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.


EleganceAndChaos said...

I know you did a post about how you became a pretty girl shooter. I thought a post on the intangible elements of passion, a unique perspective and your ability to relate to your clients being just as important as your equipment might be a good topic.

This is a great video of David Bergman a sports shooter that transformed into a concert shooter.

The f-stopper crew is really starting to make some noise too. I see big things for them from their small idea.

jimmyd said...


Thanks! Cool vid! I'll probly get to some of that other stuff in part 3 of Be Prepared.