Thursday, October 28, 2010

25% Discount On All Ed Verosky's eBooks AND MORE!

At the risk of this blog sometimes appearing like a text infomercial for ebooks, a good deal is a good deal and I like passing on good deals to people. Especially, when it's an even better deal on an already good deal!

From now, till October 31, you can purchase any or all of Ed Verosky's ebooks for 25% off their normal price by using the discount code PHOTOBOOKS at checkout. Your discount will be automatically deducted from the purchase price.

Here's the links (below) to Ed's terrific ebooks. Or, you can click the ads in the right hand column of this page. Either way, it will take you to the same place. I like having options, even when it's simply about where I can click and yet still arrive at the same place.

100% Reliable Flash Photography

10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now

25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques

Once again, simply provide the discount code PHOTOBOOKS at checkout.

As long as I'm talking about ebooks, I'll have a new one released in the coming week. It's called Guerrilla Headshots. It's finished (just doing a bit of editing and proofing) and provides the same kind of road map to awesome headshot photography that Guerrilla Glamour does for pretty girl shooting. The new ebook has about 10 pages more than Guerrilla Glamour contains in its 101 pages. It tackles the subject of shooting headshots in the same sort of conversational tone as its predecessor, with plenty of examples and tips and suggestions. It's headshot photography from soup to nuts, even with a chapter on how to score gigs and how to make occasional G-Jobs ("G" stands for gratis) an effective part of your marketing strategies.

Photography being photography, there's some information in Guerrilla Headshots that will be familiar if you read my glamour ebook. (Although its been revised to reflect the new subject matter.) But the big majority of the book is new and fresh. It's taken me almost two months to write this new ebook. Guerrilla Headshots is aimed at photographers new-to through intermediate level with headshot photography.

I've been shooting headshots, mostly for Hollywood hopefuls and other entertainment industry up-and-comers, since about 1980. I also shoot business folks and other professionals. Headshots has remained my second bread-and-butter job, second to glamour photography, for a long time. If you're not going after the many opportunities headshot photography represents, this new ebook might motivate you to do so. If you're already shooting headshots, perhaps it will help you increase your production efficiency as well as the quality of your work.

BTW, as far as I know, you can still purchase Ashley Karyl's How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional for 25% off with discount code PGSNUDES at checkout. You can also purchase any book at Pro Photo Publishing for 10% off until midnight, October 31, 2010 with discount code FRIENDSOFPPR.

Okay. Enough about ebooks already. The pretty girl portrait at the top -- I think it's more a portrait than a glamour shot, albeit with nudity - is Cindy. It's lit with three lights: Mainlight modified with a Mola "Euro" beauty dish, a kicker to the left, behind her, modified with a medium strip box, and a subtle hair light, boomed overhead, modified with a small, rectangular softbox, slightly from the right, up high and from behind. Platinum blond hair, like that on Cindy's head, can be a real challenge to keep from blowing out!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sweet Spot

Lots of things have sweet spots. The term, sweet spot, originated with sporting equipment. It generally refers to things like baseball bats, tennis rackets, golf clubs, and so on. When you hit a ball with your bat, racket, or club, and contact is made with the ball precisely at the sweet spot, you know it immediately because it feels, well, really sweet! Not only does it feel sweet, it's also the optimum point to make contact with the ball delivering the best response. In baseball, most home runs happen when a batter swings and makes powerful and smooth contact with the ball at the bat's sweet spot.

Like many words and terms, using the term sweet spot has evolved and can be applied to many things in many ways. When you refer to a thing's sweet spot, people generally know exactly you're talking about.

In photography, there are a few things that can be defined as having sweets spots. A specific aperture for a given lens, for instance, has a sweet spot. Generally, it's an f-stop, usually somewhere in the middle of the lens's range of apertures, where the sharpest images will be captured. Digital cameras also have sweet spots: They mostly refer to the optimum ISO, usually ISO 100 or ISO 200, that produces the best results.

I've noticed, after many years of shooting many pretty girls, there's a point during a shoot that I refer to as its sweet spot. It's a point in time -- not simply a point in time but a duration of time -- that can be fleeting or last for a fair while. It's when the model truly gets into her groove and magic happens!

I've trained myself to be constantly on the lookout for the sweet spot time during production shoots. I've become very sensitive to this glamour-photo-phenomenon. I've gotten to the point where I can usually and intuitively feel it coming and know, precisely, when it has arrived. Even if I don't sense its imminent arrival, when it does happen I always know it when I see it. (Or know it when I feel it.) I'm keenly aware that when the model, the lighting, my shutter-clicking rhythm and everything else is in the grip of the sweet spot, it is that time, most likely, when The Shot will be captured.

When I realize I'm suddenly clicking my shutter during the sweet spot, knowing the best work from a shoot will more than likely be captured, I consciously put myself into hyper-drive. No, I don't mean I become "hyper" as in a nervous-like emotional or psychological condition. What I mean is I force my brain to go into (what I can only describe as) hyper-drive: A condition where I force my senses, focus my energy, and pay even more critical attention to what's in my viewfinder. I also become super-sensitive to how I'm composing my shots, trying my best to be in touch with spontaneous creativity, all the while moving and jumping quickly to whatever Angle of Attack (i.e., my shooting angle and/or perspective) that, I hope, will yield the best results. During this time, I try to take every advantage of those many or few moments the sweet spot exists by being the best shooter I can be.

If there's ever a time during a photo shoot to "feel the force," it's when you know a shoot's sweet spot has arrived! I think most experienced photographers know what I'm talking about with all this sweet spot stuff. It would be difficult to describe, in specific terms, how to recognize the sweet spot. For many, certainly for me, I know it when I see it or feel it. It's probably like that for many of you as well.

Even though I cannot exactly describe how to recognize the sweet spot, I think simply describing its existence might help some of you be on the look-out for it. Granted, it's often quite subtle. Sometimes, however, it's so powerful I have a hard time believing any photographer would not realize it's happening when it's happening. Regardless, now that you're aware of it (if you were not already) I believe you will quickly become sensitive to it and aware of when it happens.

Perhaps all this sweet spot stuff, as it applies to the dynamics between model, photographer, gear, and environment during a production shoot, sounds a bit metaphysical, ethereal, or transcendental? I hope not. For me, it's very real, almost tangible. I rarely fail to know, no matter how subtly it reveals itself, when it's in front of me. It's a connection to the moment, hopefully many more moments than a single moment, between the model and me, that is, "me" as in my camera. As I already mentioned, a shoot's sweet spot is when the magic happens. Learn to recognize it. Don't let it pass you by without taking every advantage of its temporary existence.

Although there's no telling when, during the course of a shoot, the sweet spot arrives, once it does arrive it does not often last until you're done shooting. Most models get into their sweet spot time but don't often continue in it for as long as we might like. Whether it's because they begin to tire or lose (keen) interest or something else I can't put a finger on, their sweet spot durations tends to be finite in length.

The gratuitous eye-candy at the top is Kat. She's got plenty of sweet spots! By the way, if you have a few spare moments, check out the article I wrote for Pro Photo Resource. It's called, "Glamour Photography: Keep It Simple, Keep It Strong." There's plenty of terrific articles on Pro Photo Resource. It's a great place for photographers to learn and expand their levels of awareness of this this thing we do, this photography thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Easy As Pie Lighting Setups

The video (shown further down below) depicts lighting setups that are easily achieved. In this case, photographer Jyrki Vesa uses a Photoflex collapsible diffuser (a scrim) to simply and efficiently modify his twin-speedlight main-light rig. (Ya think Jyrki's name is pronounced like it looks? Jerky?)

Regardless, there's nothing jerky about Jerky's setups. They're simple, practical, and get the job done with little fuss-n-muss. (Keeping things simple being the notion I repeatedly beat readers over the head with in my Guerrilla Glamour ebook.)

I've shot a bunch of times using a simple, flat diffuser (a scrim) as a modifier. One of my scrims is attached to a shaft and opens like an umbrella. It's the one I most often use when modifying a source light with a flat diffuser. It doesn't matter, BTW, if you use small flashes, a monolight, or a head, you'll generally get the same results.

Like a reflective umbrella, a flat diffuser will spread the light over a wide area. Then why not use an umbrella? The difference, I've found, in using a flat scrim over an umbrella is the light spreads more evenly and flatly. I'm no physicist but I'm thinking the parabolic shape of an umbrella keeps the light more focused towards the center of wherever the umbrella is pointing. In other words, while umbrellas aren't the best choice when light control is your goal, and neither is a scrim, an umbrella is going to trump a flat diffuser in terms of light spread.

Here's the video. Enjoy.

Strobist_BigLight from Jyrki Vesa on Vimeo.

The pretty girl at the top is Alexis. She's about to jump into the shower but graciously gave me a few minutes to set-up and photograph the experience. I lit Alexis with two light sources: My handy-dandy scrim-on-a-shaft for a mainlight and a small, shoot-thru umbrella, to the left, as a kicker.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Photo eBooks-a-Palooza

If you think digital technologies have transformed the world of photography, you're right. (D'uh!) You probably also know that digital has and is transforming the world of publishing. (Another "D'uh.") One of the ways it's doing that is via ebook publishing.(That's three "D'uhs." in a row.)

Whether you read ebooks on your PC, MAC, or iPad, or with a Kindle, Sony Reader, or NOOK, you're part of a big group (growing bigger by the day) who enjoy the convenience and other joys of ebook reading.

I know I've become a big fan of ebooks. In fact, these days it seems like I'm satisfying most of my entertainment, reading, learning and yearning and other needs all from the same spot: Sitting at my computer. I'm accomplishing all of this either by visiting the internet's many websites, blogs, and forums, via ebooks, or with Netflix and its instant streaming feature.

The downside of all this, of course, is it means I'm getting out less and less and my ass seems to have taken on the shape of the seat of the chair I have in front of my computer. In today's digital world, it seems many former couch potatoes have become computer chair potatoes. If I didn't shoot photos, I'd probably get out even less! (Another reason for being thankful for having photography as such a big part of my life.)

I just came across, what looks like, another great source for satisfying my photography ebook habit: They have some very cool titles available like: "Lighting the Evocative Nude" and "Photographing Swimwear" and their newest, "On the Set w/ Steve Dantzig."

Dantzig is a well-known portrait, glamour, and fashion photographer, author of quite a few books on photography, frequent contributor to rags like Rangefinder and Professional Photographer magazines, and runs the Hawaii School of Photography.(Damn! That dude is all over photography, no?)

Anyway, you can CLICK HERE to visit (or on the banner ad in the right-hand column) to check out Pro Photo Publishing's many offerings. Who knows? One of their books might catch your eye and be exactly what you're looking for to help better your photo-capturing skills and awareness.

BTW, Ashley Karyl's terrific, How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional, can still be purchased at 25% off the listed price by using the discount code PGSNUDES at checkout.

Did I mention my new ebook, Guerrilla Headshots, will soon be available? I'm happy to report it will.

I've finished writing it and now I'm editing, doing some re-writing, proofing and all that good stuff. It came in at 100 pages and, I believe, will help photographers learn and advance their headshot photography skills to the front. I've been regularly shooting headshots since about 1980. Mostly for hundreds of Hollywood hopefuls, other sorts of entertainers and artists, and business people alike. Headshot photography should be bread-and-butter work for any photographer who is currently earning income, or simply looking to make a few extra bucks, with cameras in their hands. If your shooting headshots strictly for fun or favors, that's cool too! I'm confident my soon-to-be-available, Guerrilla Headshots ebook will help you out as well.

The pretty girl at the top is Lisa. This sweet piece of eye-candy was captured in a studio using three lights: 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main light and a couple of strip boxes either side from behind. I was wielding a Canon 5D w/ a Canon 85mm prime hanging off its front-end, using f/5.6 at 125, ISO 100, for my exposure.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Editing: The Other White Meat?

Editing is the process of selecting the best images from your photo shoots. Whether you call them “selects” or “keepers” or however you might label them, these are the images you believe are the best or best accomplish the purpose of your shoot.

Editing is a less-talked-about skill, certainly in terms of it being a "hard" photographic skill. It reminds me of those ads that designate pork the “other white meat.” There's so much written and talked-about regarding gear, shooting, post-processing, retouching and image manipulation software that editing must feel like a neglected little piglet-- The runt of the litter.

But editing is wildly important! It's where your discerning eye, your eye for detail, your general sense of aesthetics and judgment regarding what works and what doesn't work shines like a “ringer” suddenly and significantly brought into play.

Have you ever looked at an image some photographer has posted on a forum or a blog or elsewhere and wondered why in the world did they pick *that* one? More so when it's somewhat obvious the photographer has tried, really hard, to make the shot work? Maybe it's just me but I sometimes think Lightroom and Photoshop have meant more photographers are working harder than ever before trying to make silk purses out of sow's ears.

When film ruled and the processing costs were greater and the ability to manipulate images was less, I think photographers were forced, by economic necessities and limited processing technologies, to become better editors. (If not better photographers.) Just sayin. Probably not for the first time.

I've also said this before and I'll say it again: You cannot frost a turd! Well, actually you can. Certainly, you can try. But under all that caked-on frosting, it's still a turd. The only difference between one frosted turd and another is how quickly viewers might come to the conclusion the photo is, in reality, a frosted turd. (I'm not saying I don't ever frost turds. I do. And so, probably, do you.)

What makes this worse is, often enough, I'll bet there's images amongst the many a turd-froster might have captured that aren't, well... aren't turds. But, for some reason known only to the turd-froster -- probably some small and insignificant thing that created some sort of bond between artist and turd -- a turd was chosen.

So much regarding editing, of course, is purely subjective. My opinions of the worth of one capture versus another aren't necessarily more valid than the opinions of others, regardless of my professional experience. The truth is, there are many shooters out there, pros and hobbyists alike, who are as good or better shooters than I am, whether they're shooting glamour or just about anything else.

Along those same lines of people being better shooters than me, the "skill" where I sometimes think I might have an edge over some of those people, not all of them but some, is via the process of editing. It's too bad more photographers, myself included, aren't “sharing” more of their raw images from shoots, along with the shot they (or I) decided was The Shot.

An explanation of the process photographers use to edit their shots down to that one shot might be quite revealing, regardless of whether the shot they decided is The Shot makes some sort of artistic or technical "sense" qualifying it as such... Or, in reality, is a turd, frosted or otherwise.

I don't remember the name of the hot little tamale at the top. I only recall I shot her for Playboy/Club Jenna a few years back. She's not outside on a small patio. She's posing inside a home in front of a glass sliding door that looks out to the small veranda.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mastering Simplicity

Well known British mathematician, Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman, once said, "Technical skill is mastery of complexity while creativity is mastery of simplicity."

While Sir Erik's quote doesn't specifically address photography or photographers, there's much for photographers to think about (and hopefully learn) from his words.

Photography is part science and part art. No revelation there.

Interestingly, I see many photographers painfully focused on the complexity of technical skills (the science) while too often neglecting the simplicity of creative skills (the art) both in their work and the way they go about performing it.

My ebook, "Guerrilla Glamour," addresses photography's science/art duality and strongly suggests shooters spend more of their time mastering simplicity than struggling with complexity. In other words, keep it simple stupid. In fact, that's the major theme of my ebook... plus it's about shooting pretty girls in glamorous and provocative ways, of course.

BTW, my "guerrilla" photographer theme must be catching on. Just today, I read an article on Digital Photography School's website titled, "Why You Need To Be A Guerrilla Travel Photographer – And How To Become One." I'm not saying the good folks at Digital Photography School borrowed my guerrilla theme. I'm just saying.

I'm also not downplaying the importance of technical skills needed to shoot good pics. But the truth is, especially if you're either a part-time or full-time auto-shooter, there's not as much to learn (techy and science-wise) as some would have many believe. That's the whole point of auto-this and auto-that, isn't it? To flatten the learning curve? To make the science of photography as no-brainer as possible? To automate many of the technical functions of photography and thereby simplifying them?

It's not like mastering the creative use of auto-modes is tantamount to going to brain surgeon's school. Sure, there's still plenty to learn when you're dedicated to snapping really good images, even when you're using auto-everything. So why do so many folks seem to make things more difficult for themselves? More importantly, why are they making complex out of that which is specifically and technologically designed and manufactured to be, uhhh... non-complex?

One would think all the freeing-up of photographers' brain reserves -- you know, because they don't have to dedicate as much gray matter (as they once did) to storage space for technical things -- would mean they're now able, almost entirely, to concentrate on simplicity and how it's such a big part of creativity.

I've almost completed my new ebook, "Guerrilla Headshots." It should be out this month. Like it's predecessor, "Guerrilla Glamour," it's focused on doing things as simply and efficiently, with less (and less expensive) gear and fewer technical concerns. This time out, my ebook targets headshot photography, a sub-genre of general portrait photography and something I've been actively shooting since around 1980. It's probably a genre many of you are called on, fairly frequently, to shoot as well.

The pretty girl at the top is Chayse, captured inside a warehouse and in front of a windowed, roll-up door. The warehouse is located somewhere in down-town Los Angeles. I doubt I could find it again without directions. If you've ever been to downtown LA, in and around skid-row and the produce and flower markets, you know how maze-like it is down there.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Storytelling in a Single Frame

There's a terrific (albeit brief) article in this month's Smithsonian magazine about a Norman Rockwell exhibition. While the article mostly concerns itself with the Smithsonian's exhibition of Norman Rockwell's art and talks about two of Rockwell's most ardent admirers, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, there's lots to learn (certainly to consider) from Rockwell about photography. Especially if you pursue photography with a mind towards telling stories with your photos.

Most of my glamour and tease photography isn't much concerned with telling stories unless you consider hot models beckoning viewers to come share the delights of their hotness a story.

Still, my photographic interests go further than hot, sexy models. Maybe not way, way, WAY further but further. Perhaps yours do too?

Lucas and Spielberg say they're powerfully drawn to Rockwell's work because of the iconic American artist's incredible ability to tell a story, a very detailed story, within a single frame. You know, like a photo is a single frame.

Movies, more often than not, need to communicate lots of information in short time periods. Hence, the big interest in Rockwell's art by the two uber-directors mentioned above. (Who both just happen to own impressive Rockwell collections.) Photographs, unlike movies (and when they're telling stories) have merely a single, static frame to tell those stories. (Unless you're making diptychs and triptychs, I suppose... but you knew that, right? Of course you did.)

Although Rockwell worked as a painter and illustrator, the story-telling details in his work offers much inspiration and illumination for photographers--even glamour photographers--certainly glamour photographers who sometimes hope to tell stories within a single frame. You know, much the way more than a few fashion photographers claim they're always doing even when, to the eyes of many viewers, there ain't much story going on. (Just sayin, ya know?)

In Rockwell's work, it's the details that help move the story along. Like reading books, you don't "get" Rockwell's stories by simply glancing at the covers. In Rockwell's case, the "cover" being your overall and initial impression of the painting or illustration and the "text" of his "book" revealed by carefully examining the details in his paintings and illustrations.

Often enough, I've stressed the importance of details when shooting glamour photography. Details (when capturing pretty girls) which might or might not be of a story-telling nature. Still, whether your photos are telling stories or saying something else, the Devil is in the details and so is your best work!

All of us, as photographers--glamour photographers or otherwise--would do well to look closely at Rockwell's work and learn much from it. Sure, as a glam shooter I'm probably not going to suddenly include the wholesomeness and "apple pie" attributes of Rockwell's work in mine. Leastwise, not my glamour and tease photography. But even for the genre this blog mostly concerns itself with, there's plenty to learn from Norman Rockwell. There's even more to learn from him if and when you're shooting other photographic genres.

The image at the top, with a subject far removed from anything Norman Rockwell might paint, was captured the same day as the image in my previous update. (You know, my previous update that informs you of the 25% discount when purchasing Ashley Karyl's kick-ass ebook, "How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional" and how you get that discount by using the code, PGSNUDES, when purchasing.) Anyway, once again I got a wee-bit tricky in post with this pic--not too tricky cuz that's beyond my post-production skills--adding some background stuff and, this time, converting to monochrome. Model is Lorena. Easy on the eyes, ain't she? I'll bet Norman would agree with that.