The rules

Coming up on my 8th year as an artist, and my 64th year as a human, I have learned a lot about people.  In most cases, they are kind, thoughtful, generous, and many have become good friends.

There are those few who are pretty self centered and in their own world.  Those with a total lack of respect for other's time.  These people are the ones who have generated a good number of the rules I have, over time, created.  Up to this point, they have been in my head.  Today I will put them here for all to see.  

Why share these rules?  So I can point them out to those that break them.  A form of hitting them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when they have shit on the carpet.  I doubt they will learn from them, but being an old guy who doesn't put up with shit, on the carpet or in life, I have to give it a try.  Some may judge me as an ass and egotistical.  Maybe I am, but I don't care what others think of me.  It's not my business.  So there!  Neener, neener!

Gratuitous image.  it is an art blog after all.

So, without further babbling, here they are.  The list may continue to grow over time of course.

1. I never ask twice.  When I ask if someone will do a certain type of posing for me, such as implied or nude, their answer is in stone.  And I do mean stone.  If that model then tells me he or she has changed their mind...sorry, but no.  Why?  If I go ahead and shoot someone in a manner they previously didn't want to do, they could and have, just as easily, changed they mind and asked me to remove all of our work.  That's hours and hours of my time wasted.

2. Hook ups by models.  This is when I shoot a couple for a book cover, and one of them hits on the other.  I know, right?  This shouldn't be any of my business.  When I spend hours editing images and hours doing the shoot, and I'm trying to market our work...and then get a message from one of them saying they broke up and they want me to pull all of our material.  Yeah, that sucks big time.  This is a professional operation and I value everyone's time, not just mine.  So yeah, I make it known I don't want to see any 'hook ups' and if it happens, well, no, I'm not going to waste our work.  It will still get posted and sold.  And yup, we won't be shooting again.

3. I won't shoot models who are living with photographers.  That sounds a little high and mighty and judgemental of me, but it's not.  I don't care about their relationship or marital status.  Not my business.  But I have learned that if a model wakes up next to a photographer it changes everything about how they respond to my camera and I.  This one I can't put my finger on exactly, it just doesn't work well for me.  I have a few exceptions.  In all of them, they are either friends or we shot long before they started with their new relationship and our established creative relationship seems to stay functional.

4. No shows.  If we schedule a time and day and you don't show up, I don't care what the excuse was.  You have my number and you could have let me know.  If you care that little about my time, well, I'd be a fool to give you more to disrespect.

5. I only book with the model directly.  I certainly don't go through agencies.  Nothing I shoot is good for an agency portfolio.  And there has never been an exception that this hasn't bit me on the rump.  Every time!!  So no middle men (or women) when I book or communicate.

So, until I think of other times I ended up with bite marks on my ass, and reasons I got them, that's the rules.  Having them written down is helpful for an old guy like me.  

And, in case you were wondering, yes, this afternoon I had a shoot set up that broke THREE, count them, THREE! of my rules.  Messaged the guy after 30 minutes late and he said 'sorry, baby sitter flaked'.  I asked why he didn't think to message me and let me know, and I get another 'sorry'.  Yep, wasted the whole day.  Well, other than getting this blog done finally.

Have your own rules, written or not.  It may keep the bit marks on your ass to a minimum.

Lightroom workflow

When I first got started with Lightroom, I think it was version 4, I knew I needed to understand the whole Catalog system.  I didn't want to end up years down the road wishing I'd done something a different way and then spend days changing it all later.

So, here I am, almost 6 years into it, and I do things exactly as I learned how to do it day one, and I'm still very happy with my control and ability to find EVERY shoot I've ever done and bring it up with all included files.  Right now I have 26 terebytes of photos from over 1,000 shoots so it's pretty important to be able to navigate that mass.

Here is a video I did to explain the process.  Mine isn't the right way for everyone, but it's a great place to start.

Enjoy learning and I hope this helps.

Watch your head!!

After over five years of passionately following photography I have the opportunity to look back and see the various stages I went though.  I don't expect I'm so different from anyone else and went through more or less than others did.  And, I tend to sit back in my chair often and ponder the why and how of things.  Especially things that bother me.

For example, there was a time I got jealous when a couple models I'd worked with often, worked with some others and got amazing images.  I was more upset about being jealous.  I even wrote a whole blog about it and resulting epiphany.

For those of you just starting up, you're going to suffer the trials and tribulations of models flaking on you, or having to beg or pay people to work with you.  There was a time that any shoot was fairly iffy.  And typically the talent wasn't top notch because, like me, they were just getting started.  The posing usually sucked, my directing being most of that problem, and it was just all around practice runs.

The reason for the rough road in the beginning was the lack of style.  Style, in this case, included everything.  Directing, lighting, post production.  They all sucked.  They were supposed to suck.  I was new.  I was finding my way as we all do.  It's called paying our dues.

This was the time when just about everyone else was taking pictures that I liked.  So there is something else we learn in the beginning.  This is were we start looking at what images we like and subconsciously deciding what we like and don't like about an image and why.  I think this is also a BIG contributor to our styles.  We are narrowing down who's work is stelar (to us) and we strive to make our own work eye catching and thoughtful.  And that comes from using the combination of bits of other's styles we liked.

Those first couple years are full of turmoil and self doubt.  Can we make it?  Why are we doing this?  Is my passion strong enough to take me through this phase.  Some don't recognize the process at all and jump in thinking they are going to make it to the top (if there is a top) within weeks of months.  Some take longer than others to get through the levels, but I've observed the ones that stagnate and don't grow seem to be those that don't understand the growing, reaching, and learning involved to get to the next levels.  They don't know about paying the 'dues'.  These photographers don't understand why they don't develop a style, or consider just adding a filter to a picture a style.  

Looking back over the 5 years I can say I've grown considerably.  I'm proud of everything I've learned, all the things I tried and failed, and even the things I found by tripping over them.  I've always known there was something else...something just out of reach but still reachable.  I'm good with that.  I live for that.  It's never 'the end' of learning and trying new things.

I love to work with new photographers and show them what I've learned.  Sharing is what life is about after all.  I also love working with the ones who have had the passion and have years into it.  I can learn from them as they can from me.  When two passions enter the same room it can be great fun and a lasting event from all they learn from each other.

This is where enlarged egos have no place.  Not if you are going to grow.  There are plenty of top photographers that are open to anything and everything and share and don't see others as 'competition' but as peers.  Those that post videos or answer questions about how they do everything are my heroes.  They get it. The true creatives are excited about it and want to share.  The ones that are not nearly as confident appear use their ego to hide their lack of confidence.  The chest beating and self important people in any industry usually lack the confidence and experiance to actually be what they want to appear to be.  And sadly, many are actually talented but will stagnate because growing is a bit to frightening to them.  If your doing pretty well with floaties why learn to swim, right?  Of course, this is just my observations.  I'm not a physiologist.  Heck, I could probably use one. 

If you are brand new, understand the phases you need to pass through to build the style and confidence you'll eventually have.  There are no short cuts.  Read, learn, watch videos, and heck, read a lot of blogs!  Wear out your first camera!  For those that are 'there', have the confidence, the style, and do amazing art with their photography, very cool!  You can relate to all I've said I expect.  And, more important, you know that you aren't 'there'.  It's a journey.  A smoother journey from here because the talent you work with is far more talented and creative.  That, of course, adds a LOT to the success of our work.

I used to get depressed and get the photographer's version of writer's block.  Then I learned it was just what happens before a new level of style and technique break through.  Today I get excited about those blocks as I wonder what the next level will be like.

Enjoy the journey!!

What are the classes like?

I've been to many classes and workshops.  For the most part, they were all informative, interesting, and fun.  As someone who has taught classes most of my life, I watched the technique, cadence, and content of the classes and how the information was presented.  As a result, my workshops are no only filled with information I've learned in other classes, workshops, and videos, but the technique for presenting that information is the best of everything I've experienced.

My classes are fast paced, yet laid back at the same time.  I give you time to breath and take in what was just covered.  And I make sure all of your questions are answered...even if my answer is 'I have NO idea'.  That's rare, but I'm honest.

The 1on1 classes are 5 hours long.  This gives you plenty of time to ask questions, understand whats being presented, and we can cover a lot of ground.  1on1 classes are customized to what the student needs but most of the time we cover the same things.

The typical day (times may change)

8AM - 9AM

For the first hour we talk about lights.  You'll learn about Studio Strobes, Speedlights, and some versions of hot lights, or constant lights.  And you learn about the various ways to modify those lights to give us the fill, or mood, or contrast you want.  The studio has a very diverse set of lights to demonstrate almost every option.

We'll cover soft boxes, grids, beauty dishes, large and small lights, flash and continuous.  More important, I go over the 'zen' of positioning your lights.  Let me just say you won't walk away with a hand full of lighting schemes...you'll walk away with every possible combination that your mind's eye can come up with.  It's far simpler than you think.

During that first hour we also go over style and how important it is to develop your own style of work.  The first step to a style is the lighting.  The rest is in post production so we continue that topic in the last 2 hours some.

9AM - 12PM

The model will be arriving in studio and you'll get your camera out and ready to do some shooting.  For the next two hours you will be shooting most of the time.  Between sets I'll be explaining the lighting and why it's where it is.  We'll do some 'zen' learning between lighting changes so it's easier to understand how to light to get what we want.  Some would like us all to think it's some exact science and it's very much NOT.  It is, however, a lot of imagination and our mind's eye on what we want to see.

Models I use for Workshops (change occasionally)

There will be anywhere from 6-8 different lighting changes.  And you will have plenty of time to shoot the model in each and every light type.  By the way, the combination is so unlimited that every workshop probably sees different schemes that any previous one.  I make it up as we go along with your input on what you'd like and just how we would position lights to get that look.

There is a difference between two types of classes offered in lighting techniques and model poses.  In the regular workshop the lighting will cover lighting for head shots, fashion, pin up, boudoir, and other typical main stream types of photography.  The Fine Art Nudes workshop will have darker lighting and more 'art' style moody lighting.  The poses are more important in this class also, and just how you would compose fine art.

In both cases I'll be instructing the model to demonstrate how to take charge and get what you need from a set.  I will also step out of that role often and explain the how and why of working with a model.  The manner you speak with them, how to get them into the poses you want, and all of the intricate ways you will be interacting with them.  Both pros and first timers.

12PM-2PM

Now that we have a card full of wonderful images, it's time to gather around the computer and learn some techniques to start to create your style and workflow.

The class is based on Photoshop CC (6) and Lightroom CC (5) as well as a few of the popular filters.  We'll start with Lightroom and how to manage each shoot in such a way that you can move it, archive it, and at all times it's a complete package.  No more 'image not found' that you might see in Lightroom now.  I'll show you a workflow that is easy, manageable, and with a dozen terabytes of images, the ability to go to any shoot and bring up everything you did instantly.

I also show some of the editing features in Lightroom.  Some are easier to do than Photoshop.  Then we head into Photoshop and get down and dirty with some editing.  I'll show you how to readjust the lighting to refocus the viewer's eye, sharpen images, clean the skin, and make hair do far more than the image might show.  Plenty of tricks and tips, but nothing really more fancy than every day tools in Photoshops.  It's just how they are applied to make magic happen.

I don't keep anything a secret because I know that even if you tried to retouch an image I retouched before, they would come out totally different.  Your mine and your eye are the most important editing tool.  Your likes and dislikes will use the same tools I do and come up with totally different looks.  And, since that's YOU coming through, this will be your style!  Oh, it takes a while to get used to the tools but once you use them enough and apply them often enough to really know and 'feel' what they can do, your style will develop.

There are typically a few  'gasps' and 'OMGs' going on as I show the tricks I use.  How my studio looks 30 feet wide when it's really 15 for example.  Or how I get a tight spot light on the model when the image clearly didn't have that look.  How to give someone blue or green eyes in less than a second.  How to quickly dodge and burn to really bring the model off the flat page.

I honestly take 10-20 minutes on each of my edits.  Rarely more and often less depending on the image and what I end up doing with it.  This isn't magic, it's hours of doing this daily and loving it.

After the workshop

High speed idea of some retouching thechniques.

On going communications to help you remember what you learned is provided.  A closed group on Facebook and a passworded area on my website is open to all previous participants.  So, no worries that you are off and on your own after a class.  I'm always around to answer questions and re-explain something we might have covered.

The class is based on Photoshop CC (6) and Lightroom CC (5) as well as a few of the popular filters.  We'll start with Lightroom and how to manage each shoot in such a way that you can move it, archive it, and at all times it's a complete package.  No more 'image not found' that you might see in Lightroom now.  I'll show you a workflow that is easy, manageable, and with a dozen terabytes of images, the ability to go to any shoot and bring up everything you did instantly.

I also show some of the editing features in Lightroom.  Some are easier to do than Photoshop.  Then we head into Photoshop and get down and dirty with some editing.  I'll show you how to readjust the lighting to refocus the viewer's eye, sharpen images, clean the skin, and make hair do far more than the image might show.  Plenty of tricks and tips, but nothing really more fancy than every day tools in Photoshops.  It's just how they are applied to make magic happen.

I don't keep anything a secret because I know that even if you tried to retouch an image I retouched before, they would come out totally different.  Your mine and your eye are the most important editing tool.  Your likes and dislikes will use the same tools I do and come up with totally different looks.  And, since that's YOU coming through, this will be your style!  Oh, it takes a while to get used to the tools but once you use them enough and apply them often enough to really know and 'feel' what they can do, your style will develop.

The best part about my classes is that they are one-on-one.  It's just you and me kid.  Unless you want to use the buddy system and share the class with a friend.  That saves you some cash as well as having someone long who may remember things you don't and vice versa.

Creative energy?

I have a little rule I like to keep to.  As time goes on, and I occasionally break that rule, I regret it more each time I do.  To make it easier for others to understand this rule I'm writing it down.

The rule:  One shoot per day.  Not two.  This goes for me AND the model.  

It is a fact that each person has their own energy stock pile between sleep cycles.  Most have more energy than me.  Another fact.  And I'm not talking about just physical energy.  Actually, more important is the creative energy...this is critical for any artistic shoot.

Anyone who has done a professional full blown photoshoot knows that several hours posing, creating, and shooting, creates a special kind of exhaustion.  You know you haven't done that much physically so it seems strange.  It's the mind that reaches exhaustion in this case and it's because everyone is searching for that creation that the particular collaboration might bring to light.  

IMG_1086-Edit.jpg

Creativity, in its nature, takes as much energy as a full day of physical exersize.

This is the basis for my 'rule' of doing only one shoot a day.  And, insisting that the model or models I work with do the same.  I don't think someone trying to fit two, and even three, shoots in a day, are going to have the creative juices left in the later shoots.  Or they will hold back their energy knowing they have other shoots coming up and that's robbing each project of your full attention and energy.

To make the point of how important I feel about this, I won't do a shoot with someone, even it it's their first one for the day.  Two reasons.  As I already mentioned, some energy is held back by the model for their long day.  And, we are robbing the second photographer of the full potential of the model.  

So, if you plan a shoot with me, I want your full attention and energy.  Don't book another shoot on the same day as ours.  Just don't.  

 

Uniqueness Survives

In financial news we hear of once great marketing giants now merging to stay alive and some dying all together.  Office Max merged with Office Depot to become one company and now Staples is merging with them to try to survive.  And Radio Shack is closing up all together with some of its stores becoming Sprint stores.  Some would say they already were phone stores.

I worked for Radio Shack when it was growing fast, making a LOT of money, and it was seemingly endless on where they could go.  Now they can't even afford the cost to close their remaining stores.  Half the number they once had as it is.

They lost their edge.  They used to have their own brands of stereos, antennas, parts, pretty much everything electronic was found at Radio Shack.  They lost sight of who they were and who they were competing with.  They became, over time, non-competitive and no longer the place to go to see unique and interesting products.  They tried to keep their margins up but that too was a problem now that they sold the same thing everyone else did.  Mainly the cell phone craze killed them.  They rode the wave...until it broke on the shore.

And how is this related to photography?

As a photographer one needs to find new and unique ways to make the business work.  If you sell prints you need to sell something better than you can get from Costco for $3.  Metal prints?  Canvases? Or, sell digital files in a creative enough way to survive and thrive.  Find new ways to market, keep a keen eye on the competition but NEVER assume they are doing it right or that you need to follow their foot steps.  Watch them for failures too.  See what's not working for others and consider why.  Was it a good idea but executed the wrong way?  And don't assume anything you do today that is successful is going to be that way in a year.  Be flexible.  We've never been in a more fluid time when it comes to sales and marketing.

 Unique looks are sought after

Unique looks are sought after

Most important of all.  BE UNIQUE!!  That's your edge.  One that no one can take from you.  It's like your personality.  That is what will help you survive, make a living, and it's the most important asset you have.  People will pay for something unique and come back for more.  They will talk about your uniqueness with friends and family.  If you just took pictures they could have gotten anywhere, how excited do you think they will be to come back, or give you the word of mouth advertising that is worth so much.  And with social media that word of mouth is so much easier to spread.

So, be special.  Be unique.  Stand out.  And you'll be sought after.

Be. Create. Love

I've been lucky enough to live and breath my photography for five years without interruption.  No other job getting in the way and not even a need to do things to 'make money'.  No stress, just create, learn, and grow at a natural rate without limitations.  Other than my old head not absorbing knowledge like it once did it's been wonderful.

Every so often I catch myself with feelings that I don't like.  We all have them.  Well, I'd like to think it wasn't just me.  I'll see some work that rocks and I'd feel a little jealous.  I'd feel I was competing with other photographers, or I'd feel depressed because I just wasn't 'feeling it' with my work for some reason and I was worried I had hit the top of my abilities.

Part of my growth has been my attitude towards pretty much everything. 

Something I didn't do enough when I was younger, and should have, is sit alone, with no distractions, and consider why I feel like I do about something.  For example, there was a time I was jealous when I saw another photographer just totally rock a shoot with certain models.  I was more upset about being jealous than anything.  It took me a couple weeks of contemplation to understand just why I was jealous, and why with only certain models.  I came to the conclusion that these particular models had become personal friends and, of course, I wanted MY work to be the best they had.  A bright light came on and I realized they were friends, and I wanted them to have the best that anyone could give them, not just me.  The jealousy instantly vanished.  Like I said, I was more upset that I WAS jealous because I knew it was wrong.  Figuring out the root of that feeling solved the problem. 

Other aspects have changed for me too.  When I'd see someone else create something totally awesome, I would allow the inspiration I should have gotten from the work to be dimmed by a kind of regret that I hadn't thought of it.  Really?  I also knew this was a non-productive emotion. Over time I've been able to learn to love what I find as great and simply admire it.  This wasn't a conscious effort to correct other than knowing it was wrong to feel anything other than enjoyment.

How others see my work?  Anyone who says they don't care what others think of what we create is fibbing.  A true artist creates from the heart to please the eye, mind, and heart.  Art stirs the heart.  But we all enjoy seeing or hearing that others like what we've created.  It's part of our being to be accepted and appreciated.  I now do my art more for myself than others.  I share, but I'll also sit back and enjoy the creation myself without wondering what others will think of it.  

If you have feelings of jealousy or feel you are competing, consider why and try to get over those feelings. Some believe that competition is as important in art as it is in anything else.  I'd argue that anything that inhibits the creation process will, in turn, diminish how competitive the creations will be in the business end of art.  The two should be mutually exclusive.

Compete with your yesterday.  Be.  Create.  Love.

Creativity marks the spot

The feeling of excitement, wonder, and even a little fear, that one feels when they start a project of art is universal.  Maybe not to a full time and life time artist, but to those of us learning to create later in our lives, it's there.  The nagging worry that even we won't like what we create.

This is normal and important to the evolution of ones art.  That edgy feeling that works like adrenaline to the mind and opens our eyes to things we would not see otherwise.  That's when we are the most creative.

When I sat down to do this piece I really didn't have a solid thought out plan.  I wanted to do something with broken glass.  That's about it.  I brought in two images of Blonde Raven and just started poking around with my tools.  There were some false starts and looks that were not going anywhere.  By that I mean it wasn't moving me at all.  After all, you have to love your own art.

I kept seeing my options and my eye kept me going because I saw something flickering in the pile and I kept fanning it until it started taking a shape I liked...then eventually loved.

It is hard not to doubt your own artistic abilities.  And some days nothing exciting comes from a few hours of sitting at the computer.  You eventually get to a point where you can feel when you will be the most creative and that's when you sit down and let your juices flow and create.  The more you create over time, the more confident you are in your art.  And the more confident you are, the more often those creative days will present themselves.

Play, enjoy your creations, and don't let the first tries or non-creative days get you down.  Make art when the mood strikes and the more you do it, the more often the mood will strike.

At least this has been my experience.

Fine Art - mindset & expectations (Part3)

Wife assists
Wife assists

In this last installment I’m going to discuss each person involved in the process of creating fine art nudes.  As you would expect, this includes the model and photographer.  But I’m going to include the ones equally important to the success of a great set of pictures.  The model’s husband, boyfriend, parents, friends, and even the photographer’s wife or girlfriend.

Of course, there is no way I can solve the contrasting elements of jealousy, religious upbringing, or other emotions that are unique to each participant in a shoot.  I’m not a psychologist by any means.  Just an observer sharing what I’ve seen.  If some morsel of this article opens the door to better understanding at some level then it was worth it.

Before I get started I’ll explain my situation.  It’s important to know where I’m coming from because it will reflect in what I’m imparting.

I’ve been shooting for almost five years, and for the first two my wife of 30 years, Linda, wasn’t thrilled with the possibilities of me shooting nudes or even implied.  No specific reasons, but I’m going to guess on some here.  (note:she has read this and confirmed her side)

Possibly some misunderstanding that some women don’t mind being in front of a camera naked.  She felt she’d never want to so why would another woman?  Or she was afraid of what her family would think of her for letting me do that form of photography?  Three things I’m sure of.  She trusted me 100% and knows I love her with every fiber of my being.  And there was zero chance of me running off with someone.  A stable and loving relationship full of trust is a great place to start.

One day, before I was allowed to shoot implied, I was asked to do a shoot with a young woman I’d shot many times before.  This was a shoot specifically for her new husband and she only wanted to wear her veil.  I asked Linda what she wanted me to do and we eventually agreed she would actually help me with the shoot.  You see, she’s a very good photographer herself.  So, she helped and found out that the model was very comfortable, the pictures turned out great, and it wasn’t any different from any other shoot.  The model even used 6 of Linda’s pictures for her book!  From then on my wife has been my biggest fan and more supportive than I could have ever imagined.

The model

As a model, you are the one who feels the pressure from friends and family.  They either support you or they don’t.  And there isn’t much you can do about that either way.  Often they don’t understand what the art is all about.  Remember, a good number of people don’t see the art in the lighting and lines of a good artistically done nude.  They think Playboy right away.  Some will always see a dandelion as a weed and others see it as a wish.  Art isn't for everyone.

Here’s where you find out who feels you need to live up to their standards.  And think that you should not always do what makes you happy or fits your life goals and dreams if it is counter to their beliefs and wishes.  There won’t be anything you can do to change their minds very often.  Avoid arguments of course…those never solve anything.  Sometimes the support comes later.  Once you are actually portrayed in some great art and show them that it’s beautiful and not porn they may change their tune.  People tend to expect the worst and will build it up to be far worse in their own mind than it is.

Some families are very close and if artistic nudes will cause problems it may be better to hold off and slowly get people to warm up to it.  Frankly, I feel that if anyone should support your goals and interests it should be the family.

It’s very important to never do anything to prove something to someone else.  Even more so to rebel against anyone.  Dig deep into your goal for modeling, artistic nudes or otherwise, and make sure it is totally for you and no one else.  The art won’t flow well if there is anger or grudges or an agenda other than satisfaction for yourself.

The photographer

Wife assisting
Wife assisting

I will admit, I felt a little strange the first few times I was shooting nudes.  Nothing sexual by ANY means, but just the difference in capturing skin instead of clothing was new to me.  Of course, lighting it to get the fine lines, get shadows to appear in strategic places, and just having a model naked took some getting used to.  By the 3rd or 4th shoot it was just as typical and comfortable as any other shoot.  So I went through that little transition.

My wife, Linda, is very supportive and, of course, has seen the creations from those shoots and now totally understands what my goals are.  I do consider myself very lucky to have such an understanding wife who allows me to explore my artistic side.

Others are not as fortunate and their significant other isn’t as understanding.  They just can’t get past the idea of their husband or boyfriend seeing all sorts of naked women.  That, and the fear of what others might think of HER when they find out she let you take pictures of nude women.

You can’t tell someone they need to support you.  They have to want to on their own.  Some ways to help them feel better about the idea might be:

  • do some implied work the same way you would do an artistic nude.  Darker with plenty of shadows covering the three private areas.  Do them well.  Then use them as an example of what you’d like to create.
  • have your wife or significant other assist you on a nude shoot.  She can be the one who helps the model with hair and move elbows and getting the tilt of the head just right.  When she sees you doing exactly the same things you do for any shoot she may see that it’s not a big deal.
  • make sure that, after every shoot, artistic nude or otherwise, that you spend a good amount of time with your wife or s.o. so they don’t feel neglected.  This is a great idea no matter what you shoot.
  • spend a lot of time talking with her about exactly what you want to accomplish.  Get some art books with examples and see if she sees the beauty.  Without the support of your significant other you can’t be creative.  And doing it behind her back is wrong on every level.  Don’t ever, EVER do that or you will lose her trust and respect…probably forever.

Of course, if you have a history of shooting ‘not so classy’ work its harder to explain why you want to suddenly shoot classic artistic nude work.  If you are getting into this genre to see naked girls…well, please stop right here.  You aren’t who this is written for.  Wrong reasons!!

The significant other

Your husband or boyfriend wants to shoot nude models.  If there was ever a situation that seemed threatening, this would be up near the top of the list.  You need to have a talk with him about anything you have on your mind.  Communication is the key to all good relationships and more so on this topic.  Ask questions.  Be honest with your feelings.  Being supportive has to come from your heart, not your head.  Be open-minded and ask to see examples of what he plans to create.  Ultimately, you don’t have to agree with or support your partner.

You might agree on a slow process to allow him to move in that direction in steps.  Maybe help out with a few shoots and see just how professional the shoot is.  Set rules that you both agree on.  For example, the model wears a robe when not actually posing.  And the photographer looking away while the model gets into position.  Whatever makes you more comfortable with the shoots should always be acceptable to your partner.  Just communicate.

One last thing

I’ve noticed something interesting about jealousy.  When I meet a couple where one is overly jealous, it usually indicates that person actually is at more risk of leaving a relationship than the partner who isn’t jealous.  Jealously usually stems from, but not limited to, two things.  Not feeling secure in a relationship.  And not having that emotional bond and trust in the partner that is very much required in a stable relationship.

Always, always communicate!!

Back to part 1

Back to part 2

And interesting link to a model who does nude work - her perspective

Fine art - shoot day (Part2)

The mind set Lurking in the back of your mind is always that 'taught' idea that nudity is bad. Sinful in some way. Even the most carefree among us knows that little feeling tugging at us when we are naked, even to get into the shower. It's there and to acknowledge it and know that it's just an embedded notion is important for some people.

There are two forms of Fine Art Nudes. Society has drawn the line for us. Oddly it's as simple as nipples and vaginas. One form of fine art, and what I shoot most, shows very little in the way of actual nudity, based on society's opinion. A shot like this for example shows no more than a bikini, yet it is obviously nude modeling.

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Note that, for some people the simple lack of strings showing that there IS a bikini is objectionable.  Those are the few that see something evil or nasty instead of the beauty of the skin tones, fine lines and curves, and often mood and emotion.  Most of the time, any reluctance of a model to do fine art is based on what others may think of him or her if they posed like this.  It's a valid concern.  Without a supporting spouse or significant other, moving forward is nearly impossible.  More on this in part 3.

The second form of fine art is full nudity, where we cross society's lines and open the body to a more free form of expression.  Often this form alludes to a bit more confidence and allows for more freedom of expression because there isn't a need to cover certain body parts.  In both cases the same basic beauty and art are present of course.

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Here is where you do have a choice of how far you want to go as a model.  And this usually depends on your life goals.  If you are a teacher you probably wouldn't want to go beyond the implied most certainly, as an example.  And maybe avoid this form of expression all together.  If one of my images ever cost someone their job, career, or significant other, I would be devastated.  This is a life choice that, unfortunately, could be a limiting factor in your future life so consider it carefully.  I've found those that display full nudity are super confident and will never care what others think and aren't worried about it getting in the way of their careers.

The Studio

So, what is it like in the studio the day of the shoot?  If you've never done fine art before it's always a bit stressful to start.  Nervousness about the whole process.  That little nagging feeling about being nude in front of a stranger. Well, here's how a shoot usually goes.  First we will do some shooting with a simple top just to get you comfortable with the music, lights flashing, the sound of my voice directing you, we'll go over some modeling tips and basically spend the first 30 minutes warming up.  It's an important time to get into the creative groove.

You'll find a large changing room for makeup, changing, and in the event you end up covered in baby oil there's even a shower.  That's your room for the shoot.  Most notably, there are robes.  You are welcome to wear a robe when we aren't actually shooting.  While doing light tests, or discussing the next pose, you can wear a robe if that is more comfortable for you.  You will find a very creative, yet focused, environment once we start shooting.  Especially with the fine art.  Getting the lighting exactly right and getting every detail of your pose right is key.

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You will be comfortable in no time and excited about what we are shooting.  You'll also find I put my camera down unless you are in position and we are ready to catch the look.  After 3-6 different looks or poses we'll be done.  Exhausted.  And 3 or 4 hours went by yet it will seem like just 1.  And in the case of those who did fine art nudes for the first time, they wonder what they were nervous about in the first place.

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So, that's what it's like from the models point of view.  Based on my observations and conversations.

Next part I'll discuss the complications of model's and photographer's significant others and the huddles that often need to be overcome for everyone to be happy.  It's about communication and understanding.

Continue to Part 3

Go check out part 1

Fine art - my perspective (Part1)

The human form I'll start by clearing up the basics.  Fine art nudes is an art form.  It has nothing to do with sex, exhibitionism, or voyeurism.  It does not degrade, sensationalize, or prey upon any gender.  The confusion comes from those that use the term 'fine art' as a gateway to shoot what is very obviously not art at all.  I've met people who can ramble on for a while about the fine lines and subtle tones of an art piece and I've met people who look at the same piece, tilt their head and say 'cute'.  Everyone sees art differently and in my experience it's not something you learn.  You either like it, love it, or don't see it.  I have never seen a 'face palm' with a shocked expression and exclamation of "NOW I SEE IT!"

Me

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For as long as I can remember, I've always loved the graceful clean lines formed by the human body.  Whether it is that of a soft beautiful female or a muscle filled shot of a male.  All shapes, sizes, and ages.  More recently very fit females have come to have the best of both soft lines as well as shadow from evident muscles.  All beautiful, especially in the right light.

I'm sure there was a time in my life that I was taught to consider any form of nakedness as inappropriate.  That is not a natural reaction, we are taught that nakedness is a sin somehow.  Later in life, as we start to rebel, question, and venture out with our minds, and especially when we discover art, we then discover the beauty of the human body.  And that it is not inappropriate to view them as the forms of art that they are.

I'm fortunate to have a very understanding and loving wife who understands my need to create.  She trusts that models will be treated with respect and that the only goal is the finished project.  That trust, from a partner, is important yet rare.  I will discuss that in another installment of this series.

The introduction

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IMG_9946-Edit-Edit

When a model contacts me about creating some art I, of course, browse through  his or her images.  My mind immediately starts considering the options of what poses and lighting would work best for their body shape and attributes.  I begin to imagine what the end result may be based on past experience as well as my ever present checklist of images I'd like to create.

I'll chat a bit to make sure the model understands the art we will create will involve nudity.  I always feel a little creepy in that part of the conversation because of that early teaching that nudity is inappropriate and here I am talking to someone I've likely never met about shedding their clothes for my camera.

It is ultimately important that they are fully comfortable with what we will be doing.  Most often I've found the promise of what may be created is a strong motivation to many to push themselves beyond their normal boundaries.  And, to date, everyone has been very pleased with our results.

Parts 2 and 3 In the next installments I will cover the trust issues of significant others in your life if you want to shoot fine art and just how a professional shoot works with nudity.

READ PART 2

Artistics?

After over four years of various photographic ventures into everything from weddings to babies to families to fashion I've come to the cross roads on just exactly how I want my photography, and hence, the rest of my life, to play out.  And it's not any of those. I am totally in love with the fine art aspect of what photography can be.  There are plenty of photographers out there that shoot all those other things and a few that devote their craft to the fine arts.  I have the pleasure of going in whatever direction my heart and mind want to go.  I should add that I have the most beautiful and understanding wife any artist could have.  She wants me to be as happy as possible in my pursuits in the fall of my life.  I love her so.  Thank you Linda!

So, to make it more clear as to my direction I have changed the name of my 'business' from Dave Kelley Photography to Dave Kelley Artistics.  The second being far less likely to be asked to shoot babies, puppies, or kids.  I love them all, I just don't find any satisfaction in photographing them.

If you are looking for a great photographer for more common work check out these folks.

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That leaves me with time to continue to learn about all of the tools I use to create my art.  I'm a geek, so learning what I can about cameras and lighting makes my mouth water of course, and learning more about Photoshop, Lightroom, and now Final Cut Pro for artistic videos, I'm pretty much in geek heaven.  My shooting schedule will go from 'hey, let's shoot' to a far more idea based approach.  As I come up with ideas that intrigue me I'll plan them out and find models that fit the look and make it happen.

I don't really consider what I do a business.  I am open for hire but only if I'm in control of the art created.  Otherwise I will make available my art for purchase as I create it.  Luckily I've had a lot of interest in people wanting my art on their walls.

So there you have it.  A new name to signify the new direction.

My work will be edgier, probably a bit darker, and all over the board from vintage, to nudes, to cosplay, and even some short videos with either music or editorial or documentary feels to them.  Whatever interests me.

If you want to model for one of my projects feel free to let me know.  Understand that artistic work may very well include nude or semi nude poses.  The finished product is always classy and edgy and rarely actually shows more than a basic bikini, but when I'm creating it's important that the model is 100% comfortable with whatever we come up with.

I want to thank those who have encouraged me, and worked with me as a model, makeup artist, or hair stylist.  Your art is most certainly main ingredients in anything I've done or will do.

Off the reservation

I don't want your money. Not the most profitable way to run a business.  But if I were to take people's money they would probably expect something in return.  Therefore I would have to create pictures I don't necessarily want to create.  (Hence the particular image...'confined and restricted'.)

Confined beauty
Confined beauty

That has become unacceptable to me .  I love to shoot, and I love changing those shots into my style of art.  With that and learning new skills to create with and teaching others what I've learned, I'm following what I love most in life.

We all hope there comes a time in our lives where we can do what we love and not one other thing...well, except taking out the garbage maybe.  I'm there.

Someday I hope to be good enough with my art that people might want to put it on their wall.  Or other photographers use it for inspiration for their own work.  I'm working on a body scape book so maybe I'll generate a little income from that.  But frankly, the joy of knowing someone is enjoying my art is infinitely more important to me.

For the models and hair stylists and makeup artist and designers who have and will be working with me, thank you!  Without your talents and ideas my art would be very limited indeed.  Thank you all and I hope we work together for many years to come.  I assume you are wanting the same outcome...art.

The other part of photography I truly love is showing others what I may have learned that may enhance their experience.  One on one workshops are amazing and I love the personal sharing that comes with that.

So, bottom line is...

If you come to me and want a family shoot, or a baby, or a dog, of senior pictures, or a wedding, or your gold fish shot, don't be offended if I thank you for thinking of me but I decline.  It's not personal, it's just not what I do.

I hope you all get to that point in your life where you can let your heart lead you to your joys and leave logic and the need to make money behind.  Meanwhile, if you have any ideas for creating some art with me, most certainly chat with me about it.  THAT is what I do!

Have an amazing life!!

Slight course correction

The life of an artist is constantly changing.  Art is a reflection of feelings and desire.   Those are required to create art.  The art created under yesterday's sun was wonderful.  But today the air seems fresher, the flowers more fragrant, and the sun just a little brighter.  Art will change with the new day. I started doing photography as just something to do after I retired.  I fell in love with it, and I sucked at it.  Then I started playing, learning, enjoying what I could create, and everything started changing.  It's not just something to do anymore.  It's something I HAVE to do!  The joy of sitting back after a special shot comes to life and feeling it stir my heart is like a drug.  A runner's high.

Some might say I still suck at it.  Don't care.  I love it.

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But, as I said, the life of an artist is always changing.  My love for the art is over powering any desire to do photography that others want.  I don't feel I have to do weddings, family pictures, or any of the 'typical' photography.  I just want to create.  Make my art.  Learn.  Excel.  Grow.

So, don't be shocked when I turn down the opportunity to shoot, even for money.  If it's an artistic project you are bringing to me I'll have a rate but at least I'll be loving it because it's art.  If it's anything else I do know some of the best photographers in Arizona and can get you connected for what you want.

That leaves me to my final point.

If you want to model for me.

To be totally creative requires a model or models that are totally comfortable with everything.  Looks that are not flattering, or pretty.  Dark, bright, colorful, black and white, implied, nude, no makeup, outlandish makeup, whatever comes to mind or what idea is being created at the time.  So, if you are someone who enjoys my art and wants to be a part of it, keep in mind that I expect you to be comfortable with whatever we need to do for any given concept.  It's always classy of course, but I need a canvas that has no limits.

Creative juices...with pulp

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Being moody doesn't make you an artist. But almost certainly an artist will be moody. And by artist I mean anyone who creates. Writers have writers block, painters may sit in front of a canvas for hours just staring. Closer to home, a photographer may sit and stare at their last shoot and can't see anything they want to edit.

On good days the juices are flowing, planets are in line, wine is just the right year, something. Something clicks and you wake up and can't wait to get to it. Paint flies on the canvas, words flow like water, or Photoshop is so busy your computer fan is on high. The problem is, we can't control what days will be creative. We can't put a finger on the trigger for the same reason we can't control or really predict the weather. A lot of things can stop the juices and other things give it a fist full of pulp to give you special days.

The thing that keeps me sane during the down times is knowing it happens. It's not the end, it's how it works. Of course you should worry because, as we all know, if you worry about something it never happens.

I have found that the best way to come back strong is to accept the down days and go off to do something that's mindless or at least not creative in the same way as my photography.  This is often when I come up with new ideas.  Write them down for a juicer day.  The more I accept those days the stronger the creative days seem to be.

I also have plenty of my favorite images hanging on the wall or popping up on screens to remind me that yes...I'm a creative...maybe just not today.

'Breaking Bad' habits

The break

After taking a couple of weeks off from shooting over the holidays I discovered something interesting about just how I dived back in.  It was different.  In some ways drastic.

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I've always been one to stand back once in a while and look at how something is being done and try to think of a better way, faster way, or a way that might come up with better results.  It's almost always a fruitful exercise that doesn't take much work.  Although a few face/palm V8 moments happen when you consider how wrong you might have been doing something.  That just makes you consider what else to look at.

During the break I also sold a Canon 7D I wasn't using much and, to be fair and diligent, I found a program to give me the shutter count on my cameras.  I found the 7D had far more shutter activations than I thought and I dropped the price I sold it at to be fair.  It's when I checked the 6D and found 102,000 activations in just a little over a year that got me thinking.  It's not that I'm now stingy with my shots BUT I do consider not wasting as many.

So, back in the studio and here's what I found different and interesting.  Not all conscious efforts.

  • The actual time in studio dropped to about an hour for the shoots.  Typically they were 2-4 hours.  I'm sure this will vary, but after doing a couple in an hour and getting some wonderful shots in that time, and 4-5 sets, I'm thinking less time certainly doesn't mean less good shots.  The thinking between sets accelerated with ideas of how to change up the lights and get the looks I wanted from the unique faces I was working with.
  • All black and white.  This is something I'd played with a bit on and off but never for entire shoots.  In the past I used it so I could see the lights and darks and how shadows fell easier.  Of course I shoot in RAW so it's not really B&W, but what we see on the camera back and iPad review was all in B&W.  I now do that exclusively unless the shoot is about the color and then, naturally, I shoot in color.
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  • I'm doing far more directing and paying closer attention to those little things that make a shot look odd.  Elbow placement, hands, the wayward strand of hair.  I stop, fix them, and then shoot.  Instead of 20-30 shots I do 5-10.  I can see the slight annoyance with the models who like to strike a bunch of poses, but they learn very fast to give me their best first.  I expect I'll tell them that from now on and get them really thinking when I raise the camera up to shoot.
  • As a result of these slight changes, my shot count has come down 25-35% to usually less than 300.  Since I don't shoot every day it's still a drastic reduction from the 6D over the year. (BTW, 102,000 shots would be 280 shots a day for 365 days)

I think it's always a good idea to morph your techniques once in a while.  It can change our perspective and even the outcome.  As an artist this is something that should be constant in your life.

Enjoy!  And please feel free to comment.

Learning photography...

That hard first step

Doing anything new is always exciting and a big pat of that is learning everything you can about it.  If you are passionate about anything it's best to know all you can to enjoy it to the fullest.  Day one is the hardest.  You don't even know what you need to know.  Kinda' hard to ask questions at that point.  This is where curiosity and a lot of time comes in.  You have to understand the tools first.  What does every button on the camera so and how does it change the picture you are taking.  At first you don't have to know everything perfectly, just that they are there and what they do.  Later you'll have a need and you'll at least know it's possible and revisit exactly how.

Same with learning things like Photoshop and Lightroom.  Don't learn exactly what buttons to push to get a certain thing to happen.  UNDERSTAND what that function is...and then generally remember how to get to it.

The reason I really push the generalization of knowledge over button by button exact process is that it's very limiting and much easier to learn by feel.

The camera

To someone new to their camera there are SO MANY buttons and menu items.  Heck, even I don't know all of the features of my camera and this is 4 years into it.  The manuals are NOT the place to learn about your camera.  They tend to tell you specific things and assume

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ultimatecanoneos2

you know why you'd need that.  Setting the shutter speed or fStop is, as you might guess, very important.  The manual will tell you how.  But not WHY you might set one at f8 and the other at 1/200 of a second.  If you know the WHY and how those functions work in your camera it'll make more sense.  It's more like learning by knowing how something works rather then memorizing buttons and thinking that's all you'll need to know.

It's a bit like a painter with his pallet.  Knowing the colors is one thing.  Knowing how to mix them to get exactly the right shades for a flower is another that doesn't come from exact measurements but from gut feeling from just doing and knowing what results have been in the past.

If you know your camera, and that comes from a hundred hours of pointing, playing, experimenting, and shooting everything that moves or doesn't move, then you have a tool you can walk into a situation with and know exactly what to do to get the shot you want.

I guess the point is, a single class isn't going to make you an expert.  But it CAN show you things you can do and give you those elusive questions you didn't know you had.  Now you'll know what you want to learn.

Post processing

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IMG_8176-1

There are a few folks out there that insist that, in order to be great, you need to be able to take perfect pictures and not have to do anything to them to make them better right out of the camera.   More power to them.  I see them as coming from two groups.  One works very hard to make a shot look like reality with great lighting, and the other who are just to lazy to learn post processing.  Frankly, I'm not much of a fan of reality.  I'm an artist.  And I can't think of any camera that takes pictures the way I want them to be when I'm finished.  And even if you are a wedding, or senior photographer, you'd better clean up that shot.  People want to see themselves as they think they look, not with that pimple that emerged on their noggin that morning. Back to the point.  Learning by doing and feeling and not by keystroke and menu by menu memorization is the best way, in my opinion, of learning software.  Learn what it CAN do and not how to do it.  Anyone can figure out how.  It's knowing it can that is what you need to remember.

So, learning Lightroom or Photoshop, or any of the computer tools should be a matter of learning what it can do, not exactly HOW to do it.  Think about it, if you didn't know what it can do the how isn't important.

The other very important reason to learn all you can in all aspects of photography is that your personal style will develop from those skills.  When people can recognize your pictures from others you will then have a marketable product.

If you take one of my classes expect to walk away with, 'Wow, I know what I want to go practice and develop!'  I won't let you take a bunch of step by step notes because you'll leave not knowing what you can really do.  Makes little sense.

Of course, I give classes.  I highly recomend the one-on-one classes.  Learn more in the 'Learning Photography' part of this site.

Who's in charge here?!?

You Da Boss

In every shoot there needs to be a leader.  If it's a commercial shoot there is an art director running the show.  This is, no doubt, less than 1% of the shoots taking place on any given day.  Most shoots are Trades and of those many are for fun and practice.

We will be talking about those trade shoots.

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In every shoot someone needs to be in charge, someone who is watching it all and looking for opportunities to get a great shot.  This is not to say there shouldn't be collaboration of ideas.  Some of my best work came from the creative minds of others.  This is a good time to point out that the sooner you can surround yourself with the best makeup and hair talent the better.  It's always a mix of everyones style that make a shoot rock.

In any endeavor that involves a group of people there has to be someone guiding the group.  I think there are many reasons this needs to be the photographer.

The photographer has the rights to the images.   Why would the photographer allow a shoot to get out of hand and head in directions he or she knows are pictures they don't want or need?

There is only one person who can see what your camera sees, you, the photographer.  You can see how the light is hitting the scene, what angles don't have a telephone pole sticking out of someone's head, and can move to get just the right framing.  No one else can see what you can.  That puts the entire responsibility on you to take the time to think, look, and imagine what can be done in any given situation to get that shot.  Everyone else is counting on YOU to do just that.

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And, last but far from least, your reputation is on the line.  You are only as good as your last shoot.  The only direction you want to go is up.  Better.  More creative.

Democracy

I never hesitate to try something, my idea or someone else's on the set.  Some of what I thought were not stellar ideas turned out to totally rock.  And some turned out to be, well, not stellar ideas.

But I always call the shots.  Pun intended.  My camera is down at my side most of a shoot.  I have to see it in my head, then see it form up with the lights, and THEN I bring the camera up and start capturing it.  The constant nagging of that little voice asking, "Is there a better angle?", "How's the lighting look?" is always there.

Failure is an option

 To many times in the past I've sat down to go over a shoot at my workstation late at night, after all is shot and everyone has gone home to find myself saying, "What the hell is this!" or "What was I thinking?!?"

Failure is an option you can avoid.

So, now I'm also thinking about what I'm putting on that memory card and how my job will be to create from it.  If I shoot crappy work there is nothing Photoshop is going to help me out of.

All the more reason why YOU have to be in charge of a shoot.  Everyone is counting on YOU to bring out amazing shots from all the effort being put into it.  YOU are most likely the most experienced of the group.  You know your skills and limitations.  You know what you can do with that shot in post.

Say NO when the little voice tells you to

 One last thing, if you haven't guessed it yet.  Say NO when that's the answer.  Say this isn't working when it's not.

The finesse in saying no or this isn't working and not hurting anyone's feelings is a bit of a bedside manner and important to keep the creative energy and excitement high.  For me it's usually something like 'that's a great idea but I can't get the angle or lighting to make that one rock'.  I guess I take the responsibility of a failed idea on myself so it's not an issue for anyone to feel bad about, and then move to the next set quickly to keep it rolling.  After all, there are no bad ideas...except around cliffs and rail road tracks.

Just remember, the photographer is in charge of a shoot.  Period.  As the captain you are the one that's going down with the ship if it sinks.  It's on you.

There are times you CAN lay down on the job though....

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For satisfaction or just fun?

Motives

 Everyone has a motive for being a photographer.  For some it's obvious.  For some, not so much.  I find myself admiring the photographers that are in it for the satisfaction of creating something.  Generally something artistic.  Even wedding photos or new born shots can be amazing art.  Of course, there are photographers that spend hours just taking pictures without giving the slightest thought of how the light on the subjects look.  They don't learn lighting.  And their finished product, in my opinion, isn't much better than those cell phone shots.  These are the photographers where I just can't put my finger on why they shoot.  Don't get me wrong, as long as they are having fun I'm good.  Not judging, just wondering.

I think photography is very different from 20 years ago when there were far fewer cameras.  I think it's actually easier to stand out with art than ever before.  With the flood of cameras in cell phones and social media giving us those wonderful pictures of food, cats, and selfies it makes a great photo stand out even more.  In my opinion.  There may be a thousand times more photos out there but there certainly isn't even ten times more art.

String Light Test
String Light Test

My motive is to create artistic photos.  Art touches the mind, heart, or both.  It can bring out an emotional response.  A gasp, a tear, a smile.  That is what I shoot for.  Often I only make someone tilt their head and squint...and sometimes scratch it.  You never know if others are going to love, hate, or scratch.

In order to be creative and get results that don't look like yesterday's or last weeks, you always have to think about what might be interesting to try.  It might fail, but even failures usually lead to other ideas that work wonders.  Everything from finding an old wooden ammo box in the alley (thank you Linda!) to getting an email from an electronic parts/gadget store.  They can and should trigger a curiosity of how something you see can help you create something interesting.

Experiment

 The above shot of Caitlan with a light fiber going around her face was a last minute test shot to play with something I found for sale in an email.  Well, it was a 'LIGHT' after all and that's what we paint with in photography, right?  And even when I shot it I wasn't sure the test worked...until I got it in the software and started to play and this shot emerged out of the darkness.  Worth playing?

IMG_2606-Edit-1
IMG_2606-Edit-1

And sometimes it's a test shot turned art.  I was testing the lighting and normally I'd have Cassandra have her feet up to catch more curves.  I told her to relax and I kept adjusting until I got the lighting I wanted.  Then we did all the shooting of legs up and other body scape work.  When I went to edit I found a set of legs making as straight a line as a female can make and messed with it until it turned into some art I'm really proud of.  It was a test.  I was playing.

Think

 If the pictures you take today look like the ones you took last month, or last year, your motive might be just taking pictures for the fun and not the satisfaction.  If it's for fun you can bet your pictures will look the same in 5 years.

Think about lighting.  Always!  Do something different by thinking of options.  Let your mind wander.  Set your camera down often and think about how you might improve or change up the lighting to give you something outside your comfort zone.  Hell, what's a comfort zone!?!

Enjoy!

Compositing...easier than your think

Lately I've been doing a lot of compositing.  I've seen it done for years and I've played with it in the past and I wasn't very happy with the end results much of the time.  Like anything else, it's a 'season to taste' thing and someone's style may or may not be interesting to you.  I'm starting to like my own work and that's all anyone can expect...liking ones own work. It's not as hard as it seems.  There are plenty of tutorials on how to select a person out of a picture and then paste them into another with a background.  I found what I like to do it differently and for me it looks more natural.

Masking is important.  You need to know how to do that for sure, and it's way simpler than you'd think.  By the way, when you learn masking you usually use black to paint in and white to reverse it.  Consider that a gray in the middle can also paint in with built in opacity.  It's that kind of playing that gives you options and options are good.

Midnight slinger
Midnight slinger

Here's an example.

Above: The fog was in the original shot...much easier that way.  Obviously the contrast and saturation was bumped and a little liquify was used to add motion to her hair and coat.  I masked the background from a layer but I didn't select her and place her in as is usually done.  I actually did a simple brush in so that her hair wasn't choppy.  I find this is often a preferred way for me because I can let a little of the color of a background fad into the skin or clothes around the edges.  For example, if there is fire in the background, having a little bleed into an arm on the edge shows a bit of light reflection and adds a LOT to the look.  You can also not blend in where there should be a shadow and it works well.  Main thing is to play and have fun.

Mermaid
Mermaid

If you look close at Katrina's left arm and some of her belly you'll see that I intentionally blushed some background ocean in and it looks like a fade.  This is because mermaids aren't really real...or so they say.  So I wanted to add some subliminal wistfulness to the shot.

I simply use a brush and carefully run around the subject and with a fuzzy edge on the brush I've found I can get close to the skin and it looks fine.  Sometimes you might see a slight dark edge were I didn't get that close but unless you are looking for it it's not that noticeable to the casual viewer.  The story should keep their minds eye on the pictures as a whole and not the details.

I don't use a lot of layers.  When I have the composition pretty much like I want it I might use a layer adjustment to make the brightness match like I want.  There is a neat way to make an adjustment layer only affect the single layer under it.  When it's good I flatten it and then start playing with filters.  Usually the NIK Color Effects Pro.

Once done I save it back to Lightroom where I hit the Basics one more time adjusting contrast, shadows, and whites and blacks to get the look I like.

Enjoy.  Play.  And you know where I am if you have questions.