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Review: Software Cinema DVDs

 Tony Corbell, Julieanne Kost, Clay Blackmore, Dean Collins, Judy Host

By Cheryl Pearson
PPA Members receive 25% off of Software Cinema titles. See the end of this article for details.

Staying abreast of the latest trends and techniques in photography is imperative, and Software Cinema DVDs provide training for photographers of all skill levels, from novices to well-established photographers looking to boost their skills to the next level. Software Cinemas also has training DVDs on practically any photo-related topic you may be looking for. From “The Best of Dean Collins on Lighting,” a classic that leads you through the basic principles of understanding and controlling light, to Tony Corbell’s “Portrait Lighting on Location” and Clay Blackmore’s “Senior Portraits Made Simple,” which highlight more specific aspects of photography, to Julieanne Kost’s truly comprehensive “Comprehensive Photoshop Training,” there is an instructional guide to address your needs, presented by qualified instructors considered to be the best in their field.

Tony Corbell—Portrait Lighting on Location

Tony Corbell’s “Portrait Lighting on Location” has six well-organized segments, including photographing in the home, controlling the sun, and using ambient light and flash. Each tutorial does a spectacular job of demonstrating ideas for understanding and controlling light as well as working with your subject and background, whether in a home, outside, or in a public venue.

Corbell gives step-by-step instruction with concise and detailed explanations, making this DVD ideal for photographers new to location lighting and those with intermediate experience. Each segment moves along quickly, keeping you engaged while providing simple and efficient techniques for setting up in each location.

Throughout the training, Corbell also provides helpful tips, such as how to utilize your camera’s histogram, using a reflector, and shooting with flash. His presentation method is key in helping viewers understand the full process. He begins by showing examples of the light quality while shooting, then the images after the session, and finally ties it all together with post-capture image enhancement at the end.

Overall, the material on this DVD flowed smoothly and was easy to follow. If you’re looking to enhance your foundation skills in location shooting while gathering invaluable tips for controlling light, this video is ideal.

"Portrait Lighting On Location" by Tony Corbell


Julieanne Kost—Comprehensive Photoshop Training (CS3)

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Julieanne Kost's "Comprehensive Photoshop Training" is a 3-disc set with more than 23 hours of Photoshop training arranged into smaller segments. Starting with an application overview, the DVD moves into an introduction in Adobe Camera Raw followed by more advanced Photoshop techniques, and ends with a third disc devoted to a thorough summary of Adobe Bridge CS3. Though Adobe has released CS4 now, many photographers never mastered all of the great features of CS3, and you can learn a lot from this course.

Kost guides you through topics such as image size, bit depth, masking and color correction in a comprehensive format. This DVD is well suited for beginners as well as individuals interested in learning to make their workflow more efficient. The instruction is definitely geared toward photographers interested in taking their skill to the next level.

Julianne Kost presents each lesson in a clear, detailed, and effortless fashion while also adding small tips as she explains each technique. Overall, Kost presents an extensive amount of material, yet her style of teaching is extremely easy to follow, making this DVD a great find. Watching this DVD will leave you wanting to take some new images in order to try out all the new techniques you've learned.

"Comprehensive Photoshop Training (CS3)" by Julieanne Kost
Software Cinema also offers "Photoshop CS4 Basics & Beyond" by Jonathan Kingson, which is geared to someone starting out in Photoshop or for employee training, and "Photoshop CS4, Enhanced Features & Lifesavers" by Jack Davis for experienced Photoshop users.

Clay Blackmore
--Bridal Portraits That Sell

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Clay Blackmore's "Bridal Portraits That Sell" provides basic yet timeless techniques for both studio and location wedding portraiture. This DVD presents well-structured lessons on lighting, posing, camera position and lighting patterns. The video also covers some simple and professional Photoshop techniques to complete the portrait session. Although the tutorials target bridal portraiture, the techniques can be applied universally to the fundamentals of portraiture in general.

This training DVD is well suited for both beginner and intermediate skill level photographers. The presentation of information moves along quickly, and the content is great. Visual demonstrations of all the techniques are provided before the photo shoot begins. During the demonstrations, Blackmore effectively explains the setup and metering of the light, camera angles, and subject positioning. Demonstrations are then followed by visuals of what the lighting patterns actually look like on the face, as well as the proper terminology for the techniques utilized during the shoot.

Though the styling of the portraits comes across as slightly outdated, Blackmore shows precisely how to tailor the light to flatter each subject. During the shoot Blackmore focuses on how to move through the process quickly and efficiently, while highlighting the techniques learned throughout the video.

Overall, this DVD is ideal for photographers seeking a clear explanation of basic lighting setup, subject posing and proper studio lighting terminology used in professional portraiture.

"Bridal Portraits That Sell" by Clay Blackmore

Clay Blackmore—Senior Portraits Made Simple


Clay Blackmore's "Senior Portraits Made Simple" introduces some key lighting concepts and posing techniques for a more modern spin on high school senior portrait photography. The video covers male and female sessions conducted in the studio as well as on location. Innovative use of backgrounds and creative senior portraiture trends are all incorporated into each instructional session.

The DVD concludes with a segment on Photoshop retouching. During this training, Blackmore unveils simple techniques and easy-to-implement suggestions that will streamline workflow and give your images a professional and finished touch, making this DVD perfect for beginner and intermediate skill level photographers.

Although similar basic concepts were covered more in-depth in "Bridal Portraits that Sell," Blackmore does a great job of explaining the fundamentals in a thorough yet concise way. He moves a step further in this video with an on-location segment that shows creative ways to utilize available light and backgrounds.

The techniques presented in both training videos are useful for all types of portraiture, so while the information is geared toward a senior photography, the skills demonstrated are universally applicable. This video well suited for those interested in advancing their skills and creativity in senior portraiture.

"Senior Portraits Made Simple" by Clay Blackmore

Dean Collins—The Best of Dean Collins on Lighting


Dean Collins' "The Best of Dean Collins on Lighting" is a wonderful training DVD for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the fundamentals of lighting and composition. Collins, who passed away in 2005, was known for his excellent teaching style and served as a major influence for many of the professional photographers and photography instructors who are renowned today.

In more than 6 hours of training, Collins takes you through various commercial and portrait shoots both in the studio and on location. He covers not only fundamental lighting concepts but key components of lighting control that every professional photographer should know. This video is particularly great for the beginner who needs to learn the basics in portrait and commercial lighting.

Because these sessions were taped in the 1980s, you may have to view some of the styling and equipment choices with a nostalgic eye, but the content remains true to teaching the timeless essentials of controlling and enhancing various lighting situations, no matter the decade. As Dean Collins guides you through this process, he provides detailed explanations and lighting diagrams, making this an essential training video. If you are looking for instruction that thoroughly covers key lighting concepts that continue to stand the test of time, this is a must-have video.

"The Best of Dean Collins on Lighting" by Dean Collins

Judy Host—Art of Available Light


Judy Host's "Art of Available Light" is designed to demonstrate not only different types of light, but how to control and use each effectively. This video is better suited for the more experienced photographers who can pull what they find useful from specific techniques in each segment.

Though there are valuable techniques and examples presented in the sessions, the overall organization is harder to follow than the other DVDs I watched, and each segment lacks some elements in the details.

Eight lighting styles are introduced in the video, with one tutorial segment devoted to each style (soft light, diffused light, reflective light, bounced light, even light, split light, Rembrant light, back light). Though the introduction of the video provides the general details of each lighting style, a more expanded explanation is not provided once each segment begins.

The term "lighting style" as used here could also be misleading, as it combines three different concepts of light (direction of light, quality of light, and lighting patterns) into one general category. Though this simplification may have made sense for the video production, the categorization takes away from the effectiveness of the tutorials. For example, lighting styles listed in black below are the examples used in the video for each category, but the examples in red are missing.

Quality of Light: Soft Light, Diffused Light, Even Light, Reflective Light    

Direction of Light: Back Light, Side Light, Front Light

Lighting Patterns: Split Light, Rembrant Light, Loop Light, Butterfly Light

Overall, the video provided usable content and instruction, and it was helpful to watch Judy photograph within each lighting situation, not only controlling the light but tailoring that light to flatter each subject. Although the DVD lacked some organization and detail, the visual examples shown after each photo shoot were excellent. This video is best for someone with a basic understanding of light and who wants to gather more tips to move them to the next level.

"Art of Available Light" by Judy Host

PPA Members receive a 25% discount off all Software Cinema's products. Log-in at and find your discount code under Benefits > Benefit Details. For information on other Software Cinema products, visit