Friday, January 23, 2015

Shooting Outside Your Other Box

Click to Enlarge
The phrase, "shooting outside the box," has become so common and often seen/heard it borders on cliche, along with phrases like "taking your photography to the next level."

Course, that doesn't stop me (and many others) from sometimes using those phrases because, well, because they say what we want them to say when that's what we want to say.

Things that are common and often-seen aren't necessarily bad just because they border on the cliche. There are some very good reasons they're commonly and often used, not the least of which being they are so readily understood by many people without the speaker/writer having to explain too much more in further detail.

When it comes to "shooting outside the box," the box people are referring to most commonly alludes to a photographer's style or the way he/she approaches their photography, i.e., with their gear and/or how it's used, composition and lighting employed, and that kind of stuff.  What I'm writing about today is a different sort of box and this box is the box that represents what you normally or mostly shoot.

I mostly shoot glamour, nudes, and tease.  I mostly shoot them in commonly-seen ways that border on cliche. Do I shoot that way because I'm incapable of shooting outside the box? My box? Nope. I do so because that's how the people who pay me want me to shoot. They rarely want me going outside the box in terms of style, lighting, composition and more. About as close as they come to telling me to shoot outside the box is when they sometimes tell me to shoot pics that are "edgy." (Whatever that means.)  What I've found it actually means is more of the same, but with a very slight twist. Not enough of a twist to make the photos seem too obviously different or commonly seen, but with just enough of a twist to make them just a little bit different. (i.e., edgy.)  Again, whatever "edgy" means.

You see, for the most part they want me to stay within the accepted box of commercial glamour, nudes, and tease because those sorts of bordering-on-the-cliche images sell things and their cliche-ness has proven itself to sell things well. The photos I shoot for them, the people who pay me, are going to be used for things like publicity, advertising, marketing, and product packaging, all of which is designed to sell, sell, sell.  I'm a photographer, not a publicist, ad man, marketer, or product packaging designer. I don't pretend to know more about those things than the people who are doing them, often times doing them to great success. Instead, I shoot the way they want me to shoot, leastwise when I'm being paid to shoot, which represents the vast majority of everything I shoot.

Sorry. I guess I've gone off-track in terms of what I want to write about today. That's also something I commonly do to the point of it being cliche for me to do so... but that's another story.

Okay. Getting back on track...

I think it's important for photographers to sometimes try their hands at other boxes, that is, other genres they have little to no experience shooting even if they might not be so interested in shooting those other genres regularly. In other words, shooting outside one's other box so as to become something of a beginner again.

You know how a histogram represents the frequency of light, from black to white, distributed in a photo? (i.e., as opposed to showing some sort of mirror-like graphical representation of the photo in terms of exposure?)  Histograms, as I'm sure you're aware, reveal how much of the light recorded (not where the light recorded) is either more towards black, more towards white, or in the middle. Well, imagine a learning histogram that looks at your skills and knowledge shooting a given thing or genre. My learning histogram would be wildly different when I'm shooting glam/nude/tease from when I might be shooting things that, for the most part, I barely have a clue how to shoot. Significantly different! Possibly, embarrassingly different. (Me being a "pro shooter" and all.)

You see, the cool thing about shooting what you don't really know how to shoot is that your photography, overall and in general, will benefit immensely from shooting outside your usual and customary genre box(es).

Knowledge is power! (To use another possibly over-used and commonly-seen phrase.) The knowledge you gain from shooting what you're not-too-knowledgeable shooting adds greatly to your overall photographic knowledge thus making you -- at least, helping you to become -- a more powerful photographer!  (If that makes sense.) And we all want to become more powerful photographers, don't we?

So, here's my advice for today: When you're thinking about shooting outside the box, don't simply think about shooting outside your box in terms of your approaches to what you ordinarily shoot. Try going outside your box by climbing into a very different box, a very different genre box.

I'm a long-time, very experienced, glamour/nude/tease shooter. (Hence, this 8+ year old glamour photography blog with over one-thousand updates.)  I can also hold my own shooting a variety of other kinds of portraits because so much of portrait photography is the same or similar, regardless of whether I'm shooting a naked model versus an actor's head shot versus a business or family portrait.  Suddenly shooting outside my normal portrait-shooting box, for example from hot chicks to something else, doesn't make me a more powerful photographer. It also isn't reflected in my learning histogram in too many, if any, ways.  But shooting things like long exposure landscapes/seascapes or night-time long exposure photography, which are way outside my portrait-shooting box --two genres I've never shot but plan to begin shooting shortly as a near-total beginner shooting them -- will make me a more powerful (and versatile) photographer and, certainly at first, will make my learning histogram, when shooting them, look very different.

As a photographer, becoming a more powerful photographer is accomplished by shooting outside the box, thus taking their photography to the next level. And I'm not simply writing about the sorts of boxes and levels that are most often referred to when someone speaks or writes about such things.

The pretty girl at the top, dressed as a jail-house guard and posing like a flasher, is Maya. If I were in jail, it would probably be easier to handle if my guard was Maya. I snapped it with my Canon 5D and a Tamron 24-70. ISO 100, f/5.6, at 125th with my color temp manually set to 5500 Kelvin. I used four light sources: A 500ws monobloc modified with a Photoflex 5' Octodome for my main, a couple of 300ws strobes modified with Chimera strip boxes, either side, for separation and edge-lighting on the model, plus another strobe, boomed overhead with a small, rectangular, soft box for a hard hair light.  I guess I was feeling fairly motivated that day, using four lights and all. Either that or I had to wait too long for the model to get out of makeup and show up in front of my camera so, to kill time or combat boredom, I set up one more light than I usually set.

1 comment:

Winston Cooper said...

Yep..I have followed your direction on lighting. Two strip soft boxes (kickers,baffled) behind and edged and a huge octobox before, camera L or R for my mature nude models. Thank you for that set up. My "out of the box" thingy so far is trying to duplicate those high color European complicated studio backdrops.

One of these days I probably will just return to your simple,real and honest sets.

Thanks Jimmy, I know you put your groceries on the table as a pro and I am only a hobbyist but I really do appreciate your sharing..