Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Art Card

To my eye and mind, artsy does not equal art. Artsy can be good, really good, but it still ain't automatically art, true art.

I see plenty of work that is artsy, artistic even, but it's not necessarily what many view as art; not true art. I'm amongst the ranks of those many. (BTW, artistic, for me, is a step up from artsy yet still not true art.)

There are traditional conventions associated with art. Art, make that artists, can choose to break or ignore those conventions, use and abide by them, or do something in between. Either way, the results might be art, might simply be artsy or artistic, or might be something else. It's like porn from the perspective of the U.S. Supreme Court: "I know it when I see it." That, of course, doesn't make porn art. (By association.) It only means that defining art and defining porn are two separate entities that are similar in terms of subjectivity.

This might all seem confusing. Or, maybe not?

For me, for the most part, it's not.

In the world of truly great art--you know, stuff that hangs in museums or sells at auctions or galleries for big bucks--there are probably as many examples of great art that abide by the conventions as there are those that break them. Art is funny that way.

When it comes to photographic art, all of the same holds true. Photographers, it seems, often prefer the word "rules" over "conventions," i.e., breaking or obeying the rules. Either works.

In my opinion, throwing artistic conventions at one's photography does not make one an artist. It might mean the photographer has an artsy eye or artistic sensibilities but it doesn't mean the resulting work qualifies as true art, make that 'perceived by others as true art.' But it might also mean the work is noticeably better than a lot of other work... or not.

Regardless of whether those artsy elements in a photograph work or don't work, they are usually visible in the results and you, at least, get an "A" for effort.

Same holds true for breaking the rules, when they're broken effectively and on purpose.

Unfortunately, some of this art stuff allows photographers a convenient wild card to play when defending discussing their work: The "art card."

The "art card" is, in theory, a beautiful thing. So is looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. The "art card" is most often played when viewers don't seem to appreciate a photographer's work or efforts. In the minds of shooters who play the "art card," it's a wild card that, for the most part and only in those art-card-players' minds, trumps all other opinions.

Fictional example:

"Dude. That photo sucks."

"That's your opinion. (Asshole.) Just because, it's out of focus, over-exposed, over-processed, composed like shit, and says nothing to you doesn't mean it sucks. It's my artistic expression and who are you to say what is art and what isn't?"


I suppose.

That's not to say, of course, there aren't examples of actual art that are out of focus, over exposed, and all those other things. There are. (Although not too many.) It's just that, for the most part, most mere-mortal-shooters aren't producing work that bears those characteristics and still qualifies as art. In fact, most of *that* work doesn't even qualify as good or interesting work. Instead, most photographers who are producing photos of that nature are producing images that, for lack of a better word, suck.

Anyway, I'm just saying.

Mostly because I haven't fully weaned myself off certain photographer/model forums yet.

Here's some tips for pretty girl shooters:

1. Learn the rules. It's the only way you'll ever break them effectively when you choose to do so. (Except by luck or accident.)

2. Quit trying to produce art unless you really and truly see yourself as a serious artist and that's the way you roll. I mean, photographers please! Focus on producing images that are memorable, outstanding, or simply quite good. The majority of you aren't photographing pretty girls, with or without clothes, because you are consummate artists. Nor are you shooting those subjects for purely artistic expression. Sure, that might be part of it, but there are other reasons you're shooting this stuff. Many different reasons. Too many to list. Some as simple as it being quite fun and entertaining. So let's keep our perspectives real and honest.

3. Don't play the "art card" when you believe your work is less or under appreciated. Most people recognize the "art card" for what it most often is-- bullshit. You're only fooling a few when you play it. Very few. Plus, when you play the "art card," if often makes you look like a 'ruh-tard.' (© "The Hangover.")

4. Learn how to apply art conventions to your photography. It doesn't automatically mean the results become art but it often yields better photographs.

5. Develop a personal style. Yes, that style might include artsy elements. In fact, it probably should. As a result, some may call your style, "artistic." That's a good thing. But don't let it go to your head. It still doesn't mean everything you shoot is art. In fact, it might mean that nothing you shoot qualifies as true art but it's still a nicely positive compliment, nonetheless.

All the above is not to say you might not produce true art in your photography, intentionally or otherwise. But, in reality, and per my observations, the majority of you aren't specifically looking to do that.

I know I'm not.

The pretty girl at the top, primping in front of a mirror, is Devin. I snapped this candid photo of Devin in Vegas while stealthily sneaking up behind her, ninja style, a year or so ago. No, it wasn't a Peeping Tom incident.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An Xmas Gift of Another Kind

The gift? Well, over the holidays I discovered a lost relative who is also a fiercely-spirited photographer. She wasn't actually lost, of course, but I haven't seen her since she was a young child so she was, in a sense, semi-lost... to me, that is. I credit Facebook (and a 'heads-up' from my daughter) for the discovery.

Gina, who is my 2nd cousin, is most serious about her photography. She shoots with a Canon (natch... we're both apples from the same tree, after all) and she just recently purchased some PCB AB lighting gear. I'm happy to say Gina also plans to buy a light meter. If you're a regular reader, and whether you agree with them or not, you probably know my views on the importance of light meters.

Gina's father is the oldest son of my Dad's older (and only) brother. My Dad had 6 sisters as well. Old school Italians, being mostly Catholic, often multiplied unabated-- Church doctrine re birth control and all. (Vatican Roulette notwithstanding.) But hey! The more the merrier! Besides my immediate family, I have (well, had) plenty of aunts and uncles, and I have dozens of cousins, dozens more 2nd cousins, and probably even more 3rd and 4th cousins and who knows what/who else!

While growing up and into my 20s, Gina's father and her father's brother and I were quite close. But we all kinda lost touch. You know how that sometimes goes: We get wrapped up in our own, immediate families, careers, friends, that sorta stuff. No excuse, of course. What's more important than family?


Gina is a very serious hobbyist and also hopes to shoot professionally-- photographer-speak for getting paid to wield a camera. While Gina has another career, photography is what she's really passionate about. Sounds like a few of you, no? I've already, of course, encouraged her to read this blog, especially since pin-up and glamour are two of the genres she's very interested in shooting and, even more especially, because I've got this sometimes-outa-control ego and all.

Besides FB, Gina is also on MM. She goes by "Strapped Photography." I'm pretty sure she's being metaphoric, inferring she rolls "strapped" with a camera and not a gun. You know, in the way gangsters refer to being "strapped." If I'm wrong, I'll be sure not to piss her off! :-) If you have a minute or two, how about stopping by Gina's MM page and giving her a shout, friend her, whatever! Tell her cousin Jimmy sent ya! Click HERE to visit Gina's MM profile.

Coty, the pretty girl in the oh-so-dramatic head shot at the top, is a model I've lost touch with. I shot Coty a number of times back when I still had my studio and (because I did have a studio) was more apt to occasionally shoot some TF stuff; when the spirit moved me, of course. Looks like the spirit is moving Coty in that pic up top, no? BTW, a key light directly overhead, like in that pic of Coty and in cinematic lighting jargon, is often referred to as a "God light." I'm just saying.

Here's another of Coty, this one also in my studio, also TF, and also dark and dramatic but somewhat more revealing in certain ways. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Portraits: What Puts the Icon in Iconic Portraits?

I was thinking about portraits. You know, those often-formal (or not) pictures of people that say something about who and what they are.

My stream of consciousness started overflowing its banks, leading my thoughts to iconic portraits snapped by iconic portrait photographers.

I started asking myself, "What or who mostly makes a portrait iconic? The photographer or the sitter?"

Then, it hit me. Not like an epiphany but more like a fog-lifting awareness which, in truth, is how many things become part of my awareness. (More truth: Rarely does the fog completely lift.)

For the most part, when we see portraits that are proclaimed "iconic," it's very often because of who the sitter might be rather than who the photographer might be. Certainly, that's not an iron-clad rule--think Steve McCurry's Nat Geo photo of the Afghan girl with those feakin' eyes--but, in the world of portrait photography, it's often who is in front of the camera, not behind it, that matters most in terms of creating iconic portraits; make that portraits that, later, are perceived as iconic.

In some ways, that kinda sucks.

I don't know about many of you, and this ain't me getting full of myself, but I believe I can snap portraits that are pretty damn good--photographically good--just like many master portrait photographers have and still do except, in my case and probably yours, I don't have sitters who will automatically elevate my portrait-taking into the realms of renown. Generally, my subjects don't have the juice or position or celebrity or status to make my stuff particularly memorable--regardless of how good it might be--in the minds of the masses... nor is it likely that, as a consequence, any of my stuff will ever be dubbed, "iconic," by whomever does the dubbing.

As an example, if you consider the famous photo of Winston Churchill, snapped by Yousuf Karsh, the one where Churchill has that tough-as-nails resolute scowl on his face, did it really matter who snapped it?

(Update: Here's a link to an interesting account of Karsh's encounter with Churchill. I've read the same or similar accounts elsewhere.)

I'm not taking away from the considerable skills and talent of Yousuf Karsh. The man was one of the world's great portrait photographers! But still, if almost anyone else had shot nearly that same photo, and then that photo became, as Karsh's photo did, a big part of Britain's war propaganda machine against the 3rd Reich during WW2, whoever snapped the image would, quite possibly--perhaps even probably-- be hoisted to a pedestal as a world-class portraitist and, perhaps, even have gone on to be dubbed another "Sir Icon."

(Updated Note: I'm not saying all pics of iconic sitters become iconic pics. I'm simply saying it often takes an iconic sitter for a pic to become iconic... if that makes sense.)

Anyway, read what you will into what I'm saying because, as usual, I'm just saying.

Pic at the top is the Goddess of Glam, Tera Patrick. I snapped it in her home, uhh... I don't remember when but it wasn't all that long ago. The photo certainly does NOT have iconic status nor any other particularly meritorious status. Nor, I'm sure, will it ever. In fact, few have seen this pic much less commented one way or another on its merits. (Or lack of them.) Tera, of course, does have a certain iconic status, albeit mostly within the world in which she has worked.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Accidental Cookie

I was messing around with this model last night.

No, not that way--I ain't that lucky--we were shooting and, since I had a bit more time than usual, I started messing around with the lights.

Most of my messing around, to my eye, didn't look so cool. I know, as photographers, we're often encouraged to think and shoot outside the box but, sometimes, when we do, outside the box ain't such a pretty place.

BTW, I did get all the pics my client needed. The messing around part was in addition to the expected images.

My model, Miko, was cool with it. The alternative was sitting around, bored to tears, listening to me trying to make witty conversation with someone younger than half my age, namely her, and I think she sensed that-- Smart chick. (We were waiting for my client who was running late.)

Anyway, I was playing around with my ring flash, shooting a lot of crap, trying to decide what I did and didn't like about it. (I'm quite new to ring flash lighting.) After a while, I decided to get it off my camera, putting it on a stand above and slightly behind me. As it was, I was working with limited gear. My client, who usually has some pretty nice Profoto packs-and-heads in his studio, didn't. What I mean is the Profoto gear was MIA, AWOL, absent, whatever. Turned out it was on loan.

Fortunately, I had my PCB/Zeus pack-and-heads with me, plus the ring flash that goes with that system. Unfortunately, I had nothing to modify with. You'd think there'd be one lousy umbrella or something in that studio, but no, there wasn't. All I could find was some diffusion material. I should mention I shoot for this client regularly, like weekly, so I assumed, before heading over there, everything would be as it normally is, in the studio I mean. It wasn't. My bad for assuming.

Okay, at least there were stands. So, I grabbed a C-Stand and a grip arm, put a head on it, MacGyvered the diffusion material in front of it to make the light less harsh, and boomed it behind Miko. This would be my backlight, making some highlights from one side and behind. Since I didn't have a main light modifier, I decided to go with the ring flash. After all, many shooters go with a ring flash and, often enough, nothing else. It all worked reasonably well. Good enough to get what I needed to get, especially for web-site use.

Back to putting the ring flash on a light stand...

The ring flash on the stand worked well enough, especially for messing around. The light was a bit harsher than I usually prefer, mostly because I was working in fairly close quarters on a small set and without a modifier.

At one point, I raised my ass of the apple-box I was seated on, snapped a few, chimped, then realized I had partially blocked the ring flash with my fat head and husky body. (Husky sounds better than many alternative words meaning the same or similar, no?) I started to sit back down so as not to block the light when I thought, "Ya know. That doesn't look *that* bad." Leastwise, on the LCD. So, I got back up and, like a human cookie, or cucoloris, snapped a few more, moving my head and body around in front of the ring flash to alter the shadow effect.

I still don't know if I like the results or not. I'm leaning towards not. The colors got a little weird for some reason I haven't yet figured out; I probably screwed them up worse adjusting in post. Her face is approaching geisha-white, seriously mis-matched to the rest of her skin tones-- a result of the hard-light of the ring flash hitting her face and my soft body blocking other parts of the light, i.e., flagging, softening, and feathering.

I suppose the whole experiment was a little like thinking and shooting outside the box, leastwise, it was thinking and shooting off the box-- my ass off the apple-box, that is. But like I said, outside the box ain't always a pretty place. My ass off the apple box ain't so pretty either. I'm just saying.

It certainly would make more sense to use an actual cucolorus instead of my body for a cookie but, like I said, Miko and I were just messing around. (Yeah. I wish.)

The pretty girl at the top, as already mentioned, is Miko. I discovered that Miko's Mom is Korean and her Dad is Irish and she was born in Germany but grew up in Seattle. Go figure. Gotta love that Eurasian thing, right?. BTW, even though the skin on her torso looks smoothed, I didn't do a thing to it in post. All I did was crop, adjust various levels, burn a few areas, and that's about it. I'm thinking the pic might look okay in B&W, especially with my shadows dancing around on her lower body, but I have too much to do right now--Xmas and all--to be messing around with it in PS.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You Think I Need That Scrim, Jim?

Yep. I do. In fact, how about Jimmy's Scrim Jim?

My Westcott Scrim Jim,that is.

Sometimes, the best tools in our lighting arsenals are the low-tech tools: Tools like reflectors and flags and scrims.

Take a look at those two pics of Dahlia at the top. Both are nearly un-processed except for re-sizing and a touch of Curves adjustment and sharpening. Both were snapped by my good pal, Rick, of Simi Studio, while we were out at El Mirage Dry Lake, shooting the Pretty Girl DVD stuff. Rick captured Dahlia using his Canon 20D. He had set the camera to capture in monochrome mode and, as such, they're not post-prod B&W conversions.

Both pics were shot with early-ish mid-day sun as the primary source. For both, a white reflector was employed, adding fill from below. But there's a difference between the pic on the left and the photo on the right. That difference was a scrim, a scrim with translucent, diffusion material, placed above and behind the model, knocking down the harsh light from the sun.

The hair on the top of Dahlia's head is nearly blown-out in the pic on the left. In the pic on the right, shot a few minutes later with my Scrim Jim added to the mix, the highlights on Dahlia's hair are near perfect.

How'd that happen?


By adding a simple scrim with diffusion fabric, we knocked the sunlight down about a full stop and, all at once, the highlights in Dahlia's hair were right on the money!

You don't, of course, need to use a Scrim Jim to modify the light in this way. Any sort of framed, diffusion fabric, like rip-stop nylon, can be used. I know plenty of people who make their own, DIY scrims and reflectors. I have. They work just as effectively.

Personally, though, I like my Scrim Jim because it's easy to set-up and dis-assemble, it comes with its own, handy-dandy carrying bag, it attaches easily to stands and grip arms, plus I have a number of different materials that can be quickly attached, e.g., white, silver, gold, diffusion, black. By using different fabrics, my Scrim Jim quickly converts to a reflector, a scrim, or a flag.

As mentioned, the pretty girl at the top is Dahlia. Photos by (and copyright) Rick H., Simi Studio. Dahlia did her own makeup. I assisted.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Dishonesty of Glamour Photography

An online acquaintance, photographer Jim Felt, a founding principal in a very successful, Pacific Northwest, commercial photography business, emailed me this morning. Jim said he finally found time to listen to the interview I did, some months back, with the good folks at Photographer&Model.com.

If any of you have some time to kill and you're up for listening to someone babble on about photography, mostly glamour photography, you can do that, through the magic of radio podcasting, by clicking HERE. It's easy enough on the ears as well as that gray thing lodged between them. IMHO, of course.

Jim was nice and said he enjoyed the interview, using words like fun and great and incredibly insightful and boffo!

Okay, maybe I'm lying about the incredibly insightful and boffo! parts but Jim did seemed to really enjoy the interview... or he was simply being nice. Regardless, I'll take compliments, sincere or otherwise, where I can get them although I know Jim was being honest and sincere cuz, well, cuz that's how Jim rolls.

In his email, besides kind words, Jim asked, "By the way, when was (glamour) photography ever honest? It's always been enhanced. Just not to the casual degree that Photoshop has allowed."

I agree.

But then I started thinking. (I have a bad habit of doing that, thinking that is, often when it's least important to do so.) So, I wrote Jim back, tackling the "dishonesty in glamour photography" issue-- Not that dishonesty in glamour photography truly qualifies as an "issue" in the normally-used context of the word. But it does in my world, dammit!


There's nothing new about enhancing glamour shots. Its been done for a very long time. I do so nearly all the time. After all, I'm not a photo-journalist. There's no rules of ethics for glamour photographers. Leastwise, not in terms of the results. My job is to make the best glam photos I can manage to make. That's one of my rules.

When shooting, I'll use whatever tools--tools sometimes used to produce dishonest results--at my disposal. (As effective or sometimes ineffective as they might be.) I use those dishonest tools and processes cuz that's how *I* roll, dishonestly... but only as a photographer, of course.

In glamour photography, dishonesty is often the best policy!

There. I said it.

If you don't find using the word "dishonesty" palatable, try thinking of the dishonesty I'm refering to as "tricks" or smoke-n-mirrors" or "skill and experience" or even the "secrets of the pros" some would have you believe are actual secrets.

Okay. Here's my response to Jim. Thought it would make for an easy and on-topic update:

Obviously, glamour photography has never been honest. That's the whole point--To produce images that glamourize the subjects. Glamourizing a subject requires dishonest techniques to create, what should appear to be and in more than a few ways, seemingly honest results.

(Please Note: Glamorizing a model is not the same as frosting a turd. I'm just saying. In case anyone has that confused.)

In general, life--except for the lives of a few--is not, as a rule, overly glamorous. Glamour photography is escapism, much the way so many movies and books and so much more are purposely escapist.

Certainly, Hollywood's stars, often referred to as America's royalty, have always, paparazzi aside, been presented in glamorous ways. I talked about that in the interview, i.e., the origins of glamour photography in 1930s and 40s Hollywood.

Later, Hugh Hefner came along and the rest is history.

Hollywood stars, supermodels, and glamour models as well, are not common folks like you and I. Well, they might be, and in many ways often are, but not if producers, advertisers, agents, PR people, publicists, spin doctors, many photographers and a whole bunch of the stars and models themselves have anything to say or do about it. Hence, glamour photography is one means to that end: That end being to promote the glamorous aspects, the regal star qualities, the way-more-special, beautiful, sexy, and/or much less common than you or I, aspects of the subjects.

Dishonesty in glamour photography isn't simply accomplished with lighting and makeup and processing and that kind of stuff. Sure, that's part of it. A big part of it. But the dishonesty of glamour photography is in the overall presentation of those so-called, make that creatively-enhanced, "glamorous" people." It's about style and feeling and allure and more.

(A guilty confession: I might have expanded a bit on what I wrote to my friend, Jim, in my email to him. Being somewhat long-winded and fairly opinionated is also how I sometimes roll. Can't help it. They write me this way.)

The pretty girl at top is Cody from a year or two (or three?) ago. Time freakin' flies! I snapped Cody using a few dishonest tools and techniques at my disposal--from production to post-production--including a fan used to subtly blow her hair, dishonestly creating the illusion that her raven mane was slightly moving about in some gentle, in-studio, breeze. (Like someone left a studio window open on a windy day or something.) Here's a BTS shot, below, for those who enjoy BTS shots.

NOTE: if you're a Canuck and still residing in your home world, you might notice I've added Amazon-Canada to my links in the right-hand column. A big thanks and tip-of-the-hat to reader, RovingRooster, for suggesting I also become an Amazon-Canada associate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Models: What's On Their Minds?

Before I begin writing (and pretending) I know what goes on in model's minds--they are women, after all: Leastwise, most models I shoot with are--here's an end-of-the-year holiday reminder: It's Winter Holidays time!

Wait! D'uh. You knew that. End-of-the-year = Winter, leastwise, start of it. And start of Winter = Holidays. Again, D'uh.

I'm only making this oh-so-obvious reminder because, while I could be wrong, I'm guessing some of you might be contemplating buying yourself a gift, you know, something nice or practical or cool or completely unneeded just to say "happy whatever" to yourself. I say do it! You deserve it! You've been good throughout the year, right? Course, "good" is relative but I'll bet you've been good enough!

Anyway, I'll also guess some of you might be purchasing gifts for others, holiday spirit and all, and whether those others have been good, naughty, nice or otherwise, you ain't no Scrooge! So, if that's what you're planning to do, and if you're of a mind to buy something from the good folks at Amazon, you might also extend some holiday cheer this way, that is, towards your happy PGS blogger! I've been good, bad, naughty, AND nice! I deserve it! And doing so is easy as mincemeat pie! How? By using (i.e., clicking-on) the Amazon link in the right-hand column of this blog when browsing and/or ordering from Amazon.

Buying through Amazon by clicking my link doesn't cost a penny more to you but, by doing so, you'll be purchasing through my Amazon-associates link and helping support the PGS blog.


Okay. Enough with the begging. It is SOoo unbecoming. Besides, last time I did the 'alms for the needy' thing, many of you responded so incredibly well that I ended up getting tossed off Google's ad-thing for uhhh... well, for begging. But that won't happen with Amazon because, unlike those Google-nerds, the peeps at Amazon are some cool people!

Back to photography and pretty girl shooting:

In my most previous update, I replayed a recent shoot writing about a personal experience with a model. In the comments to that update (who reads the comments, right?) photographer Ed Verosky, who originally suggested the update's subject, asked, "...I wonder what goes through a model/subject's mind as you're doing your thing. Does she want more direction or less, would she prefer you to be more animated, does she want lots of encouragement and praise? What's been your experience, Jimmy?"

Here's what I replied: "I've found the more direction the better. I'm not talking about micro-direction where you're directing every finger and toe in addition to the rest of the model, but a steady stream of general direction, both in terms of pose and body(parts) positioning, with some emotive direction for expressions and the all important 'tude, combined with lots of positive feedback, even it that feedback starts sounding rote and repetitive. That's what seems to work pretty good for me. (Sorry about that long, run-on sentence.)

Oh! Music helps too!

Nothing worse than, to borrow from radio people, "dead air" when you're shooting."

I'll add to that a bit--

In my experience, "dead air," on a shooting set, is like expecting to catch fish in the desert. I guess it's possible to do so, depending on which desert we're talking about, but the odds of that happening, in many deserts, are long. Way long. Same with getting good pics while shooting with your trap shut. Models, no matter how experienced, want to hear direction and reassuring words. They want to know they're not alone out there in the lights. Like children, they want your approval. On model-shooting sets, the photographer is the boss for that time, no matter how brief or extended. As that boss, you need to be a constantly communicating leader. How else, if you're not communicating, will your model understand your "vision" and mimic it with her face and body? ESP? Vulcan mind-melding? I don' think so.

On sets, photographers are also, in some ways, a bit like parents, guiding their (model) children. That's not to say you should treat models as if they were children, they're not, although some act like they are, but that approval thing is very important. And it's important for your "model-children" to hear that approval fairly often. If ever ther's a time to voice approval and stroke a model's ego, it's when she's in front of your camera.

When you're shooting, models put themselves in your hands. (BTW, that's not to say your hands should be on the models.) They're trusting you to do the right thing, the responsible and the protective thing. Those right, responsible, and protective things are all about making great pictures of them. Regardless of whether your model is a "5" or a "10," doing your best to make great pictures of every model you shoot is the right thing to do. It's your responsibility as a photographer. And by doing so, you're protecting their image: Images they want others to favorably view and, I'll bet, so do you.

So what's the model thinking about while you're shooting?

Sometimes, she's thinking about how to present herself in the best light, pun intended, while you're shooting. Sometimes she's thinking of all those things she's insecure about, i.e., what it is about her face and/or body that makes her insecure. Yeah, some of those things, if and when you discover them, might seem ridiculous and untrue but that doesn't matter much. It's what she thinks about herself that matters. Your job, besides wielding your camera like a Samurai camera guy, is to help her overcome those insecurities.

Some models are appraising you while you're shooting them. Is he/she any good? Does he/she have an eye? Is he/she hitting on me or just innocently babbling-on, engaging in photographer-speak (for lack of a better term) to make me feel comfy and secure?

Other models, often the very experienced models, might be thinking about almost anything other than what's going on at the moment. Your job, when you sense that's what's going on, is to redirect the model's attention to you, to what *is* going on, to what she's doing in front of her camera. That's right. While shooting, it's her camera-- She needs to "own it" if the results are going to be good. Conversely, you need to "own" the model. That's not to say she's your puppet but, in some ways, that's not a completely untrue way of looking at the process.

Still other models are nervous and afraid in general. Usually, these are new and inexperienced models. If you're not careful, your pics of these models are going to feature deer-caught-in-the-headlights expressions. The few times deer-caught-in-the-headlights expressions work is when you're actually photographing deer caught in headlights, if that's your thing. Or, sometimes, when shooting certain types of bondage-and-discipline and fetishy pics, again, if that's your thing. I know I sometimes enjoy shooting that stuff, when I'm feeling in touch with my dark side, that is. ;-)

If some of this is sounding like you need to be part psychologist, in addition to the photographer parts, you're right. You do.

The gorgeous one at the top, in the Xmas lingerie, is Tera Patrick. It's one I snapped during a holiday-themed shoot last year. Tera certainly knows how to put the "X" in Xmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When Models Take Charge

In the comments section of my last update, photographer Ed Verosky suggested some ideas for PGS updates. (Thanks again, Ed! I've said it before: For me, the writing part is easy, what to write about is, more often, the hard part.)

One of Ed's most-excellent ideas for updates suggested interviews (Q&As) with models regarding being photographed, i.e., what's going on in their heads during the process... which could be fairly scary in terms of finding that out or, perhaps, non too ego-enhancing for many photographers. Regardless, Ed also added that it might be interesting to ask what models might tell photographers if they, the models, were directing them, I mean us, the photographers.

I agree! That could be some less-often-seen yet illuminating and insightful ground to cover.

I haven't, as yet, had the time to cover such ground but I will relay what happened during a recent shoot where the model had the nerve decided to direct yours truly a bit. Possibly more interesting since the model's English language skills were marginal at best.

I was shooting content with Spanish-sex-siren, Lupe Fuentes, for her new and upcoming web site. Lupe is a freakin' doll! She's warm, friendly, smart, sexy, gorgeous, and knows what she's doing in front of a camera. Her lack of English is more than made up by her ability to communicate in other ways. Even when, as I found out, she's suddenly directing the guy who is supposed to be directing her. That would be me, in this case.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Being the lazy-ass that I am, I often shoot with my butt firmly planted on an apple box with the box resting on the floor and its long-side up. Besides conforming to both my laziness and my fat ass, this puts my camera at an ideal height for much of what I shoot, pretty girl shooting-wise. If the model gets lower, I can always flip the apple box so the short-side is up and, by doing so, lower my shooting angle while still retaining the comfort of my ass seated on the box. I'm quite adaptable that way. (Note to self: Let's get some soft, comfy, padding installed on that apple box. Perhaps Memory Foam®?)

We were shooting in a kitchen in an upscale home-- marble floors and counter-tops and such. Lupe was perched on the marble top of a center island in the kitchen. I was seated on my apple box, comfortably shooting from low-ish angles. I thought the angles looked fairly cool, perspective-wise-cool, as a result of my lazy-low angles. Suddenly, Lupe began gesturing to me, with her usual big, pearly-white smile, in a way that said, "Up!"

"Up?" I asked.

"Yes!" she nodded excitedly.

I quickly looked down, assuring myself I wasn't displaying any GWC attributes. As usual, I wasn't.

(Side Note: I might be a borderline geezer but I'm NOT SO GEEZERLY, I'm happy to say, that my shit don't work! Well, most of the time it don't... I mean does. Unfortunately and occasionally [and sometimes happily] it also still works at times when it's not necessarily supposed to work... all on it's own like it's on auto-pilot and in spite of the many, many, naked chicks who are routinely sprawled in front of my camera and because of that, one might think, make me immune to their effects. Sorry if that was more information than anyone needed to know. Just wanted to qualify that "GWC attribute" comment-- Jeez! Where's the perfect emoticon when ya need one?)


I got off my ass and stood.

"No!" She shook her head, motioning for me to get higher.

"Higher?" I asked, pointing my shutter finger up.

"Yes!" she enthusiastically nodded.

"Okay." I shrugged. I stood up on the apple box, balancing myself as best I could.

"Oh!" I said, looking down at her young, beautiful, curvy, sexy, naked, nubile form, suddenly experiencing a pretty-girl-shooting epiphany of sorts. "You!" I pointed at her. "Submissive," I said, fairly certain I'd solved the mystery with my sometimes slow-ish melon.

"Yes!" She nodded. Actually, "Sí!" is what she said, this time with utmost enthusiasm and with the coyest of smiles.

At once, Lupe began posing super-seductively and making these incredibly submissive expressions while looking up at me with those freakin' awesome Spanish eyes and, well, let's just say it caused me to shoot most of the rest of the set with my legs crossed. Not so easily done, I might add, especially while balancing myself atop the long side of an old, somewhat dilapidated, apple box.

The pretty girl at the top is Lupe. It's from the very first time I shot her, on a white cyc in a studio, just a day or two after she arrived in this country. Sorry, but I don't have easy access to the pics in the kitchen I just wrote about. Most of my stuff is still packed away from my recent move. I know, I know, what a freakin' tease I am-- Heterosexually speaking, of course. Yeah! How about those Jets!

(Processing on the pic above kinda sucks as, what little processing I did, I did on my cheap, less-than-three-hundred-buck, laptop with its cheap LCD screen which, in a word, sucks. Oh well.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We Don't Need No Steenkeeng Photography Skills!

I spend a lot of time on forums, photo forums. Probably too much time. But still, doing so can be an education. Not so much an education in photography but more of an education regarding the attitudes many photographers appear to have these days. You know, their attitudes towards the craft of photography.

These days, especially amongst some new-ish photographers, it appears more than a few of them believe production skills--I'm talking about traditional camera and lighting skills--are way less important than post-production skills. In fact, I read posts by some who say that production skills don't matter much at all. I'm not saying this is true across the board. It's not. But, often enough, it's an attitude I see displayed on one particular (and popular) forum quite frequently.

But here's the deal, leastwise my opinion of the deal:

If you're gonna pursue photography as a career, it's probably in your best interests--aside from the business side of it--to learn all you can about production, i.e, about camera craft and the technical aspects of photographic production. You know, that part of photography when cameras are in your hands. I'll agree that, these days, it's also important to hone your Photoshop and other post-production skills but, for the most part, again IMO, production skills will carry you further as a photographer then post-production skills will.


While it's gotten easier and easier to frost a turd, what with Photoshop and all the nifty actions and cool third-party software available, a turd is still a turd regardless of the frosting applied.

Even if you're so clever with your post-production trickery that you can fool almost everyone into believing your turds are not, actually, turds, there are times when knowing how to produce something that isn't a turd might help you out immensely. In other words, knowing how to capture a non-turd-ish photo matters! Certainly, believe it or not, it matters to many potential clients, especially if you're looking at pursuing fashion, beauty, and/or glamour-and-tease as your photography career choices.

This might come as a big surprise to some but, often enough, when you're shooting in those above mentioned genres, you don't always get to perform the post-production on the images you've snapped. Nope. You're not even given the opportunity to frost those turds!

I know, I know... that sucks! What can I say? Life, and sometimes our pursuits in life, aren't fair. If you're a photographer, make that a fauxtographer, not being offered the opportunity to fix fuck-ups in post really sucks! I mean, how unjust is that? It's a freakin' travesty, right?

You see, instead of you getting to hide your incompetence shooting a camera, someone else processes your work and those "someone elses" also have to fix your fuck-ups. This is not something that makes those "someone elses" too happy. Often enough, and unfortunately for you, the fauxtographer, those people sometimes share their dissatisfaction regarding your work with (Shudder!) your clients!

It sometimes gets worse.

There are also times when you might find yourself shooting tethered. That means you're shooting for an audience, an audience that might include the person who is going to pay you, i.e., your client. Clients, you might remember, are also the people who, hopefully, will hire you again and, sometimes, even recommend you to others.

When shooting tethered, your audience isn't expecting to see a comedy; a comedy of errors, that is-- A photo-shoot version of a French farce played out with a photographer, a model, and a few other "cast" members. They want to see some seriously good work happening on that photographic stage.

Holy crap! Talk about pressure!

When shooting tethered, if your shit sucks, i.e., the stuff coming out of your camera sucks (as evidenced by what the audience is seeing on the screen) the client, along with everyone else, gets to immediately see that your capturing turds.

It still gets worse.

After seeing your turds on the screen, or later hearing from post-prod people that your production work sucks, the client will probably decide that you suck! As a photographer, that is. And then, suddenly, POOF! There might go that full or part-time career in the exciting world of photography you hoped to have had. Leastwise, in terms of shooting fashion, beauty, glamour and tease, and making some money at it.

It's interesting, on some photo forums, that more than a few people who call themselves photographers seem to have a negative, certainly ambivalent, attitude towards the traditional craft of photography.

We don't need no steenkeeng photography skills!

Go figure.

I'm just saying.

The pretty girl at the top is 2003 Penthouse "Pet of the Year," Sonny Leone. I snapped that semi-candid pic of Sonny at a production location last year. That's some whacky wallpaper, ain't it?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why I Sometimes Shoot With a Cropped Sensor Camera

I have two camera bodies in my bag: A Canon 5D and a Canon 20D. As a rule, the 5D is my primary camera and the 20D serves as my backup. That aside, I sometimes decide to shoot with my 20D.

We all know the 5D sports a full-frame sensor on board while the 20D, like all Canon's double-digit-DSLR-cams, feature 1.6x cropped-sensors. The exception is the new 7D: Single-digit nomenclature yet also with a 1.6x cropped sensor.

When I go with my 20D, it's not to obtain further "reach" in an optical sense, i.e., to somehow magically turn 100mm into 160mm. That doesn't happen. You don't suddenly turn a lens into a longer lens because you're using a cropped-sensor camera. No-sir-ee. Technically and optically, you don't get more "reach" with a 1.6x cropped sensor. It only seems like you do because of the crop factor. But the fact that it "seems" like you do is what causes me to, sometimes, reach for my 20D.

When I go with my 20D, it's also not because I suddenly decide I want less pixels capturing the reflected light. More pixels can be a good thing but pixels aren't everything. For the most part, the 20D has sufficient pixels for most of the work I perform. Yeah, the 5D has a superior processor and other technology that trump the 20D but that's getting way too technical for me to write about and, frankly, those aren't huge factors when it comes to capturing good images, especially when shooting the kind of stuff I normally shoot.

Back to "it seems like" you get more reach...

While, technically, more reach from your glass does not happen with a cropped-sensor camera, what you see in the viewfinder appears as if you do. Sure, I could later crop an image captured with a full-frame sensor to match the crop obtained with a 1.6x sensor but cropping in post is not always the same as framing in production.

I prefer to frame my images, when shooting, in a way that most closely resembles what the finished image will appear like, composition-wise. Perhaps it's a product of my many years shooting with video cameras? You know, where there is no cropping later on, in post. Regardless, I try to avoid excessive "loose" framing other than with a nod towards text and graphical elements that might later be used with the images in ads, or for DVD cover art, or for other uses.

I prefer framing in-camera, I suppose, because there's something spontaneous, something in the moment, something in the way the model moves me that affects my framing and composition. (Sorry if that vaguely sounded like the lyrics of a Beatles tune.)

Often, there's a rhythm a photographer and model get into when shooting. I'm fairly sure many of you have experienced this. It's an awesome thing when it happens! Maybe not as awesome as sex but pretty cool, nonetheless. And that rhythm, leastwise for me, affects my framing and composition. If, instead, I simply relied on post (only) for cropping my way to finished composition, that composition might sometimes, certainly not always, suffer as a result. Why? In post, the rhythm with the model no longer exists and that something that was special in the moment is now history in terms of how it might have affected my framing and composition... if that makes sense.

The gratuitious eye candy at the top, with me sitting between her legs (great seating, btw) and her shining a light on me, is Kayla. I've probably posted this pic before but, due to my recent move, I'm still living out of boxes and my desktop computer, with its hard-drives containing so many images I've shot, remains unavailable to me.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm Outa There!

I was just getting back on an updating roll then, BOOM! I kinda got lax again. But this time I have a legitimate excuse: I've moved to a new residence.

To say, "I hate moving!" is an understatement. It truly sucks! (As if so many of you actually relish the act of moving your domicile.)

The only good thing that comes of moving, well, two good things are 1) you get to go through all your crap and get rid of the stuff you have no idea why you kept in the first place and 2) the place you're moving to represents a positive change in your life.

Both apply to me.

I literally, and in so many ways, hated where I was living. I know hate is a harsh word--and now I've used it twice in this update--but, in this case, it applies. Actually, it wasn't so much where I was living, I loved the location, but with who. (Whom?) I should note I don't actually hate, as in completely despise, intensely loathe, and fervently wish horrible things upon the who/whom I'm referring to but, in terms of sharing a residence with them, and all *that* included, hate applies... if that makes sense. I won't go into details as that could fill a book, albeit a petty, boring-as-hell book. I'll leave the consequences of their ways, their actions and behaviors, to karma. The reasons I didn't move sooner, lame as they were, had to do with sheer laziness, unjustifiable procrastination, a heaping dose of stupidity, and dreading the act of moving.

Anyway, the move is done, courtesy of three or four miserable days of going through all the crap moving entails and also courtesy of my son and my son-in-law: They felt sorry for the "old man" and volunteered to do the lion's share of the grunt work. Actually, my son-in-law volunteered. My nearly 14-year-old son was, uhhh.. partially leveraged into helping. But he was great! Never complained! In fact, they both were great, working their butts off carrying my stuff and more!

Sorry this update has nothing to do with pretty girl shooting. I have occasionally noted I sometimes use this blog for angst relief. I'm still settling into my new digs. Nearly all my junk remains packed. But I didn't want too much time to go by without posting something, anything, even if it's as off-topic to this blog as this update happens to be, angst relief not withstanding.

The pretty girl at the top is beautiful, sexy, raven-haired, Spanish (from Madrid, Spain) Rebecca from a couple of years ago. I may have posted this pic before. Sorry if I have. At the moment, I only have my laptop available. My desktops are still packed along with access to most of my pics. Rebecca captured with a single key light, placed on the other side of that French door. The balance of illumination was all ambient.