Friday, September 29, 2006

Shop Lights Ain't for Photography

This one's aimed at some of you hobbyists out there. Not the experienced ones but you people who are starting out learning the craft of photography and, more specifically, studio lighting.

Here's the bad news: Shop lights suck for photography.

I'm writing about this because there was a thread on Glamour1 today where a shooter posted a pic of a model showing his first attempt at studio lighting. He used shop lights and, of course, the light was stark, flat, and unappealing. Coupled with what looked like minimal post-processing skills, the image (of a very pretty model) simply didn't work.

Here's what I wrote as a critique of his image. (He posted it in the "Photo Review & Critique" sub-forum.)

"Don't take this as me being unkind or elitist but the odds of you or anyone else who is new to shooting in a studio and who are using shop lights and who are hoping to capture images that are dynamic, polished, and professional-looking are remote. More than likely, doing so would be accidental and/or the product of dumb luck.

Shooting portraiture with shop lights and obtaining great results requires greater skill than shooting with lighting designed for such uses. Shop lights are, by their own design, popular with many people using them for many applications because of their ability to scatter a lot of light, flatly and broadly. Controlling and modifying shoplights, for photographic purposes, is difficult at best.

My suggestion: If you're serious about shooting studio portraits and even if you're on a shoestring budget get yourself some lights that are designed for use in photography. Heck, even old camera-mounted strobes (which you can find at swap meets, thrift stores, and yard sales) can be adapted to stands or in other ways to hold them in place and will be easier to control and modify than shoplights. Plus, they'll keep color temperature better. Or, buy the really, really cheap strobes on eBay. You don't need the bells and whistles that expensive gear costs. Maybe you'll have to wait for them to recycle a bit longer and maybe you'll have to treat them gingerly to keep from breaking and maybe the color temp will drift a bit but, again, they will be infinitely better for your development as a shooter than shop lights."

Now that I'm reading this again, I see my repsonse wasn't very well written but I think I got the point across. Hopefully and especially the part about it taking MORE skill to get good results with shop lights.

Shop lights throw light everywhere! Besides being HOT (easy to burn yourself or the model with them) and a potential fire danger, they're extremely unwieldy to control and/or modify. If you're going to start learning studio/portrait photography, get yourself one of those cheap JTL or other monolights off of eBay and begin practicing with a single light, then adding reflectors for fill. (DIY reflectors work great!)

Shoplights are like 800 lb. gorillas when it comes to portrait photography. You might think it's a good idea to invest an awful lot of time developing your shoplight portrait-style but, personally, I think you're better off developing a more rewarding portrait style and you're only going to do that with gear that's intended for that use. Hey! Some of you people have spent thousands on cameras and lenses. What's a hundred bucks or so for a real strobe?

Eye-candy posted with this little anti-shoplight rant is Stefani. I shot Stefani the other day while working the Tera Patrick production. She's really cute, ain't she? And that's a world-class behind on that young lady! The color is a little different on the second one as I added a gel to warm things up when I turned her around and faced her into the kicker, camera-left. I'll post more images of Stefani in future updates.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More of the Goddess of Glam

Does it sound like I'm still fairly jazzed about my shoot with Tera Patrick? If it does it's because I am. Some of you might be thinking, "Enough already. She's just another model." Nope. Sorry. She's not. She's had the cover of Playboy, the cover of Penthouse, and has appeared in I don't know how many magazines around the world. She's not just another glamour model.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not smitten. (Well, from a pretty girl shooter's point-of-view I suppose I am. But that's different then the traditional use of the word.) And I'm not in heat. I shoot a lot of pretty girls. I shoot them regularly. Plenty of them are so hot they sizzle. Fortunately, I've built something of a personal immunity to the effects of having sexy, naked, gorgeous babes dangling off the front of my camera lens. I don't know if that's a good thing or not? Especially from a purely "guy's" perspective. But that's how I've become. When shooting, I'm all about the process of capturing the model's beauty and sex appeal and not about collecting raw data to feed my fantasy life if you get my drift.

There was a time, years ago, when the crotch of my pants became a little tighter while shooting these babes. But that was then and this is now. Maybe because I'm older? Maybe because I'm a bit jaded? Maybe because there's been so many of them parading in front of me (often in their birthday suits) as I wielded a camera? I really don't know. It is what it is and I am what I am and, frankly, I think it's better this way. Now I can concentrate on the craft of photography and not be effected by other stuff going on in my head. That's a good thing, right?

Shooting Tera -- and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be shooting her again -- was personally memorable. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous but she truly "works" the camera and, for a shooter, that's a joy to behold. While we were shooting, I told her I felt like all I was doing was pushing my finger on the shutter. And that's kind of all I was doing. Tera simply busted move after move, pose after pose, and one sulty expression after another.

Plenty of girls who work in front of cameras could learn a lot from watching Tera work. She's incredibly focused and communicates so much with her eyes: Not just to the ultimate viewer, later on when her images are published, but to me, to the photographer. I always knew excatly when to let my finger depress the shutter because she told me when to do so with her eyes. With many models, everything sort of comes together -- body and expression -- into the next pose and that's when you snap. With Tera, it's not so much that she moves into the poses and then becomes still because she might still be moving when she tells you to snap. And she tells you when to do so merely with her eyes.

I don't know if any of this makes sense. Maybe. Maybe not. That's just how it went and it was a great, personal, experience as well as a great learning experience.

I messed around with a couple of Tera's images and converted them to monochrome. B&W often adds more "drama" to an image: I think it puts soul into a photograph. Maybe that's why in Westerns, Indians are so resistant to having their pictures taken. According to Hollywood, Native Americans believed the camera would steal their spirits. Maybe they knew something about it that photographers didn't back then? After all, all those early shooters had to work with was monochrome. It might not have been so much about the camera stealing the Indians' spirits but more about the soul of a photo that's captured in B&W and the Native Americans sensed that. Who knows? Not me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Goddess of Glam

I wasn't able to update yesterday as I was shooting at another studio. It was a long freakin' day! I arrived on-set about 8:30 A.M. and didn't leave from there till around midnight. Whew!

It was one of those gigs, however, that I was very excited about: An opportunity to shoot, amongst others, the Goddess of Glam herself, Ms. Tera Patrick.

Tera's been on my really, really, short, short-list of glamour models I've wanted to photograph for a very long time. Because of that, it seemed like the long day flew by quickly. Not only because I was getting paid to shoot someone I've really, really wanted to shoot, but because Tera is a genuine peach! She friendly and fun (no Diva crap whatsoever) completely at home in front of the camera (making my job so much easier) and a total professional in every way. Plus, of course, she's drop-dead gorgeous and that was some very sweet icing on the cake.

I received a call last week inquiring about my availability to shoot for Tera's company, TeraVision. It was difficult to hide my enthusiasm and I wanted to maintain my cool, calm, professonal demeanor since I am a cool, calm... uhh... professional.

Anyway, I was told Tera and her partner and husband, (Evan Seinfeld, bassist/vocalist for the band, "Biohazard," and a star of HBO's hit series, "Oz") had seen some stuff I shot for another company. The common demoninator between that show and getting the Tera gig was the production manager, Max. Max was the PM on the first show and also the PM on Tera's show so that's how some of my work ended up in front of Tera and Evan. I love when shit works that way!

I'm hoping shooting Tera will up my street cred a bit. I ain't saying I don't have any street cred, I do. But whenever you can grab a bit more of it, it's a good thing. In the competitive world of pretty girl shooting, it's not just about the quality of your work, it's also sometimes about who you shoot. Amongst glam-shooters, Tera is tops! It doesn't get much better if it does at all. The list of glamour models, like fashion models, who are branded and who have legions of fans is a fairly short list. Tera is right up there with those few super-glam-models who are very recognizeable, sought after, and can give a shooter some much-needed credibility and juice to go after the better gigs.

I'll let you know if it ends up doing just that.

At the end of the day, Tera gave me a hug and said, "I want you to know, Jimmy, I'm very happy with what you shot." Dang! Thank God for digital! The client gets to see the work instantly. Instant feedback! I love it because I'm such an impatient sort.

Below is a shot of Tera and a couple of the other models I shot during the course of the day. I tried lighting and composing it in a style I've seen in some group portraits, albeit they weren't glamour shots, published in Vanity Fair and a few other magazines.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Time is Money

There's been a rather lively thread raging on the Glamour1 main forum. It was started by some guy in Florida who... well, no one's sure what he does, exactly, but he either manages, pimps, publicizes, or simply hangs out with a bunch of wannabe models. Actually, I think many of them might be young strippers who ocassionally moonlight in front of cameras or shake their pretty behinds at trade shows. But maybe that's just me, thinking with my jaded mind... again.

The thread has, amongst other issues, gotten into the area of TFP/TFCD work. This guy has argued, essentially, that it's a waste of time for "his girls" to participate in any TFP/TFCD work because the shooter always get the better end of the deal. He discounts the shooter's time, experience, and gear as being worth little in comparison to the model's time. Even when someone asked if one of his models were offered to "test" with Richard Avedon, if Mr. Avedon were still alive, would it benefit his models? Not really: He believes Avedon would be getting the better end of the deal.

Dude please!

Anyway, I chimed in (again) at that point and wrote: "Once again, your ignorance is showing. It isn't MOSTLY about the model's fee being waived, it's MOSTLY about both the model's and the shooter's fees being waived. (Note: This guy had said that TFP/TFCD was "mostly" about the models' fees being waived.)

Time is money. Both time and money are things we spend to further our careers. Often, time is invested in hopes of accomplishing something that will put more money in our pockets. If a model has an opportunity to invest time with a photographer with, as an example already mentioned, the fame and stature of a Richard Avedon, she'd be an idiot to pass it up over not being paid. As a model, spending time in front of someone like Avedon's camera could generate way more money and prestige for her. Down the road, that investment has a greater chance of paying off than most piddly assignments for marginal rates.

Your girls attitudes on this subject, at least as you've describe them, have a typical stripper's or hooker's or porn star's perspective on this issue: Mercenary in the extreme with little or no appreciation of the future benefits of investing some time--without cash being put in their pockets--and what it could mean to a modeling career. This means, for the majority of them, they'll go nowhere as models... nowhere.

A porn star of some notoriety, Aurora Snow, has made tons of cash being the porn star she is. A year ago (or so), the well-known and celebrated photography team of Klinko and Indrani inquired about shooting her-- TFP. Since Aurora has some brains as well as hopes of being more than another pretty chick who chugs man-meat on a porn set, she not only jumped at the chance to shoot with Klinko and Indrani, she flew out to New York from L.A. on her own dime, paid her own expenses, gave up whatever cash she would have made if she stayed available for porn work. Why? For the opportunity to be photographed by the Klinko and Indrani team. That cost her more than time-- it cost her a few bucks to be sure.

My advice to the Fireball Models: Lose you." (Note: Fireball Models are "his" girls.)

Someone then noted that, with me suggesting the girls of Fireball Models "lose" this guy, the "gloves" were off. I responded with, "Sometimes ya gotta bare-handed smack someone upside the head to try and knock some sense into them. In this case, I doubt it will make an impression. He's already argued against logic and sound advice with everyone who's posted. But then, he does things differently." (Note: This guy doing things "differently" was an often-seen defense, by him, in response to much of the "logic and sound advice" the forum's members offered him.)

Here's some advice for models: If you have an opportunity to shoot TFP/TFCD with a photographer whose work seems like it would either add images to your port that would benefit you or whose notoriety or stature as a photographer would increase potential bookers' perception of you, don't just agree to the shoot, jump at the chance! And if some guy tells you different, i.e., he tells you that your time is worth more than the shooter's time, ignore this imbecile. He's looking out for himself and for what his relationship with you will do for him, not what the experience and results of the TFP/TFCD shoot might do for you.

Pics posted are of Ms. Aurora Snow. I don't recall if I've posted these images of Aurora already before. If I have, I'm fairly confident most of you can visually endure experiencing her again.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


To quote Rod Stewart, "Every picture tells a story don't it?"

A photographer friend of mine sent along this (doctored?) image someone posted to a photographer's forum. Says it all, doesn't it? I laughed pretty hard when I saw it. It's a quite humorous de facto representation of the GWC aesthetic.

If you don't know what a GWC is, it's an acronym which stands for "Guy With a Camera."

Of course, every guy who holds/shoots a camera is, technically, a guy with a camera. But in the world of shooting pretty ladies, GWC has a special connotation: It refers to guys who masquerade as serious photographers, i.e., regarding the more artful and true definitions of the word. They do this in order to be around and photograph good-looking chicks. (Actually, GWCs are sometimes "artful" but the use of the word is more appropriate when used in word pairings similar to "artful dodger.") GWCs are also those who use cameras to satisfy more prurient interests while making little or no attempt at hiding their less-than-laudable ambitions.

Don't get me wrong. One doesn't need to be of exceptionally pure mind and character to engage in pretty girl shooting. A somewhat salacious eye can, occasionally, be quite helpful in capturing the essence of a model's sex appeal and produce quality images that target the right audience. But, as a rule, GWCs have little interest or skill in the craft of photography and simply use cameras as a means to an end. They've taken girl-watching to new levels. And, in the world of glam photographers, they're the guys who give those who pursue this thing -- seriously and with professional decorum -- a bad rep.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Thanks People!

There are a bunch of reasons I write this blog, not the least of which is the ego rewards of knowing people are actually reading it or, at least, checking out my pics. (Regardless if the pics are sometimes good, they suck, or fall somewhere in between.)

Based on traffic data, this Pretty Girl Shooter effort of mine seems to be growing steadily in terms of the numbers of visitors coming by daily: The PGS blog, which is only about three-months old, is now averaging about 700 visits/day and inching up weekly. (Posting pics of naked chicks probably helps.)

I suppose, in the wider-world of internet traffic, 700 daily visitors to a site is not a particularly great achievement. Since the stats indicate that the majority of you are "returning" visitors, however, it tells me that I occasionally must be posting info that a group of people find of some interest even if, for some, that interest might be gratuitious eye-candy.

Not to belabor this, cuz I don't want to sound all mushy, thanks again for stopping by and keeping me motivated to write.

Whether you visit for the babes, the photo talk, or both, today's sample of eye-candy is Riley, captured a month or so ago with a Canon 5D, 85mm f/1.8 prime, ISO 100, f/5 @ 125th. MUA was Michelle. Natural light mixed with two strobes with umbrellas.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Meeting with Earl Miller

I met with Earl Miller today. Earl is aristocracy in the pretty girl shooter/glamour photography biz. Duke of Earl, anyone?

It wasn't a social call. Earl and I had some biz-a-ness to discuss. He asked me to come by to talk about some future stuff we might do.

Earl Miller, if you didn't know, is Penthouse magazine's most published photographer. If a model is a high-end glam-chick, there's a good chance she's strutted her stuff in front of Earl's camera.

I'd never met Earl before. He's a cool guy. A bit intense at first but then he warms up once--at least, this was my take on it--he decides someone has a clue what they're talking about. (Which I'm sometimes pretty good at faking and convincing others that I do.)

Of course, the JimmyD charm is always a big plus.

Earl's base of operations is his home. And a nice house it is! I'm guessing it's approx. 4,000 square feet. Earl's crib is tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac in the Northwest corner of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. He's built a spacious office behind the house. His office walls are decorated with many of the Penthouse covers that he's shot-- blown up to poster-size and, some of them, autographed by the model on the cover. The outside of the office--you enter it from the rear of the house--is bordered by EM's meticulously landscaped backyard complete with a sparkling pool, waterfalls, and lots of trees, bushes, and foliage providing near-total privacy. The inside of the house is where Earl also does a lot of his shooting. He told me the walls throughout his home are either repainted or recovered with stylish treatments on a regular basis. That way, it provides interior locations that are always fresh and new. His 3-car garage is filled with props and set-pieces. He told me he decided to work out of his spacious, upscale home some years ago after he and his wife parted.

To paraphrase the late, great, Pittsburgh Pirates, ball player, Roberto Clemente: Glamour photography has been very, very good to Earl.

Although I wasn't visiting with Earl to pick his brain or glean some glam photography tips, I picked it a bit nonetheless. I asked hinm about the current Penthouse magazine now that it's no longer owned by Bob "The Gooch" Guccione. Earl tells me he's shooting for the new owners and they have big plans for Penthouse. Somewhere else during the conversation, we got to talking about lighting. Earl's big on kickers and highlights and I'll admit I've been influenced by Earl's work. Earl prefers to gel the kickers. I asked what color gels he likes to use: "Bastard Amber?" I ventured. Nope. Earl thinks BA is too orange. He prefers Roscoe's "straw" and gels closer to that in color. According to Earl, he's most captivated by a model's face. Sure, a great body is requisite for great glamour shots, but it's the model's face that draws Earl in.

Well, there's my Earl Miller mini-report. I didn't go there to talk shop or gather Earl's thoughts so I could write them up here, on the blog. I went there to talk business. But I figured some of you, like me, might be admirers of Earl's work and so I was a little determined to get into Earl's head a bit... as it pertains to glamour photography.

The pretty girl pics posted with this blog entry are of Nautica. The first two images of Nautica I shot a month ago or so. The next two images of this beauty I captured more than two years ago. Once again, time flies. But, as you can see, time's been very, very good to Ms. Nautica... Just like shooting models (like her) has been very, very good to Earl Miller.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Playboy Line

Remember the infamous and bloody Siegfried Line of World War 1? Me neither. I ain't that old. But, perhaps like me, you've read about it.

The 20th Century saw lines of all manner being drawn-- Real, imaginary, even arbitrary. These lines depicted a point or place or, well, a line where crossing (or not crossing) that line indicated something. It's like drawing a line in the sand or, when we were kids, drawing a line and daring someone to cross it... usually as a preamble to a fight. Other words for these kinds of lines include borders and boundaries.

In glamour photography, there's a known line, a border or boundary, that most shooters are aware of: The Playboy line. Not everyone might call it that but most shooters know what it is and where it's at when it's spoken about.

The Playboy line speaks to a model's limitations in terms of what she will or will not do in front of a camera. If I'm negotiating with a model and I ask her about her limitations and she says she's okay with everything up to Playboy, I know where that line is and I know exactly what she's talking about. She's willing to pose naked in a classy and tasteful way without open or "pink" shots or beyond.

On the other hand, talking about the Playboy line -- in terms of limitations -- and discussing Playboy's photographic style are two different things. Don't confuse the Playboy line with Playboy's photography style. If a model tells me she's hoping we're going to do some Playboy style photography, that says something different to me then if she tells me her limitations are up to Playboy. For instance, I can try to light a model in a Playboy's style and still shoot her for content that crosses the Playboy line.

Sounds confusing, huh?

It's not... Trust me, it's not.

When I was a kid, after having reached puberty and beyond, getting a hold of a Playboy magazine was the best! Playboy contained images of the most beautiful, sexy, women, in varying stages of undress, that I could imagine. Playboy spawned an industry: The lad-mag industry and it's still with us today, not only in the form of Playboy magazine, but with periodicals like Maxim and FHM.

There was one of those self-help or self-awareness books (or whatever they're called) a few years ago that became popular. It was called "Everything I Need to Know in Life I learned in Kindergarten." For me, as a pretty girl shooter, almost everything I need to know about what makes women appear glamourously beautiful, provocative and sensual, almost unreal from the perspective of Goddess-like, sexual allure, I learned from Playboy.

That's not to say everything I shoot attempts to mimic Playboy's style. But I'll admit that almost everything I think I know about shooting pretty girls has been influenced, to some degree, by Playboy. And that holds true for the vast majority of glamour shooters out there whether they admit it or not.

The Playboy line is still with us today. In some ways, it's even better known today as a benchmark for contemporary glamour and tease photography. It's also more acceptable these days. With the proliferation of other well-known magazines that crossed the Playboy line years ago, as well as the internet with it's millions and millions of images of beautiful women photographed well beyond the Playboy line, the Playboy line and Playboy's style seem almost tame, vanilla, out of vogue. Personally, I don't think it will ever become passé and it will remain with us for generations.

I decided to blog about the Playboy line because, earlier today, it came up on one of the photography forums I frequent. Some guy in Florida was pimping... I mean promoting some glamour models and the issue of whether or not he qualifies as an agent came up. (He does and should be licensed which he's not.) Also, some back-and-forth went back and forth regarding the limitations of his models. It was fairly confusing to me as he tried to es'plain... I'm still not sure what their limitations might be.

The pretty young thing in the images I posted are Charmane. I'd love to shoot her again cuz she's definitely got lines I'd like to cross. (Just kidding. C'mon! The thought would never cross my mind while shooting. After all, I'm a professional photographer first and a normal, red-blooded, guy second... just like the rest of you pretty girl shooters, right?)

Lessons from "America's Next Top Model"

Wednesday, September 20th, witnessed the season premier of the 7th iteration of "America's Next Top Model." Top-model pundits are already predicting who's going somewhere on the show and who ain't.

I wonder if Vegas gives odds for the models on this show?

Leslie Gray Streeter of the Palm Beach Post writes:

"Tyra Banks' divas-in-training marathon is back, and the ladies in question are prettier and in some cases infinitely more drama-full than last year. Because those girls were whack like crack.

There are too many of them to have opinions about them all, but so far these are the ones that jump out at me, although I'd love some of them to jump back:

- Melrose: Too tragic and annoying for her own good. Bad attitude. Will be on for a long time.

- Michelle and Amanda: Boring twins, although they have a vague Rory Gilmore thing about them

- Anchal: Too beautiful. I can't even look at her because I don't look like that and it makes me so mad at my parents. And I can't be mad at the Mommy.

- Monique: A nightmare. Beautiful. Will go far.

My early picks are....who cares at this point? Just keep up the drama and I'll be back."

Personally, I've never seen the show. Nope. Not a single episode in all its six seasons and I didn't ruin my record by watching tonight's season premiere telecast. (I've never seen an episode of The Gilmore Girls either so I had to look up Rory Gilmore to know who she was.)

I haven't purposely avoided this televised masterpiece of American pop culture. I guess it never made it onto my To Do list. I was going to watch tonight's show but I forgot to tune in. Of course, not having ever seen ANTM doesn't mean I can't write a little bit about it.

I chose Ms. Streeter's mini ANTM report because it echoes what other writers seem to focus on when they write about this show, more specifically, when writing about the show's model-contestants. (Yeah, that means I read some other stuff about The CW network's ANTM show.)

Notice that Ms. Streeter's positive predictions focus, for the most part, on attitude and not beauty? This is a great lesson for those of us who are pretty girl shooters. In a way, it also indirectly echoes the quote I recorded in yesterday's update-- the one by photographer Peter Adams who said, ""Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field."

Attitude is everything! Sure, I suppose there are models who are so devastatingly drop-dead gorgeous that almost nothing else matters. For the vast majority of models, however -- fashion models, glamour models, fine art nude models -- it's often about the attitudes and emotions they convey and just a bit less about their physical beauty. That's not to say sheer physical beauty doesn't rock. It does. But when you add intriguing and engaging attitudes and emotions -- attimotions if you don't mind me inventing a word -- they translate just as well in still images as they do on TV shows... sometimes even better, artistically at least.

So what's the lesson if you haven't already figured it out? Simply and briefly, beauty ain't always enough: Not for models and not for pretty girl shooters. If we want to capture memorable pictures of beautiful women we're going to have a better shot at successfully doing so when we coach, direct, cajole, beg, borrow, or steal those engaging attimotions from our subjects and clearly impress them on our images.

I'm trying hard to get quoted on, can ya tell?

If you're interested in viewing a streaming video trailer for the 7th season of "America's Next Top Model," you can click HERE.

The model at the top is Monica. She's expressing a lot of attimotinal stuff in that image. Okay, maybe it's not the exact 'tude I was looking for and maybe it was more about her feelings for me than anything else but it does show a range of attitude and emotion, right?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Photographers Say the Darndest Things

As usual, I spent some time cruising the web today. Part of my web-cruising often includes stops at various photo forums, photo news sites, and a customary visit to Google's advanced search engine. I use Google to see what I can find using various strings and combinations of words-- Words that regularly include EULs (English Units of Language) such as photography or photographer amongst them.

Today, as a result of a painstaking and highly scientific, advanced, Google search, I stumbled on a site called

PhotoQuotes, as its names implies, consists of quotations from photographers and others, i.e., as the words of others (non-photographers) might relate to photography. Here's an example of a quote from an other, that is, a non-photographer: "Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it." -Confucius

Being the self-absorbed and self-deluded shooter I am, I immediately looked to see if there was any chance that I were (somehow) quoted. Alas, the good folks at have yet to discover the wit and wisdom of your's truly. Oh well. If I keep writing this blog, and keep shooting prettier and prettier girls, then someday... maybe... who knows?

The very first quote I encountered (because it's on the masthead of the site) was attributed to British-born Aussie photographer and graphic designer, Peter Adams. Adams once said, "Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field."

I like that! It kind of says it all (well, it says a lot) in just a few words. I thought I'd look to see what else Mr. Adams had to say about this thing we do. Here's another of his quotes: "Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gizmos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn't make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel."

Now I know why I haven't been quoted by I haven't ever said anything as articulately wise or profound as guys like Adams have said!

Another possible reason: I'm not anywhere near as well-known -- as a practitioner of the photographic arts -- as people like Peter Adams and the many other shooters (many of them more celebrated than Mr. Adams) who are quoted on the PhotoQuotes site. But I'm working on that. And since I am a guy in his fifties, time is definitely of the essence!

I think is going to be a great reference site for my pretty girl shooting blog-writing. In the future, when I judiciously quote various photographers and others who've famously ruminated aloud about this photography thing, readers might be tricked into believing I'm a very well read guy. Who knows? Perhaps enough people will think me an intelligent enough guy that, sooner or later, word will get out about my vast knowledge of all things photographic, including my ability to draw upon the sage words of other shooters, and I'll get quoted on myself! Something to shoot for, right? (Pun intended.)

The sexy stable vixen providing the gratuitous eye candy today is Ava. I dug these out of the hard drives. There were shot on a set (on a sound-stage) about a year-and-a-half ago or so with a Canon 20D w/28-135mm zoom. Once again, these pretty girl pics are totally unrelated to the subject of this post. While these images may speak a language different than the quotes on PhotoQuotes, I suppose they do communicate on certain levels.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Photoshop's Shadow/Highlight Tool

I don't write much about post-processing because I'm nowhere near an expert on the subject. In fact, I feel I'm barely competent, especially when I view the work of others who seem to be Photoshop-savants. What I don't know how to do in Photoshop could fill volumes while what I do know how to do could barely fill a small notepad.

I'm of the opinion, however, that when they released Photoshop CS and, later, CS2, the coolest tool those crafty people at Adobe created was the Shadow/Highlight tool. If you're not routinely using this tool as part of your post-processing work you're missing out on a powerful and extremely helpful addition to Adobe's already ingenious capablilities. If I had the choice between losing overly-used and heavy-handedly-used glamour-pic tools like Diffuse Glow and having the Shadow/Highlight tool at my disposal, I'd opt for the S&H tool.

Before the Shadow/Highlight tool was released, I used to beat myself with my mouse trying to "work" the contrast, luminescence, and color with Levels or Curves adjustments while, at the same time, attempting to bring out the details in the shadows. (Alright, no jokes about beating oneself with a mouse, okay?)

I used to think details in the shadows, as well as blown-out highlights, weren't digital photography's strongest suits. I still think blown-out highlights are problematic but the Shadow/Highlight tool goes a long way towards proving there's more detail in those shadows than I thought digital SLR's were capable of capturing. And talk about "saving" underexposed images... this tool can be a genuine image-saver (or should i say, "image saviour?") when it comes to recovering from exposure-related brain farts!

I really like creating highlights and shadows when lighting for pretty girl pics. That whole chiaroscurro thing adds plenty of drama, dimension, and sexy dynamics to glamour shots. Maybe there's a time and place for flatter lighting but, for the most part and in my opinion, the studio isn't the time or the place. You bought the lights, right? Why not use them to add depth and drama to your captures instead of lighting your models like they're in a brightly and evenly lit department store?

Unfortunately, creating shadows sometimes means sacrificing some of the detail in them, the shadows that is-- details I'd rather be able to see, at least to some degree. Leastwise, that's what I used to think.

Adobe's Shadow/Highlight tool proves there's more detail captured in the shadows than, seemingly, meets the eye. Although I'm still learning and refining my application of the Shadow/Highlight tool--and my skills in using it are nowhere near where I hope they'll end up being--I stongly suggest you do the same! You can use this tool in its simplest form or you can check the "show more options" box and really have control over it.

The Shadow/Highlight tool is found by opening Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight. Try playing around with it. I suggest you also Google for info about this tool using Google's "Advanced Search" and typing in the words "shadow" and "highlight" and "tutorial" in the "with all the words" box. Some time ago, I did so and discovered there are plenty of free tutorials available on the web designed to help PS users understand and apply this powerful PS tool.

The images posted along with this latest bit of photo-babble are of model Kori Rae. They really don't have anything to do with the subject of this update. (What? I'm supposed to always have examples of what I'm talking about? Shoota please!) I snapped these about a year ago at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed near Victorville, California. It was late in the day and the light was changing quickly when these shots were captured. I didn't have the time or feel the need to use anything to modify the sunlight. I love going on photo-field-trips to places like dry lake beds! I want to go back there soon!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Skinny Model Controversy

I realize the skinny model controversy currently raging in the international fashion world isn't about glamour but I find it fairly interesting nonetheless.

The controversy began when Madrid fashion organizers recently took the unprecedented step of rejecting underweight women. Their reason? They said they wanted to project an image of beauty and health -- not a waif-like look.

Glamour, of course, is about beauty and health as well... and sex appeal. Lots of sex appeal. Pretty girl shooters, i.e., nude, fine-art-nude, erotic, and glamour photographers often prefer their models a bit more robust-- somewhat more full-bodied as it were. Especially in certain regions of the body.

The Brits have now jumped into the skinny model fray: England's Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, wants London to follow Madrid's example and ban skinny models. But Stuart Rose, chairman of the British Fashion Council, the organizers of London Fashion Week, rejected British government calls for a ban on wafer-thin models.

BTW, do we have a Secretary of Culture here in the U.S.? Hmmm... I don't think so. Oh, I forgot, most people around the world believe America is void of culture... real culture. All we have, according to many, is Pop Culture. What do they know? Foreigners! Hmmmph!

Anyway, new Spanish rules say models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) -- a ratio of height to weight -- below 18 are not allowed to appear at the shows. Urging London to follow Madrid's example, Ms. Jowell said "The fashion industry's promotion of beauty as meaning stick-thin is damaging to young girls' self-image and to their health."

As I recall, the trend towards skinny-as-a-rail fashion models began back in the late 60s with super-model, singer, and actress, Twiggy Lawson. Twiggy was 16 when she began her modeling career and she gained her nickname from her stick-thin pubescent figure. She was also known for the high-fashion "mod" look she (and her handlers) created.

The mayor of Milan, in Italy, Letizia Moratti, has said she will seek a similar ban for Milan Fashion Week -- starting in a week's time -- unless it can find a solution to "sick" looking models.

Fearing they could be targeted next, a Milan model agency boss, Riccardo Gay, said "With those kind of rules, we'd have to turn away 80 percent of models. Naomi Campbell wouldn't be able to walk down the catwalk."

What? No Naomi Campbell on the catwalk in Milan? Now I'm depressed. I think I'll pig-out on an extra-large pizza, heavy on the toppings.

After Madrid's shocking ban on waifism, Cathy Gould of New York's Elite modeling agency said the fashion industry was being used as scapegoat for illnesses like anorexia and bulimia.

Supporters of the ban, however, were joined by Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, who told London's Evening Standard she did not want her children to grow up to be "empty-headed, self-obsessed clones."

Are Rowling's kids all blonde? I thought blondes had the monopoly on empty-headed, self-obsessed cloneliness?

Just kidding. No. Really. Just kidding!

Seems to me, given the kind of sick revenue the Harry Potter phenomenon has generated, Ms. Rowling's kids will grow up with opportunities to be whatever they want to be considering Rowling's offspring should be able to afford the best of, worst of, or anything in between, that money can buy.

I suppose we'll have to wait and see if fashion models are allowed to go back to eating. They say everything is cyclical. (Whoever "they" are.) The fashion industry's current view of beauty--stick-thin, malnourished-looking, waifs--hasn't always been in vogue. Who knows? Maybe we'll see the return of a more full-figured woman in the fashion world. Shapely women certainly never left the world of glamour, nude, and erotic art.

The model I selected to accompany this post is Daphne. Daphne is the antithesis of Twiggy and most all contemporary fashion models. Will we ever see the likes of Daphne strutting the catwalks of London, Milan, Paris, or Madrid? Who knows? Stranger things have happened. If nothing else, Daphne and models like Daphne would certainly and dramatically alter the way fashion designers create their wares and they would set a whole different example for young girls world-wide.

Empty-headed, self-obsessed, gargantuan-breasted clones anyone?

Once again, just kidding.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why Post Pics?

Besides maintaining personal web sites with portfolios of their work, a lot of shooters post their images on photography forums. I'm one of the many who do so. In fact, I post pics on multiple forums and I post them fairly regularly.

Although I'm occasionally a contemplative guy, I've never dissected my reasons for posting pics on photography forums other than the obvious: Receiving help and/or looking for ego strokes. I'll admit, I'm most often looking for the latter. Besides making some dough and loving the whole process of creating images, what's the point of capturing them if not to share the work with others? In my case, moreso since so much of my work goes out into the world uncredited or, when it does get credited, it is often in quite small, fine print. I've got a fat head to maintain! The care, feeding, and general maintenance that goes along with owning a fat head ain't easy sometimes.

Bobby G, an excellent PGS (Pretty Girl Shooter) from down Houston, Texas, way, must have woke up in an introspective mood the other day because he took on this subject of why post pics? and shared his thoughts on one of the boards I also participate on, With Bobby's permission, I thought I'd share here what Bobby shared there. Besides, it's Sunday, supposedly a day of rest. Why not let someone else (mostly) write the blog today? Sounds reasonable to me.

Bobby, whose eye-catching pretty girl work can be viewed at, had this to say:

So WHY DO I POST an image here, or on other forums?

Is it so I can improve as a photographer?
Is it for a pat on the back or an "attaboy"?
Is it to show others my development process?
Is it to receive constructive criticism on an image?
Is it EGO?

The answer to ALL of the questions above is YES... but sometimes NO. And I bet my reasoning is the same for many others as well.

Bobby goes on to explain each point and he does so in some depth so sit back-- it'll take a few minutes to read but, IMO, it's worth your time:

Do I want to improve as a photographer? Absolutely I do. I know I have come along way since rekindling the photography passion 2 years ago... BUT I also know I have a long way to go. When I post an image, I know it's gonna get its fair share of Nice... GREAT Shot... cute girl... WOW. I understand that, but many times I am looking for that tip or helpful advice that will take an image to the next level. When I get feedback from someone I consider to be a top of the line pro, I consume everything they say and try to apply it to my photography. After all, they have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, so why not take what they have to say to heart. That doesn't mean that if a rank amateur makes a comment I don't heed it as well, but generally speaking, I'd like to think the person giving the advice has the resume' to do so. Personally, I think sites like this and others, are INVALUABLE. I may not get the answer I need on the board itself, but I usually can contact someone with a few more years under their belt and get the answer/advice I need.

Is it for a pat on the back or an ATTABOY? YEP, sometimes it is and I think anyone who says different is full of whooey whooey. I know that there are times when it ALL seems to come together. The lighting, the DOF, the Models expression, the shadows, the post work. When done I just look at the final image and want to show it to everyone and YES I am looking for the OH MY GOD... AND I don't think there's anything wrong with that. What fuels my passion for this photography bug many times is the response I get from the many models I work with. MOST don't criticize my work, they just see themselves in a way maybe they haven't seen before. To hear a young girl say that MY images are the best of ALL the photographers she's worked with (whether thats true or not) REALLY hits home with me and makes me want to do it all over again.

Is it to show others my development process? Yes it is. Some of the guys that are here (on and on Garage Glamour (now called Glamour1) that were around when I first started shooting again may or may not remember the early images OR may not appreciate or recognize my development in the last 2 years. Recently I received 2 messages from photogs I admire and respect tremendously and they simply said they have NOTICED the growth and development and just wanted to tell me that they liked where I was at, at this time. Man you'd of thought I won the lottery cuz it made my month to hear that from colleagues I respect. So yeah, many times the image I post... I'm hoping guys will see the development curve growing bigger.

Is it to receive constructive criticism on an image? Most of the time YES but many times NO. I truly read all of the comments and replies to my posts. And I can pretty much tell by the responses if the image(s) are generally liked. When I am looking for critiques, I am not so much asking "How do I get rid of this shadow" or "Why is this image flat?" I think I have surpassed most of those issues. What I am usually after is to decide whether or not the MAJORITY like what I just put out for all to see. Jimmy D says it best when he says he doesn't really care if I like the image, just as long as the guy cutting the check does. I couldn't agree more. (Me, JimmyD, would like to butt in to say he--that is, I--likes being quoted... leastwise, his, my fat head does.) Many times I'll post an image where I know there is a contrasty shadow or one side has more light than the others or I cropped a bit different than the norm. I KNOW how to correct them. What I am looking for is, HOW DOES THE MAJORITY react? I'll probably shoot it just the same regardless of public opinion for MY PORTFOLIO but now that I am shooting for a couple of magazines, guess what? PUBLIC OPINION now has some merit if I want to continue to get paid. So, when I post images, most will not know my true reasons for posting (I think thats true for most of us here, btw, unless clearly defined within the post) but PLEASE continue to respond. THATS why I come here.

Is it EGO? YEP. GUILTY as charged. I have a big ego... ain't gonna deny it. And yes, many times I am hopeful I'll get 2 pages of "damn those are hot" replies. That fuels the ego and makes me want to post and take more images BUT BETTER than the ones before. With me, it's almost a competition against myself. Can I outdo my last session with this next model?? Don't know if thats a bad or good thing but I know it makes me continue to try different things. So once again, anyone who says ego isn't a part of their agenda, I 'll probly have to call bulls**t on that...LOL.

Thanks for the in-depth analysis of why we post pics on photo forums, Bobby! And thanks for writing my blog today. You've given me more time to rest on this day of rest-- not that my fat behind doesn't get too much rest already.

The Pretty Girl Pix accompanying Bobby's post is Aurora. I shot these about six months ago. MUA Terese Heddon. Canon 5D w/28-135mm zoom, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Is In a Picture?

I stumbled across this award-winning, short video posted on YouTube®. It's called My Passion: Photography and I think it perfectly describes why so many of us pursue photography so earnestly and with such enthusiasm.

The female narrator begins with these words: "What is in a picture? A picture holds the essence of life captured within a moment of time."

Her voice-over ends the video, telling us: "To capture life is my life."

Wow! That certainly sums it up.

It doesn't matter whether you're shooting landscapes, sports, leisure, news, portraiture, fashion, or pretty girls in varying stages of dress and undress. It's all about capturing life-- Photographically-revealing our own, personal, points-of-view of it.

The image attached is my friend and model, Kori Rae, captured in my studio almost a year ago. Damn! Time flies.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"With Digital We Often Just Blast Away"

I know I've harped on this "secret" stuff a few times before, but before I write what I want to write about I thought I'd mention I received the October issue of PC Photo magazine in the mail a day or so ago and guess what's on the cover? Yep, another exciting announcement about secrets being revealed.

Here's what it says on PC Photo's cover: "Top Pros Reveal Their Secrets!" This stuff just cracks me up. The new edition of Rangefinder magazine heralds this: "Mysteries of Lighting Revealed." I guess it doesn't occur to the editors of these rags that, once they've revealed the secrets of the pros and/or the mysteries of lighting, neither are secrets nor mysteries anymore. Maybe they figure it this way: There are so many secrets and mysteries yet to be revealed they can continue printing secrets and mysteries articles forever? Oh well. What do I know? That kind of cover-copy probably sells magazines or I doubt they would be hawking these, uhhh... revelations over and over and over.

If I ever get a chance to write an article for a photography magazine, I think I want to call it Jedi Photo Tricks of JimmyD Revealed! That assumes, of course, I have any Jedi photo tricks worth revealing and not already addressed in the many articles about pro's secrets and lighting mysteries in which they've probably (and most-likely) already been revealed... once or twice or more, believe it or not.

Anyway, back to the subject of today's post: I was perusing one of my fave glamour photography forums, Glamour1, and I came across a thread that interested me. Actually, it wasn't so much the intitial subject of the thread that caught my attention but a reply within it and posted by the thread's author, R. Frederick Smith, an excellent shooter and graphic designer from the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, area. (Note: You might have to register on the G1 board for the link to RFS's most-excellent portfolio to work.)

Smith wrote, "I shot hundreds of weddings, commercial jobs, etc over 40 years using film and have been shooting digital now for 5 or 6 years. I find that digital is uniformly sharper than film. The out of focus problems with digital plague many photographers because of poor technique. With film we tended to shoot more carefully because we didn't get instant feedback of our results and we were shooting many fewer frames, so had fewer chances to get it right."

Mr. Smith goes on to write, "With digital we often just blast away. I try to be very aware of the tendency to shoot too fast, and consciously slow down and take time to focus properly. That means being very careful of the focus lock and recompose method that so often causes problems for digital workers. You also have to know you lens and your camera and know if the lens focuses right on or not."

Right on! I totally agree. I've thunk on this myself more than a few times.

RFS continues: "The other problem that many digital shooters have, is not understanding that an image from a digital camera is generally softer (less sharp) right out of the camera. So we either have to user the in camera sharpening and contrast controls or we do it in post processing. I shoot RAW, and I always go through a routine of several sharpening phases to get the best results."

Personally, I shoot a lot of stuff as Large JPGs but I agree sharpening either in the camera or in post or both is often needed when shooting digital. Less so, I should add, as I progressed from Canon's 10D to a 20D to a 5D.

And finally, RFS comments thusly: "Another factor is how we present photos. In the film days the bulk of our work was either printed or projected. But now most of our work is often displayed on the web. This requires two different sharpening methods, one for the web and one for print. Often times, photographers, are not aware of this, and so get bad results in one of the two areas (if not both)."

Great advice from a seasoned pro! Maybe not a secret or a mystery revealed but certainly important stuff to consider as we march along the path to photo Nirvana. BTW, I don't see anything inherently wrong with occasionally blasting away as long as it's done with skill, a steady hand, and good technique. Sometimes, blasting away means capturing those special, frozen moments in time, that might otherwise be missed.

The eye-candy accompanying this post is model Monica who hails from down-under and whom I've been lucky enough to shoot a number of times. Monica is a lot of fun and always a real hoot to have in front of the camera!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Alexi Nikishin's Nudes

I grew up during the Cold War. Probably some of you did as well. Back then, thanks to a pervasive home-land propaganda machine--almost as good as the one we have today--our images of typical Russian women, make that Soviet women, was of stout, unpleasant-looking, females wearing babushkas and tossing shot-puts.

Man! Were we ever wrong!

Some of the most gorgeous models come from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries! If we knew so many commie-chicks looked like they do, the Cold War would probably have ended a whole lot sooner. After all, in most guy's minds, beautiful and sexy women trump politics almost every time.

During a recent trip around the world... okay, make that this morning's cyber-trip around the world, I came across the nude-and-erotic art site of a Russian photographer, Alexi Nikishin. Alexi certainly disproves the propaganda that gave us images of fat, ugly, Russian chicks.

If you visit Alexi's on-line porfolio, I should warn you that his English is a bit suspect. For instance, in one paragraph, Alexi writes, "The main idea here is only to make an gentle accent on perfection of a body forms. To reach this purpose I use a Special illumination that helps to place the correct accents. That is the way I'm thinking about naked nature."

I don't understand what Alexi is trying to say. I think he means he has some "secret" lighting techniques that make for his beautiful images. (There's that "secret" thing again.) I suppose Alexi's "Special illumination" might be a reminder of Cold War secrecy: Secrecy (for terrible purposes) being another facet of Soviet life we were constantly reminded of during the Cold War. But I'll tell you this-- Alexi has created some beautiful images of beautiful women, secret illumination techniques or not.

In the next paragraph, Alexi writes, "In these photos there is no physiology, there is no bright light, there is no platitude."

Say what???

Again, I have no idea what Alexi is trying to say. Maybe it's one of those things that doesn't translate well. What does translate perfectly well are Alexi's images and I think you'll enjoy visiting his site and checking them out.

You can visit Alexi's "Fine Art Nudes and Erotic Art Photography," by clicking HERE.

The eye-treat images accompanying this post are mine, not Alexi's. I don't have permission to post any of Alexi's work and I never post the work of others without permission. Instead, these images are of a very sexy model, Roxy. I shot these and many others of the exotic, part-Asian and part-Anglo, Cockney-accented Roxy a few months ago.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tying the Model to the Background

For those expecting--due to the title--a fetish theme for this post, sorry.

Anyway, I shoot a lot of models against a seamless. Possibly many of you do so as well. Some of my clients prefer it that way as, later on, a graphic designer is going to cut the model out of the background and drop her onto some other backplate. This is often the case with clients who will be using the images for clamshell (insert) artwork on DVDs. If I'm shooting magazine stuff or internet content, then some kind of set or location or exterior is preferred. (Usually, those people will be using the images complete, rather than cutting out the model.)

Sometimes, a client requests certain colors for the BG as the artwork will have a predominant color scheme to the backplate. When this is required, I like to tie the model to the color of the seamless with gels and let some of that colored light fall on her. This creates the subtle illusion the BG is reflecting some of its color onto the model. (In reality, some of the color does reflect.)

Sure, the graphic designer can artificially create a color bleed onto the model but I think it looks more real if I create some of it in production.

Green and blue are great colors to do this with as green and blue are primary colors not represented in skin tone. That's why green and blue are used in production for matte keys. (e.g., green screen and blue screen for video and motion picture CGI effects.)

If the client wants green, that's great. The graphic artist can later manipulate the green without effecting skin tone. Same goes for blue. I'm not talking about those times when they want to "key" another image using the green or blue. That requires a different lighting approach. One where the BG needs to be lit separately, brightly, and as evenly as possible. Also, with lighting designed to separate the subject from the BG in order to get a clean "key." Proximity to the BG is also an issue as you don't want the green or blue bleeding onto the model. When this happens, it's a recipe for disaster in terms of making a good, clean, "key."

Instead, I'm talking about working with a specific color and having that color appear, realistically, as a "bleed" onto the model in the final artwork. Note: If you get called on to do this kind of work its even more important that you better understand post-processing. What you do in production should aid the graphic designer, not make their jobs tougher on them.. Plus, the graphics people are usually speaking with your clients after your job is done. A good word or two from them helps get you more work. What you don't need is the graphics people telling the client your work sucks and makes their lives miserable.

Sometimes other colors are requested: Colors that are represented in skin tone. This means a bit more attention needs to be paid to how you're working the gels as post-production manipulation of that color will, most likely, effect skin tone.

The model accompanying this post is Jana. She was also featured in yesterday's post in case your forgot her already. Anyway, Jana is providing actual and educational examples of the use of colored gels and BGs, rather than simple eye candy-- Hey! This is an educational blog, right? None of you come here just to see the pretty naked chicks, right? MUA Lilian. All shot with a Canon 5D w/85 prime. ISO 100, f/4.5 @ 125th.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Photographer or Photoshopographer?

I've gotten to the point (when I look at glamour images) where I find myself making immediate decisions whether to classify the image's creator predominantly a photographer or a photoshopographer, at least in terms of a specific image or set of images.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a photo-elitist. I don't frown or look down on those who use Photoshop or other image processing tools as "lesser folks" in the world of glamour photography. I do think, however, there are far too many shooters who overly rely on post-processing to "save" or "improve" an image. But then, there are also those who wield image processors like true artists.

When I first decided to upgrade my post-processing skills (in a serious way) I found myself over-using the powerful processing tools included in Photoshop. Like many other shooters, I applied tools like Gaussian Blur, Diffuse Glow, Unsharp Mask, and others with a heavy hand. The more I learned, the more I went a little crazy using these tools. In retrospect, I don't think I always improved my images, I simply made them look artificial and the models doll-like.

That's not to say there aren't artists who create wonderful images even if they seem more image-processed than photographically-created. My PS skills haven't achieved a level of skill that many possess and I'm not sure my artistic abilities will ever allow me to create some of the kinds of incredible images I often see, but then, I'm a shooter, a photographer, not a digital graphic artist.

Since the advent of digital photography and processing, there's been a virtual rennaisance of photo-inspired art, albeit digital art. Digital artists who combine photographic images and digital processing often treat us to a world of creative imagery that is as imaginative as it is wonderous to view.

Simple, mortal, glamour photographers, on the other hand, use these digital tools to fix mistakes, enhance certain photographic aspects of an image, hide a model's imperfections and attempt to further beautify the model by manipulating her digitally-captured image. That sounds reasonable. After all, we long for perfection. And, as some say, Reality sucks!

So what's wrong with manipulating reality? I suppose nothing as long as its done well and in ways that maintain some semblance of reality, i.e., the model still looks, for the most part, like a mostly real person. (At least, in the context of glamour photography.) I have no problem "suspending disbelief" except when people sometimes make if overly hard to do so.

I captured the images accompanying this post yesterday. Model is Jana (pronounced "Jay-nuh")and her exotic "look" is courtesy of a Malaysian mother and an Irish father. MUA was Lydia. Assistant (my Aziz for the day) was Fonzie. Images captured with a Canon 5D w/85mm f/1.8 prime, ISO 100, f/4.5 @ 125th. Photoshop processing was applied sparingly although I think a good graphic artist could have some fun with the production elements contained in the images from this series.

Below is a behind-the-scenes image of the set and lighting. Fonzie is crouched off to the side, working the controls of the fog machine that's hidden inside the faux steam vent. One of the lighting sources is barely in the frame at all: the overhead-boomed hairlight. But you can see the boom's arm and a little bit of the cinefoil I used to keep its light off the BG.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

There Are No Secrets

I'm often amused when perusing the covers of photography magazines and I spot the title of an article that reads something along the lines of, "Secrets of the Pros Revealed." Likewise, when I see advertisements for schools and workshops and seminars claiming the same.

There are no secrets! There certainly are lesser-known techniques and tricks but these are no secrets.

Photography is both an art and a science; it ain't alchemy. I've said this before, maybe in different words, but I'll say it again: There is no secret and mystical photographer's cult where a few, fortunate, members receive the well-guarded and "secret" formulas to outstanding imagery.

The art and science of photography overlaps, that is, these two elements do not work independent of each other but, instead, they (need to) compliment each other. Photography is a good example of Yin and Yang at work, where seemingly opposing or unrelated forces--art and science--come together, in harmony, to produce (hopefully) successful results.

I was reading a forum thread the other day where my name was brought up as an example of something or other. The thread's original poster had some nice things to say about my work. Later in the thread, someone noted that, while they enjoy looking at my images, I'm not doing anything new, lighting-wise, and that my lighting techniques are pretty standard in terms of glamour photography. I jumped into the thread, not to defend myself in any way, but to agree with this person's observation. I wrote that, while my approaches to my work offer nothing new from a lighting perspective, neither does anyone else's. And that, in my opinion, goes for everyone regardless of the photographic genre they specialize in.

There are no secrets. There is nothing new. Everything has been done. The thing that separates some photographers apart from others is how well they (newly) accomplish what's already been done.

In glamour photography, there are many factors that set images apart. Certainly, the beauty, sensuality, and photographic-charisma of individual models are a big part of it... maybe the biggest part of it. MUAs and other, behind-the-camera, artists, also contribute immensely. And, of course, there are the photographers themselves.

What is amazing about photography and, in my opinion, what makes it a life-long, never-ending, learning process, is that there are so many ways to approach capturing an image--artistically, technically, and in almost infinite combinations of the two--that it would seem there are secrets that some shooters know about and the rest do not. In reality, the various and numerous techniques and styles and tricks (that could fill many, many volumes) that might be introduced or utilized in the capture of an image makes it seem to others that some shooters are calling on secrets to achieve the kinds of results they accomplish.

There are no secrets. It's all out there for anyone to learn. When all is said and done, there is only knowledge and creativity. Each shooter's level of knowledge, coupled with their individual creativity, is what will set them apart... or not.

(Note: I know I've written about this subject before and I hate being repetitive but the preponderance of articles--both in hard copy and on the web--and photo forum mentions and even emails I've received have led me to write about it again. There are no secrets. There are only those who don't take advantage of all the easily-accessible info that's out there and/or those who don't practice what they've learned.)

The beautiful and sensuous model accompanying this post is Cytherea. Each pic was captured during different shoots over the past year or so. I'm in a black-and-white mood today so that's why you got what you got... Better than yesterday's post, I guess, where all I gave you to look at was some old Japanese advertisement for a camera.