CHUCK ARLUND BLOG » living one weekend closer to death

Lighting recipe for a Christmas cook book cover.

BookCover Chase Rivers

I recently photographed a image for the cover of a Christmas Cook Book written by Chase Rivers. Look him up at The Martha Stewart of the south.

I had a few photographers ask me how this image was lit. So here it goes. I actually remembered to take some pullback shots this time thanks to my assistant and friend that day, amazing photographer Davion Baxter. See his work here:


We had talked about possibly compositing the image and walking around with the light sort of doing light painting with multiple exposures. I started thinking I just did not want to do that much editing to this and the final image was needed pretty quickly due to deadlines. I’m not sure why I get lazy and not want to put up multiple lights and meter, but I guess with digital it can sort of make a photographer lazy. NOT THIS TIME!

The tech stuff.

  • Camera: Canon 6D
  • Lens: Sigma 50 1.4
  • Transmitters. Radiopopper jr.x I am able to change power of light from my camera to my speed lights and Alien Bee all on 3 different groups so each light is individually controlled from the transmitter on camera. Pretty cool huh?  Check out Radiopopper here.
  • Lights: Alien Bee 800 (pink), Canon 580ex, Canon 430ex
  • Modifiers: Paul Buff 10×36 Strip with grid, Gary Fong Powersnoot with grid
  • Atmosphere: Fog machine and fake snow


I brought out a AB 800 with a gridded strip for the main light. It provided the light and definition to Chase, the main subject. It also added some fill to the room by leaving the back of the stripbox not entirely closed. That let some light escape into the room and bounce all over.

The next light was for the children. I wanted to give them a magical sort of glow. I had a Canon 580EX speedlight and put a silver Gary Fong Powersnoot with the grid on. Check it out here.

That helped me direct the light only at the kids and kind of made them glow.

The third light was a Canon 430 speedlight and I did not modify it. The purpose of that light was to give the tree a bit of life since it was being mainly backlit from the sun through windows.

Light Placement

Light Placement

My exposures were thought out like this.

Light Placement

Chuck Shooting

The ambient reading was 1/60th sec at f4.5 The difference between the light inside and out was pretty great. I really wanted to blow out the background. The reasoning for this was to make it look like it was cold and snowy even thought it was around 65 degrees and green grass. The trees were starting to become bare from the Fall colors dying out. This was shot on November 20th

I metered Chase the main light at 4.5 the same as ambient. I gave the kids a bit more light at f5.6 and the tree less at f3.5. I’m not sure how much light was being bounced by the back of the stripbox being left open a bit. Looking at the image I’d say about f2

I really like the way this turned out. As far as editing goes, I evened the color out and put one of my favorite textures over it. I shoot my own textures. I used NIK Color FX for the  sharpened look on the clothes and floor. I also use NIK Viveza to do some dodging and burning. Check out the NIK plugins here:


Some Images.

Out of camera shot.

Out of camera shot.



Ambient light only

Ambient light only

Tree Light Exposure 430ex

Tree Light Exposure 430ex

Gary Fong Powersnoot exposure

Gary Fong Powersnoot exposure

Close up of Gary Fong Powersnoot

Close up of Gary Fong Powersnoot


Main Light AB 800 Exposure

Main Light AB 800 Exposure

Some of you might be wondering about the hotspots on the floor that are not there in the SOOC shot or the final. The lighting shots were photographed after we had already shot and my assistant was not behind the door working the fog machine and throwing snow. In the actual shot, he is back there and his body is flagging the hotspot. Here is a shot of him getting ready to walk inside and then an after shot when no one is outside.  Thanks  Francie Baltazar for noticing. Her work is here:

Hot spot gone. Being flagged by assistant.

Hot spot gone. Being flagged by assistant.

Hope you could get something out of this.
Look for a new website from me at the 1st of the year. and for my personal work follow me over at New photos almost every 3 days.


Jen SwedhinNovember 23, 2013 - 9:13 pm

This is super helpful, thanks Chuckie!

ike piyaNovember 24, 2013 - 7:11 am

Thank you for sharing Chuck. Always learn something new watching you shoot :0)

kimberlyNovember 24, 2013 - 8:34 pm

Hi Chuckie- I have a question..

“I metered Chase the main light at 4.5 the same as ambient. I gave the kids a bit more light at f5.6 and the tree less at f3.5. I’m not sure how much light was being bounced by the back of the stripbox being left open a bit. Looking at the image I’d say about f2”

How is letting in less light on the tree register as f3.5.
Isn’t that more light, or more power? This concept has always confused me…
Oh brilliant chuckie please help! :)
Or guide me to an answer…:)

ChuckieJanuary 19, 2014 - 9:02 am

When metering a larger aperture takes less power. Since flash is measured in output and we meter that with f/stop a low powered flash will meter at a large aperture a high powered flash will meter at a small aperture. It takes more power to blast through a small hole. This is a concept that is very confusing to a lot of natural light photographers. This is something I go over very detailed in my classes and lectures. Drove me crazy for years.

Creative Live

I have heard so much about this Creative Live. It is the talk of the nation when it comes to photographers. I am honored and excited to have been asked to be a part of CL this Sunday. All info click here:

I’ll be covering some basics to start with but not much. It is assumed that you will already know a lot of this stuff like, Inverse square law, light patterns and how flash exposure works.

Mostly I will be shooting and doing stuff I normally do with not much equipment. That is why the class is called Hack Your Light. I’m looking forward to reverse engineering some of my images that the folks over at CL picked out. That is a great way to learn. I want you to see that interesting lighting does not have to be complicated and that a lot of time, photographers try and overcomplicate things just because they feel like they have to I guess.

I hope you turn in this sunday.




MrLJune 16, 2013 - 9:27 pm

Explanation for the picture being lit completely when using shutter speed much faster than sync speed:
the strobe you use illuminates for 250 ms (or close); this is how the strobe works – it starts with high power and then discharges slowly; so when the shutter curtains move there is still light coming from the strobe (but less compared to the initial light – you can see the picture is not uniformly lit).
The speedlight works differently: it discharges practically instantaneously compared with the strobe (1/10000s range)
If you use a higher quality strobe (with smaller discharge time) then your trick will not work anymore.


First, Thank you for wanting me to come back with the “photo booth” this year. Had a great time again. is my senior photography website.

I do this to let you know you’re senior pics can be different and more unique than going to a studio or by a tree and flipping your collar. I also don’t like over-saturated no skin images.

Who am I? A music industry & fashion photographer I also teach all over the country.

My commercial website is. If you want to check it out. I put most stuff on my Facebook page though.

I am only really marketing my services to BVHS. The reason for that is I am alumni back in 1988. That does not mean I wouldn’t love to take your senior pics if you are from another school! If you like us please share.:)

I’d love to take your senior pics if you like what you see.

Ok, on to the photos. Share these, download these, print these. Do whatever you want. Have fun.

Photo booth images:

Thank you all again. Please share link and video.

Making a Poster for a High School Play Part 1

Poster for Alice in Wonderland

I have had enough photographers ask me about this I decided to do a blog post about it.

First. Why bother doing this? I am pretty new to the area and I wanted to create a buzz about my High School Senior photo business. if you would like to visit.

I have a friend that is the drama teacher at a local High School and I asker her if she would let me photograph some posters and then get some free advertising plus the buzz I’ll create if I do a good job.

I have done 3 posters now and they have done exactly what I had hoped.

Here are the 1st two that I shot.

So on to Alice in Wonderland & Back Again…

The first thing I do is go out to the web and look at some of the imagery that has been created. I found a few images that seemed pretty cool but one stood out to me.
It was a promo for the TV movie back in 1985:

Alice in Wonderland from TV show in 1985

This gave me the idea to have Alice going around a big mushroom. This past summer I had photographed a “set” consisting of plants I bought at Home Depot and a lot of dirt. It is for an photographic series that I am currently working on based on what is below us. To read more about that take a look at my other site. I Wanna Photograph You. Here is the blog post containing one of those images.

I had a little success with that shoot and though I could do something like that again.

What I needed:

1. Home Depot – for strange plants. What I bought here.

2. Michaels – Moss and a fake tree and green styrofoam.

3. Whole Foods – Exotic mushrooms. Yummy

That’s about it.

The first thing I did was schedule some time to photograph the actors at the high school. My wife and I met up with the students right after school. My wife does the makeup for me. (I’m lucky)

I had a sketch drawn out already so I knew what I was going to do. Preplanning or storyboarding is essential to make things go fast. I am able to shoot quickly. Here is the sketch I used. (such the artist. lol)

Sketch for poster. With Hatter and Alice in environment and Queen looking over in the clouds

Lets take a look at the actual shots.  The first was of the Mad Hatter. We just went outside with a couple of other students and I had him lean up against a brick wall of the high school.

Here is a screenshot from Lightroom of the raw file.

Mad Hatter lit with a speedlight in the back and a AB800 with grid strip box in front.

For the next shot of Alice I had a student hold a trash can to act as the mushroom stalk that she would be running around. I wanted her running because the wig she was wearing was very plain and I thought some movement would spice up the image.

Alice running. One speedlight as rim light in back and the AB 800 with strip-box as main light

The final shot was of the Queen of Hearts. This was basically a beauty shot since the image would feature mostly her face in the clouds. Again I just ran outside and found an empty part of sky and shot into it. I switched lenses from the 50mm to a 70-200. We added a beauty dish as the main light and a silver reflector underneath her to even out shadows.

The Queen of Hearts basic shot. One light and a reflector that the Mad Hatter is holding. See his arm in the shot.

Next up was to get the set built and hope that the actors would be easy to cut out. I went ahead and cut out Alice and the Mad Hatter and positioned them with some screen shots from the web. I went out and found a mushroom and a playing card. (I ended up using the playing card because it was so cool looking. I printed it out and made a card out of it.) The background is a photo of some trees I shot a long time ago.

I was pretty happy with the way they cut out and I was excited to put the set together.

I just set up in front of an open front door and I put my 580 flash outside to act as the backlight. To light the main area I got a AB800 and just put a 20 degree grid on the reflector and pointed down at the set.

Unfortunately I do not own a macro lens and I think that would have come in handy. I tried shooting with a 50mm a 70-200 and ultimatly went with the 17-40 so I could “get into” the set.

Above shot of the set in the hallway.

My son holding up the dry erase board.

Trying out a different point of view, different lens

Trying different angles and perspectives with lenses

The perspective I liked and trying out the scale of the actors


Poster for Alice in Wonderland

I’ll talk about how I put it all together in the next post. Let mw know your thoughts on this and these kind of posts.

ChristineJanuary 27, 2013 - 6:45 pm

This was fun to see the step by step. I, too, have done a lot of similar publicity shoots for our high school and regional theatre companies. It is fun to shake up the day to day business of photography with something different like this.

I look forward to seeing your next!

DanJanuary 27, 2013 - 7:04 pm

Kick butt, especially the tiny set!

Heather ColeJanuary 27, 2013 - 8:31 pm

This is beyond amazing. I was in awe how you did this and the finished product is a true masterpiece. Bravo!!

ChuckieJanuary 27, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Thank you. It’s really not that big of a deal. Just preplanning, makes all the difference in the world.

ChuckieJanuary 27, 2013 - 8:38 pm


TonjaJanuary 27, 2013 - 9:59 pm

Brilliant work as usual! Thanks for sharing I was wondering!

Elena HernandezJanuary 28, 2013 - 1:31 am

Beautifully photographed and executed! Love that you did a storyboard idea first then implemented your idea. It cuts down on wasted time of trying to think of something on the fly when you have a game plan to begin with…Thank you Chuckie for sharing!
The piece came out fabulous!

jkheigle@excite.comJanuary 28, 2013 - 5:52 am


Once again, you’ve gone over the top with excellence, and you are an inspiration. Do you mind if I use this as an assignment in my digital class???

Well done!

ChuckieJanuary 28, 2013 - 5:55 am

Not at all, should be fun. I could demo something like this.

Nick VerbenecJanuary 30, 2013 - 3:54 pm

Great write-up on the behind the scenes on how you did this poster. I really enjoy looking at all of you work. Its all very inspirational. If you ever need an intern to lug your lights around for a day or be a VALS, Id love to be a fly on the wall of one of your shoots.

WPPI – My Platform Class

When I became a wedding/portrait photographer in 2002 after a few years as a commercial and art photographer I went to a conference called WPPI. I needed to learn about the business and how to be successful  in this new type of photography for me and how to run a business. Holy crap did I get a lot out of that first year. I met some of my best friends in the industry and came back to Nashville with a renewed aggressive attitude. It worked. I took what I learned and started to define my wedding/portrait biz in Nashville. Thank you WPPI.

It was also there that I learned about print competition. I entered and was pleasantly surprised that I did pretty well and won a bunch of Accolades and even took  away a award for a senior image.

Somehow I ended up lecturing and teaching workshops but I never in the 7 years of going to WPPI had spoke at that conference. This year I am! I am so excited to be presenting a platform class. It will be Sunday March 10th from 12:00 to 1:30.

I would be honered if you would pre register for my class if you will be attending this year.

If you are not going. GO. It is an amazing experience and is worth the trip.



Search for my class here:

I’m not going to just give a presentation I’m going to give a college like class. I want you to learn something as well as be inspired. We are going to go over as much lighting tips as I can cram into  90 min.

Afterwords I’m going to lead a small workshop on Off Camera Lighting on location. Something I can’t do on stage is take you all outside to put these tips into practice. I hope to take those who want to join me outside for about an hour and show you real life examples of my style of photographing.

Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions on something you want to hear about. Hope to see you all there.


Heidi G.March 1, 2013 - 8:01 pm

SO looking forward to your class! :)

Technology to Keep You on the TrainMarch 21, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely great. Technology to Keep You on the Train