How To Photograph Everyone – A Seminar with Clay Blackmore

“I don’t photograph the world as I see it. I photograph the way I would like it to be.”                                                                                                    – Monte Zucker

Yesterday, I attended a seminar at the Marriott in Oak Brook. The host was Clay Blackmore. He spoke fast and moved quickly. The 4 1/2 hour seminar was packed with information, most of it, quite useful.

“A protégé of the legendary Monte Zucker, Clay is a legend in his own right. Clay meticulously developed his photographic, teaching, and business skills during this 25-year association with Monte, first as an assistant, then as a co-educator and business partner.”       – An excerpt from Clay Blackmore’s Bio

Most of the evening was about “Posing, Lighting, and Refining”. He stated that this is the order in which you want to photograph. Find the pose first, then add your lights and finally make any adjustments before taking the picture. He talked us through setting up the proper poses for couples, and groups of three, four and five.

Here are a few other helpful hints:

1. When photographing a couple, and one is much taller than the other, have the taller person spread their legs. This brings them lower without causing them to bend at the waist.

2. Camera height for certain shots:

Full length – shoot at the subject(s) navel

2/3 length – shoot at the subject(s) chest

head shot – shoot above eye level, actually looking down at the couple, by having the subject look up, their eyes widen and neck stretched (avoiding the dreaded double or triple chin), surprisingly enough the perspective of the picture looks like it was taken straight on.

3. Shoot from the dark to the light. This one surprised me. I was always taught to place your subjects facing the window and not have their backs to the light. Clay does it differently. He will use the window as a back light. By placing the backs of his subjects to a window (or some other lighting source) and then placing a reflector (or fill flash) in front of the subjects, he creates the look he wants. After seeing many examples of this technique it appears to work really well.

There were also many sponsors of the seminar. Here are three that caught my eye.

1. Triple Scoop Music – A great music resource for slideshows. However, after looking at the site, this will be one company that I will have to wait to work with until I start making the big bucks. It costs $60 a song. I’m sure it is well worth not having to deal with copyright issues. For now, I’ll just continue to work with my somewhat lame music on Animoto.

2. PictoBooks – They appear to have some great looking books. I would rattle a few prices off for you, but you can not access that information until you sign-up and prove you are professional photographer (not a very difficult task).

3. On One Software – Wow! I thought Photoshop was overwhelming. Just checking out this sight made my head spin. It does look like a lot of helpful editing tools. However, with twelve different products to choose from, its hard to know where you should begin. Once I master Lightroom and Photoshop, I’ll have to check out On One Software.

Throughout the entire seminar, Clay shared his photos with us. He would mention how many of the poses or styles in which the pictures were taken were ideas he had found in books of other photographers. He said that there is nothing wrong in trying to imitate another photographer’s work. You will most likely not succeed. However, in doing so you will find a style of your own.

So, that got my thinking. I should start checking out some other photographers. However, never having studied photography, in a school setting, my knowledge of famous photographers is non-existent. My plan is to choose ten photographers and learn about their technique and style. This will open my mind to new ideas (at least new to me) and hopefully strengthen my skills. Not to mention, I might some day be able to answer the question, “Who are your influences?” I thought I would take one photographer on every month, but realized that was not going to be realistic. So, I have decided not to place a time frame on this little project. I really don’t need anymore timetables right about now.

My “Top Ten List” for Friday will list my choice of photographers. I’m going to need a few days to research this.

At the end of the night, after all the technical information was given on “How to Photograph Everyone”, the one statement that stuck in my mind was, “If it looks good, take the picture.” When it comes down to it, that is what it is all about.

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