Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photographic Numbers

Three of my favorite numbers are 7, 8, 9. Why? Because they're the uniform numbers of my three, all-time, greatest baseball heroes: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris, respectively.

Numbers often play notable, sometimes superstitious roles in people's lives and for various reasons-- you know, like "Lucky 7" and "Unlucky 13" or trying to be "#1" and things that "come in 3s."

Numbers are also a big part of our photography pursuits. All kinds of numbers! Some of them we recount to describe a variety of things, some of them we simply like or prefer for personal reasons.

As an example, I like/prefer the number 100. In fact, I place a fair amount of belief in the number 100 because it's my preferred ISO for shooting pretty girls. Sure, other numbers might produce equally good results. (Or results that are nearly indistinguishable from one ISO number to the next... until the number gets a little too high, of course.) Still, I like ISO 100 and I generally stick to it whenever I can. Obviously, I sometimes choose other ISO numbers for various reasons but my preference, the ISO number I like shooting with best, remains 100.

The number 8 is also a much favored number of mine, as in ƒ/8. I'm also fond of the number 125 for shutter speeds, especially when I'm shooting with strobes.

I used to be quite fond of the numbers 24 and 36 because of their associations with the numbers of exposures contained in rolls of film. But, since I don't shoot film these days and haven't for a while, the numbers 24 and 36 have been relegated more to nostalgic and sentimental fondness than anything else.

Two ascending numbers, 85 and 135, are very cool numbers and faves of mine. They happen to be focal lengths I'm somewhat enamored with, especially for shooting models and other portrait subjects. I suppose I should also include the number 50 in that ascension of numbers I just mentioned. There's plenty of times the number 50 can be a reliable work-horse of a focal-length number, for shooting portraiture or lots of other things.

As photographers, we often mention numbers when talking about many aspects of our work, be it ISO, exposure, focal lengths, and more. Often, our talk is of an objective and technical nature. Other times, it's of a decidedly subjective nature. I've already used numbers both ways in this update, objectively and subjectively. Mostly, in fact, at the same time.

Camera model numbers come up in photo discussions often enough. Sometimes within the context of positive words, other times in not so positive ways. I, for instance, shoot with a Canon camera... a Canon 5D. I really like my Canon 5D! So, I suppose I might include the number 5 amongst my favored numbers. Leastwise, till I purchase another camera, one that I end up liking as much or more than my 5D and one which may end up having different nomenclature which doesn't include the number 5. Or, maybe it will?

Course, the best number of all is the number 1, for photography and in many other ways. As a shooter, the number 1 represents that one shot I might snap amongst a much larger number of shots. It's the one shot, make that *the* one shot, the money shot, the one that trumps the rest of them. Like you, I'm always hoping to snap that 1 (one) shot that rules them all. Sometimes, I know when I've snapped it. Other times, it seems elusive or doesn't always scream out at me. During those times, I end up trying this or that, all the while convincing myself that one shot, *the* shot, is only 1 shot away.

The bad girl at the top is Aurora. As far as favorite numbers go -- besides those which would be used to describe her figure, that is -- I snapped it with my camera set to ISO 100. The aperture wasn't a whole number for this one. Instead, it was 5.6. The shutter speed was 125 and the focal length was that old, reliable, 50mm. Instead of the number 5, which describes my Canon camera, this particular photo was snapped with the number 20, i.e., a Canon 20D, which is my backup number, I mean camera.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rock Star Pretty Girl Shooters

Nick, of Nick Prokopuk Photography, sent me this image of himself wearing his Pretty Girl Shooter t-shirt alongside a very cute model. Thanks Nick! Along with his wife, Krista, Nick is one-half of a dynamic-duo, husband-and-wife photography business specializing in boudoir, glamour, and boudoir maternity photography. Sounds like a great family team!

By the way, for those of you who might be thinking Nick's model appears to be on the overly short side, be advised Nick tops out at six-feet-eight! That makes Nick a giant amongst photographers! If Nick were wearing heels like his model is wearing, he'd be over seven-feet tall! (And look pretty funny in them too.) Hey Nick! Must sometimes be a little tough getting those low angles, huh?

Just the other day, another photographer sent me a message: "Received my t-shirt today. Feel like a rock star in it!" Yeah baby! Pretty girl shooter rock stars!

BTW, PGS tees have gone international: I've already shipped to places like South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and Romania! If you're interested in purchasing one and you live outside the US, shoot me an email to prettygirlshooter@hotmail.com and I'll figure out what the shipping costs will be to your location.

And hey! If anyone else has a photo of themselves wearing their Pretty Girl Shooter t-shirt, especially one with a hot model in the shot, I'd love to see it!

If you live in the US and don't yet have a PGS tee and you're interested in getting your hands on one, click the banner ad in the right-hand column and it will take you to a page where you can order your own, pretty girl shooting, "rock star" t-shirt!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inside Glamour Photography

A few days ago, a friend pointed me to a fairly new-ish blog called Inside Glamour Photography. I checked it out and liked what I read and saw. It's authored by a dude named Michael Charles. Michael is a former fashion shooter turned glamour pro. He's LA-based and his work has been featured in hundreds of pretty girl magazines world-wide. He's also written an e-book, Skin: The Complete Guide to Glamour and Nude Photography, but more on that in a bit.

After perusing Michael's blog, I wrote to him and offered some criticism, not that he asked for any but, you know, I'm a fairly opinionated guy-- one who, I feel obliged to add, rarely refrains from sharing those opinions. (Which isn't always my most endearing trait.) That aside, I told Michael I truly enjoyed reading his blog with its personalized, easy-reading, writing style. I also mentioned I had a small beef with it and him. (If you could call it a beef.) I wanted to read more! I wanted him to share more and offer up even more of his insights about this thing many of us do, this pretty girl shooting thing.

Michael wrote me back explaining he's fairly new to blogging and has been a bit unsure about how much "personality" to include in his posts. As for sharing my un-asked-for opinion, well, he didn't say, "Hey Jimmy! GFY!" I mostly appreciate it when the recipients of my criticisms don't go off on me with a GFY or other choice and unkindly words. Unless, of course, that's the response I'm hoping for.

Instead, Michael said he appreciated my encouragement about putting as much of himself into the updates as he was putting in terms of the content itself. I was glad to hear that. Personality is a great thing! Especially writing personality. Even more especially if you're a blogger. Unless, I suppose, you're an annoying, obnoxious, or arrogant sort of person and, if that's the case, you're letting the negative aspects of your personality routinely bleed onto your blog. If that's you, I'd suggest simply sticking to the ideas and the info and leaving your personality "issues" out of your blog. Course, if you have an annoying, obnoxious, or arrogant style and it's amusing and entertaining, then I say go for it! (Sheesh! I've wandered off-topic here. Probably another less-than-endearing trait of mine.)

Anyway, one of Michael's posts, one that put a grin on my face with its title, is called, "What Can You Learn From a Naked and Annoyed 19 Year Old?" I knew right away that post was gonna contain some stuff I could identify with. I've shot many, many naked 19-year-olds and, no doubt, annoying a few of them in the process. Perhaps more than a few? Well, with some of them, I'll probably never know, women being women and men being men all.

Michael was also good enough to let me have a look at his e-book, Skin: The Complete Guide to Glamour and Nude Photography. I haven't finished reading it word-for-word yet but I have gone through it from cover-to-cover and, while doing so, I quickly recognized it contains plenty of great, practical, advice, plus more than a little experiential insight helpful to anyone shooting glamour and nude photography. In fact, I noticed there's more than a little in it I kind of wish I also wrote about in my Guerrilla Glamour e-book... not that my Guerrilla Glamour book is overly lacking in content, advice, and insight born of years of experience... and certainly NOT that I'm being defensive or envious or anything. I'm just saying. The truth is, there are so many aspects to shooting women for this genre, stuff that often transcends photography, covering all of it is a near impossibility.

I'll probably do a more revealing review of Michael's "Skin" e-book in the not-too-distant future. The gratuitous eye-candy at the top, BTW, calls herself Riley. Is it just me or does her face seem to have a "Playboy model from the 80s" kind of look to it?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Location Shooting vs. Studio Shooting

Generally, I prefer shooting in a studio. Why? Well, d'uh. Because, from a lighting perspective, I can control almost everything. I'm not sure if that qualifies me as an all-around, Type A Personality, control freak -- I'm not, BTW. Not even close -- but, when it comes to lighting for photography, especially when shooting models, I am something of a control freak bordering on anal retentive.

When shooting on locations, however, especially in daylight or where daylight impacts an interior space, I'm often confronted with lighting situations that are more difficult to control. Obviously, it's that pesky sunlight that keeps screwing with my desires to be an equally anal-retentive lighting control freak when I'm shooting at many locations instead of in a studio.

If you follow photo blogs or participate on forums or commune with other photographers on social media, you might remember how overcoming daylight became all the rage last year or so. Suddenly, many photographers were producing images using strobes in daylight and overcoming the sun from an exposure perspective. Doing this became very popular when Pocket Wizard came out with triggering devices that could exceed a camera's maximum sync speed. Many of the images which resulted were quite dramatic looking.

While I've shot an image or two where I've trumped daylight with my strobes, I prefer to work with daylight, rather than fight against it or engage in techniques designed to beat it at its own game.

Since most of my work involves shooting glamour models, I'm almost always striving to make my models pop from the backgrounds or out of the environments I'm shooting them in. There are a variety ways to accomplish this: lighting, exposure, lens selection (i.e., focal distance), choice of background or environment, and more. Course, when the model is beautiful, sexy, and not wearing much, she's also contributing much in terms of popping herself from the background. I mean, nearly regardless of the lighting, exposure, etc., a gorgeous, mostly unclad model is going to self-pop to a fair degree. Especially when the images' viewers are heterosexual males.

There are many ways to work with available sunlight rather than feeling like it's working against you. And you can do so regardless of whether the sunlight is direct, indirect, or merely providing ambient light. You can work with it either by using artificial light, the sunlight itself via reflectors, scrims, flags, or a combination of both. Sometimes, the choice of how to proceed seems obvious and things like efficiency kicks in to help you realize that obvious choice. Other times, it truly is a matter of choice. That is, you can choose from a variety of ways to work with the light by adding to what's available or subtracting from it. For those instances, your creative vision, coupled with things like time and efficiency and available gear generally become the decision-makers.

In the image of Faye at the top, we were shooting in a second-story warehouse-like studio. There was a big bank of windows on one side and, given the time of day and the weather conditions, the sunlight was pouring through it. Certainly, I could have shot away from it. But I was drawn to the shadows created by the windows. I thought they looked cool, especially the way they were being thrown onto the nearly white carpeting. So, I decided to shoot in that spot.

I was working as part of the crew for a video production so, besides myself and my lighting gear, there was a gaffer and his lighting guys present. They, of course, also had their lighting gear, including some HMIs. (Hydrargyrum Medium-arc Iodide lamps.) I asked the gaffer if I could use one of his HMIs for two reasons: 1) They throw a lot of light and could easily go nose-to-nose with the daylight coming through the windows and 2) The light they produce is daylight color temperature. BTW, HMIs are very expensive. I don't own any. But when I have opportunities to throw one or two into my lighting mix, and it makes sense to do so, I'll ask whoever is in charge of them if I can use them.

Here's a behind-the-scenes shot below. I noticed the gaffer was chatting with the model while I was doing whatever I was doing so I snapped a quick one. You can see the HMI in the upper right, the windows to the left, and a couple of reflectors, one of them called a "shiny board" and sitting on the set behind the gaffer. Throughout the set with Faye, and besides employing the HMI, I was using one or both of the reflectors for fill. The HMI was equipped with a Fresnel lens which gave the images a decidedly film noir-ish feel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Expelled from Facebook

A couple of weeks ago, I awoke and, as usual, soon found myself sitting in front of my computer, sipping coffee, checking my email, perusing the news, scanning my Twitter feed, and logging onto Facebook. Well, what I should say is attempting to log onto Facebook.

What I soon discovered was that Facebook had, without warning, disabled my account sometime during the night. "WTF???" I thought... and not by way of an acronym.

Yes. The powerful Facebook gods had disabled my account!

Much the way other gods generally operate, the Facebook gods do not feel obliged to reveal their divine reasons for doing things like kicking my account to the curb. All they felt inclined to reveal was that my account was disabled due to a "serious violation" of Facebook's TOS (Terms of Service) which, being the mortal sort of FB user I am, I apparently had committed, intentionally or unintentionally.

It seems there are TOS violations which are less serious and those which are seriously serious. What constitutes one or the other I have no clue. Nor, it seems, do the FB gods believe they have an obligation to reveal. I suppose that's because they're the Facebook gods and the rest of us are merely the product they're selling to their financial supporters. Sheepherders don't tell their sheep when they'll be sheared or whether they'll be offered up as lamb chops or culled from the flock for one reason or another. They just do those things, without warning or explanation. I suppose Facebook has a similar point-of-view.

It wasn't the first time I had experienced the wrath of the Facebook gods. But when they previously hurled lightning bolts at me, it was in the form of, as an example, not allowing me to upload photos for a few days. This time it was different. This time it was serious. This time they had 86'd my account altogether and cast me into some sort of Facebook purgatory to atone for sins I'm unaware I committed because I'm unaware of what they might be. BTW, yes, I have read Facebook's TOS and no, I don't believe I have publicly violated them.

Beyond being cast out of Facebook for some mysterious mortal sins which elude my ability to understand and which the FB gods do not deign to reveal, they also will not affirm whether my expulsion from Facebook paradise is permanent or temporary. It's been a few weeks now. I'm leaning towards permanent.

Assuming I did violate FB's TOS -- which I neither believe I have nor understand how I have -- and further assuming my violation was a serious capital offense rather than a cyber misdemeanor, it seems to me that, as a minimum, Facebook could (make that should) let me know whether my banishment is temporary or permanent. But, like other gods, the FB gods do whatever the fuck they want and feel no heavenly compulsion to explain their reasons for doing anything. You see, like most gods, the Facebook gods are sociopaths: They do what pleases them and have no conscience regarding what they decide to do.

If you were one of my 500 or so Facebook friends, or one of the over 2300 people who had clicked "Like" on my FB Pretty Girl Shooter photography page, and you were wondering where I had disappeared to, Facebook wise, well now you know. I'm sitting here atoning for my Facebook sins, whatever they might be and for however long that might be... perhaps forever.

The gratuitious eye candy at the top is adult industry performer, Sunny Lane.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Glamour Story-Telling

I wrote quite a bit about story-telling via photo portraiture in my e-book, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography. Some of you might wonder how story-telling is a significant component of much of my portrait work, that work mostly being comprised of glamour photography and all, but I can assure you it is.

Generally, story-telling in portraiture isn't the same sort of story-telling often seen in the efforts of photo-journalists and editorial photographers. There are many ways to tell (what's called) a story in photography. Some of them aren't simply about visually depicting linear stores or using things like environment, wardrobe, props, and more to tell some sort of story. A great number of stories, leastwise in portrait photography and regardless of what type of portrait photography you're shooting, tell emotional stories. Make that, they reveal emotions which then generate stories in the minds of viewers.

The often-seen exception to using emotions as a primary story-telling vehicle in portraiture is seen (or not seen) in many environmental portraits. Environmental portraiture regularly uses many of the same story-telling devices that photo-journalists and editorial photographers use. I'm not saying emotions are ignored in environmental portraiture, but they generally seem to take a back seat to other methods of telling a story with a single photograph.

In most genres of portraiture, emotional stories rule! The better those emotions come across, the better (in general) the portraits are. It's a notion which also includes glamour portraits. Often, the emotional stories conveyed are subtle. Sometimes, very subtle. Generally, emotional subtlety makes portraits, glamour or otherwise, even more powerful and memorable.

When I consider the glamour portraits I've shot which have garnered the best responses from clients and viewers alike, they haven't been photos which truly shine because of my use of lighting techniques (pun intended) or via post-processing applications. They haven't been photos of the most beautiful and alluring women with the best bodies or most revealed bodies. They've been photos where the emotional aspects, usually contained in a subtle expression and/or in the subject's eyes, resonated with viewers.

I love citing Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, more commonly known as the Mona Lisa, as an example of one of the world's most famous uses of subtle, emotional, story-telling in portraiture. If I could figure out exactly why this portrait has stirred the wonder and curiosity of so many generations of people, I think I could become one of the most successful portrait shooters on the planet. Whatever that thing is that makes the Mona Lisa what it is, it's both subtle and powerful. A couple of other portraits I can think of, portraits that come close (although they're both more recent images than da Vinci's Mona Lisa) are the world-famous photos of Che Guevara, titled Guerrillero Heroico and snapped by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda in 1960, and Yousuf Karsh's iconic photo of a defiant Winston Churchill during WW2.

While da Vinci's painting of a well-to-do, 16th Century, Florentine woman, or a hastily-snapped, candid photo of a Marxist revolutionary, or a staged and formal portrait of a world leader might seem to have little to do with glamour photography, there's much to learn by studying images like these and many others with similar emotional components. The power of emotion and the stories those emotions convey, whether the stories are real or they are concocted and imagined by those viewing the images, and how to achieve making emotions an important aspect of your people shooting repertoire, will, in general, do as much if not more to better your portrait photography than most anything you might learn about lighting, posing, exposure, or post-production.

The gratuitous, half-naked, pretty girl at the top is Jayme. I've shot Jayme two or three times and, every time I did, I could always count on her to creatively project attitude and emotion, often of a type less seen in glamour shots.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Become a Photo Myth Buster

I'm often amazed at some of the myths more than a few photographers continue to believe or subscribe to. Like most myths, today's photography myths grew out of various degrees of truth.

Let me begin by citing one of the biggest myths of all: Great photographs are a product of the best (most expensive) gear.

In earlier photographic times, better gear probably was responsible for producing many more great photos than cheaper, less reliable, and poorly manufactured gear did. That, of course, depends on your definition of what constitutes great photography. The truth which spawned the myth is still true to some extent, again depending on your definition of great photography.

Let's take another myth, this one contained in a phrase I still often see on the covers of photography magazines and in other media: "Secrets of the Pros." It's a phrase I see used as a headliner for articles and advertisements which claim things like, "Secrets of the Pros Revealed!"

Again, this myth once contained some truth. Perhaps quite a bit of truth. Mostly, because it was so much more difficult for budding photographers to access and learn about all those so-called secrets. Today, with the web providing such easy access to all kinds of learning media, whatever techniques once held close to the vest by professional photographers are just a quick and easy Google search away. There might once have been secrets, but they've all been revealed for some time now.

Here's another myth: Talented and experienced photographers who go pro have a better chance at success. Again, there might have been a bit more truth in that statement years ago but, these days, talent and experience have so much less to do with being successful, as a pro, than things like business acumen, marketing savvy, and simple luck. Photographers who suck at photography can still be financially successful via photography. Those who can't dazzle others with photographic brilliance can always baffle (and by so doing impress) others with their bullshit. The notion, "terrific photographers have a better chance at success," is better made into steer excrement by the fact that so many non-photographers don't have a clue what constitutes good photography. Perhaps more so today than ever. That can be a good thing for some and not so good for others, depending on your level of skill and/or your ability to spin your photographic know-how or the perceived quality of your photography, whether it's actually good or not so good.

There are still more myths subscribed to by quite a few photographers. Generally, photographers who believe the myths don't know much about photography. Leastwise, not as much as they think they might know. And it's that ignorance that many manufacturers of photographic equipment and other purveyors of all things photography prey on.

Here's my advice: Become a photo myth buster. How do you do that? By learning as much as you can about photography. You see, the more you learn the more aware you are and the more you'll be able to easily identify the myths and the bullshit you're constantly being bombarded with. That alone is a great reason to increase your knowledge and skills. Doing so might not make you a fantastic photographer but it might, if nothing else, save you time, effort, and money.

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee.

Friday, January 20, 2012

iAuthor, uCanKissMyAss

As a photographer and an e-book author, I'm very interested in protecting my intellectual property rights. I'll bet more than a few of you are also interested in protecting your work.

Two pieces of legislation, SOPA and PIPA, were introduced in the House and the Senate (respectively) which, if enacted into law, would give the government the unprecedented (and, IMO, unconstitutional) ability to attempt to act as some sort of global copyright police for huge corporations. The big losers if these bills became laws, of course, would be American internet users. Fortunately, outrage by internet sites and users alike caused these two pieces of legislation to do down in flames.

None of that, of course, means that corporations can't try to extend their rights in ways which are, in a nutshell, mind bogglingly greedy and evil. Case in point: Apple's iAuthor.

I'm not an award-winning technology writer. But a guy who is one recently reviewed the license agreement Apple has come up with for their iAuthor software and the words, "mind bogglingly greedy and evil," are his, not mine. (Although I 100% agree with his words.) To get a fix on what Apple claims are it's rights for using their software, CLICK HERE.

My mother would say Apple is "nervy" with their license agreement for this software. That's a nice way of saying they've over-stepped what most anyone (except them, it seems) would consider reasonable and appropriate.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica. Yikes! I shot this about 5 years ago. Time flies!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why No iPhone Shoots for Me?

In spite of the video I posted above, assuming you took the time to watch it, or the fact that iPhonography is growing more popular by the day (and the quality of iPhone images getting better with each new iPhone release) my Canon 5D, or any other dSLR I might use or acquire, is in no danger of being replaced by my iPhone... or an iPad or most any other small, point-n-shoot, device. Why? One word: Perception.

Technically, many of the images I'm hired to produce could be snapped with an iPhone and pass muster in terms of quality, especially for work headed direct to the web. But winning over the confidence of my clients, that is, altering their perceptions about paying me to shoot with my cell phone versus paying me to shoot with (what they consider) high-end, state-of-the-art, expensive, and customary gear, are world's apart.

If I suddenly decided to shoot with my iPhone, the scenario might go something like this: I show up on a set. The model is in makeup. I put up a white seamless and some lighting. Obviously, continuous lighting because I'm going to shoot with my iPhone. The model, now out of makeup, shows up on the seamless. I direct her where to stand and how I'd like her to begin posing. I pull out my iPhone. The model slumps and moves off her mark. "What are you doing?" I ask. The model explains she thought I was taking a phone call and I wasn't yet ready to shoot. "I'm shooting with my iPhone." I explain. The model looks at me strangely, as if she's saying, "Dude! Are you for real?" She then retakes her mark and assumes a pose.

My model continues posing, obviously accepting that I am for real. (Either that or she's catering to my idiosyncrasies which, I'll admit, I have a few. Maybe more than a few.) But that doesn't really matter to my model. She's getting paid (and paid well) and that's what really matters to her. If I want to shoot with my phone or an Instamatic or a pin hole camera, she could care less. Besides, I'll just tell her I'm being artsy. (Not that she'll automatically care about that either... pardon my hard-earned cynicism.)

After a bit of iPhone glamour shooting, my client walks in. "Jimmy! Haven't you started shooting her yet? We have a schedule, bro. Get off the phone."

"I'm not on the phone, I'm shooting," I explain. "I'm shooting with my iPhone. It's the latest thing. The pictures look great!"

My client stares at me for a moment, dumbfounded. Finally, he speaks. "I'm paying you your rate to shoot with your cell phone?"

"Yeah. Cool, right? Lots of pros are shooting with their iPhones."

"Not on my productions," my client tells me before never hiring me again.

The moral of this fictional tale is one I'm confident most of you can figure out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be Prepared!

While I might not seem like the sort of guy who fits the profile of a Boy Scout, when I was a kid I was a Boy Scout. Prior to being a Boy Scout, I was a Cub Scout. Although I didn't stay with scouting long enough to become an Eagle Scout, a few of scouting's most enduring notions have stuck with me throughout my life. One in particular, "Be Prepared," is one I always try to apply to my photography.

For me, being prepared means I try to envision as many of the things that can go wrong on a shoot or that might negatively impact the results of my work and then proceed in ways which prepare me to deal with them. As a rule, those "things" are Murphy's Law things. Since, from experience, I'm painfully aware of how often Murphy's Law rears its ugly head on production shoots, I always do my best to be prepared to deal with their likely eventualities.

If Murphy's Law is anything, it's not only near-certain it's creative. It often seems to come up with new and inventive ways to try and screw me out of the prize. (The prize being the shot or shots I'm hoping to capture.) Murphy's Law, as you probably are aware, loves to blindside it's victims. It's a stealthy, ninja-like, villainous law. I'm totally aware that my general state of preparedness doesn't mean I'll be able to deal with all of Murphy's Law's eventualities. It simply means I have many of them, perhaps the most common of them, covered. It also means I'm always on the look-out for Murphy's Law to be sneaking up on me.

I could probably write a book based on all the ways Murphy's Law has screwed me or tried to screw me in the past. Many of you could probably do the same. But I do try to be a positive and proactive sort of guy. As such, I've tried to learn from Murphy's Law, that is, learn its ways and it's tactics. One thing I've learned is this: In spite of Murphy's Law's ability to be creative and inventive, there is another law or rule, the 80/20 Rule, a.k.a. Pareto's Principle, which also applies to many things. Even to Murphy's Law.

Pareto's Principle (or the 80/20 Rule) says that 20% of something is generally responsible for 80% of the results. That's good news! That means the same 20% of possible Murphy's Law events will occur 80% of the time.

I don't always have an in-place, nearly fool-proof, plan or solution to deal with all the effects of Murphy's Law. But I do have standard, on-going plans to deal with many of them. For instance, the way Murphy's Law often screws with me (and many other photographers) is via the models themselves, that is, models who flake. I can't always be prepared with a ready solution for the flake factor but at least I recognize that it's one of Murphy's Law's favorite ways to mess me up and I'm always prepared, make that aware, it may happen. That awareness doesn't always mean I'll be able to replace the model in a moment's notice but, if there's any way to prepare for it, I'm going to have that way available to me.

Another common Murphy's Law shoot-killer is gear; gear that suddenly messes up. These attacks on my productions are more easily prepared for because, for the most part, I almost always have back-up gear with me which can fill-in when Murphy's Law decides to toss me an equipment-related curve ball. The gear I'll end up using if my primary gear breaks or malfunctions may not be my preferred equipment to use on any given production, but it will allow me to continue my shoot and get through it. That means, of course, I not only need to have that back-up gear along with me, I need to know how to use it, i.e., to use it as effectively as the gear I most often or am most accustomed to using.

Besides models and gear, there are other Murphy's Law mishaps which can effect a production shoot. The most difficult ones, much like the models themselves, revolve around people. Murphy's Law loves to use people to screw with a shoot because people and their potential for being a negative contribution (is "negative contribution" a contradiction in terms?) are more difficult to be prepared for.

Still, I've found that recognizing the fact that many of the ways Murphy's Law screws with me will, 80% of the time, be in the same or similar ways, has helped me realize that I, make that all of us, can better prepare ourselves for their probable attempts to negatively impact our shoots.

The pretty girl at the top getting ready to pop into the shower is Alexis.

Monday, January 09, 2012

T-Shirt Has Magical Powers!

Photographer Dan L. posted this photo on Facebook today. It was snapped at a model shoot which took place in Illinois this past weekend. Dan says the t-shirt has magical powers! He didn't specify the exact powers it has but, judging from the photo, I'd say it has something to do with hot models and the t-shirt's effects on them.

If you're interested in owning your own Pretty Girl Shooter t-shirt, simply click on the banner in the right-hand column. It'll cost you $15 (USD) plus $4 shipping and handling to have you magical t-shirt magically shipped to you.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Challenge Your Models to Mimic

I work with quite a few new(ish) and inexperienced models. While most of them aren't particularly camera shy, they don't have much of an idea what they're doing in front of a camera. It's not like many of them went to modeling school.

While my mouth usually remains running when models are in front of my camera, I don't like having every other word or so being a direction. While, in some ways, models are much like meat-puppets (and I mean that in the nicest if brutally honest way) the best models, like actors, pull it from within. Just like acting comes natural to some people, so does modeling. Unfortunately, those people are few and far between.

Directing a model's physical presentation to the camera is the easy part: Move this, twist that, point your belly button over here, make your shoulders go back, drop your face, turn your head, arch your back, make your knees touch and all that kind of stuff.

Getting poses and expressions to come from within is another matter. One of the ways I do that is to ask models to mimic what they've seen or experienced. For instance, I sometimes ask new models if they've ever watched the TV show "America's Next Top Model." As it turns out, many of them have seen the show. I then briefly talk about how dumb and stupid some of the poses are the wannabee models in the show engage in. More so since, on the TV show, we see them do it in motion rather than just in still images. My newbie models usually giggle and agree. Then, I ask them to mimic some of those dumb and stupid poses and expressions they've seen.

Most of the time, the models find this a fun exercise. Since they're often new(ish) to modeling, they rarely over-exaggerate the posing and expressions they're mimicking. Instead, what most them exhibit is not too over-the-top even though I might have asked them to go over-the-top with it. They're new to modeling, remember? As such, they're often a bit inhibited in how they present themselves and how they might appear even if they're not particularly inhibited about being in front of a camera in their birthday suits. That might sound like something of a paradox but that's how they are. Go figure.

Often enough, I hear models saying things like, "I feel stupid doing that." In response, I quickly tell them that, quite often with modeling, the stupider it feels the better it looks. Since I've already gone out of my way (in one way or another) to convince them I know what I'm doing as a photographer, most of them tend to accept those words at face value.

There's all kinds of things you can ask models to mimic. Use your imagination. Most anything you come up with calls on what the model has seen, what she knows, or what she's experienced. Because of that, the mimicking, while not always being sincere and/or serious, comes from somewhere within, even if it's a simple memory or "call-back." Things that come from within, even when their little more than a mimic of something they've seen, come off more "real" than many new models imagine. Especially since those mimicked poses and expressions are being captured in such tiny slices of time. I mean, the finished pictures' viewers aren't aware the model might have busted up laughing moments after what appears to be a serious or sensuous (mimicked) pose or expression was snapped.

Just some stuff to think about and try when you're working with models who have very little experience and might not be delivering what you hope to capture.

The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is Dani, snapped a few years ago.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Nikon Announces D4

My initial response: Yawn. (In fairness, I had just woken up when I read about Nikon's announcement.)

My next response: Yeah. Ok. (As I sipped my much needed and beloved first cup of coffee.)

My third response: Do you or I really need this camera or, for that matter, any other new and ultra-sophisticated, cutting-edge-technology camera the Big Two comes out with?

I think I'll focus on my third response for this blog update. I mean, what can I say about yawning or being underwhelmed?

First, let me state that without having tried this camera out -- and I likely never will as I'm a Canon guy -- the Nikon D4 is probably an incredible piece of technology. Let me follow that statement by reminding everyone that great photos are not generally the products of incredible technologies. Great photographs are most often the products of incredible photographers. There are exceptions to those two observations but not too many of them.

Having said that, there are some shooters who will benefit from the bells-and-whistles Nikon has packed into this camera. Personally, I consider most of the new cameras released in the past few years as almost being niche cameras, that is, their capabilities are best utilized by photographers shooting specific genres or needing specific capabilities or multi-capabilities. If you're a sports photographer, for instance, cameras with big buffers capable of capturing images as fast or faster than a machine gun spits bullets might be perfect for you. If you're a photographer who needs the integrated ability to capture video and still photos with the same device, many of the newer cameras might be perfect for you.

I shoot with a Canon 5D. A lot of people call it the 5D classic. Excuse me but a 50-year-old Leica is a classic camera, not a 5-year-old digital SLR. That observation aside, the 5D's technology is a couple of generations old. That doesn't make it classic, it simply makes it a little behind the times: The high-tech times. But that's ok! I bought the camera because it was, in my opinion, the first Canon 35mm dSLR with a full-frame sensor offered at an affordable price. Sure, Canon's next iteration of the 5D, the 5D Mk II, had capabilities I thought were cool, but they weren't necessary or required for the genre I generally shoot... and that's the biggest reason why I haven't bought the Mk II. Besides, there was so much other stuff to spend my money on which would definitely be a bigger help in producing the kinds of images I want to shoot-- things like glass and lights and grip.

If I had plenty of eff-you money, I might buy the latest-and-greatest in camera bodies just to be cool or to show-off or whatever. But I don't. Instead, like a good Guerrilla Glamour photographer, I'm always looking to get the most bang for my bucks and only in terms of arming myself with the gear I need, not what I might impulsively desire or what manufacturers' marketeers claim I need.

In spite of how it sounds, my intent is not to trash-talk this new Nikon camera or any other new camera which gets released. I'm only saying that, whenever you consider buying the latest and greatest in camera bodies, think about whether doing so will really make a difference to your photography or whether there's other things you could be purchasing or doing with your money (and time) which will make more of an impact on the results you're hoping to achieve.

I used to play golf. When I was into the game, I noticed that certain putters, while not being the latest in putter design technology, were much lauded and coveted by some golfers. Putters like early Karsten Pings. Are they good putters? Yep. Are they classic? They are. Expensive? Yeah, that too. Do they make much of a difference in terms of most golfers' games? Not generally. But they sure look impressive sitting in someone's golf bag!

If you're into impressing some or possibly many photographers, the new Nikon D4 might be just the ticket. If you're into impressing even more photographers, snapping better photos, regardless of what camera you use, is an even more reliable ticket.

The pretty girl at the top is Kita, shot on a white cyclorama. Here's a BTS shot below.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Kodak: Thanks for the Memories!

As many of you are probably aware, Kodak as been struggling for quite some time. Now, it appears Kodak is going to file for bankruptcy protection. No other company in the history of the planet is responsible for providing so many people with so many much-loved keepsakes of treasured moments and memories than Kodak. For that, and for so much more, we have much to thank George Eastman and his legacy for.

Last year, we saw the demise of Kodachrome. This year, we're seeing (what may amount to) the demise of Kodak itself. If it goes down that way, it's the end of an era, and not just from the perspective of photography.

There are few photographers who haven't, in many ways, been touched and influenced by Kodak whether they realize it or not. Even if the first camera you ever picked up was digital, be advised the first digital camera was created by Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson back in 1975.

If you started out your love affair with photography shooting film, I don't need to explain how Kodak has been a part of your journey. Sure, there's other companies who make film for still cameras. I've personally shot many hundreds of rolls of Fujichrome. But I've also shot even more rolls of Kodak film stock, especially their Plus-X B&W film which, back in the day, I processed in my own, converted-shed, darkroom situated in the back yard of my home. (Mostly head shots and commercial portfolio work for aspiring actors.) The first camera I ever shot, a Yashica Penta J back in the early 60s, I loaded with Kodak film.

Kodak won't entirely go away. It's not dissolving completely. But the mighty force in photography it once was is history. Kodak represents 131 years of photographic history! Its probable bankruptcy and possible demise is sad for photographers and many others.

The pretty girl at the top is yet another whose name I can't recall. My inability to recall so many models' names never ceases to amaze me, more so since the chick at the top is one I shot less than a month ago. Oh well. Getting old sucks. What'd'ya gonna do?

Monday, January 02, 2012

A New Computer!

Yay! I bought a new computer!

For the past few years, I've been doing everything, computer-wise, on my laptop: processing photos, authoring this blog, writing e-books, Facebooking, emailing, watching movies on Netflix, and wasting countless hours surfing the net. I have other computers: A couple of older desktop PCs (which aren't even hooked-up these days) and a decent Mac desktop system which is dedicated to Final Cut Pro video editing. (Not that I've done much video editing in the past few years, tho that's likely going to change in 2012 for a number of reasons.) Trust me when I tell you my laptop is nothing to brag about.

My laptop is a bare-bones, nothing special, Toshiba. Recently, I had to replace the keyboard on it as I wore it out. It's also dirty and stained from spilling too many things on it. It's about 3 or 4 years old and, recently, the DVD drive quit working altogether. Lately, it's been acting very twitchy in more than a few ways.

If you've been a reader of this blog or have read either of my first two e-books, Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots, you know I'm all about making things as simple as possible. As you might guess, that notion extends to computers and how I use them. Another way of looking at my simplicity beliefs is to say I'm something of a minimalist. So, when I set out in search of a new computer, minimalism was also a factor in making a choice... as was money. (As in spending the minimal possible but still getting a computer that meets my needs, as minimalist as they might be.)

My daughter and son-in-law recently purchased an HP Touchsmart. It's a pretty cool computer, although the touch screen aspect of it doesn't seem overly useful to me. It turns out they rarely take advantage of their new computer's touch screen capabilities. I know I'd take advantage of technology like that even less. But I really like its all-in-one design! That is, the monitor and the computer being married into one chassis. Plus, it has a nice big monitor! While size doesn't always matter, it does, IMO, when it comes to monitor size.

I decided an all-in-one would be just right for me. It meets my criteria for simplicity and minimalist design and, more importantly, there are brands and models which meet my personal-use needs near perfectly.

The first thing I did was research quite a few brands, always with price in mind. While HP seems to be the undisputed leader in touch-screen technologies for all-in-one computers, I didn't want a touch screen monitor. Finally, after reading many reviews and product descriptions, I began focusing on the Lenovos and Gateway Acer brands in my search. Once I got to that point, it became, for the most part, a matter of price. (For you Mac folks: Yes, I would love a Mac. But Macs, at this time, don't meet my budget considerations.)

I wanted something with a high-resolution and good-sized monitor, i.e., in the 23" or 24" range. I also wanted a fairly large hard drive (even though I make much use of external hard drives), a fast enough processor (although not game-playing fast), and a minimal amount of RAM; at least 4GB expandable.

After a week of searching online, I found a factory refurbished Gateway Acer all-in-one (a model with pretty good reviews and an attractive price tag) plus a further 20% off that price tag (sale priced for three days only) and free shipping. I bought it immediately.

My Acer all-in-one, which arrives tomorrow, is the non-touch-screen model. That, in itself, saves about $100 or so. It has a 23" HD screen, a dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM (expandable), and a 750GB internal hard drive. It comes with a (non-Blu-Ray) DVD RW drive, wireless keyboard and mouse, Wi-Fi card, TV tuner, a factory warranty, and more. All for about $400. It also has a very small foot-print which I wanted because of my very cluttered desk.

In terms of glamour photography, I'm hoping my image processing will become improved as a result of a much higher resolution and significantly larger monitor. If there's one thing most all of my photography tends to be about, it's skin. Skin-tones, therefore, are quite important to me whether I intend them to be realistic or not.

Unfortunately, when I see my images (that I personally processed) on other computers, they almost always appear overly-warm. This, of course, is because my laptop's monitor is overly cool, color-wise, and probably doesn't display the black properly. I've tried to compensate by de-saturating the color on many of my images when processing them but I'm always guessing at how much to de-saturate.

More unfortunately, my laptop's monitor is very limited in terms of adjusting and/or calibrating color or much of anything else. Yeah, I know there's products out there to help with that but please remember I don't process my images except for my own personal use. My clients have re-touchers and graphic designers who do that stuff. As a result, I haven't wanted to spend the money on screen calibrating products which are available. (Sheesh! I must be sounding more and more like a cheap-fuck as I write this update.)

Anyway, the computer arrives tomorrow. It actually arrived locally last Friday evening but UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays nor does it have will-call on Saturdays so, with the holiday and all, I'm having to wait an additional 4 days for it to arrive. That sucks, doesn't it? By the end of the week I should know if my new computer meets my overall expectations for it.

The jumping pretty girl at top is Jessie. She shares my excitement of buying a new computer even though she didn't know it at the time.