Category Archives: People

Safety First

A Santa Barbara charter boat company, Truth Aquatics, contacted me about a new life jacket info sheet for their fleet of boats. I thought shooting the new images on the boat instead of in the studio would really elevate the attention of the passengers.

Cherie Noel, a LA based model, joined us on a trip over to Catalina Island and brought along some of her favorite swimsuits. When I saw her 40’s style bathing suit I knew that was the look we needed. Life jackets aren’t very flattering so having a talented and beautiful model like Cherie really helps. I’m always impressed with how much effort good models put into their job. It may look easy but it really isn’t.




I lit the scene with two speedlights; a gridded rim on the left and the key was a shoot-thru umbrella on the right. Ambient was “soft sun”, I could just see a light shadow. ISO 200, 1/200sec f/8.


I had a chance to photograph a couple of the lifeguards at the Santa Barbara historic Los Banos del Mar city pool. It was a bright, sunny day so I moved Dustin into the shade cast by a palm tree at the shallow end of the pool. I set up one flash, gridded, on camera left to give him some edge lighting and the key flash on the right, no diffusion, just a bare flash. ISO 200 at 1/250sec, f/8, blew out the background by about 1 2/3 stops. Overexposing the sunlit area kept the background from looking too busy and really helped focus the eye on Dustin. This lighting/exposure technique is a favorite of fashion shooters on location.


Dustin McQuary;Santa Barbara lifeguard Dustin McQuary


During this summer’s InWater Photography course at Brooks Institute one of the students brought a silicone mermaid tail, designed by Eric Ducharme, on our 5‑day boat trip down to Catalina Island. Getting into the tail, and then getting the mermaid into the water, was a group effort but it looked amazing in the water.


RAC_130709_011Angelina and Todd helping put the tail on Cherie. Lots of baby oil was involved.

blogmermaidMermaids Jane Austin and Hannah Geer


A lot of my peers and clients don’t think of me as a people photographer. But ever since my son was born (he’s 24 now), and I was informed by my wife that I would be taking lots of photos of him, I’ve gotten to love working with people. Creating good people images is as much about their body language and facial expression as it is about lighting and post work, something I learned from paying attention to Peter Hurley.  Peter has a great DVD and online training session on how to create dynamic “headshots”.


The left image is pretty dull. Just a change in shoulder angle, a tilt of the body towards the camera, and attention to where the kicker and main light are falling makes a big difference.


At the end of each semester at Brooks Institute I offer to photograph students in my Lighting Theory course. Using the Einstein E640 flash as my main light and a Nikon SB900 as my kicker flash, I’ll shoot the students in a couple of different poses. The “demo” shows them how quickly you can create different variations of a portrait.


 Photographed at the library and gallery on the Brooks Institute campus, Santa Barbara.