Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Curate This!

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I guess I have a different approach to photography education than some others out there who author ebooks or other sorts of training programs. (No. I'm not going to name names.) My #1 peeve with some photographers' educational efforts is that  their ebooks (or other training materials) come off exactly like they're specifically designed to teach others to shoot photos that look like the photos the books' authors shoot. (Mostly cuz they are. And that's because a lot those  authors apparently think their shit is just "amazing!" You know, "the shit.")

And you know what? Sometimes, their photos are amazing. But if they are,  they probably belong in a coffee table book rather than a photography how-to book. Me? I don't encourage anyone to shoot pics that look like mine, not that mine are all that stellar, and I mention that in my books. I mention it often.

For one thing, blue-printing images that look like the authors images provided in a photography how-to book is, IMO, rather egotistical and arrogant. Especially since there may be factors contributing their photos' awesomeness that "just learning" photographers aren't going to be able to duplicate. Instead, I try to provide photos in my ebooks that are realistically do-able by readers. Images that say, "This is the kind of work you can achieve using these techniques." Images that, whenever possible, are the sorts of images a large percentage of the books' readers will likely be shooting.

Also, I always encourage readers to take the info I provide and run with it, capturing images that are their own; in their own style, that is. And I hope, after learning the techniques and more that I offer up in my books, readers end up practicing those techniques and, at some point, shooting pics that make mine look like a rank amateur snapped them.  Again, not that my pics are amazing. They're not. They are, for the most part, simply what my clients want me to shoot.

I also try to avoid putting images in my ebooks that aren't do-able for a variety of special reasons. With a a fair amount of my work, I get much help from people like MUAs, stylists,  and others. Their contributions to the images sometimes go beyond what I would have created without those contributions. In fact, often enough, their work "makes" the images what they are. In other words, I generally try to provide images that anyone can shoot without counting on the help and contributions of a crew, especially a crew of gifted crafts people. At times, taking that approach to my ebooks doesn't necessarily help me sell my ebooks. I had one re-seller recently decline to promote my last two ebooks, telling me their "curators" thought the photos in my ebooks aren't all that good. That they are rather commonplace. That they don't have enough "wow!" value to them.

Excuse me assholes, curate this! (My middle finger if you need a clue to what I'd like them curate.) My ebooks aren't exercises in patting myself on the back for some of the pics I've snapped. They're not designed to be coffee table books containing images that most people learning to shoot won't be able to come close to matching simply because they might not have certain resources or opportunities that I'm given as a result of my day job as a photographer, and certainly not the years of accumulated experience I have. Rather, they're about teaching people the things that will help them grow and develop as photographers. My ebooks aren't vehicles to show off my work. Most of my ebooks are aimed at beginner to intermediate photographers. As such, I always try to keep that in mind and I offer up techniques and more that aren't too difficult for them to achieve. I'm all for setting high goals but not for setting unattainable goals. (You know, given where most of my books' readers reside on the photography learning curve.)  By the way, my last two ebooks have been my personal best-sellers and no one, not one person, has emailed me to complain about anything. Not the pics in them or anything else. Like I said, "Curate this!"

Lately, I've been a bit mentally focused on landscape photography. I haven't as yet gone out and shot anything, but I'm putting together some things in my kit to help me do just that whenever I do manage to kick myself in the butt and get out there. I've looked at some ebooks about landscape photography and, with many of them, it would be a waste of my time and money to purchase them because, for the most part, those books are more about the author-photographers showing off their best images rather than doing a whole lot of teaching. Worse, some of them show off with pics they've snapped in some very exotic locales and, frankly, there aren't many, if any, exotic locales within an hour or two driving distance of my home. Yeah. I'd love to go to Bali or some incredible rainforest to shoot, or maybe the dramatic coast of Cornwall in the UK or the Himalayas or somewhere equally awesome and visually stunning, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

Obviously, I could take off for somewhere like Yosemite which is semi-exotic, certainly very picturesque, but even Yosemite, which is in the same state where I reside, is quite a long drive in itself. It sure ain't a day trip unless I suddenly have an airplane at my disposal. That's not likely to happen anytime soon either... me having an airplane at my disposal, that is.

Well, that's my rant for today. I feel better. Time for another cup of Joe.

The pretty girl at the top is Nikki. There's a lot of things going on in that image: stars and stripes, more stars, ribbons and bows, freckles, fish net, ginger hair, she's half-naked... It's quite a hodge-podge of shapes, colors, lines, and more. I have mixed emotions about that. But hey! My clients put the girls in front of my camera the way they want to see them and I shoot what they want. (What the clients want, not necessarily what the models want.) As long as the check clears, all's good in Jimmyville. Assuming the models' checks clear as well -- and I'm confident if mine clears, their's do too -- I assume all's well in Modelville too. It's a one-light portrait if you didn't notice. I used a 5' Photoflex Octo, set camera right to produce a "short lighting" portrait style . It was snapped on a set in a studio.  I used a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on my 5D classic. ISO 100, f/5.6 at 125th.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New eBook from Ed Verosky: Successful Photo Shoots

The only thing I like better than a photo shoot is a successful photo shoot. (Well, photographically speaking, that is.)  And what makes a successful photo shoot? Duh! Nailing the photos you want to capture, of course.

My friend, Ed Verosky, has just released a new ebook, "Successful Photo Shoots," that includes 90 pages jam-packed with great information, awesome strategies, plenty of photos and so much more... all designed to help you learn to to turn your photo shoots into successful photo shoots!

Are you looking to have the sorts of shoots that yield successful photos? Of course you are. We all are. And this ebook will help you do just that. Better yet, Ed's offering his new book at 33% Off his customary pricing for ebooks. Yep. You can download your very own copy of Ed's new ebook for a mere ten bucks, one measly sawbuck, $10 (U.S.)  Such a deal!

Ed's new ebook provides behind-the-scenes perspectives as well as behind-the-photographer's-eyes narratives of what goes into making his photo shoots, and will make your photo shoots, a success. It's all designed to help you learn, in easy-to-understand ways, what it takes to capture the photos you're hoping for from your shoots. 

So what are you waiting for?  Learn more about Ed's new ebook or, better yet, get your own copy by  CLICKING HERE.

And just so you don't go away from this post without seeing a pretty girl pic, here's Kayla from a few years ago. We were shooting in a studio and they had this really cool background they'd built.  I lit Kayla with 5' Photoflex Octo for my main, set just to my right, plus a medium Chimera strip box camera left and a small, shoot-through, umbrella boomed overhead from behind her camera right.

Kayla has had plenty of modeling experience, both mainstream and adult, so I asked her to bust some fashion moves for my camera. It's not really the kind of pic my client, an adult production company, might use for their marketing endeavors but I like it and so did Kayla. I snapped it with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on my Canon 5D classic. I just recently bought another Canon 85mm f/1.8 (my other one went South some time ago) but I haven't had a chance to use the new one yet. I really like that lens for portraiture of all kinds.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jonesing for Pretty Girls (A Follow-Up)

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Okay. So I went on the Model Mayhem web site to look for a willing victim subject. I spotted a mature-ish woman, very pretty, who also happens to live in the same city I live in... not that it's a city. It's the burbs. But they call it a city as in "The City of..."

In her MM profile, my intended subject says she's a published author, works a day job in the motion picture industry, has little modeling experience but quite a bit of interest in it. Modeling, that is. She sounds like a fairly interesting person, you know, as many models go. Also in her profile, she states she'd be interested in modeling for some "edgy" work, whatever that means. I get the feeling she's the artsy type which could make for some pretty decent photos if she allows her artsyness to translate into posing and emotional projection and all that good stuff. Plus, I like artsy types. Must be the artsy in me that makes me like artsy in others.

I've never been too clear on what "edgy" means. I've had a number of clients who have asked me to shoot some edgy stuff for them but mostly I still shot what I usually shoot and they were quite pleased with the work. To me, "edgy" simply means a bit different or less-seen. You know, photos with a less-seen "edge" to them. But less-seen by who? The client? Me? I've pretty much seen it all, at least I think I have. Other than being a bit different or less-seen, "edgy" doesn't have any specific meaning to me.  It's a lot like that overused term, "outside the box."  There are boxes and there are BOXES. For the most part, at least in my opinion, a lot of photographers seem to perceive "the box" as being smaller than it actually is. It's not. Small, that is.

Back to my potential model...

I sent her a short message asking if she'd be interested in shooting with me.  She messaged back (within a day) and said she would, but probably couldn't find the time till May. No problem. May is right around the corner. She also asked if we might meet for coffee or a beer or something to discuss what we might shoot. Sounds good to me. I've got more time on my hands these days than I know what to do with. And I'm always up for coffee. (Not so much beer.) I shot her another brief message saying I'd be back in touch in a few weeks and we could figure out how to proceed.

It all sounds promising but then I've heard promising before. We'll see what happens come the first of May when I shoot her yet another message, this time with my phone number and asking for hers. Since she's older, who knows? She might have the maturity (and courtesy) to actually follow-up on her original words. She might even show up for coffee. That would be nice. That would be different. In fact, that would be kind of "edgy" of her.

The pretty girl at the top is Jenna. It was one of those shoots where I was asked to photograph some "edgy" stuff. Personally, I don't think there's anything "edgy" about the image or any other image from the set I shot with Jenna but my client did not agree. My client thought it was just "edgy" enough for their needs... plus the check cleared so all was good.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jonesing for Pretty Girls

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Jonesing: To have a strong need, desire, or craving for something.

That's what I've been doing lately: Jonesing for some pretty girl shooting. I haven't shot anything in a while and it's starting to get to me. Don't get me wrong, I've got many, many photo sets in my stored archives to mine for this blog and for other uses. But still, I jones.

I suppose I could log onto Model Mayhem or One Model Place and search out some models who might want to collaborate for some shoots but, like many other photographers, I've been flaked-on, pissed-off, or my inquiries ignored by too many "models" who claim they're interested in shooting but really aren't. Apparently, many of them are in love with the idea of calling themselves "models" but not so much with actually doing it, modeling that is.

I need a muse. Some model who truly loves getting in front of a camera with a skilled photographer at the controls to make some pictures. I've got tons of ideas for creative shoots. Many of them ideas that my clients never had me shooting because, well, because that's not what they needed for their pretty girl photos uses. I don't blame them. It's not their roles to be my art patrons, paying me to shoot whatever I want to shoot and how I want to it.  It's not personal. It's just business.

I'll probably still check out MM and OMP and have a look but, as pessimistic as it sounds, I'm confident I'll be disappointed. 

I forget the name of the pretty girl at the top and I'm too lazy to spend time looking for it. The gratuitous pretty girl pic is about 95% or more SOOC.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


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You all know what the acronym SOOC represents, don't you? For those who might not be aware or are unsure, it stands for "Straight Out of the Camera."

If you've been reading this blog for while now or you're a reader of my eBooks, you have probably realized I don't do much post-processing on my photos. Often enough, except for removing a few blemishes or stray hairs, very slight luminosity or color adjustments, and resizing for the web, many of the photos I post here, or those I've utilized in my ebooks, or still others I've posted on photo forums are, for all intents and purposes, SOOC.

There are a few reasons for my SOOC or near-SOOC posting habits and none of them have to do with ego, bragging rights, or being some sort of photo elitist or an overly Old School photographer.  Here's some of those reasons:

1) I'm a big proponent of getting things right in the camera. When I say "things," I mean nearly everything, especially exposure, color balance, even framing and composition. As a result of many of my clients' preferences, I mostly shoot large fine JPGs. Doing so makes getting it right in the camera even more important. In fact, it makes it paramount.

2) I'm not a very good Photoshop guy. Not really. Yeah, I can perform all the basics and perform them quite well but, when it comes to more advanced techniques, I'm not "The Guy."  One reason for that is my clients all have art departments, re-touchers, or graphic artists who work them so, doing the post-work on my photos isn't part of my job. Instead, those are the people who process my photos, i.e., the photos they (my clients) select for use for various applications. (e.g., packaging art work, "slicks" and posters, advertising, magazine use, other print or web applications.) Since those people, the post-production people, have my clients' ears long after I've snapped the photos, it's most definitely in my best interests, continuing employment wise,  to get things right in the camera.

3) While I admire a fair amount of digitally enhanced or modified images, especially some of the composite work I see, over-processing photos, make that over-processing the people in those photos, often makes me cringe as a photographer.

I highly recommend all photographers strive for SOOC worthy photos. That doesn't mean I'm recommending against post-processing, I'm not. But much of what you do when post-processing your pics should be about making already good photos even better, and not about "saving" photos that don't qualify or pass muster for SOOC viewing. When you get it right in the camera, everything you might do in post becomes simpler and easier to accomplish.

The image at the top is, I think, a pretty good example of getting things right in the camera. It's SOOC except for a 50% resize applied to it. That's it. Nothing else. All I did was simply made it half as large as  it was coming out of my camera. If you want a better look, click it to enlarge it.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

One Light, Two Lights, Three Lights, Four

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How many lights are best for glamour photography? One light, two lights, three lights, four? There's no answer to that because all those numbers of lights can be equally effective depending on how they're used and, more importantly, how their uses help convey the story or emotional content of a given image.

Yes, glamour pics have emotional content. It might not always be as obvious as it is in other types of portrait work, or it might seem mostly the same throughout many of the images, but it's there, just the same, whether it's obvious or subtle.

Let's say I'm shooting with my typical, go-to, three-point lighting setup with my model in front of a white or very light-colored seamless background.  Sure, I'll have the model go through a range of emotions: upbeat emotions, downbeat emotions, and plenty in between. But later, when I'm looking through the images, I can't help but notice that my lighting, coupled with the background, generally lends itself better to the upbeat emotional content. That's because high-key images tend to work best with high-key, upbeat, emotional content while low-key images tend to work best with low-key, down-beat, emotions.

Those aren't ideas set in stone, of course.  But as a rule, leastwise as rules go, it's often the case.  Interestingly, the number of lights used in either scenario tends to have less impact underscoring the emotional content of the images than does the color or tone of the background. I can convey upbeat emotions in front of a white seamless as well with one light or four. Conversely, I can convey downbeat emotions as well with a single light as I can with a multiple-light setup with a black or dark colored seamless employed. We all can.

What's really going with that has everything to do with human perceptions and not so much the approach to the photography via lighting setups. That's not to say lighting doesn't still impact emotional perceptions of viewers, it does. But it might be secondary, probably is, to other elements of the image. Anyway, just another day of thinking out loud on my blog and recording and publishing it.

The emotionally up-beat image of the pretty young thing at the top was snapped with my go-to, three-point, lighting setup in front of a white seamless. I didn't light the seamless which is why it isn't white, at least start white. Personally, I think the white seamless contributes more to her emotional projection than does the lighting.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Are You Prouder of Your Gear Than Your Photos?

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I spent some quality(?) time on a few different photography pages on Facebook this morning. I won't mention which pages cuz I don't generally kiss and tell. Never have.

The more time I spend on some photography forum-style pages, the more it seems like, in spite of the obvious and an incredible amount of information to the contrary, many photographers still believe, to various extents, that great photography is a product of gear, more specifically, camera body and lens gear.

I won't argue there are times when better gear produces better images depending on the intent of the images you're shooting or who you're shooting them for-- it does, well, make that it can. Course, it also depends on one's definition of "better." For me, "better" means whatever gear produces images that meet my clients' expectations, my expectations, and that which makes my production work-flows simpler and more efficient.

I used to play golf. Golf is another endeavor where many of its practitioners, like many photographers, place an awful lot of faith, value, trust, and expectations in the gear they're using. Will an accomplished golfer still make his putts with just about any putter rather than an expensive Ping putter or another of that caliber? Do I really have to answer that? How about the brands of drivers or irons they're using? Again, you know the answer to that. Leastwise, my answer.

Great golfers play the game in enviable ways because they're great golfers, not because of the clubs in their bags or the brand of balls they're smacking around the course. And they became great golfers via learning, practice, and repetition. Not simply by upgrading their equipment or buying into the marketing bullshit of those who make and sell golf gear.  I learned as much or more about how to become a better photographer from playing golf -- which I continued to suck at doing -- than with my camera gear cuz I know how to extrapolate the obvious from one endeavor and apply it to another, even if that other is an almost completely unrelated activity. I'll bet most of you know how to do that too. At least I hope you can.The trick, of course, is to actually use that skill, that extrapolating skill, and learn from it.

Learning, practice, and repetition will do more for your photography than any camera, lens, light, modifier, or accessory will. Period. End of story. You can take that to the bank.

The pretty girl at the top is Kayla. I snapped it in a studio about 7 years ago. It's straight out of the camera except for resizing for the web and a few blemishes removed. I only removed the blemishes because, if Kayla were to see it without them removed -- not that they were that big a deal but, you know, Kayla being female and a model and all -- and I happened to run into her she'd probably be pissed and she'd let me know she was pissed in short order. BTW, for my British readers, the word "pissed," in this context, doesn't mean drunk. It means angry. I'm merely qualifying that in case you don't savvy American. I, by the way, do savvy English English having spent three years living on your lovely island in my youth. By "youth" I mean from 20 to 23 years of age.

Kayla's picture was snapped with my Canon 5D classic with a Canon 28-135 IS USM f/3.5-f/5.6 (Depending on the zoom amount.)  Not the most awesome lens in Canon's  consumer offerings but far from the worst.  It was lit with three sources: A 5' Photoflex Octo for my main set slightly camera right, a Chimera medium soft box on the left from a bit behind her, and a shoot-through umbrella, probably a 3-footer, boomed overhead-ish, camera-right and from behind. ISO 100, f/5.6, 125th, with the lens zoomed into 100mm for its focal distance.