Behind the Scenes

Our RGG EDU Product Photography Tutorial Has Arrived!

The wait is over! RGG EDU launched Tony's tutorial this morning, and it's already selling like hot cakes. This week only, RGG EDU is offering $25 off with promo code 25OFF, making this comprehensive and valuable guide an even better deal. If you need further convincing, take a look at the trailers.

And before you start thinking everything is perfection, nothing ever goes wrong, and we're a serious bunch...

Roslund and HDG: A Savory Combination

Not only is Nudo Ramen House one of our favorite places to eat, the design of the space has achieved international recognition for HDG. Our images of the restaurant have been recently featured in two design magazines, Hospitality Design and House Trends in Portugal, as well as Wonderful Machine's February 26th Blog. We are honored to be working with such amazing and talented people and are looking forward to every project they send our way. 


As we've mentioned before, we're wading (or plunging) into video production. Here's a behind the scenes look at how we helped make an already spectacular space magazine ready.

Behind-the-Scenes promo of architectural photography at Nudo Ramen House in Spokane, WA for HDG Architecture & Design.


Our Product Photography Tutorial Is Only a Few Weeks Away

Back in the first part of December, 2014, Tony had the opportunity to shoot some epic tutorial videos for RGG EDU (you can get a peek behind the scenes on the RGG EDU blog). Over a period of eight days, the RGG EDU crew shot fifteen videos of Tony imparting his knowledge of commercial product photography for Catalog, Editorial, and Direct Business. The shoot was 3 months in the works, and another two in post production, but is finally ready for it's launch the first week of March. The tutorial offers an in depth, step by step break down of product photography from set up to post.  RGG EDU and Tony offer a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in commercial product photography, and at $299 it's a hellova deal! Anyone who signs up for RGG EDU's online newsletter gets opportunities for early release of the tutorials as well as info on upcoming releases and workshops. So go sign up!

Tips To Improve Your Beverage Photography: Secrets Of The Craft

This week I wanted to  share a few of the tools we commercial photographers use to create our tabletop images. Particularly the items used in photographing beverages. There's a lot of trial and error when it comes to this sort of photography, often times we find ourselves using things in ways far from their originally intended purpose. Having said that, there's a lot of things that have become kind-of standard practice in food/beverage photography, some of those items I'll share with you today. 

I certainly don't claim to know everything, as most of these techniques come from years of experience working with [food] stylists and even other photographers, a learning curve that never ends. I attribute much of what I've learned about food/beverage photography to my mentor Rob Grimm, one of the masters of this genre. Another source for knowledge on prepping food for the camera is a great book called "Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera" by food stylist Delores Custer, that has many more tips and tricks beyond what I've discussed here. If you want to know more, I'd recommend picking up a copy.

Below I've outlined the items mentioned in this video, most of which is available at drug stores and/or grocery stores.

Tacky Putty
Microfiber Cloth
White Cotton Gloves
Tacky Wax
Orthodontic Wax
Canned Air
Krylon Crystal Clear
Goof Off
3M ScotchBright Pad
Acrylic Ice
Rubber Funnel
Kitchen Bouquet
Ice Powder

I look forward to seeing what the viewers do with these tips, and hope you'll share your images on our Fstoppers community. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to hit me up on social media.

RocknRoller MultiCart: The Most Useful Tool In A Location Photographer's Kit

Ever since I briefly introduced it in my Photographer's Grip Kit video, people have been emailing and messaging me regarding the utility cart I use to haul gear around a job site. As a result, I figured a video was in order to talk about the cart in more detail, along with the modifications we've made to better adapt it to our workflow.

The RocknRoller MultiCart is a modular utility cart, which is really just a hand truck on four wheels in it's purist form. But the ability to select all-terrain tires, add platforms and shelving, and fold flat for stowing and transport is what makes it a great choice for location photographers. After loading it up with gear at the car, we drag it to the set, and then partially unload it to utilize the top shelf as a computer platform for tethered shooting. The MultiCart sells for $100-$300 (depending on options) at most photo supply houses and Guitar Centers (bands and DJs use them to haul gear too).

Introduction To Off-Camera Flash: Three Main Choices in Strobe Lighting

I'm often asked about the best way to get started with off-camera flash. The problem is, there's no single answer for everyone. There's a lot of different ways to accomplish the same end goal of getting that flash off the camera. In this video I'll break down the three main choices when choosing your method of strobe lighting.

Why off-camera flash? Illuminating our subject with strobes give us far more control over how a scene is going to look versus relying on ambient light. Having a flash attached to the camera limits the direction of that light, normally to the same direction our camera is facing. Sure, you can bounce a flash off the ceiling, off a wall, or off a piece of foam core, but you're still limited to some extent. And what if you're outside with no walls or ceilings? This is where strobe lighting really shines (rim shot).

Option 1: Speedlight

Small, portable, versatile battery powered units with a very short flash duration that can be adapted to work with various modifiers such as softboxes, umbrellas, and gels, or even ganged together to create larger light sources. Many of the modern units have integrated Through-The-Lens (TTL) technology allowing the camera and flash to communicate and automatically adjust the output power based on the camera's metering. The minimal power output and lack of a modeling light are the most limiting factors of these small flashes, although with today's high ISO capabilities of digital cameras, this is quickly becoming less of an issue.

Option 2: Monoblock

The big brother to speedlights, monoblocks are self contained, high power flash units which are slightly less portable due to the fact they require AC power to operate. This AC power requirement is also what makes them capable of 300ws-1200ws output. Easily adapted to large modifiers with the use of a speedring, the units have integrated stand mounts, modeling lights, and often times come with integrated radio slaves. Monoblocks are great for traveling/location photographers and can be placed across large sets, limited only by available AC power outlets.

Option 3: Power Pack/Head

The most powerful, but least portable option, is the power pack/flash head combo.  With power output typically in the 1200ws-4800ws range, these are most commonly used by studio photographers who want complete control over the light on set. Like monoblocks, these are easily outfitted with softboxes, umbrellas, and other modifiers. Generators (power packs) typically have 2-4 ports for connecting heads, which divide the power either symmetrically or asymmetrically, depending on the model. A 2400ws pack could be connected to 4 heads, distributing 600ws to each of the four heads. Packs generally have integrated radio triggers, optical triggers, modeling lights, and micro adjustments for power output. If a head it attached overhead or in hard to reach places, the power can still be controlled from the pack, whereas monoblocks typically have to be within reach to adjust its settings. Like monoblocks, the packs operate on AC power, but the most limiting factor is that each head must be tethered to the pack. This makes it more difficult to distribute lighting across a set from a single pack. 

Option 3.5: Battery Powered

Many manufacturers have recently introduced monobocks and generators which operate on battery power. While offering more portability, these rechargeable units provide the features and operational likeness of their AC powered counterparts, but are usually limited to 500ws-1200ws of power.

Skip The Lab: How To Mount And Frame Prints Yourself

Growing up in the family's studios and labs, I learned a thing or two about mounting and framing prints, and I also ruined a lot of them in the process. In this video, I'll demonstrate a version of my process so you can skip the lab and mount your own prints, fresh from your home or studio printer.We start by creating a blemish free print on our favorite inkjet paper. In the video, I'm using a 24" wide roll of Moab Lasal Exhibition Luster which is then coated with Moab's Desert Varnish spray. The spray provides a durable top coat to the prints, which prevent scratches or fading, and protect them from splashes, spit, or whatever else may hit your image. I normally apply three even coats and let it dry overnight.

Next we pick our substrate; I typically use Gatorboard instead of foamcore for anything larger than 11"x14" as it tends to stay flat and won't warp over time. One of the other issues with foamcore is that it dimples if it's handled wrong, and those dimples will show through in your print. I precut our piece based on the size of our print (we buy it in full 4'x8' sheets) and file the edges with a straight file to eliminate any burrs or rough areas. Before applying our pressure sensitive adhesive, I always clean the surface with a rag or brush, followed by high pressure air (either an air compressor or canned air). 

Now we roll out our pressure sensitive adhesive. As I mention in the video, not all are created equal. The cheaper ones tend to leave air pockets or lift over time, while the better quality stuff gives even, uniform, long lasting adhesion. Over the years I've tried most of them, and these days Neschen Gudy 831 is the only stuff I'll use. It's quite a bit more expensive than other brands, but it's hands-down the best stuff I've found. After rolling out the material to expose the tacky surface we carefully place the substrate, making sure to align the factory edges. If you screw this part up, the whole print will be crooked and you'll have to start over. Once we get our substrate positioned, we can trim the excess and separate it from the roll.

We can use a rubber brayer to apply pressure to the adhesive material, establishing a bond between the substrate and the adhesive. Don't worry if you see small air pockets or ripples at this point, as long as there aren't any creases, it'll work out fine when we remove the release paper and attach our print. I like the wider brayers over the smaller versions, especially when mounting larger prints.

Once we've got our adhesive on the substrate, we can use a straight edge and tear off about a 1"-2" strip of release paper, exposing the tacky surface of the adhesive. I usually avoid removing the entire piece of release paper at this point to prevent dust from sticking to our adhesive. It also helps position the print just right, since we only get one shot at this!

With an exposed edge, I line up my print with the edge of the substrate/adhesive and begin to apply pressure. Next we roll back the print to reveal the torn edge of the release paper and start to peel it back about 6" at a time. While using the brayer to apply pressure (activating the pressure sensitive adhesive) we slowly continue to peel back the release paper until the entire print is in contact with the adhesive. You may see minor air bubbles at this point, but with a few passes of the brayer, they'll slowly begin to disappear and you're left with a perfect lab quality mount.

After our print is mounted, we can fasten it in a frame using a point driver and framer's points. I usually place one point every 6"-10" around the frame. You can either attach a framing wire or other wall mount to hang the frame and I like to add little rubber bumpers to the bottom corners so it doesn't scratch the wall it's hung on.

Lastly, I glue one of my business cards to the back of the print so the client will always remember who made the piece and where they can reorder.

How To: Photograph Jewelry For Catalogs

As a commercial photographer, I specialize in product, food, and architecture. One of the products we've been shooting a lot of lately is jewelry, specifically jewelry for catalog use. In my opinion, jewelry is one of the hardest things to photograph, and many photographers don't know where to start. Whenever we're tasked with photographing shiny,reflective, spherical objects, our studio sounds like a group of sailors on leave with all the profanity flying around (often times strung together to make complete sentences). We push on, moving through a series of techniques that yield the results we're after and we make mental notes for the next time we're presented with a similar challenge. It's how we better ourselves as photographers, and it's that challenge that gets me out of bed in the morning. In this video, I wanted to share some of the techniques we use to photograph those shiny, reflective, spherical objects for catalog use.

We approach catalog photography a bit differently than "hero" or advertising photography. The images are generally going to be much smaller and need to be consistent with work either from the same batch, or previous shoots. When it comes to catalog photography, the goal is to be efficient. We want to present a clean, uniform look that allows the client to use any of the images interchangeably. We also want to show as much of the product as possible to give the viewer a solid idea of what they're potentially buying. With catalog photography, the attention to detail is typically not as critical as advertising imagery, nor is the retouching as refined (efficiency is key), therefore the budgets are typically smaller per image. Another thing that keeps the cost down is the limited usage, typically licensed for just catalog use, whereas a hero image could be licensed for magazine ads, website, billboards, etc.

We don't use light tents, instead we prefer to build our own sets based on the specific characteristics of the pieces we're photographing. I find that by customizing the set, I get a lot more control and can create a better looking image for my client. We generally shoot like-items in series so we don't have to change the set around as often between pieces (efficiency is key). Working with very shallow DOF, we often use a technique called "focus stacking" to blend multiple expsosures into a single image using Helicon Focus, specialized software designed to find the sharpest portions of a group of images and blend them together.

In this video I'll walk you through the gear we use (who doesn't love a good BTS), some of our easiest techniques to capture simple jewelry images for catalog use, and show you how to fashion some of your own props to assist in those captures.

Bulletproof Backup Strategies for Digital Photographers

As your photography archive grows, so does the need to handle and protect that data. What happens if your computer doesn’t boot, or an image file won’t open? What if your home or studio gets robbed, or worse, catches fire? What if your backup drive fails, or your laptop gets stolen? These are all questions I ask myself when planning my backup strategy.

I’m a photographer, not an IT professional. Everything in this article is from my own experience since I switched to digital in 2001. I use a Mac, so if you’re on a PC you may need to do a little research to find the equivalent to some of the steps I’m going to talk about here.

Bootable Backup

Many people think that if they use Mac OS X’s Time Machine to backup their computer they’re protected if a drive doesn’t boot. But Time Machine doesn’t make bootable backups. For backups to be restored from TM, you need to have a working OS. The solution is to create a bootable drive which would allow you to hold down Option+C during boot, select the external (bootable) drive as your start-up disk, and you’re up and running. There are several pieces of software (both PC & Mac) that will allow you to create bootable backup drives, but my favorite is Carbon Copy Cloner. Trying to resolve technical issues and restore operating systems with a client standing in your studio can be a stressful situation. By creating a bootable backup, you can get back in the game quickly and replace/restore your main drive when time allows.

Copy to second card during capture

Now that we have a solution to our bootable drive backup, we need to start thinking about protecting our images from the moment we create them. Most DSLR cameras these days have two card slots and will allow the user to setup how those slots are configured. While setting your camera to fill one card at a time so you don’t have to change cards as often may seem like a good idea, it doesn’t provide any protection of your data if something goes wrong. If you want to incorporate redundancy into your workflow, this is a good place to start. By setting up your camera to write both cards at the same time, you’re getting two copies of your data in case one card fails.

Shooting Tethered

When shooting tethered, you need to make sure your files are backed up while you’re shooting since you’re probably not writing to the memory cards. Once again, with an application like Carbon Copy Cloner, you can create “tasks” to automatically copy files, folders, or entire drives to a second location. I have modified my MacBook Pro with a DataDoubler from OtherWorldComputing allowing me to replace the internal optical drive with a second hard drive (or in my case a second SSD). I have created a task in CCC which automatically copies my “Tethered” folder from Drive A to Drive B every 30 minutes. This way if my main drive fails, I know I have a second copy on Drive B. Alternatively, if you don’t have the ability to replace your optical drive, you could just plug in an external drive and have CCC do the same thing.

Copy To Second Location on Import

Most cataloging apps, like Adobe Lightroom or Capture One, allow you to define a second location to store images during import. This way when you ingest images from your memory card, or during tethered capture, you can create a backup of your images automatically. Just don’t make the second location on the same drive as the original location.

Where To Store Files?

Although they can be stored on the local drive, storing your image files on a remote drive or networked drive is likely a better option. If you have large catalogs of images, you may need a RAID system in order to create a volume large enough to accommodate all your files. By getting them off the main hard drive of your computer, it will allow your computer run faster and enable you to setup a backup system that’s accessible from any computer and expandable to fit your needs.

Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID)

There are several variations of RAID available, but the four most common are:

  • RAID 0 = No redundancy (max size)
  • RAID 1 = Mirrored (50% total size)
  • RAID 5 = Spanned across multiple drives (60–80% of total capacity), 1 drive can fail
  • RAID 6 = Same as RAID 5 but 2 drives can fail

I won’t dive deep into RAID types in this article, there’s plenty of information around the internet to bring you up to speed on how it all works. I’ll leave that to the IT professionals, but the biggest advantages of RAID systems are their ability to survive limited hardware failure, and their virtually unlimited size.

3–2–1 Strategy

Now that we have our data on a dedicated external drive we need to think about how protected that data is. IT professionals have long promoted a 3–2–1 backup strategy for secure, redundant backup of your data, and it certainly applies here. 3 backups of your data, on 2 types of media, 1 of those off-site.

Putting It All Together

Hang on, this is where it gets complicated. You can probably store all your files on a single external storage device, whether that’s a 2TB drive, 4TB drive, or 24TB RAID system. Look at how much you shot in the last few years on average and figure out how big of a drive you need to store several years worth of data. Maybe you can fit it all on a single drive, maybe you need a massive RAID system. Either-way, that’s the main storage for your files, so this is where you want to spend your money. But remember that RAID systems only protect against hard drive failure. They don’t necessarily protect against file corruption/deletion. In order to do that you need to have a backup of your primary files. If you're thinking RAID 1 accomplishes that, not quite. RAID 1 is an exact mirror between drive A & B. The problem is that information is instantly copied from one drive to the other. If something goes wrong on Drive A, it also goes wrong on Drive B. We need to create an opportunity to restore corrupted data from the uncorrupted copy. This is where a second drive (whether it’s a single disk or a RAID system) comes into play. By using an automated application like Carbon Copy Cloner to make daily backups of your main drive, you’ll have a second drive to restore from in the event something goes nutty on the main drive.

Now we have 2 copies of our data (you still with me?). We need a third to complete the first part of our 3–2–1 backup strategy. We have a couple options here. For our third copy, we need to be on a second type of media (the “2” in our 3–2–1 strategy). In Ancient Greece they used CDs and DVDs for this, but in today’s digital photography world, those methods are slow and small. Not to mention that optical media fades over years. Instead of optical media, we can use “The Cloud”. Companies like Backblaze and Crashplan allow you to store unlimited amounts of data on their servers. It’s a great way to go and covers the "2 types of media" and "1 off-site" parts of our 3-2-1 strategy. There is a downside though, it’s slow to start and slow to recover from. This is where I cheat a little on our 3–2–1 strategy. In addition to creating my third media copy on a second type of media, I also use a third drive to take off-site. Confused? Let me break it down for you:

Drive A copies to Drive B every night at midnight. This gives me a full 24 hours to recover any corrupt or deleted files. Each week I bring in Drive C from off-site and replace Drive B (taking Drive B off-site). Guess what app I use to accomplish this? CarbonCopyCloner automatically runs a task to copy everything on Drive A to Drive B or Drive C when it’s reconnected … so all I have to do is unplug Drive B, plug in Drive C and it starts to copy anything that’s changed since the last backup. Can it get any easier?

Now I have a 4–2–1 backup strategy, even better!

The Gear I Use

I use three G-RAID Thunderbolt drives from G-Technology. I also use a G-Drive Mini as my Time Machine backup (keep in mind TM likes 2x size of your main drive, my main drive is a 240GB SSD). I also have LaCie Rugged drives (various sizes) which come in both HDD and SSD versions to create copies of our tethered folder in the field. Even though we have two copies on the dual internal drives, we want to be protected in case something happens to our laptop on the way back to the studio. This drive is stored/carried separately from the laptop by my assistant. The next piece of gear we purchase, that will make this a truly bulletproof backup, is a Network Attached Storage system that can automatically sync with a duplicate NAS system off-site. This will solve the issue of something happening to the two G-Raid drives in the studio and losing everything from the past week that hasn't been copied to the off-site rotating backup. We're reviewing a few models now and will update once we've made a decision and incorporated into our backup strategy.

A Few Closing Thoughts

Isn’t all this expensive? Sure, but isn’t losing all your data, or even data from one job (a wedding for example) more expensive? Buy good stuff, spend the money once, spend the money now. Don’t buy cheap stuff and have it fail, you might as well not do anything. Don’t establish a backup strategy AFTER you have a problem. I don't expect everyone to run out and buy a few thousand dollars worth of RAID drives, but hopefully I've given you the incentive to start thinking about how your data is protected. Good luck, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions.


Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRII Repair

Last year Nikon established a policy that restricts the sale of parts to repair shops that are not official Authorized Service Centers. As a result, the nearest service center is nearly 1200 miles away. My choices when the collar knob on my 70-200 broke were to send to Nikon (or a service center) for repair which would have cost nearly $300 and taken up to 2 weeks . . . or we could try to fix it ourselves. Even after we removed the broken shaft on the lens, and we explained we were NPS members with an inventory of 23 Nikon lenses and 6 pro bodies, Nikon still wouldn't send us the $20 part so we could screw it on ourselves. This video documents our experience (yes we know a hammer and wobbly drill press is not the best option for repairing a $2000 lens, but it was certainly more fun):

Bombay Sapphire | Beverage Photography

During the cold winter months here in the Northwest, we tend to stay inside and have lots of social events. At one such event a friend gave me this bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin, which I instantly knew I was going to shoot prior to throwing back a few martinis. Because of the unique blue hues of the bottle, I decided to keep the rest of the scene neutral incorporating stainless steel and a simple white cocktail napkin. Here's a BTS video Chase Warnick grabbed during the shoot:

Tony Roslund Photography
Spokane - 509-995-6316
Seattle - 206-486-5857
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2014 - First Video of the Year

Kicking off the new year in the studio, we brought in Chase Warnick (my former studio assistant) to edit some BTS footage for our first video of 2014. Here he is buried in Final Cut this morning, probably hung over from last night's NYE partying.


This video was shot and edited completely on the iPhone5.

Lighting for Lamps | Spokane Commercial Photographer

The first part of the week was spent photographing some really unique pieces for a local artist I've mentioned a few times on the blog in the past. All the textures, raw materials, and varying finishes makes these pieces fun to shoot. The client wanted solid white background, so my job was to create shape and texture through lighting, really showing the viewer (and potential buyers) what these things were made of.

I used Rosco 3008 diffusion material lit from the right as my main light source, flagging the light from the background.  I added a little kicker from rear left through a smaller piece of 3008 attached to a Matthews blade diffusion frame to help give a rounded shape to these globes. I also used a piece of foam core near the camera to bounce a little light back into the face of the lamps, brining up the shadow values just a tad. Finally, a 20" beauty dish illuminated the back (white) wall giving me the pure white background the client required. I made sure the entire set was far enough away from the wall so I didn't get any light bleed onto my subject (bouncing off the back wall).

Nikon D800, Nikon 50mm f/1.4 @ f/11, ISO 100, 1/200sec

Smart Smoke e-Cigs | Seattle Product Photographer

Spent the morning in the studio creating images for Smart Smoke, while a visiting up & coming photographer got an explanation of my technique.

Product photography for Smart Smoke in the Spokane photo studio.

Product photography for Smart Smoke in the Spokane photo studio.

Tony Roslund Photography
Spokane - 509-995-6316
Seattle - 206-486-5857
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Commercial Headshots | Spokane Commercial Photographer

While I generally prefer inanimate objects (products, food, architecture), I occasionally have the need to photograph people. Sometimes as support for product images, or just simple business headshots for my clients. Fortunately, growing up in a portrait studio, I picked up a thing or two about posing and lighting for portraits. We spent the morning with various artists and professionals in the studio creating some publicity portraits using our newly constructed barn wood wall.

Commercial head shots in the studio.

Commercial head shots in the studio.

Tony Roslund Photography
Spokane - 509-995-6316
Seattle - 206-486-5857
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | 500px