Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Shoot Nudes Like a Pro!

If you're a long-ish-time reader, you know I don't often pimp stuff. (Other than my ego.) That's not to say I don't pimp. I do. But I've never wanted this to be just another photography blog more interested in pimping photography products than meaningful discussions on this thing we do-- this pretty girl shooting thing.

But I do pimp!

And I'm going to do some pimping right now.

A veteran pretty girl shooter in the U.K., Ashley Karyl, has put together an e-book titled, How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional. Ashley, I should mention, is a guy. Those Brits can be gender-benders when it comes to first names, can't they? Course, we had Johnny Cash and his boy named Sue. My staying-on-topic, writing attention disorder aside, Ashley's title is clear and concise and describes, in simple words, the book's subject.

None of us, I'm guessing, are hoping to shoot nudes like an amateur. Hence, Ashley's book's title. You might already know how little surfing it takes--present PGS blog company excepted, of course--to understand how many folks, GWCs and others, are accomplishing the feat of shooting amateurish looking images... obviously, without the help of helpful books like How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional.

To fight the tide of amateurish pretty girl photography--Hey! If you have the girl you might as well shoot her well--Ashley took on the daunting task of authoring and publishing a comprehensive text, with plenty of accompanying pretty girl photos, covering the art and craft of nude photography. This book serves it all: From soup to nuts! (Well, most all. Nothing can include it all. I'm just sayin.)

(Side Note: I don't know about you, but I've never ended a meal with nuts. In fact, I can't ever remember being served nuts for dessert. Fruits yes. Nuts no. Unless it was pecan pie or some nut-laden ice cream or other nutty concoction. I don't know how that "soup to nuts" saying got started. I have been told, however, and on more than a few occasions, that someone wanted to serve me my nuts on a silver platter. But that saying has a much different connotation. And it has little to do with desserts... except for the (would-be) server believing that doing so, i.e, serving me my nuts, would be my "just desserts." Again, I'm just sayin.)


Not only is Ashley's e-book a great learning tool, it doesn't assume all its readers are stuck shooting amateurish photos. This book is as equally helpful to those starting out (shooting pretty girls in the buff) as it is for advanced hobbyists and pros alike. To accomplish this, you might guess, How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional is a very thorough text on the subject.

From the gear to the girls, this e-book leaves little out. As Karyl states in his e-book's intro, and I'll paraphrase, he intended to write about lighting and quickly realized a more thorough look at the craft would be much more helpful to his book's readers.

I agree! While lighting is important, very important, it ain't the end all/be all of good photography regardless of what your camera is pointed at.

To answer the question, who is this book for? Ashley advises--and once again, I'm paraphrasing--the book is for those who are passionate about photography and who have specific interests in photographing female nudes in various forms and genres. He adds that the book targets the advanced hobbyist who already thinks "professionally," as well as working pros themselves. How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional assumes its readers have a basic understanding of Photoshop, are already shooting nudes or hope to begin doing so, and have a working knowledge of their camera gear and other tools needed to produce exceptional images of the naked female form.

I give this pretty girl shooting e-book an enthusiastic thumbs up!

If you want to learn more about Ashley Karyl's, How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional, or you're interested in purchasing a copy for yourself, CLICK HERE or on the graphic link to the book located in the right-side side column of this page.

The pretty girl at the top is one I snapped of glam-model, Nikita Lea, a few years back. She's awfully purdy, no?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Times They Are a Changin!

D'uh! If you didn't know that, I hope it's warm and comfy under that rock you've been living under.

Sarcasm aside, this is a follow-on to my last update, Hybrid Cameras, Hybrid Photographers.

There were some helpful comments to my last update. BTW, I recommend going back and taking a quick look at the comments to PGS updates. They aren't all about patting Jimmy on the back for a good update. (Although, being a creature of ego, I enjoy and appreciate those comments!) Other comments to PGS updates often contain some very helpful information.

A comment of interest, posted to my last update, was submitted by PGS reader, "KS."

In his comment--yeah, I happen to know that KS is a he--he advises:

To me, it almost seems that a photographer, web designer, re-toucher or other artistic talents should form loose associations with others.

Alliances with others who have related specialties is a great idea! Obvious alliances with, say, makeup artists, seem natural. After all, makeup artists and models have much contact with each other, just like photographers and models do. Perhaps many of you have already entered into informal partnerships with makeup artists?

Less obvious alliances, as KS mentioned, might include strategically allying yourself with re-touchers and web designers. As KS comments, In essence, you and your friends are virtual companies. For a specific project, you work together. When the project is over, you disband. The key is to get buy-in early from all the different talents on the costs so that responsibilities can be assigned and budgets can be adhered to.

In other words, people who, traditionally, offered stand-alone services band together on a project-by-project basis to offer a "total package" service that benefits both the client and each member of the alliance.

KS, in his last paragraph, writes:

I believe that it is hard or difficult for any one individual to do all things well. Thus, I think it is better to approach the marketplace as a collection of talented individuals who can fully address any need.

D.L. Wood, another commenter, mentions that he recalls a similar discussion (to my update) in an interview with Chase Jarvis, in the December, 2009, issue of Digital Photo Pro. Immediately, I searched for the interview and read it.

The Jarvis interview is a good read and I recommend it to everyone. CLICK HERE to read Jarvis' DPP interview.

In his comment, Wood quoted Jarvis. It's a good quote that speaks directly to this "times they are a changin" discussion.

Unfortunately, most of what’s going on right now is a fear-based response in the photography industry. You know the adage, anybody with a D-SLR is a "professional," and for those photographers that are really thinking in those terms, if that’s your vision, then you need to become either a better photographer or a better businessperson. You shouldn’t be threatened by a kid with an EOS Rebel. You really have to be able to differentiate yourself. I hope that this fear-based response goes to something more positive because I think it’s the most exciting time in history to be a photographer. There are more images being used now than ever before!

I should note that, while I agree with Jarvis' assessment that it's an exciting time for photography, and that more images are being used now than ever before, his observation is a two-edged sword: It still rankles me that so many of those images are being purchased for pittance if not licensed for free! As mentioned in my previous update, how does anyone, Chase Jarvis or anyone else, compete with free? Perhaps Chase will provide his customary words-of-wisdom on the subject of "free" in some future interview?

The pretty girl at the top is Naomi from a couple of years ago. I've posted this pic before--it was shot at a location house in the San Fernando Valley--but, if truth be known, I never get tired of beholding Naomi's perfectly-constructed derriere.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hybrid Cameras, Hybrid Photographers

Tired of waiting for clients to call? Are you sick of hearing, "Sorry. Got nothing for you right now." Are you frustrated with photo services ads that don't pay off for one reason or another?

I know I am.

It's a new world. A digital world. A high-tech world. A world-wide-web world! Nothing new or startling about that bit of 4-1-1 but it's getting more so with each passing day.

Today, it's a world where, too often, it seems that being a specialist, a craftsman in a specific endeavor, isn't enough. Unfortunately, it also seems like being good at what you do, even great at it, isn't a guarantee for making a big difference in terms of success. I'm sure there are exceptions to this observation. Possibly many exceptions. But, for now, I'm going to focus on the stuff that isn't an exception.

Obviously, I'm talking about photography. That's why you're here, reading this photography blog. And since there's a good chance you're a photographer too, there's also a good chance you know exactly what I'm talking about.

These days, you need to be hyper-competitive. You need to be more about business than photography. We find ourselves competing with people who can barely turn a camera on, much less capture engaging, quality photos, yet some of those people still manage to be competitive.

It gets worse.

There are times when we're competing with free! How do you compete with free? I have no idea how to do that but I do know it's a tough thing to do. Even offering an exceptional, quality product or service might not be enough. Yeah. Quality is part of it. Maybe a big part of it. And quality will get you work. It's gotten me plenty of work. But, in my opinion, it's not enough. Leastwise, not these days and not for many of us.

What's my advice? Other than the advice you'll read about on many photo forums? (e.g., spend more time learning business skills instead of photography skills.)


Expand the products and services you're offering.

Hybridize yourself.

And learn some business and marketing skills too.

Just like many of the latest-n-greatest dSLRs are offering still and motion capture in one device, we need to offer multiple capabilities in one person. It ain't enough to be able to chew bubble-gum and walk at the same time. You might have to add juggling, balancing, bullet-dodging, dancing and more to the chewing and walking.

One obvious answer is to offer both photo and video services to your clients and customers. I've done this for quite some time. But now, I'm discovering, that isn't enough. (For me, at least.) For many of you, it shouldn't be too hard to accomplish. After all, digital photography and digital videography are more than a little similar, both in technology and skills required.

When quality, hybrid-cameras started being released, I thought I was in a great place: I have plenty of know-how shooting both. Unfortunately, I've discovered those two sets of skills aren't enough. They may be enough if, for instance, you're a wedding and event photographer. But for me? No dice. No cigar. No brass ring. It ain't cutting it. Besides, I've been shooting stills and video for clients for quite a while, albeit not with the same camera. So, shooting both, whether it's with the same camera or different cameras, is nothing new for me.

So, I did some self-assessment. I took inventory of the things I know how to do. Trust me when I tell you, the list wasn't as long as I'd hoped. That aside, I identified another skill I possess, one that I've pursued in one way or another for a very long time. One that I've had some successes with and, IMO, I'm pretty good at.

Besides being a photographer and videographer, I'm also a writer. I'm not only a writer, I'm an experienced blogger. Also, I'm a guy who knows something about using social media and other internet applications to brand and market things. And guess what? There are real jobs out there for real people, like me, with blogging and social media and branding skills! Couple those skills with my abilities to capture images, still and motion, and I think I've got a marketable skill-set. A hybrid skill-set. A somewhat unique skill-set. And one with some amount of demand with people who write checks for services rendered.

Here's an example: I did some searching on and, guess what? I found some positions offered--some full-time, some part-time--that have requirements which closely match my hybridized skill-set. Not only that, there were also job offerings that only partially seemed to match my skill-set. Instead of moving on to the next listing, I'm using those job offerings as opportunities to write personal marketing letters asking if the company might be interested in employing, whether part-time or as an independent contractor, an experienced, creative, and knowledgeable person who could help them achieve their marketing, sales, and branding goals through a combination of blogging, social media, photography, videography, and more.

I'll admit I cannot yet report successes or failures. But I'm optimistic! I'm trying to think outside the box here, leastwise, the career box. As such, I'm attempting to fill the void vacated by business lost to wildly increased competition coupled with clients and customers who, seemingly, have lowered the expectation bar and appear mostly interested in price over quality. In fact, I've also lost business to "free." And frankly, as mentioned, it's awfully tough to compete with free. Near impossible.

So if you're finding yourself troubled by declining photography jobs, diversify and determine what kind of hybrid person you might be or might become. Hey! What's to lose? A few hours of your time otherwise spent in front of the tube or surfing the net?

I'm just saying.

The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is Lupe, snapped a few months ago in a client's studio in front of a white cyclorama. Lupe was born in Colombia, spent most of her life in Spain, and now resides here, in the USofA. Besides being a total sweetie and quite easy on the eyes, she's a lot of fun to work with and knows what she's doing in front of a camera.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Are You Over-Geeking Your Photography?

First, sorry for the lack of updates. Sometimes, life gets in the way.

Anyhoots, question for the day: Are you over-geeking your photography?

In spite of turning the noun, geek, into a verb, geeking, I'm pretty sure most of you know what I'm talking about. I've written about this before, i.e., spending way too much time concerning yourselves with the technical stuff rather than the creative elements. To paraphrase the late, great, Helmut Newton, cameras don't make beautiful pictures, photographers make beautiful pictures.

That's a fair amount of dramatic license with the paraphrasing but I think Mr. Newton would also agree with my version of his words. My paraphrase also sounds a little like the saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Oh well.

If there's another thing the digital revolution is responsible for, besides giving just about everyone the ability to make beautiful pictures less effortlessly and, seemingly, with less traditional know-how, it's that it has increased the geek factor.

I don't think that was intended.

I think digital cameras were intended, in many ways, to flatten the learning curve and put less emphasis on traditional skills and the geek stuff. I suppose I shouldn't give all the credit to digital photography for this. Film SLRs and film point-n-shoots contributed their fair share to this (r)evolution in photography. But it seems that, rather than making photography more no-brainer, especially in the world of dSLRS, the opposite has happened: Many photographers seem more focused than ever on the tech stuff. More so than, well, than focusing on developing their abilities to simply and creatively and spontaneously snap awesome pics.

If you're spending most of your time futzing with your camera and your lights and practically everything but your subject, you're going to miss snapping many great pictures. Sure, your technical prowess may be evident in the results but someone please name a truly great people photographer who was primarily known for his or her technical skills? I can't think of one.

I'm not bashing technical skills. They're important. They're necessary. They help make great pictures. They aren't, however, mostly responsible for great people pictures. Photographers' eyes and imaginations are, along with their ability to get what they're hoping to get from their subjects, chiefly responsible for great pics. And great pics don't often happen because you spent oodles and oodles of time messing with your cameras and lights. Yeah. Some big-time pros seem to do that but, mostly, it's their assistants taking care of the tech stuff. The big-time photographer spends his or her time focusing on the subject.

Here's a good YouTube video made by June Newton, Helmut Newton's wife. (Special thanks to PGS reader, KS, for sending the link!) It's in 5 parts and includes much insight into how Newton worked. CLICK HERE to see Part One of the series. YouTube will show you the links to the subsequent parts. I think you'll notice how low-tech Newton's approach to his work was-- There's not much in the way of complex lighting and the geek factor is barely apparent.

The pretty girl at the top, I forget her name, was from a shoot outside of my usual stuff-- Some fashion work for my cousin, Tracy, a working NYC fashion designer. The model's dress was designed and built by Tracy. Tracy is, right now, in Shanghai representing the clothing company she works for. Lucky her! All natural light on the model employing the sun and two reflectors. Very low tech. Not much geeking while shooting.