6.23.2011

Ten Top Tips For Getting People Say Nice Things About Your Portrait Photographs.

 

We all work in relative isolation and we crave the positive feedback from strangers (we wouldn't dare sit next to if we ever had to ride a bus)  even though we have no way of gauging it's value.  I've carefully looked thru many forae and online resources and I have a quick guide for generating good feedback.  Do these things and you'll have a fighting chance at having someone mark one of your photos as a "favorite".  You might even rise to stardom and be asked to shoot for free by a prestigious media outlet.

1.  Only shoot young, famous musicians and actors.  The higher up on the "A" list the better.  Put their names in the metadata and labels and descriptions.  When the blind name searches occur......instant stardom.  More points for unusual (read: stupid) poses and expressions.  Outrageous costuming is expected.

(Want to learn about access and how to photograph Justin Beiber, Brittany Spears, Lady Ga-Ga?  You'll want to take my upcoming $25,000 workshop, Shooting Stars.  We're limiting the class to the first 100 applicants....)

2.  Have a video crew shoot everything you do.  From nose wipes to model fluffing to spectacular farts.  Everyone wants to see how it's all done.  Bonus if you include footage of actual portrait shoots.  Extra bonus if you are shooting the portraits.  Be sure to grow trendy facial hair and own a collection of really stupid (proto bohemian) hats........

3.  Use a camera no one has ever heard of or that is largely unavailable.  Like the guy who puts banks of lights on either side of his subject and pounds away with an 8x10 view camera.  Extra points if you go bigger than 8x10 and super extra points if you use non-conventional film.  (See next point).  If the camera is too big to carry by yourself make sure you see point #2.  Get lots of footage of the crew positioning and setting up the camera for you.  "Quick Bob, a close up of that rare lens I'm using."

4.  Combine the big camera with super large format Polaroid and you can shoot the most boring portraits in the worst imaginable light and be lauded in magazines across the country.  But again,  don't try this without your Behind the Scenes video crew.  Proof that you went large and instant is usually more important that the actual portrait.  (see point #7).

5.  Shoot everything in black and white.  Talk about how important it is to shoot in black and white.  People don't really get black and white anymore but they know they're supposed to like it.  Kinda like Cadillac Escalades.  Or automatic watches.....  If someone mentions SilverFX fix them with a withering glare and denounce canned actions as "hobbyist affectations."  Let everyone know that if they aren't printing on fiber photographic paper they are pond scum.  Don't forget to mention that every print must be toned in toxic and radioactive toners.  By hand.

6.  Shoot naked people.  This is harder than it sounds because only thin, healthy people look good naked and in most of the U.S. and for that matter, north America, municipalities and society in general have outlawed "thin and healthy".  Much as you love your sweet partner the camera is a vicious bitch when confronted with an extra 50 pounds of love handles..... (When searching for good looking naked people try to pay attention to point #1)  The double chin is only adorable to your cat and your equally pudgy partner.  Believe me, all that physical egalitarianism doesn't translate.  Unless you are Joel Peter Witkin.......and he OWNs that niche.

7.  When asked about your intention, motivation, philosophy, relationship to art be sure to talk only about technique.  Extra points for cataloging which lens, camera, settings, lights and modifiers you used.  Want fans for life?  You'll want to supply "before and after" photographs as well as three dimensional lighting diagrams of your every move.  No one gives a panatomic X negative about why you shot something, they just want to know how they can reproduce exactly the same thing with their Canon Rebel.

8.  Hot Babes. If you can't ante up the money for my workshop about working with "A" list people you'll want to stick only to photographing young women.  Preferably in randy outfits, in suggestive poses and forget the "come hither" eyes.  You'll be looking to capture the "do me now before the commercials are over!!!" eyes.  At the Visual Science lab we measure the number of "likes" for super saturated, twilight-with-outrageous-fill-flash photos/portraits of recent post-teen women in skimpy outfits and compared it to similar photos of men in the same poses.  The difference in "likes?"  Female subjects= 253,017 versus 3 for male subjects. Don't ask.

9.  Use a radical new light source.  There's a hierarchy of lighting coolness.  Top of the heap are HMIs ala Victoria's Secret calendars.  Next is anything new = LED's.  Then outrageously expensive strobe systems warranted by the atomic energy commission to produce light that is slapped out in doses with less than .00001 % color or intensity shift.  Then florescent lights.  Then the screen  (yawn) of your iPad (yes Bob, I see you got and iPad.  I am very proud of you. ) or the (yawn, moan) screen of your iPhone 6.    I've noticed a new trend.  I saw this in a forum about using small flashes.  It's still kinda new but may catch on......People are using the light that exists, without augmentation.  They are calling this "natural light" but I don't know what could be more natural than 27 small, battery powered flashes, covered with filters, festooned with  radio triggers and plastic drinking straw modifiers, and hung like Christmas tree lights on a light stand........ But no one can tell from the images so that's where the "Behind the Scenes" crew comes in.

10.  When in doubt try to incorporate as many of these techniques as possible.  Naked, small flash, big camera, super sized polaroid, only of a future "A" list, barely legal, stars shot with a super wide lens.  Then torture the image in PhotoShop and HipsterTRAGIC and print it out on black and white paper.  If this still doesn't work then register a few more untraceable e-mail accounts and prime the pumps by "liking" your own "favorites".    Museum quality, baby.  Works for the big dogs.

Note/Warning for the "Hard of Humor":  This is intended to be cynical humor and does not really reflect my recipe for doing good portraiture or having that work widely appreciated.




   

45 comments:

Ed Z said...

Kirk - don't forget to keep your shots edgy - people love "edgy" work. Try incorporating some elements like: Wrapping your model in "caution" tape, having her hold a guitar while standing on railroad tracks. Techniques like this will ensure that your audience is WOWed by such a bold, never-before-seen vision.

kirk tuck said...

Dang it, Ed. That's stuff I was saving for the DVD.

PT said...

LOL... I'm totally guilty of #8 cuz I can't pull #1 off. Now if this fauxtog can get #6 going... I'd be getting "likes" or ( -_-)b like nobody's business.

Anonymous said...

This is not politically correct. Giving this kind of advice is bad for the photo business and misleads young photographers. You should take this down immediately. I often take photos of men.

John said...

7b. Or, have an artist statement that uses a lot of big words to say nothing.

Mindless said...

Who made you angry this much? :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully acerbic post. You had me in stitches.

I too am guilty of #8. I just think women are more interesting and much more pleasing to look at. The only men I would consider photographing would be your soldier out in the field or your blue-collar guys out on the ranch or oil field. Metrosexual guys are boring.

re: Ed Z..I still don't understand the "edgy" bit. If you're trying to be edgy you're just a poser.

Geir said...

I do #1 all the time, and I tell you, is it boring. So I started looking for next year's superstars, surf the trend before it hits.
Although my biggest problem is I always mislay those hats.

Mike said...

Now I'm dying to know what inspired this!

Rick Dickinson said...

Ed. Z: Check out http://wetriffs.com

Is that "edgy enough"?

(Inspired by http://xkcd.com/305/ ).

Rick Dickinson said...

Just to clarify -- I have nothing to do with wetriffs.com; it was all Randall Munroe's doing. He did the comic, and then created the site it mentioned because, well, he had to. Rule 34 required it.

Richard Box said...

You should take off the disclaimer at the end... Sarcasm's much funnier when the stupid people fall for it.

kirk tuck said...

RIchard, if I don't put the disclaimer on the end all the stupid people in the world cram my e-mail with tirades about my elitist tendencies (like wanting to be really good at stuff is bad.....) and lots of people write and ask me, "How can you be so shallow??"

To Mike and to Mindless: What inspired this? I can only say.....the web. It's just a "light hearted" response to the dozens of photographers who are dying to be famous, dying to find something the rabble can't do (whether it's good or not) dying to be ultra-hip and dying to get people into as many huge events as possible. And those just trying to find a niche whether they like the images or not.

Point #11. Go to Dubai and teach a group workshop with the "Boys Club." Come home and blog about it endlessly.

Why don't they ever invite women photographers to Dubai?

Why are all the idols middle aged men (or men rapidly getting there)?

Coming up next......A five week workshop in Mastering Photography with Your.......wait for it........iPhone.

kirk tuck said...

I hear the frantic mantra: "Monetize me, baby."

Anonymous said...

What the heck is 'forae'?!?!

Anonymous said...

One more little known secret for success...use outdated "chrome film"...the larger the better and cross processing!!!!

bill said...

Bravo!

kirk tuck said...

Forae is a cross between foray and fora. It's also a medical condition wherein a writer's fingers become possessed by Satanic forces and begin adding e's to complete wordse.

Anonymous said...

Dude. You forgot HDR.

Glenn Harris said...

And don't forget to create composites and send the work out to some weirdly named post-production company so they can produce a real image. I have recently changed my view of some photographers after reading how some of their images were created, I guessed they started with some photos so it can loosely be called photography.

Jan Klier said...

:-)

You forgot the most basic one: Call yourself a photographer, or even better yet a professional photographer.

kirk tuck said...

Jan, I can trump that. Call yourself an artist.

Semilog said...

I hope you're not talking about Elsa Dorfman. I like her portraits.

kirk tuck said...

I haven't heard of Elsa Dorfman. But I don't think she's part of "The Boy's Club."

Bernie Greene Photography said...

You also missed being a female in her early 20s and shooting "self portraits" with minimal clothing.

MGO said...

Nice post :D I can see my self en 1 or 2 of those. And my friends can proberbly see mee a couple more!

Mindless said...

I have seen a job offer from Dubai and they searched for women photographers. :)

Anyway, thanks for the reply! I know what you're talking about and it's irritating... although I don't want to be a big star and be famous, I just want to earn enough to live from something I looove doing. :)

kirk tuck said...

Mindless: me too.

Bernie: You win!

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Nice portrait, and a post that made me LOL. What else could we ask for? Thanks Kirk!

Dave Jenkins said...

Points 3, 4, & 5: You mean, like...Avedon? :-)

Of all possible quests for fame, seeking to be a famous photographer is probably the most lame. If you were the most famous photographer in the world, maybe 1/100th of one percent might recognize your name, even if they couldn't remember where they heard it.

Anonymous said...

Mapplethorpe had this down pat years ago.

kirk tuck said...

Thinking of doing portraits on X-ray film using nothing but the background radiation from the South Texas Nuclear Plant.......Big X-ray film.

Jordan Starr said...

Well...you're not pond scum if you don't print on fiber paper, but your prints likely won't look as good (assuming you know how to print on the stuff). You should have cut #5 at "hobbyist affectations", 'cause you really just sound like a digital photographer who is jealous of those still printing in the darkoom. Before that quote, it was funny. After that, it was just sad. Do you seriously think you can get a better digital print from a 35mm scan with a printer than in the darkroom on fiber paper...come on. Any photographer who could actually print effectively on fiber-based paper knows it's superior. Why do you think digital/printer paper has been striving to produce wet/darkroom processed fiber paper that is similar in quality. If people like a print because it is better quality, you shouldn't slander the process and just stick to "black and white" angle that was funnier to begin with. And you can always put on gloves to tone as any health-conscious person would do. We don't get any photo-cred on the street for using bare hands.

On the up side, everything else you posted is gold and pretty funny. Thanks for posting.

-Jordan Starr
www.jordanstarrphotography.com
('cause I don't want to be anonymous)

Greg Roberts said...

I still want to try #4 once just for the experience.

Clive Evans said...

I'm doing a one day workshop with Paolo Roversi at "les Recontres d'Arles" in two week's time- I guess I won't need to now........

kirk tuck said...

Dear Jordon, If you've read my blog before, looked at my website or done a simple google search about my photography practice you'd probably know that I started out many years before digital, have printed thousands and thousands of fiber prints, worked mostly with large and medium format films which I hand developed. I would never presume that a digi print is better than fiber. I have hundreds of pounds of fiber prints that still say otherwise.....all written to make a point.

Rick Dickinson said...

Kirk,

You joke about using x-ray film for photography, but I've done it....

It's actually just a fairly contrasty regular old (usually orthochromatic) black and white film. The main difference from regular B/W sheet film is that it's usually coated on both sides. (Another fairly important difference -- to me at least -- is that it can be quite inexpensive, making experimentation very cheap.)

The x-rays don't expose it; the holders have rare-earth coatings inside them, which fluoresce blue or green when hit by x-rays. You can use it in regular cameras, instead, and process it just like regular B&W sheet film. Since it's coated both sides, it depletes your developer solution twice as fast, but other than that, it works just the same.

It's a bit of a pain to work with, as I don't yet own an 8x10 camera, so I've been cutting 8x10 sheets of CXS "Ortho Green" X-ray film down to fit into an old 9x12cm Kodak Recomar 33 camera's film holders. As you might imagine, it's somewhat of a hassle using a paper cutter inside of a changing bag. But, it develops just fine in a one-shot solution of Kodak HC-110, and only cost me about $30 total for 100 sheets, so I'm willing to endure a little hassle for the fun of playing with my really old sheet-film cameras.

kirk tuck said...

Went to the Rangefinder Forum(e) where Jordan claims my work to be so boring that he couldn't bear to look thru my website. I'd hate to call Jordan something really mean but he's sure working his up my list....

Am I wasting my time with all this? Or is it one lone voice in the stark wilderness baiting me this morning?

Denis Markell said...

Kirk,

Your last comment shows that all of us bruise a little easier than we'd like. Your work and this blog are miles above what's out there for the most part. I'm not going to run over and see what dismissive stuff he said (my guess is that you would rather people hate your stuff than find it boring!) but it's a shame to have that negative energy in your gut this morning.

And for those who read this as sycophancy...oh, please. I've given Kirk some criticism where I felt it was warranted. But his basic good sense and humor need to encouraged.

On a basic note, I went to my nephew's graduation yesterday by train and found out I had let the battery of my nice new Epl-2 run down to nothing without checking. Nice. Of course on the way and back I "took" at least a half a dozen photos - you know, seeing the picture and knowing it would be a keeper if only the @#$% camera actually weren't dead. Lesson learned!

Go for a swim or hug your son. Forget this silliness.

Denis (who also has one son and a lovely wife and gets far too much crap in his other life...)

Anonymous said...

I am stunned that someone can take offense by only one of the points above, and find the others funny. In my opinion all Photographers are guilty of one or more off the above and therein lay the funny thing. Being offended by one of the above, and laughing at others at the same time, says a lot about a person.

Thank you for blogging Kirk

Mads

Dave Jenkins said...

Jordan wrote: "Any photographer who could actually print effectively on fiber-based paper knows it's superior."

I printed black and white negatives on fiber-base paper for more than 30 years and was considered pretty good at it. But I don't think it's superior to good digital printing. To make such a claim is pretty much of a snob-fetish thing IMO.

I do appreciate that Jordan is enough of a man not to take potshots from the cover of anonymity.

As for boring...that's a matter of taste. Kirk has been making a decent living from photography for a long, long time. Where will the current crop of hotshots be five or ten years from now?

Anonymous said...

Boring? Maybe. But that's in the eye of the beholder. I don't think Kirk ever promised that every picture he ever took would cause orgasms of visual joy, but stop and consider. He's written five hot selling technical photo books in four years. He's running a single person business that does well into six figures in the middle of a recession. He swims with Olympians. He's a good father. He's married to the same person for over 25 years. I know him well and he's always ready to help, volunteer and do more. To me, that's anything but boring.

His work for corporations may not be cutting edge art but it sure seems like cutting edge good business from where I'm sitting.

Nick said...

I do love a bit of satire on a Saturday morning! Nice one Kirk.

Anonymous said...

Every week an update!Keep it coming. The work shown plus a healthy lifestyle to encompass that, in a lively style. Do the photos smash into one like a falling asteroid? No! If one thinks that its "easy" to turn out clean straight work that keeps KT with food on the table, roof over his head and time to think, write,publish books, then You really need that course.

Anonymous said...

It's all about #7 with the online crowd. Nuff said. Good Rant!