How I Got the Shot: Michael Thompson from LightenUpAndShoot Does an Outdoor Portrait


Portraits can be super fun! Michael Thompson of sometimes employs a very specific style of shooting. He combines street photography with portraits; he finds cool locations and interesting people, and sets up a mini-studio right there on the spot. He's done workshops on this at the B&H Event Space, but you should see if he's coming closer to your neck of the woods.

How do you think Mike shot the photo above? Read on to find out, and also be sure to check out the video showing Michael shooting the photos.

Gear Used

Impact 42" 5-in-1 Reflector Kit

Nikon D700

Nikon 50mm f1.4 and 24-70mm f2.8

Westcott Apollo 28" Softbox

Genus Neutral Density Fader Filter (size depends on lens). Michael often uses larger filters, and then uses step down rings to adapt them to lenses with a smaller thread mount. He loves them.

Roscoe Gel Pack

BlackRapid strap

How Michael Got the Shot

Here's the first photo that you'll see in the video below. Michael shot this at 24mm, ISO 100, f5.6 and 1/250th of a second.

The result is less ambient light in the photo, because in studio portraiture:

- Shutter speeds control the amount of ambient light in the photo,

- Aperture controls the flash exposure at a certain output,

- ISO controls overall sensitivity in the image.

Michael's final photo was at ISO 100 (still the same), 62mm, f5.6 (still the same), and 1/160th, to allow for more ambient light to fill into the photo. The speedlight (also in a softbox) looks like it was moved a bit as well, to wrap around Mauricio's face.

Michael's Plan and Technique

Here's a video showing off Michael in action. It shows how he shot the photo.


Very little was done to this image, because he took the time to tweak the image "in camera." Those factors being:

- Exposure on subject,

- Reflector fill (camera right),

- Moving in closer, to get a shallow depth of field,

- Fast shutter speed, to control and darken the background.

In Lightroom, he first adjusted the color of the image using "split toning." He subtly made changes in color with the highlights and shadows. He wanted a warm feeling in this photo, but he also wanted to enhance the pink/purple hues that were in the sky.

After adjusting color, Michael began to play with exposure, fill, and contrast, in order to make the image more contrasty and less flat. It's a fine balance between "highlights, lights, shadows and darks."

Finally, Mike readjusted the color one last time, to make sure he had it exactly the way he wanted it.