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 'Portraits'

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.


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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:




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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:



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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.



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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:




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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 :)






May 8, 2014 in Family, Kids, Portraits

Happy first full week of May 2014 everyone! How’s it going? For those of you who don’t live here in Southern California, the second week of May has finally given us Angelenos some COOLER weather. Last week, we were well into the 90’s, and this week, we’re in the 70’s (Mother Nature sure is finicky!). I’m just glad it’s comfortable outside. Whew!

Despite the amazing heat from last week, I was given the great opportunity to photograph baby Jocelyn. The newest addition to our friends’ the Seligmans clan. Five years ago, I  photographed their oldest son Wyatt, and once Jocelyn was ready for her close-up, I was ready and ecstatic! It’s such an honor to be able to come back to a family and photograph their kids, and see how much they’ve grown. And with older brother Wyatt (who I’ve seen since our first portrait session five years ago), he’s growing up to be a cool kid. Plus, it was nice to see him back at his house, years removed from our first session. But now it was his sister’s turn, and in some of the same spots we used for Wyatt – how cool!

As with a lot of babies, Jocelyn was a real trooper during her first pro photo session. Despite having a wee bit of baby eczema, she was able to shine and give me all of her 5 months of life on planet earth :) What a cutie! Afterwards, we decided to photograph the entire Seligman clan, including a special visit from the patriarch himself, Grandpa Seligman! He’s the more distinguished gentleman in the photos with grandson Wyatt below (John, you’re distinguished too, just that your dad is a bit more distinguished!).

I love that we were able to photograph everyone this time. Got more of Wyatt in his element in his “Cars” themed room, Grandpa with two generations on the sofa, and of course, Jocelyn and the entire fam. I love days like this where I can contribute to a family’s history through photographs :) Such an honor.

Enjoy the photos of the Seligmans, with special emphasis on their latest addition, Jocelyn. Thank you guys for having me back. And thanks to Jocelyn for allowing me to photograph her! Maybe I can photograph her wedding someday?! LOL!!!

Happy May everyone! See you next week!






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Happy April everyone!

I’ve been MIA the past two weeks. I know, shame on me :( But, I  got inundated with work, and have finally been able to catch up! Woo hoo! Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the distinct honor of photographing young thespians over at the historic and renovated Coconut Grove theater, which is now located at the Robert F. Kennedy High School campus in Los Angeles. Talk about historic places! In addition to that, I had the chance to photography legendary Hall of Fame Baseball manager, Tommy Lasorda, and his old boss, Peter O’Malley. What a terrific couple of weeks!

Speaking of thespians, one of my recent photo sessions involved hanging out with a good friend of mine from my acting days, DC Wolfe. An all around cool guy, talented actor, and now, pursuing his own personal training business, Wolfe Fitness. DC has been a personal trainer for some time now, and has just recently ventured off on his own and needed some photos for promotional purposes. I was more than happy to oblige.

Our shoot took place at the gym where he trains his clients, a large, warehouse type of facility with state of the art equipment and a cool, “workman” type of vibe to it. Before our shoot started, there were Crossfit members grunting and sweating away the pounds! You go to this gym to work out, not show off! Thankfully, we were there to work! At least I was. DC was just standing around looking cool. The personal trainers always have the most fun. Helping us on this shoot was a fitness model friend of DC’s, Debbie, who, as you will see, takes great care of herself, and obviously works out. Inspiring indeed! (Did I mention I ran 8 miles that morning, in addition to the 2 miles swimming before that? Had to, working with these two.)

Below are the fruits of our labor. A huge thanks to DC and to Debbie for being such great models. And if you’re in the market for a great, fit, and personable personal trainer in the L.A. area (Pasadena to be exact), check out Wolfe Fitness. You’ll look great, trust me!


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Hi Everyone! I know, I’ve been M.I.A. the past few weeks. March has been fun and busy for me, and I have so much to share with you!

The first week of the month started off in Las Vegas, for the annual Wedding and Portrait Photographers Int’l (WPPI) convention that took place at the MGM. Every year, it’s an opportunity to take platform classes and learn from the best in the industry, as well as see all the new goodies from all the leading camera manufacturers. But the best thing about WPPI is meeting and making new friends, of which I made a lot this year. It’s inspiring being around like-minded individuals who share the same passion, triumphs and struggles that all of us go through. I spent five full days in Vegas (which is quite long actually), classes each day, expo as well, and hang-outs at night. Kinda felt like summer camp in a way, but everyone had nice (camera) toys!

Once I got back, I had three back to back photo sessions, which started off at the Japanese American Nat’l Museum. They opened up their “Perseverance” exhibit, all about tattoos! I had the opportunity to photograph over 40 models, with full body tattoos amidst a sea of tattoo fans and aficionados. Plus, they even had a live tattoo demonstration, the old fashioned way! No “buzzing” tattoo guns there!

After that, I had the most wonderful opportunity to photograph two amazing families. Both of which had some terrific and fun members, or all ages! Age ranged from 7 to 92 years! Oh what fun. Plus, it was such an honor to be asked to create something like that for them. That, truly makes this “job” so worth it :)

Add to all this, I also had a great first time opportunity to photograph a good friend of ours with a horse she’s been taking care of. It has only been recently that I’ve grown accustomed to  how majestic and beautiful horses are, so this too was a treat. I’d totally do it again :)

Okay, enough talk. Here are some of the images of March 2014 so far! Thanks for stopping by and enjoy!



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 Thanks again for stopping by. See you next week!