Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Aspect Ratios

First off, I'm happy to report my 5D's sensor is resting and doing nicely after Dr. Jimmy took it into surgery today and performed a Dustbunnyoctomy. In other words, I cleaned the sensor and, as of this writing, that one, freaking, hideous, mutant, dust-bunny is gone. History! Not there! Morte!

If you're wondering what surgical tools I used to remove the grotesque tumor-on-my-sensor, I purchased the Eclipse products: Swab, Pec-Pads, Cleaning Fluid and all that. The whole procedure took less than a minute to complete.

Whew! I feel better already.

Anyway, aspect ratios...

As most of you already know, aspect ratio is the relationship of the width of an image to its height, i.e., of its horizontal to vertical dimensions: 3:2 and 2:3 are the most commonly-seen aspect ratios in still photography. That's because 35mm film and cameras are manufactured to produce 3:2 frames. For glamour photography, 2:3 seems to be the aspect ratio of choice for most shooters. We also call these aspect ratios "portrait" and "landscape."

Sometimes, I think the words "portrait" and "landscape" overly influence our choices as shooters. When shooting people, i.e., one person (which is what I mostly shoot), I generally and automatically hold my camera so as to capture in the portrait aspect ratio when I'm shooting. But later, in post, I often come across images that I wish I'd captured holding my camera in the landscape orientation. Sure, I can crop a shot from portrait to landscape in post, but if I captured in portrait, I'm probably going to lose elements of the image when I crop to landscape, that is, to 3:2... elements I would prefer to keep. That's mostly because I frame the shots fairly close to how they're going to end up. Yeah, I leave a little room around the perimeter but, for the most part, the framing doesn't end up that much different from the finished crop.

As I look at the glamour and other people-photography work of others, I'm always spotting images that seem so much more powerful because they're depicted in landscape ratio even though they seem as if it might be more usual to see similar pics in a portrait ratio. Using the landscape ratio also sometimes gives the shooter the opportunity to play around with the "rule of thirds" a bit more.

I guess what I'm saying is that, in the future, I'm going to try to remember to shoot more stuff with my camera oriented for landscape captures-- and I'm not just talking about when the model is lying down. I'll see if I end up happier with some of the images.

We're always supposed to be evolving, right? So, I think I'll evolve myself over to the landscape side... at least for some of the pretty girl stuff I shoot.

The model depicted in landscape mode is Laurie. I shot Laurie with a 10D over two years ago. Anyway, Laurie's lying down so that pic doesn't count in with what I wrote about.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Is the Mighty JPEG About to Take a Dirt Nap?

A big hat-tip to forum contributor and Charleston shooter, LSC1, for his post on the G1 forum regarding Microsoft's plans to replace the JPEG with something they're calling HD Photo.

First off, HD Photo ain't what you might think it is. It has nothing to do with HD video, i.e., High-Definition video.

According to Rico Malvar, a Microsoft Research director who helped develop the format, "HD" doesn't actually stand for "high definition," but it's supposed to connote the better image quality that comes with HD TV.

Ya think, once this format is established, Microsoft might have a problem with anyone who usurps the letters, "HD" for anything remotely connected to digital photos? My guess is they will. That's how usurpers are when they're usurped.

I'm not sure what the "HD" in "HD Photo" stands for if it doesn't stand for High-Def. Maybe it means Heavy Duty or High Density? Probably not. Those terms are more appropriate for things like trash bags and hard drives.

Whatever "HD" stands for, its attributes are impressive. If it's all they say it is, it might replace JPEGs. I just think it's a little weird that they couldn't or wouldn't come up with something more unique for a name. If you want to read more about HD Photo, here's a link.

Today's pretty girl is brought to you by the two-person gene pool of Brooke's parents, me, and MUA Yoko. We captured this image of Brooke (Brooke's parents weren't there) with the help of my Canon 5D and an 85mm prime, shooting at ISO 100, f/6.3 @ 125th and using a 3-light setup: 5' Octodome for the main, Chimera strip behind her, camera-right, and a small, silver-lined umbrella, also behind her, camera-left.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Straight Out of the Camera

I see this a lot: A shooter posts a pic on a forum and says it's "...straight out of the camera." I suppose, on occasion, I've been guilty of saying those words myself. But it was a lie. And for the vast majority of those who label their images as being "straight out of the camera," it's also a lie.

Sometimes, images appear like they're "straight out of the camera." But they're not. The phrase, "straight out of the camera," if you're unsure what it means, refers to post-processing, i.e., it's a statement to the effect that no post-processing was performed on the image.

Anything you do in post effects the image and how it's perceived by viewers. If you crop or resize, you're effecting the image. If you adjust levels or tone, you're effecting the image. If you change the color profile or reduce the quality or resolution, you're effecting the image. Everything and anything you perform with any image processing tool effects or changes the image--sometimes in big ways and sometimes in subtle ways--but it changes it nonetheless and, as a rule, changing one thing, even minor changes, changes another. For those of you who might think I'm being petty, or I'm nit-picking, or splitting hairs, you're probably right. I probably am.

But I'll finish what I have to say anyway...

It seems to me there's two, major reasons shooters lay claim to this "straight out of the camera" thing: 1) To state there isn't any major manipulation, like Gaussian Blur, Diffuse Glow, or other commonly-used glamour processing peformed on the image or, 2) An attempt to claim, "I'm so freaking good I don't have to change the image at all!"

Personally, I think most shooters who claim an image is, "straight out of the camera," fall into the first category I listed.

The image I posted (above) of Jasmine ain't "straight out of the camera." Had I not converted to monochrome, it still wouldn't be "straight out of the camera."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Showcasing the Model or the Photographer?

There's a fine line, as shooters, we sometimes walk. It's about asking ourselves this question: Who's more important to showcase, the models or ourselves, the photographers?

Obviously, certain genres are a no-brainer when it comes to this. If you're shooting artistic nudes (or artistic anything) the artist comes first. In fact, the model is often little more than a prop. That's not to say the model doesn't contribute immensely to the final product, but the final product isn't usually about the model. It's about the final product as a whole. And since this "whole" is a product of the artist's vision, it's the artist who comes first.

Other genres, however, aren't so much about the shooter as they are about the model. Certainly, if you're shooting for a model's port, the model comes first. But that's where the "fine line" thing comes into play. The shooter's #1 priority is to showcase the model in exceptional ways. Doing so requires snapping some great pics. The line between the shooter's skills versus the model's attributes, however, can be very subtle. As a shooter, your goal is to take great images without upstaging the model. It's still about her (or him) after all.

I sometimes think about this when I'm shooting pretty girl images that are supposed to be about showcasing the model. I know I can do certain things that might make the images more photographically impressive but, if I do so, am I doing the model a service or a disservice? Sure, people might look at the pics and say, "Wow!" But are they wowed by the model or wowed by the photography? Hopefully, both. But I think if it's going to lean towards one side or another, it should lean towards the model. Obviously, the goal, in this case, is for viewers to be wowed by the model yet impressed with the photo... which requires a delicate balance of wow value between the model and the shooter.

Hey! No one said this stuff's easy!

Or maybe I'm thinking too hard?

More pics of Devin from this past week's shoot. Hope no one's bored looking at her. I know I wasn't bored shooting her. Here's another...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tales From the Jacuzzi

First off, the Pretty Girl Shooter Flickr Group is growing nicely. If you haven't joined, why not do so? Flickr works a little like in that, as you become more involved, you develop an extended network of groups for viewing the kinds of images you enjoy. As of this writing, we have 81 members in the PGSFG.

Back to Tales From the Jacuzzi...

One of the sets we decided to shoot while I was in Vegas was Devin in the jacuzzi. It was night and it was cold. Many people associate Vegas with intense heat--and it's true it bakes there in the summer--but in the winter it can get fairly chilly in Sin City. While shooting these jacuzzi pics, the temperatures were in the mid-30s. It didn't bother Devin much, she was in the hot, bubbly water. I, on the other hand, was freezing my ass off.

One of the problems that was immediately noticeable was the steam generated by the hot water and the cold air. Often, we had to fan the steam away from in front of the model. While the steam was a cool effect, when it drifted in front of the model it simply hazed over the shots. I probably could have made that work if I was looking for some artsier results, but I was shooting pretty girl pics, not art nudes.

I had limited gear with me on this trip. I'll be going back in the near future and, next time, I'll bring along some bounce-board to use as flags or reflectors, and perhaps a snoot and/or some grids.

While shooting these jacuzzi images, I really could have used some flags or other gear to control the light. Initially, I went with a three-light setup for these but the spill was scattering light everywhere and while I didn't not like the results, I decided I'd like them better with a bit more shadow in the shots, rendering the images with more of a night-time feel to them.

The first image I posted (above) is a good example from the 3-light setup. But, for me, there's just too much light... at least in my opinion. I decided, therefore, to remove one of the sources from the setup (my edgelight behind the model, camera-left) and go with two-lights. This allowed more shadow and fall-off, adding a bit more drama to the images. All of you might not agree that the two-light setup worked better but I think, in this case, less was more. Besides, I like shadows. Yeah, a lot of glamour photography utilizes a higher-key approach, but that ain't my usual style. You can see the result of removing one of the sources in the second image and in the image I posted with my "I'm Back" update prior to this post.

As mentioned, the model is Devin. I captured these with my Canon 5D w/28-135mm zoom, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 160th. The mainlight was a 5' Photoflex Octodome. The two backlights in the first image and the one backlight in the second were bare bulbs with small, 6-inch, parabolic reflectors attached.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm Back

I just spent a grueling four days living in the lap of luxury. Ok. Maybe they weren't so grueling. Plus, the "lap" I'm referring to was in Las Vegas. If you've been to Vegas, you probably know that having fun in Sin City can be grueling. And it doesn't matter whether you're there for fun or business because, even when you're there for business, there's still usually a fair amount of fun involved.

The house I stayed at was in a gated community where a few of its homeowners have names like Maloof, Wynn, Agassi, and Brunei... as in the Sultan of Brunei. Now don't get me wrong, the place I crashed at wasn't a Sultan's palace. Compared to the Sultan's crib, the house I was a guest at is a shack. But the shack was still quite impressive and luxurious nonetheless.

Anwway, I was there for business which included some shooting. The young lady above is Devin. Ya see, at this house I stayed at, they stock the jacuzzi with young ladies like Devin.

I'm fairly exhausted. And the four-hour drive back to L.A. didn't help my sense of sleep deprivation much. For that reason, I'm going to call it a night where I, thankfully, will get to sleep in my own bed for the first time in four nights. I'll update tomorrow, hopefully, with something more on-topic.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pretty Girl Shooter Group at Flickr

I thought it might be fun to create a Pretty Girl Shooter group at Flickr.

So I did.

The purpose of this group is to allow the Pretty Girl Shooter blog's readers to post pics of their own. It's a public group and I've limited the posting to three (3) images per day. (Hopefully, this will cause people to be a bit more discriminating with the images they choose to post.) I'm hoping this Flickr group will be a place where pretty girl shooting enthusiasts can post their latest and greatest and, hopefully, receive some valuable feedback on their work.

So let's see some of those pretty girl pics from you guys!

BTW, I'm heading up to Vegas tomorrow to shoot for a couple of days. I don't know what my access to the web will be so, if you don't see any updates for a short while, that's why.

The hot chick on the hot set is Luccia. She's from Brazil and she's incredibly fun to have on a set... Hot Set or otherwise.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

I popped into this combo newspaper/magazine/cigar store tonight to peruse the shelves. I was going to get some dinner at a joint next door to it and, since I was dining by myself, I thought I'd pick up something to read.

As usual, I went to the photography section first. Once there, I thumbed through a half-dozen of the usual suspects. Is it me? Or do the editors of these rags all get together each month and decide whose turn it is to recycle yet another article about the same stuff I've read about a bunch of times before and in just about every one of the generic photo-zines on the shelf? How many times can they publish the same "Secrets of the Pros" before anyone admits the secrets aren't so secret anymore? Sure, every so often one of them prints an article a bit different. Perhaps something about the technical inner workings of sensors or other stuff that I wouldn't be much interested in even if I did have an engineering degree and understood what the heck they're talking about. I'm one of those tell me what it does and how to use it kind of guys. I don't really care how it works. I mostly care that it works.

I then wandered over to the section where a virtual plethora of pulp, detailing all things fashion and pop, is shelved. I thumbed through a bunch of magazines and, honestly, there were some really incredible images. Moreso in the less-well-known rags. But as I'm envying one image after another of one incredible model after another, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the images that really wowed me should I attribute to the photographer and how many should be attributed to whoever processed/retouched the images? It's getting to the point where I can't tell whether the images are exceptional because of the photography or because of the retouching and processing. Sure, it's probably a bit of both. But I'm beginning to lean towards the post-production as the overwhelming factor in deciding the wow-value of many images these days.

In the end, I whittled it down to two magazines: The Smithsonian and Archaeology. I went with Archaeology and had a nice dinner reading about a 19th Century archaeologist who spent a big chunk of his life trying to convince the rest of the world the wonders of ancient Egypt were the result of a long, long, long-ago visit to Egypt, via Atlantis, by a Mayan princess whose name was Moo.

The sultry, possibly-the-descendant-of-a-Mayan-princess, salsa model accompanying this ramble is Ice. I shot Ice last night at a friend's studio. MUA was Chloe.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Revealing Her Holiest of Holies

When I'm shooting nude models, I usually prefer to hide her Holiest of Holies. No. I'm not vaginaphobic. I managed to sire a few children, after all. And it has nothing to do with any sort of morality judgement: Many of my moral values are more pagan influenced than Judeo-Christian/Muslim influenced. But once the model is completely undraped, I think a bit of mystery can often be more powerful and way more sexy.

That's not to say images that include exposed genitalia can't be powerful and sexy. They certainly can be and I've seen many, many examples of such. I like to think I've shot of few of those myself. It's also not to say I completely avoid shooting the object of most men's desires. But, I've found, when I'm going through the images and selecting which I'm going to process, I'm more-often drawn to images where, through shadow or pose, the "goods" remain veiled and cloaked in magical secrecy.

I've ocassionally thought about cultures where nudity is the status quo, e.g., indigenous tribes in the Amazon are a good example. What turns men on in those groups? In most cultures, it's an accepted notion that men are visually-oriented when it comes to sexual arousal. What happens to that notion in cultures where a birthday suit is the same as a business suit? I'm guessing it requires overt physical contact to arouse men (and women) in the everyday-nudity cultures. Throughout the rest of the world, where public nudity is the exception, rather than the rule, nudity often stimulates and titillates and, in my opinion, maintaining a bit of secrecy when it comes to the model's Holiest of Holies can often be even more stimulating and titillating.

The pretty girl accompanying this post is one of my favorite models to work with-- Nautica. I captured these a month or so ago with my Canon 5D, 85mm f/1.8 prime, ISO 100, f/6.3 @ 125th. Three light sources were employed: A 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main, a medium Chimera strip for highlights and a small umbrella also providing highlights. There was also a fair amount of ambient in the room, coming in from a wall full of windows behind me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Where Art and Commerce Meet

A big hat-tip to the Strobist for turning the world onto the Photo Business News & Forum blog. I just spent some time there and it's chock full of great info and pearly words of wisdom regarding the business side of this thing we do.

Often, being the artists we are, we sometimes forget about the importance of the business sides of things. Certainly I do. Well, I don't forget, I uhh... I'll get to that in a moment.

Anyway, while some might believe that starving artist status might help one's love life, I, for one, don't subscribe to that theory. For anyone older than, say, 25 years-old, being an artist... and starving... is not, generally, considered romantic and/or a sexually-attractive condition to the opposite sex.

I'll be the first to admit I might be the world's worst businessman. Business bores me and I suck at it. Maybe it bores me BECAUSE I suck at it? Regardless, I even hide from business, often doing my best not to face it. It's entirely possible I'm businessphobic! If anyone ever needed a business manager it would be me. Unfortunately, I suck so bad at business I can't afford a business manager.

In a perfect world, the quality of one's work should stand on its own and be all one needs to succeed. But we all know this world is far from perfect. Business acumen will probably do more to help a photographer succeed than all the technical and artistic chops a shooter can muster. If you're a hobbyist, I suppose, you might not need much in the way of business knowledge. But if you're trying to compete for those client bucks, you'd better develop some savvy when it comes to biz-a-ness. I know the Photo Business News & Forum blog is going to be a daily read for me and the first thing I'm going to do is put it in my links.

I "captured" the caged ladies (pun intended) in the pic above about 3 or more years ago with a Canon 10D, lit with a 550EX speedlite attached to a small softbox. Plus, there's a cheap, low-wattage, Hong Kong-special monolight I bought off of Ebay somewhere in the lighting mix. It was very early-on in my digital photography career, that is, after my transition from film to digital. The models, Ruta and Carolina, are from Lithuania. They remain the first and only Lithuanians I've ever (knowingly) shot.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sometimes, I've Had It! Right Up to Here!

Tonight was my first shoot of the year. Make that, tonight was supposed to be my first shoot of the year.

The day started out pretty well. I sold a camera I no longer needed: a Sony VX2000 miniDV camcorder. I got $1250 for it. That wasn't too bad. Although the camera cost me about thirty-five hundred or so new, it was three-years old and I got plenty of use out of it. Still, it was in great shape and excellent working condition. (I take good care of my gear.) I had to throw in some extras but, other than a Tamrac bag that I really didn't want to part with, the extras were accessories that only went with that camera. While I might have been able to sell the accessories separately, had I done so I would have been lucky to get a grand for the camera by itself and who knows if the accessories would have even sold? (Separately, that is.) Selling it all as a package deal sounded easier, with less hassles. I sold it through Craigslist. Ebay might have netted more money but it's more of a pain with waiting for a check, shipping, and all that.

I also received a couple of phone calls from clients who owe me some money. Both told me to stop by and pick up a check. I like that. Being told to pick up a check trumps "check's in the mail" anyday and everyday.

Tonight's shoot was scheduled for 4:00 P.M. at my friend's studio. I arrived at 3:45 and, within minutes, the MUA showed up and, a few minutes later, so did the model. The MUA and the model were busy in the makeup room doing their thing while my friend, John, who owns the studio, helped me begin setting up. It took John almost a half hour to put together my Octodome. "Dude," I said. "I could'a had that thing mounted and ready to go in five minutes."

"But I'm doing it the right way," he said, a little too smugly for my liking.

Whatever. I was happy for the help as I didn't, officially, have an assistant. If John was willing to step-in and perform assistant duties (he likes doing that), who am I to complain about his slowness putting together my Octodome?

Next, my client and his assistant, Melissa, show up. The client, Melissa, and I walk into the makeup room to check on the MUA's progress with tonight's victim leaving John to set-up all my lights. Hey! He said he wanted to do it! Who am I to spoil his fun? Besides, he's a gaffer so he (sort of) knows what he's doing with lighting gear for still cameras. I already know he'll be a bit miffed when I come back into the studio and move all the lights into different positions from where he set them but he'll get over it.

So we're chatting in the makeup room and the model says, "What time should my driver pick me up?" (Yeah, she had a driver. She just arrived from England a few days ago and this was her first gig she had scheduled for her stay in the States.)

Melissa tells the model she'll be there till about midnight.

"Right," she says, very matter-of-factly with her British accent as she picks up her cell phone.

None of us paid much attention to her cell call. Maybe we should have. A few minutes later she's off the phone and back to chatting with the MUA. Thirty-seconds after that, Melissa's phone rings. The client and I aren't paying much attention to Melissa's call either. Again, maybe we should have. The client and I walk back into the studio. A couple of minutes later, Melissa follows us into the studio and hands her cell phone to the client.

"It's her agent," she says. "He wants to talk to you."

The client take the phone, excuses himself, and walks to the other side of the studio. It's about a 5,000 square feet studio so it's pretty good size. I'm now moving the lights to where I want them and John, my gaffer friend, is scowling and questioning me as to why I'm moving the lights out of his lighting configuration.

"Because I'm doing it the right way," I said.

John was about to object when, all of a sudden, the client starts yelling into Melissa's cell phone with quite a colorful littany of profanity. Melissa, who had gone back into the makeup room, hears the verbal outburst and comes running back into the studio just as the client shouts "F__k you!" into her cell phone, snaps it loudly shut and, spotting Melissa, tells her to go back into the makeup room, tell the model to pack up her stuff, call her driver, and be on her way. The shoot is canceled!

"But the makeup artist is just about done," Melissa explains.

"So pay her and tell her she's done."

"Whoa!" I said. "What do you mean the shoot's cancelled?"

"Sorry, Jimmy," he says. And then verbally goes off on the agent in quite a colorful way.

Here's what happened: The model was booked a week ago through one of the agent's minions. Apparently, the model was told it would be about a 4-hour shoot. When Melissa told her she'd be there till midnight, about 8-hours, she called her agent, i.e., the agent who owns the agency (not the minion) and asked him why she'd be there till midnight when she was told it would be a 4-hour shoot which should have meant she'd be done by 8:00 P.M. The agent, apparently, told her he'd take care of it. So the agent called Melissa and gives her a bunch of grief. Melissa, who tried to be diplomatic, could get nowhere with the agent. The agent then demanded to speak to the client. According to the client, the agent then tried to double the model's fee. The client offered a couple of hundred more for the mixup but the agent wasn't having any of that and the two them got into a screaming match on the phone. That was it in a nutshell. In the end, the MUA made out okay. Everyone else got screwed.

What was it Ed Norton, consumate sewer worker and Ralph Kramden's best friend, used to say? I think he used to hold his hand, flatly, just under his chin, move it back and forth and say, "Sometimes, at work, I've had! Right up to here!"

That's how I feel right now.

Below is the model, Carmel, I was supposed to shoot tonight. I didn't shoot this lackluster, flat-lit image. I lifted it off of her agent's site.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I've Been Outa Town

I've been away a few days, hence, the lack of updates. Saturday was my mother's 80th birthday and our family gathered to celebrate. Apparently, I'm something less than a Johnny-on-the-spot photographer: I forgot to bring along a camera.

I recall one of my resolutions from last year. It was to always have a camera with me. That lasted a couple of weeks. So much for sticking to my resolutions.

Here's a link to a post on the G1 Forum. It's a mini-tutorial on JPG compression, detailing a great way to "Save for the Web." I think its a pretty neat way to save web images.

I haven't shot anything in a few weeks but I have a shoot scheduled for tomorrow night. Just in time. I've been anxious to shoot some pretty girl pics. I'll try my best not to forget my camera.

Hopefully, later today, tonight, or, perhaps, tomorrow, I'll think of something more interesting to write about than my proclivity for being an airhead. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Symmetry: The Least Discussed Aspect of Composition

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know I spend considerable time perusing and participating on a number of photography forums; mostly forums that focus on capturing the beauty and allure of women.

It's been my observation that, when posted images (on forums) are critiqued, the same elements of the images are routinely discussed. These elements usually fall into three categories: Technical (e.g., exposure, focus, color, lighting), creativity and artistic values (composition, art direction, effects), the model (posing, makeup, wardrobe, she's hot or she's not.)

When discussing composition, the remarks, most often, have to do with the effectiveness of the framing or the crop, the angle or vantage point from which the image was captured (i.e., from the shooter to the model), and the Rule of Thirds. Rarely, do I see comments focused on symmetry. Yet, creative uses of symmetry are key elements that often cause a select, few images to stand apart from the many. I'm not saying many photographers aren't aware of symmetry in their images. I'm saying it doesn't seem to warrant much in the way of critical discussion.

In a few genres, like Fine Art Nude, symmetry can sometimes be THE key element to a successful shot! What often sets models' poses apart, from "okay" to "fantastic," is the way in which she creates symmetry with the curves and shapes of her body. It's up to the shooter to spot the symmetry in his or her model's poses, i.e., where the symmetry is beautiful and captivating, and capture those moments.

Here's how the dictionary definitions of "symmetry" read, at least those definitions that I would apply to pretty girl shooting:

sym·me·try (noun, plural -tries)

1. The correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a plane, line, or point; regularity of form or arrangement in terms of like, reciprocal, or corresponding parts.

2. The proper or due proportion of the parts of a body or whole to one another with regard to size and form; excellence of proportion.

3. Beauty based on or characterized by such excellence of proportion.

If I were writing a book on this pretty girl shooting thing, I'd probably devote an entire chapter to the subject of symmetry. What's more beautiful than the symmetrical curves of a woman's body? Nothing comes to my mind except maybe more digits before the decimal point in my checking account's balance. In fact, it's symmetry and balance that is most-perceived as the defining factor for human beauty, especially in the face.

In writing that book, I'd not only discuss the creative uses of compositional symmetry, I'd get into the use of asymmetical devices wherein line, shape, and form, as elements of an image's composition, are juxtaposed or work, dramatically, against each other to grab the viewer's attention.

Anyway, some food for thought.

The pretty girl shots of a JimmyD certified, "Pretty Girl," are of Coty. These were snapped about two years ago in the studio with a Canon 20D w/28-135 zoom.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Few More Thoughts on Posing

Blogger has been very twitchy lately. If you've had problems viewing the site or leaving commments, what can I say? It's not because of anything I'm doing or not doing. I'm semi-confident Google's geek-squad will have it under control at some point.

Back to posing.

I often begin a set by advising the model the first caps are simply about me checking the lighting. If she just stands there, like a lump, I ask her to give me something (pose-wise) so I can better see what the lights are doing while she's busting a few model-moves.

Often, this has less to do with the lighting and more to do (or as much to do) with appraising how confident and natural and (seemingly) experienced the model is in front of a camera. My meter has already told me most of what I need to know. A couple of quick snaps-and-chimps, checking the histogram and using the highly-calibrated technical prowess of my eyes, tells me the rest. But I usually persist with my "lighting" ruse for a while.

Hehehe... "snaps-and-chimps" sounds like something you eat.

Anyway, I also ask the model which side of her face she thinks is her best side. Usually, I've already made my own decision about that. But my initial decision isn't etched in stone. My opinion is often based on the individual size of the model's eyes. I look for which eye is the bigger eye and I turn the model so that the larger eye is furthest from the camera. Doing so evens them out, size-wise, in the images.

When a model seems clumsy and/or lacks confidence posing for the camera, I know I'm going to have to become a puppeteer while working with her. This doesn't always remain true throughout the shoot: Sometimes it takes a model a while to work into her groove and, once she does, puppeteering ceases to be a neccesity.

Experienced or not, I try to discover the model's comfort zone while posing. This comfort zone is as much about her physical comfort as it is her psychological comfort. That doesn't mean I'm going to let her remain in her comfort zones throughout the shoot. But, initially, that's the zone I'm going to permit her to operate in.

Many effective glamour poses are physically demanding. I sometimes tell the model, "If it doesn't hurt, it ain't working." Initially, I let her "warm-up" with less demanding poses. I've shot models who go through a series of stretching exercises prior to getting in front of the lights. When I see a model doing this, I know I'm going to be able to physically push her further.

I'm not talking about pretzel-bending poses. But when, for instance, you say to the model, "Turn and let me see your butt." And when she does, you then tell her, "Now turn your upper body so I can see your face and breasts," it's usually followed, at least from me, with directions to turn her upper body more... and more... and even more with additional instructions for her to push her butt out more... and more... and even more. This can be physically painful for the model. Too bad. I'm going for the killer shot. She should be going for the killer shot. No pain no gain.

If a model finishes a set and isn't a bit fatigued by the process, I haven't done my job properly. Some of her muscles should hurt or, at least, feel as though they've had a workout. We're creating fantasy and illusion in glamour photography and doing so often requires the model to twist and bend and turn her body in ways that might not feel so great. Even calling for a simple "S" curve often has me pushing the model to create a more dramatic, pronounced curve. "Kick that hip out! More! Kick it further out!" Oh well. I've not met a glamour model yet who was being forced to pose for the camera.

I would have liked to have posted some pics with this update but it seems Blogger is still being twitchy. I guess the Google-geeks are still battling bugs.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Maybe You Don't Need What You Think You Need

In the comments section of my previous update, Wolfgang writes,
"Another thing that seperates the pros from the rest? You see beautful images - like the ones in this article - and just finally discover that you just need a 10D, 550EX, Softbox and a board. How cool is that?

And I wanted to buy some studio equipment ... perhaps I should go out and see what I can do with my 20D/580EX and a softbox."

I'm not bringing your attention to this because I've gotten a big head over Wolfgang's kind words. (Thanks dude! My ego is always open for business.) Mostly, I'm mentioning it because I have no idea how many of you go back and read the comments and, more importantly, because Wolfgang makes a great point regarding anyone's ability to snap some cool images without the latest and greatest in gear.

Here's the deal: If you think a better camera or better lighting gear is going to automatically make you a better shooter, you've been misled by the marketing and advertising guys who make their livings hyping all that stuff.

I'm not saying high-end gear doesn't produce high-end images. It does. But mostly, it does so in the hands of those who know how to make best use of that gear's capabilities.

If the gear in your bag is a 10D or a 30D or another camera of that ilk, along with a kit lens and a single strobe, you already have most of what you need to capture quality images. Add a cheap softbox, the ability to fire the strobe remotely, and something to bounce light with and you're well on your way to those killer shots of killer babes.

You see, all you really need--way more than an expensive inventory of cameras, glass, lights, etc.--is some basic gear, knowledge, imagination, a few artistic sensibilities, and ingenuity. Oh yeah, a smokin' hot model helps too.

I've pimped the Strobist's site before and I guess I'm about to do it again. There's so much free, easily-digested, useful information there for anyone hoping to capture quality stuff with only a camera, a lens, and a strobe, you'd be passing on a great opportunity if you don't regularly spend some quality time with that dude's updates and buried in his archives.

There's also plenty of other sites that offer great ideas and information to help you develop and hone your skills. One thing I've noticed: I can't ever remember seeing, on any of these sites, advice along the lines of, "Go buy a better, more expensive, camera."

The images posted are of Roxanne. They were captured 3 or 4 years ago with a 10D, a 28-135 zoom, and a gold reflector. Granted, I had a bit of help from a short period of quality, California "golden hour" sunlight.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Future of Pretty Girl Shooting

Over on the G1 forum, a member writes, "I've been getting back into photography after many many years. And, I have read a few posts and articles on various topics with regard to taking pictures of women..." Later, in his post, he asks, "So, I'm curious as what you all think the futures holds for photography and the style/s that will be popular?"

In the very first reply, R. Frederick Smith, a Dallas/Ft. Worth shooter responded, "I think the marketplace is looking for the next style break through. The master glamour photographers of the near future will be those who provide that new style. Who will be the pioneer?"

Personally, I'm not sure there will be any actual pioneers unless recycling previously popular styles and (to whatever extent) modifying them counts as pioneering... which, it seems, it often does.

Are there any (stylistically) bold new frontiers to explore? I don't know. Has it all been done before? Again, I don't know but I lean towards believing it has. Will future trend-setters be simply going back in time, retrieving a style that has gone out of vogue, and bring it back? Probably. Will doing so be heralded as the new style? We've certainly seen that happen, often-enough, before. So, I'm thinking yes, that's what will probably happen."

In photography, make that glamour photography, the most prominently new approaches, stylistically, have been a result of putting image processors into the hands of shooters and the subsequent easy-use and popularity of effects in the processing. I'm not sure that qualifies as a "new style" from the perspective of the photography, i.e., the initial captures of the images. It certainly qualifies as a changing style in the finished images. But change isn't always new. It's simply different from what was recently and previously popular.

We see this all the time in other facets of pop culture: From fashion to music and, yes, even to glamour photography. Everything goes retro and then, somehow and someway, retro becomes accepted as "new." It's all cyclical. Styles go in and out of popularity and they are constantly being re-introduced, often with new and different twists--usually prompted by evolving technologies--and then these new takes on old styles become the "new" whatever.

The pretty girl accompanying today's little Op-Ed piece is Chanell. I shot these a few years ago at a backyard/residential location. Camera was a Canon 10D with a 28-135 IS USM zoom. For the lighting, I used an off-camera strobe (Canon 550EX Speedlite) mounted in a small, Photoflex softbox to fill the ambient daylight. (Which was providing most of what I needed for the exposure.) Behind her, I put a silver and gold shiney-board, I think a 3' x 4', on a stand and bounced the sunlight back at her to provide an "edge." Yes, her bracelet reads, "F__k Me." Great attitude but, alas, it apparently doesn't apply to everyone. All I did was shoot her. No problem. I'm a professional, ya know? ;-)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

I'm sure most of you have heard the phrase, "the Devil is in the details." It's a variation of words attributed to the French novelist, Gustave Flaubert, best known for penning the novel, Madame Bovary, about a French-woman's adulterous love affairs. (Back in Flaubert's day, they still "penned" novels. Wow! That must have been a lot of work!)

Flaubert is attributed with saying, "God is in the details-- Whatever one does should be done thoroughly; details are important." The replacement of "God" with the "Devil" is a more modern variation and refers to any "catch" in the details.

Much like modern-day glamour and nude photography, Flaubert and his work were attacked for being obscene by social and religious conservatives of his day. The more things change the more they remain the same, I suppose.

When it comes to photography as a whole, and certainly glamour and other forms of people photography that idealize beauty, details are very important. Perhaps infinitely important. It seems both God and the Devil are working overtime in the details. Whoever is winning the tug-of-war between them is readily seen in an image's positive or negative results.

Here's some practical advice: Before snapping your first exposure, take a good, long, look at the model. Eyeball her with a horse-trader's intent. Examine her closely. No, I'm not saying "leer" at her or, like an expert on "horse-flesh," pull open her lips to check her teeth. I am saying to pay special attention to details like the jewelry that adorns her and/or the clothing or accessories she's wearing. Thoroughly examine her makeup and hair. Look for blemishes that might be concealed by makeup, lighting, or posing. (Sometimes it's easier to deal with these things in production than in post-production. Sometimes not.) Few things can kill an otherwise terrific pretty girl image then something she's wearing or some aspect of her appearance that seems out of place or is distracting.

I've seen--what would have been or could have been--really cool nude images of models wearing nothing but a wristwatch. If you're selling wristwatches, I suppose, this might work out nicely. But if you're selling the model's beauty and allure, that wristwatch is going to be distracting if not an out-and-out eyesore. Be on the lookout for both the obvious as well as the subtle distractions. Sometimes they're right there in front of you, screaming out to be noticed! I don't know about you, but I hate having to smack myself in the head, later on, wondering, "How the hell did I not see that?"

While shooting, your eye should be scanning the viewfinder for details that are destroying the positive aesthetic values of the image. I've touched on this before. My recent article on "The Chia Pet Syndrome" is one example.

One habit I've trained myself to do is this: I scan the viewfinder in a very mechanical way--almost in a robotic, Terminator-like way--while framing the shots. I'll admit, it's easy to have your attention drawn to the beauty of the model. Sometimes this becomes a bigger problem when she's wearing little or nothing at all. Unlike Terminators we're only human, right? That's exactly why, first, I force my eye into purposefully and methodically examining the periphery of the viewfinder, moving my eye around its perimeter, hoping to notice things that detract from the image. Then, after doing so, I move my eye to the model and examine her, up-and-down and from side-to-side, watching how the lighting is working on her, looking for things like folds and wrinkles in her skin caused by the angles of her pose, looking for anything distracting or unatractive, all the while giving direction to her pose and expression and attitude and voicing positive reinforcement while she's giving what she's giving to the camera. I know that sounds time-consuming but it's not: It's all accomplished in seconds. Who said this shit was easy? Focus and concentration and attention to God AND the devil (in the details) are incredibly important to effective pretty girl shooting.

When I'm not shooting or chimping, my eyes rarely look anywhere but at the model. Even when, maybe especially when, she's paying no attention to me whatsoever. It's amazing how, during those short little breaks and lulls in shooting, the model might sometimes exhibit an expression or the beginnings of a pose or she'll sweep a hand into her hair or she'll turn one way or another in the light and, suddenly, you see something magical that's worth exploring with the shutter clicking. I think some of my best shots have happened that way: Spontaneously and almost accidentally. Maybe some of you have experienced the same?

The pretty girl pics that accompany today's babble is Roxy-- A cockney-accented Brit whose English father and Thai mother produced some beautiful and sexy results.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Glamour and Art Nude

There's more than a few genres of photography that feature naked people: Glamour, art nude, erotic, fetish, and porn are, probably, the most prominent. Even fashion sometimes includes nudity, albeit nudity in fashion is more common in Europe and elsewhere than here, in the U.S. For the purpose of today's jabber, I'm going to stick with glamour and art nude. (You already knew that cuz you read the title, right?)

I've seen a lot of definitions for glamour. Usually, these definitions contain similar elements in describing the genre-- capturing the beauty, allure, charm, and sex appeal of the model are the most often-seen descriptors. The gamut of glamour photography includes nudity, semi-nudity, inferred nudity, and no nudity.

Art Nudes always contains some degree of nudity. That's why it's called Art NUDE. The line that separates art nudes from other types of images of naked people is that art nudes do not intend to degrade, demean, or trivialize the naked body-- and, no, I'm not saying glamour degrades, demeans, or trivializes. Also, art nudes do not usually intend to sexually arouse the viewer. Instead, art nudes idealize--some might say worship--the naked human form. Unlike glamour, art nudes do not, as a rule, attempt to capture the model's personal and individual allure, charm, and sex appeal. Rather, art nudes seek to capture the naked human form in, well, in artistic ways with an eye towards capturing aethestic values.

In a nutshell, glamour sells the model, art nudes sell the artist and his or her vision.

Some say that art nude photographers are artists whereas glamour photographers are craftsmen. I kind of agree with this view. That's not to say there isn't art in glamour or craft in art nudes. Both genres certainly contain elements of art and craft. Even the definitions for "art" and "craft" each contain the words "art" and "craft" in their respective definitions. But if I'm going to differentiate between these two types of photography, and it might be a fairly subtle difference, that's where I draw the line between the two, leastwise from the perspective of the shooter.

I regularly go to art nude sites. I love, admire, and often envy the work these artists produce. As a rule, I don't shoot art nudes myself, but that's mostly because I can't figure out how to make a living off of doing so and I need money more than prestige. (Assuming I even have the artistic skills and sensibilities to shoot prestigious art nudes.) Since there seems to be a way bigger commercial market for glamour than for art nudes, at least from where I'm sitting, it makes more sense for me to focus on glamour rather than art nudes. BTW, if you want to search out the work of notable art nude photographers, surf over to the Art Nudes blog. There, you'll find many, many links to the work of some really terrific art nude photographers from all over the world.

The images posted, which have little to do with today's post, are of my good pal, Ms. Korie Rae. The images were captured with her atop my good friend Rick's two-wheeled rice burner. The third shot is a casual, essentially behind-the-scenes, snap of Kori while she was sitting on the set, kind of bored and taking a break, waiting for me to quit dicking around with the lights. She has that, "Are you done screwing around with your lights yet?" look on her face. I've shot Kori quite a few times and I never fail to annoy her. Oh well. Here's another candid (below), this time of Rick and Kori on the bike.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Studio Shooting 101

Everyone has their own ways of doing things. Who's to say who's right and who's wrong? Not me. I try to be non-judgemental, except when people are just plain wrong. I don't see that as being judgemental. I see it as me being somewhat knowledgeable and being willing to share some of that knowledge, not that I know all that much.

If I point out to some shooter something he or she is doing that's just plain wrong, I'm just being helpful, right? After all, if I don't point out what they're doing that's wrong, they'll probably keep on doing it... doing it wrong, that is. I don't think that's me being a smartass. It's me being a nice, helpful guy, no?

In this blog, I've often shared the way I do things. I'm not saying everything I do is the right way to do it. And even if it qualifies as a right way, there might be a better way. I'm always open to hearing about better ways of doing things. I'm also open to hearing about different ways of doing things. Sometimes different isn't better but, also sometimes, different spawns better if you get my drift.

Now that I've completed writing today's flatulent prologue, I'll get to what I thought I'd share. (P.S. I'm not saying what I'm about to say qualifies as an absolute right way of doing something. And maybe it's not such a better way for many who visit this blog. I definitely don't think it's a wrong way. But for those of you who are on the look-out for different ways of doing things, and you haven't thought about doing what I'm about to share, maybe it will help you next time you're shooting. Sorry. More flatulence.)

Shooting glamourous shots of pretty girls is often accomplished with highlights. When I'm shooting, I almost always have more lights working from behind the model than in front of her. I'm, for the most part, a one-light guy in terms of what's coming from in front of the model, i.e., for a mainlight or keylight or whatever you want to call it. I almost never use a fill light. I might use a reflector for a bit of fill but the reflector isn't a light. It's a tool that uses the light coming from some other source to provide fill. You'll rarely walk onto one of my sets and see, for instance, two softboxes working in front of the model at 45° from each side of the model. Blah! Flat and boring! I hate flat and boring lighting. It's so... flat... and boring. That's not to say I don't sometimes shoot flat and boring lighting. I do, ocassionally, shoot that way. But, usually, when I do, it's the result of some photo-illiterate client who says to me, "I want her really lit up. I want to see everything," or something to that effect. Oh well. They're writing the check so what am I going to do? Shoot the girl in a flat and boring way, that's what I'm going to do. (Does that make me a whore? Hmmmm...)

By this time, assuming you're still reading, you might be wondering what the deal is with the images I've posted (above) along with my blather about right ways and wrong ways and different ways of doing things. Sorry. I'm getting to it.

You might be thinking those first two images are half-assed, ineffectual attempts at silhouette shots, but they're actually posted to illustrate something I sometimes do when I'm shooting, i.e., I fire all the strobes except the mainlight so I can really see what's going on with the accent lights I've set.

Modeling lights let you see, sort of, what's going on with all the lights... theoretically, at least, and assuming all your lights have modeling light capability. For the most part, you can see the modeling lights at work while you're snapping away and they do give you a pretty good idea of what your flashtubes are going to produce when they're fired. But if you really want to get a good look at what those highlighting lights are doing, try snapping a few with just them firing. And after doing so, take a look at a histogram. You'll find out exactly what those lights are doing and whether or not they're providing the highlights you're hoping for. You might also discover they're providing something you're probably not hoping for: Blown-out highlights! You'll also be able to see what kind of spill is coming from them. Spill is often difficult to see and detect with modeling lights. It's also easy to overlook spill, i.e., spill where you don't want it, until you're post-processing the images. Too late to do much at that point except get to work with the clone tool and other PS tools.

Okay. That's my first little studio-shooting tip for 2007. Hope some of you find it helpful and worth trying out. Model is Margo. I shot these about a year-and-a-half ago with a Canon 20D w/28-135 IS USM. ISO 100 f/5.0 @ 125th.

Monday, January 01, 2007

OMG! I Won Something!

It's always nice to end a year with one in the "win" column. Thanks to the discriminating, "good taste," folks at the Fluffytek Photographic Art blog, that's exactly how 2006 ended for me: Your humble, photo-documentarian of sexy women revealing themselves, provocatively, for my camera and the occasional entertainment of others.

Yep! I won a Fluffy for "Best Glamour Blog." No, it ain't a Pulitzer, not even close, but I'll graciously and enthusiastically accept this honor nonetheless. Granted, in the wider world of meritorious awards-for-accomplishments, a Fluffy might not seem like much but my attitude has always been, "I'll take what I can get when I can get it."

Not only did Pretty Girl Shooter win for Best Glamour Blog--I have no idea if there were any other nominees--but a picture of trapeze artist-turned-model, Katarina (that I snapped in 2006), was singled-out and posted along with the announcement of my win. Not suprisingly, the rules of cause-and-effect kicked in and I was prompted to process a few more images of the lovely and fit Katarina and post them along with this blog entry. (Note to Readers: The accompanying images of Katarina that I've selected, mostly for the manner in which she is posing, might or might not have subtle meaning related to my bragging rights over winning a Fluffy.)

You might be asking yourself, "What credentials do those FPA people have that makes them think they should be dishing out awards?" Apparently, they assumed this question might be asked and with "a good defense is a good offense" attitude, they pre-answered it on their blog. In a nutshell, they defend their award-bestowing rights by saying, "We are as qualified as anyone to judge our favourite artists," and "We love all the artists featured below (and many more). Why the hell shouldn’t we celebrate our favourite art, influences and inspirations for the last year?" and finally and possibly most importantly, "We are horribly arrogant Brits..."

No argument here. Many awards are chosen by "horribly arrogant" people, Brits or otherwise. Who is to say the art afficionados at FPA aren't as qualified as anyone else to judge these things? After all, there are few things more subjective than art, right?

Thanks guys! I appreciate the nod!