Lighting is the new Power Suit – Home Lighting for Zoom Conference Calls

When suddenly we are all on video chat much more than ever before, lighting becomes a big deal. When meeting with the boss or a client you typically want to look your best, which in the past meant wearing your “power suit” – the clothes you felt made you look your best!

In the age of Agile Meetings daily and constant Zoom meetings, you are probably “seeing” clients and your boss more than ever! So you want to look your best. The secret is pretty simple: lighting. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’m no model, but for me, this is the basic goal.

Without any lighting hacks, I look like this (taken same day, same time, just without the bouncing light.

Would you want to work with this guy? He looks brooding!?
It’s just the harsh direct light from the window and the low quality camera on the laptop.

This is the concept of what we are trying to achieve. A *cheap* studio lighting setup using as many existing props as we can. Awareness of your lighting and placing a book in the coffee shop window to reflect light up for those early video conference in SOMA can make all of the difference. For now, let’s just look at your home “work spot”. This is the goal along with a few obstacles.

TOP VIEW: Our lighting goal to achieve decent video lighting in the age of COVID19 and Zoom.

For me, this is what I had to start out with. And how I managed to put together a solution using just one “flood light” reflecting off the ceiling and other readily available lighting sources, and hiding all of the actual junk that lives in my workshop/office/cave. And I have most of it out of frame even in this photo – suffice it to say I need to clean the place.

I’m not saying either photo is great, but the top photo is definitely the winner out of the two. Especially when you consider that the screen capture was taken in my workshop/office chaos, I don’t think this is a bad, non-cluttered result.

Live result – white balanced, somewhat even lighting, and definitely more reflective of the fact that I was truly listening to someone speak. The image more closely reflects the respect I was giving, and that the speaker, deserved.

While mine is attached to a studio tripod, it could just as easily be attached to the wall or a chair, whatever, as long as you can point it UP so it bounces off the ceiling and walls.

Can lighting for $8 bucks with a clamp. FLOOD light pointed up.

So there is your “can” light with the clip and the flood reflector. Now to bounce a light off of the ceiling. I’d recommend LED first and foremost. Energy efficient and MUCH COOLER. Lighting in a studio can get very hot. You want the equivalent of at least 75 watts to 100 watts. Plus most LED is much cooler and most are frosted and that is part of the goal, diffused softer lighting.

If the can light is 10 bucks, say the LED flood light is 10 bucks, you have gone from zero to being an active participant in the ZOOM meetings!

It’s a power suit. If you think lighting isn’t complementing your appearance, talk to a photographer because it just means the lighting isn’t set up properly. Or google it. But I promise you don’t need a $1000 ring light or something.

Bonus: minor details you might have missed.

  1. FILL the frame. The exception is when more than one person is on one camera. But generally “filling he frame” is the right way to go given the small size of the image in a grid display for everyone else.
  2. Keep the background simple. It can distract people and also slows down the transmission rate.
  3. Have a good “fall back photo” for those long meetings when you do need to go grab a glass of water. Just don’t ever let a green circle with your initials show up in your place. It’s unprofessional and tells everyone you don’t care AT ALL.
  4. On my chair, I use an old jacket bunched up to give me lumbar support so I sit up straight.
  5. It’s OK to get two lights and use one as a fill on one side, just use a lower power light (100 watt on the right, maybe 40 watt on the left. Although in that case I’d use a 120 watt bulb and a better reflector to save energy and keep the room cooler.
  6. Everyone’s head will reflect light. It’s OK to use makeup, even for you guys, depending on the importance of the call. I also sometimes use a napkin or a tissue over the light (ONLY LED LIGHTS TO AVOID FIRES!) But ya, just a little diffusion. Bring the light up closer and then diffuse it more with a white cloth/tissue/paper/something. Or physically move the light back and let the distance diffuse it.

Pro tip: Drink warm water. Cold water can give you frog throat. And use a good quality microphone. Don’t get a $10 headset at walgreens. Spend the money on a good headset or your voice will sound tiny and nobody can hear you.

Happy Zooming!

Andrew Rebman RIP

Andrew Rebman’s “Houston: Hermann Park”

The following is a repost of a fb post by Houston’s own Andrew Rebman. A photographer, gentleman, generous, observant, kind, and welcoming soul. He truly loved Houston and will be missed by us all, including many who don’t even know he is the man behind so many photos they have seen.

At 42, we lost him far too young.

His favorite quote as he recently posted on facebook was from Kerouac not surprisingly.

On the Road

On the Road – Jack Kerouac


“I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”

His facebook page is now a tribute page and the chron has his obituary up. That’s all we know right now. The following is from FB and the chron.


Andrew Adair Rebman
Andrew Adair Rebman died peacefully the 22nd of February 2016 at the age of 42.

He is survived by his parents, John and Gina Rebman; sister, Jennifer Rebman Tyler, and her husband, John Tyler and their sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and his large extended family.

The memorial service is to be conducted at three o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, the 6th of March, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to Hermann Park Conservancy, 1700 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77004; Lifeline Chaplaincy, 1415 Southmore Blvd., Houston, TX 77004; or to a charity of your choice .

Yet Quiet

“A long time ago in a land far away” I took this photo in Key West.

Key West Mallory Square

Looking at it now, waiting on the birds to fly, hoping they would compose a photo for me before the sun set any further. A still life with a loud background.

I was there after a speaking gig so I was alone, missing my other half Rachel​. While I love to travel, it isn’t the same alone on business trips.

As for the photo, it is the momentary stillness that I remember as I pressed the shutter button. The settings on the camera I can get from the xif data. The buskers, the tourists, the chickens wandering around, the essence of Mallory Square in Key West, and the moment I pressed the shutter. These are vivid yet fading memories.

I have no desire to recreate that particular moment. Why would you? It happened. It’s over. The chaos of Mallory Square immediately resumed as the shutter released. And it was over. Over forever. Nothing defines finality better than a photo.

Key West Sunset
Sunset in Key West

Of course photography makes everything look more majestic and amazing than it actually was. But shouldn’t it? Do we not want to seek out the best in others, in events, in places near and far? 

There is a saying among photographers, well two sayings actually. The first being

“the best camera is the one you have with you”.

And the second is the profoundly obvious observation that

“If you want to create beautiful photos, take photos of beautiful things.”

Key West is a “different” place. It is beautiful. But it is not actually quiet. Yet it is.

I do understand why Hemingway stayed there amidst the commotion and chickens wandering around Mallory Square.

Creative chaos. Yet quiet. And there is the moment of silence in your mind’s eye as you see the birds compose the perfect sunset photo a thousand times for the beauty only in the minds eye.

Yet sometimes it gets quiet for only you. Chaos. Yet quiet. You become quiet. You disappear. You are the very definition of “being present” and yet you define it by your silence.

Sometimes in a tiny portion of a second the machinery cooperates and you capture “it.” You can share it. That shouldn’t happen. I mean, what are the fucking odds? Slim to none at best.

You know this is happening because it becomes quiet in the middle of chaos. You know there is something you are supposed to do. If, and it’s a big “IF”, you figure it out, what you are supposed to do,, then you know.

You know, it will never happen again. Ever.

You appreciate it. Maybe, you share it. Rarely. Sometimes.

And still you mourn it. For it is gone and will never happen again.

That moment in the photo I took? It is the the closest I will ever get to Hemingway’s perfect “Whiskey & Soda.” His drink. A Key West Sunset. Enjoy it. Finish it. Accept it. And tip the bartender well. Because it happened.

The Four Way Cross Maneuver by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band

The Four Way Cross Maneuver by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. Some things at Texas A&M are just unique. Yet for all of our talk of tradition, few schools or companies I have ever encountered embrace the speed of change in today’s world than Texas A&M.

In the newly rebuilt Kyle Field at Texas A&M University!

Kyle Field 2015
The Newly Rebuilt Kyle Field at Texas A&M

A panorama of the new field completed for our final home game of 2015.

50 Yard Line


Aggie Sidelines


the band
the band

The  Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.


The new stadium is spectacular!

Kyle Field 2915

Aggieland is completely different from the 1990s. Aggieland is exactly the same as it was in the 1990s. Just completely different, core values and leadership focus in tact. Gig’em.

More Creative Commons Stock Photography

Aspen Colorado
Aspen Colorado

A new set of “Creative Commons Attribution Stock photography” is up on the Tendenci Open Source Software site. Per the request of one of new employees the focus of this gallery is on scenic landscapes.

And of course there are quite a few Tendenci Stock Photo Galleries to make your association or nonprofit website unique. They are all Creative Commons Attribution (check the license on the image individually and attribution and a link back is always appreciated.


2,065,344 – Flickr views – Thanks

Didn’t realize I had passed 2M views. Thanks y’all. #peace.

flickr views january 2013

and the following photo isn’t perfect. But it was the first. It was just the first time I viewed a photo as something other than capturing a moment in time strictly with people I knew.
futbol in the vineyard
It was the first time I opened my mind to see. And it was too late to share with the only one who would have truly understood. #irony

Creative Commons Photographs of Texas A&M University

The following photos are all Creative Commons photos I have taken over the years at Texas A&M University. You are free to use them with attribution. I simply ask that you use them with respect. (For those who don’t know, I’m an Aggie, class of 90, Political Science.)

The Flag Room at the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University. Click for an 6000 pixel wide panorama version.

flag room msc tamu

The Century Tree at TAMU in Black and White. Click for a 12000 pixel wide version.
century tree at tamu 640

Kyle Field Panorama. Click for 12511 pixel wide version.
kyle field panorama 640

Aggie March In. Click for 2100 pixel wide version
aggie march in 640

Kyle Field, Aggie 100 Awards. Click for 3456 wide version.
aggie 100 at kyle field

Aggie Bonfire Memorial. Click for 3456 wide version.
aggie bonfire memorial 640

42 at the Dixie Chicken. Click for 3265 wide version.
dixie chicken 42-640px

Bottlecap Alley on Northgate. Click for 3377 version.
bottlecap alley

All of the above photos are creative commons attribution “photo by Ed Schipul.” I simply ask that you use them respectfully in line with the Texas A&M Honor code. Thanks!

Trip Advisor Trips Out and Rejects High Quality Photos

This cracks me up. I upload a professional quality photo of a restaurant to Trip Advisor as a favor to the restaurant. Basically my way of saying thank you as I’m not the type to spend time writing reviews. And I know people love visuals. A few of my photos got approved for a restaurant Rachel and I enjoyed in San Francisco. Trip Advisor has them live on this page and they are the only photos of the restaurant. Given we got great service and had fun watching the Giants game that night, it seemed like a nice way to say thank you.

I go on vacation and figured hey, why not upload a few more for that restaurant and a few other places we went. Good karma. Make people happy. Etc. I forget even which ones I uploaded but then I get this:

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to TripAdvisor. Our photo editors have opted not to post some of your photos because they do not meet one of our photo submission guidelines, listed below:

*File properties
No single photo file may exceed 5MB in size. All photos submitted to the site must be in .gif, .jpg, .bmp, or .png format. Any file not meeting these requirements will be rejected upon submission
In general, landscape layout (more wide than tall) will look better than portrait layout (more tall than wide). All photos will be scaled to fit the standard display boxes on our site. Photos should not be altered in any way that distorts the scene being depicted. We will not post photos that are blurry, dark or otherwise difficult to view. Sideways photos will not be published.

You can also view these photo guidelines on our site:

We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will continue to post photos that do meet our guidelines.

Yes seriously. Welcome back to 2005.

At first I am curious which photos were rejected. So I go to my profile at:

It has a link that says “My photos (3)” so I dutifully click it. Then I get this message:

My Recent Photos
You haven’t contributed any photos yet… but we hope you will!

Trip Advisor is now using 3 of my photos, with my permission, and the nav acknowledges it. Some other photo was rejected for being too high quality (shhhhh, don’t tell them servers can resize images) but now I also realize that they aren’t even giving me credit for the photos I DID upload.

So remember that, only crappy photos folks. Or YOU go out of your way to reduce your images to upload for some restaurant or bar that… um…. you don’t work for to a web site that you don’t work for.

Nah. I’m not a tourism bureau and I don’t work for any of these places. I was doing Trip Advisor a favor and whatever restaurant that was a favor (the email doesn’t specify which photo got rejected) and instead I get a rejection email as if I have done something wrong giving them my CC licensed high resolution photos.

Sorry Trip Advisor, it’s just not worth my time to hunt down whichever photos I uploaded if it isn’t worth your time to ask your programmer to JUST RESIZE IT. Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter (even MySpace!) have somehow figured out the magic of resizing photos. If I give you a free CC licensed professional quality photo then send me a thank you note, not a rejection letter like I’m some n00b. Really? I mean REALLY? If I wanted to be treated like that I’d buy a cat.

I guess the lesson is the Internet evolves. Evolve with it. Maybe a second leson is don’t have one of your first interactions with me, a first time user of your site in “gonna try your site because my wife likes it” and greet me with a negative email telling me that my photos aren’t good enough for you, no link, no data, and apparently batch rejection.

I apologize. Please excuse me for the error of my ways. What I won’t do is create special “lower quality export settings especially for older sites” even though the site is actively asking me for photos. Sheesh.


Now to flip it around, to be fair, I should sign up for Tendenci as an anonymous person and see how our team does on delivering customer service. It’s easy to find fault, and really Trip Advisor lobbed that one up to me as a photographer. But how does my company treat people in tone and voice when they exceed a system limitation that I might have forgotten about? I’m curious. We might suck even more. Something I will find out given my spare time not uploading photos to other sites during my travels…..