8 Week Workshop: Portraits Inspired by Herb Ritts.

The goal is not to copy, but be inspired by… Learning about a photographer like the remarkable Herb Ritts helps us to evaluate our own work, see it with new eyes and blend what we learn into our own mix. The photographers who study the past forge new paths into the future… not only for their own work, but for the art in general.

Congrats to these talented and very dedicated group of students.

A Few Words on that “Unphotoshopped Cindy Crawford Photo” Crap

A few days ago, this was making big news online… wow. Imagine Cindy Crawford having the guts to go public in a photograph that was un-retouched in Photoshop.

Yeah… wow. Big F’n Deal.

Of course she did that for two decades and more. You know that, right?

Of this I can speak firmly. We didn’t have Photoshop in the 40’s. 50’s. 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s. At the beginning of the 2000’s it was being used a bit more, until we arrive at today where the non-use of it seems to be big news.

Here is Cindy, circa 1980’s. NO Photoshop.

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(Christy Brinkley, 80’s) (Christy Turlington, 80’s) (Elle MacPherson, 80’s) (Tyra Banks, 80’s) – NO PHOTOSHOP


For people who have NO sense of history, how it all became. They gotta 5DMKIII and LIFE STARTS NOW.

Crap.

We will look at the insincerity of the photograph of Cindy in a moment, but first a history lesson.

We made the photographs using skills in lighting. LIGHTING. L I G H T I N G.
We had a cadre of amazing MakeUp Artists, Stylists, Lighting Assistants… all focused on making the image – perfect. Cause there was no ‘fixing’ them later.

Imagine that.

We made prints lovingly and by hand in dark, smelly rooms that perhaps robbed us of a few years of longevity.

Those prints were lovingly delivered to magazines where they were sent for halftone scans. (No, they did not have banks of ‘retouchers’ to ‘airbrush’ each editorial image. Anyone who tells you that was never there, and making that shit up. DIDN’T HAPPEN.)

We also shot this magic stuff called “Transparency” film… a ‘slide’ by another name. The image was what it was. If you blew exposure by a 1/3 stop, it was there for all the world to see in the transparency. If you missed focus you ended up with what we would technically call a ‘soft image’… no amount of work at the scanning houses was going to fix it. And many ‘soft’ images made it into print… because ART.

Find a few 80’s / 90’s Vogue, W, Italian Vogue (my favorite), Bazaar or other fashion magazines. Find a few early issues of People, Time, Life, Look, – hey – find a magazine printed before 2003 – ANYGDAM one. NO. PHOTOSHOP.

PHOTOGRAPHY done right by craftspeople and artists and damned skilled creators. Guess what we never said? “Fix it in Photoshop” – cause we. like, didn’t know what that meant in 1987.

So now someone wants you all to believe that PHOTOSHOP is the magic beans of photography. Well, it isn’t.

Light is.

Which brings us to the current image of Cindy…

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… and why I call BS on it.

Light.

This shot of Crawford was LIT to show her “flaws”. It was PURPOSELY created to show texture and line and the signs of age. It is NOT simply un-retouched, it is, in fact, ENHANCED through the lighting.

If you brought a model who looked like this to any decent photographer, they could choose to mitigate with lighting (soft non-directional ambient, or large scrim, plenty of fill) or enhance with small, single light source MEANT to bring out any ‘imperfections’ the woman may have.

(NOTE: Before we get pulled into one of those lameass discussions of what ‘beauty’ is, let’s not go there. My belief is that Crawford was and will always be a stunning woman. Age is not a digression in her appeal. Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes, and ages. I stopped shooting fashion BECAUSE I grew weary of shooting 17 year old ‘babies’ who were meant to personify ‘all women’. This whole thing may be a cause-celeb for a lot of folks. I walked away from a solid business because of my beliefs. Beauty if NOT made in Photoshop… and all of my subjects are beautiful to me, no matter who and how old they are.)

However, this image is supposed to be a rally point for the “anti-photoshop” groups, and those for whom the cause of the moment is so awesomely cool, man, they just have to be, like, involved… #trending#badphotographsrockcausetrendingsaysso….

Is this a ‘bad’ photograph of Cindy Crawford. No, of course not. It is as perfect as the photographer CHOSE it to be. The photographer CHOSE a single lightsource with no fill to enhance every line/wrinkle/and skin anomaly that was possible.

But to champion it as a shot of Cindy being brave and shooting without Photoshop leaves that part of the equation, the most important part – LIGHTING – out.

So is the idea that Cindy is brave for not being Photoshopped? That’s no big deal. She has done that before.
Or is it that she ‘risks’ showing off some flaws of age? Well, she CHOSE that when she chose to be shot with this light… so shouldn’t it really be “Cindy Crawford shows us what a beautiful woman looks like with the passage of time”? Cause why would you light her like this and then Photoshop it… That would be stupid.

(Yes, I know… but I don’t want to go there… so stop it. Stop it now… heh)

Where do I fall on the Photoshop or No-Photoshop line. I use Pshop basically the way I used a darkroom. I strive to get it as right in the camera as I possibly can. It is in my photographic DNA, I suppose.

But I also don’t give a rats tushie what others do. I have no dog in this hunt, and usually find such discussions and ‘side taking’ utterly boring and useless.

So “Shop” away if you want. Or not.

But don’t peddle a prepared and purposely lit shot to show ‘flaws’ and expect me to believe that nothing else could be done but Photoshop. That is a lie… there is something we call…

Lighting.


Of course the disservice it does to the amazing photographers of that time… from David Bailey, to Watson, Elgort, Demarchelier, Lindbergh, Ritts, VonUnwerth, Roversi and more… just terrible.

We have an art form that doesn’t even acknowledge its past, but chooses to be led by people who do not have the best interests of photography at their hearts, but the quest for immediate fame and more “likes”… pathetic.

 

New Camera Announcements from Canon

Some amazing new cameras from Canon. I don’t get involved in new gear releases, but this stuff is starting to get exciting now.

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Canon D5

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • 50.6MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors
  • 3.2″ 1,040K-Dot ClearView II LCD Monitor
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps
  • 61-Point High Density Reticular AF
  • 150,000-Pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
  • ISO 100-6400; 5.0 fps Burst Shooting
  • Anti-Flicker Compensation
  • User-Selectable Shutter Release Time Lag
  • Dual Compact Flash and SD Media Slots

 

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11-24 EF Canon F4L

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • EF Mount L-Series Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Constant f/4 Maximum Aperture
  • Super UD, UD, and 4 Aspherical Elements
  • SWC, Air Sphere, and Fluorine Coatings
  • Ring-Type USM Autofocus Motor
  • Internal Focus; Full-Time Manual Focus
  • Weather-Resistant Design
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm

 

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Canon EOS Rebel T6i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 6 Image Processor
  • 3.0″ 1.04M-dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording
  • 19-Point All Cross-Type AF System
  • 5 fps Shooting & Extended ISO to 25600
  • Hybrid CMOS AF III & EOS Scene Analysis
  • Creative Filters
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • CS100 Connect Station Support

PORTRAIT-BANNER

Going North – Taking a Photo Trek

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Every year I host a meet-up of Project 52 members. Part workshop, part social, full on fun. There is no fee for this, we share all expenses, so it is a very comfortable and relaxing time with the tribe.

This year we will also be doing a road trip to the north country. The itinerary is the same as this workshop that I planned last year. We have two 12-passenger vans, an aggressive plan, hotel rooms booked, and cameras ready.

Along the way we will be doing portraits, landscapes and still life. I hope to be able to post to the blog next week, and if I can it will probably be video. (I really need to do more video… so do you.) I will also hope that we can post some images from along the road. That week will be a mish-mash of posts, so bear with us as we try something new.

If you have ever taken a Lighting Essentials Workshop, or been a member of the Project 52 groups, you are welcome. I will post next years week when I get back. We will be going to Canyon Lands on that trip, as well as the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. As I said, more to come.


PORTRAIT-BANNER

A Simple Photo of a Red Balloon

 

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The recent assignment in Project 52 was to shoot a single red balloon and make it the focal point. The students made some amazing images. And shooting a red balloon is not the easiest thing to do. Give it a try – all you need is a camera and a red balloon.

Here are some of the best of the group:


PORTRAIT-BANNER

Photographers You Should Know: Guy Bourdin

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Guy Bourdin was an early influence of mine. His approach to making images that resembled no one else made his work easily noticed. He was meticulous in his shooting, with sets that were overflowing with creativity. But always with him in charge. His whimsical approach to shooting made me want to try all kinds of things.

From Wikipedia:


“Guy Bourdin was born 2 December 1928 in Paris, France. He grew up in an age of war and experienced challenges represented by the philosophies of surrealism. During his military service in Dakar (1948–49), Bourdin received his first photography training as a cadet in the French Air Force. He was fascinated and assimilated Surrealism in its broader senses. From the mid-1950s, Bourdin experimented and refined his distinct vision, produced fashion images, photographed and filmed his observations of the world.

In 1950 he returned to Paris, where he met Man Ray, and became his protégé. Bourdin made his first exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris. His first photographic exhibition was in 1953. He exhibited under the pseudonym Edwin Hallan in his early career. His first fashion shots were published in the February 1955 issue of Vogue Paris. A contemporary of Helmut Newton, they both worked extensively for Vogue and greatly influenced in different ways what would become contemporary photography.[2] “Between him and me the magazine became pretty irresistable in many ways and we complemented each other. If he had been alone or I had been alone it wouldn’t have worked.” He continued to work for the magazine until 1987.

An editor of Vogue magazine introduced Bourdin to shoe designer Charles Jourdan, who became his patron, and Bourdin shot Jourdan’s ad campaigns between 1967 and 1981. His quirky anthropomorphic compositions, intricate mise en scene ads were greatly recognised and always greatly anticipated by the media.”

Guy Bourdin Website (Memorium)

“The Eye of Guy Bourdin”

“Guy Bourdin: Film, Paintings, Polaroids”

Michael Hoppen Gallery (Guy Bourdin)

“The Burden of Being Bourdin” : Interview Magazine

“Unseen Guy Bourdin”

Guardian Article on “When The Sky Fell Down” – a film about Guy Bourdin

That time a hack pop artist tried to rip off his images and was forced to pay in federal court…

Vogue article.

Some video… (perhaps a bit NSFW)

 

 

Here are a few Guy Bourdin photographs:

Books for your collection:

“What Do You Charge For? EBook

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Last summer I wrote four articles based on the five scariest words a beginning photographer can hear…

“What do you charge for…”

It ended up being nearly 20 pages, and it can definitely help you work through some of the myriad questions that haunt us when we don’t know the territory.

I invite you to download it here, my compliments.

Inspired by Sarah Moon: 8 Week Portrait Class Student Work

This week we studied the work of Sarah Moon for inspiration. The students looked at Ms Moon’s work, analyzed it, found what they liked and used it for inspiration. The goal is not to copy the masters, it is to understand them and let that understanding inspire the work.

Some photographers may never use what they learn in their personal style, and others will let the influence become a part of their unique vision.

As the legendary jazz musician Clark Terry said; “Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate”. A time tested way of finding your own voice. Congrats to the photographers in the class. This is a very creative and beautiful set of images.

“Protectionism” is NOT The Way of Professional Photographers

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The “Protectionist” Attitude Among Photographers

Well, not all photographers, but a considerable few. Enough that they can make a lot of noise and bluster.
I don’t suffer that attitude well, never have. The whining about how there are too many photographers and how we should NOT be helping them enter the business or ‘feeding them dreams’ or whatever, is simply a lame, self-serving sort of sod that never sits well with the facts.

Here are Five Myths of Protectionism in Photography.

If we do not teach the young photographers entering the market, they will flounder and get out.
Wanna bet. You cannot keep people from doing what they want to do. Not yet, anyway. And many people want to be photographers. They crave the craft and live every moment thinking about making images. Not teaching them the correct way to enter the market, and compete fairly, is folly beyond imagination. They will enter anyway, and have more chance to screw it all up than if they KNOW what they are doing.

And when did we photographers become so, well, mean. I have no appetite for watching people flounder and fail. I love it when they succeed and win. Creating winners amongst us is exactly what we ALL should be doing. To turn from that path is petty… and pathetic as well.

Training more people will hurt the industry because it will create a glut.
Wrong. There is and has always been a glut. Simply stated, that argument doesn’t work because it is putting a false parameter on something that has no parameters. There is no finite amount of work to be divided equally among the anointed players. Each photographer gets the work they get. It is either enough to sustain them or not. Artificially stating that there is some sort of ceiling is not logical.

There isn’t enough work to go around.
Well, maybe not for you. Or her or that guy over there. But there is a lot of work to be had out there. We know and follow too many successful photographers to even think that there is not ‘enough’ work out there. And even if that were true, and it is not, who is to say that the same shooters who are working now wouldn’t have those jobs all to themselves. The market picks winners and losers, not artificial quotas and protected participants.

Prices are plummeting because of the influx of talented photographers.
Yeah… so? Why would photography escape market forces. I paid $2500 for my Mac Classic in 1986. In today’s dollars that would be about $9,000. Anyone complaining about computer prices? Or memory? Or music? A single song on a 45 RPM record was a buck (I say single cause the other side was likely crap). And today at Amazon that single song is.. a buck.

However, I will say this. In 1984 I was getting day rates of $1500 – $2000 and those day rates have not gone up in any significant way since. (No, I usually do not charge day rate these days, but many do and I am pointing out the stagnation, not the method.) Was it because of digital?

Hardly. It was because things were changing and lots of photographers were entering the market. The market I wanted to be involved in. I had the choice to do that or get a job that no one wanted. I briefly thought about being the conductor for the New York Philharmonic… but the competition for that single position was pretty stiff… So I opted for competing for a lot of jobs instead of just one.

If we could somehow keep the beginners out, there would be more work for us.
No. There would be more for the folks that are already working. If you are not working and blaming it on the newbies, you will still not be working when the newbies are actually thrown under the bus.
Talent always wins when it is bundled with good business skills, marketing plans and a driven, nothings gonna stop me mentality. Thinking that somehow shutting off the spigot would stop those for whom photography is a calling, not just something fun to do would make ones life easier is simply looking past the problem into the face of a cure that has no merit.

I tell photographers who are complaining about how tough it is and how they can’t get work because of all the other photographers out there to take a look at the real culprit. Look right there…

In the mirror.

Protectionism, unions, state licenses and such are simply ways to garner income and keep out the competition, whether or not the competition has the talent to actually compete.

A photographer told me on twitter once that he was comfortable and loving being a photographer, but didn’t want any more people in the business because it was cutting down on his ability to get work. They were “talentless hacks” or something like that.

So what he told me in essence is that his work is so lame that talentless hacks were beating him out at his game and he didn’t want to actually have to improve above the level of talentless hack himself.

That was simply sad. I thought his work was pretty good, and that he should be doing well. Unfortunately, people with that mindset are usually not excited by the mornings, driven to make new work, striving to become better and better with all they create. Instead they brood and whine and look for people to blame for their own intransigence.

I love working with new photographers. After forty years in the business, I know I have stuff that can help, knowledge from the trenches that can answer questions – or even cause questions to be answered in the new world we find ourselves.

Be a mentor. If you can help a struggling photographer, do so.

What you give is so much more powerful than what you hold back.

Creating a Photo Portfolio That Represents Your Work

“What makes a photograph “Portfolio Worthy”

I want to talk about what makes an image worthy of your portfolio today, and have you think about your work in possibly a different sort of way.

What is your portfolio, anyway?

It is the repository of the work you have made, and limited to be the outstanding pieces from the volume of work created. It is the instrument you use to say “this is what I do.”

Whether it is a printed book, a ‘traditional portfolio’, an online gallery or your website, your portfolio is a collection of your best work. And hopefully one can see a style emerging from that collection.

A portfolio is not a congregation of your most popular shots, nor is it the ones your mom or boyfriend think ‘rock’. Those are great compliments of course, but the portfolio images should show more of another viewpoint.

Yours.

The images should be chosen with care and the knowledge that they reflect your sensibilities, with your unique vision stamped across them clearly.

In fact, they may not be the most popular shots in your collections. They may be a bit on the obtuse side, or more challenging in composition and design. They may show your more experimental choices or they may be the quiet nature of simplicity that you love so much. They can range from mild to wild, black and white to HDR, people to landscapes to interiors to food.

But they are yours. They represent the images you want to make, how you want to make them and with all of the parts genuinely yours.

Why? Because that ‘genuinely yours’ approach will help you as you begin to develop a style, a vision and a body of work that you will be proud of.

Shooting what other people like will make you madder than the proverbial hatter. There is no style in the world that will satisfy everyone. No matter what you shoot, someone is not going to like it. Changing your work to match their needs only means you will alienate someone else.

So don’t bother.

Shoot your work. Shoot it your way.

Find out what the images you love have in common.

Here’s a little assignment for you;

Put 20 of your favorite images onto a single large image… a collage. Photoshop can do that for you now (again) with a tool under the File menu.

File/Automate/Contact Sheet II

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Put the twenty images into a single folder and run the Contact Sheet II script. Choose the largest paper size you can print (or take to Costco/Sams Club/Walmart… whatever) so that all of the images are displayed together on one sheet.

This one is done on 8.5 x 11 and I used a setting of 12 images per page.

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Now take that sheet and look at it closely, with the intent of really seeing each image.

What are the similarities between your images?
What are the differences that jump out at you?
Which images, if any, look out of place in the selection?
Which images, if any, look wrong or not as good as the others that are similar?

Show the sheet of images to people you trust to give honest feedback. Even your mom, BFF, buds, and the guys you hang out with and discuss photography. As long as it is honest, it will be good feedback.

It is not a good critique, however. Critiques are done with intentions in mind, goals determined, and a frank discussion of what the images were created to do.

But feedback is good, and if you don’t know anyone who can give a good critique (yet) they are a good place to start.

The last thing to do is to analyze the ways the feedback made you feel about your work. Do you agree with their assessments? Do you believe they see what you shot the way you see what you shot? Does an image still stand up in your mind as being a strong image even if others say it was not their favorite?

Do this repeatedly with 20 images at a time. Find the ones that really resonate with you. The ones you want to show to everybody, everywhere, every day.

I’ll close with this quote by Photographer Bela Borsodi:

“If it touches you, if it excites you, if it makes you cry, if it makes you smile. A good photograph is something you cannot resist looking at. There might be a sense of surprise or discovery. something pleasant or painful. There is this quote by Oscar Wilde: “I can resist everything except temptation” In a way a good photograph is what you can’t resist and want to engage with. It doesn’t matter if you take photographs of your dog, or girlfriend, or whether you’re in a big studio with supermodels in it. If it speaks to you, then that’s when you know you have a good photograph.” 

(Thanks to Hiram Chee for finding this great quote.)

 

6 New Books I Have Ordered


From Amazon:
“W magazine is renowned for its avant-garde fashion stories, those elaborate confections of magic and mystery that have inspired and captivated readers for more than two decades. This volume gathers 10 of the most remarkable stories, each in its entirety, along with never-before-seen outtakes. Each story was the centerpiece of the issue it appeared in, and together they ride the razor’s edge between outrageously provocative and enchanting, from the bizarre (Steven Klein’s “One for the Ages”) to the alien (Tim Walker’s “Planet Tilda”) and whimsical (Paolo Roversi’s “Carnevale”). These and other stories by Klein, Walker, and Roversi, as well as Steven Meisel, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, and Alex Prager, are featured. A special code inside the book provides access to short films shot on the sets of the featured stories by Meisel, Walker, Klein, and Prager.”

Awesome book if you like new fashion photography.


From Amazon:
“How can a photographer of internationally known stars create iconic portraits that linger in the memory–especially since these actors have already been photographed and filmed millions of times? Vincent Peters–who has been working since 1995 for magazines such as Vogue and GQ and fashion brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent–relies entirely on the classic art of portrait photography for his pictures. Focusing on small gestures and subtle productions instead of prominent poses, he ensures that his subjects do not disappear into the backdrop and that their faces are the focal point. Emma Watson’s features are lent a tragic note with white makeup. Annie Lennox appears like a stern missionary in a suit and fedora. Photographs of stars such as David Beckham and Christian Bale are markedly masculine. Even more intimate are the images that Peters has taken in private surroundings, like when he accompanied Monica Bellucci during her second pregnancy. His sophisticated lighting has the most impact in his black-and-white photos, bestowing them with a breathtaking cinematic quality.”

Cinematic lighting, classic style of the 40′ – 50’s given new life with Vincent’s contemporary approach. I was not all that familiar with is work, and the book is expensive – but worth every nickel. Wow.


From Amazon:
“Moss’s magic has been captured by the world’s leading photographers, and this volume spans the entirety of her unparalleled career, from model to fashion designer, and muse to icon. Told through images that Moss has personally selected, KATE shows the influence of her collaborations with top photographers and artists over the last two decades, and clearly demonstrates why her career has had, and continues to have, such incredible longevity.

Photography by Arthur Elgort, Corinne Day, Craig McDean, David Sims, Hedi Slimane, Inez & Vinoodh, Juergen Teller, Mario Sorrenti, Mario Testino, Mert & Marcus, Nick Knight, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Roxanne Lowit, Steven Klein, Terry Richardson and others”

You see that list of photographers there, right? And the incredible Ms Moss?
This one is so full of ideas and brilliant photography that it addles the brain. Simply astounding.


From Amazon:
“This new collection of Peter Lindbergh’s photographs presents his work from the past ten years. The prolific fashion and portrait photographer is one of the leading commercial artists of our day. His special subject are women.”

Because Peter Lindbergh… duh. If you are not familiar with Peter’s work, and love fashion/beauty… well, you need this book.


From Amazon:
“Stephen Shore has had a significant influence on multiple generations of artists and photographers. Even for the youngest photographers working today, his work remains an ongoing and indisputable reference point. Stephen Shore: Survey includes over 250 images that span Shore’s impressive and productive career. The images range from 1969 to 2013, with series such as Early Works, Amarillo, New York City, American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, among others. Stephen Shore: Survey elucidates Shore’s contributions, as well as the historiographical interpretations of his work that have influenced photographic culture over the past four decades. The narrative of the catalogue is conceptualized around three particularly revealing aspects of Shore’s work, including his analysis of photographic and visual language, his topographical approach to the contemporary landscape and his significant use of color within a photographic context.”

Stephen Shore is an enigma to me. I both love and dislike his work… for sometimes the very same reason. He will challenge your beliefs in what makes a photograph as well as show you ways you have never thought about. Not an instant attraction, Shore takes a bit of time to digest. This is, in my opinion, some of his best photography.


An older book, and still available at a decent price. I loved this approach, and look forward to hopefully seeing another book on a select group of women by legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh (who we are studying next week for the 8 Week Portrait Class (see workshops tab).

Yeah… I done spent all my Christmas money. But then I love books, and books full of photographs… how can you beat that?

A Simple Tool for Shooting To Layout

Shooting for the web has created some interesting configured imagery. From very wide and narrow images for banners to tall and skinny images for side bars, shooting to layout is as important as ever.

Here is a simple video for making a viewing tool that can help you when shooting for banners or whatever layout you may have.

Portraits Inspired by Victor Skrebneski

In the 8 week portrait class we looked at the work of famed Chicago photographer Victor Skrebneski. The students were asked to make a photograph inspired by what they saw in Skrebneski’s work. Not to copy it, but to be inspired by it.

Here are the remarkable expamples created by the students:

Photographers You Should Know: Jake Chessum

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Jake Chessum is a portrait/celebrity photographer working in both editorial and advertising. I like his style and his approach to portraiture.


 

Jake Chessum Website.

Interview with A Photo Editor.

Jake Chessum’s Rep (Supervision)

Interview with Jake Chessum by Professional Photographer Magazine

“What Makes a Good Portrait” – Jake Chessum.

Jake Chessum Instagram

“The Daily Chessum” – photo a day.


Distraction, Discontent and Distruption (Part One)

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Distractions, Discontent, and Disruption

The three “D’s” of the new daily discomforts. Wait, is that a fourth?

We are constantly being distracted from our work, made to feel discontent at every turn and facing disruption in our business like never before.

Distraction.?

Distraction comes from every side. From Facebook and email to the web and other forms of entertainment. It comes from politics and social events. It comes from the manufacturers of commercial culture who want us distracted and hooked on their latest gizmo/whachathingy.

And it is damned difficult to keep our heads down and do the work with all that clamoring for our attention. Go to this webinar and that web page – they have all the answers. Listen to this guru or that guru or some rockstar who has all the answers – they will help make it easier. All ya gotta do is pay attention.

To them.

We have learned that we ‘must’ spend hours a day on Facebook, ‘connecting’ with our fans and followers and possible clients. We have to ‘pin’ and blog and tweet and twerk.

OK, we don’t really have to twerk. Seriously.

But we can spend so much time on the other crap that nothing of real value gets done.

Camera companies compete for our attention by dribbling out shiny new cameras with cutting edge features that we of course MUST have now, because our competitors have it. And it is awesome – that guru guy said it was, and there is a webinar that shows how lame last months new camera is compared to yesterdays new camera.

And a big time internet photographer just “Pinned” it… so it must be awesome.

Discontent.

We become unhappy with what we have, and what we don’t have becomes even more of a sore spot. Even to an open wound.
“When I get the Nicanon Mark 9, DE7000 X, I will finally be able to create my vision.”
But that never happens because as soon as you get it, Sonlympus comes out with a “Nicanon Killer” and some “awesome” internet guru has just declared it the most awesomest camera since last March.

We can sink into the pits of despair, the fire swamps of sadness, and simply believe that without this new or shiny or awesome thingy, we simply cannot continue on.

The funk continues when we read about a new photographer making a lot of waves, and getting a ton of attention. “Brooklynneshannadale Smith, 13, is shooting the new Audi campaign for a gazillion dollars after taking the commercial photography world by storm when her captivating, slightly misogynistic iPhone images on Instagram caught the eye of Dorkus McStoopeed, a big time ad agency owner in Manhattan…” (We call that a PR stunt. Learn to see them for what they are.)

And we try to measure this new work to our own, and try to figure out what the commercial world is really wanting anyway? We start to complain about clients, and the industry, and the totally screwed way it is going and how it is ruining the business… yadda – yadda – yadda.

Too many begin living their creative lives between distraction and discontent. They post memes on Facebook about how no one wants to pay them for their work. They go on forums and discuss how stupid and screwed up clients are. They fall farther and farther away from the center of their own world.

Photography.?

And while they are focused on all this negative distraction and discontent, along comes good old “Disruption”. It is quiet and insidious and if we are not vigilant, it will catch us looking away and – bang – we are watching our business from the sidelines.

Disruption.?

Things change. It all changes. Some changes took a long time to occur, like continental drift. Others took a small amount of time to change… like the time my Tower records went all CD over night on a weekend. No more vinyl – overnight.

Photography has seen plenty of disruption before. The invention of the Brownie camera that allowed anyone to make a photograph. The addition of meters in cameras, faster ISO films, auto-focus, and digital are the highlights.

Now we are seeing disruption in the publication industry that is affecting the commercial photography business as well. Things are changing. Print magazines are flooded with promotions from thousands of photographers. There is a glut of shooters it seems.

But there are also more ways to find work. From web sites to web magazines, Kindle books to iBooks to eBooks, there are more and more ways to create images for publication. Kickstarter projects, self assigned projects, galleries and print sales.

Disruption can be bad for some, but it always opens doors for others.

Seven years ago there was no such thing as an App Developer. Disruption changed that, and tens of thousands of new jobs opened up where none existed before.

Ten years ago a photographer who wanted to do their own high quality coffee table book had to first find a publisher, then negotiate and get a lawyer and lots of crappola to just get to the point of getting it to print.

Today, a photographer can produce their own coffee table book and offer it for sale on Amazon – reaching millions and millions of people worldwide.
“Local” may not mean what it meant 20 years ago.

Solutions?

  • Maybe, but I am not going to offer you the tired old “get off Facebook” stuff you get everywhere, I will simply offer some ideas:
  • Self Assignments: Personal work is the key to keeping creative and moving forward. If you do not have a personal project, start one as soon as possible.
  • Create a schedule for your work. Follow that schedule. Call it your creativity plan or productivity mantra or whatever. Instead of being distracted by all the silliness all day, find a great time to go on, engage, have fun and then be done with it.
  • Find a disruptive agent and make some effort to understand it, what it means for your work and how you can use it to advantage. Instagram is a disruptor… what can you do with it to help your work get known and seen? Or is it not worth the effort for you?
  • Analyze the distractions you see around you. Are you sure the camera companies have your best interests at heart? Are you sure the gurus with millions of followers have your best interest at heart. (Some do, some don’t… look carefully and you can tell who does.)
  • Stop comparing your work to others. Period. Follow YOUR vision, follow YOUR style, follow YOUR path to image creation.
  • Become insulated against the distractions and discontent that is so pervasive on the internet and social media. Remember that most of those discontented, unhappy ‘photographers’ have not been in the trenches, they are simply spouting what they read other people say.

At the end of the day, you are your own advocate, your own critic, your own worst enemy.

And identifying the distractions, discontents, and disruptions around you is important for us all. Once identified, they are easier to leave behind, ignore or actively engage.