Friday, May 29, 2009

The Vendor Client Relationship

I've written about the photographer / client relationship a number of times, recounting my own experiences. But then Vancouver photographer, Ed Araquel, went and Twittered a link to the video (below) and, suddenly, I realized that nothing I've written (or might write) could do a better job of illustrating this relationship.

Click HERE to see the video.

And just so you don't think I have no heart, depriving you of a pretty girl pic in this update, here's another photo of Lupe from my photo shoot the other day. I call her Lil' Latin Lupe Loo cuz she's all of 4'11" in heels and probably weighs in at a hefty 80 to 90 lbs. soaking wet. Very minimal processing. (No Gaussian Blur or Diffusion Glow was abused in the post-production of this image.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

He Who Shoots Best Laughs Best (And Last)

Not too long ago, I lost one of my semi-regular gigs to another photographer. It wasn't over rates or availability or who knows who, it was because the other photographer's work trumped mine.

Hard to swallow.

Hard to accept.

Hard to admit to.

After finding out about my displacement, I'll admit to taking a peek at this other photographer's work. I was duly impressed. Looked like nice stuff. Really nice stuff!

But then, out of the blue, I received a phone call from my former (occasional) client. They wanted me back.

"What happened to your new shooter?" I asked.

"We decided to stop using him," I was told. "His work wasn't very good."

"What do you mean his work wasn't very good?" I said. "I took a look at it and thought it was pretty good!" I honestly added, probably foolishly, looking gift horses in the mouth and all that.

"Well, the work in his portfolio kicks ass," the client said.

I agreed.

"But the problem is," the client continued, "The pictures in his portfolio don't really represent his work."

"You mean he stole someone's work and called it his?" I asked, rather incredulously.

"No." The client told me. "It was all his work."

"So what gives?" I asked.

"Well," the client said, "The guy is one helluva Photoshopper. But as a photographer, he kinda sucks."

"He does?" I asked, again rather incredulously.

"Okay, maybe he doesn't suck." The client said. "But he's not that good. He knows how to Photoshop his pictures. He knows how to do that incredibly well. He probably puts lots of hours into each of his photos," the client added. "But that's about it. And that's not the kind of stills shooter we need."

Ya see, in my work, I don't process images. Someone else does that. Most others who do my sort of work don't process images either. Leastwise, not for our clients we don't. That's the job of the art guys. So if the art guys say someone's work sucks, i.e., the unprocessed, out-of-the-camera work that's handed in sucks (or really isn't very good) and needs lots of heavy post-production work to fix, that person is in big trouble, at least in terms of keeping their production gigs.

While someone can have, what looks like, a really great portfolio, sometimes most of what makes that portfolio great is more the result of Photoshop skills than photography skills. The people I work for want shooters with excellent photography skills. In other words, they could give a rats ass how well someone knows how to use Photoshop. They're more interested in how well someone knows how to use a camera and lights and all that stuff.

I'm not downplaying the importance of learning to use image processors, i.e., learning to use them really well! I'm just saying that mad Photoshop skills often ain't enough. Not if you want to score and keep many of those paid photography gigs.

So ends today's lesson.

Lupe, the pretty girl at the top, is from today's shoot. Photographed her on a white cyc. Snapped a few using some crepe paper for a prop and a fan to move the paper around a bit. I lit Lupe with 3 Profoto Acute 2 heads, the mainlight modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the two kickers modified with small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Canon 5D w/70-200mm f/4L, ISO 100, f/6.3 @ 125th. MUA was Ashley. Mikey A. assisted, wielding the fan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer's Here! Get Out and Shoot!

Technically, summer doesn't begin till the Summer Solstice, June 21, but for all intents and purposes, it's here, now, with Memorial Day weekend heralding its arrival. My summer advice? Get out and shoot!

While many of you live in places where moderate weather isn't a year-round perk, like where I live in Southern California, summer is photography season for almost everyone everywhere.

Yep! Now is the time you don't have to worry so much about finding a cool interior location to shoot your pretty girl photography. Now's the time you have so many more places to photograph all those beautiful women who are just waiting for someone to immortalize them in sexy, seductive, glamour images. And that someone is you! Well, it could be you.

So how do you find those pretty girls who want their egos stroked by a guy with a camera?

As many of you know, it's not always so easy.

Two of the most useful places to find models to grace your viewfinders are OneModelPlace and ModelMayhem. If you're not a member of these sites and you're a serious pretty girl shooter, or hope to become one, you should get yourself a photographer's membership to both of them.

One of the really helpful ways to find models on these sites is to search for those of them who live in your geographic area. Both sites offer search functions that allow you to use search criteria by zip code.

When making contact with models on these sites it's really important to present yourself in a professional manner. Be concise and direct in stating what you're hoping to capture with your photography. Pay attention to the models' profiles. Don't ask them to go beyond the content limits they've stated. If a model indicates she's not interested in nude modeling, accept it, deal with it, and move on. (Assuming nudity is something you're looking to photograph.)

It's also important to prepare yourself for rejection. While many pretty girls love presenting themselves as models, it seems some of them enjoy the idea or notion of being a model more than getting out there and actually doing some modeling. Once again, accept it, deal with it, and move on.

I often read, on more than a few photography forums, a lot of griping about models who want to bring escorts along with them. If you're insistent the model shows up without an escort you're increasing the odds she won't show up at all. Sorry. But that's just how it is. Yeah, I know, those escorts can be distracting and, sometimes, outright obstacles to getting that shot you're looking to capture. What can I tell you? If having some pretty girl you've never met (and who has never met you) show up, alone, at your designated shooting location is what you're insisting on, you've diminished the odds she'll show up at all. And if you're also expecting, once there and alone with you, she'll get naked for you and your camera, you further increase the odds she won't show up.

Accept it, deal with it, and move on if getting the model alone and naked with you is your insisted-upon goal. I ain't saying it ain't do-able. And I ain't questioning your motives. I'm just saying.

I'm also not trying to dampen your enthusiasm (and hopes) for capturing pretty girls with your camera, naked or otherwise. I'm just trying to offer a dose of reality.

By the way, I've noticed many photographers don't think twice about dropping some serious dough on gear. But when it comes to offering some cash for a model they act like it's some violation of their artistic code of ethics.

Photographers please! Just like you might hope to make money with your photography, many models (and would-be models) hope to do the same with their modeling. Yeah, many models haven't yet paid their dues (qualifying them to earn) but then many photographers haven't done so either.

I know you might feel like you have a bigger investment, what with the cost of a camera body, glass, and other gear, and you bring more to the "free shoot" than the model--after all, all she brings is herself and maybe some wardrobe and makeup--but again, it's the nature of the beast that the photographer, if anyone, is the one who is going to cough up a few bucks to make the shoot happen. I'm not talking about accomplished shooters who, rightfully, should be paid for their time, especially when photographing novice models who are hoping to build a great portfolio, I'm talking about the average hobby shooter working with models with little experience.

Money talks. And offering even a small remuneration for a model's time--some $$$ to cover her travel expenses and make her feel more like a pro--will increase the chances of getting that model in front of your camera. If the model already is a pro, you're more than likely gonna pay for her time.

Bottom line: You'll get more models in front of your camera with a good portfolio and a Ben Franklin than you will with a good portfolio alone.

Accept it, deal with it, and score yourself some pretty girls to add-to, or build, that good portfolio you're looking to assemble. Who knows? Maybe even a great portfolio?

The sexy pretty girl at top is Tory from a shoot this past April.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day From a Porn Star's Point-of-View

First, thanks for the great response to my Begging For Pennies campaign. Pennies become nickels and nickels become dimes and dimes become... well, you get the idea. Keep clicking on those Google ad links! (Below, right-hand column.) I feel positively re-energized writing for pennies rather than writing for free. By the time I'm 100, I might have some serious coinage collected!

Today is Memorial Day: A day we honor our fallen heroes. I was gonna write something about it but then I came across an essay written by a porn star (no less) on the subject of Memorial Day. No, they're not just breast-enhanced bimbos with marginal IQs and an It's all about me! mental. Leastwise, not all of them.

Anyway, here's the essay penned by Atlanta-based model, exotic dancer, and sex performer, Lindsey Lovehands, whom I've neither met nor photographed:

I know that today is a day where most people will be out in their backyards or at campgrounds or at lakes and rivers on their boats, partaking of adult beverages as they grill their favorite carnivore treats. This is true for all except those of us who live in Atlanta, since we have been drenched for the last week with no end in site. I’m spending my Memorial Day sketching plans for my Arc. But amongst all the picnics, air-shows, back-yard BBQ’s and fun on the water I hope that everyone takes a minute to contemplate the REAL reason we celebrate this holiday.

I have been to Arlington National Cemetery and stood in absolute awe as the acres upon acres of gently rolling landscape safely ensconced the remains of those souls who gave their ALL, their mind, body and SOUL, so that we may sit in our backyard on a lawn chair made in China, drinking beer made in Holland whilst cooking steroid-laden chicken from who knows where.

As is the case with many of our national holidays, as the years go by there seems to be an ever-widening generational-gap when it comes to actually comprehending the reason these holidays exist in the first place. Now there are a variety of reasons this is true. There is a definite lack of historical perspective in today’s world of Blackberries, high-speed internet and 24 hour cable news. People today find it very difficult to think about anything that happened last week, much less last year or a decade or four decades ago. While Memorial Day outings traditionally provide us with countless “YouTube moments” of drunken, middle-aged, out-of-shape men reliving their high school football “glory days” as they scream “..hey, check this out…” there is a deeper meaning that seems lost on the younger generations.

This holiday is, or at least it should be, about more than a day off from school or work. There are far greater and more meaningful things we should be celebrating than 60 calorie beer. I may be a girl that likes to be naked and have sex in front of, and with, groups of people but I do have a sense of historical perspective.

If you are a parent, please do this for me. Please let your child know the truth about all those brave and self-less men and women who have served and protected us for over two-hundred years. Let your child know that there have been many true “heroes” who have unselfishly given their lives so that we may eat, drink and be merry….while playing our PS3. Educate your child that Kobe Bryant is NOT a hero but that the young man or woman he sees in the airport in uniform lugging their duffel bag as they prepare to board a plane to Iraq, Afghanistan or some other perilous place IS in fact a REAL hero. And parents, thanks to those same heroes YOU have the freedom to look at my cooter…in high definition no less.

If anyone is suddenly feeling especially thankful for those who gave their all for us, you might, in addition to clicking for Jimmy's pennies, also click the Help Our Wounded Warriors link and make a donation. It's located a few links above the Google ads, also in the right-hand column.

The pretty girl at the top is December, 2008, Penthouse Pet, Tori Black. I shot Tori a month or so back at a location house in the Hollywood Hills.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Some Good News And Some Less-Good News

Before I begin writing today's babble, do me a flavor: If you have a moment or two, click on one of those Google Ads. (Below, right-hand column.) Gotta be something there that looks remotely interesting to you. Google pays about a penny a click so, if you click, I get some pennies. If you do that, I'll feel all peachy cuz, suddenly, I'm writing and working for pennies rather than for free.


Okay, having now begged for pennies and selling myself quite cheaply to The Man, here's a brief update regarding a couple of projects I'm involved with, namely the reality show, Porntourage, and the Pretty Girl Shooter photography DVD.

On the good news side, besides acquiring a distributor, a sponsor (i.e., a paid advertiser) has come aboard the PGS DVD project!

What this means is a manufacturer of photography-related gear is purchasing advertising/informational time on the DVD. That translates to a two-to-four-minute informational "spot" that will run at the head of the DVD and will also be available as a DVD menu option. Don't worry, we're not going to hire Billy Mays or the ShamWow Guy to shout and pimp this advertiser's gear. (We couldn't afford them anyway.) And while this might represent another example of me selling myself to The Man, we'll try our best to produce the spot as entertainingly and informatively as possible.

The sponsor will also have full use of the "spot" for trade show, marketing, web streaming, and whatever other uses they deem fit. The sponsor segment will be separately produced as a stand-alone "spot" from the rest of the program. We're selling two sponsor slots for the DVD and one of those slots is now taken. I'm not naming names until the deal memo is signed by everyone involved. That should will happen in the next week or so.

On the less-good, good news side, The Hollywood guys report that Showtime passed on the reality show.

Showtime, we're told, decided it too closely resembles their series, "Family Business." And, after weeks and weeks of back-and-forth phone talks and face-to-face meetings, A&E decided the show is too "racy" for them. Although this all sounds like bad news, the Hollywood guys say they and their agents are fully committed to this project and they, the Hollywood guys, will produce it in one form or another: Either in association with a cable caster or as an independent project financed with investor funds or their own financing. I say, "in one form or another," because the Hollywood guys have even mentioned producing it as a theatrical-style feature documentary--or mockumentary which probably better describes it--instead of a reality TV series.

The pretty, plaid-clad, girls at the top are Louisa, left, and Morgan, right. The photo is another sample from a set I shot last week and posted in a recent update. This time, I thought I'd post a photograph sans their white blouses... not that anyone is interested in viewing pretty girls without their tops. I'm just illustrating a different "look" from the set.

Louisa and Morgan captured with a Canon 5D w/ Canon 70-200mm f/4L. ISO 100, f/16 at 200th. Two modified front lights battled the harsh, mid-day, sun. The B&W conversion was via the Channel Mixer method. I also applied a small amount of the "Midnight" effect from Nik's Color Efex Pro filters.

Friday, May 22, 2009

For Pretty Girl Shooters, Cameras and Glass Ain't Always Enough

Obviously, this doesn't apply to all genres of photography but, if you're a fashion, glam, or tease shooter, you probably need more than a camera and glass to best photograph the models you hope to immortalize on film or on a sensor. You probably also need lighting equipment (lights and lighting modifiers) and, to make best use of that lighting equipment, grip gear.

Grip gear is a catch-all phrase that includes, amongst many things, quite an array of equipment: Most notably, stands and arms and other grip gear that allows you to attach and place (set) your lighting sources and modifiers where you want them. Many things in the world of grip gear could be replaced with humans, i.e., humans hand-holding your lights and modifiers but, assuming you're not some "A" list uber-shooter, like I'm not, how many people are usually with you when you're photographing pretty girls?

Even if you prefer natural light for all your pretty girl shooting endeavors, you'll probably find that reflectors and bounce boards will enhance your efforts. And how will you most effectively place or set those reflectors and bounce boards short of having assistants perform the tasks? Grip gear, that's how.

For the most part, grip is gear is decidedly low-tech. Leastwise, when compared to your camera, glass, and lights. And because it's low-tech, it's generally less expensive than its high-tech, photographic, distant-cousins. Grip gear ain't always cheap but, compared to the price of a good camera body, lens, or monolight, it provides very helpful gear for a reasonable price.

In addition to lights and modifiers, I carry a fair amount of grip gear in my SUV. (Which doubles as a grip truck.) The gear I carry includes a variety of stands, from normal photo stands to C-stands to gobo arms to sand bags and other things to safely and securely attach and set lights and modifiers. It's all designed to make my job easier (except for the part where I have to schlep that gear into a location) and keep, at a minimum, the number of people it takes for me to competently capture the images I'm hired to shoot. That number, BTW, is usually "3," i.e., me, myself, and I.

Yesterday, I hooked up with a gaffer friend and bartered a well-used Norm's C-stand w/head and arm for a Manfrotto stand w/10' boom arm. It's an older Manfrotto model which means it's heavier and sturdier and the boom arm doesn't telescope. The 10' boom arm sits, via a junior pin, on a (fairly) heavy-duty stand that rises to 6'. There's a baby pin on one end of the boom, a pivoting boom clamp that allows me to set the angle of the boom relative to the stand, a counterweight, and some geared controls at the other end of the boom that allows me to pan or tilt whatever is attached to the business end of the boom. The pic (above) isn't exactly the Manfrotto model I traded for--for one thing, mine doesn't have wheels--but it's close enough to illustrate my new (old) boom.

I'm already thinking about the new lighting options this piece of gear now easily affords me. For grins, I attached my Mola Euro beauty dish and a monolight to the boom just to see how it would handle the weight. No problemo. That made me smile.

The pretty girl at the top, from a recent shoot, goes by the name Princess. I captured this easy-on-the-eyes Princess in a studio on a white cyc with a couple of pieces of furniture placed on it. Used three Profoto Acute heads to illuminate her royal semi-nakedness: The main modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome plus a couple of kickers behind her on each side, modified with small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Princess captured with Canon 5D w/Tamron 24-75, ISO 100, f/8 @ 160. I think I might have driven the sharpening a bit too much after doing my less-than-stellar B&W conversion. Like I wrote in my previous update, I ain't a pro when it comes to image processing. No Gaussian Blur was abused used in the post-production of the image.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Photoshop Skills, i.e., My Lack of Them

Yesterday, one of my Twitter peeps, Almus, of PlayVice Photography, asked, "Do you ever do any blog posts on your processing technique? and/or before/after samples?"

I tweeted back: "Don't consider myself much of a PS processor. Certainly not enuff to spout expertly on my blog."

And it's true. I ain't a Photoshop expert. I barely consider myself above-average and/or professionally competent when it comes to PS image processing. Yeah, I know how to do a few things in PS. And I spend a fair amount of time attempting to increase my PS knowledge. But expert? Not even close. That's why, for the most part, I don't write much about my Photoshop endeavors. I ain't qualified. It's as simple as that.

It's also why I don't overly process my photos. Sometimes I do a bit more and sometimes much less. But if, as a rule, I heavily processed my work, for the most part I'd muck it all up!

In my line of work, leastwise in terms of what happens to my pics after I snap them, processing the photos I make is a job (best) performed by someone else: Someone who actually is a PS expert and who has mad skills when it comes to image processing. BTW, that "someone else" is usually some professional graphic designer (who I rarely get to meet) who takes my pics and works them into DVD cover art, marketing and advertising materials, magazine and web art, etc.

In a sense, I work for those graphic designers. At least, partially I do. No, they don't write or sign my checks. But if their jobs are to make my photos sing, my job is to deliver the best I can give them when I'm in production.

The "best I can give them" includes good focus and exposure, picking appropriate places to shoot the images, directing and encouraging the models to "sell" the goods, framing and composing and lighting in ways that gives the art guys some latitude and options, and more. Call me old school but I consider myself a photographer first and, sometimes, an image processor second.

The faux schoolgirls in the nothing special diptych at the top are Nicole on the left and Krista on the right. I shot them this past Tuesday at the same location house in the Hollywood Hills shown in yesterday's update. Per my Twitter friend's request, I provided before and after examples.

The photo on the left is right out of the camera. I did, of course, resize it for the blog. The image on the right is the same pic but after I performed some minimal processing on it. That processing included cropping, some tweaking of the levels, contrast, and color, some very minor burning and dodging, a small amount of sharpening and that's about it.

Whether you process your own images or someone else does it, my best advice is to do your best to get it right in the camera. Don't rely on post-processing to frost a turd!

As a side note, besides photography, I've also spent a fair chunk of my career as a video editor. (In addition to my work as a photographer and/or as a video shooter.) I always cringe when, while editing something, I hear some off-camera-asshole say, "Don't worry. We'll fix it in post." It makes me look around the room for the person connected to the voice. But guess what? The only one there is me! Somehow, the "we" in "we'll fix it in post" always turns out to be a big fat freakin' lie! I'm the person who ends up having to fix it in post! And I know enough about shooting and production to also know it wouldn't have taken much work to do it right in the first place, rather than counting on the editor--i.e., making the editor work harder--to "fix it in post."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sometimes, Things Are What They Are

Sometimes, I get hired to make seductive, crafty, escape-from-reality, photos of gorgeous, alluring, beautiful, women. Other times, I get hired to make less-crafty, more obvious, the-message-is-clear, pics of cute, pretty girls that say, fairly clearly, where things are going.

Yesterday was one of those days where the latter was the order of the day.

It's no secret the schoolgirl genre appeals to many men. It is what it is and things are what they are. Men are sexually drawn to youth. I suppose women are drawn to the same. I say, "I suppose" in my observation about women because I'm not a woman and, as a realistic sort of guy, I don't pretend to know what goes on in the minds of women.

To deny the sexually-provocative appeal of youth, i.e., youth in it's sex-appeal prime, is absurd. It's part of how we're wired. It's built into the design. For most men, young and old, it's a very basic instinct. And because of that, products are marketed and sold, sometimes obviously and sometimes less obviously, that exploit that instinct.

It's not just sexually-explicit adult products that prey on men's and women's attraction to youth, but hordes of products in the mainstream as well. Youth, beauty, and sexual allure are used to sell just about everything and anything. Sex sells! Youth sells! And sex, coupled with youth, often sells even better!

Sex and youth are also used to sell products aimed at our personal hopes and desires to reclaim our own youthful appearances and sense of being. Think everything from skin-care products to fashion to Viagra to, well, to almost anything else.

Morality-driven people struggle and battle against this sex-and-youth stuff. In fact, they often rail against almost everything where sex and sexually-provocative content is used as the carrot. IMO, they're fighting an eternally losing battle. People are what and who they are and all the morality in the world isn't going to change their basic instincts. Leastwise, not in the private domains of their personal thoughts and imaginations. The Thought Police don't have a prayer, as well they shouldn't.

Hey! I'm just saying!

I also had a chance yesterday to try out a new piece of glass I've recently added to my camera bag: A Canon EF 70-200 f/4L USM.

I know, I know... I should have bought the IS version of the 70-200 f/4L. Better yet, the f/2.8L IS version.

Frankly, I can't remember the last time I shot any pretty girl photographs at f/2.8. In fact, I rarely use an aperture wider than f/5.6. And since I almost always use strobes, IS becomes significantly less of an issue. For those occasional times I'm using reflectors only, I'll put the camera on sticks if the 70-200 f/4L (non IS) is in use.

For me, money spent on gear is always something I carefully consider, i.e., in terms of how much, and on what, I'm willing to spend. This stuff ain't hobby toys for me. They are the tools I use to fatten my wallet. Whenever I can buy a tool for less, i.e., a tool that gets the job adequately and effectively done for less, it means my wallet is that much fatter. I've said it before, I ain't a gear elitist. Plus, I haven't won the lottery... yet.

Yep! Being a practical and frugal guy, I tend to buy tools that closely match the job; my job. In this case, the f/4L (non-IS) should do me just fine when I need those focal lengths, especially considering how much less this lens costs than its higher-priced siblings.

The pretty, plaid-clad, 18+ schoolgirls at the top are Morgan, left, and Louisa, right. Image captured under the mid-day sun, right around noon, in the backyard of an upscale home high in the Hollywood hills. Those white blouses were tough to keep under control in that environment and I wasn't as successful at doing so as I would have liked to have been. Yesterday's client demands very bright, evenly-lit, images (they don't much like shadows) and prefers them shot in daylight exterior locations. That kept me walking a fine line with exposure, driving it to the slightly overexposed side.

I used a Canon 5D w/ Canon 70-200 f/4L at ISO 100, f/16 @ 200th for this image. I also used two, modified, front lights, set at 45s either side of me, to battle the sun and background ambient. I should have leveled that horizon line a bit. Oh well. Sometimes, I guess I get a bit myopic and don't notice things like that until after I've processed the image... and then laziness kicks in.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Monday

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me?

If there's one day I rarely trust, it's Mondays. For me, Mondays are the one day of the week I'm most likely NOT to schedule a shoot. If someone else has booked me for a Monday, I know the odds are exponentially increased that something will screw up and Monday won't happen, leastwise, the shoot won't happen.

Today was one of those Mondays: One of those Monday Mondays that gave me no warning of what was to be. (Or not to be.)

I was booked to be on a set at a very upscale house in a private community near Calabasas, California, when, just before hopping in my ride for the 1-hour-plus commute, I received a text informing me Monday was canceled due to a "food poisoning" incident involving the project's "leading lady" as its victim.


The reason, I suppose, that Mondays are so unpredictable are weekends. Things happen on weekends: Things that adversely effect Mondays. Often, in negative ways, i.e., from a "dependability" perspective.

For one, people party on weekends. Take this past weekend. Like so many others, I partied. Maybe not the way many people partied--it was my 3-year-old grand-daughter's 3rd birthday party--but I partied nonetheless. (The giant, inflatable, rented, water slide was a big hit and the cake and ice cream was delizioso.)

Models, as life-forms, tend to party on weekends even more than most mere mortals. That's not to say models don't party other nights of the week, they do, but weekends are traditionally party time and, for many models I'm acquainted with, weekends are party-hearty time. Often, with Monday morning pay-backs: Pay-backs that effect others... like myself and the rest of the crew that was supposed to be earning some money in Calabasas today. Did I mention I turned down another gig for today? No? Well, I did.

Oh well! Wha'd'ya gonna do? Nature of the beast I guess. Besides, there's always Tuesdays to look forward to and this Tuesday, tomorrow that is, is a good example-- I'll be at a location house high in the hills above Los Angeles photographing "barely legal" models, for Larry Flynt Publications/Hustler, dressed (and undressed) as private, boarding school, girls. Hey! It's a living! Someone's gotta do it.

My apologies for this post having little to do with the art and craft of photography. More a photography business-related update, I suppose.

The two models at the top are Devin and Sofia from some time ago. Obviously, they're about to party, albeit in a Sapphic sorta way. I shot the pic on a weekend in Sin City, not a Monday. Thought it might be fun to make the photo B&W with some grain... I mean "noise" added. So that's what I did.

This update's first paragraph courtesy of The Mamas & Papas from way back in the day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The OctoMom

No, not her! I'm not writing about that chick who had octuplets. And that ain't a picture of her either.

I'm also not writing a follow-up article about my 83 year-old mother. The only thing "octo" about my Mom is that she's an octogenarian and, perhaps, her 51-year marriage to my Father.

How does my Dad relate?

Well, my Dad was the youngest of eight. So, I guess besides Mom being 83 years old, someone could also construe a very minor octo-connection there. How many degrees of separation would that be? i.e., from my Mom who was married to my Dad who was the youngest of eight to all things octo?

Hell. I dunno. Like 179? Degrees of separation, that is.

Who cares?

I don't. And neither do you, I'll bet.

What I yam writing about is the Photoflex 7' Octodome: A light modifier I refer to as the OctoMom. Why? Because, at seven feet from its furthest point to its furthest point, it's the freakin' mother of all octodomes!

Before anyone turns into a green-eyed photo-monster, let me first mention that I don't personally own a 7' OctoMom, I mean 7' octodome. I'd like to own one but I don't. I do own one of the OctoMom's offspring: The Photoflex 5' Medium Octodome. As modifiers go, I really REALLY like the 5' octo. But the OctoMom? Fuhgedaboudit! I love that big fat sexy mama!

While I don't own an OctoMom, I do get to use the mother of all octodomes on a regular basis. Ya see, one of my long-time and frequent clients, a company I shoot for almost weekly, has an OctoMom in their studio. Yup, whenever I shoot at this client's studio I get to use their OctoMom. I also get to use it with their Profoto Acute 2 lighting gear. (It sure beats schlepping all my gear in from my truck sporty SUV every time I shoot there.)

Octodomes are great for pretty girl shooting. Their unique, 8-sided, shape matches, in a vague, subtle, roundabout sorta way, the shape of the subject. You know, wider in the middle than at the top and bottom. Leastwise, when you orient it on the speedring to give it that shape, relevant to the model.

Bigger octodomes means bigger light sources and bigger light sources means softer, more diffuse and less specular, light. Soft light often plays nicely on soft, female skin. D'uh, right? That's a no-brainer. So, the bigger the octodome, the bigger the light source's aperture and, consequently, the softer the light! Voila! Octodomes make for really nice modifiers for shooting pretty girls! Really big octodomes make even nicer modifiers for shooting pretty girls. Hence, I really love the OctoMom cuz, well, cuz I shoot a lot of pretty girls.

The pretty girl at the top--the illustrated chic with the big, uhh... hoop earings--is Mason. I shot Mason just today using an OctoMom and a couple of other heads for kickers; unmodified kickers. Mason captured with a Canon 5D w/Tamron 28-75, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. And yeah, it says "Who's Next" on her fingers, just above her knuckles, cuz Mason's one feisty feline! She also did her own makeup with those hands/fingers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pretty Girls Come in All Shapes, Sizes, and Ages

The pretty girl in the pic is my 83-year-old Mom. I snapped this yesterday, Mothers Day, after my brother and I scooped her up and took her for a tasty brunch at a nice Italian restaurant near her home. She lives in a seniors mobile home park near San Diego, California. I made the picture at the front steps to her mobile home.

Mothers Day is a holiday that lets us say thanks for something very special. Something very important. Something we could would not have lived without: Our Moms. After all, none of us would be here without having a Mother. (Okay, fathers get some credit for this as well. That's why they get a holiday too.)

Most of us owe our mothers a great debt: They bore us, raised us, cared for us, nurtured us, and loved us like no other. For most men, they are the first woman in our lives who mattered, the first female face we fell in love with. They are the one woman, for some the only woman, who stood (and stands) by us through... well, through pretty much everything.

For many guys, our Mothers are the women who taught us the most about other women, who taught us how to love and admire and hold women dear. If you don't truly love and worship women--in all shapes, sizes, and ages--you'll have a difficult time, IMO, becoming a really good pretty girl shooter. It's no accident the first religions in humankind's history worshiped a female deity. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, a nod to Goddess worship will go a long way towards pretty girl shooting Nirvana.

It's amazing how we can still learn much about male/female relationships from our Moms, even when we, ourselves, have already lived fairly long lives and may have experienced various, perhaps numerous, significant relationships with other women.

Yesterday, after brunch, I sat with my Mom and she was reflecting a bit on the fifty-one years she shared with my Dad. (My father passed about 6 years ago.) Although she told me she's quite content these days, she misses my father a great deal. She misses the companionship. She misses the little things that, in her reflections, seemed to matter most.

"What kinds of things?" I asked.

She thought for a moment, then told me, "Whenever I was a little chilly, your father would take his jacket off and wrap it around my shoulders. When he did, I could feel the warmth of his body on mine even though we weren't touching. It wasn't his jacket that kept me warm." She said. "It was him." She then added, "I miss things like that a great deal."

The pretty girl at the top is Aileen, my Mom. She asked me to make her look a bit taller in the picture. (She's under five feet in heels.) Mom captured with my Canon 5D w/ Canon 17-40 f/4L, ISO 100 @ f/11, 200th of a second. I used a single light source for front fill.

Friday, May 08, 2009

So I Was Ready to Shoot This Gig...

...when I found out it's been put on hold. Postponed. Pushed back. Whatever.

I was fairly excited as this gig was something entirely different than I usually shoot. Don't get me wrong. I love shooting pretty girls. But sometimes shooting stuff that's different is refreshing. A bit more challenging. There's more to my photographic interests than pretty girls and T&A. (As heretical as that sounds.)

Anyway, this gig is in the world of non-pretty-girl photography. More mainstream-ish photography, if you will. Commercial photography. Stuff I can show my Mom or my kids photography.

Did I mention it was gonna pay fairly decently?

Well, it was. Maybe not hot-shot, "A" list, uber-photographer decently but fairly decently nonetheless.

My client for this gig isn't the end-user. My client is a graphic design firm. Being the photographer, I'm a line item on that firm's proposed budget to the end-user. Works for me. I don't care who I invoice. I don't care who pays me. I don't care who, technically, I'm working for. I only care the check clears.

But then, it seems, the main guy, i.e., the main end-user guy, realized the proposed budget for the project exceeded his discretionary authority. So now he has to take it to "the board" for approval. My client, the graphic design firm, says they're not going to green-light the photography until they have a purchase order. (Which they expect to get at some future point; hopefully, in the near future.) I don't blame them. Purchase orders often are what get you paid.

Yesterday, which was gonna be Day One for this project, albeit it was only gonna be shooting "event" candids for a few hours, was going to kick off this gig. Days 2 and 3, which were scheduled for next week, were to be the big days with architectural and landscape photography, more formal people stuff, etc. Next week also included me bringing along much more equipment as well as an assistant.

So, yesterday morning, I decided to add a piece of gear to my arsenal. To that end, I bought myself Canon's 17-40mm F/4Lto be better equipped to shoot this project. Sweet glass, right? Yep. On my full-frame 5D it's gonna deliver some potent images.

Prior to buying this new glass, the widest lens I had zoomed out to 28mm. Not very wide. And not wide enough for some of the stuff I needed to shoot for this gig. Yeah. I could'a rented a lens. But what the heck, I thought. It's not like I won't have other uses for a good wide angle lens.

But no sooner do I buy the lens--and I bought it at a local camera store so it could be immediately in my bag or on my camera--do I get a phone call telling me the project is pushed back-- Like within an hour of purchasing the lens! My guy at the design firm, a guy who knew I was going to purchase the glass for this project, said he hoped he got a hold of me before I bought the lens.

He didn't.

Oh well.

Timing is everything.

I suppose I could have asked for a "kill fee." It was only hours from showing up to shoot that my day got canceled. But kill fees can be two-edged swords. Discretion and careful consideration is, quite often, a good idea when thinking about pursuing kill fees.

Now I'm the proud owner of a Canon 17-40mm F/4Lwide angle lens. I'm excited to play with it. Since the project I bought it for is postponed, I guess I'll first be using my new toy shooting some pretty girls. That's cool! It'll give me some different perspectives and more optical options in doing so.

Then again, who knows? Maybe I'll take a little road trip and go out and shoot some landscapes or nature or something? I've done that before, although not recently, and had great fun doing so! I should add I had great company with me when last I did so and that added much to my pleasure shooting, uhhh... people-less landscapes.

The monochromatic eye candy at the top is Tori from a month or so ago. The perspective could have been more interesting if I had a wider lens when I shot it. With my nifty new 17-40, that won't be an inhibiting factor next time I shoot.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Perception is Everything

A few days ago, on the SuperShoots forum, a model posted a recent image she posed for and called it "fashion nude." (The thread has since been removed.)

I looked at the image (it didn't do much for me) and tried to imagine how it qualified as a fashion nude? I replied to the model's post: "Color me stupid but how is that a fashion nude?" I asked.

Okay. Maybe that wasn't the most tactful way to approach the subject. I'm a little blunt at times. What am I gonna do? I can't help it. I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way. (© Jessica Rabbit.)

Well, that sparked a lively forum debate on what might constitute a fashion nude and what defined "fashion." Some of the thread's participants kept focused on fashion as clothing and accessories. Rightfully, if also less than tactfully, the OP (original poster) advised everyone that, if they thought fashion was just about clothes, they really didn't know what they were talking about. "End of story," she added. (I guess the same folks who draw me draw others in a similar manner.)

To be sure, fashion isn't just about clothes although clothes are, commonly, examples of fashion.

The OP then posted other examples of "fashion nude" and referred people to certain fashion rags, like Zink and others, where nudity is sometimes employed in fashion photography.

As mentioned, this all got pretty lively and started taking on flame war dimensions. I'll admit, I didn't help matters out much. I continued participating in the thread. And I did so in a somewhat smart-ass way, posting "glamour nude" images along with my responses and proclaiming them "fashion nude" as well.

Then the photographer (of the image the OP had posted to kick-off the thread) jumped into the fray, more than a little defensively, and things really took a turn towards ugly.

While I make much of my living capturing beauty, I can do ugly, keep up with ugly, hang out within ugly's city limits and go, toe-to-toe, with the best (or should I say the worst?) of them... "them" being the ugliest of them, I mean. (It's a gift, what am I 'spose to do?)

So yeah, I took the bait.

In the end, the OP deleted her original post which deleted the entire thread.

But the whole ugly experience got me to thinking about labels and perception and context and here's what I think:

It doesn't matter if a picture resides within the usual and customary definition of fashion or anything else. It's like art and beauty and so many other things. It's in the eyes (perceptions) of the beholders. One person's fashion nude image is another person's average glam nude pic and still another person's porn. It's all got to do with context. And the context of almost any image can be manipulated, impacting viewers' perceptions, to represent almost anything. Almost any pretty girl pic I snap, for instance, with the addition, as an example, of a few words of text, a brand logo, or that it might be published in a certain magazine, will alter viewers' perceptions and, as a result, allow that image to represent something other than its original intent.

So sayeth the grand, high, exalted, mystic ruler of the Pretty Girl Shooter blog who will, in his next update, try to refrain from waxing photo-philosophically... or some facsimile of "waxing" and/or philosophy.

The gratuitous eye-candy is Jenna from a shoot last week. They're not fashion pics. They're not art. They're nothing special. They're just your basic, simple, assembly-line pretty girl pics.

Jenna captured with a Canon 5D and Tamron's most-excellent 28-75 f/2.8 zoom. ISO 100, f/8 @ 160th. Three Profoto Acute heads with the mainlight modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the kickers with small, shoot-thru umbrellas hanging off them. I messed around with Nik's stylized color filters when processing the images above. Don't know if I like the effect or not. But messin' about with such tools sometimes leads to new and effective techniques. And, of course, sometimes not.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The New Pocket Wizards

Up till now, I've resisted the urge to plunk down the cash for a set of Pocket Wizards. I would need at least 3 of them and that's about $500. I've been using those cheap, Ebay systems that cost about $30 for a transmitter and receiver combo. Sure, they're cheaply made but I can go through a whole bunch of them before I come close to the $500 it would cost me to accomplish the same thing--firing my strobes--with PWs.

I'm not down on PWs. They're awesome! I'll admit, PW's physical high-profile on a camera is not something I've found attractive or practical. Being something of a klutz, I can easily envision myself busting one of them off the hot shoe. While PWs have incredible range, I don't need incredible range. I'm rarely more than 10 or 15 or so feet from my lights and, trust me, being that close means the cheap Ebay triggers work just fine. Yeah, PWs have more frequency options (as opposed to the 4-channel capability of the Ebay triggers) but, again, I haven't found myself needing all those channels: I rarely shoot where there's other shooters shooting so I don't worry about interfering frequencies.

I'm not a gear-elitist. I don't feel the need to seem "all that" from a gear perspective. If a tool, whether it's a camera, a lens, or other gear, gets the job done, and gets it done efficiently and reliably with the right amount of quality, I'm down for that. I'm fairly heavily invested in both photo and video gear so I have to make my dollars go further while still being able to deliver content to my clients that meets their expectations. Besides, if I don't have what I need to get the job done, I can always rent whatever it is I might need.

But now I'm rethinking my attitude towards PWs. Why? Because of the new PWs now available: The MiniTT1 and the FlexTT5.

First off, these new PWs are now low-profile on a camera. Yay! But it gets better than that. Way better! The new PWs offer the ability to exceed a camera's native synch speed, either in TTL mode or in manual.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

My Canon 5D has a max, usable, sync speed of 160th. That works for a lot of the applications I'm doing, i.e., in a studio or at an interior location shooting pretty girls. But when it comes to shooting outside in bright daylight, 160th is fairly restrictive. If I want to overcome bright daylight in a very noticeable way, it becomes quite difficult when the max sync speed is 160th. There's simply too much ambient reaching the sensor.

For the most part, shooting ETTL with Canon Speedlites and surpassing my camera's native max sync speed isn't something I find myself doing. But shooting in manual with monolights at "hyper-sync" shutter speeds, well, yeah baby!

A friend of mine did some testing the other day and managed to get sync at 1/500th with a Canon 5D and some Profoto heads. Another friend, a Twitter friend, tested the new PWs with a Canon 1D mkIII and some Profoto gear and he says he got 1/1600th! With a Canon 5D mkII, he says he managed 1/800th with Profoto Compact Rs at full power and 1/640th with the Profoto lights at lower power outputs.

Damn! Those are some mighty fine sync speeds! My brain is spinning thinking of all the things I can do with 1/500th "hyper-sync" on my 5D, especially considering I can go pretty much anywhere with my strobes now that I have a set of these babies.

Billing-wise, I had a really killer month this past month. Hoping it continues. If my workload continues like it's been, and it's looking like it certainly might, I see some Pocket Wizards in my very near future.

The pretty girl at the top goes by the name Princess. Shot her the other day. Easy to look at IMO. She mentioned something about having recently done a spread for Penthouse. I love when models do that thing with their mouths... that slightly biting the lower lip thing. So sexy! Princess captured with Canon 5D w/ Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 and three Profoto Acute heads, a 7' Photoflex Octodome, a couple of umbrellas, and a fan. ISO 100, f/8 @ 160th. MUA was Holly. Very minimal post-processing.