeks if I could ;). I’m talking about the broker in charge of Carolina One Real Estate’s Main Street office, Christina Ellis. I call her the boss, because she’s my wife’s broker.


There’s just a little bit of stress when you get tasked to shoot a head shot for your wife’s boss. Not just the usual responsibility of making someone happy with the way they look (trust me, most people cringe at the thought of having their picture taken, so us photogs have to damn near have a psychology degree to convince people that you’ll make sure they look their best), but the responsibility of making your wife not look like a jerk for referring you if you botch the job!


Luckily, it would take a complete failure of epic proportions to botch a job like this – Christina needs no help from me to look good. She’s naturally photogenic, so the only thing I need to worry about is getting the light right. Here’s the diagram of the white background, which was a reversible collapsible background from Adorama. Note my method of lighting the background with bounce umbrellas and feathering the light from them to give me some rim lighting for the subject.

I had the softbox right up close to her. In fact, it was so close that I had my assistant, aka my wife Amy, hold the bottom lip of the box up so it wouldn’t get in the shot. For the black side, I had to ditch the umbrellas and use snoots to focus the light so it wouldn’t influence the blackness of the background. The snoots are actually just beer cozies with the bottoms cut off. It’s an ingenius idea I learned from wedding photographer David Ziser in one of his Kelby Training videos.

One of the problems that arose is something that I’ve been dealing with for quite a while now. My go-to medium zoom lens is a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. About 6 months or so ago it started to get stuck at 24mm when twisting the zoom ring. It’s very annoying, but I can just pull the lens from the front cap and it will move. I was ineligible for warranty coverage because I bought a display model, so it’s considered used. Another problem is that it’s not sealed well at all, so there is a ridiculous amount of dust inside the lens. It’s not noticeable at large apertures, but if I venture past f/11, it’s unusable. The worst problem of all though is the random focusing issues, which is what plagued me during this shoot. I can fire off a series of shots and some will be blurry for no good reason, other’s will back focus a few inches so that the ears are the only thing that’s sharp, and if I’m lucky, one will be just right. This is not just annoying, it’s a hazard! My favorite shot expression-wise from this job had to be ditched because the eyes were muddy, but the hair on the back of her head was tack sharp. I broke down and ordered a new lens as soon as I got home because of this. If I’m charging people their hard-earned money for a product, then it’s my responsibility to give them the best product I can make. I’ve been able to squeeze by with the shortcomings of the Tamron for a long time now, but this showed me once again that I can lose the best moment because of it, not because of my lack of ability. I’ll also steer clear of Tamron lenses from now on since their quality control is notoriously uneven and their warranty policy is proof of that. If I tried to sell this lens, I’d get next to nothing for it – it holds no resale value (especially since it’s technically broken). I have gotten by with it for a long time despite of it’s shortcomings, but I’ve known to shoot a lot of photos in case one is blurry or back-focused.

The last photo I shot of Christina was shot with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. I wanted a natural light, shallow DoF photo more for myself more than for the job, but to be honest, I bet she likes this one the best also. I just popped on the prime lens, opened it up as large as it will go and got in really close to her. Simple, quick, and an example of what a good lens is capable of – I only took two shots like this and that’s because the first one still had the white balance set to flash on the camera.


I’ll write up a post about my new lens when I finally get to do some work with it. I’m super excited because it’s a Nikkor lens, so I know it will rock!

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