Thursday, December 26, 2013

Learning and Practicing: The Keys to Better Photography

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Earlier today, I made my rounds of the photography group pages I frequent on Facebook. A number of people had already excitedly posted some pics that utilized some new piece of gear they had received as a holiday gift. On one particular group page, a photographer posted a very pleasing portrait of a young woman, head-shot framed, fairly traditional one-light lighting, one where he had tried out his brand-spanking-new beauty dish he received for Christmas.  Another photographer in the group suggested that, in his opinion, "short lighting" would have improved the portrait. The person who posted the portrait responded with, "Thanks. What is short lighting?"

I jumped in, being something of a Mister Know-it-All and all, and offered a brief explanation of short lighting. I went on to also offer a short definition of broad lighting. I then noted that the lighting style the original poster had used for their portrait, purposely or without knowing it, was an example of "butterfly" lighting.

The original poster thanked me for my educational contributions.  I mentioned to him that the surest way to become a better photographer, especially if you're shooting portraiture, is a two-fold process:  learning new things and then practicing what you've learned. I told him that learning, coupled with practice and repetition, is the surest way to improve one's photography regardless of any new gear he might suddenly be employing.

Personally -- and this is kind of a side bar discussion -- I'm already developing my lists for New Year's resolutions. I have two lists: one is personal stuff regarding things like my health and more. Besides the usual New Year's stuff like losing weight, exercising and all that, I'm toying, for instance, with the idea of shearing my locks for the new year. My hair is quite long. I've worn it long for much of my adult life. I've always related to the notion of letting my "freak flag fly," as David Crosby sings about long hair. But every so often throughout my life, I get a wild hair (pun intended) up my you-know-what to cut my hair short. I'm currently having one of those wild butt hairs about my wild head hair. (Well, I don't actually think my head hair is wild but some people do, especially when it's not tied in a pony tail.)

My other New Year's list has to do with photography, that is, my photography and whatever I'm doing under that broad umbrella of "my photography." First off, I need to motivate myself to get my next ebook complete and released. I've written much of it already but still have a bunch of photos to shoot for it. I've been dicking around and not getting it done and my #1 New Year's resolution is to get the book done! Another resolution is to try things out I've never tried to do much in the past, snapping photos wise. I'm not going to go into detail on what those particular things might be although I will say they revolve around lighting. Some of them involve new gear and others are new ways to employ gear I already own. It's going to take some learning and, more importantly, practice and repetition to nail those "new things to try out" down.

Anyway, to somehow connect my comments on Facebook today with my New Year's resolutions, leastwise my photography resolutions, I'd like to encourage all of you to make learning a big part of your photography plans in the new year. No one is so good at this photography thing we do that they can't benefit from learning new techniques or ways of doing things or that there aren't things they still have to learn. Whether you prefer learning by watching instructional videos, by reading books and ebooks, attending workshops, one or all of those things, learning is as important, make that more important, than any new piece of gear you might acquire. Equally important is practice and repetition. Practice what you learn. Practice it till it become second nature. That's how you improve your photography better than with any new piece of gear, whether it's a camera, a lens, lighting, or something else.

Yet another reminder about Dan Hostettler's terrific posing guides. If you're at all interested they're still on sale till end of the year.   CLICK HERE to learn more about Dan's guides or to purchase them. Use Discount Code PGS33 to receive 1/3 off at checkout.

The gratuitous eye candy in her birthday suit is Ash.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Good News and Bad News About New Gear for Christmas

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Some of you, perhaps many, will be on the receiving end of some new photography gear for Christmas. (Or whatever other Winter Solstice-based holiday you celebrate at this time of year.) Very cool! Enjoy!  Who knows? Santa might even have a little photographic something for me as well!

Although this update's title begins with, "Good News and Bad News..." I'm going to kick off what I have to say about holiday gear with the bad news. Yep. I'm going to get that part out of the way right up front. I'm going to cut to the chase... the bad news chase. So, here it is: Whatever you get for the holidays, whether it's a new camera, lens, lighting gear, grip equipment, processing software, whatever it might be, it's not going to make you a better photographer.

Sorry about that. It sounds so harsh at such a festive time of year. But, if the thought of some new gear has sugar plum faeries singing and dancing in your head, and the words to their songs include something about how you're suddenly going to be a better photographer because of your new (gifted) photography gear, it simply ain't going to happen. Holiday swag isn't going to make you a better photographer no matter what the merry swag happens to be. It just ain't. No way, no how. Leastwise, the gear on its own won't be doing that. The only thing that's going to make you a better photographer in the coming new year is you, yourself, regardless of the toys you receive for the holidays.

Now for the good news...

What those new and exciting holiday gifts can do is make you a photographer with more options, more versatility. A photographer who can then shoot a greater variety of photos and possibly do so more easily than you could before receiving the new swag.

Let's say you only had one light, one single strobe or flash prior to receiving another as a gift. Suddenly, you go from a shooter who only snaps one-light photos to one who snaps two-light photos. Trust me when I tell you, multiple light sources opens up whole new things you can do with lighting. And assuming you take the time to learn how to employ multiple lights in your lighting setups, and you practice doing so, you will become a better photographer.

Let's say, prior to receiving a gift of a new lens, you only had one lens for your camera.   And let's say your one lens was a normal lens, say, a 50mm prime lens. Can someone with a 50mm prime lens shoot fantastic photos? You bet they can. Are they limited in what they can shoot? Yep. In terms of focal length they're definitely limited. But what if you receive a new lens as a gift and that new lens is a fast, 70-200mm zoom lens and, suddenly, you can fill your frame from a greater distance? What if you can zoom in at a wide aperture and blur the background so much more so than you could ever do with your 50mm prime lens?  Does that open up more opportunities for the sorts and the "looks" of photos you can suddenly begin snapping?  You bet it does.

So here's the deal: Don't rely on your new gear to automatically make you a better photographer.  It simply ain't going to happen. But do rely on your new gear to open up new avenues, opportunities, and photographic genres and styles for you to  pursue.  Learn how to use your new photo toys. Practice, practice, practice with them, whatever they might be.  In so doing, your new holiday swag will, eventually, make you a better, more multifaceted photographer.

Reminder:  Dan Hostettler's photo guides are still on sale at 33% off from now till the end of the year.  CLICK HERE to learn more about Dan's guides or to purchase them. Use Discount Code PGS33 to receive 1/3 off at checkout. And have a merry, happy, joyous, incredibly wonderful winter holiday celebration, whatever you're celebrating, doing, or however you decide to have fun for the holidays. I know that's what I'm going to try my best to do!

I dug way back into the JimmyD archives for the pretty girl pic at the top.  It's from 2006. The model went by the name Paris.  It's not a Yule-time holiday photo per se, but she's wearing the right color for the season even if she's wearing it in a way that doesn't cover a lot... but she's still wearing it nonetheless. I snapped it in my studio (when I still had a studio) in front of a dark grey seamless using a cropped-sensor Canon 20D with an inexpensive Canon 28-135 f/4-f/5.6 kit lens zoomed out to 40mm. Camera was set to ISO 100, f.5.6 at 125th. I lit Paris with my Mola "Euro" beauty dish for my main, a couple of medium strip boxes working from the sidelines for kickers, and a small, rectangular, soft box boomed overhead.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

33% Off Posing Guides!

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My colleague in Prague, glamour & nude photographer Dan Hostettler, is having a 33% off, end-of-the-year sale on his terrific posing guides!  I love using the word, "colleague." It makes me feel like a professor or a scientist in some old , B&W, movie.

Dan's end-of-the-year sale doesn't "officially" begin until the day after Christmas.  That's when Dan is going to announce his end-of-the-year sale to his peeps and other colleagues. But since I'm his extra-special photo-homey colleague in the states, he's allowing me to offer this special sale price to anyone visiting my blog.... starting NOW! 

If you want to save 33% Off Dan's "Studio Prague" glam & nude posing guides from now till the end of the year, all you have to do is use special discount code PGS33 when you check-out in the shopping cart. 

To learn more or to purchase Dan's guides, CLICK HERE.  If you decide to purchase, don't forget to use discount code PGS33 at check-out and 1/3 Off  will be automatically deducted from your total purchase price.

The Yule-time babe at the top is the Goddess of Glam, Tera Patrick, from a holiday-themed shoot about 5 years ago. I needed to pull this out of the pretty girl shooter archives because, if truth be known, I don't have too many photos with that particular theme and it is that particular time of year. I would have liked to post something more recent but I don't seem to have anything much more recent. So cut me some slack! What am I? A Christmas card company?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Shooting Outside One's Comfort Zone

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Sometimes, when I'm shooting for a client, I get opportunities to shoot outside what some would call my "comfort zone." That mostly happens when I get more time with a model than usual, which means it doesn't happen too often. But when it does, I really enjoy it. 

I define my comfort zone as shooting glam and tease models in ways my clients expect.  My comfort zone is mostly comprised of repetitive lighting styles, repetitive framing and composition, repetitive direction. (Given to the models.)  Why is so much of it repetitive?  Because I shoot what my clients want me to shoot and what they mostly want is the same lighting, composition, and poses and expressions I've delivered before.  My clients aren't art patrons. They're business people who know how to sell their products and they don't like to deviate much from what they know works in terms of the photography.

Many of the models I shoot are porn stars. (No surprise there if you've read this blog a few times or more.)  Like me, my models have comfort zones as well. Unless they're brand new, they know exactly the sorts of poses, expressions, and attitudes they're expected to put on display for the camera and, as a rule, they're very comfortable doing so.  Most of them have done it many times before.  So much so, peeling their clothes off and posing provocatively for some old geezer with a camera (or a young one) becomes their comfort zones as models.

Actually, now that I think about it, the term "comfort zone" is something of a misnomer as it applies to photographers.  Leastwise, as it applies to this photographer. When I shoot outside my so-called "comfort zone," I'm not any less comfortable doing so. As a photographer, I'm just as comfortable shooting outside my comfort zone as I am shooting within it. (Unless I somehow find myself shooting a wedding, and then I'm VERY uncomfortable.) Not only am I just as comfortable shooting outside my comfort zone, I'm generally more enthusiastic about it. Shooting outside one's "comfort zone" can often be more challenging,  rewarding (artistically), and fun!  Generally, I've found the same holds true for the models I shoot. Most of them love having opportunities to model in ways that are outside of the ways they're mostly asked to model. They find it more challenging, rewarding, and fun to do as well!

Like most professional photographers, I also shoot stuff that's very different from the type of things I most often get paid to shoot, i.e., in my case, glam and tease models in various stages of dress and undress.  When I say different, I don't mean different in terms of what's in front of my camera but rather who is in front of my camera. You see,  I consider myself, first and foremost, a people photographer.  That's what I love shooting best-- people! All kinds of people. My love of photography, that is, my love for snapping photographs revolves almost exclusively around shooting people. It doesn't matter if the people I'm shooting are models or any other types of people. I love it all. Occasionally, the Great Photo Spirit moves me to photograph things other than people, but not too often. And that's okay with me. I'd rather be photographing people than anything else.

The model in the photo above is Sasha Gray. (Who also happens to be the subject of the photo in my last post.) I was hired by a production company to shoot stills for their project.  It was a terrific gig! We shot 12 days straight at a variety of locations.  Showtime, the subscription cable channel, made a behind-the-scenes reality show from the production. Showtime had almost as big a crew on set every day as our crew was. I never saw the reality show which is just as well as I heard it totally sucked.  Sasha, by the way, was the "star" of the movie. For the photo above, we were at a location in Hollywood-- a private sex club.  I had already snapped all the glam and tease content my client expected me to shoot and had some extra time.  So, I grabbed a couple of lights and Sasha and I ducked the reality-show crew and headed down a dark corridor (with black painted walls) to shoot some more pics.

Since I already had everything I needed for the client and I also had a naked, made-up, beautiful model in tow, I decided to shoot some stuff I knew the client would likely never use. Generally, my clients shy away from dark(er) photos, like the pic above, which make heavier use of shadow rather than heavier use of highlights. They mostly like their glam and tease photos more brightly and evenly lit with plenty of accent lights. Anyway, Sasha got into it and we had fun shooting a short set of low-key photos that, in my opinion, fall somewhat outside my usual and customary "comfort zone" photos... even if my model was, as is usual for many of my models, naked and posing seductively. (Which definitely is well within my comfort zone.)  Two lights for this one:  My main light camera left and a boomed hair light above and just slightly behind her.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Glamour Photography is a Misnomer

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Photography has many genres. Some are quite specific while others are broad, vague, and cover a lot of ground. In general, people have a need to label things. To clump them together in a way that (to varying degrees) makes sense to most. It doesn't mean all labels are necessarily accurate. Instead, they are words which become accepted in terms of describing things.

Personally, I'm not big on labels except when they describe things in fairly specific terms. Wedding Photography is a label that works well. We know exactly what it is: It's a genre of photography that documents weddings.

Labels are often dynamic and evolutionary. What was once called "glamour photography" bears little resemblance to the genre we now consider Glamour Photography.  The evolution of this particular label is one that's become broader, vaguer, and sexier. It encompasses a lot of real estate.

Glamour photography was invented by Hollywood. Hollywood had its actors and actresses who were its luminaries and, because of their lofty statuses, were labeled, "stars."  Stars were marketed as being glamorous, especially Hollywood's female stars. A star's aura of glamour set them apart from mere mortals and, when it came to photographing its glamorous stars, Hollywood opted for photographic styles that were worthy of the star's glamorous star status. Glamorous hair styles, makeup applications, wardrobe, lighting and more were all elements of glamour photography. What was mostly missing, leastwise when comparing glamour photography then with glamour photography today, were things like nudity and obviously sexual or sensual poses and expressions.

But that was then and this is now.  Now, glamour photography has a much broader meaning. It has something to do with the subject's allure, make that sexual allure, and any sort of stardom (by Hollywood standards) is no longer a prerequisite for being the subject of a glamour photograph. In more recent times, even the word, "star" has been diluted and more liberally applied.  That's how we have "porn stars."  Porn stars don't even have to be porn's version of stars in the traditional sense of the word.  The very first time a woman engages in sex in front of a camera for commercial purposes, she qualifies as a porn star. No actual stardom (porn or otherwise) is required.

The words star and stardom are a bit reminiscent of comedian George Carlin's genius take on the word "shell-shock" and how it has evolved, been diluted and de-humanized to its current euphemism, "post-traumatic stress disorder."  In the case of the words star and stardom, however, the words haven't changed, its their meanings that have changed or been expanded.

BTW,  PTSD has lately gotten a lot of press, negative press, and because of that I expect we'll see a new term entering the lexicon in the not too distant future. One that's softer and even less serious and human-affliction sounding. Perhaps something along the lines of "Accidental War By-Product." After all, soldiers who come home from war totally fucked-up in the head are merely accidental by-products of combat and their war experiences, not much different than getting an itchy rash from accidentally brushing bare skin against poison ivy is an accidental by-product of that personal experience... or so they'd like us to believe. (Whoever "they" are.)

Back to glamour photography.

These days, glamour photography is defined, at least by something I read that was put out by Princeton University, as a genre whereby "...the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a  romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or semi-nude, but glamour photography stops short of deliberately arousing the viewer and being hardcore photography."

Say what? While I agree with the first part of that definition, as well as its final few words, glamour photography does not stop short of being deliberately arousing, leastwise the way I shoot it it doesn't. I mean, I hope my brand of glamour photography doesn't stop short of that. I want my glamour models to arouse the sexual interests of viewers. That's the whole fucking point of it, isn't it?  A pretty girl in varying degrees of dress and undress, posing provocatively and often with "come hither" expressions on their faces and, more importantly, in their eyes.

Glamour photography, in my mind, is a misnomer. Personally, I think "tease" is a better word to describe much of what I consider as being glamour photography these days. While tease photos may certainly have elements of glamour attached to them -- you know, glamour as in the definition, "an exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special" -- it's main purpose, these days, whether you call it glamour or tease, is to arouse the senses. To make its subjects appealing or special in a decidedly sexual way. Glamour or tease photos might not arouse viewers the same way viewing hardcore pornography does, and it certainly has (or should have) elements to it that transcend porn or overtly prurient interests,  but it arouses or should arouse viewers nonetheless.

The pretty girl with the pink wig at the top is Sasha Grey. Sasha was, indeed, a star in the porn biz. Sasha left porn and has gone on to a mainstream career as a model, an actress, and more. While I wouldn't label Sasha a "star" in her current iteration as a performer and more, she certainly qualified as one within the confines of the porn industry.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When One Teaches, Two Learn

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"When one teaches, two learn." ~Robert Heinlein

I saw this quote on another photographer's FB page-- a photographer who, beyond their work, conducts workshops. I couldn't agree with Heinlein's quote more than I do. When I'm authoring my ebooks -- and I'm currently working on my 5th one-- it's an incredibly positive learning experience for me. Not so much in terms of how to author an ebook, although that's part of it too, but in terms of my personal photographic knowledge plus my abilities to shoot the sorts of photos I hope to capture.

Some people might say that those who can shoot, shoot.... and those who can't teach. I don't agree with that sentiment at all. There are plenty of really good photographers out there who are shooting and teaching. In fact, it's the results of their shooting that awards them the credibility to teach, whether they're teaching via workshops and seminars, or videos and ebooks and more.

You don't have to be a politician to teach Political Science but you better be a photographer (and a competent one at that) to teach photography. Leastwise, if you expect other photographers to perceive you as a teacher with something valid and informative to offer.

Every time I've authored an ebook I've discovered (through research and more) things I didn't know. Each time, through the process of breaking down what I do when shooting people, I've also learned from myself. That's because I have to ask myself questions while I'm writing. Questions like, "Why am I doing this when I want this result?"

Both in my ebooks and here, on my blog, I've often talked about learning and practicing to the point that much of what you do (when shooting) becomes automatic, no-brainer, instinctive. I say that because when the craft of photography becomes more automatic and no-brainer, you're freer to focus on your subjects rather than your gear and the techniques you're employing.  I'm happy that a lot of what I do when shooting has become automatic and I don't have to think much about a lot of the tech stuff. It's very freeing.  But when I'm working on my ebooks, I have to think about those things I do that I don't really think about when I'm shooting. I have to think hard about them. And when I do that, I often discover ideas and chunks of useful knowledge that, perhaps, I've been overlooking when shooting.  At the very least, the process often validates how I do what I do, i.e., the way I do it.

You  can teach old dogs new tricks. In fact, old dogs can sometimes teach themselves new tricks. It all depends, I suppose, on the old dog.

The pretty girl at the top is Rebecca. The room I shot Rebecca in was a large entrance-way with big French windows spanning one of the foyer's walls. The front door to the home was camera-left, out of frame. The light in the room was about as soft and creamy as it gets because, overhead, there was a very large skylight letting plenty of ambient sunlight in which was bouncing off all the white walls. I set a single monolight, modified with a Photoflex 5' Octo, on the other side of the French windows to front-light Rebecca. The rest of the lighting was courtesy of the skylight, the ambient, and the ambient reflecting off the white walls and floor.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Take My Photography to the Next Level?

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I often think some of the most uncreative minds work in the marketing departments of photography-related businesses, whether it's gear or software. Why? Because they so often use the same bullshit lines to hawk their wares.

Case in point: "Take Your Photography to the Next Level."

First off, how is my photography, you know, my personal skill at shooting pictures, taken to some next level if that next level is nothing more than a piece of gear or software?  If I buy into that bullshit, it isn't my photography that's being taken to the next level, it's merely some next level of equipment ownership  with said equipment producing pictures that some might think are next-level worthy.  But then, if a thousand other photographers also purchase that same equipment or software, are they now at the same "next level" as me?

I wouldn't be ranting about this oh-so-common advertising line if it weren't so... so freaking common!  I see it everywhere. It's like photography magazines who put "Secrets of the Pros Revealed" on the front cover of their rags. I've seen that a gazillion times as well. There are no secrets of the pros. There's only lesser known techniques that fewer people are aware of but that everyone can find out about whether or not they buy the magazine that is supposedly revealing those well-guarded secrets or not.

I don't have any replacement marketing lines for these common lines but then I'm not a copywriter in some marketing department of a photographic gear or software company. I'll admit these same, often-seen lines must work to some degree or so many wouldn't be using them over and over. But there are people whose jobs it is to come up with this stuff and, frankly, I can't believe some companies are paying them to regurgitate the same tired words as their competitors also regularly spew. Where do I get a job like that?  Call it "bullshit envy" but I want someone to pay me a regular paycheck to simply copy what others are doing and saying without the slightest deviation.

Anyway, that's my mini-rant for the day. I think I'll go back to thinking of ways to actually take my photography to the next level and/or to help others do so...  i.e., to an actual and real next level.

The photo at the top is one I snapped over a decade ago and just came across the other day. It was taken not long after my conversion from film to digital and during my very early days of learning to use Photoshop. Apparently, I was somewhat into producing app-like faux-film-grain on digital images in spite of just recently going from film to digital or how many previous levels my photography was at during that time period.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Things to Consider Before Your Next Pretty Girl Shoot

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I don't often get to pre-plan my shoots. In my work, it's usually a case of me showing up with my gear, told where I'm going to shoot the stills, setting up and waiting for the first model to appear in front of me. Often enough, I venture over to where the MUA has set up. I generally get a chance to do a bit of bonding with the first model on my dance card (who is likely sitting in the chair) but that's about all the influence I'll have with how the model looks when she arrives in front of my camera.

I do often get to influence wardrobe decisions. (if it's not something already etched in stone for one reason or another.)  And I sometimes make suggestions to the MUA. But since it's glam and tease I'm shooting, the MUAs generally know how the model should be made up. Generally, I have more to say about how the model's hair will be done rather than the makeup. So, I guess my input (in order from most to least) is, for the most part, 1) wardrobe, 2) hair, 3) makeup.

But let's say I had much more to say about these things. Let's say it was purely *my* shoot (and not some client's shoot) and I got to make all those sorts of decisions. Then, I'd... waitaminute! My friend in Prague, Dan,  just wrote a cool blog update on just this subject.  An update with plenty of great photos of some truly beautiful nude and glamour models.

If you're a pretty girl shooter, you might want to check out Dan's Studio Prague blog.  Dan puts a lot more time, work, and effort into his blog posts than I do so I think it will be well worth checking it out.

BTW, if you're interested in any of Dan's ebooks and/or posing guides, just click on the links to them in the right-hand column of this page.

Alright then... here's the link to Dan's latest blog update: The Nude Body – Things To Consider Before Your Next Shoot

The pretty girl at the top is Jennifer. Jennifer is from Hungary which is almost where Dan lives in the Czech Republic, leastwise both countries are in that part of the world. I snapped this pic of Jennifer in a location house in the oh-so-hipster community of Silver Lake, CA, near downtown L.A.   I used two lights: a 5' Photoflex Octo modified my main, plus one with a shoot-through umbrella, camera-left and a bit beyond her, for some edge lighting. I really liked the way the window acted as a gobo for the sun, casting a cool pattern on the hardwood floor. (ISO 100, f/8, 85th sec.)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

What Are the Most Important Elements of Any Photo?

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I find myself thinking about what I consider are the most important elements of a photo. Are they mostly a photo's technical and craft aspects? Or, does a photo's story or emotional context trump the technical/craft stuff? Are both of those general categories equal? Does it change from photo to photo? Perhaps depending on genre or something else? (Degrees of importance, that is.)  I mean, it's all important, the technical/craft elements as well as the story or emotional, but is one often more important than the other?

I guess I should explain what I mean by technical/craft versus story/emotional elements.

To me, the technical and craft elements include everything from exposure and post-processing to things like composition, lighting, and style. Story and emotional context has to do with how the photo makes viewers feel. How they perceive the subject(s) in the photo, that sort of stuff.

I've snapped photos that I considered to be quite good in terms of their tech/craft elements but were, in my opinion, lacking in emotion, story-telling, or presentation of the subject.  Conversely, I've captured images I thought were flawed (in quite noticeable ways) for their depiction of tech/craft yet were quite good in conveying emotion, feeling, or story.  And because of that, I thought they were good photos in spite of their technical and/or craft problems. The key, I suppose, is knowing when one set of elements or the other (when one set is lacking) is good enough, powerful enough, to make up for the flaws in the "lacking" elements.  It' s not enough to say, "I know this image is over-exposed and the colors are off but the story it tells (or the emotions it conveys) makes up for it."

Instead, I would have to be able to say, "I know this image is over-exposed and the colors are off but the story it tells (or the emotions it conveys) is truly remarkable and makes that other stuff so much less important."

That sort of thing doesn't happen often, of course. Not often at all. Luckily, in terms of editing the keepers from the non-keepers, I rarely snap a photo that obviously sucks from a tech/craft perspective but is so damn good in terms of story/emotion that it's an automatic keeper. (Or vice versa.) If or when I do, I have to slap myself upside the head, hard, for messing up the parts that suck. Nothing worse than shooting a half-awesome photo or one that sucks in one way but is most excellent in another.

Anyway, just thinking out loud.

Pic at the top is from a couple of years ago: the exceedingly curvaceous Madison. 5' Photoflex Octo for my main. Couple of kickers either side. Snapped in the living room of a residential home with the front drapes pulled closed. (Fairly busy street out front. Didn't want to possibly cause a car crash or invite the cops courtesy of a neighbor.)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Let me tell ya 'bout eBooks (Épisode Deux)

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Someone in a Facebook photography group (I regularly participate in) read my recent update on eBooks and asked if I might share my thoughts on pricing, pricing for eBooks that is. So here's what I think (and what I've done, pricing-wise) and please remember this is purely my opinion. There are no rules for pricing eBooks that I know of.

When I authored my first eBook, Guerrilla Glamour, I barely had a clue what I was doing... not so much the writing/authoring part, but the marketing and sales part. So, I did some research.  One of the many things I wanted to learn about was pricing. How much should I charge for my eBook? Was there some standard pricing guides that many eBook authors relied on?  Turns out, there aren't. Not really. But what I did see was a number of so-called eBook gurus saying that $6.95 was a good price.

Some of the gurus offered examples of eBooks priced at $6.95.  Many of those example books they provided were of the how-to-get-rich-on-the-web genre, or they were about investment strategies, self-help, those sorts of subjects.  And, of course, all the eBook gurus who were offering free advice on eBooks also had their own eBooks they were selling, mostly with titles along the lines of How to Get Rich Writing/Selling eBooks.  Their eBooks, as you might guess, were mostly priced at $6.95.

I then started looking at eBooks covering the eBook beat I was pursuing, that is, photography-- more specifically, those of the photography "how-to" variety.  What I discovered was that prices seemed to be in a range from about ten to thirty bucks.

I'm not sure how various photography eBook authors decided whether to charge $10, $30, or something in between. It seemed rather random, like a number plucked from the air. I suppose some authors value their advice and knowledge more than others. Others seem to base their price on their own famousness as a photographer. (Is famousness a word? If not, it should be.)  Also, page count sometimes seems to be a factor: the more pages, the more the eBook costs. (Even though eBooks, technically, don't have real pages... you know, paper pages.)

At this point in my research, I still didn't feel like I had a true (and too-knowledgeable) a handle on what I should charge for my eBook so I sort of arbitrarily decided on $9.95, the lower end of the photography "how-to" eBook price range. (There are, of course, eBooks of this sort priced even lower, but the majority seem to be in the ten-to-thirty-dollar range. )

I didn't decide on that lower-end price because I didn't think my advice and knowledge regarding pretty girl shooting had less value than the advice and knowledge of other photographers selling similar eBooks. I simply thought it was a good price, one that potential buyers wouldn't have to think too long or too hard about regarding whether or not my eBook might be worth ten bucks.  You see, I also learned that many eBook buyers purchase rather impulsively when they see an eBook with a subject matter they may be interested in. I figured $9.95 wouldn't be an impediment to following through on an impulse buy. I know many things I purchase (i.e., the things I purchase rather impulsively) that are priced in and around ten bucks don't require me to engage in much thought about the price.  So, that's what I did. I priced my eBook at $9.95 and, subsequently and so far, have priced all my eBooks the same.

The pretty girl at the top proudly letting the dogs out is Daisy. It's an outdoor shot combining daylight and artificial light. She's placed mostly in the ambient shade of an overhanging roof so that the sun, coming in from high-ish and camera left, could be used as a hair/accent light. I set my 5' Photoflex Octo opposite the sun for a main light.  ISO 200, f/9 at 125th. The image is mostly straight-out-of-the-camera except for a crop, slight levels adjust, and a couple of small blemishes removed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fashion Posing for Glam and Nude Photography

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My friend Dan, from Studio Prague, has done it again with another terrific posing guide. This time, he's put a posing guide together that integrates elements of fashion posing (or fashion-like posing) with nude and glamour work. Utilizing these sorts of posing techniques can truly help your pretty girl shooting stand out!

I sometimes like to direct my models in ways that evoke fashion poses when I'm working with them. (Rather than relying solely on traditional glamour poses.)  Not only can doing so often result in great images, I've found that many models love posing this way.  They seem to feel that adding fashion-like posing techniques challenges them to take it up a notch or two from what they're most often asked to do, posing-wise.

Dan's new posing guide features the very sexy, talented, and gorgeous art-nude model, Vicka Star. (I sure didn't grow tired of looking at Vicka's pics in the posing guide.)  Vicka nails it in all her photos -- with pose, expression, and more --  and adds an exceptionally luscious ingredient to Dan's new guide.

If you want to learn more about Dan's new posing guide, Fashion-Like Nude & Glamour Poses, simply CLICK HERE.  Better yet, if you decide to purchase, you can use the discount code JIMMYD1 at checkout and, for a limited time, you'll get 25% off!  That's $6 off the $24 purchase price!  But if you want to take advantage of the discount, you'll need to do so before midnight, October 31, 2013. (That's only until tomorrow night at midnight the discount will be in effect.)

So, what are you waiting for? Click the link and check-out Dan's new posing guide.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let me tell ya 'bout eBooks

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Lately, I've been fairly immersed in the world of eBooks. More so than, say, six months ago and before. I'm talkin' 'bout photography eBooks, of course.  And not just about authoring and marketing my own books -- plus promoting a select few others -- but also in terms of the photography eBook business as a whole.  It's quite an interesting and complex business!

First off, I've come to the conclusion there are two overall types of instructional photography eBooks available in the marketplace:  Those that are mostly instructional and those that seem little more than an (instructional) excuse to showcase the author's photographs.

The mostly instructional eBooks seem less inclined to attempt to impress people with the photos included between their cyber-pages.  Instead, they use photos to illustrate and underscore the instructional information contained in the book. The "showcase" eBooks seem mostly intended to impress with photos -- and often with a slick and stylish layout and book design to go with them -- sometimes setting too-high instructional goals for readers who are (either obviously or subtly) challenged to try to make photos that are on a par with those in the books.  In other words, to try to shoot photos that look like the author's photos.

Now don't get me wrong. Some of the "showcase" eBooks have their rightful place in the world of instructional photography eBooks. There's nothing wrong with less-experienced photographers aspiring to shoot photos that look similar and as good as the photos of photographers they may be fans of or whose eBooks they've read.  And there's nothing inherently wrong with instructional photography eBook authors showcasing their exceptional work... providing, of course, they actually provide enough instruction (along with their exceptional photos) for the less-experienced photographers/readers to easily digest and integrate into their shooting skills base. (Some "showcase" eBooks do and some don't.)

Here's an example:  If an exceptional photographer routinely shoots exceptional photographs in exceptionally exotic locales around the world, it's pretty freakin' obvious that those exotic locales are major contributors towards making the photos exceptional. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of their books' readers, no amount of instruction is going to make up for the value of the exotic locales the exceptional photographer routinely shoots in.

Here's another example, one that's aligned more closely with the theme of this blog, as well as my very first eBook endeavor: If I were able to author and release a nude/glamour/tease photo eBook with nothing but exceptionally killer shots, captured in truly awesome locations, and with a bevy of incredibly sexy and beautiful models, the kinds of models most photographers will never see in front of their cameras, how fair would it be if I were challenging my readers, either obviously or subtly, to match my photos in terms of their "Wow!" and "Holy Mother of God!" values?

It wouldn't be. Fair, that is. Nor would it likely be too instructional of an instructional photography eBook.

Okay, moving on... (I can already tell this is going to take more than one blog update for me to feel I've said/written all that I feel like saying/writing on this subject.)

You might be wondering, "How do some instructional photography eBooks make their ways to so many people's computers, tablets, smart phones, Kindles and more?"

Marketing, of course.

(Note: For the purposes of this blog update, I'm not referring to selling on Amazon or other places like that. My eBooks aren't for sale via those sorts of sales platforms. That might change in the future but, for now, you won't find my stuff on Amazon or similar sort of eBook seller... yet I still sell a pretty fair number of eBooks. Significantly more, quite possibly, than a large number of authors whose eBooks are exclusively sold from retailers like Amazon... and I don't simply sell mine for less in order to increase my sales. Just saying. Happily.)

Anyway, in terms of non-Amazon-type eBook sales, email marketing is the king. Actually, I should say email lists are kings.

If I had a huge targeted email list (i.e., targeting photographers) I'd be able to sell way more of my eBooks than I do now. Way more, that is, than I do without the help of my awesome sales affiliates, some of whom do have huge targeted email lists and who get paid pretty darn good commissions for using their email lists to promote my eBooks. I do have an okay sized email list collected from the records of each eBook I've sold in the last few years, but my email list is dwarfed  by some of the lists a few of my affiliates have. I mean seriously dwarfed!

A popular photography web site with an email list of, say, 50,000+ subscribers can sell a lot of freakin' eBooks! How? Simply by sending out one (1) bulk email promoting a specific eBook. As you might guess, I spend a fair amount of time cultivating new affiliates, leastwise trying to do so, especially those with big followings and who I suspect have big email lists. And I certainly don't begrudge them the commissions I pay out. (50% commission on each and every sale.) Not in the slightest. They worked hard to develop their followings and email lists and the ability to turn those followings and lists into profits are one of their just rewards.

Alrighty then. I'm done going on about this for now. I'm tired and my fingers don't seem to want to dance across the keyboard any longer without making way too many mistakes. More sometime later.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I, Negotiator

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I'm certainly no highly qualified negotiator the way some of those hostage negotiators professional politicians are. You know, the ones who negotiated an end to the government shutdown... after 16 days of negotiating.  But every once in a while I can negotiate a thing or two. Sometimes, even quicker than 16 days.

Just this week, I negotiated a special deal on Dan Hostettler's terrific glam/nude posing guides. And it didn't take me 16 freaking days to do it!  I even got Dan to throw in a discount on his dramatic lighting book. Not only that, but I convinced him to create a special, ego-stroking, "Pretty Girl Shooter" discount page.

Here's the deal: Anyone who's interested in one or more of Dan's books can now use one of two discount codes I just happen to have in my pocket.  They're only good till October 31rst, which is less than 16 days away, but that should still be plenty of time for you to negotiate with yourself, your alter-ego, your wallet, your spouse, whoever in terms of making a decision.

So, here's the two discount codes to use when you're checking out, should you decide to make a purchase:

Use discount code PGS25 for 25% off your total purchase price if you buy enough of Dan's stuff to end up with a total purchase of at least fifty bucks. ($50)


Use discount code PGS20 for 20% off any single purchase or purchases of less than fifty bucks.

Want to learn more about Dan's guides and/or use the special discounts I just negotiated?  CLICK HERE.

For the image at the top, my client negotiated with me to shoot three pretty girls for the price of one.  It wasn't a very long negotiation. Didn't take 16 minutes much less 16 days.  Sometimes, my job really sucks. (Not.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Working On My New eBook

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Lately, I've been putting in lots of hours on my new eBook hoping to have it complete for a sometime-in-November release. It's titled, "Location Flash: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits Combining Natural and Artificial Light."

While the book is something of a follow-up to my last eBook, Flash-Free Portrait Photography, I'm working hard at making it a stand-alone. As always, when I'm in the midst of authoring a new eBook (this will be my 5th) it's a great learning experience for me. The writing process forces me to carefully examine all the techniques I regularly employ, as well as research information I'm less familiar with. After each book I've authored, I think I've come out a winner in terms of heightening my awareness and increasing my knowledge of photography. Gotta love that! Then, when the books are complete, I get to share them with others. Gotta love that too!  Better yet, I even make a few bucks off my endeavors. Icing on the cake!

I spend a fair amount of time on a number of interactive photography forums-- Facebook photography groups, those sorts of places, and I often read comments by other photographers who struggle with or hope to improve many aspects of their portrait-shooting skills, whether it's glamour or some other genre. What I glean from the words of others so often helps direct me in terms of what I should be covering in my eBooks. That's one of the reasons I spend so much time reading what others have to say. Plus, I love talking about photography. Many of you probably also love doing the same.

Anyway, just wanted to post something on the blog so it doesn't look like I've gone AWOL. Need to get back to work on the book. Later today, I'm going out to shoot more photos specifically for the new book. I'll be shooting two kids and two teens utilizing a number of different techniques and a variety of gear. Hopefully, I'll remember to snap some behind-the-scenes stuff as those pics often do a great job of illustrating how the results (the finished photos) are captured. Should be fun! Shooting is always fun whether it's a glamour shoot or photographing just about anyone. What a less interesting and enjoyable world it would be without photography!

The pretty girl at the top is Dahlia snapped out in the desert combining natural and artificial light. Very little processing on the image. It's probably 98% straight out of the camera. Used three light sources counting the sun. The artificial light sources were a Paul Buff "Zeus" head modified with a medium rectangular soft box and Buff's "Ringmaster" ring flash. Both were plugged into the "Zeus" power pack which was powered by an Innovatronix Explorer XT portable power unit.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Choosing an Aperture Value for Glam, Tease, and Other Portraits

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Generally, there are two camera exposure modes I shoot most of my portrait images with:  Manual and Aperture Priority.

When I'm shooting outside in daylight and I'm adding one of my speedlites into the mix, I usually choose to shoot in Aperture Priority. This allows me to pick the aperture value while my camera chooses the shutter speed. It's a quick, easy, and efficient way to shoot. The aperture value I decide to use is mostly driven by the depth of focus I want to achieve. When I'm shooting head shots, for instance, I often choose an open aperture, generally the most open or widest aperture my lens allows. Doing this, of course, produces the shallowest depth of focus and helps "pop" my subject's head and face from the background.

When I'm shooting in a studio or other interior location, I mostly shoot in manual mode. That's because when shooting interiors I'm almost always using studio strobes, a.k.a. monolights or monoblocs, rather than speedlites. Monoblocs don't allow for automated or semi-automated exposure settings. (I also sometimes use monolights when shooting daylight exteriors and, when I do, I also shoot in manual mode... not that I have another choice.)

If I'm shooting interiors with a seamless or a blank wall as my background, shallow depth of focus is usually less important to me unless, for whatever reason, I decide I want the focus to be so shallow that, as an example, the model's eyes are in sharp focus and other parts of her face or body are soft, focus-wise, to varying degrees. Sometimes though, I will choose to shoot at wider apertures when shooting interior head shots of women, i.e., I'll aim for a very shallow focus, one where the subject's eyes are tack sharp but the end of her nose is going soft. This helps compress the face and is generally perceived as being more aesthetically pleasing for head shots of women. (Note: If I'm shooting head shots of men, I'm  less interested in shallow focus because, in my opinion, the opposite holds true in terms of compressing a man's face.)

Back to shooting models in interior locations: As mentioned, if I'm shooting a model against a seamless or blank wall and I'm not interested in compressing her features, that is I'd like to see most all of her in relatively sharp focus, I'll stop down and shoot at larger f-stops, i.e., narrow apertures. I'm not trying to blur the background because a seamless or blank wall background is generally featureless so there's little to nothing to blur. For me, shooting at f/8 or f/11 gives me the results I'm mostly looking for.

Shooting at stopped-down apertures means I'm going to have to hit my model with more light, more intense light, to get proper exposure. That's not a problem since I'm using monolights and they're fairly powerful. Plus, I almost always have my lights in close proximity to my models since I usually want a larger light source (relative to the model) in order to produce softer, creamier light.  Some shooters like to shoot at f/16 for these types of shots. While I rarely shoot at f/16 for interior portraits, there's certainly nothing wrong with doing so. For me, however, f/8 and f/11 produce enough depth of focus for my purposes. (When I'm not looking for a very shallow focus.)

The naked pretty girl at the top with the sexy/sultry expression on her face is Ally.  I snapped this one of Ally with my Canon 5D (original) and a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens zoomed in almost all the way to a 70mm focal length. ISO 100, f/11, 125th sec.  Three lights and a reflector were employed: A Photek 4' Softlighter  for my main light with a LumoPro Lite Panel under it, angled up for some extra fill from below. I also employed two small brolly boxes, either side from slightly behind her.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Czech Republic Interview? Check.

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Dan, of Studio Prague -- Prague is a city in the Czech Republic if you didn't know, which you probably did -- posted an interview he conducted with me. I guess I'm now somewhat infamous in Prague, what with the handful of NSFW pics of naked women I've shot posted along with my words.

I read over the interview a few times and was happy to arrive at the conclusion I didn't come off like a dumb shit. I'm always a little leery of interviews and their potential for revealing a dumb-shit factor because, unlike writing articles for my blog, interviews don't always offer the opportunities to simply edit and rewrite the dumb-shit out of them.

If you're unaware of Dan or Studio Prague, he's the guy who put together those great posing guides featured in the right-hand column of this page. If you want to learn more about Dan's posing guides, click the graphics (on the right) or CLICK HERE.

There's really not anything more to say about the interview as it, make that I, speaks for itself/myself. You might want to check it out if you have a few minutes to spare and don't suddenly feel the need to organize your sock drawer or alphabetize your spice rack.  To read my interview with Dan and to see the photos, all of which have probably been posted on this blog at one time or another, you can do so by CLICKING HERE.

The gratuitous pretty girl above is Melanie, snapped in front of a white seamless. I used three lights: a 4' Photek Softlighter and a couple of small shoot-through umbrellas either side from slightly behind, plus a reflector (a LumoPro Lite Panel) directly under my main light and angled up to add a bit of gentle fill from below.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Are You a Disciple of Light?

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What's more important than light? Few things, if anything. Most life on this planet would not or could not exist without it. As humans, we could not exist without light. Worse yet, without light photography wouldn't exist either. Bummer!

Nearly all of humankind's earliest religions included light or the sun as an integral aspect of its beliefs. So many references and so much religious iconography involves light or the sun and the stars. Much about light has survived even to modern day religions. As humans, we intrinsically understand that light is supremely important: It lights the heavens, keeps us safe from the evils that lie in the darkness, and does so much more. As photographers, we are (or should be) disciples of light.

Light is God-like in so many ways. It's no coincidence light, as a metaphor, is often synonymous with God. As people, more so as photographers, we understand what a fantastic gift – from God or from the cosmos, whichever we choose to believe – light represents. Light provides us the raw cosmic material to do this thing we do: This fun, wonderful, challenging, entertaining, photography thing.

For photographers, light is everything. It is our God. It is both our brush and our paint. It is the altar at which we pray. Quite often, it is the one element of our work that makes our images truly shine. (Pun intended.)

Light embellishes our images like nothing else: Sometimes with subtlety and nuance, other times quite obviously and with great drama. If you're a serious photographer and you're not praying at the altar of light, you'll be hard pressed to rise above snapshot-taking status. Sure, it's important to know your camera gear – how to use it and wield it like the photo-equivalents of Samurai warriors – but knowing your gear and knowing how to use it is only part of the battle. The road to photo-Nirvana is on the path of light.

I realize I'm sounding like a zealot. I suppose I am something of a zealot when it comes to the subject of light. I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with what's new in the world of photography. I spend even more time learning how to use the tools of modern-day photography, be it gear or processing software or whatever, but in my heart and in my mind I know it's all about the light.

The above text is a very short excerpt from my eBook, "Guerrilla Glamour." If you're interested in learning more about Guerrilla Glamour, perhaps even purchasing a copy, you can do so by clicking HERE.

The model at the top is Dahlia. I snapped it late in the afternoon on a very hot day in the Mojave Desert-- El Mirage Dry Lake to be more specific. It's a natural-light art nude-- no flash or reflector.  ISO100, f/8, 125th with a Canon 17-40 f/4 L at 40mm.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fear (but No Loathing) in Nude Photography

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My friend, Dan Hostettler of Studio Prague, wrote an interesting update for his blog: How I Outsmart My Fear Inside Nude Photography.  In it, Dan explains how he got into shooting naked women and, more importantly, how he dealt with the insecurities (and other personal factors) that he feared would result in producing less than ideal on-set behaviors that might impact his abilities to capture the sorts of images of beautiful women (sans clothing) he hoped to capture.

I think it's worth a read for any photographer just starting out shooting nudes or for those who don't yet have too much experience doing so.

English isn't Dan's native language (he's a Swiss guy living in the Czech Republic) but he writes in English very well.  Besides recounting his own experiences while learning to be a pretty girl shooter, Dan also shares some great advice for those starting out shooting nudes.

Dan, by the way, is the guy who put together those excellent and thorough posing guides shown in the right-hand column of this page. If you're interested in learning more about Dan's posing guides, click the graphics for them and, through the magic of internet hyperlink teleportation, you'll be taken to a page where you can learn more about them and/or purchase if you're so inclined.

The pretty half-naked model on the stairs is Devin. ISO100, f/3.5, 125th with an 85mm prime.  One light: Photoflex 5' Octo. The highlights from above, camera-right, are from sunlight coming in from a window above that second-story landing. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why So Serious?

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I came across a folder on one of my external hard drives that I've somehow overlooked. It was a copy of the contents -- leastwise, partial contents -- of a hard drive I was using about 5+ years ago but haven't used since. (An old USB 1 hard drive that took forever to do anything so I put it out to pasture.)

The folder had a bunch of sub-folders of work I did back then.  For me, looking at the work was interesting to say the least. It was like a glimpse into my own photography past, albeit not too distant past. Since I was suddenly looking at the out-of-the-camera images (rather than the few of them I processed back then which I still have on some other hard drives) it was even more telling from a lighting and style point-of-view.  For the most part, I haven't looked at this old work since soon after I shot it.

The first thing I noticed was that I was more into low-key images than high key. In fact, I couldn't find any high-key images amongst the work. (These days, I seem to shoot more high-key than low-key. Way more.) Also, not only did I apparently favor low-key images, but low key images that were more on the dramatic side than most of my recent work.

It's like I want to go back in time and ask myself, "Why so serious?"

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Some people will tell you that low-key images are more dramatic in general. There's a fair amount of truth in that notion, but back about 5+ years ago I seemed to be going out of my way to produce images with much more emphasis on the dramatic, lighting and style-wise, leastwise if what I'm seeing on the copy of that drive is any indicator.

Now, I'm wondering what changed my approach? How did I evolve my personal style from a "Why so serious?" kind of shooter to one who is much less... serious. (Note: Please remember that I'm talking about lighting and photographic style and not about my personality and general demeanor. I'm rarely someone who others might ask "Why so serious?" regardless of the photographic style I might be currently employing.  Just saying.)

This stuff, of course, could easily open a discussion on evolving styles. Are most all photographers' styles in a state of flux?  Or, does it remain static for some and not static for others?  Is it important to have an ever-evolving style? Is it better to arrive at a style that seems to work and to stick with it?  I wish I had absolute answers to these questions.  I don't.

I'm also now thinking about what it is that drives the changes in our styles?  Is it us, ourselves?  Is it that we learn more and as we learn more we integrate that learning into our work, thus changing our styles? Does gear effect our styles? (i.e., does new or more gear sometimes act like a catalyst for changing one's style?) Does the work of others have significant impact on our styles? That is, are we merely just a bunch of imitators and mimics, style-wise?

Shit. This is getting complicated!

Sorry if I seem to be all fixated on this changing style thing but it seems to me that if I knew the answers to this stuff, and to what degree each of the individual answers to my aforementioned questions effects the whole, I could be more proactive about where my style is headed or even whether it's important for me to somehow direct where it's going. You know, instead of just letting it go where it goes all on its own.

The pretty girl at the top (and in all three pics, for that matter) went by the name Cytherea. She might still. It's just that I haven't heard from or of her for a number of years now. All the images I've posted are from a set of images from the folder I mentioned in this update. They were snapped in my studio, when I had a studio, with a Canon 20D. All were lit with a Mola "Euro" beauty dish and a pair of strip boxes. Here's another of Cytherea from the same set.
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Monday, September 09, 2013

Flatulent Angst

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As with most if not all working photographers, my clients are mainly interested, more than anything else, in me getting The Shot(s). No revelation or epiphany there: All paying photography clients want that.  But some of them aren't as trusting as others in terms of allowing their photographers to decide if/when The Shot(s) are captured.  (Even if some of them wouldn't know it if The Shot(s) were captured and they were hit in the face with them... by "hit in the face with them," I mean The Shot(s) are shown to them, in their faces, and they still can't accept that they are what they are-- i.e., that they are The Shot(s) they want/need.)

My favorite clients are those who -- be it because of our long-term relationships or via my reputation, (which is why they hired me, duh) -- trust that if/when I capture the right shot or shots, and I tell them specifically that I have done so,  they accept my judgment in the matter. My best clients are aware that once I've captured The Shot(s),  everything else I shoot, for the most part, is probably going to be photo-chaff.  (We all know what photo-chaff is, right?  It's what most of us shoot most, more so than ever since the advent of digital.)

Anyway, those are the sorts of clients I love working for best! They trust me to know when I've snapped The Shot(s). They trust my aesthetic judgment.  They might ask me a few times if I'm sure I have The Shot(s) -- "Jimmy, are you sure you've got what we need?" -- because they know that, later on, if its discovered my judgment was in error, there's not much that can be done about it short of excessive turd polishing or a re-shoot, and that's not going to happen. (Money and all.) But they trust me anyway. 

Then I have clients who, to varying degrees, don't seem to trust my ability to judge when I've gotten The Shot(s). These are clients who want me to continue shooting, shooting a lot, even after I've told them, (probably a couple of times, possibly repeatedly) that I've got the The Shot(s).  Obviously, they are so into quantity, perhaps more so than quality, and it seems to me like they don't believe they've gotten their money's worth (regarding the model or myself) until we've shot a gazillion or so frames which I know are never going to be used for anything other than lining a cyber trash bin.

Occasionally, I've gotten so perturbed by this I suggested that next time we shoot, they bring along someone from their art department or whoever does their graphic/art work to make The Shot(s) call, that is, whether we have what's needed or not.   That's not going to happen, of course.  Why? Well, first off because it's another person on the set they'll need to pay. Second, they'll be paying that person to sit around and do little to nothing beyond possibly annoying me and acting as if they're in charge of both the models and myself while we're shooting...  Too many cooks and all that. I've heard wedding shooters complaining about mothers of the brides (or some uncle of the bride who is a hobby photographer) overtly poking their noses into the photo process and becoming impediments to getting the shots.  It's kind of like that.

I'm not writing this because there's some special lesson to be learned. It is what it is and sometimes what it is (on this blog) is just me relieving myself of a bit of flatulent angst.

The pretty girl at the top is Abby. Snapped it with two lights: a 5' Photoflex Octo for a main and a small umbrella, behind her to the right and up kind of high. Not a lot of processing. It's probably 90% or 95% SOoC. (Straight Out of Camera)

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Nudity and Rubber Ducky PJs

Not my usual but shooting outside my usual has its own rewards. Click to enlarge.

Much like it's said, "Man does not live by bread alone," this man does not live by pretty girl shooting alone. I hope that doesn't burst any perception bubbles some of you may have about me, but my interests in photography extend well beyond pretty girl shooting. Heck. I sometimes even shoot stuff that isn't of a standard, pretty-girl-shooting nature.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I am, in any way, disenchanted with pretty girl shooting. I'm not. But the steady diet of it, not so much in terms of shooting but in writing about it, wears a bit thin at times. Well, perhaps "wearing thin" isn't a good way to describe my feelings about this: It's more like it feels restrictive and inhibiting.

But now I've done something about that!  And I feel better already!  (Cue the marching band music.)

You see, in order for me to blog about photography stuff that is NOT within the confines of my customary pretty girl shooting, I've resurrected a blog I let die back in March of 2009. It's called, "I, Shootist," and by reviving it I can now blog about nearly anything, photography-wise, without being concerned that this blog, this Pretty Girl Shooter blog, may be an inappropriate place to do so. (Which it often may be.)

So, if you're at all interested in reading what I might have to say about photography beyond the focus of this blog, check out I, Shootist. 

The diptych at the top is a no-big-deal example of my work outside of my customary work, but it's an example that remains appropriate for this blog.  (Mostly because it contains a pretty girl and nudity, in addition to the rubber ducky PJs.)  But trust me when I tell you, there's plenty of other stuff I love shooting and writing about that would not be appropriate to this blog. Stuff that doesn't include nudity and rubber ducky PJs or nudity and anything else. And for that stuff, I now have an avenue for sharing and writing about it on my newly resurrected I, Shootist blog cuz I'm all about shooting and sharing and writing... and stuff.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Glamour/Nude Posing Guides *UPDATED*

Soon after I released my first eBook, Guerrilla Glamour, a couple of my eBook's resellers asked me if I might put together a posing guide.  They thought it might be a very popular seller. I never did. Obviously, if I had, I would have been promoting it.  It wasn't that I was reluctant to author a glamor posing guide because I didn't think it was a good idea. I thought it was a great idea! I simply didn't have the time, at the time, to do it... to do it right.

I've revisited the idea of a posing guide a few times since but, somehow, I've never managed to motivate myself enough to get busy on one. Now, it seems the idea of me, JimmyD, authoring a posing guide is a moot point. (I love that word-- moot.) You see, photographer Dan Hostettler of Studio Prague has beaten me to the punch. (Not that I ever managed to even begin punching out a posing guide.) And he not only has one posing guide relevant to photographers interested in shooting glamour and nude, he has three of them!

You might be thinking that a guy from Prague, Czechoslovakia, wouldn't be your first choice for a posing guide or most any other eBook. After all, they don't speak English in Czechoslovakia. Well, most people don't. But Dan does and, I'm sure, so do a fair amount of others over there... although it's not like English is spoken everywhere in Czechoslovakia. Leastwise, I don't think it is.

But even if Dan didn't speak much English, which he does, fluently in fact, it wouldn't be a problem because the poses in his posing guides aren't so much described as they are shown! Illustrated! With photos!  With terrific photos! And with a beautiful model!  A very beautiful model! They are visual guides, not text guides. And Dan's covered glamour and nude posing from A to Z. (I'm not sure what particular pose begins with a "Z" but you get what I'm saying.)

Dan has three, terrific posing guides available. If you're interested in learning more about any or all of them, just click on their titles, which I'm now going to share with you below:

Essential Glamour Poses

Facial Expressions in Nude Modeling

Implied Nude Poses

Update:  No sooner do I get this post up than I receive a message from Dan of Studio Prague. (I have no idea what time it is in Czechoslovakia, which isn't a country it turns out, but I'll get to that in a moment.) So, regardless of what time it is in Prague, let me set the record straight on a couple of things that aren't particularly time sensitive but I'll jump on them right away:

First, Dan isn't a Czech. He's Swiss. Wait a minute. Let me back up...

First, there is no Czechoslovakia any longer. It's the Czech Republic and apparently it's been the Czech Republic for about twenty years now. (I guess I should pay closer attention to current affairs, not that something that happened twenty years ago is current.)  If my knowledge of history serves me correctly, there wasn't a Czechoslovakia until after World War One when it was created by... I'm not sure who. Anyway, it seems the nation formerly called Czechoslovakia (and more formerly called something else, although I don't know what) was fairly short-lived, historically. Like only for about 70 years or so which, in terms of European history, isn't a very long time. (Seventy years of American history, of course, would represent a much greater percentage unless you include the history of Native Americans but they weren't big on writing their history down like the Europeans have been so, who knows what that percentage might be?)

Second, as I first mentioned first but now I'll properly mention second, Dan isn't Czech. He's Swiss, but he lives in Czechoslo I mean the Czech Republic. Which means, I guess, he's not only a terrific photographer based in Prague, but he also knows a lot about army knives, cheese with holes in it, and chocolate.

Okay. Whew! I'm much relieved to have straightened all this Czech/Swiss/Czechoslovakia stuff out. Now, I return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Your Lighting Isn't Static Even When It Is

I never treat my lighting setups as if they are static.  They usually are static in terms of I rarely move my lights around once they're set. But in other ways, they're not static because my models don't have to remain static. I can move them around with simple verbal directions, re-orienting them in different ways to the (static) lighting I've set.

For glam, I mostly light in ways that act as if my models will remain perpendicular to my camera. That, of course, doesn't mean my models will remain perpendicular to my camera. I can orient them, all of them or portions of them, in various ways to my lights. I can even orient them in ways where one of my kickers sort of becomes my main light and my main light becomes a fill light while my other kicker remains a kicker. (If that makes sense.)

By the way, if you're not sure what I mean by a "kicker," kickers are what I call the lights I use to produce specular highlights, edge lights, rim lights, simple highlights, whatever you prefer calling them. I just call them kickers. Others might call them something else. What's in a name, right?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you're likely aware I mostly prefer three-light setups for glamour: a main light plus two kickers, either side, from slightly behind. That's my go-to glamour lighting. It's simple and efficient to set up and use. (I'm all about simple and efficient.) It has the added benefit of producing the kinds of results my clients prefer, as lacking in creativity as my clients often tend to be. But hey! They're writing the checks. My job is to deliver what they want. If they want something different, which they rarely do, they simply tell me what that is... which again, is a rare occurrence. 

As lacking in creativity as many or most of my clients might be, one thing they do know is what works.  Either that or they employ others, besides myself, who know what works. Since they're in the business of using glamour and tease photos of pretty girls to produce revenue, they are rarely interested in experimenting or altering what they already know works. Money on the line sometimes has a way of making people less daring, less willing to go outside the box whatever box it is... assuming you subscribe to all that "box" stuff, which I don't.

I sometimes see other photographers being a bit too cautious, leastwise in my opinion, about moving models around within the confines of their perfectly planned lighting.  Leastwise, in their minds it's perfect. Personally, I think that's a big mistake. A very limiting mistake. Why? Because I know some of my best photos often get snapped when my models aren't perfectly aligned with my so-called (self-delusional)  perfect lighting. (There's no such thing as perfect lighting, IMO. But that's, perhaps, a subject for another blog update.)

I know a photographer, another pretty girl shooter, who had a large, power-operated, turntable in his studio. Sort of like a big Lazy Susan, if you know what a Lazy Susan is. He'd set his lighting, have his models stand on top of the big Lazy Susan, and then have it slowly spin and turn as he snapped away, all the while directing his models to assume different poses. He could even put a chair, a couch, or other some other piece of furniture on top of the turntable with his models lying or seated on that stuff. Yeah. It was a fairly large and heavy-duty turntable. I have no idea what it cost but I'll bet it wasn't cheap.

Every shot he snapped had his models oriented differently to his lights. He's a very successful pretty girl shooter, by the way. His work, at one time or another, has been featured in just about every higher-end men's magazine, both here and abroad, that features glamour images of beautiful women in various stages of dress and undress.

I used to envy him for his turntable, mostly because I saw how simple and efficient it made the process of re-orienting models to static lights, making it all so much more dynamic with the simple push of the turntable's power button.

I forget the name of the pretty girl at the top. (Click to enlarge.) I snapped it about 6 months or so ago and I'm too lazy to dig through my stuff to find her name. As you can see, I partially re-oriented her so that my kicker, camera-left, became something of a main light for her face -- not really but kind of -- but remained a kicker for the rest of her body.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Are You Trying Too Hard to Make Great Photos?

Just about every day, I look at a lot of photos snapped by a lot of other photographers. I'm not just referring to other pretty girl shooters, but all kinds of photographers.  And I don't merely look at the work of photographers who are particularly notable for their photography. I expect those people to consistently show good work.  I like viewing the work of all kinds of photographers who are at all points along the learning curve. Often enough, I've been inspired by beginners, not simply by the very experienced shooters.

When I view the work of someone who is at the early stages of their photographic development (film pun intended) I'm not so much looking at the technical merits of their photos. (Or lack of them.)  After all, they are people who are just starting out. As such, they haven't amassed much experience. Of course their images are going to be  rough around the edges, technically speaking. Instead, what I'm checking out is how their eyes, their photographic eyes, are revealed in their images regardless of the technical expertise the images reveal.

A good eye, regardless of experience and level of technical skill, will most always reveal itself whether the person behind the camera is a beginner or someone much more advanced. It's a natural thing that the technical stuff, even when it's not yet where it should be or will be, can't hide.That's not to say a naturally good eye won't develop and get better with time, practice, and experience, it will, but you can often spot a good eye in the work of newer photographers even it's not yet developed. I suppose it's one of those diamond in the rough kinds of things.

One observation I've made, however, is that more than a few newer photographers seem very impatient to produce stand-out work. They seem to be working too hard to show off, i.e., to make great photos -- be it with the camera or in post-production -- rather than being focused on learning how to consistently produce good work. Notice I said, "good work," and not great work.  There's nothing wrong with aspiring to produce great work, but it shouldn't be at the expense of routinely and consistently producing good work.

If you're personally satisfied snapping one great photo out of hundreds and hundreds of not particularly good photos, I guess what I'm saying isn't for you. But if you're working to consistently produce good work, I think you'll find the number of great photos you snap (when you reach a level where you're shooting hundreds and hundreds of good photos) will be significantly increased. By the way, when I say "great photos" I'm not talking about images destined to become iconic or legendary. I'm simply referring to photos that are better than good. Sure, that's a subjective thing, but I think (leastwise, I hope) you get what I'm saying.

So here's my advice, a bit of FYI or however you want to take it: Some of you should quit trying so hard to produce an occasionally great photo (however you're trying to do that or with whatever tricks and gimmicks you're throwing at your photos in order to do that) because there's a good chance you're doing so at the expense of producing many more good photos. If you focus on consistently snapping good photos, those great photos will follow suit and they will do so more often.

Here's a little more advice, FYI, whatever: Even when you're consistently producing good photos, you might not end up with as many great photos as you'd like or had hoped for. Sorry, but that's just how this photography thing works. When it comes to great photos, more than a small amount of serendipity often needs to take place to produce those great photos. The serendipity factor is why beginners sometimes produce great photos, even those who barely know WTF they're doing. But if you're routinely and regularly producing good work, you'll give serendipity a much better chance to work its magic.

The pretty girl at the top is Sunny. (Click it to enlarge it.) It's certainly not a great photo but it's a good photo given its intended purpose.  At the risk of sounding a bit full of myself, I can consistently shoot good photos day in, day out, every day if need be. *That* ability is what gets me hired, rather than the occasional great photo I might snap. Consistency should be your goal without relying on serendipity. It takes a while to learn (and practice at) becoming a photographer who can produce good work on demand just about whenever it's demanded. There's no magic involved. Special natural-born talents aren't required. It's simply a product of learning, practicing, experience, and skill, which means anyone, if they're willing to invest what it takes to do so, can become a photographer who is a consistently good photographer.

Note: I have a special discount going on with my eBooks right now. The discounts are actually for a promo Ed Verosky put together to go with his latest newsletter, but even if you don't get Ed's newsletter, feel free to take advantage of the discounts anyway.  (I recommend signing up for Ed's free newsletter-- I think you'll enjoy it and your photography may benefit from it as well.)

I'm offering 25% off my Guerrilla Glamour, Guerrilla Headshots, and Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography eBooks. Click the graphic (in the right-hand column) for the eBook you're interested in purchasing. The link will land you on my sell page. When you get there, click to buy and you'll be magically transported to a shopping cart. There's a place on the shopping cart for you to enter a discount code. Use the code, edsale and $2.50 will be deducted off your purchase price for any of my three eBooks I mentioned above. I also set up a 10% discount on my recently released Flash-Free Portrait Photography book. For that one, use the discount code, flashfree and $1 will be automatically deducted from your purchase price. These discounts are ongoing until this Sunday at midnight, 09-01-13.

Another Note: A personal friend of mine, a photographer named Kirk (no relation to the captain of the Enterprise-- Kirk is my friend's first name) will be the instructor of an upcoming photography education class at Calumet University's Los Angeles campus. The class is called "Understanding Lighting for Making Great Portraits." (Click the title I just provided to learn more.) Kirk's class will be held on September 7, 2013.  And yeah, I'm well aware Calumet isn't a real university and its "campus" is a large retail photography store but that doesn't really matter. There are many ways to engage in formal education and they don't all take place at actual colleges or universities.  If you're an LA area photographer looking for a course like this or you think it may benefit you, check it out!