Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn Is In the Air! So Are Discounts

It seems there's more in the air than Autumn. (Fall, if you prefer.) What is that you might ask?

Discounts! That's what.

Ashley Karyl is offering his terrific ebook, "How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional," at 25% off when purchasers use discount code PGSNUDES at checkout. (This comes right on the heels of my discount offer for "Guerrilla Glamour," detailed in my most recent update.)

Karyl's book ( 23 chapters and over 325 pages) is a thorough and comprehensive text covering most everything and anything you ever wanted to know about nude photography. Okay. I'm sure some of you could come up with questions not covered in Ashley's book. Even so, it's a terrific ebook on the subject, well-researched and filled with tons of great info and proven techniques and approaches for successfully photographing models in the nude, whether it's glamour, beauty, or fine art nude.

A veteran, professional, U.K. photographer, Karyl calls on his many years in the jungles of pro pretty-girl-shooting to provide plenty of insight and "how-to" info. If you're serious at all about photographing nudes and you hope to do so in ways that produce professional-quality work, Ashley Karyl's "How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional" is a book for you!

Act now and you can purchase and download this incredibly informative book at 25% off the regular price using the discount code PGSNUDES at checkout. (The discount will be automatically applied to the purchase price.)

BTW, my 30% discount for "Guerrilla Glamour" continues till Oct. 3. Many have already taken advantage of this sale. You can too! Purchase "Guerrilla Glamour" now, till Oct. 3, using discount code WP92610 at checkout and instantly receive 30% off the already low purchase price of $9.95.

And be on the lookout for my new ebook, "Guerrilla Headshots," coming soon. Very soon!

Sorry if I'm sounding like a commercial. Just making sure anyone interested in purchasing either of these ebooks doesn't miss out on the great savings currently offered.

The pretty girl at the top is Sunny. I got a little tricky in post with the image. Something I don't often do. Thought the Fall color in the background works nicely for an update that mentions Autumn in the title.

Monday, September 27, 2010

30% Discount on "Guerrilla Glamour" eBook!

For the Women of Perfection model showcase yesterday, discount coupons for my ebook were distributed to all attendees at the door. This morning, I woke up and thought, "Why not offer the discount to everyone?"

Yeah. Why not?

So, I am.

From now, till October 3, 2010, you can purchase and download "Guerrilla Glamour" for 30% off the regular price of $9.95.

To the many who have already purchased the ebook, thank you for your support! And thanks also for the many positive emails and comments about it on forums and elsewhere!

To take advantage of this limited time offer, go to the Guerrilla Glamour website and click the "Add to Cart" button. On the order page, simply enter discount code WP92610 and 30% will be automatically deducted from your purchase price.

By the way, my 2nd ebook (as of now, I'm calling it "Guerrilla Headshots") will soon be available. Hopefully, I'll be finishing it and releasing it within the next two weeks.

Head shot photography, while rarely featured on this blog, is another photography genre I've worked at for quite some time-- Since about 1980, in fact!

Back in the 80s, I shot hundreds of headshots for actors and actresses and more. To this day, I still shoot headshots as part of my photo-repertoire. While I often still shoot headshots for performers, business people and others have become a big part of that work. As I wrote about with glamour photography as my topic, this new ebook is also filled with tips, advice, suggestions, and "How To" techniques for capturing headshots that, to put it bluntly, don't suck! My new ebook takes the same "Keep it simple" and "How to avoid multiplying difficulty beyond necessity" approach to the genre of headshot photography.

Headshots, whether they're for performers, business people, or, more recently, people simply looking for killer images to use with social media or online dating profiles, can and should be bread-and-butter work for many photographers, pro or not, looking to earn some extra cash with their photography.

Don't wait! You've got till October 3 to purchase "Guerrilla Glamour" at 30% off by simply entering discount code WP92610 on the Guerrilla Glamour order page. The 30% will be automatically deducted from your purchase price.

While you're at it, why not use your savings on "Guerrilla Glamour" to offset the purchase of Ashley Karyl's terrific ebook, "How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional, " or any of Ed Verosky's popular ebooks: "10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now," or "25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques," or his most popular ebook: "100% Reliable Flash Photography."

The beautiful one at the top of this update is one of my favorite models to work with: The Goddess of Glam and Playboy, Penthouse, FHM covergirl and more, Ms. Tera Patrick.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Women of Perfection Model Showcase

Tomorrow, Sunday, 9-26-10, I'll be attending the Women of Perfection model showcase at the Holiday Inn, in Torrance, CA.

The fun starts at Noon and runs till 5:00 P.M. This is Women of Perfection's 37th model showcase event! For more info, click the link above.

Not only will I be there, happily eyeballing a slew of hot models, I'll be leading a 2-hr shooting workshop beginning at 2:45 PM. The gorgeous babe scheduled as my workshop's victim, I mean model, is CJ Perry. That's her in the image. No, I didn't snap the pic. I've never met or worked with CJ before. The pic is one from her Model Mayhem profile. It's a hot shot! Unfortunately, there's no copyright info on the photo or a photographer attribution for this image. Whoever shot it did a great job! If you want to view more photos of CJ, you can find her by going to Model Mayhem, logging in, and using MM# 310114 to see her profile.

So here's the deal: If you're looking for something fun to do tomorrow and you're somewhere in the Southern California area, I think you'll enjoy attending this Women of Perfection event! Plenty of hot models and a workshop too! Bring along a camera whether you plan to attend the workshop or not. Click the link for details.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Be Prepared (Part 4)

Some of you have asked about the thought processes I might engage in prior to a shoot. As I've mentioned -- I don't know how many times -- much of my work involves showing up (which some say is 80% of any job) and quickly figuring out how to proceed. Admittedly, there have also been times (unfortunately, way fewer times) when I've had the luxury of pre-planning a shoot. But that doesn't often happen.

I was going to sit down and write about this as a way of concluding these posts on being prepared when, as luck would have it, I came across an update on Zack Arias's blog that includes a video by photographer, David E. Jackson, where he describes the thought processes that went into a recent commercial editorial shoot he skippered.

As I've also mentioned (once again, "I don't know how many times") I'm kind of lazy. In the spirit of that laziness it occurred to me that I might not need to spend much time writing about this subject as someone else has already talked about it and recorded it and probably communicated it better than I might do with words alone.

Besides watching and listening to D.E. Jackson's insightful video, some of you might pay special attention to Zarias's words in his written introduction. Specifically, "As you are starting on your photographic journey many of your questions will be dealing with cameras and lenses and their settings. What lights were used and with what modifiers. What Photoshop actions were used. Etc. Then the day will come when cameras, lenses, lights and all of their settings don’t mean a damn thing to you any more."

Actually, it's not that they "don't mean a damn thing." They do, of course. But they take a backseat to things that are more important.

You see, once you're passed all that. Once things like gear becomes, in your mind, little more than the tools they are... once your ability to use those tools becomes almost second-nature and semi-automatic, you will be free to focus on the stuff that really matters when creating images. In glamour photography, that "stuff" is most-often embodied by the model.

To go to ZA's blog and view Jackson's video, CLICK HERE.

The gratuitous eye-candy at the top is Kayla. She's posed in front of a non-descript stucco wall. It wasn't my first choice for a background but that's where the client wanted me to shoot. Who am I to argue with the man writing the check? 5' Octo for the main plus a kicker, camera left, modified with a small shoot-thru umbrella, all mixed with ambient daylight and shot mid-day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is "Better" Better?

My local newspaper ran a front-page story this weekend about a 20-year-old local resident who shot himself in the head with a very small, toy-like pistol. He's in critical condition. I wish him a complete recovery.

The man is an employee of the local Goodwill store. According the paper, he was in the "lock-up" room of the store: a room where donated items that might be dangerous or, I'm guessing, of substantial value are locked away.

Police aren't sure if the man attempted suicide or it was an accidental shooting. At this point, they're also not sure if the gun, which they describe as a miniature, "toy-like," weapon, was a donation or the man brought it into the store with him.

According to a Goodwill spokesperson, items such as handguns are sometimes found in the boxes and plastic bags that are dropped off as donations. Usually, the spokesperson said, items such as these are believed to be accidentally included with other donations. When items such as guns are discovered amongst donations, local law enforcement is called and they pick up the item and do whatever they do with it.

Which brings me to photography. (Great segue... not.)

Just like a miniature, "toy-like" handgun can still kill or nearly kill, a camera (miniature, "toy-like" or otherwise amateur-ish) can still take killer pictures.

I'm not suggesting everyone go out and purchase a "toy-like" camera to pursue photography. I am suggesting that the latest, most expensive, professional cameras are not absolutely required for snapping great images.

The man in the story above is in critical condition. I'm not making light of his condition. I feel very bad for what happened to him. Still, the analogy to photography, make that cameras -- sad and tragic as it is -- is obvious. Whether he shot himself with a miniature, "toy-like" handgun or something more weighty and (seemingly) more lethal is moot. The fact remains that he lies in a hospital bed, in critical condition, from his injuries.

Photography is so much more than gear. In my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, I wrote, "You can have the best gear that money can buy and still shoot photos that suck."

Gear is important. The "right" gear, that is.

The Big Two regularly release new versions of their cameras. Certainly, each released version has exciting new bells and whistles and capabilities to play with. But are all those new functions and abilities requisites for taking better pictures?

I suppose that depends on how you define "better."

If your definition of "better" means photos with more pixels and higher resolutions, less noise at high ISOs and more, then I suppose these new products are better.

If your definition of "better" means new cameras which automatically capture more engaging photos, images that touch viewers in "better" ways, more evocative ways, well, in my opinion, these new products are not better. They are merely the same in that, fundamentally, they all do the same thing: They all are capable of capturing images, both good and not so good.

Sure, different varieties of cameras (and accessories) make sense for some genres of photography over others. If I were a sports photographer, I'd certainly choose a camera with high ISO capability, a big buffer, quicker processing, suitable resolution, and more. I'd also want optically terrific, fast, long lenses that are incredibly precise and reliable when it comes to auto-focusing. Yeah, I'd certainly choose a camera like that over a Holga for shooting sports.

Still, there are people wielding Holga cameras, perhaps not shooting sports, who capture incredible and memorable images with their Holgas.

More from my ebook: "While one person might be shooting with the latest-and-greatest and the next is shooting with more commonly-seen gear, guess what? The one with the ordinary equipment is, often enough, just as likely to capture photos as good or better than the gear-head with all the really neat and expensive photo-toys."

Please send your prayers, well-wishes, positive vibes, whatever is your way, to the young man lying in the hospital as a result of the terrible tragedy that happened to him.

The eye-candy at the top is Jayme shot in an empty, tile-walled room in an abandoned hospital in Los Angeles.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Be Prepared (Parte Tre)

The first two parts of this "Be Prepared" stuff focused on gear, including one's brain-- your brain being a piece of gear that should always be with you when shooting. (It should probably always be with you whatever you're doing.)

This time out, I thought I'd babble on a bit about some intangible (perhaps nebulous?) things like shooting with your client's shoes on -- allegorically, of course -- and having passion for what you're doing.

I've rarely, if ever, met a serious photographer who wasn't passionate about his or her work. By "serious photographer" I mean someone who thinks of (and pursues) photography in ways beyond merely using a camera to capture an image of a moment in time simply for the sake of having a photographic remembrance of that image or moment. Generally, that form of photography is called a snapshot.

Serious photographers are usually searching for more evocative and creatively unique ways -- be it with tools, uncommon perspectives, or artistic visions -- of that which lies visually before them. What lies before a photographer could be a beautiful model, a still-life object, an engaging landscape or street scene. It really doesn't matter. What matters is each photographer's point-of-view of the subject and how that point-of-view will be recorded on film or sensor.

Passion is most always a requirement of being prepared. Without passion for what you're doing, you will be less prepared because you care less about the results. When you care more, you automatically work harder to always be prepared.

Sometimes, passion (that is, your personal passion) needs to take a back seat or a second seat to the expectations of someone else. That someone else is called a client. There are many types of clients. Some of them pay you money for your work. Some of them pay you with gratitude or in other ways. Regardless, clients have expectations and those expectations sometimes require you to step into their shoes and shoot in ways that might be contrary to your personal style: That style you're most passionate about and the style you've carefully honed and developed (or hope to develop) as a result of your passion for photography.

It's not always easy to temporarily forgo one's personal style for doing something (in ways that are true to one's photographic passion) in order to help someone else realize their expectations. I've found the best way to do so is to understand what you're client is passionate about and to do all you can (with as much passion as you can) to help your client fulfill their expectations.

If a client wants me to photograph a model in a certain way because the client believes that way is the best way for them to achieve the results they're looking for, then I'm not only going to work hard to achieve those results, I'm going to do so with as much enthusiasm and passion as I can muster.

Clients, by the way, sense and appreciate things like enthusiasm and passion. When they sense those things, coupled with your ability to achieve their expectations, they're more likely to want to remain your clients.

In my world, the Number One thing my clients are passionate about is money. When they hire me, they have expectations that my work, the work I'm quite passionate about, will consistently deliver results that will help them achieve their passion, i.e., make money. That means I might have to forget, for a time, a photographic style I might be most passionate about and adopt a style that will help them, through my efforts, achieve their goals.

Some might see that as "copping out" or as compromising artistic integrity. It probably is just that... to varying degrees.

To those who refuse to compromise, I can only wish I had the luxury to pursue photography purely as an art or a hobby. (Pure artists and hobbyists have no need to compromise.) Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury. I make my living with cameras in my hands. That means I must, at times, compromise. Leastwise, if I want to continue making a living this way. And I generally compromise with passion. Passionately compromising might seem a bizarre way to look at it but it works. Leastwise, it's often worked for me.

Whenever I show up on a set, I'm always prepared to compromise. I always check my ego (at least a big chunk of it) at the door. Another way to look at this, other than compromising, is I'm always prepared to adapt. Adapting goes beyond accommodating the limitations of environments and gear and subjects. Adapting is also about accommodating the needs and expectations of the client, no matter how far removed those needs and expectations might be from my style and personal passion. I think I said that in my first article on this "Be Prepared" subject: Always be prepared to adapt.

None of this is to say I don't share ideas with clients if I think I have a way to accommodate their needs and expectations within the framework of my personal style. I do that regularly. Sometimes, the client recognizes the value of that input. Sometimes, they don't. When they don't, well, that's why I always check as big a part of my ego as possible at the door.

After all, the customer is always right: Even when they're wrong.

The gratuitious eye-candy at the top is Paola. She hails from Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So I guess she's the Girl from Ipanema or a girl from Ipanema, just like in the song.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be Prepared (Part Deux)

In my first installment on the importance of being prepared, I mostly wrote about gear. For Part Two, I'll share some thoughts on another piece of equipment I always try to have with me when going off to shoot: My brain.

My brain is an extremely important piece of gear I always try to have with me (and use) while capturing images of pretty women... but it can sometimes get in the way of the process.

Paralysis Through Analysis: Occasionally, my brain works too hard and isn't as user-friendly as I'd like it to be. It's similar to my computer which, sometimes and for no apparent reason, seems to be overly "thinking" its way through whatever it's doing and, in so doing, freezes up the other processes that should continue functioning efficiently.

You see, my brain, while shooting, sometimes engages in similar behaviors as my computer: It gets itself locked in a loop or becomes partially paralyzed by focusing on one specific thing or another.

That paralysis is usually a result of over-analysis. In other words, my brain is thinking too hard about some of the things it's thinking about rather that remaining free to deal with all the elements of a shoot that are confronting it.

That's not to say careful and deliberate thinking isn't important. It is! When shooting glam, there's certainly plenty to think about: Lighting, exposure, composition, location, location, location, and so much more. But when I become caught in the loop of over-analyzing many of the technical aspects of pretty girl shooting, even some of the creative things as well, the objects of my photography, i.e., the models themselves, risk becoming secondary (or neglected) while all that other thinking is going on.

I've rarely snapped a great pretty girl pic, even when all the technical elements were near-perfect, of a model I somehow, unintentionally, made secondary to the process.

That might seem difficult to conceive. How can a red-blooded, testosterone-driven guy-with-a-camera neglect a beautiful, sexy, alluring, sometimes naked, pretty woman who is standing before him waiting on his every word?

I know. It seems, "Inconceivable!" (As the Sicilian guy exclaimed in the film, "The Princess Bride," during that scene with the poison wine.) But like shit, it happens. Also like shit, it can produce images that look like shit. And it happens to most every pretty girl shooter: We simply become so engrossed and so absorbed in the technical elements that we risk overlooking the most important ingredient to our finished work: The model herself.

Here's what I've found: There's a far greater chance of capturing a great image of a hot model when she is optimally engaged by the photographer -- even when there are technical flaws in the photo -- then there is of capturing an awesome pic of a model when all the technical stuff is "on the money" but the communication and rapport with the model, for whatever reasons, were neglected.

So how do we avoid this happening?

First, learn your gear! It's like riding a bike: Once you've learned to ride a bike your brain never forgets how. Same goes for learning your gear. What I mean is this: Learn how to operate your gear to the point that doing so becomes near-automatic and second nature. I don't care how you accomplish this. I should add that accomplishing it is probably better achieved without wasting a model's time. In other words, learn how to operate your gear before you start learning how to shoot models with it. By doing so, you might not learn a lot about working with models but, once you know all you can about how to use your gear, you'll be free to engage in the process of learning to direct, pose, gain rapport and interact with models.

Next, always continue engaging the model. I don't care if one of your strobes just blew up on the set! (That's happened to me.) Keeping the model constantly in the loop and engaging her with ongoing communication is paramount to snapping great pics of them. If problems arise, have the model take a break. There's no need to keep her standing there, most likely bored, waiting for you to sort things out.

I wrote about this in my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour: "...I'm mostly talking, of course, about the technical aspects of glamour photography: lighting, exposure, post-production and more. You see, while all that seemingly complicated stuff is going on – assuming you are, like I once was, caught in it like a fly in a web – the creative juices are sometimes prevented from freely flowing. Worse, many opportunities to snap great pics sail right by. Sometimes, on a set, it causes other, truly monster problems: Models might begin to question, in their minds, a photographer's competency or, worse, they start losing interest in the shoot!

While Murphy's Law, Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, often rears it's ugly head while shooting, there are few things worse, glamour production-wise, than a bored model who thinks you suck as a photographer when you're trying to capture really cool, sexy, alluring images of her!"

The pretty girl at the top (with the sternly intense look) is a headshot of my ex (and mother of my first born) who was an actress. (These days, she's a psychologist/therapist and a Dean at a High School.) Photo captured circa 1980! (Damn! Time flies!) It's a scan of an old print. Photo captured with a Canon AE-1, probably with a Canon 135 prime and using Kodak Plus-X 125. Shot it in my garage with a white seamless behind her. Film processed and printed by yours truly in my little, home, B&W-only darkroom I had at the time. BTW, I'm working on my new ebook and it's focused on headshot photography. Should be available for purchase and download by the end of the month.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Be Prepared (Part One)

People sometimes ask how I plan for shoots and what my thought processes might be prior to the actual shutter-clicking. I'll start with the "planning" part first.

When I was a kid, I was a Boy Scout. As all Boy Scouts know, the Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared."

Being prepared is extremely important for photographers. Unfortunately, we can't always be as prepared as we'd like to be. There's a whole host of variables that might come into play on the day of a shoot, especially variables that fall under the heading of Murphy's Law.

This is especially true for glamour photographers, even more so for glamour photographers who, like me, regularly work in environments and on productions where photography isn't the only thing going on during the course of the production day. That might not be the case for many of you but that's how it usually is for me.

Doing the kind of work I've done for these past many years, I've learned the lessons of being prepared fairly well. What is it I've learned to be prepared for? Mostly, being prepared for things I can't always specifically prepare for, whether those things have to do with shooting locations and environments, the levels of experience of the models, the amount of time I'll be allotted to shoot, what the lighting and other conditions might be, what special expectations the clients might have and more.

Most of that stuff is usually answered within minutes of my arrival on a shooting set. Often enough, the answers are not what I was hoping to hear. Fortunately, and because I was once a Boy Scout and already knew that I always need to "Be Prepared," I've learned to "Be Prepared" for things that aren't often revealed to me in advance. Again, I usually discover them, as I already mentioned, upon arriving on a set.

Time is money. We're all familiar with that old phrase. When you're working on production sets, e.g., video production sets where a fair amount of money (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars a day) is being spent on people and things other than the photographer and/or the photography, there's not much room or allowances given for being unprepared.

Video production sets are similar to taxi cabs in that there's a meter running all the time, albeit an invisible meter. Still, it's a meter everyone is keenly aware of, especially those people who will later cut checks to the metaphorical cab's passengers, that is, the cast and crew.

As a photographer on these sorts of shooting sets, here's the two most important things that are expected of me:

1. Capturing professional-quality images that can be exploited for a variety of uses including advertising and marketing materials, DVD packaging art work, magazine layouts, web content.

2. Capturing those images as quickly as I can and with as little adverse impact on other aspects of the production (or the production's cast and crew) as possible.

So, how does one prepare for factors that are unknown until arriving on a set? I suppose, in simplest terms, the answer lies in being prepared to adapt.

The first rule of being prepared to adapt has to do with bringing along gear that can be adapted for use in various environments. Unless the production day is scheduled at a studio, I rarely know in advance if I'll be shooting daylight exteriors or location interiors or both. I rarely know in advance how many models/performers I'll be shooting. I rarely know if the environment, assuming it's a location shoot (which it often is) will be "picture-friendly" or not.

It might sound like being prepared for these unknown variables means packing a lot of gear, especially lighting and grip gear. That's not necessarily true. It does mean bringing gear that can be used in a variety of ways and can be easily moved about, set up, broken down, set up again and broken down again. Sometimes, quite a few times in the same day. (By the way, in the interest of shameless self-promotion, there's an entire chapter on gear, covering all kinds of very useful and adaptable equipment, in my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour.)

Some of you might be thinking those requirements are a good argument for using small-flash instruments like speedlites. Small-flash photography can certainly be effective, yielding great results. But, for my work, small-flash sources often don't provide enough lighting power. That leaves monolights as my usual first-choice. They certainly provide the power I'll need for most situations and environments. Since that's the case, I always pack at least three monolights. Fortunately, they don't take up too much storage space and they're usually packed in a single Pelican case.

I always bring along a moderate selection of modifiers with me, from softboxes to umbrellas to scrims. Again, these items don't take up much storage space--I usually have them packed in a single bag--and they are easily set up and broken down. BTW, baseball bat bags are inexpensive, easily slung over one's shoulder, and are great for storing and carrying umbrellas and softboxes. They can also handle a few stands and grip arms.

Light stands (and grip arms) are important. For me, stands need to be sturdy and easily moved about. I'm a big fan of "baby" stands on wheels, especially those made of aluminum alloys. They're lightweight yet sturdy and stable and, with wheels, are easily moved about. I'm also a fan of C-stands, especially those with "Rocky Mountain" legs (Rocky Mountain legs allow for leveling the stand on uneven terrain or stairs) and those that have what's called a "Turtle" base. (The riser column removes from the base for easy transport and/or attaching modifiers very low to the ground.)

Reflectors are always with me. I regularly use reflectors with artificial lighting to bounce in some fill or when I'm shooting outdoors using natural light, again for fill and sometimes for adding highlights. I usually carry 2 or 3 collapsible reflectors with me. I prefer those with interchangeable fabric covers, like Westcott's 5-in-1 reflector.

Besides lights, modifiers, and stands, I always have stingers (heavy-duty extension cords), a few sandbags, black gaffer's tape, a selection of both metal and plastic "A" clamps, and black cine-foil with me. Black foil is great for flagging light spill caused by lighting instruments as well as fashioning into make-shift snoots and other small, light-control uses. Also, I usually pack some black duvetyne in case I need to cover something up in the background or use it to flag unwanted light. Most importantly, I always bring along an apple box so I'm sure I'll have something to plop my ass on while shooting or waiting to shoot. (Waiting to shoot often takes up big chunks of my days on video production sets.)

Also, from the time I became a happy owner/user of an Innovatronix ExplorerXT portable power system, it always accompanies me to sets. I never know whether there's going to be A/C available wherever it is they'll have me shooting. The ExplorerXT takes care of that concern nicely and near-effortlessly.

All of the above, of course, is in addition to cameras, glass, wireless triggers, CF cards, light meter, and whatever else is in my camera bag.

The pretty girl in front of my camera in the picture at the top, at a location house in Las Vegas, is Devon. Please note the truly dumb placement of the power cord. Yep. I tripped over that cord moments after the behind-the-scenes image was snapped. Fortunately, only my ego was bruised. I didn't drop my camera and, while the modified light (and stand) it was attached to fell over, the Photoflex Octodome cushioned its fall.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Do Reading Patterns Corrolate to Viewing Patterns?

Sometimes, I just think about stuff. Stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, isn't of too much importance.

I read a short article on F-Shaped reading patterns today.

The article got me to thinking.

About photography.

As photographers, we know that most viewers' eyes are drawn to the brightest areas of an image. We also know that if those bright areas aren't areas we'd prefer to draw our viewer's eyes to, those bright areas can often be labeled as "distracting."

Most of us are also aware that compositional (and other techniques) can lead the viewers' eyes to where we want them to go. Things like lines (especially diagonal lines), shapes, forms, textures, patterns, and color, i.e., all the Six Elements of Design, can be used to lead viewer's to where we want them to go: To go with their eyes as well as their minds. (I shoot a lot of stuff where it's pretty obvious where I'm leading viewers' minds. Just sayin.)

Other techniques, things like perspective and depth of focus, are powerful techniques for sucking viewer's in to aspects or portions of an image we want to suck them into.

Now, I'm wondering if the notion of reading patterns can also be integrated into the compositional elements of a photograph? Sure, it might be subtle. But subtlety often wields great power, especially in art.

I'm not suggesting tossing out "S" curves (in posing glam models) in favor of "F" curves. (Not that there are curves in Fs.) I am wondering if the F-Shaped reading pattern concept can be applied to composition?

Let's see... How could that be accomplished?

Well, if we hook up "F" patterns with the Rule of Thirds, it might suggest that certain parts of an image, that is, the spatial areas created by dividing an image into 9 equal parts, plus the lines and intersections used when dividing an image per the Rule of Thirds, might be used in ways to exploit those "F" shaped reading patterns?

Am I thinking too hard here?

If you look at the eye-tracking examples in the three images shown in the link I provided above, you might see how using reading patterns might (and I strongly use the word "might") be used in the composition of a photographic image.

It might also suggest that going against placing important elements that somehow form an "F" pattern could create more tension in a photo, albeit subtle tension. Or, it could simply add subtle nuances that increase appreciation for an image.

All this probably sounds like I'm taking "details" to a new high. (Or low, depending how you perceive it.) But then, the devil is in the details... and so is your best work!

I should also add I'm not advocating purely geometric approaches to photographic composition even if geometry can often be your friend. I'm also not suggesting photographers engage in artistic paralysis through analysis.

Okay. Now my brain hurts.

The pretty girl at the top, void of any "F" shaped reading pattern, is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Photographer/Model Etiquette

Etiquette is a code of social behavior generally accepted by a society, a social class, or a group.

Photographers constitute a group and, as such, have additional codes of acceptable behaviors. It includes many of the same ideas about acceptable social behaviors as put forth by society at large -- although it's not always evident when reading through more than a few photography forum threads -- and also includes a few unique codes, i.e., unique to photographers.

Glamour photographers are, of course, a smaller group within the group known as photographers. Glamour photographers, like all groups, have a few more codes of behavior that are considered acceptable by the overall group. Much like the acceptable behaviors of many groups, codes of etiquette amongst photographers, glam shooters or otherwise, are not strictly adhered to by everyone.

I'm not going to get preachy. I'm not going to go all "P-C" on everyone. I'm not going to pretend I've never broken the acceptable rules of etiquette amongst photographers, pretty girl shooters or otherwise. But I am aware of these "rules" and I try to regularly practice them, especially when working with models.

My ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, in the chapter I called "Glamour Girls," talks about "Model Etiquette." Actually, it talks about a whole lot of things as they pertain to working with models -- finding models, directing models, interacting with models, posing them, getting attitude and expression out of them and more -- "etiquette" is just one of them.

In addition to the simple appropriateness of engaging in acceptable social behaviors when working with models, engaging in proper etiquette often yields dividends: When models are relaxed and aren't wondering what's really going on in a shooter's head, they work harder at giving you more of what you need to snap killer shots!

Since lists seem to be so popular on many photography blogs, especially those that include tips on capturing better images, I thought I'd steal from my ebook and post a few of those photographer/model rules of etiquette -- leastwise, abbreviated versions of them -- here for this update.

1. Don't Touch the Models: Like signs at zoos that read, “Don't Feed the Animals,” I sometimes think there should be signs on sets that read, “Don't Touch the Models.” Just because you might be paying a model to pose for you doesn't mean she's agreed to let you get all touchy-feely with her.

2. Avoid Intimate Talk: While photographing glamour might sometimes feel somewhat intimate, perhaps more so when the model is naked, it's not an intimate situation in the normal sense of the word. Just because you're comfortable speaking in a fairly intimate way with models doesn't mean they are comfortable hearing it.

3. Give Models Their Space: Violating people's air space makes many of them uncomfortable. Models are people. Give them their space. Don't hover or intrude too closely. If you need to get in close to get the shot, do so, then back away.

4. Shooting Sets Aren't Libraries or Funeral Parlors: Keeping things too quiet, whether it's a result of your silence or a lack of music or ambient noise, tends to make models less than comfy.

5. Be Aware of Your Demeanor: When your demeanor appears low-key or noticeably less than up-beat, many models, perhaps most, will assume, right or wrong, it has something to do with them.

If you want to read more about working with models, as well as a whole lot more about shooting glamour photography in general, you can purchase and instantly download my ebook, "Guerrilla Glamour," by clicking HERE.

The pretty girl at the top, hiding a few of her assets, is Jayme.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Same Old, Same Old?

It seems commercial/music/boudoir photographer, Ed Verosky, can't help writing about photography in any way other than with an interesting perspective and much insight.

I suppose he just naturally rolls that way.

Besides being a kick-ass shooter, ebook author, and photography blogger, Ed also puts out a newsletter. A free newsletter! A free newsletter that often contains great tips and a goodly amount of photo-wisdom. If you're serious about this thing we do, this photography thing, you might want to sign-up for Ed's newsletter. It's always a welcome arrival in my email folder! You can sign up for Ed's newsletter HERE.

Now that I have the ass-kissing out of the way, here's what I want to write about today. It's something that draws on the subject of Ed's most recent newsletter.

In his latest newsletter, Ed talks about wedding photography and the similarities between many photos many wedding shooters snap. Sure the people and names change but, often, the photos seem nearly identical in terms of pose, set-ups, content. So much so, one might think creativity amongst wedding photographers leaped out the window!

But, as Ed wisely observes, there's a reason for all the similarities in wedding photos. To boil it down to one word, that word would be "tradition."

Generally, people hire wedding photographers because their portfolios are jammed full of images that are A) Good, and B) Look familiar, that is, they look like many photos in many portfolios by many photographers. Potential clients would be hard-pressed not to see the similarities in the content and approach to the pictures from one photographer to another. Believe it or not, that's a good thing. (It also means whoever gets hired will depend on other factors and variables outside of the general content and approach to the wedding photos featured in a photographer's portfolio.)

Most people, the vast majority of them, don't want wedding pics that are too far outside the traditional types of photos they see in the wedding albums of their friends and relatives. Sure, there are stylistic elements that can vary from one shooter to another, leastwise in terms of how those traditional poses and set-ups might be captured. After all, photography is dynamic and always evolving. But, for the most part and in more than a few ways, people want the same old, same old. (With a touch of contemporary style and twists.)

Which brings us to glamour photography.

Most of what we call glamour today, i.e., photos that sell the beauty and allure of models, also has roots that are traditional and founded in years of glamour photography. Often enough, so much of what we see in contemporary glamour photography looks more than a little familiar. Sure, stylistic changes go in and out of vogue. For the most part, however, and style aside, there are proven and routinely photographed glamour poses and setups that many people, viewers of those pics, expect to see. This holds even more truth when it comes to clients!

Let's say you're shooting a drop-dead-sexy-and-gorgeous model and you're hoping to submit the photos to, as an example, Playboy. Shooting that model in ways that are rare or new or totally outside Playboy's traditional "box" and style is not going to ingratiate you to the people at Playboy who decide who will be shooting for them. In fact, you'll get further along with them by shooting the model in ways that look very similar to how Playboy's shooters photograph their models.

Often enough, I hear how many of my photos look the same. This observation is not intended as a compliment but I take it as one. (Well, sort of.)

Consistency is something my clients value. They also value my ability to shoot glamour and tease shots in ways that are familiar to their customers. Yeah, they want the images technically superior. And they certainly don't mind a bit of style added: Style that helps those images pop, stand-out, and be memorable. What my clients don't want is me experimenting with whole new and rarely-seen approaches to glamour photography. (Nothing wrong with that as long as it's on my dime and time.)

My clients, like everyone's clients, have expectations. Those expectations include, amongst other things, shooting images that aren't so completely unlike the images used or published by their competitors. They expect me to deliver on those expectations: Expectations that don't always leave a whole lot of wiggle-room for getting unusually and overtly creatively distinctive.

The same holds true, it seems, for wedding photographers and many other types of photographers as well.

The two pretty girls at the top, seemingly about to engage in a bit of Sapphic frolicking (or not) are Jayme (r) and, uhh... Damn! There goes my brain again! Can't seem to recall the name of the pretty girl on the left. Oh well. Getting old sucks and all that.

BTW, if you're interested in Ed Verosky's ebooks, and they're certainly worth, in my opinion, the investment, you can find them and purchase-and-download them at the following links:

10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now
25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques
100% Reliable Flash Photography