Embrace your mistakes.

Short version: LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN – you will mess up someday, have other resources to fall back on!

The above image wasn’t supposed to happen like that – that result is not what I had in mind when I scheduled the shoot, planned out the model, wardrobe, and location. I had a distinct look in mind, using HSS and significantly overpowering the ambient light. (image without bar here) – (look I wanted here)

However, I forgot to take into consideration that I am an idiot.

I packed everything the day prior, and checked again the morning of the shoot. That afternoon, I drove 40 minutes, met up with Annie B, drove another 20 minutes, then took a 30 minute hike to the location. I start unpacking and setting up for my first look. Wait… where’s my umbrella bracket (this is the kind I use, Type E) … … … Dammit.

I have about ten of these, all of which are scattered around my spare bedroom /office. I thought that there was one on another lightstand in my trunk (there was) but that would delay the shoot another hour, when we had precious little time at the end of the day to start with.

Step 1: try and make it work. For the first look, I tried to get things to work by bungee-cord-ing an 86″ umbrella to the lightstand, and bouncing the flash from a few feet away. this worked somewhat, though it was clunky and I could not get things quite how I wanted. I liked the results we got, but it could only work just so, the flash had to be in one spot (which caused minor flare) and the umbrella had to be in one spot… not much freedom, but we made it work.

Annie B – Nikon D600 – 85mm f/1.8D – Neewer TT850 (HSS) – 86″ shoot through Umbrella


At this point, I decided to screw using the lights, screw what I had in mind, and shoot natural light. I made an error, and I had to deal with it. Annie and I had planned out this session for a magazine set, and nothing was going to stop us.

Whats this about ’embracing’ mistakes though?

Had I not made this mistake, I would have produced the images I had in my mind, yet since I could not shoot that, I had to improvise… and by god, if I had to get inventive on the spot, I was damn well going to do it right. We finished up the first set without making many changes – even though I lost a stop of light by not using HSS, I was still able to get a soft look with shallow DOF.

Annie B – Nikon D600 – 85mm f/1.8D – Shade
(Cropped horizontal image, full image here)


By having a comfortable grasp on natural light (even though I much prefer having all the control I can with lighting) allowed me to pull things together, and produce a solid set of images that ended up being picked up by Uncovered Magazine – which was our goal. However, since natural light isn’t my go-to method, I needed to step up my game and push my skills as far as I could. This ended up in several images that exceeded my expectations. See the entire set at Uncovered’s site [Uncovered: NSFW / 18+ for Topless]

The last set (same as the main set above) really made me work for it. I really wanted the dark ambient / fade to black that I can get with HSS, and I wanted to try and get that with ambient. So what I did was find a really shady corner, tucked away between loads of foliage, with one opening through to the sky. What this did was allow the generally lit area of the scene (Annie) to be well lit, yet the corners, tucked away under dense brush, to fade away into the dark. I would never have gotten this image (one I love, Annie loves, and a similar one the magazine used as the headliner image). Sure the HSS look might have been great, or even better, I’ll never know – but this made me work, and learn.

And learning is what it’s all about.

Annie – Nikon D5100 – 50mm f/1.4G – Shade
(Again cropped horizontal from a vertical, original here)


Things might not always go as you want or expect. That’s why I advocate learning more than anything. The more tools in your toolbox, the better equipped you are to face whatever happens. Add more tools, grow, learn, and progress as a photographer.

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