Chicago Portrait Photographer / Creating Portraits

Creating Portraits with what you have
 Often times we sit here wishing we had an amazing studio space, the newest camera body or the fanciest lens. Here is a prime example with a little creativity and a small amount of space you can create fun and captivating portraits. For these I used a 7′ x 7′ section of my one car garage and turned it into a make shift studio.


I used the very first lighting kit I ever bought. The Wescott Spiderlite TD5 window light kit bought back in 2007ish. It is a daylight balanced constant lighting that is great for shooting tight portraits. The next decision is what do  I use to capture these images? For this series I decide to use my Iphone 6s. To many times I have experienced that as soon as you pull out a commercial/professional grade camera the subject instantly gets nervous. But with Iphone it is a little less intimidating and allows them to relax. I mean how times have you had you picture taken with a Iphone? It really makes it seem as if it just a friend taking a picture of friend and here are the results.
Chicago Portrait Photographer

Chicago Portait Photographer

ChicagoPortait Photographer
And of course I brought them into photoshop and did my usual finishing touches to my portraits. So here is a prime example that the camera is just part of the process and your ability as a photographer is the true necessary piece of the puzzle. Now when someone ask you what camera you use or prefer. You can tell them the one that is available to me!
This is also the setup I use to do my 1972 Polaroid Land Camera portrait series . Which can be seen here Polaroid Portraits
Thanks for reading and my full portfolio can been seen here


Chicago Portrait Photographer

This was shoot for a Mens Vintage reseller Feather & Oar.


Chicago Portrait Photographer
Chicago Portrait Photographer


My full portfolio can be viewed @ 

Chicago Fitness Photographer / Highlighting Tribalance a Schaumburg full fitness/wellness center

Tribalance  is located on the Northwest corner of S. Roselle & Wise Road in Schaumburg. To maintain their Yoga persona the interior build out was constructed of 60% of recycled material. They provide both in group and private sessions and offer Meditation, Yoga, Yoga Teacher training, Barre classes, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Condition, Kickboxing, Tri-fit (bootcamp style training), Thai Bodywork and Acupuncture.


Welcoming desk


Hall Way leading to their 4 separate class rooms 


Inspiration Board


Mindful inspirations throughout 


Studio “Mind”


Studio “Spirt”


Studio “Body” lower space has padded kickboxing ring


Studio “Body”  upper level for Cross-Fit and body shaping classes

Below are Yoga class in the main studio “Soul”

Chicago Fitness Photographer
 studio “Soul”
studio “Soul”


studio “Soul”


studio “Soul”

Below is Tribalance Owner & Lululemon Ambassador Shawnda Falvo

Chicago Fitness Photographer

Chicago Fitness Photographer

Chicago Fitness Photographer


Chicago Fitness Photographer


Chicago Fitness Photographer
Lululemon ambassador and teacher Melina Milcarek


Chicago Fitness Photographer

my full portfolio can be view @ 

Chicago Fitness Photographer “The evolution of a fitness Photographer”

I truly believe in order us to grow we need to know and understand were we can from. The journey in my opinion is just as important as our final destination. The evolution of my photography started with the desire to capture breath taking landscapes and grew from there. After the purchase of my first DSLR in 2008 and many hours learning the ins and outs from any book I could get my hands on. I was able to capture theses images while out on a hike in Death Valley California

Chicago Photographer

These were honestly the first two images I ever intentionally set out to captured. My photography desire quickly change from landscape to fashion due to the influence of my first instructor at the Art Institute of Las Vegas. After understanding the ability to control the mode and feel of the images with studio lighting I wanted nothing more to do with landscapes for now. Upon relocating to Wa in 2011 I set out to develop my fashion portfolio and thats when I first met and became good friends with Bri Seeley. Here are a couple of Images from her 2011 look book.



Later that year I met and became good friends with commercial photographer Dean Zulich He also started his photography career with a desire for landscape photography and quickly became known for his unbelievable ability to create conceptual images. The next step in my evolution I truly owe to him as he showed me how to blend my two loves. The initial love for landscape photography with my new love of fashion photography and this was born. Another collaboration with fashion designer Bri Seeley.


Then I wanted to bring my conceptual work into the studio. This was also captured 2012

Chicago Photographer Chicago Photographer
Chicago Photographer
From here I went on to develop my dynamic studio portrait shooting style. Images below were shoot in 2013.
Chicago Portrait Photographer
Chicago Portrait Photographer
Chicago Portrait Photographer
Chicago Fitness Photographer
Chicago Fitness Photographer
Above is my first fitness composite. Model shoot in studio and then added to trail landscape shoot in 2013
Next was fitness/athletics on location and a 5 am location call created the images below.
Chicago Fitness Photographer Chicago Fitness Photographer Chicago Fitness Photographer
Then I hit the beach to create this
Chicago Fitness Photographer
mixed in a little a running


Chicago Fitness Photographer
and that brings us to 2015
 Chicago Fitness Photographer Chicago Fitness Photographer


Chicago Fitness Photographer


Chicago Fitness Photographer
and my latest adventure below. Multiple exposures.


Chicago Fitness Photographer Chicago Fitness Photographer

and thats a wrap on my quick breakdown of the evolution of my photography journey. The most important thing I have learned along the way, is that the greatest piece of equipment is your own personal version and the ability to apply to your clients needs. I am look forward to the growth I will experience in 2016.

“Your ability to thrive in any environment and any situation rests not primarily on what you do, but who you are as a person, an individual; a human being”

My full portfolio can be view @
follow my on Instagram 


Say hello to Ambler(facebook) as she explains her journey of transformation and how turning 40 was the happiest year of her life. 

I turned 40 in May 2008. I had already lost 90 lbs at that point and had 10 lbs more to go. In June, on a Sunday, I ran my first triathlon. On Monday I had a colonoscopy and on Wednesday I stepped on the Ice for the first time in my life. Welcome to 40.

Chicago Portrait Photographer
My motto is never pass up an opportunity!! 


Where did you grow up? I grew up in a condo in a suburb on the South side of Toledo, Ohio. My dad was a Longshoreman. He left really early in the morning for work, would be home by 3 o’clock and then it was naptime. Dinner was on the table by 5 and the game shows went on the TV, so the typical middle class blue-collar family life.




As a kid what did you dream about becoming when you grew up? A Marine Biologist. From the time I was about 4 years and I saw my first whale. That continued until college when I flunked Biology and I realized that was not for me.  College wasn’t a total bust as it was my undergrad degree in writing that lead me into Hockey.   



Did your parents encourage you to be creative? My mom and dad were of the mindset of you go to school, you work hard, get married, buy your house and have your kids. They were pretty traditional. 

At this point in your life, are you happy where you are at? I can honestly say that the year I turned 40 by far was has been the happiest year of my life. It’s when I lost weight, started playing hockey and gained a ton of friends.


If there is one significant thing in your life right now you could change, what would it be? I wouldn’t change anything, because if I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today. 



Can you share one of your most vivid childhood memories? This was when I was in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade.  I was outside with my friends playing in the cornfield behind my house and lost track of time. I had no idea that my mom had been calling me for dinner. I finally realized it was getting dark, so I ran back home. I get in the house and my dad is there. He says, “You are in so much trouble right now. Go and wash your hands for dinner.” As I am washing my hands, I am shaking and I’m thinking to myself,  ‘I am in so much trouble right now.” As I walk out of the bathroom, I hear my dad say to my mom, “What are you talking about? She’s in the bathroom washing her hands.” I just realized my dad totally covered for me. When I got to the table for dinner, he looked at me and said, “Now you have to eat your mashed potatoes.” The thing is, he loved mashed potatoes. We had them with every meal and I wasn’t a real big fan. So that night, I ate my mashed potatoes. 


What accomplishment are you most proud of? I started playing hockey at the age of 40 and just a year later I was coaching. I met so many other adults in the same situation I’d been in when I first started I thought I had an opportunity to help people avoid what I’d experienced  – wanting to play, but not really have a place to go. So I started an instructional league with 11 people 5 years ago and now almost 500 people have been through my program. 


What has been the biggest obstacle you came across getting into hockey? The lack of coaching for adults with no hockey experience. When I joined my first hockey clinic, I was on the ice with about 40 people, all men. The entire time, all the coach says to me is “skate faster.” I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know how to turn or to do anything on skates and all he kept saying to me was skate faster. I kept running into the boards, or falling down, everyone laughing at me. It was humiliating. I spent the next week going to open skate in order to teach myself how to stop. All along I had this fantasy in my head of snowing the coach at the next clinic. So the next week, I get to the hockey clinic and there are about 10 people there and a new coach. The first thing he does is teaches us how to stop. That’s when I thought to myself this is ridiculous and in that moment I know what kind of hockey coach I’d want to be. Now that I have my instructional league, the very first thing I ask is who doesn’t know how to stop. We teach them to stop before going on to anything else. 


What has been the biggest change in your life after finding your happy place? Probably getting divorced. About 2 years after I started playing, I guess I changed too much. The ironic thing is our relationship was all about taking chances and growing together. We would always jump at new opportunities, but this time I jumped and he didn’t. That led to my husband and I growing apart. It was a very successful 23-year relationship, but it got to the point where he didn’t recognize the person he fell in love with anymore and he had to move on. We were ok with that. He needed to be where he was happy and I needed to be where I was happy and this is where I am happy. 


Do you have any advice for those people struggling with the dreaded 9 to 5? Well I don’t have a dreaded 9 to 5. I love to teach. I teach where other people don’t want to teach on the South Side of Chicago. I teach 7th grade science, social studies and reading. Don’t get me wrong, it has its bad days. There are days that I feel like I didn’t do anything meaningful, but those days are out-weighed by the good days. Hockey is a part time job for me, but is such a huge part of my life. Since it’s only a part time job, so many people ask me why I put so much time into it. Well the reason is, when I see the smiles on the faces of players that go through my program, it gives such a intrinsic satisfaction knowing that I had something to do with that. I have also met so many amazing people. Some have become my dearest friends and I would not have that if I didn’t start this program. It is a passion and if you do something that you are passionate about, the time is always worth it. 


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? My motto is never pass up an opportunity!!  You’re going to do what you’re going to do and it will all work out in the end. If something comes your way, you figure out how to make it work. I read something recently that said something like “people like to say ‘I can’t.’ But its not that they can’t, its just that they don’t really want to.”  


Thanks for sharing Ambler and I hope this shows everyone that its never to late to live the life you deserve. More of my work can be view  at

Doing More with less Chicago based Portrait Photographer


Upon re locating back home to Sweet Home Chicago in late June, I found myself once again thinking I needed more. More space to shoot and more gear to be creative. But with time to reflect and some well timed advise from Clay Cook. He showed us all that all you need is what you have available. As he turned his living room into his studio were he does most of his creative work. So I mounted my $400 Canon 85 1.8 lens (I opted to pass on the L version of the Canon 1.2 with a cost of $1,700) onto my 5d Mark 111 and turn my living room into my studio. The living room is part of our 2bd room loft which is aprox. 16′ X 17′ with the benefit of high ceilings.

My lighting gear is still the Dynalite 1000er studio pack that is no longer for sale but allows me to use up to 4 heads. I typically use my standard 3 light set up.

Back drop is a 4 ft Royal Blue seamless rolled paper. I often place the subject off center which allows some of the environment to creep into the shot and help establish depth in the image.
A 35′ Dynalite octa softbox to camera left and two gridded rim lights. I also always use a Genustech Eclipse fader 2-8 ND filter on my lens. With out the ND filter My camera setting would be F-3.5, 1/125, ISO 50. The ND allows my to open up to 1.8, which gives me the shallow depth that I desire. The combination of the ND filter and the fixed lens has changed the way I shoot in the studio and on location. The fix lens makes me move around and experience the effects of the lighting from different angles. This will change the look and fell of the shot completely, which can appear to be multiple different set-ups with out changing anything. The ND gives me extra control of the available and artificial lighting in the scene.  
Chicago Portrait Photographer
The Hero Shot of Guitarist Paul Whisett
and a couple of detailed shots of his favorite acoustic Martin Guitar.


Chicago Portrait Photographer


and the final selection from the shoot

Don’t put unnecessary obstacles and limitations on yourself. Trust me there will be plenty of them naturally when you are out chasing down commercial work and just remember the most important piece of equipment is your vision and creativity!!!!

Being a Seattle Portrait Photographer and overcoming Gear LUST!!!!

Early in my career of being a Portrait Photographer I found myself having gear lust. Often I would catch myself saying only if I had this light, this lens or this camera…. I could do so much more. So one day I decided to stop limiting myself by thinking if I had this piece of equipment I could be more creative and learn to truly use all the gear I already have. So instead acquiring mounds of debt which often accompanies gear lust I excepted a self imposed challenge to find new and creative ways if using my equipment.

Here are four examples of what I learned from experimenting and challenging myself.

My first quest was to be able to shoot with shallow depth of field in studio while using strobes. My studio space was limited in size (12′ wide x 17′ deep with a 10′ ceiling) and my studio strobe kit only having 5 stops of adjustment levels. So I had to come up with a creative way I could control my depth of field. I decided to try using a 2-8 stop adjustable Genus Eclipse ND Circular Filter  in studio. The ND filter is what I usually useed outdoors to help balance the sunlight with my portable strobes. By using the ND filter in studio it allowed me to capture my subject @ f-1.8,  1/125 and ISO 50.  Prior to using the filter my typical settings for my 3 light studio set-up with out the ND filter would be f-3.5, 1/125 and ISO 50.  The ND filter allowed my to open up to f-1.8 which gave me the shallow depth of field that I desired as illustrated below. 

The next challenge I gave myself was to use my the light modifiers in different ways. 

Quality of light is influenced by two factors: the size of the the light source in relation to your subject and the distance from the light source and your subject. 

In the image above I wanted to light multiple subjects with one light source. The key light (6′ octa) was on camera right and slightly overhead. A strobe head with grid to camera left and behind the subjects was used for a rim light, which helped to add depth and separation from the back background as seen by highlighting their hair. Typically this is how the Elinchrome 6′ Octa bank is used, as a key or main light.

To changes things up a little I placed the 6′ Octa directly behind the subject which wrapped her in light (light is a little harsher due to the subject’s closeness to the light source) and complimented her fair skin color. Then I added a 4′ softbox on camera left  just below the subject to soften any shadows created by using the one light source.  

The 3rd and final set up was inspired by my recent move into a studio with 15′ ceilings. This allowed me to use the the 6′ Octa as a overhead light sourceIn this image I sandwiched my camera with the 6′ Octa overhead and a 4′ softbox just below the lens of the camera. The overhead large light source gave it a soft even light and due to its closeness to the subject it add a little pop (harshness). The 4′ softbox below the lens softened any shadows created by to the angle of the over head light. 

So there you have it 3 light set-ups using the same light source which allowed me to created 3 different feeling of images. Just by being a little creative and moving your light sources around along with adding a ND filter you can give yourself endless possibilities without having a endless supply of gear. 

The and most important thing I learned from this experiment.  Is that you don’t have to have plies of gear to be creative.  Now I can take that money that I saved on gear and spend were it is truly needed MARKETING!!!!!  As we all know you can be the worlds greatest photographer but no one will ever know about it into you get out there and tell them. 

Seattle Portrait Photographer & Die Hard Cub Fan

Being a Cubs fans has not been an easy life, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It goes a lot deeper then just wins and loses and I have some of the most meaningful memories at Wrigley Field.

Self Portrait 
As a Chicagoan you have to choose North or South Side and the is no in the Middle!!!! Go CUBS!!!!

  1. When did I become a fan? I became a Cubs fan as soon as I could walk.
  2. Why am I a fan? It has always been more then wins and losses for me. I grew up going to Wrigley Field. My childhood friend Grant Miller and I would take the bus to L train (we had a secret spot were there was a hole in the chain link fence sounding the train platform so we could ride for free) and get to the ball park 3 to 4 hours early so we can watch them warm up. We would stay an hour after the game let out to got autographs outside the players parking lot.
  3. When did I attend your first game? I was probably around 9 or 10 and back then it was safe to let you children ride the bus and train unsupervised. 
  4. Most memorable monument as a fan.  I have three. Spending my 21st birthday in the bleachers, seeing Perl Jam play there in July of 2013 and my first date with my now girlfriend Renea Falvo.
    Steve Mendoza 
    World Series Baby!!!!!

    1. When did you become a fan? I became a fan of the Giants when I was 9 when they were in the 89 World Series.
    2. Why are you a fan? I’m a fan because I love baseball. Lots of ups and downs with them the past 25 years but I stick with them.
    3. When did you attend your first game? I think I was about 11 or 12. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so it was expensive for us to go.
    4. Most memorable monument as a fan.  54 hour whirlwind to drive down to SF for Game 1 of the 2012 WS then drive back. Sandoval hits three home runs, crowd hugging/high fiving and Steve Perry singing “Lights” on the jumbotron with the crowd.

      A few of my favorites images and some of the amazing people I had the privilege to meet in 2013

      Time to say good bye to 2013 you treated my well and now on to 2014 we go. With another year in the
      books I wanted look back at some of my favorite images and some of the amazing people I had the privilege to meet over the past year. 

                              This was the first image that I introduced using a ND filter into my Studio work

      Travis Pranger The Creative Director/Co Founder at Feather & Oar  in Tacoma Wa.

      I met Nikki while on assignment for 425 Magazine. 
      Nikki Gane  Dignity for Divas 

      Her amazing story should be read and shared. Her facebook page can be found here Dignity for Divas 

      Here are a few of my favorite studio Images of 2013

            Travis Gardner a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and competitive natural body builder

      David Fisher Former Collegiate Track/Football Player @ Pacific Lutheran University

                                                            Jordan Sellers an aspiring model 

                                                     Some of my favorite Environmental Portraits 

                                               Seattle Based Artist/Painter Aaron Coberly

                                                 Kimi Pohlman / Sports & Lifestyle Unlimited

                        Kenvin Cavanagh Salmon Beach Resident

                                                  Sweet Pea Flaherty owner of King’s Books

      and my overall favorite for 2013 is a combination of both

                                    This a composite of a studio Portrait & a HDR Image of 

                                                Tyler Roberts / Sports & Lifestyle Unlimited