Saturday, August 27, 2011

Photography and Sports, but Not Like You Think

We are all familiar with sports photography, the Sports Illustrateds of the world with great action shots of our favorite players doing what they do best. I admire the great shots I see that capture the players' emotions, their raw strength and skill.

But there is also another link between photography and sports. I find myself using certain analogies over and over when describing to a client or student what we're doing and why. I should warn the reader this post has a tongue in cheek sense to it. On the one hand, what I'm about to say is silly; on the other hand, the analogies are true, and illustrative.

Photography as Baseball

When I'm shooting a client or a model, I find it necessary to advise that there will be a few warm up shots I take over the course of the shoot to ensure the lighting and general environment looks good. No need to smile or pose for those, they are just technical "test shots". And after that, there will be lots of shots taken when we're on point. Why do I take so many? Won't one do? Snap and move on? Probably not.

If you have ever watched America's Next Top Model, you'll note that they shoot perhaps hundreds of photos of extremely beautiful women. Then when they're reviewing the shots, certainly there are lots of very nice photos, but at some point, everything aligns.

The hair waves just so, the fabric falls just right, the prop is in the most flattering, complementary position. The model's hand, her arm, her shoes... all ease into a natural and appealing position. And her expression... finally her expression captures the inner life of her personality, the intensity that penetrates and transcends a static image to captivate the viewer... forcing them to stop and look. She "pitches" her shots at me, look after look, while I tease and coax out her best throws. I'm swinging away as batter with a camera. Snap, snap, snap. Foul away, out to the bleachers...

The camera is a time capture machine. I dont have the luxury of the continuum of video, picking out the best moment from the reality presented. I have to snap it when it happens. And I miss. She pitches, I swing, and like most batters, there's a lot of missing. But at some point, she throws, I hit, and wow, home run. And when we hit that home run, then yes, time to move on to the next play.

Photography as Football

When I'm teaching a photography student, I'm often taken by the complexity of what I'm trying to explain. On the one hand, I have internalized an awful lot of subtlety and inter-related issues that affect each other. Sometimes its hard to pick a starting point; it sometimes feels like a big circular wheel of complexity. I can't explain this without first explaining that. And I can't explain that without discussing the other thing.

On the other hand, photography can at its most basic be reduced down to a fairly simple set of rules that can get someone grounded. Adding complexity from that point on is relatively easy once you understand the rules. Its not something that is easily understood by watching other people shoot, or by looking at great photographs. Someone essentially has to explain it to you, at some level.

I remember for years strongly disliking football as a sport of very large men beating each other senseless, then picking themselves up off the ground and doing it again. Until someone explained a few basic rules of the game -- the idea of first and 10, the idea of first down, the touchdown, the field goal, the defense, and the quarterback. SUDDENLY the game was enjoyable. No, I didnt understand all the nuances of the game, but now I could understand the progress of the game, why the players did what they did, and could even cheer along with everyone else when something identifiable good happened. But someone had to explain it to me. You can't really understand football by just watching the game.

And to get better at photography so that your shots progress beyond the odd lucky shot, someone at some point is going to have to explain to you the basic rules of the game.

And there is even a similarity between photography and boxing, if nothing else, in the phrase, "Stunning shot!" LOL.

Whether teaching students or shooting our INFINI boudoir clients, we always strive for "stunning shots" that leave a mark.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Customer's Testimonial

We do understand that the INFINI Boudoir experience is a transcendent one, far beyond merely taking photographs of feminine beauty. For many if not most clients, it is an affirming, almost religious experience, deeply gratifying and uplifting.

It is testimonials like this that help us see our work as something more than just an exercise in the creation of beautiful art, but of touching someone's soul in a way that we never could have set out to do. We present to you Danielle's words of gratitude.

Dear Dario,

I’m not entirely sure where to start. It is the day after my photo session and I still find myself at a loss for words. When we were researching photographers and came across your website, I found myself immediately drawn to your photographs. As I told you when I met you yesterday, there wasn’t a single photo on your site that I didn’t like. However, going in, I hoped to have some good shots, but quite honestly, I figured that I am 43 with bulges and sags I didn’t have 20 years ago and therefore, I didn’t think my photos would be as good as those on the site. I’ve been happily married for19 years and I knew that my husband would really like for me to indulge and have these types of pictures taken and I really wanted to be able to give him this gift.

My husband asked me afterward, what the shoot was like. The only way I could describe it was to say that during the entire shoot I felt appreciated. From the time that Kathy started applying my makeup, through all the work you and Lisa did to stage the shots, through the time that you spent at the end of the shoot, I felt appreciated and valued.

Late last night we received the link to the photographs. With more than a little doubt in my mind as to how the pictures would look, we opened the link…and there they were.

Through the first four or five pictures that scrolled across the screen, I found myself surprised. I thought to myself…wow that one was really good, and then the next would scroll and I’d think, that was one pretty good too! I glanced over at my husband and he had the best smile on his face. I turned back to the screen and realized that all the pictures were absolutely amazing. As I watched shot after shot scroll on the screen,

I realized that you had created these amazing images (just like the ones on your website) with me…for me.

I have to admit, as I watched, I couldn’t help it…I wept. I could see the great smile that you kept talking about (you see it’s just my smile, I use it every day, what could be so great about it?). I saw all the things that you encouraged me on and complimented me on. I never think of myself as beautiful, mostly just average.

I believe you have a gift
and you found and captured so much of the essence of me. Of the 90 pictures we received, there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t like. Of course I liked some more than others, but seriously, I’m not sure that I have 90 pictures taken in the last 19 years that I can say I really liked. You were able to crush that in a few hours.

Thank you seems inadequate.

I want to take a minute and also thank your team. Kathy was absolutely amazing with the makeup and hair for the photos. When I saw myself in the mirror the first time, I actually thought to myself, I’m not sure who this person is. With my heavily lined eyes and false eyelashes (a first for this 43 year old!), I wasn’t really sure. I really had to step out and put my faith in the professional. What I saw in the photos was that it really was me there, under the shadow and lashes. Only, my eyes glowed and the expressions were more pronounced. The images were made more powerful by Kathy’s artistry, using my face as a canvas.—A million thank-yous Kathy!

Lisa wore many hats yesterday. I especially appreciated her coaching and encouraging throughout the process. I tell you, I passed my nursing boards, but nothing was more complicated than, pop your hip, but don’t bend your leg, keep your toe pointed at the camera…oh yeah, and smile! Her “styling” made each photo the most flattering they could be. Between Lisa and Kathy I knew that all of those little things would be caught; straight laces, hair lying just right. I could relax and enjoy the shoot, or just the ride around as she pulled the bathtub or couch with me on it! Thank you Lisa!

Your team is outstanding! It is no surprise to me that you have a 100% customer satisfaction. During the shoot, nothing is more important than the client. I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to experience this with your team. Since I really have no better words,

let me just say a heartfelt and grateful…thank you.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Boudoir Styles -- Which is Right for You?

Part of the INFINI process of getting clients photos that are the right fit for them is to understand what kind of style they are interested in. Style in this context refers to a blend of "look and feel", and modesty level. Boudoir photography encompasses a wide range of styles, a continuous spectrum if you will. These are four of the more popular ones, though by no means the only ones:

Pin up

This is one of the classic, enduring styles in boudoir. Best epitomized by the nose art found on the sides of WWII bombers, they capture an almost cartoonish, whimsical look with a nostalgic flair. Make up is bold, with lavish eyelashes and deep luscious lipstick while hairstyles carry the retro rolls, pompadours, and beehives. With Marilyn Monroe style satin wraps and full body swimsuits and corsets, this look can be delightful and campy. They also tend to leave more to the imagination which can be an appealing option to some full figured clients.

Victoria's Secret

This is the title we give to the most common contemporary look -- beautiful, dramatic lighting highlighting facial features like cheekbones, glamorous smokey eyes, and provocative lips. Makeup is more subtle than pin up, but also richer in a more natural way. Hair is fluffed for a lush, beautifully messy just rolled out of bed look. Very sexy! Wardrobe usually involves some form of lacy lingerie but can also be implied nude, that is, nude or topless, but posed in such a way that nothing, or little is actually showing in the photo. Provocative and sexy without being too revealing.


Most people are familiar with what Playboy photos look like, but to describe them for our purposes -- lighting is definitely dramatic and carefully controlled for a high intensity look. Specifically, the body is lit to reveal, but additional lighting is used to provide enticing highlights on different parts of the body *especially* the hair which is fluffed full and lush. Location and setting is also a big part of the Playboy look; it is usually not shot against a simple white or black background, instead opting for an interesting environment. Maxim is generally shot in a similar way; the main difference between the two being the level of modesty.


The prior three styles are an "intimate" form of photography. They are intended to be enticing and engaging to the viewer. It is essentially a "come hither" visual appeal. The woman frequently looks at the camera, or more accurately *through* the camera, to the intended viewer, attempting to communicate emotion and desire.

With a more artistic approach, the woman becomes more an objective form of beauty. That is, *anyone* can observe the resulting images and admire the transcendant beauty of the female form. It is not a personal appeal to an individual, but a more abstract and primal statement of art, like a Venus DeMilo, or a Birth of Venus. The images may focus on parts of the body and perhaps not even include the face, resulting in anonymous and stunning works of art worthy of a museum wall.

A typical INFINI Boudoir shoot can often wander through a variety of related styles but we find it helpful to understand what the client is visualizing when they come to us for a photosession. Having a sense of visual style and modesty limits allows us to hit the client's target and maintain our 100% customer satisfaction record.