Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Decline of Fashion Photography

If you have a few spare minutes, I recommend you check out The Decline of Fashion Photography: An Argument in Pictures, by Karen Lehrman. It's a great read, assuming you have an interest in fashion art, and it's perfectly and generously punctuated with then-and-now photography from the fashion world.

Ms. Lehrman's article is an indictment of the current state of fashion photography, it's models, shooters, and art directors. If, in some parallel universe, the fashion world went on trial for Failure to Evolve in an artistically exciting way with Ms. Lehrman served up as the prosecutor, and I were sitting righteously on the jury, my juror's vote would be, "Guilty as charged!"

Here's a few of my favorite counts in the indictment:

"After Newton came heroin chic. The grunge aesthetic taken to its logical extreme, this trend offered us 13-year-old sleep-deprived anorexics in desperate need of real clothing."

"Today, 30 years into feminism, we have models who look not just weak and unsophisticated, but also dumb and victimized."

"The third problem with recent trends in fashion photography is the most basic: Very often the pictures don't show the clothes."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do

Yesterday, without much notice, I was called to quickly shoot a young lady for one of my regular clients. All I had with me was a camera, my light meter, and a Speedlite.

That's not the way I prefer to shoot interior, pretty girl stuff. It wouldn't have been as bad if I had some way to fire my Speedlite off-camera, a la the Strobist. But that wasn't the case. I didn't even have my Stroboframe with me so the Speedlite would have to remain on the camera's hot shoe and in the same axis as the lens. I'm neither a photo-journalist nor a paparazzi so shooting this way ain't exactly de riguer for JimmyD. I'm a pretty girl shooter, not a pro with on-camera lighting or a snapshot-taking simp!

I'm sure many of you have been confronted with similar situations, i.e., where you've been stuck shooting with an on-camera strobe. (I'm not referring to something like a ring flash, but a simple, hot-shoe-mounted, strobe.) When you've needed to do so, have the words, "point-and-shoot" come to mind? Yesterday, they certainly popped into mine.

As I wrote in this update's title, "sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do." Oh well! I was there, so was the girl, and some pictures needed to be snapped. Here's a few tips that I think--if you're not aware of them already--might help reduce the snapshot-ish-ness of your images:

1. Have a really cute and pretty girl as your subject. Okay, that's not always the way it's gonna go but, when it does, a hot, sexy, chick will overpower the less-than-desirable lighting approach.

2. Although this wasn't possible for me yesterday, see if there's a way to utilize window light as your main source of illumination. Window-lit shots can be extremely cool. If needed, you can bounce some of your strobe's light off a wall or the ceiling for fill, rather than using it as your main light. If you have a reflector handy, that can be utilized as well.

3. Don't shoot in auto-mode or any of the creative modes! Stay in charge of your exposure. Keep your camera in manual mode. Use a light meter or bracket with the help of the histogram. Again, stay in charge of the exposure! With my Canon 550EX Speedlite, I can shoot in manual mode and let the Speedlite decide how much light to deliver to adequately expose per *MY* shutter, aperture, and ISO choices. Doing so will help provide consistency in your exposures. When shooting in the ETTL auto-modes, the automatically-decided exposures are easily led astray and sometimes ends up all over the map.

4. Don't point the strobe directly at the subject. Bounce the light off the ceiling or a wall. Try to angle your strobe in a way that allows most of the light (ideally, 80% of it) to bounce and diffuse off a wall or the ceiling, and a bit of it to illuminate more directly. Light scatters. A slight angle of the strobe, towards the subject, will allow some of that light to scatter where you want it to scatter, that is, towards the subject. Be mindful of the color of the walls or the ceiling if you're using either as a reflector. These surfaces can effect your color, e.g., light bounced off a green-painted wall is not going to look so great on skin tones. You'll probably need to do a custom white balance when colors on the wall or ceiling might effect the color in your images.

The pretty girl in the pic is Naudia. Canon 5D w/28-135 IS USM zoom and a Canon 550EX Speedlite. ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/60th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On Being a Photographer

From Reuters Blog:

"I have never really quite understood those whose thought processes creak to the conclusion, ‘I have a camera therefore I am a professional photographer.’ Nowadays it’s, 'Have you got a camera and a laptop?' And there you have it. Invest a couple of grand in some sophisticated equipment and you too can see your pictures in lights and call yourself a professional. I always wanted to be an RAF test pilot, so maybe if I bought myself a jump suit and a pair of RayBans I could become a Top Gun? Being a musician, if I bought the right drum kit surely Paul Simon might let me take Steve Gadd’s drum stool for the forthcoming Royal Albert Hall gig? Somehow I think not... and so, what is it that gives those with no experience or qualifications the right to assume the mantle of professional photographer?"

Wow! How many times have I crunched that same question through the soft, gray, gears of my melon?

Please don't take exception to this. I'm guessing most of you don't fall into the above referenced category. Why? Because you're reading this and reading this means you're probably willing to take the time to learn, whether by trying to follow along with my ramblings, checking out other sites, and in many other ways. Learning, by the way, is a never ending process regardless of your levels of skill and experience.

No one gets good at this thing we do simply by purchasing the very best in gear, turning the dials to auto-modes and creative-zones, and pointing the camera and snapping the shutter. Photographers improve by learning and practicing and learning and practicing and learning and practicing some more. They expand their skills through experimentation, trial-and-error, and failing. That's right. Failing... Failing to transfer the images they see in their minds onto film emulsion or a sensor. But then they set out to find out why they failed and, once they think they've figured that out, they try it again and, sooner or later, they succeed! Once they've done that, succeeded that is, and they learn to succeed consistently, they're ready to call themselves photographers... maybe even pro photographers if that's what they're going after.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica, one of my favorite models! I snapped this one last week. Nautica is sweet, sexy, and knows what's she's doing in front of a camera.

Monday, June 25, 2007

C'mon! Sell it, Baby! Sell it!

When it's comes to pretty girl shooting, the words above are every model's #1 job while in front of the camera. They have one job to do and one job only: To sell it!

Sell what? Tell me you're not asking that! You know perfectly well what the model is selling, especially in glamour pics: She's selling herself!

That's right. She's selling all she is: Beautiful, glamourous, sexy, alluring, playful, and so much more. That's her job, man. To sell it. To sell whatever it is that gives her the right to be in front of the camera. I'm not talking about snapshots, I'm talking about the right to sell herself as a glam-goddess and a dream maker.

Unfortunately, some novice models, however pretty they may be, don't have a clue how to sell themselves or anything else. When they arrive in front of the camera, they're like deer caught in the headlights. They're nervous. They're jittery. They're awkward and they're insecure. On the other hand, there are models--even when it's their first time--who have a natural ability to express themselves to the camera. They simply and instinctively know all the right moves and expressions. They project their charisma in such simple yet powerful ways, it's almost scary to behold.

And then there are the experienced models who strut their stuff out in front the lens and work it like the pros they are. When I work with models of this caliber, I find myself feeling like I'm only along for the ride. I'm simply a passenger taken on an incredible, sexy, visually-exciting journey. I love working with models who have "it" and know how to sell it. And they're easy to spot: The moment they hit their marks, they show it to you. And it's all their's.

Many shooters find the hardest thing to accomplish during a shoot is getting "it" out of novice models, i.e., knowing how to get them to sell it... to sell it so well it's impossible not to buy. I wish I could share a few of DaVinci Code-like, Secrets of the Pros, that some pros claim are guaranteed to work. But there are no guaranteed secrets when it comes to this stuff. There's only you and the model. Every model is different. Every one of them has a different button that needs pushing to get that special "it" out of her. That "it" that is all their's. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to find that button and to push it... and to push it hard! (This blog update will self-destruct in thirty seconds... Sorry, just kidding, I'm such a dork.)

When you figure out those buttons and learn how to push them, your going to get some great, pretty girl pics! I wish I could always be successful finding the right way to get "it" out of each and every model. I can't. Neither can you. All we can do is call on all our mad skills as photographers and, more importantly, as communicators and motivators to help each would-be model find their inner goddess.

The pretty girl in the pics above is Daisy. (Aren't you glad I didn't post more pics of me?) Anyway, Daisy's not only an eye-candy/dream-girl, she's a dream to work with. The images are from a shoot a couple of weeks ago. Daisy most definitely knows how to sell it and, because she does, she made my job easy as pie.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dodger Stadium Blues

That's what I experienced yesterday: Dodger Stadium Blues!

"Why is that, Jimmy?" you ask? Well, I was hired for another corporate job by the same company that hired me to shoot at the Long Beach Convention Center last week. This time, the venue was Dodger Stadium where "The Police" were about to perform and my employers-for-the-day were contracted to provide floor-level security and gate-attendant staff personnel. Cool, right?

Yes and no.

It was cool the company hired me again. (They really liked the pics from the first day so I was there to shoot more images for their company's marketing brochures.) And I was paid well for the gig, with a check in my hand before I went home. (How cool is that?) But here's the rub: I had to leave the premises the moment the first band took the stage!

Yep. I sh*t you not!

The promoters, it seems, decided there'd be no cameras and/or photography during the concert, although I'm pretty sure "The Police" had their own shooters there. Although I was given a badge to wear around my neck that proclaimed, "All Access," that access was limited and only good until the concert began.


I did get to see and hear "The Police" for a short while. They performed, "Message in a Bottle" when they took to the stage to rehearse. But I was warned not to even think about pointing my camera in their direction while they were on stage, a mere few feet away from me, rehearsing. Sheesh! (The "Foo Fighters" were also appearing but I didn't get to see them rehearsing.)

Anyway, I was there for about four-hours shooting away. The image above was snapped by an innocent bystander whom I asked to take a pic of me. I look absolutely thrilled to be there, don't I? It was baking in the sun which is why, like a dork, I was wearing a ball cap AND a sweat band. I hate dripping sweat off my forehead and onto my gear, especially while chimping, even though that was nearly impossible in the bright sunlight. (I could just barely see the histogram, though, even in the sun.) I probably would have looked way more thrilled in that pic, baking in the sun or not, if I knew I could have stayed for the concert and snapped some pics.

Photographically, the day was somewhat challenging as the natural lighting conditions--from bright sunlight to dark shaded areas depending on where I was standing--were all over the map. (Exposures from f/4 to f/11 shooting ISO 100 with a shutter speed of 200.) I'm not one to shoot in any of the auto-modes so I was constantly taking quick meter readings and making even quicker decisions whether to turn my Speedlite on for fill, i.e., when my subjects were close enough for the strobe to have any meaningful effect.

I guess I shouldn't complain about not being able to stay for the concert: After all, it's always a good day when getting paid to hold a camera and shoot pictures... even when there's no pretty girls strutting their stuff in the viewfinder or a notable band playing some cool tunes.

(Note to Photo Camel Forum members: If you're wondering if that's a Photo Camel tee-shirt I'm wearing, you're right, that's what's on me.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday Night at Erotica L.A.

Last night, I ventured to downtown Los Angeles for this year's offering of Erotica L.A., taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Erotica L.A. is an annual event celebrating everything, uhhh... erotic. This year's three-day confab of smut fans and peddlers is expected to host over 50,000 visitors checking out the offerings of hundreds of exhibitors. At $35 per general admission pop, plus whatever it is exhibitors pay for floor space, the show's organizers should reap some decent rewards for their efforts. My complimentary admission, with an official exhibitor's badge, was courtesy of Ms. Tera Patrick and her company, TeraVision.

Erotica L.A. brings out some fairly bizarre people and it brings them out in droves. Each year that I've attended, and I've attended more than a few times, I'm especially amused by many of the outfits donned by a variety of female guests. (And some male guests as well.) I'm fairly open-minded about such things but, personally, my feeling is if you're in dire need of diet, exercise, a tanning bed, and some extreme liposuction, you probably have no business going out in public in that too-tight, too-revealing, spandex outfit. I know I've got little room to talk--mostly, it's the pretty girl shooter in me talking--and I'm not saying I couldn't use some diet, exercise, a day or two at the beach, and maybe a bit of lipo myself. (As graphically evidenced by the image above.) But also notice there's not a stitch of spandex or similar material on me, nor am I, thankfully, exhibiting much pale skin.

Speaking of the image above, that's obviously me with some of the girls of JC's Girls: A Christian organization tending to the spiritual needs of strippers and other women plying the sex trades. I've known the Holy Hotties of JC's girls--none of them in the biblical sense I should add--since they began their ministry a few years back. And I've photographed them on a few occasions for their website and other media materials. I also appeared in a documentary about JC's Girls, that aired on England's popular Channel 4 last year, and I'm featured with them in another documentary which should air and/or be distributed this fall. I missed a screening of the (latter mentioned) documentary a few weeks ago. And, I've never seen what aired on Channel 4. But I'm told by some people who have seen one or both that I'm used as the shows' comedy relief. Movies about religion, in my opinion, are usually in need of some comedy relief... and oftentimes, plenty of it. Sometimes, public exposure comes from the darndest places.

There's something for everyone at Erotica L.A., providing that something caters to one's sexual appetite. There's even an Erotic Museum featuring some pretty damn good erotic photography and other works of erotic art. And, of course, there's the many pretty girls--more than a few of whom I've photographed--who are there representing so many companies whose show-booths dot Erotica L.A.'s landscape. It was fun seeing some examples of my work here and there on the convention floor, blown up into big banners and posters.

If you're in and around Los Angeles this weekend, you might want to trek down to Erotica L.A. for some weekend fun that's definitely not for children or the feint of heart.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Every Picture Tells a Story Don't It?

Not that Rod Stewart is crooning about photography when he sings those lyrics but they're certainly usable when discussing the art and craft of photography.

Does every picture have to tell a story? Is the term, "story," as it applies to certain photography genres, overused and sometimes cliche?

No and yes, at least in my opinion.

The term, "story," when discussing photography, began in the world of editorial photography. Somewhere along the line, a publisher or an art director or photo editor might have asked for images that graphically illustrated a story or an idea. Or perhaps it was a photographer who initiated the idea? (Not that it matters.) But that's how it began.

The world of advertising seized on this concept and, as an example, "Fashion Editorial" was born. It wasn't enough for advertisers to showcase beautiful models as clothes hangers, the images had to say something more, story wise or idea wise, that is. Not always a small feat for single images principally designed to sell products to consumers.

Which brings me to contemporary glamour and tease photography or, as I'm fond of calling it, pretty girl shooting.

Do pretty girl pics need to tell a story? Personally, I don't think so. Glamour, for the most part, isn't intended to illustrate a story or an idea. It's intended to showcase the model in an attractive and alluring way. That's not to say glamour images don't conjure ideas or stories within the minds of the viewers. Let's hope they do! That's the whole point, isn't it? If the model and the shooter successfully create images that underscore the model's sexual charisma, well, we know where many of the ideas and "stories" within the minds of the viewers are going, don't we?

I think the notion of pretty girl pics telling a story is little more than an attempt, on the part of shooters, to overly intellectualize the images. Let's call a spade a spade here: While pretty girl pics usually say something about the model, that something is very basic and requires little in the way of intellectual critique. And we all know what that "something" is about.

The pretty girls at the top are Kayla and Alexa from a recent shoot. I suppose the picture tells a story, but I'll leave it to viewers' imaginations to figure out where that story is heading.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Something Different Something New

Today was a bit different. No pretty girl shooting for JimmyD. Instead, I was hired to shoot some corporate stuff for a national, event-staffing company. It meant getting up before 5:00 A.M. (Yikes!) so we could be in Long Beach, California, by 8:00 A.M. That's a two-hour-plus drive--in morning traffic--from Casa JimmyD to Long Beach.

The shoot took place at the Long Beach Convention Center, just a stone's throw from the Queen Mary... assuming you have a pretty good arm. The staffing company hired about twenty actors for the shoot. The images are headed for company brochures and other marketing media. I have to admit it was fairly challenging, especially lighting groups of people in cavernous areas of the convention center.

Leesa, my partner in photo crime, was part of the team and shot a 2nd camera. This helped insure we had everything covered. My son-in-law was also there and helped out as a photo assistant and grip. He worked his ass off moving gear all over the convention center.

The images look great. We reviewed some of them on the laptop and the corporate communications woman, who flew in from D.C. for the shoot, seemed very happy with what she saw. It seems this company provides staffing for, amongst other things, concert events. After seeing some of the images, the corporate types asked if we'd be interested in shooting at some of the music venues they staff. "There's a Police concert coming up soon, would you be interested in shooting for us there?" the communications woman asked.

Uhhhh.... yeah.

We'll see if this leads to some interesting gigs. I hope so. It's not that I want to quit pretty girl shooting but it sure was fun shooting some stuff of the kind I haven't shot in many years.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Digital Photography: A Two-Edged Sword

Beginning and novice photographers often attempt to race up the learning curve as fast as possible. Today, using digital imaging technologies, the learning curve has been exedited, sometimes producing better and better photography from less and less experienced photographers... sometimes, that is.

Back in the day, most student photographers learned with 35mm film SLRs. Given today's technologies, that was probably the worst and most difficult way to learn. Why? Because of the lag time--sometimes days, sometimes weeks--between snapping a shutter and seeing the results. Sure, some students used cameras with Polaroid backs and doing so helped them immensely through the learning process. But many of us didn't have cameras with Polaroid backs and we plodded along, capturing images and waiting to see the results. Often, by the time we saw those results, we'd forgotten how we captured them.

So that's today's good news for people learning photography. The not-so-good news is that many new(ish) photographers, hoping to ramp up their skills, rely too heavily on the so-called "creative mode" functions of their digital cameras, i.e., they attack the learning curve as auto-shooters. (And I ain't talking about photographing automobiles. D'uh.)

Whenever I'm helping someone learn the art and craft of pretty girl shooting, the first thing I tell them is to set their cameras on "M" and learn how to manipulate exposure and color and depth of field and all that stuff. In other words, to put themselves in control of the images. Truly, that's the path new photographers need to take if they hope to become competent photographers: As pretty girl shooters or photographers of any other genre. While light meters are extremely helpful, you don't absolutely need a meter to accomplish this. Taking the time to learn how to bracket and to read a histogram might be a bit more tedious than taking meter readings, but you'll learn so much more when you--not hardware-designing, algorithm-writing, camera engineers--are in control of what you see in your viewfinder.

The pretty-girl jail-house guard at the top is Maya. MUA was Lee Garland. I captured this image of Maya a few weeks ago using my Canon 5D with a Canon 28-135 IS USM. ISO 100 f/5.6 @ 125. Three light sources were employed: A 5' Photoflex Octodome (for the main) and two edge lights working behind her from either side, one of them modified with a Chimera medium strip soft box and the other with a small, silver, umbrella. I hit Maya a little harder than usual with the edge lights as I wanted to really "pop" her off that dull, concrete block wall. If I ever have to go to jail for something I didn't do (I'm innocent, I tell ya!), I can only hope someone like Maya is assigned as my guard!

Friday, June 15, 2007

"We'll fix it in post"

Aside from a large amount of career history as a videographer and photographer, I've spent significant time working as an editor. I'm not talking about newspapers or books, I'm talking about video editing.

When digital NLEs (Non-Linear Editors) came into being, I knew the future of editing, whether for TV, films, whatever, would never be the same. Analog linear (video) editing systems, as well as Moviolas and flat-beds for film, would go the way of the dinosaurs. It ain't that I was some kind of Nostradamus-like seer or exceptionally smart dude or a technological savant-- if you had ever cut stuff the old way, and then began cutting it the new way, that particular bit of prognostication was a no-brainer.

The first non-linear system I learned to cut on was called D-Vision. That was back in the early nineties. A few years later I learned to cut on an AVID and, soon thereafter, I purchased an AVID Media Composer of my own. (To the tune of about $90,000.) Back then, AVID pretty much owned the digital NLE business. Today, though, it seems that "Final Cut Pro" is the dNLE of choice. And a nicely configured Final Cut Pro editing system costs significantly less than my AVID Media Composer did... way WAY less!

Whenever I was logging & digitizing or cutting picture and sound, the five words I hated most to hear were, "We'll fix it in post." What those words really meant was, "We screwed up," or, "We don't have time to do it right," and the We in We'll fix it in post didn't refer to anyone on the production set, it referred to your's truly.

Thanks, guys. Nothing I loved more than fixing your screw-ups. After all, I had nothing better to do while trying to make your latest and greatest viewable. It was so much fun spending all that time trying to frost your turds. Hearing you unashamedly announce, on the production sound, that I'd be fixing your eff-ups because you were unable to get it right or didn't want to spend the time getting it right was a real bonus.

What's all this have to do with photography? Plenty. Way too many shooters snap merrily along with a "fix it in post" attitude. They shoot with an over-reliance on raw converters and image processors to fix things that should not have needed much fixing, i.e., that could have been shot correctly in production. These days, it seems, there's less photographers in spite of there being more people with cameras in their hands claiming "photographer" status. Instead, there seems to be more SPIMs. (Shutter-clicking Post-production Image Manipulators.)

Sure, it's nice to know there are tools a shooter can use to fix mistakes. And we all make mistakes but, in general, it's my opinion that those tools serve you better when they're called upon to enhance images rather than to fix them. You might not be able to do much about that unsightly blemish the model is sporting other than a quick fix in Photoshop but, while in production, you certainly have control over lighting and exposure and color balance and a whole bunch of other things.

The pretty girl at the top is Alexis. I shot Alexis for Playboy/Club Jenna last week (as shown in my last post) and again, yesterday, for another company. This one is from yesterday. The only processing I applied to the image was a resize for the web and adding a copyright watermark. Yeah, the image could be much improved with the application of some post-processing: Cropping, levels adjustments, and more. But I tried to shoot the image so it would come out of the camera as good, given a lot of production factors, as I was able to get the images straight out of the camera. It takes a bit more work to do that but I'd rather spend the time in production getting things right than spending time fixing mistakes in post. In other words, I'd rather spend the majority of my post-production time enhancing images instead of fixing them.

Alexa captured with a Canon 5D w/85mm F/1.8 prime, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125. Five light sources were used: A large, rectangular softbox for the main, another rectangular softbox, also in front (but opposite the main) for fill, two bare-bulb monolights, with grids, either side from behind for edge lighting, and another bare-bulb boomed overhead and behind her for a hair light.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ich bin ein Strobist

With my recent purchase of a previously-owned and operated used Vivitar 283, I'm now on the path to a simpler form of radiant enlightenment, i.e., to being a full-fledged strobist.

If you're wondering what a strobist is, you've probably never visited the Strobist blog--I do so almost daily--and you're missing out on a wealth of helpful lighting information focused, for the most part, on the use of small, inexpensive, (typically) on-camera strobes and their many off-camera uses... something I've been more-than-a-little interested in for some time.

This past Sunday, I ventured to Pasadena, California, for the monthly camera show held at the Elk's Lodge. The Pasadena Camera Show is like a small, indoor, photography flea market with vendors selling all kinds of (mostly used) camera gear. That's where I found a good deal on a Vivitar 283, in excellent condition, with lens/filter adapter and sync cord, for $30. (Vivitar 283s and 285s are the strobes-of-choice for many strobists and I'll be looking to add another strobe, probably a 285, to my camera bag.)

I returned home and the first thing I did was insert four, "AA" batteries into the strobe, attach my cheap, E-bay, radio receiver to the strobe's sync cord and fire it remotely. Strobe and radio slave worked flawlessly.

Now I'm ready to go out there and apply whatever it is I think I already know about lighting pretty girls to the world of small, off-camera, strobes.

The pretty girl at the top is Alexis. I shot Alexis last week (for Playboy/Club Jenna) at a location house located in the hills above the San Fernando Valley. MUA and hair by Dan. I used three light sources: A 5' Photoflex Octodome for the main, a Chimera medium strip for an edge light, and a small umbrella, boomed overhead, for a hair light. I also used a Westcott, 40", 5-in-1 reflector, silver side out, to bounce in some front fill. Canon 5D w/85mm, f/1.8 prime, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Model Behavior

My job has me working with models of all levels of experience... I'm talking about experience in front of a camera.

Usually, within a few moments, I can determine the approximate skill level of most any model. That's not a brag. It's one of those abilities that just about everyone possesses. And it's not always about the model's (apparent) level of confidence. I've worked with experienced models who, when a session begins, exhibit obvious signs of nervousness, anxiety, and discomfort. Granted, that's rare when shooting experienced models, and those Nervous-Nellie behaviors always evaporate fairly quickly when working with girls who know their stuff, but it does happen. I guess some people are just wired that way.

Usually, when I begin with a model I've not shot before and after I've snapped a few to check the lighting, I'll ask her to show me what she's got. "Let's see what you got," or "Show me what you've got," are some of the less-than-clever things I might say. The model then strikes a few poses and those poses generally say it all.

After those first, "Let's see what you've got," shots, I usually give the model some direction based on what I've just witnessed. The less experienced the model seems to be, the more detailed that direction becomes. The more experienced she appears, the less direction I need to give. Generally, less skilled models are in need of constant direction and reminders of already-given direction, over and over, throughout the session. After all, later on when viewers are checking out your images, they have no idea how experienced the model was. All they know is what they see and, if what they see doesn't impress, they're not going to chalk it up to a lack-of-skill on the model's part: They're going to blame it on the shooter's apparent abilities or lack of abilities.

Obviously, it's much easier to screw up shots when working with inexperienced models. Why? Because, as a shooter, you become so focused on what the model is doing (and not doing) you end up with greater odds of neglecting to notice other things that might detract from the images. What this means is, when working with new and/or less-skilled models, shooters need to pay even greater attention to what's going on in their viewfinders.

Details, details, details. It's all in the details. And certain situations, like working with novice models, usually requires even greater attention to details.

The model shown in the pics above is Kayla. MUA and hair by Lee Garland. I shot Kayla this past week. She is quite experienced in front of the camera. In fact, that girl can bust some moves! I love working with pretty girls like Kayla who make my job so much easier. (Yes, I am lazy and anytime a model makes my job easier, I'm very appreciative.) I captured Kayla with my Canon 5D with an 85mm, f/1.8 prime attached. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. Three light sources and a reflector were used: A 5' Photoflex Octodome for the main with a silver reflector, opposite the main, bouncing in some fill. Behind her, I set a medium Chimera strip to create an "edge" down one side of her body and I boomed in another source, modified with a small, silver, umbrella, for a hair light.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Keeping One's Priorities Straight

When I'm about to photograph a nude or semi-nude model, I usually begin by carefully examining her face looking for symmetry. (Or lack of it.)

This usually has much to do with the model's eyes: I'm looking to see if they are about the same size as each other or if one is larger/smaller then its mate. As all portrait photographers know, when the subject's eyes are noticeably mismatched in size, conventional wisdom dictates turning the subject's face in ways that keep the larger eye further from the camera than the smaller eye. In this way, both eyes will appear to be of approximately the same size in the resulting images.

Since glamour photography is similar to portrait photography -- albeit with more emphasis on the model's feminine assets -- this technique also works well when deciding where to place those assets in relation to the lens. In other words, I also look for symmetry in those feminine assets and, if they seem mismatched, I use the same conventional wisdom that places the larger eye further from the camera then the smaller eye.

BTW, if a model has mismatched eyes as well as mismatched feminine assets, and they are each on opposite sides to each other, I'll usually opt to put the larger feminine asset further from the lens and not worry much about the eyes. I am, after all and for the most part, shooting pretty ladies with little or no clothing on and, therefore, need to keep my priorities straight.

The pretty girl at the top is Jamie who didn't appear to have anything mismatched. I shot Jamie this past week with a Canon 5D with an 85mm, f/1.8 prime attached. ISO was at 100, exposure was f/5.6 at 125th.