Headshots on the fly at the Hansma 60th Anniversary.

It’s not very often you have three generations gathered from all over the country all in one place. The Hansma 60th anniversary was one of those events. I knew from the outset that I wanted to create something special (i.e. more than candids) for this event. Something that I would want for my own family. So I set up an outdoor headshot booth.

Headshots at a family event? People generally have mixed feelings on being that close to a camera. People generally have mixed feelings on photo booths. And it all sounds more complicated (and more money) right? The second I showed Emily, who was organizing the event, of what a photo would look like coming out of such an arrangement, she said go for it.

The idea was to get classic portraits on the fly, without having it feel intrusive. If anything, I wanted the booth to add some additional entertainment to the day. I felt this would be something that would commemorate the event and glue the whole thing together photographically speaking.


And it worked. People had fun with it. We set it up on a deck that was out of the way of the main traffic flow, but close enough that people could see we were doing something up there.  


So in addition to delivering the digital images, I put together a blurb book - something the whole family could see and order online if they wished.

A good time had by all... 


This video isn't a technical dissertation of gridded light. It’s just inspired by my recent use of the grid (a little circular metal light modifier), and it was Zack Arias who turned me on to those. With minimal gear, these little grids offer up a lot of possibilities. Also note that if you have a monobloc strobe (e.g. white lightening/alien bee), that puts out 250W of light, you can grid that and use it as a continuous light source for video. Nicole and I filmed this whole video that way.

I don’t know what i was doing shooting without grids for so long. You get some flashes, and quickly enough you want to put them in umbrellas and softboxes to get big, big, big impressive soft light. So these little, circular, cheap metal grids for your flashes get neglected in comparison. They aint big. They are small, hard light sources. They aren't much to look at.


What a mistake! They are drama in a box. The drama machines.

nicole grids testII-3.jpg
downtown grids-9.jpg

I got the 10, 20, 30 and 40 degree PCB set. 10 is the most narrow beam of light, 40 is the widest.

10 degree grid.

10 degree grid.

30 degree grid

30 degree grid

One thing that almost nobody tells you explicitly (except Zack Arias) is how much great photographic potential there is when you feather the light. That is, aim the light to shoot just past your subject, and not directly on your subject. It is completely non-intuitive. You bought these huge soft lights - and you are going to aim them away from your subject? But that’s how you get the most options out of the light.