35 and Up!

35 and Up! is an ongoing project of mine that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. The 35 and Up! project features photographs of women who are 35 years of age and older. There are lots of reason why I love doing this project, but there are a couple main ones.

First: There is something about women at around 35 years old and older that sets them apart from most who are younger. It’s very difficult for me to quantify, but I can see it. There’s typically a confidence that comes with complete comfort in your skin because you’re at the age that it really is what it is. Typically, by about 35, in my experience, people are generally past the times when they’re trying to be something they’re not.

Not always, but usually.

And this is not to say that young women–or men for that matter–don’t have the capability for a certain je ne sais quoi, they absolutely do, but it’s usually something different.

Second: Casting calls for models 18-26 are a dime a dozen. Everybody and their uncle wants a model or models in the 18-26 age range. I don’t think models 35 and older get their just due. That’s my opinion.

Anyway, the following 35 and Up! participants appear in no particular order. I won’t disclose how old they are except that they are all over 35 and the are all stunning. Like I said, I love this project.

Tanya

Tanya isn’t a “model.” She’s just a dear friend who I love taking photos of.

Tanya
Tanya
Tanya
Tanya
Tanya 35 and Up!
Tanya

Chelle

I met Chelle a couple of years ago and we’ve done a few shoots together. And, of course, she rocks the 35 and Up!

Chelle in 35 and Up!
Chelle
Chelle
Chelle
Chelle
Chelle

Kirsty

I put the word out that I was looking for some models for the project and Kirsty stepped up.

Kirsty
Kirsty
Kirsty
Kirsty
Kirsty
Kirsty

Eliana

Eliana made it to the studio and blessed me with some amazing shots.

Eliana
Eliana
Eliana
Eliana
Eliana
Eliana

Emily

Emily came in to the studio on extremely short notice. I think I had a shoot reschedule and I posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone to come to mess around with lighting.

Emily
Emily
Emily
Emily
Emily
Emily

Melody

Melody’s vibe is edgier than a switchblade knife.

Melody
Melody
Melody
Melody
Melody
Melody

Rachelle

Rachelle. Look at her!

Rachelle
Rachelle
Rachelle
Rachelle
Rachelle
Rachelle

Molly

Molly likes to say she’s changing beauty standards one gray hair at a time. Yep!

Molly
Molly
Molly
Molly
Molly
Molly

The 35 and Up1 project is an ongoing, never ending project. As I add more amazing women to it, I’ll put up more blogs to feature them.

And remember, when it comes to beauty, it’s not just a young person’s game.

Vittoria: Once Upon a Time in the West Desert

This lifestyle editorial features the amazing Vittoria Hiltbrunn. The theme of the whole shoot was “road trip to the desert.” We spent the better part of a day and a couple hundred miles driving from the city making our way through much of Utah’s West Desert and finally ended up at the Little Sahara Sand Dunes.

I want to mention that it’s simply not possible to do a shoot like this and not be able to take photos in any lighting condition. You To hell with “golden hour!” I’ve always found it puzzling that people relegate themselves to be a slave to an hour or so at either end of the day to make photos. Don’t do that. Learn how to use flash, scrims, making some place work no matter what time of day, whatever. In other words, be able to take photos in whatever conditions you find yourself in.

We started the adventure at noon in the lobby of my studio because I love the mid-day light there. Plus it’s a great way to break the ice so to speak.

Vittoria in the doorway.
ISO100, 85mm, f2.8, 1/250

A quick change and another lobby shot. This one using the awesome Sigma 24-70 Art 2.8 lens.

Vittoria in the lobby.
ISO100, 35mm, f3.2, 1/160

After a few shots in the lobby of the studio we drove to a coffee shop before hitting the road. The coffee shop has some huge west facing windows that throw some amazing light into the common area.

Vittoria coffee shop stairs.
ISO100, 24mm, f2.8, 1/200
Vittoria coffee shop view
ISO200, 24mm, f2.8, 1/800

After our coffee, we hit the road in earnest traveling south for several miles then cut off of the freeway heading into Utah’s West Desert. Our first stop was the tiny town of Goshen, Utah. The only reason you even notice this little place is because the posted speed limit slows a bit.

The following photos taken with a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art.

Vittoria in Goshen
ISO100, 50mm, f3.5, 1/640
Vittoria gas pump.
ISO100, 50mm, f2, 1/2000

The whole vibe of this extinct roadside gas station was pretty amazing.

Vittoria, extinct gas station.
ISO100, 50mm, f3.5, 1/400

Continuing further west, we hit a little wide spot in the road called Elberta.

A friend of mine looked at the photo below and commented, “I can almost hear the wind blowing, the door hinges squeaking as the doors bang in the background.”

Yes, so can I.

On this shot I did use a tiny bit of fill flash from camera right. The lighting conditions were all over the place with clouds coming and going.

Also, I’m using the Sony 85mm 1.8, one of the best sub $600 lenses there is. It’s absolutely a beast of a lens for any price point.

ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/1000

If you find an old broken down motorcycle, of course you integrate it into a photo.

Again, a tiny bit of fill flash from camera right.

ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/1000

After we finished up in this cool little location, we packed it up and continued west, eventually arriving at the mining town of Eureka. I kid you not. A mining town called Eureka.

Vittoria changed it up and we found this great little stairway alley. It’s amazing the cool locations you can find just about any place.

Vittoria on the stairs.
ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/800

Looking around, what did we find? An awesome door frame.

ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/640

After the mighty town of Eureka, we headed to the final destination; the Little Sahara Recreation Area.

Pro tip: If you ever decide to shoot out at Little Sahara, do it on a Sunday. Any other day of the week it’s jammed with ATVs, motorcycles, and campers. On Sunday it’s generally nearly empty.

Vittoria changed her clothes, and Angela who was pulling assistant duties this day brushed sand from her bum. Of course I caught the moment. To be honest, without Angela, the whole day would have been much more difficult.

Angela the assistant.
Angela the assistant.

Vittoria changed into a dress and we took off across the sand dunes. There’s no way around it, she just rocks these shots.

Vittoria in a blue dress.
ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/1000
Vittoria blue dress again.
ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/1000
Vittoria kneeling with the blue dress.
ISO100 ,85mm, f4, 1, 1/800

It was at this point that Vittoria changed into a different outfit and I changed lenses to a Sony 135 1.8 GM.

The shorts and top combo are perfect for the desert vibe:

Vittoria in shorts and boots.
ISO100, 135mm, f1.8, 1/2500
Vittoria in bodysuit and biker jacket.
ISO100, 135mm, f3.5, 1/400

And finally, one last look before calling a wrap:

Vittoria in shorts and bikini top.
ISO100, 135mm, f1.8, 1/1250.

At this it was time to load up, call it a day, and head back home.

I just have to say that Vittoria was amazing and a huge pleasure to work with.

Model: Vittoria Hiltbrunn.

Assistant: Angela X. A huge and giant shoutout to her.

Gear used: Sony a7R4, Sony 85mm 1.8, Sony 135mm 1.8GM, Sigma 24-70 2.8 Art, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. Godox AD600Pro with a 28 inch octa.

Using Flash to Make Natural Light Photos

Using flash to make natural light photos might seem counterintuitive to some, and it might drive some natural light photographers a little nuts, but hear me out.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with embracing natural light and natural light only for portrait photos. If the light is there and you can get the look you want from it, go for it. But often times the natural light just can’t quite cut it on its own; at least for some of the looks I want. The looks I’m talking about aren’t necessarily those in which a flash is obviously used; that flash look. I like that look sometimes. It’s a pretty common look nowadays.

Here’s an example:

Example of outdoor image with obvious use of flash.

To me it’s obvious that a flash was used on this shot. The biggest tell is the fact that it’s shot against a bright background that isn’t completely blown out. In fact it’s shot directly into the sun. That’s the little blown out area you see. But the model, Cindy, is properly exposed. Combined that with the catchlight in the eyes and and the shadows from her legs, yes, this used flash. In fact the use of flash is as subtle as a sledge hammer on the head. That’s ok, though, because it’s exactly the look I wanted.

For this shot I used a 60 inch octa just slightly off axis, camera right.

Remember, light is light. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Whether it comes from the sun, a lamp, a speedlight, or a strobe, photons are photons. There’s an old joke about using available light, and then pulling out a flash you have with you because it’s available. Yes, cheeky, I know, but it there’s a lot of truth to it.

For many outdoor shots, I tend to use flash even though when I do it’s not obvious. In fact I like to use flash wen when my goal is to create something that is going to look natural.

Can you tell if this shot is using flash or not?

Cindy uptown photoshoot.

I would venture to say that many, if not most, would say this was shot without flash. There are no telltale indications that a flash was used. It looks as if there would have been no need for flash. But when viewed at full resolution, you are able to see a subtle catchlight in the eyes that look like it could be from a soft box of some sort.

But, yes, this shot is done with a flash. I had an assistant hold a speedlight in a 28 inch octa about 45 degrees to the model’s right and about 45 degrees up from eye level. This spot is a little recessed nook off of an alley. Camera left is the alley. Across the alley is a concrete building which provided a huge bit of bounced light coming over the rooftops camera right. But during this shot, the rooftops were blocking direct sunlight. So, we made our own with just a tiny bit of fill.

Yes, I could have bumped up my ISO or slowed down my shutter speed, or opened up my aperture (or all three). But for this shot, I wanted to shoot at f4.5 to make sure that all of Cindy was in focus and just a little fall off on the wall behind her. Also, I wanted to keep my 50mm lense at no more than 1/200. The reason for that is because we were running and gunning around downtown, trying to beat the light. I was huffing a little bit and not entirely steady.

So why worry about it? I just decided to use my available speedlight.

What about this shot?

Cindy uptown on a rooftop.

Natural light or flash?

This shot is a mix of both natural and flash. The sun, almost directly behind the camera, had settled behind buildings thus direct light on Cindy was blocked. I wanted to get the city in the background in a good exposure, but doing so left Cindy darker than I wanted. So I used a 60 inch octa just camera left and just a tiny bit of flash to fill in a bit. It really allowed me to balance Cindy with the background exactly how I intended.

In all of the examples I’ve shown I could have easily gotten photos of Cindy. There’s no doubt about that. But I would not have been able to get the shots I wanted. I would argue that, first shot excepted, I could have gotten what I wanted with a reflector instead of a flash. But, for me, flash is a lot easier because it’s more predictable. I also typically use an assistant on these kinds of shoots which really makes it easy.

Tips for Models and Photographers

Over the past few years of doing the photography thing I’ve really gravitated towards doing a lot of work with models because I’ve found that I love photographing people. From my admittedly limited experience I’ve come up with some tips for both models and photographers that I believe to be useful for me. The key thing here is that this is purely from my personal perspective, and it’s geared toward collaborative shoots for portfolio or personal project endeavors.

Please keep in mind that following is my opinion and how I do things. If it’s not for you, rock on.

MODELS

Don’t practice posing in front of a mirror

Really, don’t do that. It gives you a wildly inaccurate representation because what you’re seeing in the mirror is, well, a mirror image of you. It will never look like what you see in an image of yourself. If you feel you must practice in front of a mirror, instead practice emoting. Sounds weird, but posing is easy. Emoting is hard.

Pose less, move more

Some of the best, most experienced models earn their bread and butter by posing, holding it, camera clicks, they then switch up the pose, hold it, wait for the camera to click … And, frankly, many if not most photographers perpetuate this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact in many circumstances the pose hold approach may be preferable; lookbooks, catalogs, headshots, etc. Also, I’ve done shoots in which precise and complex lighting was necessary. In those circumstance, yes, pose hold click is great. If you want to get good shots easily, a good model doing the pose and hold approach is great.

With a good model, this approach will guarantee really nice photos if the photographer does their job. But then look at the awesome photos you got, then look at the photos from previous shoots with other photographers. Other than setting, lighting, and wardrobe, they’re likely to be pretty much the same.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But if you want to get photos that are different and stand out, drift, flow, and move and make the photographer work for the shots by capturing the moments. Instead of looking at it as posing for a photo, approach it as if moving for a film or video. Learn to drift with not only your body and limbs, but with your eyes, face, and emotions too. I’m not talking about flailing around wildly or even mildly. I’m talking subtle drifting with posture, emotion, and eyes. You can tell you’re on the right track when reviewing the images by quickly going through them. It will look like a stop motion film clip.

I’ve worked with some pretty experienced models with whom I’ve spent considerable time getting them to pose less and drift more. It’s uncomfortable for them at first, but once they take a look at the results on the computer the clouds part quickly.

Yes, you get a lot of weird, goofy looking shots, but you also get some amazing and unique shots that you likely would not get otherwise. And with practice, the keepers to duds ratio improves greatly.

Models are horrible at determining what is or is not a good photo

Trust me. It’s true. Models are the worst judges of photos. The reason, I feel, is that they focus on what they believe to be their personal physical disadvantages; things that the average person that looks at them simply doesn’t notice. I think a lot of this comes from models judging themselves based on what they see in the mirror (see above) or in selfies.

The best judge of a photo is, like it or not, the photographer. Sure, if you’re paying good money to a photographer then, yes, pick what you want, but remember, the photographer is way more likely to know which photos are the best.

Don’t pose with your face

What I mean by this is, well, don’t pose with your face. Don’t contort your face to express an emotion (with rare exception). It’s not uncommon for some to twist their face into an emotion. Instead of doing that, try to begin with the emotion, really embrace it, and let the eyes follow as a natural extension. If it begins in the mind, the eyes will follow, and then the face will do what it’s supposed to do. Good actors know this.

No means no

Ideally before committing to a session, both the photographer and the model will have viewed each other’s portfolios and discussed at least generally what each one is after. That being said, it’s not unusual for either one of them during a shoot to suggest something. It’s perfectly okay for that to happen. But if a photographer suggests or asks you to do something that you’re not comfortable with it’s perfectly okay to say, “No, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that.” And once you’ve expressed that, there should be zero discussion of it after.

And it works both ways. I’ve had models want to do some shots that I particularly wasn’t entirely on board with.

No means no.

Bring someone with you

If you’re doing a shoot with a photographer you’ve never worked with before, absolutely feel free to bring someone with you. There’s no reason that a photographer should have a problem with it. If you want to bring someone with you even if you’ve worked with the photographer many times before, do it.

I’m not talking bringing an entourage with you. No, definitely don’t do that. But, if you like, bring a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, whatever. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise and the photographer balks, tell them to pound sand.

Sorry, photographers, but I feel strongly about this.

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Don’t take artistic advice from other photographers

Other photographers are the worst people from which to receive artistic feedback from. Do yourself a favor and do not seek artistic advice from other photographers. Sure, other photographers are great to learn technical aspects from; settings, lenses, getting your head around the use of flash, etc. But throwing your photos out there and asking for the opinions of other photographers is a nightmare scenario.

The reason I say this is because of the plethora of online places such as the forums at places like DPReview. If you go to, say, their Portrait and People Photography forum you’ll witness some of the most absurd nonsense you’re likely to see; much of it unsolicited in response to photos that people put up. I think much of the nonsense is because of the nature of an online world and how it has magnified human nature. Human nature, whether we like it or not, is to hear someone spout something with authority and then accept it without thinking about it. Examples of this are: don’t crop off the tops of heads. Don’t crop off the tips of fingers or feet. Don’t crop at the joints of limbs. Any hint of perspective distortion is bad. Catchlights other than round ones are bad. 2 to 1 lighting ratios are optimal, too shallow DOF, on and on. In other words if you push the boundaries at all and go against the “portraiture orthodoxy” they’ll pound you down until you conform if you let them.

I’ve seen new people start throwing up photos on that forum, make adjustments per the orthodoxy, and a year later they’re throwing up technically nice photos that are exact replicas of your average yearbook photo or something that was made in one of those family photo shops you used to see at the shopping mall. If that’s what you want, good. But if you want something that has just a slightly unique flavor to it, good luck. You’re just the next vanilla flavor sitting next the other vanilla flavors.

Do observe the work of other photographers

Within reason. The world is full of some truly great photographers. But don’t view the work of other photographers with the intent to necessarily copy what they’re doing. Instead, try to figure out what it is about their work or a particular photo that you like. Why do you like it? What is it about it that got your attention? Use the work of others as an inspiration.

I find that as time passes, I do this less and less. But I always enjoy looking at the work of others. There are a lot of talented people out there.

Learn from other photographers

There are a lot of great photographers out there. There’s something to be learned from almost any photographer. I love watching others work, how they deal with lighting, or how they work with models, or how they post process; whatever it is. If I’m ever invited to come and participate in any way by another photographer, I try to take them up on it because I almost always learn something.

Your way isn’t the only way.

Start creating a mood/vibe board

Remember, I’m directing this mainly towards people photographers. Start building a mood/vibe board of images that present various moods/vibes that you admire. You can do this with either an online tool like Pinterest or DropBox, etc., or locally on your own hard drive.

Personally, I prefer to use an online tool. The reason for this is because if I’m setting up a shoot or working with someone in creating a project, I like to send them a link to my extensive mood/vibe board so that they can pick out shots that represent a mood/vibe that appeals to them. It’s not to copy something, but to use it as inspiration. It also helps you to better understand where the model is coming from. It can save so much time.

I’m constantly adding to mine. It’s a never ending process. It includes photos from various photographers, including me.

Learn to use artificial lighting

Even if you’re a “natural light” photographer. The reason is that light is light; whether it’s natural or artificial. If you learn artificial lighting, it will translate into better understanding and use of natural light.

Practice more with natural light

This is directed at photographers who mainly use artificial light for the same reasons. Getting better at natural light will make you a better artificial light photographer.

Shoot tethered whenever possible

I know it may not be possible all of the time, especially when shooting on location or outdoors. But whenever possible, I highly encourage photographers to shoot tethered to a computer and encourage models to view what’s coming out. If you can’t shoot tethered, at least show them the back of the camera often.

Don’t be afraid to show unedited photos

This is related to shoot tethered whenever possible. I have personally spoken with photographers who will not let people see unedited photos. Because of this they will either not shoot tethered or, if they do, they won’t let people see the images on the computer. Don’t be that person. The reasoning for some is that they don’t want others to see images until they’re finished. They insist on only showing their “vision.”

Ugh.

If you can’t get it mostly there in camera, then you’re doing something wrong. Even if your “final vision” is a complex composite, show what’s happening to the model while taking photos. I know a photographer who specializes in complex composites. The guy is amazing. I’ve watched him work with models and he has no problem with showing them the back of the camera during the shoot. Even though what they’re seeing is not even close to what the final result will be, they still look great because he knows what he’s doing.

To take it a step further, after a shoot I encourage models to sit down with the laptop full of all of the unedited images we just shot and go through them and pick out ones they like the best.

If you’re not comfortable with showing people your unedited photos, work on your skills until you are.

Encourage models to bring someone with them

This is a big one for me. I always invite models to bring someone with them; especially if it’s a first shoot. Surprisingly, few do. But I always make sure that they know they are welcomed to. I know quite a few photographers who discourage it for various reasons.

I don’t get it.

For me, I want the models to be as comfortable as possible. If they’re comfortable, you’ll get better photos.

Plus it’s the respectful thing to do. Trust me, you’ll get better pics, too.

I’ve had husbands/boyfriends or friends at implied shoots that come along and I’ve never had a problem with it. In fact it can be kind of funny when they pull out their phone and take a behind the scenes photo of me working with their half naked wife or girlfriend.

Behind the scenes with Analiza studio shoot.

I normally wouldn’t get as close as I am in the photo above, but we’re good friends and it’s still strictly business. When her boyfriend took the photo he chuckled and said something like, “Dude, it’s like you guys are in the office, or something.”

Here’s one of the final shots from the session:

Analiza studio session final result.

No matter what kind of shoot it is, it’s okay for them to have someone with them.

Behind the scenes with Angie photo shoot.

One of the final shots from the session above.

Angie studio final result

Be nice, be considerate

Modeling is difficult. Don’t forget that you’re dealing with a human. Get to know them. Talk with them. Make them feel comfortable. Understand that it’s a mutual collaboration. Make it worth their while to be doing this. Go above and beyond. Be accommodating.

This will mean talking while shooting. You can’t take on a truly mutually collaborative spirit without talking with the model and communicating with them while shooting. Always encourage. Never degrade. Make the shoot all about the model. I really mean that.

Also, the world is full of awesome people. This is a chance to meet and get to know some. I’ve never had a shoot after which I didn’t feel good about meeting and getting to know that person a little bit.

Don’t be creepy

I debated on whether to have this at the beginning or at the end because it’s so important.

I mean it.

Don’t be creepy. Don’t make crude or rude remarks. Don’t reference body parts in a sexual manner. Don’t leer, Don’t do anything that can be construed in any way other than strictly professional.

Some kinds of shoots really require good judgement and a lot of respect. Turn away if need be. Ask if they’re ready for you to turn around. Have a robe at hand and when not taking photos, offer it. If there’s a “slip” politely let them know.

The old adage of, “never touch the model” is a good one. If I’m doing an implied style of shoot, I try to keep my distance as much as possible. There are a couple of models that I’ve worked with numerous times and we’ve become good friends. We’ve developed good relationships. They are okay with me moving a couple of strands of hair, or something like that. But it’s the exception. And even then I always ask.

Reputation is everything. Don’t do ANYTHING to jeopardize it.

That can go for assistants, too.

In fact I’d love to be able to find a good female assistant. But that’s a whole other topic.

There you go. That’s it. Again, this is just my opinion and what has worked well for me.

Workflow for Post Processing Photographs

Few things can be as contentious as a discussion of workflow for post processing photographs. I think the reason for much of this is because there is really no such thing as an incorrect workflow. The workflow one incorporates can vary depending on many factors; desired results and targets, software used, etc.

One thing that I think can be agreed on, however, is that most photographers who are serious will have a workflow that goes beyond simply offloading their photos and then calling it a day.

Over time I’ve massaged my workflow in various ways. Mostly because I’m a sponge and when I see someone doing something that works better I’m all over it. I have no pride that way.

The following is my workflow. It works for me. I don’t suggest that you do it my way. I’m simply describing it to give any ideas that may or may not be useful for you. Also, my workflow is Adobe centric because I use Adobe products. The foundation of my entire post processing workflow is Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Yes, there are other solutions for post processing photos; some I hear are quite good. But for me, I made the decision to go with Lightroom and Photoshop years ago. I hate to even go into the reason, but here it is.

Long ago I experimented with various other software. The biggest problem I had with other software was that it was difficult to learn general post processing with it. No, Lightroom and Photoshop are definitely not easy to learn. In fact they are a downright pain in the ass in many ways. But what made them easier tools to learn post processing with was because of the sheer amount of resources for both Lightroom and Photoshop. Like it or not Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standard to which all others are compared. Because of this there are almost endless learning resources and tutorials. If you Google anything related to post processing photographs you’ll find far more information from an Adobe perspective than any other software.

That alone saves a bunch of time.

If you’ve just installed Lightroom and getting started one thing that I highly recommend is watching this video that does a great job of explaining how to get started. It’s long, I know, but well worth it. When it comes to Lightroom how you get started will determine your future happiness. Trust me.

Anyway, my workflow.

The first thing I do is import my photos into Lightroom. All of my Lightroom catalogs and libraries reside on an external HDD that is constantly backed up to two other locations; one on site and one in the cloud (for this I use Backblaze). When importing I always create keywords for the session to easily find images later. Once they’ve imported I go through them and decide which ones are keepers and which ones are not. Personally I don’t use a rating system in the conventional way, they are either keepers or they are not. The keepers get rated with 5 stars, the non keepers get zero stars. I then go back through and delete everything that does not have 5 stars.

Note, I shoot everything in raw. You should too.

At this point, if I shot a white balance patch I sync it to all of the files; along with lens corrections and custom profile. I do this not for color accuracy. I do it simply to have a consistent starting point for all of the images from that particular session. At this point I then start working on the images themselves. I’ve never applied any editing globally. I know a lot of people do, but I don’t. That’s just me. I treat each and every image as a single entity.

I bring up an image in the Develop module and start making adjustments. Often times I’ll click Auto in the Tone section just to see what it does. About half the time it comes up with a pretty good starting point. It does a really good job with setting a white and black point. Either way I’ll always end up playing with the tone and presence sliders. I do it to my personal taste. One slider I’ve found that I almost always push up is the Dehaze slider. It always adds an improvement. Just go easy with it because a little goes a long ways.

Beyond this I do very little in Lightroom. If I notice some chromatic aberration or fringing I’ll deal with it in Lightroom, but that’s about it.

I then send it to Photoshop as a 16 bit TFF in the ProPhoto RGB color space (set that up in Lightroom; Edit > Perferences > External Editing). Whether you choose TFF or PSD doesn’t really matter. I personally choose TFF. But one thing that I highly recommend is that you always maintain the largest color space available during the entire post processing workflow which means 16 bit ProPhoto RGB. This article gives a good high level explanation as to why you should always do your post processing in 16 bit ProPhoto.

Anyway, I send it to Photoshop; right click > Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop. It is here where I do the bulk of my post processing. The reason is because I like the control it gives me. With layers I can selectively edit different aspects of the image as needed. It’s not unusual for me to have several layers on an image. I’m not going to go into the particulars as to what I do in Photoshop as there are about a billion ways of doing anything in Photoshop (yes, I know, hyperbole), but once I’m done with the image I save the layered TFF; File > Save. This saves it back to my Lightroom Library (and the external HDD that’s always backed up that I mentioned above). Now, when I locate an image in my Lightroom Library I have easy access to both the original raw file and the layered TFF that is the completed image. The developed image if you will.

I do this with all of the images. Then, depending on the target I want to use an image on, I’ll open it in Photoshop from Lightroom; Right click > Edit In > Adobe Photoshop > Edit Original File. In Photoshop I’ll flatten the image and then convert it to the color space needed for the intended target. Typically I’m uploading the images to the world wide web which means that I’m converting them to sRGB. I then resize as/if needed crop, etc.

And that’s pretty much it. Again, this isn’t meant to be taken as the way you should do it. Or even a suggestion, really. It’s meant to simply show how I do it. If you are able to take something away from it, great.

sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB?

When post processing photos which color space should you work in, sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB? I’ve seen a ot of discussion on which one should be used. Some of it just plain wrong. 

It’s a common refrain to work in the space that your end target will be in. It goes something along the lines of “You shouldn’t work in color spaces that the target color space doesn’t use.” Or, better yet, it should be within the gamut that your monitor utilizes. 

To put it simply, that is completely wrong. You should be doing your post processing in the largest color space available (in this case, ProPhoto RGB), and then convert the end result to the color space required for the intended target. 

Rather than rehash why you should do that I’ll refer you to this article. It gives a very high level explanation as to why. You would be wise to read through the comments as well. 

If you want to dig deeper, I would recommend going to this site

Individual workflows can be as varied as there are individuals, but working color spaces need to be the largest color space available. 

In a later post I’ll go into my workflow. Not to convince anyone, but to give an idea for those who are new, newish, or just looking for some inspiration. 

Best Way to Upload Photos to Facebook Part II

A while back I wrote a piece on the best way to upload photos to Facebook and still retain good quality. In a nutshell it basically was that you should resize your images to either 2048 on the long side if in landscape or 960 on the short side if in portrait 4:5 aspect ratio. You would then export to .png > and then upload that file. 

I hear that the reason that it worked so well was that when converting the image to .jpg, Facebook did not compress them. Bug? Intentional? Who knows? Either way it worked great. 

Now Facebook as once again moved the goalpost. Uploading images the above way results in absolutely horrendous compression artifacts. If I didn’t know better I would almost be tempted to assume that Facebook wants photos uploaded to their platform to look like shit. 

If you peruse the internet you’ll see various so called solutions to Facebook’s onerous handling of images. They run from sizing the images to Facebook’s suggested sizes with a little compression, to adding a noise layer to the image to “fool” Facebook’s algorithm. 

They are all wrong. 

After doing some experimenting I’ve found the new way to upload photos to Facebook and not have them look like utter crap. Actually it’s simpler, now. 

Here’s how: When processing the images crop them in either the original aspect ratio or 4:5 > convert to sRGB > Save As. Make sure to save them at the highest resolution possible (this is important). Then upload them. 

There, simple as that. They don’t look as good as the way I used to do it, but they are close. My guess as to why this method works the best is because whenever you upload a file to Facebook, Facebook is going to compress them no matter what. If you resize and optimize before you upload them to Facebook, the image actually gets two doses of compression; yours and Facebook’s. By uploading a full size, full resolution file, it only gets one dose of compression. 

Anyway, there you have it. If you want your photos to not look like crap when you upload them to Facebook, just upload full size and full resolution photos. 

Hollywood Glamour Photography

Lately I’ve been doing some research into a specific genre of photography known as Hollywood glamour. Typically, when one thinks of Hollywood Glamour it’s a given that we’re talking about publicity photos from the so called Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s a very unique style of photography that was pioneered by photographers like George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull. Though there were others these two really exemplify the style of Hollywood glamour of the Golden Age. Arguably, George Hurrell  is the defacto Hollywood glamour photographer that set the standard to which all others are compared.

One thing that is interesting to me is that although both Hurrell and Bull were both tasked with creating publicity photos and they were aesthetically similar at first glance, in reality they were actually quite different in some ways. Generally, although Bull could be as noir and contrasty as any of them, he tended to produce works that were less so; more open shadows than Hurrell. I have the feeling that Bull’s work is probably more aesthetically in line with today’s eye. That’s just a guess, though.

I will admit that, personally, I generally prefer Hurrell’s work over Bull’s, but they were both just amazing at what they did.

Hedy Lamarr by Clarence Sinclair Bull

The shot above of Hedy Lamarr by Bull is quite representative of his work.

The one below of Jane Russell by Hurrell is, I believe, quite representative of his work:

Jane Russell by George Hurrell

You’ll notice that Hurrell’s pic of Russell really hits the contrast. He wasn’t afraid of shadows in the least. Now, of course, there are plenty of shots by either that are practically indistinguishable. But I think that these two are example of how they did differ.

Something that I find interesting is that I bet if Hurrell and Bull were alive today, not famous, and posted these exact same images on a portrait critique forum, they would be heavily criticized for all kinds of reasons; too hard of light, over processed skin, wonky cropping, etc.

Another thing that is apparent that is almost anathema for modern portraiture is the often missing catchlights in the eyes. Yes, there were often catchlights, but there were often no catchlights, too. Whatever the criticisms may be, there is just no denying that these two gentlemen created amazing works. Though they both were different from each other, they both managed to create almost otherworldly beings; something that was required by the Hollywood studios of the day. Their goal was to represent their talent as beyond and above the average person.  And, boy, did they succeed in doing that.

Completely unrealistic, but oh so amazing.

Which brings me to the issue of post processing. Today a common refrain is the over use of post production. It’s often blamed on Photoshop or other post processing software; as if it’s a new phenomenon. We talk about the over use of Instagram filters and bemoan the lack of reality in today’s glamour portraiture. But the reality is that it’s nothing new at all. It’s just done in a different way.  Both Hurrell and Bull relied extensively on post production. They spent hours in the dark room dodging and burning, shaping arms, cheeks, and bodies, and smoothing skin; all in an attempt to create a sort of perfection beyond the reality. In fact the movie studios employed many more retouchers than photographers.

When it comes to gear they used mostly 8×10 portrait boxes and repurposed film studio lights. Looking at the photos, generally, there seemed to be a key light, a hair light, and a background light to light up the background adding a more dimensional quality. A big limitation of the gear that they used was the fact that they typically had to rely on long exposure times, perhaps up to a couple of seconds. This is one of the reasons you see most of the poses like they are; seductively lounging, reclining, resting their heads on hands, etc. Yes, these kinds of poses tend to appear sensual, but they served a purpose, too. They are the kinds of poses that are easier to hold for long periods. So, when you look at the photo of Jane Russell above, lying back with a “I’m waiting” demeanor, there was more to it than that. It’s the perfect pose to exude sensuality and hold for a long exposure time.

When it comes to closely replicating the look of Golden Age Hollywood glamour it can certainly be done with modern cameras and lighting gear. Some would have you think that it just can’t be done without a spot and a Fresnel lens, but that just isn’t so. For example, Robert Harrington shows how it can be done using nothing more than speed lights in this video:

Is it exactly like a George Hurrell photo? Maybe not, but it certainly is very close to the style. The key, really, is to use a three light setup and choking down the light. Harrington uses snoots on both his key and hair light, and a grid on the background light. In the old days they used Fresnel lamp lenses to focus and concentrate the light, and barn doors as well as flags. Today it can be accomplished using grids and snoots along with flags if needed. Yes you could use barn doors and Fresnel lenses, too, but it’s not really necessary.

The one thing that I might do differently than Harrington would be to use studio strobes rather than speed lights, at least for the key. I think a modeling light would come in very handy in finding just the right shadow.

Something else that I notice is how the talent performed. Typically when shooting models they tend to get in a flow. By that I mean they sort of sync with the photographer and are moving a lot. The flash pops and they switch to a different pose. Flash pops, switch it up. It’s easy to bang off a lot of shots and then comb through them for the keepers.

Obviously the nature of digital more easily allows for that. However, in the day of Hurrell and Bull, each shot was almost a production in and of itself. They could take several minutes creating a single shot. They would have the talent assume a pose and hold it. They would then move lights around to create just the right shadows. Sharon Stone has talked about doing a shoot with Hurrell in which she was lying on a bed with a tea service, in her pose. Hurrell moved some lights around, looked at the scene and then went up to Stone and adjusted one of her fingers just so. He then finally took the shot.

Anyway, I think the whole thing is extremely interesting. And I think that there is a lot to be taken away from these masters of the Hollywood glamour shot; something that perhaps has been washed away a bit by technology and the ease in which photos can be taken in today’s world.

 

Vintage Sunset Traveler Photo Project

Early this summer I had an idea of a photo project I wanted to do. First I wanted to do something with a vintage flavor to it; pseudo vintage, really. Beyond that I didn’t really know exactly where I wanted to go other than I wanted it to be a sunset portrait shot.

As the summer progressed my wife and were wandering through a little antique shop in a tiny town in central Idaho, New Meadows. It’s the kind of place that has a lot of things from the old ranches all over the valley and estate sales. We came across an old 50’s era suitcase and right away my wife said she wanted to incorporate it into some kind of shoot. That’s when my idea began to really take shape; a vintage style shot of a woman with the suitcase on a roadside.

No, not exactly original, but still fun sounding.

My wife was all on board with the idea so we bought the suitcase.

We spent the next few weeks trying to think of some kind of wardrobe. It definitely had to be a vintage style, but where to get something like that?

I did a search for local vintage clothing shops and found a great little place here locally called Retro Betty, a shop that specializes in vintage style clothing, mainly spanning what appears to be the 40s and 50s. Apparently vintage style clothing is a thing.  Anyway, we managed to find a couple of cool looking dresses. I told the owner of the shop what our plans were and she was pretty excited. I told her I would tag Retro Betty on Instagram when I got them done.

The next step was finding a good location. What I had in mind was a remote straight road. Paved? Unpaved? Who knows? I did want whatever stretch of road I used to run east and west so that I could fully utilize a setting sun like I envisioned, but that was about it.

Also, for what I had in mind, I was going to have to use off camera flash. Shooting a portrait directly into the setting sun was definitely going to require a good powerful flash to do it right. I also wanted to shoot with a fairly open aperture which meant that I would also either need to use a ND filter or HSS. Since I had just picked up a Flashpoint XPLOR 600 PRO, it seemed a bit like a no brainer.

So one day we loaded up the truck with the XPLOR, a heavy C-stand, and a 38″ deep parabolic softbox and headed to the west desert in Utah. Just as it was getting time to either shoot photos or go home we finally found a perfect location; a dirt road running east and west and the sun setting towards distant mountains. I set it all up and we took a number of shots:

Sunset Traveler
Sunset Traveler–Model Anna, ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1250

This is my personal favorite. I think because it seems to convey a bit of a story beyond a pretty woman standing on the side of a road. What is the story? I don’t know, but something.

This one is kind of an odd shot in that it goes against so many conventions; cropped off feet, flower in the foreground, that kind of thing. But I still like it because it kind of has  a cinematic vibe going on. The model is caught in mid-motion looking down the road. Waiting for someone? Who knows?

Road Side Attraction
Road Side Attraction Model: Anna ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1600

Keeping with the roadside theme:

Circa 1957
Circa 1957 Model: Anna ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1250

This one is the favorite of the vintage boutique shop owner from which I got the wardrobe. Again, a very cinematic vibe going on. A few technical nits aside these shots are almost exactly what I had in mind. I love the colors produced by the sunset; the yellows, reds and vague pastels, the desert location, etc.

We purchased a couple different dresses from the boutique shop. This one is more late 50’s while the other one is more mid 40’s. I’m going to do a shot with it as well, but I’m thinking I want it to be indoors in a vintage interior setting. I haven’t quite got that one figured out yet.

But I’m working on it.

I think doing these kinds of projects is not only fun but they are great learning tools. To have a vision in mind and then take the steps needed to see it through offers a lot of learning opportunities.

What are some photo projects you’ve done? What are some that you have in mind and plan to do? I’d be real interested in hearing.

Natural Light Photographer

Flash vs natural light photography.

Often I’ll come across a photographer website in which the photographer proudly proclaims, “natural light photographer.” The first thing that comes to mind is that I’ve never seen a website proclaim, “artificial light photographer” or, “I use flash only.” So, why would they proclaim the the paradigm within which they are willing to work? Or, is it more accurate to say, the paradigm within which they are capable of working?

To be honest often times I think it’s the latter. Why else would one shout out to the world that they only shoot in natural light? What benefit is there to it? There is no benefit except to perhaps let people know from the beginning your limitations.

With photography you absolutely need light to make a photograph. If the available light is sufficient for what you’re trying to accomplish then, yes, go with available light. However, there are times in which the available light just isn’t sufficient. There can either be not enough light or the light is just not the right kind of light. In that case, you have to take control and make your own light, as it were.

On many of these websites proclaiming to be natural light photographers only, if you read through their information they will sometimes talk about the “natural” quality of available light and because the aesthetic of so called “natural” light is so uniquely awesome, they choose to shoot only in natural light. It makes my head spin. They will typically go on to then point out that, since they shoot natural light only because it’s so uniquely awesome, that when booking photo sessions with them, be aware that you’ll need to have the photo shoot either early in the day or late in the day because midday sun sucks.

Midday sun does suck by the way. But it can be dealt with a number of ways: scrims, reflectors, flash, etc.

The point is that for many of those who proclaim to be “natural light only photographers,” the reason is that they can’t use flash. Whereas I bet that most photographers who heavily use flash can and do show competence with natural light.

Granted there are types of photography in which using flash isn’t really feasible; documentary or street photographers, or press photographers, etc.  I mean, can you imagine the press pool at a presidential daily press briefing with a bunch of flash going off? Also, with today’s digital sensors, the circumstances you can work in without adding light is pretty amazing.

But at the end of the day instead of limiting oneself to being a “natural light” photographer it would be best to simply be a “photographer” and learn to do what needs to be done to be able to take good photos in as many different circumstances as possible; including becoming competent in using artificial light.