As the new years is upon us, I reflect back to when I started out in this photographic journey. I laugh at some of my images that I took at parties and whatnot and the horrible, over saturation I had in some of them. But I can also see the basics of good photos. Good composition and framing as well as a general idea of the basics. So as a retrospect, I wanted to do a little comparison and use some examples.
So in this first example, I shot with my cousin Katy. She was an actress and I had just gotten my fancy new DSLR and I thought I knew what I was doing. Took her down to Civic Center Park in Denver and shot around.
Around this time too, I was such a "natural light" snob. Because I didn't know anything about flash work at all! But when I look at this picture, I see some over editing but I do see the basis for a decent portrait. This picture was taken in August of 2011. Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2014. Same girl. Took this that night after eating a gargantuan amount of turkey and green beans and right before pie.
I kept my editing to a minimum and let the flash do the work. Yes, I've come around on off camera flash! Even during the day! So, this post was not a dig an my work, but rather that we all need to Just Keep Swimming as Dora would say. Keep learning and keep improving.
Senior portrait work November 2012
Again, over edited but the basics are there. This is from this season:
Just a stronger image all around. And finally, from my first model shoot:
The lighting is decent, the posing direction is off and composition is tight. Recent model shoot:
So, with each example of before and after, I have grown with each shoot. And my ultimate goal is to improve on each and every shoot. I'm going to Just Keep Swimming in this photography adventure!
I hear the rustle of clothing as people take their seats in the hard plastic folding chairs. The uncomfortable clearing of the throat, loud sipping of coffee, the buzz of the harsh florescent lighting above. The director calls the meeting to an open. Asks for new speakers. I stand up, clear my throat and say, "Hi! My name is Vinnie. I'm a photographer. I'm addicted to Photography." The other members of Photographers Anonymous give polite claps and welcome me.
In all seriousness, photography has become my vice. I spend my days looking at every location around me as to how I would pose and light a setting. People walking by no longer are just people, but models and props. Free time is spent learning new editing techniques and thinking about the next shoot. And during a shoot, when I click the shutter and KNOW I nailed the shot, I give a fist pump and a "YESSSSSSS!!!!!"
It's that moment where the lighting, subject and everything just click and you know you have it. In the particular photo above, Brooke just squatted down and everything was just perfect. It also helps when the connection between subject and photographer is very strong as it is between us. But I gave a little hop and a skip after this shot and immediately brought the camera up to get more, more, more and more.
And it's not regulated to just models. This next photo was when I was working with studio lighting for the first time and was using two lights. Never tried it. So I set it up. I wasn't working with models yet at the time so I decided to use the worst possible model that I knew, me, and I actually nailed it. I set the timer, ran to the chair and sat and did my little pose and click. Went and looked at the back of the camera and Bang! Nailed it! I then proceeded to take about 75 more that didn't turn out so well but that one shot was a rush.
As each shoot comes and goes, it boils through my blood. I keep seeing shots I want. I want to shoot at any moment I can. There are times now when I think specifically of special shots and how I would set it up and shoot it. Sigh. Photography is my drug, my vice. The sound of lens focusing. The click of the shutter. Me directing my subject to the perfect pose. When I get home and see the image on the big screen. When I edit and upload. When my clients react.
"Hi, my name is Vinnie. I'm a photographer. I'm addicted to photography."
Ah, the eyes! Windows to the soul some say! Those awesome, little colored orbs! They are absolutely wonderful body parts. In photography they are the ultimate, be all end all to an image. We are taught that the eyes should always be completely in focus. If you get that, everything else doesn't matter. So, with all this in mind, I want to talk about eye placement in a shot and what it brings to your photograph.
First off, we have the direct eye contact with the camera. This is a commonly used technique and one that has a lot of validity. It allows you to see those beautiful colors. It gives a certain directness and boldness to your image. It also, depending on the pose, gives a certain sexiness to the image as well.
In my picture here, Brooke is giving the camera a direct, piercing gaze that is bold. Mix it with the hip placement, it becomes a sexy, direct gaze that draws your viewer in. I like the direct gaze pose. Sometimes I wish that some of us would get away from using it all the time. However, the direct look is not the only thing you have in your bag of tricks as a photographer!
Normally, I don't like using examples from the same shoot, but Brooke was fantastic with her posing for me and this one happens to be one of my favorite photos from the session. In this shot, it's in the same location, same pose in back to back shots. But this time Brooke turned her head to the side giving me her profile and just a hint of the eyelashes of the other eye.
What did this change do to the whole tone of the image? For me, it softens the mood. Now it's giving me a feeling of anticipation. A feeling of expectation. What is she looking at or waiting for? Just this slight pose change with her eye placement has dramatically changed the whole mood of the image.
The Off Camera
The off camera look is one that I like to incorporate in every shoot I do. For me, it makes me feel like I'm an observer to the scene. I'm not the one shooting, I'm just looking into the action. It's a very natural look. One that works for many uses.
For this shot Caylie was looking at another person off to my camera left. But in the image, it looks like she is smiling at a loved one who is walking towards her or even just thinking of someone special to her as she rests. Its a nice, natural look that plays well with this image. Also one that leaves the viewer wondering as to what she is looking at or thinking about.
The Look Down
I see this shoot a lot when you work with a model or person who had some makeup done for the shoot. It's a great way to showcase the wonderful work the make-up artist has done. While you are not able to see the eyes, just the idea is enough to convey meaning.
From her pose, we can see that Karen is relaxing. There is no tension. Her facial expression is serene. But with the lookdown, we get to see the wonderful make up work that the MUA (make-up artist) did. It's a great pose for women. Not so much for men. It gives a softer feel to the image, one of vulnerability.
There are many, many more variations of the eye placement. These are the four main ones I have run across and tend to use. The eyes have so much to do with portrait work but you don't always have to use the stare right into the camera look. Different uses give you different feelings. Play around! Find out what works with you and for you!
Now, I know some of my juvenile friends will say, "Escorts?!?! Always!" But this is a question that really needs to be addressed with new models that are working with photographers that they do not know or first time using. In the photography business, it's common practice for models to meet with new photographers and do shoots on location and/or in studio. Should one always bring an escort to these shoots? YES! For your safety, the answer is all-ways yes.
What makes a good escort? A good escort will be someone who can either hover around the periphery of the shoot. They can keep an eye out on the situation and on the area immediately around the shoot. Or an escort can help with reflectors. But an escort should never actively participate in a shoot unless asked for by the photographer or model.
I don't want to sound like a stick in the mud, but sometimes the worst escort can be a boyfriend/significant other, unless they are truly understanding about your art. It's hard to work as a photographer when you know that jealous boyfriend/significant other is breathing down my neck. And once you have worked with a photographer and have a great working relationship with them and have thoroughly checked out credentials, then an escort may no longer be needed.
So what is a good escort?
On the flip side of escorts, I have always wondered when I should ever be afraid and should I bring an escort to protect me? I'm so focused on shooting that I don't know what's really going on around me. And sometimes, if a model DOES bring a boy friend who does get jealous, do I have to watch out for myself?
So, in conclusion, it is always good to have someone come to your shoots. I would be wary if a photographer said escorts are a no-no or not allowed. After time, especially if you have done multiple shoots with someone, an escort will not be necessary. And, please, always let someone know where you are going to be and the contact information and any kind of information you can get from your photographer! Be safe out there people!
One thing I have learned in my photography journey is that what I am doing is art. While photography does have its rules and some follow it to the extreme, I’ve come to realize, after a lecture with the incomparable Joel Grimes, and with my own gut feeling, that I am an artist. Sometimes my pictures aren’t the sharpest (I was going for the old time, film noir look), or that my editing don’t follow the guide lines, the end result is what I wanted out of the photo and my clients, who’s ultimate opinion matters the most, love them.
I was always looking for the best gear or asking about specific gear when, in all honesty, I have all I need. And if I were to get any kind of certain gear, it's only as good as my talent will make it. I have taken fantastic shots with an entry level camera and kit lens. I have taken stunning pictures using a $14 flash. I know that the better quality gear can help, but really, it's my talent that makes an image.
When Facebook started these wonderful groups where other photographers gathered, I was so excited. I can share my work for critique and maybe even a few attaboys. I joined as many as I could find. I posted a lot of work. Answered questions that were asked, even asked a few myself. And what I learned is that they didn’t teach me anything more than I already knew. In fact, most of the answers/critiques/responses were more geared to hurt than to help. There are a lot of photographers out there who think it’s their way or the highway. I post a photo for genuine critique and literally get no response. Yet I see photos that received a lot of comments, normally because they were bad photographs. It seems like my fellow photographers like to really tear down someone.
What I came to realize is that I don’t NEED any of that. I left all those groups. I stayed in a few modeling groups and local photography groups that I have enjoyed talking with some of my local peeps. I am much more confident in the quality of my art so I don’t need the negativity. If I need some opinions, I have a select group of people whom I feel will give me some unvarnished answers.
My aim is to create beautiful art. I have branched out a bit more into fashion and modeling work and have really found that my art has leaped forward quite a bit. I find myself enjoying the process more and am making better art because of it. Thank you all for following along my art and allowing me to share with you.