Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007 Hello 2008


Another year ends, another begins.

What better way to end the year than with a prestigious internet award for photography blogging excellence? Okay. Maybe winning the lottery or the Publishers Clearing House Grand Prize might trump an internet award but I'm thrilled, most appreciative, and my ego has been suitably stroked nonetheless.

Yep! I'm proud to announce I've been selected--two years running now--by the awards committee at the Fluffytek Art Blog as "Best Glamour Blog." (Fluffytek either became "Fluffytek Nudes" at some point--and I didn't notice--or I'm having a major brain fart... or both.)

From a blogging perspective, this is going to be hard to beat as I'm definitely going to try for a three-peat in 2008. So I guess doing so becomes something of a New Year's resolution.

My heartfelt thanks to the wise folks at Fluffytek! (Yes, oh Fluffytekkers, once again selecting me for this award bestows a publicly-proclaimed quality of "wisdom" upon you.) I'd also like to thank everyone who reads this blog as well. All of you contribute to making this endeavor personally fulfilling, worthwhile and rewarding.

To all my family and friends and to most everyone, with the exception of certain political figures as well as a number of other persona exceptions, I hope 2008 becomes all you wish it to be!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coolio!

Either some of you have too much time on your hands or I might be doing something right. Maybe a bit of both?

As 2007 speeds towards the finish line, I decided to don my statistician's hat and take a look at the blog's yearly stats.

This Pretty Girl Shooter blog garnered over a quarter of a million page views from over 70,000 unique visitors with over 50,000 of you being returning visitors. I suppose I could double or maybe triple those page views if I split each post so you had to click an "after the jump" thingie to see the rest of it. Regardless, wow! Thanks! Those stats are so cool! (If only I could figure out how to get everyone to send me a buck or two.)

Lately, like many others, I've been busy considering resolutions I might make for the coming year. One of which will probably be to resolve all the unresolved resolutions I made for 2007. (Yeah. Like that's gonna happen.) I've also been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to take what I do -- if you'll forgive me for using an over-used and cliché phrase -- to "the next level." I'm not totally sure what that "next level" might be and I suppose that should be my first order of business but it will still include shooting pretty girl pics; albeit, I'm fairly sure it will also include expanding my photographic repertoire. I will, however, resist the urge to paint myself into a corner with those resolutions. I've found that leaving oneself open to unexpected opportunities and attempting to navigate personally uncharted waters sometimes pays off nicely. So I'm gonna make a plan but that plan won't be set in concrete. It will be set in something more akin to Jello.

I'm hoping development of the TV show will grow some legs. My agent called the other day and he's setting up a pitch meeting with a large and well-known production company in the next week or so. The writer's strike (supposedly) has greased the door hinges and increased the chances for non-fiction (reality) programming going into serious development -- since these sorts of shows don't come under the writer's contract -- so we'll see.

As many of you might know, many of my clients are adult entertainment producers. The state of the adult industry is not a rosy one: There's simply too much free porn adult entertainment out there, predominantly on the internet, and revenues are way off. This, of course, has had a negative impact on new production which translates into less and less work. I don't see this trend changing.

I'm partnered with my constant cohort, Leesa, and my daughter, in a family & event photography business-- Bella Vita Foto. That's going okay and we've done some work and made a few bucks but there's as much competition in that business, probably more, than the pretty girl shooting biz.

I also have my peepers set on doing some commercial photography and possibly leasing another space for a small studio. I really miss my studio! If another studio is in my future, it will be smaller than the one I had. It became hard to justify spending that much on rent, utilities, and other overhead. Yeah, having a studio is very cool but if it isn't generating enough revenue to keep "it" in the black, what's the point? I don't earn enough to maintain a studio as a "play room."

The image at the top is Jamie from a recent shoot. I played around with PS's Channel Mixer tool's monochrome capabilities for the processing. (Note to self: Pay more attention to capturing bright, twinkly, catch-lights in the eyes especially when the model has a lazy eye and the MUA applied very dark, smoky eye makeup. I know-- Excuses, excuses...)

Image captured in RAW with a Canon 5D w/28-135 IS USM at a focal length of 135mm, ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 125th. MUA was Dehlia. No Gaussian Blur was used in the post-production of this image.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lighting and the Dramatic Portait

Another book I recently purchased with Amazon gift certificates (courtesy of you guys) was ϋber photographer, Michael Grecco's, "Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography," from Amphoto Books.

In a nutshell, I loved Grecco's book and truly value it! It's big and glossy and filled with wonderful Michael Grecco images. And because of that, it's tempting to thumb through all its pages, pausing to admire Grecco's work while barely noticing the words. Don't do it! It's in the words that this book's true value resides.

Grecco takes his readers by the hand and takes them on a journey that hits on just about everything, short of personal introductions to his many prestigious clients, you need to know to improve your game. From lighting to color to conceptualization to connecting with your subjects, it's all there. I appreciated the way Grecco included endorsements of certain manufacturer's products with restraint and subtlety: Dyna-Lite's great line of lighting products being the most often touted. I hate it when I'm hit over the head with product endorsements and Grecco resisted the urge to do that.

My favorite chapters were Illumination and The Connection.

Illumination is divided into 8 sub-chapters with titles like Grecco's Laws of Light, Gridspots, and Finding Light. The Connection spans Shooting Egos to Shooting Strangers and plenty in between.

There's a personal note from the author on the page after the Table of Contents. In it, he jokes, "How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?" Grecco's punchline: "Fifty-- One to change it and forty-nine to say how they would have done it differently."

There's a wonderfully subtle commentary on photographers lying in that joke. I think it's Grecco's way of saying there's no one way to do everything right. Certainly not Grecco's way or any other high-profile, wildly successful, pro's way in spite of their successes. Instead, there are many ways. And all each photographer can do is approach their art and craft in their own way, perhaps considering how others approach it and incorporating some of their tips, advice, and techniques, and then making it all work for themselves and calling it their own.

If you're interested in checking out some of Michael Grecco's striking work, you can do so by clicking HERE.

The model at the top is Faye. Leesa and I went over to Faye's apartment last week for an evening of just for fun shooting. Leesa did most of the shooting but I was able to grab a quick set with Faye, just outside her apartment's door in the courtyard walkway. Faye did her own makeup. I used two lights: one with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella for my key light and the other, from behind her, with a six-inch reflector and a 20-degree honeycomb grid attached to the front of it. Canon 5D w/85mm prime. ISO 100, f/2.8 at 200th.

Below is one of Leesa's many, MANY images of Faye. Leesa has a more editorial eye than I do. Her pictures often tell some kind of a story while mine, for the most part, are simple pretty girl pics. (Hey! It's a living! Sort of.) Leesa captured this one in Faye's bedroom with a Canon 5D w/28-135 zoom, ISO 100, f/4 @ 100th. She used two lights: A barebulb with a 6 inch reflector -- the honeycomb grid fell off when the modeling light melted the sticky stuff on the gaffer's tape that was holding it on the reflector... and I was in the other room, not immediately available to assume my assistant's duties and step 'n fetch it and tape it back on -- plus another light, off to the side, camera right, with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella attached.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidaze to All!



Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Yule/the Winter Solstice, I hope you and your's have a festive, wonderful, and truly great time!

For the coming New Year, I wish all of you the very best!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers


Thanks to those of you who have purchased -- via the link on this blog -- from Amazon.com, I've earned commissions from those sales. I prefer to take my commissions in the form of gift certificates and, with those gift certificates, I've purchased some books that tweaked my curiosity. Recently, one of the books I ordered was Christopher Grey's, "Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers," from Amherst Media.

Amazon describes the book thusly: "Time-tested lighting strategies that will improve the quality of a portrait are detailed in this book for beginning photographers. Terminology used by industry pros is explained, the equipment needed to create professional results is outlined, and the unique role that each element of the lighting setup plays in the studio is explored. Photographers learn how color, direction, form, and contrast affect the final portrait. The concise text, photo examples, and lighting diagrams enable photographers to easily achieve traditional lighting styles that have been the basis of good portraiture since the advent of the art."

Personally, I didn't find this book so completely basic that it didn't keep my attention. Nor did it seem aimed solely at newbie beginners just starting out, although it's a great book for those people. Yeah, there's plenty in it that is remedial for more experienced shooters but sometimes a bit of remedial education can be a good thing. As Amazon states, Grey's book focuses on traditional lighting styles for portraiture. Sometimes, even those of us who shoot often and/or for a living can use a quick refresher course in the basics.

Everything in Grey's book isn't remedial. For instance, he describes a light modifier he calls a a reverse cookie. When I first read that, I thought, "Huh? What's a reverse cookie?" Turns out it's a piece of thin plywood (painted black) or black foamcore or something similar with a bunch of jagged, broken, pieces of mirror that are glued, haphazardly, on the surface. Grey uses it to bounce light onto a background. It's different from a traditional cookie in that the light is bounced off of it rather than passing through it and it produces a cool and unique effect. I'm going to make myself one of those reverse cookies real soon.

If you're looking for a good portrait lighting book that's easy to digest and is mostly about proven and traditional portrait lighting techniques, I'd recommend this book.

The image at the top was shot by Leesa J. She was shooting some behind-the-scenes images of Tera Patrick and I during a recent shoot and she snapped this one while Tera was posing for me. I really like this image. In fact, I think it's better than the stuff I shot during that particular set of images. Damn! She stole my thunder with this one!!! I guess it's a good thing my ego usually stays relatively in check. Oh well... What'a'ya gonna do? Right?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Challenging Than Usual

It's refreshing to encounter shooting situations where I get opportunities to venture outside my usual, pretty-girl-shooting, cookie-cutter, safe zone. This past Thursday was just such a day. Leastwise, my first set in the A.M. went down that way.

I was booked to provide photo coverage for a video shoot at a loft studio in downtown L.A. This means I would shoot the glamour pretty girl pics (used for the DVD's front cover, advertising, and other applications) as well as the on-set action shots. (The hard-core and soft-core adult content.)

The loft studio was cool. It was on the second floor of an aging brick building near the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. (Not the kind of place you'd want to go out alone for an evening stroll.)

When I arrived, my first victim girl, Faye, was already in the makeup chair. I asked the MUA, the lovely Dehlia, how long before she'd be ready and was told about 30 minutes. No problem. I can set up in 30 minutes easily.

I decided--since they told me I could shoot pretty much anywhere in the studio as long as I didn't interfere with the video shooting--I'd do my first set next to some windows where the morning light was intensely shining through. Apparently, Faye was going to be the covergirl on the DVD's front cover and the director wanted some pics of her that were a little more on the dramatic side.

The windows frames were casting some really cool shadows on the white-carpeted floor and I thought it would make for some interesting images. I knew I could equal or overpower the sunlight with my strobes but I didn't have much with me to control my lights: No grids, doors, flags,or any of that stuff. (I try to travel as light as I can... which still fills my trunk and back seat with gear.) I didn't want to blow out the shadows and, instead, wanted to light the model separated from the rest of the shooting environment, leaving the rest of the set the way the sun was lighting it. In other words, because of what the images would be used for I needed to brightly pop the model but in a very directed and controlled way-- isolated from the rest of the image. (i.e., I couldn't shoot her semi-hidden in shadow nor did I want to blow out those shadows.)

The video's gaffer, Joel, and a lighting grip were setting up nearby. "Dude!" I shouted. "You have any HMI's with you?"

"Yeah," he said. "I have a couple of 1200 PARs in the van." (1200 = 1.2K and PAR = Parabolic Aluminized Reflector.) "I was just about to bring them in." he added.

"Cool!" I beamed. "Could I use one?"

Joel agreed and said he'd assist for me if I wanted. I'm rarely one to turn down some offered help.

BTW, for those who aren't familiar with them, HMIs are powerful, daylight-balanced, continuous lighting instruments. The "H" is for Hg, the symbol for the chemical element, mercury, the M stands for medium arc, and the "I" is for iodides. In other words, an HMI is a focusable arc light (focused by using various lenses) producing intense and continuous daylight-balanced light.

The MUA was just putting the finishing touches on Faye as Joel started setting up the HMI where I asked him to put it. For most of the stuff I shoot (on video sets, that is) I usually get about a half-hour with the model. That's 30 minutes from the time the model gets up out of the makeup chair and when I need to click my last exposure. I usually have the lights semi-set where I want them and I start taking meter readings once the model is mine and standing where I need her to be.

Joel had the HMI where I wanted it. He also brought a medium shiny board for some fill. I pulled out my 5-in-1 Westcott reflector and used it, with the silver-side out, for some additional fill. In the image below, Joel is hitting on engaged in a professional discussion with Faye. You can see the arrangement of the HMI, the shiny board, and the reflector in the pic.



The clock was ticking for my time with Faye and the PM (Production Manager) was already impatiently asking me why I wasn't shooting yet. I started taking meter readings while Joel assisted, focusing the HMI and aiming and diddling with the shiny board and the reflector to get the light where I wanted it as well as the the exposure I was looking for. What made it even more difficult was the fact that, between the shiny board and the HMI, the light on the model was very bright and intense. For almost every capture, I had to count to three and, on "three," the model would open her eyes. I'd then click the shutter and, almost immediately, Faye would close her eyes again.

Everyone that counts (the client, the director, the PM, the model, and Joel and I) were happy with the results. I was especially happy for the opportunity to shoot something outside my usual comfort zone. And, by the end of the day, the world could rest easier: Another porn masterpiece was in the can--with accompanying photo documentation--and I get to stay off the dole for another week or two.

Here's another of Faye. I'm happy to say that anyone familiar with my work would probably not recognize these images--whether they like them or think they suck--as the work of JimmyD, a.k.a. the Pretty Girl Shooter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is Photography Dead?

If your passion and appreciation for the craft of photography extends beyond enjoying pretty girl pics (and how those images are constructed) and enters the ethereal and intellectual realms of photography as art, you might enjoy be interested in reading a recent article in Newsweek titled, "Is Photography Dead?"

Personally, I think the art and craft of photography is more alive and vibrant than ever, but what do I know?

The image of Roxanne, bathed in Southern California golden-hour light, is from 3 or 4 years ago. The sun and a single reflector were all that were needed for this capture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Windows Vista Sucks!

Let me repeat it: Windows Vista sucks!!!

When did Microsoft begin hiring morons? Anyone who wants to slow their PC down to a snail's pace or enjoys being constantly barraged with error messages or loves trying to resolve software incompatibilities couldn't do it any better than with Windows Vista. Who needs malware or other malicious software to mess up a computer? All you need is Windows Vista.

Two days before Black Friday, my son-in-law began camping out in front of our local Best Buy. His goal? To purchase a couple of laptops at incredible prices. And he succeeded. One of them he kept for himself and the other he let me have. I've been needing a new laptop for sometime and at the price he paid, how could I turn it down?

As it turns out, I should have turned it down. Why? Two words: Windows Vista.

Windows Vista sucks. It doesn't just suck, it REALLY SUCKS! It's a joke. It's a piece of crap. It is so slow and unfriendly it defies description. They took all that works in Windows XP and, apparently, decided to f__ck it up!

I'm not going to waste my time recounting all the ways Windows Vista sucks, I'm only going to say that I will never buy another PC again. As soon as I'm able, I'm switching to a Mac. Microsoft can shove their products where the sun don't shine.

The management at Mac should be shuttling over to Microsoft in busloads and kissing all those Windows developer's asses in thanks! IMO, Microsoft just did more to promote Mac than all the money Mac could ever spend on marketing and advertising.

Please bear with me while I say it one more time: WINDOWS VISTA SUCKS!!!!

The image of Monica at the top conveys my current attitude towards Microsoft, minus the smile.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Are You in the Holiday Spirit Yet?


Me neither.

But I have an idea to help overcome the Yuletide doldrums: I'm going to put myself at the top of my holiday buying list!

That's right. I'm going to relegate all those other people--the ones I need to buy gifts for--to second-class citizens and take care of myself first. Well, except for my kids and grand-kids and, uhhh... some others who are really special to me. But first and foremost, I'm putting myself right up there... with them!

Is that so horrible and Scrooge-like?

I'm not advocating forgetting about all those other family, friends, and others I need to show some holiday love towards. And what better and traditional way to show them that love then with some festively-wrapped bobble or trinket (they don't really need) that says, "Happy Holidays!"

Let's face it, the late Mother Theresa aside, we're all selfish. (Some of us more than others.) But why don't we just face that fact and splurge on ourselves? Trust me, we'll be happier doing so even if certain others might not share in our self-serving joy.

With that in mind, here's my holiday-gift (for me) wish-list:

Canon 135 f/2 "L" prime lens.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS "L" zoom lens.

Some portable lighting, e.g., Porty, Vagabond, whatever.

There's a very good chance I won't be able to afford any of these items, leastwise not comfortably afford. But that's what I want Santa to bring me. And since I'm the Santa, I'm thinking hard how I can make my holiday a happier one.

The image at the top features Tera Patrick being shot by me while being shot by Leesa. The images of Tera were for some Tera Patrick Yule tree ornaments and, I suppose, for other holiday uses. I used a large Octodome for my key light, a medium Chimera strip and a small umbrella (that you can't see) for back/edge lights, and a Westcott 5-in-1 reflector (silver or white-side out, I can't remember which) for a bit of fill.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm a Cover Gir... I Mean Cover Guy!

Imagine my surprise when I found out, just today, that my mug graces(?) the cover of XBiz Video's December issue. Not only did I make the cover, Leesa J gets a cover tear out of the deal! Okay. Maybe it's not exactly the cover of Rolling Stone or Time magazine but sometimes we take what we can get. Capiche?

Joanne Cachapero, a reporter for Xbiz Video, a trade magazine for the adult industry, contacted me a while back regarding a feature article she was working on. The article focuses on the impact of ever-evolving technologies on the production side of the industry, mostly the digital camera revolution, video as well as photographic.

After the interview, Joanne asked if I'd send along a pic. No problem. Leesa had recently snapped a portrait of your's truly--the head shot I use on this site--so I sent it along. Little did I realize XBiz would slap it on their cover.

I feel so special.

The pic at the top is Leesa proudly(?) holding up the cover of XBiz's December issue featuring her shot she calls, with tongue firmly embedded in cheek, "Bringing sexy back."

Yep. I feel special... and oh-so sexy too!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shoot-Thru Umbrellas

Lately, I've been using shoot-thru umbrellas fairly regularly.

I've been doing this for a couple of reasons: First, it's really quick and easy to set them up-- Setting up softboxes takes time I don't always have. Second, when compared to a reflective umbrella, shoot-thru's keep the light way more controlled; not as controlled as a softbox but controlled enough for many situations and applications.

I should point out that I'm using shoot-thru umbrellas strictly for edge-lighting the model and not as a mainlight.

Shoot-thru umbrellas produce a soft, non-specular light. Depending on the size of the umbrella, the light they produce remains fairly contained and controlled. Reflective umbrellas, regardless of the color of the reflective surface or their size, tend to scatter the light everywhere and this can be a big problem. Usually, I don't have time (nor do I carry the gear with me) to set flags to limit their scatter and spill.

Another nice thing about shoot-thru umbrellas is they're inexpensive. Compare the cost of a medium-sized softbox to the cost of a similarly-sized shoot-thru umbrella and you'll quickly see the money you save might overcome the advantages of a softbox over this type of umbrella.

The pretty girl at the top is another image of Ciera from the same set as the pic in my previous update. In this image, the shoot-thru umbrella I used behind Ciera is visible. Looking at the brick wall, you can plainly see that the umbrella's scatter and spill remains fairly well contained, certainly way better than what you'd see from a reflective umbrella and good enough for government work, that's for sure.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spudtography (A Lesson in Photo History)

While photography is my #1 passion, I do have other interests: Archaeology and history being two of them. As a result, two of my favorite rags are Smithsonian and Archaeology magazines.

While Archaeology magazine regularly features incredibly poor, snapshot photography accompanying their incredibly interesting articles, Smithsonian magazine provides some amazing photography to illustrate their's. Smithsonian also features articles, on a fairly regular basis, that focus on the history of photography and/or historically important photographers.

I had a doctor's appointment the other day and, while waiting to see the Doc, I spotted a September, 2007, issue of Smithsonian lying in the waiting area. Somehow, I had missed purchasing that issue--I guess I should subscribe instead of buying each month from a newsstand--so I snatched it up and immediately decided to bring it home with me. Generally, I don't exhibit thieving ways but I made an exception in this case. (I hope that didn't cost me much in Karma points.)

There's an article in the September, 2007, issue of Smithsonian that roused my curiosity as both a photographer and history buff. It's titled, "Color Comes to Photography."

According to the Smithsonian's report, "The most improbable object imaginable--the lowly, lumpy potato--played a leading role in the Great Leap Forward of color photography."

It seems that, back in 1903, the Lumière brothers--notable figures in the history of photography and whose family name may or may not have been hijacked as a term for the the measurement of luminous flux, i.e., the perceived power of light called lumens--developed a dazzling, new, photographic process they called autochrome and we call color photography. The Lumières developed this exciting process with the help of some pommes de terre, which is what the French call potatoes before they're peeled, cut, cooked in hot oil, salted, and transformed into French Fries. (Another notable French achievement although, for some bizarre reason, the French routinely dip their fries in mayonnaise, rather than ketchup, and, IMO, lose gastronomy points for their odd and unappealing habit of doing so.)

Anyway, somehow and someway those clever Lumière brothers figured out they could grind potatoes and apply the potato dust to photographic plates and, in so doing and with long exposures of a minute or so, manage to end up with a color image. How people figure this kind of stuff out is a total mystery to me. (Potatoes? Go figure.)

The lumières' new autochrome photographic plates were an immediate success and soon their factory was working overtime to meet the demand for potato-infused, color-producing plates. Icon photographers like Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Alvin Coburn were quick to embrace the new process. The Smithsonian article features some great examples of early, 20th Century color spudtography, including a rare color image of Mark Twain.

The Lumières' autochrome process remained the King of Color Photography for over 30 years until it was dethroned by Kodachrome and Agfacolor film.

The pretty girl at the top, leaning against the brick wall and lost in her own, private, fantasy, is Ciera. (No doubt she's fantasizing about the photographer.) I captured the image last week using two lights: A large, white-lined, 4' umbrella for the main and a small, white, shoot-thru umbrella for the highlights. No spuds, potatoes, or pommes de terre were used in the production of the image.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hair Definition

A problem I sometimes see in images from less-experienced pretty girl shooters--a little too regularly I'm afraid--is lack of definition and detail in the hair. Sure, many photographers are pretty good at providing hair highlights (especially when shooting with studio lights) but, often enough, simply setting a hair light isn't enough.

The hair care industry is huge! Hair care products have the highest sale volume of all non-food items in the United States. Add to that all the money spent on cutting and coiffing hair and you're talking about some serious bucks! In America alone, we spend more money on our hair than the Gross National Product of quite a few countries. So, with all the time and money people spend on their hair, you'd think all photographers would realize that a model's hair is a critical component of their images: Possibly, one of *the* most critical!

Here's the two biggest problems I often see: Blondes with overly blown-out hair highlights and dark-haired models with little-to-no definition/detail in their hair.

Obviously, if you're going to provide hair highlights, the amount of light directed at a model's hair should be different depending on her hair color. There's no single, all-purpose, right way to light every model's hair regardless of its color. The blonder the hair, the less light required for optimal highlights. The darker the hair, the more light you'll need. Platinum blondes make it especially difficult to maintain definition as their hair blows out, highlight-wise, so easily.

When processing images, PS's Shadow/Highlight tool can be very helpful in enhancing or restoring definition to a model's hair. If you're not working with this cool tool, you should be. But remember: It's one thing to restore detail in the shadows with this tool, but it's often an exercise in futility when trying to restore detail to blown-out highlights. If there's no detail present, you're not going to suddenly get some with PS's Shadow/Highlight tool. In other words, there's no "fix it in post" solution that's easy to employ after you've completely blown the highlights in an image. Attention to detail and capturing things correctly in production is always your best bet.

Model is Nautica from a shoot last week. MUA Dehlia. Canon 5D w/85mm prime. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125. Three lights and a reflector. Shot on a white cyc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Composition Begins in the Camera

I know this sounds like the most basic of basic advice but more than a few digital shooters (myself included) seem to too-often rely on cropping in post rather than framing in the camera to achieve distinctive composition. (An ailment probably brought on by the fact that most digital shooters perform their own post whereas, historically, way fewer film shooters did so-- Instead, they relied on labs to edit their photos.)

One problem with d-photographers over-relying on post-production cropping is we sometimes find ourselves without enough image to perform certain crops we'd like to make.

Let's use the venerable Rule of Thirds as an example: You snap a shot and, in the camera, you've composed your model fairly centered in the frame, i.e., with an approximately equal distance, on either side of the subject, to the vertical edge of the frame. Okay. That's cool and often works out just fine. With some minor cropping adjustments, you move the model from the center of the frame, giving the image a more pleasingly aesthetic composition.

But what happens when, once you're in post, you decide to crop the image a bit more interestingly, perhaps giving it a more unusual sense of composition? It happens, right? I know I do this often enough. So, let's say you decide to crop the image a little more radically, giving it a more pronounced Rule of Thirds treatment, but you find, when attempting to do this, that you've simply run out of image one side of the pic or the other. This can also be a problem when you need to level the image but, when you try leveling it, you find you've run out of image on one side of the frame or at the top or bottom. Bummer! (Less of a bummer, of course, if you shot the subject against a seamless or a blank wall, but way more of a bummer if you've captured the model in a complex environment-- one that would be difficult to make larger in order to perform the crop you'd like to make.)

I suppose this is another example of the fix it in post syndrome. In some ways, fixing or changing things in post has become so much easier and quicker and more economical that we've become sloppier and less attentive to details when we're shooting. But in so doing, we sometimes find ourselves producing less creatively-interesting imagery, mostly because some things (that we could accomplish in production) we pass on to post but, unfortunately, we neglected to give the image enough latitude to make some of those things work.

I hope this makes sense and I'm not simply rambling. I guess what I'm saying is it makes way more sense, overall and to me that is, to work harder at capturing images in the camera that are as close to what we hope to achieve (in terms of the final results) rather than over-relying on cropping and editing and post-processing to improve or change an image. BTW, you might also think about framing the shot a bit "looser" which allows for more flexibility when cropping in post.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica. I shot this pic of Nautica at a studio this past Sunday. Since I was shooting on a white cyclorama, I could easily have foregone some attention to detail (in terms of framing and composition) as it would be so easy to add more background in post. But I didn't since, lately, I've been trying harder to remind myself to frame the model in the camera as close to the way I think a given pose will work in the final result.

Below, for you "I like seeing the lighting" guys, is the basic setup I used for this set. (Although Nautica's wearing a different outfit in this BTS image.) I wish I had some black foamcore with me. Reflecting black often works nicely, especially when shooting on a white cyc. MUA was Dehlia.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WoW!!! Thanks!

I'm thrilled and grateful over how many of you took the time to answer our survey! It was a much greater response than we expected. Thank you so much!

Now, of course, we need to play statisticians and put all this data together in some lucid, intelligible, and comprehensible way. Of course, we'll be keeping everyone's responses safely archived. You never know... this reality show idea might grow some legs and take off running towards production. The writers strike might even prove to be helpful: Reality shows aren't covered by the writers' basic contract and I've been told that producers (and would-be producers) of reality television are suddenly receiving even warmer welcomes at networks and cable-casters.

Thanks again!

You might recognize the Goddess of Glam at the top-- Playboy, Penthouse, and FHM cover girl, Tera Patrick. I applied a brown-toned treatment to the image. (Which I think needs to be browner, i.e,. deeper, darker, browner.) The pic is from a shoot a few weeks ago. Makeup and hair by Ricardo Ferrise. Leesa J, co-creator of our reality show concept, assisted and documented portions of the shoot with some candid, behind-the-scenes, pics. I used three lights and a reflector to light Ms. Patrick. Canon 5D w/85mm prime, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125.

Below is a BTS shot of the setup I used for the image at the top. The third light, missing from the pic and modified with a small, silver umbrella, is up on the second-floor landing providing hair-light and some other accents. The guy in the white tee-shirt, scratching the back of his head, is Ricardo, the MUA. The pony-tailed guy with his back to Leesa's camera is your's truly... but you already figured that, right?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pretty Girl Shooter Needs Your Help!

Please keep reading. I'm not looking for a loan. It's not that kind of help I'm seeking. (Gratuitous donations, of course, are always welcome.)

Here's the deal: Today, which (coincidentally) turned out to be the day after the premiere episode of VH1's reality(?) TV show, "The Shot," aired, also happened to be the day we were already scheduled to meet again with our agent and a producer regarding our proposed, Pretty Girl Shooter, reality TV show. (Which, also coincidentally, contains some subject matter slightly similar to VH1's show.)

Here's the good news: After advising both the agent and the producer of the existence and imminent premiere of VH1's, "The Shot," both of them still showed up for the meeting! (They were both unaware of "The Shot" and, after breaking the news to them in an email just three days ago, we hadn't heard a word from them in response... not even a call to confirm the meeting was still on.)

Whew!

Here's the even better news: As a result of VH1's show, we made some adjustments, massaged the idea a bit, brainstormed for a hook that more completely separated us from VH1's show, and devised some new angles, ideas, and a format which, in all our minds, has produced an even stronger show idea which, according to the people we met with today, might have an even better shot at getting picked up by a broadcaster or cable caster... regardless of VH1's entry into the photography-themed, reality-show, market.

So what's the help we're looking for? Well, it's really simple and would only take a few minutes of your time. We would greatly appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedules to write us a short email (to prettygirlshooter@hotmail.com) and, in your email, sharing whatever you're willing to share about whatever of the following would apply to you:

1. If you principally make your living as a photographer (a photographer of any sort) please advise. If you simply shoot pretty girls as a hobby, please tell us what you do for a living? If you make some portion of your living from photography, what kind of photography do you pursue for $$$? If you make a portion of your living shooting pretty girls, what is the purpose of these images? (e.g., model ports, MySpace or FaceBook pages, whatever.) If you are retired and you shoot models as a hobby (or to supplement your retirement income) please tell us what you did for a living before retiring.

2. How much time and/or resources do you devote to pretty girl shooting? Do you shoot models regularly? Do you attend workshops and/or seminars which include shooting models? If so, how often do you attend these events or how often do you shoot models that you hire or arrange to shoot? If you attend workshops or seminars, do you attend local events or do you travel to attend them? Do you participate in online photography forums where glamour and related genres of photography are discussed? How much time do you spend doing that? How much $$$ have you spent on photo gear in the past few years?

3. Assuming you have a significant other, how do they feel about your pretty girl shooting endeavors?

4. Why did you choose glamour (or a similar photographic genre, e.g., fashion, art nudes, etc.) as the focus of your photography?

5. Where do you hope your photography might take you?

6. This one's optional. (Although merely responding to any or all of the first five questions are optional as well... but this one is even more optional.) Assuming this TV show goes the way we hope it will go and ALSO ASSUMING you, as a pretty girl shooting photographer, might be interested in participating in the show -- sorry, we can't reveal the specific premise yet -- we'd love to see a snapshot of yourself along with one or two samples of your work. (Please feel free to watermark as boldly as you'd like.)

PLEASE NOTE: We're NOT just looking for accomplished photographers. Whether you're a beginner or you're quite experienced -- wherever you are on the pretty-girl-shooting learning curve -- we'd love to hear from you. And we also hope you'll share a few samples of your work regardless of the level of skill they might demonstrate.

That's it. Simple, right?

ANOTHER NOTE TO PLEASE NOTE: We might write a few of you back with some follow-up questions. But please, if you don't hear from us, don't assume your response was unappreciated nor does it mean, if you indicated you might be interested in participating in the show, that your response didn't interest us from that perspective. Also please note that we're not collecting email addresses as a means to sell you something. The data we're collecting is informational only and your names, email addresses, and/or responses will be kept in strict confidence.

For those of you taking the time to respond, we thank you. For those who, for whatever reasons, prefer not to respond, thanks for supporting the blog!

Monday, November 05, 2007

"The Shot" Misses the Mark

I watched the premier of "The Shot" last night, VH1's new reality show about ten, hopeful, amateur, photographers vying for cash prizes and a "shot" at becoming America's next top fashion photographer.

I'll admit I was predisposed to dislike the show. I'm happy to report the producers didn't let me down.

As you might have already guessed, I was predisposed to dislike "The Shot" because of purely selfish reasons: We're in the process--and I've written about that process here, on the blog--of pitching a show that's a little too similar to VH1's televised account of what it takes to make it as a fashion shooter. (Albeit, our show is about glam shooters and takes a different approach.) But half-way into "The Shot," I realized its producers sailed a very different tack with their show: "The Shot" focuses more on the interactions between the contestants (make that the conflicts and petty squabbles between the contestants) than what it takes--art and craft and what have you--to get "The Shot," fashion or otherwise.

Right from the start, it was obvious "The Shot" wasn't so much about actually snapping "The Shot," i.e., there was very little offered in terms of revealing what it takes to get that shot. Also, to label the contestants "amateurs" wasn't exactly accurate. Most the contestants already possessed some good photography skills and more than a few of them were already "working" photographers. (Although none of them were working fashion photographers.)

There was very little in the show that revealed anything craft-related regarding getting "The Shot." For instance, not one, single contestant, to my recollection, said a word about lighting the model. (We don't need no stinking lighting.) Neither, it seems, did the show's host: fashion shooter Russel James. Yeah, there was plenty said about interacting with the model, especially when the contestants were being chastised by Russel James for their incompetence at it. The fact the contestants couldn't work well together as a team was another source of contention for Mr. James. But I'd like to know how many fashion assignments James has worked where he was expected to do so as a team member (amongst a team of shooters) rather than as an individual shooter? Yeah, team skills are important for photographers, i.e., leading a team of MUAs and stylists and assistants. But this was a team of photographers trying to lead, or be led, as they attempted to shoot a multi-page layout... you see that a lot.

Back to lighting: I didn't see much going on with modifying or controlling light. When the contestants were shooting aboard a luxury sailing vessel, I think I saw one reflector pulled out for one shot and it was a pretty small reflector at that. James complained that some of the shooters were posing the model in direct sunlight but I couldn't help but wonder about how many times James has shot exterior, daylight, magazine layouts without the benefit of scrims, reflectors, silks, lights, whatever.

Nowhere in the show did I notice anyone working with a light meter. (I guess they were all shooting in auto modes.)

There also wasn't any interaction between shooters and MUA's or stylists revealed. One thing the producers did do that probably made "ratings" sense: They hired a busty Victoria's Secret model who went out of her way to show as much cleavage as the show's censors would allow.

My favorite bit from the show was when one of the contestants couldn't figure out how to zoom with a prime lens. (It looked like a Canon 135mm, f/2, "L" prime.) That little bit typified the show's apparent quest to render the photographers ignorant even though James mentioned, more than a few times, that he hand-picked each contestant for, amongst other things, the skills they already possessed.

I'll probably watch the remainder of the show's episodes since there's very little (if anything) on TV that focuses on photography and photography is what I'm mostly about.

In short, I'm smugly happy they missed the mark with this show, at least in my opinon they did. I don't see it going more than one season but what do I know? Network television has a long history of broadcasting crap. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are You a Virtual Photographer?


As a rule, I'm not big on Photoshop add-ons... except sometimes when they're free. Especially when they're free.

OptikVerve's "Virtual Photographer" is free and fun. You can do all kinds of wacky stuff to your digital images with this program. Did I mention it's free? It is.

A bunch of you might already be familiar with Virtual Photographer--it's been around for years--but, if you're not, you might want to surf over to OptikVerve's site and download it. Once you've installed it into the right Adobe PS folder it'll be there, under your "Filters" pull-down menu, waiting for you and it to play.

The image at the top is Monica. Monica's from down-under and is always a hoot to work with. I shot this pic of Monica yesterday. For the most part, I lit it like I was in a studio only I wasn't... in a studio that is. Fortunately, A/C outlets were only a few feet away. I would really love it if, everywhere I went, there were A/C outlets just waiting for me to plug my lights into. You know, like at the beach, the desert, the mountains, some back-alley in the city. Sure, there's photographic lighting products I could buy that are battery powered but I'm sick of spending money on more gear. And then there's the Strobist approach which is cool for some applications. But why can't they just install A/C outlets everywhere? Then I could use what I already own wherever I might be whenever I felt inclined to do so.

The image on the left is processed the way I'd normally process the image in Photoshop. The image on the right was processed with Virtual Photographer using their B&W conversion plus some added effects. I probably could have achieved the same effect using what's routinely available in PS but this was quicker and easier.

So, if you want to have some fun and (easily and efficiently) apply some wacky effects to your images, try downloading Virtual Photographer and have at it. (Sorry Mac people, Virtual Photographer is only available for PC users.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ensemble Photography

I see more than a few image makers, myself included, struggling to produce consistently exceptional images. It seems to me the digital revolution is to blame, leastwise, when it comes to producing first-rate photographic images.

While digital technologies have made it easier for many to produce marginally competent images, producing exceptional images requires additional new skills.

Back in the day, what photographers needed--for the most part and in addition to creative vision--were exceptional photographic skills to produce exceptional images. Today, that's not enough. These days, photographers need solid photographic skills coupled with high-end, electronic, image processing skills in order to consistently produce superior images, i.e., images that truly stand out from the crowd.

When it comes to professional glamour photography, producing stand-out images is, most often, an ensemble production: MUAs, stylists, re-touchers and graphic designers, and the models themselves are all integral parts of that ensemble. Certainly this goes for fashion photography as well. (Often, with the addition of an art director.)

But today I'm going to remark on a different kind of image-producing ensemble. I'm talking about collaborative teams where photographers, make that image producers, pool their skills and creativity to enhance the quality of their work.

When thinking about collaborative teams, Markus Klinko & Indrani come immediately to mind. If you haven't checked out their work, you might consider doing so.

An article in Digital Photo Pro magazine states, "Partners in life as well as creativity are rare indeed. There are plenty of examples where one person focuses on the creative work while the other half of the team handles the financial and promotional side. Markus Klinko and Indrani are a unique team in which both partners drive the creativity of their projects, culminating in cutting-edge imagery that’s evocative and dynamic."

Certainly, forming a collaborative photographic team isn't easy to accomplish. Things like ego (or something as simple, yet difficult, as finding a suitable partner) might be to blame. Simply put, collaborative photo teams aren't for everyone. But I think you're going to see more and more of these Klinko & Indrani-ish teams surface as the skills and knowledge required to produce exceptional imagery becomes more and more difficult for a single person to achieve. Sometimes, technology doesn't simplify the process, instead, it amplifies the difficulty in achieving superior results when attempting to utilize and integrate all those hi-tech processes.

The pretty girl at the top is Britney. I captured this image of Britney a week or so ago while on a set. Lighting was my usual.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another TV Show Update

Not much exciting news to report. Things are still moving forward. SpikeTV passed on the show. I suppose that doesn't constitute forward movement but it was Spike-- SpikeTV! What do they know?.

The agent is still speaking to Bravo but, in the interim, we're meeting with an experienced producer who likes the idea. That's happening tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. They (the agent and the producer) are already making noise about shooting a short video which animates the show's concept. That's certainly something that can be accomplished although it will take some time and effort and that sets the time-line further back.

Obviously, Hollywood is slow to recognize genius. Okay, maybe they're just slow to warm up to ideas that, to my knowledge, haven't been produced before. Interestingly, it's amazing how many people don't seem to know much about glamour photography in spite of there being examples all around them on a regular basis. Fashion? They know about that. But glamour? Many seem hard-pressed to put a definition to it. Regardless, we'll see how it goes. I'm excited as ever about the potential for this show. If it goes, I think it could help further legitimize the art of pretty girl shooting, leastwise, the kind of pretty girl shooting many of us engage in. It will also put a few bucks in a few deserving pockets... like mine.

The pretty lady at the top is Sky. Although she's a bit older... uhhh, more mature than many of my usual victims, she's potent eye-candy nonetheless. (MILFs and praise of older women and all that.)

I photographed Sky a few weeks ago in the backyard of a location home. She's standing beneath a patio roof, shielding her from some stray sunlight I couldn't flag (lack of gear to do so) and keeping me close to A/C outlets. I used my 5' Photoflex Octodome for my mainlight, a reflector for fill, and a small umbrella for some back lighting. The sun provided the rest. Canon 5D w/85mm prime. ISO 100, f/8 @ 125th.

Monday, October 22, 2007

That Brown-Toned Gritty Look **UPDATE**

For awhile now, in magazines and elsewhere, I've seen more than a few examples by more than a few photographers who've been processing their images with a brown-toned, gritty look. And, I'll admit, I've become a bit of a fan of this processing style.

I'm not much of a Photoshop Master and I really didn't know how to approach this processing technique so, when I attended the recent SuperShoots Las Vegas event, I asked SS's resident PS guru, Joshua Berardi, of Moscato Images, about it.

Josh, who is a photographer and also works full-time as a digital retoucher, was kind enough to share some ideas on accomplishing this "look" and, while I can't say I've mastered it I'm on the road to feeling comfortable with it... at least, I think I am.

The image at the top is my first try at processing that brown-toned gritty look onto a pretty girl image. I'm still experimenting but I'm not entirely dissatisfied with the results. I think this "look" is pretty cool and, with the right image capture, can be applied effectively.

Okay, I'm toast today. I spent 16 hours on a set yesterday and my bones are aching.

The model at the top is Kayla. Image captured at a shoot a few weeks ago. When I arrived on that particular set, I asked where I should set up. They told me to shoot in the driveway against the stucco wall of the home's garage. "Hmmmm..." was my witty response. A few feet away was a designer swimming pool with all kinds a architectural refinements surrounding it but I figured shooting in the driveway would have been good enough for Rodney Dangerfield so it was good enough for me. Besides, they were writing the check so I was willing to shoot wherever they wanted me to shoot.

Image of Kayla captured with a Canon 5D with an 85mm, f/1.8 prime on board. ISO 100, f/8 @ 160th. Two lights, one modified with a 5' Photoflex Octodome (mainlight) and the other with a medium Chimera strip (highlights) were used. I also used a Westcott reflector to bounce in some fill. The stucco, btw, was painted with a mustard-yellow paint. Mustard yellow! Doesn't get better than that.

U P D A T E : Photoshop sensei, Josh Berardi, has posted a short tutorial on the SuperShoots forum. If you're interested in brown tone images (or toning with any other color) it provides a great way to accomplish it. As Josh points out, once you've processed the toning you can play with your image in other ways. In my image (above) I put my foot to the pedal with the sharpening (Unsharp Tool) in order to give the image some grittiness. I also used a "Multiply" layer to heighten that grit a bit more. I did some other stuff too. But I'd have to kill all of you if I told you.

Check out Josh's mini-tutorial by clicking HERE.

Also, if you're so inclined, you might want to join the SuperShoots forum community. It's a great place filled with some cool peeps. You'll find some great photographers there: From pros to serious, accomplished, hobbyists, to those at various places levels of the learning curve. And did I mention the models? Yepperz! There's some awesome pretty girls on that site and I'm not talking about wannabee posers with cell-hone pics in their ports. As I mentioned, it's free to join (so I'm definitely not getting kick-backs for pimping their site) and all they require is for you to post at least one image in your portfolio there.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Big Bucks Shooting Fashion?



I was on a set the other day and a NYC fashion shooter (a friend of the director) was visiting. Naturally, we chatted about photography and photographing models and all that good stuff.

The fashion shooter was Italian though he spoke perfect English without much of an accent. He'd shot for many years in Milan and now resides in NYC. He showed me a few prints of some of his work. Quite good stuff-- mostly shot with bare-bulb hot lights and with only a single source at that. Eventually, our conversation moved to the business side of shooting models. What he told me surprised me. According to this shooter, there's a lot less money in shooting fashion these days. Not so much because of the difficulty in landing assignments--that's always been difficult--but more because clients simply won't cough up those big bucks to too many shooters.

This is not to say there aren't photographers in the fashion world who still command huge fees for their time but, according to my new, Italian, photographer friend, clients have wised up to that fact that the photographer's contributions to the final images aren't hugely more important than what MUAs, stylists, and art directors bring to the table. In other words, they've figured out that a great image ain't all about the shooter's skills. He even went on to quote me some model rates that well-known fashion names (like Versace and others) are paying many models and, frankly, I was stunned.

Like I said, there are still fashion shooters who get the big bucks. And there are still top models who are also paid generously for their time. But it seems the halcyon days of mega-bucks being tossed at just about anyone who manages to secure a plumb fashion gig--as a model or a shooter--are bygone. Leastwise, that's what this guy told me.

The image of Tera Patrick (at the top) was snapped by Leesa while I was shooting "T" from a different angle. I think it's a killer shot... more fashion-like than glam. (Well, except maybe for the red-satin panties. But who's looking at Tera's butt?) I particularly like the way Tera's face is framed by the shadow (from her hair) from this angle. Leesa's image was captured with a Canon 20D w/28-135 USM IS zoom attached. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125. Makeup and hair by Ricardo Ferrise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back From Las Vegas (Again)



I've been out of town again but now I'm back. I drove up to Vegas this past Saturday and I went for a couple of reasons: One of which was to hook up with some friends and the other to crash Super Shoots' Vegas shindig. (Man! I've been to Las Vegas a bunch of times lately!)

Saturday night, Leesa and I caught up with Don and DeAnn Clark of DDC Studios. I've had a cyber-friendship with Don and DeAnn for two or three years. But with them living in Wichita and me in L.A., we've never met in person... until now. I first "met" Don and DeAnn on the old Garage Glamour site. (Now called Glamour1.) Don's a photographer and DeAnn's an MUA. (A pretty girl shooter whose wife is an MUA-- How convenient is that?) Anyway, the four of us headed to downtown Vegas and had a great time. I like downtown Vegas: It's kind of sleazy and honky-tonk-like... Don fit right in. (HeEheheheheh)

On Sunday, we cruised over to where the SuperShoots people were staying and went with them to Nelson, Nevada, for a day of shooting and learning and more shooting. {Next June, I'll be an instructor at SuperShoots Hit the Lodge event and I thought their Vegas workshop would be a great opportunity to meet up with the SuperShoots folks.) Nelson was a very cool location and I want to go back there to shoot sometime soon.

There were about twenty participants at SuperShoots Vegas venue. I think they had a half-dozen or so models, a couple of MUAs, and another half-dozen instructors and mentors. If you're interested in attending a photo workshop, you might consider signing up for one of SuperShoots' upcoming events. And no, I don't get a kickback as a result of anyone signing up after reading about them on this site... but now that I'm thinking about it...

The image at the top (courtesy of LeesaJ) has me 'splaining to one of the participants the relative importance and immense joy of making like roadkill to get the shot. I didn't shoot much of anything myself, in spite of the camera dangling off my shoulder. I was too busy making like a know-it-all for the benefit(?) of some of the photographers participating in the workshop.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Incredibly Versatile Strip Box


I love strip boxes! They're so versatile. Not only do they provide a narrow, somewhat-controlled, soft source, but they're adaptable to various situations and can be used in either a vertical or horizontal position.

The image of Tera Patrick (above) is an example of using a strip box in a horizontal position. In fact, all I did was lay the box on the floor, on its side, in front of Tera. Below is a behind-the-scenes shot (courtesy of Leesa) showing its position.



As you can see, it's simple yet effective. I also positioned a Westcott reflector, gold side out, above and behind her for a bit of warm fill. A second light source, with a 30-degree grid affixed to its front, performs double-duty as a hair light and an accent light-- I let a bit of it spill on her cute derrière.

So next time you're using a strip box, remember that you can rotate it on your speed ring to vertical as well as horizontal positions... and everything in between. Or, just lay it on the floor if you're looking for a very low and wide source. (Hint: Think making highlights when lighting a car or a motorcycle.)

Tera captured with Canon 5D w/85mm prime, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125. Makeup and hair by Ricardo Ferrise. Assistant: Leesa J.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some Days Are Better Than Other Days

For pretty girl shooters, some days are better than other days-- For this pretty girl shooter, yesterday was one of those better days.

Why?

Two words: (Playboy, Penthouse, and FHM covergirl) Tera Patrick. (I guess that's more like 7 words if you count what's in the parentheses, but whose counting?)

When it comes to glamour and tease, no other model I've shot--and I've shot more than a few--works the camera like Ms. Patrick works it. She nails the poses, she feels the light, she expresses everything a glamour and tease model should be expressing, and she's really fun to work with.

Leesa came with me to assist and for an opportunity to shoot a set with Tera. Leesa is an experienced scenic photographer. The annual, 2008, Nationwide Insurance calender features many of Leesa's scenics... about half the pics in the calender are her's. Nationwide printed 4.5 million of those calenders and they'll be going out to a lot of people. Pretty cool, huh? Now, she's building a fashion and glamour book. And what better way to add to a pretty girl port than with pics of a glam goddess of Tera Patrick's caliber?

We arrived at Tera's suburban Los Angeles home at 11:00 A.M. Hair and makeup artist extraordinaire, Ricardo Ferrise, was already at work on Tera. Check out the slideshow on Ricardo's MySpace page to appreciate his skills and artistry.

The first set we shot was on Tera's staircase. (Sorry, but I neglected to shoot any of the lighting setups I used throughout the day.) For the stairs set I used a 5' Photoflex Octodome for the main, a Chimera strip coming in from camera-left for fill and accents, a white reflector, camera-right, for fill, and a small umbrella up on the second-floor landing for a hair-light. I shot this set with my Canon 5D with an 85mm prime on board. (ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125.) We used a fan to blow Tera's hair because, you know, what's a stairway shot without a little wind blowing up the stairs?

We shot 6 or 7 sets during the day, including an impromptu set, outside, in front of the house on Tera's husband's chopper. Tera's front yard wasn't exactly ideal for shooting a glam chick on a chopper but it was fun. Here's a snap of me shooting Leesa shooting Tera. And yeah, Tera went topless in the front yard of the house in daylight... briefly, of course. Wouldn't you love to be one of Tera's neighbors? The second shot, of course, is the reverse of the first, i.e., my snapshot of Leesa shooting Tera.



Monday, October 08, 2007

What's in a (cool) Name?

Sometimes, I think I need a cooler name, i.e., a nom de photographe that's more stylish and memorable.

A young NYC shooter, one whose work I admire, is River Clark.

River Clark.

Now that's a cool name for a shooter!

First off, his given name, River, has a lot of "wow" value to it. With a name like that, you simply expect his photography to "wow" you! Yep, it's uncommon yet cool.

Whether River's given name was given or he took it for himself I have no idea, but it's a great name for a shooter nonetheless! The name "River," of course, conjures River Phoenix who, although very dead, was so very James Dean-ish in a very contemporary kind of way. And who was cooler than James Dean? Think about it: You're a shooter hoping to make a name for yourself and your name conjures James Dean, albeit by way of River Phoenix. But still, how cool is that?

While I have no idea if they're related, River's surname, Clark, is an already distinguished name in the world of photography: Think Larry Clark. I've met Larry and he's a fairly cool guy whose had a notable career as both a photographer and a filmmaker. But now I'm thinking Larry might have gone even further if he had a first name like River. And if he did, the real River Clark might have to use a less cool name, like Larry, and perhaps he wouldn't seem so cool in spite of the cool photography he produces.

Oh well. Just some rambling and innocuous thoughts for a Monday. I'm shooting a 20-girl pool party tomorrow. It's for some kind of pay-per-view thing. I'll be one of two photographers doing the honors. (Twenty pretty girls would be a lot for one shooter to adequately cover in one, 12-hour, day.) I should have some pics to share by Wednesday but, if not, it's cuz I'm shooting Tera on Wednesday. Hey! Someone's gotta do it.

The pretty girl at the top is Sasha, snapped a few months ago. She's sitting in a clear, Plexiglas, sci-fi-looking, half-spherical chair thingie that hangs from the ceiling by a chain.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Glamourcon

Leesa and I headed down to Glamourcon today. The event, taking place at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, runs throughout the weekend.

There were about 50 or 60 tables well stocked with Playboy Playmates, Penthouse Pets, Hustler Honeys, and various and assorted glamour, tease, and pin-up models. It was a pretty girl shooter's paradise.

The event was well organized and well attended. Leesa and I were guests of Playboy, Penthouse, and FHM covergirl, Tera Patrick, who was in attendance and, of course, garnering a lot of attention from fans and photographers alike.

I had a chance to chat with a couple of people I haven't seen in a while. Rolando Gomez, photographer, author, and founder of the Glamour1 forum was there along with his muse, Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough. I also ran into Moses Marquez, a great guy and a terrific shooter. Moses had a bevy of beautiful models at his table.

The pretty girl in the snapshot at the top (clicked by Leesa, of course) is the Goddess of Glam, Ms. Tera Patrick. The dork next to her--with the stupid grin on his face and his arm at his side like he's standing at attention--is some guy trying his best (and failing miserably) at looking like a "play-uh." (Ya think maybe it's just the camo trousers that ruin the "play-uh" image?) And just so ya know, I ain't THAT short. Tera's 5'8" and she's wearing 4 to 5 inch heels.

Here's a shot of Tera I snapped a while back... sans the dork.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Hit the Lodge!

The good folks at SuperShoots are responsible for me having to replace all my hats.

With larger hats.

Ya see, they inflated my head (and my ego) to a ridiculous circumference with a totally surprising and unexpected offer to instruct and mentor at their upcoming, 9th annual, REALLY BIG, event: Hit the Lodge.

Yesiree! Come next June, I'll be heading East to the Walnut Knob Resort, located somewhere in the backwoods of Illinois, for four, fun-filled days of learning and shooting and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow photo enthusiasts!

If any of you are interested in participating in a terrific learning event hosted by a well-respected and experienced photography workshop company, check out all of SuperShoots events. And if Illinois in June sounds good, well, I'll be there. And so will a bunch of other experienced instructors, exceptional models, and enthusiastic participants.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

TV Show Update

Made it to the next step!

I spent three or four days working on the written treatment for the reality TV show I mentioned in an earlier post.

Finally, after way too many hours tweaking the freakin' thing, I had it where I thought it worked. On Sunday, I sent it off to the agent. He called early this morning and told me he thought the treatment worked great, that it spelled out the show perfectly, and that he was going to start making phone calls and setting up "pitch" meetings.

None of this, of course, means squat in the higher order of the REALLY important stuff related to getting this show produced but there's no way it gets produced if the first steps (with the agent) hadn't been successful.

Peter, the agent/manager representing the show, first plans to take it to Showtime, and then to Bravo and Spike. Leesa, my co-collaborator on this project, observed that Peter wants to first take it to Showtime because, if it were to be produced by Showtime, the show could have a harder "edge." Well, she didn't exactly say it that way. What she said (with her really cute Kentucky twang) was, "Ya know why he's takin' it to Showtime-- Cuz they can show titties."

Leesa has a way of cutting directly to the chase with her words. She's very astute and mostly on-the-money with her observations. She figures this kind of stuff out without batting an eyelash and presents it in a way that leaves no doubt what she's saying. Eventually, I would have came to the same conclusion. But doing so would require me to have one of those epiphanies and, more than likely, I wouldn't have had the required epiphany for a day or two. Epiphanies, unfortunately, don't come easy to me. But thoughts that qualify as epiphanies for me are simply casual observations for Leesa. I envy her ability to do that but she just shrugs it off. I guess that's just how she rolls.

I still don't feel comfortable saying much about the show. (Publicly, that is.) After it's pitched, though, I'll be more forthcoming in what it's all about. For now, I'll only repeat what I've already said before: It's about photography and photographers.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Blog: Boudoir Photographer

Check out the new, Boudoir Photographer blog. So far, there's only a few posts but I'm hoping this blog will be regularly updated.

After reading BP's first few posts, I've rethought a few of my notions about boudoir photography. I've never shot the genre but I've always figured I could jump right in and be fairly decent at it. After all, I've shot a few women here and there with an erotic twist to the images. Seems to me my skills and experience would translate nicely. And, yeah, most of them will. But this genre has other considerations that are unique to it: Considerations I hadn't, uhhh... considered until reading the BP blog.

If you're a boudoir photographer or someone who has thought about getting into that style of photography, I suggest you surf on over to the Boudoir Photographer blog and have a look-see. And leave a comment encouraging the BP blogger to continue posting. Hopefully, BP will become another valuable resource for pretty girl shooters everywhere.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

Actually, I'm not leaving Las Vegas... I've already left and have returned home.

I'm toast.

Most of the time there, I was operating on 3 or 4 hours sleep a night. It's going to take me a few days to recuperate. But it was fun! Although we didn't shoot all the stuff we planned on shooting, I did photograph some fun stuff!

One night, for instance, we rented a party bus and took six models to numerous nightspots around Sin City. Those party buses are a trip! They come equipped with an ear-shattering sound system, giant liquid plasma screens, full bar, stripper pole, disco lights and a driver who kept his eyes on the road with little care about what was going on in the back. What more could you ask for? Okay, a hot tub would have been cool but, short of that, the bus was fully equipped for a party. In fact, that's just what those buses are: Parties on wheels.

The party bus night ended, at about three or four in the morning, at a casino bowling alley. As numerous casino security people cautiously watched, six well-lubricated pretty girls tried their best to bowl. It was hysterical! Half the time it seemed like the bowling balls were tossing the models rather than the other way around.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Heading Outa Town Again

I'm off to Sin City again for a few days of pretty girl shooting photography. Not sure when I'll be back, probably Wednesday or Thursday. I'm starting to feel like a part-time local there. Good thing I don't have any serious vices... like gambling. Otherwise, I'd probably be coming home each time with less in my pocket than what I went with plus what I earn while there.

Hopefully, I'll find time to update while I'm in Vegas. It's not like I don't have access to the internet where I'll be staying. Unfortunately, time seems to often get away from me and I somehow don't manage to get on the computer much, except for off-loading images from flash cards to my computer's hard drive.

Oh well.

The pretty girl at the top is Selena, captured some time ago at a location in downtown L.A. She's lit by sunlight coming through the window and a bit of artificial light for fill.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Photographing Dwarfs

In photographing dwarfs, you don't get majesty and beauty. You get dwarfs. -Susan Sontag

I'm not using this quote to offend little people. I'm acquainted with some big people who once publicly offended some little people. My big people acquaintances quickly discovered that the offended little people included a few who work for the IRS. Needless to say, the people I'm acquainted with made public apologies to little people in general: Offended little people, employed by the IRS little people, and little people in general.

Recently, on one of the glamour photography forums I frequent, a member commented about photographers routinely critiquing the relative beauty and allure of models. (Rather than focusing on the craft of photography in those criticisms.) Although, in a perfectly PC world, constructive criticisms of photographic images would and should focus more on craft and less on perceived beauty of the model, this ain't a perfectly PC world.

I'm confident there are dwarfs, I mean little people, who project beauty and majesty, certainly in the eyes of other little people as well as others. I'm also sure there are some incredibly well-crafted images of little people out there. But many people's perceptions of beauty--mostly perceptions by people who are not little people, that is--do not, for the most part, include the physical and visual characteristics of dwarfs little people. The same holds true for beauty and glamour models. If you seek more positive responses from viewers regarding your work as a pretty girl shooter, you'd do well to photograph models who stereotypically fit most people's perceptions of beauty. Simply put, the hotter the model the more wowed people will be by your photographs of them. Leastwise, it mostly works that way.

I know this sounds like I'm saying beauty trumps craft when it comes to pretty girl shooting. (I suppose I am saying exactly that.) If you really want to wow people with your work, shoot the hottest possible models and do so in a way that exhibits the best you're able to accomplish when it comes to the craft of glamour and tease photography. You'll probably find that less-crafty images of truly beautiful and sexy models will be applauded more enthusiastically than very crafty images of plane-Jane models.

It might not be fair but it's the way things are. We don't, after all, live in a perfect world.

The pretty girl at the top is Rebecca.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Exciting Stuff Going On

I took a meeting with a Hollywood power-broker the other day. In Hollywood, people take meetings. They don't go to meetings and they don't attend them... they take them, capiche? (BTW, they also don't "eat" lunch. They "do" lunch.)

So what's an old pretty girl shooter like me doing sipping lattes with a Hollywood deal-maker? Well, between latte sips and nibbles on my biscotti, I was pitching a show. A TV show. A TV show that (wouldn't ya just know it?) has a bit to do, in its theme, with photography. And guess what? He loves it! He's all over it! He's on my ass to finish the written treatment all over it! And he wants to quickly set up pitch meetings with the suits at places like Fox TV and elsewhere.

So how did I end up at a trendy coffee joint with a latte in one hand and a biscotti in the other while trying to explain my TV show idea in some sort of articulate way?

Background:

Once upon a time I dedicated most of my waking moments to a Hollywood career as a writer and, even more hopefully, to being a director. Back then, I had an agent. And this guy I just met with was that agent. We had some successes back then. Heck, I co-created a sit-com that NBC produced and aired but, sadly, it didn't make it onto the season schedule. If it had, I'd probably be living in Malibu still collecting residuals. Back then, I made ends meet shooting head shots and commercial portfolios for aspiring actors. I had converted my garage into a small studio and had my own darkroom. (B&W only.) Anyway, my (then) wife (who was an actress) became pregnant and I decided I had to be more responsible and so I pushed my Hollywood dreams aside to become a responsible father with a regular income and health insurance and all that stuff. This was like 25 or 30 years ago.

Fast forward to now: I came up with this idea for a TV show and I thought I'd try to locate my former agent and see what became of him. Turns out he's done very well for himself with an uber-impressive Hollywood resume. I managed to locate a phone number and, not knowing if he'd even take my call, decided to give it a shot. Well, he was more than willing to meet and we did and now we're gonna see if we can make this idea fly.

There's no guarantees, of course. I know this well having been down the road before. But the first step was always selling the guy who had to sell it to others. If you couldn't get past that first step, there were no more steps. So, with the first step successfully completed, all I can ask is please do me a favor and keep your freakin' fingers crossed!

The gratuitious eye-candy at the top is Angel from a few months ago.