Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are You a Virtual Photographer?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ensemble Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another TV Show Update

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 22, 2007

That Brown-Toned Gritty Look **UPDATE**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Big Bucks Shooting Fashion?



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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back From Las Vegas (Again)



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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Incredibly Versatile Strip Box


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

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



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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some Days Are Better Than Other Days

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, October 08, 2007

What's in a (cool) Name?

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

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

River Clark.

Now that's a cool name for a shooter!

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Glamourcon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 05, 2007

Hit the Lodge!

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

With larger hats.

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

TV Show Update

Made it to the next step!

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

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

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

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

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

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