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.


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.  


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.  


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.

The inadvertent penis...

Yeah, bet that title got you wondering.

This episode is for models and specifically about posing.

First, let's look at an example of what we'll be talking about here.  And this isn't to give one of my favorite models a hard time...she and I have done some wonderful work together.  But she did give me a perfect example so I'm going to use the shot.  Sorry Marcela, love you.  ;)

Now, if you haven't seen the topic of this blog in this shot then, well, look harder.

When a shoot is going on, and everyone is doing their job, there is a lot going happening.  The photographer is looking at the lighting, the general pose, and all of the technical things to get it exposed correctly.  There is a reason everyone is exhausted at the end of a shoot.

The model, if she's doing it right, will have far more to do than look pretty and say cheese.  (Okay, actually, if you have her say cheese stop reading right now)

The model needs to consider what the photographer is seeing from his or her perspective.  That means everything from the tilt of the head to the tips of the fingers to tips of the toes.  Everything.  The angles of everything and what they should look like to the photographer.

Once the model is in a pose, he or she should make only small changes every time the flash goes off.  This makes it easier to consider how things might look to the photographer with slight changes instead of drastic ones.  What can be seen and what can't.  Or, in some cases, shouldn't be seen.  

When I'm shooting my art, the most important element to me is the shape of a woman's body.  The lines of the hip, the legs, the curve of her back, and the way the light hits those areas.  When I do that type of shoot it seems I'm constantly asking the model to move their arms to not take away from those lines.  In artistic nudes it is super important that everything is exactly right for the art to show through.  In other types of photography is just slightly less important.  

Models should always keep in mind how they look to the camera.  It's not easy.  But it's your job.  Every photographer I know will show the model the results from the last set of images taken on the back of the camera.  Take that moment to look close at your pose and how you look to the camera.  Not just how your face looks.  Yeah, we know what you are looking at really.  The photographer won't mind if you sit and take your time looking closely at the poses and even try some over again if you see where you can improve.  Do it.

If you don't do any photography as a model you might want to take some time, and a  willing friend, and using your phone, do a mini photoshoot with them.  This would give you a chance to consciously spend time behind the camera and get a feel for what someone looks like from that vantage point.  It seems silly because I'm sure you've taken hundreds of shots before, but this time, think about exactly what you are seeing.  Even direct the person some to get an idea.  It will most certainly help your thinking as a model in front of the camera.

And just maybe there will be fewer inadvertent penises in the shots.

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.


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

Model of perfection

Thinker 2.0
Thinker 2.0

As I've stated many times here, I am an artist first and photographer second.  But I certainly don't work alone.  Models bring me their talents in the form of poses and of course the beauty their DNA has given them. The most important part of being a successful model actually comes from a mind set more than anything else.  Even more important than DNA.

A model that is confident in herself is 90% of the way to perfection.  Knowing her beauty, what angles look best, knowing how to move between shots and just how much, makes her a work of art before the camera is pointed her way.  That self confidence is key.  This is especially true in models who shoot implied nude or artistic nude.  When there is nothing to hide behind, nothing to pose against, it's just her and a blank white studio, it could be very scary.  If the confidence is there, it's easily seen because there is no hesitation, just a desire to give the best performance.

Another key ingredient is trust.  Total and complete trust in the photographer and support staff.  Trust that we are all there for the same thing.  The perfect images.  Without the trust no amount of confidence can overcome the moment of mediocrety.  A lack of trust can actually sand down the confidence until it's impossible to continue.

Self confidence AND trust.

Yet another mark of a perfect model is one that is always, and I mean ALWAYS, thinking about how she looks to the camera.  She's always considering that angle.

When I have a model standing sideways to me and I ask them to spread their legs a bit more, a good model will step forward with one foot instead of actually spreading her legs more.  She knows that it's from MY vantage point I need her legs to move apart.  This tells me she is thinking about what she looks like to me...very important.

I feel every model should have the confidence in her own beauty to do whatever modeling she wants.  This doesn't mean she has to model nude, but she should have enough self confidence, enough self esteem, to be able to do that if she wanted to.  Even in runway modeling the same extreme self confidence needs to be there.

The trust issue is a little harder when it's a first time shooting with a photographer.  That trust comes with time and more often with the first good shots.  The trust will show in the finished work.


So, in a nut shell, modeling has very little to do with what dress you wear or how white your smile is.  It's work, hard work, and rewarding work, when it's done to perfection.

When a model comes to a shoot with me I always hope that she's confident in herself, in the work will will accomplish, and be comfortable enough to do it all naturally and have fun with it.

I'm always asking everyone on set if they are having fun.  It's not really a question as it is a reminder.  We've heard all our lives that if we are doing something we love it's not work.  We should all be enjoying the shoot and getting the art we expected...or better yet, better than we imagined.

So, come prepared with plenty of self confidence.  And trust this photographer that if you work with me we'll get some great art out of the shoot.

The three C's of a great shoot

At first it was a bit annoying when I went into a shoot with a preconceived idea of what I wanted and others would make suggestions.  Of course, there is a time you need to have a focus on a specific look and idea for a client.  But if you are shooting for the fun of seeing what you can do and honing your skills, this is what I've found makes a great deal of difference in the outcome.

Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity

A photo shoot isn't a good place to be shy.  If you have an idea, speak up.  And no, not all of your or anyones ideas will be used, but often even a lacking idea sparks a thread of thought that creates better ideas.  I often let the makeup artist and hair stylist chat with the model and see what they have always wanted to try.  If they come up with an idea everyone is happy with we head in that direction.

For example, this mermaid shoot wasn't something I would have actually considered.  I'd shot for 4 years and avoided the seemingly required 'mermaid' shoot but they wanted to do it and I figured it was a good place to get creative.  So sure.  It became a lighting challenge where I had to envision the final scene.  My creativity contribution.  This, for me, was a LOT of fun even though the model had to take my word for it.  Trust is good.


So, with some communications the ideas flowed.  Everyone was creative in their own way.  The makeup artist, Erika, brought bras with shells and pearls glued to them and did some neat little scale type patterns on Katrina, the model. While they were doing makeup I started digging around in the prop room looking for things we could use and found a net hammock that worked just fine.  And, of course, Katrina did some wonderful under water type poses with my explanations of how she will be in the water with light from above.

All three Cs were using full steam in this shoot.


In the pirate example above Rebecca and Raygan, her mother, collaborated with Rubii, the makeup artist/hair stylist and came up with the idea of a ship in her hair.  I had the ship!  So, we made it happen and it came out wonderful.  Another very creative day indeed.

Looking over any very creative shoot I've done it was full of communication between all involved and that lead to energetic collaboration in every aspect.  Everything from hair and makeup to lighting to props to what music we listen to while we create.

Then again, it's those three Cs that set the mood and it becomes fun and creates the energy in the shoot.  And the energy is very important.

Acting or modeling...

Yeah, that's a trick title.  They should be one in the same.


We see a lot of actors that would not make for interesting models because it's their presentation, their passion, their character presented 'in motion' that makes them stellar in their art.

Models have a slight advantage...or disadvantage depending on how you look at it.  One frame.  One walk down the runway.  Just a moment to express that emotion, that glare, that slight smile, the tiny tilt of the head.  As small a time frame that emotion or look has to be, it's still very important that it happens.

I'm not saying that every shot has to look like a Shakespeare tragedy.

It can be as simple as taking a lot of deep breaths, shaking your body like a wet dog to relax, run around the block once if it's fitness, something other than the OMG the camera is pointed at me look.

Models I love to work with know their jobs.  And yes, we all have jobs in a shoot.  Mine is easy...light it, compose it, and know what I want.  If I tell them what I'm looking for I can go back to my job and they just flat out make it happen!

Tips for modeling...

  • When asked to move something like your head or hand, do it ever so slightly.  Then the photographer can say a little more, a little more, until it's where they want it.  If you make sweeping changes it's VERY hard to get together on where we want you.
  • While you are posed you have two things to be working on.  Think about everything from the expression on your face, the tilt of you head to were your hands are to how your toes are poised.  And, you have to think about what you plan to do after the flash.  The next pose should be just slightly different.  Again, no Kung Fu sweeps.
  • Always know where the light is coming from.  It's not always obvious and don't be afraid to ask.  There is nothing wrong with asking to see a test shot so you can do your job better.

Have fun!!  Make art!

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.

Planning a shoot..or not

So, how much planning goes into a shoot?  Well, if it's for a client there is plenty of planning.  After all, there's a goal in mind and someone is paying to get it.

How about a basic one-on-one model and photographer shoot?  How much planning is to much and how much is not enough?

Here's how I do it.

First, I consider who I'm shooting.  Hair color and style, eye color, skin, freckles, dimples, just about everything about the persons face goes into the first pass in my mind.  What can I do to make those best features stand out and make it a shoot about them?  People should look at the pictures and either see that I brought something out in the person that they know, or sometimes even better is to show someone in a way no one has ever seen them.  Both are wonderful fun!


So, there are several models I've worked with for over a year now and have over a dozen shoots with.  Often we just plan a day and time and get together to shoot.  Very little planning other than some different wardrobe discussed.  We know each other and know the looks and styles we have to bring to the shoot.  We'll just use the energy and imagination of the moment to come up with something on the fly.  It never fails to be fun, exciting, and far more creative than we expected.  Always.


These two shots are a good example.  Dawn and I have plenty of shoots together.  Probably more than anyone else.  Yet we get together and the ideas start to flow and we knock out a fine memorable shoot.  These two pictures are from one such shoot and there were many other looks in just that one shoot.

That, to me, is a key.  In about 3 hours we did 13 different looks...or what I call sets.  495 images total.  Mixing it up and moving from one look to another can be fun and it keeps the energy flowing in a shoot.  Then, when the shooting is done, I have a full bag of different looks to work with to create my art.

So, bottom line and advice that people might try....don't plan so much.

Do you want to play in a sand box or a beach?

Stand back and put the camera down

We love to shoot. It's a passion and we certainly don't do it often enough.  We tend to want to just start shooting away as soon as we have someone playing and posing in front of our camera.  It's a natural instinct.

Then we get back to the computer and upload the images.  We go through them and often think...if we'd payed attention to all those needles in the snow we might have cleaned them up before laying her in the middle of them to shoot.  Or if the light had been just a little more to the left and down her eyes would have really popped.  It's to late.  Sure, some of the shots are going to be fine.


This is when you have to ask yourself...is FINE what I was after?  I hope not.  I doubt you are reading this is average is what you are after.

I have a habit of stopping often and just standing there and looking at the model, the lighting, and the overall setting.  Yeah, it's a little odd and I usually tell the model to relax while I think this through.  After all, I don't want them to think I'm just staring at them and they are awaiting direction from me at this point.

So, stop.  Set the camera down.  Look at the light, where it's coming from, how it will hit the model, and envision what the end shot will look like.

Envisioning the end shot is the hard part, at least at first.  Once you have experience you can look at something you take right on the back of the camera and have a fairly good idea of what you can do with it.  I've found more and more I look at a picture and get excited about the possibilities of the shot when everyone else looks and doesn't see what I see.  Often my finished shots don't look very close to the original so in my case it's even more important to look and imagine what I can do with it.  So, it's slightly more important to get it right...to take my time.  Unless the sun is going down there's time.


Don't get into the 'spray and pray' mode of shooting.  If you have a model that poses well from shot to shot, get everything working right and then let him or her go through 6-12 of their expressions and then stop.  I do often show them the first test shots to let them know what the lighting is like and how to angle their heads the best to take advantage of the lighting.  Then let them play as you shoot.  Those will be great shots.

So, take your time.  Enjoy being creative.  Train your eye to look at the shot in the view finder for a while before hitting that shutter button.

One thing I've done, even in the studio, is to wear the R strap with my camera.  Then, when I want to think, talk with the model, whatever, the camera is at my side.  And it's not far away in those rare and fun moments in time when a perfect shot hits you in the face and you need to get it quickly.

To pose or not to pose...let's pose that question

The hard part about photographing a person is getting a great shot of a pose that doesn't look like a pose.  It's not easy to do.  Actually, it's damned hard to do and very often overlooked.  And it makes the difference between a great shot and a snap shot.

Now we know the first 30 minutes of a shoot is often a warm up period and little good comes out of it as far as a good shot.  So, use this time to chat with the subject as you are testing gear and getting some lighting ideas.  See how they change when the camera is pointed at them.  If their eyes get bigger, or they put on a pout, or flip their hair back every time...well, that's a good sign you have some work to do.  Subjects who actively change when the camera is pointed at them are not going to look natural.  And it's that natural look that makes a shot interesting.


I think the problem is that some think a picture isn't supposed to echo life.  It's supposed to have the subject looking different somehow.  What makes a great shot isn't an unnatural pose, or a big smile, or some out of place prop.  It's the look in the eyes, the definition of the light coming across their body, and that sense of voyeurism of being able to stare at someone without anyone feeling uncomfortable.

The natural pose should simply say 'you can look at me' and not 'HEY, look at me!" 

So, when I point my camera at my subject I watch close to see how they react.  That's my job to get something special, catch them in candid moments, any split seconds that would be moving enough to stare at for a bit.

I don't shoot smiles often.  When I do they are natural...I never ask a model to smile.  There is a difference.

Like everything else in this or anyone's blog, it's an opinion.  It's the way someone else sees some topic and you can agree or disagree.  Everything can be a learning experience if you have an open mind.

Focus your mind and camera


I'm sure you all run into this when shooting. Between poses the subject smiles a certain way, tilts their head into the light just so, looks down, up, or flips some hair that fell...and yeah, THAT was, or would have been, an amazing shot.

I've learned to simply glance at the back of the camera once after a lighting change to make sure it's what I want. After that, it's keeping my mind and eye (and camera) focused on the subject ready to catch that impossible to plan shot. The one candid shot that really gives the viewer a glimpse at the real person. I use the words 'freeze' and 'stay' a lot. And I usually just give the subject some painfully general instructions on the pose. If the lighting is super critical I'll share on the back of the camera what the shots are going to look like so they can plan their looks to the lights. Other than that, as long as I'm not battling the DITH look (deer in the headlights) it usually goes very well.

I now average 400-700 shots in a 2-4 hour shoot. Some would still look at that as 'Spray and Pray' but it's not. I did that a lot when I was new so I know what that is. No control and you have no idea what you have when you upload. When I look at my uploads there are very distinct sets and multiple shots were trying to catch that smirk, wink, hair falling in the face, that shot that makes it real and interesting, or just fun. It gives the subject the freedom to play a bit in that set.

So, next time you notice you are spending a lot of time looking into the back of your camera, or sharing those shots with the subject, remember that you are loosing focus.