Generative Fill

Adobe has added “Generative Fill” to Photoshop. This is a game-changing function, that uses AI to fill in areas of your photos. The future is here.

And I use Generative Fill widely and constantly, but I have some serious reservations. We should all be aware.

First, you need to stay with it: it is “AI”, not quite “I” yet. Great as it is, it usually needs some manual intervention. It still saves time, but if you think that it will do things automatically without supervision and correction, you are in for a disappointment.

The second objection is more serious. By using this and becoming dependent on it. you are allowing a US-based comp ay to censor your work. Try to remove a body modification (like a nose ring), or even worse, try to take a background object out of a photo that contains a naked woman, and you get this:

Yes, it is not the lady we are trying to edit, it is merely a background item. But just the fact that the photo contains something somewhere that this American company’s puritanical excuse for morality does not like, means I cannot edit this photo.

In other words, if I use AI (which soon will be part of every action you do), my photo needs to be approved by the American Ayatollahs. Talk about Cultural Imperialism… one more example of why America is so often disliked in the world.

And this is not about nudity. It is about the fact that your work will now increasingly be censored by American censors. Before you get too reliant on AI features, think hard.

Fit for purpose

Portraits need to be fit for purpose.

Take this picture. A résumé picture:

I have shot this model clothed, nude, in studios, outdoors, traveling: every picture is different.

A resume picture needs to be professional (the jacket, the hairdo); show beauty in the case of a woman (the overall make-up, the low cut, the eye shadow), but not excessively so; be perhaps a little sexy (the white top) but not overly so (the necklace, the businesslike jacket again). The expression should be friendly but neutral. Yes, some thinking goes into this.

As it should go into every portrait you make. Always ask:

  • What is the photo for.
  • Whom is it for?
  • What are they expecting?
  • What is the person being pictured expecting?
  • What are you expecting?
  • What demands does this put on the photo?
  • What problems need to be solved? What needs to be de-emphasized?
  • What do you want to emphasize?

If you ask yourself these questions, you will come up with answers all by yourself. Answers about clothing, setting, light, expression, and so on.

But if you do not ask, you will not come up with answers; or worse, you will come up with the wrong answers.

For those of you who are interested, after the “more” break, two civilized nudes from the very same shoot as the photo above:

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I was interviewed this morning by “Frontaal Naakt”, a leading Dutch opinion blog. The editor, Peter Breedveld, will publish the interview in the next days. In the mean time, some of my work is used as illustrations to his other articles:

One of the questions in the interview was about societal acceptance of nudes. Which, as most of my readers know, are among the many things I shoot.

I told him that in North America there is serious resistance to nudity, and that we, um, kind of missed the 1960s here. Does that sound extreme? Not to me. The Netherlands had full frontal male and female nudity on prime time TV by the 1960s and 1970s. Here, this may perhaps happen eventually, but we certainly are not there yet.

That said, young people in North America are much less prone to having body or nudity hangups than older people. In The Netherlands, however, mr Breedveld tells me, it is the other way around. The pendulum swings everywhere, always. Right now, that is encouraging to me here, and discouraging there, because as a child of the 1960s I cannot understand what anyone would have against the human body; and I certainly cannot see how they would wish to impose those views on others. Those views to me seem Victorian—but to each his or her own.

The other subject was “subjects”. Are all my subjects pretty young women?

No. I shoot people of all shapes, walks of life, and ages—but I will only publish them with permission, obviously, so they are less available. But I do love photographing all manner of people: everyone is interesting. You’ll see a few there I expect. “Selfies”, too. Why not? If I say nudes are OK, why should I not want to shoot myself that way? I could not ask my models to do something I would not do myself.

Are nudes sexual? Not usually; not to me; but there is a continuum. From 0% sexual (medical illustrations) to 100% (porn). I like to think I am somewhere in the lower half of that continuum.

Am I an activist? In a way, yes. I would like society to ease up a little bit on the Victorian values, and start realizing that there is nothing wrong with human bodies. Once you realise that, there’s a lot of freedom, and we all like freedom. Right?

Anyway: anyone who likes my nudes can see them on tumblr (my blog name there is mvwphoto). I would say “NSFW”, but I personally believe this is perfectly suitable for work!


Sam The Studio Man

When I prepare a tricky shot, I tend to use  stand-in model while I work on light, so the model does not need to stand there for half an hour while I adjust and move lights.

But these stand-in shots are often good, which is why I use them. While preparing to shoot model Danielle, I shot Sam Taylor, who runs the studio I teach in (see and click on “Schedule”).

I set my exposure for the window: 1/60th sec, f/5.6, 400 ISO. Then I added a strobe with a softbox, and I moved Sam far enough from the window so the strobe would light him up (from 45 degrees above), but would not light up the reflective inside of the window too much. And then I set flash power according to my camera settings. Finally, I did a little desaturating in Lightroom. Result:

Short lighting, great grunge, serious expression, rule of thirds, good balance of background and foreground. A tricky shot, and one I am delighted with.

One of my students remarked on how refreshing it was to see the problem solving process, and to realize that photography is in fact problem solving, yes it is. When I set up a shot, I do not have all the answers, but I see what I want, and I know how to solve problems “step by step” until I get that result.

And sometimes you change your mind. In the final model shot, I could not move the model away from the window, as she sat on the sill. Hence I could not get rid of a shadow cast by the snooted speedlight I ended up using. So then the shot changes entirely: if you cannot beat the shadow, embrace it! To spare those of you who are sensitive, I shall not show you that shot here (it’s a nude),  but if you are interested, click here to go to my tumblr feed.

(By the way: have you considered being photographed this way? if not: consider it. Some beautiful shots of yourself like this are worth making. If you don’t, you may well regret it later in life).


Softly softly.

In keeping with yesterday’s post, one more post on lighting humans, and why a”softly softly” approach is good especially in glamour and art nudes photography.

In Sunday’s “The Art of Photographing Nudes” workshop, we shot a lot of the images using available light. Images like this:

Model Kassandra relaxing

In a shot like this, you take a “soft” approach in various ways.

  • You use soft light, especially when shooting females. Available daylight from a north-facing window is good. That is what we used here.
  • You also use bright light, Bright, high-key light makes skin softer and smoother. Everyone likes that.
  • You take an easy approach with the model. Calm, take your time, do not rush and do not over-direct. If a model has an idea of her poses, some light instruction is all you will want to do. Else, the shoot will be less relaxed and your images will suffer.
  • You go easy on explicitness. Keeping things hidden is often a way to make a picture more interesting and more alluring.
  • You go easy on complexity: keep it simple. In nudes especially, the emphasis is on the human body, not on the backgrounds. I like using very simple backgrounds for much work, like the image above.

Those simple tips will help you get the most out of any portrait session. In our next workshop on this subject (which we will do in the next few months, probably in March) we shall do more.

Warning: bodies here

Today marked the first “The Art of Photographing Nudes” workshop that Joseph Marranca and I held in Mono, Ontario for photo enthusiasts.

Kassandra, grunge James Bond nude silhouette

In this workshop, students learned about such things as:

  • Background of the nude photograph
  • Types of nude shots
  • Challenges
  • Equipment/technical
  • Model: interaction, finding, putting at ease
  • Men vs Women
  • Light: how to keep it simple
  • Colour vs Black and White
  • Composition
  • Do’s and Dont’s

Many practical tips made this a very useful way to spend a Sunday, and everyone went back with lots of shots.

When you have a great model like Kassandra, your task shifts slightly from directing every shot to “setting up the shot, then taking lots of images, then selecting the ones you like best”.

We shall be holding another one in March – let me know if you think you might want to be one of the students. Two expert photographer instructors, one cook (thanks Michelle) and no more than ten students at the most.

After the click, another few shots.

Warning: those of you that are offended by the sight of the human body (I am sorry if in 2011 you are: we all have one – and  if you want to be a photographer you had better get used to that fact!) – that there will be unclothed human bodies after you click here:

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Course for past students only

Joseph Marranca and I are planning a number of new workshops. One is an all-day workshop in Mono, Ont. on January 16.

This is a course for past students only. It is about a slightly more advanced subject than the technical courses. About a subject that has kept artists busy for centuries. Namely, “The Art of Nude Photography”.

Throughout history, artists have pictured the human form. Nudes are always timeless when tastefully done, especially in black and white, using natural light or simulated natural light.

It is easy to photograph a nude model but it is difficult to do it with taste and meaning. Using a professional model, Joseph and I will teach you how to light, how to interact with your model, and how to produce art that takes a fresh look at a subject that will always remain interesting.

Model Katrina modest

Let me give you a few tips for nudes – a teenie tiny excerpt from the course:

  • You will often want to shoot implied rather than explicit.
  • Use soft light for females – back light is great for round shapes.
  • Hard light is better for males.
  • Keep it simple. Props if appropriate, but as a general rule, nudes are about the nudes, not about the rest!
  • Consider using available light.
  • High-key lighting is more flattering than low-key lighting, especially for females.

A slightly more revealing photo after the click:

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