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.