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Lincoln Memorial Photoshoot | Nate Payne Photography | Washington, DC | 6.17.21

Instructor: JB Sallee

Model: Nikki Lister

Project: Strobe Lighting Portrait Photography Workshop

Location: Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Gear: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 17-40mm f4, Canon 70-200mm III f2.8

Lights: Profoto B10 Strobe Lights x2 ...and The Sun...


Photo: Nikki Lister photographed on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial


In June, I attended a lighting workshop by JB Sallee (@salleephotography), a photographer and owner of Sallee Photography, the most award-winning studio in Texas. JB has been serving the Dallas, TX area for 18+ years. While he features a wide variety of photography, JB is primarily known for dramatic wedding photography involving dynamic lighting and composition.

Photograph of JB Sallee

Photo source: JB Sallee / ClickCon

The workshop took place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, a site I’ve photographed many times but never viewed as a backdrop for portrait photography. Up until that point, I had only photographed Abe sitting there, staring out over the Reflecting Pool, or turned to capture the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance, the same photos everyone else has taken a million times. This workshop demonstrated how to use the structure and surroundings as a set to build unique photo compositions.

Our model was the amazing Nikki Lister (@soul_dreamer89), and the assisting photographers were Rusty George (@iron_ore_photos) and Kiati Plooks (@kiatiplooks). Everyone was awesome, and I had a great time collaborating with the entire group. Please check out their work at the provided links.


I really like this shot. It reminds me of a figurehead at the front of a ship.


Around 3:15 pm, we set up on the south side of the memorial, using the natural light from the sun streaming in from the left. Nikki posed between the columns while Rusty and Kiati stood on either side helping lift and float the dress’ red panels for each photographer. Check out the behind the scenes photos below.


Some fun behind the scenes shots. Sometimes the wind was...challenging... :)


To capture these photographs, we used a standard outdoor camera setting known as - Sunny 16 (f16 | Shutter Speed 1/200 | ISO 100-200 | No Flash). These settings ensure a large depth of field for uniformly crisp photos, while maintaining color saturation and minimizing the number of “hot spots” (bright or blown out areas) in a photograph involving direct sunlight.


The flowing panels of the bright red dress created really dynamic compositions.


We eventually shifted to the corners of the memorial and began to incorporate some unique perspectives involving the Washington Monument. Many of these photos were captured with my wide angle lens, (Canon 17-40mm, f4). I also took several with my telephoto lens (Canon 70-200mm III f2.8) maxed out at 200mm to compress the background and bring the monument forward in the photograph. I used this technique with several other shots to feature depth between the model and the scale of the memorial.


I really enjoy the perspective of this shot, there's so much to view.


I appreciated JB’s ability to survey the memorial and identify favorable places for Nikki to pose. As I said before, I’ve photographed the Lincoln Memorial many times, but I never saw it as a setting with multiple backdrops – I always focused on creating a unique photograph of the interior of the monument, rather than its many exterior scenes. JB truly has an exceptional eye for establishing composition.


This may be my favorite photo from the entire shoot. The color, texture, and depth create a unique contrast that is stunning in my opinion.


We continued to experiment with natural light until we finally broke out the strobes. Twin Profoto B10’s capable of overpowering the brightness of the sun! The ability to produce such bright light creates some very dramatic effects. The strobes had basic diffusers built into the lamp, and they connected to the cameras with a trigger mounted on the hot shoe. We positioned the strobes at various degree points around the subject.


You can really see the impact of the strobe flash in these two photos. Both create interesting and desirable effects.


These last couple shots were taken along the Potomac River, near the west side of the tidal basin with the sun is setting over Rosslyn in the distance.


I was pretty stunned with the results of the workshop. I shoot a lot of concert photography, which involves low light, unpredictable movement, and minimal shooting space. These conditions also require a fast aperture of 2.8 or 3.5, a shutter speed ranging between 1/200 - 1/1000, and an ISO ranging between 400 - 4000. I really appreciated the opportunity to go to the other end of the spectrum, slow down, and compose the elements in the photographs. I’m looking forward to incorporating more portrait photography into my repertoire.


Huge thank you to JB Sallee, Kiati, Nikki, and Rusty for an awesome experience. I hope to be able to work with everyone again in the future. I also wanted to give a shout out to Mr. Tony Powell (@tonypowell1) whose photography work in Washington, DC has inspired me to delve further into the world of portrait photography. I feel very fortunate to be working in such an awesome city, and I can’t wait to see what else is on the horizon! - NP


Check out the full gallery from the Lincoln Memorial photoshoot below!


For more information about JB Sallee please click the link below.

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