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.

A Pose Can speak Volumes (Just the fact that he has his arms crossed makes a statement.)

Athlete/Bodybuilder Nixlot Dameus

Athlete/Bodybuilder Nixlot Dameus

I was really happy with this final composite portrait of Nixlot Dameus. I felt the background really brought the whole image together nicely. I had completed this a few weeks ago and although I had posted it to Instagram earlier I wanted to wait to post to my blog because I just wanted the image to rest in my mind for a few weeks. Many times in the past I have taken my time to complete a composite then I would post it soon after. But many times (not all) I would see something that needed to be changed, either a simple mistake that maybe only I could see or maybe something that wasn’t really a mistake, but rather I felt it would look better another way. A mistake could be something as simple as a ray of light that was out of position or maybe not a mistake but I would feel the images would be better with a blueish night cast rather than the yellowish cast of light.

In this image I was torn between the poses, of course you would not know that I had two similar poses, one with the hands tucked in as you see here and the other was with his hands on the outside of his forearms. This is actually a critical thing because it is “body language” and both create a little different feel and vibe. Just the fact that he has his arms crossed makes a statement. Body language plays a lot in posing and while some people will automatically pose a certain way it could be the way they feel at that moment or about the situation at hand. In this case Brendan another photographer who was assisting with lighting suggested the crossed arms, then came my decision as to “hands showing or not showing,” so I shot Nixlot both ways. With the hands not showing it gives a sense of a warrior holding a shield, blocking or defensive. If you know Nixlot’s story and the road his life has traveled, when he was a small boy he spent many a battle on the defensive side.

I am by no means an expert on body language however I do have a one up on my people because I was exposed to it in-depth by a very interesting person whom I met in the early nineties. Ironically enough he had the same name as me “Richard Smith” and of course there is a long story for another day on how our universes came to connect, but none the less we became friends for a period of time and Rich would talk about body language and from that time of my life forward I would look closer at people. I would and still do use it as a tool when approaching people. If anybody read my blog post from 2014 when I was detained at the Laos border while traveling and could not leave to go back to Thailand, needless to say I was stressed. I was told to go talk to a police officer, problem is Laos is a horribly corrupt country and it is all about ripping of American & European travelers. So I am looking for a policeman who can help me and the first one I see is putting off body language that essentially says “who is my next victim?” His overall demeanor spoke volumes and needless to say I steered clear. Also I think everybody can feel vibes and read body language to big degree but then you also have the age-old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover” and any smart person know how 100% true that can be. Still body language will win out when you are trying to connect with that hot girl and she won’t give you the time of day. You can tell her feel by her actions and yes her body language.

So till next time… thank you everybody and tanks for taking the time to read.

Understanding Posing (This is what separates the pretty girls from the models. )

Nicole Gallagher "working it." Negative space between the arms and body, between the legs and well pronounced triangles with in the negative space.

Nicole Gallagher “working it.” Negative space between the arms and body, between the legs and well pronounced triangles with in the negative space.

So what makes a good pose? What makes a great pose? For those who don’t know there really is work that goes into posing and making a pleasing photo. When I say “pleasing” I am referring to when a person looks at an image and the unconscious mind determined that there is a pleasing quality to the photo and tells our brain “hey… I like this.” Of course if it is in the realm of advertising this is what helps sell the product or service that is being portrayed in the ad. Let’s face it… pleasing sells. First you must understand that there is a formula to how our mind sees or looks at an image. Now please just stop and think about what I just said. “There is a formula.” Now think about how you can make pleasing images if you knew that formula. And if you are a photographer reading this I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know the rule of thirds and the leading lines and the rule of odds and blah, blah, blah. But that is not at all what I’m referring to here. While yes, you need to know your basic composing rules; and why? So you can break them. Yuck… that has been said too many times. No what I’m referring to comes from a much more in-depth level of the mind. In Vincent Versace’s book “Welcome to Oz” he breaks it all down and unravels the formula. I’m by no means a pro at this but I have accepted and understood Mr. Versace’s teaching and really work hard to incorporate this in my work. It is amazing to think that not only do you have the ability to create a pleasing image but you (the creator) have the ability to take the viewer’s eyes on a little journey and lead them through the image right to where you want them. I will not go into all the details of how to create that journey for like me, you can learn that by reading Mr. Versace books and if you do decide to dive into the world of Vincent Versace be prepared to go to a realm of photography that is deep, real deep.

So “The Dance Aesthetics” is what takes one’s eyes on a little journey and if you edit using a formula rather than just saying “ah this will look good” or “I’ll just use that same ole preset” … well now you are on your way to making great images.

So let’s get back to posing. This is what separates the pretty girls from the models. For me personally when I shoot with a model for the very first time and she can give good poses, direction or no directions doesn’t really matter to me. As long as she can make a pleasing pose in my image, I can then do the rest when I edit. I can then take the viewer where I want them to go. So for me it is not so much how pretty or good looking a model is that makes me want to work with her. After all we know… (Say it with me) beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But making a good pose takes skill. I want to see negative space between the arms and body, also between the legs. Triangles! I want to see good crisp well pronounced triangles incorporated into the poses. I want to see curves and flowing lines. So again I’m not here to write out all the word by word instructions for posing. But I am here to say that it is all about the posing and if you want to be a great model or a great photographer you need to understand posing and understand what the mind’s eye sees when it views an image.

Both of the models in these photos have good posing. Some days are better than others, it is a craft and an art and it can be honed to a razor sharp edge.

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