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|| News Item: Posted 2009-07-27

In The Bag: Directing A Key To Good Portraits
By Vasiliy Baziuk, Messenger Post Media

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

Some of the content of Vasiliy's new light bag.
I remember our photography professor at Monroe Community College telling the class something like, "If you are going to be a photographer, you have to learn to photograph people, because people are interested in other people."

As we were learning lighting, he said something like, "When lighting your subjects, it helps if you see your model as an object --- just don't treat them like objects."

These things stuck with me. And when you work at a newspaper, you have to learn to photograph people.

I approach portrait photography with that mentality. I know that some people don't like to be photographed, and half the time it's not the equipment but the attitude and people skills that help make an interesting image. This ability to get them to relax, laugh and smile, and hopefully trust you and give you the time to do a good job on their portrait, is crucial. Also, the ability to direct is a key skill. A motion picture director tries to get the best performance from his or her actors --- that's what a photographer should do in a portrait session.

And oh, almost forgot: The ability to persuade and motivate your subject to do the same thing over and over -- or something radical -- until you get the perfect moment when everything clicks. Other times, getting the person to buy into your crazy idea is all that it takes.

Creative Inspiration
My favorite way to create portraits is to go for the raw visual impact. For this I spend a lot of time researching and looking at different ideas and creative concepts by artists, photographers, designers and colleagues whenever I can; as well as brainstorming those concepts and possibilities with friends, colleagues and clients.

I visualize the process from start to finish before a single exposure is made. Also, literature --- and other things that may have nothing to do with photography --- help the imagination stay busy and hopefully creative.

For me it's always a exciting to see what Chase Jarvis, Drew Gardner, Adam Pretty, Aaron Goodman, Joey Lawrence, John Harrington, Brent Stirton or Scott Hamilton of Hamilton Productions are creating. As well as members of Sports Shooter community, a few favorites include Donald Miralle, Al Bello These guys have an interesting way of communicating through light and concept, and are masters of their craft both in the field and in the studio.

My First Light Bag
My first light bag --- this is a little over a year ago --- was a baseball bag with three to four Nikon SB-80DX Speedlights, two to three Pocket Wizards, two Nikon SC-17 Sync Cord, Quantum Battery 1+ and two Manfrotto light stands. The light stands fit nicely in the baseball bat compartment, and everything else fit in the main compartment including a Manfrotto tripod.

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

On the left a Westcott Mini Apollo small hot shoe softbox umbrella with Nikon SB 80-DX on a PoketWizard Plus II Transceiver. On the right same setup with home made a cardboard reflector.
I even built cardboard reflectors to control the output from the Speedlights. (Yeah, you can laugh!) These were great training wheels, because this was extremely portable and lightweight, packed a lot of punch, and were ready to go at a moments notice. Most importantly, this was all I had access to, so it had to work.

Later, I went all out and added a Westcott Mini Apollo small hot shoe softbox to that kit, and it worked beautifully: great for a one-person or two-people portrait, or for a hoop-side setup for a high school basketball game. Of course, sometimes it's not the gear you bring to a shoot but how you use it.

My New Light Kit
Little more than six months ago, I started to build a new light kit centered around the same mono-light principal but with much more power. Something that I can bring with me on location and not be limited to shooting with a f/2.8, something where I could easily overpower the sun and not worry about running out of battery power. These factors, along with cost considerations, led me to three Alien Bees 800, new light stands, and a new medium Photoflex softbox, location careening case, and extension cords.

Also in the same kit are several 3'x4' and various other smaller foamcore bounce boards, and a 5-in-1 collapsible reflector kit. This new setup is fantastic and is worth every penny. It works great when I have to shoot a portrait or light interior architecture. I love it. I feel like a real photographer now.

In The Belt
I don't carry a bag; instead, I use a Lowepro S&F Deluxe Waistbelt. It's the weight off my shoulders and my hands free while working with a Nikon D300 or the D1H while providing easy access to the following:
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8
Nikkor 1.7TC
Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8
Quantum Battery 1+
Nikkor SB 80-DX
Several Compact Flash Cards
Note pad and pen

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

Photo by Vasiliy Baziuk

Vasiliy's brother and production assistant Victor Baziuk attends a Alien Bee 800 with a medium Photoflex LiteDome 293 medium softbox on a recent shoot on Canandaigua Lake in Canandaigua, NY.
New Lighting Kit
A generic 36'x16'x9' light case.
Three limited edition flame orange Alien Bees 800
Three Manfrotto light stands
One short Manfrotto background stand
One Photoflex LiteDome 293 medium softbox
Two to Three PoketWizard Plus II Transceivers
Westcott Mini Apollo small hot shoe softbox
Nikon SC-17 Sync Cord
SP Studio Systems 5 in 1 Reflector Kit
Extension cords
Spring clamps
And assorted lengths of wires, connectors and adapters.
Manfrotto tripod, gaffers tape, color gels.
And flat bed cart to log all this around.

Extra Things
2 Super Clamps
Manfrotto 486 ball head
Manfrotto 3232 tilt head
Ewa-Marine underwater housing
PocketWizard pre-trigger remote camera cord.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

(Vasiliy Baziuk is a staff photographer at the Messenger Post Media based in Canandaigua, NY. You can view his work at his member page: and at his new personal website:

Contents copyright 2020, Do not republish without permission.
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