Practice. Play. Practice. Play.

Anybody who says they get their photographs just right every time they pick up their camera is lying.  I practice my craft as often as possible and nearly every time I photograph there are lots of things I wish I'd done better.  I wish my lighting always looked just right but it doesn't.  I wish I'd nailed the exposure in a different way.  I'm generally convinced that I stopped shooting just seconds before the best frame was about to transpire and I still feel, after 20 years of PhotoShop, that I'm just picking my way on an unmarked path thru post processing.

Poor Ben.  He's up early for cross country and he works hard at school.  Like most teenagers he's looking forward to a little break when he gets home from school.  Maybe a little couch time with a video game, his dog and a snack.  But it doesn't always work that way.  Sometimes when he gets home he gets pulled into the studio to sit in for a "test."  A test generally means one of two things.  Either I have a big shoot coming up and want to rehearse my stuff or I got some new gear and I need a victim to try it out on.  Sometimes it's a mix.

The portrait above wasn't lit right but it was important to me to try out the lighting and see what the result looked like on the same film I was considering shooting for a job.  By doing the test I understood that I wanted a softer main light, a lot less fill and a lower midrange value for my upcoming project.  And I wanted a different film.

While many believe you can save just about anything in post production I can't help but think that you can make images even better if you stick good stuff into PhotoShop to start with.  Silly?  Maybe.  But it's habit.

Fuji Neopan 400 (Switched to Tri-X for the job; liked the grain better....),  Camera: Rollei 6008i,  Lens: 150mm.  Lighting:  28 inch beauty dish on a Profoto Acute B head.

Just because this image wasn't perfect doesn't mean I consider it to be a total loss. As an 8x8 inch print one of the grandparents will love it.......and then ask my why it isn't in color...


  1. Love the comment about it being in color. The one I get most often is "why wasn't she smiling?"

  2. I often tell my students that you can do all sorts of things in PS, but you can't take a weak photo and make it strong. Conversely, a strong photo can withstand a lot of technical 'mistakes' and still be compelling (think Robert Capa's D-Day photos: http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2007/capa/capa_beach.jpg ). A pig in lipstick is still a pig. But, hey, maybe that might be an interesting photo op!

  3. You have your Ben I had my Hollie, now 25. She, my wife, an assistant, or in a pinch a Teddy bear was my stand in. Some of my favorite images of my wife were when I first bought my Fuji S2 and I needed to dial it in. My absolute favorite image of my daughter was when she was around 7. I was testing a Hi-Key setup. She was in a playful mood and I gave her my leather jacket and some shades. We still have 16x20's of that session from Tri-X in a Bronica Etrs and I printed them myself. Now daughters married, wife is too busy, so the cat is my stand in subject. Great article as always.

  4. Photography is like many other things in life, playing music, dancing, drawing: it is easy to get a reasonable good result but if we desire or need a real good one, an excellent photo we all need to practice, to practice and to practice again.

  5. What's with the "glow" around the shoulders? Is that something that was added in post-production?

  6. Scott, failed experiments in post processing. This image has been processed to death in my attempt to make it works the way I wanted it to......It's a sad statement about the sine wave of results that most of us live through....

  7. I remember when my wife was still patient enough to be my test subject. And I remember when my daughter could be still long enough for that. Now... neither.

    With a wireless remote, I'm often my own test subject these days. Fortunately, I don't publish many of those images...

  8. Sorry for going off on a tangent, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the 6008i vs. classic Hasselblad. I own a 203FE but somehow don't click with it (ha ha), and came very close to picking up a 6008i recently.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!