All posts by Ron Davis

Gallery Show

After moving from Houston to Abilene I started looking for a way to connect with other photographers in the area and ended up joining the West Texas Photographic Society. This group has been around for decades and has monthly meetings that alternate between instruction and photography contests.

They also have an annual show at the Abilene Center for Contemporary Arts. This year that show started on October 11 and will hang until the end of November. I was lucky enough to join just in time to be part of this show. Any member’s work can be part of the show. Many of the photographer members didn’t think they had work worthy of it. Of those who did, it was their best work. Each member can display up to 6 images in the show.

It was an amazing experience to see my work hanging on the walls of a museum*.

I’m going to write a couple of posts on different ways to look at your work, but picking the 6 images you want to hang in an art show is an experience that really helps you think about your work.

For one thing, I didn’t put my six best images. Instead I tried to pick a theme for my images and selected my best work in that theme. Which meant some of the images I consider my best I didn’t use because they didn’t fit the theme.

I actually couldn’t pick six images in one theme and of sufficient quality. Instead I picked two sets of 3 in two different themes: “Girls with Guns” and “Fantasy”.

You give the gallery the images and they hang them. So you aren’t guaranteed to have them grouped like you expect. In my case they seem to have done it more by shape – grouping the verticals and the horizontals – than by content. Something to think about if you are in this situation.

I also learned how to stack my framed images so the hangers don’t scratch the frames, but not before I’d already done it. Good thing I picked black frames so I could fill in the scratches with a sharpie.

This just goes to show, when you get into photography you never know where you will end up.

* Is the ACCA a museum or art gallery? I’m not sure. I’ve always thought of it as a museum, but google maps says it is an art gallery, and if good says it is must be true right?

118 Listener Questions

(17:43) The Pod people are revealed in this episode, you can actually watch Shawna and Ron do their podcasting thing in this video episode.

We answer your questions this week.

Listener Question:
“How do you know when a project is finished? Not a single shoot, where the goal
is usually clear, but a collective, like William Wegman and his dogs, Avedon’s
portraits against a white background, etc.”

Steve wrote:
I have started to hire models for regular studio photoshoots but have a question
about payment etiquette. Normally my shoots have been about 2-3 hours, but for
the first 30-45 minutes the model is usually putting on makeup & getting
dressed. Up to this point and as a rule I started the clock when the model
shows up. In the modeling profession is it expected the rate is based on the
arrival time, or the time the model is ready to start shooting. I’m definitely
not cheap, but I wanted to know if there is an excepted practice. Nice podcast,
keep up the excellent work.

A model
“Can I see all the images from the shoot? Not just the good ones?”

Exploring a Theme

Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 artists

How To Make Ray Gun Beams

I recently did a Space Girl photoshoot with model Annabell Bella and thought I’d share a Photoshop technique that I used.

It was based on this YouTube video, but modified for my application.

Here’s the final product:

Here’s where I started:

I did all of my normal retouching on the model part off it, but then I wanted the ray guns to actually be shooting something.I wasn’t going for realistic, but rather a retro Sci Fi look like Flash Gordon or Barbarella, with a little Steampunk influence.

Create a New Layer. I tried to keep this as non-destructive as possible.
Select and configure the gradient tool – Open gradient config by clicking on the gradient in the top tool bar.
— Switch type to Noise
— Hit Randomize until you get a gradient with different tones.
— Click OK
Holding the shift key down and drag from top to bottom of the canvas. This will create a gradient with lots of horizontal lines of color.
Desaturate the whole layer. Cmd-Opt-U. Now all those lines are shades of gray.
Hit Cmd-T (Free Transform)
— Grab the top middle handle, hold the shift and options keys down and drag down.
— The gradient will compress into the center. Make it the widest size of the beam.
Using Free Transform, make it the length you need.
You can save after this as it is still horizontal. Just duplicate the layer and hide one of them. Now you can used this layer to do similar beams later.
Move the beam into place

Select Perspective, by control/right clicking while in Free Transform
— Move the corners at the barrel so they line up with 2 points on the gun.
— Narrow the other end of the beam
Select Warp, again by control/right clicking while in Free Transform
— Shape the barrel end to cover the circular opening of the barrel.
— Put a little curve/narrowing in the beam to look cool.
— Done with transform, click the check box

Duplicate your beam layer.
Double the side of your beam layer copy. Select Free Transform again and enter 200% in the H & W Fields

Blur the heck out of the big beam. Blur->Gaussian Blur at 100 px. The bigger beam with almost disappear.
This is your glow. It may not be exactly where you want it. Feel free to move it around to make it right.

Make a new layer.
Select the brush tool and pick a brush size about 2x your beam size.
Now pick three or four colors and just draw over sections of the big beam in your new layer. Move from the barrel to the end of the beam making little patches of color all the way down.

Now – with the color layer selected – do Gaussian Blur. 100 will probably work, but you can mess with it.

The beam glow may look a little weak. Try duplicating the layer so you have two color layers on top of each other. Try setting the new layer to Overlay or one of the other transfer modes to get some different color and intensities. You may need more than one layer to get the effect you want.

If you now have multiple color layers, you may want to collapse them into one.
Once you have the beam covered in colors, duplicate your color layer. Move your new color layer over the small beam layer.
You now have
color 1
big beam
color 2
small beam

Put your cursor on the line between the top two layers and hold down the option key. Click on the line and the color will be mask to the layer below it.
Repeat for the small beam.

Once your color layers are masked/attached to the beam layers, set their layer mode to Color. Now your lines are back in your beam.

You should now have a glowy beam.

This is just one way to do it and it may not be the look you are going for. Here’s some things you can mess with and tweek try to get a cool beam.
If the lines in the beam from the small beam are too distinct try doing a radial blur down the beam to get a better look.
Change the opacity of the blurred beam so it isn’t 100 percent. You can also change its size.

116 Photog Paul Manoian

(16:20) Michigan photographer Paul Manoian started out in portraits and moved into model photography. Listen to him talk about that change and how working with models is different. He also give tips on getting into secret places.

In the banter we talk about movies we’ve walked out on.

Paul’s Website

Listener Questions



The Libertine
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
The Saddest Music in the World
Austin Powers

Carly Francavilla’s website
Carly Francavilla’s MM
Jacqueline Craig’s MM
Dan Lippitt

Editing Starts in Preproduction with Digital Video

I’ve been shooting a lot of digital video with my D7000. Maybe more than I’ve been shooting stills, but very little of it has ended up actually finished.

Right now I have footage from a wedding I attended months ago, footage of shoes I made for a trailer concept shot before the wedding, and interviews I recorded two weeks ago at a photography worksop.

I like the footage. The shoes stuff has some interesting angles and camera movements. The wedding stuff shows of what you can do with a DSLR. The interviews are very pretty.

All of it is important to me. Shoes stuff was a new website I wanted to do. Wedding are good friends of the family. Interviews are related to someone I’d like to work with.

So why is the only thing I’ve published this 2 minute video about how to make Ramen Noodles?

Because when I load all the other project’s footage into Final Cut and start looking at it, I’m lost about where to start.

All the footage is there, and it looks nice, but I don’t know what order to put things in. There may or may not be everything I need. So I get a feeling of overwhelm and move on to something I can do right now.

What made this Ramen Noodle video different so I get it done in a week?

Because I preplanned it and actually shot what I needed knowing how I would use it.

Preproduction make editing so much easier. I could lay down the footage quickly. I knew what to cut and what to use. Then it was on to other things, like audio and titles.

Doing titles took the most time, but even that wasn’t that much time. I had figure out how to do some stuff which meant moving to Motion and figuring it out, which slowed me down. (BTW: I still prefer After Effects to Motion, but the Motion integration is so easy)

Then it was done and I could figure out how to do the uploading right. All the video formats and uploading methods are just complicated. It is the most confusing part of the process and no one has made it easy, not even Apple.

In the beginning of any new endeavor you have a lot to learn. Those learning moments are going to take some time. Preplanning – wether of a video or a photoshoot – is something you can do to make things go smoother.

In the future I’ll make behind the scenes how to stuff to give y’all some learn’n.

115 Mike Roberts Portfolio Review

(21:17) We created a video of Shawna and I critiquing Mike Robert’s Model Mayhem portfolio. Something a little different. We tried to be nice, but Shawna had to do a voice imitation. You want to check this out.

Listener Questions



Mike Robert’s Portfolio
The forum post that started it all.

114 Photog Robert Prophet

(21:17) Robert Prophet is new to the model photography scene but he’s going after it with a furor we haven’t seen in a long time. Blazing out of the gate and straight into the Girls with Guns hall of fame, Robert is the man behind and the tactigirls calendar.

He gives the perspective of the new photographer and shows what you can do in a short time if you are focused.

And there is discussion of Ren Faires, and Spock Nazis.

Robert’s MM profile.

Listener Questions

What has Ron been up to during the hiatus and what does it mean to the future of Photographer and Model?

Model Shelby Carter
Photographer Allen Henson

3 Reasons Your Images Are Soft

A friend and new model photographer called me the other day after shooting an event and wondered why his images looked soft. He’d shot with a number of different cameras and lenses, but his images still looked soft to him. While I diagnosed his problem I went through a few reasons this might be.

#1 Your Focus is Off

Jack Sparrow And Compass
Jack Doesn't Like Soft Images

Of course the image couple be out of focus. Could be the auto-focus missed your model and focused on something else. This is kind of obvious and probably isn’t a problem you’d be asking about.

The subtler issue is how depth of field and aperture affect softness. If you are using a wide open aperture – a low number – you get a very narrow area that is in focus. In this case your image might look soft because not all of it is in focus.

#2 It Is Really Motion Blur

In these days of Photoshop, we often think motion blur is just an effect, but it is also what happens when your model, or your camera moves while the shutter is open. We also often miss this when looking at the back of the camera because that image is so small and low rez motion doesn’t show up. But if you zoom in you’ll see it.

Look at the eyes. Do you see more than one? Or a ghost image next to the other one? That’s motion blur.

Fix this by using a faster shutter speed. To avoid camera movement causing motion blur, the rule of thumb is your shutter speed should be higher than the length of your lens. And don’t forget the crop factor of non-full frame sensor.

For example, when I shoot with my 70-200 lens zoomed all the way in, my shutter should be at least 300. That lens happens to be a Nikon VR lens, so I don’t really have to be 300, but that’s the basic calculation.

#3 You Should Have Shot RAW

Friends don’t let friends shoot JPEG.

Given a lot of our images are going on the web, at some point we need to make a compressed image – normally this is JPEG. Compressing these images takes some processing power. You could do this compression on the little CPU in your camera, or you could do it on the multi-core desktop computer you use for post processing your images. Guess which one is better?

With RAW on most cameras you also get at least 14bits of data, and that gets cut down to 8bits of data in the JPEG. That’s data that is just gone.

In the end this was my friend’s problem: when he opened some images in Lightroom that had been shot RAW, they were as sharp as can be.

Digital images are naturally a little soft. As a matter of fact if you look at a RAW image Lightroom before you make any changes, it will already have some sharpening done to it because Adobe knows the image is softer than it should be. But in reality you shouldn’t notice this softness.

When you notice softness and you didn’t plan for it (for instance using a big light source) there is generally something wrong. Hopefully you can figure out what it is using these three criteria.