Sunday, June 27, 2010

Guerrilla Glamour Update

A bunch of people have asked, "Hey Jimmy! When's the ebook done?" Thought I might give and update.

Basically, "Guerrilla Glamour" is complete although I have some work yet to do on it. I still need to make the cover, an index or list of contents, and go through it a few more times proofing for typos, doing a few minor rewrites, and fixing other things. (Editing: The least fun part of this project.) I also need to put up a small site to pimp it and put together whatever marketing graphics and text will be on that site. This has been more work than I imagined!

The PDF ebook will come in at about 100 pages contained in 9 chapters plus a Forward, an Introduction, and a Conclusion. There's lots of pictures to go along with the text, many of them behind-the-scenes pics showing the lighting setups. (I knew there was a reason I've been shooting those images, although I didn't know what that reason was at the time.)

I've taken a different approach with this project than many others like it. Most ebooks on the subject are very "How To." Guerrilla Glamour is more "Way To" if that makes sense. I know that sounds like semantics but, at least in my mind, there's a difference between "how" to do something and a "way" to do something. Whether that was a smart thing to do or not only time (and sales) will tell. Here, let me post a very short excerpt from the book's "Forward" that might explain it a bit better... or not:

"The concept of simplicity, or not multiplying difficulty beyond necessity, is the underlying theme of this Guerrilla Glamour ebook. By the way, when you resist multiplying difficulty beyond necessity, you give Murphy's Law fewer opportunities to assert itself.

Here's what Guerrilla Glamour is not: It's not about learning to shoot photos that look like mine. While I believe there's a worthwhile place for photography "How To" books that take that approach, i.e., books that teach its readers to mimic the work of their authors, this isn't one of them. Many books take that approach: Some good, some not-so.

Also, Guerrilla Glamour is less a "How To" book and more a "Way To" book. In writing it, I've tried to provide information, suggesting tools, methods, and techniques, that will yield great results while still allowing you, make that encouraging you, to develop your own style, stay true to your personal vision, spend less time dickering with your equipment and more time focusing on your model while imagining creative ways to capture her.

In a nutshell, Guerrilla Glamour is about helping glam shooters, at varying points along the learning curve, simplify their production and post-production processes: Be it with their tools and gear, how they use them, as well as their overall approach to the work.

The hopeful goal and end results are glamour photographers focused more on their models, more on the creative stuff, and less on the processes and technical concerns and, in so doing, capturing better photos of gorgeous women.

In simpler words: Keep it simple stupid."

While you're waiting for my ebook to be released and if you have an appetite for learning, why don't you give Ashley Karyl's, "How to Photograph Nudes Like a Professional," or Ed Veroskey's "100% Reliable Flash Photography" or his "10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now" a shot? They're great ebooks jam-packed with plenty of useful info for improving your nude, boudoir, or flash photography!

The pretty girl at the top, perched on the table, is Brea from a few years ago snapped on a Playboy/Club Jenna shoot. She's my idea of "fine dining."

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I surfed over to David Hobby's Strobist blog this morning mostly because I haven't done so in months and I was curious what's been going on over there.

The first article that grabbed my attention, enough to click the "More>>" button and read it, was one from last week. It featured a YouTube video of Annie Leibovitz shooting the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards for Louis Vuitton.

David's blog post seemed mostly a tribute to the skills of AnnieL (which certainly are considerable) as well as an opportunity to subtly extol the virtues of Photek's Softlighter: A sort-of hybrid between a shoot-thru umbrella and an octagonal soft box. What grabbed my attention most was the way the Softlighter was being employed.

In the vid, the Softlighter was attached to the end of a boom pole while an assistant hand-held it in various positions as Ms. L snapped away.

I've tried this technique before: Not with a Softlighter but with a small softbox. In the video, Annie is using the hand-held Softlighter as her key light. When I played around with this idea, I used the hand-held soft box as an accent or highlight light.

I wish I could remember who I was shooting when I did that. It was 3 or 4 years ago. I do remember my friend, Rick, of Simi Studio, performed the light-holding. I also remember that some of the photos came out quite cool as Rick moved around, providing edge and rim lighting from some unusual, less-seen, angles.

If you're out shooting with a friend sometime, you might try using this strobe-on-a-stick technique. Try using the hand-held light for either a main light or an accent light. It's fun and can produce some very interesting images, especially if, while the friend is moving around with the light, the model is also moving around, perhaps provocatively and seductively dancing in somewhat slow-motion? (Still gotta be able to focus, ya know?)

Here's the video of AnnieL shooting Keith Richards. The gratuitous, half-naked (getting naked-er) pretty girl at the top is Kayla from about 4 years ago.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ockham's Razor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

What? You don't speak Latin?


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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 13, 2010

High Key, Low Key, Normal Key

In terms of dark vs. light, and contrast, there are 3 basic ways to approach lighting a model: High key, low key, or normal key.

Normal key means you're going to light and expose and process the photo to contrast values that most closely resemble "normal." In other words, you're not going to use light and contrast, in very noticeable ways, to create mood.

High key images are bright with reduced contrast. Generally, they're used to create an upbeat mood. Conversely, low key images are dark with high contrast. The mood they create is more, well, more dark, emotionally dark, with much drama and mystery.

Art nude photographers often use low key lighting techniques to create drama and to increase the perceived artistic value of their photos. Many photographers, it seems, are quite "art conscious" since many in the traditional art world still hesitate to recognize photography as true "art." Personally, I don't give a crap as long as the check clears. Anyway, add shooting and/or processing in monochrome and low key images literally scream "Art!" to many people.

Using low key lighting, viewers are emotionally drawn to the mysteries the shadows represent. Regardless, those same art nude photographers can also use high key techniques and produce exceptional and very interesting work. With high key lighting, viewers are often drawn to the light, like moths to the flame. As such, high key can equally depict a perceived sense of art in photos.

High key lighting often requires more light sources than low key lighting. After all, if you're going to move much of the "light" values to the right on the histogram, it's going to take some light to do so. When shooting against a white seamless, for instance, it's often necessary to light the seamless separately from the model in order to keep the seamless white in the resulting captures. High key lighting also does a nice job of hiding imperfections on the model's skin.

Low key photography can be accomplished with a minimal of lighting. Often, but not always, a single source is used. Skin imperfections, of course, can also be played-down with low key lighting assuming you keep many of those imperfections hidden in the shadows. In fact, there are many things that can be hidden in the shadows yet still heighten the viewers' interests in the image.

Generally, high or low key images are products of a combination o production lighting and post-processing. From a post-processing perspective, low key lighting requires doing things to increase the contrast while high key lighting means processing for less contrast.

Many photographers seem to shoot mostly normal key images. Nothing inherently wrong with that. Great images can and are produced with normal key lighting. But just for grins-and-giggles, if you're not occasionally shooting high or low key images, you might want to give these techniques a try. If nothing else, it will be a good learning experience as well as adding variety and range to your portfolio.

The pretty girl at the top, shot and processed in a fairly high key way, is Teagan.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Right Tools For the Job: Small Flash vs. Monolight

It seems lighting with small flashes, i.e., Speedlites, Speedlights, flashguns, whatever you want to call them, has become a genre of its own. Some well-known and exceptional photographers are making a chunk of their livings hawking the virtues of small flash photography.

What started, I believe, as an alternative, less expensive, and less cumbersome way to location-light your subjects has become a virtual internet, small-flash-pimping industry. Leastwise, in terms of blogs, websites, workshops, and seminars.

But is lighting with small flashes less expansive and less cumbersome?

Lately, the less expensive angle isn't as obviously "less expensive" as you might think. The latest Speedlites from Canon, Speedlights from Nikon, and some other brands, aren't cheap. In fact, the higher-end versions sell for about the same price as a medium-priced monolight. While they deliver plenty of auto-function capabilities, they're sometimes short on power, high-end or not. Personally, I almost never shoot using auto-functions with the exception of auto-focus. When auto-focusing, my camera could care less if it's "talking" to a remote strobe.

Less cumbersome is a matter of opinion. If I were traveling a great distance, for instance overseas or to the East Coast, I might think to myself, "Hmm... I can pack less if I'm only packing small flashes instead of monolights."

But I don't travel great distances too often. In fact, rarely at all. Usually, wherever I'm going is within driving distances. Tossing a Pelican case in my vehicle with three monolights in it isn't any more of a hassle than tossing a Pelican case with small flashes in it. I'll still need to bring stands and modifiers and that stuff. And there's not much hassle-savings when it comes to setting up the gear. Where I'm saving on the "hassle expense" has never been too obvious to me.

When I arrive at my location and, assuming I brought small flashes with me to light my subject, I'm going to be somewhat inhibited in terms of what I can accomplish. That, of course, is because I'll have less power to wield: Lighting power. Depending on where I'm shooting and whether it will be interiors or exteriors, it might not be a detriment. But there's plenty of situations where I might need the power of monolights-- Power that small flashes simply aren't going to deliver... unless, perhaps, I group a few of them together.

Yeah, there's the obvious advantageous of not being dependent on A/C with small flashes. Just bring enough batteries with you and you're A-OK. That's really not a problem for me, however, as I'm lucky enough to have an ExplorerXT portable power system. It provides plenty of location power for my monolights. Still, the power considerations of small flash photography is an advantage for many shooters.

We all know the larger the light source, relative to the subject, the softer the light. Soft light is usually a good thing when shooting glamour. This rule of physics might bite me on the ass if I'm lighting with small flashes. Yeah, I suppose I could rig a Speedlite to a 5' Octo-box but I'm guessing it isn't going to illuminate the inside of that big, octagonal, soft box enough to throw much light as a big source. Plus, I'll need to do some rigging for the small flashes which will require special gear, albeit inexpensive gear.

I'm not down on small flash photography. Not at all. I just think small flashes don't replace bigger flashes in all situations. To think otherwise simply isn't true. It's all a matter of using the right tools for the job. Sometimes, those right tools might be small flash devices. Sometimes not. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Faye, the pretty girl at the top with all her clothes on (How'd that happen?) was lit with a single, Vivitar 285, modified with a reflective umbrella. The location is a local train station, near where I live.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Innovatronix Rolls Out the Tronix Speedfire

What's a Tronix Speedfire? It's an A/C power supply for your Canon Speedlite or Nikon Speedlight.

Simply plug one end of the Tronix Speedfire's cable into an A/C wall socket, the other to your Canon or Nikon flash, and voilĂ ! You can kiss replacing those "AA" batteries, over and over, goodbye! And get this: The Tronix Speedfire recycles your flash in less than a second! I'm a big fan of faster recycle times.

The Tronix SpeedFire provides power to the flash only. Your flash's other functions, such as the LCD display, exposure processing, and other controls, are still powered by the internal "AA" batteries housed in the flash unit. But those functions don't drain much power. It's the flash itself that depletes your batteries and the Tronix Speedfire replaces the need for batteries for that power-depleting function.

You might wonder about overheating with the fast recycle time which enables you to shoot repetetive flashes in a short period of time. That's always a problem with small flashes regardless of what's powering them. Innovatronix recommends a cool-down period after firing 40 continuous, full-power flashes to avoid any damage. That's great advice regardless of what's powering your flash devices.

So check it out! The Tronix Speedfire from the good folks at Innovatronix. They also sell them as kits, with a sotbox and adaptor for your flash. If your a Facebook person, like I am, check out the new Tronix Speedfire Facebook Page and click "Like."

The pretty girl at the top is Hannah from some time back, shot at a Harley dealership. Hot chicks always look hotter on a Harley!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Lighting For Photoshop

I recently purchased a book, Creative Photoshop Lighting Techniques, by Barry Huggins. Finally! One of the Photoshop gurus gets it! Whatever you're going to do with an image in post-production begins in production!

This shouldn't be a secret although many photographers seem to act as if it might be.

If you're going to digitally manipulate an image in post, which nearly all of us regularly do, why wouldn't you do everything possible, while in production, to make that manipulation easier to accomplish, less obvious, and a success?

In my work, the people doing the post-processing have the ears of my clients long after I do. They can make or break me with those clients. Anything I can do in production to make their jobs easier in post, yielding better results, is not going to go unnoticed by them. It might not always be mentioned to my clients but the opposite, i.e., that I'm making their jobs more difficult, probably won't be mentioned either.

Whether you're planning to perform a great deal of digital manipulation or simply and with subtlety enhance your images, you should be thinking about post-production while you're shooting. And that includes things like lighting and composition. It especially concerns things like lighting and composition.

I can, for instance, decide in post how intense my highlights will appear only if there's something, some detail, in those highlights to work with. Once you've entirely blown all the detail out of a highlight, you're not going to recover it. You're not going to recover it with RAW converters and you're not going to recover it in Photoshop. If it's gone, it's gone. Film behaved the same way although, when it came to highlights, many film stocks were more forgiving.

The same holds true for cropping. You can crop an image in post nearly any way you want providing you've left enough negative space to do so.

The book I mentioned above, of course, isn't overly concerned with highlights or cropping. It focuses mostly on production lighting techniques to achieve certain special effects in post.

When you go to the movies and see a special effect in the film, do you think the filmmakers suddenly decided to manipulate, while in post, what they've already shot in production? Of course not. They planned the effect before beginning production and they utilized many techniques in production that would later become the raw materials for the effects.

I know most of us shooting glamour aren't often thinking of adding special effects but the point is still valid: Production contains the key ingredients to successful post-production. Post-production doesn't stand on it's own. It's not the foundation of a great image. Unless, of course, that image is purely or mostly a product of digital art.

Okay. I'm off my soapbox... for now.

The pretty girl at the top is Charlotte from 3 or 4 years ago. Captured in an empty, non-descript, 2nd floor room in a warehouse in downtown L.A. Five-foot Octo for my main. Couple of strips for kickers, either side, from behind. Flex-fill reflector in front for fill. Converted to B&W in post.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Verosky's New Book: 100% Reliable Flash Photography

My friend, Ed Verosky, has beaten me to the punch with yet another great ebook: "100% Reliable Flash Photography." Click here to view more details.

This time out, Ed tackles the (seemingly) daunting subject of flash photography. And he makes it all so un-daunting!

This book is more detailed and comprehensive than his "10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now." Course, that's not to say it's a better book. It's simply a different book with a different subject. Flash photography is, in many ways, a "hard" skill requiring various, technical, "how-to" details. Boudoir photography, much like shooting glamour, is so much about the "soft" skills, like psychology and communication, and their roles in the skills required.

The techniques Ed shares in this new ebook underscore many of the same ideas I preach in my soon-to-be-released, Guerrilla Glamour: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get the Shot. What that means is learning how to make the whole process as easy and efficient as possible-- "automatic," for lack of a better word. This, of course, means less worrying about things like lighting and more focus on the subjects of your shots. Yep. That's what I'm talking about! Making it easy so shooting becomes fun. Even more fun than it already is!

Anything that can get me from Point A to Point B with Point B being a successful shot, and doing so via the straightest line between those two points and in the most simple, automatic, worry-free, easy-as-pie way, is what I'm all about. (Not that making pies is all that easy. I know. I've tried. But that's baking. We're talking about photography here.)

As Ed details in his new book, 100% Reliable Flash Photography, there are easier, hassle-free and, literally, guaranteed ways to achieve terrific results with your flash photography. All you have to do is take the time to learn them and practice them.

These aren't mystical "Secrets of the Pros" revealed. These are hard-and-fast skills you can learn to access whenever you need to. It's all about taking the time to upgrade your knowledge and your know-how.

And while you're at it -- at learning to improve your know-how, that is -- don't forget Ashley Karyl's awesome ebook, How to Photograph Nudes Like a Pro. Another fine ebook to add to your cyber-library.

You'll be returned to our regularly scheduled programming in the next update of this blog.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Guerrilla Glamour

If you've read my last few updates, you're aware I'm authoring an e-book on glamour photography. I'm calling it, "Guerrilla Glamour: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get the Shot!"

The book is more than 80% complete and I will have it available for purchases and downloads sometime this coming month. Perhaps even within the next two weeks. At this point, it looks like I'm going to kick off selling the book at $9.95.

The book targets photographers who are newish-to through intermediate levels of glamour photography experience. It assumes readers have a fairly good understanding of basic photography or other genres.

I've been working my butt off on this project and the finish line is finally in sight. I'm guessing it will end up being somewhere between 65 and 80 pages at its finished length. I still have some writing to do, plus more pics, graphics, and diagrams to add. Then, final editing, putting together the cover (and other) artwork, and putting up a simple website to host it.

Here's an excerpt from the book's "Forward." Hopefully, this might give you an idea about some of the book's contents, and its style and tone. I'll be posting more info as I get nearer to completion and ready to market it.

"In warfare, guerrilla fighters make do with less. They don't fight with the benefits of the latest weapons technologies. They rarely have satellite imagery, GPS, or microwave communications to aid them. They're not equipped with night-vision goggles while riding in steel-plated Humvees. They don't sport body armor, can't call in air support or utilize drone surveillance. They rarely have the advantages of fighting with the latest, high-tech, cutting-edge, spiffy stuff many modern armies possess. Instead, they have basic weapons, their own wits, courage, cunning, skill, knowledge, and a fierce determination to win. That's why guerrilla forces are so often hard to beat, even when the latest-and-greatest battle-field technologies and strategies are thrown against them.

The same holds true for photography. While one person might be shooting with all the latest-and-greatest camera and lighting equipment money can buy and the next is shooting with more commonly-seen gear, guess what? The shooter with more ordinary stuff is, often enough, just as likely to capture photos as good, perhaps better than, the gear-head with all the really neat and expensive photo-toys. While this book does not intend to suggest which gear you should buy or to review or compare equipment in the marketplace, I will try to steer you towards certain types of equipment well-suited to snapping great photos of the models in front of your cameras. Often that equipment is moderately priced if not outright inexpensive. Some of it is nearly free.

What Guerrilla Glamour is mostly about is helping shooters become a photographer's version of a guerrilla fighter. To that end, I'll try to pass on skills and techniques that will help you shine as a glamour photographer. It's not about learning to shoot like me. It's about learning to shoot in ways that, coupled with your own creativity, imagination, and determination, will help make you the fierce, adaptable, courageous, cunning, kick-ass, roll-with-the-punches, Guerrilla Glam shooter you should be. One who knows how to get in, get out and, most importantly, get the shot!"

The gratuitous eye-candy at the top is Lorena from a year or so ago. Captured with a 5' Octo-modified main light, couple of shoot-thru brollys for highlights, and a reflector for fill. That was a tough day: I shout about a dozen or more girls and had 10-15 minutes with each of them. It was a pretty girl assembly line: In the chair for hair and makeup, in front of Jimmy for stills, and out.