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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Here’s a punch of color to end the month of February with!  I’ve been in a black and white mood lately and I sense a lot more black and white images coming soon, but first a little color.  We have a corner in our living room that is lit with two large red floodlights that we lovingly refer to as the red light district.  I love the mood that colored lighting gives a room, and the red light is matched with the warm light of our fire place.  It really makes for a cozy corner of the house.  That’s probably why our pup Sala loves to lounge around in the red light district, basking in the warmth of the fire.  I’m drawn to the light as well and love to photograph it.  It’s amazing that I spend all day every day thinking about photography but can’t ever seem to get enough.

I love photography and I would love to photograph you.  I am working on a portrait series and need more subjects!  If you know someone in Billings who would make a good subject please send them to my Billings portrait photographer website here: http://www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


We’ve been lucky to have some new bling in the studio thanks to Poisonberry Jewelry!  Poisonberry is a cool Montana made jewelry brand and Katie came by to help show off the gold My Deer pendant.  This is a new piece that’s part of Poisonberry’s Spring/Summer 2015 line.  Check out the whole line at http://poisonberryjewelry.com and follow them on facebook and instagram to stay on top of the latest jewelry fashions.  Thanks to Katie for always making any wardrobe look good!

Tips for photographers –
Katie needed some new headshots and we needed to show off a necklace so it was good timing to achieve both.  I am really enjoying the horizontal and square crop headshots these days.  The photo of Katie is lit with natural light from a large window camera right and two white 4x8 foot reflectors camera left.  The background is a black wall and there is a tiny bit of window light falling on it to give just a touch of separation between the Katie and the background.  I am really lucky to have beautiful North facing windows, the preferred light of artists for generations.  I recently read in Irving Penn’s book “Small Trades,” that he was obsessed with North light studios and I observed from some of the photos in the book that he used flags to control the light on the background.  The point of a flag is to block the light, or “flag the light,” and they can be made out of anything that will block light.  I use painted black Styrofoam for my flags, but you can also purchase flags that mount on a lightstand for perfect control.  I’ve used them before on c-stands and they are quite nice.  Irving Penn used a board propped against a stool.

The second photo is also lit with natural light and a reflector in a similar manner as the portrait, but the curtains on my window are partly shut, creating a smaller and therefore harder light source.  It looks very similar to studio lighting and by controlling the size of the window light it’s very easy to make natural light look like studio lighting.  The only problem with natural light, as opposed to studio light, is that the only way to make it brighter is to open the curtains up.  But then I can’t control the size and therefore the quality (hard or softness) of the light.  If I want to make the light harder by closing the curtains down, I lose a lot of the light.  So unfortunately with natural light, controlling the quality of the light also affects the quantity of light (brightness).  With studio lighting I can control both the quantity and quality of the light separately.  That being said, I don’t have any studio lighting modifiers that are 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall like my beautiful North facing windows!

Paul Bellinger Photography specializes in modern, stylish portraits and headshots in Billings Montana.  We take portraiture seriously and we’d be honored to make your portrait!  http://www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Travel is one of my favorite pastimes, and I was very fortunate to spend 17 days in India this winter with my family.  It was my third trip to India and it seems to get better every time I visit.  For someone who grew up in Nebraska, India is a different world to me, and I find it endlessly fascinating.  Curiosity makes for great photography and I kept my camera handy.

These photos feature my wife’s hometown, mostly at night.  Most of them were made one evening when I tagged along with my wife’s parents for a quick trip to the market.  But my favorite photo of the set was made next door to my wife’s house, in a building that was under construction.  I noticed that each day some of the workers would start little fires in the lower level to keep warm as it cooled off in the evening.  I’m not sure if they were cooking with the fires, or if they were camping out in there over night, or just using the fires to heat themselves up at the end of the day.  I never found out.  But I did stop by one day at about the right time and made a few frames.  I didn’t realize there were three people sitting around the fire until I got home and looked at the photo on my big screen.  There is a lot going on in this photo and I can’t wait to print it really large to show off all of the little details.

Thinking about going to India? 
Here are more of my thoughts about travelling to India:

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Happy Valentine’s day!  Whether you have a special someone or not, it’s a good day to celebrate LOVE!  Love can be difficult to write about and I find that words rarely do the trick for me.  But a photo of love can instantly bring back the feeling of being in love.  Like this one of the two lovebirds, Kalli and Bridger amidst the flowers in Maui. They look totally oblivious to the world going on around them, focused only on each other.  That’s the power of love.

My favorite quote about love is from Dr. Seuss, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep, because reality is finally better than your dreams.”  I know that I am in love because my reality is way better than I could have ever dreamed.  My wife is my soul mate and our life together is like a vacation every day with my best friend.  Sometimes I can’t sleep at night just thinking about how lucky I am to get to wake up and live my life with her.  Valentine’s day is special for us because Nini finally agreed to go out with me on February 8, seven years ago, just in time for Valentine’s day.  Thank you Nini, I love you dearly!  Happy seventh Valentine’s day!

Monday, February 9, 2015


We’re excited to be launching a new website exclusively for our portrait studio in downtown Billings Montana (http://portraits.paulbellinger.com).  We offer modern, stylish portraits and headshots with the timeless look of classic portraiture.  Inspired by the great masters of portrait photography, we strive to make photos that will stand out and stand the test of time.  We don’t want your portrait to look dated with colored lights and distracting backgrounds.  For us, the focus of the portrait is you, the story in your face, and the power in your eyes.  Let us make the portrait that tells your story.

Tips for photographers:
Zak and I hit the studio to square away our corporate headshot lighting setups for an upcoming headshot promotion we’ll be running in a few weeks.  We’ve created a look that will help our clients stand out, but is timeless, with classic black, gray and white backgrounds.  We’re especially showcasing the black background as the studio’s signature look.  In these photos you can see how versatile the black background can be, from a more powerful look with the horizontal photo, to something more inviting and friendly in the vertical photo, depending on the lighting that is used.  Black and gray draw the viewer’s attention directly to the face while colored backgrounds can distract from the face, as can bright colored clothing.  That’s why most portrait photographers prefer black and white photos because there are no distractions, only a person and the light.

Can you see the light?  The vertical image is lit with a large window camera right and two 4x8’ reflectors camera left.  The effect is a soft, yet directional light.  For the horizontal image there are 3 lights and 4x8’ reflector.  I posted the behind the scenes photo oninstagram here.  I plan to post more BTS photos on instagram, so follow along.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


This is my favorite photo from my fashion editorial with Montana Bride magazine, so I decided to post it all by itself.  This photo embodies the concept I created for this shoot perfectly.  I really wanted to create a fashion editorial with a wedding theme using designer wedding gowns and a pair of models as the bride and groom.  Above all the concept was a fashion editorial, not a wedding styled shoot, or a bridal shoot.  To me, this is the photo that most directly speaks to the concept I created, and that’s why it’s my favorite from the series.  I am very thankful to have worked with such a talented team of professionals to pull off this shoot.  Making fashion editorials takes a team effort and this shoot wouldn’t have been possible without everyone listed below.  Thank you team!  I promise to post more outtakes from this shoot soon!

Photographer: Paul Bellinger @pjbellinger
Styling: Katalin Green @katalingreen
Hair and makeup: Sydney Ross @greenbird406
Models: Arley Knerr @arley_knerr with @rmea_talent and Braydon Sinclair
Dress: ti adora by Alvina Valenta @tiadorabridal @alvinavalenta @jlm_couture
Hairpiece: Paris by Debra Moreland
Bowtie: Hitched Bowties  
Men’s Clothing: Jim’s Formal Wear
Stylist assistant: Brett Conner
Photo assistant: Zak Jokela

Tips for brides:
In case you missed it,  (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Montana-Bride-Inc/256864520550) the new issue of Montana Bride magazine is out, go find them on facebook to see where you can get a printed copy.  Give them a follow for daily wedding inspiration where style meets the real West!

Tips for photographers:
I love this photo because of the mood created by the pose and the eye contact with both models.  The light is buttery soft yet directional so there is nice play of shadow and dimension on the models faces and wardrobe.  This photo is lit with only one light, a strobe placed inside of a white V-flat out of the frame to the camera left, and a 4x8’ white reflector out of the frame to the camera right. The V-flat is a great tool in the studio, and it consists of two 4x8’ reflectors being taped together vertically to create a foldable 8 foot tall v shaped reflector that can stand on it’s own when folded at the taped seem in the middle to create a V shape (follow me on instagram @PJBellinger to see a behind the scenes photo of Zak and the V-flat in a similar lighting set up).  Mine has white on one side and black on the other side so the white side can be used as a reflector, and the black side can be used as a flag to block light or as a “negative fill” to absorb some of the light (the opposite of a reflector).  In this case the V-flat is in the narrowest V formation possible with the opening facing the models and strobe shooting away from the models into the narrow end of the V, which creates a very soft bounced light.  The light is similar to an 8 foot tall by 2 foot wide softbox (or stripbox).  My awesome assistant Zak placed the V-flat directly to the side of the models, but in front of them about a foot or so.  This placement further softens the light as only a feathered edge of the light is falling on the models and background.  The reflector was aimed directly at the models and was placed directly across the frame from the opening of the V-flat so there is a lot of soft bounced light on the shadow side of the models making for a very soft transition between light and shadows.  I like this lighting technique because the soft light is flattering for everyone so it’s a versatile technique I can use often in the portrait studio.  Check out my portrait website to see if you can spot some corporate headshots where I used this type of lighting: http://www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Thanks for reading!  I am very passionate about photography and I love to share my ideas on the blog.  If you are looking for a wedding or portrait photographer in Billings Montana please visit my wedding website here: http://www.paulbellinger.com

And my portrait website here: http://www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Monday, February 2, 2015


I’ve been sharing a lot of black and white photos lately so I thought I’d interrupt the flow of black and white with some colorful eye candy from the mountains. This is one of the many spectacular views from the scenic Beartooth Highway that cuts through the Beartooth Mountains between Red Lodge Montana and Cooke City Montana.  The pass is over 10,000 feet and puts you at eye level with the Absaroka mountain range in the distance.  It’s a fun drive, with lots of switchbacks and hairpin turns.  I’m sure it would be a blast on a motorcycle, although the weather is unpredictable.  I can’t wait to take my wife and dogs back to this spot again this summer!

We really love it here in Billings Montana!  It’s comforting to look out to the West and see those big beautiful mountains in the distance.  Every time I see them I wonder to myself why I’m not IN THEM, and I’m tempted to drop everything and head for the mountains.  It’s exciting to have that temptation every day!

If you need a wedding photographer please visit http://www.paulbellinger.com

Sunday, February 1, 2015


It’s obvious from these photos that Tracy is a boss!  He crushed this shoot!  It’s a fitting look because he actually is a boss, the owner/CEO of his own company.  I had a great time meeting Tracy, he comes across as very genuine and humble.  I can see why people give him their business.  He’s someone you instantly trust.  I’m glad he’s going to be around Billings to model for us photographers and I look forward to hanging out with him again soon.

Tips for photographers: These portraits were taken during a test shoot for DAME Agency, a local talent agency in Billings.  This was a lesson in the unexpected, as test shoots often are.  I wasn’t expecting to do the shirtless photo, as we were testing for a formal look (hence the tie and sport jacket).  But I had recently photographed a famous athlete with his shirt off wearing a sport coat and I had some of the magazines laying around with similar photos.  So the topic came up and Tracy said he might have the body to pull off the look.  I’ll say!  I wouldn’t have assumed he would be comfortable going shirtless when I first met him, but it ended up being my favorite series from the shoot.  These photos were lit with two lights and one reflector.  Read about the portrait lighting technique on the previous post from this test shoot here.

Paul Bellinger Photography is a full service portrait studioin Billings Montana, specializing in modern, stylish portraits, corporate headshots and fashion editorials.  Contact us to schedule your sitting today!  http://www.portraits.paulbellinger.com