Author Topic: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?  (Read 176 times)

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« on: October 04, 2017, 07:08:33 AM »
So often, I'll be scrolling through IG and FB and find a photo and think "wow, very pretty".  I then stop and wonder, is she just cute, or did they do something cool with the photo?  95% of the time, it's the subject that I'm reacting to.  Even on pro photographers' pages.  Most pros aren't working any magic.  They're simply creating an image without obvious flaws in posing, lighting, color, etc.  It's then up to the subject to either be gorgeous or not.  Face it, the beautiful subject probably gets as much action on her selfies as she does off the pro's images.

What I would ask you to aspire to is to create images that stop people in their tracks, that make a person that's not traditionally beautiful look amazing, that makes everyone pause and look.

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2017, 09:20:20 AM »
Superb challenge.

Offline Duck

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 05:52:55 PM »
I am not a people photographer but I follow Joe Edelman on YouTube. He is always expounding this exact lesson. When it comes to portraiture it can't be about the photographer, it must be about the subject.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2017, 07:18:39 AM »
When it comes to portraiture it can't be about the photographer, it must be about the subject.

I'm thinking that I might not be understanding your intention.

When I do a senior portrait session, I shoot in lots of different lighting styles, poses, etc. in the hopes of creating a good amount of images that satisfy the senior, the parents, the grandparents, the school, etc.  Here are two photos from a recent session.  I'd say one is interesting and the other is boring as hell.  Both were bought by the client, so ultimately, beauty lies in the eye of the checkbook holder.  Same exact pose.  AFAIK, no real "flaws" with either one.  It's just that one left me satisfied and one left me feeling like "why do I have to do this boring stuff?"

Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2017, 07:56:11 AM »
Here's another example.  I wouldn't do a screenshot of an "innocent" photographer to blast their work, but since this photo is being used in an advertisement to sell a MASTER CLASS to photographers and steal their money, there's no "innocence" here.

This photo sucks.  The posing does nothing for the model.  It actually accentuates the curve of her belly and makes her look bigger than she is.  It hides her breasts and the hand poking out at us below that pillow looks cut off.  The red socks with tan shoes and two different colors of bra and panty look ridiculous.  What the hell is the green furniture there for?--to distract us?  What about the water tower wallpaper?  Is she saying that she's retaining water?  Lighting?  Kind of lit like a Wal Mart store with light everywhere.  The curl of hair coming down her jaw and back up to her collar bone cuts her head off compositionally.  The balance of positive to negative space is awkward, with the model wallowing in the bottom of the frame. It doesn't bring the viewer into the frame at all.  No leading lines.  No activation of space.  The color choices are more random and distracting than anything else.  There really isn't any center of interest, because the glaring burgundy socks pull the eye in with much more force than the red lipstick of the face, and the green table near the face dominates the face as well.  This is really bad. 

The only redeeming value is that this woman's face is beautiful.

But that has nothing to do with the photography.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 09:31:10 AM by Todd Muskopf »

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2017, 08:50:36 AM »
You're knocking this out of the park as it develops, Todd.  From your personal examples of the senior to the analysis of the posing above, I agree whole heartedly.  Frankly, working more with products myself, and with people far less than you do, I'm just watching.

Offline Duck

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2017, 09:34:39 AM »
Yeah, I'm not qualified to offer much here either other than to say there will always be photographers of different skill levels. It's embarrassing to see that kind of work being peddled as a master photography class but it gives testament to our times. People are hungry for knowledge and people are scrupulous. The internet makes it easy to access the good with the bad. Sadly that author may not understand how bad he really is, but he also may have an altruistic desire to share what he knows.

On a similar note, maybe you should consider doing a video course yourself on the subject. It can become a nice sedimentary source of income. Maybe not a lot of money, but a little here and a little there always helps.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 10:06:17 AM »


On a similar note, maybe you should consider doing a video course yourself on the subject. It can become a nice sedimentary source of income. Maybe not a lot of money, but a little here and a little there always helps.

...says the guy who said that Mr. $175 Jack Stump was just as good as me. :) :) :) :) :)  Sorry, had to!

Offline Duck

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 12:49:26 PM »
...says the guy who said that Mr. $175 Jack Stump was just as good as me. :) :) :) :) :)  Sorry, had to!
...and deservedly so. But I did retract my statement once I had all the facts, but I'll apologize again.  ;)

On a more serious note, there is a strong demand for knowledge and many pros augment their income this way. Why shouldn't you?
I have a friend who has a very unique way of teaching the HDR process that is unlike what 90% of how others teach it. He put up a complete course on Udemy and, while not a lot of income, it does bring in some cashflow. He did the work once, posted it and the company handles distribution and sales. He now kicks back and contemplates his next project.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 03:23:08 PM »
...says the guy who said that Mr. $175 Jack Stump was just as good as me. :) :) :) :) :)  Sorry, had to!
...and deservedly so. But I did retract my statement once I had all the facts, but I'll apologize again.  ;)

On a more serious note, there is a strong demand for knowledge and many pros augment their income this way. Why shouldn't you?
I have a friend who has a very unique way of teaching the HDR process that is unlike what 90% of how others teach it. He put up a complete course on Udemy and, while not a lot of income, it does bring in some cashflow. He did the work once, posted it and the company handles distribution and sales. He now kicks back and contemplates his next project.

Yeah, I know.  No need to apologize, I just felt like elbowing you a little.  :)

I don't know how I feel about the workshop thing.  I had a guy the other day call me and told me he wanted to start a photography school and wanted me to teach.  If I had more faith in him, I might've listened with more interest.

I don't know if people really care. 

The next question is-- do they care enough to pay money?

The next question is-- how would those people who care and are willing to spend money find me in an online marketplace where I see 5-10 advertisements on Facebook each day for posing classes, processing classes, plugins to buy, workflow lessons, etc.?

I dunno if it's worth it.

The real question is:  What is the BEST use of my time RIGHT NOW?

I don't think it's developing courses for photographers when the competition is probably free youtube videos.

Competing against the shoot-and-burners is one thing.  At least they're charging something.  It's hard to compete against free.

Offline Joe Federer

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2017, 05:13:21 PM »
All those things you mention in your critique might be right...

But does it sell?   If her hair fell differently along her cheek/neck... would this image suddenly be worth more?   If all those things were 'corrected' and the image was 'perfect' -- would it really even been desired more by the client?  Note that, often, the 'correct' photographic decisions don't always make the most saleable imagery.  You have to know your clients/market.  (A good example is your CBP -- none of my clients would EVER be interested in it... even though it shows a ton of skill (skills I absolutely do not have) and makes some really great images)

Personally, I LIKE the composition of her on the bottom and the open space above...  but that's a preference thing.
I also like that it looks 'natural' --- as in, I could walk in on my wife in our bed and she might be laid out like that.  The 'tilt your head', 'move your hand', type posing - while technically the correct way of things - tends to go against some of the 'I want this to look natural' stuff that people (my clients in particular) often crave....   The problem with the 'natural' type of photography is that, YES, it does rely on the subject way more than more... uh... 'staged' photography.

But that's always been the case and I don't think it's something to rail against.  For example -- I've had weddings and shots where I've left saying "I used every bit of my photographic knowledge to make those images" and where I've really done some my 'best' photography... litteraly making art out of (photographic) trash.   But those shoots never see the light of day marketing-wise because (among other reasons, like 'life'...) the subject wasn't as photogenic as days when things are just 'easy' (great light, great venue, model-esque clients, etc).

The photographers skill, imho, ends up factoring more into how CONSISTENT they can produce... rather than what their best (marketing uses their 'best') work is.   Of my 10 best images, only 2 or 3 were made in the past 5 years...  it just happens that some of the most photogenic people and some of the most photogenic locations and some of the most photogenic lighting happens to have clustered in the past and the last 50 or so wedding have actually, on the whole, been harder to work.  However,  my entire delivered package is leaps and bounds better than it was 5 years ago... every wedding.




Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2017, 07:10:47 AM »
All those things you mention in your critique might be right...

But does it sell?   If her hair fell differently along her cheek/neck... would this image suddenly be worth more?   If all those things were 'corrected' and the image was 'perfect' -- would it really even been desired more by the client?  Note that, often, the 'correct' photographic decisions don't always make the most saleable imagery.  You have to know your clients/market. 

This photo is of a model, not a paying client, and it's being used to sell a workshop to photographers.

It's not a photo being sold to the model.


Offline Duck

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2017, 06:20:14 PM »
I don't know how I feel about the workshop thing. [...] I dunno if it's worth it.
I've noticed that many of the more popular YouTube 'teachers' gang their workflow. They will take video during a paying gig (and it's in their contract for releases), compile the footage into a variety of products for use as lessons, promote a blog post, publish on YouTube or use in their social outlets as marketing material. During down time they shoot 'B roll' footage, voice overs and such. It's all about leveraging the time and the resources.

Just a suggestion.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2017, 09:10:12 AM »

The photographers skill, imho, ends up factoring more into how CONSISTENT they can produce... rather than what their best (marketing uses their 'best') work is.   Of my 10 best images, only 2 or 3 were made in the past 5 years...  it just happens that some of the most photogenic people and some of the most photogenic locations and some of the most photogenic lighting happens to have clustered in the past and the last 50 or so wedding have actually, on the whole, been harder to work.  However,  my entire delivered package is leaps and bounds better than it was 5 years ago... every wedding.

Do you think it's because you were younger, and thus your clients were younger?  I've thought about this in terms of seniors.  I'm so far removed from the "hip young guy" now, that I really don't even try to relate on that front.

So, if you were teaching a workshop and had to pick one image to use to advertise it to up-and-coming photographers, which one would it be?  Something old and stellar, or something new and consistent.

BTW--earlier you commented on "natural".  When I look at my wife lying on a bed, I see shadows, since we don't have 6 lights arranged evenly around the room.  I've also never seen her lying cross-ways across the bed like that. She has never worn shoes to bed, either.  I guess my experience is different.

Offline Nanette Reid

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2017, 11:48:08 PM »
<<<
So, if you were teaching a workshop and had to pick one image to use to advertise it to up-and-coming photographers, which one would it be?  Something old and stellar, or something new and consistent.
>>>

Good question, Todd. I think that you need to have an image that truly "wows" the crowd you are targeting. I love many of the classic movie portraits - they used light very well and felt very "glamorous", but does that still translate today?

I feel they do if the model selection and the posing is correct. My nieces were very into a teen series that concluded this year, and I remember one of the episodes being B&W and shot in the 40s style. One of the portraits of one of the main characters was brilliant - it captured the feel of the episode's setting (40s Noir) but also maintained a "modern" feel to the female actor as well.

The image you posted above, certainly isn't "prizewinning" but it has everything it needs to sell the class to a targeted market.
I'm happy to be proven wrong, but that image captures the sweet spot: young, cute, a sexy(ish) pose, dressed provocatively but not pornographic (she has her shoes on, you know!), well exposed and overall an ok shot that the average girlfriend/wife would be happy with, if taken by their non-professional photographer boyfriend/girlfriend/wife.

As professionals, we see every little detail that isn't perfect - the average person sees a "nice image" that they would love to have on their wall, whilst we might see that the colour balance is slightly off/a piece of litter is on the lawn/the verticals aren't quite as straight as they should be etc.

The example image she has chosen for her "Masterclass" provides an emotional response; she's simply hoping it has many hobby photography "wanna-be's" sticking their hand in their pocket, to pay up up and see how a professional shoots women in their underwear.

What I did find *very* interesting was the number of comments that were from women - now I don't know if they bought it all to become photographers themselves, or too simply say to their boyfriend/girlfriend/wife "I really like the way these shots look, and I'd love you photograph me in a similar way?"

At the end of the day, the photographer has marketed to the masses, who are probably not trained in the art of film but in the "instant, fix it in PS" state of mind. It fits that mould and if those who pay go on to be boudoir photographers themselves, all well and good, if not, she's still made money. Personally the image does nothing for me (it's ok but doesn't "wow" me), but if this is the style of image that the customer is happy with/asking for today, why would she push the envelope, knowing that money readily comes from the more mundane, less time-consuming image?

Not the way I'd be shooting, but if you're churning it out, the KISS principle will always be the most reliable, money-making method. After all, scripted, easy poses that fit 95% of the population makes shooting easier and faster and that in turn produces images that match the client's expectations (they've seen the shots previously). She shoots what she knows will sell - money in her pocket, little time wasted on poses that don't sell and everyone is happy.

Personally, I would have chosen this image, but I'm not sure it has the same emotional impact to sell a Masterclass.


Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2017, 08:47:21 AM »

The example image she has chosen for her "Masterclass" provides an emotional response; she's simply hoping it has many hobby photography "wanna-be's" sticking their hand in their pocket, to pay up up and see how a professional shoots women in their underwear.



Maybe that's it.  The photo has to look "attainable".

Offline Nanette Reid

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2017, 07:02:10 PM »
. . . What I did find *very* interesting was the number of comments that were from women - now I don't know if they bought it all to become photographers themselves, or too simply say to their boyfriend/girlfriend/wife "I really like the way these shots look, and I'd love you photograph me in a similar way?" . . . Personally, I would have chosen this image, but I'm not sure it has the same emotional impact to sell a Masterclass.
I was thinking about my initial answer yesterday and wondered if the fact that so many women are paying for these "Masterclass" lessons also lends itself to the chosen image?

Perhaps the more "confronting" boudoir images don't sit well with potential *female* buyers, and this particular example doesn't alienate either sex? Being on the tamer end of the product it sells easily to both, and I'm sure that's what she's after, bigger pond=more money.

Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2017, 07:22:09 AM »
. . . What I did find *very* interesting was the number of comments that were from women - now I don't know if they bought it all to become photographers themselves, or too simply say to their boyfriend/girlfriend/wife "I really like the way these shots look, and I'd love you photograph me in a similar way?" . . . Personally, I would have chosen this image, but I'm not sure it has the same emotional impact to sell a Masterclass.
I was thinking about my initial answer yesterday and wondered if the fact that so many women are paying for these "Masterclass" lessons also lends itself to the chosen image?

Perhaps the more "confronting" boudoir images don't sit well with potential *female* buyers, and this particular example doesn't alienate either sex? Being on the tamer end of the product it sells easily to both, and I'm sure that's what she's after, bigger pond=more money.

Could be. 

It could also be that no one went through 4 years of art school like I did, so no one sees what I'm seeing, and wonders what the hell I'm talking about.

That's probably it.

Whenever I see that there's a workshop coming up in my area, the first thing I do is go to the presenter's web site with the question "what do I want to learn from this person".

It's usually disappointing.

It seems that lots of people have risen in the ranks of "presenter" that probably never would have risen so far if they were just a "photographer".

I don't know.  I have a subscription to Vogue, and I'm usually disappointed with the photos in the magazine as well. 

They look like they came from Instagram much of the time.  I guess that's a style now?  Unposed. Unlit. camera phone or equivalent look?

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2017, 08:42:19 AM »
I had a lot less knowledge when I went to seminars by Marty Rickard, Denis Reggie, Nick Vedros among others.  Rickard and Vedros especially had major impacts and led to my requesting to study with them personally after attending their workshops.  I think the quality of imaging and information was higher than most of what's offered now, but that could be filtered through the 25 years experience since working with them.  I knew less, so they knew commensurately far more than I.  However, most of what I see offered today is mediocre, it's true.

The original "Masterclass" image is a case it point.  I looks unprepared, generic, bland and uninteresting.  Boudoir photography is intended to accomplish specific reactions (arousal, curiosity, figure study) in the viewer but that one makes me think "I could use a sandwich".  In other words, nothin'.  For those who think "arousal, curiosity, figure study" are NOT what it's about, they might be talking something else, but they're not talking boudoir.  That seems to be the failure of this presenter.

It completely misses the mark as boudoir.  If is was a masterclass on how to light without mood, it'd be spot-on.

Offline Duck

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Re: Is it the subject, or is it the photographer?
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2017, 12:46:46 PM »
I am, by far, not a master photographer. In my area, surprisingly as I am close to New York, there are very few professional photographers doing any kind of teaching to other photographers. At least none that I find published. There are, however, a ton of amateur photographers hungry for learning. I got into teaching through a series of accidental encounters.

First, I have a strong background in teaching (I almost became a teacher but changed vocation last minute to pursue art). Teaching is in my blood (mother, aunt, wife were all teachers). When I transitioned from film to digital in 2004 I realized I knew very little about digital imaging. Not that I was great with film. I suddenly found myself needing to re-educate myself and gain understanding of intermediate and advanced levels of photography. I joined several photography clubs and groups and kept my ears open for lessons. Unfortunately everyone around me was in a similar (or lesser lever) boat than I was. I picked up bits and pieces here and there but I took what I knew, applied it to the new technology and flubbed it the rest of the way. In the meantime, my natural desire to teach others what I learned came through in social events and I soon found myself being the go to guy for answering other people's questions. It was a bit frustrating because no one was answering my questions. I had to figure it out on my own in order to give educated responses at these events. It was also frustrating because I was getting little shooting time at what was considered a shooting event.

I don't know if it is laziness on the amateur photographer's part but probably not. It's probably that they weren't placing as much importance on furthering their education as I was. I devoured knowledge wherever I could (I have an impressive book collection now). After a while I outgrew what was being offered in my area. Like you, Todd, I was leaving more disappointed from lectures and workshops than it was worth the expenditure but the people approaching me with questions continued. Interestingly enough, I have now been 'teaching' since 2011 and I still see the same people asking the same questions they were four, five and six years ago and that is because they do not have the same desire to advance as I do.

Yes, there are plenty of people who shouldn't be teaching when held against a professional photographer's standards, and I probably fit that bill, but they aren't teaching to other professionals. They're teaching the weekend warriors and the soccer moms whose expectations are far lower, and their results will never be competition. When push comes to shove and a client needs that professional photo, eventually they will seek out a pro. Sometimes it just takes having to waste money going through the weekend warrior to do so.

As for teaching, I feel I could never teach a pro level class as I don't have the 'street cred' or 'time served' to do so. I can, however, teach beginner and intermediate photographers all day long because in that market, I do have the credibility and experience. I also do know that if I were to target professional photographers I would make sure my promotionals were top notch. I agree with Todd that Jen should have used a much better image for promoting that workshop. It's not as if she doesn't have better ones to pull from but who's to know what's in a person's head. As Nannette mentioned, she could be targeting the weekend warriors and the soccer moms.
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