Posts Tagged ‘natural light’

Learning to shoot with film

I recently purchased a Mamiya RZ67, a five pound, 30 year old camera that shoots a 6×7 negative on 120 film.  A few weeks ago I had my first venture out with the camera and it was an entirely different experience. And that new experience is why I bought an overly heavy, 30 year old camera that shoots film.

I booked a shoot with one of my favorite models knowing she could bring what I needed. The experience was completely foreign. Besides having a waste level view finder with the image reversed ,the big catch is that each roll of 120 film only has ten exposures. I had to make them count. I bought the Mamiya to change the pace of my photography. I wanted to slow down and my wish was granted. Going from shooting hundreds of frames to 10 exposures is an entirely different speed.

I have to be honest; I also brought my DSLR to the shoot and used it as my main camera. I still shot hundreds of frames but when I felt like I was on to something special, be it a location or light or a mood I’d pull out the Mamiya. Despite knowing that the shoot was a success I’m anxiously awaiting word that the film has been processed to find out if the Mamiya was as successful. The following is a photo I made with my 5D and one of the reason’s I called Claire to be my first model using the Mamiya. 

Claire Dellamar – shot with a canon 5D Mark III and 50mm F1.2 lens.



At her place

There’s nothing more stressful than shooting at a location I’ve never seen. Is there light, is it pretty, is it big enough, can I make it interesting? When placed in this situation my goal is to take whatever was handed to me and make a great photo. Some refer to these type of images as environmental portraits but that term strikes me as related to professionals at work. I wanted a little more creative freedom and was going for an editorial look. A few months ago I went to Devon’s place in Hollywood to shoot these portraits.


Shooting personal work keeps me sane

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve started to scratch out a couple blog posts over the past month but each time I start a job comes up and takes precedence. This week I vowed to shoot for me. Shooting personal work keeps me sane. When I end up working on shoots for other people for weeks at a time I can feel the itch to go out and shoot a concept I have control over.  Family portraits, TV commercials, architecture, Galas, receptions and pretty much every other paid job means my client is running the show. I often have creative input on my jobs but photographing people giving speeches and shaking hands doesn’t give me the satisfaction of going out and making great photographs.

This week the stars lined up and I got to shoot with three of my favorite models. I enjoy working with them because I know we’ll get great results and I’ve developed friendships with them over the years.

Eva was in town visiting from Germany. We’ve tried getting together for a shoot every time she’s in LA, but it’s only worked out once since she moved away a few years ago. I met Eva in July 2004. To put the history into perspective; I got my first DSLR in August of 2003. I looked back at my archives and she was the 17th model I worked with. Needless to say in the summer of 2004 I was green.  Despite being a novice we got some great shots that still stand today. Since 2004 we’ve worked together a handful of times and I’ve always been happy with the results.

This week I wanted to shoot and I knew if we got together the concept for the shoot would work itself out. We ended up with some great fashion images and my style of a beauty portrait. If you call it a head shot and I take offense. I tend to think most head shots aren’t true representations of the person. Head shots are sales tools, portraits are personal. I want my photos to be true to the subject.

Eva - Santa Monica Pier - July 2007

Eva - Santa Monica Pier - July 2007

Eva - boxer - April 2005

Eva - boxer - April 2005


Eva Portrait shoot August 2011

Eva - Portrait

Eva - Portrait August 2011

I also got to work with Tiffany Selby this week.  We met in April 2009 after spending months trying to get together to shoot. When the day finally came it proved to be challenging. We were scheduled to start with swimsuits on the beach and then head to my place to work on fashion and portraits. We were blessed with beautiful blue skies but the temps had dropped down into the 50s.  We figured since we were there we’d give it a shoot. I got my first shot off at 8:20 AM and by 8:44 we had shot two looks and were packing up. One of those shots ended up as a centerfold in a magazine.

This week we made the same plans. Start on the beach and then head to my studio (read my garage) for fashion and portraits. After our shoot she did makeup for a friend’s niece, an aspiring model.

Tiffany - El Segundo April 2009

Tiffany - El Segundo April 2009

Tiffany - beauty portrait

Tiffany - beauty portrait - April 2009

Tiffany - fashion look

Tiffany - fashion look August 2011

Tiffany - fashion swimsuit look - August 2011

Tiffany - fashion swimsuit look - August 2011

I also managed to shoot with Neyla. She is in town visiting from London and, like Eva, we’ve tried to get together when she’s in LA. This week our schedules matched. I met Neyla in April 2007; at the time her name was Stephanie but that’s her story. In 2007 I shot a friend of hers who referred me to Neyla. We had a great shoot and vowed to do it again. A few months later she saved my ass. I had scheduled a shoot in Pasadena and enlisted the help of a makeup artist and a wardrobe stylist. The model flaked. A complete no-show. I didn’t want our efforts to go to waste so I called Neyla early that morning and asked her help me out. She rallied and the results were amazing. Like Eva and Tiffany the images from that day still stand.

Neyla’s trying to get a new portfolio together and when she showed me her concepts they were in-line with what I wanted to shoot. We had a great time and came away with a lot of amazing photos.

Stephanie Fashion & Portrait Shoot - May 2007

Stephanie Fashion & Portrait Shoot - May 2007

Stephanie Fashion & Portrait Shoot - Pasadena

Stephanie Fashion & Portrait Shoot - Pasadena May 2007

Neyla - beauty portrait - August 2011

Neyla - beauty portrait - August 2011

Neyla fashion look - Studio lighting - August 2011

Neyla fashion look - Studio lighting - August 2011

Relationships make for great photos. It’s one thing to meet a perfect stranger and work together as professionals with the same goal of great photos. But when there’s history and a relationship between the model and the photographer the level of comfort and trust help to make the images even better. Add the fact that all three of these women are great models and I had a great week.


The New Reality

Every photo my clients see gets edited in Photoshop. It could be as simple as an adjustment of the colors or contrast or a little dodging and burning but they all get a little love. The images in my portfolios and the final images I present to clients get a bit more love. This is the reality of professional photography. It’s not that what you see in magazines isn’t real, it’s that it’s a slightly improved reality. When I shoot head shots and portraits I like to tell my clients that I want the result of my retouching to look like they’ve just come off a week-long vacation and had the best night’s sleep in their life. I don’t set out trying to make a sixty year old look like she’s 40 (although one client had me take off a lot of years).

A few weeks ago I had a portrait session with Jessi. The following is the photo as it came out of the camera. It was one of my favorites. The exposure is good but the contrast and colors are a bit flat (due to my camera settings). I don’t let my camera add sharpness, contrast or saturation because I want that control when I edit. I think the photo is good but a bit boring.

Before - as shot - Canon 7D w 24-70F2.8 - F3.5 @ 1/200 ISO 640 Before – as shot – Canon 7D w 24-70F2.8 – F3.5 @ 1/200 ISO 640

My job as an editor is to create a new reality that is the best representation of the model without going overboard so that they look fake. I don’t want people to look at my images and notice that they have been retouched. Here’s the edited version. I bumped up the exposure, added contrast, reduced the color saturation, cleaned up the blemishes and loose hairs and sharpened the image.

Jessi after retouchingJessi after retouching

While I edited the image I recorded my work. The vid is three and a half minutes long but what you are seeing is being played out at about 2.5X normal speed.

Jessi picked the next image in the sequence as her favorite. I guess we have similar (great) taste.


Maternity portrait sessions with Courtney and Jen

My first maternity session was about five years ago with my wife’s friend.  I shot it as a favor and as a test to see if I enjoyed the work and liked the results. I enjoyed the shoot and everyone was happy with the results.  I’ve been offering maternity sessions ever since.

Maternity sessions are an interesting niche. Some people love ‘em, some don’t. A few years ago I wondered why the disparity in opinions. I talked to a handful of women and previous clients and asked their opinion. A couple former maternity clients fessed up to not loving the shots at the time of the shoot. They thought that they looked fat in the photos. We all know that isn’t the case but when faced with 50-100 images of our bodies most of us will focus on what we don’t like. The clients that were honest about their feelings of not loving them at the time also raved at how happy they were to have done it, how much they loved the photos once their child was born and how grateful they were to have documented such a momentous time in their life.  That’s what we as professional photographers do; we make sure that those special moments and events in your life are documented in a way that is unique and special.

I really enjoy maternity sessions. The session is a collaboration that my clients are very much involved in. We look at examples of maternity photos and talk about the goals for the shoot. Are the photos for posterity, to hang on the wall, are we trying to create art?  For most women, other than their wedding day, a photo session devoted entirely to them is new and exciting. For me it’s the same feeling and planning I devote to a fashion shoot. For come clients it’s as simple as a couple’s portrait shoot out on location.  For other clients I set up a mini-studio at their home or have them in to my studio.

Over the past couple weeks I had the honor of shooting maternity portrait sessions with Jen and Courtney.  I’ve known both for a couple years and worked with both Jen and Courtney before they got pregnant. My session with Jen was about trying to get something creative and beautiful as well as shooting relaxed, timeless portraits. Jen and Courtney were photographed in my studio.

based on the advertisements for Heidi Klum's maternity line for Pea in the Pod

My session with Courtney was different in that there was not any pre-planned ideas or goals. Courtney makes her living as a model and we both knew that we would come away with something fun.

As I mentioned for some clients it’s just about having a fun family or couple’s session to mark the occasion. To see more examples check out the maternity portfolio on my Wedding and Family Website.


New studio and athletic portraits with Rachel

Robin and I bought a house in November.  As excited as I was to own our home I was more excited about being able to build and plan the new studio.  Work plus new baby made it challenging to get the studio ready but last month I finally got to a place where I was ready to start booking shoots.

Rachel has the honor of being the first client in the new studio. I met and worked with Rachel in early 2010. Since then she’s been working her ass off to get in better shape. I’d say it worked.