F18 Navy Fighter Pilot Photoshoot – Behind The Scenes Video And Photos

vimeo Direkt

You may recall the teasers I posted from this photoshoot a couple of weeks back (and here). Here are some more photos from the entire session and a video posted above. Filming was done by my co-producer, Nicholas Cambata, at our video production company, 8112 Studios.

Most of this photoshoot shoot was done with 2 vagabond battery packs, a beauty dish, 1 x3200 white lighting strobe, and 2 x1600’s with 7″ reflectors and barn doors. It was important to keep the main lights close to the subject. By doing so, you create a more powerful dramatic directional lighting scenario that overpowers the sunlight. It was in the early afternoon during late winter so the sun was lower in the sky.

Like I often say, you don’t always need a huge lighting setup to get a dramatic looking portrait, sometimes you just need to work with your environment/ambient light and respect the lines and angles of your background. Of course, having an advanced military fighter jet as a background doesn’t hurt.

In post production, I utilized Nik Color Efx Pro 3.0 software. My 2 favorite tools for this project were “Color Stylizer” and “B/W Conversion”. I use Nik color tools a lot, often to create unique contrast in my images, while maintaining shadow and highlight detail.

Big thanks to my friend Justin. This shoot was something I wanted to shoot just for fun and for my portfolio (not something I was asked or hired to do)¬†and I’m very thankful I had the opportunity to do this. People are ribbing on Justin as if he hired me or asked me to come out, but truth is he was the one doing me a big favor!

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More photos after the page break…

If you look at the behind the scenes photos below, you'll see I'm crouching on the wing. My main light was an x3200 set to 2/3 power with a beauty dish (no sock) set just outside of frame about 6-8 feet from the subject. I hid a 550 EX speedlight on a transmitter to serve as a slight fill light on the instrument panel. The sky and everything is natural. Just did a little dodge and burn in post of course.
3 light setup. Beauty dish on an x3200 with no sock as a mainlight on the subject. A second light (white lighting x1600 with 7" reflector and barn doors) set about 10 feet behind the subject aimed at him to create a rim light. A third light, another white lighting x1600 with 7" reflector and barn doors, was aimed at the back of the jet to give it some fill.
This is a combination of 3 photos. I lit Justin separately and then took 2 other exposures moving the strobes around on each setup to properly light the very large jet. The sky is real. Ill show the post-production process on this image on a future blog post.
Beauty dish with sock as a main light and a white lighting x1600 with 7" reflector and barn doors to serve as a rim light on the subject. A second exposure was made to expose for the jet exhaust ports (correct term?) so they looked properly lit and not black holes.


Some iPhone behind the scenes photos:


6 thoughts on “F18 Navy Fighter Pilot Photoshoot – Behind The Scenes Video And Photos”

  1. Doug,

    I found this via Fstoppers and had to leave a note saying how great this shoot turned out. Can’t tell you how jealous I am that you got to shoot with an F-18!

    I think the black and whites are particularly successful, and it was a killer strategy to get extra shots exposed for the problematic shadow areas and sky. Really turned out well.

    Again, kudos and keep up the great work. Thanks for sharing, as well.

    my best,


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