Light. Naturally.

There are two phrases I hear fairly often.  "I'm afraid of natural light" and "I just don't understand studio lighting".  Unless all of your work is shot in the dark, you are comfortable with at least one or the other.  Both is great.  As with anything else, the more you really understand every aspect of something, the better you are at it all.  Light is light.  Our main job as photographers/artists is to harness the light to do our bidding.

So let's look at three example of light and how I used it.

1/100 sec @ f2.8, ISO 250 using a 24-70 L lens at 46mm

You'll see the camera settings under each image.  This is just to satisfy your curiosity.  Don't make note and expect the same settings in your own unique situation.  If the sun was behind a cloud at the time I took this, a few minutes later I'd have to change something to compensate for more light as the cloud moved.  You just have to learn over time and practice to know what settings on your camera will give you what look.  It needs to become an extension of your minds eye to capture images.  I don't get technical with the composition of an image.  Other than the light meter built into the camera, I simply adjust everything else to get what I want knowing what settings will give me that look...from experience.  That's not to say you shouldn't understand the relationships between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  But, there are only three and they are pretty basic.  Knowing them is one thing.  Knowing what combination will give you whatever look you are after is another.

In the shot above I had Marcela placed next to the window and opened it only to give a fresh air feel to the shot.  The light was soft because the sun was on the south side of the home and this shot is looking north.  That lights up the background and helps blow it out.  I don't want people focusing on what species of cactus that is back there.  That's not the point of a shot.  Most of my work has a lot of bokeh in it because I use that to bring the eyes to the one thing that's in focus.  In this case, Marcela's beauty.

I did add some dodge to her to enhance the light reflecting off the bed.  This allowed me to give her back her shape in the shadows.

1/200 sec @ f2.2, ISO 100  85mm II prime

Here we went outside and I put the high sun at her back.  I don't believe in the use of reflectors myself.  It just reflects the sun right back into the model's eyes giving me the squint I'm avoiding by facing her away from the sun in the first place.  Her contrast is softer and yet more detailed by not having the blast of full sun on her.  If it was cloudy we could shoot from any direction pretty much.

So, we are looking at a speed of 200 and an ISO of 100 so basically we are running fairly slow for outdoors during midday.  The fStop is very low so I could blend the home behind her in the bokeh.  Another important use of the bokeh here is the branches directly behind her are soft and blurred so her features stand out.  Yet the branches in the same focus plane to the left are sharp and further enhance the softness that she has.  So we are using the bokeh to define her in the image by using the background effectively.

Again, a little dodging on her legs and hair and face to bring out shape and bring her face out of the shadow of her hair is used.  Black stockings always draw me to dodging because it just looks amazing.

1/80 sec @ f2.8, ISO 100 24mm using a 24-70 L lens.  Beauty dish with a 15 degree grid.

Here we are mixing natural light with a flash.  I wanted the have the windows appear in the image as a distraction in the negative space.  To light her up, and only her, I have a 22" beauty dish to my left with a 15 degree grid on it.  This gave me a very focused light that is just on her.  Of course, this allowed for the reflection to be even brighter because the piano wasn't lit up at all.  It takes some study to figure out the piano is even what it is.  The natural light coming along the side showing the curves of the piano make it evident.

The lighting position is easy to figure out by the small spot of light off her left shoulder.  That gives you an idea of how narrow the 15 degree grid can be.  I rarely use it, but this shot wouldn't have been possible without that simple modifier.

So, for those who don't think one should ever mix natural and generated light, fooey!  Light is light and it does work.  (fooey is a term I use to describe expert opinions based on lack of ability)

So, there is some of my thinking while shooting those particular images.  I'm sure Marcela was wondering if I had a clue as I was tripping over cords, opening and closing blinds, And occasionally just standing there looking around and taking in how the light was hitting everything.  An interesting side note.  Marcela is nude in this shot.  Sometimes that adds a bit of emotion to a face when they are in an odd situation.  Like pretending to play a piano in the nude.

I hope you found a morsel of inspiration here to try something you aren't used to, or a tip to help.  Comment if you did.  Or, if you have a fooey to share.

Lightroom workflow

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

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

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

Enjoy learning and I hope this helps.

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.

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.  


Ring light project

Most of the information about the ring light project is in the video.  I did forget to mention that the lights I used, LED, are 2700K so I had to set my white balance to manual and 2700 or the whole video would have been as orange as my shirt.

Always consider new ways to light a subject and have fun doing it!

As always, I'm open to any questions...just let me know below.



One of my favorite sayings, that I made up myself from years of experience goes like this:

"Always remember to backup after every crash!"

Yep, that sick feeling is either the flu coming on or your computer telling you in the unfeeling tech verbiage, "What drive?  I don't see any drive here."

Yeah, backup often or feel the pain!!

Yeah, backup often or feel the pain!!

As a photographer I take hundreds of images in every shoot.  And every shoot takes a lot of time for me, the model, or models, and any other staff.  And possibly special wardrobe or a long distance trip to get to the location.  Yeah, it's true what they say, the data is more valuable than the computer.  Especially tough today is the size of the images.  Each time I take a shot I use twice the storage space as my wife's 12meg hard drive back when we met.  (yeah, it's been a while)

So, here's what I have came up with for storage redundancy and the process for each shoot to keep it all organized and duplicated as I go along.

First, the camera.  I don't have one of the cameras that has dual cards.  If I was doing weddings or rocket launches, or anything else that just can't be done again, I'd have one of those cameras.  I'd call it imperative.  If not, I'd have a pocket full of 4gig cards and switch them out often so any one card could go bad and I'd still have most of the event.  Okay, maybe not for the rocket launch.

So, for me, the most vulnerable moment is when my entire shoot is on that one little SD card.  Freaky at times.  The very first thing I do is upload that to my computer.  Depending on just how important the shoot was, I then manually start up a back of my computer to the dedicated drive I backup to every night.  Yes, I do a nightly backup of my Macbook Pro Retina 1tb to an external 2tb USB3 drive.  I use a program called SuperDuper that makes not only a bootable backup, but it has a way to do smart backups where it only copies and delete files on the external drive so that it matches the main drive.  Much quicker and I'm not without a full backup at any time.  Rewriting over the old backup means, for a period in time, I have no backup.  Not good.  So I don't.

So, I like to edit my shoots on the internal 1tb solid state drive on my laptop.  Nice and fast and plenty of room for 10-20 shoots before I have to move them off for new shoots.

When I download a new shoot I use Lightroom and create a new catalog for that shoot.  That creates a new folder too so everything is nice and neat.  BUT, I use a feature in Lightroom Import that allows me to download to two different locations at the same time!  Yes, this is exceedingly handy!!  So, I download to my local drive and at the same time it goes to my NAS (Network Accessible Server) if I'm at home, or to a 1tb external USB3 drive if I'm away from home.  So, I automatically have the shoot in two places from the point the download is finished.


If I'm at a hotel room I make sure I place the external drive somewhere else in the room if I leave so a theft of my laptop doesn't mean I lost my shoot.  I'm still going to be pissed...just slightly less so.

My NAS is a Synology 4 drive system with four 4tb drives giving me a little over 10b of storage space.  It's connected to my network and I can access it from anywhere in the world or any computer I have, including my iPad and iPhone.  Very cool indeed.

So, since it's not connected to any specific computer it simply becomes a drive like Dropbox.  I can save to it, download from it, and it's a safe place to put shoots.

Ahhh, you probably did the math and 4x4 is 16TB, not 10TB. Well, this is something called RAID where the drive magically does something with the data so that any one drive can fail totally and I haven't lost anything.  I can even eject the bad drive, replace it with a new drive, without ever turning the system off or telling it anything.  It's actually very cool little bit of technology.  This is where my last couple years of shoots live until such time as I have wrung them out of any great shots and I move them to a single external drive for long term storage.  This makes the shoots vulnerable to loss if the drive fails, but by this time it's not nearly as important.

The only drawback to a network storage device is that I can't bring up a Lightroom catalog from a network device.  If I want to work on an older shoot I have to drag it to my desktop, do my edits, then drag it back over the old one.  It's well worth the peace of mind to have it so well stored and available to all of my machines.

Consider your storage situation. A few hundred dollars might prevent the flu like symptoms in the event of the inevitable disk crash.  All disks's just a matter of when.

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.

Imagine the light

The most fun, for me, in any shoot is playing with the light.  Be it natural, although I always have at least one light of my own, or a studio setting with an almost unlimited combination of lighting.  The process of imagining the light I want on the model or set, and then lighting it up to get exactly that look, is very satisfying to me.

Even the simplest of shots typically involves a perfect combination of light and camera exposure.  I've learned to imagine the image as I'd like to see it.  It becomes almost a game.  Making the lighting match what I imagine isn't always dead on first try of course.  Re-adjusting the light, moving it just a little, using a grid, or not, and then seeing exactly how it looks when you shoot it.  In studio it can be shocking because the ambient light is over powered by the strobes so everything could be very dark with a narrow beam on the model in the shot, but in studio everything looks fairly flat.  Modeling lights help a little but frankly, I have learned over the last 5 years to 'feel' how the light should be.

Of course, I have a light meter and sometimes use that to get my camera close to the right exposure, or to adjust the lighting up or down to be what I'm looking for based on what I want to use for an aperture.  I tend to shoot lower than observed typical.  Often down in the f1.8 and f2.8 range since I'm usually leaning towards artistic.  If it's fashion I might crank it up to f11 of course, and this is where the meter comes in handy.

When I started out I spent a LOT of time looking at ads in Elle, Playboy, and just about any magazine and often more at the ads than the content.  (The ads in Playboy...really!) I would look very close at the eyes and shadows and see just how it was lit up.  Looking at the eyes shows the highlights and often you'll actually see the octobox or ring light or even a pair of lights.  It's pretty rare that I've seen the highlights in the eyes modified to hide the lighting scheme since it's not a secret.  So, first the eyes, then look at the hair for highlights from overhead lights or even lights from behind.  Rim light on the arms and face are the other clue.

The most interesting photographers that I follow are magical with their lighting.  In their shots they are crisp, clean, and you can't really tell where the light is coming from.  I think they use a large number of lights and have learned to be so subtle with them that they wash the subject without taking away the highlights. This, indeed, is an amazing talent and something I'd love to achieve someday.

Check out Gregory Moore's model shots (his landscapes are amazing too!)

We've always known exactly how light worked starting with the first time we opened our eyes.  Now we have to control light to do our bidding.  Not a hard task, just takes a lot of practice.

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.

Creativity marks the spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this has been my experience.

Fine Art - mindset & expectations (Part3)

Wife assists
Wife assists

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

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

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

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

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

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

The model

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

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

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

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

The photographer

Wife assisting
Wife assisting

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

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

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

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

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

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

The significant other

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

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

One last thing

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

Always, always communicate!!

Back to part 1

Back to part 2

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

Fine art - 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!


Wet studio option


Shooting in a pool is fun and often rewarding, especially if you shoot at night and have the lighting right.  Water spray behind the model with a Speed Light hitting her from behind through the sparkling water is wonderful.  But pools are not often available.  And I've often wondered what it would be like to have studio lighting safely around a pool and have total control.  Indoor pools are even less available.  Sooooo..

One day I was helping Linda with some grocery shopping, now thinking of ice cream cones and pork chops, and I spied a display of lawn fun for the kids.  Yeah, you can even buy motor oil in grocery stores these days.  My mind is never far from photographic opportunities so when I spotted a rather large blow up pool I just had to investigate.

Last summer I looked for a pool that was inflatable yet tall enough to immerse a model.  No luck.  Now I'm looking at one that is exactly what I was hoping to find.  If I'd had one built for the studio this would be exactly the size.  Perfection!


I picked one up and set it up on the patio.  I didn't want to fill the thing in the studio and find out it wasn't going to hold the water.  Not good.  So, filled it up and sure enough, it started bending on one side a bit and eventually let some water out.  While draining it some I found the maximum fill line....about 6 inches below where I had filled it.  Manuals?  Who needs manuals?


So, next was to test out the sump pump.  You need one of these to drain it from the studio.  Mine needed work and after some poking at it I got it to work smoothly.  Dropped it into the pool and it sucked all the water out about as fast as it filled it.  About 25 minutes each way.


Now, to actually use it.  I planned to shoot with a black sheet in it and then a white sheet so I could see how the water reflected and what options worked best.

On the black I used only Speed Lights around the pool for both safety and to keep the lighting more specular with smaller points to reflect off the water.  On the white I assumed this wasn't really an option and I was right.  Almost no reflection when shooting at a low angle.  With white I found shooting straight down worked best AND I used studio lighting.  BUT, the lighting was attached to the beam above with zero chance to fall into the water.  If I'd wanted other studio lighting around the pool that ran from AC I would have run an extension cord from the ground fault outlet outside since that is designed to save lives with electricity around water.  SAFETY ALWAYS FIRST!

So, setting it up and taking it down hasn't really been a problem.  I use a battery operated inflator so even that part was just a bit time consuming but painless.  Other than the models freezing their bottoms everything has worked as I expected.  (and models in discomfort often have better expressions anyhow, so hey, win-win)  Now to fine tune the angles and lighting to get as much effect from having water as possible.

Oh, and bringing in the hose with a sprayer to make it rain or mist around the model was also tried and should work well in future projects.

Thank you Alanna and Cassandra for humoring this old artist.  Your goose bumps needed a workout anyhow.

It's okay, go into the light!

Before we were born we saw light.  It was pink and out of focus, but it was there.  We've had light all around us and for most people it's all about being able to just see in the dark, or it comes from the sky, or we flip a switch and we can see.  It's as natural as breathing and we take it for granted the same way. Photography is all about the light.  All photography uses it...great photography manipulates it, paints with it, makes us see what the photographer, what the artist, wants us to see.


It could be as simple as a black photo with a hint of an eye showing.  It often uses light to draw lines with the shadows to bring out a shape, a form, or lack of one.  Light is the essence of the art of photography.

If it's a bride we can wash her in warm pastels or put a baby in beautiful sunshine.  Endless options.

When I have the opportunity to share my knowledge of photography I always show how everything I do revolves around the light.  Studio lighting, location lighting for day and night, and playing with the light in all situations.  I often find myself stepping back and wondering just how I can use the light I have to make this into an interesting picture.  It's not like a math problem to me.  There are no rules.  Actually, there are plenty of rules and I break them every chance I get because I ignore them.  Knowing your lights, modifiers, and gear to a degree where you just know what they can do is all you ever need.  I light a subject with my gut more than my brain.  What is going to make the shot just crawl off the page and grab you by the ears!  Okay, maybe not that strong, but keep your eye on the shot and wonder.

So many people take pictures that are, well, just pictures.  Selfies, but using a photographer.  Sorry, but yuck.

If people look at a picture and they are moved by it.  If they wonder what the person is thinking in the picture.  If they feel what the subject is feeling then I think it was worth the time, the thought, or gut, that went into it.

When someone sees a picture I've taken of a nude or implied subject and the response is 'that's hot' then they aren't seeing what I intended at all.

I'm thinking that great photography is broken down into two groups.  People who know how to use the light to paint an amazing picture with their camera, and those that know enough about art to appreciate it for the art that it is.

If you are a photographer - know every aspect of lighting.  Period.  And you will be amazing!

The perfect picture?

One day I was driving along and the phone rang.  I pushed the button on the steering wheel and said "Hello?".  (that still sounds so scifi to me) The person on the other end introduced himself as a fellow photographer and how he was calling to help me out.  I'd posted something somewhere about how I figured out a little quirk in Lightroom and passed it along.  He'd obviously read my answer wrong and was planning to help me out of a problem I wasn't having.

Don't get me wrong, I love to see and hear how others practice photography and I still appreciate that he took the time to track down my number and call.

So, he starts in with camera settings, light meter readings, how to arrange the lights, and goes on and on about how to set up a shot.  He kept inserting the line "I'm sure you do it this way" and then went on some more about arranging the lights and getting the sun at the right angle and the best times to shoot.  Then he got back into measuring the light to the nearest quarter fStop and speeds.

He went on for about 5 minutes without really stopping to ask me any questions.  He was telling me what he assumed I already knew and practiced I guess.

I waited and listened.  And drove.  Everything he said was completely right.

Then he finished and it was quiet.

I said, "Would you like to know how I do it?" and he replied, "Sure!"

"I wet my finger, stick it in the air, look to see where the shadow falls, and then do what feels right for the shot I want to get"

14 - 1-2
14 - 1-2


He seemed a bit shocked that I 'shot from the hip' and didn't do all of the required steps to get the perfect picture.

My idea of a perfect picture isn't one like the camera sees, or even one I see with my eyes.  It's just ever so slightly surreal or different that it's not just a picture anyone else could take going down a check list.  Nothing wrong withthat of course...great work is produced that way and I'm not knocking it.  I've tried it and it just didn't work for me.

Of course I rely on my knowledge of the camera.  I know what 'most' of those buttons are for and how to get the camera to do exactly what I want it to.  And yes, there is a light meter IN the camera, and yes I USE it for example.  But everything else is gut feeling.  I know what the lights going to look like at various angles, with a certain lens, I know how the exposure will look with the balance of speed and fStop a certain way.  Not just text book 'know', but I can feel it.  The camera becomes an extension of my thoughts and the flow of light is all I think about.

If I wanted a shot that looked dead on life like I'd do all of that technical stuff. I'm more of a shoot from the hip kinda' guy I guess.  It takes a while to really 'feel' your camera and lights, but it's a real joy to me when I meet a new friend (camera) and get to know it deeply.

I've had some photographers tell me that it's great to get the picture perfect right in the camera.  I agree.  But I haven't found a camera that takes the picture the way I consider perfect so it's a combination of gut feeling and then seasoning the shot in post production.

I do think knowing how it works technically is very important.  To many people THINK they can become great photographers without bothering with fStops and shutter speeds...whatever they are.  I think shooting from your heart makes for a beautiful picture.  You need to understand your equipment intimately, to get what you really want from it.

This, of course, is a blog, and my opinion.  Not what's right or wrong.  Season to your own taste.  Always.

Creative juices...with pulp


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

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

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

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

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

'Breaking Bad' habits

The break

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


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

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

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

  • The actual time in studio dropped to about an hour for the shoots.  Typically they were 2-4 hours.  I'm sure this will vary, but after doing a couple in an hour and getting some wonderful shots in that time, and 4-5 sets, I'm thinking less time certainly doesn't mean less good shots.  The thinking between sets accelerated with ideas of how to change up the lights and get the looks I wanted from the unique faces I was working with.
  • All black and white.  This is something I'd played with a bit on and off but never for entire shoots.  In the past I used it so I could see the lights and darks and how shadows fell easier.  Of course I shoot in RAW so it's not really B&W, but what we see on the camera back and iPad review was all in B&W.  I now do that exclusively unless the shoot is about the color and then, naturally, I shoot in color.
  • IMG_8555-Edit-1
  • I'm doing far more directing and paying closer attention to those little things that make a shot look odd.  Elbow placement, hands, the wayward strand of hair.  I stop, fix them, and then shoot.  Instead of 20-30 shots I do 5-10.  I can see the slight annoyance with the models who like to strike a bunch of poses, but they learn very fast to give me their best first.  I expect I'll tell them that from now on and get them really thinking when I raise the camera up to shoot.
  • As a result of these slight changes, my shot count has come down 25-35% to usually less than 300.  Since I don't shoot every day it's still a drastic reduction from the 6D over the year. (BTW, 102,000 shots would be 280 shots a day for 365 days)

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

Enjoy!  And please feel free to comment.

Learning photography...

That hard first step

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

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

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

The camera

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


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

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

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

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

Post processing


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

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

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

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

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

Who's in charge here?!?

You Da Boss

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

We will be talking about those trade shoots.


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Failure is an option

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

Failure is an option you can avoid.

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

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

Say NO when the little voice tells you to

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

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

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

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