Archives for posts with tag: nudes

So I’m just fresh off a photoshoot that got a little…dark, both occasionally in subjects and consistently in lighting. Sure, it’s great to be out in nature, photographing birds soaring around in the sunlight, but sometimes you’ve just gotta go inside, close the curtains, and enjoy the shadows. I decided this time to experiment with candlelight, which was fun, and yielded some interesting results. I also did some playing around with low-level artificial lighting for some nude studies, which also worked out extremely well given the blazingly pale physique of my talented model, Joe Filippone, which pops against the flat black backdrop. The lighting was provided either by several (unscented) pillar candles or by a single compact-fluorescent bulb using a white umbrella reflector. All photos were taken with my D7000, using a tripod and a remote (the remote was vital to minimizing vibration in Very Long Exposure shots–some exceeding 0.5, though most averaging around 0.033). Flash was generally suppressed, although sometimes it makes a nice stark lighting effect (see below).

The shoot involved three basic segments: The first involved a steampunked-out Israeli civilian gas mask; the second was a series of classic nude studies; and the third was a fairly creepy take on the god Pan, using horns, furry leggings (which pretty much disappeared in the low light) and bodypaint. The results are below; I’m pretty pleased with them, and with the low-light aesthetic in general. More samples are available on my website, EButterfield Photography (“implied nudes” are in the “Models and Conceptual” gallery; the other kind are locked away behind a password in the “NSFW” gallery, but I’ll probably tell you the password if you’re interested, and ask nicely.

Nude male sitting cross-legged; black and white photo.

Exposure: 0.167 sec (1/6); Aperture: f/2.8; Focal Length: 44 mm;
ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias 0 EV
Flash Off, Did not fire

 

 

 

Horned god Pan with flute and candles

Exposure: 0.033 sec (1/30); Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length : 30 mm; ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias:0 EV; Flash Off, Did not fire

 

Person in a gas mask reaching toward viewer

Exposure: 0.5; Aperture: f/2.8;
Focal Length : 55 mm; ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias: 0 EV; Flash Off, Did not fire

Model in a gas mask

Exposure: 0.017 sec (1/60); Aperture: f/2.8;
Focal Length: 22 mm; ISO Speed: 800;
Exposure Bias: 0 EV; Flash Auto, Fired

 

So over the past several months I’ve been doing some photo work with professional models. For someone whose previous work primarily focused (heh) on birds and cats and rusting objects, this was new and interesting territory.

Oh, I’ve done photoshoots of people before, of course. I’ve had friends pose for me so I could play around with lighting and style and explore the human aspect of photography. But a few months ago I joined a website called ModelMayem, which connects professional and semiprofessional models with photographers and other professionals. Through that site, I’ve met some remarkable people, who also happen to be both amazingly good-looking and talented at their craft as well.

Ivan Bohman

Ivan Bohman

And modeling is, in fact, a craft that must be carefully honed. Any ol’ body can stand around in front of a camera and smile and have their picture taken: what I’ve learned is that modeling is about more than that. A professional model knows their body, knows how to move, and knows how to work with a photographer to achieve both professionals’ visions.  It’s not a naturally-occurring skill, but one that comes with experience and careful self-awareness. (I am also keenly aware of my body and its motion in space, which is why I stand on the viewfinder side of the camera, thank you.)

Andre Chambers

Andre Chambers

Photos taken with nonprofessionals can be and often are exactly what’s called for. When I’ve worked with models, though, the experience is more efficient, easier, and (this is true) more creative.  So here are some things I’ve learned in my admittedly brief history working with models:  three basic rules to live by.

1. Relax. My best experiences with models are when everyone’s comfortable and relaxed. This is particularly important if at some point one of the parties will be wearing less clothing than the other. I’ve met models for coffee before a shoot, just to chat and get to know each other better away from the backdrops and umbrella lights. Even if I don’t meet them beforehand, I make sure to welcome them as a guest, not a client or coworker.

Javoroce

Javoroce

2. Be clear about what you want to have happen. I learned very quickly that it’s much easier for a shoot to work well if I’ve written down generally what I want the model to do, and shared that information with the model. That list has become more specific the more I work with models.  Being inspired by the moment is very nice, and sometimes happens, but it’s both more professional of the photographer and more respectful of the model to have a plan. So have a plan. It doesn’t have to be shot-by-shot or pose-by-pose, but should at least give everyone a roadmap of what you’re looking for. The more the model knows about the point of the shoot, the more likely he’s going to not only be able to deliver, but be able to contribute to the creative process as well. Working with professionals has proved to be a symbiotic creative process. Because the model has experience with a number of other photographers, they know some stuff. If they’re relaxed and if they know about what you’re after, they often have really interesting ideas to share. Listen to them. (Of course, this assumes that the model is working for you; if a model has engaged you to do photos for their portfolio, or headshots, or whatever, then they’re the boss and you absolutely need to listen to them.)

Aaron

Aaron

3. Be respectful. Models are not, contrary to popular opinion, emotionless hunks of meat on which a photographer gets to hang bits of cloth or twist around into interesting positions. Not all models are willing to work nude, for instance, and the photographer should not pressure them to change their minds. It’s perfectly acceptable to push an artist’s limits, of course, but no so far that they are seriously uncomfortable. This rule goes hand-in-hand with Number 2: if you’re clear about what you’re looking to do up front, the model has the opportunity to decline the job or suggest acceptable alternatives without anyone wasting time. The same rule goes for models, too, of course. A model should remember that they’re working with a human being, and that the person behind the camera may in fact have something to offer other than the ability to push a button.

James

James

There’s a fourth thing, but that would interfere with my nice tidy threesome, so I’ll handle it separately, even though it’s the most important:

The Release

Any model/photographer relationship absolutely positively must include a written, signed release. I say this not just because I went to law school and thing I’m all smart and lawyerly and stuff, but because it just makes sense in a potentially complicated legal relationship: the model is the owner of his or her image, and the photographer is the owner of his or her photographic work. So a photo done with a professional (or nonprofessional, it doesn’t matter) model potentially has two equal owners: the maker of the picture, and the person whose image is captured. That’s never a good thing, and has the potential for disaster and calamity written all over it. To avoid future distress and misunderstanding, then, this little legalistic nicety must be observed. It’s often just the slightest bit awkward (i.e., you’ve established a relaxed relationship with your model, and welcomed them as a guest in your studio, when suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt when you whip out the release—kind of like following up a romantic marriage proposal by presenting the prenup with the ring, I guess). But don’t be fooled: the photographer/model relationship has a business component, and businesses work because of legal relationships.

The release simply states who has which rights to what, regarding the photos. A release can be pretty one-sided (“the photographer owns everything” or “the model owns everything”) or a mutual exchange of rights (“the photographer owns the nude photos for portfolio purposes but can’t sell or distribute them”). A release gives the model the opportunity to clarify the terms of the engagement, and can of course be negotiated. Below is a simple release, admittedly very one-sided, that I use. But first, this:

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE, OR MAKING ANY REPRESENTATIONS THAT THIS RELEASE IS APPROPRIATE OR LAWFUL IN ANY JURISDICTION. YOU MAY USE THIS FORM AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND YOU HOLD ME HARMLESS FROM ANY LIABILITY FOR, OR DAMAGES ARISING FROM, THE CONSEQUENCES OF ITS USE.

Yeah, I kinda have to say that, in order to (a) protect myself and (b) to ensure that you have absolutely no confidence in me or anything I say whatsoever—usually a safe bet anyway. So here’s the form I use:

Model Release

In consideration of my engagement as a model, upon the terms herewith stated, I hereby give to ______________________, his heirs, legal representatives and assigns, those for whom the photographer is acting, and those acting with his authority and permission:

a)  the unrestricted right and permission to copyright and use, re-use, publish, and republish photographic portraits or pictures of me or in which I may be included intact or in part, composite or distorted in character or form, without restriction as to changes or transformations in conjunction with my own or a fictitious name, or reproduction hereof in color or otherwise, made through any and all media now or hereafter known for illustration, art, promotion, advertising, trade, or any other purpose whatsoever.

b)  I also permit the use of any printed material in connection therewith.

c)  I hereby relinquish any right that I may have to examine or approve the completed product or products or the advertising copy or printed matter that may be used in conjunction therewith or the use to which it may be applied.

d)  I hereby release, discharge and agree to save harmless _________________, his heirs, legal representatives or assigns, and all persons functioning under his permission or authority, or those for whom he is functioning, from any liability by virtue of any blurring, distortion, alteration, optical illusion, or use in composite form whether intentional or otherwise, that may occur or be produced in the taking of said picture or in any subsequent processing thereof, as well as any publication thereof, including without limitation any claims for libel or invasion of privacy.

e)  I hereby affirm that I am over the age of majority and have the right to contract in my own name. I have read the above authorization, release and agreement, prior to its execution; I fully understand the contents thereof. This agreement shall be binding upon me and my heirs, legal representatives and assigns.

Signed:________________________________

Dated: _________________________________

Shane Hammontree

Shane Hammontree

Note that the Model Release is not the same as a contract for the shoot. Payment for the model (or the photographer), waiver of fees, form of compensation (hourly, time-for-photos, a nice blueberry pie) and expectations regarding the model’s access to the photos (digital or print, quantity, media) should all be discussed and agreed upon prior to when the model arrives.

Shane Hammontree

Shane Hammontree

So anyway, that’s my current wisdom on the subject. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I do more work with models, and being not especially shy about such things, I’m sure I’ll share that wisdom as it occurs.

James

James

It recently occurred to me in a rare moment of clarity that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. I know that both my readers were despondent about this, and after initially assuring themselves that I was enjoying a fabulous eco-tour of some exotic location, undoubtedly fell into the inescapable conclusion that I’d been abducted by bug-eyed and throbbing-brained alien invaders with a proclivity for probing; or been dragged off by gaily-clad gypsies and forced to participate in traditional woodland dances and fits of fortune-telling; or perhaps I had fallen into a deep, deep hole. Rest easy, gentle readers, for none of these terrible things befell me. Nope, I’m just Lazy. And don’t think for a moment that I haven’t been thinking about you all this time, and scolding myself for being a Bad Blogger.

I can only offer the following series of excuses:

1. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the London Olympics, and then sat glued to NBC’s selective coverage, utterly enthralled by all the leaping, bounding, diving, and whatnot; and/or

2. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the Mars Science Laboratory (“Curiosity”) landing on Mars, and became so obsessed that I forgot to eat, and then sat riveted to NASA-TV’s livefeed from Mission Control, becoming alternatively misty-eyed and hysterical as Curiosity survived the Seven Minutes of Terror; and/or

3. I spent a great deal of time in airports, on airplanes, and in hotel conference rooms being all Serious and Business-y; and/or

3. I spent several weeks mesmerized by the civil, adult, substantive and insightful policy debates engaged in by the various candidates for US President, and had to take many days just to parse the intricacies of the detailed and thoughtful plans they’ve laid out for the nation’s future.

(OK, that last one’s just silly.)

Whatever the reason for my Bad Bloggerishness (Bad Bloggeritude? Bad Bloggery?) there has nonetheless been time to do some photography, which is what I write about here. And since I continue to bask in my delusional, narcissitic, and potentially psychotic fantasy that anyone in the world cares about what I’ve been doing, I shall then proceed as per usual to revel in the minutiae of the minorest of my daily activities.

Southern California Blues. The biggest benefit of having to travel quite a bit for work, aside from the whole meeting-new-people and broadening-one’s-horizons thing, is the opportunity for more (I think) interesting aerial photography. I try to make it a point to sit by a window (this is a wise move for three reasons: 1) for photographic purposes; 2) because no one climbs over you to get to the lavatory;  and 3) because the bulkhead is nice to lean against, and adds an inch or two more personal space—you’re welcome for that little Travel Tip.) Anyway here’s the coastline of Southern California shortly after takeoff from John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana:

Southern California coastline

Tentpole. I like architecture, and this photo from Denver International Airport is a good demonstration of why: Not only is it functional (the pylon is holding up the tent-like roof of the terminal) but it’s attractive. And what’s more, given the right angle of approach, it becomes a nice display of abstract geometry, divorced from its actual purpose. As a photographer, that’s one of my favorite things to do: get so close up to something (in the case of macros), or so far away (in the case of aerial views of the desert Southwest) or so particularly angled (like here) that the thing being photographed loses its “thingness” and becomes something new: a collection of lines and angles and colors, for instance. But enough about that. Here’s a picture from DIA:

Support pylon at Denver International Airport

Please Come to Boston. I took a little business trip to Boston, and snuck out on a rainy morning to see what was up in the Public Garden. This swan boat seemed a lovely thing, and the water droplets are, to me, quite nice.

 Swan Boat iin Boston's Public Garden

OK, possibly Shocking Displays of Skin below (probably safe for work, unless you work in a church).

You’ve been Warned.

5

4

3

2

1

Tough Guy. I continue my efforts to pursue portrait photography using the nice little home studio equipment I acquired not all that long ago. James wanted a series of photos taken that looked “model-y” and showed off his physical assets, so that was a fun project for a summer afternoon. (More of these here)

Shirtless male model with sunglasses

Daddy Bear. One thing seems to lead to another in this interwoven, interconnected, interdependent world we wander through, and shortly after James I found myself photographing Andre for what were to be some more…personal photos. This is one of the tamer ones. Interestingly (although not surprisingly to anyone who’s been to an International Mister Leather event and heard the big scary-looking S&M guys chatting about recipes and window treatments) Andre is not nearly as intimidating as he looks: he’s actually quite sweet and funny (I think this actually captures that a little bit), and the shoot was a lot of fun. (More of these here)

Male model in leather vest and codpiece

So that was what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I shall endeavor to be a more courteous and consistent correspondent in the future. With upcoming business trips to Beijing, Florida, New Jersey, and Belgium, plus whatever photogenic models wander my way, there will no doubt be much more to write about. And anyway there’s always Gimli The Cat:

Cat staring, reflected in tabletop

(A Note to my diligent reader: The following post includes some mention, with the utmost tact and propriety, of the photographing of unclothed individuals. Those who might find such goings-on alarming should probably go read something else.)

Let me start by saying I have some experience with photographing nudes. In my storied past I have worked with four nude models. All were men, and all were delighted to take of their clothes and prance about, as many men, as a general rule, are. Three were photographed in ambient light, either the sun streaming through two-storey windows or whatever happened to be cast by local floorlamps. The results were generally good, and nothing that couldn’t be fixed with patience and a delicate hand in Photoshop.

However last week I acquired a home studio set. It was, let me hasten to say, not expensive. As a rank amateur, a hopeful beginner, a pro-to-be, I was not comfortable shelling out the hard-earned in vast quantities for top-of-the-line equipment. But what I found, however, turned out to work just fine.

Lighting equipmentThe folks at ePhotoInc, via Amazon, provided me with the following, for less than $150, shown here set up in my den:

1 complete background support stand 10ftwide, 8ft high
2 x 7ft light stand
1 x backlight stand
2 x 105w bulb
1 x 45w bulb
3 x light holder
2 x 33″ umbrellas
1x 6×9 black, 1 x 6×9 white muslin background
1x carrying case for all that stuff

This was pretty much perfect for my purposes, and I spent several days tormenting Gimli the cat, my partner, Durrell, and assorted objets-d’art as I toyed about with different arrangements of lights and muslins and camera settings. I shoot a Nikon D-90, with a Nikon DX 18-105mm lens (although I’ve been known to use a Sigma 28-70mm too). I rapidly discovered that the lazy Auto setting I had been defaulting to was no long appropriate, and learned all about adjusting white levels to accommodate fluorescent lighting (yeah, yeah, I know, but the den’s small and heat’s an issue when the doors are closed to prevent Gimli from wandering all over the model lying on the floor…more on that in a moment).

Seasoned professional photographers, or those with a lick of sense, will be shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me (and I will take their pictures and post ’em on the Web if they don’t quit it), but I think I’ve done some lovely work in the past with little or no formal training.

Oh but the lights are amazing. Suddenly objects that had been flat and dull-looking (neither Gimli nor Durrell falls into this category of course), when lit from varying angles, took on a richness of color, and depth of shadow, and a level of interestingness heretofore unbeknownst. (I’m really really sorry about how that sentence ended. Unnecessary multisyllabicism sort of creeped up on me when I wasn’t really paying attention.)

So here we go, I thought to myself. Promptly an ad was posted on Craigslist (the “Services” part, not the “Strangers Come Over And Fool Around With Me” part, thank you), and pretty promptly responses came back. I believe I discussed this in a previous blog. Some were, predictably, I suppose, not entirely genuine. Others, though, had promise. I sent inquirers to my gallery on the Web, and a few came back still interested. Two have been dealt with to date; two more are still on the calendar.

You can, if you feel like it, look at the results of this shoot on my PhotoShelter site in the password-protected gallery merely by dropping me an e asking for  the password-du-jour.  Some less scary samples can be seen in the Portraits gallery.

The piece I’m probably most pleased with is entitled “Tied” (detail shown to the left) and in it I had my model lie in a fetal position on the black-muslin-ed floor bound loosely with a selection of some of my nicer and more vividly-colored silk ties (I have some lovely ties, and have used them as props in previous work as well, but never quite like this). The result is a lovely mix of flesh-on-black punctuated by strips of bright jewel tones. The lights had a lot to do with the depth and richness of the photo (“Duh,” say those who know about such things), as did the model’s comfortableness in his own skin, and willingness to lie around on my floor wrapped up in neckwear.

So this blog is apparently generally concerned with me learning stuff at my advanced age that most semi-serious photographers already knew, so what did I learn? I’ve learned that I’ve just started learning about lighting, and I’ve learned about various new and surprising features of my camera. I’ve learned the value of a tripod, and also the value of a stepstool for looming over someone lying on the floor.  I’ve learned that fluorescent lights will in fact heat up a small room when the doors are closed. I’ve learned that I’m pretty comfortable working with models, clothed and otherwise, and that the difference between the two, once I’m fussing with lights and focus and angle and stuff, is surprisingly minimal. I’ve learned about the importance of making a model feel comfortable and unsurprised;  this is made easier when the model is pretty much already comfortable, and just needs reassurance that he’s not in the presence of a crazed serial killer which, in this case, he was not. Just a slightly enthusiastic new photographer with a thing for accessorizing.

Back in law school, in my legal ethics class (Yes, they taught ethics in law school; we will pause here briefly for anyone who wishes to make any clever jokes, or clean up from their spit-take. Done now? Good. Let us proceed.), I had a professor who was fond of using the analogy that a lawyer was a taxi not a bus. A taxi, he would say, doesn’t have to stop, and doesn’t have to take a fare. A bus, on the other hand, stops at established points and anybody who has a token or a card or a dollar or whatever it takes to get on board can, well, get on board. Lawyers, like cab drivers, can choose their clients, was his point. I guess that also means that lawyers can scam tourists for inflated fares.

At this stage in my photography career, however, I am a bus.

When it comes to an utterly untalented actor who wants me to do a headshot or the hideous and massively delusional person who wants sexy nude boudoir portraits, or the friends who ask me to photograph their vile-tempered child’s awful wedding, I am not in a position to say No. After all, I have a portfolio to build.

Ideally, my portfolio would be full of talented actors and attractive nude studies and perfect events, but life, I’m finding, is not that way (although I hasten to point out, and will repeat later on, that the models whom I’ve included in my portrait portfolio are without exception attractive and talented people.) When I recently advertised for models on a time-for-pictures basis, my immediate responses were from, well, not just the most beautiful people.

However, the world is full of not entirely beautiful, self-confident people who love having their picture taken. In fact, the world is mostly populated by those of us who are, or who think we are, somewhat less-than-modeltastic,  and whose faces freeze into a horrible rictus of faux-smiling terror when we are confronted by a camera-wielding fiend (such as the self). It is those people, however, who are clamoring to get on my bus at the moment. They are attracted no doubt as much by my reasonable pricing terms (um, like, free under standard time-for-photos arrangements) as by my eclectic portfolio and genial, comfortable, reassuring manner. Possibly moreso. Perhaps in spite of.

In any case, my point here is that a photographer’s role is to be, as Emerson wrote in Nature, an “attentive eye” that finds how “each moment of the year has its own beauty, and…beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before and which shall never be seen again.” And not just each moment of the year, but each individual who inhabits those moments. There is beauty somewhere in all of us (this would be where I would start singing, were this a popular Broadway musical rather than a spectacularly un-read blog) and it’s my role to find that — at least until I have the luxury of being able to pick and choose my clients. At which point, of course, to hell with the fat, unattractive, and unpleasant.

(This would probably be a good point at which to remind my reader (hello, you) that I tend to be sarcastic and snarky at times, but only in pursuit of what I may at the time perceive to be a good joke. No offense is intended toward the Weighty Community nor the Unconventionally Attractive Community, nor the Socially Irksome Community, all of which are objects of my immeasurable respect, celebration, and, dare I say, admiration. Thank you for being you so very thoroughly.)

Back to my point. The challenge in finding aesthetic beauty in unexpected places is really pretty cool. I tell everyone all the time (and may have mentioned it here someplace) that I really enjoy the challenge of finding the aesthetic prettiness in a pile of rusted boat chains or a greasy gear or old piece of wood,Nude male model with black censoring bars so why should it be any different with the myriad of human types abounding in the world?

It’s easy to take photos of an athletic young man, for instance, in which light and shadow play all sorts of pretty games across the planes and slabs of his torso, to have him bend in highly uncomfortable ways that reduce his lean, masculine form to a series of geometric patterns. It’s a simple matter to create accessible, amusing nude studies when the model is as comfortable in his skin as in a suit. It’s no problem at all to create a photographic portrait that captures the subject’s wry wit and ironic comprehension of life’s comedies and tragedies when the subject has a dry wit and sense of irony and knows how to convey those traits with just a few facial muscles.

But those people, for the most part, are not knocking at my door, because they can afford to seek the services of established talented professional photographers, who have actual artistic and technical skills honed through training and time. I, who have nothing of those, need the experience. This is neither a surprising nor a sad thing, and I’m really not complaining.

What I’m doing is learning. I’m learning to talk to my models, to gauge their self-confidence, to build (in a relatively short time) a sense of trust and comfort with me staring at them through a Nikon. I’m learning to celebrate them as they are, not as I’d prefer them to be or as they envision themselves in their deluded minds. Through placing the emphasis of the photo on something other than the model’s inarguably enormous and hirsute derriere via clever cropping or a distracting object is a vastly better approach than trying to somehow veil that undeniable fact with pretty drapings or casting the whole subject into squinty shadow. It’s a big, hairy butt: Celebrate it! The model knows full well that he’s not a slim little sylph; better to show what he is, in all his curvaceousness. A face that’s not “conventionally beautiful” can of course be interesting, compelling, and uniquely appealing; my role is to help the nonprofessional model be comfortable enough with me to let those qualities show. I just have to be fast enough to capture it when it happens.

Obviously, I can’t in good conscience include sample photos of unappealing models in this blog: that would be unnecessarily cruel and  mean-spirited, even for me.  Plus, of course, what’s unappealing to me might be quite someone else’s dreamy dreamcake, and then they’d wonder what I was going on about, and it would confuse whatever little point it was that I was so intent on making here. So I leave it to my reader to fill in the photographic blanks. However, my more successful portrait work, with individuals who were all highly attractive and talented, can be checked out here if you’re interested, which I hope you will be.

As for me, if any of this comes off sounding like a whine, it’s seriously not meant to be. I’m doing now what many photographers no doubt have done in their early days; my early days are just a bit…later than most. In any case, this is all new and interesting and exciting for me, so please excuse any excess or simple stating of the patently obvious. And if anyone has anything helpful to suggest, other than that I should stop being such a smug and judgmental old poo, please feel free to let me know!

%d bloggers like this: