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Thursday, March 31, 2016


Ryan is the unofficial future mayor of downtown Billings so of course he needs a badass portrait for the Time cover story they’ll eventually run on him! Well maybe not, but he still needs an awesome portrait fit for a magazine editorial. Thankfully he knows a guy! Thanks for the sitting Ryan!

People are asking me about these editorial portraits, and they’re asking if people in Billings Montana really want or need a portrait that looks like something out of Vanity Fair. Why wouldn’t they?! Who wouldn’t want a portrait like these? If you’re going to have a portrait made, why not strive to match the best talent in the world, right here in Billings? I think we can do it. I’m putting in the time and honing my skills and so are my teammates, like Sydney Ross, a top level hair and makeup artist that’s as good as anyone you’ll find New York or LA. Together my team and I are out to prove that badass, modern and stylish portraits aren’t only reserved for people that live in the major markets, you can get them right here in downtown Billings Montana. For bookings please visit our new headshot and portrait website here: www.pbheadshots.com.

Tips for photographers: These portraits are inspired by all of the studying I’ve been doing thanks to my mentor, legendary photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke (who is on instagram now as @kenneth.jarecke). The three influences that inspired these portraits are Marco Grob first and foremost with the flagging and key light technique used, and Dan Winters and Gregory Heisler with the use of on axis fill light from a ring light, or something similar. For the headshot, the key light is a large silver bounce umbrella only about two feet away from Ryan’s head to the camera right. This key light is flagged with black foam core to create the shadow on Ryan’s left ear (camera right). Flagging the key light side of the face is a very cool technique that I learned from studying Marco Grob and Dan Winters and for me, it opens up broad lighting patterns where I’d otherwise prefer short lighting if it weren’t for the flag. The on axis fill is a silver beauty dish about a foot higher than the camera and you can see the central catchlight in the eye. For more drama I set the fill light pretty low, two or three stops less power than the key light. I don’t use a light meter (although I just got one). I eyeball my histogram and test each light individually. Behind Ryan camera left there is an 8 foot silver reflector for a subtle kicker light on the right side of his face (camera left). Behind Ryan and camera right is a strip box and 8 foot silver reflector to replicate a similar amount of kicker light on the left side of his face (camera right).

The full body portrait is inspired by Annie Leibovitz, both in the lighting and in the use of my hand painted background and floor.  Annie often uses big soft lights, such as the Photek Softlighter. In this case I simply added a white diffusion sock over my large silver umbrella. I still used a big piece of black foam core to flag the key light, but I opened up the angle a bit so it’s not as side on as in the headshot. The shadow from the flag is not as prominent because the light is so soft, but the main thing I like about using the flag in this way is that it keeps the catchlight from spilling out of the pupil and into the white of the eye, which is a common problem when side lighting in the way that Annie and these other guys do (Mark Seliger for instance). Out of frame camera left is a wall of black foam core to eat up the key light and keep the shadows dark. Lastly, the same silver beauty dish about a foot above camera the camera for the on axis fill I’ve been loving so much thanks to Greg Heisler and Dan Winters.

Friday, March 25, 2016


I cannot stress enough how important a great looking headshot is these days. There is simply no getting around the fact that most potential customers will get a first impression of you online before meeting you in person. To make the most of those first impressions you need the best looking headshot you can get, which will help your potential customers make a human connection with you, even through a computer or phone. If you think about it, your headshot will be used a lot, and not just in marketing. You can use it for your profile photo on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and on your website. You can even use a headshot on your business cards and in your email signature to make a human connection every chance you get. Because it’s so important to have an awesome headshot I’m giving everyone my best headshot tips, so everyone knows how to get the best headshot they can get, whether they book with us at Paul Bellinger Photography, or with someone else. If you’re new to the blog, you might want to check out Tip #1 here first, and follow the links to Tips 2 and 3. Tip #3 is below.

Tip 3: Go horizontal and crop the head! This is a great tip because almost anyone can do this right now without even having to get a new headshot, just crop the one you have and tell your photographer to shoot horizontal next time. If you’ve looked around on this blog, or on my website you’ll see I only show horizontal headshots when it comes to professional business headshots, and they’re all cropped very tightly into the head. Why have we gone for the horizontal head crop? The main reason is because today’s devices are almost all horizontal, with widescreens being the new standard on computers, TVs, and mobile devices. As a result, most web developers and social networks display horizontal images more prominently than vertical images, with more real estate devoted to horizontal images. So if you have a horizontal headshot you increase the chances people will see it, and people are more likely to take note of it and make a human connection if they do, because you’ll be utilizing as much space as possible. But why the tight head crop? For the same reason we want your headshot to appear as big as possible, we also crop off the top of the heads and most of the body, so more real estate is devoted to what we really want people to see: your eyes! Cropping the head is necessary to make the eyes as big as possible in the photo and we don’t want to waste unnecessary space on the background above the head. It’s all about the eyes! The look in a person’s eyes is what tells the whole story about who they are, and that’s why looking into someone’s eyes is such an important human connection. By giving as much real estate as possible to your eyes, your chances of making a human connection will dramatically increase. That’s also why we want to keep headshots cropped very tightly around the head, and not include much of the body at all. Vertical headshots and portraits tend to include far too much of the body, making the eyes too small to make a human connection with the eyes. Take a look at your current profile pics, if you can’t see your eyes very clearly then you need to crop it tighter!

For these reasons, the horizontal head cropped headshot is very popular right now, it’s the biggest trend in headshots in the major photography markets in New York City and Los Angeles. So naturally people are associating a horizontal headshot with being very modern, while the vertical headshot is starting to look more traditional and maybe even old-fashioned. Cropping into heads is also very common, it’s very popular in magazines, especially fashion magazines. Just look at any magazine rack and you’ll see head crops everywhere. Again the head crop is thought to be very modern and in fashion. Just as an FYI, I always include the whole head during my sessions and deliver cropped and uncropped versions, just in case anyone needs the top of their head for something! If you didn’t read it already, check out Tip #2 here! 

Tips for photographers: This is my favorite setup for headshots. I’ve written about the lighting setup here, so you’ll have to read about it there. But I want to mention here that I generally prefer some type of beauty lighting setup for headshots, which means a lot of soft light that is flattering for all skin types. To get the light as soft as possible you bring the lights as close to the subjects face as possible. Bringing the lights close has the added benefit of creating very fast falloff, which slims the face and creates dimension, ensuring that your portraits are flattering but don’t ever look flat. For the most part, all you need is one light with the biggest soft light modifier you can get (a big white umbrella is nice and cheap), and a reflector or two, which is what you use for “clamshell lighting,” the traditional standard for beauty lighting (Google it!). For people that want to look at little more badass, I like to adjust the ratios of my lights to create directionality and shadows, but I’ll leave that tip for another day.

Monday, March 14, 2016


In my view, portraits like this are priceless. This is my Dad, and this portrait lays everything to bare about who he is at this time in his life. It’s an iconic image for me and my family, and I was blessed to make it. Photography is truly a blessing and I am very thankful it is my profession. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to get to where I am today without the help of many, and my family most importantly. For all of those people I am grateful every day.

If you’d like to book a portrait session or a creative marketing consultation with me please contact me through my website www.portraits.paulbellinger.com.

About this photo: I made this portrait before a documentary film screening my Dad and I attended in downtown Billings. My Dad has been a willing subject as my portraiture has evolved over the last few years. He was one of the first subjects in my VIP series here. For this portrait, having only 15-30 minutes to set up and shoot, I decided to draw inspiration from one of my favorite legendary photographers, David Bailey, who is known for shooting very quickly. He is also known for using a white background and no fuss lighting. It was a very refreshing way to shoot, keeping things simple and getting a great result.

Tips for photographers: This is a very simple one light lighting technique that actually requires two lights. I think of it as a one light technique because there is only one light on the subject, a 22 inch silver beauty dish with white diffusion sock over it. The light is about three or less feet away from the subject and a foot or two higher than the subject’s head camera right. I’ve complicated matters slightly by adding a black flag in between the light and the subject, to block some of the light hitting his left ear (camera right). The flag is a piece of black foam core clamped to a light stand. The second light is on the background to make it a bright white, and some of that light is reflecting back onto the subject, creating a rim light you can see on his right ear (camera left).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Every now and then I see a sunset breaking and run up the hill in time to make a few pictures. When I do, my favorite subject is downtown Billings. It looks so cozy and quaint from this distance. You can’t tell if the buildings are empty or not. You can’t see how dirty or clean it is, or how many homeless people there are. Billings is more than just a pretty city on the banks of the Yellowstone, but sometimes it’s nice to remember that we are blessed with geography if nothing else. My wife and I live very close to the rims and we love to explore the “no mans land” on the Eastern side of the rims with our dogs. Billings has so much to offer, we are fortunate to make this place our home.

Paul Bellinger photography is a full service portrait studio in downtown Billings Montana. We specialize in wedding and portrait photography, please visit www.paulbellinger.com for weddings, and www.portraits.paulbellinger.com for portraits and commercial photography.

Tips for photographers: This was one of those, “Wow it’s going to be a great sunset,” grab your camera and run kind of shoots. I didn’t bring a tripod, a sign I was more interested in the adventure of hiking on the rugged cliffs behind my house than I was in making serious pictures. But I guess when you’re a professional photographer every photo is serious. This image is a composite of four exposures, blended into a panorama in photoshop. This is a crop from an even wider view. I made the exposures with a Sony A7ii and Zeiss Loxia 35mm.

Friday, March 4, 2016


He’s all grown up but Sala is still injury prone! He runs around the backyard like crazy, patrolling our fence line. He loves being outside and goes out for about 6 hours a day. He’s in great shape from so much exercise, but he’s constantly running into things and getting cuts and scrapes. He broke off his dew claw a few days before this portrait and we were on the way to have the bandage removed at the vet’s office when I thought it would be a fitting time to make his portrait. It’s fitting because being injured and playing though injury is a major part of his character. We found this crazy pup in the Piney Woods outside of Nacogdoches TX and he’s grown into a strapping young man! We’re happy we found him and adopted him, he brings a lot of joy to our family, even if his name does technically mean “Moron” in Hindi.

Beautiful, timeless studio portraits are a specialty of mine. I’ve put in countless hours of study and practice to truly understand the art of portraiture and I am constantly pushing to get better and evolve. When you book a portrait sitting with me you aren’t just getting me for the few hours that we’re together, you’re getting everything that I’ve put into my craft, culminating with my best performance to date, at your sitting. Let me put my passion into your next portrait, visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com for more information.

Tips for photographers: Well there is a lot of different lighting going on here. The first two portraits are a 3 light setup, with the key light a large soft box in front of and above my pup. You can see the catchlight in the top of the eyes. The bottom catchlight is created by a silver reflector on the floor in front of Sala. The other two lights are two kickers from the back on both left and right sides to create some edge lighting around Sala and help his dark fur separate from the black background. Both of the kicker lights are bare strobes with the standard 7-inch silver reflector on them, and are about two feet higher than Sala’s head, which is probably too high but the stands were at their lowest and I was too lazy to switch out for smaller stands. We had a vet appointment to make after all.

The third portrait is lit with a window to the camera right of Sala and few feet behind him. There is also a silver reflector camera left to reflect some window light back on to Sala’s face. The catchlight you see in his eye is the window. The fourth portrait is lit from behind with the window that has a piece of white diffusion fabric over it. Just behind me on both sides of the camera are two 8 foot high white reflectors as well as the small silver reflector camera right. It’s amazing how much you can do with a window!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


I mentioned on Instagram (@PJBellinger) that I should post a color version of Christine’s headshot, because her eyes are insane! Christine is a fantastic model based in Billings but who works around the world. She’s represented by Rocky Mountain Entertainment Agency and Images NYC, and probably a few more. We only had an hour to meet for a quick test shoot, so we’ll definitely have to plan a more extensive shoot soon. Stay tuned for that.

Fashion photography is one of our specialties at Paul Bellinger Photography. Models and actors frequently need new headshots and new images to add to their portfolios. Get in touch to book your portfolio or headshot sitting at www.portraits.paulbellinger.com.

Tips for photographers: This is a really easy lighting setup. Christine is facing a big window and has a white reflector behind her for a background. She’s surrounded by black on both sides, a black wall camera right and black 4x8 foot reflector on the camera left side. I’ve got black curtains on my windows so I can make them bigger or smaller to soften or harden the light or to move the light to one side or the other. The catchlights in her eyes give away the size and position of the window light.