Photographing Philadelphia Real Estate Agent, Jamie Raphael

They say that she is one of the top real estate agents for buyer and listing sales, they also say she’s right there at the top of the charts when it comes to total real estate sales, she’s also a part of the Coldwell Banker President’s Honor Roll 2012, and an International Diamond Society Award Winner. I’m not really sure what all that means, but I do know that she answers emails faster than any human I've ever known ever, ever, ever. On a couple of occasions, I thought it was Jimmy Johns because it was freaky fast!

Jamie Raphael is a really good real estate agent (as in really good). We got together in 2013 to shoot some re-branding and promotional photos for her brand new website.

We shot over a simple white seamless background and lit the scene so we could use any of the photos in a composite image as well. You can see a sketch of my lighting setup as well as a few of our finished images below!

My Impressions of the Phase One IQ250 in New York

My buddy Joe and I spent an afternoon at the beautiful Highlight Studio in Manhattan, New York with a small group of great photographers checking out the Phase One IQ250 digital back for the impressive Phase One camera systems. This event was put on by the good folks at Digital Transitions and featured a presentation by, and full day with, great photographer and all around good dude, Douglas Sonders who shared his thoughts, images, and stories of growing as a photographer and falling in love with medium format cameras and, specifically, why he settled on Phase One as his camera of choice.

We had a great model, Cari Funkhouser (awesome last name!) in house as our test subject for the day so we could test drive the camera and check out sharpness, color, resolution, and more..

There is plenty of technical information on the Phase One IQ250 and exactly how it works online and can be readily found. Despite all of this information, I was still having a difficult time understanding how this medium format stuff works and how it all fits together. What exactly is this “Digital back” you speak of? Is it the whole camera? Is it just the box attached to the back? What about the lens? How does that work? Is there a crop on the sensor? Is the sensor equivalent to a full frame DSLR in terms of 100mm being 100mm? I kept running into mental blocks and just wanted to get my hands on the camera system and try it and learn, first-hand, what all this nonsense was about. Enter: Digital Transitions (a Phase One partner) and their event in New York City.


In layman's terms, here’s the deal. You have three pieces to your Phase One: The digital back, the camera body, and the lens. The digital back is the sensor and the magic maker, the camera seems to basically be a lens holder with a shutter release on it, and the lens… well, duh, that’s the lens.

If you’re buying a Phase One you must purchase the digital back (the expensive part), the camera body (the less expensive part), and that usually includes an 80mm lens (worth about $3,000).

When I first picked up the camera I was impressed by the size and feel. It has a little weight, but nothing crazy. I want robust, I want tough, I want people to know I mean business when I show up to shoot. The cast and crew will no doubt know that you’re the big man in the room when you break out your Phase One.

I grabbed the 80mm f2.8 Schneider lens and turned the camera on our model. Immediately I noticed a very different viewfinder from what I am accustomed to in my Canon DSLR. Not bad; just different. Comfortable feeling and easy to use. I pressed the shutter and fired my first shot. Not bad, not bad at all. The sound is like the sound of a freshly cleaned battle rifle crisply chambering it’s first round before you unleash a torrent of hell on whatever poor sod is standing down range. I could almost smell gunpowder in the air. It was love at first sight and sound.


Then I checked the monitor to get a better look at what I shot. Out of focus; not blurry, just out of focus. I was shooting at f2.8 on a camera system that has a sensor cropped to something like 1.3x (when compared with a DSLR sensor) and I’d never used the camera before so growing pains are just going to be a part of this process, right?

I adjusted my aperture to f5.6 to give myself a better shot at nailing focus and adjusted my shutter appropriately. I focused the camera, recomposed, and shot again. Still it was out of focus. Here is when I learned that the Phase One only has three focus points, a big circle in the middle, and two rectangular shaped regions on each side. It is a breeze to select which area will be your focus region, but I would really love to have finer control of the focus because…

The aperture of these lenses is absolutely amazing!! f2.8 shoots like f1.2. It’s positively beautiful and amazingly versatile… if you manage to lock focus. At the end of the day I was never able to get even a sharp picture with the 80mm at anything less than f5. However when you shoot at f5 it’s sharper than a needle wearing a tuxedo and you still have the depth of a tradition DSLR lens shooting at closer to f3.5. Amazing-taculous. Still, I wanted f2.8 on that 80mm and I couldn't get it.

I grabbed the Schneider 110mm F2.8 Leaf Shutter (Google “Leaf Shutter”, it’s amazing as well) lens and stopped up to f2.8 and shot away. Wow! f2.8 and it was incredibly sharp! Focus is quick-ish and the lens is just beautiful. I turned to the Phase One guy and learned that I can trade the 80mm in and just get the 110mm for a couple thousand more instead of paying the standard $5,400 for this lens as a stand alone. My advice: If you’re buying this camera, get the 110mm Leaf Shutter lens. You have sharpness at f2.8 and it gets sharper and sharper and sharper from there. The most impressive 100% crop I’ve seen in my life, bar none.

I also played with the ramping up ISO to the newly flaunted ISO 6400 (typically ISO 400 was about as high as you could go if you wanted a usable commercial image on the older CCD sensors) and it performs admirably. Really you get usable stuff to about ISO 1600, but depending on application, ISO 6400 is absolutely usable as well. Impressive.

The camera tethers to Capture One flawlessly, it renders a preview of your image quickly and loads the larger resolution in the 100% chunks that you’re viewing so it all loads up quickly.

The camera is comfortable to hold, the UI is both beautiful and took me less than 30 seconds to figure out, in fact, I had never used this camera before and I helped at least a half dozen other folks set the camera, lock focus, change lenses, adjust ISO, preview and zoom into images on the retina, touch screen display on the IQ250 back, and just get started with the camera (I had only used the thing once!)

If they had better pin-point control on the focusing system I just may have walked out of that event having bought my very own Phase One flat-out. All things considered, the Phase One camera system is amazing and it is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ I will get one of these beasts of the photography world.

Fashion Model Katie Shea Walters | Philadelphia Photography

Daughter of local photographer, a film student, avid Star Wars fan, and budding young fashion model, Katie Shea Walters sure has her hands full modeling, walking in events such as the recent “Philadelphia Fashion Week”, oh, and-as mentioned-she’s a film student.

Katie and I first got together in January of 2013 and have worked together a couple times since then. These images are from our very first shoot together. This was very much a run-and-gun style shoot as we ran around a Philadelphia area town called Manayunk and captured images in several different areas of town. This shoot was a stylized, fashion-influenced, environmental portrait shoot to get Katie some unique and fun pictures that she could add to her portfolio.

The light source in these images was a single light, a 400W head with a 39” Rotalux Deep Octa bank (one of my personal favorite lighting modifiers!)

Check out a few of the images we captured below.

Katie Walters | Philadelphia Photography | Philadelphia Photographer


Katie Walters | Philadelphia Photography | Philadelphia Photographer


Katie Walters | Philadelphia Photography | Philadelphia Photographer


Katie Walters | Philadelphia Photography | Philadelphia Photographer


Katie Walters | Philadelphia Photography | Philadelphia Photographer

Kelly Franks – POP ROX Band Lead Singer Portraits

Kelly Franks – POP ROX Band Lead Singer Portraits

Yes, Virginia

I had the opportunity to photograph Kelly Franks, a local singer, for the cover of her newest album “Yes, Virginia” which debuted on November 25th, 2011.

Check the album and listen to the track “Yes, Virginia” here » Follow POP ROX band on Twitter » Like POP ROX on Facebook »

The lighting for this set of images was a 28” Westcott Apollo softbox as an overhead light and a light with 7” reflector camera-right. I used 200W Elinchrom strobes for the lighting and Elinchrom Sky-port triggers to fire the lights wirelessly.

For the majority of the headshots I broke out my Lastolite tri-flector and had some fun playing with the angles in an effort to get a nice triple reflection in her eyes. With the Lastolite tri-flector I’ve found that using a light directly overhead and keeping each individual reflector at a near 90 degree angle to the chin and sides of the face (per each reflector). Check out a shot of how I was using the tri-flector.

Below are a few of the shots we captured that evening including the shot that was used for the album cover.

Modern Retro Fashion Photography with Des

Modern Retro Fashion Photography with Des

I’ve been terribly deficient in posting regular updates to the blog, the only good thing about that is that there is only room to get better about blogging!

Des and I got together back in October of 2011 to shoot a shot series of photographs. The clothing and styling were provided and take care of for us by stylist Tiffany B out of Bethlehem, PA.

Below are some of my favorites from the shoot!

Musician Photography Bridgeport, PA: Brodi Valos & Gethin Lewis

Musician Photography Bridgeport, PA: Brodi Valos & Gethin Lewis

Relaxing in Nags Head

After spending some quality time relaxing and shooting some photos in the small coastal town of Nags Head in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina I hooked up with Brodi and Gethin on my drive home to shoot some photos for general purpose use and for promotional material for their music.

When driving for 7+ hours it is sweet relief to have a break worked into your driving plans. Mine came as I rolled into Bridgeport, PA. It was a brisk, cool evening and the light was amazing. All the photographs I shot using a single light on a stand an toyed with what I could using the ambient light (what little there was) in the scene.

Brodi Valos

Brodi Valos is a talented and perpetually hard working musician/recording artist who performs throughout the Mid-Atlantic region with Philadelphia-based group Dirty Electrick. Brodi, who himself hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is recognized for his roots rock sense of style in fashion, performance, and in his music videos.

Inspired by classic music icons such as AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, & Ray Charles, and even my all-time favorite group, Social Distortion, Brodi creates a wonderful blend of Rock and Country in his tracks that you’re sure to enjoy.

Did He Just Say 'Ron Paul'?

Brodi is a man after my own spirit and, like myself, views Dr. Ron Paul as the best of the candidates for presidential election in the upcoming 2012 Presidential election as we rapidly approach the conclusion of the Republican Natl. Primaries.

Check out and ‘Like’ Brodi’s Facebook Page.

Gethin Lewis is a musician and guitarist from Philadelphia, PA who, along with playing music with Brodi, creates his own Psychedelic brand of music. A great personality and a bunch of fun to photograph!

We had a great time hangin’ out and shooting these photos and spent some time chatting after we put the camera down. Check out some of my favorites below!

Creative, Commercial Style Portraits with Model Diana Di Bella

Creative, Commercial Style Portraits with Model Diana Di Bella

As we wrap up and finish out year 2011 I’ve thought back on some of the crazier/more difficult (i.e. fun!) shoots of 2011, one of which would have to be Diana.

It was cold, rainy, and mildly windy in the earlier part of the morning but the clouds broke for us just before we’d scheduled to start shooting.


Our location had been plowed under and a field of corn replaced what had been a nice park-area to photograph in. As far as I could tell there was no park left and no getting into what had replaced it and I didn’t have much of a “plan B”, but I managed to find two small locations to shoot in very nearby which turned out to work great!

The rain came back and pestered us throughout the shoot, I dropped my camera in the mud a couple times, got mildly wet, slipped a few more times, and risked life and limb (well… at least the ‘life’ of the lighting gear) to capture some photographs.

Big thanks to my assistant that day (Good friend and photographer, Joe Joyce) for his portable tent which kept our model dry during shooting!

Let’s check out a few of the photos we got from that shoot.

...and a little behind the scenes too!

Fashion Photographer Philadelphia - Fashion Designer + Me + The Camera

Simplify! Man!

Often as a photographer, I get far to caught up in the gadgets and gear that make my work possible and as they distract me from the fundamentals of why and how I shoot, I start to lose a little bit of what gives my work a "shot by Nathaniel Dodson" feel.

I’d venture so far as to say this happens to most photographers, but when this gadget-ism strikes I pony-up and strike back by heading out to a shoot with only a single fixed length lens and a reflector as my light! This is just to force myself to make due with what I have and use the light available to ensure I am not “losing my touch” on the basic essentials of how I shoot… this is of course assuming that I have some kind of touch in the first place (debatable). Stepping back and simplifying in both design and photographic work can be greatly beneficial! I love it!

She's a Fashion Designer... or a Rockstar

Kelli is a local working Fashion Designer who also has a passion for modeling. We got together to shoot some photographs and had an easy-breezy time capturing a few nice frames. She was great!


Getting together with Kelli I had previously decided that I would be significantly lightening my gear and carrying only a few things out onto location in an effort to focus on simplifying my approach –which had started getting a little out of hand. (Note: I brought one light with me for this shoot, an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra with the 39" Deep Octa Softbox.)

Below are a few of the photographs we captured. My shot(s) of the day turned out to be a series of black and white fashion photos which I absolutely love.

Model + Fashion in the Park - Bethlehem, PA

Distinct Pleasure

Yasmine is an talented and beautiful young Egyptian/Moroccan/Turkish college student(/model) attending college right here in Eastern Pennsylvania. I had the distinct pleasure of working with her about 2 months ago shooting some general purpose portraits and was delighted with how they turned out!

There was a bit of rain in the forecast for the date we'd picked to setup the shoot, but decided to press on and make it happen rain or shine! Typically when a shoot gets cancelled due to the weather forecast, the weather man ends up being wrong and we get beautiful weather, it's only when we decide to ignore the forecast that the forecast stands true! We ended up with a very cloudy sky that morning and there was a brisk breeze which occasionally cut through our location all the while we were shooting further enhancing the cool/damp early-autumn air and, in the end, combining to make beautiful shooting weather throughout our shoot. It worked out wonderfully and we got lots of very soft, wrapping light! Photographer's dream!

Yasmine did a great job and totally rocked the shoot! Check her out over at her profile on Model Mayhem which is located here.

Below are a healthy spattering of a few of the shots which I loved most from that rainy and overcast morning in Bethlehem.

Clean Fashion Style with Nikki

Clean Fashion Style with Nikki

I am preparing for a series I want to shoot over the course of the winter which was inspired by a specific type of advertising (It's a secret!). In my preparation I had a model come in and shoot with me as I nailed down some of the final lighting tweaks, hair and make up issues, as well as worked the post-shoot, post production workflow to ensure a consistency in the looks produced by the various shoots for the series. Nikki came out and shot with me and was absolutely great!

If you're interested in modeling for me feel free to submit an application at I'll consider anybody!

Check out a couple of the images we captured that day below...

Model Portfolio Building Photography in King of Prussia

Portfolio Building

Getting together and shooting for a couple hours in the late evening often yields some pretty awesome results. Here we have a young model I photographed a few weeks ago in King of Prussia to help him build his portfolio with a variety of looks (we had a few other looks, but these few images happened to be my favorite).

Twilight is Golden Light

We hung around in the park where we were shooting until the sun set below the horizon and took advantage of some electric color in the sky, that coupled with some passing storm clouds which further added to the amazing color we had that evening.

Check out a few of the photos we captured below and I threw in a happy mistake which I converted to black and white. Sometimes complete mistakes turn out great!

A Summer Evening in Philadelphia

No Location, No Plans, Creativity At Its Finest

It’s a great change up to go out and have a fun morning or evening of photography without any idea of what you’re going to shoot until you get into a location, or a general area and wander until you find a location. I photographed Rachel a few weeks ago and we picked out her clothing and met on a street corner in the city and just wandered around taking as many photos as we liked until it was too dark to shoot.

Photography and Creative Control

What little plan I had going into this photo shoot was to just keep it simple and shoot some general purpose portraits of her. She didn’t have anything specific she needed other than general purpose head and full-length shots for a project she was working on and there was no strict set idea of what she had to have so that left plenty of room for creative liberty and control.

Camera, Lighting, and Technical Settings

Lighting was a Canon 580 EXII speedlite modified with Westcott’s amazing 28” Apollo portable (collapsing, umbrella style) softbox and a hand held reflector for a little fill as needed. Everything was shot using a 24-70mm lens and I believe I stayed between f4 and f8 all evening long.

Thanks Rach!

All things considered Rachel killed it, she was awesome and we got some great photos to show for it. Good times.