Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Elinchrom and work closely with them on some products. I did not work with them on the ELB 500 but I did see prototypes six months before it’s release. Elinchrom has been kind enough to lend me an ELB 500 TTL kit to test out and shoot with for a two month period so that I can thoroughly test out this exciting new product. Here in this review I will give my honest thoughts about the ELB 500 and how it stacks up against my venerable ELB 400. 

Earlier this year, Elinchrom announced and launched their first TTL strobe kit, the ELB 500 TTL. It was perhaps a bit of a surprise to many, but I know they have been getting a lot of requests for a TTL strobe kit for some time. In Elinchrom style, it was natural that it mirrored the form factor of the ELB 400. At this point I have only had the ELB 500 for about six weeks, but that has given me enough time to get to know how it works and run it through a variety of situations and testing. For myself, I wanted to see how well the TTL technology actually worked and how effective the High Speed Sync (HSS) was compared to the Hi-Sync (HS) techniques I have been using for years.

First off, let’s talk about the technology. Through the Lens metering (i.e. TTL) has been around for decades, most notably in Nikon and Canon speedlights, but it was Profoto who first incorporated TTL into a more powerful strobe when they brought the Profoto B1 to market about five years ago. Since then, dozens of strobe manufacturers have copied Profoto and have brought similar style 500 Ws TTL monobloc-style strobes to market, many of them with similar features as the B1 but at one-third the cost. Until the ELB 500 TTL, Elinchrom had resisted the urge to add TTL to their strobes. This is partly because a TTL strobe uses IGBT flash technology, similar to speedlights, and all of the previous Elinchrom strobes used variable voltage control technology. Variable voltage strobes generate a flash burst by varying the energy (i.e. voltage) introduced into the flash tube and thereby generating different power output levels. In contrast, IGBT technology, which stands for “Isolated-gate bipolar transistor,” uses a high-speed switch to turn the power on and off rapidly. IGBT technology is what allows TTL to work. The IGBT technology allows the camera to register how much light is reflected from the subject and then turns the flash off instantly for a perfect exposure.

Why would anyone want TTL incorporated into a strobe? For years, those manufacturers that didn’t have a TTL strobe on offer cited the various issues surrounding TTL technology like varying exposures from flash to flash. While those issues still exist, the main reason for TTL is the same as it was with speedlights: ease of use. TTL is essentially Auto mode for flashes. Without really having to think much, anyone can post up a TTL flash and take a picture knowing that the subject will be well exposed. For many photographers that makes flash photography a lot easier to learn. I admit, I have railed against TTL in strobes for years now. I just didn’t see why I needed it. But, after using the ELB 500, I have to say, it is quite nice to have the TTL exposure as a starting point because it allows you to get the lighting dialed in much faster than manual flash with a light meter. I can see now why the Profoto B1 has been so popular. A TTL strobe is just plain easy to use.

To get the most out of the ELB 500 TTL, you will have to have either the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transmitter (and upgrade the firmware) or the new Elinchrom Transmitter Pro. At this point, there are only Canon and Nikon versions of the Transmitter Pro. I am sure Elinchrom will be adding versions for most other camera brands as soon as possible. As a side note here, I upgraded the firmware on my Skyport Plus HS (Nikon) and it works flawlessly with the ELB 500 TTL. It is nice to see Elinchrom offer the firmware upgrade for those that have long been invested in their gear.

The image below was captured using the ELB 500 TTL in TTL mode. This was shot in a studio against a black background. In my experience so far, the TTL works incredibly well on the ELB 500. It is much better than any other TTL I have used and light years better than the TTL of yore built into my Nikon speedlights. [Side note: While I have shot once or twice with the Profoto B1, I do not have enough experience with it to say how the TTL capabilities of that strobe compare to the ELB 500 TTL.] Of note, the image below was also shot in HSS mode. We will get to the HSS mode here in a bit. I will just say that it was ridiculously easy to get a well-exposed image using TTL and HSS together.

Before getting into HSS, let’s talk about the form factor and how the ELB 500 is in use. One of the things I really appreciate with the ELB 500, and all of Elinchrom’s offerings, is that the flash tube is exposed so that it can fill up a softbox or a beauty dish as it is supposed to. I recently used the Profoto D2 monoblocs on a shoot and those, with the enclosed flash tubes, are a bit of a disaster when to comes to various light modifiers, especially with beauty dishes. Retaining the exposed flash tube, as with the ELB 400 and ELB 1200, allows the ELB 500 to spread the light evenly in any light modifier, which is one of the major advantages of strobes over speedlights.

I am also a big fan of pack and head style strobes. Monobloc style strobes, like the Profoto B1 or the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD which have the electronics and the flash head built into a single unit, seem to be in vogue now but in my experience they can be a pain to use. Having a pack and head system where the flash head is attached to the power pack with a cable allows for making adjustments on the pack, which is usually suspended from the light stand, much easier. It is also safer when hoisting lights high above your subject. With monoblocs, and I have two of the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000 Ws monoblocs, I often find that I have to lower the flash down to eye level just to change a setting that can’t be adjusted from the transmitter. When using heavier monoblocs you need a much heavier light stand to deal with all of that extra weight compared to a simple flash head. I realize that just pulling a monobloc out of the bag and locking it onto a stand is quite convenient. But the few extra seconds it takes to connect the flash head to the power pack in my experience is worth it. Plus, the power pack can act as a sand bag when hung off the stand. In most cases the power pack isn’t heavy enough to be a full-on sand bag (unless you are working with one of the high-end studio strobes from Broncolor or Profoto that weigh in excess of 25 pounds) but it helps secure the stand. As far as I know, the ELB 500 TTL is the only pack and head style TTL strobe on the market, so if that is your preference as it is mine, this is the strobe for you.

One other sweet feature of the ELB 500 TTL is that you can plug it in to an electrical outlet and use it just like a studio strobe. Elinchrom calls this feature “Active Charging” and it works very well. For the photographer that works both in the studio and out on location this is a very exciting feature. Without the active charging, the ELB 500 gets 400 full power pops, which is pretty amazing. That is likely more than you will need on any location shoot. In addition to active charging the ELB 500 has full asymmetry, meaning you can dial the A and B flash heads to any power ratio as needed as long as the two don’t exceed 500 Ws total.

Also, at 3.4 Kg (6.92 lbs) the ELB 500 (with a flash head) is still relatively light weight. As with the ELB 400, you will need to use the Elinchrom Quadra Reflector Adapter to mount the ELB 500 onto larger light modifiers. Unlike the ELB 400, there is only one flash head for the ELB 500. The ELB 400 flash heads will not work with the ELB 500. But, if you have the old ELB 400 flash head adapter it will work on the ELB 500 flash heads.

Now, let’s get into the High Speed Sync (HSS) capabilities of the ELB 500 TTL and how they compare to the Hi-Sync (HS) technology found in previous Elinchrom strobes. For those of you who are not familiar with HSS and HS and how they differ I highly recommend that you check out this article I wrote for the Elinchrom blog, HS vs HSS: What’s the Difference?  One of the issues with Hi-Sync (HS) was that it created a gradation from the top of the image to the bottom since this technology takes a slice of the light emitted from the flash. While the graduation was easy to correct, using a graduated filter in Lightroom, it was noticeable in some situations. With HSS, because the light is pulsing extremely rapidly to light the entire sensor evenly, there is no gradation. Below, the image on the left was shot in HS mode with the ELB 400 and the HS flash head and the image on the right was shot in HSS mode with the ELB 500. The red box outlined in the lower portion of the left image shows that area where the gradation is noticeable, when compared to the right image. While this isn’t that big of a deal, I just thought I would show the difference here.

When using the HSS mode on the ELB 500, the transition to HSS is seamless (at least with my Nikons). When using both HSS and the TTL modes, you can essentially set your camera up however you want and the transmitter will produce a good exposure for your subject if the flash has enough power. As I said above, this is extremely convenient. Switching into TTL mode and out of it is as simple as pressing the TTL button on the transmitter, and when switching to manual from TTL, the last flash output settings are retained so you can easily adjust the lighting as you want.

For much of my work the last few years, I have been using the HS technology to light up athletes who are far from the flash head. The HS technology has allowed me to overpower the sun from 20-feet away with the ELB 400 and close to 60-feet away with the ELB 1200. Hence, I wanted to see just how efficient the HSS is compared to my trusty HS. To figure this out, I set up both the ELB 400 and the ELB 500, both with the Elinchrom High Performance Reflector mounted on the flash heads, and placed them 20-feet away from the subject, which in this case was a Christmas light in my backyard. [I realize the image below is total crap, but it was just a test so I could understand the differences here.] Both images were shot at ISO 200, 1/2,000th second at f/2.8. Below, the image on the left was shot with the ELB 400 at full power (424 Ws) in HS mode and the image on the right was shot with the ELB 500 at full power (500 Ws) in HSS mode. It is easy enough to see that the image shot in HS mode with the ELB 400 is brighter, and hence there is more light output by HS than with HSS. I have always known that HS is more efficient than HSS but how close they are here is the surprise. When I pulled these two images into Lightroom and equalized the brightness I found there was about a 1-stop difference. When taking into account the power output of each strobe, since the ELB 400 is 76 Ws less powerful than the ELB 500, the difference between the HS and the HSS is approximately 1.3 stops. Personally, I was blown away that there wasn’t a much bigger difference. Elinchrom has managed to make the HSS much more efficient than I would have thought. In their marketing materials, Elinchrom talks about this being the “Most Powerful TTL light ever”and I have a feeling how they have optimized the HSS functionality is what they are talking about. I did not have a Profoto B1X to test how their HSS compares to the ELB 500 but that would be a very interesting test.

After I tested the ELB 500 HSS mode, I sent my results to Elinchrom and was told that the HSS is even more efficient with Canon cameras so your mileage on this test might vary depending on which camera you use. Note that Hi-Sync (HS) also seems to be more efficient on Nikon cameras in my experience. Regardless, the fact that Elinchrom has been able to make HSS so efficient is quite remarkable.

After this test, I wanted to really push the HSS capabilities of the ELB 500 from farther distances. I found that the ELB 400 in HS mode still was able to light up the subject from 30-feet away on a cloudy afternoon whereas the HSS mode of the ELB 500 in the same scenario wasn’t able to match it. That one extra stop for some scenarios is a big difference for my work. I realize that lighting up a subject from 20-feet away, or even 50-feet away with the ELB 1200, is a very specialized lighting scenario that few photographers will ever need. For most photographers, especially those capturing portraits, the ELB 500’s HSS mode will be plenty powerful for just about any scenario they are likely to face.

While reading the FAQs on the Elinchrom website regarding the ELB 500 TTL, I noticed a question about using HSS and HS simultaneously. The answer from Elinchrom was surprising. You can indeed us HS on one pack (like the ELB 400 or the ELB 1200) in tandem with HSS on the ELB 500! To test this out, I shot the multiple-exposure image below with a two light setup using both HSS and HS. The main light coming in from camera right was an ELB 500 TTL in HSS mode and the rim light coming from camera left behind the subject was from an ELB 1200 in HS mode. This multi-exposure image (created in-camera) was shot at ISO 100, 1/2,000th second at f/5.6 with a Nikon D850. The fact that I can use one strobe in HS mode and another in HSS mode is a huge selling point for the ELB 500 in my mind. It means my older gear is not obsolete but can be used right alongside the newer ELB 500 even when shooting in High Speed Sync mode. As far as I know, Elinchrom is the only strobe manufacturer to make strobes that use both HS and HSS flash technologies and they have optimized them both to work incredibly efficiently and in tandem.

At this point in the review, you might be thinking the ELB 500 TTL is the do-it-all strobe solution. But, as with all of these IGBT 500 Ws TTL strobes, there is one chink in the armor that I have found. That chink is flash duration. As with the Profoto B1X, and many of the other 500 Ws TTL moonlights, they have wicked fast flash durations at low power settings. The B1x has flash durations as fast as 1/19,000th second. The ELB 500 TTL has a flash duration as fast as 1/20,000th second. The Godox AD600 Pro has a flash duration as fast as 1/10,100th second. These units achieve these wicked fast flash durations at the lowest power settings. But at full power the flash durations are quite slow. At full power, i.e. 500 Ws, the flash duration of the ELB 500 TTL is 1/250th seconds (t0.5), which is very, very slow as far as flash durations go. At 250 Ws, one stop down from full power, the flash duration is 1/854th second (t0.5) in the Action mode. At 125 Ws, two stops down from full power, the flash duration is 1/1,886th second (t0.5) in the Action mode. The Godox AD600 Pro has a similarly slow flash duration of 1/220th second at full power. Interestingly, the Profoto B1x has a flash duration of 1/1,000th second at full power (t0.5), which is faster than the ELB 500 and the Godox but still not fast enough to freeze motion reliably.

Why am I making a point here about flash durations? For most photographers, this won’t matter at all. If you need to freeze motion then you just jump into HSS mode and shoot at a high shutter speed to freeze the motion. But, if you are trying to freeze the motion with the flash and overpower daylight at the same time the flash durations matter. For a long time now I have shot motion blurs of athletes blasting by me and then froze their motion using a fast flash duration. One of the hallmarks of Elinchrom strobes is that they offer multiple flash heads (for most of their battery-powered strobes) and have the Action flash heads that have fast flash durations even at full power. Hence, with an ELB 400 and the Action flash head, I can use that setup at full power (424 Ws) to freeze the motion of the subject even when shooting with a 1/10th second shutter speed. With the ELB 500 TTL, I would have to drop down to 125 Ws to get a fast enough flash duration to freeze motion reliably. For some photographers this won’t be an issue, for others this will be a limitation for the ELB 500 TTL.

When shooting with leaf shutters, like with my Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi, I can sync at all shutter speeds up to 1/800th second. On other Hasselblad’s, like the X1D and H6D cameras, they can sync at up to 1/2,000th second. But, the catch here is that the flash duration needs to be shorter than the shutter speed. Hence, at 1/800th second (the top shutter speed on my H5D) the t0.5 flash duration needs to be around 1/2,000th second minimum to work with my H5D. Otherwise I would be clipping the flash and/or have issues with how quickly the transmitter triggers the flash. When using the Hasselblad, the ELB 500 TTL is fairly limiting because of the slower flash durations at the higher power settings. I realize for most photographers this won’t be an issue. But with the new mirrorless medium format cameras that incorporate leaf shutters this could be an issue for more and more photographers. In the image below, I had to use my ELB 1200 and the action head to over power daylight and get a fast enough flash duration to work with the leaf shutters in my H5D.

Who is the ELB 500 TTL designed for? In my mind, and as seen on the marketing images put out by Elinchrom, the ELB 500 is designed for portrait, lifestyle, fashion and wedding photographers where the flash head is relatively close to the subject. And by close, I mean that the flash head is not more than 10 or 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) away from the subject. That isn’t to say that it cannot be used to shoot sports with the HSS mode, but it may not be as versatile as the ELB 400 or ELB 1200 for that freezing motion at a distance. I realize that 80% of photographers out there are probably using a strobe for portraits of some sort and will have the strobe relatively close to the subject. The other 20% (or less) are trying to shoot action of some sort. So, for the vast majority, the ELB 500 TTL will be their best option for a battery-powered strobe within the Elinchrom line up.

In conclusion, I am very impressed with the ELB 500 TTL. It is so easy to use and setup that going back to my ELB 400 feels slow by comparison. I am not a fan of TTL in general, but I have to confess, it makes life much easier when trying to dial in the lighting on location. Not only that, it also negates the need for a light meter. On location, I typically start in TTL mode with the ELB 500 to get a base exposure and then I push the button on the Skyport transmitter to go into manual flash mode and adjust the settings from there. Flash on location really can’t get much easier. Add in the fact that I can use HS and HSS modes on different strobes simultaneously and that is icing on the cake. So, will I be upgrading to the ELB 500? I will not be selling my ELB 400s because they are so versatile and they are still stellar strobes. Hi-Sync (HS) is still the way to go for the vast majority of my work. The ELB 1200 is still my go to battery-powered strobe because I often need the extra power and versatility that it offers. But with that said, I can definitely see adding an ELB 500 to my kit for those shoots where it will work well and can help me be more efficient.

  • Alberto - Great review. Thank you. It seems Elinchrom is making a lot of interesting developments.

  • The NEW Elinchrom ELB500ttl… @ Marc Lebryk Photography - […] brave enough to try such a thing myself but he was very alive when he showed me pictures of this.  You can also read Michael Clarks review of the ELB500 […]

  • Jesus - Hi,

    I have the EBL 500 with the EL-Skyport Plus transmitter. How do I know when the EL-skyport transmitter is in TTL mode? I know I can change the power with the wheel, but did not found any TTL button on the transmitter.

    How can I put it on TTL mode? so it can choose the amount of light automatic ?

    Kind regards for you

  • Michael Clark - Jesus – you will have to upgrade the firmaware on your Skyport Plus HS transmitter and then the TTL icon will show up above the far left top button.

  • Jesus - Thank you so much!!

    I have updated it and now have the TTL mode. I found that the TTL is a little under expose, but manually adjustment a little up works perfect.

    Looking forward to get the ELB 400 with 2 HS heads by black Friday and maybe will save some money, your review and comparison have help me to make this decision. Overall I love the colors from the Elinchrom flash.

    Best regards

  • The NEW Elinchrom ELB500ttl… – Marc Lebryk Photography - […] brave enough to try such a thing myself but he was very alive when he showed me pictures of this.  You can also read Michael Clarks review of the ELB500 […]

  • Peter - Hi Michael

    Been looking for usage info with leaf shutters. Thanks for mentioning it. A few questions though. Hope you could help.

    1. Which trigger did you use with your Hasselblad? The ones listed are Canon and Nikon only.

    2. Would ELB 400 be a good option instead of the 500 for a 1/2000 sync or is it only the 1200 version that is compatible, because of faster flash duration?

    3. Have you used the Profoto/ Broncolor equivalent with the H5D/ H6D? How do they fare?


  • Michael Clark - Peter – See my Elinchrom articles here on the blog. I use the Skyport Plus HS, now called the Skyport Transmitter Pro. I have the Nikon version, but I don’t think it matters. They all work on my Hasselblad H5D 50c WIFi. And yes, andELB 400 or 1200 is a better option for use with leaf shutters because the Action flash heads have much faster flash durations than the ELB 500 TTl. I would not recommend the ELB 500TTL for use with leaf shutters. I have used Profoto strobes on occasion when i have to rent them, but I have not used Broncolor. I am sure they could work well but since I shoot outdoors mostly, and prefer pack and head systems, not mono blocks, the Elinchrom ELB system is my preference.

I am very excited to announce that the image above has been chosen for inclusion in the 2018 Communication Arts Photography Annual, which will be published in the July/August 2018 issue of Communication Arts (CA). The CA Photography Annual is one of the most exclusive photography competitions in the world. The Communication Arts Photography Annual competition has been held for the last 59 years making this one of the oldest photography competitions in the World. From the Communications Arts press release, “Of the 3,401 entries to the 59th Photography Annual, only 127 were accepted, representing the work of 123 photographers, making the Photography Annual the most exclusive major photography competition in the world.”

For those not familiar with Communication Arts, here is a description from the press release of the magazine, which is more like a high-end book than a magazine: “Communication Arts is a professional journal for designers, art directors, design firms, corporate design departments, agencies, illustrators, photographers and everyone involved in visual communications. Through its editorials, feature articles and the annual competitions it sponsors, CA provides new ideas and information, while promoting the highest professional standards for the field. With a paid circulation of 25,000, CA has a rich tradition of representing the aspirations of a continually-growing and quality-conscious field of visual communications. Now in its 59th year, CA continues to showcase the current best—whether it’s from industry veterans or tomorrow’s stars—in design, advertising, photography, illustration, interactive and typography. Everything is reproduced with printing technology and attention to detail unmatched by any trade publication anywhere.”

For me personally, getting the email that another one of my images made it into the Photo Annual, and especially this image in particular, is a confirmation of how we knocked it out of the park on this assignment. [My first image to be included in the Communication Arts Photo Annual was in 2016.] When I got the news I was overjoyed as this image is from one of my best assignments ever–and it has been winning quite a few other awards as well. Along with the notice, I also received an email that I could announce that my image was included in the Annual, even though the July/August issue is yet to be published.

The above image was shot for Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography. It was widely published to promote the Hi-Sync capabilities of the Elinchrom ELB 1200. This image was created during the Lighting the Spirit project, which was described in detail here on the blog.  This image was created using two ELB 1200 strobes with the HS Flash heads, a Nikon D810 with a Nikkor 14-24mm lens. To see the rest of the images from this assignment check out the Lighting the Spirit Gallery on my website. For a behind the scenes video detailing this assignment check out the Chasing the Shot video produced by Red Bull.

My thanks to Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography for giving me the opportunity on this major assignment, especially to Bram Dauw and Charlie Pinder who helped put this shoot together, and also to Simon Whittle, the CEO of Elinchrom. Also, my sincere thanks to Communication Arts and the five jurors who chose the winning images: Noah Dash – Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, Todd James – National Geographic, Erin Mayes – EmDash LCC, Jerry Takigawa – Takigawa Design, and Sarah Wilmer – photographer. And finally, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rafa Ortiz, the kayaker in this image, who worked incredibly hard to help us create an amazing set of images for Elinchrom.

The Spring 2018 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial asking for feedback on the Newsletter, a review of the new features in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, an article detailing my recent big wave surfing shoot at Peahi– also known as JAWS, an editorial entitled Embracing Failure, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Spring 2018 issue on my website at:


If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Kohl Christensen riding a mountain of water on a chaotic day at Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

It’s official. After a few years off, the Surfing Photography Workshop is back and is slated for February 2019. This workshop has been so popular over the last several years that we are putting it on again. This workshop is by far one of the best workshops I have ever been a part of. In fact it is so much fun, we have had several people take it twice and a few of them even want to take it again in 2019. I have never had anyone take any of my other workshops more than once so that gives you some idea of the great time we have in this Surfing Photography Workshop. For all of the details read on…

Dates: February 21-24, 2019

Workshop Leaders: Brian Bielmann and Michael Clark

Location: Turtle Bay Hilton Resort, Oahu North Shore, Hawaii

About The Workshop

Join legendary surfing photographer Brian Bielmann and adventure sports photographer Michael Clark for an exciting one-of-a-kind workshop that delves into the world of surfing photography. Brian is a top surfing photographer who has been shooting the sport for more than 40 years. Michael brings his adventure photography skills and knowledge as well as his in-depth experience with digital workflow to round out the workshop.

This 4-day workshop combines daily photo shoots at world-class surfing locations, lifestyle photo shoots and classroom instruction. We will be spending half of our time shooting in the early mornings and in the late afternoon and evenings when the waves and the light are at their best. The other half of our time will be spent in the classroom. All of the classroom instruction will be centered around image critiques, discussions on gear, strategies and the business of photography as well as in-depth discussions on shooting surfing. We’ll also cover digital workflow in detail using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop.

The workshop is scheduled during a period where large waves hit the north shore frequently. Though we cannot predict or guarantee the wave size or surfing conditions, the north shore of Oahu serves up sizable waves regularly. Depending on the waves, we will choose the best locations for shooting and we will also schedule lifestyle shoots that help to fill out our coverage of the world of surfing.

Workshop Schedule

Day 1 – Morning
Introduction to surfing photography, gear selection, camera setup and shooting options.

Day 1 – Afternoon/Evening
Cover basic digital workflow and then head out to shoot at the world-famous Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu.

Day 2 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 2 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, discussion of underwater photography and shooting from the water. Evening shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – All Day
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, portrait shoot on the beach with male and female surfers.

Day 4 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 4 – Afternoon
Group critique of previous days images, wrap up and discussions on the art of surfing photography.

Please note that locations may change depending on conditions.

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions, such as bad weather, lack of waves, or other issues may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary.

About the Instructors

Brian Bielman is a legendary surfing photographer. He has shot everything from fashion, to rock stars, to surf. From world champ surfers Mark Richards to Andy Irons, he has captured them all and just about everything else important that has happened on Hawaii’s North Shore since 1975. He was there to document the early days of Teahupo’o (Tahiti) and put a fresh perspective on it ten years later with his underwater images. He is well known for not only his above water surfing images but even more for his stunning underwater images of surfing. Able to shoot more than just the action Brian also captures the spirit and faces of surfing. You can see more of Brian’s work at www.brianbielmann.com.

Michael Clark is an internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images of rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers and mountain bikers in remote locations around the world. He contributes to National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, and The New York Times among many other magazines. He also produces images for large corporate companies like Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Nikon, Adobe, Red Bull, Nokia and many others. You can see Michael’s work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.


The Cost

The cost of this workshop is $2,295.00 per person. The same rate applies for each participant regardless of whether they are doing photography and participating in the workshop, or not. A deposit of $700 is required to secure your spot on the workshop. Final balance will be due no later than January 15, 2019.

Enrollment for the workshop will be limited to ten people maximum. We are limiting enrollment this year to make sure we can give our full attention to a smaller group. The cost of the workshop does not include travel expenses, hotels, transportation or meals. Those expenses are in addition to the cost of the workshop. We will provide an opening night get together and one group meal as part of the workshop.


The classroom portion of the workshop will be held at the Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu. We have negotiated a group rate that is discounted from their advertised prices. To receive the discounted rate, please mention the Surfing Photography Workshop. Please note that there are few if any other hotels on this side of the island. If you would prefer to stay elsewhere there are also hotels in Haleiwa, which is 12 miles south of the Turtle Bay and approximately a 30 minute commute.


Most major airlines service the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Honolulu, the major city on the island is approximately one hour south of the north shore and our hotel. The Turtle Bay Reset is located on the northern tip of Oahu and is somewhat remote. The hotel has a restaurant, golf course, tennis courts and of course is located right next to the beach.

We do not provide transportation during the workshop. Please plan ahead and reserve a rental car. Rental cars are available in Honolulu. Of course, we will share vehicles and car pool to make life easier for all of us. We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation.

Workshop Materials

You will need to bring the following equipment with you:

• A 35mm digital SLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses.
• A laptop computer with an external hard drive. Instructors will be using Apple Computers.
• Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software installed on your computer (you can download the 30-day trial version of Lightroom before the workshop if you don’t already have the software.)
• Digital memory cards with a card reader.
• Power adapters and cables for laptop and digital camera
• Camera manual
• Batteries and charger for rechargeable batteries

It is expected that you know how to download images from your camera to the laptop, know basic editing techniques using your software, and are able to organize the edited images for critique.

Waves exploding in Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii the morning of the 2009/2010 Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave surfing competition.

Telephoto Lenses and Underwater Camera Housings

Also since surfing photography relies on large telephoto lenses, each participant will need to bring a telephoto lens that is at least 400mm. A 500mm or 600mm lens is preferred. If you don’t own one of these lenses please rent or borrow one to bring with you. Please contact Michael or Brian with any questions about lens selection and rental options. Both B&H and Samy’s Camera in the USA have rental houses that can rent these lenses. We also have a special deal with Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu who have 500mm and 600mm lenses for both Canon and Nikon and will be renting these to workshop participants at discounted rates ranging from $323 to $550 for the four day workshop. Call Josh Strickland at Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu at (808) 735-3838 for more information on renting one of these lenses.

Also, if you plan to shoot in the water please bring your underwater camera housing. Brian has several underwater housings for Canon cameras and will have these available for those that want to try them out.


If you’ve always wanted to shoot the amazing sport of surfing, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they’re spoken for, that’s it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to info@michaelclarkphoto.com. To register for the workshop send me an email and I’ll send you a payment request for the deposit and a packet of information about the workshop.

 We hope you can join us for this stellar workshop! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact either myself or Brian.

I am very happy to announce that I will be back at CreativeLIVE in the Seattle studio on April 16th and 17th teaching an in-depth two-day class on digital workflow. The class, entitled The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow, will cover everything from image capture to the final print. This is not just a class on how to process your images, it is a detailed class for any and all photographers looking to take their photography to a whole new level, stay organized and make sure that they are getting the best possible image quality.

Thousands of my followers have purchased my e-book A Professional Photographer’s Workflow: Using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop over the last decade. I have had incredible response to that book, but many have asked that I create a video version of the book. This CreativeLIVE class won’t cover everything contained in the e-book–we would need a few weeks at the very least to do that–but it will cover a good portion of the key basics contained in the book. We are going to take a deep dive into color management, sensor cleaning, image organization, file and folder naming, processing images in Lightroom and Photoshop, printing, backing up your images and much more. Shown in the flow chart below is my backup system, which is quite complex compared to what most photographers probably need. But, this is just an example of some of the topics we will discuss in-depth.

While my specialty is adventure sports photography, this class is not at all specific to adventure sports photography. This is a class that every photographer can get something out of. When I teach photo workshops, I often tell students that they can improve their photography massively by learning a solid digital workflow and learning how to work up their images better. In this class, we will cover everything that you need to know to take your photography to the next level. Please note that this class will be taught in a way that you can implement what you want and leave the rest behind if it doesn’t work for you. So, in that sense, it is applicable to amateurs and professionals of any level. I hope you can tune in!

From the CreativeLIVE website:

Setting up a practical and efficient workflow with your photography feels like a daunting part of your business. Internationally recognized photographer Michael Clark introduces you to techniques to allow you more time to shoot the images you want. His workflow philosophy is that you must first know how you are going to edit the image in post production to know how you need to shoot it.

In this class Michael teaches:

  • Best practices for a shooting workflow from setting up your camera to histograms and exposure
  • How to clean the sensor on your DSLR camera
  • Color management workflow including your work environment and monitor calibration
  • An overview of Lightroom® and multiple ways to speed up your workflow including file folder and batch naming as well as metadata and archival processes
  • Techniques to finalizing your images in Photoshop® with basic adjustments and retouching
  • Making fine art prints, choosing your printer, paper, understanding ICC profiles, and much more!

Michael covers everything you need to know in order to streamline your post production workflow in Lightroom® and Photoshop® and best practices for printing your art at home. Digital photography is far more complicated than shooting film ever was. Knowing the best practices for a digital workflow will make you a better photographer.

To sign up or to purchase The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow class visit the CreativeLIVE website.

  • Marcia - Michael hit the road running this morning on Creative Live! What a great start to a meaningful course. This is great. Thanks.

Last week I had a conversation with Ric Stovall of the Visual Revolutionary podcast. This was one of his new short podcasts, i.e. 30 minutes instead of a few hours, where we discussed the future of photography and specifically how the equipment has changed the industry. We covered a lot of ground in this interview including what I’d like to see in future cameras in the near future, as well as where I see photography going in the long term. It was a fun conversation and we also highlighted how the technology affects the photo industry and professional photographers as well.

Ric is doing a stellar job with this podcast. I find myself listening in to all of his podcasts while I travel. I am always fascinated by how other photographers got their start and how they got to where they are today. If you are interested in my story, you can find my in-depth interview with Ric in Episode 42. I hope you enjoy this little short and check out some of the other podcasts. There is a ton of great insight in these podcasts! I am really stoked that Ric is doing this and is continuing the series. Keep up the great work Ric!

  • Paul Morin - Enjoyed your interview. Visual Revolutionary is the best.

This morning I found out that one of my images from the Lighting the Spirit shoot last summer with Rafa Ortiz was among the winners in the Maria Luisa Photo Contest, in the category of Adventure and Extreme Sports. The winning image, shown below, has already been widely seen and has already won a few awards. It is awesome to see the images from this assignment for Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography make the rounds. This award, yet again, confirms my thoughts that it was one of my best assignments to date. This image of Rafa Ortiz was created by rappelling into a spot just next to the waterfall and using the new Elinchrom ELB 1200 strobes to light up Rafa and the shaded side of the waterfall. To see how this image was created check out my blog post and the full behind the scenes video on my blog here.

The “Memorial María Luisa International Mountain and Nature Photo Contest” was created as a means of remembering María Luisa Alvarez Alvarez, a Spanish mountaineer who passed away in November 1990. Over 15,000 images were submitted to the 2017 Maria Luisa Photo contest by 1,586 photographers from 89 different countries. The winning images, along with the honorable mentions, will be included in an outdoor exhibition in Infiesto and Oviedo, Spain and the images are also published in a portfolio commemorative book. I have to say that while the adventure images are amazing, when viewing the winning images the Submerged World and Biodiversity images really stood out to me.

Above is the winning image of Rafa Ortiz dropping over Spirit Falls while whitewater kayaking on the Little White Salmon river near White Salmon, Washington. In this image, Rafa passed by me at only five feet away. This image was shot with a super wide angle 14mm lens. In addition to the above image, two other images of mine were selected for honorable mentions in the Alpinism and the Climbing categories. Those two images are shown below.

Zach Vanderlei snowboarding in Shane’s Glade on a very snowy day at Angel Fire Resort at Angel Fire, New Mexico. This image was shot on assignment for the Angel Fire Ski Resort on a deep powder day. Here again, I used Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync technology to light up the snowboarder and the snow. In fact, all three of these images were created using Elinchrom strobes and Hi-Sync flash technology.

Aaron Miller fighting to stay on a tough 5.12c at Diablo Canyon just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This shot was created on spec while testing out an early prototype of the Elinchrom ELB 1200 back in the fall of 2016. You can view the entire set of winning images here in a video produced by the Maria Luisa contest staff:

28 MML-Photo from MemorialMariaLuisa on Vimeo.

My thanks to the Maria Luisa Photo Contest and the jury that chose the winning images. Congratulations to all the other winning photographers on their remarkable images.