Tip: DVD's You Must Have (Part 1)

Last year I did a great post Tip about 12 Must Read Books that I consider the best ones to have in our library shelf I have also had been preparing a Tip for the 2 most important DVD's, well at least from my point of view, to be posted last year but unfortunately due to different things that happened in my life I couldn't finish it up until today.

So what better for starting 2009 than a full review of some of the 2 best 2008 DVD's?

This will be an inside review of David Hobby's "Strobist DVD Pack Collection" on Part 1 and on Part 2 of this Tip you will have a full review of the "OneLight Workshop" from photographer Zack Arias.

If you miss the Tip Books you can still read them in the links below:

Tip: 12 Must Read Books (Part 1)
Tip: 12 Must Read Books (Part 2)

The idea here is to make a full detailed review of the DVD's and give you a different approach what's inside each one and what each can help you answering some of your photographic questions.

I will not want this to became another bla, bla, bla DVD review that you can find at other places but instead I want you to visualize what each DVD has to offer and then by what you will see here you will decide if they are both for you or which one will be what you need.

But first let's take a look at a 2 part interview by Jefferson Graham with David Hobby MR. Strobist himself.

Hope that with this appetizer you can start seeing the light ;)

Now that we are talking the same language here let's start.

As I always do on these kind of articles I try always to bring you one or two shots of the Lighting setup and has you can see it's a simple one.

580EX flash shot through White Umbrella camera left at 7.1, 1/125 ISO 100.
I use a sheet of white fabric and for the OneLight workshop shots I use the enclosed black T-Shirt as background.

David was kind enough to send me the package a while back with all the DVD and I confess that when I started to see some pictures of it over the web I wondered how He managed to put all the DVD's inside a card box, rap them up in an ordinary twine and ship globally without it been damaged.

Only after seeing the box I figured it out ;)


Here is a picture of the package with it's original snail mail box. If you ordered it maybe the snail mail package will be different from the one I got or maybe not.
The most important is what you have inside that snail mail horrible yellowish paper.

The true understanding of Gear, Light and Brain all together in a single package.

The inside of the plastic package cover. All DVD's come well pack and you can organize them as you like.

Hey!!, About the content, tell us about the content!! - you may ask.

Here is a picture of the all 8 DVD set. YES!!! Your heard me right 8!!!


What will you find on each of the DVD's, in a random order, that's what I will describe below but first let's see what in the box:

Lighting Gear For Beginners
Strobist Lighting Seminar Morning Session (Part 1)
Strobist Lighting Seminar Morning Session (Part 2)
Strobist Lighting Seminar Afternoon Session (Part 1)
Strobist Lighting Seminar Afternoon Session (Part 2)
Bonus Material:
Conference Room Headshot
Swimsuit Portrait
Kendo Practitioner
Pool Portrait
Bonus Material:
Group Shot
DIY Macro Box
Sunset Flower
Bonus Material:
Lighting Indoor Basketball
Mountain Bike Shoot

As I may said before these are not the order you may see the videos, I choose this order to make this review but you can pick at any of them at any time and watch in order to get the information you need for your assignment shoots.

Before we start I would like to clarify that all screen shots were made with the permission of Mr. David Hobby so please try not reproduce them globally without his written permission.

On this in depth review I switched on the subtitles in order to best understanding of the content of the DVD. You can switch them off at any time but I think this way would be much better for you to evaluate the contents.

DVD 1 - Lighting Gear For Beginners


On this first DVD you will find David sitting at a desk, just like any other ordinary employee of a local photo store, not to show you that or trick you to buy that super duper camera that you do not want to buy but to explain how you can start using your small flashes off camera.

This DVD is a 2 part chapters where David explains the Camera, Flashes and Synchronization between them.

David starts the DVD with a very important key to the off-camera aproach which is, and I quote:

"Two things that your camera must have are the full manual control over your aperture and your shutter speed and a Hot Shoe".

Doesn't matter if you do not own a DSLR as long as you have these 2 things your on.

Regarding the off-camera flashes David advises:

"The most important thing you must have on your flash is to be able to set it on Manual mode"


During this DVD you will be able to find a lot of information concerning the how to connect the camera to an Off-camera flash and sync it, what will be the best batteries to use for a faster recycling time and a lot more information that David shares with you on a open minded dialog.

On the second half of this first DVD David leads you through the process of ways on how to put your flashes on stands, use modifiers and umbrellas to improve your shots in almost 1 hour video.

Hey I'm talking technical here, demos will come later on ;)


Use a light stand to position your light anywhere, David advises that you do not have to buy an expensive one to get the job done, also explains the umbrella holder and what you may accomplish with it.

At certain point David says mentions that every time he opens his mouth you will be spending $20 bucks, so you can see how cool the talk flows.


This is not the usual chat, chat, chat talk about the how much money you will be needing to spend in a lot of gear but the kind of talk you would want to ear "Less Gear, More Brain, Better Light".

He concludes this magnificent DVD talking about Gels and Gobos.

As per David words - "...this is not really complicated stuff... this is kind of a McGuyver stuff..."

DVD 2 - Strobist Lighting Seminar Morning Session (Part 1)

This DVD I believe it was meant to be the first one in the all set because it has a small introduction video made by David and explains what you will be getting inside the box.


Well here I have choose to have first the Gear and then move along to the Seminars as an approach to all of you who do not know what gear to have in order to start all these so YES, I say if you are starting from the beginning please take a look at the gear first and then move along with the flow.

On the next 4 DVD's (including this one) you will have a full Seminar lesson with David Hobby and it was recorded at a Seminar in Colombia, Maryland USA

If you have never been fortunate to go into a Strobist Seminar before, MAN I can tell you that this is almost the same thing has being seated on one of those chairs and believe me I have been there before ;)

Has per his last words of the Intro David reminds you that "as you watch... you should understand there is nothing difficult or complicated about what we are doing here..."

"So sit back relax and join us for our workshop, which begins now."


It all starts with "Good Morning everybody my name is David Hobby and I'm with Strobist.com..." and with this sentence start the Seminar and our journey through it.

Here we will find an extension of Lighting 102 that's on the site.

The goal for the day is to learn to better understand the small flashes and expand what we can do with them, your job during this process is to lose any general fear you may have about learning light and keep an open mind.

At first David give you some basic information about other photographers has a reference to some of the technique he will be explaining during this all process, this in a very open minded talk and with a great knowledge of what light and techniques they use.

David mentioned has a reference "Learn a single simple technique and then move from there... do not try to learn everything at the same time... add a technique here and there and you soon develop a bag of tricks"

David also mentions the Basic Lighting Gear as:

3.Umbrellas Swivels
4.Synching techniques
5.Light Mods - umbrellas, gobos, snoots, grids, diffusion, etc

David is a talker, I confess that is something out of the ordinary, as soon as he starts to talk about light and how you can control it your brains starts to work and think about unimaginable things you can start creating with this new off-camera flash thing called STROBIST.

And this DVD ends with the first two items of the "The Seven Basic Lighting Controls"

David explains "The Position of the Light" (Angle and Distance) and "The Softness (Apparent Light Size)" taking as reference the Black and White photographer Albert Watson. He also gives some background on one of his "On Assignment: Conference Room Quickie" and how all the process was shot with a Vivitar 285 with VP-1 Manual Adapters.

"Quick Bio Break and let's back in 5 minutes..."

DVD 3 - Strobist Lighting Seminar Morning Session (Part 2)

And we're back into part 2 of the Morning Seminar, this represents Disk 3 of the all set.


David continues his enjoyable talk after the Bio Break with "Balance".

Here are some of the tips:

"Flash exposure level can be changed by altering the flash-to subject distance or the flash power level."

"Ambient exposure level is affected by both shutter speed and aperture. Given you are at your sync speed or below, flash is only affected by aperture."

"Thus, altering your camera settings can allow you to vary the ambient exposure level and the flash exposure level instantly, from the camera, in full manual mode."

As the video flows, full of information and examples, you get an in depth thinking of how you can use these techniques and follow up David on how he solves some problems encountered and also you get to see some of the answers posted by other members that are on your position.

He also explains the "On Assignment: Wind Tunnel" and how he has surpass the problems he encountered there.

David also adds some links to problem solvers and also guys who can help you build your in mind lighting techniques.


David takes examples of live situations he encountered and explains the all process behind them as you may find at the above picture "On Assignment: Star Gazer" which he explains how he created it and all the process involved.

"It's time to go for a 1h lunch and return in the afternoon for the rest of the Lighting 102 and some practical examples of what we have learned here..."

DVD 4 - Strobist Lighting Seminar Afternoon Session (Part 1)

Strobist Seminar Afternoon starts with a quote from acclaimed photographer Joe McNally.

"If you want to make something more interesting, don't light all of it"


As he continues the countdown of the "The Seven Basic Lighting Controls" he now explains the N.4 on the list which is "Restricting Light" and by saying that you will be facing a lot of encouraging challenges on how you can use your Gobos, Snoots, Grid Spots and different objects you may found out there that can restrict your light you will have a lot of information regarding all of this.

Several examples of that are:
"On Assignment: Women's Lacrosse Cover"
"Developing an Idea, Part One"
"Developing an Idea, Part Two"
"On Assignment: Abstract Concrete"
"On Assignment Blind Snoot Portrait"

This is a great opportunity to share the knowledge behind all these great pictures.


David does not stop saying that all this photo light thing is easy and so much better than on-camera flash. You can see him at this above screen capture.

David mention also the Grid Straw Snoots and if you do not know what they are or how to make one you can check them here at the Lighting Mods in the DIY Articles section or follow the below links:

DIY: Black Straws Snoot Grid (Part 1)
DIY: Black Straws Snoot Grid (Part 2)
DIY: Black Straws Snoot Grid (Colored)

And here you can get some cool pdf templates for your flashes.

He continues with "Refract and Reflect" with Fill Reflectors, Mirrors, Flash Beam Control and found Objects. More explanations about them and how you can benefit with each one of them on particular situations.

Then you get a enlightenment with Gels both with CTO (Color Temperature Orange) and Window Green (Fluorescent Color Conversion) here is an example "On Assignment: A Guy on a Boat"

And last but not least David talks about "Time-Based Control" as he say "You can move your camera during the ambient portion of the exposure to create unique, unpredictable effects. This is done by "dragging" the camera."

Want an example just follow this "Lacrosse Head Shot: v2.0" and you will know what David will be talking about.

To warp up this DVD David talks about some magazines and crazy story ideas editors have for assignments and you have to go forward with them with your little bag of tricks just imagine taking a picture for a magnetic fields story.

With this thoughts David send us to the next DVD where things turn out a little different from all the other 3.

Are you still there???

If you've make it through here and have not order your set yet... what are you waiting for?

After this DVD David will put his talent at work by showing us, on the field, how it's done.

DVD 5 - Strobist Lighting Seminar Afternoon Session (Part 2)

With a no idea of the exposure or aperture would look like in this the room or what light He will be using David shows us how to pass by all this by starting of with a one direct flash light approach to illustrate the differences where the light is coming from the position angle.


Basically what you will get on this DVD are the setups that David will quickly be assembling for demonstrating the following:

1.Head Shot: Position/angle
2.Head Shot: Position/distance
3.Head Shot: Apparent Softness
4.Two Flash: Balance w/background light
5.Three Flash: Clamshell lighting
6.Gelled background Clamshell
7.Restricted light background (Snoot/grid)
8.Refracted light background
9.Time-shifted flash

Here David takes you on a voyage to the outer limits of your lighting abilities, you will follow step by step on how quick you can setup your gear and start to shoot in a so fast blinking that you will have to rewind the DVD several times to understand what's going on.

This is the most cool part of the Seminar where you will watch David on his best performance and with all of his accurate humor will make you laugh as you learn.

No boring thing is allowed here ;)

Take a look at the next picture and you will see what I mean.


I told you so...

David talks about ratios, apertures, light distance and a lot of cool stuff and while talking about it he demonstrates it on screen.

You will also have the possibility to check his histogram while he's doing it and man you also get to see it live.


The talk here is all about light in a simple way that will make you think about it instead of just saying "...I did this with aperture 5.6 ISO 200 at 1/160", no this is a one by one talking about what he's doing and what makes him THINK that and why he did it. He also troughs some more sticks to the fire by adding some more information and understanding on how he has accomplish that.

Through all the setups I mention before you will be taken, until the end of this DVD, with lots of information and on camera screen review of the pictures taken has David explains each one of the concepts.

Here are some of the pictures taken during the seminar:
Clamshell on the Cheap
Clamshell on the Cheap,
originally uploaded by strobist.
Three Light: Clamshell Lighting

originally uploaded by strobist.
Two Flash: Balance w/Background light (8 drinking glasses)

originally uploaded by strobist.
Time-shifted Flash

Before we move into the Bonus discs I leave you with an excerpt from the Strobist Seminar DVD 5 with no subtitles ;) so you can have a hang on it.

DVD 6 - Bonus Material: Conference Room Headshot, Swimsuit Portrait, Kendo Practitioner, Pool Portrait

David created a 3 Bonus disc sets with specific information concerning different setups you may encounter along your photography assignments.

By now I'm certain that you have decided on purchase the all set but I will continue through the all set no matter what you say or do :)

On this DVD you will find information on how to shoot a Conference Room Headshot, a Swimsuit Portrait in the wild, a Kendo Practitioner and a cool Pool Portrait in a snap.

As I explain each section of the Bonus DVD's you will notice one thing... None of the setups are complicated and you can reproduce them at your own pace and very easily.
Isn't the purpose of this DVD box all along?


What we will be looking at is a simple Conference room head shot on a normal and clean room. Imagine you have an enterprise head shot assignment to make and do not know where to start from.


On this 40 minute video David carefully and with great detail explains how to accomplish different looks without having to move the model too much and with one or two small off-camera flashes.

He will be exploring a two-flash setups, Ceiling Bounce versus umbrella and how to use a Clamshell light to improve even further your portrait lighting.


You will have reviews of the images taken with lot's of information on how he has accomplish them and while doing it he directs the model so you can see how easy that is.

David explains the softness of the light using an umbrella and has the images start popping out on the screen you have the opportunity to follow along has he talks you through it.


The Clamshell white umbrella shoot trough is one of the brilliant examples of what you can accomplish with 3 small flashes.

Simply amazing!!!

The next section of this DVD is the "Swimsuit Portrait" or "Sunset Portrait" as at some points he will refer as to.

David took the model Kris to an open space and decided to go from there.


He will be explaining the Multi-light with Sunset Backdrop, Gelling For Added Warmth and Tracking the Ambient on a almost 30 minute video. These will be the key points for this "Sunset Portrait".


And when you least expect it David throws in some curve balls ;) He just gives you the all schematics for this scene before he start shooting.

This would make you see what he will be doing and will give you an advantage point over the all picture by saying what needs to be done, well as he always did at Strobist.

He will begin by setting up the lights and explaining how you can accomplish a good light at sunset just before the model comes into scene.

Measure the light explaining what he's doing with apertures and how light will affect the model while balancing the ambient.


Then David moves to a more subtle photo by adding an umbrella to one of the lights giving the portrait a more softer look and he also through a quick tip trick for the stand on windy day.


You have the opportunity, again, to see him work and direct the model while he explains what he's doing all the way and has the available light goes dimmer and dimmer you can watch what is going on over the scene.

Next we move on to "Kendo Practitioner" where David walks you through a 8 minute video on how to shoot with fluorescent lights, how to work in a public space and how to choose the environment.


Here what you get is really what you will have in a normal live shoot environment, walls with different colors, lights with different color temperatures and white ceiling to mention a few of the obstacles.


You also have the opportunity to see the setup sketch while David explains it through, also have the opportunity to follow David on how he chooses the background based on what he has available at the moment.

How do deal with the Armour reflections that you may encounter as well as how much power he will be dialing on each flash.


Since the shoot is made on the path way of the sport club he will be facing a lot of people walking through, just like on a normal and regular local assignment photo shoot.

He also demonstrates, in this video, that you do not need to have large spaces to photograph.


The use of Gels to warm up the lights are explained and all the settings used.

This is a Hell of an explanation of what's happening here.

On the last video of this bonus DVD David takes us to a local swimming pool to make a "Pool Portrait" and gets a great shot with just 2 small flash lights.


The Key Points for this 20 minute video are Large-Area Zoned Lighting, Warm Versus Cool color Cast and Monopod as a Light Boom above the model.

You also have the full drawing setup of the all scene as well as the explanation for it's process.

David explains the Warm vs Cool Color Cast by warming up the light on the model and significantly cool the light on the backdrop. That would make the backdrop blue and the blue backdrop also reflect on the water creating a nice sweep of blue coming down the picture.


The use of monopod as boom for lighting is accomplish by simply attaching an umbrella adapter to the top of the monopod taping it up securely, adding a ball bungee on it to add more security, this allow him to get the flash out over the water easily because the flashes are small and lightweight this is an easy thing to do, because they run on batteries instead of AC Power there is no danger that the flash drop into the pool.


This is not what you´re thinking. David is not suggesting you through your camera into the water at this point :), although at some point his lens take a quick dive ;)

Here is the final shot of Rochelle.

On this last video you will have the opportunity to watch and follow through the shootings with detail explanations and examples of what is happening all the way through.

DVD 7 - Bonus Material: Group Shot, DIY Macro Box, Sunset Flower

DVD 7 brings you a 32 minutes video of how to set up a group shoot and how to embrace the room problems that you could encounter.

Also David explains how to fight back the problem of glasses in large groups and how you can solve them.


The Key Points of this video are Solving Room Problems, Back/Separation Light, Dealing with Glasses and Building Rapport.

So what's better o start out by probing the room and this one is not a good one for small light flashes because the ceiling is very high and the background reflects too much curve light to the front, you also have the diagram available so you can check where the lights are positioned.


David decided to take a first approach by putting the flashes at 1/4 power and go from there. This all video is a brain thinking solver of the different problems he encountered in this room and what if you suddenly miss one of you pocket wizard connect cables, OH YEAH!!! that can happen too, but David explains how he solve that.

After all the lights and test shots are made is time to call in the people.


Glasses gets to be chosen first ;) and David explains, in detail, why is that.


You will see how David manages to direct a larger group of people and what he's doing all the way.

This is the Final shot for this "Group Shot".

On the next 23 minutes Video sequence David show you how to assemble a Macro Card Box.


The Key Points for this lesson are Creating a Zone of Light, Working Inside/Ouside the Box and Shooting Highly Specular Objects.

You also have a diagram for the setup as well as an explanation of what will be happening.


First he have a brief explanation on how you can build a Macro Studio Box and then you will start to have a one on one explanation how things will be working and what you can accomplish with it.

So basically what you will have here are a pair of SB-26 at 1/16 power, some Pocket Wizards to trigger the flashes, a piece of post board as background and your studio card box.


David explains all the details and what you could change or add to improve the specular highlights on the picture and over your object.

Also he brings the object off the box so you can see the different look you get just by moving the object out.


With tips and details he pursues his clicks, while explaining everything, until he gets the picture at his own taste.

You will be able to see on the screen the several shots while David makes comments on what would be made to improve it by changing the position of the flash or by putting a white card box alongside.

Here is the final shot.

Moving to the last set of this DVD, David chooses a Point and Shoot camera to pull the trick on this 26 minutes video "Sunset Flower".


Key Pints for this lesson are Working with a Point and Shoot Camera, Shifting White Balance for Effect and Time-Based effects as on previous videos.

This is a very straight forward lesson at sunset with a Point and Shoot that anyone can accomplish.

A diagram setup is available as well as some explanations to it.


You follow David while he explains all the details of what he's doing while taking pictures with the Point and Shoot (This case the Powershot G7)


Testing different speeds to have different effects, ambiances and textures also gobos and snoots to direct the light right into the flower right at the edges.

"... play with it until you get the way you like it. Interesting mistakes are better than boring successes, you learn nothing from a boring success. " David says at a certain point.


You also get lots of information concerning the Time-Based effects and cross lighting.

Towards the end David takes this up a step and uses a DSLR (D70) to demonstrate color shifting.

Here is the final shot.

We're just moving on towards the last DVD and with so much good quality light information this will take you weeks to digest ;)

I've never saw so much information together on a single DVD set.

DVD 8 - Bonus Material: Lighting Indoor Basketball, Mountain Bike Shoot

On the last DVD David will takes us to, a largely talked about in forums and at flickr pool, Lighting a Gym with Speedlights.


For this 40 minutes DVD you will get the key points Long-Throw Lighting, Working Near the Ambient and Flash Mounting Techniques.

You are also supplied with the diagram for the lights and positions.


David show us how to assemble the strobes on the bleachers and what light he will be using. All this with a great detail that you better start grabbing a pen to write them down.

You will also get the information of what Gels to use to match the ambiance and what speeds he will be using to pull this out.


He will be giving a lot of tips that could help you solve a lot of problems during the process of assembling and shooting.

Talking batteries and external batteries what's best and what he uses, he talks clamps, uses his hand to measure the light and white balance settings all over the field, this is something you will not want to miss.


Here is one of the final shots.

Moving now to the last setup of the Bonus discs that is the "Mountain Bike Shoot".


For this last 20 minutes video on the pack the key points are Adapting to Changing Light, Sculpting with Hard Light and Time-Based effects.

Well it's so difficult to explain in short words what's inside of each of the DVD's without repeating myself that I will try to not extend myself too much on this last one.

David has done such an enormous and excellent job that would take me weeks to strip down all things said in each of the DVD's. This all set is so complete and simple to follow that the best way to analyze it would be to watch it all.

Here again you will have the diagram and explanations has on previous Bonus techniques.


David lays down on the ground to explain how the sun becomes his back light and the flash is his main light and with just one small flash. You can see the results instantly on the screen as David explains the idea behind the shot.


As the light gradually dims David assembles another quick setup with a grid light coming from the front and with 2 lights as back ground rim making a triangle light zone he demonstrates and explains how the all process works while laying face down on the ground to catch also the ambiance.


And as the light goes even dimmer he starts using the zooming option to create some neat effects on the image. Folks no photoshop here just lens zooming!!!

Take a closer look at one of the final images.

WARNING:All screen pictures that I use here, to illustrate each of the DVD's, were captured by me and used with Mr. David Hobby's permission please do not use them on any place else without him authorize it.
Thank you

Well that's it... wish you have enjoyed the journey through all the DVD's and will buy them because they are the missing piece to your lighting improvements. It belongs right next to my Dean Collins DVD’s and my favorite book Light: Science and Magic.

Gladly hope this could give you an inside view of the contents of each and everyone of the 8 DVD Pack from David Hobby "Strobist Lighting Seminar" and if you had any doubts before now you had the time to clear them out.

The Strobist 8 DVD Box Set is currently only available for the cheap price of $139 at Midwest Photo Exchange and shipped worldwide but has per David Hobby contact it will soon be available in the UK.

As soon has it will be available I will post the link here but for the moment only Midwest Photo Exchange is shipping worldwide.

--- Latest Update 13-01-2009 ----

David just revealed on his recent post at Strobist the store and location of the 8 DVD's set for purchase here in Europe.

You can get them at The Flash Centre online store and they are now carrying the set and will be shipping to UK and EU.

The price is £102.35 incl Vat (£89.00 exc Vat). Shipping to UK/EU will be £9 and £6.60, respectively. EU is three day delivery, UK is next day.

You can order in UK/EU from the web here. Or better yet, hit the TFC London store in person.

--- // ---

See you at Part 2 of this article in a couple of days.

Tip: DVD's You Must Have (Part 1)
Tip: DVD's You Must Have (Part 2)


Anonymous said...

That's quite the detailed review. I bought this DVD set and thoroughly enjoyed it, heavy on the info - light on the production. I also quite enjoyed Zack Arias's OneLight DVD.

Keep it coming!

buurtaal said...

Great review - thanks!
Just to let you know that the Strobist set is now officially availabe in the Uk / Europe through the Flash Centre:

See: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2009/01/strobist-lighting-dvds-translated-into.html



Anonymous said...

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