Posts Tagged ‘Photography’


It's what you leave out

Written by randem comment

One of my favorite personal mottos regarding photography is this: The key isn’t what you put into the photo, but what you leave out. Today, I found a YouTube video which demonstrates that thought beautifully.

The most powerful element of photography is not what you put into the photo, but what you leave out. The human brain is a fantastic thing. When details are missing, the mind fills in the blanks on its own. And moreover, it fills in those blanks from personal experience. In other words, by giving less detail, you give the viewer more room to make the photo personal and meaningful.



Written by randem comment

The secret to great photography is great lighting. The camera doesn’t matter at all. The lens only matters a little. The most important element of any photo is the lighting. Lighting casts shadows which define shapes, tell stories, add drama. Lighting is what paints the mood on your subject. Used well, lighting can make the dullest subject interesting; used poorly, lighting can make the most interesting subject dull.



Written by randem comment

It turns out that shooting photos of naked people in public places can be rather irritating. Why? Because the unavoidable spectators have no class. People can’t just shut up and enjoy the fact that a girl took off all of her clothes for you to see… they have to shout endless, low-class instructions and comments at her. I’m going to give some thought to how I can avoid this unpleasantness in the future.


The model-profile decoder

Written by randem comment
No Nudes

Many photographers complain about a problem understanding models. They look at a model’s portfolio and see more skin than clothing — photos where the model is CLEARLY not wearing anything — but is says right in the profile that she absolutely refuses to pose nude!

The nudity policies of the average model used to confuse me. But now, I believe I’ve cracked the code.

You see, guys, women don’t think like men. Men need logical labels that tell exactly what things are. (The dictionary? That was obviously a man’s invention!)

Women don’t think that way. They use codes for everything. They like labels that are confusing. But remember… those labels are only confusing to men; to women, they make perfect sense!

So now, to the best of my knowledge, here is what these female models say, decoded into what they actually mean, when it comes to their self-imposed limits in photography:

  • NO NUDES (in all caps) = I’m doing this because people always said I was pretty, and that I should be a model. In six months, I’ll either have moved on, or opened my mind. But for now, count on me being a pain in the ass.
  • Only implied nudity = I’ll take off my top and cover my nipples with my hands. For the right person I might even take off my bottoms. But I don’t want my nipples or genital area to be visible in any photos. This way, if my mom or someone from my church sees the photos, I can lie, and blame the photographer (that’s you!) for sneaking a shot while I was changing. Pervert! But if they see my nipple, then God will find out what a dirty dirty sinner I really am.
  • “and only with select photographers I trust” = Basically, this means there’s one really cute guy I’m sleeping with, and all of my nudes were shot by him. But you’re never going to sleep with me, so you’re never going to shoot me nude, so don’t ask.
  • Topless = I like my tits, and I like when other people look at them. I’m also comfortable with you calling them “tits”. As long as my pants stay on, my toplessness gives me power. Everybody wants me. I’m such a hottie.
  • Artistic nudes = Let’s not kid anybody. You and I both know that 90% of the photos taken under the label “artistic nudes” are not the least bit artistic. You’re new to photography, and you think naked females will make your pictures turn out better, and I’m okay with feeding that fallacy as long as you’re paying me. Just remember to use medical terminology when telling me how to pose.
  • Full nude = I can see you looking at my labia between shots, but I’m okay with that because I don’t feel threatened by you, and because you’re paying me more money than I’m really worth.
  • Adult nude = I’m horny, got a camera? I’m so turned on by people looking at me! (I might even masturbate for you, but don’t tell anyone! Hehe)
  • Erotic nude = Same as adult nude, but you can tell people. I’m also interested in making out with other women. Know any?
  • Erotic = For the right price, I’ll have sex with someone… maybe even you.

There's something kinda nice…

Written by randem comment

…about having the ability to make a new friend on MySpace, and your first message to them is “so, when are you going to come get naked for me?”

But there’s something even better about having their response consist of a date and time!

Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun. If only my 9-to-5 were so interesting…


Making a photo: Controlling your lighting

Written by randem comment
“Treat your friends as you do your best pictures, and place them in their best light.” — Jennie Jerome Churchill

Unlike taking a photo, where you try to adequately capture what a scene gave you, there is more control when you make a photo. With a few exception, you tend to have a lot of control over many aspects of the shot, including subject, background, and today’s topic: lighting.

Self Portrait

There are really only a handful of ways to modify light, even though the number of tools with which to do so are infinite. Don’t get lost deciphering between strobes and hot lights and soft boxes and umbrellas and diffusers and reflectors and lions and tigers and bears. Oh my. As I always say, if it’s hard, that means you’re doing it wrong.

Size does matter

The first thing one should know about controlling light is that a large light source creates soft shadows, while a small light source creates hard shadows. One example of this might be the difference between the harsh, high-contrast light you get on a bright sunny day versus the soft, beautiful light you get on a cloudy day. The sun by itself is (figuratively) a small light source — just a dot in the sky, really. By comparison, on a cloudy day, the sun lights the clouds, but the clouds are your light source. The world’s biggest softbox, for free!

Along with that, you should remember that distance changes the effective size. A light with a 30-inch umbrella may be many times the size of a person’s head, but it won’t create soft shadows if it’s 10 feet away. Similarly, an 18-inch reflector really isn’t going to be much good in the hands of an assistant, because it’s small size requires that it be very close to your subject — that is, your model needs to hold it.

What set’s you apart

Powder Girl

The second important thing to remember is that light — or, more accurately, changes in light — are what tell us what we’re seeing. We need the modeling of shadows to convey a three-dimensional shape in a two-dimensional image. I know that’s a vague statement, but if you keep it in mind you’ll never have any problem figuring out where to put your light source(s).

The need for modeling of shadows is the reason why good photographers never use their camera’s built-in flash as a main light source. (Some do use it, as fill.) Since shadows show in the places where there is no light, a flash coming from the same direction as the camera is going to leave the shadows where they do no good!

Why do professional portrait photographers put a light on the background? It creates separation. That is to say that it reveals where the subject stops and the background starts. This is also why glamour photographers have an extra light set up just to light their subject’s hair.

In the first photo above, there is a large, soft light source from camera left creating nice shadows, but without any fill, background, or rim lighting, the light just falls off into obscurity. You can’t see where the subject (me!) ends and the background begins. Sometimes this is the desired effect, but sometimes it is not. In the second photo, lights from behind on both sides separate the subject from the background, and reveal details in the hair, pose, etc.

It’s all black and white
And the final thing to remember is that where photography is concerned, light goes from black to white. Period. Too much light (for the exposure) will result in an all-white photo, no matter what color the light is. And too little light will always result in black. Not only does this mean that proper exposure is critical for getting your colors right, but it also means that with a little creativity in your exposure you can intentionally get your colors wrong!

If you intentionally overexpose the sky, it will turn white, allowing you to make some interesting fine art photos of leaves or flowers, even without a studio. Likewise, with an off-camera flashgun, you can underexpose on a sunny day and still get a black background. Try it!

One of my favorite examples of this was a photo shoot I did in a location that had no great backgrounds. I was able to muster up a red bedsheet, but I really didn’t like the look I was getting from that. The solution was to crank up the lights and completely overexpose the red material until it turned white. As you can see, the results were pretty cool.

In the first two photos, the background is not truly black, but by under-lighting and under-exposing the background, I was able to obtain the black color I wanted for the photo. In this third photo, the background was nowhere close to white, but by flooding it with enough light, I was able to turn it white (and get a little bit of magenta spill onto the subject).

That’s all you really need to know about controlling your light. Yes, there are more things that are good to know, and maybe I’ll touch on them in the future, but if you remember these three things there’s no reason you can’t figure out the rest on your own.


The courage to suck

Written by randem comment

Merlin Mann had a great post yesterday at 43 Folders about photography, and having the courage to suck. A must-read.