Following up on last night’s post “When in Doubt…” I’m coming to the realization that my days as a studio photographer might be over. Being that I spent more than four hours going through old sessions and even considering reacquiring studio lights. I whole heartedly admit to missing experimenting with studio lights, settings, modes and above all, interpreting beauty. Looking back, the road was full of mistakes, anxiety, impatience and an overabundance of caffeine. Still, when I was clicking with a subject, it was magic. Going forward, mainly due to my issues with balance and speech, I will have to find peace and balance. In the end, I hope to learn more about landscape photography and long exposure. Enough so, that I can prove myself to me.
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.
When my long time friend and favorite expatriate messaged me that she would be returning to New Jersey for a short, yet important visit. I knew the odds of me seeing her this time around, let alone catching up on her three years in Germany were about as good as the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series. Still, any chance to see such an old and dear friend was worth taking. Imagine my surprise when she was both available and looking forward to indulging me in one of my truest passions, studio photography. The hours we spent together were more of a gab session with me sneaking in a shot or two whenever I could.
Having met Mandy in the parking lot of a strip mall adjacent to my high school when I was sixteen. The likelihood of us ever becoming friends seemed improbable to say the very least. Yet, despite being polar opposites we became trusted, close friends before long. Supporting one another through sickness and health.Through the good times and bad. She’s been a huge supporter and influence on me as a photographer and as a volunteer to worthy causes. She’s one of the few people in my life who crosses the lines between friends and family. One’s that, no matter the distance or time. Remain, unspoken, an integral part of my life. And as my Mother put it “Damn, that woman does not age.” Looking at this picture. I think it highlights both her beauty and unwaning strength. I’m incredibly grateful for having the chance to catch up with her. One of Jersey’s best, no matter where she goes.
Having worked with Tory on two separate occasions. We’ve worked towards creating some noteworthy images. Ones that displayed both her talent and beauty. Strangely enough, each of the two sessions left me scratching my head, thinking, she is far more beautiful than I’ve portrayed her to be. Far to beautiful to be hiding under all the clothes and makeup that only serve to mask any of her beautiful features.. Just an opinion, but one that cried out, begging for redemption on my part. For, in my heart of hearts. I had failed in not portraying her as the beautiful woman I saw her as.
Armed with ideas and a sense of determination I reached out. Much to my surprise and slight confusion, she not only agreed, but thanked me for the second (actually third chance.) Knowing, as well as accepting that each individual has their own sense of style and look that they’re comfortable with. It can make for a difficult task in attempting to have someone give in to a look other than their own. In Tory’s case, she made it incredibly easy for me. My suggestion to wear a comfortable tee shirt and go minimal with the makeup could best be equated to a less is more theory. Personally, I felt that those small changes went a long way to bring out her true beauty. I was finally given the chance to see the woman I always envisioned was under the makeup and clothing.
I can’t go without thanking her for both the opportunity and trust she gifted. I’m more than happy to report that I finally got it right.
While my prior studio session helped me get on solid ground as far as my studio lighting was concerned. This weekends session with Audrey allowed me to take things a bit further. During my previous session I took full advantage of lighting the background from behind with a soft box while lifting the shadows at 45′ degrees with my new Photoflex 72′ SRP umbrella. This time around, I added a beauty dish that really highlighted the models skin and features while adding depth to the images overall quality. Moving the lights around and playing with photography’s rule of thirds More on that Here Most important was Audrey’s presence. With a sense of grace and an intuitive nature to know what I’m about to say before I utter a single word. She has made our annual studio sessions an opportunity to grow and learn while having an absolute blast. As the years comes to a close. I’m beginning to see where the next year might take me creatively. From here, the view looks pretty damn good.
About a week ago I had a friend come over for some initial tests in the new spot. I had moved just a week before and was looking to start booking as soon as I possibly could. Considering Audrey has always been such a fun and patient subject to work with, she was my first and only choice. Considering Audrey has always been such a fun and patient subject to work with, she was my first and only choice. Though we spent a fair amount of time in the studio fiddling around with different lighting and the lofts natural light. I felt most comfortable exploring what the building itself offered. As we moved from space to space, I realized how much I really preferred the natural light the halls, lobby and nearby gallery offered. To say I’m excited by the endless possibilities my new settings have offered, would be a tremendous understatement. I look forward to both the opportunities and challenges it all brings.
I’ve met a lot of unique and beautiful people in my lifetime. Though trying to start a conversation with a complete stranger can be a humbling kick in the ego. It can open the doors to to so many new and rewarding experiences. These days I don’t feel all that comfortable speaking myself. Often catching myself stumbling over my words or feeling unable to say exactly what my brain is trying to communicate. Depending on how you look at it. It can be viewed as a positive, negative or both. For me personally, I try to see it as a positive. The positive being I can muster the words and expressions well enough to invite a conversation before letting my ability to listen take foot. Though I didn’t expect it. I find myself enjoying the time I spend with my mouth closed and my ears open. I’ve met some very interesting characters with some really incredible stories to tell. I’ve learned a lot with this little gift. More about the world and it’s people. More surprisingly, I’ve learned a lot more about myself. Most times, a smile, a nod or a simple hello can start a conversation. I took each of these three images within about an hour with the help of those three expressions. Try it some time. You might be surprised by what you get.
Back in 2013 I started a project very close to my heart. Bringing some of my favorite local musicians and artists into the studio for a short bull session and some time under the lights. The concept is a simple one. Photos built around conversation about common interests while chilling out to some good music. Add or subtract a tasty beverage, a favorite musical instrument or article of clothing. Leave the posing guide and glass smiles for the posers and just snap when the moment calls.
On this particular day I had my buddy Frank from the New Brunswick’s Holy City Zoo stop in after work. I met Frank and the band around the same time I started my music blog United By Rocket Science in the Spring of 2011. Since then we’ve formed somewhat of a mutual admiration society. His band has been featured on the blog numerous times. He’s also served us well as a contributor from time to time. Needless to say, I count him as a friend.
Like many of the musicians I’ve met through doing the blog. Frank represents somewhat of a paradox. A complete animal on stage. Frank is intelligent, laid back and soft spoken in person. As we began our session, Frank sheepishly asked “What do I do?” “Nothing” I replied. It was just a chance for me to get to know him a little better than I already do. Most of the people and friends I ask to shoot are ones I rarely get to really talk to in an intimate setting. I see them at bars, shows and on the stage. These sessions allow me to speak the best was I know how. Getting to know the people who make the music I love is a pretty special opportunity. Thanks Frank.
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. When 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. “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. He 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.
We 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…