On a very rare weekend in town with nothing for me to do, I got a hold of my buddy Lina. After finding out she was just as bored, we met up to toy around with more studio stuff. This time we would shoot indoors. I was fully expecting to crash and burn since I had never really done a three lighting set up. Continue reading to see how this turns out.

Before the shoot I had to make a quick trip over to Tempe Camera to buy some white seamless paper for my backdrop. The problem with buying it I didn’t realize till I had outside to my car and began to figure out how the hell I was gonna get it to fit in my GTO. Below is as good as I could do.

The box of paper stuck out the side of the car about 8 inches which I figured would be no problem.

3 miles down the road when I was being pulled over did I realize that perhaps it was a problem.

The officer was very friendly and after I explained what it was he told me no problem. A few minutes later I was back on the road to head home to set up my poor mans studio in the garage.

The set up was two Alien Bee 1600watt lights on the sides and an Alien Bee Ring Flash as a fill light. The setup looked like this.

Heres a view from the other direction.

While Lina used the spare room at the house to change I did a quick test shot to get a baseline set up for the shots. My roommate was gone so I resorted to setting the camera on timer on the ground and standing in for the shot.

After a minute or two Lina was ready to go and we got started with some simple shots.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Nikon D3, 85mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th

Then I decided to try some shots with the ring flash. I did so in a bit of different fashion from how most use them.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

At first glance people seemed to think the effect was attained by shooting through some sort of prop for the framing effect. 


Lets zoom out a bit and you will see how the effect was attained.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

By simply not putting your lens into the hole on the flash you can use the edges of it to make a black frame around the subject. Some may argue that the shot sucks, and perhaps it does, but I like it.

Next I turned one of my lights back towards me to bounce off the back wall and light the back of the ring flash to try and have a cool colorful electronic look to it…..didn’t look near as cool as I envisioned.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Next I grabbed my roommates weight bench from the corner of the garage and stood on it and looked straight down on Lina for a different perspective.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th

Lookin straight down on her looked pretty cool so I put the lens all the way into the ring flash to eliminate the black framing and here is how it looked.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th

Here is the uncropped version of that shot for those of you who may be confused. (the red box shows the crop)

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th

On the right you will see my Macbook Pro which was playing some Sirius Satellite Radio so that it wasn’t awkwardly silent during the shoot.

As has seemingly become a trend for me I did a shot of Lina with the strobes overly bright to bring out her eyes.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Then it was time for Lina to change outfits so while she was gone I changed up the lighting setup. I dropped down to a two light setup with a blue gel on the background light and a amber gel on the other strobe with a 10 degree grid which would be aimed at the subjects head.

Lighting setup-

Test shot of myself-

Then Lina came out and we went to work.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th

Toned down the power on the blue gelled backlight to make the color more purpleish.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th

The shots were looking a little too gimmicky (like when a student photographer picks up gels for the first time) so I took the colors out of the equation. I also shut off the back light which left only the gridded light on her face.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f2.8, 1/250th

Then I added a bit more light and shot with the ring flash

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/250th

I then brightened the lights quite a bit to do some more blown out type shots.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th

Then I got on the bench to get closer and shoot down on her a bit.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f5, 1/250th

For one final outfit/pose we brought the bench into the shot for her to sit/lay on.

Heres a wide version showing the setup.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/250th

Here is how the final shot of the night looked.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th

That was it for the shoot. In closing I was very happy with how the images came out. While I still have a long way to go before I start getting gigs to shoot portraits I am at least getting slightly more comfortable with the whole lighting thing.

Posted in Me, Pocket Wizard, Portraits   | 15 Comments

15 responses to “Portrait Practice Part 3-The things you can do with a girl in a Garage”

  1. Lor Wor says:

    Mark, that is the cleanest garage I’ve seen in a while. It was dang near 100 degrees this weekend. Add three lights and I’m betting that garage was toasty. Good info – gracias.

  2. Tony says:

    Dig the one where you let the background go grey and shot with the ringflash. Nice work. I love reading your blog, keep the posts comming!

  3. Are you holding your seamless up with gaffer’s tape?

    The through the ring flash shots have a “Bond” quality to them.

  4. Jack Megaw says:

    The ones shot through the ring flash are making me want to watch Bond films!!

    Great shots as always!

  5. Jody says:

    Love the shots Mark. Beautiful work! Definitely gives me food for thought and incentive to throw the motorcycles and weight equipment out of my garage and take it over!

  6. Brett says:

    I like these. Much better results than the desert photos. These just have more of a pro or studio feel/look to them. Nice work.

    B.C. Socia

  7. Adam says:


    Please dont take this the wrong way since I honestly look up to and admire your sports pictures.
    I cant tell you how cool it is for me to watch you go through this whole learning process of shooting something that youre not familiar with. Im so glad you include ones you dont necessarily like but still show the learning process. I cant get enough of it haha.

  8. David Hobby says:

    Hey, Mark-

    Thanks much for the heads-up in my comments. I am looking forward to this in my next speedlinks!


  9. you have an astonishingly clean/organized garage.

  10. Kevin says:

    Howdy Mark,
    thanks for sharing your setup and the process. I can read these types of show and tell posts all day long. I’m inspired to try new stuff myself.
    Thanks again-

  11. Tropikal says:

    Hey Mark,
    really, thanks for sharing your setup. I really need to get my thangs together and build my own too. Your shots are fantastic! Looking forward to more of your posts.

  12. […] • Sports shooter Mark Rebilas spends a rare off-weekend practicing with a ring flash in his garage studio setup. […]

  13. Jim Brown says:

    I like your use of creativity in such a small space.

    Very nice results.

  14. Rik Chidester says:

    Mark….Let’s see a session such as this with Ashley Force Hood….or Danica….OR Melanie Troxel, who is one foxey Fuel Coupe handler, who in my opinion is very UNDER photographed. I’m hoping you venture up to Seattle in July to enjoy some of our famous Pacific Northwest “Softbox” light. Kindest Regards, Rik

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