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.

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!!

This game we play

There are times, very rare and brief, that I ask myself, what am I doing this for?  My quick and first answer is always 'for my art'.  That seems like an easy out.  I know that a lot of the reason is that the self esteem and pride that everyone involved in a shoots get when the finished product is presented is really the true value of all the effort.

The question is still looking for an answer that is more tangible.  For me, it's going to be publishing and promoting classes I expect.  For you, well, you should be asking the question and I'd hope the answer is at least the top two I mentioned.  Of course, if you are doing this to put bread on the table...well, can't think of a more rock solid and easy answer.  Of course, if your answer is that you just like to be around the young ladies....enjoy, but stop reading my blogs.  I doubt someone with that reason reads photography blogs anyhow.

Tayler amazing model and regular in front of my camera

So, after 5 years of shooting, learning, traveling all over, and even wearing out some camera gear, it's time to be more serious about what I do and why.  Not TO serious mind you.  The fun of creation can be stifled pretty easily by something as serious and seriousness.

I think, besides publishing, it's time to frame and show some of my work somewhere.  Maybe at an art festival?  Don't know.  I'm taking suggestions.

Meanwhile, along with that question of 'why' is that continuing pull to improve and excel over my own previous work.  I'm starting to find myself editing a few images and at the end of the effort I sit back and grumble that it's not good enough.  That's starting to reflect in my shooting style by spending more and more time thinking about a shot, framing the shot the best way, and taking fewer shots.  It's painful in a way, but wonderfully enlightening in another.

Painful because I'm my own worst critic, enlightening in that I'm turning down some of my own work that a few months ago would have excited me and been worthy of my watermark.

So, taking some time to think about more tangible options for my art as well as pushing the learning curve and refining my style more.  At least that last part is an on going effort I tend to love.

Inna B-g - wonderful traveling fine art model

Inna B-g - wonderful traveling fine art model

Push your limits and always stand back once in a  while to see where you are at and nudge the wheel to take you where you want to end up.  Or at least to the next 'stand back' place.

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'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.


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.

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.

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 - 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.


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.


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.


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.


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!"



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


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.


Style is the key to success


In any profession that has a creative element, the only road to success is having a style of your own.  Without it, you are like the 98% that have no style and compete strictly on price and quantity. Although this is true with many professions we'll talk about photography...naturally. First let me qualify the term success.  To some it's a comfortable living (or lavish) from the income of selling your art or services.  To some it's the feeling of being creative.  Where money isn't the driving force.  Of course, both are admirable excuses to getting out of bed and making things happen today.

Those with no style will tell you things like, "I like to get it perfect in the camera.", or "I never retouch my photos".  What they are really saying is, "I don't want a unique style, that takes work and a lot of learning."   They are usually the same people who compete at the low end of the pricing scale because their work looks exactly like everyone else's.  The only reason they sell their product is because it's cheaper than the next guys.

So, what is this thing called STYLE and were can I buy some.

Yeah, sorry, that's just not going to happen.  First, you really do need to get away from thinking your camera has the ability to make a perfect picture.  I do know a few unique wedding photographers who have some amazing glass and know exactly how to get a fairly perfect shot pretty often.  But, they take those same shots day after day.  And they still warm them up, crop them, or do some other things to make them 'theirs'.

Figure it's going to take a year or more for your style to develop.  That will include a lot of 'out of box' experiences.  You need to venture into the world of Lightroom and Photoshop and have a good computer system to let you work without a lot of updates and delays.  And a comfortable chair.  Some good music.  Turn off your Facebook and be ready to focus.  There are plenty of great videos on how to do pretty much everything with any program.  In Adobe's case their site has plenty and you can subscribe to for very well made and detailed videos on everything.  Creative Live is also a wonderful source for learning.

With all this learning you'll be doing you might be asking yourself, how does THIS give me a style of my own.  If I'm learning all the same things as everyone else how does that make me unique and give style?  This is the interesting part.  It's a bit like walking into a kitchen full of every kind of food.  If you go to make a meat loaf the chances are very good that your meat loaf will taste very different than the last 10 people who made one.  Same ingredients.  But different results.  Here is where the YOU comes into the mix and creates a style.

Once you learn dodge and burn, layers, masking, building your own actions, and probably hundreds of other little nuances of Photoshop and Lightroom, you will start mixing them and applying them the way YOU love the look.  You will learn just how much contrast or blend of color you like and after a while you will do the same thing to the next and the next and the next.  Without specifically working on building your style you are doing just that.  No two people will do exactly the same things to any given picture and the results may or may not look close in the end.  They will never look identical.  Ever.

Don't think you are done.  Once you have a style and if it's one that sells, you may even build that into an action so it's one button to adjust that shot the way you love it.  And for many, that is the end.  They won't go farther because, well, they have found their success in the popularity of THAT style that is uniquely theirs.  From a business stand point this is fine.  Some famous greeting card artists and photographers like Andy Silvers and Ansel Adams have very specific styles that I can point to and tell you who did it.  That made them a nice living.

Those of us who see the success as what we can create art wise will probably never stop tweaking with our style by learning more all the time.  Just like how every friend and experience changes our personality just a bit and how we see life, every new thing you learn on your camera, or a software package will change, ever so slightly, your style.

Style is good.  Style is something you can't buy.  Style takes a long time to create.  Style will be who you are and no one can take that away from you.  If you want people to point at your work and that, 'Hey, that's a shot by (insert name here)!' then you'll be glad you took the time to develop your style.

Enjoy life...even that will reflect in your style!


For satisfaction or just fun?


 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.


 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?


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.


 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!?!


Perception of affordability...


The story you are about to read is true.  The names would have been changed to protect the innocent but I can't remember them anyhow.

When I was a young snap I worked for Radio Shack.  Back when they actually had radios and it wasn't a cell phone store.  It was actually a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.  I was fresh out of high school and as most my age I lived from paycheck to paycheck with usually $3 in my pocket at any point in time.

It was typical for the district manager to come spend a day in the store just observing and working with the manager.  I was not the best salesman by any means but I did pretty well.  I had no idea just how close I was being watched on this day.

At the end of the day, John (might actually be his real name), the district manager came over to chat with me as I cleaned the display cases for the next day.  He said, "I noticed you sell a lot of the $7 and $14 multi-meters."  Now, we had meters from $7 to $150 all lined up nice in the display.  He was right, I sold a ton of those puppies.  He then asked me why I didn't sell the more expensive ones.  I explained that the cheaper ones did the job for the customers needs and he agreed that they probably did.

Then we chatted about some other things going on with the company and some upcoming training and such.  Pretty typical visit.

Then, just before he left he reached in his pocket and took out a $100 bill and handed it to me.  He told me not to spend it.  Just keep it in my wallet hidden away and forget I had it.  This was a strange request and he gave no answer as to why he wanted me to do this.  But, John was a cool guy.  I just shrugged and hid it away in my wallet.


A month goes by.

John comes for his usual visit and everything went as it always did as he wandered around with the manager and they left me to care for customers.

At the end of the day we chatted again.  The $100 had been totally forgotten by me.

John then mentioned casually that he'd noticed over the last month I'd sold a lot of the $75 and $100 meters.  Since I was the one who ordered them I could confirm that we kept running out of the more expensive models now.  I found it strange indeed that the customers were, all of a sudden, buying the better meters.

He then asked, "You really don't know why you sold the better meters?"  I shook my head no.

What he said then changed my life to this day, some 40 years later.

"Dave, you sold those more expensive meters yourself.  Nothing about the customers changed at all.  They came in wanting a meter and you sold them one, plain and simple.  It was you."  Now I looked more puzzled than normal.  "Do you remember that $100 bill I gave you to hold in your wallet?"  I did.

He went on to explain that before he'd given me that bill I had very little money in my pocket.  And I just assumed people walking through the door probably didn't have much more.  It's human nature to assume that even subconsciously.  So, I would sell them meters I thought they could afford.  $7 and $14 meters.

Since John had given me that $100 bill I subconsciously thought everyone had a $100 in their pocket.  I had put it out of my conscious mind but it was there.  So, I started selling the bigger and more expensive meters because, well, everyone could afford it, right?  Sure, I still sold some $7 meters but from that point on, I sold based on what's best for the customer, not what I thought they could afford.

It's not our place to determine what others can afford.  It's up to us to provide the best product or service and price it fairly and let the customer make the choice.

And yes, you can ask me at any time to see my $100 bill.  I always have one in my pocket...and for the last 40 years.





Vanishing acts...

Okay, so, you have chatted with a model and you set a date and time for a shoot.  Now you are sitting there, camera ready, maybe a studio rented, and even a makeup artist standing by.  And....



The model doesn't show.  She doesn't answer the phone.  She unfriends you on Facebook and blocks you.  No excuse, no reason, just what we call a no show.

The photographer sits and wonders what happened.  He doubts his work for a bit wondering why this model wouldn't do everything possible to get a chance to shoot with him or her.  Then the anger at the lack of professionalism sets in.  Just common curtesy of a simple phone call or text would be all it took.  But no.  Nothing.

What probably happened here?

Well, there is no definitive answer because we are diverse human beings.  But here are some guesses and suggestions.

Realize, it will happen again.  That's a given.  Reducing that is what we need to talk about.

Part of it is youth.  Many youngsters (18-30) have time management issues.  They look into their future as far as the expiration date on the milk carton.  Well, actually, milk lasts way longer these days.  So, forgetfulness, better offers like a trip to the mall, or they find $20 in the laundry and it's party time.  It's hard to tell.

I tend to work with people I've worked with before who I have found are reliable.  Getting to that point was a rocky road.  There are still speed bumps.  Talk with other photographers and see how their experience was with a perspective model.  A good model is checking your references so why not.

When talking with the model an actual phone call the day before would be good.  If you don't have his or her phone number shame on you!!  Your fault!!  Last minute questions, answers, outfits needed, etc. is a good reason to chat.  And a human voice on the other end of the phone isn't the same as a text.  Texting and social networking is actually very de-humanifying.  It's easier to be a no show to a string of text messages than someone you have actually talked with and heard their voice.  Telling someone with your voice that you will 'be there' and then not show is a lie.  Saying it in a text and then not isn't a lie.  Well, it is, but hey, they were just talking to someone with their thumbs on their phone...that's not the same, right?

We are talking about trade shoots here.  When the model is going to make $50 per hour they tend to show up.  95% of the trade is for fun and not really a portfolio, so it's not as important to them as the photographer in most cases.  And they don't really understand the work involved in prepping for a shoot.

If, as some point in the conversation about shooting, the model starts talking about money issues, like bills, affording gas, etc., you are being asked to pay them something.  This is where you either explain that you can pay for gas, or pay them $50, or politly cancel the shoot.  They need to spend their time making ends meet by being productive.  Move along and find someone else.  Otherwise, you are asking for a 'no show' or cancel  because any other opportunity that would make them money would over ride your shoot.

If a model communicates with "yes", "sure", "perfect", "super", and other one word responses you can expect a no show.  Lack of communications is a bad sign.

Understand they have a life and life happens.  Emergencies, illness, cars that don't run all the time, job schedule changes.  Don't hold those against someone and try to reschedule.  The second time that happens I tend to move along.  Your call.

Here's hoping for no flakes...but know they will continue to happen until everything you do is a paid shoot with agency models.

Magic words - "What's your rate?"

The beginning - where we all start This installment is about the ladder we all climb in this business of fashion, photography, makeup, and modeling.  There are ways to skip some rungs and move quicker but for the most part this is how it works.


In anything we do when we first start, we are clumsy, we haven’t found our style yet.  We are hard handed on things that we will eventually have a light experienced touch.  And we haven’t worked with many people yet to learn those ropes that only come from doing it.  Photographers struggle with lighting, post production, and communicating with the models.  Models are unsure how to pose or take direction.

In every way the first year of our work is the hardest yet monetarily worthless.  But it has to happen to gain the seemingly endless skills we need to actually be worth compensation.

For everyone, to start with, it’s all about building a good portfolio.  Yes, your first pictures are going to be far less than perfect.  No matter what end of the camera you’ll be on, the first year will not look good.  Those that get into it and in a couple months get all depressed that they aren’t a world class model or photographer are amazing only in their confidence.  It takes an enormous amount of work and continued growth to get to a professional level.

An intern once asked the long time photographer how to have a beautiful portfolio.  His response was, “Take pictures of beautiful people.”  This is true.

What you’ll find starting out is that the beautiful people who are experienced know their worth and will give you their rates if you ask to shoot with them.  If your a model the same holds true with pro photographers.  They will give you rates.

So, how do you know when you are getting there?  Getting to pro level?  Ready to quote your rate?

Well, I shot for 2 years learning, practicing, shooting everyone and anyone who would shoot with me.  I was never satisfied with my results and kept trying new things and improving and developing my style.  Then one day the magic words came to me.  Someone wanted to shoot and they said....

”What are your rates?”

There you go.  Of course this isn’t a signal to stop growing, learning, tweaking your style, and improving.  But, it’s an indicator that your work now has monitory value to others and you should start charging.

You never will get to the top of the ladder though.  There will always be people who are more successful who will quote you rates to work with you.  So it gets a little more confusing but you just have to weigh the advantages.

Skipping some rungs...

If you are a model and want to jump at least to the middle here’s a quicker way to the ‘pro’ point.  You simply have to have a better portfolio than the new ‘trade’ photographers can give you.  You need a pro to take your pictures.  And yes, that means you need to invest in yourself by paying a few great photographers for their images in your portfolio.  That, in turn, will get you to a time much faster where you will also hear those magic words...”What are your rates.”

If you are a photographer the same is true.  If you want a beautiful portfolio you need to shoot those beautiful people.  Those models that know what they are doing, know how to strike a pose that rocks your shot.  You’ll need to pay those people because they are there, they are real, they are pros.  Your portfolio will shine and in a much shorter time you’ll hear the magic words asking your rate.

I’d still suggest you train with at least a few trade shoots before hitting up the pros to help your portfolio.  You still need to know how to drive before jumping behind the wheel of that race car.

Of course, if you are going on location tomorrow with a crew of 50 support people to do a million dollar shoot please disregard the above advice.  You’re there.

first 30 minutes

Have you ever noticed that the first 30 minutes of a shoot is a waste of time? Everyone involved is getting comfortable with the location, the sound of your voice, a feel for the directing and actually, in a subconscious way, the mood is being set for the rest of the shoot.

If it's a model it's a good idea to find out how long they have been modeling. And what they plan on getting out of the shoot. For example, if they want pictures to submit to an agency, don't ask them to pose in lingerie the whole time. Those are self esteem shots only. Unless it's a male model and I don't EVEN want to hear about that.

In a trade shoot the communications has to be there to make sure everyone walks away with something to show for the effort. As important, if someone is new at modeling, give them all the advice you can about posing. In a positive manner talk with them about angles, which ones are best for them, how to think through poses between flashes, how to hold their chin out, and how it's not personal when we point out that wrinkle on their side and have them stretch to take it out. (grin) If they walk away with some great pictures AND some advice and tips to consider to make their modeling just a little bit more focused and refined, it was a great shoot.

Green Jelly Bean


Here's the deal.  If you shoot models, and you are serious about your work, you will get jealous from time to time for many reasons.  It's human nature. You might get jealous when you see a model you've shot with work with another photographer who just totally nails a wonderful look.  Everyone would like their work to be the best the model has.  It's human nature.

Sometimes models get jealous when a photographer they shoot with regularly knocks out some great ideas with another model.  Even knowing that they have also shot unique killer sets with that same photographer.  It's human nature.

I've struggled with this and from my conversations with other photographers and models I'm not alone.  Whew!  We all seem to be human...

Here's the deal.  We are all growing and expanding what we know, who we know, how we do things, how to improve on what we've done, and not one of us has done it alone.  We all work together to help in each other's growth.  This is how it should be.  It's human nature.

What about that green jelly bean?  Well, personally, I acknowledge it because that's always the first step in fixing anything.  And, at least in my case, I'm more upset about being jealous than actually being jealous.  But that helps too.  I know it's dumb and selfish.

I actively encourage the people I work with, models, photographers, support, to work with as many good or great people as they can.  That's the only way they can grow.  This is how portfolios are built and careers lauched.  And that's what it's all about.  I often tell myself that what I'm doing, maybe just one shot I take, will be the one that opens the door to something amazing for that other person.  That's why we do it.  That's why I do it.

Will we still be jealous, even knowing it's silly and wrong?  Oh yeah.

It's human nature.