Thursday, March 26, 2015

NLP's Bullshit Badge of Courage

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What is NLP? It's my simple acronym for Natural Light Photography. What is NLP's Bullshit Badge of Courage? It's what some photographers seem to wear, in a bullshit attempt to claim some sort of photographic superiority when shooting with natural light alone versus shooting with the help of flash or reflectors or scrims. Why do I think it's bullshit? Because while it takes skill (or luck) to shoot a truly terrific model image with pure, unadulterated, natural light alone, it doesn't take any more exceptional skill than shooting with flash or with reflectors or scrims added to natural light.

Lately, on all kinds of photography pages, I've been seeing more and more photographers wearing the NLP Bullshit Badge of Courage. Many of them often provide commentary that smacks of their belief that shooting their subjects in natural light alone, without the help of flash or any other lighting tools, makes them, somehow, more skillful or accomplished or better as photographers. To them I simply say, "Bullshit."

Here's why some photographers insist on shooting with natural light alone:

1. They don't own any lighting gear (or own a bare minimum of such equipment) and/or barely have a clue how to employ flash photography with daylight.

2. They don't own and/or have skills and know-how in the effective use of reflectors and scrims.

3. They are smug elitists in general and their photography is no exception to their sense of elitism and exceptionalism.

4. They know how to "create" pseudo or faux-lighting with post-processing -- be it with their own skills or with automated apps -- and, therefore, feel they have little need to effectively employ good lighting skills and techniques or even gear while in production. 

5. They simply prefer, for creative reasons, to shoot with daylight without the help of flash or other tools. (Probably the least common reason but at least one I respect, when it's actually true.)

I am regularly taken back (a bit) when I see people posting pretty good model pics but, instead of simply being happy to have created such photos and enjoying the nice comments about them, they seem to relish informing everyone how they boldly and expertly snapped it with natural light alone, making sure they add some commentary about how they didn't even use so much as a reflector cuz, I guess, they're just that fucking good.

Whoop-dee-fucking-doo!  Color me unimpressed in the extreme.

Here some 411 for those wearing the NLP's Bullshit Badge of Courage:

First off, if I had to rely on natural light alone every time someone hired me to shoot a model at an exterior location in daylight, my income over the past couple of decades would have been seriously impacted in negative ways. How so? Because great natural light is not always available at all exterior locations at all times of day and, as a result, many of my images would have suffered and so would my re-hires by the clients who hired me. (Clients don't accept excuses like, "Oh. Sorry. The light sucked. I'll do better next time if there's good light.")

Secondly, while shooting with natural light alone might seem like the most efficient way to shoot, the absolute most efficient way to shoot is not always the correct approach if that efficiency doesn't produce images that are, at the very least, minimally competent. (And "minimally competent" doesn't always cut it with clients. In fact, in my world, it rarely does.)

Third, some of us working photographers don't perform the post-production on our sets of images that our clients will be using for various artwork. Instead, we hand over images (burned onto CDs or DVDs) straight out of the camera, generally at the end of a production day. In other words, there's no enhancing or fixing fuck-ups of images that simply don't cut the mustard, whatever cutting the mustard actually means, you know, originally when people first started using the phrase.  Again, images that don't cut the mustard, be it brown or yellow or even grey (Poupon) mustard, might have a serious and negative impact on a photographer's hope and desire for being re-hired for future work.

Personally, when I'm working, I'm all about keeping it simple and using the best tools for the job. If there happens to be super-excellent natural light where and when I'm shooting, I'll go that way, without any added tools. But that doesn't happen too often and, consequently,  I often need to add some tools into the mix to capture the sorts of images my clients expect. You know, like artificial lighting gear or reflectors and scrims to enhance, modify, or control the natural light.

If you're someone who wears that NLP Bullshit Badge of Courage, for whatever of the 5 reasons I provided above, the odds are you're seriously limiting yourself as a photographer of those human beings who professionally model in front of a camera or those who are in front of a camera for various other reasons.

Trust me when I tell you the image of the model at the top, Dahlia, would have been barely competent (i.e., appearing like un-cut mustard without some heavy application of post-production manipulating) if, for whatever reason, it was snapped with the natural light alone at that specific location and time of day. In this case, the artificial light was a Paul C. Buff "Zeus" power pack with one head inside a medium, rectangular, soft box for a key light (pretty much on-axis from slightly above and angled downwards) plus the Buff ring flash mounted around the camera's lens for some subtle fill.  By the way, if you didn't already know, lighting pioneer, Paul C. Buff, passed away just recently. RIP Paul.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Attention Rule Breakers

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I know many of you are rule-breakers. Proud rule-breakers! Dedicated rule-breakers. Uber-creative rule-breakers. Breakers of all kinds of rules because that's how you roll! For the most part, I'm not. A rule-breaker that is. But that's okay. I get by being old school because, heck, I'm old plus everyone knows all this rule-breaking stuff was invented by today's hipster-type digital photographers, which I'm not.

But let's say you are. A digital hipster who breaks the rules or even someone who isn't a hipster but still breaks the rules and, one morning, you get up and, over your coffee (or latte, if you're a hipster) you think to yourself, "You know what? I think I might shoot some stuff today that falls well within the guidelines of those rules I usually snub, ignore, or have little use for."  Hey! Stranger things have happened.

But here's the rub: You've become something akin to a dyed-in-the-wool rule-breaker. Rule-breaking is the creative essence of your photography. It's woven into the fabric of your photographic being. Or, perhaps you just aren't too edumacated regarding the rules. Either way, today's you're lucky day!  Famous rule-employing photographer, Steve McCurry -- he's the guy who shot that muy famoso pic of the Afghan girl -- and an organization called, The Cooperative of Photography (whoever they are), have put a little video together to help educate you on the rules of composition and, in one fell swoop, how to use those rules in photos as well. Trust me. It's good stuff!

Now, before you read the article and watch the video let me mention something-- Most all of these rules can still be employed to various extents even if you're not a globe-trotting photographer like Steve McCurry and, like me, you mostly shoot pretty girls, for instance, in front of a seamless background. How cool is that?  Very cool, if you ask me. Which you didn't but I did. (Asked myself, that is.)

Here's a link to the article with the rules of composition video. Enjoy. And learn. Or just enjoy. Your choice.

http://petapixel.com/2015/03/16/9-photo-composition-tips-as-seen-in-photographs-by-steve-mccurry/

In the pretty girl pic at the top, I employed some of the same stuff shown in the video. There's diagonals (I especially love diagonals and arms and legs offer great opportunities to use them) symmetry via that "S" curve, a center dominant eye (even though it's looking down), plus I filled the frame cuz I don't bother with silly questions like, "Is the frame half empty or half full?"  I usually just fill the fu... I mean it.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

It Ain't Easy Being Blind

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For many years, I worked as a half-blind photographer. A half-blind videographer as well. If vision is the #1 requirement for any decent photographer, I was (technically) handicapped by only having 50% of the vision the vast majority of photographers rely on. Or, was I? Handicapped, that is.

How was I a half-blind photographer/videographer? Well, I was blind in one eye. 100% blind in one eye; my right eye. I was 100% blind in my right eye for about 15 or so years, plus slowly going blind in that eye for quite a few years prior.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, it ain't easy being blind.

Being half-blind is easier, of course, than being all blind. Much, much easier. With all blind you see nothing. With half-blind, you still see, albeit not the way most others see. While being half-blind is  infinitely easier than being half-blind, half-blind still ain't easy if you know what I mean. Actually, you might not know what I mean because most of you probably haven't been blind, half-blind or otherwise.  Some of you might be blind-ish to some extent but, if so, you likely wear optics to correct that. There were no optics that could correct my half-blindness. It wasn't correctable with lenses or prisms or, for years, by any other means.

The interesting thing about being one-eyed is that the world you see is two-dimensional, just like the world we see in photos. It takes two, functional and working eyes to have depth perception. (Depth representing that third dimension.) From that perspective, only being sighted in one eye might have actually been something of an advantage for photography. I suppose I could more easily see what a photograph might look like before shooting it. Leastwise, with both eyes open and without a camera's viewfinder hoisted to my eye. Course, once that camera is in mine or your hands and pressed to our faces, we're all one-eyed in terms of our photography. (Unless we're using Live View on a camera's rear LCD screen or a camera with a two-eyed focusing screen, e.g., a twin-lens reflex or the way some larger format cameras have.)

Eventually, much the way modern digital camera technologies have evolved and advanced, medical technology caught up with my right eye and the vision in it was restored via surgery and an artificial lens implant. That's right. I have a bionic eye.

At first, the success of my bionic eye was looking rather dubious because my blind right eye had atrophied over time. As a result, I was left with a serious case of double-vision after the artificial lens was implanted.  My right eye, you see, wouldn't de-atrophy itself for a while and I wondered if I wasn't better off being half-blind.  But, in time, my right eye corrected itself all on its own.  To my great delight, I didn't need prisms. Yeah. Prisms. That's what the doctors called what I might need in the form of eye-wear that resembled the bottoms of glass Coke bottles to correct the double vision. For a while, I thought I might have to change my name to Poindexter or something similar. You know, if I had to wear Coke bottle glasses.

Did being a half-blind photographer impact my photography? I have no idea, although I've thought about that more than a few times. Frankly, if it did have an impact, I'm not sure if it was a positive or negative impact. Perhaps it really didn't matter? I'm right handed but have always swung a baseball bat as a lefty. I can't do so like a rightie. Never could. I played a lot of baseball as a kid. Being a lefty at the plate was an advantage for the most part. Not sure if being a lefty with my eyes contains any sorts of advantages though.

BTW, although the sight in my right eye was restored, I still shoot with my left eye. I didn't shoot that way before I lost the sight in my right eye.  I shot with my right eye the way most people do. At least, I think that's how most people shoot. Then, when I lost my sight in that eye, I became a left-eyed shooter by necessity. Since the sight in my right eye has been returned to me, I haven't been able to return to right-eyed shooting. I don't' know why that is. It just is what it is, I suppose.  I don't really see any reason to return to right-eyed shooting. There certainly isn't any necessity to do so.

I've been happy and grateful for becoming sighted in both eyes again. More than happy about it:  Ecstatic! My bionic eye is more sensitive to blue hues, i.e., everything I see with it is to the bluer or cooler side of the spectrum, color temperature wise. It's like the world has a slight bluish cast to it when I look with only my right eye. With both eyes open, however, I don't notice any shift in color perception. At least not consciously. I suppose human brains, like most modern digital cameras, have an auto-color function which corrects for color... but only when both of my eyes are open. I can only see the difference in color between each eye when I close one and look with the other, then change which one is closed and look out the other and so forth. . I don't do that very often but I have done it enough times to be aware of the difference when it comes to color perception between my two eyes.

Sorry if this update doesn't contain anything useful in terms of helping anyone with their pretty girl shooting.  Hey! After over one thousand updates to this blog, coming up with anything write about can be a challenge and, more often than not, when I think up or stumble on something to write about, I'll often go for it even it's, like this update, mostly about me.

The image at the top is how I imagined people would be looking at me, at least behind my back, if I ended up having to wear a pair of Coke bottle prisms like those I mentioned in this article. Yeah, yeah, I know. That's just insecurity. Still, it's how I envisioned things might be.





Sunday, March 01, 2015

Are you a Photo Ditto Head?

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I read plenty of photography stuff about gear heads versus those who are less focused on the equipment they buy and use and more focused on the creative aspects of photography. It's been a fairly common discussion in recent years, more so because of the many advances in camera, lens, and lighting technologies, as well as photo processing software.

There's an old Egyptian proverb that tells us, "A beautiful thing is rarely perfect." With the possible exception of gemstones, where perfection is highly regarded and sought after, I'm a big believer in that old Egyptian saying. Especially, when it comes to photography and, even more so, as it can be applied to photographing models. You see, many of the advances in photographic technologies, the hardware as well as the software, have been aimed at helping photographers create more perfect photos and/or more perfect photo subjects.

If there's a common denominator to the way in which many shooters process their (model) images in PS or LR or however they might do so, it's that many of them are all-too-often focused (consumed, it sometimes seems) on manipulating their images in ways that reflect high levels of perfection, both in terms of creating perfection in their models' physical appearances, as well as the photographic processes themselves.

"A technically perfect photograph can be the world’s most boring picture," famed photographer, Andreas Feininger, once said. I'll go a step further by saying that creating perfection (or near perfection) when shooting models and processing their photos can produce the world's most boring pretty girl pics. And they often do. Trust me on this-- I've shot a ton of technically competent yet overall boring model pics. Course, that's what they were paying me to shoot but it doesn't change the outcomes... but that's another story.

There are more than a few well-known model shooters who consistently produce perfect-looking images of perfect-looking models. Many up-and-coming photographers see those photos and they say, "Hey! I want to shoot models like that!"  So, the first thing they do is try to learn how to emulate those shooters of perfect-looking pics and (seemingly) perfect-looking models, often asking those photographers a gazillion questions (via Facebook and other ways) how they too can create that sort of photo-perfection. They often seek step-by-step instructions for shooting and processing perfect-looking photos of perfect-looking women so they can proudly post their perfect-looking images. 

Emulating the work of others by learning from them and mimicking their work can be great ways to practice and learn but, at some point, doing so can also stifle a photographer's ability to develop a personal style. Plus, there's this: I've shot enough models over the years to know how rarely any of those models look perfect, beauty wise. They all have "flaws" (for lack of a better word) of one sort or another, just like we all do, some of us more than others. Some of their "flaws" are worth fixing. But other flaws, if flaws they are, are what makes some models stand out from the pack. That's right, it's often a model's so-called flaws or imperfections which are responsible for them standing out from other models, rather than their inherent degree of physical perfection.  But then photographers come along and, not being satisfied with a model's natural beauty, flawed in some way I suppose, they think,  "Hmm... she's perfect except she's got that one thing. That one flaw. That slight imperfection. But I can fix that in post."

Sometimes, that's the right decision; fixing the perceived flaws and imperfections, that is. Other times, it's a very wrong decision. How do you know the difference? i.e., when to fix it when not? That's where your personal sense of aesthetics (and more) comes into play.  It's also about whether you want to be, as a photographer, a ditto head or something else-- something less like most of the others who are making those perfect photos of perfect-looking models.We see it all the time on the covers of magazines and elsewhere. Occasionally, someone comes across before and after photos of those perfect-looking models and, all of a sudden, viewers realize those fantasy girls are just that: a fantasy.

While editing my images, when I spot flaws in the model -- again, for lack of a better word --  flaws that I may or may not have paid much attention to when shooting the pics, I don't automatically think, "How can I fix this? How can I make her perfect?"  Rather,  I first ask myself a simple question: Does the model's "flaw" or imperfection add more interest to the photo or does it detract from viewers' interests in the photos? Or, does it  really matter one way or another?

You see, even when a model's flaws are quite subtle or barely noticeable, they can sometimes add much interest to the photos and fixing them can reduce potential interest. The same goes for other aspects of the photos, aspects that don't reflect the model but, instead, reflect how you, the photographer, snapped the pics. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? We want viewers to be interested in our photos. To find them memorable in some way. Often enough, that sort of interest is generated by things that go beyond (or fall short of) perfectly photographed photos of perfectly perfect models.

You know how some photographers choose to shoot with crappy cameras or inferior, plastic lenses, or with expired film?  Do you know why they're doing that? Well, it's not because they want to produce technically perfect photographs or perfection in other ways. It's because they are actively and purposely seeking imperfection. They are hoping for flaws. They know that beautiful things are rarely perfect. They also know that Feininger was correct: that the world's most technically perfect photos can also be the world's most boring pictures. Yep, it's often those flaws and imperfections which make images all the more memorable in our photographs.

Food for thought... assuming your mind is hungry.

The pretty girl at the top is Devin, snapped in the front foyer of a large, spacious, luxury home in Las Vegas a few years back. It was my client's house. I used to go up there two or three times a year to shoot for him. I'd stay at his house for about a week and shoot, either at the house or we'd venture elsewhere. The 2nd floor guest bedroom I'd stay in was larger than many rooms in most luxury hotels in Sin City and came with a big bathroom and a private balcony. No maid or room service though. Bummer, right? Oh well. There was a large, sweeping, stairway to the right of the table with the vase and flowers. That stairway made setting my lights a bit tricky, but do-able nonetheless. Devin is posing under the stairway. I really liked the way the vase and artificial flowers looked so that's why I shot some in that spot. I was going to move the table and vase to another spot in the house, one that would have been easier to light and place my model, but my client was very persnickety about his house and his stuff so I said, effit, and just shot there.  I'm easy that way. Plus, his checks always cleared.






Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are You Fluent in Light?

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As most of you know, the word "photography" means writing with light. Okay. Some people say it means, "painting with light." Whatever. You say tomahtoe, I say tomaytoe. If you're a "painting with light" advocate, cut me some slack for a few so I can write this update. Pretty please? Indulge me for a moment or two and go with "writing with light" as being the word's meaning.

Thanks.

Okay. As I said, the word "photography" means writing with light. As such, are you fluent in light? I'm guessing many of you are fluent. Perhaps not fluent like it's your natural language but fluent enough to use light to write, I mean make some decent photos. I'm that way. Fluent enough, I mean. But I have my limitations. It's much like my Italian-speaking skills.  I can order food in Italian in an Italian restaurant, but I can't hold a conversation with someone in Italian.   English, yes. Italian? Nope.

Even if I could speak Italian fluently like my Dad, my grandparents, and many of my aunts and uncles could, it wouldn't necessarily mean I could hold conversations with all Italian-speaking people. How so? Because there are those things called dialects.

Dialects make some Italian speakers sound almost like they're talking another language to various other Italian speakers.  My Dad, who was fluent in Italian, make that fluent in the kind of Italian that Italian-Americans who emigrated from the Naples, Italy, region speak, had a really hard time speaking with Italians (in Italian) when he visited Rome later in his life. Why? Dialects.

Lighting is like that. It's one thing to be fluent in lighting, leastwise to believe you're fluent in lighting until you start looking at other kinds of lighting or light for genres outside of genres you have lots of experience shooting. It's sort of like trying to speak with another dialect you're unfamiliar with. I can write fluently with light in the glamour model dialect.  I can do so like a pro. But now, I'm planning to expand my photography to some other genres and, in order for me to write with light like a pro in those other genres, I'm going to have to become familiar writing with it in another light-writing dialect. I'm talking figuratively, of course. Light is light, after all. Leastwise, a lot of people keep saying that. But how you use light, make that how you write with light, sometimes changes from one genre to another.

Extending my pretty girl shooter light-writing skills to outdoor photography, for instance, is going to require learning another dialect of light. The more I read, learn, and study the art of outdoor photography, e.g., landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, nature, etc., the more I realize I barely know jack about writing with light when capturing that sort of imagery.  Sure, I'm fluent writing with light when shooting models. It's  much the way my Dad was fluent in Italian, but his fluency didn't mean he could easily converse with all Italians. He could converse with them in basic sort of ways, but he often told me it was difficult speaking with a variety of other Italians because of differences in dialects.  It's the same with photography. In order to write with light in all genres, that is to write poetically, dramatically, or in most any other way, it requires understanding other lighting dialects.

You see, when I finally get out there shooting the sorts of outdoor photographs I'm interested in shooting, it's going to be, for the most part, the first time I've ever done so. I may not be a beginner, photography wise, but I'll be a beginning outdoor photographer nonetheless. How I write with light when shooting models is more than a little different from how I'll need to write with light shooting outdoorsy pics, assuming I expect to make some pretty good outdoor photos... which I hope to do.

But that's okay! In fact, it's better than okay. It's terrific! It's going to be all new adventures with my cameras and I love new adventures. It's also going to be fraught with new challenges that might make my images suck! At first, at least. But that's what's going to make it fun and exciting. I'll have to learn to look at things with new eyes, things like light, because writing with light for outdoor images is a whole different thing than writing with light with a model in front of your camera. I'll have to train myself to see the light differently-- almost the way a child sees their newly discovered world; a world where, for them, everything is new.

Now, I just need to get my ass out there and start doing it... start learning-by-doing with the new writing-with-light dialect I've been studying. I'm running out of excuses. I've pretty much put together all the gear I'll need, some of it quite different from the gear I regularly use shooting pretty girls. Now, it's simply a matter of turning my motivation into action.

By the way, I've been doing a lot of reading about outdoor photography lately -- web pages, tutorials, books, etc. -- including sub-genres like long exposure and night-time and low-light outdoor photography. That's my style in terms of how I learn new things. I tend to be someone who does a bunch of reading and researching before doing. In fact, I just started reading a new book today. It's called "The Art of Outdoor Photography" by Boyd Norton.

I have to say, this book resonated with me in big ways from the first few pages. Probably because it's equal parts photo-philosophy and photo-technique. That's the sort of approach that appeals to me most.  The book isn't for beginners -- the sub-title is "Techniques for the Advanced Amateur and Professional" --  but if you're interested in outdoor photography and you already have the basics of photography tucked under your belt, I recommend Boyd Norton's book. It's copyright is 1993 so it's pre-digital but that doesn't matter. So much of photography is the same, film or digital. Obviously, being pre-digital, there's no lessons in it regarding digital post-processing, but that's okay with me. At this point, I'm way more interested in learning to shoot this outdoor stuff, shoot it like a boss of course. I'll worry about processing what I shoot later on. Again, that's how I roll.

The pretty girl at the top is Madison. I must admit, while writing with light to produce images of Madison, my quill wasn't drooping. She's a very sexy woman in all ways! ISO 100, f/10 at 125th with a Canon 5D1 and a Tamron 28-75 zoomed all the way in. Three lights: My main, camera-right about head-high or so, modified with a 5' Photoflex Octo angled slightly downwards, plus a couple of small-ish shoot through umbrellas, either side, from the sides.







Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When Shooting Models, Soft Skills Often Count Most

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Just about anyone can learn to light a model. I don't say that in a cavalier way. It takes practice. Lots of it. But if you stick with it and practice, practice, practice, you'll become good at lighting models. All sorts of models.

Lighting for photography ain't rocket science, although it relies quite heavily on science. That's why almost anyone can learn to do it well. The cool thing about science is that it doesn't have mood swings. It doesn't, itself, need experience. It's not occasionally disagreeable. It performs in the same proven ways each time you employ it. It's repeatable. It's reliable. You can count on it.

While lighting is a very important aspect of model photography, it's not at the top of the list of those things which are important, most important that is, to successful model shoots. Not in my opinion at least. Neither is composition or a photographer's prowess in post-production. That's not to say lighting, composition, and post-processing aren't important to many, if not most, photographers' work. They are! But they each fall under the general category of "hard skills."  Not necessarily hard-to-learn skills, but "hard" skills in the sense that they are technical in nature. Certainly in their most basic forms.

"Wait a minute," you might be thinking. "Lighting, composition, and post can be very creative and artistic. They represent art, not science. Art is soft and subjective unlike science which is hard and objective."

I agree. Mostly. Those skills often are that way. Creative and artistic, that is. No doubt about it. But each of them relies, in many ways and to varying extents, on science and technical skills for their success in a photo. That's why I refer to them as hard skills. They have rules governing them. Those rules might not need to be strictly enforced each time you pick up your camera to shoot. You can break them, for sure. But breaking rules means there's rules in place, rules that exist and that can be broken: Hard, technical, scientific-like rules even if they're not absolutely required rule to follow.

Your soft skills, on the other hand, leastwise when it comes to shooting models, are your people skills and your people skills, your most-excellent people skills, will do as much (usually more) for your overall success as a model shooter, glamour models or otherwise, as your hard skills. That's because your "soft" people skills are the skills which get the most out of your models. They are the skills which inspire and motivate your models to call on something inside themselves, something they outwardly project to your camera and, by so doing, make your well-lit, well-composed, nicely processed photos even better.

When you're shooting models, you're not shooting animated mannequins or robotic, human-like, adroids. You're shooting warm, living, breathing, complex human beings. Beings who will best deliver the goods, the modeling goods, when the best and most appropriate people skills are employed by the photographer. Your terrific people skills will generally (and most often) trump lighting, composition, and post-processing skills most days of the week. At a minimum, they will enhance those other skills.

Here's something I've been told by a number of my clients. I've been told this, or a variation of this, fairly often in fact: "I don't hire you because you're a good photographer, Jimmy. There are lots of good photographers. I hire you because you're so good with the models, working with the models."

How or why am I so good? Leastwise, in my clients' eyes when I'm working with the models those same clients hire to be in front of my camera? It's not talent. It's not something unique. It's not because I'm a natural-born model shooter. It's because I consciously apply effective people skills when working with them, i.e., directing, encouraging, and molding them while I'm shooting them.  I remain constantly aware of my demeanor and it's associated people skills while I'm shooting. Those skills aren't who I naturally am with a camera in my hands. They are skills I learned and practiced through trial and error. A lot of errors, in fact.

You see, I have a shooting persona -- you might compare it to a doctor's bed-side manner -- that I adopt whenever I'm working with models. It's a practiced persona or demeanor. My shooting demeanor, persona, whatever you want to call it is all about -- that is, it's 100% focused -- on getting the goods out of the models in front of my camera. Let me repeat myself:  It's a practiced demeanor or persona, not necessarily a natural one. In fact, I've practiced it to the point that my on-set persona has become my natural state -- make that an altered state, albeit a non-drug-induced altered state -- via a well-practiced second-nature I can call on whenever I'm working with models.

So here's Jimmy's advice for today: Practice is wildly important! (It's certainly not the first time I've said that.) But practice isn't simply limited to things like lighting, composition, and post-processing techniques. Your effective, on-set, people skills, i.e., your shooting persona and demeanor, are your soft skills. Your soft skills need to be practiced as much (if not more) than your "hard" skills; practiced until they become automatic and second-nature. I don't care if you're shooting glamour models, company CEOs, kids, or formal portraits at a wedding or other event. When your shooting persona becomes as effective as your lighting, composition, and post-production skills, I guarantee the results of all your model or other portrait photography will be improved.

The pretty girl at the top goes by Jenna Presley. Whether she's related to the King of Rock & Roll, I don't have a clue, but she can put the rock in my be-bop anytime.  ISO 100, f/11 at 1/12th of a second with a Canon 5D. I know, I know... an odd, slow, shutter speed for shooting a model in a studio setting. I was playing around with producing a soft-ish looking image quality while still keeping sharp focus on the eyes.