I might just be attuned to the theme, but I hear and read a lot about storytelling in photography. This, of course, is what photo essays are about - the narrative form perfected by Life magazine among...
Black and white images made with infrared light tend to erase to erase
skin blemishes and impart a lustrous luminous quality to human skin. In the old days, folks would
read Laurie White's Infrared Photography
Handbook and then trying out a few rolls of B&W IR film (example at right).
It was never easy to take infrared photos casually because you'd have to focus in two steps:
turn the focus ring until the image appeared sharp in the viewfinder and then
take move your eye to the top of the camera and turn the focus ring a bit so that the
infrared focus mark lined up to where the focus ring had been. Different wavelengths of light
require different focus positions for the lens. All of the visible wavelengths are close enough
in size that you can pick a single focus position and not have too much distortion from this
effect, which is why photographers don't typically think about it.
What about infrared photography with a digital camera? It should be
very easy indeed, since the CMOS and CCD sensors at the heart of a
digital camera are inherently sensitive to near-infrared light.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers put a filter over the sensor to
screen this out and limit image formation to visible light. The
easiest way to deal with this challenge is to contact the folks at www.maxmax.com. Mail them your
camera and some cash; they rip out the filter, tweak the camera so
that it will autofocus properly in infrared, and return it to you
after a day or two. Life is much easier than in the old film days
because (1) you don't have to tweak the focus manually after making
the image sharp for visible light, and (2) you get an instant preview.
More Practical Tips
Every now and then someone sends email asking "How do you get women to
take their clothes off?" The answer is that the world divides into two
classes of people: those who like to be photographed and those who
don't. Those who like to be photographed think they have beautiful
bodies. Naturally, if they look good in a picture clothed,
they'd look better without all those ugly clothes
standing between their beautiful body and the camera. If you
therefore find some folks who have survived the constant assault on
their self esteem by advertisers, the challenge will be to get them to
keep their clothes on. It also helps to have a portfolio of high
How to develop that portfolio? Here's a 12-step program:
Read Making Photographs,
our free online photography textbook. Concentrate on the "Light"
Rent or buy a camera with full manual controls and a fast fixed focal-length
lens. If you've invested the time in arranging a venue and a
model, you don't want to rely on automatic exposure. The fast (f/1.4,
f/2 or f/2.8) lens is important so that you don't have to use flash for
every photo. See "Building a Digital SLR System"
If you're using digital equipment, your photos will be secure on your
camera's memory card and on your personal computer's hard drive.
Thus, any nude images will be viewable only by you or, if your system
administration skills are sub-professional, by Bill Gates, most
American 13-year-olds, half of Russia, and the U.S. Government.
If you're using film and using commercial labs for development and
printing, you risk criticism. Big photo labs generally will develop
tasteful nudes with no questions asked. The customer service
department at Kodak's stated their policy as "if there is only one
person in the picture, we're definitely not going to have a problem
with it." There are laws in some states requiring labs to report
photographers who bring in images of naked children. More than a few
serious photographers have had unpleasant, expensive, and prolonged
dealings with government authority stemming from what you'd have
thought were easy calls (e.g., a San Franciscan who took his 8x10 view
camera to a nudist colony and photographed families with their
Before investing a weekend, you might want to spend some time with the following books:
If you are looking for inspiration rather than tutorial, leaf
through the 425 smallish pages of
(William Ewing; Chronicle Books). This covers over 100 years of nude photography,
right up to the repulsively hairy body of John Coplans, whose
self-portraits definitely constitute one of the nastiest things one can
do with a 4x5 view camera (actually his assistant takes the pictures; he
just sells them for $5000 a whack).
If you're looking for something more in the coffee table line,
Graphis Nudes gives you 200 big well-printed pages
of contemporary nudes. Not as huge and only 116 pages long, the
Aperture monograph of Edward Weston's nudes can be awe-inspiring.
Do we really have something to say that he didn't say back in 1930?
And if so, is it aesthetic?