How I Overcame My Fear of Using Strobes

How I Overcame My Fear of Using Strobes

Every photographer, at some point in their career, will have an internal debate to accept or decline a job because they may feel insecure about having the right skill sets or gear to complete the job. Personally, I have found myself accepting certain jobs and a few hours later, I wonder if I made a mistake in accepting the job since I may muck up a huge opportunity. A few days ago, I was offered a job that, at first, I did not think I could execute. Luckily though, I talked myself down the ledge and remembered I was in fact prepared for it.

As many of you are aware, I am a photographer who shoots primarily with natural light. The reason for this is because I oftentimes don't feel comfortable with strobes. The truth of the matter is, although I can handle using strobes, I never really put my mind to learning the techniques since I am such a fan of natural light. That is why I am always hesitant to accept jobs that require extensive use of strobes.

Because I am a writer for FStoppers, I was able to view Peter Hurley's latest DVD "Illuminating the Face" before it was released today. After watching it I was asked to comment on the the tutorial and, after the job I completed yesterday, I feel confident that my commentary will be constructive.

I was offered the opportunity to photograph a well-known architect in New York City. When I inquired about the details of the shoot, I disliked all three aspects of the job. I had to travel to NYC for this one job, they requested an artistic "studio style" portrait and the location was indoors in a small urban office. Although there may have been a moment or two of panic, I accepted the position. I had watched Peter Hurley's DVD a few nights in advanced to the job. The tutorial guides the viewer from simple to advanced setups, easy for all photographers of different setups.


Granted, this article is not a review of the film. Rather, it is a testament to the amount of knowledge that Peter Hurley conveys clearly and concisely throughout the film. By the time the DVD was over, I walked away with knowledge of so many different lighting setups using anywhere from one to twelve different strobes. I quite literally learned everything about strobe lighting from A to Z in an easy, efficient manner. Before watching the film, I never would have imagined that the setup I implemented in yesterday's shoot would work, and yet the one strobe and its reflector were more than enough. Using one of the techniques discussed in the tutorial, a piece of cardboard with shapes cut into it (it took me approximately 30 minutes to make it) a single strobe and a reflector were all I needed to shoot an image in a tiny, busy office. I was given fifteen minutes with the client to shoot a fantastic image. I fooled around with strobe and camera settings for about five minute and I used the remaining ten to shoot in raw and monochrome JPG images. Peter Hurley's tips enabled me to produce solid images that left the clients with a satisfying product.


Let me note that although I need more practice to really implement Hurley's techniques, any one witnessing me work with the client wasn't aware of my anxiety. I held my ground and was confident enough in my skill set to take the image. I also found that using a few skills that I learned from The Art Behind the Headshot was also crucial. I was able to keep the mood light by striking up a conversation with my subject and those around me to keep everyone laughing and talking.

Additionally, I am not one to generally watch a tutorial from beginning to end. Further, when I do listen to portions of a tutorial, it is generally playing on a second screen while I focus on retouching images or answering emails. When I first began to watch this DVD, I had the first chapter running on a second monitor while I was occupied by other things. But after about 10 minutes of the DVD playing, I kept getting drawn into it. I stopped whatever it was I was doing, and couldn't help but pay complete attention. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch the film because it prepared me to take a job I would have otherwise turned down.


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Dani Diamond is a fashion and commercial photographer based out of NYC. He is known for his naturally lit portraits and unique retouching techniques.

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It took you 30 minutes to cut that piece of cardboard?


I'm sorry... Does Peter Hurley have a new DVD out? And you say it's produced by Fstoppers? How could I have never have heard of this before?

Perhaps you should put a few ads and more "articles" that relate to it on the front page.

What? A business has to market their products? Couldn't they just... ~rely~ on the products marketing themselves!? Because that's how things are. :rolleyes:

Photographers need to learn from fstoppers, really. So many extremely skilled photographers out there are struggling to make ends meet because they "don't like" or "don't want" to market themselves.

I see a paradox in your post. You say some photographers are struggling to make ends meet...So they should just learn from Fstoppers by buying their stuff...but because they can barely make ends meet, they can't spend $300 on Fstopper's products...So they continue to struggle to make ends meet.

You just proposed a cyclical argument.

Unless you were implying something other than "Quit complaining and become educated by buying the DVD."

I think he meant learn from Fstoppers and don't think of marketing as a shameful dirty act. The original poster was ridiculing Fstoppers for posting so much marketing for their new DVD. Tobias was just saying that photographers that are already very skilled (probably don't need the DVD) could learn a lot from Fstoppers marketing.

I have no problem with marketing. I was merely giving a little ribbing at the inundation of it recently.

I probably wouldn't have even commented on it except that I was three paragraphs in when I figured out I was being marketed to ("Wait, is this and advertisement for the new DVD?"). It felt a little clumsy and I decided to poke a little fun at Fstoppers for it.

Beware, an ad to sell a DVD hides in this article ;)

Too bad the DVD doesn't say anything about NOT messing up your images with your own name/copyright...

Yes I must agree, I think a photographer needs to market themselves BUT its nasty when it starts to look like cheap self-help books advertising in spam email.
And I am very happy he says its not a review of the dvd because that would look like a seller on ebay creating fake clients and giving themselves great reviews and that is a fraud, is it not.
I actually thinks that if Fstoppers are going this way they should consider the creative-live way of doing business and being upfront about selling their products and not a sad blog/review/ad embarrassment.
Seriously have you not learned from countless sites that has done just this.
Build up a user base from giving them nice and great material, then getting to the stage where greediness betrays brains and sneaking in more and more ads and commercial content that pays for it self and then loose all their user base and then go bankrupt.
You already have the ad space for your products and you are plugging your stuff through all other channels please don't go this way and make yourself like like greedy bankers.
I have liked your site for a long time and shared your content and giving you many hundred visitors by linking your material to students and other photographers.
Please don't do this silly stuff

Hey Karl, I'm not sure I completely understand your complaints. This post by Dani was not commissioned by Lee or I, and while it's true we advertise on our own website, we do not require our writers to review our products.

Last night we had an open Spreecast with Peter for the release of our new tutorial, and during this session someone mentioned that Dani had watched the prescreening of the tutorial and had ALREADY implemented something he learned from watching it. I'm very familiar with Dani's work and recently had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time in NYC. I know Dani does not use flash lighting much at all; so when he showed the spreecast group his post we were all blown away. I've never seen anyone pickup something from someone and adapt it into their own shooting so fast.

For many of us it was a truly inspiring moment....something we've always focused on here at Fstoppers. Now whether or not Dani conveyed that sentiment in a way our readers could get excited about it in a "This is not an advertisement" way, well that's up for debate sure.

Over the years Lee and I have made only 4 downloadable products and for the first three we have released full sections of those tutorials for free on our youtube channel and on Fstoppers directly. These products cost a ton of money and unbelievable amounts of time to edit and produce. We aren't simply filming a live lecture for 2 days straight and uploading everything uncut and unedited. These are MASSIVE personal projects we do to help supplement our content, help our fellow photogaphers, and yes make a profit to help continue this train that is Fstoppers.

I feel bad if you believe all of these tutorials are a waste and have caused us to become "greedy bankers". From our perspective we have meet HUNDREDS of photographers in person who have told us one of these productions have completely changed their lives and have helped them either kickstart their own business or have landed them higher paying clients and/or pushed their own work to a new level. When we produce something we are proud of and put the FS name on it, we want to share it and promote it for others to see. We do not produce dozens of these tutorials a month; so far we are on record for 1 a year. Greedy bankers work much harder than that :)

We value every single reader who has ever stumbled upon this website and I owe so much to those who have supported both Lee and I as well as the photographers we feature on here. I never want to alienate anyone, but sometimes comments like these that are popping up in this thread make me stop and think, "why do we even do this anymore?". Lee and I, along with the staff we brought on 2 years after launching this site, have literally built something out of nothing and have created a community we love and appreciate. As much as it excites me to hear a new success story about someone inspired by our content and efforts, it also deeply saddens me to hear photographers bickering about how uninspiring something is that other other photographers have found so much joy and value in.

As a general rule, we try not to even respond to posts like this but after such an inspiring spreecast hangout last night I feel like something needs to be said. If we lose a few readers who cannot find the inspiration in the words of someone like Dani Diamond than so be it, but this negative mindset found in the comments of many of these posts (even those not associate with a product we have made) is not something I want to be surrounded by as a creative professional.

Wow. Speechless.


Eloquently said, Pat!



Well said Patrick, great work Dani!

Well fucking said


If you don't see the problems that it might entail to compromise the integrity of your site as a media operator it is very little I can tell you on how to operate your business. God luck with your site and all the best to you.

And this is why I'm excited to start writing for this site. Well said Patrick.

that dixie dixon add about swim wear photography here at fstopper...
be carefull you get not sued for starving models to death... it looks ugly .. bullemie at its fines... hips like a KZ prisoner....

It's just the angle of her torso....I have other images from this shoot and this model is not underweight but I can see how it looks like this from the pose. I don't think anyone can get sued for a person's own dietary decisions :)

If you think this article is about overcome the fear of using strobes, you're gonna have a bad time.

People have to understand Dani (who wrote this post) have nothing to do with the making of the DVD, and gets nothing by promoting it. Too bad people focus on the wrong things here...

I could focus on that this article basically does not contain any insights to studio lights or "reviewing" the product and does not contain any tool for getting rid of fears or nerves about using studio equipment but only contains a blatant plug for an associated product.
But please enlighten (pun intended) me, what is the right issue?

I wold say that is the problem I had with this. As I began to read the article, I felt mislead— like a bait and switch.

Not that big of deal (thus my meant-in-good-natured-ribbing up top), but still... it appears to be an article from the title and link, but reads as a testimonial ad.

with so many people in the room, the architect's hair looks like he just jumped out of the bed 'cause the main problem of the team was to overcame the fear of using the strobe and wondering if cut cardboard will be performing the same way Peter Hurley showed on his DVD. The light is not all that matters in a photo.

A more accurate title would be "What Peter Hurley's DVD taught me about strobes."

The article isn't so much about how you overcame your fear of strobes but more of how Hurley's techniques helped you use strobes. That's an important distinction, because the former implies general methods that people can implement into their practice or workflow while the latter is contingent upon a specific piece of tool or equipment (in this case, the Peter Hurley DVD).

Both are fine of course. But I think I echo many people's thoughts when I say the headline was a bait and switch. Accurate, sure, misleading, definitely.

Great call Jun, I think you have the most accurate opposite to the article. Dani better take note :)

Look, Dani is a very talented photographer. I believe FS did themselves a service in bringing him onboard -- his writing is clear (and certainly a cut above a lot of what passes for photography writing online) and informative, and it's obvious that he loves what he does and dedicates himself to improving his craft 150%. So if he feels that he got something out of the DVD, in an area in which he's not too proud to say isn't his favorite or go-to style, why should it be a problem for anyone else? Because FS might commit the cardinal sin of selling a few more copies as a result? Every time an FS writer posts an article, it's a bit of a promo piece for their day job -- and no one seems to mind that. So here's an article where Dani gets to show off (I don't mean that in a bad way) bts of a great gig, AND throw a lot of credit in the direction of someone who's taught him a lot. I actually prefer this to the endless articles by photographers who are convinced they invented the medium. Kudos to FS for adding something worthwhile to the bandwidth. (And ahem, Patrick, if it will ever download on my mac...)

A few already hit the nail on the head already: The title of the post is very misleading as this is more of a Hurley DVD promo which of course is fine. Peter is the man as is Dani. Suggested title change "How Peter Hurley's DVD Helped Overcomming My Fear Of Strobes!" (too long yeah?)