Photography: Beautiful

Jersey Shore Makeover – Sammi Gets A Makeover.

I saw that somewhere.  I wish every woman would read that.  Well, not read the article, but skim it and look at the photo.

Too many beautiful women think 1) they’re fat and 2) they need more makeup.  I’m not really comfortable with my appearance, although that’s improving, so I kind of get it.  Well, more about this below.

This is going to be pretentious, artsy whatever, but what can you do.  I should put this in my painting/art blog but I didn’t.

Moments

A cousin who has been into photography for years now said something to me that changed the way I see the world.  I showed her some photos I had taken and she said, “You really captured some great moments.”

Epiphany.  Up until that point I had been taking pictures of things.  A bird, a flower, a bee, a person, a dog, a skyline, etc.    Things in themselves aren’t necessarily art.  Photos of things tend to be flat, not especially interesting unless there’s some innate quality to them.  It’s the moments, though, the interactions and behaviors of things that make art.

It could be the way light hits the subject or even the quality of light.  It could be a person doing something interesting — jumping, running, singing, emoting.  Or people interacting with one another (maybe the photographer).  Sure, there’s some great photographic art that is more mathematical and technically interesting, but it’s really about the story.

What does this photograph say to you?

On one level you look at that and say, “Oh, that’s pretty.”

But on another level — lights, pine, color.  Christmas.  An intricately designed ornament in the shape of a heart.  Love.  A home decorated for the holidays.  This ornament is more arts and craft than Nativity or Kris Kringle.  I wonder what the other ornaments look like.  Are there presents under the tree?

Even though there’s no action or human interaction in this photo, the context alone can spin off a narrative.

Light

Another eye opener happens whenever I research photography.  Reading magazines or books about technique and what not.  The way photographers talk about light.  Working with it or manipulating it to achieve a look or style.  I was trying to think of words that people use to describe light:
Harsh, bright, dim, warm, cool, splash, caress, glow, pool, glance, touch, brush, wash, play, sparkle, shine, play, beam, envelop, bathe, kiss, narrow, wide.
I don’t know if this is a good photo, but I like it.
There’s not a whole light of light in this one.  It’s all angles, symmetry if not for the rule of thirds.  And mood.  It’s a good backdrop for a good photo, I’d say.  This next one is its antithesis; all color, light and shadow both highly organized and slightly chaotic.  I don’t know about you, but my brain tries to make sense of the patterns of colors but it doesn’t quite exist.
There are times when you want light to just brush across your subject.  Or to hit something in the background and splash back on to your subject.  You may want a bathed in light feel or  light escaping from shadow.  What happens when you want an effect but your environment doesn’t cooperate?
I’ve been reading the blogs of wedding photographers and they definitely have to work with whatever comes their way.  Not something I’d like to do.  A high pressure gig with minimal control?  Where the bride may be freaking out because you’re five minutes behind schedule?  Pass.

Model

I’ve done a few photo shoots and I learn a lot every time.  The biggest thing is that my goals need to be more in line with the model’s goals.  When I say model I don’t mean a professional model, necessarily.  I mean a willing and intentional subject.
It’s my goal (and my artistic satisfaction) to capture a moment of personality and beauty.  To make the model look her best.  To make her feel her best.  To have fun and be comfortable.  Or his.
While doing that, I want to take great photographs.  That’s my thing.  But that’s not quite enough.  I have to get better at capturing not only what looks good — not just a great photo — but a photo that makes the model feel his or her best.  And that, I’m learning, is not easy to do.  Sometimes that’s not even possible.
Self image and cameras have a shaky relationship sometimes.
It seems like everybody thinks they’re disgustingly fat (including myself sometimes).  And the women think they need more makeup.  You don’t.
This is something I really don’t understand.  I was told that it has to do with how girls are brought up and wanting to be grown and wear makeup.  But man.  Personally, I’m not a fan of makeup.  I mean, you know.  A little bit goes a very long way.  I’m not saying no makeup ever, obviously.  But in my mind, makeup should be barely detectable or undetectable if it’s done right.  Unless you’re an actor in a stage play.
Each individual may  — I really don’t know what I’m talking about here so bear with me — depending on eye color, skin tone and face structure, complement this or bring out that or downplay a blemish and so on.  But man.
I don’t know where women are getting the message that they need fake eyelashes and need to pluck out their eyebrows and pencil in new ones.  Who’s telling you that your cheekbones aren’t enough?  Wherever it’s coming from it needs to go away.
You don’t need all that.  Really.
The fashion industry and Hollywood have gone too far.  Retouching photos until people look like anime characters or statues or Cherry 2000.  They go beyond making someone look their best+ (my personal goal) and making someone look like plastic or porcelain.  Why would you remove all freckles?  I mean, look at these examples on the PortraitProfessional website:
You go too far, PortraitProfessional.  I’m sure your software is great but man.  Please dial it back a bit.
I’ve got some too-expensive software to retouch photos and soften skin and get a glamorized look, but like everything else I try to use it responsibly.  With great power comes great responsibility.

Personality

I prefer to take candid photos.  However, I don’t quite have the bearing and personality to pull it off.  To walk up to a stranger and get permission to take a photo.  Or even to pop up a few casual anonymous shots without drawing attention to myself.  Hopefully, it’s a learned skill.
I think people are at their best when they’re just being themselves.  Well, some people are just very photogenic and are naturals.  They’ll pose and wear any facial expression or attitude, whether naturally or with practice.  Not a lot, though.
I just need to get better at the “cold call”.
A few weeks ago, I saw a young man when I was getting carry out from a restaurant who looked like — if you could go back in time to about 50 BC into the palace of an Egyptian pharoah’s son.  Like a Biblical story with a prince who was resented because of his fortune, favor and beauty.  And I use the word “beauty” intentionally because he had a slightly effete quality but it matched his prominent cheekbones, braided hair and almond shaped eyes and so on.
Of course, I have no idea how to approach another dude and say, “Wow.  You could be a model.  I want to take photos of you.”
Not without some kind of comedy of errors that ends with aggravated assault and battery and a bail hearing.  Like a “Three’s Company” episode.  Oh, Chrissy.
I was tooling around the monuments in DC not too long and I was walking back to my car.  I saw two women sitting on a bench. Both wearing the exact same style of Winter coats.  They looked like they were trying to find some respite.  I assumed that they were either homeless or part of the Occupy DC/Washington DC movement.  There had been some arrests earlier that day.  I had my camera hanging from my neck.  My hand was on it to keep it from bouncing around as I walked.  Just minding my own business.  One of the women’s face was fully obscured by her hood.  The other looked me in the eye, scanned me.  I scanned back.
She said, “No photo authorization.”
A twang in her accent.  Took me a second to compute and comprehend.  I said, “Uh.  Okay.”
Wasn’t even thinking about it, although I don’t deny that I subconsciously compose scenes all the time.  It made me aware, though, that other people are very aware of photographers and people trying to steal their souls.  Sometimes painfully so.
There’s a Facebook page about hating people who take photos in bars and clubs.  You know, those obnoxious people who can’t just let you have a good time and let your hair down.  They probably don’t even know how to enjoy themselves in a bar.  That’s totally me, by the way.   I have a strong distaste for bars.  If I’m there for a reason or with a purpose it’s okay but otherwise … I’d rather be doing nothing than to be in a bar.
Anyway, where was I?   Oh.  Walking around Washington, DC there’s no shortage of women who easily outshine the women on display on magazine covers.  And that’s without any photo retouching.  At the gym?   Shoooooooot.
Oh well.  So it goes.  I guess it depends on your product.
This would be a better entry if I had pictures of people, but I don’t have explicit permission to use the photos I’ve taken in a public forum.  And I like to avoid the need for things like paperwork, signatures and contracts whenever possible.
If I ever try to make this a professional hobby there’s going to be some bullet biting going on in that regard.
Onward and upward.
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