Rocking Clam Shell Lighting for Headshot Photography

With the right light ratio of clam shell lighting, you can rock any headshot!

Clam shell lighting is becoming one of the most popular light setups for beauty portrait or headshot. The reason behind it is because the fill light fills in lots of skin blemishes caused by the harsh key light. There are multiple different versions of this light setup. Peter Hurley, the world-renowned headshot photographer from New York, uses the basic principles of the clam shell lighting for 70% of his headshots.

Here are some headshots I took using clam shell light setup:


Douglas Phan


Samuel Prows


Janae Harker


Ben Harker

Here’s my light setup:

  1. KEY LIGHT: A strobe with a beauty dish as the modifier
  2. FILL LIGHT: A strobe with a rectangle softbox as the modifier


Three tips to rock the clam shell lighting for headshot:

  1. Pay attention to the placement of your lights. The key light should be right above the subject’s face. However, if you want to see that top catchlight in the eyes, place your subject a little back from the light.
  2. Find the balance between the key light and the fill light is the most important. You don’t want to completely get rid of the shadows, but you don’t want to have too much shadow either. There’s no right perfect ratio because it depends on where you place the light and how close it is to the subject’s face.
  3. Extra tip: Shoot your headshot with a large aperture (f/2.0 to f/3.5) to get that bokeh.

Inspiration for this article:

When lurking around the internet, I found this article from Fstoppers. This is the original image that inspires this post. has been a source of inspiration for a lot of my photography. This is a great forum to follow!


Headshot of Patrick Hall from Fstoppers


Red Brick Reception – Rigby, Idaho

Shooting at Natalie and Braylen’s reception at Red Brick Church, Rigby Idaho was fun, yet challenging.

Natalie and Braylen’s reception was held at the Red Brick Church in Rigby, Idaho.  At events like these, I always try to come a few minutes ahead of time to “scout” the location as well as shooting some fine art shots of the scene. As I arrived, I wasn’t the most excited about the location. The indoor lighting was certainly not ideal and there wasn’t much to work with in the location itself. Regardless of the circumstances, I walked around to look for any possible scene for the portraits. I found three scenes that I know I can work with: outdoor by a big tree, in one of the meeting rooms, and by the cake in the main room. Later, when I took the couple out for a portrait session, I wasn’t disappointed in my choice of scene. The weather is a bit chilly although the sun was out. I had to do a few quick shots outside but I got some great shots of the shoot overall. Here are some of my favorites 🙂

Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-12 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-23 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-84 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-110 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-129-Edit Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-139-Edit Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-19-Edit Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-17033 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-17047 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-170 Douglas-Phan-idaho-rigby-reception-170

Editorial Illustration: Apple takes on the Government

Editorial Illustration has become a huge part in the world of print communication.

I decided to create one of my own about one of the heated topics on the news. Recently, the U.S. government tried to convince Apple to create a backdoor for their iOS devices so that the CIA can have access to Apple devices of criminals if the situation is called for. Here’s a link to the article: Apple Takes on the Government With Content

After a process of brainstorming, sketching, and digital illustrating, putting my illustration into a magazine mock-up. This is what I came up with!


Brainstorm & Sketches

As always, I started out with making a word list to brainstorm how to visually tell the story. After I got the word list down. I picked out words from each categories and

Here’s my word list and sketches:


Digital Illustration

After I decided which of my sketches I want to develop further, I put the sketches in Adobe Illustrator and started to bring my ideas to life.


Draft – Before Texture


Final Version – After Texture


Then, I take a look at an Economist magazine for reference and recreate a mockup for my own editorial illustration


Gig Poster – Back to the good ol’ day

Create a gig poster for a made-up band.

Gig posters are a part of the independent music scene. Created specifically for a specific show, the artist tries to capture the music and atmosphere in a print. Back in the day, a gig poster is the main advertising scheme of musical artists and bands. With the rise of the internet and social media, we rarely see gig posters hanging on the streets any more. However, I think gig posters are just plain cool because there can be so much meaning/interpretation behind a gig poster. It is art.

I think it’s a great project to do so I made up a band and start my creative process to come up with a gig poster.

My made-up band’s gig poster

The band I’m creating a gig poster for is called “The KomiKazi.” This is a alternative rock boy band whose sings about politics and the government. Specifically, their song lyrics usually talk about both corruption and hope presented in a government system.

The Concept

After coming up with a band and the music genre my made-up band sings. I need to come up with a concept for the gig poster that can capture the atmosphere of their concert. I also think that I can take a step further and add a deeper layer of meaning into my gig poster design. Can you guess all the “Easter eggs” in my poster? 🙂

This is what I came up with after my sketches, digital draft, and refinement process.



I have never really learn how to draw until now and I know that I can learn from one of the Internet’s greatest teacher – YouTube. I looked up many different tutorials about drawing and character construction and came a cross this YouTube channel, Draw with Jazza. You guys should check it out for drawing tips from this awesome Aussie. This sketch is what I came up with after a few hours of drawing tutorial from Jazza


Digital Draft in Adobe Illustrator.

I restricted myself in working in just Adobe Illustrator and see what I can come up with. I also came across some YouTube videos that help me on this process. By watching a speed drawing of an astrochimp, I learned some drawing tricks in Illustrator.

Here’s my process of finalizing the poster in Adobe Illustrator.


Rough Outline Draft



Outline Art



Adding Base Colors



Adding shadows and highlights can really make your artwork pop



Final Poster!

T-shirt Design: Captain Vietnam

Captain America + Vietnam = Captain Vietnam.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been learning about t-shirt designs in Adobe Illustrator and printing process. It’s challenging to come up with a cool idea for t-shirt design because people don’t want to wear a boring t-shirt.



Before I do anything for this project, I needed to brainstorm for cool ideas.I mainly want to make this t-shirt for myself but it would be cool if my design can fit a certain popular audience. I started with writing down everything that I like, what’s my passion, hobby or things that I’m interested in. After a while, I selected two of my favorite things, which were Captain America and Vietnam and try to combine them together in my head.


It’s then time to put my ideas down on paper. Here’s some of the sketches that I came up with.sketches-DouglasPhan-tshirt

In my sketches on paper. I wanted to get a clear visual of my idea. I want to decide which illustration style I want for my character.

Going digital.


Above is my first rough draft in Illustrator, or Captain Vietnam 1.0. I wasn’t satisfy with this because I feel a lack of dimension and personality in my self created character. I thought that if I add some more design elements on his outfit and some shadow would add dimension to my character. I also believe that if my little superhero looks like he’s about to go in a fight, it would add more personality to him. Below is the final design. What a big difference some little changes can make 🙂


Skeuomorphic Illustration: Rogers Dubuis Redesign

I’ve been working on a skeuomorphic design of Rogers Dubuis pocket watch in Adobe Illustrator.

As I get familiar with Adobe Illustrator, I want to try to create a skeuomorphic design. As defined by, Skeuomorphism is the design concept of making items represented resemble their real-world counterparts.

Roger Dubuis is a Swiss luxury watch brand with the coolest watch design ever. I thought I can redesign one of their watches by drawing it in Adobe Illustrator. I notice that Roger Dubuis never photograph their products. All of which are vector illustrations. Here’s my design created by using Adobe Illustrator.DouglasPhan-skeuomorphic-pocket-watch-roger-dubuis-66


I started out with a few sketches of different watch design on paper. Here’s some of the sketches that I came up with.


Digital Sketches…

After getting a rough idea of what I want to do and hours of watching tutorials to know how to do it, I moved into Adobe Illustrator and started working from the outer frame of the watch, to the nob, the chain and the face design. Here’s my first draft.


Coming to completion…

After getting some critique from my peers, I made a few changes and create the final piece. Take a closer look at the details here:





By using subtle gradients and basic shape tools in Adobe Illustrator, I manage to add dimensions to my design and making it look realistic. Shadows are what define the shape of an object, then highlights add more demensions and realism to the shape. I barely use the Pen Tool to create this design, maybe three or four times. If you take a look at the outline view of my design, you will recognize a lot of basic shapes that make up this watch design.



Below are some of my references from

Roger-Dubuis-Excalibur-Spider-Pocket-Time-Instrument-Watch-6 watch-big-roger-dubuis-RDDBEX0479

Latter-day Saint Temple Flat Icon Design


My process of making LDS temple icons…

This week, my project is to create a set of 12 themed icons. I spent a couple of day of looking up inspiration of what theme I want to do for this particular project. I wanted to create icons that will push my creativity and present me will various challenges, forcing me to be familiar with many of the basic tools in Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to do something that hasn’t been done before. I ended up with the idea of making temple icons.

Sketches & seeing everything in simple shapes.

I started with some sketches to get my mind going on ideas. Just a pencil and a sketch book.



Sketches – bring ‘em in Adobe Illustrator.

It’s definitely a challenge to see things in simple shapes. Everything can be made up of simple shapes. Yes! Everything! To create an icon, I have to be able to see those shapes, simplify them and put them into digital sketches. My first sketch is of the Provo City Center Temple. I think that it’s unique design will present me some good challenges.

Here’s a few of my first digital sketches.


I want to take this project to the next level and add a more details to my icon to give the temple more dimension. They’re all just shapes with different shades of color


Refining process.

My Vector Graphics’ instructor, Cory Kerr gave me some feedback on these sketches about adding a thick outline to the overall icon. I did what he asked and then I continued making Rexburg Idaho temple and Manila Philippines temple with the same concept.


Each of the temples above presents me with very different since they all are very different from each other. For Logan Temple and Salt Lake City temple, I wanted to pay closer attention to the details.Below is the outlines of my Salt Lake City Temple Icon


Then, my instructor gave me an idea of zooming in to my full temple and create cool cropping icons of the details. So I did! Here’s are a few of my icons, zoomed in.

DouglasPhan-temple-lds-flaticons-67DouglasPhan-temple-lds-flat-icons-57DouglasPhan-temple-lds-flaticons-60 DouglasPhan-temple-lds-flaticons-6 DouglasPhan-temple-lds-flaticons-

Check out my pinterest pin of my illustration work here!


Architectural: The Lift Interior – Jackson, Wyoming

Trying out the Mike Kelley’s architectural photography technique…

This weekend I got the opportunity to go with a few students in Professional Imaging class at BYU -Idaho on a photo excursion. We stop by at the Lift Restaurant in Jackson Hole and I thought it’s perfect for me to try out some tricks I learned from Mike Kelley.

The before shot is the normal shot of the bar and the after shot is the shot that I used Mike Kelley‘s technique on.

Wow! The second shot looks a lot cleaner and more professional looking. Here’s why. In the first shot, there’s a mix of both indoor fluorescent light and ambient light. These lights a very different in their colors and their intensity, creating a mesh of random light and color all over the room. In the second shot, I cut out all of the lights available by changing my camera settings to darken the scene and then I added a speedlight.


Behind the Scene

I took 26 images painting different parts of the part and mask them together in Photoshop to create this final result image.


I’m still learning this trick. To see the master of this architectual technique, check out Mike Kelley’s work here.

Check out another blog post from a COM316 Professional Imaging student here

Natalie and Braylen’s Engagement- Rexburg, Idaho

Most people don’t realize that winter in Idaho is the perfect time for engagement sessions.

This fun couple was having so much fun in the snow and in front of the camera. Natalie and Braylen and I went out to St. Anthony area for these engagement pictures. The weather was clearly perfect for a Saturday afternoon because the snow’s falling in Idaho. We went to a bridge which I don’t really remember the name of to take some pictures. Everything was covered in snow. Magical and dreamy is how I would describe it.

Check out the full session’s photos here!






I love Braylen and Natalie’s choice of outfit for this winter engagement session. Here are 21 outfit ideas for in winter from Popsugar.

There’s also a barn nearby that belongs to Braylen’s family. I thought that would work perfect with Braylen cowboy’s outfit. Check out that cowboy dip!



Visual Society Poster Design



About the project

In the Visual Society, students learn and talk about all things visual. It’s a place for any students who  like photography, design, or anything digitally creative. There are tutorials that revolve around these visual communications for students to improve current skills or develop the new ones. There are also contests so that students. Here’s a link to the society’s website.

I’m honor to be the President of the Visual Society at BYU-Idaho this semester and as the president I’m assigned to create a poster for the society. Using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I was able to came up with this design.


I took an image of the Grand Teton a few months ago and thought with a few adjustment and design elements, I could make the ordinary and boring image into an amazing poster. And when I said boring, I really meant boring. I mean… look at it (image below)


Original Image of the Teton that I used for the poster.


Pinterest, Pinterest, and Pinterest! I just can’t get enough of Pinterest. I was inspired to create this poster as I scrolled through Pinterest.

Check out my Design Pinterest Board here!



This is Douglas Phan!

Douglas Phan's professional photographer self portrait with creative lighting

Douglas Phan is a photographer from Hanoi, Vietnam. He lives in Rexburg, Idaho and is currently working on his degree in Brigham Young University - Idaho.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.