Breaking Out (If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up.)

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

This is a two image composite of model Bree Arkham. In this image we see an outdoor shot of Bree as she pulls her arms backwards while hanging from a large gate. Behind her is an image of a cell inside the penitentiary. The cell image is shot at f/4 and Bree was shot at f/5.6. In Bree’s shot her arms go out of focus due to the shallow depth of field.

So using the masking power of Photoshop I merged the two images and blurred the cell to match the DOF of Bree’s hands. Then I used an Emily Soto fashion action to create an atmosphere that would bring the whole scene together. The Emily Soto action is not a “one click” and your done kind of thing. I will actually spend a lot of time working with the various layers of the action and the masks to get the balance I like.

I feel in the end the light coming through the skylight in the cell looks as if it could be spilling on Bree’s back causing the rim light on her arms. When working with composites this is the one element that will be the most challenging… where is the light coming from? The average person is not asking this question when they view the image, however their subconscious mind is asking this question. If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up. Now that doesn’t mean that our brain instantly says “hey that’s a composite” but what our brain does most often (as my brain does) is give us a weird feeling about it, just kind of “somethings not right” feeling. So this is where certain things need to match or “balance out” between your elements in a composite, things like white balance, atmosphere and most of all direction of light and or shadows created by light. These two images have very different white balances and if I have a really hard time balancing the color I can always “bail out” as I say and pull the ejection lever and go straight to a black & white image. If I go over to B&W I most times by-pass or greatly lessen the problem of matching white balances between the elements.

Once white balance is done I then move on to creating atmosphere to bring the scene together and I do this in many different ways. Today it was a Fashion Action” and it was todays answer. Like most things in Photoshop you need to know many ways to get to the same end point. It is all about practice and that is what this image is… practice. The main element of Bree hanging on the gate is a 100% fine image as it was shot. We worked the pose out I shot it and a few minutes later I had her revisit the gate and shoot it again at a different f/ stop. The first was f/2.8 and the second was f/5.6 and the later was the better image as it made Bree’s hair really crisp. So “no” I never shot her to be a composite. As for the image of the cell that was shot a year before. It is part of my large stock of images I shoot and save for elements.

Website Cover Image (For my site I wanted simple, yet with a feel that lets you know I created it…)

Model Bree Arkham

Model Bree Arkham

Today I created an image to add to the opening slide show of my website. I am not a professional website builder by any means but I do know what looks good and what is not so good. I have seen many photographers critique websites and you have to be very careful to not fall into the trap of thinking you have to do something a certain way just because a more successful person/photographer said “this is how it is done.” I, like many photographers will watch the popular web-based show the GRID produced by KelbyOne. While I very much take into consideration the wisdom and expertise of Scott Kelby and his cohorts, after all, I have learned so much from KelbyOne and would recommend it to anyone wanting to better their photography and Photoshop skills. One does have to keep in mind that KelbyOne promotes third-party products and services. So many photographers use cookie cutter web-based hosting such as Smugmug and Zenfolio along with a host of many others. In my opinion they end up looking very “cookie-cutter-ish” not all of them, but a whole lot of them. Quite honestly it really comes down to personal preference. I really could not see myself with one of those kind of sites and what really gave me a chuckle was watching Scott Kelby and RC Concepcion critique websites one day (which felt more like a Smugmug infomercial) and mean while I felt the KelbyOne site (that very day) had its share of problems. The site loaded slowly, the cover photo of a mountain did not interest me in the least and most of all navigation was horrible compared to their old site. I will say that all of these things have been corrected.

For my site I wanted simple, yet with a feel that lets you know I created it, good or bad I made that site. I know this sounds crazy, but I wanted the viewer to see the site in a particular way as soon as the site opened. I wanted the first image you see to kind of have a feel that blended with the surrounding environment of that Home page. When I edit images I many times use “veils” in Photoshop, or at least that is what I call them. I will edit an image and then place a veil of color, grain, texture or any number of other effects over the image. I will use a low “opacity” and it will lend a feel or a vibe to the image. So I chose the beautiful image of model Nicole Gallagher to be used as the opening image. I chose it because for one, I love the look on her face, her eyes, I made the floral head-piece myself and I shot the image on a beautiful autumn day right here on the farm where I live. It was a very fun and memorable day so I really love that image. I then, using my veil technique, gave the image a feel that I felt matched the muted color scheme of my website.

I do not like to put a lot of images in that initial slide show, just maybe four or five. I have no background music and if you scroll down there are smaller slide shows that have other images. Then of course if the viewer is inclined to do so they can proceed to the “Portfolio” page to see all my work. Somehow I feel that by putting just a few great images up on that initial landing gives a good impression and we know what they say about first impressions.

So good or bad I like my site.

Eyes (path to the depths of our soul. )

Model Bree Arkham

Model Bree Arkham

Eyes are the path to the depths of our soul. All our passions, love, kindness and fears reside, as does our demons, perverted thoughts and our desires… Good and bad.


Bree’s House (After all with a name like Arkham… not only did she feel at home, she made ESP her home.)

You may not be welcome here.

You may not be welcome here.

Looking beautiful and like something that stepped from the pages of a dark comic book, model Bree Arkham arrived to meet my assistant and myself at Eastern States Penitentiary (ESP) for a walk through before the actual photo shoot. Given the fact I had never actually met or spoken with Miss Arkham prior to our meeting I really did not know what to expect, other than I knew I wanted her for this shoot. First I have to back up and give a little history; I never plan a project shoot with a model whom I have not first had a “test shoot” with. A test shoot is more of a “get to know each other” meeting. Maybe we don’t work well together? Maybe we just don’t connect on the same level and that’s ok if we don’t. Not everybody I meet is going to like me and vice versa. In my previous post I talked about the challenges I expected to face for this shoot at ESP and one of them was that I had never met this model before, so “yes” this was Bree Arkham’s test shoot. And well… Bree delivered on que.

Having followed Bree on social media for over a year I felt she was genuine and down to earth, but more so I found her to be very interesting and I mean that in a good way. So yes when we first met it was a little awkward, but we soon got past that and got right down to business. Doing a walk through the old penitentiary was perfect and it gave the two of us time to become acquainted and draw our focus together for the shoot.

My shoot last month at ESP was with Nicole and we came away with some really nice images. Nicole with her natural beauty and the vintage dress was awesome. But this time I wanted to head in a different direction, so enter Bree Arkham, we still have beauty but it is beauty with… well purple & silver hair, lots of tattoos and body piercings.

I’ll spare you the all the details of the shoot, but let’s just say this “Bree was right at home” at ESP. After all with a name like Arkham and an amazing Joker tattoo on her upper right arm… not only did she feel at home, she made ESP her home. She was having a lot of fun and you know that is my number one rule, “If we’re not having fun, then we’re doing something wrong”. She made ESP her stage and like all photo shoots it takes a little time to get into the groove, once in that groove we had a lot of fun and captured some great images.

Heat & humidity were not a big issue, yes I was sweating and who cares? But Bree and her makeup held up great. We didn’t get any “creepy guy” syndrome as I had expected and it’s a good thing we didn’t, because Miss Arkham is packing some wicked guns and most likely would have sent him crying for mommy. Seriously this girl works out and has the body to prove it.

Lighting was a challenge as always at ESP. We are shooting late in the day and behind those huge walls you lose light quickly. My wonderful niece Alyssa was my lighting assistant and using a single radio speedlite and a Westcott Rapid Box I was able to get ample light when needed. Last month I shot Nicole strictly using ETTL, this month I went strictly manual flash. However most of my shots were using available light and riding the ISO into higher than normal ranges. Although I kept my ISO as low as possible I did have two shots at ISO 12800. Are they the best shots of the night? Of course not, but they’re not too bad. With the flash I had my ISO between 100 & 400 and with a full crop sensor they look great.

As for finding good locations; I did use my favorite window and the big gate leading out of the central tower. But I was also granted access to an area not used by the public called the “Officer’s Courtyard”. It was not the most interesting or special place, but it was different so we used it and I did get a few good images there.

When all was done and said, the shoot was a success. Bree’s test shoot yielded some great images. But the bigger story is we will move on to and epic project. Having met this wonderful young lady and seeing how well we connect Bree Arkham will be perfect for a composite project I have planned for later this year and I can’t wait to head to the studio with her.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

We are so really, really... really cool.

We are so really, really… really cool.



<p><a href=”″>Get Out Of My House</a> from <a href=””>Richard Smith Jr</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Back To Prison Again… (She is young and she is fit, she is forever changing hair color and style)

Bree Arkham

Bree Arkham

I’m really looking forward to the second shoot of 2015 at the old decrepit Eastern States Penitentiary. As I have posted in the past, but I’ll say it again for those who may have just started following this blog. I like shooting at ESP because it is a challenge. There are many other photographers and videographers all in there at the same time and all looking for their favorite location to shoot.

Let’s look at a breakdown of the challenges I will face on Tuesday evening.

  • Heat & humidity.
  • Creepy guy syndrome (guy with camera).
  • Finding a great spot to shoot.
  • New model.
  • Lighting or lack off.

So this is not all of the challenges, but I think you get the idea. Looking at the list four of the five have nothing to do with camera settings of gear. Lighting is the only camera related issue.

  1. Heat & humidity will play a key factor in the quality of the images and the duration of the shoot. If the model falls apart too quickly the shoot will suffer greatly. Here in the Philadelphia area we are in the height of the summer season and heat & humidity are  a part of everyday life. We will be indoors mostly however there is no air conditioning in the old shell of a prison. Key thing here is having a model who is in good physical condition, seriously the better condition the model is in the better the chance she holds up in the heat, both mentally & physically. I know I’ll sweat but who cares… not me. lol
  2. Creepy guy syndrome plagued last month’s shoot. We had a guy trying to capture shots of Nicole right in front of me. Kudos to Nicole’s escort/friend for just standing right in front of the a-hole’s camera and stopping him dead in his tracks. Sorry dick, it’s my model I have paid to have her here and you’re not allowed to shoot any part of her. Besides she is shooting with me, she has signed a release and she knows full well how good her edit swill be and she knows nothing of what you intend to do with the images. So yeah… “Guy with camera” (not a photographer) will be out in full force for sure, looking to snag whatever photos he can. He’ll mostly go for the cheap thrill of trying to capture images of nude models, but he’ll take whatever he can get.
  3. Finding a good location within the prison walls can be daunting to say the least. Sometimes you have to wait for a location to become available. Most teams/groups are courteous to each other and will not stay too long in one spot. With that said there are photographers who work slow because they may be new to there light set up and others who just… work slow. Myself I’m looking for a spot to shoot, I’ll work the spot for 5 minutes and move on.
  4. New model, I have never met  Miss Bree Arkham in person. We found each other through social media and I gave her an invite. I guess she could wear the label alternative, but I like to say she is interesting and I mean that in a dam good way. She is young and she is fit, she is forever changing hair color and style and she appears to love life and live life, she is a “go getter”. Since I first asked her she has changed her hair color and sent me a selfie as an update. I’m going with instinct on this shoot and leaving hair, makeup and wardrobe up to her (how dangerous is that?). Hey sometimes the best ideas come from a model or even from someone else on the set/shoot. I’m always happy to listen to what ideas people have. I may listen and I may say “no” but most important I do listen. So let’s see what Miss Arkham throws at us on Tuesday evening.
  5. Lighting is always a big challenge at ESP. It will be late day and it may be overcast… great for even light, but also means pumping up the ISO and that means cropping must be done as part of the composition in camera and not in post at all. This is where full crop sensor is a must. My preference is to shoot “available light” but that could mean going into the range of ISO 2500 or even 4000. I will however have a Rapid Box beauty dish on a stick with radio flash and I may bring a light stand with a Westcott Orb. I try to travel as lite as possible and it is a fine line to figure out what you need and don’t need.

My goal in almost any project shoot I do is to come away with great images and it doesn’t have to be a lot. If I capture 3 to 5 good images and one great image I’m happy.

So off to ESP…

Thanks for reading.

July Shoot at ESP (she said “yes” model Bree Arkham has come on board)

Philadelphia model Bree Arkham

Philadelphia model Bree Arkham

Ok… this is an update to my previous post. She said “yes” model Bree Arkham has come on board for the July photo-shoot at Eastern States Penitentiary and I know it will be fun. I have never shot with Miss Arkham, nor have I ever met her, however through the power of social media I have followed Bree for quite some time and she strikes me as a very interesting model. Some might label her “alternative” as happens with most people with tattoos, but I call it interesting. Tattoos are unique to the person and that works for me. Feel free to check Bree out for yourself and after July 14th you’ll be able to see what we’ve done together.