Thursday, October 29, 2009

Model Mayhem's Mayhem

Been too long since I've updated: A combination of being busy and being lazy. I'd lay the blame about 50% on each of those factors.

I've been spending some of that lazy time on Model Mayhem lately. Nothing Earth-shattering about that. It's just that MM isn't a forum I've invested too much time with in the past.

Generally, I perceive MM as more a social networking site and less a photography forum. It's like MySpace or Facebook with a model/photographer theme. Nothing inherently wrong there although I spend very little time on Facebook and I deleted my MySpace account about 6 months ago due to my complete lack of interest.

So why MM? Well, once you get past the many recycled subjects, there's much on MM to amuse, entertain, and occasionally enlighten. Some of the recycled subjects, btw, remain amusing regardless of how often they are recycled.

My first post on MM, a thread that I started, got shut-down and locked fairly quickly. I don't even remember what it was about but it caused a stir and I don't really remember why. Maybe it's just me? Whatever. Anyway, I didn't intend my post to be controversial but I guess some people thrive on controversy and, to be honest, I'm not exactly allergic to it nor do I run from it.

Of those recycled subjects I mentioned, the lion's share of them are either about models flaking, models with "demands" in their profiles, models not responding to messages and emails, GWCs, diva models, models' boyfriends, model escorts, model nudity, and scams. As you can see, the common denominator in many recycled threads are models.

There's an obvious love/hate relationship between models and photographers, assuming MM is representative of these two groups as a whole. While models and photographers need each other, leastwise if we're talking "pretty girl shooting," this symbiotic relationship is often strained.

The folks who populate MM are a varied bunch in terms of experience. You have everything from brand-spanking-new models and shooters to those with much experience. The newbies, no doubt, account for many of the forum's subjects being recycled over and over and over. Yet, those who have been around that forum for quite a while still take the bait and participate in those threads. Go figure.

As for pro models/photographers versus serious hobbyists, not-so-serious wannabees and GWCs, I'd say the 80/20 rule applies with 20% of those who participate being pros. For the purpose of this update, I'll liberally define pros as being those who earn 25% or more of their total income from modeling or photography, regardless of whether they're any good at what they do.

There are some amazing portfolios on MM. Some truly stellar work! Often, they're stellar due to post-processing, sometimes due to the photography and, least of all, a combination of both. I'm not making any post-prod versus production judgments here. I'm just saying. And, of course, for every stellar port there are 10 or more that suck. Again, I'm just saying.

I don't know how long before my interest in MM wains. I'm easily amused so I might be taking part in the games there for a while. When participating on forums becomes tedious, boring, or sans any real knowledge gains, I usually back off. So, predicting how long I'll remain interested in being an active, participating MM member is difficult.

I'm not on MM, like many, to prospect and mine the TF potential of the many models who are MM's members. TF, of course, means "Trade For." You can fill in the what, e.g., Trade For Pics, prints, CDs, whatever. Anyway, I'm not much of a TF kinda guy. I guess, for me, it's like working in a candy factory: I love candy but, if I made my living making it or selling it, I probably wouldn't be as interested in eating it. The idea of spending my off-work time doing what I do when I'm at work isn't overly appealing to me unless, of course, there's some special reasons to do so... if that makes sense.

The pretty girl at the top is Lupe from two days ago. She is so much fun to shoot! She knows exactly what she's doing and contributes a lot of ideas to the work. She also brings enthusiasm, a winning smile, and an all-purpose positive vibe to a set. Plus, she's beautiful and sexy as hell. It doesn't get much better than that.

Lupe shot with a Canon 5D and a Tamron 28-75: ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. I lit her with two Profoto Acute 2 heads: The key modified with a 42" silver-lined umbrella, just to my right, and the other modified with a small, white, shoot-thru, boomed from behind, up high, angled down, camera left.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Should Photos Come With Warning Labels?

The brouhaha about uber-skinny models continues. Opponents believe Twiggy-like models are negatively influencing women and young girls by setting body standards for beauty that are difficult, if not impossible, to realize. Some opponents contend that manipulated images should be labeled as such.

The latest fracas involves Ralph Lauren's company and a model, Filippa Hamilton, who has been a long-time staple of Lauren's marketing and advertising campaigns. An absurd image of a Photoshop-induced, body-distorted Hamilton appeared on the cover of a Ralph Lauren catalog in Japan.

Here's the image causing the stir. Obviously, someone got carried away with the Liquefy Tool and whoever was responsible for approving the catalog's pictures didn't object.

Ms. Hamilton, in interviews, says her long-term contract with Ralph Lauren was terminated because, according to Hamilton, she was fired for being too fat.

Recently, Hamilton appeared on MSNBC to discuss her issues with the photo as well as her dispute with Ralph Lauren. You can view the video interview HERE.

Personally, I think the notion of warning labels on pretty girl pics are a crock of shite. There are many consumer-targeted images, as well as consumer products that include warning labels. Cigarettes are a good example. Anyone believe tons of smokers have quit because of the warning labels on a pack of smokes? Or plastered on advertisements?

Me neither.

Some warning labels are effective and appropriate, e.g., those that read, "Poison." And while cigarettes probably qualify as poison, it's a different kind of poison: One with addictive qualities as well one that ain't gonna kill you right away or make you dangerously sick in an immediate manner.

Same goes for warning labels on images. I don't think the incidence of anorexia are going to seriously decline because an image of a supermodel, one where she appears extraordinarily thin, comes with a label that reads, "This Image Has Been Altered and Manipulated for Aesthetic Reasons."

While I agree there's undo pressure on young girls in terms of body shape and beauty in general, i.e., it's the fashion industry that is setting unreal and unachievable standards for beauty, it seems to me it's up to childrens' parents to set them straight and help them understand what is beautiful about them, what is healthy and what is not.

I also understand that obesity is a major health problem, especially in America. But again, I defer to parents. Try monitoring what your kids are eating, how much they're eating, how much exercise they're getting and maybe think about preparing a healthy lunch or dinner for your kids, rather than taking them to the local MickeyD's next time they're hungry.

I'm as guilty as the next photographer of altering and manipulating images of the models I shoot. Sure, I'm trying to make them look as good as they can. I don't merely rely on post-production to do this. I use lighting, pose, makeup, hair, composition, and wardrobe and props to achieve this. I'll admit I also use post-processing techniques. But these techniques aren't the only trick I employ and I don't overly depend on post.

The image at the top is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee. Rather than glamming her up, my client wanted her more natural, i.e., with the makeup and hair. Although Shawna is in her mid-twenties, they also wanted her looking like a late-teen. Besides the makeup, that direction impacted my lighting, as well as the poses and expressions. I don't think Shawna looks unachievable in terms of beauty and body shape. Yeah, those tits cost a few a bucks. But breast enhancements aren't completely out of the reach of most women these days. They've certainly become commonplace enough.

Here's a thought: Do you fantasize about spending the night with a young lady with a body-shape similar Shawna's? Or, do you dream of spending quality time with a woman with Twiggy's shape? Yeah, I know that some of you guys like 'em skinny. Maybe even real skinny. But most of you don't.

Shawna captured with a Canon 5D w/ 17-40 f/4 L glass. I used three, Profoto Acute2 heads: Two in front on either side, modified with medium umbrellas, and another, boomed up high on the left side and modified with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella. ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. MUA was Sarah.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Baby Baby Baby

I had some minor outpatient surgery yesterday so, today, I'm recuperating. Jeez! The recovery is worse than the freakin' procedure! It's nothing particularly serious so the blog is in no imminent danger of becoming collateral damage due to my "gettin' old" syndromes and maladies. But, I'll admit, I'm not up for writing a real update at the moment.


A friend sent me some YouTube videos and I thought I'd share. Now I know why so many shooters want to go to Paris. The models are bee-you-tee-full and, apparently, up for almost anything, naked-in-front-of-a-camera-wise. (Gotta love that!)

The first one has great eye candy. The second one is for laughs. And the third one is for even bigger laughs. IMO, #3 has hotter chicks than those in #1. But maybe that's just me? I'm also thinking #3 wasn't shot in Gay Paree! Looks more like in or around L.A.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The "X" Factor Redux

Since a photographer whose photos I enjoy viewing, and whose blog I often check out, dug deep into the PGS archives to comment on something I wrote over three years ago (Yikes!)I thought I'd republish it, perhaps with some extra commentary.

BTW, the shooter/blogger who dug and commented is a guy named Ed Verosky, an Austin, TX, photographer.

Republishing this also means I don't have to write something new from scratch. Cuz that's how I roll sometimes... lazy.

I'm also gonna update the pretty girl pic I used in the OP, probably make a few minor edits to the text, and I'll include the comments some readers made back then plus Ed's comment of today.

Here's my OP, titled The "X" Factor:

More than a few people on this planet view glamour photography as pornography. That is a fact of glamour photography life and, for the most part, neither you nor I are going to change many of the millions of narrow-minded minds regarding this. Once you put a pretty girl in front of a camera and she removes some clothing or poses seductively, sensuously, sexually-invitingly, or in any way erotically, there are people who are simply going to brand it with a Scarlet P, feign disgust, and heap scorn on the photographer, the model, probably both.

I've read through many photography forum threads wherein the contributors attempted to explain the differences between porn and glamour/erotic photography. An uncomplicated and slightly humorous explanation is simply, "the lighting." But I've seen enough legitimate glamour photography with really poor lighting to toss that explanation aside. Just because the lighting is atrocious lacking finesse and/or is artistically non-existent doesn't make a so-called glamour-shot porn. Of course and conversely, great lighting in a true pornographic image doesn't suddenly make that image glamourous or automatically place it in the realm of gallery-quality erotic photography.

A dude in black robes once said something like, "I can't define porn but I know it when I see it." Since this person was never proclaimed the Grand High Exalted Mystic Porn Czar, I, for one, have never been willing to take his word for it. Although it's probable that some of you might agree, in principle, with the underlying intent of that statement, and you might believe that porn, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder, I don't agree nor do I buy into that explanation either.

For the purpose of defining porn as opposed to glamour and/or erotic photography, i.e, this wonderful and exciting genre of photography that I pursue as do many of you, I've developed a self-explanatory checklist to help people determine whether an image is, most likely, pornographic: Pornographic, that is, in terms of its sexual content or sexually implicit content. I call this checklist The Three P's.

Here they are:

Penis (Erect)
Pink (You know what I mean.)
Penetration (Again, you know what I mean.)

If your image contains any or all of the above, it is, more than likely, a pornographic image. If it does not, it probably is not... porn, that is.

Now that I've cleared that up for all of you and, indeed, for the entire world's population, I think we can safely and comfortably call this discussion closed.

Okay. Fast forward to the present...

The porn v. glamour discussion, of course, never has been closed and probably never will be. My Three P's is little more than a general guide. It's like saying, "It's pretty hot out," versus saying "My thermometer says the outside temperature is 101 F."

By the way, the "I know it when I see it" standard for obscenity (not necessarily porn) came straight from the mouth of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I knew that when I originally wrote the article but I thought I was being clever and witty by only quoting the statement, rather than quoting and crediting it. Obviously, some readers didn't notice my tongue-in-cheekyness as evidenced by some of the comments I've republished below. If you want to read more about how a bunch of Supreme Court justices tried to define obscenity, you can CLICK HERE.

Here's the comments from back when I first published The "X" Factor update... plus Ed's comment of today:

Anonymous said: "Somewhere, I once read about a person who supposedly said something like this: 'I can't define porn but I know it when I see it.'" It was a US Supreme Court justice, although I don't remember his name. He's dead now, which is a shame 'cause we've lost the only reliable way to separate porn from non-porn!

Gunslinger said: Jimmy, I believe it was Chief Justice Earl Warren who made the famous quote. I believe in the same decision he said that pornography contained no artistic value, but rather appealed only to the prurient interests of the viewer. I think that means when you see it, all you can think of is sex. Been to a mall lately? Times have changed since that ruling and the court is still reluctant to define it.

Anonymous said: I don't necessarily consider "pink" to be pornographic. It depends on the context, as does most everything.

Trekkie said: Love your commentary. Having grown up in a 'red state' (Kansas) I discovered how backwards a lot of community's can be which is why I hate 'community standards'

Because even in evolution hating Kansas there are bright spots of realists such as Lawrence, KS and the suburbs on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metroplex that are decidedly 'blue' in their political leaning. It's just that they don't have a crazy preacher of a shepherd telling them to go vote for the nut job, and thus you see what you get.

I've always enjoyed your commentary posts on G1 so good to see you have a blog to keep up with

James said: Sometimes when I crit images on PSig the art v. porn debate comes up. I believe that if you're going to mix the three P's into your art you have to make the artiness more identifiable. The viewer will decide if the image more likely to be displayed as art or used as sheet music for a one handed organ solo in a split second. That's how long you have to convey that there is a message in the piece if you want your work to be considered art while containing (or just hinting at) elements of porn.

Ed said: Are we assuming here, that porn is a negative or illegitimate thing? Pictures, made for a particular human response. Why isn't there a big debate about "commercial photography" vs. "art"? Those lines are most certainly blurred, too. You guys in your forums, stop feeling so guilty about the pictures you like to look at.

Ed, I agree. And just so ya know, I don't ever feel guilty about the pictures I like to look at or, for that matter, the ones I snap. (Well, most of the ones I snap... but that's for another update. Or, maybe not.)

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Tori Black, from a short while back. It's a non-porn pic from a set that, shortly thereafter, became porn pics.

Friday, October 09, 2009

My Other Voice

If any of you ever wondered if I have a voice other than my writing voice, you can now put your curiosity to rest.

A month or two ago, I participated in a phone interview with Ron Davis (a shooter and photography educator) and Shawna Rencher (a model, actress, director, and more) of

So, assuming you have nothing better to do, you know, something really important like organizing your sock drawer or alphabetizing your spice rack or planning your conquest of the photography world, you can listen to me drone on about glamour photography, photography in general, i.e., where it's been and where it's going, porn the adult industry, model/photographer interactions, the psychology of imagery, and a whole lot of other stuff in a podcast currently featured on the above-mentioned website.

My interview is Episode 18 of's ongoing collection of podcast interviews with photographers and models. I'm told, so far, my interview has garnered the most traffic of any other interview on the site. Yeah, that was a brag. Hey! If I don't toot my own horn, someone's gonna use it as a spittoon! (And sometimes, people do so anyway.)

Anyway, if you want to give the interview a listen, you can do so by CLICKING HERE.

The pretty girl at the top is Uma from a shoot earlier this past week. Uma is from Argentina and doesn't speak hardly a lick of English. That, of course, doesn't matter much. Her sexy charms and bedroom eyes speak for themselves in any language.

Uma captured with Canon 5D, Canon 17-40 f/4 L, ISO 100, f/8 at 125th. Three lights: Two in front, each side at 45s and modified with medium umbrellas, the back-light boomed up high, camera-left, modified with a small shoot-thru. Small wind machine fan to blow her hair back a bit. Model put the paint on her face herself.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Not My First and Not My Last Band Shoot

On the heels of my first and last foray into the world of wedding photography, I had an opportunity to again shoot something different; something different, out of the norm, and apart from my usual gigs shooting pretty girls, that is.

A few nights ago, I spent a couple of hours with some guys from Brooklyn, NY.

Nothing particularly unusual about that. I know plenty of dudes from Brooklyn and from Queens and Staten Island and Long Island and Jersey and other places in and around the greater NYC metropolitan area. These particular guys, however, have been well known in NYC's hardcore rock scene. In fact, there are places in the world, places other than the good old U.S. of A., where, when these guys are on an international tour and they show up to play, it's like the freakin' Beatles just landed at JFK! These guys are the members of a band called Biohazard.

Not too long ago, Biohazard went on a multi-country reunion tour. Now, they've gathered in L.A. for a week or so to record tracks for a new album.

Biohazard's lead singer and bass guitar player, Evan Seinfeld, asked me to shoot some promo pics for the band, as well as some individual pics of each of the guys. Evan's a friend and lives in L.A. The rest of Biohazard all live either in New Jersey (my home state) or New York.

So, I spent a few hours in the rehearsal/recording studio with Biohazard. It was a great time. Within minutes of my shoot with these 4 Brooklynites, my Jersey accent returned and was fully in control of my speaking voice. (I've lived in Southern California for a lot of years.)

Anyway, the live music was awesome, the company I shared provided lots of laughs, and the photography afforded me opportunities to shoot some stuff I really enjoyed shooting and in ways I don't ordinarily get to shoot.

Pic at the top (click to enlarge) is Evan from the sets I shot of him and Biohazard. Two lights: One modified with a medium Chimera strip box, lying horizontal on the floor, camera right, and the other way up high, camera left, boomed on a grip arm off a C-Stand extended as far as it would go and modified with a small, shoot-thru umbrella. I cranked up the power on the light up high and kept the strip box powered low and soft. Canon 5D with Canon 17-40 f/4 L, ISO 100, f/4 at 100th. Not too heavy with the post although I desaturated the color a bit and added a sepia tint.

Here's another pic of Evan from Monday night. Obviously, different lighting and post-processing then the one at the top.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I Shot My First and Last Wedding

I think my subject title says it all in terms of my attitude about shooting weddings. For those of you who do this, either full-time, part-time, or sometimes, my hat's off to you. I was toast the day after shooting the wedding. Freakin' wore me out!

It was a G-Job. For those of you not acquainted with that term, the "G" stands for gratis and the photography was our gift, that is, a wedding gift from my daughter, son-in-law, their kids, and myself, to the bride and groom. My daughter was in the wedding party as were her children. (Three-year-old grand-daughter was dressed as a faerie. She was the flower-girl. My 5-yr-old grandson was the ring bearer. I'm now calling him Frodo.)

The bride and my daughter have been steadfast friends since pre-school--they're both in their mid-20s now--and my loving daughter "volunteered" me to shoot the wedding.

Thanks, sweetheart!

It was a rather unique wedding. It was held at the Colony Theater in Burbank, Ca. The Colony is a well-known theatrical venue. It's a two or three hundred seat "equity" playhouse. (Meaning it operates as a signatory company to Actors Equity, the stage actors union.)

The groom is an aspiring writer/director and the bride works as a special effects MUA. The groom wrote and directed a 30-minute play, with a cast of about a dozen actors, as part of the ceremony. The play recounted their first meeting, through their courtship, and ending with his proposal. It was very well done, humorous, and the crowd of about 100 or so guests loved it! Then, the actual wedding ceremony took place on the stage. Reception was later on, at another location.

For the play and ceremony, I used two cameras, my 5D and my 20D. On the 5D was my 17-40 f/4 L and on the 20D I had my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. I shot the play and the ceremony using available stage lighting. My 5D was set at ISO 1000 and my 20D at ISO 800. Afterward, we shot some cast photos and I used a Canon speedlite on my 5D, ETTL, with the ISO set at 200.

I had my 13 yr old son assisting me, mostly schlepping gear. Gave him $20 for the day which he has already spent on iPod apps. I've tried, in the past, to get him interested in photography... but to no avail. By the end of the evening, however, he was running around with my 5D shooting people at the reception. (By that time, I was asking people to stick a fork in me cuz I was done!)

My son has a pretty good eye! I gave him some tips on framing and composition and he quickly incorporated those tips into his shooting style. Who knows? Maybe he'll get into photography a bit? Would rather see him doing that then spending so much time on his iPod, PSP, PlayStation, X-Box, GameCube, and all that stuff.

Other than chimping while shooting, I haven't yet looked at a single frame I shot. (It's now 3 days since the event.) I was stressing out over shooting this for two weeks or more. On the day of the wedding, I was beyond stressed, perspiring like like a pig. (Do pigs sweat?) Anyway, how you wedding shooters deal with the stress, I have no clue. I mean, it ain't like you can mess up and say, "Let's reshoot." Plus, other than the formal portrait stuff, you have so little control over what's going on. And then there's all those "can't miss" moments which, I think (and hope) I covered. BTW, I shot the formal portraits with my Zeus pack-n-heads. That was the easy part of the day... leastwise, for me it was.

I'm not a control freak but, when I'm in my normal shooting element, I usually have control over nearly everything. Not so with weddings! Again, my hat's off to you wedding shooters. JimmyD won't be vying for available wedding work or competing with any of you in the foreseeable future... unless, maybe, when pigs--sweating or not--grow wings and start flying.

The pretty girl at the top isn't the bride in her wedding gown. It's Cytherea, from a few years ago.