How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta – March 2016


How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta

It’s senior month here at Shutter Magazine, so it’s time to get your butts in gear if you are going to have any success this year. For this month’s cover, we tapped into the always beautiful Maddi. We worked with her on a previous project, and I knew I wanted to work with her again. Seniors 2016 it is!

Winters are cold here in O’Fallon, Illinois. So, what do you do? Not shoot? Come on. It’s time to make it happen. Can’t just sit there complaining about the weather. I know, more than most, that shooting indoors is not always the most creative environment, but there’s a ton of ways to create unique sessions in-studio. Lighting, props, backdrops and gels all lend themselves to creating unique and memorable portraits.

Seniors are a blast to work with, but it can be intimidating working with teens. Will you pass the cool test? At the end of the day, just be you. Have fun, and remember: Every teen everywhere in the world is going through an identity crisis of some sort and just wants to look great and fit in. That being said, if you create something amazing for them, including the experience, they will be forever loyal and tell every person they know on the planet.


It was cold here, so we decided on an indoor shoot. But indoors can be so boring, especially for a senior. How can we jazz it up a little? I remembered seeing something on Facebook about this can of “atmosphere” that creates instant and lasting fog. In addition, we wanted to use some gels to create mood.

The original concept was for Maddi to be wrapped in a fake fur. We bought one online, and once we put it on her, we quickly realized how bad it would photograph. That’s the thing sometimes, isn’t it? What you see in your mind and what the camera sees are often different things, and we have to be able to adjust. It seems like every single month, no matter how much prep time goes into the shoot, something inevitably goes wrong.


We have to adjust. The adjustment here was to get a black leather jacket and clip the fur to the jacket to look like a fur collar. Problem solved.

Another part of the concept for this shoot was the fog. This was new for me. I had never really photographed fog. We bought cans of Atmosphere Aerosol for about $12 each. You have got to check this stuff out. Just Google them. They’re super easy to use and they add depth and mood.

Now, the challenge here was lighting the fog. It’s easy, like everything else, once you figure it out. Originally we had the light firing into the brick wall and sprayed the Atmosphere behind the model. So the light was hitting the wall and not hitting the fog. After that, we moved the light to right behind the model, firing it into the wall from about 10 feet away. In that 10-foot gap, we sprayed the Atmosphere. This allowed the light from the Speedlites to hit the fog and light it up on its way to the wall.


Rather than shooting on a backdrop, we used the brick wall in our studio for some texture.

This year, the plan is for us to shoot more of our seniors in-studio to allow for the variations in temperature here in the Midwest. The summer months are brutal, forcing us to cancel shoots almost daily when the heat index reaches 100 to 115 degrees. No one wants to shoot in that heat for two or three hours. Working in the heat for 10 hours straight takes its toll. So this year, I have committed to working more indoors and getting more creative with lighting, posing and backgrounds to create unique looks for Salvatore Cincotta Photography.

Lighting and background.

This month, we decided to use Canon Speedlites in our studio on a brick wall. This was a five-light setup. All Speedlites were in manual mode.

Main lights were a clamshell setup with Canon Speedlites in their own group. The light modifiers were the Westcott octa and Westcott strip boxes. These things are super light and super portable. They’re the perfect accessory for your Speedlites.

On the backside, there were three Speedlites. We gridded two lights with MagMod grids hitting Maddi from behind and providing some nice edge light for separation. We gridded the final light with a gel to provide the color. We fired it into the wall, lighting up both the wall and the Atmosphere.

All Speedlites were in their own control groups. Group A was the main lights. Group B was the edge lights. Group C was the wall light. If you don’t understand the value of groups with your lighting setups, I highly suggest you grab that manual that came with your Speedlites and get your learn on. Seriously. The number of photographers who just put a flash on their camera and slam light into the scene is mindboggling. Spend a little time and practice. Your photography will immediately jump leaps and bounds.


Canon 600 Speedlites

Canon ST-E3-RT Transmitter

Westcott Strip Rapid Box

Westcott Octa Rapid Box

MagMod Gels

Canon 1Dx

Canon 85mm 1.2

1/200th of a sec @ f1.2, ISO 100

Closing thoughts.

Shooting indoors doesn’t have to be boring. There are lots of options for you and your clients. The key to all this is ensuring you are challenging yourself to do something different. There are lots of options out there for lighting, modifiers and backgrounds, and the combinations of these tools in creating your own unique look and feel are limited only by your imagination.

Seniors are an incredibly fun and profitable sector. Stop convincing yourself that senior photography won’t work in your market. It will. Every teen wants to look and feel beautiful. Create an amazing experience for your clients, and the financial rewards will follow.

And your seniors will eventually become your brides. This year, we are photographing two of our seniors who are now getting married. Talk about slam-dunk marketing. It’s a no-brainer for you and your business—and working with seniors is some of the most fun I have every year.

Get out there and give it a try.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the March 2016 magazine.

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