Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Less Can Be Best When More Remains

Famed photographer and writer, Diane Arbus, once said, "Lately I've been struck with how I really love what you can't see in a photograph."

I'm quite sure Ms. Arbus wasn't referring to glamour or tease photography when she said that but her words certainly apply.

As most of you know, leastwise those of you who regularly (or even semi-regularly) read this blog know, I'm a glamour/tease photographer. I get paid to shoot pretty, sexy women in various stages of dress and undress. It's nice work if you can get it. Lately, business being what it is these days, I'm getting less of it, much less, but that's not what I'm writing about today. My last update speaks, in some ways tho not all, to that subject if you want to read about that kinda stuff.

I've been shooting clothed, scantily clothed, and unclothed women for quite a few years. In all, the number of times I've shot pretty girls in sexy and revealing ways numbers in the thousands. Okay. Maybe a couple of thousand or more, perhaps as many as three-thousand, but that still qualifies as "thousands," right? And in that time, as you might expect, I've developed a few opinions about glamour and tease photography. One of those opinions mirrors Ms. Arbus's words regarding what you can't see in photos.

As you may have already guessed, especially considering the Diane Arbus quote I began this update with, I believe photos of models still wearing something -- and that something might be as little as the skimpiest pair of thong underwear on the planet -- tend to be sexier and more seductive and alluring than when my models are wearing their birthday suits and nothing else. In other words, it's what you don't see that often adds power to a glamour or tease photo.

It's certainly no revelation that leaving some things to the imagination enhances many photos, especially glamour and tease photos. D'uh, right? And none of this is to say I'm in any way turned off by gorgeous, buck-naked models. I'm not. Not at all "not!" But for sheer seductiveness and sexual allure, many of the photos I've snapped, that is those where a bit of wardrobe remains on the model, generally rate higher on the HOT! scale than those where my model is fully naked. Leastwise, for me they do.

Generally, when I'm shooting a glam/tease model, we begin with her wearing something. It might be lingerie, a bikini, bra and panties, or she might be fully clothed in some sexy outfit. Perhaps even a not-so-sexy outfit. From there, I start shooting, the model starts posing and, at some point (usually when I direct her to begin) she starts peeling. What begins with a fully-clothed model ends with a fully unclothed model. How long that transformation takes generally depends on how long I might have with the model. It might be ten minutes, it might be an hour or more.

Interestingly, many models often rush the process of getting out of their clothes. In certain aspects of my life, I'm all for beautiful women hurrying to undress when I'm with them. Not so, however, when I'm photographing them. Often, I have to slow my models down when we're shooting. I don't know why they're in such a rush to get naked? I know it's not because I look like God's gift to women, not even close. But being in a rush to get naked is something many glam and tease models seem to be in. I occasionally ask why?

I usually get the same answer: "I love being naked!"

Gotta love that!

"I love when you're naked too, beautiful!" I sometimes tell them in response. "But I need you to slow down some."

I try to have my camera raised to my eye and ready to snap when I say that because the cute, pretend-pouting expressions that sometimes happen after I tell them to slow down their undressing are just too sexy!

You see, I'm being payed to shoot sexy, seductive photos of these girls and my clients want as many photos of the models still dressed or partially-dressed as they do those revealing her completely naked. In fact, most of my clients generally want more of the less-dressed content than anything else. And there's a reason for that, one that I agree with: the sexiest photos usually lie amongst those where the model is still wearing something, anything, even the slightest bit of something or anything.

Anyway, as usual, I'm just saying.

I've posted the photo at the top before, probably the color version, but I think it's a decent (some might say, "indecent") example of how leaving some things to the imagination can be sexier than when nothing is left to the imagination. I know photos like the one at the top often do a better job of fueling my imagination than those of models fully unclothed. That's not always true but it is often enough.

You might or might not agree. If you don't agree, that's cool. We all have our opinions. Please note I snapped plenty of pics of the model at the top wearing absolutely nothing. In my opinion, the photo above, and some others like it, are sexier than all the naked photos I shot of her. But maybe that's just me? You can click the pic to enlarge it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why No to Free Photography Means No

Words of Wisdom from UK photographer, Tony Sleep, published on his web page. To say I agree with and endorse everything Tony says on this subject would be an understatement.

I lifted Tony's message and pasted it below. Hopefully, he won't mind. He's an English guy, BTW, so the spelling and some of the word usage might seem linguistically un-American. Trust me. You'll still comprehend the gist of it, if not the entire message he's communicating.

Tony writes: I receive an average of 2 proposals a week from people who have "no budget" for photographs. Book publishers, magazines, newspapers, charities, corporates and start-ups nowadays all believe that photos are cost free, or that they are doing me a favour by offering to use my work and giving me a byline.

I no longer reply to such inquiries except by linking to this text.

Let's be clear about a few things:

"No budget" is a euphemism for "we think photographers are mugs". This offensive interpretation can easily be verified by trying the phrase at your local restaurant, e.g., "I have no budget for dinner but I'd like to eat". Adding a promise to tell all your friends where you ate will not deflect your head from the curb as the manager throws you out.

Now imagine being a restaurant where most people who come through the door try this on. The answer is NO, and I am being excessively polite.

If you didn't really mean it and your "no budget" claim was just an opening bid, the answer is still NO. I want nothing to do with greedy opportunists who try to commence a negotiation with a lie. You have already demonstrated you cannot be trusted. You probably won't be honest about usage, and will try not to pay.

And if you were one of those promising lots of better, paid work later if only I can help you out now, offer a contract else I'll know you're talking bullshit and the answer is of course NO.

You see I don't want your stinking "exposure", I want mutually beneficial, productive relationships with clients. I try to behave with integrity, honesty and fairness, and I expect clients will do likewise. Exposure is the end of that process, not a means. Similarly with bylines. I don't require applause earned by being a sucker. If free matters more than good, ask someone else.

Like most people I work because I need to pay bills and support myself, my work and my family. The fact that I love what I do is why I have spent 40 years persevering whilst going without stuff most people take for granted. Vocation is not an invitation to disrespect.

Unsurprisingly I will not support parasitic business models that rely on exploiting photography, or me, to extinction. With very rare exceptions (small charities run by unpaid volunteers that I choose to support) I have no budget for subsidizing other peoples' work and profitability. Supporting my own is next to impossible thanks to the current vogue for passing off exploitation as opportunity.

When I can afford it, I will drop a few quid into a charity box or give to a homeless person on the street. I regularly work for charities at a discounted rate. I look after baby birds that have fallen out of nests. I am a generous, kind and loving human being. But I make an exception for salaried beggars who ask me to stuff a bundle of tenners in their pocket. They just piss me off. Especially when they insult me by telling me my life's work is jolly nice but worthless.

I have had the most amazing conversations with numerous chancers who think decent photos are just some sort of serendipity that they should be entitled to freely earn off because electrons don't cost much. One woman, a CEO of a £3.3m/yr organisation, explained that they like to use photos on their website because readers tell them that images communicate on a more accessible level than the text she commissions from her paid writers. So the value of photos was not in question. But she could not understand that perhaps she ought to use some of her £160,000 year website budget (I looked up their accounts on the web) to pay for photos. She could not understand that the photo she wanted to use only existed because I had invested time and money and learning in creating it. "Most photographers are happy to let us use their work for free". Oh no they aren't. They just didn't go and look at her accounts and see that this woman was on £66k a year salary and ask why she didn't work for the same rate she was shamelessly demanding.

Supply without payment is, of course, only viable for hobbyist photographers who don't need an income from their photography. They have salaried jobs, pensions or private incomes, or perhaps suicidal romantic tendencies. I do not. They have a selfish attitude to destroying the sustainability of photography as a profession which they call "beating the pro's at their own game". Moreover a byline might appeal to their idiot vanity. I suggest you ask one of them. Alternatively find a new graduate or student to exploit - they are desperate and naive and you have the opportunity to add to their crippling student debt by saving yourself a few quid.

If all this means you can't source the images you want, that is just tough. I can't source free cameras, computers, software, food, housing, fuel, either. If it's all so damn easy and cheap, go and make your own photos.

If all this offends you, best stay away from mirrors too.

Yeah. What Tony said.

The freckled-faced smoker at the top is Faye. It's one I captured in a just-for-fun photo session we did last year. I don't mind working for free when the work isn't work and I'm doing it just for grins and giggles. Enjoying a bit of foto-fun when it's with someone like Faye is an added bonus.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You Want What?

Clients can often be vague when telling you what they want. Especially when they use words like creative or edgy. That's because words like creative and edgy don't often mean the same thing to everyone.

Words like creative and edgy can mean so many different things to so many different people that any client using those words to describe their expectations of my work might as well be speaking to me in French. And I don't understand much French beyond fries, toast, and mustard!

Here's some things clients usually mean when telling me they want creative or edgy: the same they’ve wanted all along, but not quite; the same their competitors are having their photographers shoot, sometimes exactly the same or sometimes a little different.

Here's what clients rarely, if ever, mean when asking me for creative or edgy: something they've never seen before.

Problems can occur, of course, when photographers wrongly translate the words creative and edgy.

More than a few photographers will wrongly assume, i.e., when asked to produce creative or edgy work, that their clients want stylistic photos of the sort they've never seen before and the photographer has never shot before. To attempt to satisfy a client's wishes, photographers will sometimes decide to shoot in ways they have little or no experience shooting. Consequently, the most obvious difference between the photographer's new, "never seen before" work and the work they normally produce -- the work that got them the job and the work they might be best known for -- will be that their new and "not seen before" work, compared to their usual work, generally sucks.

Who wants to hand over work that sucks?

Not me.

I've found when clients relay their expectations to me using words like creative and edgy, a question-and-answer session is in both our interests.

My questions tend to be focused on narrowing down what my clients are truly looking for when they're asking me for creative or edgy. Sometimes, the process can take a fair number of questions and answers. Occasionally, I luck out and ask the right questions near the beginning of the Q&A. Doing so sometimes yields enlightening answers: answers that give me a much better idea of what my client is actually looking for when they're asking me for creative or edgy.

I remember one time a client asked me for edgy. I proceeded to ask questions designed to ferret out his idea of edgyness. You know, in terms I might actually understand. It turned out my client was looking for pics that were much like some photos he had seen in a competitor's magazine. It also turned out the images my client simply defined as edgy were photos shot from extremely low angles looking up. My client, once able to describe to me what he was specifically looking for, suddenly came up with his own description for the shots-- He began calling them "worm's eye views" of the models. BTW, I did mention to my client that, to my knowledge, worms don't have eyes but that didn't seem to matter.

Once I knew what my client was truly looking for, it was easy to shoot the edgy stuff he said he wanted. I simply got down on the floor, on my back and with my head near the model's feet, almost between her legs and, using a fairly wide focal length, shot up. That's right, Gracie. My photos were captured upside down. More edgyness, right?

While I was shooting a number of different models throughout the day, my client seemed to constantly keep one eye on me. (He was also directing a video shoot at the location we were working at.) Whenever he spied me shooting the models in my normal manner (which were images he also wanted and needed) he'd loudly call out to me, reminding me to get some of those edgy shots.

"Worm's eye view, Jimmy! Worm's eye view!" he shouted ad nauseum.

He ended up shouting it so many times that I swore if I saw a freakin' worm I'd immediately step on it and squash it right out of existence! I'll also admit there were a few times during the day, leastwise in my fairly irritated mind, when my client himself began resembling a worm; one in desperate need of squashing.

The pretty girl at the top is Joanna Angel. Obviously, it's not a "worm's eye view" of the lovely Joanna. I've already spent one day too many shooting more "worm's eye view" shots than I care to remember. Frankly, that was more than enough time spent on my back mimicking a worm with a camera. As a result, it's a less favored angle for me, although I still might sometimes shoot it. But just sometimes. Not often.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reflecting on Reflectors

There's so much written about lighting with artificial light, whether it's small strobes, big strobes, or hot lights, the sun must sometimes feel like a photographic red-headed step-child.

Plenty of photographers, of course, use the sun as their primary source of light. Many of them use it as their only source of light. So why don't I see more written on the subject of natural lighting in my day-to-day perusing of photography-related articles and how-to tutorials? (Actually, I've already begun writing and shooting custom photos for an ebook on this very subject so, at some point in the not-too-distant future, there will be more available on lighting models with natural light only, using the many tools available.)

Back to my question about why I don't see more about lighting exclusively with natural light: Could it be that, despite the incredible results photographers often achieve when only using that natural, "light of the world," it's simply not sexy enough to write more about? Betcha if photographic equipment manufacturers were making lots more money off of gear that requires no more than sunlight to light up a subject, there would be substantially more written about it. Just sayin', you know?

Personally, I feel the best approach to lighting models is in using the best lighting tools for the job. If shooting locations and environment or other factors dictate natural light, and those "best tools" are reflectors or other sunlight modifiers employed to bounce, reduce, diffuse or flag sunlight on my subject, that's what I'm going with. It's all part of the "keep it simple, stupid" mantra that my ebook, "Guerrilla Glamour," revolves around.

In addition to owning enough artificial lights to, most-always, get the job done whenever they're called upon to get the job done, I also have plenty of reflectors and other sunlight modifying gear. I'll bet it's no surprise when I tell you my total investment in that kind of gear is about equal to the cost of a couple of high-end small-flash instruments or decent monolights. In fact, it's more than likely less.

I probably have a half-dozen reflectors of the collapsible kind. They are mostly in the 3' to 5' diameter range. A few of them have up to 5 different surfaces I can call upon: white, silver, gold, black, translucent. One of my collapsible reflectors, a small Photoflex Lite Disk, is only 12" in diameter and comes in handy when I want to bounce some fill that only covers a small area, you know, like just the model's face. I also have a LumoPro Lite Panel I often use.

Beyond my store-bought reflectors, I have a couple of DIY reflectors made from PCV pipe (for the frames) onto which I attach various materials to reflect, flag, or diffuse light. (Note: When I use these modifiers to diffuse light, they're scrims, not reflectors.) One of my DIY reflectors is about 3'x 4' and the other is even bigger. I forget exactly how big, but it's bigger! Quite a bit bigger.

Besides my trusty reflectors -- they're very trusty since they have no moving parts and don't require a power source other than solar power -- I have a number of scrims. As already mentioned, a couple of my collapsible reflectors double as scrims as do my two, DIY modifiers. As for store-bought scrims, I own a Westcott Scrim Jim which can be used as a scrim, a reflector, or a flag, depending on the material I attach to it.

With all these reflectors, scrims, and flags, are you getting the feeling I rely heavily on this sort of gear? If you are, you're right. And I should also note that this stuff doesn't just get dragged out when I'm shooting models using natural light only. It's all part of my overall "bag of tricks," also coming into play when I'm using artificial light or when I'm combining natural and artificial light. Again, it's all about the best tools for the job and keeping it simple. Or, as Albert Einstein once said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Smart guy that Einstein fella.

The biggest reflector/scrim I own is a 12' by 12' China silk. I'll admit it doesn't come out to play much -- it being a total hassle to rig -- but when I do use it, whether to bounce or diffuse light (I mostly use it to diffuse light.... when I use it, that is) it creates beautifully soft and creamy light spread over a fair amount of area.

Often, I find myself working on video production sets. That usually means a lighting crew and a lighting crew means a grip and lighting truck. Those trucks usually have all kinds of reflectors, scrims, and more on board and, since I generally go out of my way to ingratiate myself to the lighting crews, they are often quite generous in allowing me use of most anything they have on the truck. That includes everything from HMI lighting instruments to shiny boards and other reflectors, scrims, flags, and more.

So, even though using natural light and all the tools that can be used along with it doesn't get as much love in the world of lighting tutorials and such, I suggest you consider using all the many natural light tools, many of them quite inexpensive, that are available to reflect, diffuse, or flag light, whether you're using all natural light, artificial light, or a combination of both.

The pretty girl at the top depicted in a very simple, no-frills image is Daisy. We were in a ravine by a stream in the Santa Monica Mountains. Daisy and I hiked down into the ravine with me carrying only my camera, light meter, and a large, Flexfill, collapsible reflector, one I borrowed from the lighting crew who who were up top, lighting the interior of a small cottage which overlooks the stream and the ravine. Daisy, hiking barefoot, was carrying herself and a pair of heels and that's about it. The Flex-Fill reflector was, as I recall, approximately 3' x 6' oval. I used the silver-side out to fill Daisy's front bouncing some of that hard, bright, sunlight coming in from behind her. Very little post on the image other than cropping and some standard adjustments. I burned the background a bit just to better "pop" Daisy in the image, not that she needs much extra "popping" to get the attention of many viewers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sin City Fine Art Nude Workshop

My favorite American photographer living in Zurich, Switzerland, Bryon Paul McCartney, who may or may not be related to that other Paul McCartney you may have heard of, will be hosting his first fine art nude workshop on American soil next month. More specifically, Bryon will be work-shopping with a small group of photographers in Sin City, a.k.a., Las Vegas, Nevada. How small of a group you might ask? Just 4, count 'em, 4 fortunate photographers will be shooting with and learning from Bryon over the course of two days.

Bryon is an internationally-recognized, award-winning, gallery-exhibited photographer known for his fine art photography. This is a great opportunity for a few photographers to learn from, work with, and get help honing their craft from a most excellent photographer. While Bryon's workshop is not directly affiliated with this year's Photoshop World, which takes place in Las Vegas next month on September 7 thru 9, Bryon's workshop immediately follows the Photoshop event and will be held September 10 & 11.

Bryon's debut U.S. workshop will be HQ'd at the Sin City Gallery in Las Vegas, NV. Shooting will take place at various locations in and around Las Vegas.

Bryon tells me each participant will be given the opportunity to focus on their own, specific needs, whether they need coaching on working with models, technical help with shooting them, light styling or post-processing. In other words, with such a small group, Bryon will be able to tailor the experience to each participant's needs.

For more detailed information regarding Bryon's exciting workshop, CLICK HERE. If you decide you'd like to attend, you can CLICK HERE to register.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica. The photo represents one of my few, meager attempts at art nude photography.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Most Elusive Skill

Magnum photographer and Professor of Photography at England's University of Brighton, Mark Power, whose genre of choice is documentary photography, says "Now we can all take pictures with varying degrees of consistency, more than ever before it's about what we do with photography."

For photo-journalists, documentary photographers, and other shooters of that ilk, I couldn't agree more. But what about glamour and fashion and even portrait photographers? Yeah! What about us, Professor Mark?

Actually, I've got my own answer to my own question and, in telling it, I'm going to partially plagiarize the good professor: "Now we can all take pictures with varying degrees of consistency, more than ever before it's about how we interact with our models."

You see, it's like this: Once you've gotten to a certain point with lighting and composition and exposure and post-production and all that stuff, the never-ending pursuit of glamour/fashion/portrait excellence becomes a matter of what you do with your subjects, that is, how you work with, handle, and interact with them.

Sure, there's always more to learn about photo techniques and lighting and processing and all that. And practicing those things will help you become consistent in achieving technically terrific photos. But once your abilities with all those things reach a certain level of understanding and consistency, it becomes, chiefly, all about your skills in working with human beings. How to gain rapport with them, how to motivate and inspire them, how to direct them, how to pose them, how to challenge them and more.

Unfortunately, there are no absolute rules which will automatically help you achieve a higher level of understanding and mastery of these soft, people skills. That's, of course, because people are different. What motivates or inspires or challenges one model might not work on another. Bummer, right?

While these all-important people skills might sometimes seem elusive, and the hard, cold, fact is they are, often enough, hard to come by, the good news is there are some things you can do, some techniques you can hone, to up your people game.

Here's a few obvious people-pleasing behaviors that help: Treat people respectfully, encourage them to get involved in the creative process, communicate with them in effective ways (which includes listening as well as giving directions) and more.

I work with a lot of models. I never assume what works with one model will work with all of them. Still, there's some tried-and-true practices I engage in. Flattery, for instance, is one of them.

I've yet to meet a glamour model who didn't respond well to flattery. The more sincere the flattery, the better they respond. How do you flatter in sincere ways? Well, one good way I know of is to flatter in specific ways rather than generic ways. Models love hearing they're hot. Even more so, they love hearing what it is about them that makes them hot.

I also make it a habit to ask questions which indicate I'm genuinely interested in who they are and what they're about. (I might not always be genuinely interested, but what they don't know won't hurt them.) I have to be careful, of course, my questions don't come off flirty or possibly "pervy" but, when you seem genuinely and non-threateningly interested in a person, they usually respond favorably.

So there you go. If you're already fairly accomplished with the technical side of photography -- heck, even if you're not -- one of the best ways I know to improve your overall game is to work on those people skills. I guarantee the better you are with them, the better your photos will be.

The pretty girl at the top is Roxy. Used a 33.5" Mola 'Euro' beauty dish for my main plus a couple of strips for kickers from behind and either side of her plus a small soft box, boomed overhead, for a hair light. A fan gave some movement to that little lingerie-ish top.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Cautionary Tale for Pretty Girl Shooters

An underage teen model is suing a fashion shooter for $28M. Model Hailey Clauson, who was 15-years-old when fashion photographer, Jason Lee Parry, snapped the photo in dispute, says the image is "blatantly salacious," has damaged her reputation, and might even violate child porn laws.

Wow! Those are some serious accusations. As serious as twenty-eight million bucks! And that's serious money.

The Clauson/Parry story reaffirms (for me) why I rarely, if ever, shoot underage girls. It's not that I'd shoot them in "blatantly salacious" ways, I wouldn't, but since more than a few people probably consider (or would consider) a fair amount of my work as being salacious, blatantly or otherwise, I'd rather avoid even the potential for any possible guilt-by-association accusations.

A famous case of a photographer being sued by a model was Brooke Shields v. Gary Gross. (Link is NSFW.) Gross, you might know, shot the then ten-year-old and very naked Brooke Shields with her mother present. Even though Ms. Shields' mother was there and she signed all the necessary paperwork, Shields later sued him, attempting to bar his use of the photos. Gross ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit but fighting it ruined him financially.

If you're a shooter like me, that is, someone who regularly shoots the sort of content I shoot, I think it makes more sense to simply avoid the potential for being caught up in something like this by simply choosing not to photograph underage models. It ain't like there aren't many, many pretty girls over the age of 18 to grace your viewfinders.

In the past, I've had some not-quite-18-yr-old models ask me to shoot them. I told them to get back in touch with me after their 18th birthdays. In fact, I decline to even shoot stuff like senior pics, usually even head shots of under-18 subjects, simply because of the possibility, no matter how unlikely or remote, of someone making accusations and the content of my usual-and-customary work becoming an issue underscoring or driving that complaint... no matter how bogus the complaint might be.

Up top is yet another model whose name I can't recall and digging out the paperwork sounds like way too much work for a blog post. I do know, however, that she is over 18... probably not all that much over 18 but, when it comes to things like a model's age, as long as I know a model is over 18 and I've personally seen and have the proof, I'm generally and for the most part okay with shooting them as salaciously as my models are willing to go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Selecting the Right Soft Box

A few weeks ago, I shared a video by photographer, Jay Morgan, where he talked about the size of soft boxes and how different sized soft boxes yield different results. With soft boxes, size does matter! But it isn't the only criteria when selecting the best soft box for various applications. The shape of the soft box is yet another important consideration. Today, thanks to Photoflex's cool blog, I came across Part 2 of Jay's softboxology video: Soft Boxes Applied.

In Part 2, Jay demonstrates the uses of different sizes and shapes of soft boxes in a multi-light setup. Once again, Jay presents the subject in a straight-forward, succinct, and easy-to-digest way. For those of you looking to increase your understanding of soft boxes, how to use them, and how different shapes and sizes of soft boxes will help you capture better pics of your subjects, I enthusiastically recommend you watch Jay's video. And guess what? You can watch it right here, below!

The pretty girl in my photo at the top is Faye. (Click it to enlarge it.) For the image of Faye, I didn't use a soft box at all. Sometimes, when selecting soft boxes or other modifiers, deciding to go with no modifier is the way to go. So, instead of using a soft box in front of a monolight, I employed an HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide.) I don't actually own any HMI's -- they're quite expensive and often require special maintenance -- but, since I was on a video set and the show's gaffer was a friend, I asked him if he could pull one off the truck and let me use it for my set with Faye.

As you can see, daylight coming through the window was quite bright and intense and the power of an HMI (plus the daylight color temperature it generates) was perfect for the spot where I decided to shoot my model. A Fresnel lens on the HMI provided it's unique lighting characteristics -- characteristics I'm a big fan of -- so, with the addition of a small shiny board set low and in front of the model reflecting daylight for some added fill, all I needed was the HMI to capture the kind of high-contrast pics I was looking for in my shots of Faye.

The image below is a behind-the-scenes shot captured during my set with Faye. On the right, my friend, the gaffer, is adjusting the HMI for me. You can also see the shiny board in place to the right of Faye. The reflector (on a stand) in the foreground isn't doing anything but waiting in case I might need to use it for any of my shots.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everything You Wanted to Know About...

...high-end lighting set-ups, but didn't know where to go to learn it.

Well, your quest is over.

Photo-assistant, Melanie Mann, who calls herself a "mad photo assistant," and who has assisted many of the uber-shooters who dot the photographic landscape, dishes the straight-up skivvy on her blog, Confessions of a Mad Photo Assistant.

Have you ever asked yourself, "I wonder how Annie L lit that?" Now you'll know. Not only will you get the 411 on the divine Ms. L's (and others') lighting set-ups, Mann also shares some of her on-the-set experiences beyond lighting and tech stuff.

Mann's new blog is now on my list of blogs to check out regularly. You might want to do the same. What's the worst that could happen? We all learn something we didn't know?

Since I don't like to update without an accompanying pretty girl pic here's Sasha, below, from a shoot at a location house in L.A. Used a 5' Photoflex Octadome for my main with the monolight fairly cranked up to come a little closer to balancing with the bright background through the windows, some fill coming from the right and in front of her and a kicker behind her, from the left, to help separate her from the BG and add some highlight to her hair.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"I'm Breaking All the Rules I Didn't Make"

So *that's* what you're doing? Silly me! I simply thought you didn't have much of a clue WTF you were doing. Thanks for clearing that up! I don't mind admitting being wrong when I'm so obviously wrong.

Sarcasm aside, if that's what you're doing, breaking all the rules whenever you shoot, and if those are your photographer's "words to live by," odds are the vast majority of your work sucks. I'm not saying that because I'm down on breaking rules. I'm also not saying breaking all the rules or some of the rules doesn't produce incredible images, leastwise, on occasion. I'm simply saying it because, for the most part, it's true.

There are many ways to define all this rule-breaking. These days, one of the most popular is to label it as shooting "outside of the box."

There's much to be said for rule-breaking and shooting "outside the box." It can be fun, challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling. Especially, when the moon, stars, and the planets all line up perfectly and your "outside the box" endeavors deliver an awesome photo! That's why more than a few of today's "photo gurus" preach the gospel of shooting OTB. To be honest, most of them preach other gospels as well, but OTB is often one of them. Unfortunately, if you're nearly always shooting as a devout follower of the Gospel of OTB, I have three words for you: Let us pray.

There are, of course many good reasons for shooting OTB. Here's one of them: Let's say you're a new-ish and/or mostly inexperienced shooter. As such, much of your work likely isn't overly memorable unless you're some kind of photographer-prodigy. No offense but consistently producing good work -- and I stress the word "consistently" -- usually requires practice. And more practice and more practice on top of that. Still, let's say you haven't put in much time practicing and honing your shooting skills. No problemo! When someone has the audacity not to bestow those ego-stroking kudos and attaboys on you and your work, perhaps they even (shudder) criticize it, all you have to do is respond with something like this:

"My work is outside the box. I don't feel I need to conform to the rules. That's how I shoot. I can't help it if you can't recognize or appreciate art when you see it!"

How cool is that? Instant justification and a bona fide defense even if it's also instant and bona fide bullshit.

Here's the raw, no bullshit, bona fide truth: Although shooting OTB sometimes yields great photos, shooting "inside the box" is more likely and more often the way to snag great snaps. What lies "inside the box" can be, and often is, just as exceptional, inspiring, and challenging as anything shot OTB.

I'm not discouraging rule breaking or shooting OTB or "pushing the envelope" or being (artistically) at the "leading edge" or whatever you want to call it. I'm just saying it's not the only way to stand out and be recognized and rewarded as a good photographer, glamour photographer or otherwise.

I can't recall a single instance or example where an "outside the box" photo I might have snapped -- and I believe I've snapped a few of them, maybe even a few pretty good ones -- was *the* photo that landed me more work or a new client or pushed my career forward in some notable way.

As usual, I'm just sayin.

Speaking of not being able to recall things, I can't recall the name of the pretty girl at the top and I'm too freakin' lazy to hunt it down or dig it out. Sorry. So shoot me already. I'm often just sitting here, inside the box, so I should be a fairly easy target to hit.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beating Facebook's Morality Police

When it comes to posting photos, many photographers, myself included, have routinely complained, lamented, become frustrated with, shook their fists and screamed loudly at Facebook's mysterious and inconsistent enforcement of their TOS (Terms of Service). Well, that's what I used to do. But no more! I mean, first off, why bother? No one at Facebook is listening anyway, right?

Apparently, all it takes is one, self-appointed, morality cop to flag a photo and Facebook removes it with an accompanying dire warning and, sometimes, removal of photo uploading privileges for varying lengths of time. They even sometimes threaten to ban your entire account! Permanently! They don't, BTW, tell you which photo they've deleted (it becomes a mystery if you have many photos uploaded to your FB page) and they don't tell you why they've deleted it, leastwise, not specifically why. They simply say the offending photo violated their TOS.

Facebook's TOS is fairly straightforward when it comes to photos. In a nutshell, it says no nudity or porn, no drug related pics, no pics that are hateful. I don't know about you but, for me, that seems simple and easy to understand.

Apparently, though, it's not as easy to understand as one might think. I've had many photos deleted (with accompanying threats and denial of uploading priviledges) which did not violate FB's stated TOS. They didn't feature nudity. They weren't porn, altho some of them might have been pics of porn stars. They weren't hateful. They did not feature a drug theme.

(Note: I did upload one photo, one time, that showed a pretty model with a bong in front of her. FB deleted it and I didn't complain as it did violate their TOS. See? I'm willing to admit guilt when I'm actually guilty.)

Finally, I decided to quit uploading photos to my Pretty Girl Shooter Facebook photography page. Course, I wasn't thrilled about doing that... I mean not doing that. I have over two-thousand-two-hundred "fans" of my FB photography page and, frankly, most of them are there to see photos I've snapped of hot chicks.

So, what could I do?

Then, it hit me. I'll simply create a a free, Google Blogger, blog page and post my photos there and then link to them on my FB photography page. The link even provides a thumbnail exactly the way it would if I had uploaded my photos directly to FB. You can choose, of course, not to show the thumbnails. In fact, that's what I first did when I started linking to my pics; mostly because the pics I was linking to often did include nudity.

(Another Note: I've learned to link to the enlarged photo on Blogger so, when people click on the link or the thumbnail, the only thing it links to is the full-size photo itself.)

After a while, however, I decided to throw caution to the wind and link with the thumbnail revealed. I did this a number of times, waiting for FB to slap me for it. They didn't. I kept posting and linking with the thumbnail showing but FB still didn't delete the links or threaten to remove my account or otherwise get on my case about it.

You see, for hyperlinks, there seems to be no "Flag" button for the morality cops and the church ladies to click. Since, IMO, no one at FB ever looked at my non-TOS-violating pics anyway (they simply and automatically deleted and threatened if someone flagged it) FB would be none the wiser if people couldn't flag my links to photos which, in reality, often do violate Facebook's stated TOS.

Since my photos don't violate Google Blogger's TOS, plus Google provides a "Content Warning" for my "R-rated" photo-posting blog (something FB could and should do) just like they do on this blog, from a content perspective there's no harm/no foul. If you object to the pictorial content on this page or my other blog page, finding it offensive or inappropriate or whatever, you can't say Google hasn't warned you. If you have "issues" with my photo content or my words, when you see the content warning simply choose not to proceed to my blogs. How freakin' easy is that?

If you're having problems with censorship on your FB page, I suggest you go to Google Blogger, create a free blog page to post your pics, post your photos there and link to them on your FB page and fuhgedabout the Morality Police and the church ladies on FB. Doing it that way has been working for me for a while now.

The pretty girl at the top is Jayme. The photo is fairly typical of the content parameters I post on my Blogger photo page and link to my Facebook photography page.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Morning Blahs Demolished

Usually, probably much like many of you, Monday mornings aren't my favorite mornings of the week. They're most often on the "blah" side if not being outright depressing. More so if the weekend I just enjoyed was a terrific one! (Although, unfortunately, I can't say this past weekend was anything special for me. Bummer, right?)

On this Monday morning, however, I woke from my nightly coma to a pleasant surprise. After groggily checking my email then logging onto Facebook, I sipped on a much-needed cup of joe and half-ass watched my News Feed scroll by. Suddenly, I spotted one of my pics! In spite of my semi-conscious condition, I quickly realized it was posted on Photoflex's FB page! That sure wiped the sleepiness from my eyes and jump-started my senses.

I clicked on the Photoflex FB page link to discover not only my photo, but a link to Photoflex's blog. After clicking the blog link, I saw that my BTS (Behind-the-Scenes) photo of glam-goddess, Tera Patrick, one that I had snapped during one of my photo-sessions with Tera, was being featured at the top of the Photoflex blog update.

Very cool!

I guess it pays to tag your photos with the name of the company who makes some of the gear you use. Those companies, if they notice the image and like the photo, probably like it even better when their gear is featured in the photo, including the company's logo. D'uh, right?

CLICK HERE if you missed the hyperlink above to go to Photoflex's blog.

The snap above is one from the same session with the Goddess of Glam, one where I also shot the BTS pic Photoflex featured on their blog.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New eBook: Boudoir Photography

While there's a myriad of differences between how you should approach boudoir photography versus glamour photography, the end results are often quite similar. D'uh, right? One of the biggest differences between the two genres, of course, are the models themselves.

Glamour photography generally strives to capture the sensual allure of professional, semi-pro, or amateur models. Boudoir photography also strives to capture that allure but, with boudoir, the models themselves are rarely professional or even amateur models. Instead, they're housewives and girlfriends and Moms and even Grand-Moms. In short, boudoir subjects can be just about anyone.

While most glamour models are quite comfortable posing in various stages of dress and undress, boudoir subjects generally aren't accustomed to flaunting and projecting their allure in similar ways for the camera. (Much less that strange photographer guy or gal.)

I doubt it's a surprise to any of you that many of the same photography and lighting skills necessary for shooting great glamour pics are very close, if not identical, to what's required for shooting great boudoir photos. Boudoir photographers, however, need an additional set of skills, many of them specialized people skills, in order to be successful. They also need unique marketing skills and more.

That's where Ed Verosky's new ebook, Boudoir Photography, comes in. What Ed has done with his new ebook is compile the best of his two previous ebooks on boudoir photography, added more info, suggestions, how-to stuff and advice, and picked the brains of some other well-known and successful boudoir photographers (and shared the results of that brain-picking) in order to help you become a better and more successful boudoir photographer.

If you're already shooting boudoir or are just getting started, or even if you're simply thinking about jumping into boudoir shooting but haven't yet begun pursuing it, this ebook will be a terrific resource for you.

CLICK HERE (or on the Boudoir Photography graphic in the right-hand column) to learn more about, and/or purchase, Ed Verosky's new Boudoir Photography ebook.