Friday, December 31, 2010

Tip of the Day: Zooming Out to See Forest from Trees

This is how I see a lot of my work. 67% (often closer!) and forgetting that I'm working with a whole face and not just a few pores. How do you remind yourself to see the forest from the trees?

Zoom out.

Hell, zoom out, zoom in. Whatever you do, change your perspective. Close the window. Pop it back up. Close your eyes and open them. Look out the corner of your eye.

Change your perspective and I promise you that you'll see things that you would have otherwise missed. I very often hit CMD-PLUS and CMD-MINUS just to see if something else is going on that is escaping my "visibility".

Neglected Beauty

I've long neglected my beauty work. I have condensed what I do with beauty into less and less steps. So much so that I've pretty much moved away from most beauty work. I do what I consider "headshots". Realistic. To-the-point. Great representations of the actual person.

But that's not beauty.

Here's a great example:

Kristen from PhotoGenics. H3DII-31/HC-210mm. 1/500th f/11 ISO200.

For all you know, that's exactly how this image came out of the box. Totally believable. Highlights and shadows intact. Simple B&W conversion.

Of course, that isn't true. But it could be true.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tip of the Day: Blondes do have more fun... in B&W

Actually the title should read, "You'll have more fun with blondes in B&W".

But whatever.

For the record, I'm a sucker for brunettes, but blondes photograph fantastically in B&W especially if they have highlights. For the following reasons:

1) Light color hair provides great fill on the darker portions of the face = more even exposure

2) Blonde hair (particularly with highlights) photographs with natural contrast. See the following examples:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mental Note on Pullups

Clapping pullups impedes my ability to subsequently hold a Wacom stlyus.

Yes, this was a useless post :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gry Garness

I've watched Gry Garness on live work her magic... but this makes me feel inept.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

B&W Thoughts

After the modeling workshop in January I'm going to teach a B&W workshop. It'll probably be a one-day event but I'm just thinking out loud here so bear with me...

The thing with B&W is that no one ever really explains why or how they do their B&Ws. Sure there are all sorts of tutorials on conversions. I've seen everything from RGB, desat, B&W conversion (CS2+), channel mixer, LAB mode, etc. Occasionally I'll come across a nice tutorial that discusses each step while elaborating the thinking behind those steps. But sadly most of the time these tutorials just tell you what to do and not "why to do".

Which leaves us where? Well, it leaves you neither here nor there or maybe it leaves you exactly where you're supposed to be. I've come to two conclusions:

Sean Armenta Beauty Retouch

I'm a big fan of Sean's work. The speed at which he handles that healing brush makes me want to ask him if that video has been sped up! If you haven't seen this, you have to watch it. It's quite brilliant ;)

Sean Armenta | Anatomy of a Beauty Retouch from Sean Armenta on Vimeo.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How Your Playboy Centerfold Sausage Is Made [NSFW]

sourced from I love this stuff LOL! :)

I haven't thought about skin in forever

I haven't thought about skin in forever.


What's changed? I suppose the models. Maybe the makeup. Or maybe I've changed. Sure good skin is still important. But I find average skin much more manageable now than before. I've gone through so many iterations of my own skin-treatment/techniques that I never find myself thinking or working on skin much anymore.

A year in the making... and coming full circle.

About this time a year ago, I was building walls and stairs. Since then, I've added a few more props to the studio.

This time last year, I was still shooting from home. I hadn't yet signed the lease to the studio. Right now I'm fighting leaks and debating whether or not to stay in that space any longer.

This time last year I was still seeing through a technical lens. Today, I'm free of that. Trying to forge ahead to images beyond the fundamental principles of photography.

This time last year I was shooting with only the D3. Since then I've shot with the iPhone, Hasselblad H3DII-31, Mamiya AFDII, as well as the D3.

With all of the growth that has occurred over the last year, it's also nice to see some things come full circle...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Human Element and Romance of Photography

I have this awesome quote on photography from my buddy Ernest Wright. He said,

There's romance in photography. The way the images are made is easily as important as the pictures themselves.

While our conversation was in reference to the presentation of the images in my studio and the resulting impact they had on my clients, models, talent etc. that stepped through the door... this unforgettable quote really picked up mental traction when I started thinking about the entire process of creating a single image.

And how I had been neglecting the underlying "romance" in the creation of the image.

Sure the presentation of framed pictures on the wall along with the studio space helps with that, but I think I largely overlooked the human element of photography. For too long I had been knee-deep in technicalities. The angles, the light fall-off, the modifiers... these technicalities were what caused me to disregard Terry Richardson as a legitimate photographer.

A lot of thoughts have occurred since this realization. Let's fast forward:

While I'll never turn my back on the "technicalities", seeing how I'm so deeply rooted in the solid foundation of the technical aspects of photography, I am very much enamored by the "romance" right now. The following image of Kristen evokes so much emotion from me. That's a function of the process of the shoot as well as the evocative expressions from the images themselves. It was a pleasure working with a model with such high-energy levels. And aside from color/exposure corrections, these images are camera-raw. It is nice to work with models like Kristen who don't have pores and are therefore not susceptible to breakouts or flaws of the skin :)

So you'll see my focus drift. As use more and more of my margin for error to accommodate the human elements as well as the romance of photography :)

A couple notes that I'm sure will come up in questions and other thought as a result of viewing these images:

-The lighting is very flat. A model with well-defined facial features will help in this situation.

-Good definition via makeup is paramount to allowing this to work.

-While the lighting is flat, it's still above the camera axis.

-Speed, speed and more speed. Shot with the Nikon D3 and SB-800 mounted on the camera.

-I suggest staying close (don't shoot from 20 feet away) to allow for faster light drop-off.

I'm free

I figured out a loophole.

I created a tumblr account so I could post just images. Not all will be related necessarily to what I do (just as a disclaimer).

This allows me to keep my Facebook fanpage fans happy with frequent feeds of new pics.

This allows me to disconnect my blogger feed from Facebook. Now I can write what I want again without fear of scrutiny from that group :)

In the event you want to check out my tumblr site it's

From now on, this will be my "talking" blog. The other one will be my "non-talking" blog.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Workshop Update #1

I've been getting lots of inquiries about content and other stuff so I figured I'd answer all the questions in one fell swoop here!

I've decided to change the workshop attendance cap to 9 instead of 12. I think that will keep the classroom small and the environment much more intimate and conducive toward 1-on-1 learning. One month out and we've got 7 more spots!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Learning

Got an email that made me blush today. That's unusual, considering I have ice flowing through my veins ;P

Hi Charles

I just wanted to thank you. This year was very bad for me and to be honest i had lost all inspiration when it came to my work. I felt stuck, bored, lifeless. Everything was grey boring and black and white. And then i found your page on flickr and i just have to say your work has given me that kick i needed, ive always had this image in my head that i wanted to achieve but having never got there forgot about it. But you have shown me what i wish to do is possible and have given me new found vigour and drive to do what i want. Hopefully one day i will be to your standard, but for know i will continue to follow in awe. Keep up the amazing work.

Now im off to learn about customizing adjustment layers :)

best wishes


My response follows:

Tip of the Day: Don't Forget to Have Fun

Sometimes you should just do whatever you want, however you want :)

No editing beyond color/exposure adjustments :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Influences: Silly Putty and T1000

As an aside, I sometimes I need to reference old blog posts. But when I skim the titles of my old posts, I can never find what I'm looking for. The problem lies in my "title naming convention". My post titles are so randomly named and fragmented in thought that I never know what the hell the post is about just by looking at the title. Which is to say that I'm a moron. 10 months from now I'm going to be looking for this post and I'll look at the post and really think that I've written some crap about silly putty and the Terminator T1000.



All joking aside, I was going to touch upon influences. Recently I've been looking at Terry Richardson's work and marveling at his ability to capture human elements in still images. I've also been following a few photographers that lean towards Richardson's work. This is unusual for the following reasons:

1) I used to hate Terry Richardson. I used to think he was a talentless hack. But guess who's the real moron? Me, for not appreciating the humanness of his captures.

2) I don't usually take in too much in the form of influence. 95% of my time is spent producing pictures and at most 5% is spent absorbing influences.

I'm gonna talk about #2. I'll save #1 for another time.

I don't watch much TV. I never read the newspaper (anymore). I hardly touch magazines. I don't surf the interwebz much either. You could say I live in a cave or a hole whichever is darker and more removed from the world. Hell, I'm practically a beard away from being a hermit... except I'm Asian and I can't grow a proper beard to save my life.

All joking aside, I know a lot of photographers that enjoy taking in multiple influences regularly, subscribing to blogs, RSS feeds, etc. and it got me thinking.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Form and Function

Got a message recently regarding my age, talent, and backstory. I thought I'd share my response with you guys :)

May I ask how old you are? You look like a relatively young guy and that emboldens me to take more risks to get to a higher level. It restores my faith that people recognize talent more than they recognize age in this industry (at least if you're a photographer and not the model).

If you have time, I'd love to hear about how you've gotten to where you are now.

I'm 31. I'm very late in the game comparatively speaking. You young guys are coming in so much earlier. But I have my advantages :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mini critique

Sometimes people ask me for my $.02. Brave souls they are. I don't hold back, but I give credit where credit is due.

These are courtesy of my Facebook buddy Gil Wertheim who has created some excellent beauty captures.

Don't mind the garish saturation of blogger picture engine (if you're on a wide gamut display). Blogger sometimes decides to strip my color profile which is already sRGB.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Break from Tradition

I spent the last 11 days in Taiwan. My brother needed some new shots for his Facebook/blog so I helped him out. I didn't travel with any of my cameras so we shot this with his Samsung EX1/TL500 (I'm not really sure which one it was).

This was shot a la Terry Richardson/Juergen Teller style with the pop-up flash. Then I remastered it in Photoshop. Yes, when you say "remastered" it sounds much better than "retouch" :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

High Fashion Makeup

It's no surprise we are going down this path. You can't retouch highlights/shadows without proper highlights/shadows. I've always relied on my awesome makeup artists to achieve these looks. Now I want to know more about what I've been looking at this whole time.

And there's a HUGE difference between normal beauty makeup and high fashion makeup. I'll try to find more on this topic but needless to say, querying the keywords "high fashion" is important to your search.

I love how the cheekbones totally pop in this video. This is the type of definition I'm looking for when I'm retouching.

Applying Blush for High Fashion Makeup

Friday, December 3, 2010

Analyzing Highlights and Shadows (Part III)

I'm going to talk about shadows and highlights... again. But I am not really sure how to begin. I've been thinking about the "issue" for the last couple days and haven't really come to any particular conclusion but I can share you with you observations.

Beauty lighting isn't really flat lighting. In the case of beauty lighting, the dish/umbrella/modifier is really never placed at eye level. It's almost always placed above and then some of it's partially reflected back via a reflector (or sometimes a fill light). So in the case of "beauty lighting" it's almost always still angular thus producing highlights and shadows in the predictable places and allowing the makeup to still shine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quotes from "The Man Who Shot the Sixties"

Interviewer: When you take a picture like that, do you know that you've captured something great?

Duffy: No, no not great, I know that I've done a very competent job, up to the standard of which I would want to work. But you can't tell how it will be responded to. To me, it was competent. Very competent. But I wouldn't take it much beyond that.

I think he was a terrific problem solver. I think he loved the technical challenge of having to fulfill a brief. Of bringing a great many skills together to make a picture that would satisfy the professional brief, work on the page, fulfill the client's expectations.

Interviewer: Why did you never have a show before?

Duffy: I never thought of it. I never wanted it. I just thought a photograph was almost immediate. Had immediate use. You know, the next day that whole thing is wrapped in your fish and chips in it. Art photography is a very very modern idea. Look at that plug I'm looking at, and it's so isolated there. And I think it's... It it's really rather pleasant looking. Now is that a work of art? That M.K. plug? It is... if you say it is. Never trust any artist ever telling you any bloody thing, they're all a bunch of liars. Artists, absolutely on any subject are always talking drivel. Why? Because the work, is the statement. Right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Analyzing Highlights and Shadows (Part II)

I realized that I've been having sometruly inspiring and insightful conversations about some technical aspects behind lighting that I wanted to share with you guys. I'll just start mid-conversation with my response:

The next time we get together I have a simple exercise that will help you see light differently. I think it was the first breakthrough in my understanding of light. The thing with lighting is that the human brain is very easily fooled into believing whatever it sees. The average human brain doesn't analyze light. It just sees that there is light or that there isn't light. Photographers have to manipulate light and it's not natural for the average human brain. But it's obviously doable, just requires training.

Analyzing Highlights & Shadows

One of my friends is getting into portraiture and wrote the following email

Hey charles: here are a couple of pictures that I was hoping you can give me some feedback on.

The first picture is a straightforward headshot against a white background with a borrowed lighting setup. Im asking for feedback on this picture in particular because I feel like it’s a straightforward headshot, so there should be fewer variables for me to screw up, so hopefully you can point out basic mistakes that I am making.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This one's for blogger

Ever since I linked this blog to Facebook I have had to filter that kind of stuff I say here.

This one's for the flickr and blogger fans that follow this blog independent of Facebook :)

Seriously though. I blog for me (and indirectly you). I keep a Facebook fanpage because I have to (i.e. for marketing purposes). But since my FB fanpage is tied to my actual FB account, people I know in real life get to read these rather "personal" blog posts. That makes me nervous. In that sense I'm an "arms-length kind of guy". I try not to blog about realtime events because it potentially sets me up to fail. What if I called FORD and they said no? Now the whole world knows I'm a failure. I don't want that :)

The Man Who Shot the Sixties


Thanks to Brent Williamson for the heads up on this video!

Right Tool for the Right Job

As a working photographer, we have tons (yes metric tons) of gear. It partially explains why so many photographers are men, we like gear. The other explanation is that fashion means working with of female models. Together, they comprise 99.99% of the reason why there are so male photographers. Seriously.

This past weekend, I shot a lifestyle-oriented lookbook on location with the Nikon D3 and kept the Hasselblad H3DII-31 in the bag. Makes no sense, right? But given the strengths and weaknesses of each camera, it's exactly the right choice. I needed high frame-rates to capture action. Somewhat freezing motion (or at least minimizing motion blur) meant that I needed faster shutter speeds. The Nikon system has not only faster glass but also better ISO performance allowing me to push shutter speeds. I shot much of the shoot at ISO1600 since the designer didn't care about grain (and with the D3 really, what grain?). Faster shooting meant faster autofocus and fast write speeds. The only thing I was missing was the insanely detailed image quality (along with the uber large files). Didn't need either.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speaking of color

RGB vs. CMYK has always eluded me. Primarily because I don't print, not even now in CMYK (at least I don't have to deliver my files to my printer in CMYK profiles).

But what the hell is CMYK? What is RGB for that matter?

Upon reading a few articles on colors, I stumbled across this:


- RGB together make white. CMY together make black.
- CMY stands for Cyan Magenta and Yellow.
- R/C, G/M, and B/Y are complementary colors. In Photoshop, the "color balance" layer adjustment gives you these options for shadows, midtones, and highlights.
- There is nearly impossible for CMY to reflect pure RGB values and vice versa. It's nearly impossible to make pure blue with CMY colors. You can get close but it won't be perfect. This is why displays (which are RGB) must be calibrated but fall short sometimes when attempting to show CMY colors (pure C, pure M, and pure Y).
-"They (CMY and RGB) are opposites and yet complementary at the same time" I love this line ;)

Here's a second article for reference:

Kanye's world

What I appreciate the most from the film is the color cast, reminiscent of a summer blockbuster. I enjoyed the wardrobe/styling as well as the makeup. But best of all, I enjoyed the music.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I want to live in Alex Roman's world

This guy doesn't need me to plug his work... but it's so breathtakingly beautiful that I have to. I originally blogged about Alex Roman a while back here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tip of the day: Don't sweat the details

Lindsay. H3DII-31/HC-80mm. 1/180th f/2.8 ISO200 with circular polarizer.

After I posted the above image of LIndsay, someone asked me whether or not this image couldn't have been improved with a longer lens hood or a flag to cut down on the flare.

I responded with the following: "I think it comes down to personal preference... there is no right or wrong answer ;) And yes, if you decide you don't like the flare, a larger hood could cut down on the flare. Or a flag :)"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tip of the day: Tension in the reins

I've always liked horses. They're such magnificent creatures. A few years ago I took horseback riding lessons and learned the basics. As a beginner riding around the arena, I inevitably would hold the reins with too much slack. The horses would sense the slack and toss their heads forward and yank the reins, sometimes straight out of my hands.

I asked the trainers why the horses would do that and their responses varied. One trainer told me the horses could sense my lack of experience and it was their way of rebelling against me riding them. Another trainer told me that the horses just wanted to see if I was paying attention and if I knew what I was doing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Working with Modeling Agencies Workshop January 22-23, 2011

Jana from LA Models.

No better way to kick off January than with an awesome workshop! This will be an extension of my first workshop but if you missed it, have no fear we are going to review and rework a lot of the setups and topics.

In recent months, I've been asked a lot about
shooting agency models, how to approach agencies, what the agencies look for, how do I know if I'm ready?

WIth all these questions, I figured we could answer all these questions and more in one fell swoop. So here's the
Working with Modeling Agencies Workshop hosted by yours truly on January 22-23, 2011!

-If you're still building your portfolio and trying to get your foot in the door with agencies (particularly in the competitive LA environment), this workshop is for you.
-If you're trying to improve your existing body of work, this workshop is for you.
-If you're trying to build a paid-relationship with agencies, this workshop is also for you.
-If you don't care about improving your port or working with modeling agencies, then this workshop is not for you.

Without further adieu here are the topics we'll cover:

-What agencies are looking for in a photographer and a portfolio.
-How to approach agencies
-Portfolio review
-Creating the "agency look" in capture (natural light and strobes)
-Creating the "agency look" in post
-Photographer/agency/model interaction

This will be a two-day event that will feature insight from agency models and will highlight many of the lighting setups and post-processing techniques that I employ for my own work.

General notes:

-Since good models are paramount to getting "the shot" we'll provide
experienced agency-represented models for the workshop.

-Photographers will be
learning/shooting on-the-fly. I'm not a fan of lectures but rather a constant dialogue and sharing of knowledge. That also means, you're not paying to watch me shoot... you'll be doing most of the shooting!

-One of the things I enjoy most is keeping the workshop small for more
one-on-one attention. I will cap the attendance at 10-12.

time with models is critical to the learning process. At the workshop you'll have plenty of time to work with models. There will be at most 2-3 photographers per model.

-You'll be shooting with all the studio gear including the AlienBees system with all the light modifiers and the RadioPopper JrX system. Studio is privately owned, indoors with A/C and heat, plenty of white wall space and portable set walls/props, and plenty of parking.

-Lunch is included for both days.

Cost $395 for one day // $695 for both days. Register by Christmas for 20% off! Payment in-full is required prior to workshop. Please message/email me for registration.

Here are some links to the last workshop:
Workshop details
Workshop details part II
Workshop results

Tip of the day: Look up

Last week, I had a location shoot in Topanga Canyon with Brea and Kaela. It was the polar opposite of the shoot out in Glamis/Algodones Dunes. I had time to sit, think and basically do whatever I wanted without the expectations.

And in the middle of not having any expectations, I saw something that I never saw before. Not sure if I never noticed or simply because of the particular location but I saw 2-3 different color casts on Kaela's face right before we began shooting our first set.

From one angle, the sky was casting blue. From another angle, we were getting reflected sunlight from rock surfaces and dirt casting yellow. And I swear we were getting green coming from other directions/angles as well!

To make it even more challenging we were in and out of shadow, direct and indirect, via some leaves and branches. That made for a "fussy" exposure. direct vs. shade is 2+ stops difference and looks like crap on camera, even the H3D can't compress that dynamic range well enough to make the highlights/shadows gradual. Good thing we had the white diffuser on hand.

But I suppose what was most striking about this experience was that I was seeing something new. It's been a long time since I've seen anything "new", but it got me thinking... what if there are new things all around me, but I just don't see them. Kind of like "if a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it..." You won't see anything new if you aren't looking. And suddenly I felt like a fool for assuming there was nothing new under the sun.

In Rome, our tour guide said something that will stick with me forever.

"People are always walking around Rome looking down. They're looking at the ground, their maps, their cameras... But Rome has amazing architecture. You will see the most amazing things if you simply look up"

So change your perspective... look up :)

Creating a Summer Blockbuster Film Look

This is a film about video editing that has gems of knowledge regarding color control. While I have no knowledge or expertise about editing film, looking at how Colorista manipulates film, reminds me a lot of Lightroom.

Click here for the video.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Photoshop takes forever to save...

I thought it was just me. Apparently not.

Hell if you just google "Photoshop takes forever to save" a ton of results pop up. Apparently it's bad coding systemic to earlier releases even (read: not just CS5).

What Your Choice of Camera Says About You

OWC Data Doubler

In case you were wondering!

Drobo: Long-term review

I was thinking about my Drobo (version II) and the transfer speeds. Since April of this year, I've been using the Drobo as my external storage to my MacBook Pro 6.2. It sits on my desk at home, plugged into the MBP 95% of the time. I still only have 3 disks in the 4-disk bay and I've only managed to use 891GB of the 2.7TB space.

Screenshot of Drobo Dashboard as of today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tip of the day: Buy a Wacom tablet

18 month Wacom Intuous 4 tablet. Note the darker spot on the tablet's surface where I perform most of my brushstrokes.

There are a few things that I can't do without. On the capture side, I don't mind too much between the H3 vs. the D3 vs even the iPhone. I think I could have a great shoot with only the iPhone but it'd only be natural light until I figured out how to sync the strobes. On the processing side, I can't do without the MacBook Pro but even that would be useless if I didn't have my Wacom tablet.

A previous post of mine claims I've had the Wacom Intuous 4 since June 2009. I can't find any evidence of that here on my blog via a quick search. My guess is that it's not far off from the actual purchase date. Since my original purchase (I bought the smallest Intuous 4), I've "broken" a stylus. Aside from that random incident (the stylus' cursor would twitch randomly) the tablet works flawlessly. Hell, it works better than when I first got it because the nibs are well-worn and the surface of the tablet is not smooth from having suffered millions of brushstrokes.

Tip of the day: Don't interrupt Photoshop

Photoshop can be a finicky little son of a bitch. When resizing or running any sort of function on a 31MP file, Photoshop can chug. If you (or in this case I) make any mistake in decision-making and subsequently decide to abort the operation, Photoshop will penalize you 2-3x the time it would have taken just to finish the operation and undo the procedure.

So the tip of the day is to just let Photoshop finish its task and then to undo. Never interrupt Photoshop mid-process.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Surf philosophy: Dynamicism

When I surf regularly I often look at Surfline to check the forecast to see what's going on with the water before I head out. For those of you that don't know I surf, well I surf. But even if you do know that I surf, what you might not know is that surfing to me is a way of life for me that reflects my core values in ways that I can't even begin to express... values that go beyond conservationism and driving a Prius.

Good vs. Good-looking

I think I need to clarify my TOTD post from a couple weeks back. I think I placed too much emphasis on a good-looking model vs. a "good" model.

I'm definitely in the camp that believes good-looking model ≠ good model. There are awesome models that aren't very good looking at all. It doesn't hurt to be extremely good-looking! But it's far more important to be good at modeling than it is to be good-looking period.

Working with the best model you can find doesn't mean picking the most attractive girl in the agency package. I will often flip through those packages and cross-off those that are just "another pretty face" or limited to beauty.

Of course when a good-looking model intersects with a good model then you've got the perfect package but often it's the case that good-looking models limit their looks/range and can't express themselves to the same degree as a not-so-attractive model that's willing to go all-out.

Maybe later I'll go more into what I look for in a model and pictures...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snippets of thoughts

I haven't felt like blogging much... can you tell? :)

Went out to the Algodones/Glamis dunes down in MexiCali. Stayed on our side of the border but we could see Mexico from where we were. Fine day out there except we had to contend with the dune buggies/4x4's/ATV's/bikes/etc. Oh, they didn't bother us, but the landscape/sand showed evidence of tracks everywhere.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Workflow: Retouching and printing

The process differs for each person. There are no two workflows that are identical. While each portion of the process is critical, I'm going to just focus on just the backend portion of my workflow here.

I had some friends over yesterday. Upon showing them my "workspace" they remarked how "professional" it looked. I don't know what gave it away. Perhaps it was the converted formal dining room table? Or maybe it was the mismatched CFL bulbs from the rest of the house? In all seriousness however, the irony behind what I do is that most of it is done in an "office".

And not behind the camera.

Tip of the day: See the forest from the trees

If you haven't read this TOTD post about histograms. Read this first as I'll be referencing the other post heavily.

I know I just told you to read the histogram. The histogram is great for back-solving but don't get hung up on it. Like everything else it's just a tool. Don't be discouraged if you can't make your histogram identical to that of another image. It's just a reference. Besides, if you keep trying to push your histogram to look like that of a different image, you might very well end up down the wrong path.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ain't life grand?

Ain't life grand? I was wandering Home Depot again today, something that still makes me break into a cold sweat and halfway through my search for metal washers I thought to myself,

"I should slow down and really just enjoy this experience"

Now, why on Earth would I say such a thing to myself?

Tip of the day: Read the histogram

This is something that I constantly employ in my arsenal of learning tools. You know how you sometimes gaze at a picture just to figure out how it was lit? Well, for retouching I like to gaze at the histogram to figure out how it was retouched.

Tip of the day: Good models

This has always been an unsaid rule of my photography but I shoot the most beautiful women I can find. No one could possibly disagree with this. I mean it's painfully, "hit me over the head with a bat" obvious. I've worked with some of the most beautiful women on Earth.

Do I have to elaborate on why?


This was a response to a message regarding photographic styles and directions. The sender is inspired by Corinne Day, Terry Richardson and Richard Avedon. Since I don't know why Corinne Day is, I neglected to reference her in my response:
Photography agencies to my knowledge are more about managing your book of existing clients, than they are about getting you new clients. Basically most photography agencies sign you when you have a significant clientele and can't be bothered with the contractual, appointment-scheduling, operations-type BS, etc. They also take a good chunk of your earnings but you pay them to hold the clients' hands because you are too busy making money.

Anyway, assuming I'm understanding you correctly, you still need to decide on a specific direction. Terry Richardson and Dick Avedon are left field and right field ;) I can see how you could like both, but that's kinda like saying I'm Republican and Democrat at the same time. They're mutually exclusive. You gotta pick a side. Avedon was great with control and refinement. Richardson is great at grit and in-your-face reality. I guess what I'm trying to say is to be specific about your niche/style of photography. That way you can be more specific about how you want to build your book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Liquifying in video

Move over Photoshop. This is amazing.

Natural light? (Part II)

Recently I've been shooting a lot with natural light. In studio and out. My education in lighting has been somewhat "backwards" in that respect because I really learned flash photography before I learned ambient lighting.

For me, understanding off-camera flash forced me to look at light differently. Not in the mundane diffuse-light-coming-through-the-window way but rather "how do I want to use light to sculpt the subject" way? You become He-Man when you use strobes because you feel like "Master of the Universe" when you control light. Or at least I do.

Studio pictures

Here's the preliminary results of the pictures at the studio. They're not large. Printed on A3+ paper but sized down to 11.5x15.25" because the matte on the frame came in that size. More work to do, but it's a start!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's in the bag? (Part II)

Here's part I if you're interested.

Yesterday I decided to consolidate the two systems that I work with (Nikon/Hasselblad) into one bag. Up until now, I've been using a Lowepro MiniTrekker A/W for the Nikon system and a 20 year old Tamrac (single strap top-load) shoulder bag for the H3D. Problem now is that I acquired a HC-210mm and am out of space with the Tamrac bag. The HC-210mm is about the same length and girth as the the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G.

So what now?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to become an agency-approved photographer


I'm going to lay it out step-by-step for you. This is how I did it and your mileage may vary. I'm going write whatever comes to mind because this topic is quite extensive.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Natural light?

Katie. H3D/HC-80mm. 1/45th f/2.8 ISO200.

It was raining outside. For no reason other than I had some raggedy old white paper that could be used for some low-profile shots, I opened the roll-up gate to the studio. Overcast, cold, but soft and even light coming into the studio otherwise.

To the left of the paper (from my perspective) was "
The Box". So there was some soft shadow from the main light source which was to the left of The Box.

ISO8000 6:45PM

Brett. D3/24-70mm f/2.8G. 1/30th f/2.8 ISO5000 @70mm. 6:28PM.

At the time I was disappointed. I thought, why can't the camera autofocus properly? Why do I have to bump the ISO?

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

I've been meaning to get one of these for a while and it wasn't until my recent color calibration woes that I decided to actually get one of these. These go beyond white balance and provide custom camera profiles for every lighting condition. Now I've long seen a difference between the H3D and the D3 in their out-of-the-box color casts. The H3D exhibits a greenish tint whereas the D3 is colder and more bluish in hue. That doesn't bother me too much because all my files go through extensive color correction in Photoshop but for once.

But one day, I'm going to shoot with both cameras and really get upset that I'll have 2 separate sets of images that look like they were shot with different cameras.

Prints: My coffee table

Here's my coffee table as of this morning. There are more prints now since it's been hours since I've been up and at it. My goal now is to fine tune the color profiles for the Canon 9500 MkII but things are pretty close as is. I dunno. Judge for yourself. I think some of the skin tones are a little muted and slightly off but maybe my display is off and yours looks exactly like this?

Wait a sec, if you're viewing both the jpegs and then this image of the prints on the display, you'll just see the differences that I see albeit relatively so. LOL!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

F-Stop Watch

Because we're all geeks at heart ;)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

JustHost down... again.

For over 24 hours no email no website... nothin'

I had to submit a problem ticket via email before they were aware of the issue. But they resolved it immediately.

Why does this happen to begin with?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Knee deep in...

Yesterday Calumet LA had a vendor demo of lots of color important gear that photographers had. This was a great opportunity for me to query the experts on my non-matching prints.


I've been doing some printing at Costco. I've found that even with all my color calibration, my prints don't match my display(s). That's terribly frustrating.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rorschach geometry

In creating these images, I was subtly reminded of Rorschach inkblot tests, to which I've never been subjected. I enjoyed doing this little exercise because the geometry in these images provide structure and is often at the heart of the sets that I create for my shoots. Why do the lines behave the way they do? Why are the walls placed the way they are? Why do the gradients fall the way they fall? Sometimes it's luck. Other times it's by design. Oddly, in structure and symmetry there's lots of randomness and chance. At least in my work.

I present to you some of the driving inspirations that randomize in my mind :)

Raina Hein and architecture. H3DII-31/HC-80mm. 1/350th f/9.5 ISO100

Margaux in the box. H3DII-31/80mm. 1/500th f/8.0 ISO100

Hasselblad H3DII-31: My take (a subjective review)

Old campaign poster from the release of the H3D-31 back in early 2007. Hasselblad launched the H3DII in September 2007

I take offense when people think they can differentiate between my images that are shot with the D3 and my images that are shot with the H3D? Why? Because it implies that there's something about the quality of these images that is intrinsically related to the camera and not the processing. Yes, I'm being hyper-sensitive :)

But I can't even tell which of my pictures were shot with the D3 or the H3D! I have to reference the EXIF data or my Lr organization.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A godless world...

When people ask me how I learn(ed) photography I never say that I'm self-taught. Because it's bullshit. I've learned from the greats like David Hobby, Chris Orwig, Matthew Jordan Smith or Amy Dresser. Do they know who I am? Of course not (actually Matthew does). I've never had the pleasure of meeting them, but I have learned volumes from their writing, videos, and tutorials. I'm eternally grateful to the various "teachers" I've had on this journey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Color profile issues: Blogger

Okay. Here goes:

I uploaded
this image below to blogger:

Notice the sRGB color profile.

When it finishes uploading to blogger it looks like
this (with a reddish tint).

I say WTF then download the exact same image I just uploaded. The info on the file looks like this:

Notice the missing color profile information.

So how did I get my actual version with the proper color profile to upload to blogger? I took a screenshot of the picture when it was open in Photoshop. Before it uploaded it had info that looked like this:

Yet oddly immediately after it uploads it's fine. It retains the "correct color". When I download the file and examine the info the color profile is again stripped:

Also I'm noticing a difference in Alpha Channel: Yes/No

I'm not sure what explains this discrepancy. Or why blogger is showing a different version of my jpegs than what I see before uploading.

Amy dreams

Amy. H3DII-31/HC-80mm. 1/90th f/2.8 ISO200.

*In the comments section can you please tell me if the above two images have different color casts? i.e. do they look at all different or pretty much identical except for the crop? I'm looking for color profile issue/differences. Thanks!

In testing out the SanDisk 32GB CompactFlash, I snapped a few pics of Amy. I noticed in Photoshop that her eyes reflected a sliver of our backyard. I wonder what she dreams when she's falling asleep...

100% crop of her eyeball.

The Replacement: SanDisk Extreme 32GB CompactFlash

Mikey likes it! :) Yup, the H3D takes it just fine and doesn't spit back "No CF card" or other error messages.

Goodbye Lexar... we tried.

Perhaps the Lexar price adjustment was in response to the pricing of the SanDisk cards? I'm guessing there's a supply issue at heart though...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Prices of Lexar 32GB 300x CompactFlash cards...

I bought my Lexar 32GB 300x CompactFlash on 8/30/2010 for $124.95 from Adorama with free shipping. It doesn't work in my Hasselblad H3D so I have to sell it.

Here's the invoice:

But I noticed today that the price of this CompactFlash is selling for
$169.95 at Adorama.

What happened???

Modeling: More dangerous than...

Being a model is more dangerous than letting Stevie Wonder take you on a walking tour of The Grand Canyon. Seriously. Modeling is an extremely dangerous profession. I don't think there's a more dangerous profession out there...

If I were an insurance agent, I would not insure models for anything. Not life insurance, not personal liability insurance, and definitely not auto insurance. From my own personal experience models have car problems 50% of the time. 50%! That's a coin toss! I'd just ride my bike everywhere if I knew my chances of breakdown, accident, flat tire, etc. were 50%! They must spend a lot of money on auto repair, AAA, insurance (if anyone is willing to even insure them), GPS systems (though these usually don't work for models), hospital bills (personal injury), etc. And from what've heard, their cars get broken into all the time, and you know what the thieves steal? Clothes! It's always another model or a cross-dressing transvestite with good taste that's breaking into models' cars. Nothing else gets stolen. Just the clothes. What are the odds of that?!? Amazing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No I did not liquify... and about the box...

Margaux Elite Model Management. H3DII-31/HC-80. 1/500th f/9.5 ISO100 @80mm.

Yes, those legs are real. No, I did not liquify. Look at the other ones of her. That's just how her legs are.

Yes, she's really thin. No, she's not anorexic. I watched her scarf down 2 slices of pizza... although she did disappear into the bathroom for a long time afterwards. By the way, that's a joke. The girl eats just fine.

I originally made this pic in monochrome. Interestingly, it looks better in color. I don't know why. But it does. Fortunately I didn't lock myself into black and white. Sometimes I do. This time I didn't.

I actually think that we'll see some return to color. I've been at "the drawing board" really looking at black and white tonality, traditional film's tonal responses to light, and taking a hard look at my own B&W conversions. Needless to say, I'm in need of a little change. The last 4 out of 5 pictures uploaded to flickr have been in color. The previous 10 before that were B&W. But this isn't the end of the learning process, it's just the beginning of the plateau during which I exercise what I've learned and see if I can apply these techniques to acquire consistent results. We'll see how that goes :)

I will take this opportunity to talk a little about the box. I think the initial results were acceptable. LOL. Who uses words like "acceptable" outside of white-collared-shirt-and-tie situations to describe results? Most of you have probably already seen this but I'll use this image as an example:

Margaux Elite Model Management. H3DII-31/HC-80. 1/500th f/8.0 ISO100 @80mm.

So let's talk challenges. I'm used to moving around. But you can't move around with a geometric object without distorting the perspectives on said geometric object. Lines get bent, distortion happens. It *will* ruin the symmetry of the object. It *can* ruin the purpose of the object.

I made the box because I like lines, symmetry, structure, and geometry. I also like white. That's why it's a white box. I'm guessing I'll have to tripod the H3D. The only problem is the H3D has 1 focus point... and it's in the middle. How will I focus-recompose? I can't. I'll have to set the focus to where I think the model should be and set a long depth of field. We'll see.

Oh and it was supposed to be a cube. But
I failed at that. Which brings to mind the second challenge. It's not 1:1 aspect ratio (6x6 if you're a MF film shooter). Which means when I crop, I can't crop square. What I've found is that it crops better 6x7 HOWEVER this will either shorten the sides (which means the model can't stretch width-wise all the way like touch both sides of the box at the same time), or leave too much head room. The box is permanently "non-square". The stripped screws and lack of carpentry skills ensure that no future modifications to this box will be possible. So I'll have to figure an alternative solution to cropping the box pics. At this point, I'm thinking a custom crop might be the only solution... dunno yet though.

But do I ever know anything for certain. Rarely :)