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The comment: "I was reading an article on portraiture in a 1981 issue of Camera Arts magazine that a friend just gave me. The writer made the observation that when the image of a skilled photographer is poorly conceived or lacks something to say its very easy for the photographer to make that image one where 'technique dominates meaning.'"
The commenter went on to say, "Making pictures that have meaning is not easy to do. Saying something through pictures is difficult work but when it succeeds the result is exceedingly satisfying. There seem to be a lot of images out there that have a blank feel. They are technically good but don't seem to have much to say. I think meaning and having something to say are good goals to strive for in our portraiture."
Amen to that! And please believe me when I tell you I know a thing or two about portrait images that are fairly okay, technique-wise, but have a "blank feel." I shoot them all the time. I've shot a gazillion of them. Well, maybe not a gazillion of them and not all of them with a "blank feel," depending on what you consider or define as a "blank feel," but you probably get my drift.
Perhaps it's mostly me who believes so many of my pretty girl pics have a blank feel? Perhaps believing that is a product of familiarity and shooting the same sorts of images over and over and over? Perhaps it's because the "feel" that many of my photos have is the same "feel," that is, they mostly say the same thing? What's the thing they say? They say, "Come fuck me."
Yep. "Come fuck me." Not me, of course, but the models in front of my camera. And they're not saying it to me, although it's directed towards me. But only because I'm pointing a camera at them. Anyway, that's the "feel" or vibe or the thing my models often say (in my pics) without speaking. They do so, of course, via pose, expression, and by projecting attitudes and emotions that say "come fuck me." They don't necessarily say it automatically. More often than not, I need to direct them, i.e., ask them to project that "come fuck me" feel, vibe, or statement. Otherwise, most of them will simply smile, pose, and look cute and naturally attractive. Nothing wrong with smiling and looking cute and attractive but cute and simply attractive isn't what my clients are usually looking for in the pics I shoot for them. My clients want "come fuck me" so, "come fuck me" is what I try to give them. Make that I try to get the models to give them. How do I do that? Well, for me, it's pretty simple. I simply ask.
Me: "Give me your best come fuck me look."
Model responds with a 'come fuck me' expression. Whether it's her best, I really don't know but when it's there, I know, if that makes sense.
No apologies, by the way. A photographer's gotta do what he or she has gotta do to get the shots and, if that means being direct, blunt, to-the-point, etc., that's what this shooter is gonna do. Besides, I'm not a beat-around-the-bush kinda guy, especially when I'm shooting. Plus, I always manage to say stuff like, "Give me your best come fuck me look," in ways that don't offend or make models feel like I'm being flirty, hitting on them, or the kiss-of-death when shooting models, perving on them. It's a talent. Of sorts. I suppose.
Take the model at the top whose name I've forgotten. I snapped her in front of a stucco wall with a single light plus direct and ambient daylight. (ISO 200, f/8, 125th with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on a Canon 5D1.) Nothing tricky. It's fairly straight forward lighting-wise. If it didn't already occur to you, that's the model's (directed by me) "come fuck me" expression. Apparently, she opts for a "pouty" approach when she's silently saying "Come fuck me." Leastwise, when she's acting, I mean expressing a "come fuck me" attitude in front of a camera.
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The two images upper-right are consecutive, back-to-back, SOOC (Straight Out of Camera, albeit reduced in size) pics from the set I snapped of the model at the top. In those two, she's exposing her breasts with near-identical poses. The main difference between the two is her expression. For the (upper-right-left) image the model is simply smiling in a cute and attractive sort of way. It's not particularly sexual. For the next image (upper-right-right) her expression has that "come fuck me" look. Both are okay shots and nearly identical in many ways but very different in another way, that is, different in terms of the "feel" or what they're saying and/or not saying.
In real life, women have other ways of expressing "come fuck me" whether they're silently expressing it to relative strangers, part-time "fuck buddies," or significant others. You know, when they want a man or *their* man to fuck them but they don't want to come out and verbally say it. You see, in real life it's not always so obvious or in your face the way it is when glam/tease models express it for the camera... express "come fuck me," that is. Sometimes it is but, often enough, it's not. It's how women keep men slightly off-balance and unsure when they're coming onto them, doing so being a decidedly female tactic. Men, as most women know, are generally less coy or subtle when expressing their sexual intentions without words.
My clients don't want the models in my pics saying "come fuck me" in real-life, coy and subtle ways. The photos they hire me to shoot are intended as fantasy after all. Sexual fantasy. For that reason, they don't want the models keeping men who are viewing the images off-balance. They don't want male viewers to be unsure about what the models are saying with their poses and expressions. Instead, they want viewers to know exactly what the sexy, pretty, often scantily-clad or unclad models are saying with their poses, expressions, and attitudes. In other words, they don't want a "blank feel." They want an obvious feel-- an obvious feel that says "come fuck me" in rather obvious ways.
To get back to the comment I'm using as source material for this update, I should mention that many glam photos I see -- in fact, more and more lately -- are fairly obvious examples of images where "technique dominates meaning."
These days, it seems many photographers are all about technique, nearly at the expense of almost everything else. They don't seem to pay much attention to (or care much about) "feeling." They seem more intent on producing near-perfect, technique-driven photos with a "blank feel." In other words, a lot of shooters focus almost entirely on lighting their models in uber-dramatic, stand-out, technique-driven ways, often mimicking the technique-driven lighting of other shooters whom they admire.
Perhaps even more often, they apply copious amounts of post-production processing in ways that often trump whatever feelings might have survived the technique-driven lighting in their photos. (Said post-prod also being very technique-driven and performed in ways that mimic other shooters they are fans of or are learning from.)
Hey! Nothing wrong with any of that. That's how many people learn. Course, once they learn that stuff they might want to think about developing their own styles and techniques and working to convey more "feeling" in their photos but whatever floats your boat. Who am I to judge? I'm not saying it's right or wrong to continue mimicking the work of others once you've learned how to mimic it. I'm not saying it's wrong to shoot pics that mostly feature lighting technique, post-processing, and little else. I'm not saying that kind of stuff at all.
I'm just saying.
To each their own, right?