Welcome to the M Palma Photo Blog

Hi, my name is Mike, a professional wedding and portrait photographer born, raised, and based here in beautiful, Silverlake, Los Angeles, California.

On this blog, you'll find the daily inspirations, images and musings of my life.

I love photographing people, places, and anything else that catches my eye. I describe my style of photography as modern, fun, and energetic. So stay a while, check out my work, and get to know me better through my images and entries.

If you'd like to visit my main wedding and portrait site, click on this link, or click on the "connect" button up top to drop me a line via e-mail.

Like I said, stay awhile, and enjoy the entries. And please, do leave a comment. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter (via the icons above this paragraph) for even more up-to-date happenings (don't worry, I won't put up meager posts like "I'm standing in line at Starbucks" (my favorite coffee spot!). Only the really cool and important stuff!)

Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for 'Fashion'

Happy first week of June everyone! We’re half way through 2015, and I hope you are all doing well :)

I wanted to share with you a recent experience I had with a rather EXPENSIVE piece of camera gear, a medium format, $30,000.00 Phase One,  50+ Megapixel (MP)camera! Yes, $30,000.00, the price of a decent car, like a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. $30,000.00!!!

In my ongoing effort to better my lighting and photography skills, I signed up for a day long fashion photography class with Jodi Jones, a renowned fashion photographer based out of New York.  Jodi is such a cool person and her work rocks as well! Definitely check out her website. During the workshop, we went over various lighting examples, and her approach to fashion photography which made for a fun day of learning. But the piece de resistance, was the opportunity to work with the Phase One camera with two models hired for the workshop.

Now, for those of you who know me, I am totally against Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.), but the chance to work with a true high end, uber-pro level camera is something that I didn’t want to pass up.

The difference between a medium format camera and a full frame camera is essentially the sensor size. “Full frame” DSLRs have sensors that are the exact dimensions of a single 35mm roll film photo (36mm x 24mm), whereas a medium-format sensor (or equivalent film size) is 6 x 4.5 cm, which is roughly DOUBLE the size of 35mm/full frame cameras. Along with that extra sensor real estate, you can get so much more pixel depth and information, thus, are able to crop in super tight, and/or enlarge to billboard size without any problems. In short, you get GORGEOUS files – well, gorgeous if properly made that is.


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Sure, a 50+ MP will also take up a lot of hard drive space, but if you need the quality and depth, and are shooting huge campaigns (and already have a nice car), then hey,  buy the Phase One. (Disclaimer – I’m not sponsored by them, but I WISH!)

So, couple a great camera system, an awesome fashion photographer instructor (with an equally cool assistant by the name of Adam), throw in two gorgeous models, and voila, you can’t take a bad photo! Okay, you CAN take a bad photo, but why?!!!

Here are some behind the scenes looks of the day, including a photo I took with the Phase One. Enjoy!


2015, M Palma Photography, Jodi Jones Studio, fashion photography, BTS, phase one, quixote studios, iphone5


Jodi (with camera) and assistant Adam with one of the models we worked with that day.






2015, M Palma Photography, Jodi Jones Studio, fashion photography, BTS, phase one, quixote studios, iphone5


Jodi again with another model and additional lighting set-up





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One of our lighting set-ups. It looks more complicated than it really is.





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Here it is, the photo I was able to take using the Phase One. I downscaled it just so you can see it without having to wait too long for it to download (50 MP can take a LONG time to download. If you’re truly interested, I can share it with you via FTP)

This is straight out of the camera, using just one beauty dish, and a profoto light. BTS up above.

There you have it. My day with a $30K camera. Did I mention that it was a THIRTY THOUSAND dollar camera?! Needless to say, I don’t need a Phase One, nor will I ever consider buying it, but as with a lot of things in life, there are some jobs that require special “tools” and the Phase One is one awesome tool to play with.

Thanks to Jodi Jones, Adam, Quixote Studios, and the two models for a great day!

Thanks for stopping by!










Happy last week of April folks. Sheesh. Heading into the fifth month of 2015, can you believe it?! Is it just me, or the older you get, the quicker time goes by? I’m sure I may have posed this question to everyone before, but with the passage of time, your brain cells also pass, pass away! Just kidding, hope not! It just feels that way.

As my title implies, when I’m not photographing, I’m STILL photographing. It’s what every artist HAS to do. You get inspired, try things out, fail, succeed, try, and try again. It’s what makes you better at your craft. Plus, it’s fun. Downright fun!

Always looking for inspiration, I find myself following a lot of pages, and photographers on FB and other sources. The other week, I came across a blog entry from Sue Bryce, an uber talented photographer I’ve been following for quite sometime since first sitting in on a class of hers during a WPPI event/workshop. She’s a great inspiration overall, not only with her photo work, but as a person as well. She posted a story about her latest lighting set-ups, and how she achieved her particular lighting for a specific shoot. (You can view the post here). In her post, she talked about how she set up her lights, what equipment she used, and then, some examples from her shoot. I’ve been doing the same every so often, so it was nice to see another photog’s work, and then try and apply it to my own work.

Inspiration in hand from Sue, and I was off to try her set-up. Not duplicate it, as no one can ever really duplicate someone else’s work, but definitely try it and see what type of images I can get.

Here’s my set-up:

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In Sue’s set-up (see photos in link above), her set isn’t as “cluttered” as mine, plus she was using a deep Octobox, similar to this set-up below:



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I’m using a large Octobox camera left, skimming my cousin Johanna from the front, and then filling her left side with the silver reflector camera right. In the set-up above, with my lovely assistant Jully, you’ll see that I went with a magnum reflector instead of the octobox cause I wanted more contrast in the light for her shoot.

Check out Sue’s work with this similar set-up, and then see how my images fared.


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This above image was done using the octobox with my Einstein 640WS. Jully is rimmed with a Lumopro from the back, camera right. The silver fill fills in her left side. (Processed with LR, Exposure 7)


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Here’s one done without the octobox, but with the bare, reflector. Note the more contrast in the shadow to highlight detail; not as “soft” as the previous photo.




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Here’s what it looks like, straight out of the camera (SOOC). No editing done whatsoever. You can see the higher contrast in the shadows, and the slight fill from the strobe behind her, with that highlight on her left shoulder. (Hope Jully doesn’t mind!)


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Here’s a screen shot of some of the other images we made during this session.

Side note: I still “freak” out that these photos are taken in my small studio. You’d never know it unless you saw it (as you have been with my behind the scenes posts). See? You can make beautiful photos anywhere!

And there you have it! You look around, find something that inspires you, you try it, and you get what you YOU get! I’d like to thank Sue Bryce for her post and for inspiring myself and other photographers. Thanks Sue! A huge thank you to my cousin Johanna T. for the use of her hats (awesome hats!), and for my muse Jully for slaving away with me in my quest for the perfect light! Thanks Jully.

Finally, for no reason at all, here’s a photo of our dog Baxter:




2015, m palma photography, fuji x100s, dogs, family



Thanks for stopping by everyone. See you in MAY!



Hiya folks! Happy first week of February! How’s it goin’? Now that we’re officially out of the first month of the new year, it’s time to get going and keep up with all those goals we set for ourselves on Jan. 1st. Remember those?

As of late, I’ve been working on a lot of personal projects – trying out new lighting set-ups in studio, practicing new techniques for my weddings, etc., and as an added bonus, I have been posting my in-studio set-ups on this blog in the hope that it inspires people to maybe try them out, or perhaps get inspired and go out and photograph. For the longest time, I always searched the internet for sites that posted/diagramed their lighting set-ups, so that perhaps I could try and learn from them, and I’m finally doing it myself for those out there who are trying to do the same!

I know that some of you are also thinking “Hey, it’s Jully again in all his photos”. Yes, but, when you’re working with someone collaboratively who is totally onboard to help you out and contribute to your “vision”, why not continually work with that person. Besides, she’s a joy to work with and easy on the eyes (I know you feel the same, as my web stats seem to confirm that!). So if you’re tired of seeing Jully in my posts, I won’t feel bad at all if you stop reading and click on to another site. Seriously. I understand. (Kinda).

If you’re still here, then you’re in for another treat!

As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been inspired lately by fashion photographer Clay Cook, of Clay Cook Photography. Clay posts “point of view” Youtube videos online to show you what it’s like photographing on a small set with models. What’s cool about the videos is that you get to see him working in a relatively small space, and get to see his lighting set-ups first hand. Plus, you see the kinds of results he’s getting with said set-up.

With that said, I once again tried out Clay’s lighting using my own minimal equipment and got to shooting! It’s really fun to do this kind of stuff and see what you’ll get. It’s like a recipe, but you get to put your own “magic” touches to it to make it your own.

With the help of my lovely assistant/model/muse Jully, here is the diagram and set-up, followed by our results.





I first diagramed the set-up via my trusty little lighting book and then set it up:


2015, m palma photography. lighting diagram, lighting set up, clay cook lighting, fashion, los angeles, einstein, studio, v flats


 Originally, I used my beauty dish without the sock diffuser connected, but I felt that the light quality I was getting was a bit too crisp and contrasty. I decided to add the diffusion to soften the light a little and decrease the contrast in the shadows. In retrospect, I could have lifted the reflector on the floor for a bit more fill, but I’m still okay with the results.

As you can see, I have very little space to work with, but you can’t tell by the results.



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What I love most about these photos, and please pardon my geekiness, is that the rim light coming from camera left is faint enough to not notice it, but strong enough to add impact and separation to the photo! Without it, I think the photos would lose a bit of definition and contrast from the background.

There you have it! Another installment of my behind the scenes, lighting set-ups and diagrams. I’ll be doing more of these in the future, so do drop by and check them out. Also, if you have any questions about the lights and set-ups I’m using, feel free to drop me a line!

Lastly, if you live in the L.A. area, and are interested in modeling or collaborating on a photo project with me, also drop me a line so we can meet up and discuss. It would be fun!

Thanks everyone, and have a great first week of February. See you next time!



Happy Wednesday everyone! We’re in the final week of the first month of the new year! Whoa! Seriously, as we get older, time sure does fly by faster. Or is it just me? Regardless of how quickly the days are going by, I hope as always that everything is going great for you, AND that your new year’s resolutions are still intact, and going according to plan. Can I get an amen?! Anyone? Anyone…? LOL!

Since my last post, I have been on a tear trying out new stuff to help my photography eye grow and to get better at this thing called “making” photographs, vs. just “taking” them. With the help of my good buddy Farouk, (a down to earth, great soul and personality guy! Who is single BTW ladies – LOL), we did a James Dean inspired shoot last Friday. Farouk kinda has the James Dean look, so, with the help of some easy wardrobe (jeans, white T-shirt, jacket), and some props (motorcycle and truck), we set out to MAKE some fun and inspired images, in homage to the “Giant” and “Rebel” himself.

First off, I want to say thanks once again to my other good buddy Felix V. for allowing us the use of his property and bike and truck! Much appreciated bro-ham! Felix has a small array of vintage cars and trucks, which made for a great backdrop. Without him, we would have just strolled the streets until we saw one parked. Ha!

We started off with Farouk on the motorcycle, with some Ray-Ban Aviator shades. I had him leaning up against the bike while I set up my Einstein strobe with Beauty Dish, situated to camera left. The sun was still up, but fading relatively fast at about 4:00pm. I used the sun to rim light him from the back, while my strobe added a bit more pop on his shadowed side. I chose to use the beauty dish without any diffusion because I wanted a harder, more contrasty light. Besides, for men, it works better, especially in this situation. With the help of the online lighting diagram creator, I was able to graph out how I set up my light to show you how I got the looks we shot. Big ups to the site for providing such a valuable resource!

Here’s the set up for the motorcycle shot. They didn’t have a motorcycle in the background selections, so you won’t see one, but just imagine that it’s there.


2015, m palma photography, online lighting diagram creator, nikon, 70-200, einstein, beauty dish, male model, fashion, los angeles, photographer


The sun, as mentioned was to Farouk’s back, acting as a rim. From this set-up, I shot from the front and even moved over to my right, and in front of the bike for other angles. The bike was perpendicular to my shooting position in the diagram. Here are the results:



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You can see where my strobe is coming from and the direction of where the sun light is at.

From this, we went over to Felix’s truck and set up the lights this way:


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From this position, the sun was still to camera right, but fading rather quickly, so my strobe provided almost all of the illumination. I also “skimmed” the position of the face of the beauty dish so as to work with the edges vs. the full face, giving me “softer” shadows – kinda. As you will see, the light is still “soft’, yet contrasty, but then again, that’s the nature of a beauty dish. There was also a near sheer drop off behind me, so I had to kinda of be careful. More so for my equipment vs. me! I can heal, my camera can’t! LOL!! Oh, and as mentioned, we used a truck, and not a shiny new sports car as the diagram implies. Maybe next time! Here are the results, some of my most favorite from the series:


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The quality of light coming from the Einstien is incredible! I was going for a “magazine” type of look, so I upped my shutter speed to close to my sync speed, but wanted some ambient still. My aperture was at about f/5.6. I just love the texture on the truck and the contrasty nature of the light on Farouk. Sure the shadows are not that soft, but it doesn’t hurt the photos in my opinion, cause we were going for a masculine, tough-guy, type of look. The beauty dish works well here.

Finally, as the sun set over the horizon, I knew that I had some ambient light left to work with, although no more rim light. So, I used my set-up to act as the primary light source, using a slower shutter speed to get a bit more of that ambient into the exposure. No diagram with this one, but you can tell the direction of light:



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I still wanted to mimic the direction of the sun light so I placed the strobe/beauty dish about 8-10 feet away from Farouk with these two photos. You could see the long reddish rays of the setting sun in the previous photo.

Once the waning rays of sunlight completely faded, I set up my light this way:




2015, m palma photography, online lighting diagram creator, nikon, 70-200, einstein, beauty dish, male model, fashion, los angeles, photographer


The sun in the diagram was placed there to let you know where it was setting. I went farther back with my lighting to create harsher shadows. Plus, I upped the power on the strobe as well to cover the distance I put it at, roughly 12 feet to the right of the camera. This time, the face of the beauty dish is angled directly towards Farouk’s face, and not skimming him like before. Here’s what we got:



2015, m palma photography, online lighting diagram creator, nikon, 70-200, einstein, beauty dish, male model, fashion, los angeles, photographer 2015_M Palma Photography-5


Notice how much more contrast there is between the highlights and shadows? There’s still detail in the dark areas, but the difference is more pronounced. The photo of Farouk on the motorcycle was placed there just to show the variety and wasn’t a part of this last series of him standing.




There you have it! My first blog post complete with lighting diagrams! I actually FORGOT to shoot some behind the scenes shots of my set-ups cause we were working against the fading sun, but I’ll remember to do that next time! I’m glad I had the opportunity to diagram it all out though to show you guys how the photos were created. I’m definitely going to do more of these in the future, so please check back to see what’s new!


Thanks again for Felix for the use of his place and for my awesome model Farouk. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of him on the blog in the future. And ladies, did I mention, he’s single? Cause he is. LOL! Check out his website here.

Lastly, (proud photographer moment!) I wanted to say how thrilled I am to have been chosen to photograph the wedding of my new clients Heather and Roger! Two of the sweetest and FUN people you would ever meet! They are getting married later this year in October! Woo hoo! We’re scheduled for an engagement shoot sometime between now and then, and I can’t wait for that session to take place, cause like I said, they’re so cool! Plus, in about two months time, I’m photographing yet another great couple, Michelle and Shannon. That’s going to be a blast as well! The E-session will take place shortly, and that’s going to be fun too!

Thanks again and as always for stopping by. Now go out and photograph something will you?!

See you next week!








Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope your week is going rather swimmingly :)  For a lot of us, this is a short week due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, honoring a great civil rights leader. Hope everyone took a minute to appreciate what he did, as well as countless others who have helped make our country what it is today :)

As for the title of this post, I’ve been wanting to do this type of entry for quite some time now, and perhaps in the past, I’ve tried to, but not as comprehensively as I would have liked. I’m going to try and remedy that with my first personal project shoot of the new year, a lighting test shoot, inspired by a fellow photographer I follow and admire, Clay Cook. As a professional photographer, I am constantly scouring the web for inspiration and education in my never ending search for that “perfect” photograph I will someday make, which will most definitely have to have great light! Just recently, I found some of Clay’s posts via the website Fstoppers, detailing his own fashion shoots using a POV camera. From those videos and his insights, I was able to try out one of his lighting set-ups (finally!) here in my small home studio. Ironically, he shoots all his projects in his small space as well, so it was easy to relate and kind of replicate his lighting and process. Kinda.

Now, I’ve always been a firm believer that cameras or lights don’t make great pictures, PHOTOGRAPHERS do. Just as pens don’t write amazing stories or novels, nor do paint brushes create beautiful paintings. (Yet, if I had a nickle for every “Wow, what kind of camera is that? It takes great pictures!”… Aiyai yai! You know the rest.)  What’s great about Clay and other great photographers is that you don’t need the super fancy equipment to make great photos. Plus, in my case, I’m sadly far removed from ordering my Ferrari La Ferrari, so I’ll just have to create beautiful images using this thing that’s 12 inches behind the camera, my brain.

So, when I’m inspired to photograph my own personal work, I call my camera muse Jully in to help me experiment and learn lighting techniques, all of which transfer rather nicely to my wedding and portrait work, so I’m killing three birds with one stone in a sense. Thanks to Jully as usual for being my human test mannequin once again.

My set-up was inspired by Clay’s set up in his great on-going “First Person Shooter” videos. In it, you will see that he uses two black V-flats and with a dark background surrounding his model, and then lights her using two light sources on camera left. One larger diffused umbrella/octo/photek softlighter to illuminate the model’s face, and then a strip bank under that to add detail and illumination to the clothing she has on. The V-Flats will suck up a lot of that light which will give the final image some nice shadows and contrast. Clay has a “hot light” softbox facing the camera, and I’m not sure what that was for, so I didn’t use it. Here’s my set-up, complete with model and stand-in Jully, all in one, with a special guest appearance by our new dog, Baxter.



2015 M Palma Photography, Los Angeles photographer, Silverlake, fashion, lighting set-up, tutorial, Clay Cook inspired, model, dog, Einstein parabolic,



I don’t have a dark enough seamless background, so I used a gray one that I had lying around. As you can also see, I only have one black v-flat, so I used my Calumet branded black panel to serve as my camera left flat. My Einstein Parabolic with front diffuser is at the Rembrandt position (45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees up), and my 24×24″ gridded softbox powered by my new Lumopro flash serves as my lower body fill. It sits directly beneath my parabolic.

As you can see, my space is rather small, and not as long length wise, as what Clay has, but in the end, no one will know. Well, you now know, but otherwise, who cares?! From the set, I’m roughly about 8-10 feet away tethered to my Macbook using Lightroom. I’m using a cheap, no-name camera, that starts with an “N” and has the numbers 810 on it. Probably the area code where it’s made. I don’t know. Not sure what my settings on my lights were, but I basically metered using my eyes. I started at about 1/125 at f/5.6 and went from there, seasoning to taste. My go-to lens is the 70-200mm which I used for this shoot.

Now, despite “copying” a lighting set-up, I knew well in advance that there is no way I was ever going to replicate Clay’s work, style, or photographs, but that’s what’s great about getting inspired – you try new stuff and then add it to your own style and creative development. So there’s no shame in copying, cause no two things will ever be alike! Besides, I’m giving mad props to my source Clay, so no plagiarism involved.

Here’s one more look at my set-up from a slightly different angle:




2015 M Palma Photography, Los Angeles photographer, Silverlake, fashion, lighting set-up, tutorial, Clay Cook inspired, model, dog, Einstein parabolic,



With this rather spartan and rag tag set-up, I went to work and began photographing and got some pretty cool images. Again, this was just a lighting test and a rather impromptu one, so it’s not stylized whatsoever, but we were able to get some solid results nonetheless. Plus it helps to work with creative people like Jully who can add to the creative aspect of the shoot. Here’s what we came up with. There were more, but I wanted to share these three photos with everyone:



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These final three images were edited in Lightroom and OnOne. And yes, Baxter wears t-shirts.

And that’s it! My first set-up tutorial/bts post for the year. Again, I have to thank Clay Cook Photography for posting his amazing videos on YouTube and inspiring all of us, thanks Clay!

There are a few other set-ups that I’m going to try in the near future, so check back to see how I’m doing, and how I’m getting inspired. If not for that, check back in for either my photo muse Jully, or our cool dog Baxter. He selects and wears his own t-shirts daily.

Have a great week everyone and as always, thanks for checking in :)