Monday, December 22, 2014

Play-by-Play of a Commercial Nude/Glam Shoot

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Got myself booked for a shooting gig this past Saturday.  A little extra cash for the holidays is always a nice thing. I went with one light, a single main light, which is fairly uncharacteristic for me. Normally, when shooting glam/tease, I'm a three-light kinda guy. Sometimes four lights or three with a reflector. Apparently, I can be flexible, lighting wise. Who knew?

My model for the day, seen in the photo on the left, was certainly easy on the eyes. Plus, my client had a terrific MUA working her magic on my soon-to-be victim. I was going to be shooting on a white seamless in a small-ish studio. The shoot was a product-related affair. The images will be used for web and print ads. The product is a new and rather unique adult product for men. Beautiful, sexy, models sell everything from automobiles to adult products to men... to women as well. Duh, right?

I schlepped my gear into the studio and found that the seamless was already lit with Kino-Flos. (Daylight balanced florescent lighting fixtures.)  I asked my client if the seamless would be used in the ads or if the model would be cut out from the background. "Cut out," is what he told me. Cool! Thanks for enabling my proclivity for being lazy, dude.  I love when that happens!

Being a KISS shooter, you know, a Keep It Simple Stupid, I mean Keep It Simple Shooter kind of photographer, I immediately realized I wasn't going to need to light the seamless any more than it was already lit. Okay. So technically it wasn't a one-light shoot because there were three, pre-set, Kino-Flos lighting the BG and I was going to take advantage of that. But they weren't lighting the model so I'll still call it a one-light shoot.

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Regarding those Kinos, I'm happy to say I didn't need to be concerned about balancing the color temperature of the Kinos to my strobe. You can readily see the difference in color temps produced by my strobe versus what was produced by the Kinos on the BG.  So, my only consideration, florescent versus flash wise, would be insuring there was good separation between the model and the background (to aid the graphic artist in cutting her out when putting together the ads) and providing good color tone for the model's skin. Actually, vice versa in order of importance. But hey! No problemo! I can do that!

Once I decided to go with one light instead of multiple lights, I whipped out a Photogenic monolight I brought with me, plus my 5' Photek Softlighter to modify it. I decided on going with a slightly harder light than usual so I removed the front baffle from the Softlighter turning it into something akin to a Hardlighter. Plus, this particular model didn't need any skin-softening lighting. For all intents and purposes, my Softlighter was now a 5' umbrella. (I love gear that you can adapt and convert!) I didn't care about controlling the spread of the light because, well, because the BG was simply white. (Actually, a bluish/magenta-ish white courtesy of the Kinos, but that wasn't going to matter.)

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I set my light and mod on a stand, a "baby" stand I have with wheels which makes it easier to move around a bit if need be. I shot everything either with the light immediately to my left or right, nearly on-axis with the model, and raised up a bit and angled down. I was now ready for my model as soon as she was out of the chair. The makeup chair, that is.

My model for the day wasn't overly experienced and that, my client told me, was one of the factors for hiring me. He allowed to me, after the shoot, that he considered shooting it himself -- he's a hobby photographer -- but because, he told me, I'm so good with the models, especially newer models, he thought it better to have me shoot it so he would be sure to get the pics he needs.  (I love ego strokes! Especially, when they also come with a check!)

The image just above on the left is one I snapped with the model posing with the product. I don't think you need to call on your imagination much to figure the purpose of the product and its design. It's battery operated by the way, so it's similar to many adult products for women from that perspective. (Nudge, nudge, hint, hint, know what I mean?) Now, you might laugh at that gadget and think it's silly or whatever, but if so, it's probably because you know little about the adult "toy" industry. There's a decent chance my client might put his kids through college off of what he makes selling that red hand.  Course, first he's gonna have to put the red hand down long enough to make some kids but that's another story.

Most of what I shot was either with the model in bra and panties or implied nudes. That's because a fair amount of the places my client will be advertising and marketing his product doesn't permit nudity. Implied nudes? They're okay, as is lingerie. Full nude? Nope.  And no, I didn't take the product out for a test drive. Just saying.

Except for some cropping, the pics above are all 98% SOOC. I did remove a few blemishes in case the model sees this and I get a pissed-off phone call saying, "You couldn't remove a zit or two? You had to post them completely natural that way???"  I also wanted to show them (basically) SOOC so you could readily see the difference in color temp between the Kinos illuminating the white seamless and my single strobe lighting the model.  I set my White Balance to Manual for the shoot, dialed in to 5500 Kelvin. That's a WB setting, 5500K that is, I often use whether I'm shooting with flash or not, indoors or out.  Everything for this shoot was snapped with my Canon 5D2 with a Canon 70-200 f/4 L for about 60% to 70% of the images, and either my Canon 50mm f/1.8 or my Canon 35mm f/2 primes for the rest of them.

Oh! One more thing: Before we wrapped, the guy who's studio it is -- not my client but the studio owner -- stepped in to demonstrate how this latex, red-hand product, "The Handie," might also come in handy for air guitarists. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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Two more weeks till Christmas. That doesn't give me much time to figure out what I'm going to give myself... make that what Santa is going to bring me.

I've got children and grandchildren but they're fairly easy to shop for. For my two kids, both young adults, money works. For my two grand-kids, who are 8 and 10, a quick question-and-answer session always yields more than a few options for potential gifts from Papa. But for myself?  Hmm... There's so many things I might want and, while they're all photography related, I'm still unsure what my Christmas gift to myself might end up being.

I don't need a new or another camera. Glass? I just bought myself a Canon 20mm f/2.8 prime about a month or so ago.  My main camera bag, while continually getting more and more beat-up looking, is still functional and holds what I need it to hold. Plus, I have three or four smaller camera bags for those times when I'm traveling light or lighter, gear wise. I have a pretty decent tripod, two monopods, and a pair of different heads. I have plenty enough lighting and grip for just about anything I might shoot. Modifiers? I'm flush with them. That leaves accessories.

I plan to do some photo road tripping in 2015. Not merely some, but a fair amount of it if all goes according to plan. No, I'm not taking to the highways and byways to shoot pretty models. My plans are to embark on a journey of discovery shooting landscapes and seascapes and, hopefully, shooting many of them in ways less seen; not in ways previously unseen -- there's nothing new in terms of techniques and approaches to to just about any photo genre -- but in less seen ways. And, in ways that only need to satisfy me, not some client. I've spent nearly two decades shooting pretty girls for others and that's always meant being somewhat inhibited in terms of many things. Clients want me to shoot what they want me to shoot and, generally, in ways they want me to shoot... not in ways I might want to shoot. I guess that's the price one pays for someone else paying a price to have you shoot for them.

The stuff I want to shoot will be all new for me as, for all intents and purposes, I've never shot, or even tried to shoot, a serious landscape or seascape in my life. I've been more of a bodyscape kinda guy.  I've been spending a lot of time recently reading, learning, watching videos and all that to prepare myself for my outings. I don't want to go out there and learn by trial-and-error. Sure, there will be plenty of that even after immersing myself in learning media but I won't be clueless. I might not be abundantly knowledgeable when I get out there but being clueless just ain't my style.

I'll likely also document my journeys, to some extent, in ways other than the finished photos. What I'll do later on with that documentation -- whether it's written, behind-the-scenes photo, video, whatever -- I haven't yet a clue. Well, maybe I have a clue or two but nothing in concrete. I did, however, begin shooting behind-the-scenes photos of my lighting setups before it even occurred to me to begin writing a blog. So, some documentation might later come in handy for something or another.

Back to a possible Christmas gift for myself. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm thinking accessories.  But then, I already have a bunch of accessories: I have ND filters, including an ND 3.0 (that's -10 stops.) I have two, maybe three circular polarizers.  I have ProMist filters, an FL-W filter (for shooting during the Blue Hour) and some other filters as well. I have two remote shutter gadgets. I have all the editing software I need. Hmm... Nothing comes to mind. You know what? Maybe I don't need anything? Maybe I should just save my money for some of the road trips I plan on taking? Yeah. That's it! That might be the best, makes-most-sense Christmas present I can give myself... or not give myself, depending on how you look at it.

I don't recall the name of the pretty girl at the top. I snapped it just prior to last Christmas while working a gig for a client. (Or was it the Christmas before last? Sheesh! Keeping track of time becomes more and more difficult the older I get. I could look at the date on the photo's data but I'm too lazy to do so at the moment.)

Anyway, it wasn't a Christmas-themed shoot. She was one of three models I shot that evening and she happened to have that outfit with her. Being it was about a week before Christmas -- at least I remember that much -- I asked her to put it on. I only snapped a couple of dozen pics or so of her in it. As you can see, it's one of those outfits (two pieces plus the gloves) that goes-on and comes-off fairly quickly and easily. Unfortunately, we ran out of time while I was shooting her in it so there wasn't time for it to come off, as quickly and easily it coming off might have been.  Oh well. Sometimes, time is the enemy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Shooting on Sticks

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Do you shoot on sticks? If you're not sure what I'm asking, "sticks" refers to a tripod. It's a word often heard in film-making but possibly to a lesser degree amongst still photographers. No matter. Using the word "sticks" to refer to a tripod has been around for a very long time.

Lately, I've been shooting on sticks more often than I have in the past. One reason is because my current favorite lens for shooting many types of people portraits, whether it's glamour or something else, is my Canon 70-200 f/4 L non-IS. I've gotten rid of my other zoom lenses and the 70-200 is the only zoom I now own. Yep. These days I'm exclusively a prime lens guy, except for my 70-200.  Why's that? Well, there are a number of reasons, personal choice reasons, and perhaps I'll write about those reasons in a later blog update.

Being a non-IS version of Canon's 70-200 line-up is why I almost always use sticks when I'm shooting with it. If and when I don't, I'm likely going to have to toss out a fair number of captures because they're going to be ever-so-slightly soft around the eyes, where I nearly always focus. Soft focus on the eyes is not the sort of thing I want for most of the people portraits I shoot. I'll bet you don't either.  Sure, I do things like shoot at higher shutter speeds to reduce the likelihood of soft-around-the-eyes pics. I also try my best to hold my camera steady, real steady, when using it. Even then, I end up with more than a few photos that aren't usable.

I should also note that, except for its proclivity for slightly-soft-focus when I'm hand-holding the camera when using it, especially when it's zoomed in and I'm shooting wide open (which I mostly always am when using it) I love the lens!  Unlike it's IS version siblings, especially the f/2.8 IS, it's not a heavy lens.  In fact, it's not heavy at all. I've shot with the 70-200 f2.8 IS L, not with the camera on sticks, and boy did it wear out my arms! So, to make sure my focus is nearly always nailed-down when shooting with this particular non-IS lens, I generally, almost always in fact, put my camera on sticks (or sometimes a mono-pod) when I'm shooting with it.

One of the things I've noticed about shooting on sticks is it slows me down, that is, it slows me down in good ways. When I'm working with my camera on sticks, I notice I'm a bit more, I don't know, methodical and deliberate. I tend to pay better attention to things like framing and composition. For some reason, it makes me more thoughtful while shooting. I don't feel like I'm shooting from the hip like some trick-shot gunslinger. Those are all good things that often yield more and better "get it right in the camera" results.  Shooting on sticks also helps me resist the urge to over-shoot. I generally end up with less snaps from a set, but a higher number good snaps, i.e., keepers. Fewer images also generally aids in editing -- fewer frames to go through -- so, there's a post-production-efficiency gain when shooting on sticks, leastwise that's been my experience when doing so.

Certain genres require shooting on sticks. Long exposure and many types of land/sea/cityscape photography come immediately to mind. And, of course, there are genres, like street and event photography, where shooting on sticks isn't practical. 

Because of the positive things I tend to gain from shooting on sticks, I'm now using them more often than before and with other lenses-- lenses that are much more reliable than my 70-200 non-IS in terms of focus even when shooting at slower shutter speeds and with those lenses wide open or nearly wide open.  Why? Again, for many of the reasons I've already noted. Especially, the part where doing so slows me down and forces me to shoot a bit more methodically, deliberately, and thoughtfully.  And please don't confuse methodical and deliberate with being somewhat anal retentive and overly intent on the the tech stuff at the expense of the creative stuff. If anything, shooting slower and more methodically and deliberately seems to stimulate even more creativity in my brain. Go figure.

By the way,  I'm not saying everyone should suddenly start shooting everything on sticks. I'm not doing so either.  I'm simply suggesting you might want to give it a try if you're not somewhat regularly or semi-regularly using a tripod or a mono-pod. Who knows? You might see an improvement in some of your work. What do you have to lose by trying it out? A small amount of time? That's a small price to pay for, potentially, better pictures assuming better pictures result.

The pretty girl at the top is Paris. The lighting is somewhat different from the lighting I often employ for many of my pretty girl shoots. That's because the particular client I was shooting for was okay with me -- in fact he encouraged me -- to go a bit outside of the standard glam-and-tease box (lighting-wise) that many, if not most of my clients prefer to me to shoot within. I used four lights for the image: 1) a Mola  33.5" "Euro" beauty dish for my main, set camera left and kept in close but also set low and angled up; 2) a small soft box boomed overhead and from behind for a top-of-her-head hair light; 3) a medium-sized strip box, camera right and from behind; 4) another medium-sized strip box, camera left, set a bit higher than the strip on the right and also from behind. I didn't shoot Paris with my camera on sticks.