Saturday, December 18, 2010

What will you use the photos for?

Sometimes, before a shoot is fully arranged with a model, I will get asked, "What will you use the photos for?".  It's an interesting question.  Maybe it will be good to write about that - somebody might read this and have some idea of my answer ahead of time.

Well, if it were an ideal world. I would answer, "These photos will be published in a widely circulated publication" (fill in your favorit - web site, magazine, book, whatever).  That is my hope, and I should think in general, the hope of most any model.  I realize there are some models that might not want any of their pictures published, and for most models, some pictures taken that they don't want published (that's why I make a provision in our release agreement that allows the model to identify certain pics they would not want published).  But for most of us in this pursuit, it is something of a dream or aspiration to be published.

For now, my answer is basically this: to build up my portfolio and my aresenal of skills to pave the way to be someday published.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Before a shoot even starts.

Recently I think I've been making some progress as a photographer, and hopefully, as an artist.  I can feel and see the difference in my approach to the work over the past six months or so, and I believe it's showing in the shots I've been posting.  Actually, as this blog is addressing, I'm not even keeping up with posting many of my shots.  It is no simple matter to sort through the shots after a shoot and then pick one or two to post as the best.

In any case, even with a small sampling of my recent stuff being publicly visible, it seems that more and more these days a model I contact will respond that "yes", she would like to work with me.  This in itself is a marked change since I first started photographing models (about a year ago).  It used to be that I'd write an email (through Model Mayhem) and never get a reply.  So I'd write more, and more, and on it would go until somebody would respond.  I completely understand that.  Who wants to work with a photographer who's just starting out, and hasn't demonstrated competence with the basics, let alone established their own unique style and approach?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hotel Stories - II

Since I had a couple days before I would venture into Isaan area for a short trip to the countryside, I decided to use some time to scout for my next hotel in Bangkok, for when I'd return.  I knew I'd be staying in Bangkok for about 6-7 days, and had planned to book as many shoots as possible during that time.  So I wanted a good space.

I  checked my favorit online booking site, and found a few candidate hotels.  One was "Jasmine Suites", which I'd stayed at many times.  I gave that some consideration, but the rooms I'd had there in the past were highly variable.  Some would be amazing for a shoot, others would be lame (not enough window space).  Also, the pool wasn't the ideal space if I wanted to do any pool shots.  One new hotel showed up on my search, and looked promising.  I decided to go pay a personal visit to check it out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hotel Stories

The prospect of doing a photoshoot in a hotel could be a nightmare, or a photographer's dream.  For most photographers, the expense involved in any aspect of the work is a serious consideration.  Basically, that means that getting a "dream" location out of a hotel room (or building) will be very challenging for all but the most well-heeled (or financed).

There are a number of challenges faced with shooting in a hotel environment.  In most rooms, for example, there are only windows (actually, most of the time only ONE window) on one of the four walls.  So natural light is in short supply.  To make matters worse, we might have little say on the exposure (North, South, East, West) of that room, and in a city the lower floors are typically shadowed by towering buildings nearby.  Not an easy problem to be faced with.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


A photographer can not expect to achieve their desired result if a great amount of attention is not paid to details.  I have made so many mistakes during different photoshoots.  It's much more noticeable if I make a mistake during a photoshoot, because I review the results much more carefully (compared to say, a photo of my kids or a travel snapshot), and often the same errant setting is carried over through an entire series of shots.  I hope I will someday learn to avoid these mistakes, but for now, I seem to still be in the learning mode.  An example is where I cranked up my ISO setting as daylight was fading, and then failed to turn it back down when I switched over to artificial light.  Argh!  I have to develop a mental checklist of things to keep cycling through: ISO, white balance, f-stop, etc.  These things need to be adjusted whenever conditions change, or the perspective emphasis changes, and it's easy to overlook this when our only avenue for review of the shot is on the camera's small display.  But there are other details, as well; I'm learning more about how that brings a big impact to the shot.

See that flower at the top of the page?  Perhaps you can recognize where it appears in one of my photos.  It didn't appear by accident.  The day of the shoot, I spent time walking around the main areas I planned to do the shoot, and made mental (followed up by written notes) of where I would position myself, the lighting, and the model.  I also made a list of different props I thought would add something to the photo.  Included in the list for this shoot was the flower shown here, some cran-grape juice (wine is redicuously expensive in Thailand), a wine glass, a Japanese girl's magazine, various pillows, and some necklaces.  That's on top of the wardrobe items, previously discussed (all the items in the shoot with Wanyberk were supplied by me).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Embracing the Wardrobe Question

Halfway through my final week in Bangkok, I made a bit of a push to get as many photoshoots in as possible before leaving.  I had a great location (other posts to come on that topic), ample time on hand, plenty of inspiration, and potentially a source of models.  There were a couple of models I had made some contact with, but had not yet firmed up a plan to shoot.  So I made a concerted effort to fill up those last couple of days in booking a model.  It worked out well, and I was especially pleased to have worked out a plan to shoot wtih Wanyberk - - on what would be my last full day.

Knowing I had at least two shoots left, and wanting to make the most of them, I decided to fully embrace the aspect of wardrobe.  I had a plan in mind - a selection of clothing items I would try to get hold of for each of the two models upcoming.  With that in mind, I got up early on Tuesday morning, grabbed my breakfast in the form of a bowl of noodles for 30 Baht, then hopped on a motorbike taxi headed for ItalThai Pier.  From here I could take the water taxi which would drop me practically at the doorstep of Platinum.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More on Wardrobe

Having had that experience with my first photoshoot in Bangkok, I was immediately aware of the importance of having assembled some wardrobe items ahead of time.  My second shoot was a rather brief bikin shoot, poolside (with Xanny), and I didn't have any wardrobe needs since she brought her bikini.  We only shot for about a half hour, as we were late in the day and quickly losing light.

As I prepared for my third shoot, I was in the fortunate position of having a chance to meet the model ahead of time to discuss the shoot.  After we chatted about ideas over lunch, I mentioned that I'd be going to "Platinum" to pick up some wardrobe items.  She was interested in coming along, thinking maybe she'd see something she wanted to wear for the shoot.  Great - all the more fun. 

Platinum is this huge, windowless, no-frills outlet that houses hundreds of small vendors selling clothing and accessories.  It spreads across seven or eight floors, and can be quite daunting for the unitiated.  I discovered it myself a few years ago when a Thai girlfriend I once had led me to this treasure trove.  The place is amazing, but the shopper has to be aware of a few things.  For one, it is a wholesale outlet.  So one has to be prepared to buy at least "three" of something, or pay a substantially higher price.  Secondly, the clothes are sometimes displayed on a hanger, or even a mannequin - but when you but the item, you will be handed a little bundle with your item tightly folded or bound in a plastic bag.  It is not Nordstrom. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What about Wardrobe?

The first few photoshoots I did with models were a learning experience, as would be true for any photographer.  One thing I hadn't really put any thought into in the early going was that whole topic of wardrobe.  I mean, of course it was important to me, but I was under the (misguided) assumption that the model would take care of that. 

I quickly learned that the model does not necessarily take care of that.  I remember one of my first shoots, the model telephoned me on the drive to our chosen location to say that she had forgotten to bring any clothes with her.  She asked if it was okay, and we could just shoot nude.  Well, that wasn't what I had in mind, at least not for the entire shoot (let's get there gradually, if we do...).  On a different occasion, I was so pleased to have a model arrive with three enourmous plastic containers full of lingerie, blouses, undergarments, skirts, etc.  That was a particularly fun shoot, because we had so many choices to select from as our ideas evolved during the shoot.  But that latter case was a marked exception.  Wardrobe is something the photographer has to sort out if he/she hopes to achieve any particular result.

So, as I mentioned in a previous blog, I had assembled various pieces of lingerie prior to leaving for my trip. It was a good decision for many reasons, and it was clear as I was packing that these items took very little space in my luggage.  During my trip to Thailand, my experience took me to a new level in terms of preparing wardrobe.

The first model in Thailand I shot was not the first model I met.  I met Xanny Disjad
 a few days before our initial shoot to discuss what we'd do, and get to know each other better. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hitting the Road

I decided to take my camera to Bangkok.  Well, not just my camera.  I decided to take some of my studio lighting gear, at least one light, so that I could take photos of models in Thailand even if I didn't have ample natural light.  Even in a top notch hotel, there is normally only one wall benefitting by the presence of a window.  Making matters worse, hotels are often surrounded by other taller buildings which shadow the building and lower the available light.  Also, if I limited the times I could shoot to daylight hours, that might really narrow down my opportunities to book a model.  So, I decided that if I was serious about wanting to get some photoshoots in, I'd have to bring a studio light.
I have a total of three Calumet Genesis monolights; two 200 watt-second lights, and one 400 watt-second.  I wasn't sure if the Genesis light would run on Thailand's line voltage (220), since we're using 120 here in the US.  I couldn't find anything on the lights themselves, nor in the user's manual, so I made a call to Calumet's technical support line.  The gent on the line told me without hesitation that the lights would only work on 120, and he didn't know what size step-down transformer I'd need.  So, I had to get a step-down transformer for sure.  That wasn't good news, because anything 500 watts or more would be about 10 pounds of ballast to add to my luggage - something I wasn't looking forward to.  I decided to get a 750 watt model, and bring my 200 watt light, just to be sure I had headroom and didn't run into problems once in Thailand.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finding my Identity

As I look at other people's portfolios I bounce between being moved and impressed to being overwhelmed or over-stimulated.  There is so much material, particularly on Model Mayhem, that it's hard to take it all in.  Also, I found that it's a bit of a temptation to give in to the temptation to mimic what others are doing, or pursue an approach that will get my photos added to the most lists, get the most comments, or the most views.

But I can see that this is not going to keep me on the path to becoming an artist.  I realize I have to serve only myself in what I create.  Yeah, that sounds selfish, but it's the only way to create something that is a true expression.  In the end, it does not matter if somebody else likes it, comments on it, or adds it to their list.  If I generate an image with that in mind, I am searching outside of myself.  That will not provide any satisfaction to me, and it will not offer anything to others of any significance. 

As I take increasing numbers of portraits, and work with larger numbers of subjects, I am learning the importance of discovering my own identity.  Just like a model has to develop her own look, I as a photographer have to develop my own style.  While I can learn from others about things like lighting, poses, wardrobe, etc., I have to unleash myself from such learnings and be willing to experiment with my own ideas.  I'm excited about having that insight, because I presently have the advantage of having fairly limited experience.

I have to confess that when I first started taking female portraiture, I often thought about what would be "sexy" as I considered a theme or pose.  But very quickly I noticed that for myself, even what was sexy was most often not the most revealing shot.  Now when I look at shots I've taken, I have a completely different idea of what is "sexy".  In fact, I would not choose that word as the most fitting word.  It's more like I want to create a sense of desire on the part of the viewer.  Desire to want more from the model.  Often I find this is achieved through the eyes and the facial expression of the model.  To this point, I can think of contrasting experiences with models who know how to use their facial expression (especially their eyes), and those who do not.  When I think of the most rewarding photoshoot experiences, it is of the models who know how to make love to the camera through their eyes.  When that happens, it is a transforming experience.

I recently came back from a trip to Thailand.  During that trip I brought some gear with me, and was fortunate enough to host six different photoshoots with five different models.  The suitability and skill level of the models against what I was trying to accomplish was strikingly diverse.  I suppose it would be a mistake to go into much detail about what was missing with some of the models, so I won't go into that here.  But as I look back on the one model that stood above the others, I realize that there was something about who she is beyond the exterior that made that photographic session so special.  She helped me to get a better understanding of who I am as a photographer, as well.

Starting a Blog

I'm starting a blog today as part of my pursuit of photography through LazyEye.  I realize there are lots of things I want to tell others about, if they care to read.  Things like why I even do this thing called photography, background of some of the subjects I've covered, and stories about how I got the images taken.

I feel so fortunate to have happened across this form of art - photography.  It has changed many things about how I walk upon the surface of this planet, for it causes me to stop and look at things I might otherwise have passed by unnoticed.  I truly believe there is so much beauty surrounding us, no matter where we are.  It might be a gorgeous landscape, a beautiful woman, or even an ugly side of life - but in every case capturing what we see with the right photo can transform the thoughts of ourselves and others.  It causes the viewer to stop and consider what is behind that image.

I guess this is what makes photography "art".  If done with some measure of success, it will cause our viewer to stop and think.  Maybe just for a moment, but that might be all it takes to alter how another percieves the world around them.  That's what I try to keep in mind when I create a new photographic project (well, sometimes I just shoot something for fun).  Maybe that's the criteria, at least in my own mind, in deciding whether something is art or it is something else.