Graduation Day

04-30-17 Montoya7729AMAfter Sunday’s nude session I was both eager and anxious about sharing the results with my friend and mentor down the hall. He’s been a great teacher who has made it a habit to share his positive thoughts before sprinkling in any much appreciated criticism. I say “appreciated” because if it were not for those much feared critiques. I would have never grown or learned to improve on the things that have been holding me back. Imagine the combination of relief and glee I felt when he remarked how good the pictures from that session were and why. Going as far as saying that this was the best work I’ve done to date. Declaring that, as I move forward. This should be my portfolio. That school was out and I had graduated. The End.

A Playful Moment.

I had so much fun shooting with Gia yesterday. Her laughter, smile and those incredibly expressive eyes. In the days leading up to our session. She sent me a couple of pictures of models dressed in flowing raps. (Imagine saffron robes blowing in the sahara winds.) While she never managed to track down the material. The idea stayed fresh even as we had begun our shoot. When it came time to change into the next outfit. She asked if I had any sheets we could use as a substitute. Thinking on my feet. I decided to use on of my photo backgrounds instead. Wrapping it around her upper . I had her friend hold the the ends. Creating somewhat of a loving tug of war. Notice the smile and the playful exchange she’s having.

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Gut Reaction

Over the Summer I began to really kick up my game when it came to better marketing myself. I worked on my resume, checked listings daily and regularly updated my website with new images. Within a matter of weeks my work began to pay off as freelance opportunities and contract work began to come my way. I was doing the kind of work I hadn’t done in years, while engaging in new opportunities. During that time a few offers came my way that would provide steady work and income in the future. One particular opportunity was working as a freelance photographer at a nearby studio two to three days a week.

As the week before the interview progressed we kept in touch via emails and phone calls. I did my share of research on the company and felt pretty good about the opportunity that was being presented. When I was asked to bring a portfolio and my camera.   I realized the only printed work I had available was my Boudoir Portfolio. Audrey-4257When I asked about it, the woman on the phone seemed to stumble over her words. “Um, I don’t know.” “That’s not what we do here.” “I have to….. ask… the director.” I informed her that I had a website that would perfectly highlight that side of my work or I could quickly whip up a digital port worth presenting. Still, she stumbled. For some stupid reason I felt bad. That my recent work was being deemed dirty by someone I had never met might seem silly now. Yet, at the time, I felt as if I was being looked at as some deviant smut peddler who hides his portfolio behind some oversized rain coat. A couple of days past and I got the call that the interview was set and they were looking forward to meeting me. I was relieved. I was ready.

Though the studio I’d be working out of was about forty five minutes from me in nearby East Brunswick. The interview was set up at the companies main office in Connecticut. So in the days prior to my appointment, my wife and I planned our day around the interview. As I entered the building I was impressed with the stone walls and lofty ceilings. As I sat there waiting to be called I eyed the modeling pictures on the wall. The lighting, the style, the models. All standard, but nothing all that inspiring. Then I began to notice the clientele coming in and out of the offices and studio. It immediately reminded me of all the scams you see where some company promises the world and all it’s riches to a naive family who’s convinced their child could be the next… insert child star name here _____________________. I decided to stay, listen, ask questions and make an informed decision after everything was done.

As I was ushered in by the attractive secretary and introduced to the my interviewer, the douche chills immediately began to build. Dressed in black from head to toe with slicked back, black hair with enough product in it to supply an entire city block. He spoke quickly in a thick Russian accent about the shooting process. Audrey III-4277    “It’s not how many shoots you do in a day.” “It’s about the looks” “You need to shoot five looks.” “See, look, look, look, look, look.” “Five looks.” Never once asking me questions like someone interviewing you for a position. Finally he says           “You brought portfolio?” I placed it on the counter and he quickly flipped through without much eye contact. “Good, good, good.”   “I like.” Before he asked me any questions he wanted me to shoot a client waiting in one of the studio rooms.  I’m already planning my escape plan. I’ve always prided myself on trusting my instincts and listening intently to what my gut tells me. At the time, my gut was telling me “Scam, bam, no thank you, man.”

Finally, I excused myself from his sales pitch long enough to ask a few questions of my own. Questions about the general age of the clients, the companies they work with and other general curiosities. Audrey III-4187He became even more elusive and led me towards the studio where the shooting would take place. Knowing full well that the pictures I would be taking were going to be used by the company without them ever paying me. “Thanks, but no thanks.” I replied and walked out. When I met up with my wife a few minutes later I told her what had transpired. Being the amazing woman she is. She told me not to worry. “Always listen to what your heart tells you.” Hopefully, the lessons I learned from this brief exchange will not soon be forgotten.        1.Trust your gut. 2. Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about the kind of work you do and love.                  3. Never do anything you don’t feel right about doing.               Until the next debacle.

Beauty and the Dish

Iya-7695Iya II-7734We were about a half an hour into shooting and I wasn’t really happy with the results I was getting from my strip box. We took a short break as I fished for one of my umbrellas to replace it with.  After a somewhat thorough search, I couldn’t for the life of me, remember where I had stashed it. I looked up and there was the beauty dish that had been sitting on my Ikea Expedit unused for months. Hastily,  I grabbed it and with the help of Iya, changed the light.

As I took the first few images with the Beauty Dish I immediately noticed the warm glow and how her smooth, young skin shined.     I fluctuated from using the Dish as the the main and only light to using the soft box as a fill light and adjusting the amount of light coming from soft box. The results were instant.  It was only the second time I’ve used the Beauty Dish since purchasing it back in December. I felt really comfortable using it at different distances and degrees of power. Having a patient model allowed me the time to adjust and play a bit. I was so inspired by some of the images captured that I did something I haven’t done in almost ayear. I got prints made. In talking to a seasoned pro at Duggal.  He gave me some useful tips to get even better results in the future. I can’t wait for the opportunity to put them into play. Until then…

Show Me Your Softer Side

Iya-2969I had worked with Iya a number of times through the years. I’d seen many sides of her personality and beauty. Uncovered layers of her personality and character I never knew existed. All while building a level of trust and friendship that made me  feel as comfortable with her as she may have become with me. So when Iya returned for from her trip to Russia I invited her over to catch up and put some of my new ideas to work.

Iya softer side-3082Though I had done my share of Boudoir Photography in the past I had recently found myself engrossed in a book by author/photographer Christa Meola titled  “The Art of Boudoir Photography. Within the nine chapters Meola covers a wide array of subjects including, but not limited to posing, movement, lighting and communication. All with great detail, imagery and easily understandable text.

Iya B-2964As Iya arrived I explained my ideas and vision while expressing my hopes to show a side of Iya my camera had rarely captured. Since meeting and working with Iya I’ve been able to capture many of her strengths, beauty and naturally sexy look. Yet I’ve never been able to capture the soft and often funny side she often reveals in private. I don’t specifically remember her reaction that day but I do remember the relaxed pace and approach to taking those images. Moving from the lights and backgrounds of the living rooms studio. We moved to the bedroom, relying on the soft natural light coming through the widow late in the day.

Iya C-3077During those few hours we shot some beautiful images while capturing some very intimate and unguarded  moments. It was by far the most laid back and natural session we’ve done together. One I’ll look back on as the day I really allowed me access to Iya’s softer side. Thanks Iya.

Re-learning to Light

StephDuring a winter workshop      I attended in 2012.         The instructor pointed out that my studio work was flat. It was an observation that, at the time, I really did not understand what she meant but took it as a negative critique of my work. A few moments later I was asked about the editing software I used. When I replied “Aperture” a gasp of shock and shame seemed to fill the room. Looking back, it was it if I was cast aside, exiled and destined to wear carry the Scarlet “A” (A for Aperture) around with me for life. Later that day a fellow attendee took me aside and suggested I move up to Lightroom 4. He used some easy to understand comparisons for me to understand. “It’s like going from Atari to Xbox. He also took the time to explain lighting techniques a little deeper. Though I was a bit embarrassed by my shortcomings at the time. I was more grateful for the knowledge and learning experience.

Steph IIAlmost as soon as the workshop let out the day.     I was off to purchase Lightroom 4 and book a few sessions in order to test my new knowledge out. I could immediately see the difference in the images I was editing in Lightroom 4, especially by making minor adjustments with the black and white levels. (not available with Aperture) Simple tweeks that made a world of difference in the images I had taken. Minor adjustments in highlights can also be noted. I could already see the depth to my older work. When my model stopped by I changed the lighting angles and worked with less light. Something that also added depth and character. I really got to understand what she meant about flat images and flat lighting.     I was no longer flooding the room with light. I was using it to to highlight areas, not overwhelm them. Since learning this, I’m really seeing the light, shadows and detail of the image before I even take it. It’s given me more confidence. I find myself working faster and taking fewer wasted shots. It’s been a real revelation to me. One that I know will help me continue to enhance my skill and build on what I’ve already learned. Like Yoda said “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”

Happy Returns

Since last weeks session with Denise the two of us have been in constant contact with one another about working together on other projects. Every now and then my phone lights up with an image, shortly followed by  “Look at this.”  “I want to try this the next time we shoot.” MercedesI’ve been really inspired these days to work with different people, try new things and experiment with different concepts and lighting.     As the winter begins to thaw and signs of spring just starting to show.     I feel energized and confident that I’m moving in a good direction. I’m meeting new, creative people who are open minded and love living life to the fullest. Photography, art and being a photographer allow me to communicate, create and relate on levels I would never be able to otherwise. Only the future can tell just where life takes me. For now, I’m extremely grateful to be where I am.