Joyce’s Review of The Missing Link : A Film Photographer’s Guide to Studio Strobes

The winter blues are serious business for the natural light photographer.  There is only so much you can push a film stock before the grain and the contrast take over a magic moment you just recorded on film.  The lack of light doesn’t seem to be an isolated case for just North and Northeast part of the U.S.  This year, this unseasonable weather has spread all the way down south to Austin, Texas, which is very unusual for us southerners.  We have had some gloomy and freezing cold temperatures (yes cold, like below 32°f cold) that lasted for days.  As all photographers know, light dictates photography. The end.

The solution?  Studio Strobes!

Before it is released to the public, I had the honor of taking a sneak peek at the much anticipated workshop style PDF, The Missing Link, by Little Bellows’ very own, Sandra Coan.

Before you go all “strobe is too complicated”, “I am not good at the techy stuff” or “I will never like strobe” on me, let me just tell you why studio strobes might be the best thing that has ever happened to a film photographer: it’s the control!  You can actually tell your light to fire at a certain camera settings!  Whoa, mind blown!  And if you sit tight for a minute or two, I’d love to tell you more on why The Missing Link is by far the best how-to photography resource around.

Learning about strobes truly is THE missing link for your film photography work.


Sandra Coan Photography, Contax645, Tri-X, Strobe, Richard Photo Lab

Starting at the Basics

The Missing Link opens by introducing you to the basics of using a studio strobe.  When you are learning something new and foreign, it is extremely helpful to have someone who is experienced to take you by the hand, advancing a tiny step at a time.  Sandra does exactly that.  In this guide, she starts by laying out the foundation, the basics.  Not only will she show you the equipment she uses in her studio, she is going to show you how to set it all up and use it in a way that creates soft, natural light looking photos.

Demonstration Videos

Don’t you wish sometimes that the author of the photography book that you are reading would step out of the pages and show you exactly what he/she is talking about?  Well, in The Missing Link, demonstration videos are peppered throughout the entire guide to help you see exactly what Sandra is explaining in the pages.   This is what makes it so unique.  I am pretty sure a lot of you out there are kinetic learners just like me.  I learn the best and most thorough when I see (read the book, see the demonstration) and do (hands on experience by imitation).   In each video, Sandra breaks down the information in little bite size pieces so it’s easy and straight forward.

Here’s a little sneak peek, the first video in the guide (along with a handy sign up to get on the Missing Link newsletter list!)

Interactive and Continuous Learning

So what happens after you read all the pages and watched all the videos in the book and still have questions?  This is where the Interactive and Continuous Learning comes in.

To support all of you in learning studio strobes, Sandra is planning to start a private Facebook group for all who purchase a copy of The Missing Link.  Sandra will be there to answer all of your questions.  Not only that, she is offering to provide valuable feedback and suggestions to help you improve and progress in studio strobes.

So to sum it all up, The Missing Link is the perfect tool for anyone who is looking for an effortless ways to learn in studio strobes or to gain back the control of light.  Don’t let the lack of light restrict you and your work!  Learn the tips and tricks from Sandra on how she creates beautiful, luminous and natural-looking portraits with studio strobes!



Of course, I’d love to take this opportunity to do a GIVEAWAY because our fans are why we do what we do here at Little Bellows.  Here is your ONE and ONLY chance to win a FREE copy of The Missing Link – A Film Photographer’s Guide to Studio Strobes, a $195.00 value!  I am making it super easy for you all to enter so I want to see all of your shares:

1. Follow Sandra on Instagram at

2. Follow Little Bellows on Instagram at

3. Share the following image (also posted on Sandra’s Instagram and Little Bellows Instagram feed) in your Instagram Feed and tag @sandracoan and @littlebellows using #LBstrobe hashtag. When you share this on your feed, tell Sandra why you want a FREE copy of this guide.  Have fun and be creative.  A winner will be announced next Tuesday (March 10th, 2015).  Good luck!!


SIGN UP HERE to be on list so that you’ll be the first to know when The Missing Link: A Film Photographer’s Guide to Studio Strobes is released!

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Po - hhaa, I’ll be honest that I have no idea how to share someone else’s photo in instagram….so I might have done it wrong. Oops!

Stephanie - This is so wonderful, Sandra. You are such a rockstar.

Virginia Smith - Some travel plans fell through in a big way and I was so disappointed. But a momtographer decided business was not for her and she sold me a pair of Alien Bees/Softboxes/Parabolic for almost half off! After going to FIND and then a portrait class leaves me trying to figure out how to incorporate portraits and film as well as a redo of my portfolio. Now with lights! Whew, the missing piece and I need help!

Megan - I also have no idea how to share on instagram. This looks like a great workshop!!

Christina Mallet on Instagram: These Photos Make Me Think This

Hello and Happy Instagram Wednesday!

Today’s post is shorter than I imagined because Cape Town is on fire and has been for 4 days.

I’m not in any any danger as I live in the city but in the suburb where my kids go to school it looks like end of days.

Anyway, I have an unexpected house full kids.


Okay, now, on to today’s photos. I hope you enjoy them and here’s a big congrats to the featured photographers–CONGRATS .


Have a great week!






erica hughes


I love the color palette here–Navy shirts and black chicken babies look good together.

I love the shallow depth of field which really makes the girl’s hands and that one front and center chick stand right out.



I never knew how much I loved rain until there was none.

This image is beautiful and moody.

I think the composition is great because the could vignette and then the traffic light at the opposite edge really keep your eyes moving.

lisa croix


How could I not show you this picture?

I couldn’t not show you this picture.

It’s pretty and makes me smile.

Plus she has beautiful teeth.



Looking at this I thought it looked like a child version of some really cool lead singer of a band on a global tour.

She’s seen a lot and she’s not super enthused which gives her a very cool cat presence.

It’s beautiful all around.



When I was in photo school I had a teacher who said always be looking for reflections because they can really change an ordinary view into and extraordinary one.

Case in point: Above.



This image is perfect in all ways.

I love the sentiment also.

Enjoying the silence or the beauty of what is coming out of the radio.

Either way, this is living in the moment.

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Caroline Martin - What an honor to wake up to this today! Thanks for the feature, Christina!

Brooke Alderson - Wow! What an amazing honour to be featured on one of my absolute favourite blogs, and amongst so much talent! Thank you, Christina.

reni - love seeing the work of CAROLINE MARTIN PHOTOGRAPHY! thanks for sharing!

Meghan Boyer: Newborn on Film

I am such a fan of Meghan Boyer, both as a person and as a photographer!  She really is so good at what she does, and I love every single shot from this session!


From Meghan:

“This session was extra special because the baby was years in the making. The couple is so sweet and are over the moon with their baby girl. And rightfully so, she was such a sweet little peanut! The color was shot on H1 with a mix of portra 800 and portra 400 in my studio. The BW is 400bwcn on my canon ae-1.”

About Meghan, based in Maryland:  Website  |  Facebook  Contact



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Kim - So beautiful and precious! You can see love in these pictures.

Joyce’s Quick Tip: Film Stock Choices

One of the most asked questions when people first started shooting film is “what are some of your favorite film stocks?”.  I am guilty of asking this same question years ago when I first started out on my film journey.  Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking what everyone’s favorite film stock choices are.  What gets confusing though, especially for a newbie film shooter, is that you will pretty much get a list of every single stock that is available on the market today.  To add to the confusion, you will hear a variety of opinions like “I like xyz stock, rate at # stops, develop abc“.

Joyce Kang Photography00009837-3Joyce Kang PhotographyAdam Kriscoff, Adam KristoffRoll1_portra800_120

So what should you do if you are brand new in film photography and want a suggestion on which stock to try?  My recommendation is pick a film stock that has a great latitude, such as Kodak Portra 400 in color film, or Kodak TriX 400 or Tmax 400 for black and white film.

SBWkang000711-R1-E005_1Joyce Kang Photography00009687TABWkang000527-R1-E005

But that’s not all!  I highly suggest that you purchase at least 15-20 rolls of the same stock you choose and shoot nothing but that stock for the next 3-6 months.


I know you want to try every stock that’s available under the rainbow so you can find out which one you like the best, the one that fits your style, the one that has your name written all over…blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, I know.  I get it.  15-20 rolls of the same stock is … a little excessive, no?

Joyce Kang PhotographyPortra 1605912

Not at all!

Think this way:  How many frames of digital image did you take to get you where you are today?   Now, why wouldn’t you take at least the same number of frames on film to practice this new medium?


The cold hard reality is this:  the only way you can truly know how to use and know if you love/hate a film stock is to shoot it and shoot it often.  Over and over again.  Put in the work necessary to really understand a particular stock is 90% of the work in shooting film.  Try to rate it at box speed.  How about shooting it different light?  Not enough shutter speed, what about rating at 800 or 1600 and push in development?  Experiment with them.  Find out the exact combination that makes your heart sing.

I hope this little tip helps you get started on your journey to film!

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Rich Demanowski - Great article, with some excellent advice!

When I (late in life) finally took a formal course in photography 101 (audited through my alma mater), the professor had us spend the first semester trying as many different films and papers as possible, to try and find one that spoke to us individually.

Then, the second semester, he had us use one – ONLY one – stock of film and paper, to explore in depth what they’re capable of.

I ended up falling in love with 320TXP (Tri-X) and Bergger’s VCCB warmtone paper (which, sadly, is no longer available).

Joyce Kang - Thank you so much for your feedback!

Joan - Great article! I am primarily b&w and forever I have used TriX 400. It is only through using that film exclusively that I can pinpoint what I love and don’t love about it. I have recently switched to Fuji 400h to see if that film better meets my needs!

Joyce Kang - Joan, Thank you so much for your feedback! I love TriX!

DKimg - From your Favorite film stock, I like Tmax400! I wish they still kept TriX320 in medium format! Still one of my favorites!!!

Thanks for the post!


Joyce Kang - Thank you Dominique! You know I am a fan of your black and white :)

Light is Light: The First Lesson in Mastering Strobes

The number one reason photographers stay away from studio strobes is that they fear that they don’t understand them.  Strobes seem techy and complicated.  And if by chance they could get them set up, they wouldn’t even know where to begin.

I get it!  I used to feel the exact same way.  In fact, my lights sat is storage for years for this very reason.

But the truth is you already know most of what you need to know about working with strobes.  For reals.


Because light is light.

Sandra Coan baby on film with strobes

Contax 645, Fuji 400h, and Strobes.  Processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.


It doesn’t matter whether your source is the sun shining through a window or a bulb shining through a soft box, the same rules apply.

So if you already know the basics of working with window light then you already know the basics of working with strobes.

Just think of your strobes and soft box as a portable window.

Do you know how to place a subject when working with window light?

Of course you do!!

Then guess what, you know how to do it with a strobe and a soft box too!

Do you know how to meter your people when working with window light?


Well then guess what, one easy adjustment to your meter and you can do it with a strobe!

Does having only one good window in a clients home interfere with the flow of your shoot?

Of course not! You do that all the time!!

Then guess what, having one light and one soft box won’t hinder you either. In fact, it will be even better because you’ll know that the light coming out of the strobe and soft box will be perfect, consistent light every single time you use it!

How great is that?!

The only thing new to learn is what equipment to get and how to set it up in a way that will work with your vintage film cameras and create soft, luminous, natural light looking photos each and every time you shoot.

 And I can’t wait to show you!

Sign up here to be on list so that you’ll be the first to know when The Missing Link: A Film Photographer’s Guide to Studio Strobes is released!

And don’t forget to share all of your pretty strobe work with us by using the tag #LBstrobes.

Have a great day!


natural looking studio strobes on film by Sandra Coan

Contax 645, Fuji 400h, and Strobes.  Processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.

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