Thursday, June 30, 2011

That Was Then, This Is Now

There was a time when being a photographer meant something. Well, it still means something but definitely something less. Certainly, something less in the eyes and minds of many non-photographers.

When people ask me, "What do you do?" and I say I'm a photographer, it no longer gets much of a response. Leastwise, way less of a response than it once did. I know this sounds like my ego is complaining (and it's true that it is) but being a photographer, at least these days, doesn't often illicit more than usual interest from whomever is inquiring.

Back in the day, when people heard you were a photographer they were generally impressed and definitely more inquisitive about it. Back then, I suppose, being a photographer, i.e., one who made all or part of one's living from photography, seemed more exciting and awe-inspiring and, well, more respect was often forthcoming because, I'm guessing, photography seemed like something that was less pursued (as a career) and required more skill, know-how, and creative abilities than it does today. It should come as no surprise there were way fewer people pursuing photography as some sort of a career, full-time or otherwise, back then. (When I say "back then," BTW, I'm not referring to a few years ago. I'm talking about ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago.)

I'm not saying photography no longer requires those things, those skillful know-how and creative things. It does. Good photography does. But it doesn't seem that way, leastwise according to my perceptions of the perceptions of many non-photographers. Many of whom, unfortunately, might also be prospective clients.

Today, when someone learns you're a photographer, you're lucky if you get much of a response at all. Conversations about it might go something like this:

"What do you do?"

"I'm a photographer."

"Oh? You shoot weddings and stuff?"

"No. I shoot models."

"Oh. I'm an insurance adjuster."

Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being an insurance adjuster. There's not. Still, call me bat-shit crazy but one would think (when it comes to occupations) shooting models for a living would score higher on the Wow Meter than insurance adjusting does. Actually, I'm not saying insurance adjusting scores at all on the Wow Meter... but you still get what I"m saying, right?

You might be thinking I'm simply bitching out loud here...

You're right. I am. Deal with it.

Just about anyone and everyone who pursues creative careers has, well-earned or otherwise, an artistic ego. Often they have inflated-to-varying-degrees artistic egos. Having such an ego generally goes with the (creative) territory. If there's one thing people with artistic egos don't like, and that includes those with slightly enlarged artistic egos through those with wildly inflated artistic egos, it's people who don't recognize their uniqueness and appreciate all it takes to make a go of a creative career.

It's obvious, of course, why photographers don't get the ego strokes they once did. Today, there's too damn many people calling themselves photographers! The reality is that the uniqueness of being a photographer, someone who makes his or her living with cameras in their hands, has been seriously diluted and nearly reduced to ho-hum status.

So, you might be wondering where all this BS I'm typing is going. So am I. Other than blogging masturbation, I guess I'm simply venting and engaging in a bit of angst relief. For anyone wondering why I'm rather cynical about the current state of photography, especially as a vocation, even those who are amused or entertained by my cynicism, the reasons for it are the same things that cause me my angst. (And please don't think I'm somehow generally pissed at all those new photographers we see these days. I'm not. I'm just miffed at the ones who don't take the time to learn shit or hone their craft before they go out and compete with those who do.)

Whether my angst grew (and continues to grow) as a result of some sort of perceived Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome (real or imaginary) or from somewhere else or for some other reasons, it is what it is. What it is, of course, is mostly to blame for today's blog update, my angst, much of my cynicism, my jaded view of the world, and more.

As usual, I'm just saying.

The pretty girl at the top with the yellow, Chinese, umbrella and one nipple trying its best to pop out is Lupe. Easy on the eyes, ain't she? (Click to Enlarge)

One last time: You have about ten hours left. (It's currently 2:00 P.M., PST, on June 30th, 2011) to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% OFF their usual price of $9.95. Use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing. Links to my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots can be found in the right-hand column of this page. That's it. I'm done pimping my ebooks for a while. You have ten or less hours left. This sale ends midnight tonight, PST.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Artist Statement

So, I've been thinking of putting up a portfolio site. I know, I know... how could I not already have one? Well, I don't. And I haven't. And I wouldn't be thinking of making one now if it weren't for some people who recently asked me where they could look at my work.

If there's one thing the world needs, of course, it's another photographer putting up another portfolio site and who am I to deny the world something it so urgently needs? Something, I should add, that just happens to be in the realm of things I can personally deliver. (Providing I get my ass in gear and do it.)

I do have pictures posted in various portfolios on various sites: Sites like Garage Glamour dot com, Super Shoots dot net, Model Mayhem dot com, Flickr and more. But those don't really qualify as my own, personal portfolio. Plus, I don't change them or update them very often. Practically never, in fact. I already have URLs reserved in my name. In fact, I've paid for (and not used) those URLs for a number of years. Apparently, I was thinking ahead when I paid for the URLs even if, in retrospect, I was more of a forward thinker than a forward doer.

A friend told me that if I'm going to put up a personal portfolio, I should author an Artist Statement. Okay. I can do that. Here's one: "I snap pictures of pretty girls, dressed and undressed."

My friend told me that won't do. He said my artist statement needs to say so much more. It needs to convey a much more flattering, perhaps even flowery, statement regarding what I shoot. It needs to go beyond a simple and honest sentence or two which merely states I shoot pretty girls in various stages of dress and undress. It needs to impart, in words, how my photography has true meaning, artistic meaning, meaning that transcends the ordinary and explores the human condition in, well, in very artistic ways.

Yeah. I guess I can do that. I suppose I can write words that reflect my photography in eloquent, if swollen ways. The words might seem bombastic and grandiose to some, most certainly to myself, but what artist hasn't thought of themselves in bombastic and grandiose ways? It kinda goes with the territory. Leastwise, often enough it does.

So, I sat down to write my swollen, eloquent, bombastic, grandiose artist statement. It turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. No matter how I attacked my writing assignment, it kept giving me the feeling I was being something less than truthful and something more, much more, than full of myself. Every time I read the flowery prose I wrote, it seemed ridiculous and absurd because, after all, what I really do is simply shoot pretty girls, clothed, unclothed, and all points in between. When I'm doing that, I'm not really doing anything much more than trying to photograph my models looking their best, their sexiest, their most beautiful and alluring. Some of them need more help than others for me to accomplish that but that's what it's all about: Making due with what you have to work with.

Then I thought, "Why don't I ask someone else to write this stuff for me?" After all, if someone else writes it, it's not me going out of my way to appear artistically ostentatious. It might end up sounding that way, artistically ostentatious that is, but at least they weren't my words. They would be the words of someone else and can I help it if that someone else went a little overboard describing my work? Sure, I'd be a co-conspirator and an accomplice but, to make an analogy, it's not like I'd be the one robbing the bank, I'd just be the guy planning the heist. Somehow, in my mind, right or wrong, that seems less of a crime.

Then, I discovered this little website that actually writes your artist statement for you! How cool is that? I wouldn't even be a co-conspirator or an accomplice. I'd just be some guy letting an anonymous algorithm automatically generate my artist statement.

So that's what I did.

Here's the artist statement my new friend, the cyber-algorithm artist statement generator, wrote for me. I did a small amount of editing on it. You know, just to make it a bit more "me." Like many other artist statements I've seen, I think it's suitably over-the-top, verbose, and pretentious.

My work explores the relationship between the body and life as performance. With influences as diverse as George Hurrell, Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Sigmund Freud, new visions are created from both simple and complex meanings. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of meaning. What starts out as vision soon transforms into a cacophony of perversely poetic photographic sensuality, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the inevitability of a new beginning. As spatial forms become clarified through diligent and personal practice, the viewer is left with an impression of the edges of our human condition.

Pretty cool, huh? Does that not make me sound like a true "arteest" or what?

BTW, if and when I put up a portfolio site for myself, I won't have any annoying music playing on it. After all, it's a photography portfolio, not an online radio station.

The sultry pretty girl at the top is Hailey. (Click to enlarge. Size sometimes does matter.) Hailey's posed in front of a white seamless and I kept her image very high-key cuz, well, cuz that's what I decided I wanted to do with it. I used 3 lights and a reflector to photograph Hailey: A 60" Photek Softlighter for my main with a LumoPro Lite Panel reflector opposite for fill plus a couple of small, shoot-thru umbrellas, either side from behind.

I know I'm beating this to death lately but there's only today until midnight tomorrow, June 30, to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off the already low price of $9.95. Just use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing and your 25% discount will be automatically applied to the purchase price. Links to purchase my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots, are located in the right-hand column of this page.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Turd Froster iPhone Photo App

I'm probably not winning over any new fans for this blog with my continuing cynicism. Sometimes, I can't help it. It's almost as if they draw me and write me this way. That aside, I came up with another potential iPhone photo app. I'm calling it the Turd Froster.

The Turd Froster does what most other iPhone photo apps can also do-- frost turds; photographic turds, that is. (It can also be used, like its many competitors, to process non-turd photos, just in case you were wondering.) The big difference between the Turd Froster and most other iPhone photo apps is simple and basic: It is so named with honesty in mind.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I don't ever shoot turds. I do. Everyone does. Nature of the beast and all that. And we all probably capture turds more often than we care to admit. But I, hopefully like many of you, try my best NOT to post my turds publicly. I also work hard at not working hard or wasting time frosting turds... unless someone is paying me to frost turds which is a very different thing and usually doesn't qualify as wasting my time... cuz, after all, I'm getting paid to do it.


Snap a photo of almost anything boring and banal with your iPhone -- like so many iPhoneographers seem to routinely and proudly do -- select from the many effects in Turd Froster's arsenal of digital treatments and voila! Your boring, banal, turd of an iPhone snapshot is suddenly and magically transformed (by digitally coating and frosting it) into something that makes the turd look kinda cool... in a kinda cool frosted turd way.

Another disclaimer: Please don't get me wrong-- I'm not saying every photo snapped with an iPhone is a turd. I've seen some very cool and compelling imagery shot with iPhones. Perhaps the cool stuff was so shot because the photographer didn't have another camera conveniently available to shoot with? Maybe using an iPhone was the shooter's first choice? Hard to say. More than likely, the cool and compelling iPhone snaps I've seen were cool and/or compelling because the subject of the photo would be cool or compelling whether it was shot with an iPhone, a point-n-shoot, a dSLR or just about any other image capturing device. Some photographic subject matter just naturally rolls that way.

As you may have already deduced, many iPhone apps are little more than logical, no-brainer, iPhone app extensions of Photoshop's many 3rd party actions and other image processing software. Photoshop, of course, is probably the original photographic turd froster. Again, I'm not saying Photoshop and PS actions and the like are only used to frost turds. They're not! Often, they're used to enhance the visual dynamics and aesthetics of non-turd photography. But, unfortunately, I've seen it used the first way I mentioned much too often. Worse yet, I've seen PS used in a sort of reverse-turd-frosting way. You know, when a decent, perhaps terrific photo is so over-shopped, it devolves from a decent or terrific photo into a turd.

I used to work quite a bit as a video editor. A big plus for being an in-demand video editor is the ability, besides other creative and craft abilities, to use video editing software and other motion-image processing tools in effective ways so as to frost turds. Example: The client hands over footage or a project that is so boring and lackluster or poorly captured that it's obvious to everyone (whether they admit it or not) it's a turd in dire need of frosting. The editor then calls on all his or her turd-frosting skills, much like Sonny Corleone's mortician called on all his skills to make the mobster's bullet-riddled body viewable, to somehow make something out of little or nothing. It might be accomplished with digital effects, editorial style (e.g., quick-cut, MTV-like editing) or, more likely, a combination of both.

Back to the Turd Froster iPhone photo app...

If you're one of those iPhone snappers who seem to think just about anything you point your iPhone's internal camera at, no matter how boring or non-memorable, can be rendered into a fairly cool iPhone snapshot providing the right app is applied to it, the Turd Froster might be for you. You'll still be wrong about your crappy or boring image being anything more than it is but at least, by using the Turd Froster, you're being honest about it.

In this brave, new photographic world that sometimes seems bent on becoming one where the masses of shooters are trying their best to do little more than make photographic silk purses out of sow's ears (courtesy of all the many post-processing tools available to them) the Turd Froster just might be the first honest app available to them. (Hey! "Honest app" almost sounds like "Honest Abe." I gotta remember that when I'm coming up with the marketing and branding for the Turd Froster.)

But here's a better idea: Instead of snapping turds or otherwise boring and banal stuff, look for those truly cool and compelling subjects to shoot. Then, if you still think some photo app's treatments will make your already cool and compelling image even better, go for it!

Okay. I'm gonna try to get out of this cynical mode or mood or whatever it is I seem to be in. I promise my next update will be of a more positive, perhaps helpful, and certainly less cynical nature.

The pretty girl at the top is Kristina. I snapped this one inside a location house with a window behind her and a 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main plus a white reflector, opposite the main, for some gentle fill... as evidenced by the catch lights in her eyes. As always, you can click it to enlarge it.

REMINDER: Only two more days to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using discount code JUNESPECIAL when ordering. Just click on the links to my Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots ebooks in the right-hand column of this page and provide the discount code when ordering. Your 25% discount will automatically be applied to your purchase price.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Amazing Photographer iPhone App

I confess I often keep Twitter running in the background when I'm on my computer, which is quite often, and I semi-regularly check to see what people are Tweeting about. Since the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are photographers or those representing photography-related products and services, it's no surprise that the Tweets I mostly see are, in one way or another, related to photography.

It's not always, of course, about photography that photographers and other photo-related Twitter users are Tweeting. Often enough, they're Tweeting about social media and how social media can help you as a photographer or help you build your photography business. Nothing wrong with that. These days, anyone wanting to make a living via photography needs all the help they can get.

When the subject of the Tweets I view is about photography itself, I've lately noticed there's been a trend to Tweet a lot of stuff about iPhone photography and iPhone photography apps. I guess there's a lot of people who are fairly taken with shooting pics with their iPhones in spite of the fact that practically no one is making a dime, being-a-photographer-wise, shooting with an iPhone. (Chase Jarvis notwithstanding.) But then, photography isn't just about making money, right?

While photography certainly isn't simply about making money with a camera, I'm thinking there must be a fair amount of dough to be made coming up with iPhone photography apps. I'm told (via one very Twitter-active photographer's Tweet I recently read) there are 6,500 iPhone photography apps available to download.

Six thousand five hundred!

I own an iPhone and, for whatever reasons, I practically never snap photos with it. It's not that I don't know how to use my iPhone's camera or I'm unable to download apps. (In fact, I have downloaded a couple of apps which I've rarely used.) It's also not that I'm generally disinterested in photography other than the kind of stuff I shoot or in other image-capture devices than those I mostly use or that I'm purposely bucking this iPhone photography trend for one reason or another. I just don't and I don't for no particular or apparent reason. (Use my iPhone very often to snap pictures, that is.)

Beyond all those Tweets about iPhonegraphy and iPhone photo apps, a lot of people also post pictures they snap with their iPhones. Lately, it seems many of them are using the Instagram app for their iPhone pic production while the rest of them are using various other apps to enhance or post their photos, i.e., of the 6,499 apps, beyond Instagram, that are available.

Yep. Just about every iPhone photo I see has had some sort of app applied to it changing the look and feel of the photos. Nothing wrong with that, especially since so many of the iPhone photos I see would positively suck or be boring as hell if the iPhone shooter hadn't added some app's effects to it, rendering the photo a bit more interesting in an interesting-digital-photo-effect sort of way.

The other thing I've noticed is that not many people comment on those many iPhone snapshots that iPhone people post. (Unless it's snapped by the likes of a Chase Jarvis... sorry Chase, I'm not picking on you. Honestly, I'm not.) So, due to the apparent lack of feedback iPhoneographers receive for their iPhone pics, I've decided there's room for another iPhone app. Yes. I have an idea for number 6,501 in the world of iPhone photo apps. I'm calling it the "Amazing Photographer" app and here's what it does:

Every time you snap a photo with your iPhone, the Amazing Photographer app comments on the photo. It doesn't just comment, it praises your photo! I don't care if you snap an iPhone pic of paint drying on a wall, the Amazing Photographer app will tell you it's an amazing photo plus plenty more positive comments about you (as an iPhoneographer) as well other good stuff about the amazing (or not) iPhone snapshot you just captured.

You see, the Amazing Photographer app sort of mimics the way it is on some photography forums and social media sites. You know, like when someone posts a completely unmemorable and lackluster photo on Facebook and many of their friends drool all over it, proclaiming it an extraordinarily incredible and a-m-a-z-i-n-g photograph even if, in a more perfect and honest world, the best many of those photographs could hope for would be no comments at all. (Mostly because, even in a perfectly honest world, many folks' mothers would still teach them if they didn't have anything nice to say, they shouldn't say anything at all.)

Since, these days, investors seem eager to invest in just about anything that smacks of trendy, techie, things, I'm looking for a few million to develop my Amazing Photographer iPhone app. Any takers? I'll send you my PayPal address.

The pretty girl at the top is Faye. I snapped it outside her apartment with my Canon 5D and an 85mm prime. (Sorry, didn't use my iPhone.) I lit Faye with a couple of lights. For the mainlight I used a 300WS monolight modified with a rather small, shoot-thru umbrella. The back light was another 300WS monolight, but I left it bare bulb. You can click it to enlarge it.

And BTW, we're down to the last 5 days you can purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using discount code JUNESPECIAL when ordering. A lot of people this month have taken advantage of this offer. If you haven't already done so, don't miss out! Links to my Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots ebook sites are in the right-hand column.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Want to Improve Your Photography Skills? Get a Camera

While staring rather mindlessly at my TweetDeck Twitter feed early this morning, I was jolted out of my part-Twitter-induced, part-just-got-up trance when someone in the #photography Tweetosphere Tweeted the obvious, "I need a camera to improve my skill in photography."

My first reaction: "Well, d'uh!"

Then, mostly because I have too much time on my hands, I began considering what this Twit might actually be trying to say. After some caffeine-aided deliberation, I decided the aforementioned Twitterer who so successfully grabbed my attention and snapped me out of my morning stupor probably enjoys taking photos but doesn't do so with a camera. Leastwise, with a camera they consider a "real" camera.

With that thought in mind, I decided this person is either someone shooting with a point-n-shoot or perhaps with a cell phone when routinely capturing their precious Kodak moments or whatever it is they mostly point their image-capturing device at. (I could have sent them a Tweet asking for clarification but I sometimes prefer making up my own answers to the burning questions I also make up. Can't help it. They draw me this way.)


The notion of needing a camera -- i.e., a "real" camera like a digital SLR -- inspires some not-so-important questions like, "Can someone learn photography with a point-n-shoot or a photo-capable cell phone?"

The obvious answer is yes. Heck, you can learn a lot about photography with something as lo-fi and low-tech as a pinhole camera and most point-n-shoots and cell phone cameras have way more photographic capabilities than pinhole cameras. So yeah, of course, quite a bit about photography can be learned without owning one of today's new-fangled "real" cameras.

To a point, that is.

If you're really serious about learning photography, there will come a point when you'll probably want more versatility and capability than most point-n-shoots or cell phone cameras deliver, the iPhone 4 and all its apps notwithstanding. In fact, much of that versatility and capability will come from the ability to do things like having more manual control of your camera, the ability to swap out lenses, to fire remote strobes, and more.

You see, most point-n-shoots and cell phone cameras are purposefully designed in such a way that users can snap some pretty decent pics without the bothersome need to learn much of anything about the art and craft of photography. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone snapping pictures doesn't need to be a "photographer." For those people, i.e., the non-photographer photographers, here's the best part: The less they learn and know about photography, the less their good photos actually need to be good photos for them to consider them good photos. (If that makes sense.)

I suppose I should also mention that most "real" cameras, you know, those nifty digital SLRs that have become so popular, are also designed to operate much the same way, that is, minus the need for the user to actually learn photography. (Much the way their smaller point-n-shoot and cell phone cousins operate.) You see, most "real" cameras also have many of the same auto-functions and NB modes (No Brainer) thus alleviating the pesky necessity of actually learning much about photography in order to snap some pretty nice photographs.

Having said all that, I believe most of you who are reading this are more than a little interested in learning photography and/or increasing your photography skills so, to you, as well as to that unknown Twitter person who inspired this (kinda dumb and less-than-meaningful) blog update, please allow me to also state the obvious: "If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend you get yourself a camera, a "real" camera, in order to improve your skills in photography."

Again, I'm not saying you can't learn photography without a "real"camera but, so far, no one has been willing to pay me to shoot using a point-n-shoot or a cell phone. While that might someday happen, it hasn't happened yet. Beyond improving one's skills, I think that says something about what sorts of cameras are considered a requirement for being a serious or "real" photographer, leastwise by most of the people who pay other people to shoot photos... and probably by many other people as well.

Like so many other things in life, perception is everything.

Just six days left to purchase either or both of my ebooks (links to which are in the right-hand column) for 25% off. Use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing. The discount will be automatically applied to your purchase price.

The string bikini-clad pretty girl at the top is Alexa Lynn.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

dSLR Rigs

Thanks to digital technologies, it seems like everyone's a photographer these days. Now that many dSLRs are also HD video capable, many of those newly-minted photographers are also, suddenly, filmmakers as well.

Being a filmmaker, of course, requires some additional skills; not that special skills stopped too many people from being extra-special photographers, capturing all those special moments with specially designed cameras that practically shoot themselves via auto-everything. (Isn't that special?) Be that as it may -- Oh, man! My Dad used to say that a lot, "be that as it may." I'm afraid I'm at that age where I'm turning into him... Anyway -- the skills required for good film-making generally go beyond the skills required for capturing still images.

You're also probably going to need, besides new skills, some new gear. That really nice collection of strobes you paid a mortgage payment or two for aren't gonna do squat for your film-making endeavors. (Unless you're now also an SFX (special effects) guru and you want to experiment with stroboscopic motion capture.) Also, beyond the nifty camera and awesome glass you'll be using to capture imagery rivaling anything the likes of Vilmos Zsigmond ever shot, you're probably gonna need some sound gear to record decent audio with your pictures that are now, suddenly, in motion, perhaps even with models or actors who are (gulp) speaking!

There's also a whole slew of other products, beyond the stuff you'll actually need, that will help make, for instance, someone's journey from Soccer Mom to Pro Photographer to Steven Spielberg a rousing success. Here's one of them in the video below.

(P.S. There's still time to get 25% off either or both of my ebooks. Click my ebook links in the right-hand column and use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing.)

Oh... Almost forgot to mention: Kayla is the model at the top lounging in a very un-lady-like manner. Besides sometimes being un-lady-like (in good ways, I might add) Kayla's great to work with. As you can see, she even adjusts lights.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small Flash Economy?

I watched a behind-the-scenes video this morning wherein a pro photographer took viewers on a short, guided tour of his lighting set-up. In the video, the photographer was employing Nikon SB-900 small flash instruments. He was shooting in a somewhat small, location "studio" (a room at his client's facility) and had set up a white seamless as a backdrop.

The photographer's lighting set-up included a main source consisting of three SB-900s (a "tri-flash" he called it) mounted behind a 60" shoot-thru umbrella with a reflector set below it and angled up for a bit of fill coming from below. He also set a medium-sized softbox on the fill side using another SB-900 as the light source. On either side of the seamless, he employed a couple of more SB-900s to light the seamless. Finally, he boomed an SB-900 from behind which was set for a hair light. All the SB-900s were powered by batteries, albeit external battery sources, possibly Quantums, even though the "studio" had A/C available. In all, seven SB-900s with external battery packs were being used to light his models.

Let's do some arithmetic: B&H sells SB-900s for $499.95/ea. I'll round that off to $500/ea. The Quantums go for about, I believe, $200 each. With seven SB-900s (plus power sources) being used, the photographer was employing $4900 worth of small flash lighting sources. Since some tax or shipping or something more was probably spent purchasing that gear, I'll round that off to $5,000.


Someone explain to me how small-flash photography (leastwise, the way many shooters seem to use this gear) rather than using monolights or packs-n-heads, is the economical approach to shooting models? (Especially in an interior location where A/C is available.)

Sure, it's certainly easier to schlep that small-flash gear around but, frankly, I could have used two or three "plugged-in" monolights (at about $500/ea) or heads plus a couple of reflectors and achieved nearly the identical results, altho I'll admit the photographer in the video got more light on his background seamless than I could using only two or three light sources. And we all know how incredibly important it is to get that white seamless brightly and evenly lit because, in spite of all the processing most shooters perform in post, getting that white seamless perfectly exposed in production is absolutely critical to the final images. (Not.)

Reminder: There's only one week left to purchase either Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots (or both) for 25% off using special discount code, JUNESPECIAL.

The pretty girl with the rhinestone outfit is Cytherea, captured in my studio a few years ago.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cropping Pretty Girls

Basically, there's three ways to crop your photos: In the camera, in post, or a combination of both. (D'uh, right?) Like most photographers, I prefer the latter. More specifically, I try to capture a close-to-finished crop in camera and then I fine-tune that crop in post.

As a rule, I avoid relying solely on post-production cropping. Doing so has a lot to do with maximizing my camera's resolution abilities. If I didn't care about maximizing resolution, I'd simply shoot my models in full-body shots (or even more loosely framed) and then, in post, crop to taste.

For me, cropping mostly conforms to the 80/20 rule: About 80% of my crop happens in camera, 20% in post. That's probably true for many shooters, perhaps most?

To cover my ass, crop-wise, I often shoot the same pose using two or three different in-camera crops. I might shoot a full body shot, move/zoom in for the same shot but with a 3/4 crop, then I might move or zoom even closer for a 1/2 to 1/3 body shot. I don't always shoot all of those shots, of course. Most often, I shoot the 3/4 crop and then the 1/2 or 1/3 crop. Sometimes, I might also shoot a headshot as a 3rd or 4th choice. (None of what I just wrote is necessarily in any sort of order of doing things.) By doing this, I give myself more choices in post while taking better advantage of my camera's resolution because, whatever additional cropping I perform in post will, for the most part, retain 80% (or more) of the out-of-the-camera image I captured.

I've mentioned before, here on the blog, that most of the model photography I shoot ends up being processed by others, usually retouchers and/or graphic designers. Since those people are, in addition to those who write me checks, people I need to satisfy with my work, I've found that giving them more choices while still retaining the best resolution quality I can capture, is a good idea. (That doesn't mean I always shoot RAW. More than a few of my clients have me shooting large, fine, jpegs. Also, none of this means I increase the total number of images I capture by a factor of 2, 3, or 4. What it means is I've learned to be more selective and discriminating regarding the poses and angles that I do shoot.

Sometimes, too many choices, from the perspective of editing, is not a good thing.

The pretty girl at the top is Tera Patrick, captured last year in her home in Los Angeles. (Click to enlarge.) Just a reminder: If you haven't taken advantage of it already, there's still a few weeks left in June to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using the special discount code, JUNESPECIAL, when ordering. Just click on the links to my ebooks in the right-hand column and use the code when making the purchase. Your discount will be automatically applied to your final purchase price.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

June Special on eBooks!

As I continue writing towards the completion and release of my 3rd ebook, Zen and the Art of Glamour Photography, I thought it might be cool to offer a discount on my first two ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots. So that's what I'm going to do! (Since I like doing cool things and all.)

From now till the end of June, 2011, you can purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off their already low price of $9.95. I suck at math but I figure that means you'll end up saving about $2.50, plus or minus a penny or two on each ebook. Such a deal!

If you've thought about purchasing one or both of my ebooks but needed that extra little nudge to get you to click on the "Add to Cart" button, now's a good time to do just that... click the "Add to Cart" button, that is. If you're new to me and my work and/or my writing, well, I can tell you an awful lot of people have already bought my ebooks and I haven't yet had anyone complain. Not one! (Thanks and knock on wood.)

All you have to do is go to the or site where I sell my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots, and after clicking the "Add to Cart" button, use discount code JUNESPECIAL.

After entering this special discount code, your 25% discount will be automatically applied to the purchase price. This discount is good from now till the very last second of June, 2011. (P.S. You can also click on the banners in the right-side column to get to my ebook sites.)

The pretty girl crouched almost cat-like on the purple-felt pool table is one I snapped of Penthouse Pet, Tori Black, last year. (You can click it to enlarge it if you're so inclined.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

There Are No Hard 'n Fast Rules For Hard 'n Fast Rules

A lot of shooters are fond of quoting the rules: both the (supposed) hard 'n fast rules and the not so hard 'n fast rules. As a rule, the rules for rules aren't any more hard 'n fast than the rules themselves. They are soft and unfixed... perhaps "subjective" is a better way to describe them?

Don't get me wrong, I think rules are helpful, often appropriate, and important! Maybe not all rules but certainly photography's rules. (As for other rules, well, I've always been, to varying degrees, somewhat outlaw-ish. Probably no surprise there.)

While rules -- hard, fast, or otherwise -- aren't generally intended to be rigidly followed, certainly not to the letter, they do provide a foundation for any shooter's understanding of photography, i.e., what works and what doesn't work. After all, if you don't know what works, how are you going to know if what (often) doesn't work suddenly works? If it works, that is, in a given instance as a unique approach to a specific image. (If that makes sense.)

I do have some favorite rules. They tend to be amongst the more common, simple and basic rules. (The Rule of Thirds comes immediately to mind.) While I don't always religiously apply the rules or use them in hard 'n fast ways, I do often use them in my photography; sometimes obviously, other times subtly. (Sometimes, in ways that aren't much more than barely perceptible "nods" to an established rule.)

Unfortunately, there are no rules for deciding when to apply the rules. (Or rules for deciding to purposely break rules or for ignoring them.)

The lack of rules for applying rules is sometimes a confounding thing for photographers. Many photographers, especially new-ish photographers, are grateful and enthusiastic being told exactly how to do things, photography-wise. That includes applying rules! That's why so many "How To" books and other learning media are so popular. And it makes sense.

Many books and learning and training programs, like knowing the rules themselves, are necessary for growing and expanding one's skill, efficiency, and quality of craft. Understanding and applying the rules, as well as learning exactly how to do so many other things, is often discovered when they're laid out for us, step-by-step. That's a helluva lot easier than blindly searching for that "how to" knowledge or hoping you accidentally stumble upon it. All this kind of stuff is very important to becoming all you can be as a photographer... unless you're some kind of photo-prodigy, which most of us ain't.

There is one rule, however, that's always hard 'n fast: With photography, the learning never stops. I don't care how experienced or successful a photographer might be, there's always more for them to learn, whether they believe that or not.

Personally, I think the never-ending learning process is one of the things that makes photography so cool! Doing so, continuing the learning process that is, keeps your photography fresh, vibrant, and exciting. Learning inspires! Learning is a muse! Course, so are things like beautiful, naked chicks in front of your camera but that's not the subject of my babbling today.

Speaking of beautiful, naked, chicks, the model at the top (who mostly fits that criteria) is Layla, snapped a few months ago.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sometimes, Access is Everything

Ever look at celebrity photos or other stuff that gets lots of play and think, "That picture isn't all that good" or "I could shoot that just as well."

Me too.

Often enough, we're probably right. The photo isn't all that good or it might be that we could shoot it just as well. Other times, of course, it is a really good, stand-out, photo and you or I may or may not be able to equal or best it.

What is it that makes some photos and some photographers really stand out? In a word, access: They had access to the subject and the subject is often someone or some thing most shooters simply don't have access to.

In my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, I briefly mentioned that, often enough, the single most important element to snapping a hot pic of a hot model is having a really hot model in front of your camera. (No surprise there.) I didn't put too much emphasis on that observation because I didn't want others thinking they won't ever snap great photos of models unless the model is exceptionally hot. That's not the case. I've seen terrific photos of models who are not, in most viewers' estimations, all that strikingly hot. (I'd like to think I've shot a few of those photos myself.) Still, the simple truth is the subject of a photo is often the most important element in terms of garnering attention and getting the most positive reactions from viewers.

Earlier today, a fellow photographer on Facebook brought forward the notion of access being so important when he mentioned (and linked-to) some great photos of Navy SEALs snapped by small-flash guru, Joe McNally.

McNally's photos are, as usual, impressive. But I couldn't help but think that if those photos were simply of some random and anonymous Marines or other members of our armed forces, they'd be considerably less memorable. More so since Navy SEALs were recently in the news after stamping "The End" on Osama bin Laden's ass. You see, Joe McNally was given special photographic access to Navy SEALs which, frankly, most photographers, myself included, will probably never experience.

The same holds true for photographers who have access to celebrities, other important and notable people, or incredbily hot models. How well would David LaChapelle's images of people like Madonna and others be remembered sans, as an example, Madonna in the photos? That's not to say LaChapelle's visions aren't cool or executed skillfully. But the fact remains: his images of Madonna, for instance, are even more memorable because, well, because Madonna was the subject of his vision.

As usual, I'm just sayin.

The pretty girl at the top is Charmane, lit and snapped with plenty of contrast to add some photo-aesthetic value to a model who really doesn't need all that much help being perceived as a hottie.