Saturday, September 01, 2012

My Way vs. Other Ways

Being it's the Labor Day holiday weekend, I thought I'd write a little bit about labor. More specifically, the amount of labor, work, and so forth it takes to snap some decent pretty girl shots.

There are many ways to approach and succeed at capturing a good glamour shot. For instance, there's my way and then there's other ways. At the risk of sounding a bit full of myself with that "my way" and "other ways" stuff, let me clarify: My way always tries its best to be the shortest, easiest, simplest way to get the job done. Other ways often take other paths: complex and circuitous paths, time consuming and tiring paths, which may or may not be the shortest, easiest, simplest ways to accomplish the very same thing and arrive at the same destination; the destination, of course, being a competent glamour photo.

Some of you have read either or both of 2 of my 3 eBooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots. If you have, you know I'm a huge fan of the KISS approach to photography, i.e., Keep it simple, stupid!  KISS is a well known acronym/term coined by Kelly Johnson, Lockheed's famous "Skunkworks" lead engineer.

The other concept I'm a big fan of is one called Ockham's Razor, sometimes spelled Occam's Razor.  Ockham's Razor postulates, Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. The theory driving Ockham's Razor was first put forth in the 14th Century by a Franciscan monk, William of Ockham.  Waitaminute. What? You don't savvy Latin?  Sorry. In English, Ockham's Razor translates to, "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity."

In a nutshell, the good friar's observation simply means this: The simplest explanation (method, process, or way to approach something) is usually the correct one. You might even make that, " usually the best one."

I like to think that my way, whatever way "my way" happens to be at the moment -- and there's more than a few ways which are "my way" depending on the circumstances and given whatever it is I hope to accomplish -- "my way" always hopes to conform to both the KISS and Ockham's Razor concepts.

Take yesterday, for example. I was booked to shoot at a house high up in the Hollywood Hills. Even though the location's altitude might make one think the temperatures would be somewhat cooler than down in the valley, they weren't.  While the house was air conditioned, I was mostly shooting outdoors. And it was freakin' hot out there!

Realizing the heat was going to be a factor, probably a negative factor for both the models and myself -- although I'll admit I was mostly concerned about myself and my comfort -- I decided the best approach (in order not to wear myself out prematurely or end up with heat stroke or something) would be too lighten my load. In other words, to get by with less gear. Even less gear than I normally try to get by with! Rather than shoot with my customary lighting set-ups utilizing three lights and a reflector mounted on a stand, I opted to go with one light and no reflector. This, of course, meant I only had to trudge through the thick, oppressive, triple-digit heat carrying one light, one stand, one modifier and one stinger (extension cord) versus three lights, four stands, three modifiers, extra stingers and other stuff. While this might not sound like a huge personal stamina savings in terms of surviving the heat, trust me... it was.

Did that mean I sacrificed anything in terms of the quality of the photos? I don't think so. While I personally prefer the look those extra lights deliver in terms of highlights, there's nothing wrong with one-light portraits... and glamour shots certainly are portraits.  I might not regularly be a one-light shooter but when the temperatures trump 100° and I'm outside in it, you can rest assured I'll suddenly become a one-light shooter if it means better surviving the heat. Better surviving the heat means my energy level remains up and when my energy level is up I'm better able to focus on the things that are important, which mostly revolve around keeping my attention on the model and interacting with her in ways that improve my chances of capturing some good stuff.

The model above is Adriana, one of the pretty girls I shot yesterday.  (Click to enlarge.) As already mentioned, I used one light. I modified it with 4' Photek Softliter.  I was shooting ISO 200, f/11 at 125th.  Hope everyone has a terrific holiday weekend! I'm going to try and do the same.


Jay said...

Hello friend!

Of course shooting with one light can yield great results! I mentor a few people who have to have 5+ lights on every set and when I ask them why so many? I usually get a fumbled answer. I find it more difficult to shoot with one light! I can "fake it" with multiple lights. Have to know what I'm doing and see the shot in my head before I pick up the camera with one light.

This article just shows that it's not the equipment that makes the shot, it's the person using it that matters!

jimmyd said...


Don't get me wrong, Jay. I think one-light portraits look terrific when done right. I often use my 3-light setup because A) most of my clients prefer seeing the models shot with edge-lighting and/or highlights, especially highlights which accent, or draw attention to certain parts of the female anatomy (not that those parts necessarily need much highlighting to grab some attention) and B) I'm a fan of highlights and accents myself. But I'm not locked into those multi-light setups. I've shot with 4, 5, and 6 lights, most of them aimed at the model. But only because my client was looking for something special or different and what the client was looking for was best achieved using multiple lights. When I'm shooting head shots, for instance, I most always do so with a single light plus the sun. Sometimes I'm merely using the sun and a reflector, or the sun, a strobe, and a reflector, or two reflectors... lots of combinations work depending on the lighting look I'm going for.