This is my first test shoot here in Chicago and I was so excited to work with Spencer from FACTOR | CHOSEN.

Jaida (my awesome roommate and friend @jaidabentley) and I set out a few days before to do some thrifting to find garments for the shoot. We found an cute black and white short sleeved sweater dress that ended up being killer among other items we’ll use for future shoots. I also got the chance to finally use a vintage blue 70’s style dress which was the first thing I thrifted here in Chicago after I moved. We paired it with some other sweaters, pants and shoes from our ever-growing thrifted styling collection. 

I live for thrifting. Most of the shoots you see on my site have styled from garments I’ve thrifted or rented from local vintage places (Omaha loves, CHECK OUT WALLFLOWER). Fashion trends are always repeating, so its easy to look at what’s currently trending in fashion and go back and find the original clothes from the decade they’re borrowing from. Your cash gets you a lot more when you’re paying $1-3 per item instead of $30 + for one shirt especially when you’re just using it for one shoot and may not use it again.

Here was the lighting setup I used for the first few looks:

An octobox is lighting the model from above, with a strip box closer to
the floor below it to fill in where the light drops off closer to the
models feet.

Resulting Images:

For the last two looks I set the octobox more to the side of the model, and used a white V flap to reflect light back onto Spencer.

HUGE THANK YOU to Jaida (@jaidabentley) for all your help assisting with this shoot! Also, love my girl Caitlin Krenz (@caitlincaresforhair), who’s always killing it with hair and makeup!

Hopefully you guys are digging these shoot breakdowns. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me touch on!



Writing posts about the images you create can be a hard thing to do. I always feel like I’m being self-important when I’m writing posts, as if I think everyone is on the edge of their seat wanting to know how and why I shoot the stuff I shoot. Trust me, I know that’s not the case.  I also know I’m supposed to let my work speak for its self, after-all, that’s why I create photos, I speak through them. 

But then I try to remember what it was like for me when I was a photographer with my first big-kid camera who was just starting to figure out how to create the images I was dreaming about. I was eternally grateful for every post, every lighting diagram, tutorial, and behind the scenes video I could find online that helped to teach me the skills I needed to make those photos a reality. Honestly, I’m still learning that way. I spend my days scouring for hard to find BTS videos of my favorite photographers just to try and glimpse their process and set ups. I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning and growing as an artist, and that’s why its hard to imagine myself in a position where I have anything to teach anyone. But looking back on some of the first photos I ever posted, I have already learned so much that I could have taught the younger and less experienced me. I’m indebted to the other photographers who left breadcrumbs behind for me to learn from, so the least I can do is leave behind some of my own.

With that in mind, I’ll try my best to put up BTS videos as often as I can. (It’s very hard to film your own shoots because you’re the one busy shooting, but I did just recently snag myself a go-pro, so lets see if I can remember to start using that.) I’ll also try to share a bit about my lighting setups, challenges, stuff I learn, or anything else that I think someone might find interesting or helpful. Maybe its all just a needless shout into the internet void, but on the off chance its exactly what someone’s looking for, it’s worth posting it.

I’ve learned we really shouldn’t be afraid to share our technical tricks with other artists, if teaching someone where to place a light is gonna harm your career making art, then maybe the bigger problem is what your art is saying and expressing beyond its technical aspects. Your voice, your vision, your creative ideas, those are things people just can’t steal from you by copying your lighting setup. 

BTS Video:


I got inspired for this particular shoot when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be doing on my birthday this year. Trying to come up with birthday plans can be a somber task when a growing number of your closest friends have moved to far corners of the world to pursue their dreams. That’s the price you pay when you befriend artists and dreamers. Your relationships become text messages and Facetime calls, with yearly reunions at Christmas. But then I reminded myself of something I’ve been trying very hard to learn this year… that you don’t need anyone else or anyone’s approval to enjoy every celebration and luxury life has to offer. My friends are amazing and incredible people that I sometimes rely on too much to remind me of how deserving I am of happiness, which is something we should all be able to know about ourselves without those reminders. I tried to remember how well I knew that when I was young, before people and life filled me with insecurities, self-doubt and a need for approval. I played dress up and played make believe for hours with my favorite stuffed animals, and I never once felt sad that I was the only one sharing in those adventures. You don’t need someone else to dress up for to buy yourself some lingerie, to get all dolled up in your best dress, to eat cake, to see go out and see a movie.  As fun as these things are to do with friends and lovers, there’s nothing pathetic or shameful about experiencing them by yourself. Life is meant to be celebrated and experienced, even if sometimes that means doing it alone.


I was lucky enough that my good friend and incredible model, Alyson was up to model for this shoot, and that she happened to have a stunningly perfect apartment to shoot it in. Although dragging all my gear, supplies, clothing, and a four tier cake down two blocks and up four massive flights of stairs was the workout of a century, and I’m so lucky to have had a team that was willing to help me do it. The always wonderful Nora Murphy was kind enough to do hair and makeup, my friend Hope Liann tagged along to help haul and film, and I was thrilled to be able to borrow garments from some amazing designers and friends who’s information you can find at the very end of this post. A Facebook friend of mine Michelle Watkins, replied to a desperate post searching for a cake artist to feature in this shoot, and I think the cake she did turned out beautifully. I’ve also got to give a shout out to my friend Megan Hunt, who was kind enough to send me a little donation to help me make this shoot a reality after my rather distressed post about having to leave a vintage mirror behind in a thrift store that only cost $6 because it would have exhausted my entire shoot budget. Man, the struggles of a starving artist can be real, but great friends make it easier.


I shot this entire shoot with a one light setup. One Alienbee 800 with the standard 7-inch reflector it ships with, raised up and pointed at the ceiling so it would kind of bounce and reflect similar to how a normal ceiling light might. The Alienbee and softbox you see set up in the video, I set up just in case I needed it but didn’t end up using it.

For the dancing shots, I really wanted to portray movement with a bit of an dragging shutter blur/haze. I shot those images at 1/30 of a second to achieve the ghostly motion effect, but the flash keeps the the main image underneath sharp. Hope stood on a chair to throw the glitter shreds in Alyson’s direction, while she spun around to give the shots a good sense of motion.


In post, I decided to make one of the images into an animated GIF. I thought motion would help tell the story of that particular image so much better. I loved it so much that I’ve been incorporating one moving image into each of my digital editorials. This idea doesn’t translate to print, but it’ll be an extra fun addition to shoots I get to publish online. I made the GIF in Photoshop using the animation toolbar, and by switching to frames instead of timeline. Use this tutorial to help you make your own.


1. Sometimes you have your heart set on an idea you’ve pictured for a series, and it just isn’t working. I wanted to do a shot with Alyson drinking wine in a claw foot bathtub with pink bubble bath. The tutorial I followed for pink bubbles just kept making the water too blood red, didn’t stay bubbly enough to give it the fantasy look I was going for, the steam of the water started ruining Alyson’s hair, and the bathroom at her place was just too tight to get a good angle. Try your best, but know when something is not panning out and scrap it.

2. Come over-prepared. I bought and brought a lot of props and gear I didn’t think we’d need or use that I was happy to have. Nora ended up using some of the extra birthday hats I brought to help shape Alyson’s hair. I always think photos that tell stories are so much better when the model has something to be doing in each shot, I make sure to come up with multiple activities, sometimes your first idea just doesn’t work.

3. Steal accessories from your team. I came prepared with jewelry but the earring’s Hope wore to the shoot that day were just too perfect, so I stole them from her and used them on Alyson.

4. A model who can play is important. One of the major reasons that I love to shoot with Alyson is because of her ability to move and play. Shes not afraid to try things on her own without direction whether that be poses, emotions, etc. She really listens to the shoot concept and tries to emote what I’m going for. She’s also the kind of model who wants to shoot until we get the right shot. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if your model can’t move and try things without you micro-managing her, there’s a world of images you’ll just never capture. My biggest problem in editing these photos was actually having too many good photos on Alyson’s part to choose from.

Welp, I guess that’s the end of this horribly long essay. If you’ve
got questions about things I didn’t touch on please feel free to reach
out or leave a comment, I’ll answer as many questions as I can! Let me
know if this shoot breakdown is something you’d like to see me continue. 


Find and follow the team and designers:

Model: Alyson Osterbuhr
www.develop-models.com | @rocklobsterbuhr

Hair and Makeup by: Nora Murphy

Featuring Designs by:

Wallflower: iamawallflower.com | @omahawallflower
Jillian Fellers: www.jillianfellers.com | @jillianfellers

Whitney Rorah: www.whitneyrorah.com | @wmrorah

Hello Holiday: www.helloholiday.com | @helloholiday


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