Working with new materials – Glamour Photography

One of the things my mentor, Tracy Hicks, taught me in his workshops was that almost anything can make a backdrop: it’s all in the way you use it.  So, when a private student showed up with a bunch of camouflage gear for the model, including a camo netting  that he wanted to implement as a background, we had to figure out what worked.

Briana Barela Xtreme Drilling Glamour Photography

Briana Barela sports company branding from Xtreme Drilling during a private Glamour Photography Workshops

I had never worked with the stuff before and wasn’t sure of it’s reflective properties, how to take advantage of the see-through nature of it, etc. The shot above was one of many different outfits we tried on the model.

The hat and t-shirt were part of the branding for a drilling company my student worked for and he wanted to include them into the shoot for possible use in a company calendar.  The model, Briana Barela, styled the t-shirt with cuts using some scissors.  The sunglasses were her own.   The only things I wasn’t totally happy with was the blue fingernail polish she was sporting those days.  I figured that if I really wanted to that it could be ‘fixed’ in Photoshop.

We proceeded to rig a black cloth backdrop, and then clamp the camo netting in front of it. I wasn’t sure if we’d need to separate the netting from the cloth, or could leave it resting against it.  As it turned out, just resting against it was enough.

In the original tests we lit the model, but left the backdrop unlit.  It turned out that there just wasn’t enough light to make it interesting.  We wanted things to ‘Pop!’   I put an Alien Bee 400 on a backdrop stand and inserted a green gel into the gel holder.   It took a bit of of adjusting to get the right distance and intensity with the backdrop light, but it wasn’t long before we were getting shots like that above.

Although the shot looked pretty good straight out of the camera (SOOC), a vignette effect was added in Lightroom to help frame the model.  A 36″ Octabox, two 36″ strip boxes (gridded), and a 22″ beauty dish were used on the other lights.

 

Are ‘Home Studios’ creepy? Read a model’s opinion

In the words of one model:

(My version may be modified and/or out of date.
 Please Read the original & updated posting by Model Rachel Jay, with examples of her own work, on her site here: http://racheljay.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/the-home-studio/)

There are some models who say a photographer who has a home studio is creepy, unprofessional, and is one to be wary of. There are even some who say that a photographer who has an actual studio (as in one separate from his place of residence) is far more legit, safer, and more professional. The reasoning is often, “I don’t want to be alone with a stranger in his house”. What’s even more mindblowing is when people say things like, “a home studio is fine as long as there’s backdrops, lights and other expensive-looking stuff, it can even be in the basement… but just shooting out of the living room with none of that is creepy!”.

football, dallas cowboys, tony romo, briana barela, glamour photography, home studio,

Created in a one bedroom apt home studio.

And to all that I say: BULLSHIT! Why?
Studio rental can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to rent space to shoot in (especially right now). And why should someone who has the space available in their home/apartment be forced to fork out more dough to rent more space? They shouldn’t. Renting space doesn’t automatically make someone a pro… it makes them someone who can rent space.

Space is space. If there’s room for a backdrop and lights to be set up, there’s room to shoot. Heck, a lot of the time, you don’t need the backdrop and lights to get a beautiful shot–a space lit well with natural light can create amazing images. And sometimes, the lack of space and the uniqueness of it might force the model and photographer to get creative, which can result in some great stuff as well.

When did expensive equipment and a “legit-looking” place start meaning that the person who owns it all is safe and professional? Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t automatically buy that person talent as well, so why would it eliminate their creep factor or make them conduct themselves in a professional manor? It wouldn’t.

So, home studio versus rented space…
What’s the big deal where someone shoots? Models (especially those building their portfolios) should be more concerned with portfolio quality, professional conduct, and communication skills than where the photographer shoots his/her pictures.

If a model is insecure with being alone with the photographer, even after she’s checked references, she has a couple options. She could make sure it’s ok to bring a MUA (or ask the photographer if he has one he works with often), and book one. She could ask the photographer to meet ahead of time, at a place like Starbucks. Or she could just not shoot with that photographer.

Need a Model Release? There’s an app for that!

I installed Easy Release from http://www.applicationgap.com awhile back while it was in it’s infancy. The latest update allows for custom logo’s, custom releases, etc. You can bring up a release, add the model’s photo, have her, you, and a witness sign it on the iPhone, and have it send you and the model a PDF version of the release. See the screencap below of a sample release.

Of course, they explain it better:

Easy Release by ApplicationGap replaces inconvenient paper release forms with a slick, streamlined application designed by professional photographers for professional photographers. Easy Release lets you collect all the data and signatures you need right on your iPhone, then mails a PDF and JPEG of the release right to you. Easy Release uses industry-standard and proven legal language that is accepted by the world’s leading stock photo companies, like Getty Images and ALAMY. Plus, Easy Release supports 12 different languages, so you can get the release you need, no matter who, or where you are shooting.

Easy Release, smartphones, model release, apps, iphone, christine trimm, photography studio

How do you do that effect?

Next to ‘Do you need someone to hold the lights?’, the question I most often hear in regards to my photography is ‘How do you that?’.

How do you get that vignette effect?

How do you get the models skin that smooth?

What is that material you are using for the background? How did you get it that color?

Those are just a few of the most commonest questions I get asked every time I post a new photo online. It never fails; a few minutes after posting a new photo, I get a chat window popping up, or an email, or just a comment on the photo itself.

glamour model, studio lighting, photography workshop, amanda steele, bikini

And, the truth is, at one time, I had those same questions. I’ve been shooting for over twenty years. And I had experience shooting models. But, one day I saw a persons work that just blew my stuff out of the water! And I had to know how to do it! Luckily this person put on his own workshops. I not only signed up for two of his workshops, I travelled many hours to get to them.

I invested in myself. I knew that by making a small investment in myself, I was avoiding the long term trail-and-error method of trying to figure out how to do this…and how to do it right. I mean, how many times can you get a model to commit some time, at her own expense, just so you can experiment with getting it right? Not only is she going to get perturbed, but you’re going to look incompetent with all the fiddling of the lights, chimping at results, readjusting lights, changing backgrounds, etc.

So, I invested in the workshops at almost $300 each time. And that’s just for the workshop. That’s not counting the 3 hour drive to Houston, or the 5 hour drive to Dallas, hotel rooms, meals, gas, etc. I think I figured out that each weekend cost me an average of $500.

Then, I came home from each and ordered more gear; lights, booms, backgrounds, softboxes and grids. I already had a plethora of lights and such, but I wasn’t absolutely confident in how to use them, or what other gear I should invest in to create the results I desired. And this is one of the things that those workshops solved.

lingerie, glamour photography, studio strobes, boudoir, photography workshops

So, ask yourself these few questions:

1. Do I want to improve my confidence in photographing models?

2. Do I want to improve my confidence in using my lighting system?

3. Do I want to know what equipment I need in order to create those images that will stand out from competition?

4. Do I want to learn using real, live models, creating images that you can add to your portfolio immediately?

If you said yes to any of those questions, do yourself a favor and invest in yourself. Save yourself from wasting time and money on trail-and-error, and learn it quickly and inexpensively. Sign up for one of our glamour photography lighting workshops at: iPhotoWorkshops.com

Using new equipment in a photo shoot

Recently I did this photoshoot and decided to add another light as an experiment.  Now usually I shoot with 4 strobes, all of which are AB400’s.   I added a 5th light which had a great brand name, very heavy and should have been able to handle the job.

glamour photography, model, studio strobes, christine trimm

Unfortunately it did not.  With my shooting style I shoot quite rapidly.  I allow the models to free pose in order to avoid stiff poses.  I shoot frames whether I think the pose is good or not, because sometimes, once you look at it on screen it really WAS a good shot.  Why miss it?   But the point is, when I really see a model HIT the right pose, something that looks so super sexy and just ‘right’, I snap very rapidly: a slight shift of the hips, flick of the eyes, raise of the chin can make the difference between a ‘keeper’ and a shot that pops out.

In this case however, the rapid recycling times of the AB400 were able to keep up with my shooting style, but the extra ‘quality brand name’ light could not.  In fact, after a few rapid fires it would signal an ‘overheat’ condition and we’d have to stop for a few seconds to allow it to catch up to us.   This totally threw off my timing and the whole creative process.

So, just something to learn from my experience.  Try to make sure your lights can keep up with your style.   Even if they aren’t all the same watt-seconds, at least they should be close enough so it doesn’t slow you down.   I know I’ve had a few people at my workshops comment on the difference of shooting studio strobes vs. speedlights; once you see the difference you may switch too.

To have a muse…

Muse – the source of an artist’s inspiration
This is my muse as photographed when I first met her.   That date on the photograph is April 29, 2008; a little over 3 years ago.  She was 19 at the time.  Old enough to serve it, but not even old enough to drink it (in TX).Her name is Briana Barela,but I call her Bri, or BriBri; sometimes Breezy, or on the rare occasion Briva.   Babe, Hon, Sweetie if we’re talking informally.  She’s not my girlfriend: she is my muse.Actually this photo was probably created less than a week after meeting her for the first time when some workmates and I decided to go to Hooters.    One of my first times ever in a Hooters.   Boy am I glad I went.Working as a computer consultant at the time, I was explaining to my workmates how I used to be a photographer and had photographed numerous beautiful women over the years.  They didn’t really believe me.   And why should they?  I hadn’t really photographed any women in almost 10 yrs.

But a few beers in me and I was telling that I knew how to photograph women, and could talk any of the waitresses into ‘getting some pix done’.  So they said, ‘How about her?’, referring to our waitress, Briana.

Challenge accepted!

Truth is, I had bought some studio lighting using a bonus I had gotten from work.   I didn’t really know how to use it….just practiced on family and stuff.   And the first time I photographed Bri using it I royally messed up by having one critical setting wrong.  I was so nervous.   The photos were salvagable, but I wasn’t happy with myself.   I vowed to make myself better.  This girl really inspired me to pursue my photography of women again.   I took workshops, read, bought more lighting, etc etc.

Now it’s 3 short years later.   And I’m grateful to have a muse.  We don’t always see eye-to-eye on the same poses, the same outfits, which photos are better, or just life in general.  But we make a good team.  We feed off each others creative energy.   And we come out of the studio with some bangin’ photos.   Maybe not always what we went into with planned, but that is part of the creative process.

Briana has a certain je ne sais quoi mixed with a joie de vie!   I think anyone who has met her will agree.  And that is the reason I still photograph her as much as possible.   Like a Buddhist who has not yet reached Nirvana,  I have failed to capture Briana’s true essence in a photograph.   Until that day, I’ll be inspired to become a better photographer.

CSI of Model Posing

As a photographer of amateur and professional models alike, there are a couple of main things that help the model-photographer team make a photograph go from just good, to outstanding.

Those things are:

1) Relaxation – The photos will reveal when the model is not relaxed. And relaxation comes when the model has confidence in the photographers skills, trusts the photographer to give her direction and help make her appear the best she can be. Relaxation also comes with time. Most often the best photos come at the end of the session, when the model has become more relaxed. But also after they’ve changed outfits a few times, thus missing those great shots.

2) Posing – Good posing comes with relaxation. But, there are some basic rules and techniques that we can put into practice right from the start of a shoot.

a) C-S-I poses

Once you know and put into practice these three simple things, every photoshoot will produce outstanding results; as long as you have a skilled photographer that can handle the rest.

C S I

Although this is actually a reverse ‘C’, we can see the models head pointed in the same direction as her leading leg. The ‘C’ is accentuated by leading the eye along the curve of her bent arm. We can see parts of the ‘S’ pose mingled in here, but the overwhelming pose is still ‘C’.  The pose is also aesthetically pleasing due to the triangles formed by the model’s arms.

 

In this classic subtle ‘S’ pose below, the model’s head is bent slightly to her left, her hips are accentuated forward, and the weight is on her right leg.


The ‘I’ pose is quite simply a straight up and down pose. But notice how the model brings one leg forward of the other to slim her hips. The raised arm incorporates the start of an ‘S’ pose…these are not hard and fast rules, and many good photos incorporate a hybrid of two or more of the basic poses. The model was slightly tilted for effect using photoshop.It’s not as easy as it looks. Try one right now…or all three. If you can’t seamlessly transition from one pose to the other it just means you’ll need to practice more! And, if you practice, you’ll be more confident in your own body, and more relaxed, enabling the photographer to do what he does best: make outstanding photos of you!Here’s a link to a video with some other standards in posing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFKrrdJxakE

b) Hands

Hands can make or break a photo. If they are not positioned correctly they stand out like….well, like a sore thumb. And the general rule of thumb is: keep the fingers together and uncurled. First, we don’t want to amputate the fingers by curling them. And second, we don’t want to exasperate the problem by combining the curl with spread fingers, producing the dreaded CLAW. Using the above photos as examples, we see an exception to the rule where the model is gripping a football: perfectly acceptable in the context. The other hand could have benefited from avoiding the slight spread. In the middle photo, the model is gently gripping her top. The keyword here is gently. Notice that the fingers are slightly amputated, but acceptable. In the third photo however, the model is covering her nipples (which were covered with a piece of black gaffers tape), but her fingers are spread. This photo would not only look better if her fingers were together and gently cupped, but also avoid the extra work of photoshopping the nipple (or in this case tape).

The second most important thing when dealing with hands is to avoid placing hands at the same level. As with anything, there are certain exceptions, but the best photos will have always have the hands at different levels. Whether on your hips, waist, or legs, shifting one hand up or down just a few inches can not only change the whole flow of the photo, but make you look trimmer and slimmer at the same time.

c) Expression – Please, no Zoolanders

In the movie, Zoolander, the main character has one signature ‘look’. In reality, shooting 500 frames of a model with only one look is not only boring, but leaves fewer choices when picking out which photos to edit. One thing you can do to give your expression a sensual look is to practice whispering some vowel. In particular, try whispering I O U in an exasgerated, drawn-out manner. Give it a try and look in the mirror as you do it. IIIIIIIIIIIIII, then OOOOOOOOOOOOO, and UUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuu. ONE of them may look like the zoolander expression, but not all three! What your lips do, the rest of your face will follow.