Monthly Archives: August 2010

Pictures Never Lie… Or Do They?

Most of us, we snap our pictures, send them to the local Walgreens and have new prints in our hands within an hour. The pictures we take are the pictures we get back. If Bobby has a mole on the side of his nose when we take the picture, he has a mole on the side of his nose in the print we get. If Martha is putting on a little weight during the family snapshot, she continues to carry that weight in the photo. Throughout the aeons (or decades rather) we mere mortals were stuck with reality, at least in regards to our photos. But magazines were never satisfied with reality. Customers and consumers, in America, at least, expect perfection from their media stars. There is only so much one can do with hair stylists and makeup artists. There is only some much one can do with posing techniques to hide or minimize this or that. For decades professional studios air brushing was the answer to fixing the flaws in their models. Who can count the amount of paint spread over the photos of actresses and models over the years.

With the advent of Photoshop the game changed. With each successive release, it becomes easier to performing tasks that were almost impossible decades ago. Before, what took years of skill to master now becomes routine tasks that most photographers , with a little bit of computer skill, can do in minutes. As we demand physical perfection in our movie and media stars and technology makes it easier to make sure that a photo of anybody can achieve that level of perfection.

I am not such a purist that I rail against covering pimples, whitening teeth and removing stray hairs in my portrait subjects. After all there are a number of things that interfere with a good photographic representation of a person. But what is occurring are physical standards that are set which are physically impossible for them to occur in nature, namely the size of women’s hips. This is nothing new as far as having standards which are impossible to fulfill as the ancients all had ideas of perfect human proportions which they used for art. But with the photography, we no longer look at figures in sculpture and paint as physical ideals, but physical reality. Women (and to some degree, men) look at women in these photos and assume that unblemished skin, the full lips, the vibrant eyes, etc, etc. is actually representative of that person in everyday life. But that could not be further from the truth. Undoubtedly there are a few that have the look, the skin and the body that comes close to those ideals, but even those people are not safe from being savaged by the hands of Photoshop artists.

My point is not to get into some discussion about women’s self-image, media using sex to sell products or anything along those topics. Rather, my intent is it show and to make people realize that they should not expect to what they see in and on magazines to reflect any sort of reality. Nor, should they expect ANY picture to reflect reality (more on that subject later).

Now for some examples. The following video shows, through the power of time-lapse a woman of mediocre looks transformed through the magic of makeup, hair styling and Photoshop into a gorgeous woman.

The picture below is from a Ralph Lauren ad wherein they modified this woman’s hips to the point of physical impossibility. I am not exaggerating, the proportion of head to hips is not possible, biologically speaking.

Ralph Lauren Model

A model with impossibly small hips.

Below shows how the face of a famous person was transplanted on to the (bizarre) body of a model for an advertisement.

Woman with transplanted face

Woman with transplanted face

Even senators are not immune from some major touch ups. Witness a rather recent cover shot for a rather old Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi Photoshop

Nancy Pelosi never looked so good.

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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Musings


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How to Improve Your Photography – Pt 3 Podcasts

C. S. Lewis has this great quote which goes  “the next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a company of people who are.” Last post I wrote about libraries and the vast wealth that is found in books and magazines. While podcasts will not replace need of students of photography to pore through “printed’ works, they do perform an important role in education.

So, what is a podcast?

Generally they are audio only productions recorded in an electronic format distributed through the internet.

Why is that a big deal?

Well, since these are in electronic format you can listen to these on computers, either streaming or as downloadable files, and with mp3 players (not just Apple devices like IPhones, or IPods). This allows for easy storage and flexibility to listening.

Who put out these podcasts?

A number of professionals and high-level enthusiasts put out these shows in addition to their already hectic schedule.

What is their motivation?

While there is some self-interest with podcasting, they are all done in a spirit of giving and sharing. Some of the podcasters do put on seminars and even sell books, but their podcasts are not 50 minute infomercials. Generally their intent is to build their reputation and which may eventually, (for some it is happening now) pay off in $$ either directly or, more likely, indirectly.

What types of things do they talk about?

If you listen to one, is there any need to listen to another? To be a bit flippant, they are all like snowflakes, individuals putting out work that, even if the format is similar, it comes across quite different. Some podcasts are interviews with high-end professional photographers, some are philosophical insights while others take a question and answer format.

What is the easiest way to get them?

While going to each site on a weekly or monthly basis is one way to manage the files it is not a very efficient method. Personally I use the ITUNES store, which will require you to download their program, which is about 90 megabyte file. From here you simply search for your shows (under podcasts) and subscribe to the ones you like. Then every time you run the program, it will automatically download new files. There are other ways to subscribe to various podcasts, but I find this to work very well.

What are some of the photography podcasts that I listen to?

  • Camera Dojo – Kerry Garrison – Great all around podcast and wonderful blog.
  • F-Stop Beyond with Ron Dawson – While Ron seeks out famous photographers to interview he focuses the discussion in areas that most photography interviews do not go – people’s personal history, feelings and circumstances.
  • Frederick Van – Various interviews.
  • History of Photography – An honest to goodness lectures from an ongoing college photography class.
  • Lenswork – Great short morsels of insight, philosophy and speculation from the editor of Lenswork Magazine.
  • Lightsource Studio Photography – Interviews with high end commercial photographers.
  • Photofocus – Scott Bourne and a guest answer questions submitted by readers.
  • The Candid Frame – Ibarionix Perello – Great interviews with various people in the photography field. Not just “big names” but even promising students.
  • This Week in Photography – Discussion about news and events related to photography. This is in an Apple media file, which, to me, is very inconvenient as Windows Media player will not recognize the file and nor am I able to play t on my Sansa MP3 player.

    There are other photography podcasts to be found on the internet. The intent was list every single podcast, but to give you a “starter pack” to some that I feel are worthwhile and will have a broad range of appeal. Feel free to share your thoughts and favorites with me.

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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Photography Advice


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