Saturday, January 29, 2011

Think Analog Shoot Digital

I'm sometimes asked about my thought process when I approach various shooting environments and the models who grace them. Apart from the usual considerations given to light, environment, the models themselves, plus a few more that are unique to digital, e.g., the ease in which one can blow out highlights shooting digital, my thought process, photographically speaking, hasn't changed much since the days I was shooting film. In other words, I'm still mostly thinking analog while shooting digital.

I realize many of you began your love affairs with photography after digital arrived. Nothing wrong with that! As such, of course, you probably aren't thinking analog simply because you've spent little to no time shooting analog. Many of you are digital-only in terms of your photography experience. Again, let me stress there's not a thing wrong with that. Photography is photography, analog or digital.

But shooting film (i.e., analog) is a bit different than shooting digital. First off, you don't get to see the results of your shots near instantaneously. (Unless you're snapping Polaroids.) Second, there's less room for error. Yeah, some film stocks are more forgiving than others, exposure-wise. But you're not shooting RAW when you're shooting film. What you snap is what you get. (Although there is a degree of latitude when shooting film.) Consequently, some of your mistakes aren't going to be so easily fixed in post. (Post either being a darkroom environment or, perhaps, a combination of darkroom/lab and digital adjustments made after scanning your images and working on them with your computer and appropriate software.)

One of the big pluses shooting film is it forces you to work harder at learning to get your images right in the camera. With that in mind, I have a suggestion for some of you who are truly interested in increasing your skills with the front-end of photography, that is, your actual photography skills: Get yourself a film camera and shoot some analog.

There are absolutely incredible deals on film cameras on eBay and Craigslist. If you're a digital-only photographer, I suggest you purchase a decent film camera, probably a good 35mm SLR from the 80s or early 90s, and try your hand at shooting film. I think doing so will be a great learning lesson for you. You'll be forced to really think your way through the technical stuff because you won't get any visual feedback on your work until whatever you shot comes back from the lab. And BTW, if you decide to follow my suggestion, I highly recommend you shoot in manual mode with that film camera. Doing so will further increase your skills. It will help to have a light meter but you can also use the light meter built into the camera. (You can use it in a manual sort of way.) Yeah, doing this is going to cost a few extra bucks to process your film but, in my opinion, what you will learn will translate beautifully to your digital work. It might even make a better digital photographer out of you!

The pretty girl at the top is Ash. I shot Ash last week in front of a white seamless at a location house. I used my Canon 5D with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 shooting ISO 100, f/11 at 125th. The 28-75 was zoomed all the way in. I used three monolights plus a LumoPro Lite Panel, (opposite my main with silver-side out) to light her. My main light was modified with a 3' brolly box and my two kickers, either side from behind, were sporting small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Not much re-touching and/or processing other than the conversion. MUA was Kelly LaBanco.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout Black Chicks

My shoot last night had a brown sugar theme. My victim certainly personified the adage, "long tall drink of water."

And I told her so.

Before we shot, in fact before she climbed into the makeup chair, she informed me she's very "photogenic." Okay. No offense, sweetie, but I'll be the judge of that. (I didn't actually say that but I was thinking it, dammit!)

As it turned out...

She was right.

And I told her as much.

New-ish photographers have occasionally asked me if I make lighting adjustments when shooting black chicks. I don't. Not really. If or when I do, it's not, as a rule, because they're black. I might make some adjustments but not any more so than I would for shooting most any model: black, white, brown, or yellow.

All people are, basically, 18% gray in terms of exposure. Leastwise, regarding their skin's mid-tones. (That "people" classification, BTW, includes all models even if some of them sometimes act otherwise. Un-people-like, I mean.) You've heard the phrase we're all pink on the inside? Well, we're all 18% gray on the outside. It's a convenient truth from a photography and lighting and exposure point-of-view.

Sure, if a model has very VERY dark skin, I might make some adjustments to enhance detail or change the contrast but, basically, exposure doesn't change much, if at all. Conversely, I'll also make adjustments if the model's skin is very VERY white. BTW, I'm not bringing up "very VERY white or dark" as if those are bad things. We're photographers. We deal with what's in front of us. Obviously, we sometimes have to adjust things: our lights, our exposure, even our attitudes. It's like hair. I certainly make adjustments to compensate for hair color. Platinum blond versus jet black call for differences in accenting and highlighting.

The long tall drink of water at the top is Marie. I shot her last night. Used three lights and a Lumopro Lite Panel to illuminate her.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Podcast With Ed Verosky

Yesterday, I did a podcast with Ed Verosky for his About Photography website. We discussed glamour photography (of course) and it was lots of fun speaking with Ed.

Ed might have set a world's record for the time it took him to get the interview from a recording to being posted on his website as a podcast. If you have time to listen, you can do so by clicking HERE.

The physically fit model with the tough-as-nails expression above is Jules from a shoot I did last night after Skyping the interview wit Ed. (He lives in NYC, I'm in LA.) Jules spends lots of time at the gym, about 4 or 5 times a week. She told me she spent yesterday at the gym doing legs and thighs. I told her when I do legs and thighs, I'm usually ordering a special at the Colonel's. As usual for me, very minimal post processing.... sorta like how I'm a minimalist when it comes to going to the gym.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

LumoPro Lite Panel

A few months ago, the good folks at LumoPro sent me a Lumopro Lite Panel to try out and, of course, talk about. I've been getting great results from it and use it often!

If you've been reading this blog for a while or you've purchased and read either my Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots ebook, you're probably aware I'm a big fan of reflectors and scrims.

The image above is from last week. You can see the LumoPro Lite Panel in the lower left of the photo. At 40" x 72", it does a terrific job of providing full-body fill. In the pic, I have it set up with the silver-side out to give it a bit more "punch" than the white-side delivers. BTW, I'm somewhat mechanically-challenged and I gotta say, even for someone like me who becomes easily confused putting things together, it's a piece-of-cake to assemble. (It takes me about three minutes to do so.) Once it's up and ready, LumoPro's Lite Panel is easily and effortlessly moved about and/or adjusted to different reflecting or diffusing angles and heights.

The LumoPro Lite Panel Kit comes with just about everything you'll need to use it in a variety of situations, whether you're using it in a studio lighting configuration, like in the image above, or outside with daylight. (You probably should have a sand or shot bag with you if you're going to use it outside.)

The kit they sent me came with two, separate panels: One is silver on one side and white on the other, the other is translucent. (It knocks the light down by about a stop.) They also make and sell a gold/white panel. The kit sells for $131 and includes a Lite Panel, stand, ribs (no, not bar-b-que ribs) and the handy-dandy ball head which allows you to adjust the Lite Panel all kinds of ways. Such a deal, right? I think so. I think this kit's moderate price and many uses makes it a makes-sense addition to most any guerrilla's shooter's bag of gear and tricks. LumoPro also throws in a small carrying bag so you're less likely to lose any of the kit's components.

The model in the pic above is Ashlyn. The black bar across her chest is there because I also used the pic on my Facebook Pretty Girl Shooter page and I sure didn't want to violate FB's TOS and have them get all upset with me for posting (shudder) boobies. Below is another high-key shot of Ashlyn, this one minus the FB censor bar. I captured the image below using the lighting setup you see above. Canon 5D w/Tamron 24-70 f/2.8, ISO 100, f/11 @ 125th.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Positives of Negative Space

It seems to me an often overlooked compositional element, leastwise in terms of glamour photography, is the use of negative space.

In glamour photography, an easy way to look at it is like this: positive space is that space occupied by the model and negative space is everything else in your frame apart from the model.

Sometimes, the negative space is occupied by a whole bunch of stuff. Other times, it's occupied by a whole bunch of nothing. (As illustrated by the photo I've posted on the left.)

Finding an effective balance between the positive and negative space in your frame can be one of the most powerful elements in your photo apart from the model herself. When you're framing or cropping with an obvious nod to the Rule of Thirds, for instance, you're often using composition which heightens interest in the image and a big part of how you're doing that is by manipulating the photo's positive and negative space, i.e., doing so using elements of the Rule of Thirds.

As weird as it sounds, when it comes to negative space a whole lot of nothing, or lots of nothing that is particularly interesting on its own, can add much power and value to an image. Go figure.

Course, there are times when the over-use of negative space might not be the best way to go. Like with most all the elements of composition, using negative space calls on your personal sense of aesthetics. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Hopefully, as with all the elements of composition, you're able to recognize when and how they work effectively and when they don't. That's called having a good eye for composition.

The pretty girl at the top is Ally. I just shot Ally a few hours before writing this update. She was a terrific model who could bust some good moves and pour on the expressions and attitudes. Obviously, when cropping the image I exaggerated the use of negative space and, yeah, I did so specifically for this update. Maybe it's just me but I think it works.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning From Zoolander

Okay, Derek Zoolander is a guy, a fictional male model in a fictional movie, and this blog is mostly about shooting pretty girls, but there's stuff to learn about shooting glamour (and fashion too) from Stiller's campy satire aimed at the fashion industry.

It's been a number of years since I watched Ben Stiller's, "Zoolander." The film, with it's story-line about a top male fashion model, Derek Zoolander, who is dethroned by rising-star rival, Hansel, played by Owen Wilson, and then gets caught up in a plot to assasinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia is more than a little silly. But the parts I liked best are when the movie mocks over-the-top posing and expression as demonstrated by Stiller's and Wilson's characters.

To be sure, the poses and expressions they demonstrate seem (and are) absurd, especially when engaged in by male models. But if you replace their characters with hot female models, would the posing seem equally silly? I don't think so. Certainly less so.

When I'm shooting pretty girls, I often encourage them to go over-the-top with pose and expression. I sometimes tell them, "If it feels dumb, it will probably look great." I wouldn't call that an axiom set in stone but it's pretty damn close to being one. I'm not talking about having them make dumb, silly, goofy faces. I mean having them go over-the-top with the expressions they might ordinarily make, albeit they ordinarily make them more subtly.

Often enough, the poses and expressions that feel stupid to the model (while she's engaging in them) end up looking great when captured and frozen in and around 100th of a second. I don't know why that is but it's the way this stuff works. Especially when photographing glamour models.

Another thing I sometimes advise models, especially when I'm directing them to bend and contort their bodies in unusual ways (mostly so my camera can see as many of her "goodies" as possible within the same pose and capture) is: "If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right."

Once again, much like dumb-feeling, over-the-top expressions, unusual contortionistic body poses might be somewhat painful when the model engages in them but often look great in the finished product.

Besides capturing a model's sensuous allure, and there's many ways to do that, more than a few of them not requiring silly expressions or yoga-like poses, we often hope our pics will have "wow" value. There's a lot of ways to add "wow" value to our images beyond shooting models who are so freakin' beautiful and sexy, the "wow" value can't be denied regardless of the image's elements. One of them is with the kinds of poses and expressions I've just referred to.

So, next time you're pretty girl shooting, have your model spend some of that time engaged in over-the-top, silly-seeming expressions and direct her to assume anatomically-defying, even if slightly painful, body poses. You might find some terrific "keepers" in the results.

The pretty girl at the top is Sunny shot in a studio. I added the BG graphic of the black and orange city skyline in post. Her expression isn't unusual but, when shooting this, I kept encouraging her to bend further at the waist while arching her back even more while pushing her butt out further and further while keeping her left leg straighter while turning her upper body towards the camera so I could see both breasts, as well as her face, and to look playfully happy while she's doing it. It probably doesn't look like there would be the slightest amount of pain associated with that pose but you try doing it a bunch of times and, each time, holding it till the friendly semi-sadist with the camera says okay or clicks or whatever.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Kickin' It Off the Right Way

2011 is starting off the right way. I have an on-going gig, 2 or 3 evenings a week, shooting pretty girls. I could have said 2010 ended on an up-note since I've been doing this since the beginning of December. But, I'd rather focus on positive beginnings than positive endings albeit they're both positive.

It's my kinda gig too! In and out, bing, bang, boom!

I drive to the location, set up a seamless and my lights (which I keep stored at the location since it's the same location each time) and wait for the girl to get out of the chair, i.e., the makeup chair. I shoot her for 20 minutes or so, a 2nd girl gets out of the chair, I shoot her for the same and, after that, I shoot both girls together for about 10 minutes. I strike my lights and the seamless, my camera goes back in my bag, I get paid (I love that part) and I'm outa there. Some evenings, I'm able to just leave my gear set up for the next shoot. I love when it works out that way.

No post for these shoots-- I simply hand over a DVD of the raw shots from my previous shoot when I arrive for the next shoot. Counting my driving time, which is about 30 minutes each way, each session takes 3 to 4 hours total. I should also note I'm driving in the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic when heading to the location. (My call-time has been 5:30 P.M. each session.) Coming home, usually leaving the location around 8 P.M., the traffic is sparse.

I gave the client a break on my rate since it's an ongoing gig and relatively simple. The client is happy. I'm happy. The girls are happy. The MUA is happy. Happiness all around! What's not to like?

The pretty girl at the top is Yurizan from a few weeks ago. Obviously, I messed around with the image a bit, making it a B&W. Didn't do much processing beyond that: Cropped it, adjusted the levels, burned and dodged a bit, removed a small blemish or two and that's about it. The high-key, semi-Rembrandt lighting employed three lights: Main light (camera-left in Rembrandt position) modified with a 3' brolly box plus two kickers, either side from behind the model with small shoot-thru umbrellas. I also used a large, white reflector, in front and camera-right, for some gentle fill.