Saturday, January 26, 2013

Elements of Style

Occasionally, other photographers have said to me, "I can usually spot one of your pretty girl photos," or something to that effect. I suppose there's a number of reasons some people say that, not the least of which being I've posted a lot of pics of a lot of pretty girls on the internet-- either on photography forums, via social media, and/or on this blog.

Another reason, I suppose, is that, in some people's eyes, I have a discernible and recognizable style. I think that's a good thing. It's certainly a good thing in the eyes of my clients. They like my style, otherwise they wouldn't rehire me, and they're looking for consistency. The last thing they want to see in the photos I shoot for them is me suddenly reinventing myself, i.e., reinventing my shooting style whenever the style spirit moves me.

So, I got to thinking about the stuff that makes up my style, that makes up any people-photographer's style, whether they're shooting glamour or fashion or just about any genre of photography which involves models or people as the subjects in front of their cameras. Here's my list of those elements. Leastwise, from my perspective and in terms of my photography:

Lighting: Beyond the model herself, the first thing most other photographers notice about any sort of model photograph -- and I use the term "model" to refer to any posed portrait regardless of genre -- is the lighting the photographer employed or, in the case of all natural lighting, took advantage of. If a photographer regularly employs the same or similar styles of lighting, that lighting is going to be associated with the photographer as being part of his or her personal style. That's not to say photographers who often employ the same or similar lighting styles don't ever deviate from those styles. They do. I do too. Well, sometimes I do. But for the most part, I use nearly the same lighting setups in most of my glamour model photography. I'll admit doing so has more to do with the expectations of my clients and not because I don't know how to light models in any other way than the way I most often light them.  I should add that my usual and customary lighting style, while possibly being perceived as repetitive, not only satisfies my clients, but it generally satisfies me. It might be one of those, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," kind of things. Besides, the way I set my lights allows for subtly different lighting impressions depending on how I orient my models to my lights.

Composition:  Generally, I frame most of my images similarly. That framing usually includes a small nod to the Rule of Thirds. I don't conform in big ways to the Rule of Thirds when I'm shooting models. It's more subtle. That's why I call it a "nod" to the rule. How much I conform to the RoT has much to do with whether I'm shooting full body shots, 3/4 shots, half-shots or head-shots. The more the model's body is included in the frame, the less subtle my nods to the RoT.  If I'm shooting a model against a seamless, I generally fill the frame with as much of her as possible whether I'm shooting a full, 3/4, 1/2, or a head shot.  When I'm shooting them against backgrounds other than a seamless or one that is uniform, I frame more loosely to allow more options when cropping in post.

Posing: Since I'm shooting glamour, much of the way I direct models to pose includes similar aspects of posing. For instance, for front shots I generally have models turn their hips slightly away from me while turning their shoulders back to me. I also remind them to form "S" curves with their bodies. I like having them form diagonal lines with their arms, legs, or all of their limbs. Diagonal lines are powerful elements of any photograph. Lines are often perceived as the most powerful element of the Six Elements of Design and diagonal lines are the most powerful of the powerful. There's a lot more to my posing directions than that, things like arching backs, pushing out butts, and twisting torsos till it hurts. I often find myself telling models: "If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right." Another thing I often say: "If the pose feels stupid, it probably looks good."

Attitude and Emotion: I'm a big fan of models displaying attitudes and emotions that can be labeled or recognized. Course, better still are those rare captures where those things are mysterious and enigmatic in ways that draw viewers in, but I'm not lucky enough to snap those images as often as I'd like. Since I mostly shoot glamour and tease, the attitudes and emotions I direct models to evoke revolve around things like sensuality, sexual allure and sexual come hither attitudes, and those sorts of things. If you're shooting other sorts of portraits, I don't suggest directing models to display the sorts of attitudes and emotions I encourage them to display in my glamour and tease photography. It's not likely those things are going to be appropriate for senior or wedding pics, or most commercial photography and other portraiture. But directing models and subjects to create certain other types of attitudes and emotions, via their expressions and pose, are always a plus for any sort of portrait, leastwise in my opinion.

The eye candy at the top is Lexi from a bit more than a year ago. You can click the pic to enlarge it.

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