Category Archives: Portraits

2016 Portrait Lighting Techniques Workshop Report

Iowa Portrait Photographer


It’s been a while since I’d offered a portrait lighting techniques workshop, and I was thrilled that a fabulous assortment of photographers came together for the one I offered this fall in West Des Moines, Iowa. The group ranged from experienced portrait artists, to photographers of other genres wanting to learn some portrait skills. We had a very fun full day of photography and I’m pleased that the feedback has been extremely positive.

Mark S Peterson Photo Workshops
Ayeesha by Minniette Bucklin

We started the day going over some lighting concepts in a classroom setting. After nailing down the basics of lighting patterns, equipment, and some techniques, we were joined by three fantastic models – Ayeesha, Kasi, and Sara – whom I’d hired to be subjects for a morning studio portrait shooting session. We shot in a studio setting with a few different plain backdrops and straightforward lighting using studio strobes, my favorite triggers (PocketWizards), and a variety of modifiers – soft boxes, umbrellas, and reflectors. We discussed lighting strategies for getting started as well as some more elaborate lighting approaches.

Mark S. Peterson Photo Workshops
Ashley by Luciana Sarmento

In the afternoon, we moved outside to discuss location lighting techniques and equipment. We were joined again by model Ayeesha,  as well as by models Ashley and Sabah, and all three patiently posed for our group members in a variety of locations as we explored several of the many portrait-friendly backgrounds and locations that can be found throughout the Valley Junction area of West Des Moines.

Mark S. Peterson Photo Workshops
Sabah by Cynthia Hanevy

The day was fast-paced and moved quickly, and I think the group of photographers and models had as much fun as I did. Below is a gallery of photos some of the participants have forwarded to me to share, and be sure to follow the links in the featured photos embedded here in the text. I extend my thanks to the great group of photographers who really worked hard throughout the day to master their lighting skills, and also to the models who joined us for this fun workshop!

Group portrait fun, revisited

So as usual, it’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog. What a frantically busy season! While I logged in today to post on another subject, I immediately noticed my last post below, in which I posted some photos of my oldest daughter’s high-school homecoming group of friends from last autumn. This reminded me that I had just recently photographed my next-oldest daughter in a similar situation, with two of her “besties” prior to this fall’s homecoming dance. It’s her sophomore year of high-school, and she and a big group of friends gathered for dinner and to attend the Homecoming Dance as a large entourage.

So here she is with a couple of her closest buddies. We had a great time taking these photos, as I think you might be able to see when you view the gallery. I tend not to post many client galleries, but I am happy to post these (I’m the client I guess?) – I hope you like them.

And for the photographers reading, my gear has changed a bit since the last similar session I photographed a year ago. This time around, all of the photos were created in natural light, with a Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera and Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4R lens. All at f/1.4, auto-ISO, in the Fuji RAF raw format, and processed in Lightroom 5.

Group portrait fun! Iowa portrait photographer

The past year has turned out to be immensely busy. As one can likely tell by my posting frequency (or infrequency, as it is probably more accurately described), I don’t tend to blog very frequently. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy it or don’t want to share my work. I simply have very little unscheduled time between back-to-back or even overlapping projects, and blogging falls by the wayside. I have recently told myself I need to do so more frequently, so I’m going to “catch up” by posting images I’ve meant to blog but just so far have not.

I mention this now, because while I frequently shoot portraits for both portraiture and editorial clients, I had a group portrait session last fall that was very special to me. My oldest daughter and a number of her very best friends asked me to photograph them as part of a school homecoming-dance event, and we had a great time. Ever since that evening, I have meant to post a few of the photos from the session.

So finally, with a short block of available time tonight and that particular shoot in mind, here are a few favorites from that session. Enjoy – and thanks for reading!

(Oh, and for the photographers reading, these were shot with a Nikon D800E SLR, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens (which I tend to use as a “long wide-angle” on full-frame cameras), and a combination of natural light and subtle fill from an off-camera SB-800 speedlight triggered with an SC-28 remote cable).

Updated: Model Event with New Impressions Salon

Start with five stunning models, two amazing hairstylists, a make-up wizard, and a costume stylist with a degree in Art History.  Add an awesome palette of make-up, a wall covered with dresses, and the most fabulous shoes known to man woman Des Moines.  Finally, add a little jewelry and shake it all up in a well-equipped studio. What do you get?  An absolute blast of an afternoon!   And a stunning portfolio of glamorous photos, as well!

Thanks much to our lovely models Jayme, Jessica, Joanna, Kelli, and Terra, and to the talented artists Thomas, Meghan, and Aurilla from New Impressions Salon, for a fabulous model event this week at Ikonix Studio in Des Moines. Enjoy the photos!

In the Studio with Liz

Liz, a personal trainer in Minneapolis, recently contacted me to have some new headshots made for her business.  She wanted to emphasize her athleticism and strength in a studio look, and she was great fun to work with. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Since recently I’ve been asked about my studio set-up rather frequently, here’s some info for the photographers reading…

I made these photos with a traditional 3-light portrait setup using three Profoto Compact 600R studio lights on Liz:

  • Main light in a 4×6′ Photoflex LightDome softbox, camera right
  • Fill light in a 2×3′ Photoflex LightDome softbox, camera left
  • Hair light in a small Photoflex Halfdome strip box with grid, behind and left, at lowest setting

I also added a Profoto Compact 300R with grid at low power to light the background (a 10′ white seamless) with fall-off.  And since I continue to be asked, these days I photograph in the studio primarily with the same gear I use for my nature and landscape photography – in this case, a Nikon D3 and 70-200 f/2.8VR lens.  (In the old days I primarily used 35mm gear in the field, and Rolleiflex 6000-series medium format SLRs in the studio; I do still have my favorite Rolleiflex, a 6001 Professional, but it hasn’t seen the light of…studio…in quite some time).  I use PocketWizard Plus II’s to control my Profoto Compacts, which all have built-in PocketWizards of their own (that’s the “R” in the model name – for Radio-controlled).

After we completed her personal training images, Liz asked if we could shoot some fashion in a dress her mom had recently sent her from Kenya.  Stay tuned for that…next post!

Terra and Justine – Woodland Faeries

The legend of the Lake Ahquabi faerie goddesses, Terra and Justine, has persisted in this area for many years. This summer, numerous sightings were reported. But no one had ever photographed the mythical beauties. So early one recent morning, my assistant Sarah and I jumped into the car to investigate.

Not only did we find the fair-skinned wood nymphs of lore, adorned only in iris leaves, fresh-cut flowers, and flowing skirts, they let us photograph them (for hours – even after three hours of make-up). Then suddenly, they vanished into the woods…will they be seen again?

All photographs © Mark Peterson Photography.  Sarah Johnson assisted in all photos. Costumes and make-up by Justine and Terra, make-up assistance by Sarah.