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Thursday, October 29, 2015


Here’s another great example of a badass headshot that we’ve made recently! The dramatic lighting and bright eyes make for a very striking image that stands out from the crowd of boring headshots in Billings Montana. It may be a little too dramatic for some industries, but it’s great for actors, models, artists and anyone looking for an eye-catching edgy editorial portrait. It would also make a great professional portrait for anyone wanting to convey power with their headshots, such as lawyers, business managers and CEO’s. But the main point is that at Paul Bellinger Photography we can make a headshot or portrait that is unique just for you, so you will always stand out. Please get in touch with us if you haven’t updated your professional business portraits or corporate headshot in Billings Montana recently, we’d love to make something just for you. www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: We always make cool portraits and headshots whenever my friend and talented photographer Zak Jokela comes to town. We love to hang out in the studio and test different lighting setups. We never test out new lighting techniques on paying customers, so we have to do a lot of testing with models, friends, assistants, etc. to work out a new lighting technique before using it on clients.

This portrait was inspired by Martin Schoeller and the basics of the lighting setup are similar to his. The key light is a pair of 8ft strip boxes just a few feet in front of the subject and the camera is actually right in between the two strip boxes, which are parallel to each other a little more than shoulder distance apart, pointed directly at the subject. So you shoot this portrait standing in between a pair of strip boxes. Schoeller gets his lights very close to his subjects’ faces, and surrounds them in black so that the light falloff is deep and natural. We took it a step further by placing a pair of black flags in-between the strip boxes and Zak’s face to deepen the shadows on his cheeks and ears. It became our goal to silhouette the ears, because I guess we don’t like ears to be lit anymore (see my previous post here for more on that). One tradeoff for using these flags was that they cut into the strip boxes in the catchlights, making for narrower catchlights that what Schoeller usually achieves. Schoeller shoots very close to his subjects with a large format film camera, so the depth of field is usually shallow. We replicated that shallow depth of field by using the Sony-Zeiss 55mm at f/2.5 very close, nearly at minimum focal distance. The background is just a 4x8ft white reflector a few feet behind the subject. The falloff is so fast that you can make the background go black pretty easily too, but we liked having the gray background to create separation from Zak’s silhouette.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I love this portrait of Alysse and Dan on their wedding day in Bozeman Montana! A beautiful portrait is so timeless, and so powerful! Sadly, portraiture is a lost art in todays cell phone photo saturated world. So we decided to bring a portrait studio to a few weddings this summer and make some elegant portraits of our couples and their guests all dressed up and looking great. This portrait of Alysse and Dan is one of my favorites. Their wedding was at the Big Yellow Barn, so we set up the studio in one of the old stables! Adding our studio lighting with such a cool location really made for a unique set of portraits. Thank you to Alysse and Dan for an awesome wedding day and all of their family and friends for posing for us! Thanks also to Zak Jokela for assisting and second shooting this wedding with me!

The idea of a wedding day portrait studio is to make timeless portraits of the bride and groom, and their guests, looking their best, with beautiful lighting and posing from a skilled portrait photographer. It’s an elegant alternative to the wedding day photo booth. With the photo booth the concept is to look silly for snapshots (similar to cell phone photography), while our portraits are crafted for style, sophistication and a quality suitable for making printed photographs. It’s a unique experience for most guests because for most of them it will be one of the very few times they ever step into a serious portrait studio. After the wedding these portraits make great gifts for guests as well. Stay tuned to the blog for more wedding day portraits coming soon and get in touch with us at www.paulbellinger.com if you’re interested in having a portrait studio at your wedding reception.

Tips for photographers: The inspiration for setting up a nice portrait studio on location at an event came from the Vanity Fair Oscar Party portraits by Mark Seliger. I look forward to the portraits he does each year, and if you follow him on instagram you can find some behind the scenes photos and videos of the set and lighting that he uses. In this case we were limited by the size of the stable we were shooting in. We set up a large, 6-foot silver bounce umbrella in the stable next door camera left and covered it with a piece of white diffusion cloth so that it created a large soft light as our key light. The key light was just a foot or two above head height, as high as we could get it in the stable. For a fill light we used a 4-foot white bounce umbrella behind the camera to the left also above head height. By placing this light further away it creates an even fill, with little falloff compared to the key light that is closer to the subject. We also had two 4x8 foot white styrofoam reflectors out frame camera right for fill on the shadow side of the subjects. These 4x8 foot reflectors also prevented a color cast from the key light bouncing off the other side of the wooden stable.  It’s fun shooting these portraits because they have to go somewhat quickly, but yet still require thoughtful posing, so you’re working really hard and fast and for me that’s exciting.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Wow, there’s probably no prettier combination than a stunning bride in the mountains! Add in a gorgeous dress and the perfect bouquet and it’s a masterpiece. I’m very lucky to live in beautiful Montana, it seems like everything is prettier here! Of course I’m spoiled to also be surrounded by great people, Montanans and otherwise, that give me the opportunity to photograph them in epic locations. McKenzie and Tyrel’s Beartooth wedding at Emerald Lake was about as epic as you can get. They tied the knot with an intimate wedding on the dock surrounded by their closest family and Montana’s tallest mountains. This is just a sneak peek of the beautiful bride and her bouquet from Katie at Mac’s Floral, who totally outdid herself I must say. Stay tuned for more to come from this Beartooth Mountain wedding. For more information about my wedding photography please visit the Montana wedding photography website by clicking here.

I am lucky to be one of Montana’s most sought after wedding photographers and I am indebted to my amazing clients for trusting me to make the wedding artwork that will become one of their most cherished family heirlooms. The pictures that I make at weddings will be looked at for generations, perhaps forever, and that gives me a great responsibility as a wedding photographer that I take very seriously. In return I give my everything for each and every wedding. I will go anywhere and do anything to make the artwork of your dreams. How do you dream of being photographed? www.paulbellinger.com

Monday, October 19, 2015


I’m very happy to show these three portraits from a new series of fine art portraits. Portraiture is something of a lost art in Billings Montana, being a small city in a remote part of the country, our portraits usually consist of a person standing in a field, or on a gravel road somewhere in bright sunlight, smiling at the camera. But elsewhere in the world portraiture is thriving as an art that is far more complex and nuanced. Just look at any magazine rack and you’ll see diversely crafted portraits everywhere. Why? Because portraits are powerful, we make an immediate connection when we see a portrait. The goal of this portrait series is to show off the power of the portrait, to show that we can make fine art portraits in Billings Montana that are made with the same techniques that master portrait photographers are using around the world, and in doing so we can show Billings that we don’t have to settle for anything less. To schedule a portrait sitting please visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com. Read on to learn about the inspiration and hard work that went into making these portraits.

Tips for photographers: Well I imagine this will become a long-winded story because it seems like I’ve been thinking about these photos for months now, and it took five sessions to get comfortable with the lighting setup and really start making portraits. It all started with Gregory Heisler’s book “50 portraits,” which I’ve been reading for almost a year every time I visit my friend and mentor Ken Jarecke, who always let’s me browse his library (as long as I wash my hands first). A couple of months ago I read about a portrait where Heisler was praising the use of a ring light to create a “shadowless” fill light (p. 86). I made a mental note of it, but didn’t rush out and buy a ring light or anything like that. Perhaps a month later I saw a portrait of Kareem Abdul Jabar by Dan Winters on twitter and it was so striking to me that I started an all out binge on everything Dan Winters I could get my hands on (look at my twitter feed @paulbellinger to find a retweet of the Kareem portrait). Of course Ken had Winters’ book “Road to Seeing,” so I spent a few hours with it before buying my own copy soon after. I noticed that for a lot of my favorite portraits, Winters often used a ring light too. There is a strobist.com post about Winters that has a behind the scenes video of Dan shooting Jack Nicklaus and even has quotes from Dan saying that he prefers to use the ring light mostly for the catch light it creates, and less for fill when possible (click here to view). I set about trying to replicate a Dan Winters look, specifically to achieve a similar lighting effect as seen in his portraits of Tom Hanks and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Monday, October 5, 2015


My brother in law Babu is awesome, so I thought it was only fitting to make him a badass headshot when he was in town this summer. A Badass Portrait (or Badass Headshot) is something new that I’ve been introducing to Billings Montana. One of Montana’s slogans is that “Montana is for Badasses,” so the badass portrait is one that made with an equal amount of badass as Montana itself. Really, it’s an editorial portrait that can take on many forms, whatever may be influencing me at the moment, or an idea that I come up with in response to a specific subject matter. This particular look for a headshot is inspired by Marco Grob, a renowned photographer who shoots a lot of magazine covers. So just think of your badass portrait as your very own cover photo. Book at www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: This is one of my favorite lighting techniques that I learned from studying the work of Marco Grob. I’ve written about the basics of the technique in the past here. The most important thing about this lighting technique is using a flag (black foam core in this case) to create a shadow on the same side of the face that the key light is coming from (camera right in this case). You can make the shadow hard or soft according to your taste, and you can make the shadow broad or narrow, but try to at least reduce the exposure on the ear. The key light in this case is a strip box very close to Babu, just out of the frame on the right. Two beauty dishes are behind Babu on 45 degree angles to create the kicker lighting. Other than that the set is closed off very tightly with black foam core to absorb any stray light and keep the shadows dark with very little light filling in the shadows.

I like shadowy portraits and I usually like short side Rembrandt lighting for that reason. And that’s fine, the flag doesn’t change much for short light Rembrandt lighting. But when the subject turns and broad lights themselves, the flag reigns them in by putting a shadow on the broad lit side of the face and obscuring the ear which could otherwise get brighter than the face depending on the lighting setup. Don't understand the difference between short light and broad light? Read about broad lighting here and short lighting here. This headshot of Babu is an example of broad lighting with the key light.

This was one of my favorite sessions because Babu is a great guy and part of my family, but he said something during the shoot that really stuck with me. Using flags on light stands makes a cluttered set and you have to constantly adjust them and the position of the subject to put the shadow right where you want it. It makes for a longer shoot than I’d normally prefer and would recommend using an assistant for that reason. But Babu said during the shoot that he thought it was really nice that I was fussing so much over the lighting and that “people must feel very important when they are photographed by you.” That was a great complement even from an obviously biased family member.