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Monday, February 29, 2016


Meet new model Leslie! She’s recently returned from a trip to LA for an international modeling competition that she pretty much cleaned up at, with a number of first place finishes and lots of call backs. She’ll be signed with a major agency soon if she keeps up the good work! I always like working with inspired young people like Leslie. I wish her the very best of luck in her endeavors!

Yes we do fashion photography at Paul Bellinger Photography! Models and actors, book a portfolio building sitting with us today to get your career off the ground! Please visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com for more information.

Tips for photographers: Both of these images were made with window light. You can do a lot with a window! In the first image Leslie is facing towards the window that I am sitting in and she is only about 4 feet from the window so the falloff is pretty quick, highlighting her high cheekbones with darker falloff around the edges. She’s surrounded by black on both sides, a black wall on one side and two 4x8 foot black reflectors on the other. The black eats up the light, ensuring that no light is bouncing around to fill the shadows. In the second image the window is camera right and the curtains are closed down so that only a narrow strip of light is coming through. By shrinking the size of the window light I’ve made the light harder and the shadow cast by her nose is creating a defined Rembrandt pattern. Again I used the black 4x8 foot reflectors out of frame camera left to prevent the window light from bouncing off of anything else in the studio and filling in the shadows. By doing this I ensure the shadows are as dark as possible. I love the drama of dark shadows and I think it’s especially fantastic in black and white and with a model with such dramatic features as Leslie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


A great looking headshot will make a powerful first impression for people who find you online. If your headshot looks professional, modern and stylish, you will make a great first impression. How do you get a professional, modern and stylish headshot in Billings Montana? Well of course you can come to us at Paul Bellinger Photography, and we can show you. But since we can’t service the entire city I’ve started a headshot tip series here on the blog for people that can’t get a sitting with us. Tip #1 is about looking your best, and you can find it on the blog here. Tip #2 is below.

Tip 2: Ditch the blue background! The blue background is all too popular in Billings these days and it’s ruining a lot people’s headshots. The speckled blue background with the extreme spotlight/vignette and hair light is the worst offender. It looks dated, plain and simple. It’s a look that was popularized by Lifetouch in the 80s and 90s for high school yearbook pictures with a ton of hair light to highlight the massive hair of the day. So the first problem is that blue background is not modern, it’s not stylish, no matter how professionally it can be done. In fact, any colored background will inevitably look dated and will be associated with a particular era (the brick wall background for instance, is very 80s). The second problem with the blue background is another problem that all colored backgrounds have: it’s distracting. When people browse your website or check out your profile on LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter, etc. they are only going to look for a few seconds, and you want them to connect with your face for as many of those seconds as possible so they start to feel like they know you. As soon as they make that human connection, you’ve got a chance. But when you have a colored background the eye immediately gets distracted away from the face and onto the background, so no connection is made in those brief few seconds and they move on to the next candidate. So to reiterate a point made in Tip #1 nothing in your headshot should compete with your face for attention. No jewelry, clothing, hair/makeup, or background should attract more attention than your face.

So now that it’s clear you shouldn’t use a colored background, and especially the blue speckle (or brick wall), what kind of background fits the criteria of professional, modern and stylish? Keep it simple! There are only 3: black, white, and gray. There is a reason these are the background colors preferred over the generations by the great master portrait artists, they look timeless, which means they always look both modern and classic and can never be pinpointed to a single era. But why did the great masters start using black, white and gray to begin with? Because these neutral, colorless backgrounds do not distract the viewers attention away from the face, making the face the true centerpiece of portraiture over the ages. Pick up any fashion magazine today, and you’ll see black, white and gray backgrounds are ubiquitous. So in conclusion, when you’re looking for a headshot photographer in Billings Montana, make sure to request a headshot on a black, white or gray background, and ditch the blue background. Read Tip #3 here!

Tips for photographers: This is the same headshot lighting technique I discussed in the previous post here. The only difference is that I’ve turned the background light off, so now the white wall is going gray. I love gray! You can adjust how dark or light the gray is by adjusting the distance between the subject and the background. When you move the subject closer to the background you also move your lights on the subject closer to the background and the white wall becomes a lighter shade of gray. Move them farther away from the background and it’ll go a darker shade of gray until it eventually goes black if you move far enough away from the background. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Everybody needs a great headshot these days. Most new clients will meet you online before ever meeting you in person and your headshot makes the biggest first impression. So it’s very important that wherever people can find you online, your headshot looks professional, modern and stylish. I’ve been telling this to people in Billings Montana for over a year now, but it is apparent that what I mean by “professional, modern and stylish,” must not be very clear, because I’m seeing a lot of people with unprofessional, dated, and lame headshots. If you come to me for your headshots I’ll show you what I’m talking about and give you a headshot that will make the best first impression possible for you and your business. But I know that not everyone in town can afford the luxury of having me as their headshot photographer, so I’ve put together some headshot tips so you can still get a badass headshot. I’m dropping the tips one at a time and here’s the first one.

Tip 1: Look good! This one is on you, put some effort into it! Do everything you can to come in for your headshot session looking great and looking like you want to look. Whatever your personal style may be, make sure your clothes fit how you want them to fit, and are not wrinkled. If necessary, get a haircut, get groomed, or book a professional hair and makeup artist for your headshot session so that you’ll look your absolute best. If you book a headshot session with me you’ll have the option of having a professional hair and makeup artist in the studio, keeping a close eye on your hair while we shoot so your hair looks amazing. I work closely with my favorite hair and makeup artist Sydney Ross, who is one of the few true professionals in Billings at camera-ready makeup and hair. We do this all the time and we know how to make sure you look flawless on camera. We also do a pre-consultation with our clients about what to wear. In general I advise neutrals, gray, black, white, off white, and earth tones. Bright colors, patterns and accessories are distracting and we want your headshot to feature YOU, not your clothes. Your look should compliment your personality, not compete with it. That’s it! The rest is on your photographer! Unfortunately I see a lot of photographers doing headshots that either don’t know how to, or simply aren’t doing their damnedest to make their clients look good. I’ll tell you what to look for and what to ask when picking a headshot photographer in the next tips, but I’ll let you in on a little secret right here: a good camera doesn’t make a difference if it’s not in the hands of someone who has carefully studied the art of the headshot. Any photographer can give you a mediocre headshot, but only a headshot specialist who knows how to make a great headshot can truly make you look your best. Be sure to follow along! Tip #2 is here! www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: This is a four light setup, three on the face and one on the background. The light setup is the right triangle setup made popular by Peter Hurley, the headshot king. Using two stripboxes and a small softbox I make a right triangle with lights and shoot through the triangle. I use a stripbox and the softbox to create a 90 degree right angle with the softbox on bottom. A second stripbox makes the hypotenuse of the right triangle. Some people use this setup and keep the lights all at the same power, but I personally like to have a definitive key light so that the direction of the highlights and shadows does not get confused. The key light is the vertical stripbox (as opposed to the angled hypotenuse stripbox). In this case it is camera left and is about a stop brighter than the other the two fill lights. The catchlights in the eyes make the setup very obvious, so look closely and you’ll see exactly how my lights are placed. Bring the subjects as close to the lights as possible while still keeping the catchlights fully within the colored part of the eye (don’t let the catchlights leak into the white of the eye, it’s not pleasing). The background light is a bare strobe with 8 inch reflector right behind the subject. I light the white wall to the point that the white starts to get blown out on the histogram. Make sure to keep the subject about 10 or more feet from the white wall or the background light will bounce and backlight your subject.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Today is the Super Bowl and I’m up way earlier than usual on a Sunday! I’ve got fresh coffee, beautiful morning light, and a smoker filled with pork. I’d say that bodes well for the day ahead! When the pork is ready I’m off to Ken’s for a day full of football, family, and of course, abusing his massive photo book library. In honor of the football season, I’m posting one of the few football photos I made this year. This is an outtake from a helmet shoot I did with Ken Jarecke for Hail Varsity Magazine. The Huskers were unveiling an alternative uniform against Northwestern, and had been struggling, so I wanted to make something a bit ominous. We lost. But oh well, today is about the Super Bowl!

I love the super bowl, regardless of who’s playing, but it’s always a little bittersweet because it’s the end of football season. Strangely, I feel more reminiscent about the year that’s past on the day of the super bowl and not on new year’s eve, when the year literally ends. It’s the end of the 2015 season, so it’s kind of like 2016 starts tonight at midnight. The ball drops when the game ends and we look forward to a great year ahead. 2016 came early for Nebraska fans this year, as the season ended on December 26 when the Huskers beat UCLA in Levi’s Stadium where the Super Bowl will take place today. I started the year sitting at a bar in London, watching my beloved Huskers from across the pond. I missed the season opener for only the second time in 10 years, and we lost the opener for the first time in my lifetime. Of course I feel guilty about it, but just like the players, I have to put it behind me and focus on the 2016 season, and not missing another opener.

For the record: I want Denver to win the Super Bowl and make the AFC West proud, something that I hope my Kansas City Chiefs can do next year. I’m also throwing my good karma behind Denver because some of my best friends and family are Denver fans, so I want them to be happy. For people who would say that I should hate Denver because they are the Chiefs rivals in the AFC West, I just don't have the energy for that and I've always been all about loving my own teams rather than hating on someone else's. I do like Carolina a lot too, just by the way they play, I love teams with good defense and a running attack/mobile QB. What self respecting Nebraskan doesn’t? I’ve been rooting for them in the NFC all season (along with the Seahawks for my bro-in-law). I also like Cam Newton and I hope he gets a chance to dab against Denver’s #1 ranked defense. I think we’re in for a good one and I’m not making a prediction. Happy Super Bowl!

Tips for photographers: Photography can be so strange sometimes. Why did I light this helmet like this? I was heavily influenced by the modern masters Marco Grob and Dan Winters around this time in 2015 (still am) and was doing a lot of portraits inspired by them. So I lit the helmet like I was lighting faces at the time, with hard light and flags. The Huskers were going to unveil this helmet against Northwestern, whose colors are purple, so I tried to put a purple-ish light on the front of the helmet to signify the upcoming game. The red light is for Nebraska, since there isn’t a lot of red on this helmet I decided to add some. Nebraska was off to one of its worst starts in history so I wanted to keep the overall image dark and ominous. The key light on the N of the helmet is a bare strobe, flagged to create the pattern you see and only highlight the N, while keeping the rest of the helmet black, as it was a matte black helmet. It was kind of fun playing around with this helmet and I’m thankful to Ken Jarecke and Hail Varsity Magazine for the opportunity. www.portraits.paulbellinger.com