Misdirection (…like a car spinning tires in the mud… when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal.)

What you are about to read is my advice to help a new model who is just starting out and needs direction and understanding of what a photographer is looking for in a Time for Print model. Some of this information you may not agree with and that is ok. I base this information on my own experience of working with models over the past several years and many of those models were young men & women who had a dream, they were new and they were lost as to where to and how to start. I would always offer any new model who stepped in front of my camera information that they could carry with them and that I feel would help them as they moved forward on their journey. In fact, there is actually a plethora of information that could be given but, let me start with what I feel is some of the most important information that covers a new models biggest weakness.

Emotion & Expression; I cannot over express this by any means. So many models lack emotion & expression, they stand in front of the camera and look like a ghost or a stick. Other than some times smiling and smiling is a good thing (sometimes) which is a natural thing to do in front of a camera, a model needs to learn how to show emotion. Emotion needs not only be expressed in the face but, also the body. Sounds easy to read it here in words but, if it was really that easy then everyone would be a great model… everyone is not a great model however, I feel anyone can be a great model if they learn how to pose and do it with emotion & expression.

So, now you are asking; where and how do I learn how to pose with emotion? There is no one size fits all answer to that question but… This is what I would do if I was a model. I would first take a serious look at professional models; I mean a serious look at poses and so much more. Choose some models that you like or that you are familiar with and use the power of social media to dissect what they do and how they do it. Let’s just take one professional model to use as an example. Let’s use Coco Rocha. Why Coco Rocha? Well there are a few reasons I am using her as an example. For one she is one of the greatest models of the time we are living in right now. Second; she wrote a book about posing “A Study of Pose” with 1000 poses. That book just didn’t write itself, her and a photographer passionately spent countless hours, days and months on that project. In fact; I have given her book as a gift to models who I feel are worthy and are driven. Third; I am a huge Coco Rocha fan and I would recommend anyone who is aspiring to be a paid model to follow her Instagram. Practically every prost on her Instagram is a modeling lesson if you take the time to breakdown what she is actually doing. She is a master of her trade, and a word of advice; do not ignore a master, whether you like or dislike their personality you should always bow to the fact that they are a master of their trade and they hold a wealth of information, they hold the map of the road you need to travel to achieve your goals and reach your dreams.

Coco Rocha knows how to show emotion and not just with her face, she will use her body in pose with emotion & expression and also at times use wardrobe to help convey emotion into a pose. And of course, she makes it look easy… and of course it is not as easy as it always looks. So, what do you do?  Practice it! Practice being Coco Rocha and if she is not your thing then find a model who is and practice them. It is ok to mimic a professional model when you are an amateur. It takes me back to my younger days when I first started to learn guitar. Like many musicians I would learn a cover song and play it just like the original, note for note. Then in due time once I knew that song like the back of my hand, I would improvise on the lead lines & solos and soon my personal style would start coming through. Do the same with your posing, mimic somebody and keep doing it until you start to develop your own style. And really that is the key thing here “developing your own style” but in the beginning you have no style. By mimicking you can eventually develop a style. When I started out as a guitar player, I would mimic such greats as Eric Clapton and then move on to another guitarist, all while retaining just a little bit of Clapton in my style. So, while I am just using Coca Rocha as an example, don’t just look at her. Mimic her and move on to another model and then another model and so on. Learning only stops when you leave this earth, if you have a passion you will keep learning something everyday of your life.

Tiffany In The Rain

What kind of a model do you want to be? Today there are so many avenues to pursue. Of, course you have the standards like runway & print. However, there are so many more genres of modeling like spokes models, fitness models, promotional/event models and many more. In the beginning most people really don’t know what road to take they just want to get their feet wet in front of the camera and there is nothing wrong with that. So, let’s talk a little more about being in front of the camera because I find that a new model will sometimes be clueless as to what they are supposed to do and not do and what they should know or not know before they step in front of the camera. I’ll run through what I think is the biggest question that usually comes to mind.

“Will the photographer give me directions on how to pose or am I supposed to know how to pose already?” This sounds like a silly question to some but, I found this question to be on the mind of a lot of new models.

Answer: If you are a new model and you have been truthful and said you are new model then I am going to expect that you know very little. I will direct your posing and help & walk you through it. I cannot really speak for other photographers; I can only speak for me. I use common sense; I tell people up front that I have one rule that must be followed and that rule is simply “we must have fun.” If we are not having fun then we pack up and go home. So, the mood is “lighthearted and easy going.” I will give you direction and you will respond; we create a photo and move on to the next pose.

Ah the next pose… Again, this is where a lot of new models fall flat and that is moving from one pose to another or running out of poses after two minutes of shooting. I have found that there are actually a few ways to look at this so let’s dive in here and break it down because this is where some photographers are in the wrong and not the model (in my opinion).

So, here is the setup; It is an outdoor shoot and a photographer and a model are standing next to a very ornamental lamp post on a street corner. The model is new and she will need direction, the photographer will need to move her through the poses.

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

 

Ok if I was the photographer in this situation, I would shoot about 10 different poses or angles and move on. It would be about 30 photos and that would be 3 photos of each pose and this is generally speaking, it could be more or less. I typically shoot 3 photos every time I push the shutter button. I do this to account for the model blinking their eyes, lip movement and other natural quirks that can often ruin a great shot. I move on because if I am directing the model, I do not want to bore them, I want to keep things moving along. I want to keep the flow going and if I spend too much time in anyone spot or location, I notice that the model (especially a new model) will start to get flatter than they already are. If I want more shots of that lamp post we could always come back to it, keeping in mind that in my experience “the best shots often come at the end of the shoot” when the model has loosened up a bit.

Now in many cases a new model may be shooting with a new photographer and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I remember being new to shooting with models and boy did I make some stupid mistakes. One mistake was “not knowing when to move on to a different set of poses or location and I would bore the model and make her as I say “go flat.” Going flat is when he/she just doesn’t respond to your direction as well as they should and often times, they are just getting tired and want to end the shoot but, may not tell you they want to end the shoot for fear of offending you.

Now let’s take a look at the same scenario but with a model who doesn’t need too much direction. Again, here we are photographer and model at this same interesting lamp post on the street corner. The model may be very experienced or she may be an amateur that has a very good understanding of posing. She will run through her standard poses, changing poses after every 2 to 3 chicks of the shutter, she will be moving her body and her facial expressions and freezing them just long enough for the camera to capture. All the while she is doing her thing, she is using the lamp post as a prop and incorporating it into her poses and the photographer should also be changing angles and (in this scenario) I would most likely start moving 360 degrees around the model & lamp post while shooting high & low. In comparison to the first scenario this sounds like a lot of work and we are in this location a long time. In reality it is maybe a little longer but, not by much because the model is going to keep it going and only stopping for things like straightening her wardrobe or removing hair across her face ect…

I have found that when a model is experienced in posing the only direction, I have to give is technical stuff usually related to light or wind direction. I have worked with models who were as I say “a toy, you wind them up and let them go” and they do their own thing and it is like magic.

So, I think that covers the most basic question a new model is thinking about when they first shoot with an experienced photographer. I say this based on my experience with the many new models I have shot with over the years. In asking them questions before the shoot or in some cases when we reminiscing about our first shoot together and the models tells me how nervous they were that day and the stuff that was running through their mind.

As I stated earlier in this post “I try to give people some kind of helpful information they can take with them on their journey.” There is nothing more I love than seeing people chasing their dream and moving forward on their journey to where ever it is they are going. We all have hopes, goals and dreams and aside from “not letting anyone steal your dream” one of the biggest slow downs is “fear and misdirection.” Fear, if you have it, you know you have it. We all fight fear on our own levels. But misdirection is something that we are often unaware of, we are kind of clueless and we don’t even realize it.

Looking at my Instagram feed just a little while ago and I see a few amateur models I follow who are totally clueless to posing and the use of emotion & expression. I truly feel bad for the one girl because at this time she has 325 post on her IG that are all model shots and in nearly every one of the photos she has the same exact look on her face. In nearly every shot she is looking straight at the camera and has the same exact blank look on her face. Don’t get me wrong the “blank stare” could actually be a pose but, when you do it 300 times in a row it becomes sad and it show that she is clueless about posing. Furthermore, it shows the photographers that she is working with are also clueless. Many people today use Instagram to showcase their modeling or photography and will have a dedicated account separate from their personal account. It gives people a place to see your body of work. I can tell you right now that 10 photos are all it really takes to capture someone’s interest in what you do. Someone looks at 10 of your photos and if they’re really interested, they will look at another 10 and that is just human nature. Going beyond 20 photos they are now investigating and not just looking. Imaging pulling up someone’s IG feed and seeing the first 10 photos all taken at different times and yet the model has the same expression on her face in every photo. You give your thumb a fast slide across the screen and spin down through her feed only to stop on another photo with the same exact expression the only thing different is the wardrobe. I know it sounds like I am really ripping on this girl and in a way, I am but, let’s look even closer.

This person is really putting a lot of time into what she is doing, she is planning a schedule, her makeup and hair always look great and in fact her overall look is good. I’m sure she has some sort of hopes, goals and dreams to progress at what she is doing. However, the chances go down drastically when every shoot produces the same exact look every time. You are like a car spinning tires in the mud. Stepping on the gas pedal produces a noise like you are going somewhere, when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal. In my opinion this girl suffers from misdirection and not understanding how to make her images more interesting. Just imagine if she understood this concept… now those 350 images on her IG would look a whole lot better.

In this post I only begin to scratch the very tiniest tip of the iceberg that is modeling and I hope this information helps someone. Remember the only thing more important than you is your dream. At all costs, never let someone steal your dream, for if they steal your dream, they also steal a piece of your soul and you let them do it.

Thank you for reading and god bless.

 

 

Can you find a flower on Instagram? (Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it.)

Can you find a flower on Instagram?

I have had the social media app Instagram on my phone since 2009. I have blogged in the past how I was turned onto IG by a chat/photography friend I had in China. Her name was Grace. We met on Skype and we wanted a way to chat with our phones and I must add that in 2009 there was no Skype app for phones. China doesn’t allow Facebook, so IG was perfect for sharing a photo and sending comments. Over the years I have used IG to grow my photography business and at the same time build a network of friends and acquaintances. While many people open IG and just hit hearts and leave emoji’s in place of comments… and I have to admit I’m guilty of that too, or at least to a certain extent. I do however open IG and actually sit and taken in some of the content that really resonates with me.

 

For me IG is about photography, it is not about trying to find a date or sex or love or anything like that. I have to say that now because there many people on any of the various social media platforms who are there to scam money or who are looking any number elicit forms of entertainment. So yeah… for me it is about my passion of photography which also happens to be a business.

So back to my question “can you find a flower on IG?” And I have to say the answer is “yes.”

Sometimes I will sit and troll through hashtags just to see what is out there. Or I may just look at profiles of random people or lifestyles… Let’s just say for example “surfers,” I will look at profiles, look at the locations and most of all look at the photos they are posting. Are they phone shots, Go-pro shots, or are they professional shots. These are all just few of the things that I will look at. Having never surfed I know nothing of that lifestyle, but IG gives me some insight into “what surfers are about today.”And if I like a certain topic I may look at it more than just one time, I may spend a few days looking.

So in one of the IG rabbit holes I ran down about a year ago I came across a female model who I thought was interesting enough to follow. She is Asian and looked most likely Chinese and I don’t know what or why, but she just stood out to me. I would see her post content from shoots she would do with various photographers and she always gave off an authentic vibe, as if she was really into it.

I say “really into it” because sadly as a photographer I get hit on all the time from people who say they want to “collaborate” or “create” and it turns out they are just looking for IG content that is professionally shot and edited and of course they want this content for free.

Anyway moving on… So this model was located in Nova Scotia and I thought to myself “if I’m ever in Nova Scotia I will look her up and see if she would shoot with me.” However the chances that I, a photographer from West Jersey ending up in Nova Scotia would be very slim… But hey, never say never.

One day I see that this Asian girl (name to come later) posted a plane ticket to Newark New Jersey and I knew this most likely meant she was coming to NYC. So I jumped at the chance to ask her if she would like to shoot with me and create some nice photos. Hey, it never hurts to ask and I have been shot down more times than Zeros over the Pacific. To my surprise she gladly said “yes.” Although this was the answer I wanted to hear, now I had to put together a plan lol.

Turns out she was going to school in Nova Scotia and came to NYC on student exchange to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, however she is from China and her name is Zhan (Chan).

After a few weeks of settling in and getting acclimated to NYC we planned a shoot. We conversed back & forth via IG messenger (not my favorite form of messaging). I did what I always do and chose a location and then researched the hell out of it to make sure it would be a good place to shoot. I chose the Javitz Convention Center in Midtown Manhattan. I was limited because of… well let’s just look at the logistics of the shoot.

She in in NYC going to Fashion Institute of Technology and having limited resources as most students do, she could not travel very far, so I had to go to her. I had visited the Javitz Center many times, mostly photography seminars. I had often thought “how nice it would be to have a model right here and shoot.” So I need to plan out how I would get there and how she would get there and then after all the planning I need to create the dreaded “plan B.” Not to mention wardrobe makeup and all that jazz. So “yes” while I need to make a plan I also know I should not get my hopes up too high because the failure rate of TFP (time for print) models showing not showing up for that first shoot with a new photographer is very high. For me it runs about 50%.

Amazingly enough it all came together, she brought two looks and I provided a third look with shoes & sunglasses for one of her looks. She did her own makeup and hair and we were good to go. I parked on the Jersey side and took the ferry across to NYC and I also brought an assistant to carry and watch over my gear bags. I sent a ride to pick up Zhan and her friend and it was as easy as that. We all met inside the nice cool Javitz Center and talked for all of about 5 minutes and out the door we went.

My biggest fear was that security would chase us away; because we were literally shooting by the taxi line and then Zhan was standing up on top of the cement walls… she would go anywhere I asked her too. I might add plan B was that if we were told to leave we would all just grab an Uber to somewhere like Union Square and just shoot in the park with all the people. However plan B was never needed and we shot inside an outside at the Javitz Center with no problems at all. Well almost no problems…

As I first started to shoot the sun was on a high angle with not a cloud in the sky. I had checked and calculated the sun angle days prior to the shoot so I knew exactly where it would be and I was hoping for a cloudy day. However there was not a cloud to be seen all morning. I fired my first shot at 11:51am and I was really fighting hard to keep her face out of the sun and get a good background at the same time. And then within a few minutes the clouds arrived. I saw her face turned from harsh to even light and I looked up that sky to see large clusters of clouds rolling in over the city. What a relief! So the sun was really the only problem we encountered and even that turned out to be minor.

We moved around a bit to change up lighting and background and we found ourselves down on the lower level but still outside. The only people down there were cigarette smokers looking at their phones and relaxing. We ran through the three different looks that we had planned and while shooting the last look Zhan started to “go flat” as I call it. She just didn’t have the posing anymore and I could see on her face she had enough. So I just said “we’re done, you’re looking flat and we’re not going to push it any further.” She understood and agreed and this really is something I would like to point out.

I learned a long time ago that when the model is “flat” your shoot is done. And in all fairness as per our planning we said in the beginning we would shoot three looks in two hours and I actually fired the very first test shot standing inside the Javitz Center at 11:45am and the very last shot at 1:39pm. Of course there was some time spent with wardrobe changes, me sending my assistant for cold water and Zhan and I talking and discussing shots. In the end it was all good and we had a bounty of beautiful images to edit.

Although Zhan and I had agreed a TFP shoot. I still provided the Lyft service for her to & from the shoot and gave her enough to buy Sushi for her and her assistant’s lunch.

Yes I did find this wonderful Asian flower of a model on Instagram and I look forward to shooting with again soon. She is the first model I armature model I have come across in a while knew who Coco Rocha is. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the reality of my experience in meeting armature models. Some will say they’re “doing it for fun” and that is fine. Others will say they are “serious,” but cannot name a single relevant or current well known model. When I mentioned Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… and that reaction was so intense. You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it. And it was at that moment I knew this girl really into what she is doing.

Will Zhan become a professional model? In talking with her she said “jewelry design” is her passion. However she liked armature modeling because it helps build confidence. And I agree 100% on that.

When I asked where or how did she learned to pose? She claimed “mostly from looking other models and just trying emulating what they are doing.”

So yes she was a joy to work with and a true pleasure to meet in person.

Thank you Zhan Zhan.

Technical: The shot total came in at 680 and that includes the test shots, out of focus and misfires. I shot using a Canon 6D with EF70-200mm f/2.8L and I also had a few shots with the EF24-70mm f/2.8L. I jumped between manual and aperture priority, but mostly staying in aperture priority. Most times I shot at f/3.2 & f/3.5. There were no shots at f/2.8 because I wanted to make sure the face was well focused, even on those angular shots. I kept the ISO set to auto but most times it would fire at ISO 100 and in a few special shots I set to ISO 50. I used no reflectors other than using the sidewalk to reflect light back of her.

After shooting the Sandisk card was locked and I dumped everything to a wireless hard drive as a backup before I even left the city. I love this method because as soon as I arrive at my PC I can start editing while I am uploading a second backup to the cloud and that about covers the camera/technical.

She’s Got It (So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona.)

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 168mm
Model Jade Gleason

Some photos just resonate and stand out, however like beauty it is all subjective. I’m drawn into this photo for visual reasons as well as emotional reasons.

The visual; is the angle of the face, the eyes are closed; the arms frame the face and the textures of the sweater and the headband all come together to make a visually appealing image. Then there is her youthful & natural beauty with minimal makeup.

The emotional; is the fact that this was Jade’s second shoot with me in two weeks. Her first shoot with me she was “like a deer in the headlights,” very nervous, rigid and just trying to understand the direction I was giving her. She took it all in stride and came back for the next shoot a few weeks later. Now she was eager, prepared and had been practicing her posing. When I look at this shot I see her potential, I see her trying and I see her ‘wanting.” Wanting to grasp it, hold it and run with it.

Remember for a new model modeling is not always about making it to the top and becoming a high dollar fashion or runway model. Most important it is not always about how you look per say. Although when we think of models we think of beauty and often models define what the public thinks beauty should be. However we all know beauty is subjective and because we are bombarded with images of models everywhere we turn we tend to accept certain styles and looks as the norm. When in reality fashion & runway modeling is not about the models looks as much as it is about how the model can pose creating a visually appealing image that will show off wardrobe or design. I really do not think the fashion designer wants you to look at the model as much as they want you to be drawn to their artistic creation. The model is merely the vehicle to carry and represent the designer’s artistic work.

So in the beginning it is all about building confidence and creating your persona. You are creating that person or character who gets in front of the camera and performs. When you step in front of the camera you need to pose, but you also need to convey emotion and energy. It is not always “high energy” but rather a feeling, a mood and a look all rolled into one. I sit here writing about it and I myself cannot do it. However I am a photographer and I know it when I see it. Amazingly enough I seen this moment of Jade as I captured it and what I mean by that is; She was facing me straight on and I was shooting, she for a moment turned to her right for just a second and I caught a change of light on her face. Then she turned back facing me straight on, but I called out to her “wait, turn back just like you were and hold it.” She did. There was this even and soft light on her face and with her eyes closed it gave a peaceful & blissful look. I could see it in the viewfinder and I didn’t dwell on it, but I knew it was special. Not too often do I see it as I’m capturing it. Most times I’m paying too much attention to other things like “is there hairs across her face,” or looking for some other “aesthetic distractions” as I call them. But this time I seen it in real-time and it was such a beautiful moment for me.

If you know me and have read previous blog post you know I really loth photography clichés and the “capturing a moment in time” is one that just kills me to the core. Yes I did capture the magic moment in time with Jade, but it is not the moment in time that makes it all that magical. It is the fact that she improved so much in two weeks, it is the fact she is getting comfortable in front of the lens and most of all she has a drive to learn what it is all about. I am no famous photographer, however I am a very good photographer and I have for the past several years worked with many models just starting out. I have been the “first” photographer for several amateur models. Some get it and some do not get it. Some are under the misconception that they stand there and the camera clicks and “bam” there are awesome images are created. And when this doesn’t happen they don’t understand why not. I explain to all new models that it is about posing, that it is about emotion ect. I explain to them that I understand they are new, but “I am here to work with you and help you.” I explain “I am a photographer, I know how this camera works inside & out, I know Photoshop and I can edit the images to look good, but I first have to start with a good image and that means having a model that can bring a good pose and some emotion.” And with emotion it could also be the lack of emotion that makes the image great. I will offer advice about what makes for good posing like triangles, negative space, lines, and curves and so on. None of this information is a secret, however many will choose to ignore it because now it starts to make modeling sound like work. And it is work, and like anything in this world it takes practice and knowledge of the craft to get better and advance. Even someone who has a natural talent needs to nurture the talent to bring it to the surface. This all leads us to the age-old conclusion that “nothing in life comes easy.”

So who gets it? Who gets it is the model that walks away from the first shoot and listens to my advice, but doesn’t just stop there. They dig deeper and deeper, searching on their own. They are the one who learns to pose for the camera and not for the photographer, the one who realizes right up front that this is going to be work and starts working at it. They are the one who realizes they need to give up some free time to get something in return. That’s who gets it.

Jade https://www.instagram.com/p/BgAahCUg_UP/?taken-by=writingawayy_

 

Color Grading (…while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market.)

Model Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 88mm Color Graded

Color grading has been around for a very long time, used both in photography and cinematography. The names have changed as time and technology advance. What some refer to now as “color grading” was on once called “color timing” during the film era and was accomplished in a laboratory or darkroom by adjusting the exposure process during the developing stage of the film. Mostly used for color correction and not so much as an artistic tool. In the cinematography world it was primarily for color correction although the process was a lot more complex, requiring vast knowledge in dealing with correcting color for television tube screens. So todays “color correcting” has become a lot easier and nearly all is performed digitally making life a lot easier. I do color correcting using the X-Rite Color Checker and correct everything from camera to the monitor I use for editing. So what I now refer to as “color grading” is more of an artistic tool rather than a correcting tool.

So why color grade? Because it can lend an artistic value to your images or video work. Both photographers and videographers like to use color grading as a way to give an image or a video scene a certain vibe, feel or mood. Color grading is important because it could be what sets you apart from the crowd when it comes to editing. It is very common in movies to create a “look” for the overall movie that in-turn creates a “feel” or “mood” for the whole feature and individual scenes will vary from the main look based on the lighting, color, time of day ect… Examples are movies like Manchester by the Sea that has a rather soft and somber vibe due to the nature of the plot dealing with a lost loved one. As opposed to Hacksaw Ridge that has a very “high contrast” look do to the fact that most of the scenes take place on a battle field during intense fire fights.

So let’s step back a few years to when I was a beginning photographer and like most I was obsessed with “trying to make my images look professional” and could not figure out why I was failing. First let’s describe “professional” because a nice fashion shot certainly has a different look than say a nice sport shot. For me it was fashion photography. I would look at a magazine (remember them?) ad or editorial and fall in love with the image’s vibe. Not so much the content of the image, but more so with the way the image looked… the feel. Sure the image may contain a nice looking person in wondrous wardrobe (or lack of wardrobe) or it could be an advertisement with just a wrist watch. Either way I would sit and wonder what they did to make the image look the way it did. So when Photoshop found its way into my photography I already had several things in my mind I wanted to learn how to do. Sure basic editing comes first, along with just figuring out how to navigate through the universe that is Adobe Photoshop. But soon I was trying my hand at color grading although I had no clue what I was doing. Then I started asking other photographers their techniques and ideas on color grading. …of course as always the case with photography some photographers are more than willing to share while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market. Then of course there is the “oh just go to my website and download my tutorial” for a mere $99. So I basically continued on my own and bought a $10 automated (prerecorded) Photoshop Action or two along the way. I would analyze the layers of the action and it soon became apparent that I was doing it that way all along. But I had other ways to color grade that were sometimes so much easier than creating layer after layer in Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom has some really nice tools for creating awesome color grades and saving them as presets. This of course leads to photographers and websites selling Lightroom and Camera RAW presets, and this is fine, but I would suggest finding free downloads over paying for them.

So for my workflow I always start in Lightroom and if needed I head over to Photoshop and I finish back in Lightroom. I would say for me; 80% of the images I color grade I do in Lightroom, the rest are done in Photoshop. Also with the power of having Adobe Camera RAW as a filter in Photoshop I could technically do everything in Photoshop; however I like to save my master file without a color grade and make a separate file with the color grade.

So day we still see color grading as a strong artistic tool in both photography and cinematography. It was always said that “Instagram is for photographers” and nothing could be truer with all the filter choices IG has to offer. After all the IG filters are nothing more than preset color grades. And now that drone video is getting easier for the average person and vlogging is all the rage we start to see the color grading moving in to the mainstream. Not only do the top vloggers create trends with how they hold their camera or their scene transitions they also create trends of everybody wanting to color grade their video content to look like they’re favorite vlogger. With all this said color grading isn’t always as easy as an Instagram filter. There truly is an art to it, and in video what looks good in one scene looks horrible in another. Photos can be a lot easier to color grade, however I find that when editing a series of photos it can at times be challenging when the series contains images from different looks of light. Look for a vlog post in a few days where I will walk through a few of my techniques on color grading.

 

Thanks for reading.

2K17 Goals (I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration,)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 24mm

So last year I had set a goal to create portfolio quality images with “impact.” Now I felt (at the time) I had some great images in my portfolio, however the goal is always to add more. Now with that said; you cannot just keep adding, if you put something in you have to take something out and my personal preference is to keep the portfolio around 20 images and no more. After looking at ten images, a person is either going to interested or not. If they’re really interested they will look at ten more and that is why I feel the number 20 works. So creating new images that are portfolio quality is a daunting task because I am actually competing against myself. I have to make something good enough to knock something I already love out of the portfolio. This is like killing a child to make way for another. A horrible comparison I know, but I love the images I create and I don’t want to see them leave and go to the “back-shelf” so-to-speak.

I knew going into this that if I could come out with three great images I would consider myself lucky, two great images and I would feel accomplished, and one great image I would be happy.

Well let me tell you “happy” came quickly, Saturday January 16, 2016 to be exact. That is the day that a young lion named Nixlot Dameus walked into the studio. Just a mere 17 years old this amazing young man not only looked amazing he embodies “overcoming the odds.” Soft spoken and serious as a heart attack about what we were there for, Nixlot was focused and serious and that made me feel confident that what I had planned would actually come to be. The image you see posted here is “exactly” what I had envisioned. To have a seventeen year old kid whom I never met before and who is not a model walk into the studio and do exactly what I say is not only amazing, but also very gratifying. This image came at the very end of the shoot as is almost always the case with my shoots. I knew when I left the studio I had a “keeper” and I hadn’t even downloaded the images yet.

LaydeeFly Reyes

LaydeeFly Reyes

Now meanwhile I should say that this goal started on January 1, 2016, yes that’s right on New Year’s Day I was out shooting the cold and windy streets of Bethlehem PA with a local model LaydeeFly. The shoot was fun and it was cold, but the fun outweighed the cold. There were a few amazing images that came from her shoot, the one of her sitting on the street corner was a favorite of mine for sure.

Mina Santiago

Mina Santiago

Then the very next day with teen model Mina I was shooting of a forest in Tinicum Township PA and it was even colder than the day before. I did make one creative edit from that shoot that actually got a lot of attention on social media. Still I was looking for another good image, the year was young, but I wanted something to happen.

 

 

Ice_Princess-4802Instagram

The “Ice Princess” shoot with Kendall seemed promising, however due to time constraints the shoot did not last as long as I would have liked. But there was still a great shoots that came from that shoot. The portrait shots were awesome and I had one creative edit that I really liked and I felt was decent enough to put in the portfolio. So up until now I had the stellar image of Nixlot and then spring gave way to summer and I was getting worried because I had nothing in the works that would seem to yield a great image. Sure I was working doing paid shoots, but they never yield stellar shots.

 

ryan_5_15-6591-edit-2

Model Ryan McNally

Then came Ryan McNally and again I gained a stellar image that got good reception on social media. But… Now my two best images of the year were in the same genre of male fitness and I want diversity, something with a punch. I needed to kick in an afterburner or something, I wanted… I couldn’t think anymore and it was eating at me, day in and day out. I didn’t talk about it much, hell I didn’t even blog about it. It was almost like writer’s block or something. I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration, I looked on Pinterest till my eyes were ready to bleed. Inspiration!  I need you so bad and I cannot find you. Then it happened, just like finding love when you least expect it and in the least likely of places. On

 

 

 

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Assistant Makeup Jordan Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Facebook I see a post about entertainment news and I see the image of the “new” Pennywise the clown, the villain from the Stephen King Novel “IT.” THAT’S IT! A clown and I had been thinking about a clown “crawling on a floor” (strange I know) but this would be even better. Now with all this said; I did not want to just create a duplicate of the new Pennywise, but rather I wanted to take that concept of a… I don’t even know what to call it… “Evil clown” no that sounds to generic. “Sinister Clown” sounds more like it. So I wanted to take this so-called sinister clown look to another level, same as they have with Pennywise. They made the new Pennywise look more like a doll with his wardrobe, like and old doll from the renaissance or Victorian era. So hey why not shoot my Sinister Clown in a renaissance context, such as was done with the Super Heroes by French photographer Sacha Goldberge.

And so it was to be, but this look would take a whole lot more than a model and a makeup artist. This would be a lot of work. So how to you climb a mountain? “One step at a time” and that is what we did. The clown images were stellar and I was satisfied. I would now put myself in that extremely “Lucky” category and I can now say I accomplished that goal. That my friend, is a great feeling.

So here we are in 2017 and what are my goals? I have set a goal for just two stellar images this year, concepts are in the works and who knows maybe more than two will come, but I will be satisfied with two. More-so the bigger goal is to get more content on the YouTube channel and to increase subscribers. So in-order to do that I need to improve my vlogging skills and I started working on that at the end of last year. Along with vlogging skills a drone will be needed and it may be time to update the DSLR… we’ll see. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

Life… A Series of Problems. (But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence…)

 

 

 

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

It started off as a photo shoot to update headshots in a studio and it ended as classic car shoot outdoors. But aside from the strange twist from how it started to how it ended, the really amazing part was being able to work with model Shantae Taylor. I had not worked with Shantae for just over two years and although we stay connected through Instagram I knew the day would come… and it did. Finished with school and carving her way into a broadcasting career it is amazing to follow a person as they make that journey to follow a dream. Sure it sounds easy and fantasy like when you write about it or as you are reading about it. But we all know the true reality is that life is not easy and things never come fast. It has been said that “life is nothing more than just a series of problem and our job is to solve the problems.” That statement when read makes life just seem “so easy,” and the statement could not be any truer, life “is” a series of problems. But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence this so-called “series of problems” is really nothing more than a murky abyss. A place where you cannot see through to the other side, a place where some days you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a place where moments of clarity appear and happiness abounds, but never stays. A place where sometimes nothing seems real and yet in the blink of an eye it can all becomes so real it hurts or even kills.

Maybe this blog post seems a little off pace for a photographer who just had an amazing shoot with an amazing person. We talked about all kinds of things, her career path, creativity, jobs, and life and so on… But all the while I’m working with her my mind drifts back to a mere 24 hours earlier where I sat with a wonderful and courageous friend who was recovering from a horrible motorcycle accident that was no fault of his, in which he sustained massive injuries and worst of all he lost his wife. A problem that came into his life with no wrong doing of his own. While my friend is on a long road to getting life back to a somewhat normal state it was a drastic contrast to my conversation with Shantae. She is young and full of energy and focused… As we finished up our shoot and she departed, I just sat there thinking… “Life… just a series of problems… all we have to do is solve the problems.” I wish her the best.

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

Good But Not What I Wanted (realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter)

Nicole Smoke Dress Final

I would like to talk a little about this image that I recently created… well maybe talk a lot about it and what it really is. Ok so the truth be told it is not at all what I wanted to create. What you see here is the “second draft” so-to-speak, but there were four of five more versions and I tossed them all out of frustration. It was like back in the day when a writer would sit at a typewriter trying to make something happen and half way through the page realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter, crushing and crumpling and tossing it into garbage can in the corner. The garbage can that is overflowing with dozens of other half written pages. I saw something that inspired me and it gave be a vision and an idea for a really cool image… well at least I thought it would be cool. So I headed into my stockpile of images and I knew exactly where to look. But when I found the images I was thinking of, the wardrobe was all wrong. I wanted to create an image of a model with a rather “moonscape” like background, but I wanted her dress to be blowing away in the wind and turning to smoke. Similar to the piece I did back in 2013 called “Shattered” where the motocross racer’s helmet was shattering and blowing away.

I just could not get it to happen and keep it looking like a dress. Why? Because in this particular image the model is not actually wearing a dress, she is wearing a shirt and a skirt. So now after two nights of working I end up going back to the second version that I created in about 30 minutes and I said “done.” Done, but not at all satisfied. While many people love this image and I received good feedback across all platforms of social media, I myself am not satisfied. Not satisfied because I wanted something very different. With all that said… this is a good image. Model Nicole Gallagher is striking a stellar pose as she can so easily do and I have blogged in the past about her eyes and her talent of “posing with her eyes.’ This is a perfect example, I mean all we see here of the model is her arms and her face and her eyes. And for me the eyes say it all in this pose. So to recap, there is nothing wrong with the model or the pose, but the wardrobe is not right to complete my vision. So we know what that means… “project shoot!” If I am going to complete this vision I have in my mind I need to shoot the model correctly with the correct wardrobe. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.