Sunday, March 07, 2010

Detail, Details...

The Devil is in the details.

The Devil is well known, super-naturally speaking, for making life difficult in many small ways. Conversely, and also from a supernatural being point-of-view, the idiom, "God is in the details," expresses the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly, i.e. details are important!

When it comes to photography, either phrase is appropriate. There are few things that separate a good picture from a great picture beyond those small, pesky, details reflected in the pic.

We all strive to light and pose and expose and compose in ways that take our pretty girl photography into the realms of awesome pretty girl photography. But as important as those aforementioned factors are, they're not enough when it comes to snapping great pics.

Like God or the Devil, an image's greatness, coolness, wow!(ness) or lack of it, often lies in the details.

Too often, we don't notice the impact of those image-detracting details until sometime after snapping the pics. Yeah, many of those things can be fixed in post but is that what you really want to do? Spend an inordinate amount of time fixing things in post?

I know I don't.

For me, post should be mostly about enhancing an image, not fixing things you overlooked while shooting.

Developing an eye for details is as important as developing your creative eye. Unfortunately, while we're engaged and consumed in creative thought processes, details are more easily overlooked. I suppose we get so caught up in the big picture aspects shown in our viewfinders that we neglect the smaller, less-obvious, things.

Have you ever snapped what could have been a great pretty girl pic only to notice, later on while editing and processing, those small, seemingly trivial, details you overlooked while shooting and are now messing with your photo? Happens to me all the time. Apparently, while in production, I was so fixated on lighting, posing, exposing, and composing my model, my eyes failed to notice the little details screwing up my capture.

The good news is that, sometimes, those things can be fixed.

The bad news is that, other times, they can't be fixed. Leastwise, not easily or entirely.

Some shooters consider too much emphasis on details as nitpicking. Here's some advice: Become a nitpicker. When it comes to details, train your eye to be as critical as possible. I know this sounds contrary to creative thinking but, when it comes to still photography, everything an image says to its viewers is compressed into a very small fraction of time. Details that seem trivial when things are in motion around you become magnified many times over when what's in front of you is reduced to a single, static image.

Next time you shoot, make yourself pay close, nit-picking, critical, attention to the small, detail-oriented things in your viewfinder. I'm not suggesting you become consumed with this process at the expense of the creative flow and photographer/model interactive dynamics of your shoot. But some degree of anal retentive observation, while simultaneously looking at the big picture, the artistic picture, and maintaining great communications with your model, is oh-so-important to well-executed pretty girl shooting.

Hey! No one said this shit's easy! If it were, it would be less fun and challenging. There also wouldn't be much reason for photo blogs, tutorials, workshops, or helpful books like How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional.

I'm just saying... and pimping. :-)

The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is Brazilian model, Paola, from a few years back.


MarcWPhoto said...

When giving instruction (yes, there are photographers less able than ME, God help them) I often repeat something along these lines:

"One of the great secrets to getting good photos is creative laziness. You may think, 'Oh, I don't need to fix that splotch of makeup/smudge on the mirror/blotch on the seamless, I'll fix it in post. That is STUPID lazy. You can take ten seconds to fix it now, and it will be fixed in ALL the pictures. Otherwise, you will have to fix it in every picture one at a time. You're actually being smart lazy if you just do it now."

The other night I was shooting some art pictures and the model was one of those rapid-posers. (Hears the shutter, does a new pose.) I started telling her, "Hold it!" When she looked curious, I said, "I like to do creative crops of art pictures. But I'd rather do them with my zoom, now, while I'm looking at you, than fiddle with it later. This way I can see instantly which crops work and which ones don't when I review."

And my own cautionary tale: One of the best super-simple glam shots I ever did, the model was in a painted-on dress, sumptuous couch she was sprawled on so appealingly you couldn't hardly stand it, and I got a great shot.


Somehow one of her hands got into the Vulcan greeting salute position. I didn't see it. (For those of you who aren't geeky, her index and middle fingers were together, as were her ring and pinky fingers, but they were apart from each other as two pairs. Her hand looks somewhat like a lobster claw.)

It makes me insane when I look at that picture. Everything's so great EXCEPT that hand. Now, perhaps I'm just oversensitive to the Vulcan salute, but from that day on, I look at hands. Where's the thumb? Where are the fingers? (If you can only see three fingers, it can be very jarring.)

MacGyver said...

This happens to me on EVERY shoot.

What sucks the most is that the small details that I miss are ALWAYS on the one frame where everything else was perfect - the light, hair, her expression etc.

I need to learn to slow down and really study the frame when I'm shooting. But I also need to balance it with the fact that the model can get tired too with me constantly going back and forth changing things (no assistants), especially if she has to hold a certain pose or is in an uncomfortable setting. Or the fact that we're racing with the setting sun on the beach.

I'm always worried about her thinking "Damn, this guy takes FOREVER to take a shot. I'm never working with him again"

Steve said...

Geez I give you the source material (inspiration) and no reference to my image...uggg! Good article Jimmy!

jimmyd said...

@Steve, (LOL) I was a little concerned you'd get annoyed at me!

Having said that, and with implicit permission from the pic's creator, (See Comment Above) if anyone's interested in seeing the photo that inspired me to write today's update, here it is:

Steve N. said...

Annoyed...hell yes, but you'll notice I never ignore your advice and direction.

John said...

Quite true.