Behind the Scenes Photo Proventure Technique

iPad Photo shoot | Behind the Scenes

September 3, 2014

Photographers are always looking for great light. Sometimes they find it, sometimes they manipulate it, and sometimes they create it from scratch.

I had an idea a few months back to do an iPad photo shoot where my subject would be lit only using the light from the screens.

iPad Photo Shoot | the concept(s)

iPad Photo Shoot | Inception SelfieUnlike most shoots where the concept informs the execution, this was a case where the execution of using iPads to light the subject helped me figure out the concepts I wanted to try.

I knew that I wanted my subject to be Jordan Mychal, an amazing woman who I get to work with on a daily basis. She is a social media maven and I thought it would be cool to use the tools of her trade to light her portrait. The two base concepts were to create a set of classic portraits and a set of portraits showing her doing what she does but in a stylized way.

[bk_button link=”” target=”_self” size=”small” button_custom_colors=0 color=”#909090″ hover_color=”#27CCC0″ ]Read Jordan’s Story >[/bk_button]

iPad Photo Shoot | the gear

Some people might think that shooting with iPads is not economical. You can get much brighter lights for a lot less money, that’s true.

However, everyone seems to have an iPad nowadays. So if you have friends who are willing to part with their tablets for a day, it can be free!

Here’s what we used in various combinations:

  • 3 full sized Apple iPads
  • 1 Apple iPad mini
  • 1 Retina Macbook Pro
  • 1 Apple iPhone 5s

This iPad photo shoot could not have taken place without the help of some volunteer assistants: Yoska, Fatima, Rachel and Brett.

iPad Photo Shoot | the settings

Although that might seem like a lot of light, it isn’t. The room was dark so that there was no ambient exposure to play a role; I wanted the shots to be 100% lit by the gear above.

My camera settings throughout the whole iPad photo shoot were: 1/60 @ f2.0, ISO 1600

iPad Photo Shoot | behind the scenes

In addition to the final photos I captured, I also took a few behind the scenes images of a couple of the setups.

iPad Photo Shoot | Behind the scenes of Woman checking smartphone iPhone

The set up

iPad Photo Shoot | Woman checking smartphone iPhone

The result

In this photo I used a classic clam-shell style lighting where the iPads were positioned both above and below Jordan at a 45 degree angle. This is a very flattering lighting. The only tweak I did at one point was to have the iPad mini behind Jordan to add a bit of light onto the background and only had a single regular iPad as the bottom of the clam-shell.

iPad Photo Shoot | Woman on her laptop lit only By IPads

The set up

iPad Photo Shoot | Woman on her laptop lit only By IPads

The final result

This shot was actually inspired from some real world lighting that I saw when taking a course with Les Walkling. He was sitting at the front of the room looking at his laptop screen while a projector was creating a wall of light behind him that was creating a rim light on his right side.

In this shot I used the Macbook Pro as the key light, just like it had been with Les. Two iPads were used to recreate the light coming from behind like the projected wall while a third was used to give a bit of hair light. The last one was used to light the background behind Jordan to separate her from it visually.

iPad Photo Shoot | the money shot

iPad Photo Shoot | Social Media eyesSome people may wonder if I Photoshopped the social media logos onto Jordan’s eyes. The answer is no.

The logos were there at the time I pressed the shutter. This effect was achieved by creating a png that had white logos on a black background loaded up on the iPad that Jordan is holding. You can see the edge of the iPad cutting across her face (the white line).

The social media logos had to be reversed in the png, because otherwise the reflection in her eyes would have been backwards. This is what I used:


The only other thing we did was to bring in a second iPad to create a soft directional light on Jordan’s face while staying high enough to not become a specular highlight in her eyes. I wanted the logos to be the only reflection the viewer could see.

iPad Photo Shoot | conclusion

I was really happy with how this iPad photo shoot turned out. The images turned out great and everyone had a fun time on set.

It was really great to be able to see the effect of the lighting as I asked the assistants to tweak their positioning. It allowed us to try a variety of different set ups to get different looks.

Only after the fact have I found out that I wasn’t the first one to do this (that’s always the way isn’t it?). A quick Google search of “iPad photo shoot” bought up Jesse Rosten. I didn’t actually expect to be the first photographer to try this, but I’m still stoked with my results.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.


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  • Reply pinoyonwriting April 17, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    wow this is fantastic!!!

    • Reply Matt Korinek April 17, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks so much! It was a really fun shoot. I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, but was really happy with the results.

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