Friday, May 30, 2008

Selling Our Artistic Souls

Sometimes, we need to adapt our styles to a client's demands wishes. Leastwise, assuming we hope to maintain a good business relationship and keep the gig.

As photographers, we all know we know best-- We know what looks best, we know our individual aesthetics reign supreme, and we know our vision is sacred. But, occasionally, weakness prevails and we choose to sell our artistic souls to the devil client.

Fortunately, it might be easily accomplished, i.e., from an aesthetic and technical point-of-view. (Although it might not always be so easy to accomplish from an integrity point-of-view.)

Recently, a regular client of mine had been complaining about some of the images I'd been shooting for them. Specifically, they (they meaning someone in the art department) wanted the images more flatly lit, brighter, and pretty much void of shadows on the subject.) At once, I voiced my outrage! After all, I have plenty of clients who are more than satisfied with the images I provide and who seem very happy with my lighting style. I guess it's possible I might be deluding myself but they keep hiring me. In my opinion, doing so speaks loudly about their level of satisfaction with my work.

But this client wanted me to change, to adapt, to photograph the models differently. Since I'm a weak person, especially when employment cash is on the line, I quickly folded.

The image at the top is Max from the other day. Basically, I flipped my lighting around--still utilizing 3-point lighting--by employing two sources in front of the model and one from behind her. This, of course, flattened the light on her front-side, getting rid of most of those unsightly shadows the client complained about. The source from behind provides highlights and it does so in a seemingly natural way: The highlights almost seem to be caused by light coming in from the window behind her. The room had a fair amount of ambient daylight, mostly coming from some large, French doors behind me. (Yeah, the client also wanted the BG fairly well lit up.)

Canon 5D w/ 85mm prime. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 100. Two, shoot-thru, umbrella-modified, lights in front, positioned 45 degrees either side of the model and metered equally plus another shoot-thru high and from behind and somewhat off to the side, camera-left. The model painted her own face. Hair--natural below and, leastwise for a chick, a bit unusual above--didn't require any coiffing. If some of you think her teeth look a little funny, Max is sporting (so-called) invisible braces.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Job Poachers

Man! I hate job poachers! You know who I'm talking about-- Those people who use whatever means necessary to steal a gig from someone else. Personally, I don't poach jobs from friends and/or acquaintances. Leastwise, not knowingly. It ain't in my makeup. It's not how I roll.

If a potential client approaches me, that's one thing. If I approach a potential client, without the knowledge that they might already be using a friend or an acquaintance, simply offering up my availability and my work as credentials, that's another thing. But setting my sights on someone else's gig--someone I know personally--and lying, offering bribes or kickbacks, or using other underhanded tactics to poach that client ain't my style. People who knowingly and purposefully go after a (supposed) friend's or acquaintance's gig can go screw themselves! Hope they enjoy all the bad karma they're earning.

And why is it that the person trying to steal my gig--yeah, it's happened a number of times before--is always someone I've worked closely with-- oftentimes befriending them and helping them out in ways that either advanced their skills, landed them other gigs, or both?

Anyway, without providing specifics, I needed to get that off my chest. The good news--for me, at least--is the ingrate failed miserably in their job poaching attempts because A) he sucks as a photographer human being; B) he forgot it's a small world and when you act like a snake others often talk about it; and C) his job poaching skills suck too!

The pretty girl at the top is Jennifer from yesterday. I've been working a lot lately and have quite a bit more work booked... so updates might be slow in coming.

I photographed Jennifer in a corner of a dirty warehouse. (The only spot in the building they weren't using for the movie's production.) I used three sources to light her: A 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main and two sources with shoot-thru umbrellas for highlights. I also worked a silver reflector into the mix for a bit of fill. Canon 5D, 85mm prime, ISO 100, f/8 @ 80th.

Below, is a shot of the lighting. Some of you have indicated (in comments and emails) that you enjoy the lighting setup shots so I try to remember to snap a few. Obviously, this was one of those times when my memory was working.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Money Trumps Morality (What a Surprise!)

For all intents and purposes, California Assemblymen Bill Calderon's adult industry 25% tax bill is dead. How was the death blow delivered? By concerns about the potential loss of jobs and revenue to California's economy. In other words, California legislators, while not openly admitting it, accept that California's adult industries are vital to its economy, especially in Southern California.

Here's an article from, a site (I'll admit) I don't often visit.

California- Even in the face of an estimated $20 billion budget deficit, a bill that would raise revenues by imposing a 25% tax on earnings of the pornography industry is meeting with stiff resistance in the California legislature, with opponents claiming it would drive a multi-billion-dollar industry out of the state.

The bill, AB 2914, authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, would levy a 25% tax on gross revenues from the sale of pornographic magazines, photos, books, films and videotapes, and on the gross earnings of live sexually explicit entertainment and pay-per-view pornography provided to hotel guests.

According to a legislative analysis of the bill, it could raise up to $665 million a year in new revenues for the financially strapped state.

"AB 2914 would tax adult entertainment and adult entertainment venues in a manner similar to the way in which cigarettes and alcohol are already taxed in this state,” said Calderon in the legislative analysis. “Currently, these two products are taxed at higher rates, and the additional revenues are used to address the negative effects of their use. This measure would tax adult entertainment in a comparable manner, with the intent to use the funds to address the various secondary effects associated with the production and consumption of adult entertainment. The secondary effects of production are especially noteworthy as California is the capital of the adult entertainment industry in the United States.”

Money raised by the new tax would be used for “law enforcement, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, health care and mental health treatment," said Calderon. "AB 2914 does not make a judgment on the adult entertainment industry. It merely asks the industry to help mitigate some of its ancillary effects in the state that is its production capital, not unlike the state already does with alcohol and cigarettes."

At a May 12 hearing, opponents testified that imposing a 25% tax on porn industry profits could drive the business out of California, at a cost in jobs and other revenues of as much as $3.5 billion. It would have an especially hard impact, witnesses testified, on the San Fernando Valley, said to be the “porn capital of the world.”

Republicans in the legislature have indicated they would vote against the bill because it is a tax increase and they oppose any tax increase of any stripe. Under state law, tax increases require a 2/3 majority of both houses of the legislature.

Following the May 12 hearing, Calderon’s bill was referred to the “suspense file” of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation. Although theoretically the bill could be taken out of the suspense file and considered again, the move most likely means the measure is dead for this session of the legislature.

The pretty girl at the top is Katarina from 2006.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Pretty Girl's Opinion (Part Two)

It seems the media is sniffing around this Calderon thing. I received a phone call today from CNN in Atlanta. They wanted to know if I could come down to their studio in L.A. and be interviewed. Why me you ask? It's a long story. Let's just say I've been interviewed by CNN before. In fact, there was a time I was something of a go-to guy for the media when they wanted to know about certain stuff. It was either because I put a decent face on the adult industry or a stereotypical, evil face. I think they always secretly hoped I'd go all "Jerry Springer guest" on them. Anyway, I declined CNN's kind invitation. Told them I was too busy. I suggested they contact Larry Flynt. I'm sure Larry would have some choice words regarding a California Assembly member's attempts to tax him 25% on just about every pie Larry has his fingers in. I hope, for Mr. Calderon's sake, he doesn't have any scandalous photos floating around. Larry just might put up one of those big rewards for anyone who has the goods on Calderon.

Anyway, here's Part Two of Kayden Kross's article. BTW, Ms. Kross, along with other individuals from the Free Speech Coalition, testified (in opposition to Calderon's bill) before the California Assembly Revenue and Tax Committee. She is definitely a renaissance chick!

Here's the rest of Kayden's article:

To really drive his point home about what fuck ups the girls are, Calderon brought in two extreme fuck ups to testify. Shelly Lubben and Daphne Khoury, ex-pornstar and ex-stripper, respectively, showed up in church-appropriate attire and fake eyelashes as shining examples. Shelly Lubben was in the adult industry for a total of 7 years, two of which she spent making adult films, most of which she hooked, and all of which she spent addicted to meth. While hooking and drugs are not prerequisites for this industry they obviously were in her case, as they came before the videos. Yet she claims she is/was screwed up because of the industry and didn’t know how to get out. Like any other job I can tell you that simply quitting should do the trick. But Shelly isn’t content with quitting. She won’t be happy until everyone does. She testified to Calderon’s committee that she was fucked with scissors on set, given drugs, caught genital herpes, and “couldn’t understand why it was legal for guys to get bodily fluids on her skin” (not kidding). She thinks that girls in this industry are lost and it is her job to find them. She claims that we have higher than normal suicide rates and that since she started her Pink Cross foundation (as I understand it there are only about 5 members) she has managed to “save” about ten girls a year and deal with one suicide attempt a year. These statistics of course should be applied to the 5,000 new girls entering every year that were previously mentioned.

Daphne Khoury, who appeared to be the more put together of the two, was quick to change my opinion of her once she opened up the water works in her testimony (Shelly did the quivering voice thing). Not that either of them would care to hold the development of law to reason rather than emotion though. Daphne claimed that she thought stripping was harmless at first, then she got addicted to heroin that was provided by the club owners. At the press conference earlier in the day I had wondered why she kept complaining about STDs as a stripper. Then i realized the problem. She should have been complaining about STDs as a hooker. You don’t catch herpes from lap dances. You catch herpes from riding a john’s dick. So as the story goes she was hooking and addicted to heroin and after numerous suicide attempts finally got help and quit the strip club. Arguably I think anyone with a heroin habit and severe depression and a side job as a prostitute would probably quit their day job. I’ve known a lot of strippers in my lifetime. This is not a normal story. She ended her testimony with the admission that she is still getting help and battling depression and now she’s scared because her life was threatened if she spoke out and she supports AB 2914.

I know I brought this up earlier but correlation is not causation. I would suggest that Shelly and Daphne would have been fuck ups without the industry. Obviously there is no way to prove this. I don’t really care though whether Shelly and Daphne have problems because of the industry or independent of it though. It’s irrelevant because either way they represent an extreme minority. What is relevant is the underlying ideology behind these two “reformed women”.

Both Daphne and Shelly went into this industry on their own accord. No one held a gun to their heads. (But did i mention that Daphne claimed to have been forced into prostitution- was this by her drug habit?). While in the industry they had all the same options available that the rest of us industry workers/”victims” still have today. They had the option of not doing drugs. They had the option of not being prostitutes. They had the option of leaving at any time or making something of themselves in the industry. They could have gone to school or invested the money or developed a skill that would have been useful for their entire lives. They could have bought a house or somehow planned for their futures in some way. This industry can be the greatest springboard for our futures if we only take advantage of it. But they chose not to take those options. Instead they chose to be weak and follow the path of least resistance. Now, eight years later, rather than regrouping and coming to terms with their mistakes and moving on, they are attacking the industry. They are using extreme cases and making them appear to be the norm. They are citing opinion as fact, and in most cases I believe they are outright lying but how does one prove a negative? The ideological and moral flaw is even deeper than this though. They are actively trying to take away my right to succeed in this industry, and the rights of every other person involved in it, and the rights of every past, present and potential consumer. These girls, who couldn’t even manage a career in one of the easiest industries on the planet, think they are smarter than you or me and know better than us what is good for us and what legal rights we should have as a result. They are so steadfastly convinced of this that they will lie to a committee, take time out of their lives, support a bill that doesn’t even directly state what it is trying to accomplish (because if it were written honestly it would not have even been heard), and emotionally attempt to manipulate the legal system to get their way. That will always be more morally disgusting than a happy and willing pornstar spreading her legs for the camera or a self sufficient stripper transferring her tips from her g-string to her college fund.

Regardless of an extremely dishonest attempt at using government as a tool against the adult industry though, it looks as if Calderon might have failed. Among 150 people who showed to stop this bill in its tracks were Larry Kaplan from ACE of California, “Mr. Kinsey” as Calderon childishly called him, a group of over 100 dancers, club owners and managers, bouncers, porn stars and general supporters, myself, and my personal hero now, lobbyist Matt Gray. Mr. Gray’s closing argument was so cutting that Calderon could do nothing but stand by and huff and roll his eyes like a teenage girl being given a curfew on prom night. Calderon chose not to vote on the issue that day.


The eye candy at the top is Hannah from last week. Hannah is Vivid's newest Vivid Girl. And yep, they're real. I shot Hannah in the same location that I shot Megan (featured in my last update), albeit on the other side of the room with the windows behind her. Hannah is lit with a 5' Octodome, a couple of shoot-thru umbrellas behind her from the sides, a silver reflector, and a fair amount of ambient sunlight coming in through the windows. Melissa was the MUA.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One Pretty Girl's Opinion (Part One)

I haven't updated in about a week. Been busy. That's a good thing! When I update a lot it usually means I'm working less. When I update less... well, you get the point.

Today, rather than authoring something myself, I've decided to post something written by someone else: A very pretty pretty girl whom some of you might be aware of, glamour model and adult industry star, Kayden Kross.

Kayden, who shares the same birthday as me -- albeit she was born a few years after me... okay, maybe more than a few years after me -- wrote the following on a friend's blog. Anyway, Kayden's article is a bit on the long side so I thought I'd break it into two parts. (That way, I get two updates out of one article someone else wrote... heheheheh.) The first part, which I'm plagiarizing posting today, deals with California assemblymember, Charles Calderon, and his proposed 25% tax on the total gross receipts of the adult industry.

(Note: Unfortunately, I've never shot Kayden nor have I met her. But who knows? Maybe I will at some point.)

Kayden writes:

Sacramento, CA- A tax levy on the adult industry to the tune of 25% of all gross receipts was brought in front of the fiscal committee by a turkey-jowled Charles Calderon yesterday. His concerns were that the adult industry, contributing 4 billion annually to the CA economy, was not pulling its weight. His real concerns were that the CA budget deficit is extraordinary, state employed union members might be laid off, and some vague floating morality that he has never quite been able to grasp with any conviction may or may not have been violated.

Here is why the adult industry is not pulling its weight:

“The in-state production of adult entertainment and adult entertainment merchandise has numerous negative secondary effects on the people of this state. Specifically, the production:

i) increases crime at or near production locations

ii) adversely impacts the mental health of, and leads to increased alcohol and substance abuse by, those involved in the production;

iii) increases the performers’ chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease;

iv) encourages unsafe sex by consumers; and

v) often encourages sexually aggressive behavior towards women. ”

-from the summary of the bill AB2914 authored by Charles Calderon.

He goes on to claim that as performers, we leave the industry “uneducated, unskilled, unemployed, addicted to drugs and on welfare”.

The Rebuttal (this one should automatically get bonus points because its backed by empirical evidence):

i) No published or peer-reviewed studies have shown that adult entertainment venues have higher than average police calls or crime rates in surrounding vicinities. I don’t even know what else would need to be added to this argument. It’s just not true.

ii) No studies have even been done on the increased use of drugs and alcohol in the adult industry. Furthermore, having worked in both strip clubs and on adult video sets, I can tell you that drugs are not tolerated. No director is going to hand meth to a girl and expect a good scene, as Shelly Lubben claims (we’ll get to her). The adult industry is a business and drugs slow business production.

iii) Our rates of sexually transmitted disease are lower than the general population. We are tested every 30 days. AIM finds an infection rate of 1.8 percent every month for gonorrhea and chlamydia. There have been exactly 17 cases of HIV in over ten years (and Calderon, who did his research by watching HBO, says that 5,000 new girls enter the industry every year. Do the math). When we enter the industry we are also tested for syphilis and given paps. There are vaccines for HPV and certain types of hepatitis. I have been tested regularly for a year and a half now. I have never had a dirty test and I’ve had all of the vaccines. I would be more than willing to post my test history. As far as herpes go, our rate of infection is exactly equal to that of the general population. But really that is not the point. The cost of our STDS to the state is exactly zero. We pay AIM to take care of this. We don’t wait three weeks to be approved by the state for free STD treatment. That would be three weeks out of work when we could buy some chlamydia antibiotics for twenty dollars from AIM.

iii) No studies have been done concerning whether porn increases promiscuity or not, and even if it did, so what. It is not the state’s job to regulate our sex habits or tax us for not abstaining from the evil temptations of lust. And please Mr. Calderon, define “unsafe”. Do you mean out of wedlock?

iv) Porn does not cause rapists. Sex crimes have only been declining and porn has been going more mainstream. Half of all internet searches are sex-related. That would be an awful lot of violence against womenfolk don’tcha think? And again, there are no peer reviewed and published studies to support this notion. But for argument’s sake, let’s say there are people out there who only feel it is right to beat on women after they see a pretty girl screw on film. To be consistent, we should find a scapegoat to tax every time someone is shot. But are we taxing the company that made the gun or are we taxing Grand Theft Auto… I can’t make up my mind.

Porn addiction was also brought up as a ghastly secondary effect of this industry. Porn addiction does not exist. Sex addiction does exist and existed before the industry and will continue to exist even if the industry is run out of CA. But again, if we start taxing the objects of addiction then it needs to be consistent. I got up in the middle of this blog to go on a Starbucks run. Who is drafting legislation against that?

Onto education, skills, employment, welfare…. and the oft repeated drug addiction.

If we were to show the education trends of workers in this industry on a scatter plot, it would look like a polka dot dress. Yes, there are girls who did not graduate high school. There are girls with PHDs. There are girls who come in with degrees and girls who continue with school while they are in the industry and there are girls who make a lot of money now and then leave the industry for school. There are girls who will misspell their own names until the day they die and others who will become business tycoons and probably employ the very assholes who assigned them some kind of value judgment based on their line of work. Why does it seem like something is missing though…. oh yeah, because the girls in front of the camera are not the only people in this industry. Admittedly, I’m only making an assumption, but the directors and photographers and editors and writers and graphic artists and make up artists and boom guys and lighting guys and web designers and business owners and vague entrepreneurs all have either an education or skills. Anyone with a sustaining career in this industry by definition would have something worthwhile to contribute to it. Suitcase pimps don’t count though.

If we leave the industry unemployed that may be due to the fact that we are now, uh… retired? Brilliant! One builds an entire career in an industry, puts away money, gets old, and stops working. Novel. Once again, Calderon is focusing only on the 2 girls in front of the camera and ignoring the 25 people on set behind the camera. They do not stay in for five years and then become a burden to the state as Calderon so eloquently stated. But, since the focus is on those fuck up girls, i will turn back to them. Reasons some girls leave unemployed: They went back to school. They got married and are now housewives. They really did put away enough money that they won’t have to work again. Or, and this is entirely possible, they left unemployed and will remain unemployed during their job search. I personally have been unemployed before this industry. I’d had it with the job I was at and I quit. And I was unemployed for ten days while I interviewed for a new job. It was a huge burden on the state but I guess thats why I pay taxes.

On welfare. Please. What newly retired porn star with her brand new Mercedes, tax statements showing a six figure income, and still-perfect body due to the fact that she’s never had a kid is going to pull up to the local welfare office and qualify. Spare me.

Drug addiction. I’m getting back to it. More reasons why industry workers can’t be drug addicted:

i) Most industry workers are not actually performers and they have deadlines and obligations and probably families and normal lives. This is not conducive to drug addiction.

ii) Drug addicts are ugly. Porn favors pretty. If two girls fit the mold for a look you are trying to work into a scene will you go for the one with rotting teeth, scabs, and vacant eyes or will you go for the one who just looks like a normal girl? Or, lets say the drug addict looks normal. In that case will you go for the girl who is reliable and can remember her lines or the one who may or may not show up and can’t even read her lines because they are threatening to stab her and floating off the page whenever she looks at it? Drug addicts will be weeded out. There are too many girls willing to take their place.

iii) This industry already has so many people breathing down our necks. Are we really going to shoot a girl up with heroin on set or at a strip club (as Daphne Khoury claims- yes i’ll get to her as well) knowing that the religious right is looking for any reason to shut us down and also knowing how replaceable she is with someone who is absolutely fine with being naked and sober simultaneously?

iv) Porn does not cause drug addiction anyway. Correlation is not causation. Many girls who propel the myth are girls who were already addicted before the industry and then turned to it to try to make a quick buck to feed their addictions. They don’t last long. As I’m defending this industry please note that i’m defending the mainstream part of it. No one can control for the fringe dwellers and we don’t legitimize them.

iv) Let’s get to the real reason why this is such a bothersome statement though. The underlying assumption is that recreational sex and sex as a commodity is so evil and dirty and wrong that the psyche cannot handle it without resorting to substance abuse. This is coming from the very group of people who should be counseled on sex because they have managed to distort it into something larger than life. They see it everywhere and feel victimized by it. They worry so much about it that they have stripped their lives of it entirely, but that is not enough, because other people obviously don’t see the danger in sex and so they must strip other people’s lives of it as well. For their own good of course.

50 million Americans were patrons of the adult industry last year. People who like and enjoy sex and have positive views of it are not unhealthy or unstable. People who fear it and would take away your rights to it are. This bill is not about about making the adult industry “carry its own weight”. This bill is a poorly veiled attempt at censorship. If you don’t believe me, then lets go back ten years in time to another bill that had the exact same goal but failed. The first time this bill was introduced it was introduced for moral reasons rather than budgeting reasons. Calderon is relentless. If passed, the adult industry would effectively be forced out of CA. The 25 percent tax would be taxed at every level. This means it could be applied as many as 5 times to the same product. We cannot take 125% hit. When Calderon was asked about this, his response was, and I quote “The adult industry cannot leave California. This is the only state in the US where shooting porn is not called outright prostitution or pandering. They will be forced to pay it.” He’s wrong. The video industry can and will leave CA if this bill is passed. We already do shoot outside of CA but if we had to it’s not as if a scene has never been shot in Budapest if the remaining US is off limits. From what I hear the girls are damn hot over there. Not only would the adult industry being forced out be a grave moment in the history of a nation based on democracy and freedom, but it would be a huge economic hit to CA. 4 billion is made every year in CA from this industry and it provides 40,000 jobs. Calderon would be willing to take all of this from Californians if it meant he could get his agenda through. In a memorable quote that I’d like so sum up this paragraph with, Calderon said, when addressing his committee, “We are the California Government. We can pass whatever law we want.”

---------END PART ONE-------------

The pretty girl at the top is Megan. I shot Megan this past week for Vivid Entertainment. Megan is a fairly new Vivid Girl. I lit Megan with a 5' Octodome for a main plus two, small, shoot-thru umbrellas to pop her with some backlighting. The backlights were placed on either side of her and slightly behind with the umbrellas set about head-high and about 8' feet away from the model. I also used a 36" diameter, Westcott, 5-in-1 reflector, silver side out, for some fill. We were shooting in what was once a restaurant on the grounds of the Marina Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, California. The funky, carpet-mural thing behind Megan is fairly fugly but no problem-- whichever image the graphics guys choose to use, they'll probably (as usual) cut her out and paste her on some cool background so I really don't worry too much about the BG. Canon 5D w/ 28-135 IS USM, ISO 100, f/8 @ 160th. MUA was Melissa.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Foto Flea Market

Last Sunday, I drove to Pasadena to check out the monthly Bargain Camera Show held at the Pasadena Elks Lodge. This is a once-a-month, indoor, photography flea market where vendors set up their wares on folding tables and photographers stroll about looking for that killer deal on whatever it is they're looking for. Looking for that classic Leica Rangefinder you've always coveted? This is the place to find one.

Don't get me wrong. It ain't all classic film gear at this show. There's plenty of guys selling used and new digital bodies from Canon, Nikon, and others, as well as tons of glass to go with them. And there's also all kinds of accessory gear: bags, meters, sticks (tripods), media cards, whatever. I went there looking for lighting and grip gear. Unfortunately, that's the kind stuff they have the least amount of. I did buy a Larson 36" "Reflectasol," still new in the box although it was from the 70s. I paid $30 for it and tried it out today. Still haven't decided if I like it or not. But hell! It was only thirty bucks and I guarantee it will come in very handy at some time or another.

If you ever hope to see a whole bunch of old school shooters gathered in one place, this is *that* place. I'd say about 90% of the guys attending were middle-aged and/or seniors. And nearly half of them were wearing one of those classic photographer's vest. You know the kind-- beige, brown, black, or green vests with tons of pockets and other places to hold film and meters and lenses and cameras and just about anything else you want to carry. With one of those photographer's vests, who needs a camera bag or backpack? You can wear everything you need from your waist up to your neck and look stylish too! (Not.)

Ethnically, the crowd was nearly 50% older white guys and 50% older Asian guys with one or two older black guys thrown into mix. (Black photographers attending the show were about as common as black golfers in the PGA or black racers in NASCAR.) There was a very small smattering of females there -- mostly younger and college-age -- who seemed to be just embarking on their photographic journeys. (I know this because I stalked each of them at different times so I could eavesdrop on their conversations.) The common denominator was that they all seemed to be just starting out as shooters and they had all decided to start out with a purist's approach, i.e., they were gonna learn to shoot film before "graduating" to digital. (Young chicks can be so idealistic!) Of course, there was no shortage of old school shooters hoping to impress these girls as they bored the crap out of them flaunting their (supposedly) encyclopedic knowledge of photography!

Anyway. That's what I did on Sunday. Exciting life, no?

The eye-candy at the top is Dana from this past Monday. I lit her with a large Octodome for the main and a shoot-thru umbrella behind her for some highlights. I also placed another shoot-thru, camera-right and about even with the model, for some fill.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Are You a Control Freak? Maybe You Should Be!

An awful lot of attention gets paid to modifying light but not as much to controlling it. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that manufacturers and retailers would rather sell you a softbox for hundreds of dollars than a roll of black foil for twenty or thirty bucks. Of course, those same manufacturers and retailers are happy to sell you specialty grids for their softboxes -- grids control the light after all -- but those grids sometimes cost (nearly) as much as the softbox they're intended to accessorize!

BTW, I'm not downplaying the usefulness of grids because of their cost. They are a very effective way of controlling light and great additions to your arsenal of lighting tools. I'm only saying there are many ways to control light and some of them are as effective in their applications as they are in their costs.

Umbrellas, for instance, are very common light modifiers, possibly the most common. Unfortunately, umbrellas suck at controlling the light they are modifying. Sometimes, this isn't a bad thing. There are times when photographers want to scatter light all over the place and umbrellas are pretty good at doing so. Still other times, light scatter simply isn't an issue to be concerned about. But there are times when photographers prefer to keep the light they are modifying controlled and focused. At those times, umbrellas might not be the best choice for modifying a light source.

There are many ways to control light and many of them are as cheap as they are effective. As mentioned in my first paragraph, a roll of black foil is a great addition to any photographers bag of tricks. With foil, you can instantly create snoots of almost any shape. You can make things that emulate barn doors. Yep, you can control your light sources in many ways with black foil.

Flags are another way to control light. But flags don't have to be those semi-pricey ones sold by grip manufacturers and retailers. (Which often requires a stand and/or a grip head to employ.) Instead, as an example, you can purchase black foamcore and fashion your own flags with a knife or a pair of scissors, setting them where you need them. Since foamcore is so light, you can usually use tape or cheap clamps to put them where you need them. Flags aren't just used to control light, they are often set to prevent lens flares by blocking the light between its source and the camera's glass.

So next time you're shooting, don't just consider how you're going to modify light, think about controlling it as well. In other words, think about becoming a control freak. You might just see a big improvement in your photography!

The gorgeous girl at the top is Lorena from a shoot last fall.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Miley Cyrus Link Bait

I just finished reading an article on titled, "This Article is Miley Cyrus Link Bait," astutely penned by Jason Lee Miller, and I have to say that this Jason cat is right on the freakin' money!

Everyone from Vanity Fair to Disney to Billy Ray to Annie to the media (ESPECIALLY the media) ought to be ashamed of themselves! They all colluded, in one way or another, in selling a (very) marginally provocative photograph of a 15-year-old girl as out-n-out smut for the sake of commercialism.

Personally, I don't have much empathy for the girl. She'll be crying all the way to the bank for years to come. What really bothers me is the way this kind of shit further empowers the already overly-empowered morality police. Especially the way it directs them at photographers and certain genres of photography. (Of which I am a regular practitioner.)

The pretty girl photo at the top is Lexi from last week. I gave it a B&W treatment cuz I was feeling a tad on the artsy side tonight-- perhaps a by-product of those two chili dogs I wolfed down? I lit Lexi with a 32" silver Larson "reflectasol" hex umbrella, a small soft box boomed from behind her, and I took advantage of some sunlight pouring in from a white, tranluscent skylight above her. MUA was Melissa.