Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photography's Two "Cs"

When I view other photographers' work, I make subjective judgment calls about two things: The photographs themselves and the photographers who snapped them. I'm guessing many of you do the same. Possibly everyone does regardless of who or what they are: photographers and non-photographers alike.

For the most part, I lump my opinions of other shooters and their photos into two, overall categories: Craft and Creativity. Obviously, I'm talking about my opinions of them as photographers, not who they are as people in general.

I see plenty of photos which seem to reflect a goodly amount of creativity but, unfortunately, are sadly lacking in craft. Conversely, I see lots of images which reflect good craft skills but don't really score high marks in the areas of creativity. A lot of my images are that way: good craft skills, not so impressive creatively. Then there's those photos which reveal wonderful craft skills as well as heaping helpings of creativity. Those sorts of photos are the best!

My seemingly not-so-rosy assessment of my own work causes me to temper my judgments about other photographers' work. I do this by considering the intent of the photos I'm judging. Especially, when the work is paid work: anything from glamour or fashion pics to wedding photos to senior portraits and beyond. You see, for the most part, few clients hire photographers for their prodigious creativity. They hire them for their abilities to consistently produce competent work, craft-wise.

I'm not saying clients don't appreciate creativity, they mostly do. They just aren't paying photographers to be overly and wildly creative. They're paying them to deliver the goods and "the goods," in this case, are competent photographs with moderate levels of creativity applied. Actually, often a bit more than moderate amounts... but not *that* much more. That's why I consider photography to be more of a craft than art. Sure, there's some photography that's nearly pure art, but most of it is much more craft than art.

Even with art, be it painters or sculptors or writers or musicians or something else, creativity isn't the only criteria signifying great art or great artists. Craft, which has as a subset, technique, also plays a significant and important role. Often enough, especially with photography, craft plays the most important role. Craft, of course, is generally synonymous with skills: technical skills as well as artistic skills like composition and more. Things that have artistic elements, by the way, aren't necessarily "art," per se.

Many people believe artists are born artists. In other words, their creativity (expressed by their art) isn't something they were taught and learned. Instead, it's something they naturally have, as in a gift. For those people, teaching and learning is mostly designed to help them realize or maximize their full potential, a potential they, apparently, were born with.

There's probably much truth in that perception. Fortunately, that doesn't mean people who aren't born naturally-gifted artists cannot be great craftsmen in an artistic sense. But people like those, which comprises most of us, need to focus on elevating and enhancing skills, craft skills, while applying whatever levels of creativity they've been naturally bestowed with. Leastwise, if they hope to be successful craftsmen and women. Fortunately for all of us, those craft skills are something that can be taught and learned.

The two pretty girls at the top enjoying each others company are Ash and Tara. (Click to enlarge.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shooting Pretty Boys

A few years back, I was contacted by a local fashion designer's rep to shoot a new line of men's underwear the designer had created. The rep got hold of me via the recommendation of a makeup artist I had worked with a number of times. The MUA, it turned out, was a good friend of the designer's.

I'll admit I was rather amused at the prospect of shooting some pretty boys instead of my usual pretty girls... and in their skivvies!

Although I had shot many women in their undergarments (and less) this gig would be decidedly different. I asked the rep chick why they chose me, beyond the fact that the MUA had recommended me. She explained that, after looking at some of my work, she and the designer thought I'd be the perfect shooter for the job since, as the rep said, "You totally know what you're doing photographing skin."

I agreed with her even though this time it wouldn't be female skin. That I had a studio accustomed to hosting partially clothed and/or unclothed people and that I was completely comfortable shooting people in little or no clothing -- which generally helps make the comfort level of the naked and semi-naked people I'm shooting more, uhhh, comfortable -- probably didn't hurt my qualifications for the job either.

I did some research in preparation for the shoot. After all, I had never shot these sorts of pretty boy images before. Sure, I'd shot quite a few men. Usually they had been actors needing head shots or commercial portfolio pics or portraits of various other guys for a variety of reasons. But this was different. This was a fashion shoot. I'd never done that before, leastwise not shooting guys for fashion pics.

I didn't intend to mimic what's already been shot in the genre of men's undie fashion. Still, I wanted to look at what a few other photographers had shot before.

The first images I came across were a bunch of Calvin Klein ads, notably those featuring Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) and snapped by the legendary Herb Ritts. Like I said, mimicking what had come before was not my intention but I'll admit I couldn't help but be somewhat influenced by Ritt's famous shots of Wahlberg in Calvin Klein briefs.

The day of the shoot arrived. My client and his PR person showed up right on time and soon thereafter so did our three male models for the day: two white guys and one black dude. Rightfully, I had hired the MUA who suggested me to these new clients and she was already in my studio in the makeup/dressing room getting prepared to perform her magic on the models. Favors should always be paid back as best they can be. To that end, I had hired her for somewhat more than her customary day rate.

We, that is the designer and his publicity lady, had already decided to shoot the photo sets against a neutral background instead of giving them some sort of editorial flavor. I chose a slate gray seamless for the job. Other than using my Mola Euro beauty dish for a main light, I still hadn't completely decided on the lighting, that is, the accent lighting I was going to use... if any. I knew I was either going to go with one light or possibly two. I didn't want to glam up the shots by using 3 or 4 lights, edging the models with specular highlights and a sexy glow. In the end, I decided on two lights: A main light and one accent light to rake across the models' bodies. I could always bring in a reflector if I needed something on the fill side.

The designer, his rep, and I chatted while the first model was in makeup. I mentioned the Calvin Klein ads and the designer, who was familiar with Ritts' photos, asked if I could shoot some with the models doing the Marky Mark crotch grab. "Sure," I said. "But do we really want to copy those shots?" He thought it about it for a moment and decided we'd stay away from crotch grabs.

The first model, the black dude, was ready. Both the designer and his rep were off to the side on their phones. The model grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the shooting area. "Don't make me look gay," he said, putting some serious overtones in his voice. I laughed and told him not to worry. I wouldn't be making him look gay and I wouldn't be shooting him the way I normally shoot chicks. He smiled and high-fived me.

Funny thing, the other two models also both approached me privately and said the same thing to me before I shot them. That had me wondering if they'd all worked with other photographers who, in their minds, did make them look gay or feminine or whatever. Funnier still, one of the models, I'm pretty sure, was gay.

By the end of the shoot, everyone seemed happy. The designer and his rep loved the photos, telling me they were exactly what they were looking for. Each of the models privately thanked me for not making them look gay. Why they thought I might do that still makes me wonder. Maybe they thought I was gay? Oh yeah, the check cleared. That always makes me happy, whatever I'm shooting.

The non-gay looking black dude at the top sporting a pair of designer briefs and flexing his considerable muscles is one of the models I shot that day. I've since shot other pretty boys for various projects and, to my knowledge, none of them has ever complained they looked gay in the pictures... whether they were gay or not. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with looking gay. Hey! Whatever floats your boat. And I'm still not sure what those guys meant by "looking gay." But whatever it was, I guess I didn't do it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Me, the Ultimate PRT

A few days ago, I wrote an update about something I call Photographic Regression Therapy, or PRT. That update talked about the current craze -- if it is a craze -- of photographers using cameras, iPhones, or techniques designed to deliver or render a low-fi, "back in the day," film-look to their photos. Sometimes, they do it with modern digital devices. Other times, they do in the same ways and with the same gear that was used back then. Still other times, perhaps most often, they accomplish it utilizing digital post-processing techniques.

I got the idea to write about PRT after purchasing a vintage rangefinder camera I spotted in a Craigslist ad, coupled with a few realizations, trend-like realizations, I've been watching going on in the photographic communities on Twitter and on photo forums and elsewhere.

Last night, I won a camera in an eBay auction. Personally, for me, this particular camera represents the absolute ultimate in Photographic Regression Therapy.

My winning bid was $23.06. I was prepared to pay more. Actually, a fair amount more! It wasn't that this particular camera is worth more. It's not. It was simply about something near-and-dear to my heart. The camera I won, a vintage, 1960s, Yashica Penta J SLR, was the camera that began my life-long love affair with photography.

On my 13th birthday, my Dad gave me my first camera: a Yashica Penta J. I wrote a chapter about this life-altering event in my e-book, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography. The chapter talked about how that camera set me on the path of photography as a hobby and, later, a career. The chapter doesn't merely record the event marked by receiving a camera as a gift on my 13th birthday, but how it set the course for much of my photographic life by its lack of technology -- by today's standards or even standards of not too many years after its release -- and its all-manual functionality. In more than a few ways, that old Yashica SLR influenced my approach to photography throughout my life, right up till present day.

My Dad, Luigi, who many called "Big Lou" and not because he was fat, was a bartender back then. As such, he interacted with all sorts of people in the North Eastern area of New Jersey where I grew up... if you get my drift.

It didn't matter to me that my new camera probably fell off a truck and somehow ended up in my father's possession and then mine. All that mattered was I had this really cool camera which I took to like a duck to water. I don't know what happened to that first camera of mine. It was lost somewhere along life's way. But as I've recently become more and more aware of my need to engage in some PRT, I knew I wanted to replace it. And now I have.

For quite a while, I've been searching, mostly on eBay, for a replacement for my first camera: A working replacement. I didn't have much luck. Then, a few days ago, I tried altering my search words by omitting the "J" from "Yashica Penta J." Bingo! I found three of them.

One of them looked good cosmetically but wasn't in working condition. (Yet the seller wanted a $68 "Buy It Now" price for it.) Another, which the seller claimed was in working condition, looked like it had plenty of grime, rust, and dirt on it... altho the starting bid was cheap. Like ninety-nine cents cheap. The third one, however, caught my eye. The seller said it was fully-functional, that he was the original buyer in the early-60s (the camera was produced between 1961 and 1964) and that he recently pulled it out of a box that he had stored in a closet. The listing for this Yashica Penta J included the camera body, the original, Auto Yashinon, 50mm, f/2, M42-mount lens, the snap-on, analog, mechanical, exposure meter, and the original leather case. Starting bid was $15. I put the camera on my "Watch List."

Throughout the week it was listed no one placed a bid on it. That is, until the last day of the auction. When I spotted an opening bid, I checked the bidder's bid history. Everything this person had bid on, according to his or her history, was a vintage camera. The bidder was either a collector or a re-seller. I responded by placing a maximum bid that was considerably more than what the camera is worth. After all, I was being motivated by sentimentality. The actual worth of the camera didn't much matter to me. I simply wanted it for personal reasons and I'd be willing to pay more for it than what it is worth. That meant if the other buyer is a re-seller, there would be no profit left in it nor would outbidding me be considered anything close to a good deal.

Turned out I was right. The other bidder took me up to a whopping $23.06 and gave up. (I was prepared to pay quite a few times more than that much.)

I'm very excited about winning this replacement of my very first, 35mm, SLR camera! Can't wait till it gets here! I plan to shoot with it, assuming everything works properly, and not simply display it on a shelf or elsewhere. I might even purchase more glass for it: Probably a 28mm wide angle lens and perhaps a 135mm medium telephoto for shooting some portraits. There's plenty of all-manual glass listed on eBay that is of the M42, screw-mount variety. I might even limit my purchases to Yashica Auto Yashinon glass only. I'm not, as a rule, a purist. But I might become one in terms of this particular camera.

Like I said, for me this will be my ultimate PRT!

The pretty girl at the top is Jenna.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Innovatronix Photo Contest

I received an email last night from my friends at Innovatronix, manufacturers of first-class portable power products (and more) giving me a heads-up on a photo contest they're currently sponsoring. The category for this contest is fashion and the First Prize winner will receive a brand new Explorer XT portable power unit!

I'm a fairly-long-time Innovatronix user and I couldn't be happier with their portable power units. I have both an Explorer XT, as well as their newer, smaller (yet still powerful) Explorer Mini. If you're looking to add portable power to your capabilities, I give a big, fat, thumbs up to Innovatronix portable power products.

To learn more about Innovatronix's photo contest, CLICK HERE! The contest is open to both hobby and professional photographers. But hurry up! The deadline for entries is February 28, 2012. Enter your best fashion-themed photo, one that meets the contest's rules and requirements. Who knows? You might find yourself a winner and end up as happy as I am being an Innovatronix portable power user!

Here's an Explorer Mini review I wrote and posted on the blog last July. Below is a behind-the-scenes image I snapped at El Mirage Dry Lake in Victorville, CA a few years back. (Click to enlarge.) The photographer with his ass on the apple box is my buddy Rick. Another pal of mine, Lewis, is holding onto the soft box and the arm on the light stand. It was brutally hot that day and the dry, hot wind was blowing something fierce. We used an Explorer XT system to power my PCB "Zeus" pack-n-heads gear. To light the model, Rick has a PCB ring light on his camera in addition to the head inside the soft box. The Explorer XT truly excelled in that hot, dry, dusty environment! It just kept firing both lights like the champ it is.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Photographic Regression Therapy

One definition of the word regression states: "A relapse to a less perfect or developed state." We see a lot of regression going on around us these days, from political, social, and religious views, to nostalgia for simpler times, right on to photography and the "older" look and feel of images we'd like to capture.

Photographic Regression Therapy, or PRT, is practiced by many photographers. There isn't, of course, a real and documented type of therapy called PRT -- leastwise, not one that I know of -- I just made that up. But I think it's a good way to describe something more than a few photographers are going through lately, myself included. For whatever reasons, many of us are relapsing to a less perfect or developed technological state, or the appearance of one, as it applies to photography.

Interestingly, some of this relapsing uses very developed technologies to achieve a regressive looking image. An iPhone equipped with Instagram is one example: iPhonography with Instagram uses a very modern and high-tech device to sometimes produce photo images that appear as if they were captured with less developed technologies. You know, like vintage, analog, low-fi, film cameras.

Personally, I haven't embraced the iPhone/Instagram craze. Shooting images with my iPhone simply doesn't appeal to me in big ways. That could change but, for now, that's how it is with me. Still, I practice PRT in other ways as many of you may also be doing.

Lately, quite a few photographers have become interested in shooting with Polaroid cameras. This trend is, in no small way, a result of the popularity of the the Impossible Project. It's also a good way to engage in PRT.

Lomography is another form of PRT. Originally, lomography was about using inexpensive vintage cameras, generally of Russian design and manufacture. Today, the term lomography has been extended to include cheap plastic cameras like the Holga and Diana to achieve it's distinctive low-fi results. If you regularly read this blog, you know I recently purchased a plastic Holga lens to mount on my Canon 5D. Using a Canon 5D certainly doesn't represent true PRT, it's quite a high-tech camera body after all, but slapping a Holga lens on it qualifies.

Yesterday, my PRT resulted in another acquisition: A late 60s/early 70s rangefinder camera.

I was perusing Craigslist when I spotted someone selling a couple of older film cameras. One of them was a Yashica Electro 35 GT. I called the seller, went to his house to look at his cameras, and purchased the Yashica rangefinder for $40. It included the camera with it's fixed 45mm lens, wide-angle and telephoto optical adapters, and an accessory-shoe-mounted viewfinder. Cosmetically, the camera is pristine. It looks as if it was barely used. I have no idea if it works because it had no battery in it. Originally, this camera used mercury batteries which have been illegal for some time now. I returned home, went on eBay, and ordered a battery adapter which permits using a more common battery that is still available.

What am I going to do with this camera? Other than snap some pictures with it, I have no idea. I didn't buy it with anything more specific in mind. It's simply a way to engage in a bit more PRT. Assuming the camera functions properly, I'll enjoy playing with it in a nostalgic sort of way. And that's why, I think, many other photographers engage in Photographic Regression Therapy, whether they're using an iPhone, a Polaroid camera, a lomo camera, or a vintage film camera: It's just plain fun and the results can be very rewarding in a creatively aesthetic sort of way.

The pretty girl at the top is another whose name I can't recall. (Click to enlarge.) I shot her in front of the plain, stuccoed, wall of a garage at a location house where my client was shooting a video production in an adjacent area of the property. The garage area was shaded so I used a 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main light, camera-right, plus a kicker off to the side, modified with a small umbrella, to mimic sunlight coming in from camera-left.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lomo-Glam Interrupted

Recently, I wrote about purchasing a Holga lens for my Canon 5D. It arrived last week just in time for a shoot I was booked for last weekend. I was looking forward to shooting some lomo-glam in addition to the stuff my client expected from me. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as planned. My lomo-glam aspirations were interrupted by the reality of a lens which is very difficult to see with.

I had read about the difficulties of seeing through the viewfinder with the Holga lens attached. I figured as long as I could "sort of" see, I'd be okay. I was wrong.

They had me shooting in a studio against a wall which had been painted black. I set up three lights, all with their modeling lights on. Plus, there were house lights in the studio: overhead florescent fixtures. The model was in front of me and I looked through the viewfinder. Nothing. Zip. Nada. I couldn't see her at all.

I wheeled in a couple of the studio's tungsten lights. They were 1k zip lights. Still, no dice. I could barely see anything. Certainly not enough to focus or even come close to focusing. All I could see was the barely visible outline of someone standing in front of the black wall. And when I say, "barely visible," I stress the word "barely."

So much for my hopes of shooting some lomo-glam, leastwise in a studio. The Holga lens, BTW, doesn't have distance marks on the focusing ring. If it did, I might have been able to shoot semi-blind with it. I suppose I could have used a trial-and-error method, adjusting the focus until it was as good as it was going to get, but that would have meant burning a bunch of time and my clients were paying me to shoot stuff that didn't include experimental lomo-glam.

I'll likely give the Holga lens another chance when I'm shooting models outdoors in daylight on some future gig but, for now, anything I might do with that lens will probably be while shooting things other than glamour. Oh well.

The young, plaid-clad, pretty girl at the top is one of my victims from last Saturday. I know, I know, the plaid skirt is rather cliche. I didn't choose the wardrobe. My client did.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lightroom Made Easy!

If you're looking for some training media to help you develop or enhance your Lightroom skills, Phil Steele's brand spanking new Lightroom Made Easy! might be just the ticket.

Phil recently launched his new video program about a week or so ago and, for a limited time, he's offering it for $39 (USD). That's eight bucks off the normal price. Such a deal!

So, what does $39 get you? Well, I could spend my time writing about all the features and benefits of Phil's program or you could just CLICK HERE and let Phil tell you about them himself. BTW, Phil offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with his new course. Like I said, such a deal!

Personally, I don't use Lightroom. It's not that I don't recognize Adobe's Lightroom for what it is: A terrific post-prod program for photographers. It's that I don't need it. Why? Because when I shoot pretty girls for my clients, I simply hand over DVDs of the images after a quick edit and someone else does whatever they need to do with my photos. The only post-processing I do is on images I might use for this blog or for my own promotional efforts. And, as you might guess, I do that stuff with another great piece of photography software from Adobe: Photoshop.

So check out Phil's new online video program: Lightroom Made Easy! Clicking on the links I've provided will tell Phil that Jimmy sent you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In Praise of Hobbyists

I love looking at the work of hobby photographers. Some of the best photographs I see are snapped by people who don't make their livings with cameras in their hands. They simply love shooting photos and that love shows in their work, whether they're shooting pretty girls or most anything else.

I don't like using the word "amateur" when I refer to hobby photographers. Amateur has a connotation to it which infers a photographer is less skilled than a professional. Often, I find that's not the case. Not even close. I regularly see work by hobbyists which, frankly, trumps the work of many professionals. If someone is a professional photographer, it doesn't necessarily follow that they are also a highly skilled photographer. Often enough, and as professionals, what they're truly skilled at doing is making a living from photography. Making great pictures is not an absolute requirement for being a pro. It certainly helps, but it's not always a make or break kind of thing.

It probably comes as no surprise when I say that knowing how to make a living from something, and knowing how to do that something really well, perhaps exceedingly well, are two things which often (and should) go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, I've seen plenty of examples illustrating how tenuous the relationship between photographic skill and skill at making a living shooting pictures might be. I'm not saying the work of many pros sucks. It doesn't. There are plenty of pros making great pictures while, at the same time, they're making great livings from photography. But making great pictures is not an absolute requirement for being a professional photographer. Being a terrific sales person, marketer, networker, schmoozer, even being a great liar and bullshit artist are often the keys to being a pro. Example-- Look at the wedding photography biz. There are certainly people making good money shooting weddings whose work leaves more than a little bit to be desired.

One of the big differences between hobbyists and pros is hobbyists have the freedom to shoot what they want and how they want to shoot it. Pros, on the other hand, are hamstringed by clients. More specifically, the hamstringing is of a creative nature. No one hires me, for instance, to shoot whatever I want however I want to shoot it. They hire me to shoot what they want and what they want usually dictates how I'll shoot it.

A lot of hobbyists dream of becoming pros. Nothing wrong with that. It can certainly be fun and rewarding. But if those same people think that going pro means they'll have the same photographic freedoms they have as hobbyists, they're wrong and they won't. Course, any pro can simultaneously be a hobbyist. But I've noticed, and I include myself in this group, more than a few pros are less inclined or less motivated to go out and shoot as if they're hobbyists. It's not that they don't love photography. Most of them do. Perhaps it's because when photography is your job, that is, it's work, it seems like going out and doing it simply for the sake of doing it also seems like work? Unpaid work at that.

Even when I'm shooting for myself, I can't help doing so with a mind-set that I may be able to make some money with whatever it is I'm shooting. That thought also hamstrings me, albeit to a much lesser extent then when I'm working for clients. Why? Because I know if I'm going to sell what I'm shooting for myself, I'll likely be selling it to the same sorts of people who are my clients. Those people will also have the same or similar expectations for the images that my clients do and those expectations will hamstring my approach to that "hobby" work.

BTW, this post isn't me complaining. I'm just saying how things are. Leastwise, in my opinion. It's true that I do envy hobbyists but, at the same time, being a hobbyist would mean I'd have to be making a living doing something other than making it with cameras in my hands. I don't find that thought very appealing. If it sounds to you like I want my cake and eat it too, you're absolutely right. But then, who doesn't?

The pretty girl at the top is Celeste. Besides being my model for a few hours when I snapped the pic, she's also a Penthouse Pet. You can click the pic to enlarge it.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Choose the Right Camera... Or Not.

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary film called, Visual Acoustics. The film chronicles a remarkable and gifted man: Julius Shulman.

Shulman was an architectural photographer. Arguably, he was the most notable architectural photographer ever. Certainly, he was the most influential. One of his photos, Case Study House #22, is an incredible example of mid-twentieth-century modernism in architecture. The image, even without the architecture tag, is iconic in the history of photography. I highly recommend watching this terrific documentary.

In the film, while speaking with a group of high school students interested in photography, Shulman tells them the camera is the least important part of photography. What he meant, of course, was not so much directed at cameras in general -- cameras certainly are important if you want to make photographs -- rather, his words are in the context of what kind or type of camera a photographer might use.

Obviously, different types of cameras are better suited for different genres of photography. In architectural photography, for instance, many shooters use large format view cameras. On glamour sets, you're most likely going to see a 35mm SLR employed or, occasionally, a medium format camera being used. I've yet to witness anyone shooting glamour with a view camera although there's probably more than a few people shooting buildings and other architectural stuff with a 35mm SLR.

I'm often amused at how much attention gets paid to the types and brands of cameras photographers use. For some reason, the impact many photographs may exude often seems to be secondary in terms of many photographers' interests or comments regarding the images. Instead, a whole lot of photographers seem more interested in the equipment used rather than the creativity applied or the aesthetic value of the photos. I don't get that. A photo is good, not good, or something in between regardless of what camera was used to capture it. Same goes for lenses, other gear, or the post-processing applied.

If you're trying to up your game as a photographer, I suggest you pay more attention to things beyond gear and equipment. The right gear will certainly help you realize your visions. Gear is also fun to talk about. But your gear simply represents tools. And while tools are important, with the old saying about using the right tool for the job being an axiom for good reasons, tools alone aren't going to guarantee your visions are captured to any great effect. In fact, relying on tools alone will nearly guarantee your visions aren't effectively captured... unless you get lucky and it just happens by some fortunate set of circumstances. Personally, I'd rather not count on luck to capture a decent photo.

The pretty girl at the top caught in a reflective pose is Devin. I snapped it with my Canon 5D for those who are mostly interested in that stuff.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Static and Dynamic Styles

A photographer's personal style may become noticeable rather quickly or take quite a while to become evident. An identifiable personal style doesn't often begin showing up in a photographer's work until that photographer starts pursuing photography with some seriousness.

For some, their style is purposely and creatively conceived. I suppose you could call those shooters photographers with a "premeditated style." For others, possibly the majority of shooters, style evolves on its own, often influenced by the work of other photographers. It's not, of course, simply one or the other. Whether a photographer's style is by design or purely evolutionary are matters of degree.

For the most part, leastwise in terms of my glamour photography, I'd say I fall into the first category: I believe I have a personal style that is mostly by design and, to a lesser degree, evolutionary. I should mention that the by design part of the development of my personal style wasn't something I came up with purely on my own. As I got more and more into shooting glamour, I designed my style around elements that potential clients were looking for, style-wise.

There are many elements which contribute to a photographer's personal style: Things like lighting, composition, environment, attitudes and emotions (coming from the subjects) and more. These are all identifiable elements of what might be considered a photographer's personal style.

Often, there are 3rd party elements or outside contributors or factors influencing a shooter's style. Take me, for instance. The development of my glamour photography style was certainly influenced, to a large degree, by my clients. My clients' expectations, style-wise, contributed in big ways to the development of my glam-shooting style. After all, they're the people who pay me to shoot and they have expectations, style-wise, for the pictures they hire me to shoot. I don't experiment with new styles, not in major ways, when I'm shooting on their dimes. Doing so is reserved for my personal work, not my paid work.

In a perfect world, the paid artist or craftsman might be free to pursue whatever sorts of newly conceived stylistic approaches they might imagine. In our imperfect world, however, it doesn't often work that way. Clients are employers, albeit temporary employers. As a rule, they are not patrons of the arts willing underwrite a photographer's creative whims. They may not verbalize it that way but they mostly hire photographers for their static style, not some dynamic style that may be wildly different from one shoot to the next. Sure, I suppose there are still a few folks who offer financial patronage and carte blanche artistic freedom to those they patronize. Unfortunately, I've never met one of those people and don't expect I ever will.

What all of this means is this: Once a photographer, leastwise one who shoots for pay, establishes a style -- something that becomes a big part of why clients hire them to shoot -- those clients expect results which are similar to what they've already seen of the photographer's work. I'm not saying they always want the exact same, although more than a few of them do, but they want work that looks similar to the photographer's work they've already viewed.

It's been my experience that, even when a client tells you they want vague and difficult to define things like "creative" and "edgy" -- in other words, they seem to be saying they want you to deviate, in big ways, from your established style -- they don't really want too creative or too edgy. They don't want images that are truly different from what you've shot before. You see, what they want is what they've already seen but just a bit different, perhaps with a different twist. You give them truly creative and edgy (like they may have asked for) and you're risking not getting paid or not being hired again by that client. Course, if you manage to shoot way outside your normal style and still hit home runs with more than a few of the images, that's another story. I suppose that sometimes happens. More often than not, it doesn't.

The pretty girl at the top is Nikki.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

I Dream the Body Lomo

Lately, for not completely understood reasons, I've been daydreaming quite frequently about lomo, as in lomography. My thoughts are likely rooted in or related to the current Instagram craze. Instagram's app, as you probably know, has image processing capabilities which can render a decidedly low-fi, analog, lomo-like look to images captured with an iPhone.

I have an iPhone, albeit one from two gens ago: an iPhone 3gs to be exact. I've even installed the Instagram app on it but, for some reason, it just doesn't cut it with me. I have nothing against shooting stuff with mobile phones per se, I'm just not much into it, be it iPhoneography or with an Android device or any other cell phone. Yeah, I guess from that perspective I'm a photography elitist who mostly uses his cell phone as (Gasp!) a telephone.

I decided to start looking at some lomo cameras with a mind towards purchasing one. One which could deliver, via film, the lomo look I quite admire.

First, I began looking at the Russian cameras which started it all, lomography-wise. Then, I proceeded to Holgas and Dianas and a few other cameras of the lomo ilk. But, the more I looked, the more I became unsure of what I wanted. For the most part, these cameras are quite inexpensive, especially compared to today's digital SLRs, so it became more a matter of which one from the overall field of lomo-cams. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to go the 120 or 135 route regarding film size. Decisions, decisions...

Since my lomo plans did not include utilization of a wet darkroom beyond film developing, and I'd have that done at a lab rather than the way I did it back in the day in my own darkroom, the negatives or chromes will end up being digitized and processed with digital applications. (I have a dedicated film scanner and it's kind of low-end which will probably add even more value, for me, to the low-fi-ness of the images. That's what I'm thinking, at least.)

I was just about to click the "Buy Now" button on a Holga 135 offered for sale on Ebay when I noticed, right below the listing, another product-- This one was a Holga lens adapted to Canon's EF mount.

"Hmmm...." I thought. "Maybe that's the way I should go?"

Instead of going back to having film processed, I could start my new lomo adventure digitally. All I'll need to do is slap that Holga lens on my 5d and begin snapping away. It won't deliver the exact same look as shooting film with, say, a Holga, Diana, or some old lomo camera made back in the USSR, but it will be in close proximity to them, probably closer than shooting with my Canon lenses and then processing the images to mimic the lomo look. Besides, if I decide I really like the results but think it's still missing something, something even more film-like in appearance, I can always purchase a lomo film camera later on.

So, that's what I've done. I've purchased a plastic Holga lens for my Canon dSLR. It may or may not satisfy my dreams of the body lomo: It is just a lens, after all, and not a complete system, i.e., camera body and lens. And while, in some ways, it might seem limiting -- the lens's aperture is fixed at f/8 plus it's a 60mm prime lens -- that's okay! That's likely a huge part of the fun shooting with this lens or with many lomographic film cameras... not to mention creatively challenging.

I should receive my Holga lens in a week or so. After shooting some stuff with it, I'll post a few pics.

The pretty girl at the top is Missy from a couple of years ago.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Eddie Adams: Pretty Girl Shooter

Most people remember Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Eddie Adams, because of the most famous photograph he ever snapped. It depicts South Vietnam's chief of police (at the time) carrying out a summary execution of a Viet Cong prisoner on the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive.

The image is so powerful it is credited as being one of two photographs from that war which turned the tide of American opinion, ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of US forces from Viet Nam. The second photo, snapped by another Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Nick Ut, shows a naked, terror-stricken girl running, along with some other children, from the fire, smoke, and horror of a napalm bombing.

"Saigon Execution" certainly isn't the only memorable photo Eddie Adams ever snapped during his long and notable career. Adams himself wasn't too impressed with the execution photo nor was he particularly proud of it.

While most people remember Adams mostly as a war photographer and, later, a celebrity photographer, he was also, I'm proud to say, a pretty girl shooter!

Adams was one of the most published photographers of our time. His work was seen on the covers of Life, Time, Vogue, Parade and many more magazines. It was also seen on the cover, and within the inside pages, of Penthouse Magazine. In the documentary film, "An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story," Adams tells how he went from taking pictures for the Associated Press, then for Time magazine, and then to shooting women for Penthouse. " was just another challenge, so I did that." Adams nonchalantly explains.

In a clip from the film, one featuring Adams shooting a Penthouse model on a beach, he's asked some questions about his photographer/model interactive techniques. First, he talks about his methods for getting the model to try and "turn me on." But don't think Adams is being a perv or the stereotypical GWC! He's cleverly and artfully applying some basic psychology in order to get the shots he needs. Anyone who thinks shooting pretty girls, or any other portrait subject for that matter, is just about cameras and lights and exposure and that stuff, is mistaken. Psychology, in many ways, is as potent a tool for getting the shots than anything you might know about the technical side of photography. If you've read my e-book, "Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography," you're likely aware of know how much I believe in the power of other approaches to the work, including psychology and more, rather than relying nearly solely on technology and technical craft for getting the results I'm hoping to capture.

Adams continues by stressing his rule of never touching his models: not her her hand, her shoulder, her hair, or in any way he tells the interviewer. "It will frighten the girl," Adams explains. "It will tighten her up and the pictures just won't be the same."

Hard to argue with a photographer of Adams' caliber. Anything a photographer might do, through words or actions, that may create some level of mistrust or a sense of inhibition in the mind of the model will likely be counter-productive and will usually be a negative force when it comes to the resulting images.

Rest in Peace, Eddie Adams. The world is a better place because you were once in it.

The pretty girl at the top is another of Aurora. (Also featured in my last update.) This time, it's one I snapped in my friend's studio.