Jonathan Bryan Williams, A Portrait

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Last May, while attending Pat McGee’s Down The Hatch on the Outer Banks, NC, I had the opportunity to grab musician Jonny Williams for an impromptu photoshoot.  Well it was sort of pre-arranged, meaning, that JW and I had spoke over the phone and decided if we got the opportunity we would make it happen.  If you have ever been to a DTH weekend you’ll find it to be jam packed with lots of music and activities with little time to sit, except maybe on the beach all day.  Still, you don’t want to miss anything.  Its non-stop fun.

I had an image in my head that required a certain set up.  But where?  I decided to haul all my equipment up to my tiny 4th floor hotel room at the Ramamda where I was sharing it with my son.  Often as a photographer you’ve got to try weird things to separate yourself from the pack.

Believe me when I say many jokes were exchanged about bringing someone back to my room for a photo shoot……or that I was sharing a King size bed with my teenage son.  I went for the king instead of two queens so I could get those extra inches I would need for my gear (planned ahead).  I figured I would have about 20 minutes or so to shoot Jonny before the night’s festivities got underway where he was performing again.  If I came away with one good image then I had done my job.  The result is explained in these images.

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Here is my set up in my room. To get the desired effect I’m looking for I need a three strobe set up; 2 rim lights right and left and a “beauty” dish as the key light.  Jonny came in ready to go.  We tried a couple different wardrobe looks and mixed it up as best we could.  I came away with about 100 or so shots in about, you guessed it, 20 minutes and he was gone.


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Here is just one RAW image straight from the camera.  The grey background allows me to isolate JW from the background in Photoshop.  Its kind of like using a green screen except the grey allows me to create a seemless look between subject and background. Its actually harder than it may seem to do it well.  Note the highlights (rim lights) on Jonny’s face and arms.  You probably see this technique all the time but may not even notice it….until someone points it out to you, then your looking for it all the time.  At least I do.



The image on the left was a rush job I did as soon as Jonny walked out the door.  Its quick and dirty.  Took me about 5 minutes to put together then upload to my iPad.  The idea was to give Jonny and others a look at my work as the party was getting started.  Once I got home, I went back and took my time to come up with the image on the right which is more of what I had in mind but takes longer to accomplish.  For you photo geeks out there, I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop together in tandem.  I gave the image more detail, took the shine off his nose, brightened his eyes and forehead under the brim, and finished with some dodging and burning on his hat, face, clothing, and skin. I used a flag image and brick wall from a previous shoot. I used some textures that are now available in Photoshop CC and finished it off with a plug-in by NIK.  I like it.  It screams America. 


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I have been studying this technique for a while now and get better with every subject, every image.  Its addicting.  You can find more of my work at my 500px portfolio HERE.  And as for Jonny, well, he really liked what I was able to do in such a short time and I continue to work with him as of this writing.  Jonny has a debut album headed your way by the winter of 2015.  He’s a very talented singer/songwriter and musician.  I’m looking forward to the album.


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 JW atop Angel’s Landing

  • Catherine Williams - September 29, 2014 - 12:53 PM

    I am Jonathan’s Mom and really appreciate your photography. Thanks for all the wonderful shots you have taken of my son. My class used him as a model when I
    was in photography classes years ago. I did wedding photography for years but of course it was all film back then. I do digital now but it is still a learning experience. Hope to meet you personally one of these days.

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