Archive for the 'Beauty' Category

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!

23
Jun
11

our perceptions of people in pictures

Today I’m posting three more images from my recent fashion shoot with Nicole. If you missed the post from June 15th, you can see it at Beauty Lighting.  If you go back and forth between the beauty shots and these images, the look is very different – not just because Nicky’s hair is pulled back in the beauty images. The lighting makes a huge difference in how we perceive a portrait image, as do many other aspects of the picture. I believe there’s lots of subconscious stuff going on as we view photographs.  The colors, the pose and expression, the closeness to the subject and our own experiences and memory of people we’ve seen in real life, movies, etc. all impact how we respond to an image.

Here’s an experiment. Choose one of the images in this post. Spend some time looking at it. Try to imagine what the subject – Nicole – is like. What is her personality? How does her voice sound?  How old is she? What are her interests? What are her dreams? I’m guessing you can conjure up a pretty full and detailed description of Nicole in your imagination. Now look at one of the images from the June 15th post. Does your perception of Nicole from the beauty image differ from how you imagine her after looking at the first photograph? How does it differ?

Let me know how this experiment turns out for you!

22
Jun
11

ballet dancer

Recently, I had the pleasure of photographing a lovely ballet dancer and soon-to-be college freshman.  She had tons of wonderful clothes that she brought along, but we were only able to shoot a small number of outfits. We plan another shoot and will do some ballet poses then. As always your comments or questions are welcome!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

15
Jun
11

beauty lighting

Faithful readers may recall some beauty shots similar to these in posts going back a few months ago. The images here are from a shoot with Nicole, a lovely aspiring model. Nicky’s facial structure is perfect for this lighting – sometimes called the Oil of Olay look. There’s a softbox behind her, with her head right up against the softbox. Over the camera, aimed down at about 45 degrees, is another light in a “beauty dish” – so-called because of the flattering look it provides. We also had a reflector just under the frame, to bounce some light back into the face. 

I often try to put hands in portraits to add some interest. Does this work here in your view?

Another image from the shoot, in black and white, without the hand. As always, your comments and questions are appreciated! Thanks to Nicole for a wonderful shoot!

26
May
11

Dance Skirts!

This week, I had the pleasure of photographing dance skirts for my friend, Neeta Maniar. Neeta and a partner in India have a business selling beautiful Indian dance skirts. Their website is Taal Dancewear.  The images we shot will go on the website soon. For the shoot, Neeta brought in six models and over 20 skirts – a big production for my modest-sized studio, but somehow everyone fit in!

For each skirt, we shot one full body image, usually in a dance pose, and then one closeup shot of the lovely waist bands. Both images will appear on the website, so Taal Dancewear’s customers can really see the beauty of the skirts.

All of the models are experienced dancers and most had danced together many times.

For the lighting, I had two lights on the white paper background and two lights in front on either side, to provide a fairly soft, low contrast overall lighting setup, which I felt would be appropriate for the website.

I know very little about proper dance poses, so Neeta was just behind me, checking the view from the camera and coaching the models on the poses she wanted.

Neeta and the models could see each image on my laptop as we went along – a big help in getting just the right look.

The shoot was great fun for me and I think for the models as well. I truly hope these images will lead to a big jump in sales for Taal Dancwear!

In a few of the pictures the models hammed it up a bit. Wonder if this one will make it to the website? You can see more images from our shoot here.

07
May
11

pictures from in and around Santa Fe

I’ve just finished a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a terrific workshop with Marti Jeffers.  Tonight we’ll post a few images I took during the week. The picture above was taken near Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch. Although I used a polarizing filter to punch up the color of the sky, it really was a rich blue. The light in this area is amazing and one can see how O’Keeffe chose this as a place to live and paint.

This is an abandoned building near Taos. It has apparently been for sale for many years. I have to be honest and say there was only one bird in the picture – I added a second one in Photoshop.

This was the exterior of a fancy hotel in Santa Fe. The luminaries are common throughout Santa Fe, as are, of course, adobe structures. For this image, I used a wide-angle lens and positioned the camera just a few inches away from the big luminary.

The sunsets in Northern New Mexico are fabulous. It may be the altitude and the dry air. This shot was taken on a hill overlooking Santa Fe. I haven’t shot many sunsets and vow to do more. You have to work fast, as the light changes very quickly.

And finally, below, taken back at The Ghost Ranch, is an image that includes a silhouette of your humble servant. As always, thanks for reading my blog posts!

07
May
11

model shoot in Santa Fe – part two

Just posting a few more images from my shoot with a young model in Santa Fe this week. If you missed the first post, check it out here.