Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ockham's Razor

Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was the lead engineer at Lockheed's famed "Skunk Works." Johnson, amongst other accomplishments, led Lockheed's development of the SR-71 Blackbird. He was also, at the request of the CIA, one of those responsible for construction of the airbase at Groom Lake, Nevada, later known as Area 51.

One of Lockheed's most famous aircraft, the U2, was flight tested at Area 51. Interestingly, I used to work for a man who was a U2 test pilot. But that's another story for another time.

Johnson's most enduring legacy, in spite of his many aeronautical accomplishments, might be the acronym and phrase he coined: KISS, or "Keep It Simple Stupid."

Simply put, it means don't be stupid, keep it simple!

Johnson wasn't the first to recognize the importance of simplicity. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Albert Einstein is famously quoted for saying, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."

Whether you prefer the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) or Einstein's or Da Vinci's words, the concept of keeping things simple is well-applied to glamour photography.

One of the things I've learned in my many years shooting pretty girls is to keep everything as simple as possible but, as Einstein suggests, no simpler. I've noticed, when working with novice to intermediate pretty girl shooters, they often overly-complicate the process. Something -- Yeah. You guessed it! -- I was guilty as hell of doing for quite a long time.

I'm talking, of course, about the technical aspects of pretty girl shooting, e.g., the lighting, exposure, all that stuff. Unfortunately, while all that seemingly complicated stuff is going on -- assuming you're caught up in it like a fly in a web -- the creative juices are sometimes prevented from freely flowing and opportunities to snap great pics sail by. At times, it causes truly monster problems: The model might begin to question, in her head, your competency or, worse, starts losing interest in the shoot!


Nothing worse than a bored model who thinks you suck as a photographer when you're trying to capture cool images of her!

The dude who started this whole KISS thing was a 14th Century Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. Friar William postulated, Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. It later became known as Ockham's Razor.

What? You don't speak Latin?


Friar William of Ockham wrote, "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." In other words, "The simplest explanation is usually the correct one."

Ockham's Razor is as true for explanations as it is for solutions, designs, U2 spy planes, and even glamour photography.

The concept of simplicity, not multiplying difficulty beyond necessity, is the main theme of my soon-to-be-available ebook, "Guerrilla Glamour." (Which I've been working as hard as a Tennessee plow mule to finish.) Yep. In a nutshell, that's what it's about: Helping pretty girl shooters, almost wherever they are on the learning curve, to simplify their work processes: Be it with their tools (gear) or how they use them, as well as their overall approach to their shoots. The goal, the end result, is shooters focused more on their models, more on the creative stuff, and less on the processes and technical concerns and, in so doing, capturing better photos... by "keeping it simple stupid."

Jami, the pretty girl at the top, seems to understand the value of the KISS principle although she appears to prefer a different sort of KISS. I like her version of it too!


John said...

My personal favorite is supposedly from Pete Seeger, talking about song-writing, but applicable to so much more: "Any darned fool can write complex; real genius lies in simplicity."

jimmyd said...

@John, Thanks! That's a great quote! I'm gonna use it and apply it to glam photography.

joshua said...

This was a hard driven lesson by a high school teacher of mine. He always said to keep it simple when designing.

Stu said...

its why I like one on one for my shoots, just the model and I. Also like just shooting with just my camera as well, leaving home a ton of equipment.

Def a philosophy to live by...