Afterexposure Photography

Image Hotness


If you’re a photographer, repeat after me: “I will go to WPPI next year… I will go to WPPI next year… I will go to WPPI next year…”.


Why? Because somewhere in some other blog, some model has said:


“If you’re a model, repeat after me: “I will go to Las Vegas… I will go to Las Vegas… I will go to Las Vegas…”


And WPPI is held annually in Las Vegas. Make sense?


Take Brittney, for example. She isn’t, strictly speaking, from Las Vegas, either. But she still showed up after a loooong drive, and WOW did she kill it! I think this was one of her first, if not, her first photoshoot.


The location for this was perfect: an old ghost town that is far enough from Vegas to never be overrun, and is very photographer friendly. Especially for a ‘shootout’ format group shoot, where 5 or 6 photographers basically surround one model before moving on.


The only almost-uncool aspect was the “No nudity!” rule. Kinda silly, given the awesome outfits chosen for the models, I think! Although in hindsight I think the feathers all by themselves would be cool… maybe an ideal I’ll stash for now.


Anyway, back to Brittney. Here, in semi random order, are my faves from 36 minutes of shooting. Yep. 36 minutes. This was a shootout in a ghost town folks, so you have to work fast!


Let’s start with a bang. I think the red feathers make the whole thing work:









My second favourite detail: The Judith Leiber handbag. This thing cost … well, a lot. It’s kinda special. And it came with a bodyguard, too!











And now for some basic Brittney. No feathers, no bags. Just a wicked dress and some really high heels.







And a few last off-the wall (pardon the pun) shots… remember, “Only in Vegas…”







(No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, her eyes are green in this shot. I got to messing around with this shot…)


Ooooh… now for the boring part, the credits:


Photographer: Noel Dodd

Model: Brittany

Event Organizers Emma & Josh Smith /

Event Stylist – Michelle Barrionuevo-Mazzini MB Wedding Design and Events

Hair and Makeup by Hair by Liz – Liz Gopwani

Hair and Makeup by Sarah Diaz Professional Makeup Artist and

Wedding Gowns – The White Dress

Accessories- Renee Pawele

Purses – Judith Leiber ( the Forum Shops at Casesrs Palace)


Professional photography as a business is a strange animal. It can be difficult for clients to know what they are getting, what they aren’t getting, and why. If your photographer can answer a few simple questions and believe in their own answers, no matter what the answers are, chances are you are dealing with a pro who has experience and knows what works and what doesn’t for the way their business.

So it’s not a case of answering these questions with a single ‘right answer’, often it’s enough that the photographers answers fit both their own style of business, and your own expectations as a client.

This season I decided to test if my own answers made sense to me, to my business, and to my clients, and to make some positive changes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, too, so I’ve left comments open (but moderated; spam comments are annoying!).

To illustrate I’m going to use some images from a recent ‘1 hour Mini Shoot’ that I did locally. Sala was a terrific model; she’s put time into her posing and facial expressions, so it made the shoot quite productive. She also reminds me of a few actresses from those swingin’ European 60’s movies that had no real plot or dialogue, but great cast, cinematography and locations.

Question 1: “Can you make me look my best?”

My Honest Answer: “Of course! But what does that mean to you?”

Everyone has a slightly different opinion of what ‘best’ means, especially when they are looking at images of themselves. Have an honest discussion with your photographer about what you like and don’t like photographed, and the images you get will be 100% better. I tend to emphasize a persons positive aspects and features; this naturally means that trouble spots get less attention in the images. That might mean I see personality traits like being funny or charitable in their eyes; or I might find a womans lips or legs to be their best features, so it really depends on who I’m photographing, and what or who the images are for.


My favourite image of the day. The sun had already set, so I used a flash bounced off a reflector as a fake 'sunset'


Before you Buy

Before your start shopping you should consider what it is you want the finished images to look like. Consider the location, wardrobe, hair and makeup; chances are you’ve seen an image or own wardrobe that has inspired you, so discuss that with your photographer. If you are working to a common goal it will show in the results; if you have a mental picture already and don’t discuss it with the photographer you’re really leaving things to chance, and you’ll probably be disappointed in the results. Collectively I call this style and styling.

Style and Styling

These are really two completely different concepts. The style of an image refers to the qualities of the image itself, not the subject or wardrobe. Are colors vibrant or faded? Does it look retro or modern? Is it grungy, gritty and dark, or is it soft, light, and airy?

Styling an image refers to getting the details right for the type or genre of shoot; everything from shoes to dresses to props and furniture. Often getting styling right means the subject is going to look ‘right’ and fit the shoot; getting it wrong means the image won’t be memorable or have that ‘ring of truth’ and the viewer will sense something is off. Your photographer should either know a few stylists or have ready access to all the goodies needed for the shoot.

What’s really great is when the style and styling work well together. They don’t have to match, but they should compliment or contrast each other in a way that’s consistent.

Originally I had thought this image would look good with the look of retro-film, but it's better with a more natural tone.


Behind the Camera

Besides those obvious things that are in the frame, I think about things like lighting, posing, composition, and the choice of lens as the key ingredients to making a great image. These all have to suit the style of the shoot, because once the image is made, changing these things is practically impossible. It can be done, but it’s better to get it right from the start. Have a look at your photographers portfolio, and see what they’ve done, and let them know if there are specifics that you want to see in your images.

The Skinny on Retouching

Retouching is something that clients expect in vastly different amounts. Some people dislike the plastic look of retouched skin; others adore the look of airbrushed models in cosmetic advertisements in the glossy pages of magazines. By talking to your photographer you’ll know what to expect, and if there are additional charges to ‘photoshop’ the images in major ways.

Of course I can run all kinds of software to smooth out skin, shave off pounds, or even distort your limb length, but I really don’t like to do it to excess. I like to create images in the camera that reduce the amount of time I have to spend removing blemishes and smoothing skin, and I really dislike warping images to create thin or ‘more attractive’ subjects; in fact I’ve only done it a couple of times, and I didn’t really like it.

Does reality need a little nudge once in a while? Sure, zits, scars, and blemishes happen, and I deal with those. But it doesn’t need photographers altering body shape drastically. I think it sets an unrealistic burden on young people to fit an idealized image, when in fact they are great just the way they are.

Don’t believe me? In these images of Sala from the 1 Hour Mini Shoot, I chose the most flattering poses and compositions for her, so she didn’t need any ‘photoshop’ to make her thinner or distort her. Notice that she looks slightly different in each image as the camera changes position. I did a few very minor touch-ups on her skin, but this is what she looks like in person. Fo Realz, folks!


Question 2: “Why does photography cost so much?”

My 2¢: “Hey, I’m not that expensive!”

But really, the question should be “Why does that photographer cost so much?”. Photography is fairly inexpensive. Photographers, on the other hand, are not.

Digital has really changed things; there is no direct cost for clicking the shutter as there was with film. A decent semi-pro camera can be had for about $1500. A pro lens is about the same. You could add all the accessories, software, lighting, etc to the list, but it’s no different than any other profession where the tools are part of the cost of doing business. Sure, it’s more than a $99 point-n-shoot pocket camera, but pretty much all the dSLR’s can produce some solid images, even with cheap kit lenses, if they are used creatively.

So if the cameras are all more-or-less the same, what’s left? The photographer.

The photographer is the unique element; each one of us is different and produces different looking images. Because there is only one of me, I’m the only one who can deliver what I do. This is another reason why you should like the portfolio of the photographer you hire; asking them to work outside their style can doesn’t always work, so look for confidence in your photographer that they feel they can deliver what you are asking for.

But back to pricing; the two unique factors that each photographer might charge for are time and talent. They may not package it that way, but I do.

The time cost is sometimes referred to as the session fee, sitting fee, or shooting fee. This is the compensation for the time and expenses for the photographer to show up and deliver a great experience and capture some awesome images. If you’re in a studio, chances are the session fee covers the rent and upkeep of the studio itself, so those tend to be higher priced. ‘Boudoir Marathons’, where a photographer sets up shop in a posh hotel for a day can spread the cost of the room across all the clients, and it’s a great way to reduce the prices so everyone can have fun. Your photographer might even have a ‘rep’ program for you – I do; if you organize your friends for a marathon shoot, you’ll get perks for your effort to get your friends involved.

The other factor is talent of the photographer; it shows up in the price of the images you get, either as prints, in an album, or maybe as digital files. So if a photographer has a print price list, make sure you’ve read it and understand what kind of investment you’d like to make. It’s one thing to afford a photoshoot, it’s very disappointing when you then realize you can’t afford to purchase any images! This is why I package things as a combination of session fee and print credit, or a specific product like a boudoir book; it ensures that you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it, too.

The biggest in-joke / insult for photographers is when someone sees a really big camera and comments to them: “Geez, I bet that thang really takes some puuurrty pikturz!”. That kind of statement discounts the talent of the photographer completely.  In fact, the photographer makes some pretty pictures, they don’t take them. The difference? You make an image when you know what you’re doing, and can use the equipment to get the result you envisioned.

Here are a set of similar images from the 1 Hour Mini Shoot; the difference between each pair is that I’m taking one step to the left or right to catch the sun in the lens. Sometimes I like the washed out effect, sometimes I prefer the punchier colours or less lens flare. I know a few really skilled camera owners (note: I didn’t say ‘photographers’) who take really boring shots with really expensive cameras. I much prefer something creative, even if technically it isn’t a perfect image because I was shooting into the sun.

Which leads us to the next question…

Question 3: “How much do you charge for digital files?”

My not-trying-to-duck-the-question Answer: “It depends… keep reading…”

Digital files are a slippery slope for photographers. Unlike film, where there was only one negative, and having control of the negative meant something, digital files can be copied, shared, and printed. Digital rights management is something new (and confusing) to most clients, and it can really be done badly. But there are ways to simplify it.

Answer #1: “Digital Files are not for sale.”

This works really well in situations where both the client and the photographer agree to keep the images private, or to only publish/blog those that the client is ok with showing. My intimate portraits and boudoir sessions are good examples; a client may want images for a photobook or canvas, but the absolute last thing she wants are those digital files to end up on facebook or their husbands laptop at work. I don’t even offer online proofing for these shoots for just that reason; it keeps those images off the internet.

Answer #2: “Digital Files are (in the accent of Dr. Evil) ‘One Million Dollars’…”

Ok, so maybe not a million, but kinda spendy. Why?

The files are essentially a piece of unique art, and buying full resolution files means you are buying that art in it’s purest form. To the photographer the risk of having someone do a very bad editing or printing job, but still having the photographers name associated with it is a real possibility, and for some a real worry because they feel so strongly about their art and what it means to be an artist.

I price digital files as if they were large prints; after all, if you order a print of an image the same work goes into the file, and often the bigger the print, the more work is needed to ensure all the details are right. Selling a full resolution digital file could mean that it’s going to be printed large, and if it’s not prepared and sharpened for output at a particular size, it won’t look it’s best, so photographers, like any visual artists, they like to have control over how their final products look.

The other thing that is often not made clear with digital files are image rights. Often clients assume that if they get a digital file they can do anything with it, when really that’s almost never completely true. The best thing to do is talk to your photographer if you feel that you want a digital copy, and what their stance on digital files is. I’m finding more of my colleagues are reluctant to sell digital files because it cuts into their print sales or they have concerns about print quality, which I agree with. But I don’t loose sleep over it, because I now rarely sell full resolution images, instead I talk to my clients to ensure I’m providing them the products they really want.

If a client can’t afford a $750 large-format canvas, but can afford a $150 canvas from a big box store at the mall, they often get frustrated, because they think they can get the same product for much less, if they only had the digital file. What’s missing in the equation is the cost of the art and the preparation for the medium, not the product it’s printed on (see Question 2). Although the photographers costs for professional products is often higher than ‘big box’ retail prices, the value of the image also has to be factored into the final price as well.

I now charge an additional fee for full resolution images; if you’ve ordered a print, canvas or book product already, then do you need a full resolution digital copy? Probably not, if you’ve purchased the products you really want. But how about smaller resolution files? You might want these if you want to brag on facebook. That’s what I do, and I provide smaller resolution files for exactly this reason, which leads to Answer #3…

Answer #3: “Digital Files are included in the package”

This is how I answer most of the time. For clients (including models) one item of value is a smaller digital file, usually sized at 720 pixels wide, called ‘Social Media Files’. This fits facebook perfectly, and works with all other social media and model networking sites. I usually watermark the image with my logo, and grant the client rights to use the images ‘for personal display, for advertisement and self promotion’ (ie, model portfolios), with a photo credit.’ They are sized and sharpened especially for display online, so it’s easier to just supply a set of pre-sized/pre-sharpened files of all the images the client has paid for.

So if you’ve ordered an image as a physical product, like a print or in a book, the social media files are yours, because chances are someone will see the image, and my logo, and give me a call. Simple, huh?

Question 4: “Can I get all the images from my shoot on a DVD?”

My Short Answer: “No.”

But why? The client is paying, right?

Not really. Remember, as the client you are paying for the photographers talents to provide specific images or prints; the session fee for time and expenses doesn’t cover the value of any other images. And just as importantly you are paying for a positive experience!

As an artist I’m a bit self-concious about what I put out there as my portfolio both online and printed. I take pride in the images, and I only want my name to be associated with my best work. Could you still have the full resolution files and edit them yourself? Generally, no (see Question 3, above)… images that aren’t 100% often get deleted, I kept this one below as an example. Why delete them? At 25 megabytes per image, RAW files are 2 – 4 times larger than jpeg files. A full day of shooting can mean as many as 64 GB of files, so even lower quality jpegs from a shorter shoot often fill one 4 GB DVD. That’s a LOT of data that nobody will ever want to look through twice!

If you’d like ALL the images from a shoot discuss it with your photographer; what you might find is that the session fee is higher, but since you aren’t asking for them to cull, edit, or post-produce the images, there is no ‘per image’ print fee. This is more like a commercial arrangement, where the client has their own in-house editing staff and you’re just paying the day-rate for the photographer.

To illustrate, take a look at the *cough* anaemic image below, and compare it to the next image down… they are really the same image, the first one straight out of camera (sometimes abbreviated ‘SOOC’), and the second one is the ‘finished’ version. This was taken right at the start of the shoot as she was looking for some good footing on the hillside, and as I adjusted the reflector to put some more light on her, so it was never going to be a ‘keeper’.

Another reason the files aren’t consumer-ready is that I often shoot in ‘RAW’ mode, instead of shooting jpegs. What’s the difference? RAW means the files are what the camera sensor recorded, which is often a bit flat looking; not the vibrant, punchy colors and contrast of a consumer camera in jpeg mode. Recording this way gives me about twice the data, because in this case I know I’m going to edit these files later to give them a more ‘sunset’ look.

I think this makes the point; are all the images from the shoot worth it? While I prefer to get things looking great in-camera (meaning no endless hours fiddling with the image on the computer later on), that’s not always the case. And sometimes, as I was doing here, I’m just using the camera as a capture tool, because to get the look I want I will have to edit it in the computer later to bring out my vision from those pixels.


Straight out of Camera, this lacks punch.


Finished image. Punch? Yes. But is it a keeper? No.

I hope I explained things in enough detail to make sense; if there are any questions – fire away in the comments section!

Cherise – Sneak Peak

I had a spare day in Victoria, B.C. recently, and put out a last minute casting call on Model Mayhem to see if anyone was up for a shoot – and Cherise was there, and rocked it. I didn’t give much direction to her, and when I started to say something, she did what I was thinking. Either she is psychic, or I’m a Jedi. I think she is just in tune with what might work for a shot. She has a bit of a Cate Blanchett look from some angles, but not from others – and would be outstanding in print work.

The shoot went much longer than I anticipated – over 4 hours – so we had plenty of time to move around, although given the time I’d wished we had chosen to use more of the wardrobe she brought with her. We shot an epic 700+ images; not quite my record, but a few hundred too many to make any easy decisions for a blog post, or even her proof previews.

But as always, a few images stood out. The first image is actually the first frame taken during the shoot; I was intending the first segment to be shot in black and white, and a few of the subsequent images really worked well in this harsher style. These are my own proofs, to help me decide how much contrast -vs- grey tone I like, but I thought they were similar enough to post here as a group.

I’m sure I’ll post more of her later, but for now – just a peek…





Kayla – Part 2

I use Adobe Lightroom to organize my shoots, and as I was doing some  digital housecleaning today I came across a ‘stack’ of images of Kayla that I hadn’t processed yet! This was a great shoot and proof that great natural light can really make a difference. I still used some fill-flash, because I’m basically shooting into the sun, but the effect comes from the golden sun, strongly backlighting her.

At the end are a couple of behind-the-scenes shots of the area we were working in.


I dig it when posts pretty much write themselves. Sometimes I kinda ramble – which is the exact opposite of what a photo blog should be.

So… here is Nicole. I won’t write about how she came well prepared, or that her hubby didn’t mind one bit when I enlisted him as a ‘voice activated light stand’ for the entire shoot. And I’ve already posted a sneak peek; so here are some shots from the rest of the setups.

First, some dramatic lighting and posing. I try and shoot in a logical order; start with the most structured & planned shots, then progress to the more experimental ones. This ensures that every shoot is productive, yet everyone gets to stretch their craft a bit.


The we switch it up a bit for some pin-up shots. Nicole has the figure for it, and really blemish-free skin, so it was easy to knock out a whole bunch of these:


Back to the sofa… these were shot in my suite at the MGM Signature, and I really liked the colors from the painting. I cheated a bit here and gelled the strobe reddish. For a little interest I wanted to mix up the posing a bit.

A little tighter in on Nicole. At this point we are sacrificing the hair and makeup for fun…

Another quick change, then onto the freezing balcony. This high up and this late at night it is cold out there!

For a more edgy look to match the wardrobe I took a whole bunch of creative license with the post-processing of these…

And last, a little more range from Nicole… I really like how this actually relaxes the facial muscles and loosens up the shoot, so I think I’m going to more of this type of thing earlier in the shoots.

That’s it for now; of course we shot more (a lot more!), and who knows – I may decide to do some mini-session marathons and travel back to Vegas!


This is Kayla, and she totally rocked the shoot! Thanks Kayla!

We were lucky enough to have a warm and dry day in Vegas… not what the weather forecast was predicting… so when the sun began to set and turn that golden color, we headed for a nearby vacant lot and got what we could in the last few minutes of sun.

I’m really happy with these results; this was shot on the Pentax K20D and their 50-135mm f/2.8 lens, filled with on-camera flash (probably an old Canon 430EX), and developed in Adobe Lightroom.

June TFP Shoot: Theresa

So first off; what the heck is ‘TFP’? Back in the day of film and prints it meant ‘Time for Prints’ – an arrangement between photographer and model where the model traded her time and talent for a few (hopefully) portfolio worthy images. Nowdays the definition isn’t as clear; basically if the participants – in this case myself, the model Theresa H, and make up artist Shannon Payne – all agree to the idea of the shoot, then everyone gets a few finished images. The work involved is about a thousand times less than shooting a wedding, and it gives everyone a chance to try something creative with no penalties.

For this shoot, I arrived before Shannon, so Theresa and I did a few shots while we waited. This was an evening shoot, and she already had a bit of makeup on from earlier in the day, but nothing done with her hair or wardrobe. Just Theresa.

Of course I can’t help but try some of my favourite alternate processes. Notice how her freckles disappear!

Now the fun starts, well, at least for the girls. We discuss the look a little; choose some wardrobe, and Theresa washes her face. Professional makeup takes a bit of time, but considering the dramatic change that’s about to happen, it’s worth it for this shoot.

She just snuck a peek at the back of my camera…

Still sitting in the chair, the change is dramatic:

Now it’s my turn. First, we go outside for a tight ‘safety shot’ to get dialed in. We have to work fast, because the sun has already gone down behind some buildings… so all the ‘sunlight’ is really off-camera flash.

Then we let ‘er rip!

I really like alternate treatments, especially when the subject and theme support it. Compare these first couple of images to the shots above:

Or even something that’s a bit more of a departure in terms of color and feeling:

Ok, back to normal-land, we rock out the last bit of light left…

Take a really good look at the shot below. If you’re over 35 and watched ‘Charlies Angels’, don’t you think she has a hint of Kate Jackson in her smile?

Normally when I do this I choose one or two images from the shoot to blog. But I just couldn’t choose today. In total I took about 600 shots, most in the last hour. The deciding factor on what to post was down to pose, eye position, expression, and little details.

And sometimes, like this one, I’ll choose a shot even if it breaks a few rules but still looks great!

2010 Album Page Styles

I’ve really wanted 2010 to be the year that I refined exactly what I do and what I offer. One of the first things I set out to do was simplify my album offerings; this means I can’t be all things to all people, but I can do a really darn good job at what I choose to do. It makes the business side a LOT simpler too, which keeps prices low and accurate, because I don’t have to over-estimate (er, wildly guess) at what my costs are.


I wanted as few choices as possible that span the range of cover materials. For me that means Leather, Linen, and Handmade Paper (all in a variety of colors). The other thing I did was choose only square format albums, in 8″x8″, 10″x10″ and 12″x12″, which are fairly common sizes.

Next, I looked at what I was doing for page layouts, and how that worked with page sizes. I decided to narrow my layout choice down to two styles; classic and contemporary. Within these two styles is enough wiggle room to create something unique for each couple, but not stray so far in terms of design that it becomes cumbersome to produce.

The Classic layout has a black background, a thin white border to each image, and fairly structured image layouts. I like it because it’s going to stand the test of time and it’s not gimmicky.

The Contemporary layout is generally a white background, with a main image over a full-spread background image strip. It’s clean, and it’s me. It’s so simple that it not gimmicky either. And I’ve never seen anything like it.

To test the page styles out I ordered an inexpensive book from with some of my favourite images in these new layouts. I don’t use photobookcanada as my main album supplier, but the quality for the price is amazing, so it lets me be experimental without sweating the cost. The slideshow below contains selected spreads of a 12″x12″ 40 page Imagewrap hardcover book.

If you were asking yourself “Hey, if they are so great, why not use them for albums and pass the savings to your customers?”… there are two BIG reasons: they don’t have lie-flat pages, and it’s a press-print, not a photo print, which means they are just a bit softer looking, and I’m not sure of the long term image quality. As gift albums I think they’d be great; but not for the couples or parents albums. Have a look; I hope you like them!

Fastest. Shoot. Evar.

I knew that we had worked quickly on the previous shoot (with Lexus Lee); but I didn’t realize how quickly. Here is the shot breakdown:

Setup #1: 2 minutes, 38 seconds. 48 proof images

Setup #2:3 minutes, 37 seconds, 65 proof images

Setup #3: 49 seconds, 15 proof images.

Shooting time: 7 minutes, 4 seconds; 130 images (two were in the car)

Total shoot time: 20 minutes from first shot to last shot; about 40 minutes total, as we drove around a bit at the end to get a better feeling for the location and what it offered.

Wow! Maybe I should plan all my shoots for bad weather…

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

Shooting Vamps and Vampires

A while back Lexus Lee and I had started conversing about a non-glamour photoshoot, something fun and different. One thing we both zero’d in on was the idea of an Underworld / Selene look… NO sparkles for us! I really like shooting in landscape orientation (ie, wide), as if making a movie, so this was something I could get into. And she got to do something that was interesting to her, personally… this wasn’t just another T&A shoot (which she obviously rocks at, but has plenty in her portfolio already).

For you budding photographers on Model Mayhem, take note. This one small fact – shooting what the model finds interesting – is probably why I have such a low flake rate, why the shoots are so much fun, and why everyone puts in 110% effort.

This shoot sat on the books for months, and we just couldn’t get our calendars to line up with the right conditions. Finally we got it together for Friday evening…. and the forecast called for snow. Great! We nabbed a few shots outside, and ran back to the car to warm up. Take a look at the makeup, contact lenses, and wardrobe… she did an AMAZING job pulling this together herself.

Waiting for the snow to stop

Waiting for the snow to stop

Before it really dumped on us we got in a few good, if brief, setups. The temperature was about -2C, so we had to work fast. The color balance in these shots is basically for incandescent, which is why it has an intentional blue cast, but it’s better than shooting in the correct white balance and doing in post production. Why? Because you can see the results while you are shooting, which means you can check highlights, background details, and watch for odd colored elements.

This was all shot in RAW (DNG, specifically), so I could adjust the white balance later if needed, and with the big buffer on the Pentax K20D I could still shoot rapidly. This is really important when the model is essentially wearing only a thin stretch lycra catsuit in below freezing temps! As soon as the teeth-chattering stopped we ran out and popped off a series of shots like this one, which might be my favorite for the day:

Hunting. Freezing, too!

Hunting. Freezing, too!

… and then back into the car. The snow really started to come down. There was no way to use anything but available light; everything was getting soaked.  I think I’d like to pick up a couple of clear plastic Pelican cases for my lights, and epoxy some 1/4″ mounting studs to them. My newly replaced lens, the Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, is weather resistant, and shrugged off the wet with no issues. I would have liked to get in closer with the 16-45mm for some funkier angles, but the snow was so thick the auto-focus was picking up on the white snow against her black outfit, so I knew we didn’t have much time left before it got really dark. The 16-45mm is f/4 wide open, and looks better at f/5.6 – meaning I would have been up another notch in ISO.

By now we knew the shoot was going to have to be called off for another day. There were shots we weren’t going to get, like with the city skyline as a backdrop, that were now made invisible with the falling snow. We found another interesting location and rattled off a few quick shots:

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

So how cold is that stone on your butt, anyway?

The BB guns were her idea; we discussed what to do if the police were called because they are so realistic. I suggested that she not panic if  the cops drew their weapons and asked us to get on the ground :) Lucky for us the weather was so terrible nobody noticed us, and thankfully nobody got tazed!

We’ll be back, but not until it warms up a bit. In the meantime we have about 130 images from that day to study and discuss, so that when we next get a small window of weather we can take advantage of it.

A big thanks to Ms. Lee for coming out, freezing her tush off for a few minutes, and doing an outstanding job. I can’t wait for the next chinook!

A Tale of Three Umbrellas and a Gel

I was just reviewing some shots of Kasandra (one was poster earlier). She is a make up artist that did double-duty as model on a recent shoot, and what a gem she is:

Pentax K20D, ISO 400 ,f/9.5, 1/90 sec, 135 mm, smc Pentax 50-135mm f/2.8

I had been experimenting with white umbrellas (reflective, not shoot through), and found I really prefer the light over a harder reflective material, like silver.

This shoot would be a chance to try out a lighting arrangement that normally would need a bunch of reflector cards, softboxes, and such, but since we were shooting on location I wanted to pack a bit lighter, and keep the setup time down to a minimum.

What I decided on was a variation of butterfly lighting. I knew she would be sitting, and these would be head-and-shouler shots to show off a necklace, so I placed a chair about 6′ from a scrap of seamless background paper. The room was too narrow for a a full 10′ wide roll of seamless, so I put up the portable background stands with only two lengths in the horizontal crossbar, instead of all three.

For light, I put two umbrellas up high and in front of the model, pointing about 45° down. In these shots the light stands are just barely out-of-frame to the left and right. I found that the shadow under her chin was too dark, and a small 2′ x 3′ white foamcore didn’t help enough.

To give a more even light I put my most controllable light, an Alien Bees ABR-800 (that’s right, a ringflash), on it’s umbrealla adapter (which is a curse and should be redesigned…), and put this third white umbrella on the floor, pointing up. No stand, just a pile of black scrim fabric under it, to give it the right angle. Which by no coincidence was 45° up. It was so close to her that she could touch it with her feet.

The main light in the first umbrella (on image-right) was an old hot-shoe flash on full power. It’s an old Sunpak auto 28, but for whatever reason it has a really short recycle time, making it perfect for ‘strobist’ style use.

For the fill umbrella on image-left, a second hotshoe flash, I chose my new Pentax 360. It has good manual control, so I turned it down to about 1/4 to nearly match the main, but not quite, to give some shape to her face.

The Alien Bees is quite a powerful light, so I kept it down to 1/32 – 1/16 territorry. All of these lights were fired from ebay style radio triggers, which aren’t bad for this kind of close range work. And the new ones use AAA batteries in the receivers, so rechargables are now an option.

The resulting image (above) was pretty darn good, in terms of matching my vision. It could be developed has high-key with more juice, but really I was going for a slightly lower tone and DR in the main colors to make it more suitable for print. If you look at the exposure data you’ll notice this was done at ISO 400; this is because the main was already at full power, and couldn’t pump out more light.  I could have set up a heavier stand and put the ABR-800 up in the air as the main, but balancing the output of that monster of a light with a puny little hotshoe flash would mean I would have just turned it down anyway. I could also have opened up from f/9.5 to f/8, but if you look closely enough you’ll see that at f/8 I would have to start making trade-offs in focus; the back of her pony-tail is already starting to blur; and my focus point was either the corner of her eye or her hairline around her ear.

On and off throughout the shoot I added a fourth light, right behind her head; it was sometimes pointed forward, to give her a nice rim light, but that also showed too many fine / stray hairs. Toward the end of the shoot I decided to gel this strobe and point it at the background; I think this color was a Lee Filter ‘Bastard Pink’, and the resulting images from the last 10 minutes really came to life:

Pentax K20D, ISO 400 ,f/11, 1/90 sec, 108 mm, smc Pentax 50-135mm f/2.8

The effect of the gel on the white background paper is remarkable; and the hue of the light is very close to her lipstick shade. I think when I looked in the LCD after this shot I told her she looked like the color of a sorbet!

I hope this inspires you to play around more with inexpensive lighting; I could have substituted a cheaper light for the under-fill and claimed this was done for $200 in gear (three $20 lights, three $20 umbrellas, two $20  stands with hotshoe/umbrella brackets, and two pairs of $20 ebay trigger sets.).

Maybe I should change my tagline to ‘the $20 strobist’…

Sunny Sunday Afternoon

Sometimes things just come together just right; the model (Miriam) is terrific, the light is fantastic (and my reflector isn’t blowing around), and lessons about subject isolation, both from a depth-of-field effect and angle-of-view effect really hit home. Here I was lucky to be able to shoot at f/2.8 and ISO 100 without blowing out anything, which was pretty handy. And the angle of the 50mm was just right to include some interesting background, and exclude the pathfull of passers-by.

And maybe autumn isn’t so bad after all…

Beauty -vs- Technical Mumbo Jumbo

Sometimes technical qualities of a photo take a back seat to the needs of the shot, and it looks better, despite being ‘imperfect’.

I shot this yesterday in late afternoon/early evening sun, no flash, no reflector. 50mm f/1.2 (yep, 1.2, not 1.4), ISO 100, 1/640. I was looking for a nice paper thin focus plane on her eyes and lots of ‘nothing’ behind her.

But shooting this wide creates a ‘soft’ image, which is usually a Bad Thing. Looking at the softness it creates, even in the in-focus details, I’m not so sure now… maybe sometimes it’s a Good Thing.

I know a secret…

Well, two, actually.

On a hunch the other day I decided to hang some black fabric on either side of the model to control spill. For about 3 months I’ve been thinking that shooting in confined studio spaces that have white walls has really been crapping on my contrast levels.

The other “Ah-Ha!” moment was when lighting ratios became automatic. Not just stuff you know, but stuff you can feel. It’s weird when you realize that you can see the inverse square law with the naked eye, in real time, and then prove it with the camera.

For starters, the model above is in front of a white background. The background is lit by the teensiest of hotshoe flashes (only 2 AA batteries), plus a really dark purple gel from a freebie pack of Lee filters. And she is front-lit by an AB800 at about 1/16 power.

It’s not just the moment that you get it, but the moment that you get it and you know you get it.

A small technical success…

Here is a shot from Tuesday night. I did a series outdoors and wanted to capture the lights of the city behind a model. To use a fairly low ISO I had to use long-ish exposures, this one was 2 seconds. The flash froze the foreground, although there was enough ambient light that most of shots were a little blurry because it’s impossible to stand totally still. Next time I’ll choose a VERY dark spot for the subject to stand.

In the interest of full disclosure I had to adjust the color balance of her skin afterwards. I did try a few gel shots, but the gels were too saturated and should have been lighter. Live and learn.

Putting the T back in TFP

TFP, or ‘Time For Prints’ refers to a model working for prints instead of money, and nowdays it’s sometimes called TFCD – althought even that is a little dated (where the model gets a CD), since it’s easier to just to put everything online (I use zenfolio). I still like putting finished product on CD or DVD just for the more permanent nature of the media, but that’s another post.

But back to the premise, which is a growing confusion of the terms collaboration and TFP. If TFP is meant as a form compensation acceptable to the model for their time (the magic T in TFP), then a release should be signed by the model and the photographer should be able sell the images at a later time. But I see a lot of collaborative work being done (heck, I do 99% of my work as collaborative) with no releases, and no hope of anyone getting anything published and making an income.

I think we need to transition part way back to TFP, but create a shared profit model whereby if the photographer sells an image, the model is also compensated. They can work out the percentages and the structure, and then let the machinery of stock photography work out the dollars and cents for each participant.

Any takers?

Interesting time at the Glam Jam

Last night saw a packed house for the Glam Jam; I’m curious on the final head-count, but at the high point of the night it was impossible to move around much. I’m not really a big meet-and-greet kinda person, so at least that part of the venue was perfect… you pretty much couldn’t move without literally bumping into someone new.

In terms of networking photographers to models it was pretty interesting to start the same conversation with a dozen models, and the different twists and turns it takes after five minutes. I’m not terrific at reading people, so I have no idea who really liked my work and was genuinely interested in doing a shoot. Most of the new models didn’t have comp cards or contact info, so if that was you drop me a note and say hi!

But it was really nice to finally get out and meet some of the other photographers that I see online. Their work is pretty diverse so it was a chance for me to see what kind of range and quality full time pro’s have and compare it the part-timers like myself. My real reason for going was to check the local market conditions and see if Calgary can support ‘yet another photographer’. The answer is probably ‘no’, so I won’t quit my day job just yet.

I think having better connections into other industries beyond fashion is probably the key. The event might really take off if there was a day show for actual paying clients from local businesses to come by and check out what kinds of things are possible.

The other big score was meeting a few stylists and make up artists that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I think that after last night their services are going to be in HUGE demand from a lot of folks.

Calgary Glam Jam

After two weeks of back to back shoots, I’ve been busy buried under the sorting and post-processing of almost a thousand images.

Why the rush?

The Calgary Glam Jam

After talking to a few folks I’ve found out there is some interest in the event, so I decided to actually get my faves printed and build a real physical portfolio book.

Tomorrow I hope to shuffle the web site around a bit so when I give out my moo cards the folks visiting this page at least see something a little more organized than the current mess.