Archive for 2011

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If you read my last update, "A Big Fat Minus for Google+," you might be having reservations about Google's new social media endeavor. Minimally, you might be concerned about Google's TOS and what it means to photographers or, more importantly, any photos photographers might post on Google's new social media website.

But I'm an equal opportunity kind of guy. I like presenting more than one perspective on stuff like this. My last update was based on a blog post by well-known photographer, Scott Bourne, who obviously has heartburn with Google over their TOS. I never knew heartburn was contagious but, after reading Bourne's blog post, it gave me heartburn as well. So maybe it is? Contagious, I mean.

While Bourne may be 100% correct about Google's TOS, there are other ways to look at this issue and, in my never-ending quest to provide all of you with more than a small amount of good info, make that enough good info to help you make good, intelligent, informed decisions about whatever the hell the info is I'm posting on this blog, (i.e., when whatever it is I'm writing about might include some decision-making) I think you might also be interested in a different perspective on this Google+ TOS thing.

So, with that in mind, I give you another talented and skilled photographer's POV on this issue. It's a good read. CLICK HERE TO READ COLBY BROWN'S POV

The pretty girl at the top with the pouty expression is Cytherea.



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There's been a lot of buzz, positive buzz, about Google+ in recent weeks. And a lot of that buzz might be for some very good reasons.

Not that I'm necessarily counting it as one of the reasons for the buzz, but if anyone might eventually dislodge Facebook as the social media site of choice for many, many people, Google just might be the one to do it. Frankly, if Facebook went the way of MySpace, I sure wouldn't shed a tear or lose any sleep over it.

Having said that, I spend a lot of time on Facebook. It's almost always open in one of my windows. While I might be doing other things like authoring blog entries, writing for my ebooks, editing photos and more, I can easily and quickly monitor my Facebook page for updates, messages, etc. That's why some of my friends think I spend most of my life on FB. While it might appear that I do, appearances can be decieving. BTW, I also usually have my Twitter feed running as well.

Facebook has definitely given me heartburn on more than a few occasions. Usually, it's been when they've deleted my photos because they claimed those photos somehow violated their TOS. (Terms of Service.)

I've only once violated FB's actual stated TOS with a photo. I posted a candid photo of a model who was holding a bong. But in all the other cases of FB deleting my photos, I've not violated their stated TOS. Still, not only did they delete my photos, but two or three times they suspended my ability to upload photos and threatened to banish me from FB forever. GFY, Mark Zuckerberg, you and your morality police.

Now, along comes Google+ in a quest to dislodge FB from the social media throne. That's cool. Competition is a good thing. It keeps people and companies on their toes and, hopefully, also keeps them looking for ways to make their service or product or whatever better or more attractive or less expensive or current and so much more.

When it comes to photo sharing, Google+ wants to make the experience superior to FB's photo sharing capabilities. Cool! I'm all for that. But Google+, like Facebook, also wants to have free reign with users' photos. For many people who simply post snapshots taken with their cell phones or point-n-shoots, that might not seem like a big deal. But for anyone who makes their living, wholly or in part, with cameras in their hands, it's a big freakin' problem. I know I have a big fat problem with it.

Check out this article on the Photo Focus blog: Google Plus - Read the Fine Print Before You Sign Up. If, like me, you're someone who makes their living with photography, even if it's just part of your living, you might want to think about this before signing up or, if you already have signed up or plan to do so, before posting pics to your new Google+ account.

The pretty girl at the top is Nautica busting a fairly silly pose and expression. I exaggerated it by employing some wide-angle distortion. Trust me when I tell you that, normally, Nautica's photos reveal her as quite the beautiful, exotic, and sexy young thing.


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Some photographers lay claim to an identifiable personal style. Others depend on viewers of their work, from Facebook or Flickr friends to clients to photo editors even to art critics, to describe their style for them. Many other photographers say they're still in search of an identifiable personal style or that their style is dynamic and ever-evolving.

Whether a distinctive personal style, static or dynamic, is more appropriately described by the photographers themselves or by viewers of his or her work, I'm really not sure. I'm not sure it matters who does the describing. The thing that does matter, I suppose, is that your style is well received by others.

For some, I suppose, having a style, well-received or otherwise, doesn't really matter. You see, some of those folks are photographers who claim they're simply and exclusively doing this thing for themselves and themselves only... which then begs the question, "If that is so, why do you bother sharing your photos with others on forums and elsewhere?"

I should note that I'm not writing today about the merits of having a recognizable, distinctive, and identifiable style, regardless of whether that style is subtle or obvious or common or unique. I think most will agree having a recognizable style is, for the most part, a good thing. More so if that style resonates positively with viewers. For shooters like me, those who make a living (or some part of it) with photography, having a recognizable style is even more of a good thing if that style resonates well with the people who write checks, a.k.a., clients. That includes established clients and, probably more importantly, potential clients.

How are many photographers' personal styles described?

I think describing or defining a personal style mostly begins by categorizing some very important aspects of the work including how that work is created. This is probably truer now, in the digital age, than ever before. If there's two, major, categories that often define, in whole or in large part, today's breed of photographer as well as their styles, it probably revolves around whether their overall style is mostly captured with a camera or is mostly created in post-production.

Some of you might disagree with the above statement. Still, I think it's true. Style-related discussions are often seen on a few of the photographer/model forums I frequent. In many of those discussions, it's obvious it can often be a sensitive subject.

Some shooters seem to feel the need to aggressively, sometimes angrily, defend their methods when questioned (in polite or sometimes not-so-polite ways) regarding how they arrive at their finished photos. It's been my observation that those people, the ones who get angry or defensive, are most often those who rely more heavily on post-processing than production to achieve their work.

Many photographers, of course, simply and unemotionally share their methods. Still others prefer to remain elusive and mysterious about it. My opinion? Whichever way you choose to express yourself, well, that's your business. In the grand scheme of things, it's really unimportant and matters little. If it makes you happy to rant about how your way is the right way, then go for it. If you don't care to share your techniques, oh well. The sun will still rise tomorrow regardless of what you or anyone else says or doesn't say on a photography forum or how you make your photos.

It's likely that some, perhaps many of you, believe your style is achieved through fairly equal doses of production and post-production. Personally, I disagree. From the many, many images I regularly view, it's often obvious (to me) whether a shooter's personal style is mostly a product of what comes out of the camera or is, to a much greater extent, created via post-processing. (I'm talking style here people, not every element of your photos.)

Style is an intangible factor. Still, i think I can assess a shooter's style, in terms of it being mostly camera-related or mostly post-related, with the 80/20 rule. As with many things, the 80/20 rule often applies. Why not apply it to photographic styles? At least in terms of how a given style is arrived at. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to apply the 80/20 rule when categorizing the personal styles exhibited, and how they're arrived at it, by many if not most digital photographers.

Yep. It seems to me most shooters' styles are either somewhere around 80% shooting style and 20% post-processing or visa versa. These days, of course, I see plenty of the visa versa styles. But that's not to say there's anything inherently wrong with the way the visa versa people, i.e., those whose work is about 80% processing and 20% production, go about making their photographic imagery.

Please also note that while I might have a personal bias regarding which way the 80/20 should be divvied in terms of which way most often resonates best with me, my bias does not necessarily convince me that one or the other is automatically superior. Fortunately, it's still a free country, leastwise when it comes to having opinions or employing photographic techniques. So, while I have an overall opinion in this matter, plus I have my own ways of arriving at whatever it is that makes my personal style, "my personal style," I don't necessarily believe my opinions or methods are any more valid than the opinions or methods of others. (How's that for being diplomatic?)

Applying the 80/20 rule to style seems especially appropriate in the digital photography age. When photography was analog, the style exhibited by nearly all photographers was mostly a product of their shooting techniques, their aesthetics, and their "eye." In other words, their styles were incorporated into the pictures, for the most part, the moment they snapped their photos.

Sure, there were exceptions. Back in the analog day, some well-known photographers exhibited big chunks of their styles as a result of work performed in a darkroom.

Famed glamour photographer, George Hurrell, comes to mind. I'd put a 50/50 ratio on Hurrell's work. His camera work and lighting was certainly distinctive but the work he did in the darkroom was equally distinctive. When it comes to shooting, coupled with darkroom work, I'd also probably slap a 50/50 ratio on Ansel Adams' work. For the most part, though, the great majority of analog photographers captured their personal styles with their cameras, more so than via work performed in a darkroom.

Looking at a few of today's notable photographers, I'd say Annie Leibovitz's style is mostly captured in the camera. Conversely, the stylistic work of celebrity photography team, Klinko & Indrani, seems more a product of post-processing than out-of-the-camera style. Remember, I'm simply referring to style. Style is just one component of terrific (or crappy) photography.

Here's my advice: Once you've determined or admit to which camp you mostly fall in -- the shooting camp or the post-processing camp -- and regardless of which camp mostly seems to best reflect the way your personal style is achieved, I think it's important to fully embrace your style-related methods of capturing or creating your images rather than worrying about whether one method is superior to another. If, like me, you depend more on things like camera work, lighting, exposure, and interaction with the model to achieve some sort of style, that's cool. If you depend more on Photoshop or some other image processing software, well, that's cool too. Whatever floats your boat, right?

BTW, whatever your style might be or however you arrive at it, if it doesn't seem to be working out for you, that is, your personal style isn't generating the kind of responses you believe (or hope) it deserves, how about instead of aggressively defending it, you know, playing the "art card" or whatever, you consider re-thinking how you approach your photography in terms of your personal style and how you get there. After all, a terrific and well-received photographic style, like beauty, is most often reflected in the eyes of its beholders, not the images' creators.

The pretty girl at the top is Katrina. I've posted this pic before but I think it's a good example of a style I try to incorporate in many of my glamour photos: one where, while using commonly-seen lighting and compositional styles, I also try to include poses and expressions that are on the emotional side, whatever that emotion might be or one I might decide to try to capture.

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Perhaps like many of you, especially in these financially tight times, I generally keep an eye open for things I can do to make a couple of extra bucks.

As you might guess, I've set some self-imposed restrictions on the things I'm interested... make that willing to do. They cannot A) steal too much of my time; B) require ridiculous amounts of effort; C) take me too far off-course from the course I've set for myself.

What sorts of things do I either keep an eye open for or both of them shut to? Well, I'm definitely not looking to work part-time at WalMart as a greeter or do anything of that nature. Actually, I won't do much of anything that isn't, in some way, connected to shooting cameras or is photography-related or involves helping others learn, develop, and enhance their shooting and production skills. All of that, of course, is in addition to shooting gigs, whether they're inside or outside the genres I most-often work in.

Oh yeah. Speaking of won'ts or don'ts, I also don't and won't shoot weddings. That's not meant in any way to dis those who do shoot weddings. In fact, my hat's off to you. Weddings are hard freakin' work. Oftentimes, with incredible pressure attached! (Bridezillas, little control of the event or its subjects, no chance of re-shoots if the pictures suck.) Not for me, thank you very much.

Just recently, I noticed someone on Twitter posted something about a photography site looking for guest bloggers; make that PAID guest bloggers.

Cool! Right up my alley.

Or so I thought.

When I visited the site, there was, as Tweeted, a page announcing they were looking to pay guest bloggers to write about photography. Specifically, the aspects of photography they were looking for bloggers to write about were as follows:

1. Photoshop
2. Lightroom
3. Digital Asset Management
4. Lightroom and Photoshop Add-Ons
5. Hardware
6. Business of Photography
7. Social Media and Social Networking

Wow! I've been making a big chunk of my living doing this a long time but I'm not really qualified to write about any of that stuff. Yeah, I could touch on some of it but, for the most part, I don't know what I'd blog about within those subject ranges, leastwise in ways that might be compelling enough or informative enough to appeal to too many readers. I did think it interesting that, other than the hardware and business stuff, you wouldn't need to go back too many years to find that all of those other things would barely register on photography's version of a Richter Scale or Geiger Counter, if at all.

Even more interesting, to me at least, was that they (the site) didn't seem interested in having anyone write about shooting pictures. You know, the part of photography where a photographer picks up a camera and shoots photographs. It made me sit back and wonder if the photography part of photography has become the least important aspect of photography in the digital photography age?

If so, no wonder photography is such a tough business these days!

Besides there being way too many shooters all reaching for a piece of the pie, a pie that hasn't gotten any larger and might even be smaller, today's photographers have to learn and understand so much more! They need to know about all kinds of software applications, workflows, storing and managing pictures on computer devices, social media and cyber-networking, all kinds of crap! Much of it having little or nothing to do with actually picking up a camera and shooting some kick-ass photos. Now I know why so many of today's new breed of photographers seem more interested in apps and quick tips for making the shooting part of photography the part that's easiest and most automated.

It used to be all you needed (to kick off a career as a photographer) was some gear, the ability to shoot good pictures with that gear, and some basic business and marketing savvy. Incredibly, make that incredibly sadly, I can almost visualize a time, probably not too far distant, when learning and practicing the art and craft of photography becomes the least important part of being a photographer.

Actually, it sometimes seems like we're already there.

The sexy lady at the top is Kimberly. I was going for a subtle, retro-bordello look... not that I know anything about bordellos, retro or otherwise. (Click it to enlarge it.)

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It wasn't enough that just about everyone became a pro-status photographer once dSLRs took hold. Now, with the addition of HD video to many dSLR's capabilities, it seems many of those same people are now also filmmakers, albeit digital filmmakers.

And why not? New technologies have put digital film-making into just about everyone's hands.

Once upon a time, it was incredibly difficult to become the next Steven Spielberg. These days, becoming a Spielberg or a Lucas or a Cameron or some other well-known "name" from the ranks of A-list directors might seem a somewhat more realistic goal, within everyone's grasp.


But is it?

Nope. Not even close. Not even remotely close.

Here's some 4-1-1 about becoming a successful, commercial filmmaker:

It takes talent. Plenty of it.

It takes luck. Plenty of luck.

It usually takes being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people and so much more.

It takes money. Plenty of money. Owning an HD video-capable dSLR, some lights, digital editing software, sound equipment and other gear is a good start for any fledgling filmmaker but it's not enough. Not nearly enough.

It takes more. So much more.

Let's say your film-making aspirations fall way shorter than joining the pantheon of Hollywood's major filmmakers. Okay. That's probably more realistic. Still, to have any modicum of success, you're going to need some amount of those things I mentioned above. Probably more of that stuff than you might think.

I'm not trying to be a pessimist or rain on anyone's parade but even offering video services to your existing photography clients will require some of the stuff listed above. Certainly it's going to take more than simply owning a dSLR that is video-capable. And most certainly, assuming you want to offer those video services with the results being better than someone simply holding and pointing a camera and pressing a button, you'd best develop some skills doing so.

Still photography and motion picture photography, while having much in common, remain worlds apart in many ways, requiring different skill sets to achieve outstanding results. My advice would be to figure out what those differences are and to learn and develop the new skills necessary before going out and claiming you're a filmmaker or offering video as an add-on service. Assuming you hope to be successful at it, that is.

The two young ladies playfully engaged in Sapphic shenanigans for my camera are Ashley (l.) and Katie (r.)

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Kibbles 'n Bits has crunchy kibbles plus real meaty bits dogs love! Apps 'n Tips has techy apps plus real simple and usable tips photographers love!

I'm not saying the thousands of apps and photography tips I see so many people posting every single day on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere reminds me of packaged dog food, but...

...on second thought, I guess that's exactly what I am saying.

I know, I know, here goes old Mr. Cynical again, sneering at the new "instant pudding" generation of photographers. But frankly, these days, it seems far too many photographers are mostly interested in the many methods they can use to automate or make their photographic pursuits no-brainer and less uniquely creative rather than focusing on, learning, and discovering what truly sets great photography apart from snapshot status. That is, from pedestrian and commonly-seen approaches to it (which most apps 'n tips are designed to achieve... make that enhance, I suppose) rather than the things that constitute a truly terrific, unique, creatively-captured and memorable image.

Now don't get me wrong. I recognize that a lot of my own photography is pedestrian and commonly-seen. I don't deny it. And a lot of it is that way by design... my clients' expectations and all that. Personal excuses aside, what does turning photography -- an art form with a long and distinctive history of creative achievements -- into such a near-complete automated process have to do with artistic and creative fulfillment?

IMO, nothing.

In spite of all the supportive barks and yelps and happy howls one might receive on Facebook or wherever a photographer might receive kudos (warranted or not) for their latest snapshit which was rendered cool or artsy by some app or via a "cheat" tip, do people who nearly always use these things really get some sense of creative satisfaction from the results achieved and compliments received?

It's like this-- Your photo, the part of the finished photo that's actually of your personal, creative making, might not always be very cool or artistic but is it truly satisfying to get those ego strokes because it suddenly seems cool or artistic (mostly to untrained eyes) because a computer algorithm (i.e., an app) or quick-tip cheat automatically and non-creatively made it that way with very little human intervention? Where's the you, the human, the photographer, in that equation? You know, in terms of YOU being the LARGEST part of that equation.

I just don't get how people can actually take creative pride in a photograph that is ten parts automated and one part (or less) creatively and humanly produced.

I'm not saying there aren't times when using or applying these many apps or taking advantage of the myriad of helpful quick-tips isn't appropriate. But for these things to represent the lion's share of one's photography? That seems fairly empty and unrewarding to me.

Just sayin, as usual.

The young lady grasping her butt-cheeks at the top is Nautica. She's certainly not a female I'd ever think to feed Kibbles 'n Bits to.

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There was a time when being a photographer meant something. Well, it still means something but definitely something less. Certainly, something less in the eyes and minds of many non-photographers.

When people ask me, "What do you do?" and I say I'm a photographer, it no longer gets much of a response. Leastwise, way less of a response than it once did. I know this sounds like my ego is complaining (and it's true that it is) but being a photographer, at least these days, doesn't often illicit more than usual interest from whomever is inquiring.

Back in the day, when people heard you were a photographer they were generally impressed and definitely more inquisitive about it. Back then, I suppose, being a photographer, i.e., one who made all or part of one's living from photography, seemed more exciting and awe-inspiring and, well, more respect was often forthcoming because, I'm guessing, photography seemed like something that was less pursued (as a career) and required more skill, know-how, and creative abilities than it does today. It should come as no surprise there were way fewer people pursuing photography as some sort of a career, full-time or otherwise, back then. (When I say "back then," BTW, I'm not referring to a few years ago. I'm talking about ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago.)

I'm not saying photography no longer requires those things, those skillful know-how and creative things. It does. Good photography does. But it doesn't seem that way, leastwise according to my perceptions of the perceptions of many non-photographers. Many of whom, unfortunately, might also be prospective clients.

Today, when someone learns you're a photographer, you're lucky if you get much of a response at all. Conversations about it might go something like this:

"What do you do?"

"I'm a photographer."

"Oh? You shoot weddings and stuff?"

"No. I shoot models."

"Oh. I'm an insurance adjuster."

Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being an insurance adjuster. There's not. Still, call me bat-shit crazy but one would think (when it comes to occupations) shooting models for a living would score higher on the Wow Meter than insurance adjusting does. Actually, I'm not saying insurance adjusting scores at all on the Wow Meter... but you still get what I"m saying, right?

You might be thinking I'm simply bitching out loud here...

You're right. I am. Deal with it.

Just about anyone and everyone who pursues creative careers has, well-earned or otherwise, an artistic ego. Often they have inflated-to-varying-degrees artistic egos. Having such an ego generally goes with the (creative) territory. If there's one thing people with artistic egos don't like, and that includes those with slightly enlarged artistic egos through those with wildly inflated artistic egos, it's people who don't recognize their uniqueness and appreciate all it takes to make a go of a creative career.

It's obvious, of course, why photographers don't get the ego strokes they once did. Today, there's too damn many people calling themselves photographers! The reality is that the uniqueness of being a photographer, someone who makes his or her living with cameras in their hands, has been seriously diluted and nearly reduced to ho-hum status.

So, you might be wondering where all this BS I'm typing is going. So am I. Other than blogging masturbation, I guess I'm simply venting and engaging in a bit of angst relief. For anyone wondering why I'm rather cynical about the current state of photography, especially as a vocation, even those who are amused or entertained by my cynicism, the reasons for it are the same things that cause me my angst. (And please don't think I'm somehow generally pissed at all those new photographers we see these days. I'm not. I'm just miffed at the ones who don't take the time to learn shit or hone their craft before they go out and compete with those who do.)

Whether my angst grew (and continues to grow) as a result of some sort of perceived Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome (real or imaginary) or from somewhere else or for some other reasons, it is what it is. What it is, of course, is mostly to blame for today's blog update, my angst, much of my cynicism, my jaded view of the world, and more.

As usual, I'm just saying.

The pretty girl at the top with the yellow, Chinese, umbrella and one nipple trying its best to pop out is Lupe. Easy on the eyes, ain't she? (Click to Enlarge)

One last time: You have about ten hours left. (It's currently 2:00 P.M., PST, on June 30th, 2011) to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% OFF their usual price of $9.95. Use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing. Links to my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots can be found in the right-hand column of this page. That's it. I'm done pimping my ebooks for a while. You have ten or less hours left. This sale ends midnight tonight, PST.

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So, I've been thinking of putting up a portfolio site. I know, I know... how could I not already have one? Well, I don't. And I haven't. And I wouldn't be thinking of making one now if it weren't for some people who recently asked me where they could look at my work.

If there's one thing the world needs, of course, it's another photographer putting up another portfolio site and who am I to deny the world something it so urgently needs? Something, I should add, that just happens to be in the realm of things I can personally deliver. (Providing I get my ass in gear and do it.)

I do have pictures posted in various portfolios on various sites: Sites like Garage Glamour dot com, Super Shoots dot net, Model Mayhem dot com, Flickr and more. But those don't really qualify as my own, personal portfolio. Plus, I don't change them or update them very often. Practically never, in fact. I already have URLs reserved in my name. In fact, I've paid for (and not used) those URLs for a number of years. Apparently, I was thinking ahead when I paid for the URLs even if, in retrospect, I was more of a forward thinker than a forward doer.

A friend told me that if I'm going to put up a personal portfolio, I should author an Artist Statement. Okay. I can do that. Here's one: "I snap pictures of pretty girls, dressed and undressed."

My friend told me that won't do. He said my artist statement needs to say so much more. It needs to convey a much more flattering, perhaps even flowery, statement regarding what I shoot. It needs to go beyond a simple and honest sentence or two which merely states I shoot pretty girls in various stages of dress and undress. It needs to impart, in words, how my photography has true meaning, artistic meaning, meaning that transcends the ordinary and explores the human condition in, well, in very artistic ways.

Yeah. I guess I can do that. I suppose I can write words that reflect my photography in eloquent, if swollen ways. The words might seem bombastic and grandiose to some, most certainly to myself, but what artist hasn't thought of themselves in bombastic and grandiose ways? It kinda goes with the territory. Leastwise, often enough it does.

So, I sat down to write my swollen, eloquent, bombastic, grandiose artist statement. It turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. No matter how I attacked my writing assignment, it kept giving me the feeling I was being something less than truthful and something more, much more, than full of myself. Every time I read the flowery prose I wrote, it seemed ridiculous and absurd because, after all, what I really do is simply shoot pretty girls, clothed, unclothed, and all points in between. When I'm doing that, I'm not really doing anything much more than trying to photograph my models looking their best, their sexiest, their most beautiful and alluring. Some of them need more help than others for me to accomplish that but that's what it's all about: Making due with what you have to work with.

Then I thought, "Why don't I ask someone else to write this stuff for me?" After all, if someone else writes it, it's not me going out of my way to appear artistically ostentatious. It might end up sounding that way, artistically ostentatious that is, but at least they weren't my words. They would be the words of someone else and can I help it if that someone else went a little overboard describing my work? Sure, I'd be a co-conspirator and an accomplice but, to make an analogy, it's not like I'd be the one robbing the bank, I'd just be the guy planning the heist. Somehow, in my mind, right or wrong, that seems less of a crime.

Then, I discovered this little website that actually writes your artist statement for you! How cool is that? I wouldn't even be a co-conspirator or an accomplice. I'd just be some guy letting an anonymous algorithm automatically generate my artist statement.

So that's what I did.

Here's the artist statement my new friend, the cyber-algorithm artist statement generator, wrote for me. I did a small amount of editing on it. You know, just to make it a bit more "me." Like many other artist statements I've seen, I think it's suitably over-the-top, verbose, and pretentious.

My work explores the relationship between the body and life as performance. With influences as diverse as George Hurrell, Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Sigmund Freud, new visions are created from both simple and complex meanings. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of meaning. What starts out as vision soon transforms into a cacophony of perversely poetic photographic sensuality, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the inevitability of a new beginning. As spatial forms become clarified through diligent and personal practice, the viewer is left with an impression of the edges of our human condition.

Pretty cool, huh? Does that not make me sound like a true "arteest" or what?

BTW, if and when I put up a portfolio site for myself, I won't have any annoying music playing on it. After all, it's a photography portfolio, not an online radio station.

The sultry pretty girl at the top is Hailey. (Click to enlarge. Size sometimes does matter.) Hailey's posed in front of a white seamless and I kept her image very high-key cuz, well, cuz that's what I decided I wanted to do with it. I used 3 lights and a reflector to photograph Hailey: A 60" Photek Softlighter for my main with a LumoPro Lite Panel reflector opposite for fill plus a couple of small, shoot-thru umbrellas, either side from behind.

I know I'm beating this to death lately but there's only today until midnight tomorrow, June 30, to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off the already low price of $9.95. Just use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing and your 25% discount will be automatically applied to the purchase price. Links to purchase my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots, are located in the right-hand column of this page.

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I'm probably not winning over any new fans for this blog with my continuing cynicism. Sometimes, I can't help it. It's almost as if they draw me and write me this way. That aside, I came up with another potential iPhone photo app. I'm calling it the Turd Froster.

The Turd Froster does what most other iPhone photo apps can also do-- frost turds; photographic turds, that is. (It can also be used, like its many competitors, to process non-turd photos, just in case you were wondering.) The big difference between the Turd Froster and most other iPhone photo apps is simple and basic: It is so named with honesty in mind.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I don't ever shoot turds. I do. Everyone does. Nature of the beast and all that. And we all probably capture turds more often than we care to admit. But I, hopefully like many of you, try my best NOT to post my turds publicly. I also work hard at not working hard or wasting time frosting turds... unless someone is paying me to frost turds which is a very different thing and usually doesn't qualify as wasting my time... cuz, after all, I'm getting paid to do it.

Anyway...

Snap a photo of almost anything boring and banal with your iPhone -- like so many iPhoneographers seem to routinely and proudly do -- select from the many effects in Turd Froster's arsenal of digital treatments and voila! Your boring, banal, turd of an iPhone snapshot is suddenly and magically transformed (by digitally coating and frosting it) into something that makes the turd look kinda cool... in a kinda cool frosted turd way.

Another disclaimer: Please don't get me wrong-- I'm not saying every photo snapped with an iPhone is a turd. I've seen some very cool and compelling imagery shot with iPhones. Perhaps the cool stuff was so shot because the photographer didn't have another camera conveniently available to shoot with? Maybe using an iPhone was the shooter's first choice? Hard to say. More than likely, the cool and compelling iPhone snaps I've seen were cool and/or compelling because the subject of the photo would be cool or compelling whether it was shot with an iPhone, a point-n-shoot, a dSLR or just about any other image capturing device. Some photographic subject matter just naturally rolls that way.

As you may have already deduced, many iPhone apps are little more than logical, no-brainer, iPhone app extensions of Photoshop's many 3rd party actions and other image processing software. Photoshop, of course, is probably the original photographic turd froster. Again, I'm not saying Photoshop and PS actions and the like are only used to frost turds. They're not! Often, they're used to enhance the visual dynamics and aesthetics of non-turd photography. But, unfortunately, I've seen it used the first way I mentioned much too often. Worse yet, I've seen PS used in a sort of reverse-turd-frosting way. You know, when a decent, perhaps terrific photo is so over-shopped, it devolves from a decent or terrific photo into a turd.

I used to work quite a bit as a video editor. A big plus for being an in-demand video editor is the ability, besides other creative and craft abilities, to use video editing software and other motion-image processing tools in effective ways so as to frost turds. Example: The client hands over footage or a project that is so boring and lackluster or poorly captured that it's obvious to everyone (whether they admit it or not) it's a turd in dire need of frosting. The editor then calls on all his or her turd-frosting skills, much like Sonny Corleone's mortician called on all his skills to make the mobster's bullet-riddled body viewable, to somehow make something out of little or nothing. It might be accomplished with digital effects, editorial style (e.g., quick-cut, MTV-like editing) or, more likely, a combination of both.

Back to the Turd Froster iPhone photo app...

If you're one of those iPhone snappers who seem to think just about anything you point your iPhone's internal camera at, no matter how boring or non-memorable, can be rendered into a fairly cool iPhone snapshot providing the right app is applied to it, the Turd Froster might be for you. You'll still be wrong about your crappy or boring image being anything more than it is but at least, by using the Turd Froster, you're being honest about it.

In this brave, new photographic world that sometimes seems bent on becoming one where the masses of shooters are trying their best to do little more than make photographic silk purses out of sow's ears (courtesy of all the many post-processing tools available to them) the Turd Froster just might be the first honest app available to them. (Hey! "Honest app" almost sounds like "Honest Abe." I gotta remember that when I'm coming up with the marketing and branding for the Turd Froster.)

But here's a better idea: Instead of snapping turds or otherwise boring and banal stuff, look for those truly cool and compelling subjects to shoot. Then, if you still think some photo app's treatments will make your already cool and compelling image even better, go for it!

Okay. I'm gonna try to get out of this cynical mode or mood or whatever it is I seem to be in. I promise my next update will be of a more positive, perhaps helpful, and certainly less cynical nature.

The pretty girl at the top is Kristina. I snapped this one inside a location house with a window behind her and a 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main plus a white reflector, opposite the main, for some gentle fill... as evidenced by the catch lights in her eyes. As always, you can click it to enlarge it.

REMINDER: Only two more days to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using discount code JUNESPECIAL when ordering. Just click on the links to my Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots ebooks in the right-hand column of this page and provide the discount code when ordering. Your 25% discount will automatically be applied to your purchase price.

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I confess I often keep Twitter running in the background when I'm on my computer, which is quite often, and I semi-regularly check to see what people are Tweeting about. Since the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are photographers or those representing photography-related products and services, it's no surprise that the Tweets I mostly see are, in one way or another, related to photography.

It's not always, of course, about photography that photographers and other photo-related Twitter users are Tweeting. Often enough, they're Tweeting about social media and how social media can help you as a photographer or help you build your photography business. Nothing wrong with that. These days, anyone wanting to make a living via photography needs all the help they can get.

When the subject of the Tweets I view is about photography itself, I've lately noticed there's been a trend to Tweet a lot of stuff about iPhone photography and iPhone photography apps. I guess there's a lot of people who are fairly taken with shooting pics with their iPhones in spite of the fact that practically no one is making a dime, being-a-photographer-wise, shooting with an iPhone. (Chase Jarvis notwithstanding.) But then, photography isn't just about making money, right?

While photography certainly isn't simply about making money with a camera, I'm thinking there must be a fair amount of dough to be made coming up with iPhone photography apps. I'm told (via one very Twitter-active photographer's Tweet I recently read) there are 6,500 iPhone photography apps available to download.

Six thousand five hundred!

I own an iPhone and, for whatever reasons, I practically never snap photos with it. It's not that I don't know how to use my iPhone's camera or I'm unable to download apps. (In fact, I have downloaded a couple of apps which I've rarely used.) It's also not that I'm generally disinterested in photography other than the kind of stuff I shoot or in other image-capture devices than those I mostly use or that I'm purposely bucking this iPhone photography trend for one reason or another. I just don't and I don't for no particular or apparent reason. (Use my iPhone very often to snap pictures, that is.)

Beyond all those Tweets about iPhonegraphy and iPhone photo apps, a lot of people also post pictures they snap with their iPhones. Lately, it seems many of them are using the Instagram app for their iPhone pic production while the rest of them are using various other apps to enhance or post their photos, i.e., of the 6,499 apps, beyond Instagram, that are available.

Yep. Just about every iPhone photo I see has had some sort of app applied to it changing the look and feel of the photos. Nothing wrong with that, especially since so many of the iPhone photos I see would positively suck or be boring as hell if the iPhone shooter hadn't added some app's effects to it, rendering the photo a bit more interesting in an interesting-digital-photo-effect sort of way.

The other thing I've noticed is that not many people comment on those many iPhone snapshots that iPhone people post. (Unless it's snapped by the likes of a Chase Jarvis... sorry Chase, I'm not picking on you. Honestly, I'm not.) So, due to the apparent lack of feedback iPhoneographers receive for their iPhone pics, I've decided there's room for another iPhone app. Yes. I have an idea for number 6,501 in the world of iPhone photo apps. I'm calling it the "Amazing Photographer" app and here's what it does:

Every time you snap a photo with your iPhone, the Amazing Photographer app comments on the photo. It doesn't just comment, it praises your photo! I don't care if you snap an iPhone pic of paint drying on a wall, the Amazing Photographer app will tell you it's an amazing photo plus plenty more positive comments about you (as an iPhoneographer) as well other good stuff about the amazing (or not) iPhone snapshot you just captured.

You see, the Amazing Photographer app sort of mimics the way it is on some photography forums and social media sites. You know, like when someone posts a completely unmemorable and lackluster photo on Facebook and many of their friends drool all over it, proclaiming it an extraordinarily incredible and a-m-a-z-i-n-g photograph even if, in a more perfect and honest world, the best many of those photographs could hope for would be no comments at all. (Mostly because, even in a perfectly honest world, many folks' mothers would still teach them if they didn't have anything nice to say, they shouldn't say anything at all.)

Since, these days, investors seem eager to invest in just about anything that smacks of trendy, techie, things, I'm looking for a few million to develop my Amazing Photographer iPhone app. Any takers? I'll send you my PayPal address.

The pretty girl at the top is Faye. I snapped it outside her apartment with my Canon 5D and an 85mm prime. (Sorry, didn't use my iPhone.) I lit Faye with a couple of lights. For the mainlight I used a 300WS monolight modified with a rather small, shoot-thru umbrella. The back light was another 300WS monolight, but I left it bare bulb. You can click it to enlarge it.

And BTW, we're down to the last 5 days you can purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using discount code JUNESPECIAL when ordering. A lot of people this month have taken advantage of this offer. If you haven't already done so, don't miss out! Links to my Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots ebook sites are in the right-hand column.

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While staring rather mindlessly at my TweetDeck Twitter feed early this morning, I was jolted out of my part-Twitter-induced, part-just-got-up trance when someone in the #photography Tweetosphere Tweeted the obvious, "I need a camera to improve my skill in photography."

My first reaction: "Well, d'uh!"

Then, mostly because I have too much time on my hands, I began considering what this Twit might actually be trying to say. After some caffeine-aided deliberation, I decided the aforementioned Twitterer who so successfully grabbed my attention and snapped me out of my morning stupor probably enjoys taking photos but doesn't do so with a camera. Leastwise, with a camera they consider a "real" camera.

With that thought in mind, I decided this person is either someone shooting with a point-n-shoot or perhaps with a cell phone when routinely capturing their precious Kodak moments or whatever it is they mostly point their image-capturing device at. (I could have sent them a Tweet asking for clarification but I sometimes prefer making up my own answers to the burning questions I also make up. Can't help it. They draw me this way.)

Anyway...

The notion of needing a camera -- i.e., a "real" camera like a digital SLR -- inspires some not-so-important questions like, "Can someone learn photography with a point-n-shoot or a photo-capable cell phone?"

The obvious answer is yes. Heck, you can learn a lot about photography with something as lo-fi and low-tech as a pinhole camera and most point-n-shoots and cell phone cameras have way more photographic capabilities than pinhole cameras. So yeah, of course, quite a bit about photography can be learned without owning one of today's new-fangled "real" cameras.

To a point, that is.

If you're really serious about learning photography, there will come a point when you'll probably want more versatility and capability than most point-n-shoots or cell phone cameras deliver, the iPhone 4 and all its apps notwithstanding. In fact, much of that versatility and capability will come from the ability to do things like having more manual control of your camera, the ability to swap out lenses, to fire remote strobes, and more.

You see, most point-n-shoots and cell phone cameras are purposefully designed in such a way that users can snap some pretty decent pics without the bothersome need to learn much of anything about the art and craft of photography. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone snapping pictures doesn't need to be a "photographer." For those people, i.e., the non-photographer photographers, here's the best part: The less they learn and know about photography, the less their good photos actually need to be good photos for them to consider them good photos. (If that makes sense.)

I suppose I should also mention that most "real" cameras, you know, those nifty digital SLRs that have become so popular, are also designed to operate much the same way, that is, minus the need for the user to actually learn photography. (Much the way their smaller point-n-shoot and cell phone cousins operate.) You see, most "real" cameras also have many of the same auto-functions and NB modes (No Brainer) thus alleviating the pesky necessity of actually learning much about photography in order to snap some pretty nice photographs.

Having said all that, I believe most of you who are reading this are more than a little interested in learning photography and/or increasing your photography skills so, to you, as well as to that unknown Twitter person who inspired this (kinda dumb and less-than-meaningful) blog update, please allow me to also state the obvious: "If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend you get yourself a camera, a "real" camera, in order to improve your skills in photography."

Again, I'm not saying you can't learn photography without a "real"camera but, so far, no one has been willing to pay me to shoot using a point-n-shoot or a cell phone. While that might someday happen, it hasn't happened yet. Beyond improving one's skills, I think that says something about what sorts of cameras are considered a requirement for being a serious or "real" photographer, leastwise by most of the people who pay other people to shoot photos... and probably by many other people as well.

Like so many other things in life, perception is everything.

Just six days left to purchase either or both of my ebooks (links to which are in the right-hand column) for 25% off. Use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing. The discount will be automatically applied to your purchase price.

The string bikini-clad pretty girl at the top is Alexa Lynn.

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Thanks to digital technologies, it seems like everyone's a photographer these days. Now that many dSLRs are also HD video capable, many of those newly-minted photographers are also, suddenly, filmmakers as well.

Being a filmmaker, of course, requires some additional skills; not that special skills stopped too many people from being extra-special photographers, capturing all those special moments with specially designed cameras that practically shoot themselves via auto-everything. (Isn't that special?) Be that as it may -- Oh, man! My Dad used to say that a lot, "be that as it may." I'm afraid I'm at that age where I'm turning into him... Anyway -- the skills required for good film-making generally go beyond the skills required for capturing still images.

You're also probably going to need, besides new skills, some new gear. That really nice collection of strobes you paid a mortgage payment or two for aren't gonna do squat for your film-making endeavors. (Unless you're now also an SFX (special effects) guru and you want to experiment with stroboscopic motion capture.) Also, beyond the nifty camera and awesome glass you'll be using to capture imagery rivaling anything the likes of Vilmos Zsigmond ever shot, you're probably gonna need some sound gear to record decent audio with your pictures that are now, suddenly, in motion, perhaps even with models or actors who are (gulp) speaking!

There's also a whole slew of other products, beyond the stuff you'll actually need, that will help make, for instance, someone's journey from Soccer Mom to Pro Photographer to Steven Spielberg a rousing success. Here's one of them in the video below.

(P.S. There's still time to get 25% off either or both of my ebooks. Click my ebook links in the right-hand column and use discount code JUNESPECIAL when purchasing.)

Oh... Almost forgot to mention: Kayla is the model at the top lounging in a very un-lady-like manner. Besides sometimes being un-lady-like (in good ways, I might add) Kayla's great to work with. As you can see, she even adjusts lights.


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I watched a behind-the-scenes video this morning wherein a pro photographer took viewers on a short, guided tour of his lighting set-up. In the video, the photographer was employing Nikon SB-900 small flash instruments. He was shooting in a somewhat small, location "studio" (a room at his client's facility) and had set up a white seamless as a backdrop.

The photographer's lighting set-up included a main source consisting of three SB-900s (a "tri-flash" he called it) mounted behind a 60" shoot-thru umbrella with a reflector set below it and angled up for a bit of fill coming from below. He also set a medium-sized softbox on the fill side using another SB-900 as the light source. On either side of the seamless, he employed a couple of more SB-900s to light the seamless. Finally, he boomed an SB-900 from behind which was set for a hair light. All the SB-900s were powered by batteries, albeit external battery sources, possibly Quantums, even though the "studio" had A/C available. In all, seven SB-900s with external battery packs were being used to light his models.

Let's do some arithmetic: B&H sells SB-900s for $499.95/ea. I'll round that off to $500/ea. The Quantums go for about, I believe, $200 each. With seven SB-900s (plus power sources) being used, the photographer was employing $4900 worth of small flash lighting sources. Since some tax or shipping or something more was probably spent purchasing that gear, I'll round that off to $5,000.

$5,000.

Someone explain to me how small-flash photography (leastwise, the way many shooters seem to use this gear) rather than using monolights or packs-n-heads, is the economical approach to shooting models? (Especially in an interior location where A/C is available.)

Sure, it's certainly easier to schlep that small-flash gear around but, frankly, I could have used two or three "plugged-in" monolights (at about $500/ea) or heads plus a couple of reflectors and achieved nearly the identical results, altho I'll admit the photographer in the video got more light on his background seamless than I could using only two or three light sources. And we all know how incredibly important it is to get that white seamless brightly and evenly lit because, in spite of all the processing most shooters perform in post, getting that white seamless perfectly exposed in production is absolutely critical to the final images. (Not.)

Reminder: There's only one week left to purchase either Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots (or both) for 25% off using special discount code, JUNESPECIAL.

The pretty girl with the rhinestone outfit is Cytherea, captured in my studio a few years ago.

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Basically, there's three ways to crop your photos: In the camera, in post, or a combination of both. (D'uh, right?) Like most photographers, I prefer the latter. More specifically, I try to capture a close-to-finished crop in camera and then I fine-tune that crop in post.

As a rule, I avoid relying solely on post-production cropping. Doing so has a lot to do with maximizing my camera's resolution abilities. If I didn't care about maximizing resolution, I'd simply shoot my models in full-body shots (or even more loosely framed) and then, in post, crop to taste.

For me, cropping mostly conforms to the 80/20 rule: About 80% of my crop happens in camera, 20% in post. That's probably true for many shooters, perhaps most?

To cover my ass, crop-wise, I often shoot the same pose using two or three different in-camera crops. I might shoot a full body shot, move/zoom in for the same shot but with a 3/4 crop, then I might move or zoom even closer for a 1/2 to 1/3 body shot. I don't always shoot all of those shots, of course. Most often, I shoot the 3/4 crop and then the 1/2 or 1/3 crop. Sometimes, I might also shoot a headshot as a 3rd or 4th choice. (None of what I just wrote is necessarily in any sort of order of doing things.) By doing this, I give myself more choices in post while taking better advantage of my camera's resolution because, whatever additional cropping I perform in post will, for the most part, retain 80% (or more) of the out-of-the-camera image I captured.

I've mentioned before, here on the blog, that most of the model photography I shoot ends up being processed by others, usually retouchers and/or graphic designers. Since those people are, in addition to those who write me checks, people I need to satisfy with my work, I've found that giving them more choices while still retaining the best resolution quality I can capture, is a good idea. (That doesn't mean I always shoot RAW. More than a few of my clients have me shooting large, fine, jpegs. Also, none of this means I increase the total number of images I capture by a factor of 2, 3, or 4. What it means is I've learned to be more selective and discriminating regarding the poses and angles that I do shoot.

Sometimes, too many choices, from the perspective of editing, is not a good thing.

The pretty girl at the top is Tera Patrick, captured last year in her home in Los Angeles. (Click to enlarge.) Just a reminder: If you haven't taken advantage of it already, there's still a few weeks left in June to purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off using the special discount code, JUNESPECIAL, when ordering. Just click on the links to my ebooks in the right-hand column and use the code when making the purchase. Your discount will be automatically applied to your final purchase price.

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As I continue writing towards the completion and release of my 3rd ebook, Zen and the Art of Glamour Photography, I thought it might be cool to offer a discount on my first two ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots. So that's what I'm going to do! (Since I like doing cool things and all.)

From now till the end of June, 2011, you can purchase either or both of my ebooks for 25% off their already low price of $9.95. I suck at math but I figure that means you'll end up saving about $2.50, plus or minus a penny or two on each ebook. Such a deal!

If you've thought about purchasing one or both of my ebooks but needed that extra little nudge to get you to click on the "Add to Cart" button, now's a good time to do just that... click the "Add to Cart" button, that is. If you're new to me and my work and/or my writing, well, I can tell you an awful lot of people have already bought my ebooks and I haven't yet had anyone complain. Not one! (Thanks and knock on wood.)

All you have to do is go to the or site where I sell my ebooks, Guerrilla Glamour or Guerrilla Headshots, and after clicking the "Add to Cart" button, use discount code JUNESPECIAL.

After entering this special discount code, your 25% discount will be automatically applied to the purchase price. This discount is good from now till the very last second of June, 2011. (P.S. You can also click on the banners in the right-side column to get to my ebook sites.)

The pretty girl crouched almost cat-like on the purple-felt pool table is one I snapped of Penthouse Pet, Tori Black, last year. (You can click it to enlarge it if you're so inclined.)

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A lot of shooters are fond of quoting the rules: both the (supposed) hard 'n fast rules and the not so hard 'n fast rules. As a rule, the rules for rules aren't any more hard 'n fast than the rules themselves. They are soft and unfixed... perhaps "subjective" is a better way to describe them?

Don't get me wrong, I think rules are helpful, often appropriate, and important! Maybe not all rules but certainly photography's rules. (As for other rules, well, I've always been, to varying degrees, somewhat outlaw-ish. Probably no surprise there.)

While rules -- hard, fast, or otherwise -- aren't generally intended to be rigidly followed, certainly not to the letter, they do provide a foundation for any shooter's understanding of photography, i.e., what works and what doesn't work. After all, if you don't know what works, how are you going to know if what (often) doesn't work suddenly works? If it works, that is, in a given instance as a unique approach to a specific image. (If that makes sense.)

I do have some favorite rules. They tend to be amongst the more common, simple and basic rules. (The Rule of Thirds comes immediately to mind.) While I don't always religiously apply the rules or use them in hard 'n fast ways, I do often use them in my photography; sometimes obviously, other times subtly. (Sometimes, in ways that aren't much more than barely perceptible "nods" to an established rule.)

Unfortunately, there are no rules for deciding when to apply the rules. (Or rules for deciding to purposely break rules or for ignoring them.)

The lack of rules for applying rules is sometimes a confounding thing for photographers. Many photographers, especially new-ish photographers, are grateful and enthusiastic being told exactly how to do things, photography-wise. That includes applying rules! That's why so many "How To" books and other learning media are so popular. And it makes sense.

Many books and learning and training programs, like knowing the rules themselves, are necessary for growing and expanding one's skill, efficiency, and quality of craft. Understanding and applying the rules, as well as learning exactly how to do so many other things, is often discovered when they're laid out for us, step-by-step. That's a helluva lot easier than blindly searching for that "how to" knowledge or hoping you accidentally stumble upon it. All this kind of stuff is very important to becoming all you can be as a photographer... unless you're some kind of photo-prodigy, which most of us ain't.

There is one rule, however, that's always hard 'n fast: With photography, the learning never stops. I don't care how experienced or successful a photographer might be, there's always more for them to learn, whether they believe that or not.

Personally, I think the never-ending learning process is one of the things that makes photography so cool! Doing so, continuing the learning process that is, keeps your photography fresh, vibrant, and exciting. Learning inspires! Learning is a muse! Course, so are things like beautiful, naked chicks in front of your camera but that's not the subject of my babbling today.

Speaking of beautiful, naked, chicks, the model at the top (who mostly fits that criteria) is Layla, snapped a few months ago.

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Ever look at celebrity photos or other stuff that gets lots of play and think, "That picture isn't all that good" or "I could shoot that just as well."

Me too.

Often enough, we're probably right. The photo isn't all that good or it might be that we could shoot it just as well. Other times, of course, it is a really good, stand-out, photo and you or I may or may not be able to equal or best it.

What is it that makes some photos and some photographers really stand out? In a word, access: They had access to the subject and the subject is often someone or some thing most shooters simply don't have access to.

In my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, I briefly mentioned that, often enough, the single most important element to snapping a hot pic of a hot model is having a really hot model in front of your camera. (No surprise there.) I didn't put too much emphasis on that observation because I didn't want others thinking they won't ever snap great photos of models unless the model is exceptionally hot. That's not the case. I've seen terrific photos of models who are not, in most viewers' estimations, all that strikingly hot. (I'd like to think I've shot a few of those photos myself.) Still, the simple truth is the subject of a photo is often the most important element in terms of garnering attention and getting the most positive reactions from viewers.

Earlier today, a fellow photographer on Facebook brought forward the notion of access being so important when he mentioned (and linked-to) some great photos of Navy SEALs snapped by small-flash guru, Joe McNally.

McNally's photos are, as usual, impressive. But I couldn't help but think that if those photos were simply of some random and anonymous Marines or other members of our armed forces, they'd be considerably less memorable. More so since Navy SEALs were recently in the news after stamping "The End" on Osama bin Laden's ass. You see, Joe McNally was given special photographic access to Navy SEALs which, frankly, most photographers, myself included, will probably never experience.

The same holds true for photographers who have access to celebrities, other important and notable people, or incredbily hot models. How well would David LaChapelle's images of people like Madonna and others be remembered sans, as an example, Madonna in the photos? That's not to say LaChapelle's visions aren't cool or executed skillfully. But the fact remains: his images of Madonna, for instance, are even more memorable because, well, because Madonna was the subject of his vision.

As usual, I'm just sayin.

The pretty girl at the top is Charmane, lit and snapped with plenty of contrast to add some photo-aesthetic value to a model who really doesn't need all that much help being perceived as a hottie.

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A photographer wrote to me today and said he's seriously considering quitting shooting altogether. He asked me for any advice I might have regarding what he's doing wrong. He wonders if his work is "just shit?" He's curious why people (make that people who might pay him for his work) don't give him respect and if that's why nobody ever offers to pay him for his photography. He can't understand why he pours so much effort into his photography with so few rewards... monetary rewards, that is.

Whew! Tough stuff to respond to!

Still, I took a stab at it. Basically, here's what I told him, although I've edited and/or added more for the purpose of this blog update:

These days, there's few career choices tougher to succeed at than photography. Leastwise, in terms of getting paid for your work, especially if your work is shooting models. It seems more than a few photographers, for whatever reasons, are pursuing photography "careers" either for some bizarrely altruistic reasons or as a result of some other, career-building strategies... if strategies they be. In other words, they're willing to work for free or for very little which means others, i.e., those not so willing to work for free or for very little, find themselves often competing with free or with absurdly low rates. No surprises there, right?

This is especially true for shooting models, whether it's glamour, fashion, beauty, commercial, whatever. It's also true for headshots and portrait work, editorial, even sports and some other photo-journalism gigs. Photography, in this digital day and age, is now on a par with writing, acting, being a musician and so many other creative and artistic endeavors which have always been extremely tough career choices. Often times, the toughest of career choices. Know anyone who has tried to "make it" in Hollywood as an actor or a writer? If so, you know what I'm talking about.

With photography, there's an incredible amount of competition these days. (Not just from those working for free.) There's probably more competition than ever before. That competition, I told the dude who wrote to me, probably has more to do with what he's experiencing than anything else. "Do you need to continue learning and developing your skills?" I asked him. "Of course!" I answered for him. "That never stops."

But I also explained that the decision he should first be considering might have more to do with whether he's willing to keep on truckin' in a crowded, uber-competitive, field. I told him he needs to consider and evaluate what his level of determination might be and, once he does that, honestly and truthfully does that, if he's willing to persevere and compete in an almost unbelievably tough industry. You know, that sort of stuff. I also told him it's not so much about whether his work is "just shit" because, whether it is or not, he can always continue developing and bettering his skills providing he's investing enough time and energy learning, reading, experimenting, and practicing. "Practice, practice, practice!" I told him.

Still, there are no guarantees no matter how hard someone tries or how much time or resources they invest in learning, in gear, in honing their craft. These days, I'm not sure if the cream always rises to the top. Unless, of course, it's actual cream and it's poured into a cup of Joe. (Other dairy and non-dairy products act similarly.) Accepting that it's a really, really tough photo-world out there is a really, really tough thing to come to grips with when someone really, really wants to shoot cameras pointed at models for a living.

Sure, some photography genres might be easier to make a go at: weddings and events and other, related genres come to mind. When I say "easier," I don't mean they're easy. I guess what I mean is they're sometimes easier to get paid for doing than, say, shooting models for a living. Like it or not, that's the cold, hard, inconvenient truth. And by the way, these days it ain't so easy for established model shooters to keep getting paid for what they do. Certainly not as easy as it once was. (Not that it ever was all that easy.)

Sucks, don't it?

For this update, I thought I'd post a "cleaner" pic than I normally do. It's from 4 or 5 years ago and I'm not too thrilled with the post I applied to it back then. Oh well. WTF, I'm posting it anyway. For the life of me, I can't remember the model's name. Getting old (and all that goes with it... like big, gaping holes in one's memories) sucks even worse than trying to still make a good living as a pretty girl shooter.

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Digital PhotoPro magazine published an excerpt from a really terrific book on lighting: Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting I've had this book in my personal library for quite some time and I recommend it to anyone looking to increase their understanding of photographic lighting, especially those hoping to make some magic with your photography. If you're interested, you can purchase a copy from Amazon by clicking on the link I just provided above.

Here's the DPP article I'm talking about: The Family of Master Angles. It's a good read with plenty of important ideas and information contained in it. The "master angles" referred to in the article's title aren't shooting angles relative to your subject, that is, your models, rather it's the shooting angles relative to your light source(s). I love the authors' statement, "Photographic lighting is primarily an exercise in reflection management. Understanding and managing reflection, for the result the photographer wants, is good lighting."

It's true: When we're lighting and photographing something, we don't directly paint with light in spite of that notion being what the word, photography, actually means. Instead, we paint our photographic images with reflected light. It might seem like there's not a whole lot of difference between painting with reflected light versus painting directly with light but there is. Why? Because it means, as photographers, we need to understand how light behaves when it's reflected.

Everything you see in your viewfinder and then record on film emulsion or a sensor is illuminated with reflected light. (Unless, I suppose, you're pointing your camera directly at the sun or whatever artificial light source you're using.) You're recording the light that's being reflected off your subject. Those reflections are the the results of direct light being reflected off your subject and/or already reflected light being re-reflected off your subject. That's why it's so important to understand how light reflects and how it behaves when it's being reflected.

While the book's title refers to light as being both science and magic, it's actually all science. The results, of course, can be perceived as magic depending on how well and how creatively you, the photographer, light and shoot your images. So give the article a read. Whether you're an experienced shooter, just starting out, or anything in between, I think you'll find if worth your time.

The pretty girl at the top is Alisha from some time ago. I lit Alisha with three lights and used a fan to provide some movement to her wardrobe.

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