Archive for July, 2011

19
Jul
11

My Barbies

OK, I have two Barbies in my studio – a blonde and a brunette.  It’s interesting to see the reactions of clients when they see them. Some will ask about them – others seem a bit concerned but can’ t quite bring themselves to ask. So why does a grown man have Barbies in his place of work?  Good question!

I use them for lighting practice. Later this week, I have a fashion shoot where I will use new gear and a new technique for wraparound  backlighting, which you can see in this picture.  It’s very helpful to practice with the Barbies so I don’t have to take as much time setting up with a live person.

Actually, if truth be told, I love my Barbies. There, I’ve said it! They’re very patient. They don’t complain if I try ten different ways of shooting them – or fifty. They seem happy with the music I choose.  They can hold a smile and their makeup never needs touching up. And the Barbies have definitely helped me to become a better photographer.

But they do need names now. Can you help me with this?

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05
Jul
11

video critique of family portrait

Today, this family portrait of mine was critiqued by Craig Tanner of The Mindful Eye. Craig has been an important mentor and teacher – and friend. I’ve taken two workshops with him and hope to take more. His website is a terrific free resource of inspiration and teaching about photography.

Here’s the video:

http://www.tmelive.com/Features/TheDailyCritique/2011/July/04/TDC-0704.html

04
Jul
11

Vacation Bible School

Last week at my church, Saint Luke’s Parish in Darien, CT, we had a Vacation Bible School, with kids from our church as well as children from several surrounding communities. Some of the kids came from nearby homeless shelters. What an amazing week – 250 kids, doing crafts, singing, learning a little bit about faith, getting to know one another and just having fun.

I had the privilege of photographing each of the 14 “tribes” – the Asher tribe is shown above.  And I also shot, from a rooftop, the whole VBS community, as shown below.

04
Jul
11

Body Image and the editing of photographs

Much has been written about the emphasis on an ideal (and mostly unattainable) concept of beauty, especially in the popular culture, and the negative effects this can have on young women and girls.

The AMA (American Medical Association) came out recently with a policy recommending a different approach to editing pictures. Here’s part of what they said:

BODY IMAGE AND ADVERTISING TO YOUTH: Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models’ bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems.

The AMA adopted new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

Over the last four years, I’ve had the privilege of photographing dozens of females – from age 6 months to the 80’s. And I’ve had the responsibility of editing hundreds – no thousands – of these images in Photoshop.  So I have some thoughts on this topic.

But first, two rather outrageous (and true) stories.

1)  Alistair Macaulay, the lead ballet critic of The New York Times, in his review of The Nutcracker, said of Jennifer Ringer, a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, that Ringer “looked as if she’d eaten one sugar-plum too many.”

2)  Deborah Voigt, one of the top opera sopranos in the world, was scheduled to sing Ariadne at Covent Garden in London. At the last minute, she was fired because the producer did not like how she looked in the little black dress she was to wear in the performance. Miss Voigt underwent gastric bypass surgery after losing this gig.

In both of these cases, the hue and cry from ballet and opera fans was tremendous, and almost all in support of Ringer and Voigt. Of course, as both of these were live  performances, there was no opportunity to “edit” the images of the women in Photoshop.

So where do I come out on all of this?

1) I certainly agree with the AMA that we should not create unrealistic expectations of an ideal body image. And we should do all we can to support and encourage every young woman or girl we know to have to a healthy self-image – whatever her shape is.

2) Almost everyone I shoot – men and women – is self-conscious about his/her appearance. It’s part of human nature. In my work, I try to put my subjects at ease.  There’s usually one particular thing the client is most concerned about. I’ll often reassure them by offering to “fix” some things in Photoshop – it often does help to make the person comfortable and relax.  I tell the client I’m as interested as she/he is in creating a beautiful and flattering image – which is the truth.

3)  I still want to celebrate natural beauty in my work. It’s been done since the beginning of time in art. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and can be represented in positive and affirming ways.

4)  In editing images, I work hard to make the person look as good as possible – but still look like them. The two images in this post are of Ashley, a very accomplished model. We were shooting lingerie images in a catalog style. Ashley has a lovely figure – but there were still lots of small edits I did to make the images – and Ashley – look better.

5)  Something I learned from one of my mentors – you don’t tell the client the things you work on in Photoshop.  I love it when I hear, “Wow! you made me look great! And yet it really looks like me!”

6)  All my edits are subtle. Lots of small things can have a cumulative big effect. When someone looks at my images, I hope that the Photoshop work is invisible.

7) When I see images of myself, I’m amazed at how wrinkly my neck is. In the rare times I edit images of myself, the neck the first thing that gets smoothed out!

As always, your comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading!