June 2013

A little touched?

There has been and always will be different opinions on how much retouching to do, if any, a good photographer should do. Some claim all shots are perfect out of their camera. Some retouch every shot and would never allow anything to leave their hands without adding their touch, their style.

I do both. Sometimes I get way to artzy with a shot making it gritty, B&W, flip it, blow out the whites, whatever I feel to make it art that I enjoy. I always try to keep it beautiful and interesting.

But I think just about any image can use a little help only because to make it interesting it should look slightly better than real life. Real life is raw and unforgiving and a bit harsh. Adjusting the light after the fact to put more focus on the subject isn’t a bad thing. My opinion.


1/160 sec @ f1.8 using 85mm f1.2 II Canon lens with a variable ND filter and a Speed Light 600 with a 2’x2′ soft box.

Here is an example of a shot that seemed just fine…the original is on the left.  I’ll admit, although a bit biased, that this shot rocks.  It was worth wading out in the stream and putting $5K worth of camera and lens within inches of a cold fast running creek.  Spooky but you do what you have to to get the shot.

When I looked at the shot in Lightroom 4 I thought it looked just fine.  Then I thought about what i could do to it to make it more powerful.  Draw the person into the shot.  One thing that always works and I like to do is to bring the light up on the subject and down surrounding them.  It’s a good way to focus the viewer where you want them to look.  Lightroom 5 comes with that feature actually.  I used NIK Color Effects Pro 4 and the filter is called Darken/Lighten Center.

When I’m not getting ‘artzy’ with a shot I rarely retouch it beyond what it MIGHT have looked like from the camera.  I could have an even lighter hand sometimes but that comes with practice and constantly learning the tools I have.

So, if you are one of the folks who feels all of their shots are ‘dead on perfect’ good for you.  Ask yourself if there is anything that could make them just a touch better.  Or ask yourself if you don’t retouch because you don’t want to spend the time to learn what it takes to do it well.  It would be a shame if that were the case considering how much time a photographer and model(s) spend to get the shot.

Copy Cat?!?

This was a posting I did on Facebook on April 1, 2013.  I rather enjoyed putting it together so I wanted to keep it here for future reference.


I’m SO tired of all you photographers out there copying my work. So, from today on here are a few rules you all need to follow. Pay attention.

1. Do not shoot with any models I’ve ever shot with or may shoot with for the next couple decades.

2. I shoot with studio lighting so no shooting with studio lighting…it might look like my work. Oh, and no natural sun light either…I do location work and I’m sure your work will be the same basic light temperature as mine and that’s not acceptable. You may use infrared or exactly 5423 kelvin…I don’t plan to use those.

3. I have a full frame and a crop camera. So, obviously, those are out of the question. Use your cell phone but only 5mp or below.

4. If you post a picture on Facebook (given rules 1-3 that would be of your dog or cat in the dark with your cell phone) and you get even one ‘like’ you must pull it immediately. After all, that’s a like that should be on one of my masterpieces.

5. I will assume any picture you take as a copy of one of mine. After all, imitation is the sincerest for of flattery and we all know how important flattering me is, so I’m sure it’s a copy! There you go!! Proof!

Above all else – have a wonderful April, starting with, naturally, April fools day.

Magic words – “What’s your rate?”

The beginning – where we all start

This installment is about the ladder we all climb in this business of fashion, photography, makeup, and modeling.  There are ways to skip some rungs and move quicker but for the most part this is how it works.

In anything we do when we first start, we are clumsy, we haven’t found our style yet.  We are hard handed on things that we will eventually have a light experienced touch.  And we haven’t worked with many people yet to learn those ropes that only come from doing it.  Photographers struggle with lighting, post production, and communicating with the models.  Models are unsure how to pose or take direction.

In every way the first year of our work is the hardest yet monetarily worthless.  But it has to happen to gain the seemingly endless skills we need to actually be worth compensation.CSC_0388-1

For everyone, to start with, it’s all about building a good portfolio.  Yes, your first pictures are going to be far less than perfect.  No matter what end of the camera you’ll be on, the first year will not look good.  Those that get into it and in a couple months get all depressed that they aren’t a world class model or photographer are amazing only in their confidence.  It takes an enormous amount of work and continued growth to get to a professional level.

An intern once asked the long time photographer how to have a beautiful portfolio.  His response was, “Take pictures of beautiful people.”  This is true.

What you’ll find starting out is that the beautiful people who are experienced know their worth and will give you their rates if you ask to shoot with them.  If your a model the same holds true with pro photographers.  They will give you rates.

So, how do you know when you are getting there?  Getting to pro level?  Ready to quote your rate?

Well, I shot for 2 years learning, practicing, shooting everyone and anyone who would shoot with me.  I was never satisfied with my results and kept trying new things and improving and developing my style.  Then one day the magic words came to me.  Someone wanted to shoot and they said….

”What are your rates?”

There you go.  Of course this isn’t a signal to stop growing, learning, tweaking your style, and improving.  But, it’s an indicator that your work now has monitory value to others and you should start charging.

You never will get to the top of the ladder though.  There will always be people who are more successful who will quote you rates to work with you.  So it gets a little more confusing but you just have to weigh the advantages.

Skipping some rungs…

If you are a model and want to jump at least to the middle here’s a quicker way to the ‘pro’ point.  You simply have to have a better portfolio than the new ‘trade’ photographers can give you.  You need a pro to take your pictures.  And yes, that means you need to invest in yourself by paying a few great photographers for their images in your portfolio.  That, in turn, will get you to a time much faster where you will also hear those magic words…”What are your rates.”

If you are a photographer the same is true.  If you want a beautiful portfolio you need to shoot those beautiful people.  Those models that know what they are doing, know how to strike a pose that rocks your shot.  You’ll need to pay those people because they are there, they are real, they are pros.  Your portfolio will shine and in a much shorter time you’ll hear the magic words asking your rate.

I’d still suggest you train with at least a few trade shoots before hitting up the pros to help your portfolio.  You still need to know how to drive before jumping behind the wheel of that race car.

Of course, if you are going on location tomorrow with a crew of 50 support people to do a million dollar shoot please disregard the above advice.  You’re there.

Acting or modeling…

Yeah, that’s a trick title.  They should be one in the same.

We see a lot of actors that would not make for interesting models because it’s their presentation, their passion, their character presented ‘in motion’ that makes them stellar in their art.977829_614379348574720_1396512585_o

Models have a slight advantage…or disadvantage depending on how you look at it.  One frame.  One walk down the runway.  Just a moment to express that emotion, that glare, that slight smile, the tiny tilt of the head.  As small a time frame that emotion or look has to be, it’s still very important that it happens.

I’m not saying that every shot has to look like a Shakespeare tragedy.

It can be as simple as taking a lot of deep breaths, shaking your body like a wet dog to relax, run around the block once if it’s fitness, something other than the OMG the camera is pointed at me look.

Models I love to work with know their jobs.  And yes, we all have jobs in a shoot.  Mine is easy…light it, compose it, and know what I want.  If I tell them what I’m looking for I can go back to my job and they just flat out make it happen!

Tips for modeling…

  • When asked to move something like your head or hand, do it ever so slightly.  Then the photographer can say a little more, a little more, until it’s where they want it.  If you make sweeping changes it’s VERY hard to get together on where we want you.
  • While you are posed you have two things to be working on.  Think about everything from the expression on your face, the tilt of you head to were your hands are to how your toes are poised.  And, you have to think about what you plan to do after the flash.  The next pose should be just slightly different.  Again, no Kung Fu sweeps.
  • Always know where the light is coming from.  It’s not always obvious and don’t be afraid to ask.  There is nothing wrong with asking to see a test shot so you can do your job better.

Have fun!!  Make art!