Monday, June 29, 2009

Hotties and Harleys

I'm beat.



Worked a 15-hour shoot yesterday.

We shot in an auto body shop. The building's "swamp cooler" cooling system wasn't happening. Temperatures inside the location reached 104° F during the afternoon. (40° C for some of you.)

But it was a dry heat, okay?

Yeah, like that made any difference.

I didn't shoot the pretty girl photographs for this project. I was the director/HD video operator. I was gonna also shoot the stills but, two days before production, my production manager called and suggested, "Why don't we hire another photographer?"

I resisted.

The PM went on, "You'll make the same money for the day."

I continued resisting. After all, shooting the "pretty girls" is what I love doing best.

The PM added, "It will make for a much shorter day."

Shorter day?

I relented.

A "much shorter day" turned out to be fiction: A sounded-good-in-theory false prediction.

A lie.

Had I not relented, of course, that 15-hour day probably would have turned into something more. Something longer. Something uglier. Something that would have meant I'd still, as I write this, be in bed, semi-comatose. (It's 10:58 A.M. as I write this.)

As the day progressed and temperatures soared everyone began working slower. Much slower. (Except the PM who sat most of the day at a desk in a small, air conditioned, office at the auto body shop.)

The desk and office belongs to Joey Buttafuco. But Joey wasn't there yesterday. He was smarter than us, spending his day lounging at a pool, sipping Coronas and admiring young, nubile, women in bikinis. While we had plenty of young, nubile, (sweaty) women of our own to admire, Joey's day sounds more relaxing and enjoyable. Certainly cooler.

We went through (I don't how many) cases of bottled water! Also lots of towels to dry off the models/performers. It was like shooting in a sauna.

A dry sauna, of course.

Again, like that makes a difference.

Thematically, this would-be-masterpiece of the erotic cinema (not) involves young hotties and roaring Harleys. They go together, right? Hotties and Harlies? Add to the bikes and babes some hard-riding biker-dudes and, voilà, an allegorical sex-epic emerges like magic, almost on its own.

I thought about adding guns to the saga--guns, chicks, and Harleys make for even more titillating imagery--but guns cost money. (To rent, that is.) Plus, blank ammo ain't cheap! (Something we definitely weren't budgeted for.) Besides, if we had guns and plenty of blank ammo we would have had so much fun shooting the half-naked chicks shooting the fully-faux-loaded guns that we would have shot ourselves in the feet, time-wise.

Yes. I know this stuff from personal experience.

I shouldn't overly complain. Yesterday was a good payday, despite the long hours and brutal heat.

Besides, it was a dry heat. Right?

I should be back to writing about photography for my next update. Just thought I'd share my yesterday with you all, as interesting (or not) as it might be.

The pretty girl at the top, mounted on a rice-burner rather than a Harley, is my good pal, Kori, from a few years ago. Shot it during my (fortunately short-lived) red and yellow gel phase. Her right arm looks like it's growing out of her face. Oh well. The red and yellow gels didn't work out too well either.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

No More Pennies From Heaven

Apparently, Google, for whatever reason, has removed its AdSense ads from this blog. I have no evidence, forensic or otherwise, hinting at why they've done so. The ads are simply gone.

Google's AdSense ads ran here for a couple of years. Now, suddenly, poof, they're history.

I've received no email or other communication from Google advising me they've taken this action or why. I'm guessing it might have something to do with the pictorial content I post? Perhaps a complaint registered by one of Google's advertisers? Who knows? Google is a company built on providing information except, it seems, when that information concerns decisions they might make, i.e., decisions effecting their individual users, associates, or affiliates.

Looks like I'm back to writing for free instead of writing for pennies.

I'm not overly perturbed about this.

There was a time I would have been outraged but, in my half-century-plus on this planet, I've learned to accept that hypocrisy remains alive and well, always will, and exists in nearly infinite forms.

I would dwell on this subject a bit more but I've got better things to do with my time, like reorganizing my sock drawer or alphabetizing my spice rack.

Oh! Wait! I don't have a spice rack!

Oh well.

Thanks for all those penny-generating clicks you guys provided!

The pretty girl at the top is Monica. For some reason, the pic seems to illustrate my currently bemused attitude towards Google's AdSense.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Cult of the Photo Vest

When it comes to fashion apparel, photographers fall into two, broad, categories: Those who wear photographer vests and those who don't.

I fall into the latter category. I not only refrain from wearing "the vest," I don't own one-- Never have and, most likely, never will.

Whenever I see shooters wearing those spiffy photographer vests, I perceive them as photo-snappers belonging to a special group, a tightly-knit club, a secret fraternal order. One I've never been invited to join.

In my mind, vest-wearing shooters are to photography as those guys with shaved heads and orange robes are to Buddhism, "colors" wearing Hells Angels are to motorcycle enthusiasts, or kilt-sporting highlanders are to the Scots.

I sometimes wonder if these guys have secret handshakes, use mysterious symbolism, and attend nocturnal meetings in round, lens-shaped, temples. More than any other group of photographers, those who wear "the vest" are members of a cult: Cult of the Photo Vest.

They're like the Freemasons of photography.

The Cult of the Photo Vest reveres things like film, rangefinder cameras, German optics, and landscape and nature shooting. They are all, universally, well-versed in the art, craft, and technical scientific aspects of photography. And their knowledge is not limited to old school photography. They assimilate knowledge and information as quickly as technology changes.

When you go to sites like and ask a difficult technical question, a question whose answer seems to defy Googling, it's more than likely a vest-wearing photographer who will provide you the answer. These are guys, after all, who not only quote the Sunny 16 Rule and the Inverse Square Law, they can explain these things in infinite detail. When it comes to all things photographic, they are bi-pedal Photo-Wikipedians: Photo-Wikis for short.

While many vest-wearers seem to belong to older generations, I do occasionally see younger initiates at various events where photographers gather. I'm not accusing the cult of refusing admittance to women but, thus far, I've yet to see a female photographer wearing a photo-vest. Maybe I simply haven't looked hard enough?

The cult doesn't appear to actively seek new members. I'm not sure how someone joins or becomes a member. Invitation? Borg-like assimilation? Simply purchasing and proudly wearing a photo vest? I have no clue.

We need these guys. They are the keepers of photographic truth. If slinging the latest dSLR on one's shoulder says "photographer," wearing "the vest" says, "photo zealot." And I mean that in the nicest way with the utmost of respect.

My next update will return to regularly scheduled programming. Programming that focuses on examining the forces that results in pictures of scantily-clad, or unclad, pretty girls-- Pretty girls like Monica, below, shot in my (former) studio, 3 or 4 years ago. (Once again, I hopped in the way-back machine to dredge up a an older PG photo for this update.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are You a REAL Photographer?

I don't know who the culprit was but someone on Twitter recently tweeted, "To be a real photographer you also need to be a business person." Consider the quotation marks loosely applied. It might not be an exact quote but it's fairly close.

I doubt the quote was intended to dis avocational photographers--In fact, I'm sure it wasn't meant that way--but it had that effect nonetheless. Some people shrugged, others were a bit taken back, while still others were fairly pissed! The quote was perceived, by those who took exception to it, as meaning only professional photographers, i.e., those who make all or part of their living from photography, are "real" photographers.

Just so ya know, I absolutely do NOT subscribe to that belief. If I've ever posted anything on this blog that, in any way, seemed to infer that I believe only professional shooters are "real" photographers, I can assure you I didn't mean it to appear that way and my wording must have been the result of a "momentary lapse of reason" or, at the time I wrote such words, I was "comfortably numb." (© Pink Floyd)

Thanks to the internet, we all have the equal ability to view the work of pro shooters as well as photo-hobbyists-- From those just starting out to seasoned photographers. I don't know about you but, often enough, I see work from hobbyists that wows the shit out of me! Not only does some of that work wildly impress me, it makes me wish I could shoot as well as more than a few of those hobbyists are able to shoot.

Rather than dwell on this subject, I'll let you read another blogger's thoughts about it. He dwells way better than I dwell, leastwise, when it comes to dwelling on this "real photographer" stuff.

To read Vancouver photographer David duChemin's blog, "Pixelated Image," and his most excellent take on this subject, CLICK HERE.

BTW, David seems like a really smart, unpretentious, and grounded guy In spite of the French heritage his last name seems to indicate.


Sorry! That was a little inside joke. I'm friends with a few (from-France) French photographers, some of whom read this blog, and I couldn't resist... Right, mon frères?

The golden-sepia-toned pretty girl at the top is Missy shot in my (former) studio about 3 or 4 years ago. I don't know why I've lately been dredging up pics from the past. I've certainly shot enough new stuff. Go figure, right?

Iran Protest Video

And now for something completely different: I don't have time to write a photography update so, instead, posted a short, timely video cut together by my good pal, documentary filmmaker Bill Day, using recent photos and vid-clips from Iran. Music by Buffalo Springfield.

You remember Buffalo Springfield, right? Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Richie Furay, and Neil Young made up the influential, if short-lived, group.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

Thinking outside the box is a notion that means thinking differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. It's a phrase that's been around a while, certainly since the early 70s. It usually refers to creative thinking as it applies to business, art, or almost anything. Unfortunately, thinking outside the box is a catchphrase that has become more than a little cliché.

In photography, thinking outside the box, and applying those thoughts to the processes of picture making, sometimes yields cool, dynamic, and big-time wow-value results. Other times, it yields results that, for lack of a better word, suck. But hey! You don't try you don't get, right?

If you're a photographer, you can apply thinking outside the box thinking to lighting, composition, post-production, almost any aspect of the photographic process.

Interestingly, and as this catchphrase applies to photography, we're often advised to think outside the box (by mentors, instructors, and know-it-all blog writers) as we make pictures: Pictures that remain, well, that remain inside a box!

The box, of course, is the geometric shape of the vast majority of photos that are snapped, regardless of the aspect ratio utilized. That's why I like telling shooters to think inside the box rather than outside the box. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, photography is all about what goes inside the box--that square or rectangular shape that constitutes the image's canvas--even when photographers are straining their brains thinking outside the box, or trying to.

Could thinking inside the box be the new thinking outside the box? Wow! Maybe I'm setting a trend here? Or maybe I'm simply starting to think and sound a bit Master Po-ish?

You cannot see.

You think I cannot see?

Of all things, to live in darkness must be worst.

Fear is the only darkness.

On second thought, this inside/outside the box stuff ain't nearly as inscrutable as Master Po's take on things and I doubt it's remotely trend-setting.


Here's the deal--

Don't become obsessively caught up in a thinking outside the box mindset until you know what goes inside the box, that is, what should go inside the box. You know, as in how to put, photographically put, things inside the box in a competent and appealing way. And please! Don't use thinking outside the box as an excuse for pics that suck.

If an image sucks it sucks. It doesn't suddenly not suck because you, the self-proclaiming thinking outside the box photographer, believe your viewers are too dense or simple or unsophisticated to grasp the artistic merits of your thinking outside the box masterpiece when viewing it. It is what it is. And if it sucks it sucks. End of story. Sometimes, when photos suck, you get points for effort but you still don't get points for results.

Another way of looking at this is from the perspective of rules: You know, those pesky, old-school, Rules of Photography. Yeah, I know, rules are made to be broken, especially rules that apply to things of an artistic nature. But it's been my experience, as both a viewer and (occasional) creator of artistic things, that the artists who break the rules best are the artists who know the rules best.

You think Picasso couldn't draw and paint in a classical style that adhered to the tried-and-true rules of drawing and painting? You think he didn't fully understand those rules? You think he didn't spend a big part of his life learning the rules before he broke them? Before he broke them in ways that secured his lofty place in art history?

Think again.

So before you go all renaissance-shooter with your thinking outside the box approach to photography, pretty girl shooting or otherwise, spend some time thinking inside the box. Learn how to make thinking inside the box photos shine. Then start thinking outside the box, developing your own, unique, style and approach to your work. Odds are you're not going to effectively break the rules until you know those rules and can consistently apply them in capable ways.

Personally, I've been doing this photography thing for a long time. Regardless, I'm not often overly comfortable taking too many liberties with the rules and breaking them with my thinking outside the box ideas. More so when I'm shooting on someone else's dime.

It has also been my observation that a lot of what's passed off as thinking outside the box creativity ends up being ideas that have already been conceived and executed by someone else. They're like recycled, thinking outside the box, ideas. Ideas someone else has already thought of. Ideas that were created by someone who was thinking outside the box before you or I were. Most importantly, someone who made their thinking outside the box ideas work.

Some people say, as it applies to artistic things, there's nothing new. I'm not sure that's true but, then again, I'm not sure it ain't true.

The pretty girl at the top, poised like a cat, is Nautica. I've shot Nautica a bunch of different times over the past 4 or 5 years. This one is from three years ago, shot in my studio when I still had a studio. I used my Mola 35.5" Euro beauty dish for the main light with a couple of kickers behind her, both of them strip boxes. I also used a white bounce board or two for some subtle front fill.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

Time flies when you're shooting every day. It's been nearly a week since I've updated the blog! A week!

Besides working with a whole bunch of pretty girls for LFP/Hustler this past week, some really cool stuff has gone down regarding the PGS DVD: Our first sponsor is officially on board!

For those who haven't already guessed, that sponsor is Innovatronix, Inc., the company that brings you, amongst other cool stuff, the ExplorerXT: The dopest, Pure Sine Wave Inverter, portable power units in the known universe. Leastwise, in my neck of the known universe.

If you have a sec, do me a favor and click on Innovatronix's links I just provided. (Or on the graphic in the right-hand column.) Show them some pretty girl shooting love! Doing so isn't about pennies from heaven raining on Jimmy, like when you click on those Google AdSense links, it's simply helping me thank them for becoming a Pretty Girl Shooter DVD sponsor.

I'm also in contact with another manufacturer: A quality, photo/lighting gear company who is considering becoming a sponsor. Not gonna tip my hat. Don't know if it will come to pass. We're still just yakking back and forth. I'm just saying and, hopefully, by doing so, putting some good vibes out there while they consider my proposal.

And BTW, I'm not intending on turning the DVD into one big commercial or infomercial for a bunch of photo companies. I'm limiting the advertisements to two sponsors. That's all. Just two companies who will each have a short "spot" on the DVD. In fact, I've so far only approached two companies and I'm batting .500. If a second sponsorship doesn't become reality, no biggie. The DVD is still gonna be produced. We'll just go with one advertisor. Production is scheduled to begin no later than the middle of July... with or without a second sponsor.

As it stands right now, the DVD will be out before the end of the year. You'll be able to purchase direct, via this blog or another Pretty Girl Shooter website that has yet to be unveiled-- I also have the domain,, by the way. The DVD will also be available at select retail outlets as well on-line through various websites.

I'm stoked! I'm planning some cool stuff for the DVD including informative appearances by some very special and well-known people in the world of glamour photography. Ya see, other than the pretty girl models, it ain't gonna just be my mug you're looking at or my voice you're listening to on the DVD. Did I just hear the collective sounds of many sighs of relief? No matter. I'll keep ya posted as this stuff develops.

The DVD has one, major, overall goal: To help it's viewers become better shooters! Oh yeah, and also to put a couple of bucks in my pocket. I guess that's two goals. Oh well! One goal, two goals, probably more. What can I say? I'm a no bullshit kind of guy and I'm not gonna act like I'm doing this strictly for altruistic reasons... even though I am a regular, albeit occasional, practitioner of altruism.

Speaking of "time flies," the pretty girl at the top is Paola from a couple of years ago. Damn! Seems like just yesterday I snapped Paola's pics. I shot Paola with my Canon 5D w/ an 85mm prime. Used three lights to illuminate her: A Novatron M500 modified with a Photoflex 5' Octodome for the main, plus a couple of Novatron M300s, on either side, for kickers. I probably also had a reflector or two worked into the mix, as well as a fan, off to the side, to blow her gorgeous mane.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Who Wants to Up Their Game?

If you're serious about your game, your photography game, and you're looking to spend a few bucks to help accomplish that, ignore the marketing hype about every new camera body that comes along on a frequent and regular basis and buy glass-- The best glass you can afford!

Nothing will improve your game, i.e., beyond learning more and practicing as much as you can, like good glass.

You think more megapixels is going to take you to the next level? Wrong. A better processor? Most likely not. Digital SLRs with all the state-of-the-art bells and whistles? Photographers, please.

Knowledge, practice, and glass is your ticket to photo Nirvana.

Beyond that, and assuming you're not strictly a natural light shooter, I'd suggest purchasing good lighting gear. Not just lights and modifiers, but also some quality grip equipment to help you deploy your lighting and wield your camera and glass like a Samurai warrior unleashing his deadly katana.

I know, I know, you're on a budget. Aren't we all? But, for some reason, every time Canon or Nikon releases a new camera body plenty of photographers seem to find the money to buy them. How do I know this? Cuz I'm clairvoyant! Actually, because I spend enough time on photography forums to notice the flurry of threads that announce the OPs' new camera acquisitions every time a new camera body is released by the Big Two. (OP being the Original Poster.)

And how about all those hyped-up rumor-mill posts that pop up all over the net, the ones about new camera bodies on the horizon? It's amazing how those rumors make so many shooters wet... from the saliva drooling out of their mouths.

Then, of course, the rumored camera is released, lots of people buy them, and those people then post new pictures snapped by their new cameras. Frankly, I rarely see much improvement over the old pictures they snapped with their old cameras.

I'm not down-playing good camera bodies. Certainly upgrading from a cropped sensor to a full sensor will usually show improvements in the shooter's photos. But still, those improvements are often marginal without the addition of good glass and effective lighting. Re effective lighting: I'm not referring to those, as I mentioned, who are mostly available and/or natural light shooters. But good glass, of course, will also and always "up" a natural light photographer's game.

Currently, I own three lenses: A Canon 17-40mm f/4L, a Tamron AF 28-75 f/2.8, and a Canon 70-200 f/4L. Optically, they're all great lenses and they adequately and effectively cover all the focal lengths I need for my line of work, i.e., from 17mm on up to 200mm on a full-frame-sensor camera body. (The Canon 5D.) For those times when there's other glass I need and don't have, I can always beg, borrow, steal, or rent it.

Besides a couple of Canon Speedlites, I also own 4 monolights: Three Novatron M300s and one Novatron M500. The Novatrons are hardy, robust, and effective. They are medium-priced lighting instruments: In and around the $400+ price range. They are incrementally adjustable, keep color temperature nicely, recycle quickly, offer plenty of practical accessories, and output enough power for the work I most often perform.

I have a decent-enough collection of light modifiers and controllers: A 35.5" Mola Euro beauty dish, a 5' Photoflex Octodome, plus various other soft boxes, reflectors, scrims, flags, and umbrellas. I also have enough grip to utilize most any and all of the lighting gear I own in a multitude of ways. Add to that some Pocket Wizards, a light meter, and other things I carry with me and I'm well prepared for most anything I do photographically. As a former Boy Scout, the concept of being prepared was effectively beaten taught to me. Leastwise, when it comes to photography, it stuck.

Thanks to the good folks at Innovatronix, I also have some terrific portable power gear which means I'm very mobile with my lighting and grip, freed from the bonds of available A/C power!

If you're a hobbyist, do you need that much gear? Maybe not. But if you carefully consider what you most often shoot and where you shoot it, you should be able to come up with a list of things that will make your photos shine. And one of the LAST things on that list should, if you've done your homework and/or are listening to my advice, be the latest and greatest camera body from our beloved marketing-savvy camera manufacturers.

The pretty girl at the top is Kita from a shoot this past week. Kita was shot and lit almost identically to Charmane, who was featured in my last update. Like I mentioned in my last, I shot 4 pretty girls that day. MUA was Nikki. There are days when I feel like the Henry Ford of pretty girl shooters.

Here's another snap from behind-the-scenes showing the lighting, albeit this time I oriented the camera for a landscape aspect ratio shot. Man! My client's white cyc sure could use some paint!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Comment Spawned Update

I don't know how many of you go back and read the comments to the updates I've posted but, quite often, there's some great info in them. BTW, I really love reading and posting and answering comments so, whenever you feel the urge to say something, please do. I don't respond to everything but I respond often enough.

As a comment to my last update, "Merging Technologies, Merging Media, Merging You," an anonymous reader posted the following. I thought I'd turn the comment into an update because, well, because I've been shooting all day, I'm tired as hell, I want to update and I can't think of anything else to write about.

"I hate to say it Jimmy but every photographer turned videographer I've ever worked with was a pain. Photography and video are 2 different animals. Photography is about capturing that one perfect moment. Video is always moving so it can't stay perfect. Photographers seem to have a problem accepting that. My last run in with a photographer/videographer was with a guy who said he needed 4 hours to set up a talking head."

Here's what I posted in response:

"I don't disagree that, from the perspectives of many people, and in many ways, photography and videography are two different animals. But being a long time photographer AND videographer, I see it a little differently. I notice all the similarities rather than the differences.

Take digital photography, for instance. So much of it, the technical stuff that is, was born of video. Videographers have been using gear with CCD and CMOS chips for a long time. Videographers have been white balancing, dealing with reduced contrast and blown-out highlights, working with scopes that look-like and act-like histograms (wave flow monitors and vectorcopes) for I don't know how long.

From a technical standpoint, making the segue from film to digital photography, for me, was a snap. That's not a brag. It's simply because I had years of experience as both a videographer, as well as a photographer, when digital photography busted onto the scene.

BTW, I don't think this is going to be all about choices. I think video and photo technologies are merging to the point that photographers won't have much of a choice, leastwise, those trying to make their livings with cameras in their hands. How so? Because clients are going to ask... then demand it. Just my opinion."

And that's what I believe: I believe many pro photographers, from photo-journalists to commercial shooters and beyond are going to have to bite the bullet and make video part of their skills set. It's all merging and integrating-- still and motion picture capture. And it's gonna be part of the game for the majority of people who make their livings, as I already said, with cameras in their hands.

The pretty girl at the top is Charmane from today's shoot. She was one of four pretty girls I photographed today. I lit Charmane, on a white cyc, with 4 Profoto Acute 2 heads. That required 2 Profoto power packs. Image was captured with my Canon 5D, 70-200 f/4L, ISO 100, f/11 @ 160. Not a whole lotta processing applied to the picture other than the (obvious) B&W conversion.

Below is a BTS shot (behind-the-scenes) from today. I know a lot of you like seeing these kinds of pics and today, for once, I remembered to snap a few.

I shot the BTS pic with the same camera body but with my Tamron AF 28-75 on it. The perspective looks a little weird: She's much closer to the 7' Photoflex Octodome main light (left forefront) and the medium umbrella fill (right forefront) then she looks in the pic. There's a KinoFlo Diva-Lite 400 on the right-side of the image if you're wondering what that black vertical thing with the yellow lettering on it is. The Kino, by the way, doesn't play into the lighting I set up, it was just there, in the studio, and I was too lazy to move it. (Not that it was in the way or anything.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Merging Technologies/Merging Media/Merging You

If any of you think digital imaging technologies aren't merging at a rapid pace, think again.

If you're making your living as a photographer and you think it's a bad idea to merge your skills, i.e., by integrating multiple imaging technologies into your skills arsenal, think again.

If you don't think change is constant... I emphatically encourage you to think again!

I'm not talking about simply buying a Canon 5dmk2 or some other dSLR with video capability and thinking you're "all that" because, suddenly, you can shoot video with your pro digital still camera. And I'm not talking about hocking your first born to some evil corporation in Dubai who feeds off indentured labor so you can afford to purchase a RED camera. I'm talking about learning the art and craft of these multiple, merging, digital, imaging technologies and putting that knowledge, somehow, to work.

Yeah, yeah. I know. It's already time-consuming enough keeping up with photography. Well, it's not. It's not enough, that is. You need to keep up with more than that.

Hey! No one forced you into becoming an image capturing fanatic!

And don't give me that "I'm just a hobbyist" crap. Or the "I don't need to learn more stuff than my photography hobby requires" line. C'mon! Admit it! While those lines might be true for some of you, maybe way more than a few of you, there's plenty of you who harbor secret hopes that your "hobby" can someday become your career, trumping the money you're now making doing whatever it is you now do for a living. I'm not saying that to crow cuz I make my so-called living with cameras. I'm just saying.

I don't think it's an anomaly that photographers of Alexx Henry's caliber are adding video to their bag of tricks. BTW, check out Alexx's site. (By clicking on his name above.) Some truly kick-ass work there! I also don't think it's coincidence that some "A" list shooters are also embracing these merging technologies in various ways: Guys like Chase Jarvis and Vincent Laforet and more. Again, I'm just saying. You can hear it and ignore it or you can hear it and run with it.

Here's another one, i.e., another photographer embracing video, featured in a New York Times article, RIGHT HERE.

BTW, if any of you, after watching the video, were thinking you should start using hot lights, as depicted in the video, instead of strobes because you're put-back by those sticker-shock prices for high-end, mega-marketed monolights and/or packs-n-heads some manufacturers are asking demanding, think again. Those HMIs are pricey. Very pricey. And I don't even wanna think about what that focusable parabolic umbrella from Briese costs. Of course, you can always rent that stuff, assuming you live somewhere where rental houses are nearby. Once again, not trying to be a smart ass. Just saying.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Round Pegs in Square Holes

When it comes to pretty girl photography, composition is about artfully, pleasingly, and eye-catchingly putting round pegs in square holes. Alright, I'll admit it's more like putting curvy things in rectangular spaces but, as an analogy, that's not as instantly recognizable as "round pegs in square holes" or "square pegs in round holes" or whatever.

I went with the round pegs/square holes thing for this update's title cuz I prefer being an "easy read" kind of blog writer. Website Grader gave me high marks for writing at an elementary/primary school level. Who knew writing like a 6th grader was a good thing?

Sometimes, I wonder if many photographers have difficulty chewing gum and walking at the same time. I often see images that are wonderfully lit but poorly composed. How does that happen?

Obviously, many shooters take much care and exhibit mad skills when lighting but, when it comes to framing the shot, the model is simply placed smack-dab in the center of the viewfinder and snapped. That's not always a bad thing if enough space is left so the image can later be cropped in an interesting way. But then I see so many images where its pretty damn clear that the model was framed in a pedestrian way and nothing changed when the image was later cropped.

I'm not saying that every image requires unique, less-often-seen, or dramatic composition. But often, small nods to eye-catching, aesthetically-pleasing, compositional techniques yields generally better results.

Photos don't provide views like human eyes do. With our eyes, we don't see things with precise and definable borders. If you do, you might consider visiting an ophthalmologist.

Photos have borders. The subjects of photographic images are constrained within those borders. That's why composition is so important. That's why its important for you to get creative when thinking how you're going to place those curvy things within the confines of rectangular spaces.

I used to think you can't teach composition. People were either born with an eye for it or they weren't. I've changed my mind on that. Certainly, there are many people who seem to have a natural eye for composition. But for those who don't automatically and instinctively frame up a shot in a compositionally interesting way, learning the rules of composition are as important as learning to paint with light. Often, the two are completely entwined.

While lighting is important, as is posing, emotion, attitude, art direction, makeup and hair, and more, don't neglect the power of composition and it's artful uses. I guarantee effective use of composition, even if its done in subtle and marginally noticeable ways, will have a positive impact on your photographs.

The pretty girl at the top is Sofia from a couple of years ago, shot against a blank wall in a house in Las Vegas. Photoflex 5' Octo for the main, couple of kickers, either side for highlights. Used a blank wall as a BG cuz the art guys wanted to do cut-outs and paste on some other BG plate.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Protest Rally That Wasn't

First off, while driving to downtown L.A. this morning, I realized that my previous update was incomplete... very incomplete! I neglected to mention something very important: You guys!

Yep, you! The readers of this blog. You're the big reason this blog is on Website Grader's "A" list and I want to thank you for your ongoing support.

Okay. Now that I'm done sucking ass, you can keep pelting me with pennies--you guys are doing great with that--and, if you have a spare couple of minutes, keep reading.

I said I was gonna head to downtown L.A. this morning for the photographers' rights rally and I did. I'm just not sure if anyone else did.

I arrived at Pershing Square at about 11:45. The rally was supposed to start at 11:30 but, when I arrived, there sure didn't look like any sort of rally was taking place. I circled Pershing Square 3 or 4 times; not an easy thing to do given all the one-way streets in downtown L.A. I was looking for people with signs, cameras, signs and cameras, anything that might indicate they were there for a photographers' rally. I saw no one that seemed to fit the bill. Yeah, there were some people there in Pershing Square: Mostly touristy looking folks and some down-on-their-luck street-peeps, but no one that I could see who remotely looked like they were there for a rally. Any sort of rally.

I was bummed, disappointed, and generally disheartened. I have no idea if the previous evening's rally took place in Long Beach, at the Port of Los Angeles, like it was scheduled, but it sure didn't look like anything was happening in Pershing Square. So, I drove back home, stopping to treat myself to a muy sabroso brunch at a Mexican eatery not far from where I live. Yeah, I sometimes eat when I'm bummed. And, sometimes I don't. Today, I did.

I was hoping to be able to write a lively report about the rally. I was ready to take some action photos of the event. Instead, my camera and I headed home for huevos rancheros and other Mexican breakfast fare.

Oh well. If any L.A. photographers complain about being hassled for photographing things in a perfectly legal way, they can't say I didn't give a care. I did. And I still do. I just won't be sucked into spending the cost of a half-tank of gas to show my support and solidarity for this issue and the photographers who are plagued by it.

The pretty girl at the top, sitting in that beat-up wooden chair in a gritty warehouse not far from where today's rally was supposed to take place, is Chayse. It's from a shoot back in April of this year. Chayse lit with a 5' Photoflex Octodome and a couple of shoot-thru-modified kickers behind her on either side. The windowed, overhead door in the BG also contributed to the edge-lighting on her skin and hair. I could have lit Chayse so the image would reveal what was outside the glass windows but I didn't because it wasn't much of a view. So, instead, I decided to blow it out... the light from the outside, that is. Not the glass itself.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

PGS Blog Gets an "A"

Some of you might have noticed the Website Grader link-graphic in the right-hand column down below, the one with the number 92 in the center. That's Website Grader's grade for this blog, a 92, an A in most schools. Cool, no? The PGS blog gets an A! No summer school for this blogger.

A few days ago, a guy I follow twollow on Twitter, Rosh Sillars, who authors a very informative blog, NewMediaPhotographer, tweeted a link to Website Grader. I thought, "Why not?" So I surfed over to Website Grader and punched in this blog's URL and waited for the results.

Website Grader looks at all kinds of information to come up with a blog's or website's "grade." Stuff like ranking in search engines, Alexa rating, how many sites link to the about-to-be-graded site, and so much more. Website Grader, btw, has graded over 900,000 websites. That's nearly a million!

I was fairly surprised to get an A for this photography blog. Before the results came back, I was thinking I'd get a high C or maybe a B, but an A? Fuhgedaboutit!

Here's a few highlights Website Grader reported. I've copied-and-pasted this directly from WG's report. I know it looks like I'm tooting my own horn but, a long time ago, someone once told me, "If you don't toot your own horn, someone's gonna use it as a spittoon."

Google Indexed Pages: 298

This number is the approximate number of pages the PGS blog has that have been stored in the Google index. The Google web crawler will visit the website periodically and look for new content for its index. Generally, the more pages your site has within the Google cache, the better.

Traffic Rank by Alexa: Top 3.84%

Alexa is an online service that measures traffic for millions of sites on the Internet in a similar way to Nielsen television show ratings.

Inbound Links: 3,957

One of the most important measures for a website is how many other sites link to it. The more links the better. Having links to your website from authoritative resources on the Internet helps you rank higher in search engines since these links are an indication that your website is trustworthy and contains good content.

Blog Ranking: Top 1.03%

Technorati is a popular blog directory service. It measures the popularity of a given blog as compared to all other sites that have been submitted to its system.

I love that last one: Top 1% of blogs! Anyway, there you have it. The PGS blog gets an "A" and yours truly gets some cyber bragging rights... with the accompanying blare of my horn a' tootin'!

BTW, I love when you guys show me some love! Keep clicking those "Ads by Google" links in the right-hand column. Writing for pennies is as big a reward, maybe bigger, than writing for good grades. And it certainly trumps writing for free. I love having those pennies from heaven dropping on me! Ouch! One just hit me on the head! Right on my (mini) Friar Tuck bald spot!

The pretty girl at the top is Kierra from a couple of weeks ago. If the background seems like it's shown in more than a few photos I post it's because it's part of a set in a studio where I regularly photograph models for one of my clients. I played around with some 3rd party filters when I processed the photo. Not sure if I like the results or not but trying out new things is how one learns new things. And new things usually lead to newer new things so I'm often willing to try out new things. So should you.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Calling All SoCal Photographers!

If you're a photographer or someone who supports the rights of photographers, you should be interested in two rallies taking place this weekend.

On Saturday, June 6, at 6:30 P.M., a "Photographer's Rights" rally will take place at the Port of Los Angeles, in Long Beach, CA. The event is being coordinated by the National Photographers’ Rights Organization.

On Sunday, June 7, at 11:30 A.M., a second rally will take place at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. I'm planning to participate in Sunday's rally.

A protest rally! Like back in the day. I'm stoked!

For more info about these important events, like how to get there and stuff, as well as plenty of other information about your rights as a photographer, CLICK HERE!

The pretty girl at the top is Playboy, Penthouse, FHM cover girl, Tera Patrick, from a shoot last month. Tera captured with a Canon 5D, Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Pretty Girl Shooting BEL Curve

Many photographers post their work on photography forums. Pretty girl shooters are no exception. Posting images on photo forums is a good way to get feedback and critique for your images.

It's been my observation that three components seem to trump all others when it comes to the responses a pretty girl pic might receive: Beauty, Emotion, and Lighting.

If I were a statistically-minded person, I suppose I could plot these components on a Bell Curve, in this case, a BEL Curve. But since I'm better with words than numbers, I'll stick to using an analogy between the traditional Bell Curve and my newly-minted BEL Curve.

Bell curves look like upside down bells. You knew that, right? All kinds of things can be plotted on the curves of the bell: Things that yield a picture of where it exists in terms of accomplishment or rating. Bell Curves produce visually digestible, easily understood, overall positive or negative rankings for whatever it is that's being plotted on the curve.

Teachers, for instance, use Bell Curves to plot grades. Many people refer to various skills, i.e., their skills at doing something, as moving one way or another along a Bell Curve, indicating their level of skill or proficiency at that thing. Bell Curves are easy to visualize and, as such, work nicely to illustrate many things. I know I'm oversimplifying Bell Curves but that's what I'm often about: Simplification... of my life, my work, my thoughts, so many things. I'm just a simple guy, I guess.

So let's look at the BEL Curve:

Beauty is the first and, quite often, the most important point to plot on the curve. Beauty trumps so many other aspects of a pretty girl photo. If a model is drop dead gorgeous, sexy almost beyond belief, those people critiquing your image of this "10" will be less focused on the technical aspects of the photo and mesmerized by the beauty and visual allure she portrays. Beauty is perfection. Beauty is something we are all drawn to in powerful ways. While beauty might be in the eyes of the beholder, there are beauties whom almost everyone will agree are just plain stunningly beautiful.

Emotion is another point that moves a pretty girl photograph along the BEL Curve. When a model is beautiful and she projects an emotion that strikes chords in the minds of viewers, exciting chords, she adds incredible "wow" value to the image, transporting her beauty to new heights. If you're not coaxing emotion from your pretty girl models, you're missing out on an important way of moving your images in the right direction on the BEL Curve.

Lighting is the frosting on the cake when it comes to photographing pretty girls. Lighting, like emotion, will move a pretty girl pic along the BEL Curve in powerful ways. Lighting highlights a model's beauty (pun intended) and underscores the emotion she projects. Without light, it's tough to visualize. Without visualization, fantasy becomes more difficult, most especially for men. And what's the point of pretty girl pics if not to feed the fantasies of their viewers?

So when you're going about the business of producing glamour photography, keep in mind the 3 major components of the BEL Curve: Beauty, emotion, and lighting. These elements will become the major benchmarks for viewers' perceptions of your work. Certainly, there are other components--things like composition, exposure, location or environment, makeup and hair, and more--that will move a pretty girl photo in the right direction on the BEL Curve. But beauty, emotion, and lighting are, IMO, the most important aspects of any pretty girl pic.

The pretty girl at the top is Lupe from a shoot last week. She's beautiful, she's projecting, in my perception, a subtle yet sensuous emotion through pose and expression. The lighting, while not particularly remarkable, dramatic, or stylistic, ain't shabby if I do say so myself. I think the photo would plot decently on the BEL Curve.

Lupe captured with a Canon 5D w/ 70-200 f/4L, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. Three Profoto Acute heads provided the lighting: The main modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the two kickers with small, shoot-through umbrellas. Here's another of the very sexy and sensuous Lupe:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Model Direction as a Second Language

It's always a challenge directing models who speak little or no English, especially if the model isn't overly experienced. It doesn't happen too regularly but it happens often enough that I've gained some experience doing so.

Yesterday was one of those days where I found myself, camera in hand, facing a model who spoke only a little English. Very little! Her name was Cindy (pictured) and she was fresh off the jetliner from Budapest, Hungary. Since I speak no Hungarian other than the word "goulash," and Cindy spoke very little English, other than words like "yes," "no," "hello," and "money," I knew I'd have to resort to hand signals, demonstrations of poses and expressions, along with a mini-crash-course in English-as-a-Second-Language.

First things first: Figure out what body parts Cindy could identify in English. What she didn't know, I'd teach her-- And get your minds out of the gutter, I'm talking about body parts like head, face, hands, shoulders, arms, legs, and belly button.

Belly button?

Yep. A very important body part in terms of model direction, that is, important in terms of directing where it should be pointed.

"Point your belly button at that light over there," is a a direction I often give English speaking models. Pointing belly buttons away from the camera, of course, twists the model's hips away as well. It's a simple posing technique to thin hips, shave pounds, and reduce poochy less-toned bellies. Often, I'll then have the model turn her shoulders back to the camera while keeping the belly button pointed away.

Once I've quickly taught non-English-speaking models the English words for a few body parts that I'll be having her move, turn, twist, and bend, I can then use my free hand to indicate where that body part should go. I'll hold my free hand up, for instance, say a word like "shoulders," and twist/move my hand one way or another to communicate to the model which way to turn her shoulders and how much to turn them. Simple, right? Works for me.

With non-English-speaking models, I generally show them images on the back of my camera more often than I will with English speaking models. In this way, I can point at various parts of her body and give her critical feedback--usually via pantomime, expressions, and gestures--in terms of how that body part is working (or not working) within the context of the pose.

Emotion and expression is a little more difficult to direct with newly learned words and hand signals. This is where I rely on demonstrating, with my own face, the expressions and/or emotions I'd like the model to convey. Yeah, I sometimes feel like a clown when I'm doing this but, more often than not, it gets the point across. Emotions and expressions are fairly universal across most cultures in their use and meanings.

It's often surprising how quickly a photographer and a model can get on the same page without the benefit of speaking the same language. I guess photography and modeling has it's own universal language: One that quickly replaces spoken languages. Too bad I can't figure out how to do a Vulcan mind meld. That would make things even easier when the model speaks little or no English... and might be kind of kinky fun too!

The goulash-scarfing pretty girl at the top is Cindy. I lit Cindy, on a white cyc, with 4 Profoto Acute heads: The main, camera-left, modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome; a fill, camera-right, modified with a medium, silver-lined umbrella; two kickers, either side, above and behind Cindy, modified with small shoot-through umbrellas. Canon 5D, 70-200mm f/4L, ISO 100, f/10 @ 100th. Minimal processing.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Buying Gear That's Right For You

Recently, a PGS reader asked me to help him decide between a couple of lenses he was thinking of buying: Either a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L or f/4L. He also wondered whether he should cough up the extra bucks for IS (Image Stabilization) or not.

First thing I asked him, before pretending to be Mister Know-It-All, was what he was mostly going to be shooting with the glass and whether he shoots on a full-frame or cropped-frame dSLR? The second part of the question was in response to his query regarding how far away from his subjects he would need to be, with a 70-200mm, to photograph them in full body shots.

It's no accident that Canon manufactures it's "L" series 70-200mm zoom lenses in 4 different iterations. Yeah, part of the reason is the arrival of IS technology after already producing these lenses with two, different, minimum apertures. Or should that read, "maximum" apertures? I never get that right. Regardless, part of the reason, I think, is to make that lens available to photographers with both deep and shallow pockets. I'd also like to think that part of it is because each of those 70-200mm zoom lenses are appropriate for different applications.

I own a 70-200mm f/4L (non IS) version of the lens. When I bought the f/4 non IS version of this lens, doing so saved me a heap of dough while without compromising the quality of the images I regularly produce. You see, I'm a specialist. I shoot pretty girls. As a rule, I almost never photograph landscapes, weddings, sports, flora, or fauna, and I rarely shoot in low-light environments. Since I'm almost always working with strobes and I almost never shoot at an aperture of less than f/5.6, a non-IS, f/4 version of the lens suits me just fine. In other words, I get all the optical goodness of one of Canon's premier "L" series lenses... for less!

Hobbyists, for the most part, are generalists when it comes to their photography. For that matter, commercial photographers, wedding photographers, and others are a bit that way too as they routinely encounter (uncontrolled) shooting environments where a lens, for instance, with more capabilities, e.g., the f/2.8 IS version of the 70-200mm, might be the best choice.

While generalists might sometimes shoot pretty girls with strobes, many of them also shoot that other stuff I listed above... the stuff I almost never shoot. If a hobbyist (or one of those other types of photographers I mentioned) is considering purchasing a 70-200mm "L" series lens, they might do well to plunk down the extra dough for a f/2.8 (IS) version of the lens. If not, perhaps the f/4 IS version. Yeah, they're pricey. But for generalists and others, those versions of the 70-200mm will serve them well for all the stuff they photograph and in all the environments they find themselves shooting in.

So, when considering new gear, it's very important to consider what you'll be shooting with that gear. It's not simply about "The Best." It's also about what's best for you and for what you shoot. Don't just go with the hype and marketing! Figure out what gear will serve you best. Don't waste your money on more than you need. Don't waste your money on things you don't need. Don't waste your money on stuff that doesn't satisfy your needs.

The pretty girl at the top whose name I can't recall -- Sheesh! I'm getting senile! -- is from a shoot a couple of years ago. I do remember that she's from Brazil.