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


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, 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!