Studio Lighting with Sandra Coan: My Favorite Light Modifier

The truth is studio lighting used to totally scare me.

My lights sat in the storeroom of my studio for years because I was convinced I didn’t know how to use them.  Now I know that light is just light, and most of what I needed to know about studio lighting, I already knew from working with natural light.

If you can think of our softbox and strobe as just a portable window, studio lighting gets much less scary.  Light is light.  If you can work with it coming from the sun and through a window,  you can work with it coming from a bulb and through a softbox too!

The only thing you really need to know is what equipment to get and how to set it up properly to create that “natural light” look.

So today I want to show you my favorite light modifier and tell you a little about why I like it so much! (spoiler alert!!… it’s the catch lights!)

Take a moment to look at the two photos bellow.  The top one what shot with window light.  The second with my softbox.  See how similar the catch lights look?!  Love it!!

Remember, the shape of your light modifier will effect the shape of your catch lights.  Round modifier, round catch lights.  Square modifier, square catch lights.  Easy peasy!


Contax 645, fuji 400h, natural window light

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Contax 645,  Acros,  50×50 soft box


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Joyce’s Color Film Favorite and Fan Appreciation Giveaway

Hey friends! I am “just” a little excited over today’s blog post. It’s going to rock your socks off (hint: don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for the giveaway)!  But first, I want to thank every one  who submitted  your wonderful film images.  Again, I am blown away by the talent of our fans.

Do you love classic portraits?  I do.  I am  drawn to its simplicity and its timelessness.  I am attracted to a beautifully shot portrait that commanding respect.  It demands my attention.   It seems as if nothing else in this world mattered except for the subject and me.  There is a sense of uncomfortable intimacy between us.  The eyes of the subject seem to tell me “look at me, look at my soul” but I am too timid to stare too long.

I love everything about this stunning portrait by Lea Hartman.

Lea Hartman

Lea Hartman Photography

Natalie Seeboth

Natalie Seeboth Photography

Molly Matcham

Molly Matcham Photography

Miriam Dubinsky

Miriam Dubinsky Photography

Jaclyn Shepard

Jaclyn Shepard Photography

Gillian Claire

Gillian Claire Photography

Erica Sandusky

Erica Sandusky Photography

Simplee Photography

Simplee Photography

Catherine Rodrigues

Catherine Rodriguez Photography

Lea Lebron

The Red Mop – Léa Jones


The Giveaway!

Here at Little Bellows, we can not thank our fans enough for your unending support.  It may sound cliché, but we can’t do this without YOU.  You are our motivation that keep us going day after day, brain storming for fresh blog topics and easy-to-follow tutorial ideas.   Thank you, Little Bellows fans!  So here we go…


Let me present you Snap Point Picture Frames by Thistle and Poppy.  As photographers, we understand the importance of getting the images printed and mounted on the walls.  There is no simpler way to update your frames and your photos than Thistle and Poppy’s mixing and matching framing system.  Here is a glimpse of how it works:


Thistle and Poppy had generously sent a sample set of Snap Point Picture Frames for me to try.  Needless to say that I was beyond excitement when the package arrived in a securely packaged box with plenty of padding to protect the valuable frames inside.

I am pleasantly surprised at the superior quality of the wooden frames and base.  I feel they can definitely stand through the test of time.  The frames are made from recycled wood.  The colors are hand painted and finished to perfection.  Both frame top and base are embedded with magnets which hold the photo securely in place.  It can not be any simpler to design your own frame using Thistle and Poppy’s Snap Point Frames!  Here is how:

  1. Select the style of your frame base and frame trim
  2. Select the colors that compliment or match your decor
  3. Place your photo on the frame base
  4. Snap the frame trim in place…done!


The interchangeable frame trim and base allow you to create over 42,000 different combinations to fit your decor and style.  Thistle and Poppy’s innovative design doesn’t stop here.  You should try out their virtual designer to help you sort through different combination of colors and style before purchase!


LBGiveaway20141121007-EditThe Giveaway:

How to Enter:

1. Follow Thistle and Poppy on Instagram

2. Follow Little Bellows on Instagram

3. Leave a comment AND tag a friend under our Giveaway Instagram Post for a chance to win one set for you and another set for your friend.

That’s it!  Easy peasy!!

We will pick a winner and his/her friend at random tomorrow, November 25 at 12:00 Noon, Central Time.


©Joyce C. Kang-LBGiveaway20141121003-Edit003©Joyce C. Kang-LBGiveaway20141121015002©Joyce C. Kang-LBGiveaway20141121007001

Blog Contributor and Writer:  Joyce Kang

Joyce Kang selfie black and white on mamiya c330Joyce Kang is a children & family photographer in Austin Texas.  She is also a mentor and an instructor for Embrace The Grain, an intro to film photography workshop.  She is married to her best friend and enjoys outdoors with her family.  She loves to curl up with a good book and has a terrible addiction to any thing that tops with a heaping scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate fudge!

Follow Joyce and see more of her work at: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google+

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Sandra Coan’s Friday Favorites: Thankful for…

Happy Friday!

I have to tell you, our “Thankful for…” post is something that I look forward to every year!  I love reading your words and seeing the people and things that bring you joy.  So great!

In honor of Thanksgiving, we will be taking next Thursday and Friday off.  So that means our next Friday Favorites won’t be until December!!  How crazy is that?

The new theme will be “Winter”… what does it look like where you are?  Can’t wait to see!

Have a great weekend everyone!



“{thankful} for squishy little smiles”  Monica Hart Photography


“Thankful for an awesome hubby who teaches our kiddos the fundamentals early”


“I am thankful we visited my mom’s hometown in West Virginia this summer, spent quality time with our cousins, and got to put our feet in the river.”  Carrie Geddie Photography


Thankful for {them} Colie James Photography


thankful for my daughters!” LifeCreated


{thankful} I’m very thankful for my family’s good health. I shot this image today of a husband and father battling cancer. It was heartbreaking to approach this session with the perspective that these may be the last photos this family ever has together. I tried to document the things that have stuck in my head about my own dad and knew that I had to get a picture of his hands. Even sick from Chemo and weak and in pain, a daddy’s hands always remind me of strength and I sincerely pray that this young father kicks cancer’s butt!Lea Kahle Hartman


“{thankful} for her willingness to explore new ideas with me” Brittany Blake Photography


“Thankful for… two sons who love to play together.” JRo Photo

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Lea Ciceraro - Thank you SO very much for including one of my photos!! XOXO Happy Friday!

Kim Hildebrand: Little Leiv

I am so excited to share these photos!!

Kim is my friend and studio-mate.  I’ve always admired her work, especially her masterful use of studio lighting.  Recently, I’ve been shooting my film inside with strobes, and knowing how good Kim is with lights, I encouraged her to do the same.  The results speak from themselves!  Perfection!!

Kim’s experience with lighting and with working with families really shows!  That skill combined with the glory of Fuji 400h is almost too much for me to handle!

The only thing I don’t like about these photos is that I didn’t take them. :)

Gorgeous work Kim!!

-Sandra Coan

From Kim:

“This new little family hired me for maternity and newborn photos and we agreed to try film for both sessions. Little Leiv was 3 weeks old for their newborn session. Since I mostly shoot cuddly family poses for newborn shoots, I wasn’t worried about the 10-day window. I’ve been shooting my newborn studio sessions with strobes for several years now, but never with film. Sandra pushed me to try it and I’m so glad I did!”

Pentax | Fuji 400h | Richard Photo Lab

About Kim:  based in Seattle,Washington  / website / contact / facebook



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Kim - Thank you for the feature, Sandra! I just love how these images turned out and can’t wait to use more film in studio :)

carrie geddie - These are INCREDIBLE!!! I love them!!! Way to knock it out of the park, Kim!

Elena - These are amazingly beautiful Kim! You’re so very talented! Super proud of your hard work and dedication. I’m always amazed by your gorgeous pictures!!!

jenna reich - These are incredible!

Christina Mallet on Instagram: These Photos Make Me Think…

Hello and happy Instagram Wednesday!

Today’s images are all so special, for so many different reasons–read on for all my thoughts.

Congratulations to all the featured photographers–I was really moved this week.




Okay, so let’s just start this off with Wow. This is such a stellar image in so many ways.

The color palate is muted and rich all at once–and how amazing that little miss is perfectly colored as well.

A breathtaking location– I’m reminded that if I want to make amazing photos, a good place to start is to visit amazing places.



Another color palate beauty.

This photo appears to be a candid moment, because of the movement in the little one’s twirl, but its execution makes me think it’s an illustration of the ‘decisive moment’

I’ve linked an article about the ‘Decisive Moment’, which was a term coined by the famous street photographer Henri Cartier Bressen.

PetaPixal says “The decisive moment refers to capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself.”

This image, I think, could be the basis for a famous painting.



Fierce–Both the photo and this small person’s expression!

I’m reminded of how powerful a simple portrait can be.

The dominant colors here, the cool blue and warm skin are great complimentary colors.

This could be a poster for a sequel to The Hunger Games.



Oh little goat! How very sweet you are!

This image was made with film and I know I always say this, but I knew immediately.

Here’s how I knew: The detail in the whites and blacks of the goat’s fur.

Film just has a dynamic range that is able to pick up the details of extremes, like nothing else, except our eyes.



That hair is amazingly beautiful and so striking with the green background.

Her so very flawless skin, is lovely.

I don’t know what’s going on here but I envision she is reciting a poem because she seems smart and arty and unique.



Geez, this is fantastic.

I am sort of obsessed with very large animal heads on people.

This image is comical and interesting.

I think what makes it funny is the very human stance of the child–graceful hands, very straight forward stance and then there’s that disheveled bear about to say hello or bite our heads off.

This is quirky and I love me some quirk.


Sunset photos are hard, and not because they are hard to capture, rather they are hard to capture in a compelling way.

I think the issue with sunsets is they are often very static in that you have no idea if the sun is going up or down because the image is flat, lacking anything in the foreground.

This image wins the sunset prize because we have a sense of place and time, thank you rising or departing sunshine.

This is a metropolis, and you know those waters are bustling in the daylight, but in this image it’s only us the viewers and a quiet city.

I like this because it’s a sort of voyeuristic view of a city sleeping–watching sleeping is always beautiful.



This is such a beautiful portrait of a beautiful child.

The creative, in-camera, crop here is so great and adds a bit of mystery.

I say mystery because it would seem little one is deep in thought, and maybe there are thoughts of cookies or space travel.



Big daddy hand and teeny tiny baby hand, le sigh.

This is such a tender image and I love the detail in the man hands, like maybe he’s been doing manly work.

That contrast with the vulnerable baby hand, reaching out makes parents everywhere swoon and reminisce.



There’s something really sweet and a little bit comical about this image.

First, let me say that the light is great because it illuminates kiddo’s face and expression but because the light is blocked, we also have a bit of a silhouette.

I love the very straight lines of the concrete and the curves of the curls and the back of the shirt bulges.

The thing that makes me giggle a little bit is the sort of mug shot/lineup quality going on here.



I think this film image should be used in a Pit Bull rescue or awareness campaign.

I come from a long line of animal rescuers and I’m passionate about images of dogs classified as bully breeds in a beautiful, quiet and sweet way.

This image is so wonderful because it does that but also because the image is stellar.

Great depth of field and amazing window light for a serious and sweet portrait.

This image is made with film and again, the range of light and shadow is pure film gold!

Good tog and dog!

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Abby Elizabeth Malone - Beautiful and thoughtful selections! All are wonderful! Thanks for featuring me!