Location Portrait :: Lighting to Lightroom · DEDPXL

A group of artists here in Atlanta have started a project in conjunction with the Inside Out Project. The Inside Out Project was started by French street artist JR. You may have seen JR’s TED Talk about using art to turn the world inside out. If you are not familiar with his work you should take a little moment right now to feel ashamed of yourself and go research the hell out of what that man is doing with a camera, tens of thousands of square feet of paper and vinyl, a few friends, and a metric shit ton of passion.

#weloveatl and Atlanta artists Brandon Barr, Tim Moxley, Aaron Coury, Monica Campana and 45 photographers in Atlanta are participating in this project. The project is called 45×45 and is centered around an area of Atlanta called the Beltline that touches 45 neighborhoods around the urban center of the city. I was assigned a neighborhood and was given the contact information for the neighborhood association president and there was zero hesitation when asked who we should photograph in their neighborhood; It HAD to be Rabbit.

Rabbit_45x45_Zack_Arias_1601 copy

Rabbit is such a lovely man. He’s soft spoken and about the kindest person you could meet. I figured he’d also be a great addition to my Faces & Spaces project so that was the approach I took for this assignment. I wanted a nice clean headshot on a white background followed up by an available light portrait in his environment.

Rabbit_45x45_Zack_Arias_4901In the video above I outline my usual steps for B&W conversions and little things I do in Lightroom and/or Photoshop to finish an image. I’m working on a full length workflow / post production / archiving / nuts & bolts video right now. I skip over a few things in this video because I spent half my time just talking about things like the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. In the full length video and an upcoming DEDPXL post I’ll go into detail about things like the ColorChecker Passport and why I use it and how I use it. I also skip a bit about Color Efex Pro in this video because that’s a discussion that can be had on its own. Below you can check out the three steps for the headshot image of Rabbit from the color image to the first click of the B&W conversion to the final image after I tweaked it to my liking. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Rabbit_3_upIn the video you will also see the new LG 21:9 34UM95 ultrawide screen Thunderbolt monitor. I found out about this monitor sometime back in February and pre-ordered it at the price of $899. It had an MSRP of $999 and there was a $100 rebate. Score! I had to wait until mid July for it to start shipping to the US. It’s now $1,294 on Amazon. I see that Amazon has it as Prime item but I can’t get a direct link to that one for some reason. They are selling it for $1240 and they say it’s 3 to 6 weeks for delivery.

Is it worth that price? OMG yes. I knew that as I began upgrading my workstation this year I would be replacing my six year old Lacie monitors that are starting to have some issues. While the Apple Thunderbolt display is a pretty nice screen I wasn’t convinced that I wanted two of them on my desktop. At $999 per screen I figured there were some better options out there. I’ll talk more about monitors in an upcoming post.

I’m so glad I waited. It’s hard to see in the video how wide this is because Caleb shot the video above with the Panasonic 7 to 14mm lens. It is easy to see in the video how wide I AM, though. Jeebus. That lens does me no justice does it? I’ve recently cut three food groups out of my diet to work on that: Beer, bread, and sugar. Anyhoo… Here’s the LG next to the Apple. (It still doesn’t do this monitor justice.)


I hope you enjoyed the video. If you have any questions about the gear I used, the lighting, or about the post production please hit me up in the comments below and I’ll answer them for you.


PS – If you are in Atlanta be sure to check out the 45×45 Inside Out Project that will be up by September 6th. I believe the location is going to be on North Ave under the Beltline bridge. I can’t wait to see all the photos from the 45 photographers.

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Ano-mister

    The monitor — what are you driving that with? The new macPro? Or a laptop? Love your reflector/diffuser/whatever sitting there in your ceiling.

    • Zack

      I have a new Mac Pro (trashcan model) running the new monitor. I mention it briefly in the video. That is a black pop open flag to cut down the light from the skylight.


  2. Ano-mister

    DOH. watch the video first, mr. mister!

  3. John

    “Beer, bread, and sugar”… yup, delicious carbs are making us all fat. Good luck, Zack.

  4. JP Manninen


    is that focus fall-off specific to the Phase One or is it similar across the different digital MF platforms? I’m talking about Rabbit’s B&W portrait.

    The shirt and his hair and his ears fall out of focus really drastically and with the white seamless there’s a certain cut-out feel to the outline of Rabbit. Did you enhance the OOF part of the image using different types of blur tools or is that what comes out of the camera at f/4?

    I ask because that looks really different from DSLR and 120 film which is what I have experience in. And I remember you having this OOF discussion with the Fuji review…

    • Zack

      It’s different with different subjects. Rabbit’s ears seemed to really have a stark line. Had I been shooting tethered I would have noticed that more and probably stopped down to 5.6 or something to bring that under control a bit. Adding some clarity to the final image most likely added to that a bit as well. When shooting close with that 80mm though that focus just falls off a cliff.


  5. jason

    No more beer?! That means you can’t be a part of my project, PintPeople.
    Still, thanks for sharing your knowled with us. Being self taught is easier with guys like you around!

  6. Jayson

    Killer video and portrait session. What’s the story with the “Sony Z100s”? lol

  7. jamie

    yes, the ears ARE a bit weird at the edges. possibly the backlight being too hot by a stop? possibly pulling down the whites & highlights in the raw converter would alleviate that. if you care, that is.

  8. Robin

    Really a great video. Thanks for putting this together. Looking forward to the full post production video.

  9. DLuker

    It cracks me up that you purposefully didn’t say “Fuji” one single time. To all the asshats who love to bitch about Fuji ads: Neeeeeener!! with tongue noises 😛

    Glad you’re still working on Faces & Spaces. Rabbit is an excellent addition.

  10. adam

    that was great. many thanks.

    couple of questions – did you give rabbit a print of his headshot or environmental portrait?

    and while i like the result you got – skin blemishes were more apparent and distracting in the colour version – why did you choose black and white for the headshot?

    • adam

      d’oh! i realised the reason for black and white the moment i clicked submit.

      so lets rephrase the question – if the project wasn’t restricted to black and white, would you have kept the headshot in colour, or gone ahead with the black and white conversion.

  11. Ben W

    Great video, Zack. My only question is, why bother with PS to clean up the hairs when the Clone/Heal brush in LR does such a good job? It seems to me that’s just an extra step in workflow, is there something I’m missing? Do you need that extra nth degree of control due to the IQ/definition of the Phase file?

    Unrelated, congratulations and my unwavering support in your quest to shed a few pounds. I used to go about 320, now 260 (working on that last 40). It’s a grind, but the cognitive benefits alone are worth the toil, not to mention the physical ones. I’m an open book if you have questions. Cheers.

  12. brooon

    Do they sell sugar free bombardier? and colour checker passport, in the past you said you dont use it that often? Is there a specific reason for this ie using the Phase would you a have still used it with the XT1?

  13. Al Ebnereza

    Rabbit’s got quite the radio voice. And I can feel that the child within him is still alive and well…

    BTW Zack, you aren’t supposed to be showing that top secret Sony prototype just yet! That can get you in trouble in all kinds of ways!

  14. Greg

    “Shut up Caleb.” = Absolute perfection.

    As for the rest of the vid, thank you for more inspiration. I’m sure these videos are a lot of work to prepare and yet you give them away for free. So, all I got is thank you. I am putting out better photos for my friends due to your benevolence…hopefully that is worth something to you.

  15. Mike

    Quick question – do you find much difference between a beauty dish and a small umbrella? I ask because the umbrella is way easier to transport and set up.

  16. Dade Freeman

    Sounds like the overall project is a great community spirited idea 🙂

    Rabbit has a characterful face. Having watched your edits, I clearly need to spent less time on my shots 😛

  17. claude etienne

    Hi Zack,

    Does the LG monitor run at 30hz or 60hz? From what I’ve read, 30hz 4k monitors produce significant input lag. Also, some people have reported excessive light bleeding with this model. Apparently, it was only a problem with the first batch. I hope it’s been resolved because this monitor looks fantastic, especially for the price.

  18. Bryan Leighty

    Did the same thing with removing those three food groups from my diet recently as well. Energy is UP and weight is DOWN! Throw in a few days a week of exercise and you’ll be surprised how much more charge you have through the days. Thanks for all you do Zack!

  19. ATLDOC

    My Sony Z100S is in the mail!!!!!!

  20. PhotoEd

    Great video, Zack. Didn’t realize you could work with the Phase files in Lightroom. I’ve got an OLD phase back and have always just used C1, will have to look into that. Looking forward to your workflow video. Continued Success to you.

  21. Jan

    Zack, as usual: super useful information here and easy to watch, thanks a lot. I am currently trying to get information on tagging and it is not as easy as I thought. Do you tag?

    If so, it would be great if you could touch on that topic in your extended workflow video. Questions I would be specifically interested in: do you use Lightroom for tagging? EXIF or IPTC or XMP or all? Which fields do you use for what? Do you batch-tag all images after a shoot with basic info + individually tag the ones you choose to publish or only tag the final edit? Do you use a fixed taxonomy or make terms up on the fly or both? If you use a fixed taxonomy, could you share some tips on how to come up with a useful system and how to keep on top of it?
    Thanks again, best, Jan

  22. Andy

    No beer?? How are you supposed to stay hydrated?!

    • Zack

      I’ve found that Bourbon has water in it. 🙂


  23. JT

    I find that I rarely carry c stands because I hate the way that the base folds up and it’s an awkward shape to pack. What do you use for that?

    • Zack

      The ones with a removable base are a bit easier to transport as they can fit in a bag but then the bag is heavy and awkward. C-stands are the best stands ever but they suck when you have to take them on location.


  24. Chris Hood

    I really like how you made him feel good, feel important. All that fuss just for him. You guys treated him specieal and it came through in the final photograph.

  25. Giovanni Maggiora

    Hi Zack
    Interesting to watch you in action! other than dealing with cobras in the streets of Marrakesh, that is…

    Hassy portraits *handheld*?? I thought that beast had unforgiving resolution. You have hands of steel.

    I’ll be interested to see your workflow video, ‘cos there was a lot of randomness in what you showed us here. You are not using your own preset recipes in Lightroom? They are the road to productivity heaven in my book…

    Also, I will echo some comments above, why jumping to PS when some stuff is more efficiently doable in LR?

    Looking forward to the full shebang!

    Sorry for beer brewers, but you’re on the right track, by the way…

    Take care,

  26. Tommi

    I’ve been wanting to ask this for a while. On a number of your videos, or at least this one and the band shoot on the One Light 2.0 video, we see you using both the Phase and the “Sonys” (ha!) on the same shoot. Makes me wonder. If you’re bringing the Phase with you anyway, why not shoot the entire shoot with it?

    I can only think of two possible reasons in this case. Either you have some glass for the Fuji that you don’t have an equivalent for the Phase, or it’s about the Fuji giving you more depth of field while using a wide aperture in order to get the shot with available light only. Am I even close? ;p

    Oh, and sorry about derailing towards gear here, I do realise it wasn’t the point. Just curious as to how you juggle your gear. After all, you do have some very different tools in your bag.

    • Zack

      No worries Tommi! Ask any sort of question you want.

      The Phase is a gorgeous beast of a camera. Key word there… beast. And it sucks above ISO 200. I try to keep that at ISO 50 – 100 most of the time. As soon as I need something above ISO 200 then I use the Fuji. So in this instance I was shooting for my faces and spaces project. I shoot that project the same way each and every time for consistency. Headshot with the Phase. That’s the hero shot for me. Then the secondary goal is an available light environmental shot. I like to get set up, get my headshot, then take one environmental on my way out. I just naturally fell into shooting this way for this project. No rhyme or reason other than that’s just sort of how it happened when I started it. Actually, the whole goal at the start was just to shoot headshots. It morphed into the “spaces” part.

      Sometimes I work in a very slow and methodical way and light everything and the Phase is brilliant for that. Other times I want to move around quickly and shoot whatever is going on in front of me and the Fuji is brilliant for that. Or… a smaller camera than the Phase is brilliant for that. Canon, Nikon, Fuji, whatever. Something small, nimble, and capable of shooting in lower light.

      Sometimes I need a wrench. Sometimes I need a screw driver.


  27. Daf

    Photo Mechanic
    Why, wherefore, and all that jazz ?

    Better than Bridge / Nikon View/Transfer-NX / Canon-doobrie or others ?
    Have heard it mentioned before (possibly yourself) but not really looked into it.

    • Zack

      Crayons and copy paper is better than anything Nikon or Canon has produced! 🙂

      PhotoMechanic is what I use to cull my images before I work on the edit. I use it because of how blazing fast it is. More on that to come.


    • Jorge Ledesma

      Hey, DAF

      Photomechanics is the ultimate import tool to ingest your SD/CF etc. Its fast as the name of the Zack’s talent in this shoot – Rabbit, and it just flies. It also gives you the fastest preview at 100% to see if you nailed that focus. Overall, its a great app. I wrote a little something last year on Photomechanics 5 that might be of interest – My Photography Workflow: from Photo Mechanic 5 to Lightroom http://wp.me/p2AlGJ-5sO

  28. Andi

    Dear Zack

    What kind of background reflector (brand, specs) are you using in this video? It looks very handy when folded, yet big enough when in use. The ones that I have are either too small or too big.


    • Zack



  29. rick collins

    Zack, nice as always, but my question/concern is this:
    I find this and a lot of work being produced right now ice cold. Perfect light. Perfect pixels. You are a film guy, why are you drifting towards this hyper-real alien feel as opposed to the warm, imperfect work of your past?
    We are never going to replicate film, and why should we, but should we not still be looking for that feeling?

  30. Bill Simmons

    Thanks, Zach, I really appreciate this video, especially how it shows your use of lighting and the way you make your subject comfortable. Curious about one thing in the post processing you didn’t seem to cover. What did you do for sharpening on the BW headshot? Basically stick with the default sharpening from LR? I saw that the “Sony” capture was a jpeg, which would have already had in camera sharpening, but I presume you worked with a RAW file from the Phaseone. Perhaps I was wrong about that though. Thanks.

    • Zack

      @Bill – Honest to God… I’ve never added sharpening on my Phase One images. They are so damn sharp out of camera. They don’t need any sharpening at all.


      • Steve

        Hi Zack,

        Appreciate this thread is a few months old now (but hope you’ll pick it up anyways). I was wondering about the “straight out of camera” available light image from the X100s and whether that did in fact mean you were using the JPEG rather than RAF (or file converted to DNG)?

        As someone who’s recently had a joyous Fuji X epiphany, I’m still getting to grips with my new workflow and can’t yet make my mind up about when or whether to just use the (amazing) Jpegs, or alternatively what method to use for processing the RAF files. There’s a whole load of pixel peepers out there frying my brain on the pros and cons of various different methods and software for demosaicing. All a bit too much for me. I just want a decent starting point without too much faffing around!

        I previously just put my Canon 5D II raws straight to DNG in Lightroom and tweaked from there, as I was never a big fan of Canon’s out of camera presets. Whereas now I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the various film simulations (with tone adjusted highlights and shadows etc) from my Fuji’s but can’t get anywhere near the same results in Lightroom.

        So, what are you doing with your Fuji files? If you’ve already covered this in the more in depth post you had planned, what’s the link? If not, please, please (with little bells on) can we have it soon?

        Thanks again for everything you’re doing. You’re a legend!


  31. Terrence Bibb


    Really looking forward to your updated full length workflow / post production / archiving / nuts & bolts video. Really interested in your updated workstation as well as how you handle your Fuji Raw files. Color Checker, video etc. etc.

    Thanks for all the years up uplifting and sharing with the community. May favor continue to fall on you and your family.

    Terrence B.

  32. Joe

    Which stand are you using to support the 5-in-1 reflector? (That I just purchased via your suggestion).

    • Joe

      Forget about the above question as I found the answer but what are you using to attach the Einstein to the C-Stand? I bought the same setup but the E does not fit onto the C-Stand, what adapter should I buy? Thanks!!

      • Zack

        The Einstein BARELY fits on my c-stand arms. I have to push it really hard to get them to mount. Kind of a pain in the ass.


  33. Wood

    A simple and inelteiglnt point, well made. Thanks!