Monday, April 29, 2013

Kaizen, Baby! Kaizen!

The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, literally “change good,” should be in the hearts and minds of every photographer.  I'm not suggesting that photographers should constantly and routinely engage in changing the ways they do things or their styles or that such changes are always good.  What I'm saying is that being open to change, whether it's new techniques, new approaches to one's work, new styles, new ways to modify or simplify the workflows you engage in (whether in production or post) and a willingness to try new things out, things that are a change from the ways you normally do them, can net good results. Sometimes, better than "good" results. Occasionally, fantastic results. (That is, compared to your normal results.)

As photographer, I admit to being mostly guilty of a certain reluctance to embrace the ways of kaizen.  Philosophically, I'm all for it. I'm in, babe! 100%!  But, in practical terms, I'm an old photo dog and often find myself hesitant, reluctant, or too lazy to change much of what I do and/or how I do it. "If it ain't broke don't fix it," comes to mind. So does remaining in one's comfort zone. But just because something isn't broken doesn't mean it can't be improved or approached differently. And no matter how warm and fuzzy feeling we might be in our comfort zones, i.e., our ways of shooting photos, it's important to sometimes dip our toes in other waters. Perhaps even, on occasion, to dive-in head first.  Ignoring the value of kaizen, BTW, can lead to one's photography becoming stale and repetitive.... which is how I often feel, but at least I'm getting paid for shooting the same stuff in similar ways over and over and over.

The phrase "outside the box," has gotten a lot of play in recent years, especially in the idiom of photography. OTB isn't simply a way to describe a photograph that appears less-seen or one that breaks  rules. It can also be applied to how a photographer approaches a shot, any shot, and the methods and tools the photographer utilizes. Art is product of our minds. Craft is a product of our skills, experiences, and know-how with a variety of tools; tools which are used to realize our art, i.e., to make visible that art which dwells in our minds.  If photographers don't sometimes attempt the Kai in Kaizen, they might find that some of the art they envision in their minds remains there and won't ever become visible for others to see. And why else do we practice photography but for others to see?

Okay, that's enough philosophy for one day. Probably enough for longer than that.

I've been working on my next ebook, both writing and shooting pics for it. Most all of the photos for the book are being custom shot for it.  My subjects, that is the people in front of my camera, aren't the usual victims suspects. (Usual for me, that is.) For my next ebook, I'm shooting everything from kids to seniors (high school) to actual models to senior citizens and beyond! (I don't really know what "beyond" might mean yet, it just sounded good in that last sentence... but I'm hoping to discover shooting something beyond.)  I'm even lining up a ninety-something-year-old woman for one of the book's custom shoots. I've mentioned this book before.

My next ebook is called Flash-Free Model Photography, assuming I don't change the title, and it focuses on shooting people, all sorts of people, using natural light and with (although occasionally without) the help of tools like reflectors, scrims, flags, and more. It also gets into stuff like exposure, glass, filters, techniques, and beyond. (Obviously, I like using that "beyond" word... tip of the hat to Buzz Lightyear. )  Anyway, no artificial light! No strobes!  I mean, c'mon-- Does the world of photography really need yet another book on how to shoot with flash instruments? Small flashes or monoblocs?  Personally, I don't think so. I think the subject has been adequately covered. Make that more than adequately covered, way more, exhausted some might say, and by more than a few book-authoring photographers.

Below is a photo (not for my new ebook) of  Bree. Remember, not so long ago, when Charlie Sheen was going through all those antics when he left the TV show, Two-and-a-half Men?  And remember his "goddess" he kept mentioning?  This is her.  This is she? Whatever. He was referring to Bree.(Click Bree to enlarge her.)


Rick Horowitz said...

I am so looking forward to this ebook!

For a variety of reasons, I've never been incredibly happy with using flash to shoot my portraits. (One reason, frankly, is how hard it is to set up my 4' by 4' softboxes. I gotta find some that are easier to handle.)

Because of that, I've been buying fast lenses whenever I can see my way to it. Lately, I don't want to buy a lens unless it's AT LEAST f/2.8L. Even then, I'm really wanting something faster. (Of course, I've also been shooting bands in nightclubs lately, where flash isn't an option, and it's usually quite dark.)

As I write this, I am awaiting delivery (I sent you email about this a little while ago) of a new Canon 300mm f/2.8L series lens.

Yes, I am willing to bankrupt myself to feed my speed addiction.

Anyway, get that ebook done! I need it! ;)

jimmyd said...


Great glass is the way to go! You don't need super-fast glass to shoot effectively with available daylight but it does afford you more options and can sometimes make the process simpler. Course, if you're into bokeh, those fast lenses generally produce it beautifully.

Rick Horowitz said...

Yeah, I do like bokeh. I'm also into narrow DOF.

Lately, I've been shooting in very low light situations -- shooting bands playing local clubs -- but I don't know if the 300 is going to be good for that unless I'm just trying to shoot their finger picking the guitar strings, or the end of the drumstick hitting the drum.

On another note: you need to write more blog posts! ;)

jimmyd said...

@Rick: Re "on another note..." Thanks. I needed another reminder. Yours is more gentle than a few others I've received. :-)