Look vs Feel

My photography aesthetic lately as mentioned previously has been monochrome. Dark, gritty, mysterious. And this is what I want to capture.

Anyone can shoot what a scene looks like. But me? I want to capture what it *feels* like. I want these feelings to provoke a response.

Provocative photography.

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Embracing Monochrome

So you’ve noticed by now that this website is almost entirely monochrome, or devoid of colors. Black and white photography is my ideal artistic approach. I can appreciate all of the colors of course but for me, B&W is best.

B&W is simpler and minimal. In a chaotic, distracting world I choose simple. Simple is better.

Monochrome photography can be more of a challenge because sometimes you have no idea what the results will be. You know what your subject looks like in real life. You can visualize all the colors around you, and there is no mystery or fun there. But with black and white, there is that mystery and that is what keeps me going. To find that perfect blend of light and shadows to reveal your subject in newer, creative ways.

I love the monochrome setting on my camera and will sometimes shoot strictly in that mode just for the hell of it. I shoot in RAW because all of the color data is still imprinted on that image file and I can always convert to color in post processing if desired.

Try using your black and white mode or convert later, you’ll see the world literally in a different light.

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Mobile Photography


A mobile phone can be one of your most important pieces of gear in your photography kit for multiple reasons. Not only can you produce amazing images with the advanced camera quality and intelligent software, you can work on your post-processing and also publish to your desired platform. Hopefully not just social media but your own website!

The hardware and software that these devices have really advances mobile photography into a legitimate medium. At this time they are not ready to replace manual digital cameras but they are trying. With lens adapters added on to these devices there are very few limitations.

Speaking of limitations, I’ve been using apps that mimic vintage film cameras and treatments. Some will mimic a film camera to the point where you have to wait to see the images for a day, just like we had to do when we had our film rolls developed.

Mobile photography is readily available and can be more fun that traditional cameras and I don’t hesitate a moment to use it on a photo shoot when desired.

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Hotel Photography Tips

White hotel bedding is magic

Photographing inside a hotel room has all manners of convenience and risks. I treat the room just like I would a studio rental, politely. I am there to use their space with and no shenanigans or fuckery. This isn’t spring break, and you aren’t a rock star with a massive budget to replace a damaged room, this is a work assignment.

Try not to bring negative attention to yourself such as breaking things. Only recently have I had my first hotel room damage. I made the mistake of sitting on a table with three legs and down I went to the floor. Thankfully a little wood glue goes a long way!

Don’t try to alter the scene with smoke or too many candles. That sets off fire alarms and sprinklers and of course, brings negative attention. Remember too, that courtesy goes a long way to avoid said attention.

Clean rooms, modern furniture, neutral tones and hopefully a decent view can really make your session stand out. Don’t limit yourself to just the room though. Hopefully your room will have a balcony to make use of. Pool areas, decorative halls, lobbies and more can be discovered if you are able to scout ahead of time.

Another benefit to using the room as a multi-hour studio rental? If you’ve reserved the room then it is yours to enjoy for the rest of the evening. I can’t tell you how beneficial it is to treat yourself to a little staycation. Think of it as a reward for all the hard work you’ve just put in.

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Do You Really Need A Website?

Before Facebook and Instagram, photographers established their brands and showcased their work through their personal website and blog. Everything they wanted to share to their clients and potential clients was there. Portfolio? On the website. Their thoughts and future plans? Website/blog. I wrote more about this on my personal website, click the link below to read more about it.

There is a lot of cyberspace out there still. The corporate platforms and strict governments haven’t completely taken over it, even if they do fancy themselves as masters of the universal internet.

As Facebook took over personal websites, a lot of photographers were encouraged to set up business pages. Everything was decent for awhile until they were hounded by Facebook to buy ads, Buy Ads, BUY ADS to reach their audience. And Facebook wasn’t kidding. Photographers could not reach their intended audience without paying for the right to do so. Then the algorithms changed. For those who did buy advertising, they were prompted to buy more because their reach had not reached to the intended potential clients. All that time, effort and money has been wasted.

And ever since Facebook has purchased Instagram, photographers have seen more of the same. “Get a business profile! Separate your brand from your personal profile. Promote this post with an ad!”

Yes, I have an Instagram page. Yes, I cannot stand it. The one piece of social media I am on and I want to be rid of it. No longer though, will I let it outgrow my own website. I have switched to a personal account as opposed to a business account. Why? Re-read the previous paragraph.

While their old websites were left static, outdated and the last entry they posted was from three years ago, these photographers were pumping up social media sites that did not belong to them. They were working for someone else on someone else’s land while their own land was unattended and neglected.

Over time, these same photographers realized what had happened. Since they were so embedded with Facebook and Instagram and could not control what their audience saw, they decided to wean themselves off slowly.

Owning your own website takes more work than just creating an account and turning over all your personal and creative freedoms to a company that is not your own. The money that was used to buy advertisements or gear or another set of presets to look like everyone else could be better spent on buying your own domain name, buying your own web host and creating your own content.

Another benefit? You control the design, the content and the marketing. These are your lands to build on as you see fit. One company will not be able to censor you for something you posted or something you say. You are in charge, not some vague community guidelines that can force you off their land without getting anything out of it in return.

To answer the question in the title of this note, yes, absolutely. In 2019 we all need our own place to call home on the world wide web and we need it now more than ever.

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How To Make Your Client Comfortable

Stiff, awkward pose does not yield the best results

Let’s start from a nervous model’s perspective:

“Does this photographer know what they are doing? Can I trust this person? Will my _____ look horrible?”

Unless your subject is a professional model, you are going to have people who do not know how to stand, bend, or hold there hands a certain way unless they are coached. You are in charge, direct your scene how it needs to be done. If you don’t, then the session could be set up to fail. Your model won’t have confidence in you and the results can be disasterous. Go in there prepared. Have your list of shots that you want ahead of time. If possible, scout the location prior to the session.

Another way to help a client become comfortable can be humor. Have a positive, non-offensive joke or two ready to go whenever needed.

If these fail, then have your subject share something about themselves. No customer wants to hear their barber, bartender or barista talk about themselves, they want to be heard and understood. The same for photographers. This session is about the client. Let them open up and relax by letting them talk it through.

Okay, so far you can direct your subject to get the results you need and you can also have your client relaxed by opening themselves up. They trust you by now but showing is always better than telling.

Don’t believe me?

Because if those don’t get you your results, then bring your photos up on your camera and show them how well they are doing. Throw in a compliment.

At this point, the confidence should kick in because their image turned out better than they had expected. This will help even the most unrelaxed person settle in and finish this session with success for you and them.

Most people have no idea how to calm their inner voice and doubts. Only you can help them with this. And I hope this helps you as well.

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Why Portraits

Someone asked me the other day what type of photography do I like to shoot. Immediately my response was “portraits.”

Why?

Because people are fascinating!

Because people have individual personalities and expressions.

Because people have stories to share.

Because people are intrigued by other people.

Ever go to a museum and notice we are drawn to portraits more often than any other subject? Because people back then are just like us. In the future, they will appreciate and absorb content about us.

This is why I focus on photographing people. 

How To Photograph Naked People Without Being A Jerk

Muse: Crystal

Boudoir photography is a divisive subject. Some view it as art and others see it as a chance for some photographers to get cheap thrills.

Since I’ve focused on this genre of photography I open myself to everyone. I capture not only women, but men. Male models want and need the same courtesy, privacy and respect as the ladies do so I am not just talking about the mean ol’ male pervert photographer and the young, innocent lady model. This goes both ways.

Now, some people, both men and women photographers, do not have the best intentions in mind and just want to see naked people.
Others, just want to create art. Yes, the nude body is a beautiful work of art and if photographed tastefully, respectfully is an art form.

I honestly did not plan on photographing boudoir, implied or full nude people. The clients and friends I would work with were very self expressive, artistic and creative. I’ve captured actors, musicians, burlesque and belly dancers, etc. The number one reason I was allowed to work with them was because I had their trust. I picked up a camera when I was in high school and then traveled everywhere with it. We’re talking about a period of over 25 years. Almost half of my life! No way am I going to throw away something I love for half of my life by abusing this trust.

After I grew tired of doing studio portraiture I needed a challenge.
My first experience was nerve-wracking, challenging, and to my surprise, a lot of fun. Not because of the nudity factor, but just creating with the model. There wasn’t a large team, a big budget client breathing down my neck, or hard to please clients wanting me to shoot something to their tastes and not mine. It was a liberating experience and made me fall in love with photography all over again. I wanted to get better at it, so I stuck with it. I love the shape of the human form, so I photograph it.

Some tips for the photographers out there;

Never touch your subject. Talk it through. If you aren’t clear, then use hand gestures. If all else fails, have someone they trust explain it or do it for them. Not you. Explain to them why they need to move. Communicate.

Your subjects, again, both male and female, need to trust you. Their mind is already overactive because of this situation of their exposure. Their confidence and trust are ready to be pulled back if they perceive something is not right and they are looking for it. Constantly. Don’t give them a reason to doubt you.

Without trust and security, you won’t get the images you want because your subject is not relaxed. Call it a day and walk away.

Integrity

The people I photograph are all beautiful people. Inside and out. Truly. Believe it or not, I have never been sexually attracted to any of my clients. Not a one. Again, they are beautiful people. The scenes we capture can be very alluring. Some even sexually charged. But there is no desire on my part. I save this for my personal life as should all photographers and talent. If either the photographers or talent are physically attracted, then please be careful. If you are honest with yourself, don’t do these types of shoots unless you’ve proven to yourself and them that you have flawless integrity and intentions.

Have respect enough for the person and gain their trust.

And before I finish I want to make mention to deliver your images to your client securely. Make sure you have a client proofing page on your website or on your cloud. Keep the link and password secure and only for them. They can share if they want to but not you. Ever.

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Photo Exercises

In order to take advantage of the benefits of a good photo walk, try some of these visual exercises as well.

  • Walk around shooting anything and everything. Don’t discriminate, keep your mind open
  • Focus on color, monochrome, texture, composition
  • If you shoot primarily with your camera, try your phone’s camera instead. Vice versa. Change it up.
  • Look for different color combos, shapes, curves, leading lines
  • Process your photos with different styles. Over-saturate, add shadows.
  • Use your flash to drastically change the outcome.

Any or all of these exercises could help you flex your artistic muscles

Flexibility & Patience

At some point in every portrait photographer’s career there will be a
time when things just don’t work out according to the plan. Two
characteristics will be very beneficial in getting around these
situations; patience and flexibility. You also need to use what
resources you have so the session won’t go to waste.

When my original plan to capture a model on roller skates through the
park seemed like a good idea at the time, circumstances got in the way.

The golden hour should have been ideal but it was over an hour away.
The lighting was complicated and scattered. The backdrop was beautiful
in itself but was too distracting with the various trees, hills, rocks
etc. Also, the surfaces to skate on were bumpy at best. Lastly, the
model and her wardrobe was gorgeous but the backdrop did not compliment
it at all.

Two lessons learned here

  1. Have an alternate nearby location.
  2. Make the most of what you got.

Even if I am working on a photo session and it all goes wrong, it is
still worth making the most of the scene. You can walk away with
something for your efforts and the model’s time.  There were a few
portraits to be proud of and to be honest, they actually came from the
model’s suggestions on which area and poses we used. Again, remaining
flexible and adapting helped salvage this photo session.