Friday, July 29, 2011

What Size Softbox Is Best?

I came across a terrific video today. It's hosted by photographer, Jay Morgan, and I think it's one of the best and most succinct and easy-to-digest videos I've seen regarding softbox selection.

Most glamour photographers often go with the largest softboxes they have, leastwise for their key or main light. Often, that's a great choice. Traditional softbox wisdom says size does matter and going big with softboxes often yields pleasing glamour results. The bigger the light source, after all, the softer the light. And soft light is something we generally prefer when shooting gorgeous models for glamour pics.

Soft light, however, isn't always our first choice. Sometimes, we want to cast shadows to play dramatic roles in our images. The best way to let shadow do its thing is to reduce the size of the light source (relative to the model) so there's less wrap-around and the shadows become more obvious and defined.

Glamour photographers are also interested in coverage, that is, how much area will my modified light cover? One would think the bigger the softbox, the more area it covers. Sounds like a reasonable assumption, no?


As you watch the video, you'll discover that various sizes of softboxes behave in almost identical ways in some ways, and very differently in other ways.

Here's Morgan's video:

The pretty girl at the top is Chayse. I was shooting in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. I used a Photoflex 5' Octo for my main and a couple of kickers from behind, either side, both modified with small, shoot-thru umbrellas. As always, you can click the pic to enlarge it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Kiss of Light

I'd be a big, fat, liar if I didn't admit I've fantasied about kissing some of my models. I won't say where I'd often like to kiss them -- beyond the usual kissable places -- this being a socially-correct and polite blog... well, it's sort of socially-correct and polite, text-wise, at least. I also won't say my fantasies don't sometimes go beyond kissing. But that's another story, one better kept private.

Since I'm rarely invited to kiss my models other than with harmless, welcoming or departing, pecks on their cheeks, even the occasional brief and friendly lip-to-lip action, I'm usually left with merely kissing them with light. (Sucks, don't it?)

I don't, of course, kiss (with light) many of my models just anywhere. Mostly, I kiss them with light in places that match some of the very same places I'd like to kiss them in other ways. Go figure, right? BTW, if I'm sounding like a perv or a GWC, I really don't care. I prefer to think I'm sounding like most all men. Leastwise, men who are honest about this kind of stuff.

When it comes to photos of beautiful naked women, one might think a viewer's eyes, especially male eyes, would have no problems focusing on certain places on the model's body that are "places of interest." Yeah. You know what I'm talking about. Still, as a glamour photographer, I often feel compelled to use light to draw the viewers' attention to some of those body locations that are, to be honest, of major interest to my viewers.

I often do this -- kiss them with light in all the right places, that is -- with highlights and accent lights. For those who need this spelled out for them, those "places of interest" usually include the models' faces, breasts, and butt cheeks. Obviously, there are other "places of interest" which might be included on my list of places to kiss....with light or otherwise, that is. It simply depends, for the most part, on what I'm trying to accomplish with the pictures or what content limitations, or desired exaggerations, that might have been communicated to me by those writing checks.

D'uh, right?

Modeling lights and chimping are great ways to insure you're kissing your models with light in all the right places. (Or many of the right places.) Often, after chimping or examining what the modeling lights are doing, I have my models adjust their poses so those "places of interest" are kissed, and kissed well, with whatever lights I've assigned to do the kissing. Many of you probably do the same.

The use of additional lights to highlight a model's "places of interest" is certainly not anything new or original or something many of you haven't considered or regularly do when you're shooting models. I'm simply explaining my way of thinking about, looking at, or imagining what I'm doing with those particular lights when I'm using them to highlight or accent certain parts of my models. You know, as in "Hmm... I should kiss her harder there," or "I need to turn her a bit so the light kisses her better on her..." Well, you get the idea.

The mostly-naked and nicely-put-together model at the top is Madison. As you can see, I used some extra lights to kiss her in some of the right places... some of those "places of interest."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tronix Explorer Mini Rocks!

I took my new Tronix Explorer Mini out for a test drive the other day. Okay, technically it was a test shoot, not a test drive, but if this new product had wheels and a motor, it would handle like an agile sports car, accelerating quickly enough to knock your head back.

The Explorer Mini is Innovatronix's latest addition to it's line of portable power units. But don't let the word, "Mini," fool you. This little baby packs a wallop with its 400 watts of continuous power and 1200ws of peak power!

Here's some personal observations about the Explorer Mini, that is, a few things that impressed me beyond my overall sense of being impressed, earning the Mini a JimmyD "Seal of Approval" for this very cool portable power unit.

Recycle time: It was as if my monolight was plugged into an AC socket! Every time I snapped one, my strobe was recharged as quickly as it ever recharges when working in a studio. I never slowed the normal pace I usually shoot at. I'm not saying I fire my Canon like it's a Gatling Gun, I don't. That's not my shooting style. But I often shoot fairly fast, albeit, a single shot at a time. (My camera is practically never in multi-shot burst mode.)

I wrote to Glen, Innovatronix's marketing honcho, and told him I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or what, but it sure seemed like the recycle time didn't slow down in any noticeable way towards the end of my shoot and as the Mini came closer to being spent. Glen wrote me back and said it was not my imagination. He explained that, while I won't get as many total number of POPs with the Mini as I do with my much larger ExplorerXT -- the XT being much bigger and having more overall capacity -- the Mini packs more punch than the XT and that punch is very noticeable in terms of recycle times. It also means the Tronix Mini is compatible with an even greater variety of various manufacturers' strobes than the XT is compatible with. (Note: Whenever I'm in the market for new strobes -- or portable power supplies for that matter -- fast recycle time is always near the top of my list for "must have" functionality.)

While the Mini may not hold as much overall power in reserve as it's big brother, the XT, that's not to say I ran out of juice before finishing my shoot. I was using a 300ws monolight cranked up to full-power output throughout the two or three hours I was shooting and the Mini, as small as it is, delivered about 300 full-power POPs!

I also loved the carrying bag the Mini travels in and for a couple of reasons: First, it's well vented so the Mini and it's charger can always stay in the bag, even while recharging. Second, while the Mini is much smaller than the XT, it's still heavy enough so the bag can be hung from a light stand and perform like a sand bag. I'm not saying it's heavy enough to anchor a light stand with a big modifier up top, keeping it firmly planted in gale force winds. (Neither will multiple sand bags.) Still, it was heavy enough to keep my stand upright in the gentle breeze that helped keep us cool while shooting. BTW, I was using a fairly good size modifier: a 5' Photek Softlighter.

I highly recommend the Tronix Explorer Mini as an effective, reliable, reasonably-priced and terrific solution to your portable power needs, especially for those quick(ish) on-location shoots where A/C is not available. If, like me, you prefer shooting with the advantages and power of monolights, rather than small flash instruments, the Tronix Explorer Mini is the answer to those needs. If, like many photographers, you prefer shooting with small flash instruments, Innovatronix also makes and sells an AC/DC converter/power supply, the Tronix Speedfire, allowing you to plug one end of the Speedfire into the Mini (or into an AC wall socket for that matter) and the other end into your Canon or Nikon flash's power port. Doing so will deliver many POPs from your speedlite(s) and at faster recycle times than your small flash delivers when stuffed with AA batteries.

The young lady at the top is Alexis. She's an aspiring, mainstream actress. I was shooting images for her commercial portfolio. My bud, Dan, was with me and he snapped the behind-the-scenes pic up top featuring both Alexis and the Tronix Explorer Mini hanging from my light stand. As I mentioned, I was using a 300ws monolight at full-power output modified with a large Photek Softlighter. I also set a LumoPro Lite Panel, lengthwise on the ground and angled up for that set of on-the-ground shots. It provided a bit of gentle fill from underneath. The Lite Panel's reflector was bouncing strobe light, by the way, not sun light. As you can see, I was using the late afternoon sun for back light. I love the beautiful, warm, edge-lighting the sun provides at that time of day. It also helped separate Alexis from the background while adding other aesthetic values.

Below is a shot of Alexis I snapped after the sun had set and the ambient was mostly gone. Like the Energizer Bunny, the Explorer Mini still had some fast-recycle power left so I finished out our shoot adopting a slightly editorial look and feel for the last few images of Alexis.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lighting in Layers

, I don't regularly shoot outside, that is, daylight exteriors. That's not to say I don't ever shoot outside, I do, but more often than not, my clients have me either shooting in a studio or in some practical location's interior.

When I do shoot outdoor exteriors, make that daylight exteriors, and I'm going to use available light rather than mostly overcoming it with artificial lighting -- which is how I prefer working; using available light rather than overcoming it, that is -- my thought process for approaching my lighting is one where I build on what's available. I rarely rely on what's available by itself.

Some photographers do, of course, rely on available light almost exclusively and they're quite talented at doing so. For the most part, I'm not one of those people. As a result, I almost always add to whatever lighting naturally exists, whether I do so with artificial lighting or with reflectors bouncing direct sunlight or reflecting subtle fill courtesy of the existing ambient.

In my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, I wrote about building on the "one light," i.e., the main source of light. For me, it all starts with a single light source regardless of whether that light source is a strobe, a continuous artificial lighting instrument, or the sun. (Direct sunlight or indirect/ambient, it makes no difference.) My work doesn't usually remain "one-light" work. Mostly, because contemporary glamour photography often dictates using multiple light sources, adding fill and highlights which are designed to add to the model's allure.

Like working with layers in Photoshop, I think of this as working with layers of lighting. One layer is my main or key light. Another is fill. Other layers might include accents and/or highlights. There's no order in which I might approach these layers. I might begin, for instance, with the back light; definitely if or when it's prominent. (As it often might be when you're shooting later in the day and you're using the sun as a back light and that direct sunlight is quite strong and bright.)

Let's break it down: First, I decide which light is my "one light." (As mentioned above, when referring to my ebook.) Whether that "one light" is a strobe or it's direct sunlight or it's exterior daylight ambient, it doesn't really matter. The light I dub my "one light" always creates the foundational lighting for my images and I build the rest of my lighting scheme, or layers, on that single, usually most prominent, light source I've decided is my "one light."

If I'm outside working in daylight, for instance, I pick a spot where I like the lighting that already exists (Assuming my client gives me the leeway to pick a spot of my choosing, which they don't always do.) The already existing natural light, whether it's direct or ambient, becomes, in my mind, my "one light." Then, I ask myself, "How can I make this better? How can I enhance my one light?" Leastwise, better or enhance it in ways that A) accomplishes what I'm trying to accomplish; B) best utilizes what's available, lighting-wise; and C) most effectively features my model, separating her from the environment and making the image "all about her." Remember: I'm strictly talking about lighting, make that glamour lighting, and not other portrait genres or the many other techniques a photographer might utilize to accomplish those things.

Let's say I'm shooting late in the day in and around Golden Hour. Often, although certainly not always, I'll decide to use the sun as my back-light. I love that natural, warm, golden-aura, edge-lighting that's available during that time of day! Course, shooting in those conditions means I'm usually going to need to balance the bright back-light with front-lighting. Otherwise, without the help of front-light, I'll either blow out the background or end up with a silhouette shot. Most often, those kinds of shots aren't what I'm looking to snap.

Basically, I can add front-light one of two ways: either by using reflectors or strobes. (There's other ways to do this by using continuous light instruments, often in the form of HMIs, but they aren't regularly available to me. )

I'm not going to get into which is best, reflectors or strobes. From an aesthetics POV, there is no best. It's an either/or kind of thing or it depends on which tools I expect will yield the kind of aesthetic results I'm looking for. Often enough, my approach includes both. That is, I might use reflectors as well as strobes or various numbers of each. I don't, BTW, have an absolute preference. For me, these decisions most often depend on what seems most practical (while still delivering the results I'm looking for) or what is the easiest or most efficient way to accomplish what I'm trying to accomplish with my images. I'm all about easiest and most practical.

As everyone knows, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line... or the straightest line you can manage. The rule of straight lines (or nearly-straight lines) applies to where you might be physically going as much as it does to things like how to proceed when photographing models. It does for me, at least. I do understand there are exceptions to this rule, just like there are exceptions to most rules. The way they plot the courses of airliners on trans-oceanic routes is a good example: it's often better, make that potentially safer, to fly over land masses as much as possible rather than simply navigating a straight line across the ocean.

As usual, I won't be providing a lighting tutorial or explaining exactly how to accomplish these things. (There's plenty of websites and blogs that do that!) Besides, no one single lighting tutorial or explanation could cover the different conditions I've mentioned in this update. I suppose I'm more about trying to get photographers to think about how they approach this stuff, you know, in their heads, rather than telling them how to do it. I'm simply sharing how my mind works when approaching my lighting, given the many different lighting factors and conditions that might be present.

Bottom line, don't rely near-exclusively on RAW adjustments or on Photoshop or some other image processor to fix things. Do things right when you're capturing your images. Do things in production that are most effective and most efficient. Try your best to capture you vision while you're shooting, rather than later on when you might have to toil at creating a vision, yours or one you've seen some other photographer create. Use post tools to enhance your images, rather than fixing or repairing them or trying to polish a turd.

The pretty girl at the top is Roxanne. I had to utilize my computer's way-back machine to upload it. I think I snapped that one about 7 or more years ago at a location house in the hills. Obviously, it was captured during Golden Hour. A single, large reflector was used for the front-light. I apologize for, what I now consider, heavy-handed processing. (I'm not too keen on the amputated right arm either.) I no longer have the original image and I did the processing back when I was still a little too enamored, and certainly less proficient, with Photoshop... even if, for the most part, I still suck at using PS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+ TOS: Another POV

If you read my last update, "A Big Fat Minus for Google+," you might be having reservations about Google's new social media endeavor. Minimally, you might be concerned about Google's TOS and what it means to photographers or, more importantly, any photos photographers might post on Google's new social media website.

But I'm an equal opportunity kind of guy. I like presenting more than one perspective on stuff like this. My last update was based on a blog post by well-known photographer, Scott Bourne, who obviously has heartburn with Google over their TOS. I never knew heartburn was contagious but, after reading Bourne's blog post, it gave me heartburn as well. So maybe it is? Contagious, I mean.

While Bourne may be 100% correct about Google's TOS, there are other ways to look at this issue and, in my never-ending quest to provide all of you with more than a small amount of good info, make that enough good info to help you make good, intelligent, informed decisions about whatever the hell the info is I'm posting on this blog, (i.e., when whatever it is I'm writing about might include some decision-making) I think you might also be interested in a different perspective on this Google+ TOS thing.

So, with that in mind, I give you another talented and skilled photographer's POV on this issue. It's a good read. CLICK HERE TO READ COLBY BROWN'S POV

The pretty girl at the top with the pouty expression is Cytherea.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Big Fat Minus for Google+

There's been a lot of buzz, positive buzz, about Google+ in recent weeks. And a lot of that buzz might be for some very good reasons.

Not that I'm necessarily counting it as one of the reasons for the buzz, but if anyone might eventually dislodge Facebook as the social media site of choice for many, many people, Google just might be the one to do it. Frankly, if Facebook went the way of MySpace, I sure wouldn't shed a tear or lose any sleep over it.

Having said that, I spend a lot of time on Facebook. It's almost always open in one of my windows. While I might be doing other things like authoring blog entries, writing for my ebooks, editing photos and more, I can easily and quickly monitor my Facebook page for updates, messages, etc. That's why some of my friends think I spend most of my life on FB. While it might appear that I do, appearances can be decieving. BTW, I also usually have my Twitter feed running as well.

Facebook has definitely given me heartburn on more than a few occasions. Usually, it's been when they've deleted my photos because they claimed those photos somehow violated their TOS. (Terms of Service.)

I've only once violated FB's actual stated TOS with a photo. I posted a candid photo of a model who was holding a bong. But in all the other cases of FB deleting my photos, I've not violated their stated TOS. Still, not only did they delete my photos, but two or three times they suspended my ability to upload photos and threatened to banish me from FB forever. GFY, Mark Zuckerberg, you and your morality police.

Now, along comes Google+ in a quest to dislodge FB from the social media throne. That's cool. Competition is a good thing. It keeps people and companies on their toes and, hopefully, also keeps them looking for ways to make their service or product or whatever better or more attractive or less expensive or current and so much more.

When it comes to photo sharing, Google+ wants to make the experience superior to FB's photo sharing capabilities. Cool! I'm all for that. But Google+, like Facebook, also wants to have free reign with users' photos. For many people who simply post snapshots taken with their cell phones or point-n-shoots, that might not seem like a big deal. But for anyone who makes their living, wholly or in part, with cameras in their hands, it's a big freakin' problem. I know I have a big fat problem with it.

Check out this article on the Photo Focus blog: Google Plus - Read the Fine Print Before You Sign Up. If, like me, you're someone who makes their living with photography, even if it's just part of your living, you might want to think about this before signing up or, if you already have signed up or plan to do so, before posting pics to your new Google+ account.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica busting a fairly silly pose and expression. I exaggerated it by employing some wide-angle distortion. Trust me when I tell you that, normally, Nautica's photos reveal her as quite the beautiful, exotic, and sexy young thing.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Your Personal Style

Some photographers lay claim to an identifiable personal style. Others depend on viewers of their work, from Facebook or Flickr friends to clients to photo editors even to art critics, to describe their style for them. Many other photographers say they're still in search of an identifiable personal style or that their style is dynamic and ever-evolving.

Whether a distinctive personal style, static or dynamic, is more appropriately described by the photographers themselves or by viewers of his or her work, I'm really not sure. I'm not sure it matters who does the describing. The thing that does matter, I suppose, is that your style is well received by others.

For some, I suppose, having a style, well-received or otherwise, doesn't really matter. You see, some of those folks are photographers who claim they're simply and exclusively doing this thing for themselves and themselves only... which then begs the question, "If that is so, why do you bother sharing your photos with others on forums and elsewhere?"

I should note that I'm not writing today about the merits of having a recognizable, distinctive, and identifiable style, regardless of whether that style is subtle or obvious or common or unique. I think most will agree having a recognizable style is, for the most part, a good thing. More so if that style resonates positively with viewers. For shooters like me, those who make a living (or some part of it) with photography, having a recognizable style is even more of a good thing if that style resonates well with the people who write checks, a.k.a., clients. That includes established clients and, probably more importantly, potential clients.

How are many photographers' personal styles described?

I think describing or defining a personal style mostly begins by categorizing some very important aspects of the work including how that work is created. This is probably truer now, in the digital age, than ever before. If there's two, major, categories that often define, in whole or in large part, today's breed of photographer as well as their styles, it probably revolves around whether their overall style is mostly captured with a camera or is mostly created in post-production.

Some of you might disagree with the above statement. Still, I think it's true. Style-related discussions are often seen on a few of the photographer/model forums I frequent. In many of those discussions, it's obvious it can often be a sensitive subject.

Some shooters seem to feel the need to aggressively, sometimes angrily, defend their methods when questioned (in polite or sometimes not-so-polite ways) regarding how they arrive at their finished photos. It's been my observation that those people, the ones who get angry or defensive, are most often those who rely more heavily on post-processing than production to achieve their work.

Many photographers, of course, simply and unemotionally share their methods. Still others prefer to remain elusive and mysterious about it. My opinion? Whichever way you choose to express yourself, well, that's your business. In the grand scheme of things, it's really unimportant and matters little. If it makes you happy to rant about how your way is the right way, then go for it. If you don't care to share your techniques, oh well. The sun will still rise tomorrow regardless of what you or anyone else says or doesn't say on a photography forum or how you make your photos.

It's likely that some, perhaps many of you, believe your style is achieved through fairly equal doses of production and post-production. Personally, I disagree. From the many, many images I regularly view, it's often obvious (to me) whether a shooter's personal style is mostly a product of what comes out of the camera or is, to a much greater extent, created via post-processing. (I'm talking style here people, not every element of your photos.)

Style is an intangible factor. Still, i think I can assess a shooter's style, in terms of it being mostly camera-related or mostly post-related, with the 80/20 rule. As with many things, the 80/20 rule often applies. Why not apply it to photographic styles? At least in terms of how a given style is arrived at. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to apply the 80/20 rule when categorizing the personal styles exhibited, and how they're arrived at it, by many if not most digital photographers.

Yep. It seems to me most shooters' styles are either somewhere around 80% shooting style and 20% post-processing or visa versa. These days, of course, I see plenty of the visa versa styles. But that's not to say there's anything inherently wrong with the way the visa versa people, i.e., those whose work is about 80% processing and 20% production, go about making their photographic imagery.

Please also note that while I might have a personal bias regarding which way the 80/20 should be divvied in terms of which way most often resonates best with me, my bias does not necessarily convince me that one or the other is automatically superior. Fortunately, it's still a free country, leastwise when it comes to having opinions or employing photographic techniques. So, while I have an overall opinion in this matter, plus I have my own ways of arriving at whatever it is that makes my personal style, "my personal style," I don't necessarily believe my opinions or methods are any more valid than the opinions or methods of others. (How's that for being diplomatic?)

Applying the 80/20 rule to style seems especially appropriate in the digital photography age. When photography was analog, the style exhibited by nearly all photographers was mostly a product of their shooting techniques, their aesthetics, and their "eye." In other words, their styles were incorporated into the pictures, for the most part, the moment they snapped their photos.

Sure, there were exceptions. Back in the analog day, some well-known photographers exhibited big chunks of their styles as a result of work performed in a darkroom.

Famed glamour photographer, George Hurrell, comes to mind. I'd put a 50/50 ratio on Hurrell's work. His camera work and lighting was certainly distinctive but the work he did in the darkroom was equally distinctive. When it comes to shooting, coupled with darkroom work, I'd also probably slap a 50/50 ratio on Ansel Adams' work. For the most part, though, the great majority of analog photographers captured their personal styles with their cameras, more so than via work performed in a darkroom.

Looking at a few of today's notable photographers, I'd say Annie Leibovitz's style is mostly captured in the camera. Conversely, the stylistic work of celebrity photography team, Klinko & Indrani, seems more a product of post-processing than out-of-the-camera style. Remember, I'm simply referring to style. Style is just one component of terrific (or crappy) photography.

Here's my advice: Once you've determined or admit to which camp you mostly fall in -- the shooting camp or the post-processing camp -- and regardless of which camp mostly seems to best reflect the way your personal style is achieved, I think it's important to fully embrace your style-related methods of capturing or creating your images rather than worrying about whether one method is superior to another. If, like me, you depend more on things like camera work, lighting, exposure, and interaction with the model to achieve some sort of style, that's cool. If you depend more on Photoshop or some other image processing software, well, that's cool too. Whatever floats your boat, right?

BTW, whatever your style might be or however you arrive at it, if it doesn't seem to be working out for you, that is, your personal style isn't generating the kind of responses you believe (or hope) it deserves, how about instead of aggressively defending it, you know, playing the "art card" or whatever, you consider re-thinking how you approach your photography in terms of your personal style and how you get there. After all, a terrific and well-received photographic style, like beauty, is most often reflected in the eyes of its beholders, not the images' creators.

The pretty girl at the top is Katrina. I've posted this pic before but I think it's a good example of a style I try to incorporate in many of my glamour photos: one where, while using commonly-seen lighting and compositional styles, I also try to include poses and expressions that are on the emotional side, whatever that emotion might be or one I might decide to try to capture.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The More Things Change, the More They Change

Perhaps like many of you, especially in these financially tight times, I generally keep an eye open for things I can do to make a couple of extra bucks.

As you might guess, I've set some self-imposed restrictions on the things I'm interested... make that willing to do. They cannot A) steal too much of my time; B) require ridiculous amounts of effort; C) take me too far off-course from the course I've set for myself.

What sorts of things do I either keep an eye open for or both of them shut to? Well, I'm definitely not looking to work part-time at WalMart as a greeter or do anything of that nature. Actually, I won't do much of anything that isn't, in some way, connected to shooting cameras or is photography-related or involves helping others learn, develop, and enhance their shooting and production skills. All of that, of course, is in addition to shooting gigs, whether they're inside or outside the genres I most-often work in.

Oh yeah. Speaking of won'ts or don'ts, I also don't and won't shoot weddings. That's not meant in any way to dis those who do shoot weddings. In fact, my hat's off to you. Weddings are hard freakin' work. Oftentimes, with incredible pressure attached! (Bridezillas, little control of the event or its subjects, no chance of re-shoots if the pictures suck.) Not for me, thank you very much.

Just recently, I noticed someone on Twitter posted something about a photography site looking for guest bloggers; make that PAID guest bloggers.

Cool! Right up my alley.

Or so I thought.

When I visited the site, there was, as Tweeted, a page announcing they were looking to pay guest bloggers to write about photography. Specifically, the aspects of photography they were looking for bloggers to write about were as follows:

1. Photoshop
2. Lightroom
3. Digital Asset Management
4. Lightroom and Photoshop Add-Ons
5. Hardware
6. Business of Photography
7. Social Media and Social Networking

Wow! I've been making a big chunk of my living doing this a long time but I'm not really qualified to write about any of that stuff. Yeah, I could touch on some of it but, for the most part, I don't know what I'd blog about within those subject ranges, leastwise in ways that might be compelling enough or informative enough to appeal to too many readers. I did think it interesting that, other than the hardware and business stuff, you wouldn't need to go back too many years to find that all of those other things would barely register on photography's version of a Richter Scale or Geiger Counter, if at all.

Even more interesting, to me at least, was that they (the site) didn't seem interested in having anyone write about shooting pictures. You know, the part of photography where a photographer picks up a camera and shoots photographs. It made me sit back and wonder if the photography part of photography has become the least important aspect of photography in the digital photography age?

If so, no wonder photography is such a tough business these days!

Besides there being way too many shooters all reaching for a piece of the pie, a pie that hasn't gotten any larger and might even be smaller, today's photographers have to learn and understand so much more! They need to know about all kinds of software applications, workflows, storing and managing pictures on computer devices, social media and cyber-networking, all kinds of crap! Much of it having little or nothing to do with actually picking up a camera and shooting some kick-ass photos. Now I know why so many of today's new breed of photographers seem more interested in apps and quick tips for making the shooting part of photography the part that's easiest and most automated.

It used to be all you needed (to kick off a career as a photographer) was some gear, the ability to shoot good pictures with that gear, and some basic business and marketing savvy. Incredibly, make that incredibly sadly, I can almost visualize a time, probably not too far distant, when learning and practicing the art and craft of photography becomes the least important part of being a photographer.

Actually, it sometimes seems like we're already there.

The sexy lady at the top is Kimberly. I was going for a subtle, retro-bordello look... not that I know anything about bordellos, retro or otherwise. (Click it to enlarge it.)

So Now You're a Filmmaker Too?

It wasn't enough that just about everyone became a pro-status photographer once dSLRs took hold. Now, with the addition of HD video to many dSLR's capabilities, it seems many of those same people are now also filmmakers, albeit digital filmmakers.

And why not? New technologies have put digital film-making into just about everyone's hands.

Once upon a time, it was incredibly difficult to become the next Steven Spielberg. These days, becoming a Spielberg or a Lucas or a Cameron or some other well-known "name" from the ranks of A-list directors might seem a somewhat more realistic goal, within everyone's grasp.

But is it?

Nope. Not even close. Not even remotely close.

Here's some 4-1-1 about becoming a successful, commercial filmmaker:

It takes talent. Plenty of it.

It takes luck. Plenty of luck.

It usually takes being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people and so much more.

It takes money. Plenty of money. Owning an HD video-capable dSLR, some lights, digital editing software, sound equipment and other gear is a good start for any fledgling filmmaker but it's not enough. Not nearly enough.

It takes more. So much more.

Let's say your film-making aspirations fall way shorter than joining the pantheon of Hollywood's major filmmakers. Okay. That's probably more realistic. Still, to have any modicum of success, you're going to need some amount of those things I mentioned above. Probably more of that stuff than you might think.

I'm not trying to be a pessimist or rain on anyone's parade but even offering video services to your existing photography clients will require some of the stuff listed above. Certainly it's going to take more than simply owning a dSLR that is video-capable. And most certainly, assuming you want to offer those video services with the results being better than someone simply holding and pointing a camera and pressing a button, you'd best develop some skills doing so.

Still photography and motion picture photography, while having much in common, remain worlds apart in many ways, requiring different skill sets to achieve outstanding results. My advice would be to figure out what those differences are and to learn and develop the new skills necessary before going out and claiming you're a filmmaker or offering video as an add-on service. Assuming you hope to be successful at it, that is.

The two young ladies playfully engaged in Sapphic shenanigans for my camera are Ashley (l.) and Katie (r.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Apps 'n Tips 'n Kibbles 'n Bits

Kibbles 'n Bits has crunchy kibbles plus real meaty bits dogs love! Apps 'n Tips has techy apps plus real simple and usable tips photographers love!

I'm not saying the thousands of apps and photography tips I see so many people posting every single day on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere reminds me of packaged dog food, but...

...on second thought, I guess that's exactly what I am saying.

I know, I know, here goes old Mr. Cynical again, sneering at the new "instant pudding" generation of photographers. But frankly, these days, it seems far too many photographers are mostly interested in the many methods they can use to automate or make their photographic pursuits no-brainer and less uniquely creative rather than focusing on, learning, and discovering what truly sets great photography apart from snapshot status. That is, from pedestrian and commonly-seen approaches to it (which most apps 'n tips are designed to achieve... make that enhance, I suppose) rather than the things that constitute a truly terrific, unique, creatively-captured and memorable image.

Now don't get me wrong. I recognize that a lot of my own photography is pedestrian and commonly-seen. I don't deny it. And a lot of it is that way by design... my clients' expectations and all that. Personal excuses aside, what does turning photography -- an art form with a long and distinctive history of creative achievements -- into such a near-complete automated process have to do with artistic and creative fulfillment?

IMO, nothing.

In spite of all the supportive barks and yelps and happy howls one might receive on Facebook or wherever a photographer might receive kudos (warranted or not) for their latest snapshit which was rendered cool or artsy by some app or via a "cheat" tip, do people who nearly always use these things really get some sense of creative satisfaction from the results achieved and compliments received?

It's like this-- Your photo, the part of the finished photo that's actually of your personal, creative making, might not always be very cool or artistic but is it truly satisfying to get those ego strokes because it suddenly seems cool or artistic (mostly to untrained eyes) because a computer algorithm (i.e., an app) or quick-tip cheat automatically and non-creatively made it that way with very little human intervention? Where's the you, the human, the photographer, in that equation? You know, in terms of YOU being the LARGEST part of that equation.

I just don't get how people can actually take creative pride in a photograph that is ten parts automated and one part (or less) creatively and humanly produced.

I'm not saying there aren't times when using or applying these many apps or taking advantage of the myriad of helpful quick-tips isn't appropriate. But for these things to represent the lion's share of one's photography? That seems fairly empty and unrewarding to me.

Just sayin, as usual.

The young lady grasping her butt-cheeks at the top is Nautica. She's certainly not a female I'd ever think to feed Kibbles 'n Bits to.