Monday, July 31, 2006

Masochistic Voyeurism

This is going to be one of those posts where I'm going to philosophize. If you're not into this philosophy stuff, go ahead and click elsewhere... you ain't hurting my feelings.


Here's how I look at what I do, that is, as a glamour and tease photographer: Glamour and tease photography is a masochistic form of voyeurism. It is not truly the occupation of an adult.

For any of you who, like me, spends considerable time photographically plying the T&A and skin trades and you stayed here to read this stuff, I'm sorry if my definition upsets you but it is, pretty much, how I feel about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on myself or anyone else who does this thing we do. I think it's a great job or hobby or whatever you want to call the way in which any of us pursue it. But it is what it is and what it is is what I said.

The "voyeurism" part of how I look at what we do should be fairly easy to understand: We are obsessive observers of (what many in the world would consider) sordid or sensational subjects, e.g., naked women posed in provocative ways. Actually, we take voyeurism to the next level by capturing those "sordid and sensational subjects" digitally or on film.

The "masochistic" part might take a little more explaining. To explain it, I'm going to grab bits and pieces of masochism's definition and apply it to glamour and tease photography.

By definition, masochism has to do with deriving pleasure from being abused. It can be in the form of physical abuse or emotional abuse. In this case, it's mostly about emotional abuse and (what I'll call) artistic abuse. Yep. Artistic abuse certainly plays a prominent role. Most importantly, at least for me, I think it's essential to note the abuse I'm talking about is self-inflicted, i.e., it's self-abuse. Man, I hope this is going to make sense.

It's one thing to be a photographic voyeur. I don't think too many of you can honestly argue and say we're not photographic voyeurs. Many of us strive to be the best photographic voyeurs we can be and, in doing so, we beat ourselves up a lot when we feel our voyeuristic images are not all they can be. Okay, here comes the masochism part.

When a beautiful, sexy, and often-times naked model is in front of my camera, I derive great pleasure from the experience. But it also pains me that I cannot always translate that pleasure, that is, those personal sensations I'm feeling as a result of the charm and allure the model is expressing, and capture it onto the camera's film plane. And, to capture that along with a smoking-hot, two-dimensional, photographic representation of that model! The distress or artistic angst or whatever you want to call it, which I'll admit is self-inflicted, when I cannot artistically, emotionally, and exquisitely capture both those fleeting moments of pleasure, along with the physical beauty of the model, drives me nuts! It also drives me harder and harder to try and do so. It's like a never-ending cycle of pleasure and (emotional & artistic) pain... pain and pleasure.

Yeah, this masochistic voyeurism thing drives me crazy! It also drives me to try harder, get more creative, learn more, spend more time viewing the work of others, and beating myself up because I can't quite grab that frame that has it all. You see what I'm saying? The act of trying to accomplish this give me great pleasure while, at the same time, it kicks the crap out of me! How screwed up is that? All because, in addition to competently capturing the physical image of the model, I want to capture the pleasure her presence, in front of my camera, gives me; and I want to capture it like no one else can capture it and, so far in my so-called photographic career, I've not been able to do so. (Damn! I knew this was going to get complicated and possibly make no sense.)

As for that part of my definition about this not being truly the occupation of an adult, well, c'mon, it ain't. And that applies to just about all kinds of photographers. What's more childlike than making pictures of things? Besides, you know what? Approaching photography with a child's inquisitive eye is probably an incredibly important ability to possess. You guys who try to do it like real adults might never do it all that well and for exactly that reason. Someone on a photo forum recently suggested I get a real job. Maybe he's right. Maybe my job isn't a real job. I mean, who gets paid to take pictures of beautiful naked ladies and call it a real job? You know... like a real job for a mature and responsible and "real" adult?

I'm not going to post an image with this article because I've never taken one that is good enough. Any picture I've ever taken will simply prove my point about not being good enough or able enough to capture that elusive and perfect moment where the viewers will feel what I felt, and see what I saw, when I snapped the shutter.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's All In the Eyes

I think it was the late, great, British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, who said, "It's all in the eyes." Of course, Olivier was talking about acting. But he could just as easily have been speaking of models and modeling and, because shooters are the documentarians of such people, photographers.

Sure, when it comes to pretty-girl glamour, tits and ass are important. But the soul of an image are the subject's eyes-- and, yeah, even T&A images have soul.

Watch an MUA at work. What, usually, do they spend most of their time working on? The model's eyes. When shooting, what is your main point of focus? Most often and almost always, the model's eyes.

I hate sounding corny; stating the obvious by quoting an old adage like, The eyes are the windows to the soul, but, well, it's true.

The biggest hunk of emotion a model will convey, in most images, will be transmitted through her eyes. Whether it's happiness, sadness, fear, aggression, playfulness, coyness, raw sexual hunger, whatever the emotion, it's going to mostly be played out through her eyes. Eyes that seem lifeless or void of emotion--I call them dead eyes--don't usually make for dynamic images.

Personally, I'm a big fan of catchlights. I try my best to provide catchlights in the model's eyes. I don't use a ringlight so I'm not always guaranteed to catch those catchlights but that's okay. Images without catchlights can still have impact, especially when attempting to convey a darker feeling in the image. Even if you're not going for that dark and mysterioso look, the lack of catchlights doesn't necessarilly kill an image. Don't beat yourself up if you capture a smokin' hot image but, for whatever reason, you didn't catch those catchlights. Most likely, your smokin' hot image is still smokin' hot!

When I post-process an image, I often spend more time working on and around the model's eyes than anywhere else. I do this because, with many images, that's the first place the viewer's eyes will be drawn. Since first impressions are important, I don't want viewers turned away from the image because the model's eyes just aren't happening.

If you spend time on the photo-forums, you'll see that an awful lot of less-than-positive critiques focus on the model's eyes, that is, how the eyes were shot and processed. Conversely, nicely photographed and processed eyes often elicit positive responses.

Here's a couple of tips: If your mainlight is set up high and your model's face isn't angled up towards it, to some degree, you might not capture catchlights. In this case, you might consider bouncing some light off the mainlight (or another light) with a small reflector or piece of foamcore from a position that will reflect in the model's eyes. If you're shooting outside, with the sun behind the model, fill-flash and/or a reflector will not only provide fill, but will usually produce catchlights. If you're using a reflector and you bounce some light in from below, you'll also get rid of (or reduce) any dark circles or bags that might be under the model's eyes.

The models with eyes accompanying this post are... uhh... I forget who the first one was in that very over-processed image at the top. I don't feel like hunting through my archives for her name right now, so I'll just refer to her--like Elvis crooned in that old song--the girl with Spanish Eyes. The next two are Jasmine and Herry, in that order, from top to bottom.

Fashion Photographer

A big nod to photographer Bill George who posted, at, this YouTube® link to a hilarious video that lampoons fashion, beauty, and glamour photographers.

Click HERE to view the video and make sure your audio is turned on and/or up. You're gonna love this one! I sure did.

This Butt's For You

Seems only natural, after writing that lady lumps piece, I should move my attention downwards to the gluteus maximus.

Appropriately, this is another part of the female model's anatomy that deserves special attention. Especially when the model is posed in ways that thrust her hindquarters to the forefront of the viewers' attention as a key element of the image.

Once again, much of the same lighting advice I noted for lady lumps holds true for the butt. If you're going to have her push that thing out there, if you're using gimmicks to call attention to it, it's often worth providing highlights to showcase its beauty and allure.

Many connoisseurs du derriere, that is and if you don't speak French, your images' viewers who are buttock-beauty enthusiasts, will greatly appreciate the extra time you take when you not only distinctively light those bottom regions but capture them in pose and composition that emphasizes the backside's lines and shape.

Having the model thrust her fanny out with a forced arch of her back is certainly provocative from a sexual point-of-view. It says what it says and most people understand what it's saying. When doing so, it's easy to cross the line from glamour and tease to something more, uhh... lurid. A whole bunch of elements, besides the butt-thrusting, can contribute to the potentiality for overdoing the lewd-ish aspects of such images: expression, wardrobe, props, the degree and force of the butt-thrust and how bent-over you pose the model. Personally, I prefer a bit of restraint, i.e., some subtlety. Sometimes, less is more if you get what I'm saying.

The model featured at the top of this post, with her butt pushed out somewhat suggestively and the Stanley Tools wind machine creating the gimmick of blowing her skirt up, is Missy. MUA was Charlene. The image was captured with a Canon 20D with an 85mm prime mounted on board. ISO 100, f/5.6 @125th, converted to monochrome in Photoshop CS using the Channel Mixer method.

Here's another shot of Missy, sans derriere, only cuz I think she's so darn pretty. Once again, the Stanley Tools wind machine is hard at work. And, yeah, I like green backgrounds.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Let's Hear It for MUAs and Hair Stylists!

If there's one thing that will--just about always--take your glamour images to the next level, it's great MUAs and hair stylists! A lot of times, the MUA and hair stylist are one and the same person and that makes them an even greater asset to your team because that's just one person getting one paycheck instead of two getting two... I mean two, each getting one. You know what I mean.

I don't care how clever you are with lighting, how brilliantly you direct the model, or even--at times--how smokin' hot your model might be. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will improve your images more than MUAs and hair stylists who are on their game. That's not to say there aren't models who are just about as competent doing their own hair and makeup as a whole lot of MUAs and hair stylists, there are. But, mostly, they're not. And if you really want to capture images that stand out, "just about as competent" doesn't cut it.

You know what makes MUAs even greater? They contribute so much to your images and yet YOU (or ME), i.e., the SHOOTER, gets the lion's share of the credit! How cool is that? Well, for us, the shooters, I mean. Ya gotta love when that happens even if it doesn't seem fair.

Check it out-- A hot and experienced model shows up, the MUA works her fantastic magic on the model's already beautiful face and she or he provocatively styles her mane. I, we, the shooters, set up a few lights, sip some coffee or a Coke, take some readings, and decide what music to put on the CD player. Finally, the smokin' hot model who now, thanks to the MUA, is even more smokin' and more hot gets in front of the camera. I, we, say, "Say cheese," and BAM! Our clients are all patting us on the backs and telling us what great shooters we are as they write the check. How cool is that?

Okay, maybe, at least in my case, I don't actually say, "Say cheese," unless I'm acting like the village idiot which I sometimes am... I mean I sometimes do. And maybe there's a little more to my job than those few things I mentioned. And maybe I still have to chase my clients for that check. But you get my point, right? I get most of the credit for other peoples contributions and, so often, the biggest contributor was that gal or guy with the make-up box, the brushes, the hair rollers, the bottles and jars and vials and cans of this and that, and the keen eye and gifted skills.

In a perfect world, shooters would get a little less credit for their best images when an MUAs hand was in the mix. Or, at the very least, MUAs would get more credit. But it ain't a perfect world. And, I suppose, from where shooters sit, right or wrong, that's a pretty good thing.

The smokin' hot model you were ogling in this post is Charmane. The keen and gifted MUA who also did Charmane's hair (which I kind of messed up with my Stanley Tools wind machine) and who didn't get as much credit as she deserved as well as only earning one check (I got most of the credit and Charmane got most of the dough) was Terese Heddon.

"My Hump, My Hump, My Lovely Lady Lumps"

If their catchy lyrics are any sort of indicator, the Black Eyed Peas know where its at: Lady Lumps! Breasts! Tits! Chest puppies! Whatever you call them, they're often the central point of focus and attention for many admirers and viewers of glamour and tease photography. Yet, many photographers seem to be so obsessed with lighting the model's face and hair, they sometimes overlook her lady lumps as being worthy of special attention... special lighting attention, that is. (Yeah, you knew what I meant.)

For me, when shooting a lady whose lumps (bare lumps or covered lumps) are prominently featured in the shot, my eyes first go to those lumps to see what's happening with them in terms of how the modeling lights or how sunlight is or isn't effecting them in a noticeable and flattering way. And I'll adjust the lights or the model's pose or both to insure her lumps are receiving appropriate attention from the lighting.

Details, details, details... It's all in the details. And lady lumps are a detail, make that details, that shouldn't be overlooked. It's not enough that a model may have, virtually, perfect lumps. They still need help: Lighting and composition help. If, that is, their beauty and near-perfection is going to be effectively showcased in the image.

It's no accident that Playboy's photographers generally use more than a few light sources, especially when shooting models in studios or at interior locations. And some of those lights are specifically focused on the lovely model's lumps-- highlighting them, drawing attention to them, edging them, rimming them, showcasing them, and flattering them.

As I peruse the glamour and nude-art sections of cool photographer forums like PhotoCamel and come across images featuring some lovely humps and lumps--I'm not talking about camel humps and lumps, although you might find some of them in the Nature and Wildlife section of that excellent forum--positive comments made by other photographers seem exponentially increased when more attention was paid to the model's lumps in terms of lighting and/or pose.

Sometimes that "attention" is merely some soft and diffused highlighting or lumplighting, other times it's edge or rimlighting. Sometimes it has more to do with pose or composition and framing and, ideally, for this photo genre, it includes all of the above.

Here's some sample direction you might hear me giving models if you're on one of my sets: "C'mon... Tits up! Belly in, shoulders back, tits up!" Sorry if that sounds a bit crude. You might be thinking, "Gee Jimmy, you sure have a way with words." But the direction is immediately understood and has never gotten me a negative reaction from a model. I guess it's all in the delivery.

Regardless of how you accomplish it, lumplighting and lump-framing will often go a long way towards taking your glamour, tease, and art-nude photography to new levels of viewer appreciation.

The lovely lady lumps featured in this post are owned and operated by Roxi, Jessi, and Monica.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cheesecake vs. Cheeseycake

A glamour photography pet peeve of mine is when cheesecake becomes cheeseycake. Usually, this is a result of props, wardrobe, pose, or--in worst-case scenarios--all of the above.

Possibly, the #1 pose transporting an otherwise decent glamour or tease shot into the realm of cheeseyness is the finger in the mouth thing. Here's a tip and, again, this is all my personal opinion: Resist the urge to have the model put her finger in her mouth and adopting that supposedly coy, come-hither, Lolita-like expression. It is, for the most part, over-the-top, cheesey, and cliché. That's not to say I haven't been guilty of it myself although, more often than not, when the model "goes there" herself I ask her to not... go there that is.

What makes this pose even cheesier is when models are not only over 18 years of age--as they should be or, if nudity's involved, must be in a whole lot of glamour and tease photography--but they are WAY past 18 years of age.

For the most part, nothing says amateur more effectively than this pose or poses similar to it.

When it comes to props and/or wardrobe, here's some cheesey stuff that usually rolls my eyes: Angel's wings and the less-often-seen devil's horns or tails, schoolgirl outfits (specifically, on models well-past their schoolgirl prime), cheap faux Roman or Greek statuary, mottled muslin backgrounds, and wardrobe and props that are obviously mis-matched or lack authenticity in terms of their time-periods or historical eras. I know there's more and I know them when I see them but, unfortunately, I just got up and I'm still sipping my first cup of coffee and my brain's a bit foggy and no other examples are coming immediately to mind.

So let's all make the world a better place for this legitimate artform known as cheesecake photography and try to apply a less cheesier sense of aesthetics to our work.

The cheese-ily posed and attired model at the top of this post is Kelly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Thanks Stan!

Thanking "Stan" actually means I'm thanking Stanley Tools. You might not think Stanley Tools manufacturers photography gear. In fact, Stanley Tools might not think they manufacture photo gear. But they do. They make a really effective wind machine... you know, a fan!

Stanley's fan (pictured above) is a great piece of gear for blowing hair and clothing and whatever else you want to blow. Here are, in my opinion, some of its best qualities:

1. It has three speeds which allow for a gentle flow of air to something a bit more turbulent.

2. The wind it produces is fairly focused.

3. It has an easy-grip handle.

4. It rotates on a central axis and can be easily adjusted in the pitch axis. (Pitch, amongst many definitions, is an aeronautical term: It refers to the angle or degree an airplane's nose is pointing up or down. An aircraft's pitch is also called its angle of attack.)

5. It's lightweight and generates less complaints from assistants whose arms always seem to be tiring.

6. Parts of this fan are bright yellow in color so there's less chance of tripping over it in the dimness of a studio when only the modeling lights are producing ambient light.

7. Best of all, it's cheap. Like $40 cheap.

Sure, you can spend a lot of money on something that is specifically manufactured by a photo-gear or grip company for use in a studio. And when I say "a lot of money," I'm talking about a few hundred bucks or more. Or, you can spend $40 at somewhere like Wal-Mart (where I bought my Stanley fan) and buy some other gear with the money you've saved.

Here's Sammi (below) whose hair is being blown by a Stanley tool.

If you really want control while adjusting the power of the fan's air-flow, get yourself a Variac. Variacs are great additions to any studio. IMO, any self-respecting studio shouldn't be without one or more Variacs.

Variacs enable you to adjust the output of the A/C. No, not the "Air Conditioning." (Thermostats adjust your air conditioning.) I'm talking about electricity. I'm no electronics engineer but, in my limited understanding of these things, the difference between a Variac and a "dimmer" is dimmers use resistance to dim things and Variacs actually change the output of the alternating current which makes them really stellar and more effective for use with things like, well, things like Stanley Tool's wind machines. And, yes, you can also dim lights with a Variac if you're shooting with hotlights. A note of caution: Variacs can also increase the current past what your electric service provides. This means you can blow out lamps and bulbs if you're not careful and you crank your Variac up past 100%.

For those of you who mostly come here for the pretty girl pictures, here's some gratuitous eye-candy I recently shot. The model is Daphne. If eye-candy were real candy, Daphne would be a BIG BAR!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sexy Canvas Makes Erotic Art for the Home

This is kind of a novel approach: Erotic art on canvas. And their website allows you to see what the erotic artwork will look like in a room in your own home!

I received the following email from Joyce Elferink of

Sexycanvas Launches Inspiring Platform for Erotic Artwork is an inspiring environment to view and purchase erotic art. Visitors can browse through tastefully decorated rooms or upload an image of their own room to experience the works in various settings.

Visitors can browse through a user-friendly interface to choose artwork they like and then have it shown in a variety of different rooms. It gives a great perspective on how it might end up looking on your own walls. There are some great browsing options; you can just look through all the gallery pages one at a time. If you’d like you can narrow down the search a little and just have a look at specific categories. The categories are; black and white, color, paintings, photos, digital art, drawing, landscape, portrait, or you can simply browse by artist.

The reproductions are made using the "Giclee" digital process on high quality canvas. Visitors can order the print rolled up or opt for the stretched and varnished canvas.

Sexycanvas is an initiative of The Modular Company and over 50 artists worldwide. The Modular Company is a Dutch initiative which makes it possible to realise new media concepts without large budgets.

jimmy sez: Sounds like a cool idea. I knew the Dutch could come up with something better than wooden shoes and cheap cigars. I'm going to see if they'll put some of my work on canvas using that Giclee digital process. And if they do, I'm going to upload an image of a room in the Louvre. I've always wanted to see what my work would look like hanging in the Louvre. Maybe I'll have them put it next to the Mona Lisa.

Mola Speaks!

I received an email this morning from Mola Inc. Make that from Walter Melrose, photographer and inventor of Mola Softlights.

Walter writes:

Dear Jimmy:

Thank you for the kind review. I'm glad you enjoy our product and have shared your love of the light with so many. I am not a Blogger and this is the first Blog I have visited. As a shooter myself, being honest and open about the work we shoot and how we shoot it is not something most of us are comfortable with. Most if not all of our clients keep their love of the light a secret for fear someone will buy a Mola and copy their style.

Your honesty is refreshing.

Thank you

Walter Melrose
Mola Inc.

Jimmy sez: Well, there you have it from The Man, Mister Mola himself. Personally, I think Mr. Melrose's invention is quite possibly the premiere light modifier in the entire, known, photo-shooting universe. But maybe that's just me? Maybe other shooters, that is, those who are quite a bit ahead of me in the professional world of glamour, fashion, beauty, and portrait photography, know this even better than I do and that's why they keep their Mola dishes a secret? I really don't know. But what I do know is my Mola beauty dish IS my secret weapon and, being the unselfish kind of guy that I am, I'm willing to let everyone know they can have one of these uber-photographer classified, "Top Secret" weapons for themselves. All you have to do is buy one. BTW, in case you were wondering, I don't receive sales commissions from Mola, Inc.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Attitude and Emotion

Human beings are emotionally complex. Sometimes the emotions they convey are fairly easy to read but, other times, they're subtle and confusing.

In glamour, portrait and other forms of people photography, subtlely imparted emotions can be mysterious yet fascinating. When pictures speak a thousand words, especially pictures of people, it's often due to the refined and faintly conveyed emotions we see in the eyes, faces, and body language of the subject. As photographers, we further shade this human mystique with light and shadow and composition.

In images of people, hard-to-label emotions are often explained off as being "enigmatic." Da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a perfect example: What's with that famous smile? Is it really a smile or is something else? Maybe it's a grin or a simper? Is she happy, wistful, or melancholy? Does she have gas? Maybe we'll never know. But one thing that's fairly certain: People will admire, that is, they'll be charmed and captivated by Da Vinci's portrait and his model's enigmatic smile for... well, probably forever.

How would you like to capture an image that fascinates people forever?

Yeah, me too.

With most of the stuff I shoot, I'm looking for the model to sell whatever her image is supposed to sell with sexual energy, charisma, sensuality, and seduction. This, of course, is pretty potent stuff and works well. And it doesn't just work on the males of our species. Many females want to believe they're made of the same stuff. In other words, they long to be perceived as being every bit as sensual and seductive as the models in the images they see. Madison Avenue has known this since it became the cornerstone of the advertising world. Sex sells, right?

I've written about this before and I'm writing about it again. This whole thing about taking some time to try something different. Not just with the lighting or by getting whacky (as I've written about in earlier posts), but with attitude and emotion.

For me, sometimes it's simply a matter of--once we've finished shooting what we're being paid to shoot--asking the model to give me some attitude or show me some real emotion, something different than the "Look at me! Aren't I sexy?" stuff we've been shooting. Sometimes I direct her towards a specific attitude or emotion. Other times I don't specify what the attitude or emotion might be. Instead, I give the model full reign to show me what she wants to show me and to affect whatever attitude she chooses. It's a fun game. Sometimes, I pick the emotion. Sometimes, I want her to pick the emotion, any emotion, and go with it. And sometimes I ask them to give me a range of emotions. I have to admit, I've often loved the results once i cherry-pick through the pics. And it especially tweeks my interest when those results include attitude, emotion, or both that is subtle, illusive, and difficult to read... you know, when the images have that mysterious and enigmatic thing happening.

The often mysterious, sometimes enigmatic, model featured in this post is Cytherea. In ancient Greek mythology, Cytherea was the daughter of Zeus as well as the goddess of love and beauty. Many might remember her better from Roman mythology where the ancient Romans knew her as Venus.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Me and My Mola: A Love Affair

I love my Mola 33.5" Euro beauty dish. I don't mean I like it, I love it! It has become the pivotal, pre-eminent, light modifier in nearly all my glamour and tease photography.

Before I became a Mola guy, I used big umbrellas and softboxes of all shapes and sizes as keys or mainlights. But once I began using a Mola dish, the softboxes and the umbrellas I once used to modify my mainlight were put away and I've rarely brought them out except when traveling to exterior or interior locations away from the studio.

As you can see in the image above, Mola manufactures a variety of dish sizes (i.e., diameters) for their beauty dish line. I'm wondering: If Mola someday decides to make an even larger dish than the 43.5" Mantti, will they call it a Yetti? (That was a joke, BTW.)

The Mola dish is truly a versatile modifier. I'll admit, it's not cheap. But if you're serious about glamour, portrait, beauty, or fashion photography, and you shoot often enough in a studio environment, there isn't a light modifier I'd recommend more enthusiastically than a Mola beauty dish.

I know other manufacturers produce and sell their own lines of beauty dishes. Hensel, for example, makes a beauty dish. But since I've never used one, or any other manufacturer's dish, I can't comment on their prowess when it comes to transforming a bare bulb into soft, creamy, luxurious light.

When you compare Mola's dishes with others, the first thing you'll notice is Mola's unique and patented sci-fi shape. I'm not much of a science guy--except for science fiction because you can make it up as you go along--but from what I understand, Mola's odd, undulated, shape is designed to capture light (which, by nature, wants to scatter) and redirect it towards the subject. It also shapes the light by creating a 360° smoothly-graduated and feathered edge that is about a half-stop less than the light at its center. Cool, huh?

Mola's design includes an opalescent glass baffle at its center. The baffle works in concert with the dish's shape to produce the beautful lighting characteristics that so many photographers, professionals as well as hobbyists, admire. I also use the baffle to warm or cool the light by affixing an appropriate gel. Often, for glamour and tease shots, I'll clip a small piece of Bastard Amber, about four-inches by four-inches, to the front of the glass. To my eye, this produces a very pleasing warmth to the model's skin-tones that seems, at least to me, a bit more subtle than the same colored gel on other modifiers. I think I read somewhere that the paint used on the interior of a Mola dish is patented. The paint also has slight warming characteristics.

I keep my Mola mounted on the end of a grip arm which extends from a knuckle on a junior stand. This allows for limited booming as grip arms are only about 4' long. Since the junior stand is on wheels, I can easily move it about. The dish comes with a swivel handle that allows (limited) tilting and panning depending on how the dish is set and oriented on the stand. I've also discovered the Mola's optimal range, that is, for producing its signature lighting characteristics, seems to be between 3' and 5' from the subject.

Mola's Euro beauty dish has become one of those great additions to my studio; one that I really don't know how I got along without. In fact, I intend to buy another, probably a smaller dish, when my wallet permits. You can visit Mola's site by clicking HERE. And here's a headshot of Aurora lit with my Mola beauty dish which you can see if look really, really close into the catchlights in Aurora's eyes. MUA was Terese Heddon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Day, Another Pretty Girl

Today was much like many other days: Another day shooting another pretty girl. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to make it sound hum-drum. I love my job!

Nothing particularly unusual took place, leastwise from a photographic perspective. The model showed up on time although, for Taylor, getting here meant a flight from Phoenix and then a car-ride from Burbank Airport.

Taylor, today's pretty girl, is easy to spot in the pic above. She's the pretty one with the lights all around her. Today's Pretty Girl Shooter assistant, Dave, can also be seen crouched down and holding the fan. Assisting on shoots isn't Dave's main job. He's also a musician, a drummer, and if you ask Dave just about anything--in fact, you don't have to actually ask--he'll somehow manage to work tales of that time he and his band were on tour with Journey into the answer. I know the stories so well I feel like I was there... with Dave... on journies with Journey.

Taylor was a lot of fun. She had never been in front of studio lights and a glam-cam before. Her experience, according to this sexy girl, consisted of "Some internet pictures that were taken by my husband in the backyard."

Once we started shooting, she certainly didn't act like a newbie. She worked the camera like a pro. Gotta love models like that, new or not!

Here's a shot of Taylor from today's shoot. We shot for hours and I captured hundreds of images. I haven't really gone through them yet but this one caught my eye. Later on, some graphic designer will be messing with my pics but here's what Taylor looks like straight out of the camera with just a few, typical, post-production adjustments, minor alterations, and probably still in need of some color de-saturation-- She looks a bit too on fire with the Bastard Amber gel working on her. Regardless, she's easy enough on the eyes, no?

Look What They Did to My Pictures, Ma!

It's a fact of photo-life: If you're a shooter-4-hire, someone else is going to mess with your work.

I sometimes have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I realize it's simply the nature of the beast. On the other, my natural inclination is to protect my work, i.e., protect my signature style--assuming I have some sort of signature style--but assuming I do, I'm inclined to be a bit protective of it.

This isn't to say that the people who mess with my stuff necessarily do so poorly. But when they do, mess with my work that is, and whether they do so poorly or nicely it doesn't look like my work anymore. And when that happens, can I really lay claim to that work? I'm not talking about from a legal perspective. My copyright is my copyright, my work is my work, but when it's licensed to others or it was shot under a shoot-4-hire situation, others have rights and those rights usually include messing with my pics and when they do, sometimes in big ways, it doesn't seem like my work anymore and that can give me angst... or gas, sometimes both.

I understand that graphic designers and photo-editors are important contributors to the process of making images that sell. Whether their selling the images themselves or, as is usually the case, using the images to sell something else doesn't really matter to my ego. My ego says, "Whoa! That's my hard work and creative genius you messed with, pal!"

Even when my hard work and creative genius has produced lackluster images and then some gifted graphic designer--suddenly and magically--transformed those images into something that sells, that is, he or she frosted the turds with wonderful results, my ego still has its nose out of joint. I guess people are funny that way. Apparently, I'm no exception.

And then there's those times when the turd-frosting is put on images that aren't turds. As in images that are quite beautiful and creative and have real impact. Then Mister Ego really goes into a tailspin! "What? I give you this masterpiece and you screw with it? You gaussian blur it and diffusion glow it? You colorize and posterize, metamorphisize and super-size it to the point I can't recognize it as my own, incredibly gifted, gallery-quality work?"

Hold on a second while, after making that "gallery-quality" comment, I dislodge my tongue from my cheek.

But the point is, can I still claim this work, even when it was good when I shot it and it's now even better, as mine? I mean honestly and sincerely mine? Like, you know, when you're lying awake with angst-drive insomnia thinking about this kind of stuff in the dark hours of the night, mine?

The truth is, if I'm really honest with myself, I don't know. I don't know if it's still wholly mine.

The models in my messed-with-by-someone-else images in this post are, from top-to-bottom, Paris, Charmane, and Cindy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Glamour in the Great Outdoors

I don't get out much. And as a photographer, I get out way less than I should. The bane of studio ownership is the lazyness it creates. Why pack up a bunch of gear and head to some remote, exterior, location when everything I need--including and especially comfort--is right here, in my studio? Like I said, "lazyness."

Sometimes, though, I manage to get my butt in gear and head off for some outdoor shooting. Generally, when I do so, I come back with some images that I'm fairly pleased with, probably because the outdoor images are so different from the studio images I normally shoot and that, in and of itself, can be artistically refreshing.

Shooting outdoors is like going hunting. You're not only hunting for great locations to shoot at, your also hunting for that ever-elusive perfect light.

Perfect light is, in my opinion, something of a misnomer. Yeah, it exists. But, for the most part, it doesn't often exist all by itself. It usually needs a little help. Not always, but often enough. I'm talking about light modification, amplification, and removal. From a photography perspective, that means scrims, flags, reflectors, strobes, filters, and all that kind of stuff. It can sometimes be more on the simple side, a reflector or fill-flash, or it can get complicated: Large, overhead silks, big, shiny-board reflectors, and HMIs with generators to power them.

It's a rare ocassion when you'll come across perfect light, especially when shooting people as the principle focus of your shots. Why? Because you're most-often looking for perfect light coming from a single source: The sun. And the sun could care less if you think the light its creating is perfect or imperfect. It simply radiates light-- good, bad, or so-so light, i.e., from a photographer's point-of-view.

Another drawback to outdoor shooting, that is, when you intend to use scrims, flags, reflectors, and such, is the need to have others with you: One or two or sometimes more people are required, other than the model and yourself, to wield those light modifiers. That means an assistant or assistants or, simply said, a crew. You see what I mean? Shooting glamour outside gets complicated and sometimes requires more in terms of both effort and assistance. I'm not saying great images can't be captured without extra help and gear, they often are, I'm saying it's sometimes harder to accomplish it depending on your expectations and/or the expectations of a client. There's that lazyness thing popping back up again. But it's not always about lazyness. Sometimes there's no way you're going to get those great shots without help and specialized gear. The sun is fickle. It doesn't always perform as expected. Shooting outside can get complicated and require more to get the job done.

Often enough, I see images posted on photography forums where an outdoor shot of a pretty-enough model could have had so much more impact if the photographer had used light modifiers or amplifiers. I understand that most of the photographers on these boards are hobbyists but it seems to me everyone has a friend or two who might occasionally accompany you, the shooter, and hold a reflector-- bouncing some light on a pretty, naked, woman. Is that such a hard thing to ask of your pals? At the very least, how hard is it to mount a strobe on a hot-shoe and provide some fill-flash?

Shooting glamour outside can be rewarding, frustrating, time-consuming, require extra effort, but, in the end, it's the images you capture that count. Whether you're capturing these images for a paycheck or for self-gratification or even for bragging rights on photo forums, it's worth the extra effort to do it right.

Like my Dad and possibly your's was fond of saying: If it's worth doing, do it right!

The beautiful and sexy model who accompanied me to the location I shot these pics at is Ms. Kori Rae. A pal and also a photographer, Rick H., went along as well and Rick and I took turns being each other's assistants.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Post With No Name

From a fairly early age, I knew I had creative and artistic aspirations. I also knew I couldn't sketch, draw, paint, or sculpt worth a damn. I tried music-- first with a trumpet and, later, the organ and electric keyboards. Alas, I wasn't particularly musical. Besides, I already figured whatever artistic talents I might possess or develop resided in visual media.

Then, when I was twelve years of age, my father presented me with a special and exciting gift: a Yashica Penta J 35mm SLR camera. Dad didn't give me this camera because he was keenly aware of my artistic desires, he gave it to me because he thought I needed a hobby. The fact that I already had some hobbies, like fishing and other sports, didn't seem to matter to my Dad. I guess he figured another hobby wouldn't hurt, especially as I entered the dread, teen years.

Regardless, it was a present that changed the course of my life and, somehow and some way, I knew that cameras would be tools I'd be working with throughout the course of my lifetime.

I can't say I ever suspected where my photographic journey would lead me and I'm pretty sure it hasn't finished leading me to wherever it still might go. It's already taken me to some interesting places. When I was in high school, for instance, if anyone had told me that, one day, I would routinely be photographing beautful, naked, women, and being paid to do so, I would have thought them, uhh... what do the Brits say? Balmy?

Today, as I go about my job of shooting pretty girls (always 18 years of age and older I should add) I sometimes find less and less satisfaction in it. This condition has nothing to do with pretty naked women becoming tiresome to my eyes or boring as subjects in front of my lens. It has more to do with the style in which I often capture them. Everyone is answerable to someone and in my case, probably your's as well, it's answerable to whomever is writing the checks. The check-writers have certain expectations and those expectations don't usually include experimentation or pursuing "art" on their dime. They don't want art. They want craft. They want skill. They want what they want and what they want isn't always what I want... to shoot, that is. Again, I'm not talking about the subjects I shoot as much as the style and manner in which I capture those subjects.

I spend some time, probably less than I should, shooting for free, for fun, for the heck of it. I love shooting. Make that, I love shooting women. For me, the female form is the most beautiful thing in the world. It captivates, it excites, it arouses, and no matter how often I look upon a beautiful and shapely woman's sumptuous form, it never ceases to awaken something primal and earthy and, as far as I'm concerned, completely natural in me.

I don't believe there's anything wrong or, as some people think, perverted in this. To my way of thinking, it's a completely natural male response. How a man behaves and conducts himself is the deciding factor that might or might not register on society's Perv Meter or, at least, that's how it should be. And I'm good at masking both my cerebral and primitive responses, as well as the physical sensations it awakens. Models, once they've become somewhat experienced working with photographers, develop a keenly accurate Pervdar and it would be a rare and unusual situation for my presence to start blipping away on some model's Pervdar screen.

All this doesn't mean I necessarily and, as a rule, want to photograph women as angelic figures on pedestals or Goddess-like. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. And I don't simply want to shoot them purely as sex objects which, often enough, the check-writers require me to do. Frankly, I don't have a problem with that. And I also don't have a problem photographically objectifying sex and the women who are the object of that sexual objectification. Is doing so such a bad thing? Okay, I'm sure a few feminists have a problem with it as well as those with certain religious convictions. But, hey! We're guys, right?

Men's natural desires for women are complex. Those desires take many forms. Sometimes I enjoy, as an example, exploring (photographically, of course) some of the darker sides of the myriad of ways in which men's desires for women manifests itself. What's wrong with that? Beats me.

You might be wondering if this blog entry has a point. I'm wondering that myself. I'm simply going with the flow with some thoughts I'm having and, honestly, I'm not sure where it's going or if it's even going anywhere for that matter. Maybe it's already run its course? Maybe it's just some words to go with some pictures? Maybe it's just some blogging form of pseudo-intellectual masturbation? I really don't know. You try writing this stuff everyday.

Katie is the model in the images accompanying this post. She was fun to work with and provided some welcomed respite from the stuff I usually shoot.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wireless Transmitters

Okay, so you've decided it's time to be able to fire your lights with a wireless system. You take a trip to your local photography store or you look online at places like B&H, Samy's, Adorama, and others, and you come away with sticker shock!

"It's gonna cost how much to remotely fire my lights?"

Suddenly, being tethered to a cable between you and your lights doesn't seem so annoying or inhibiting. After all, a lot of photographers for a lot of years made do without wireless sytems.

So here's my advice which I feel I can freely give at this time because you don't see any advertisements on this blog from photo-retailers or manufacturers. Don't waste your money on the high-priced wireless systems unless those systems really REALLY have functions that you cannot really REALLY live without.

For me, I bought one of those cheap-oh, Hong Kong-produced systems off E-Bay that cost about $40 and have a really low profile when sitting on my hotshoe. In fact, I bought two systems because they're so cheap. And I bought them over two years ago and, to this day, they haven't failed me.

Here's the deal: I never shoot models where I'm more than 100 feet away from them. (That's the range of my Hong Kong specials.) In fact, I'm almost never more than ten or twenty feet away from the models. Sure, you can buy a system for about ten times the cost that will give you an effective range of approximately 1600 feet but when was the last time you needed to fire a strobe sixteen-hundred feet away? I'm talking about those of you who shoot glam, portraits, fine art nudes, and similar genres.

Then there's the frequency argument. Well, my little Hong Kong systems let me choose between four frequencies. I don't think I need more than four frequencies. Actually, I've never used more than one frequency and I shoot a lot of pretty girls in my pretty girl shooter business.

Let's not forget about being able to fire my lights with my lightmeter because some lightmeter companies have deals with some wireless companies and they've integrated some components so I can fire my lights with my meter when I'm ready to take a meter reading. (How was that for a run-on sentence?) Anyway, I'm lazy but not that lazy. Besides, since I bought two of the cheapie systems I keep one of the little transmitters in my pocket so that, like a wizard, I can magically fire my lights with one hand in my pocket and the other holding my meter. Sure, sometimes the models look at me funny--like they think I'm playing with myself while I'm groping for my pocket transmitter--but that's easy enough to explain off. Well, usually it is.

So there you have it: The official and current position of the Pretty Girl Shooter Blog regarding wireless systems. The gratuitous eye-candy featured in this post is Roxanne who I shot without the benefit of strobes or Hong Kong wireless systems but, rather, with the help of the late-afternoon, "Golden Hour," sun and an assistant with a gold reflector.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout Black Chicks

When I shoot women of color I usually don't change much of anything in terms of lighting, exposure, or my set-side manner. I'll admit, there are times when I think to myself, "The darker the skin, the more I might want to consider contrast issues," i.e., contrast between the model and the background and/or the environment she's placed in, but that's about it. For whatever it's worth, I consider the same implications for someone of very light skin.

All people photograph nicely, make that good skin tone will result, when exposed using 18% gray as an average reference for exposure regardless of skin color. Whether you're shooting a Nordic blonde or a Jamaican black, reading the light bouncing off an 18% gray card or the light falling on your model is going to give you good, average, skin tone for all subjects whether they're black, white, green, or purple. 18% gray was a reference developed by film manufacturers and it's been engineered into sensors and processors for digital capture.

As mentioned, when I shoot black chicks I don't change my manner. I don't suddenly try to act "black," peppering my speech with hip-hop talk. I'm the same me regardless of my subject. I don't quickly toss a Rap or Hip-Hop CD into the stereo simply because the model is black, unless it's requested. I only mention this because I've seen it happen. As a side-note, I have fairly eclectic musical tastes and I keep everything from The Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas in my CD collection. When shooting, I can satisfy most models's musical cravings with just about anything popular except Country/Western, Bluegrass, Big Band, Gospel, or the musical stylings of Ooom-pah-pah bands. The latter, I might add and to best of my recollection, has never been requested.

I'm only writing briefly on this subject because on more than one occasion--make that on more than a few occasions--I've had photographers or videographers ask me if they should be over-exposing for black people or beaming, as they sometimes have said, "Way more light on them." I'd mention my usual response to these shooters, which is often in the form of two words made popular by comedian,Chris Rock, but I don't want to risk offending anyone here, on my blog. When I offend people, which I do often enough, I prefer to do it elsewhere.

Models featured in this post are, from top to bottom, Alisha, Trina, and Andrea. Also, from top to bottom, the models are depicted in examples of glamour, art, and fashion.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!

Believe it or not, photographing pretty girls with their clothes on and off can sometimes become boring and repetitive. It's like working in a candy store: Sooner or later, no matter how much of a sweet tooth you might have, candy loses some of it's appeal... well, briefly and only occasionally and not for too long. (Whew!)

It's during these times, during these uninspired moments, when I feel like I need to do something a little different to help maintain my shooter-related sanity; not that I'm all that sane to begin with.

When time permits, I occasionally enjoy getting a little whacky with the shots. If the model is agreeable and she's not in a rush to get out the door, I'll ask if we can try shooting some stuff that's a bit contrary to the same ole, same ole stuff-- Not really dramatically different in terms lighting and photographic style, just some goofy stuff... you know, to break up the tedium. I usually warn the model what we're about to shoot might not be images she'll want in her portfolio, but we might end up with a few, really-fun-pics, that we'll both like.

During a recent shoot with Cindy (pictured in this post), we had some extra time. I'd already gotten everything the client needed but I was having a great time shooting with her and she seemed to be enjoying herself so I suggested we shoot some kooky stuff.

My assistant on this shoot, Cippy (prounounced Sippy which is short for his given name, Cipriano), kept his mouth shut but rolled his eyes. As far as Cippy was concerned, the shoot was over, he'd already earned his "day rate," and he wanted to go home. Sorry Cippy! I wanted to have some fun and I needed some help and Cippy wasn't going anywhere just yet and he knew it... hence, the rolling eyes. Cippy's worked with me quite a few times and he knew the drill: His time isn't a big concern to me when I'm having fun. Hey! Is that so wrong?

Cindy was already naked which, if you knew Cindy, you'd know is a condition she's quite comfortable with in front of the camera and, I'm guessing, in life in general. Models with attitudes like her's are always a plus when shooting T&A!

I needed Cippy to lie on his back between Cindy's legs and, while Cindy stood over him, hold the fan up with outstretched arms and pointing it straight up at the underside of Cindy's, uhhh... private parts. Cippy needed to hold the fan in such a way that the wind it created would be split between Cindy's front side and her rear. This would blow Cindy's long, blonde hair almost straight up and, as we soon discovered, if Cippy moved the fan back and forth, from Cindy's front to rear, and angled it this way and that, her hair would be blowing all over the place in weird and freaky ways. For a few of the shots, I added a second fan and propped it atop a couple of stacked apple boxes, turned up on their ends.

Suddenly, Cippy's whole attitude changed as he grabbed the fan, dropped quickly to the floor, rolled onto his back and shimmied himself between and under Cindy's long legs. I'd never seen Cippy move so fast!

While Cippy dutifully and enthsiastically manned the fan, I directed Cindy to grab at her hair (or whatever else she wanted to grab at) and shout. I mean shout! Shout as in shriek as in primeval screams! One thing about Cindy, she ain't shy.

Cindy grabbed at her hair and other things and let loose and howled! She growled and snarled and grunted and groaned loudly. I was loving it! But Cippy's smile soon began to fade. He was starting to look a bit nervous. I think he was concerned about what was going to happen next, where all this was going, or what I might next ask Cindy to do or what Cindy, herself, might decide to do. Cippy's a gentle soul. And, in spite of the fact that he's around sexy, naked, chicks fairly regularly, Cippy isn't exactly what you'd call a worldly guy. Me, I was hoping the neighbors weren't listening too closely. I had the music cranked up and it ocurred to me they might be thinking there was murder taking place at a party in my studio! Oh well! I shrugged it off and shot. I was giggling and gleefully snapping away, encouraging Cindy to keep going at it.

So next time you're bored, try something different. Try shooting some whacky stuff. You might like the results. You'll never know till you try, right?

Photo Skills vs. People Skills

The title for this post is probably misleading. I don't mean to infer that a shooter's photography skills are in competition with his or her people skills. Obviously, they are each a separate set of skills that should compliment each other.

In many of the posts I've already written, I've touched on--sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways--the importance of people skills when shooting people. I keep coming back to this because it seems to me these skills, these people skills, are sometimes overlooked as necessary and vital components to effective people photography.

It's my opinion that people skills are as important as your photography skills when shooting glamour, tease, portraits, weddings, well, just about any genre of photography that puts people in front of your camera. But I'll focus on glamour and tease because, mostly, that's what I shoot.

I've attended enough photo sets where the shooter became so preoccupied with the mechanics of shooting the model that the model felt like a prop. I even know a few photographers who believe the model IS little more than a prop. Most of the time, however, the photographer didn't intend to treat the model in this way. But that was the end result. When that happens, when the model is neglected except in courteous and minimal ways--intentionally or unintentionally--the result is, most often, less than dynamic images. When the model feels like a prop, especially if she is relatively inexperienced, she is, more than likely, going to act like a prop. If you're into shooting props, I suggest you take up product photography or still life imagery.

As photographers, we're capturing frozen moments in time. But that shouldn't mean images should evoke perceptions of frozen moments. A great glamour image evokes so much more. It conveys, or should convey, emotion and intimacy. It requires the model to give herself to the moment, to sell herself, to bare herself both emotionally and, sometimes, physically. And for that to happen, to take place effectively, requires photographers doing everything they can to pull the emotion out of the model and create those intimate moments.

What are the people skills I'm writing about? They include the ability to relax a model, to make her feel entirely comfortable with you, to build rapport and, in so doing, to induce a model to give her all to the camera-- i.e, not simply to be a lump of clay that you, being the great, visionary artist that you are, will mold into something beautiful and sexy and enticing. I'm talking about the model as living, breathing, animated. self-molding clay who (with the help of your direction and skills) molds herself into something exquisitely beautiful, captivating, sexy, and alive with emotion.

I know everyone isn't what is commonly called a people person. Not everyone has a knack for these so-called people skills. That's okay. It just means you're going to have work harder and train yourself to develop those social skills you do possess and make them effectively work for you. The key? Communication. Here's a tip: Don't flit about paying more attention to your camera, your lights, anything and everything but the model. Your attention should be focused, primarily and squarely, on the model and, pretty much, at all times. The last thing you want happening is a model feeling like she's alone during a shoot. The fact is, she knows she's not alone. She knows you're there. She just simply can't figure out why you're acting like she's alone except in the most perfunctory of ways.

I've heard photographers say things like, "Just forget I'm here and let yourself go." Nice approach. Here's another tip: No matter what you say to this effect, the model is NOT going to forget you're there. She knows you're there and she knows most all of your visual attention is on her and any words to the contrary aren't going to make her feel like you're not there. Don't assume your model is an accomplished and trained actress possessing the abilities to assume the role of a character and block out everything else.

Communicate, commmunicate, communicate.

If you're not as familiar with your gear as you should be, that's okay. But you do need to get familiar with it and do so on your own time. If you're having problems, technical problems, communicate that to the model. Let her know you're having a problem with this or that. She's not going to think less of you because you're being honest with her. Everyone, at times, has technical problems. If you don't communicate what you're doing or what you're trying to overcome, she's going to think SHE is the problem. That's going to make her feel a bit insecure. Insecurity doesn't, as a rule, play well in front of a camera. Certainly not in glamour photography.

Remember this saying: It takes two to tango. I think it's a fairly appropriate adage for glamour shooting. Glamour photography is an ensemble production. Sometimes the ensemble also includes MUAs, stylists, assistants, and others. Sometimes it's just you and the model. Either way, everyone's contribution is a big part of the process as well as the results. But once the shooting begins, when it's mostly just you and the model, well, like I said, It takes two to tango.

Although your photo skills vs. people skills shouldn't be in competition with each other, they should not conflict with each other either.

The gratuitous eye-candy included with this post is Roxy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Frosting Turds

In his play, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote:

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"

What that means, in plain English, is this: A thing is what it is, not what it's called.

I spend a fair amount of time perusing photography forums. Each forum seems to have an almost tribal personality of its own. When it comes to critiquing work, the members of some forums are brutal and, on others, they are more attaboy-ish. The Chiefs and Indians on some forums lean more towards photography's rules and technical stuff while, on other boards, they are more focused on aesthetics and creativity. On still other boards, they're all about Wow! value and cultural and Pop trends. On some forums, many of the members are quite accomplished as photographers. On others, there seems to be a greater number of novices and, on others -- Dare I say it? -- wannabees.

On forums that specialize (or have sub-forums that specialize) in models and model photography, an unwritten rule seems to be: The hotter the model the more responses and praise is heaped on the photographer.

Good images, sometimes great images, of less-beautiful models or less-admired types of models rarely get as much attention paid to them. I guess that's human nature. Make that man nature.

What sometimes riles me, though, is when I see lackluster images of really hot models and yet the critiques heap praise on the photographer's skills-- Not the model's beauty but the photographer's skills! And maybe I'm being too polite here? Maybe I'm being a little too PC using words like "lackluster?" Maybe I should have said, "When I see images of beautiful models that (photographically) suck!"

Photographically speaking, a turd is a turd no matter how beautiful the model might be, how un-turd-like she is, or how hard the photographer has tried to frost the turd. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?" I don't think so.

So-called photographers can apply all the Gaussian Blur, Diffusion Glow, or any number of other Photoshop effects on a crummy photographic image and it's still a crummy image. I know this too well. I was once a Photoshop abuser. I spent less time honing my photography skills and more time frosting turds and learning even more ways to frost turds.

Hi. My name is Jimmy and I'm a turd-frosting Photoshop-a-holic.

It seems to me there's a whole lot of photographers out there who shouldn't be permitted to claim the title, Photographer. Instead, a more honest claim would be to a more appropriate label, like Turd-frosting Photoshop-a-holic. And even regarding those skills, Photoshop skills that is, they often still suck! Sometimes even moreso!

I'm thinking this kind of stuff is an unfortunate by-product of the digital age we live in-- An age where craft and skill have too-often been replaced by auto-functions, engineering and algorithms that attempt to replace talent, and instant-pudding expectations. We don't look at the work, we look at the product. And if the product looks hot, that is, we've been deceived into believeing it looks hot, even if the underlying quality is not, many will Oooh! and Aahhhh! over it.

I'm not speaking, of course, about anyone reading this blog. If you're taking the time to read this, whether you agree with what I'm saying or not, it means you are, more than likely, a person who is serious about your craft. A person who is willing to invest your time in learning and improving your photography skills. Whether you've reached an accomplished level as a photographer or you're still on the lower ends of the learning curve, you are a photographer.

Ich bin ein Fotograf.

For me, photography is a never-ending learning experience. There's not a day that goes by in which I don't learn something new or discover something that will improve my skills. I view the work of others, I read extensively on the subject, I visit forums, I practice, I experiment, I imagine and envision new ways to do things. And when I try out these new things (that are often-times a product of the reading and forum-visiting and experimenting I do), they don't always work. In fact, it seems like, more often than not, they don't work. But it also seems like everytime I try something new, something that doesn't work, it sparks an idea for something that might work or does work! Determination and a willingness to try out new things often seems to pay off like that.

Okay, I'm done lecturing. I'm off my soapbox. Here's an image of a young lady, Cindy, who is easy enough on the eyes. (Even if I was guilty of Amputated Arm Syndrome when I shot this.) Maybe she'll help you, uhh... digest what was, possibly, an overblown rant I just spewed.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shake It Up!

Sometimes you need to shake up the lighting. I know you worked hard to set it up and you might be very proud of yourself for the way you did so. It might also be that you have limited gear to work with. But since you also might have limited time with the model--and maybe only one time to work with her--why shoot everything, essentially, the same?

If you're shooting for a third-party client, there might be an expectation from that client regarding consistency. If you're shooting for fun or for TFCD, you might want to shake it up.

I'm not talking about striking your lighting setup and re-setting everything from scratch. Sometimes, all you need to do is move the key (mainlight) or add, remove, or change the fill (or other lights) you have working your set.

Here's some examples. All the changes I made took only a few moments to implement. I didn't have an assistant and I'm pretty lazy so, trust me, making these changes didn't require too much effort.

The first set-up (below) is fairly close to my standard glamour configuration with the exception of there being no fill opposite the mainlight. I guess I was going for something a bit more dramatic: Rembrandt patch, chiaroscuro, and all that good stuff. I shot this a while ago so please forgive me if I can't remember what I was thinking. (Not that I don't often ask myself, "What was I thinking???")

The beadboard flag, BTW, wasn't doing anything special-- It was simply flagging that stripbox, camera-right and behind her, so it didn't cause flares. The beauty dish is set just a little above her and I tilted it up a bit. I was looking to feather the light rather than have it strike her more directly. The camera-right stripbox is edging her body and legs and the the small, camera-right, softbox, as well as the overhead umbrella, are both working her hair. The camera-left stripbox is also edging her with highlights. As I recall, the camera-left stripbox was gelled with some magenta to subtely tie-in her hair and skin (on that side of her) with the primary color of her dress. All the lights working behind her, providing highlights, are also separating her from the background.

In the following image, I moved the beauty dish to the other side of the riser, or platform, she's standing on. The dish's stand has wheels so I didn't work up a sweat doing this. I also dropped the dish low and tilted it up. All the lights working from the rear were left alone. I re-set the beadboard flag and turned it into a beadboard reflector for a bit of fill opposite the mainlight. How tough was that to do?

For a final shake-up, I raised my mainlight high and tilted it down. I also reset the beadboard reflector under the dish to clamshell my mainlight. Everything else was left, pretty much, as it had been set. Once again, no sweat broken. But each of these lighting setups delivered distinct images in both lighting and style. All of this took place, BTW, during a two-hour session.

So shake it up once in a while! Later, when you're going through your images, you might be glad you did.

The model featured in this post is Cleo... as in Cleopatra. She really is Egyptian but grew up in Australia and now lives in L.A. Go figure.

Here's a few pics of Cleo from our two-hour session together. Each one illustrates subtle differences courtesy of the easily and quickly performed changes in the lighting. You can spot which image came from which lighting set-up, right? Think of it as a pop quiz.