Monday, April 30, 2012

On Ben Trovato blog

Thanks to all the talented and dedicated members of the team for turning a concept into a reality! Also thanks to for giving us the chance to share our fashion story!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Magic: The Aftermath

In the wake of Magic II (the second Fashion-Editorial Master Class), I have some concluding thoughts on the topic of Magic.

I can not stress how important it is to understand that Magic isn't a science. Honestly, if Magic were a science, I wouldn't want to teach it. And no offense to science, but it's the same reason I don't teach Photography 101 classes or Lighting 101 courses. I simply feel that there isn't any unique value that I could add to the subject. Because I am not in love with processes that you can download from the Internet or simply glean from a book. Instead, what makes me so interested in Magic is that it is elusive and that it is very personal.

And therein lies the conundrum. If it's so elusive and so very personal, then how can anyone teach a Master Class on Magic? My answer is simple. I am first and foremost completely honest about how Magic isn't formulaically replicable. Therefore I can only teach my techniques, my thought-processes, and my philosophies, using personal examples and live demonstrations.

Through presentations, I suggest a specific paradigm of Magic. Through debate photographers consider and challenge that paradigm. And by adopting (at least temporarily) my shooting style during the shooting sessions, my hope is that each photographer gets a glimpse of the same Magic that I experience during my shoots. Yes, the Master Class is academic in principle but by recreating as many of the same conditions I create during my own tests, the photographers can witness and experience Magic for themselves.

My goal is that they each photographer subsequently seeks to recreate his/her own Magic by themselves.

It's very likely that 20 years from now the subject of Magic will still intrigue me. As I get older, my relationship with Magic will mature and I'll have different sentiments on the entire process. But Magic will forever remain an art and never a science. My understanding of Magic evolves with every shoot and every interaction. I can only hope that in 20 years I'll be as willing to learn, challenge my own assumptions, and to teach Magic as I am today.

But 20 years is a long time. And Magic is a very personal journey.

It's a personal journey because no two people will experience Magic identically. For that matter, I believe that Magic is more about personal growth than about creating emotionally evocative images. For me at least, Magic has forced me to evaluate/reevaluate my interactions with people (and not just models). Why? Because without real human interactions a photographer has very little hope of creating creating Magic. Simply put, as a "Magician" you can not sit back and expect Magic to just happen. You have to get in there and be an active participant of the Magic "production".

To say that Magic has occasionally made me uncomfortable is a huge understatement. Striving for Magic has put me in some awkward situations. From working with inexperienced models to making impromptu wardrobe decisions, Magic stretches me in ways I don't necessarily want to me stretched. Magic tests me via situations that I fear I will most certainly fail. But at the end of the day, practicing Magic forces me to understand myself better. And by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into the realm of real human interactions, practicing Magic keeps me in touch with the human element.

For that reason alone, it behooves all of us to study Magic and become apprentice Magicians.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Joy of Motion

Screencaps from the raw footage from Lost.

My buddy Chris Park once said "Where stills are two-dimensional, video is is three-dimensional because of the added element of sound".

I think it's 4D because of the added dimension of sound and time.

And these two elements have made my work extremely fun lately. Since the end of the post-production of Lost, I've been enjoying *almost* every moment of the pre-production, production, and post-production of the videos I'm working on.

There are still moments I don't enjoy. Like deadlines and fretting over audio cutting and worrying whether or not the audience will be engaged for the entire duration of the video.

And don't get me wrong, I love stills. Always have and always will. There's something elemental about capturing lightning in a bottle. But with video, the storytelling possibilities are endless (given enough budget). Sure some asshole will argue "Stills are great for storytelling too! You're just not doing it right with all your fashion nudes!"

Doh, you got me! Guilty as charged!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

For those of you that haven't heard. Blackmagic Design announced their Cinema Camera that does 2.5K resolution for under $3,000. EF and ZF mounts. Shooots ProRes and RAW. Doesn't do more than 30fps though.

Here's Hitler's response:

"I spent a year saving up for that new 5D" - Hitler

Model Releases and Watermarking II

I wrote this in a response to a comment. I feel this needs to be repeated in its own blog post: 
Don't fight the battle only to realize later that you've lost the war. Because that's what most of the amateur photographers are guilty of. They only see what they stand to lose *now*, versus what they stand to gain *later*.

Model Releases and Watermarking

Here's an email thread regarding the age-old question of model releases. I threw in the topic of watermarking since I feel it's on the same page.

Q: Do I need to bring a model release for the models at the workshop?

A: As you'll find via working with modeling agencies and their models, there are no releases to sign. The unsaid rule is that you do not profit monetarily directly from the sale of the images. Self-promotional purposes like magazine submissions and your own websites are fair game. In fact the models will almost always appreciate the additional press/publicity/exposure from magazine submissions.

You can bring one for her to sign. I'll have to read through it first. In the event that the magazines ask for signatures, that should be the time to turn around and ask them to sign the release because it's the magazine's release (and not your self-worded and often "skewing in favor of the photographer" release). But signing paperwork during or immediately after test shoots is usually a red flag to models... good models don't work with photographers that request release signatures for shoots.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


"What the fuck do you think a hater's job is? To fucking hate. So let them motherfuckers do their goddamn job!" - Katt Williams

Haters. Totally love them. I mean, sure they piss me off now and then, but this is a great talking point and it's a great lesson not only for me but for anyone who wants to achieve any level of success. The reality is that along your journey you're going to encounter people that are going to try and hold you down. People that don't like the fact that you're doing well. People that don't like that you're talented. People that don't like change. People that don't like the fact that you're pushing the envelope. People that don't like the way you eat your cereal. These people don't want anyone to do better than they're doing because usually they aren't doing so hot. It hurts their feelings to see others do well.

So they hate.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fashion Nudity and Censorship

Lara Stone for LOVE Magazine August 2010

There's no easy way to say what I'm about to say. But I'll try to be educational about to quell/dispute the myths, rumors, questions, etc.

First off, I shoot fashion nudity because I like shooting fashion nudity. I also shoot fashion nudity because I can shoot fashion nudity. I don't pay the models. In fact, most of the time I get paid to shoot fashion nudity. Who pays me to shoot fashion nudes? The models themselves pay me to shoot fashion nudes. I have a portfolio full of these images and they want images like those in my portfolio.

What about the agencies? The modeling agencies I work with pay me to shoot their girls in the traditional model portfolio way. Clothed but with fashion edge. Basically, the type of work I did before I started shooting fashion nudes. What kind of agency girls do the agencies send to me for paid tests? All kinds. Agencies will sometimes send girls that are really commercial-looking because those girls don't draw a lot of interest from photographers doing unpaid tests. On the other hand I also amazing round-the-world working models that are so busy that they can't afford to waste any time testing with bad photographers. So their agency sends them to me for paid tests. In neither scenario are fashion nudes requested. Not yet at least. I think that might happen down the line though...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lost Behind the Scenes

Lost started out as a simple idea. A girl, a horse and the wilderness. It literally started off with these three very simple components and as such I went into this video thinking it was going to be that simple.

But it never is that simple is it? :)

During a Johnny Rockets meeting with Jacqueline Lavaun, wardrobe stylist extraordinaire and overall intelligent creative at heart, I mentioned that I wanted to create this video (which at the time was nameless). I mentioned that I wanted it to look and feel like a perfume commercial but with a twist ending. Perfume commercials are great because they are so fashion-oriented in construct. A girl, a location, no dialogue and lots of nice clothes. Check, check, check and check! Jacqueline loved the idea and saw my vision immediately. She suggested that our heroine/protagonist's wardrobe should change throughout the video and symbolize what she's feeling. I loved that idea. And by the end of the meeting we had a solid storyboard on our hands. Below is a portion of the email that resulted from our meeting:

Thoughts dump II

Most of my posts are educational. This one is not. This is one gives you insight into my personal life which I am usually very careful to sidestep in my blog articles. Not to say I'm not open about what I talk about. I'm very open but I pick and choose topics without revealing too much in terms of personal information. After all, there has to be some separation between us all!

- Lost. I'm uploading a video that I've been working on since December. It was a collaborative piece that I'll talk more about later. I had an idea, hashed out some ideas with Jacqueline Lavaun (the stylist), wrote a "script", and we shot it one cold December morning. I'm really excited to get this out into the wild and relieved that I made it out of that video in one piece. Did it really take 4 months to edit? No, but I'll talk more about that in the dedicated article.

- Jury Duty. Tomorrow morning at 9:30AM in downtown LA. Ugh, as a self-employed professional it's really one of the banes of my existence to have to take time out of my work to go and do jury duty. I'm sorry, but no one is covering for me when I'm doing jury duty. Not to mention the lack of ability to take on work during this time.

- Commercial Video. Shot a promotional video on Saturday for! Collaborated with the very talented Rick Craft on this project and I'm looking forward to our next few video projects! Special thanks to Rodney Alan, Ben Tsui, and Ren Lara for the assists!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Just Light

One of my first shoots experimenting with flare... back when I still used reflectors!

Got an email today regarding lighting that allows me to really share some insight regarding how I approach lighting, especially outdoors!

So I've finally finished reading every blogger post just to make sure I'm not asking anything redundant. I feel like I have a solid foundation studio wise now as to what to look out for but I'm still trying to fill in gaps for my ambient light understanding. Sorry in advance for the question bomb!

So here goes:

I'm still not really sure on what your approach to ambient is. Outside of having the model facing the sun being more fashiony and the model being backlit for more lifestyle, I feel I'm struggling to figure out what a good final exposure is (as in, what I need to bring into Photoshop to get a good non boring edit).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Automatic Duck

At $500, it was steep and cost prohibitive for me to use as an exporter/importer to-and-from FCP and After Effects so for a while I used the free alternative Popcorn Island. But now you can download it free of charge from the Automatic Duck website. I salute the guys at Automatic Duck for making a great product and for continued success at Adobe!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

To Garage Studio or Not to Garage Studio...

Fashion Grey paper at work

So if you don't have $1,250/month to throw at a space, but you have a garage... what do you do?

First, acknowledge that you won't get the intangibles of having a business workspace. If I were shooting out of my garage, I would keep the (modeling) agents in the dark about "working from home"... meaning that in my conversations and call sheets I wouldn't necessarily mention that "THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS", especially not in big bold capitalized letters. If they ask, be honest and tell them. If not, then they don't need to know.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Studio or Not to Studio...

LUCIMA STUDIO on the eve of Magic: Fashion-Editorial Master Class

I get this question occasionally and I talk about it even more for our Business Photography Workshop; should I have my own studio?

There's no right or wrong answer to this question but I can lend you my perspective to the question.

I leased LUCIMA STUDIO I (that's what I call it because it was the first LUCIMA STUDIO) back in February of 2010. It was the beginning of my second year as a professional photographer (being the sole source of my income). The space was 1,304 square feet and selectively situated 7 miles from downtown LA and 13 miles from Hollywood. I made sure to put the studio close (but not too close) to all the "commotion" because I didn't want the distance to dissuade clients from shooting with me. I signed a 1-year lease (which then became month-to-month), to hedge my bets in case I "didn't make it" as a photographer.

Vintage iPhone Docks...

Something about this makes me very sad inside...