Sunday, February 27, 2011


My other victim from Friday night. (Click to enlarge.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Here's a couple of shots of tonight's victim, Celeste. Once again, used the Photek Softlighter for my main light, the LumoPro LitePanel for fill, and a couple of kickers from behind, either side. (Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photek Softlighter II Review

Tried out my new 60" Photek Softlighter II last night. I give it high marks for both functionality as well as ease of use.

First off, it was incredibly quick and easy to deploy. I had already attached the front baffle to the umbrella before going to my shoot. This made attaching the Softlighter to my Novatron 500ws monolight a piece of cake. Not much more effort than attaching any umbrella. (If you consider pulling the flexible "sock" over the monolight's reflector "more effort" at all.)

BTW, if you keep the baffle attached and, when you collapse the Softlighter, you push the baffle into the umbrella's "innards," you can easily slide it into the handy carrying bag they supply with the modifier. They do give you a 2nd smaller bag for the baffle but I found the unit can easily be packed in the larger bag while remaining assembled.

I compare the light quality produced by this modifier as being on a par with my 5' Photoflex Octodome. Both modifiers are octagonally shaped. Both are nearly the same size. (The Sofltlighter, I believe, is a few inches smaller than the the Octa.) The Softlighter is much easier to set-up and break-down than the Octa and stores in a much smaller bag. Weight-wise, the Softlighter is also lighter than the Octodome.

Since the light produced by the Softlighter is reflected rather than direct (as is the case with the Octa and other soft boxes) the Softlighter doesn't produce a hot-spot in the center in spite of the Octodome having both internal and external baffles. Being "hotter" at the center, BTW, isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be used to good effect depending on how you position and aim the modifier. The same holds true for beauty dishes which also are "hotter" in the center. The Octodome, as with other soft boxes, also keeps the light better confined and more controlled than the Softlighter does but, since I was shooting on a white seamless, that wasn't much of an issue.

My Octodome has eight interchangeable gold and silver panels which is nice for warming or cooling the light output. The Softlighter II doesn't have this feature but I don't see that as a problem. I can easily gel my light source if I want to warm it or cool it.

There's a big price difference between the Softlighter II and my Photoflex Octodome. If you're a guerrilla glamour shooter like I am and money is an object, the Softlighter II, for many reasons including price, ease of use and more, probably qualifies as a "makes more sense" gear acquisition over a Photoflex Octodome and will deliver very similar results. Many of the product pics of the Softlighter II I've seen online are misleading. The umbrella is much deeper than the photos I've seen seem to indicate.

The pretty girl at the top is Allison from last night. I lit Allison with the 60" Softlighter II as my main light. I deployed a 6' LumoPro Lite-Panel, silver side out, on the fill side. Two kickers, each modified with small shoot-thru umbrellas and placed either side from behind, provided accents, rear-fill, and highlights. Very minimal post.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


My 60" Photek Softlighter II showed up at the door today. It seems like it will set-up and mount easy enough. I'll use it tomorrow night and then write about what I thought of it. The pretty girl below is Chastity from last night's little photo-soiree. (Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If It's Good Enough for Annie L

If it's good enough for Annie L it's good enough for me. Leastwise, it's good enough to give it a try. I'm talking about the Photek Softlighter. I just ordered one today. Been wanting to give this modifier a try since seeing Ms. Leibovitz working with it in a couple of behind-the-scenes videos of her photo shoots. The Keith Richards shoot comes to mind. If you've not seen it, you can view it HERE.

Anyway, I ordered the Photek 60" Softlighter from Samy's Camera via Amazon. (I had some Amazon gift certs to apply to my order which knocked the price down a bit.) I've read some good stuff about the Softlighter's light qualities. In the Annie L vid, I think she's using a 46" Softlighter but I wanted the bigger one since so much of what I shoot is 3/4 body shots. I'll mostly use it on a stand and an arm so I can semi-boom it to where I want it to go. One thing I like about the Softlighter is you can get it in quite close. Doing so should make some really soft light.

The two B&W pics of the pretty girl at the top is Melanie from a couple of weeks ago. (Click to enlarge.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bree (Updated)

Here's another of Penthouse Pet Bree, one from earlier in the set before she got naked. Well, she didn't exactly start out the set in many people's definition of "NOT naked" but I wasn't complaining. (Click to enlarge.)

No update. Instead, just a pic of Penthouse Pet (and more) Bree Olson from last night's shoot. Not much processing. (Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Playing On Un-Equal Playing Fields

Client called me this afternoon and asked if I could come over for an unplanned shoot. "Sure," I said. "I can be there in an hour or so." The model, whom I've shot before, is very experienced and sexy as hell. She's also the live-in girlfriend of my client.

When I arrived, and after some explanation of what we were going to be doing, my client pulled out some British girlie mag and started thumbing through it and showing me various images of a few hot chicks in the magazine. "This is what she wants," he told me. "She wants the pics you take to look like these."

It took me all of two seconds to realize the style of the images he was showing me was mostly a result of Photoshop and not the photography.

"Dude. This isn't a shooting or lighting style. This is Photoshop. For one thing, it heavily uses a filter called Diffusion Glow."

He kept thumbing through the rag and kept pointing out different images that all made noticeable use of Diffusion Glow with the skin-tones heavily de-saturated." I explained about the color de-saturation as well. Just then, the video shooter joined us. (Some video was also going to be shot.) The vid-shooter looked at the pics in the magazine and concurred that they were heavily "shopped." Then, the model, his girlfriend, joined us.

"Jimmy says this is mostly Photoshop and not the photography," he explained.

I added: "Well, I can certainly do things when I'm shooting that will help your re-toucher out so he can make the photos have this look," I said. "I can slightly overexpose her skin tones and reduce the contrast a bit but the photos still aren't gong to come out of the camera looking like these."

They both seemed to accept my explanations but I had a nagging feeling that, somewhere along the line, I've lost some work (from this particular client) because he and his girlfriend couldn't tell the difference between processed images and the raw stuff coming out of my camera.

I then remembered a shoot, not too long ago, where I was shooting some other models and another photographer was shooting my client's girlfriend and we were both shooting at about the same time. My client was bragging to me about this other shooter's work and how great he is and how he's shot for Maxim and some other rags and blah blah blah. The other shooter, by the way, was shooting the girlfriend in front of a white seamless only using an on-camera Speedlite as his lighting source.

Anyway, I remembered that the other shooter had an assistant and I noticed the assistant was busy the whole time uploading the images to a laptop and, I also noticed, was applying some processing tools to all the images, probably some actions either in Lightroom or Photoshop (I don't recall which) before the pics were burnt onto a DVD and handed over. (Please note all his pics were shot against a white seamless with a Speedlite and, most likely, they were all shot with the exact same exposure settings which would allow an action to perform in exactly the same way on each of the images.)

I don't have a problem with any of that except for the fact that it was now apparent my completely out-of-the-camera untouched images were being compared to processed images and on that one I call "foul!" You see, I don't do any processing whatsoever on the images I shoot for this client. (That's my deal with him.) He has an in-house graphic designer/re-toucher who works on them: A graphics guy who, the client told me tonight, was now going to be shown the same British girlie rag I was shown and told to "shop" the images to look like those in the magazine.

Anyway, just thought I'd share this story for whatever value it might have to anyone or lesson it might contain.

The pretty girl at the top is not my client's girlfriend. (I haven't even uploaded those from the CF card yet.) She's Coco from last night's shoot. She was a blast to shoot with! Lots of animated expressions and posing. I love working with models who will sometimes drop all the sexy "glam" stuff and just get a little whacky in front of the camera. Here's another of Ms. Coco. This one's whacky and sexy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Verosky Has Done It Again!

It seems photographer and author, Ed Verosky, has been a busy boy. He's added another terrific ebook to his catalog of awesome photography ebooks: Taking Your Portraiture to the Next Level II.

Terrific portraiture is something most photographers hope to accomplish. I know I do! Apparently, living in New York City with all the recent snow and cold weather has kept Ed indoors with plenty of time to write. If there's at least one positive outcome associated with the Ice Age weather NYC has recently experienced, Ed's born-of-a-blizzard Taking Your Portraiture to the Next Level II, might be it.

You say you haven't read Ed's first book on portraiture? Well, now's a good time to remedy that. You can purchase Ed's first portrait ebook, "Taking Your Portraiture to the Next Level," BY CLICKING HERE and also purchase his new portrait shooting sequel BY CLICKING HERE!

The two pretty girls above are Angela (standing) and Chloe (squatting.) Chloe, as you can plainly see, has an absolutely terrified expression on her face (not) which (you might remember from my last update) my client objected to when he heard me attempting to elicit "scared" out of her. In fact, this is the image I snapped just as my client interrupted the shoot. If that had not happened, I would have continued and directed Chloe to be looking up at Angela with a similarly frightened, i mean vulnerable expression on her face. I guarantee the image would have worked nicely in a porn-ish-Sapphic kind of way. Oh well. Wha'd'ya gonna do, right?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


From a couple of weeks ago. (Click to enlarge.)


Thought I might start posting various pretty girl pics in between my blog updates. Above is Chloe, shot a few night ago. As always, you can click the image and see it a bit larger.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clients Say the Darndest Things

I'm shooting a model, a rather inexperienced model, and getting expressions out of her was like trying to suck mashed potatoes through a straw.

She had a singular expression: A small-to-medium-sized, less-than-sincere smile that was somewhat reminiscent of about a half a billion high school yearbook photos. (I'm not overly down on high school yearbook photo smiles, they just don't have a prominent place on glamour-shooting sets.)

I tried everything to evoke some sign of life from this model but nothing seemed to work.

At one point I asked her to look "vulnerable."

No response other than the yearbook smile became a bit fainter.

I replaced the word "vulnerable" with "anxious."


I changed "anxious" to "apprehensive."

Still nothing.

I asked her to look "scared."


She didn't actually look scared, not even close, but she did look slightly vulnerable.

"More scared!" I said.

She appeared slightly more vulnerable.

"Really, really scared!" I shouted.

Just then, my client walked in.

"Whoa!" he said. "I don't want photos of scared looking chicks!"

"I'm just trying to..." I tried explaining as he quickly cut me off.

"Jimmy!" He said with his best, I'm the boss, authoritative voice. "No scared chicks! I don't want them looking scared!"

I looked back at my once-again-high-school-yearbook-half-smiling-no-longer-vulnerable model. The client walked out of the room.

"Okay. We're done," I told the model.

And we were.

Done, that is.

I knew anything I might say or do after my client's interruption would be a complete waste of time. The model felt vindicated in her efforts to really SUCK as a model. My client stripped any semblance of "Jimmy's the skipper of this photo shoot" from me. Fortunately, I also knew I had enough shots already snapped, leastwise from a numerical standpoint, to minimally satisfy the photo-bean-counters in the art department.

Model #2 for this particular shoot was completely different. She was very expressive and, as such, way more fun to shoot with.

The pretty girl at the top is Angela, aka Model #2. It's not the kind of pic I'd ordinarily choose to post but she has this cute, pixie-like, almost Tinker Bell-ish look with expressions to match. I can visualize her with fairy wings and pointy elven ears even if wings on a model is the ultimate in glamour cliche and prosthetic ears, elven or otherwise, aren't a commonly-seen makeup effect on too many of my sets.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Photo Shoot for the X-Files?

Last night's shoot began like most others. I arrived at the location, went in, located and introduced myself to the two models who were in make-up, chit-chatted for a bit, and then began setting up my lights and gear in the room I'd be shooting in. One of the two models I'd be shooting was Hungarian and spoke little English. The other was American.

The white seamless was already set up in the room where I'd be shooting. I had arrived somewhat late due to an accident on the freeway and the shoot's production manager, whom I had texted while driving and alerted to the freeway mishap, had someone set it up for me since time, as always, was an issue.

I began setting my lights up. Once that was done, I pulled my camera out of my bag, put a fully-charged battery in it and inserted a formatted, 4GB CF card. I then attached my Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 to my camera and another Pocket Wizard, a Plus II, to my main light. The other lights would fire via optical sensors. I tested everything: camera, lights, transmitter and receiver. Everything was working optimally. I then grabbed a battery charger out of my bag, one with a battery already mounted on it, and plugged it into a nearby wall socket. The battery on my charger registered as already being fully charged but I left it plugged in anyway.

I waited for my victims.

After a short wait, both models walked into the room I'd be shooting them in. There were both quite sexy! One was wearing a matching red bra and panty set. The other, the Hungarian, was also wearing a bra and panty set but she also had a matching garter belt on, albeit minus the stockings. Both wore CFMs. (Very high-heeled and stripper-trendy "Come Fuck Me" shoes.)

The first model, the American one, took her place on the seamless. I began performing my usual photographer/model verbal intercourse with her as I picked up my Canon 5D camera and turned it on.

Nothing. No power registered on the camera. I opened the little camera door, pulled the battery out and pushed it back in, closed the battery door and... still no power registered. I even smacked the camera a few times! (Being a technically-challenged sort of guy who believes in smacking things that aren't working right.)

Hey! Smacking almost always works on my Pocket Wizards when they get all glitchy!

Alas, smacking notwithstanding, still nothing... No power.

Although the camera was working fine just a few moments ago and I knew it had shown the battery as fully charged, I pulled the battery out and replaced it with the fully-charged battery that was on the charger. Still no power registered. The camera would not turn on! I kept swapping the fully-charged batteries back and forth, in and out of the camera, but still nothing. By this time, the model, a very experienced model and one whom I had never shot before, was looking at me like I didn't have a clue what I was doing in spite of my words to the contrary as I continued to fiddle with my camera and batteries.

Like a dumb-shit, I didn't have a back-up camera with me. No problem. The production company had a Canon 20D. I quickly retrieved the 20D, swapped my lens for the cheap kit lens that was on it, and inserted my CF card and one of my batteries into it. The camera came alive!

By this time, I had blown about ten minutes or so and, since we were on a very tight time schedule, I would have to cut short my shooting time with both models.

Since the 20D has a cropped frame sensor (as opposed to my 5D's full-frame sensor) I was somewhat limited in terms of my framing. The 24-70mm focal length of the lens I was using, coupled with the limitations of the room I was shooting in, meant I could only shoot 3/4 or closer shots even with the lens zoomed all the way out. No problem. Most of what I shoot for this on-going, 3-evening-a-week gig is framed as 3/4 body shots.

I finished with the first model and the Hungarian model took her place. Here's a tip for shooting Hungarian models who speak little English: Always bring up the word "goulash" when shooting them. They always, and I mean always, smile, get very excited, tell you (in broken English) how much they miss their delicious, back-home, goulash, and become putty in your directorial hands. "Paprika" is another cross-lingual buzz word that works well with Hungarian models.

(Note: Invoking "spaghetti" does not elicit a similar response with Italian models nor does most any other ethnic food or cultural dish have the same effect with models who represent whatever country or culture said food dish comes from. Go figure.

The Hungarian was also quite experienced at modeling and I didn't need to do too much directing, verbal or by physically demonstrating poses, or otherwise. (Always a plus when a marginally English-speaking model graces my viewfinder.)

After quickly finishing with the Hungarian -- the production manager was standing by all the time, continually tapping his wristwatch -- I had the first model join her on the seamless and began shooting some stuff with both of them engaging in a few, light-weight, semi-Sapphic poses. Suddenly, after a handful of clicks, the camera wouldn't lock focus and allow the shutter to snap. I kept trying to get the focus to lock but no dice. It simply would not cooperate! Now, both models were looking at me like I was a clueless dumb-ass.

I went through the battery in-and-out routine a few times. I turned the 20D off and on, checked everything (you know, like making sure the focus switch was still set to AF which it was) but all to no avail. Suddenly, the 20D turned off and wouldn't power back on. I began flipping the on/off switch on and off but nothing! Finally, the production manager abruptly announced I was done and the models were ushered into another area of the location house where a small video crew was standing-by, waiting to shoot them in some heavy-weight solo, as well as Sapphic, content.

Okay. By this time some of you might probably be thinking my problems were simply the results of some unfortunate technical glitches that coincidentally happened with two separate cameras at almost the same time. I was thinking the same thing.

I started to break down and put away my gear and strike the seamless. I swapped my lens off the 20D and back onto my 5D, pulled out the CF card and put it safely away and extracted my battery from the 20D and put it into my 5D. It was then I noticed I had left the switch on my 5D to "on" and that my 5D was now powered up and ready to go. WTF??? I put a battery back in the 20D and it also came back on!

I immediately went in search of the production manager. I found him sitting at a desk in front of a laptop in a small room he was using as a make-shift production office.

"You're not gonna believe this," I said to Max, the production manager. "But as soon as both models left, both cameras came back on and are working perfectly."

He turned, looked at me, and casually said in his usual, non-emotional, way, "Maybe one of the models has some strange, electro-magnetic force or something and it fucked up the cameras? That kind of shit happens, you know."

"Get the fuck outa here!" I said with a smile, not buying into his theory.

He then leaned forward and, very seriously, said, "I was talking with the blond, the American one, before you got here. She told me she's been dreaming lately about being abducted by aliens. She said it was a recurring dream."

I considered this revelation for a moment, then I repeated, "Get... the... fuck... outa... here..." very slowly and in a low, somber voice. "Now you're fucking with me," I added.

"Jimmy," Max said, leaning in close, "I'm dead serious. That's what she told me."

So there you have it: An X-Files-like experience? Has that one model been adbucted by aliens? Does she have some alien technology device implanted somewhere in her body? A device that screwed with my cameras? I don't know. But with all the technical glitches that happened, coupled with the model's claim of alien abduction dreams, it has me wondering. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

The pretty girls at the top are Courtney and Aleska from last night. Courtney, on the left, may have been abducted by aliens. (Those lucky freakin' aliens!)