Thursday, September 25, 2014

Curate This!

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Lately, I've noticed the words "curate" and "curator" showing up more and more on photography pages on the web. Whenever I see either of those words used on a photography site or FB page or whatever, the first thing I think of is Inigo Montoya from the film, "The Princess Bride," when he says to Vizzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

"Curate" and "curator" can be pretentious words. Some of you might be thinking it's a bit pretentious of me to use the word "pretentious" on a glamour photography blog but here's where I'm coming from:  Unless you're an actual and bonafide curator at, say, a legitimate museum of art somewhere, referring to yourself or to some unknown people who are moderators or administrators or even simple contributors to your photography page as "curators," or that someone has "curated" the photos, is way more pretentious than me using the "P" word on this blog. Way. More.

I had an experience not too far back where my contact guy at a web site that does NOTHING BUT PIMP SHIT TO PHOTOGRAPHERS, declined to promote one of my more recent eBooks because, he explained, his "curators" didn't think some of my photos were quite good enough. Good enough for what?  You're selling museum quality shit now? Excuse me but who the fuck are your curators and what the fuck are their credentials qualifying them to "curate" my pics or those of anyone else?

By the way, this was the same guy who, a couple of years ago when he was just kicking off his photo-stuff-sale-site, begged me -- begged me! -- to let him pimp my first eBook, "Guerrilla Glamour."  (Which I was more inclined to say no to because there were some questionable issues regarding his program and how sales were tracked and accounted for.) But he begged. And I gave in. And guess what else? He's made some decent bank off my book over the last three years! (I've done okay with him as well. But I still don't like the way authors can can't track sales, independently of his "word," that is.)

It's now three years later and I still get monthly pay-outs from him. How honest they are I still don't know. But I am, for the most part, a trusting sort of guy... which hasn't always worked out so well for me in the past, but that's another matter. And let me assure you that when he rejected one of my recent eBooks, there was no begging or anything remotely close to it on my part.

Because now he has "curators."

And who can argue with curators? Especially "curators" who have zero known credentials as curators.

So, pardon my born-and-raised in New Jersey/Italian-American crudeness but I can't help but grab my crotch with one hand, push my hips forward, and say to this dude, "Curate this!"

For today's exhibition at the JimmyD Museum of Pretty Girl Shooter Glamour Photography, I pretentiously curated the photo of the pretty girl at the top. She's Penthouse Pet, Tori Black. This humble curator hopes she  meets your "refined" photographic tastes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ed Verosky's New eBook

My good friend, Ed Verosky, has just released a new ebook: "Introduction to Close-up and Macro Photography."  I had a chance to read it before it's release and, frankly, I had no idea there was so much more to close-up and macro photography than I might have imagined there was.  (I guess I've been living in a glam photography bubble or something.) That aside, I was quite impressed at the way Ed broke it all down, making it easy (as possible) to understand and, more importantly,  the way he provided me (and all of you) with all that I or you will need to know (and need to have) should I/You/We decide to begin shooting close-up and macro photos.

From close-up product photography to macro-shooting bugs and beasties, flowers, and all sorts of other things,  it's all between the virtual pages of Ed's new eBook.  If that's something that interests you, Ed's book is what you've been waiting for. (Even if you didn't know you were waiting for it.)

If you're interested in learning more about Ed's cool new ebook, just CLICK HERE.  Better yet, if you decide you're interested in purchasing a digital copy for yourself, you can do so and receive a 33% off the already low price of $15. But you'll need to act fairly quickly! Ed tells me the special discount code will only be good for a week. So, if you're interested in Ed's new book, and you want it at a terrific discount, simply use the discount code, DISCOUNT, in the shopping cart when checking out. (How's that for a clever discount code? DISCOUNT.)

You know what? As long as I'm telling you about great deals, I think I'll up the great-deal ante here and offer you another great deal.  From now till the end of September, you can purchase any (or all) of my ebooks for 25% off! That's right, 25% off the purchase price of any of my ebooks. All you need to do is provide that clever discount code, DISCOUNT, in the shopping cart for any or all of my ebooks as well. Links to all my ebooks are provided in the right-hand column of this page. If you've thought about buying any of my ebooks, now's the time. I haven't run a discount on them for quite some time and I have no plans to do so again in the near future. So get 'em while the getting is good!

Anyway, that's it. Check out Ed's terrific new ebook by CLICKING HERE. Purchase any of my ebooks for 25% off. Don't forget to use that discount code, DISCOUNT, for a 33% discount on Ed's new book and a 25% discount on any of mine.

So you can't say I withheld posting some eye candy because I was pimping a close-up/macro photography ebook, or even my ebooks for that matter, here's one from a while back.  It's the lovely and sexy Jenna Haze. Jenna scores high on my personal Pretty-Girl-O-Meter. I'll bet she pushes the needle in a very positive direction on your pretty girl meter as well.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dutch Angles

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We all know what Dutch Angles are, right?  For those who aren't sure, a Dutch Angle is one where you cant or slant your camera to varying degrees, to one side or the other, when you frame and snap the shot. You can also crop images that weren't snapped with a Dutch Angle in order to produce the same result. (Although I'm much more a Dutch Angle guy when I shoot my images, rather than when I crop them.)

Personally, I like shooting images with Dutch Angles. I don't shoot them that way all the time, most of the time, or regularly for that matter. But when it makes sense to do so, when I want the image to benefit from being somewhat and obviously off-kilter, i.e., not level or plumb. When that's what I'm looking for, it's a Dutch Angle I might decide to use.

How do images benefit from shooting with Dutch Angles? Generally, Dutch Angles add interest to photos simply because they reflect a small piece of photo-documented reality (within the perimeters of the photos) with intentionally unreal, out-of-sync-with, or less-often-seen perspectives.

Naturally, all your images won't benefit from Dutch Angles. Dutch Angles are very subjective in terms of their effectiveness. When Dutch Angles work well, they can work really well. When they don't, they don't.  There is no objective way of "grading" a photograph's merits based on the use of a Dutch Angle. It works or it doesn't.

Some genres of photography generally benefit more so from Dutch Angles than others.  Portraits of most any kind can benefit from Dutch Angles.  Landscapes and seascapes, on the other hand, are less apt to work well using Dutch Angles. That's not to say landscapes or seascapes can't ever benefit from shooting with Dutch Angles, but they're less likely to do so and that's why they're less seen. I've seen more than a few cityscapes, however, where Dutch Angles were used to great effect!

Mostly, Dutch Angles work best when they're intentionally composed and snapped that way and the intentional canting or slanting of the camera works. (For lack of a better word.)  A seascape, for instance, where the ocean's horizon is somewhat out of level because the photographer did not frame or crop the image level isn't an example of a Dutch Angle. Rather, it's mostly an example of a photographer not paying enough attention to detail when they shot or cropped the image.

How do you know when an image will benefit from a Dutch Angle?  You don't. Not entirely and not in a 100% guaranteed sort of way. Instead, effectively utilizing Dutch Angles are mostly a product of your style and personal sense of visual aesthetics, much like all the rest of the elements of your compositions whenever you're snapping pics, glamour pics or others.

When I decide to snap photos utilizing Dutch Angles, I usually look for lines in the images that will be strengthened by becoming diagonal lines within the photo's composition. Obviously, turning level and plumb lines into diagonal lines is easily accomplished by slanting or canting our cameras when we're shooting. For photography, much like most all visual art forms, lines are not only the most basic elements of the work, they're often (potentially) the strongest elements of them; of their composition, that is. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that lines are often  *the* strongest element of many images. And diagonal lines, more often than not, are the strongest of the strong!

Lines are one of the classic, Six Elements of Design. The Six Elements of Design are: Line, Shape, Color, Form, Space, and Texture.  All six of those elements can be (and often are) used quite effectively within the composition of almost any photograph you might capture. If you haven't spent some time learning about the Six Elements of Design, I suggest you do so. Your photography will benefit greatly from the time you invest in that part of your photography education.

The pretty girl at the top of this post (as well on the top of a pool table) is Penthouse Pet, Tori Black. I snapped the pic at a location house high in the hills above Studio City, CA.  For that particular photo, I decided a Dutch Angle would add power to the image, more so since the otherwise level lines of the pool table would magically become diagonal lines, strengthening (with the Dutch Angle) the image in general, and also by underscoring Tori's sexy, predatory expression and cat-like, pose.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Single Terrific Image Effect

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The American tycoon, JP Morgan, undoubtedly represents different things to different people: positive things as well as negative. For some, he's remembered most for being a ruthless, robber baron. Others recall him as a one-man economic powerhouse who acted much like a central bank before there was a central bank in the US.  Still others remember Morgan as a huge patron of the arts. It's said he spent nearly half of his considerable fortune on art.

Morgan commissioned a number of portraits of himself; painted portraits, that is. The problem was, leastwise for the artists Morgan engaged, JP wouldn't sit for more than a few minutes even when a painter managed to get him to sit at all. Finally, one of JP's painters engaged a young photographer, Edward Steichen, to photograph Morgan. The painter planned to use Steichen's photo-portraits as a guide for painting Morgan's portrait. As it turned out, Morgan wouldn't sit for Steichen for too long either. All the young photographer managed to snap were two photographs.

Of the two photos, the first was, in a word, unmemorable. But the second photo, because JP became somewhat agitated waiting for the photographer to continue, became a sensation. And it wasn't a photo JP Morgan cared for at all! In fact, he tore up the proof of the second capture the moment he saw it but, as a result of that image, Edward Steichen's photography career was kick-started in a big way.

Have any of you ever snapped a single photo that ended up being a boost to your photography career?  In my last update, one where I wrote about new or better gear and what it might or might not do for you, I related a personal story regarding how a single head shot I snapped back in the day, an 8x10 for a forty-something-year-old actress, kick-started my head shot business. It's one of two photos I've snapped over the years which directly resulted in a fair amount of work for me and, directly and indirectly, a decent amount of money put into my pockets. I'm not saying either photo made me rich and/or famous,. (That's obvious since I'm neither rich nor famous.) But each image, in its own way, did quite a lot for me in the near-term, and even the longer term,  after I snapped them.

This sort of single terrific image effect, i.e., where a single image might do a lot for a photographer, can be an anomaly or it can be because the photographer has the requisite skills to increase the odds of a single image doing much for him or her.

Sometimes, I view a photographer's work that, for me at least, isn't too good. The work does not invoke a sense (in my mind) that the photographer is skilled to any great degree or has much experience. Yet, that same photographer might be someone who manages to score a lot of paid work. Some might credit that to exceptional marketing and tooting-one's-own-horn skills. And that might be true. But other times, I wonder if it's the result of the single terrific image effect because even the world's worst photographers might manage to somehow, in some way, snap at least one, truly memorable, photograph.  Photography is funny that way. Skill and experience play a big part. But Lady Luck and serendipity can also sometimes play a big part, if not the only part.

The gratuitous eye candy at the top is Devin. It's one from a set I snapped at a location house sometime back. The image is, except for resizing and a very modest  "curves" adjustment, SOOC. (Straight Out of the Camera.)  I always try my best to snap photos that are competently shot SOOC. I'm not always successful at doing that but, at least 80% of the time, probably more, I can consistently snap SOOC pics that hold up well.  Doing so is simply a matter of experience. In my opinion, every photographer should be striving to become a competent, SOOC photographer. Besides being a good practice, doing so will radically increase the odds of snapping that often elusive single terrific image which just might be responsible for catapulting your photography to great success or, at the very least, some decent levels of success.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Is Your Gear Holding You Back?

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Over the years, I've often thought my gear was holding me back. If only I had this or that, I could shoot more of this or that or, for  whatever this's or that's I was already shooting, I could shoot them better, more easily, etc.

In retrospect, I was correct some of the times and not so correct other times. There were times I was flat-out wrong about my gear (or my lack of certain gear) holding me back; 20/20 hindsight is remarkably accurate that way. There were also times, I'm happy to say, when I was 100% correct in that assessment. Again, 20/20 hindsight let's me make that statement.

Here's an example: Back in the day, in the late 1970s to be more specific, when I began shooting head shots for Hollywood hopefuls, I started out doing so with a Canon AE1 and a 50mm Canon lens. That particular workhorse of a camera/lens combo was fairly common back then, and it stayed common for quite a while. It was certainly common amongst hobbyists if less so for dedicated pros. But I wasn't a pro back then. I was just a guy with a camera and some camera skills --  a GWC&CS versus the generic GWC (Guy With Camera) -- looking to augment my income shooting those head shots. My then spouse was an aspiring actress. I was going to film school, bar-tending, with my sights set on becoming a working screenwriter and later, if the Gods smiled on me, a director.

I started out shooting head shots by shooting them of her, my then wife. She had quite a few actor friends so, as result, I also began shooting head shots for a few of them. My head shot business began growing from there.

I paid a lot of attention to the work of other shooters who were also shooting head shots. I noticed much of their work seemed to be the results of them using a longer lens than I was shooting with. So, I decided one of things that might be holding me back was the lens I was using. That decision led me to purchasing a Canon 135mm prime. In my eyes, my head shot photography improved dramatically after I began shooting with that new lens. But was it responsible for the continuing growth of my head shot business?  Perhaps. I'm not completely sure. In fact, I now lean towards no, it did not, although at the time I might have offered a different opinion about that, at least for a time.

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You see, the one thing that really made my head shot business expand was a single photo I snapped. Admittedly, it was shot with my new 135mm lens. But did that really make any difference? I think not. Rather, it was the content of the photo that truly resulted in my head shot business suddenly taking off, not its photographic merits. How so? The content? Of a simple head shot?

I'll make a long story short: One of my then wife's acting friends needed new head shots. She was, at the time, in her early forties but all her 8x10s were snapped in ways, i.e., ways where her hair, makeup, clothing, expressions, attitude, was such that one would ordinarily expect from an ingenue's pics, i.e., an actress in her late teens or early-to-mid twenties. I convinced the woman to let me shoot her dressed and made-up like a frumpy housewife. A fairly common stereotypical character for somewhat older actresses, to be sure.

Guess what? While the actress wasn't too thrilled being presented that way, ego and all, the photo immediately got her called-in to audition for a national commercial and, after a few call-backs, she scored the role! Actors talk and she was no exception. Suddenly, my phone was ringing off the hook with calls from other actors who were hoping I could make some magic for their photos. They were hoping that lightning might strike twice.

Did any of that small success I had have anything to do with my new 135mm lens? I think not. I could have snapped the same pic of the forty-something actress with my 50mm lens and the results would have been the same. Maybe not exactly the same in terms of its photographic results, but the same in terms of the personal results both the actress and I experienced from that single image.

So, in my example, was my gear holding me back?  Apparently, it was not. Does that mean your gear or lack of it is holding you back?  I suppose that has much to do with what you're shooting or what you'd like to be shooting. But I do know one thing: Your gear isn't always responsible for holding you back, whether you think it is or not.

The pretty girl pics shown above are both of the same model. For the image at the top, we had some extra time so I snapped a few that were decidedly non-glamour in terms of pose, expression, and more. I used a wide-angle zoom lens, a Canon 17-40, to distort the image a bit... just for fun. The second image was also snapped during a glamour/tease shoot and, for that one, I stuck with the genre.

What's the biggest difference between the two pics? Well, other than one of them is color and the other converted to monochrome, the biggest difference is in the content itself, that is, how the content/subject is presented to viewers, and so much less the result of the gear I employed for either pic. The top image, although distorted a bit by the lens, could have been snapped with the same lens as the second image and, IMO, the overall impact of each of the images, on their own, would have remained the same.

Monday, September 01, 2014

When it Comes to Good Photography, There is No Instant Pudding

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With all the many ways to manipulate photos these days, especially applications that are almost completely automated, is there a line where a photographer's photos cease being something they can take much of a pic's credit for? Or, should that credit, at least a big piece of it, go to whatever application(s) are mostly responsible for a big chunk of the finished results?

If I snap a fairly cool picture and I then add some automated treatment to it -- one that, in my mind, enhances the picture's coolosity -- am I reducing the satisfaction I should be feeling for snapping a cool pic or am I increasing that satisfaction because I increased, leastwise in my mind, the photo's coolness?

I regularly see pics by other photographers where it's obvious they applied auto-treatment(s) to the photos. Often enough, very obvious auto-treatments. Sometimes, I think the treatments are cool. Other times, I think they're not.  Most often, I'm neither impressed by the addition of the treatments nor put off by them. They simply are what they are and what they are doesn't alter my reactions to the photos one way or another. There's an oft-seen internet comment which describes my response to those sorts of pics: Meh.  (Meh: Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care, one way or the other.)

When I'm shooting, I work hard at snapping pics that have as little meh to them as possible. I'm not always successful, of course. No one is. Also (no surprising observation here) meh is quite subjective. One person's meh is another person's cool.

There are times when meh is beyond a photographer's control. If I'm hired, as an example, to shoot subjects who are (or that are) intrinsically meh, I'll still try to shoot them in ways that reduce their meh-ness. Unfortunately, given the available time, resources, and more that may or may not be allotted to me at those times,  there might be only so much I can do to reduce the subjects' meh-ness.

In the situations like the one I described in the paragraph above, i.e., where the subjects are rather meh, should I, for the most part, automatically use an application to somehow, later in post, try to overcome or reduce those photos' meh-ness?  You know, with a (supposedly) cool treatment?  I'm not just referring to obvious treatments. They can be rather subtle treatments as well.  I don't know. Should I? Should you? Should anyone?

Many people do, of course, add those treatments. Some of them add them just about always, whether the photos seem to need them or not. Those folks tend to be people I don't consider as being serious photographers. But some of them who use those treatments, leastwise who use them occasionally,  are serious photographers. Often, quite good serious photographers. And those are the shooters who make me think about whether I should be adding auto-treatments to otherwise meh pics.

The pretty girl triptych at the top is one I processed three different ways: Normal processing, converted to monochrome, and one with an obvious treatment added to it.  The original image is, IMO, a pretty good image. The B&W also works well for me and the decision to convert was purely aesthetic. But the treatment I used for the pic's third rendition... well, the jury is still out (in my mind) and likely will remain out. (Note: The image was snapped with a Canon 17-40 f/4 L on a Canon 5D classic. It's all natural light via late afternoon sun. She's facing into the sun. Not even a reflector was used, much less needed... which isn't my norm but that's a different story.)

Do I think that third treatment adds any cool value? Yeah. Sort of. I guess. Maybe not. Who knows? Did the original pic need any added cool value? Well, that's the  more important question, isn't it?

Personally, I don't think it did. But thinking that way doesn't automatically mean the treatment is bad, does it? In some ways, it's simply different, neither improving or degrading the image. It simply makes it different.  Has the treatment, in this case, turned a decent image into a bad image? I'm not sure. I don't think so. Certainly not entirely. I suppose that's a question better answered by others, i.e., the image's viewers.

Bottom line: When it comes to good photography, there is no instant pudding, all the available auto-treatments notwithstanding. Leastwise, for those who pursue photography seriously as a hobby or professionally as a career.