Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Infernal Lords XV: Xaphan

Oh damn, the war is coming!
Oh damn, you feel you want it!
Oh damn, just bring it on today!

You can’t live without the fire,
It’s the heat that makes you strong,
‘Cause you’re born to live and fight it all the way.
You can’t hide what burns inside you,
It’s the only thing you know.
You’re embracing that, never walk away.

[ Iron – Within Temptation ]
Xaphan by *GothicNarcissusDuke Xaphan, well known as the Infernal Arsonist, is an Upper Demon and the Leader of the Fourth Level. As the former Chief of Archangels (the second-lowest Angelic Choir), he did not have a particularly bright place in Heaven despite his leadership, so he followed Emperor Lucifer in the Great Heavenly War, hoping to gain more power; another reason why he turned against Yahweh was to follow Queen Barbelo, for whom he had a deep attraction even before the War had begun. It was her element, Fire, that inspired him to accomplish his greatest and most infamous deed: right before being casted out of it, he managed to set Heaven afire, preventing the Heavenly Troops from chasing the Fallen Angels in their retreat. Despite becoming a hero in Hell, this cost him his moth wings, which were heavily burnt on that occasion, and now he can fly only for short distances without the help of mechanical devices.
Beside the Great Arson, Duke Xaphan gained his high rank in the Peerage and prestigious role thanks to his ingenious mind and brilliant technical skills. He’s the architect who designed the Imperial Palace of Pandemonium, as well as many devices to make the hostile environment of Hell suitable for permanent settlement (such as the automatic infernal furnaces), many new weapons of the Infernal Army (he invented the gunpowder), and even everyday-life objects like the mechanical wings he uses when he has to fly. He often relies on his fellow Fourth-Level Demon, Count Furcifel, to test his new inventions relying on the latter’s electrical powers. As a Goetic Demon, he can be summoned by Mortals who wish to learn the secrets of metallurgy and architecture.
His magic can rely on the Secondary Element Metal, making him part of Duke Beelzebub’s Order of the Great Fly, but he can also draw from the power of Fire: although he doesn’t master it and can’t create it out of nowhere, he can manipulate a fire already set. This is another reason why he’s part of his beloved Queen’s fellowship, and apparently she doesn’t mind his attentions – rumour has it that he’s the Queen’s Favourite.
A good friend of fellow former Archangels, Marquise Decarabia and Marquise Naamah, he also shares a friendly rivalry with Marquis Leonard due to their opposite approach to shaping the world – Duke Xaphan applying the laws of nature to his technological own use and Marquis Leonard downright bending them with his powers. On the other hand, Duke Xaphan openly hates Count Mammon, for the Satan shares his mastership of Metal and made it to the First Level of Demons despite coming from a lower Choir than his. His much nicer temper, higher rank in the Peerage and important position grant him a much brighter spot at Court nonetheless.

Xaphan: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Fabio Rossini
Styling: Wiegenlied and GothicNarcissus
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (textures), Cesitlie95 (wings), (fire)
Special thanks to LunarShore for his advice about blending the fire.

When doing some researches about Demons, it’s quite easy to bump into Xaphan. He is mentioned in Colin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal which, despite having no more than a four-line entry about him, provides some concrete and interesting facts about him, and even a glimpse about his personality. So, we have a Second-Level Demon whose mind is described as “inventive”, going as far as setting Heaven afire right before being cast out. His emblem is a bellows, but he fans the flames of the furnaces with his mouth and hands. I don’t remember where I found it, but I can swear that I read he’s also credited for inventing chips. Wow, I seriously wouldn’t expect to find anything so interesting and particular about a given Demon. No wonder I immediately decided to include him in my project; also, in his illustration on the Dictionnaire Infernal he’s, well... sort of kawaii, and the evil-eyed bellows is so hilarious I couldn’t help but like him.
Xaphan from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
Xaphan from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
However much kawaii his original portrayal was, though, I had to think of a rendition of my own for Xaphan. I’m sure my first idea came up no later than December 2009. As a bellows would be a bit difficult to find, I immediately scrapped the idea, opting for having him holding something with fire instead; the most obvious choice was a candlestick, or better yet a candelabrum. I can be sure I already had this idea clear in my mind by December 2009 because I took some candelabra stock photos during a visit at my aunt’s for Christmas, as the last ditch in case I couldn’t find one while shooting (not everybody has an old-fashioned house full of useless ornaments nowadays, so I thought it wouldn’t be easy). Also, I immediately thought it would be nice if he had moth wings; as he was deeply connected with fire it would fit the character, beside providing some variation from the other works. Beelzebub, Decarabia and another Demon would already have insect wings, rather than feathered ones, so no big deal. The first general idea for the work was there.
I found a possible model for Xaphan as soon as January 2010: a friend of mine who lived near the Milan area offered to pose for me when I complained about the lack of male models and I agreed, thinking he would fit the role rather well with long, black hair. Nevertheless, any attempt in this direction just didn’t work and we never managed to actually set up the photoshoot. As my dear Ayl Rose had a candelabrum to lend me, I always tried to arrange the session when I went to visit her, but to no avail. The first attempt was due in early February, in occasion of the Autumn and The Gathering concert, but we didn’t meet because, I think, he was ill; attempt number two, to take place in mid-February while I was coming back from Turin via Milan after shooting Lilith, was hindered by a train strike; a third attempt in mid-March we partly successful, as we finally met and took some photos, but didn’t shoot Xaphan because Ayl couldn’t come by and bring the candelabrum; the fourth attempt was delayed about a zillion time, up to December, when I visited Ayl again, but it was cancelled last minute, which annoyed me a bit. As my friend hinted that I could look for someone else, I didn’t think twice and decided to recast Xaphan. This time, I decided a gingerhead would be much more fitting for the role and I looked for a new model accordingly. I first saw Fabio modelling for Sarah Wayne on deviantART and immediately asked the photographer if she could lend me her model. This time we arranged the meeting soon when I went to Milan for Ayl’s degree and everything went fine and smooth. I think it’s a sign that Fabio was just meant to be the right model all along (I only had to find him).
It’s quite easy to imagine that in the nineteen months between the original conception and the actual photoshoot, the idea for Xaphan has changed quite drastically until the current, finished, perfect form. The moth theme was initially supposed to be reinforced by a moth wing-like eye make up, so Xaphan 1.0 would have had long, black hair, the moth-inspired make up and a traditional gothic outfit with the candelabrum. As the model went into steampunk, I quite liked the idea and decided to expand the “ingenious mind” concept: Xaphan 2.0 had to have slightly shorter hair, the same make up, a steampunk outfit and, again, the candelabrum. Also, by then I had decided his moth wings would have got burnt in the arson and he’d have also mechanical ones, which I carefully prepared.
When I went for the alpha version, I changed my mind quite a lot. First of all, I dropped the moth make up idea as I wanted to keep it simpler and tidier, and opted for Fabio’s usual bohemian-chic style for the outfit in order to have a more glamorous photo rather than sticking to strict gothic or steampunk styles (which would have been reduced to some minor detail if anything). I asked my dear Bloempje for advice about the outfit and she came up with the idea to have him bare-chested under a leather jacket, while I thought of the scarf and necklace. The latter is a choice that could be a bit controversial due to the many crosses in the necklace, but I really love the slightly blaspheme touch they give. Also, the glamorous pose came out quite spontaneously during a small break to show Fabio the previous photos and I liked it so much I just shouted him to freeze, adjusted it a bit and shot him that way. Actually, the Vogue-esque feel of this photo is what I love most about it. I eventually scrapped the insertion of mechanical wings as they just didn’t fit, just like other steampunk details.
As Ayl was very busy with her degree, I decided not to bother her and didn’t even ask for her candelabrum, going out to buy one myself instead. I found this rose-shaped candlestick by pure chance the day before leaving for the photoshoot and, after an initial reluctance, the idea of turning it onto a metal torch struck. Below you can see a detail of it with the fire: click onit for the full size.
Xaphan by *GothicNarcissus: detail
Xaphan by GothicNarcissus – detail. Click to enlarge.
Now some words about the characterisation: as my own Second Level was already quite crowded, I decided Xaphan would go to the Fourth Level instead, but as a Duke (a high title would be expected for arson in the Heavenly War). I expanded his inventive side and scrapped the fact he fans the furnaces with his hands (if he’s a genius, he would make them automatic, wouldn’t he?), and as a moth, I thought he had to be fascinated by the Demon of Fire, Barbelo. The torch and burnt wings represent his arson, while the metal flower and necklace his actual element. I don’t think I need to explain why the theme-colour is flame, do I?
On the other hand, choosing a theme-song proved quite difficult. I had some songs dealing with fire, but none of them truly satisfied me until Iron by Within Temptation was released earlier this year; it’s just perfect to portray Xaphan’s character.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Photography tips 3: Postproduction

After preparation and shooting, here we are with the third step in photography, a rather controversial one: postproduction. As I took for granted that a digital reflex be used, I’m also going to write about digital postproduction that, like it or not, is today part and parcel of the photographic process.
Provided that both models and photographers are human beings, and human beings are notoriously not flawless, the postproduction of a photoshoot is an unavoidable step. A photo that comes out of the camera already finished and ready for publication is a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, and only if the craters are pink. Provided that there is still a distinct line between photography and photomanipulation (you can add whatever you like which wasn’t originally present in your photo, but then you call it a photomanipulation, please), digitally postprocessing a photo is something as natural as breathing in 2011. Photoshop is one of the tools that our age provides us with, and considering it an aberration and deliberately refusing to use it is as anachronistic as deciding not to use Microsoft Word for writing because correcting mistakes is easier than with Jessica Fletcher’s old typewriter. Deciding not to use a resource is a choice, but not necessarily the best on, in particular when said resource is so precious and useful.
It’s up to each photographer to decide to what extent postproduction is licit, so here I’ll only speak for myself: I think it’s licit to fix things, both in the model and the surroundings, that spoil a good photo but did not depend on the parties involved, or could not be avoided while shooting, as well as things that just depend on the technical limits of the tools of trade. Trying to use heavy postproduction to make a bad or totally helpless photo look good at all costs, like trying to heavily alter the angle or such, is something I would not recommend. Same goes with trying to make a totally ordinary or uninteresting snapshot look interesting with tons of filters and textures.
Here are some tips that, if used to the right extent, will hopefully help you enhace your photos. Please note that this is not going to be a tutorial on how to actually do the postproduction, but just a series of tips I think might be useful.
I usually divide postproduction into two parts: the first step, when you fix little imperfections, and the second step, when you add some effects to the photo. Here we go:

1. Fix exposure, colour balance, horizon, cropping and such.
We all know: exposure is a bitch, white balance too, and horizontal and vertical lines may be forgotten when you’re looking carefully at the model. Provided that it’s better to get them right from the start, we are all human and thus not flawless, so some fixing doesn’t do any harm. In particular, if you are in the situation of having the right exposure in some parts of the photos while other are just off, there’s nothing wrong in fixing them either: once again, it’s something that was totally out of your control, so no need for qualms in these cases. Same goes for colour balance and so on: you have the tools to fix little mistakes, so use them.

2. Always use photoshop on your models.
Your models deserve to look their best, always. Make up and the right light can do miracles against a bad night sleep or a sudden skin imperfection, but what if those nasty eye circles or that bitch of a pimple show up in your photo? It’s not your models’ fault, nor is it a permanent feature, so just remove it mercilessly. But always remember that a face is tridimensional, so a certain amount of shadow under the eyes, the cheekbones and around the face, as well as the skin texture, must always be present (you don’t want your models to look like this, do you?). On older models, wrinkles can be softened, but remember they just have to be there. In this case, however, just remember to retouch not only the face, but also the hands, so that they won’t disclose your dirty little secret.

3. Respect your models!
Making your models look their best does not mean making them look whatever you think the best is. Altering your models’ features is deeply disrespectful towards them. Differently from temporary imperfections, their facial features are... well, their facial features, and if you want your models to look different from what they actually are, then you should have chosen a different model all along (same goes for their bodies). If you’re dissatisfied with a particular feature of your model, go back to point 5 of Shooting.

4. Take your secret to the grave.
“Of course no, dear: I didn’t have to use loads of photoshop on you! Look, I just removed that little spot on your chin and fixed the light, that’s it”. If your models ask, deny till the day you die that you had to do a lot of postproduction on them. Just minimize, if you have to. And never ever show them the original photo once you’ve edited it. You don’t want to shatter your models’ self-esteem, do you?

5. Take care of the environment.
Sometimes, you just can’t prevent all the unfitting stuff from being in your photo, even if you try your best with different angles and everything. In this case, just forget any guilt or qualms for covering that muddy hole in the grass, hiding that out-of-style trash been, killing the homeless man on the bench in the park or washing away that awful graffiti!

6. Combine different softwares.
While all softwares can do pretty much everything, you can try different ones to fix certain things. Personally, I shoot in RAW mode, so I take care of most of step one in Adobe Lightroom, which allows much more freedom than Photoshop’s Camera Raw, and then export it as a PSD and procede to retouch the rest in Photoshop.

7. Does the effect fit the image?Once everything is ok and you’re up to step two, be careful in choosing the additional effects you want to use. Textures, colour filters, black and white conversions, frames, writings and so on must be fitting, otherwise they would only look pointless. “Does this photo rely on colours to work? Or maybe on shadows and highlights? If I flatten the colours with black and white, of if I reduce the contrast, would it work well all the same? Does this texture valorize the features or rather cover them?” These are all good questions you should ask yourself in the second step.

8. Don’t overdo.
This is a piece of advice that works for both steps of postproduction, but particularly for the second. Even after you’ve found a suitable effect for your image, be careful not to overdo it. Many effects, such as highlighting a particular portion of the photo to emphasize the subject, work better the subtler they are. If the postproduction it soo heavy, it will only distract the viewer; on the contrary, if it is well balanced, it will act as a subliminar reminder pointing the attention to the right spots without the viewer even noticing it.

9. Always work on full resolution photos and save your PSD files.
The first part is obvious: working on full size images is easier and allows you to do an overall better retouch; I always resize the photos into web size once everything is done. As for the second part, you might want to edit something else you didn’t notice once the photo is saved to .jpg or .png format, or simply try and improve your editing after your skills grow. Rather than doing everything all over again, it’s better to have a PSD file with all your previous work totally editable. Also, try to use layers and masks as much as you can: the advantage is that you can undo whatever part of what you did whenever you want, even the smallest parts.

10. Be gentle with watermarks.
We all know some people steal others’ artworks, but let’s face it: if you want to be 100% sure your work won’t be stolen, then just keep it on your hard drive. If you publish your work on the internet, it’s because you want other people to see it, right? Then, what can they see if you put a big fat watermark on the most interesting parts? Too big watermarks would only spoil your work and distract the viewer from what you wanted to show. Again, it’s a personal choice, but I’d rather risk a theft while showing my work at its best than scar it. So, my advice is: let your name be clearly readable, but keep it mild and in some corner. After all, if thieves whant to steal, they’ll remove your watermark anyway.

Well, now you know everything you should and are ready ro go out there and rock. Just unleash your creativity and bring out your cameras!

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Illuminating is what we are
When we will be on the stars.

I will feel great
Without my weight
That I would feel
While on the ground.

Illuminating is what we are
When we will be on the stars.

Who would have thought that we
Could overcome such a thing as
Protruding the ozone layer
To find new species on the stars?

I will feel great
Without my weight
Pulling me down.
Would I still feel myself
When I hit the ground?

I will feel great
Without my weight
Pulling me down.
Would I still feel myself
When I hit the ground?

[ Illuminating - The Gathering ]

I’ve chosen this photo to introduce the post about my first male nude photoshoot because its concept perfectly represents what both Arrigo and I were looking for with this collaboration: a growth, a developement, the reach for a higher standard. I published it exactly halfway through the submission because this search for an illumination represents the encounter of Arrigo’s and my own inner worlds, a concept that represents both of us.
To Arrigo, this photoshoot was the right occasion to put aside his insecurities and try to express himself thrugh all his body; to me, it was a further challenge in my own artistic development. I’ve already explained my ambiguous relationship with artistic nude in my post about my collaboration with Briar Rose, and although I had already broken the ice thanks to her, I knew that shooting a man would have been different (just like my first general photoshoot with a male model, which was a totally different experience than with females). I consider these two photoshoots as the two faces of the same coin; firstly because they share the nude theme, and secondly because, while the shoot with Briar Rose had a pictorial feel about it, the one with Arrigo has a distinctly sculptural flavour. They kind of complement each other, and I consider them part of the same artistical experience.

Nevertheless, with this set I had a totally different approach than the previous. While with Briar Rose we only had the general idea of trying some nude shoots and improvised directly while in action, I planned the photoshoot with Arrigo very carefully with much advance, writing down each idea I came up with and sharing them with Arrigo, who did the same with me. I didn’t want to risk taking hollow photosh which would only break the nudity taboo to try and be interesting, so I really put much care into the concepts, taking ideas from wherever I could but planning each detail so that it would be necessary. I am quite proud of the results, as each of the photos Arrigo and I elaborated wouldn’t work without a nude model, for the concept requires it. It is either symbolic or funtional to the situation, and I really think none of these photos features a nude for nude’s sake, which is what I want to achieve with an artistic nude photoshoot. Also, you might have noticed that none of the photos show his penis, as I wanted to prevent it from becoming the main (often the only) focal point, as I know what a certain part of the “artistic nude” viewers look for, sadly, and that’s not what I want my photos to get attention for.

Speaking of Arrigo, his work was really remarkable. He was very natural and relaxed while posing, showing no sign of embarrassment whatsoever. We spent about six hours shooting, and everything went smoothly and without any sort of incidend (well, except for some trouble arranging the black bacground, which didn’t always prove easy, but that’s part of being an amateur without a studio). Moreover, Arrigo is just The Perfect Model for nude photoshoots, as he has both a beautiful face and a great body. What I often dislike about other photographers’ male nude photography is that they often seem to turn a blind eye on the average (or even ugly) face of the model as long as he can provide some inflated pectorals and is willing to show his penis. Well, this is not my case, as I consider my models as a whole, not just bodies, and I need the whole of them to fit my photos. Also, I don’t like excessively muscular men; Arrigo perfectly embodies my ideal of male perfection, as his body is defined and clearly manly but not overdone. I would most definitely like to shoot him again in the future. Due to the mature content, I recommend that you have a look at my deviantArt page for the photos.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Silver Lining

Silver Lining by GothicNarcissusThere’s a storm on the streets, but you still don’t run,
Watching and waiting for the rain to come.
And these words wouldn’t keep you dry
Or wipe tears from an open sky,
But I know, but I know, but I know I’m right.

I won’t let you drown
When the water’s pulling you in:
I’ll keep fighting, I’ll keep fighting.
The rain’s going to follow you wherever you go,
The clouds go black and the thunder rolls,
And I see lightning, and I see lightning.

When the world surrounds you
I’ll make it go away,
Paint the sky with silver lining.
I will try to save you,
Cover up the grey
With silver lining.

Now there’s no way back from the things you’ve done.
I know it’s too late to stop the setting sun.
You see the shadows in the distant light
And it’s never going to be alright,
And you know, and you know, and you know I’m right.

And I won’t get left behind.
When the walls come tumbling in
I’ll keep climbing, I’ll keep climbing.
The rain’s going to follow you wherever you go,
The clouds go black and the thunder rolls
And I see lightning, I see lightning.

When the world surrounds you
I’ll make it go away,
Paint the sky with silver lining.
I will try to save you,
Cover up the grey
With silver lining.

When the world surrounds you
I’ll make it go away,
Paint the sky with silver lining.
I will try to save you,
Cover up the grey
With silver lining.

[ Silver Lining - Hurts ]

Apparently, Hurts’ songs have a particular effect on my imagination, as the photos I base on the images they give me always end up to be among my personal favourites. After the first encounter with Evelyn, it was this song that made me fall helplessly in love with the band, and by the second listen it already evoked this exact image in my mind. I can’t effectively put into words the feelings this song gives me: a mixture of hope, happiness, carefreeness, gloom, melancholia, nostalgia and a touch of epicness and almightiness. The melody, the lyrics, the instruments, all are dufferent but blended into such an effective song that I can’t help but love it, in particular the last part, with the choir obsessively chanting the word “Silver” like it was an anthem or a spell. This is basically the host of emotions what I wanted to express with this photo. I must really thank my mother for taking it exactly how I wanted it to be, she did a remarkable work with the angle. It took a bit of editing to be complete, as shooting against the sky is always a bit tricky, but it’s like I just projected an image from my mind directly into the computer. I love this kind of moments, they are epic.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Photography tips 2: Shooting

Sorry for taking so long between the first and second photography tip post, but as you might have seen, last month I was really busy writing about the Infernal Lords, as I wanted the old ones done before I published Beelzebub. Anyway, here we go with pot number two, which is about shooting our photos.

Many photographers’ idea of shooting is just to bring their camera around and shoot hundreds of random photos from which they’re subsequently going to choose what’s worth publishing. That’s just not my cup of tea; personally, I find that method highly unproductive for myself, and appliable almost solely to non-portraiture photography, as you have to rely on what you see at the moment to shoot a landscape or an architecture. I would never consider portraying a random person or group of people I see in the crowd, nor would I consider shooting my models in a crowded place, as it just wouldn’t suit my idea of what’s aesthetically appealing (with only two exceptions in four years, one needed by the concept, the other due to sudden inspiration.). To fit my aestethics, I always choose carefully not only the subject, but also the surroundings, trying to be in control of as many things as I can and have my photo "out of this world". Put in other words, the world I portray is basically artificial, and everything must be in its place and recontextualized according to my own view.
With this said, you may easily figure out that each of my photos has a certain degree of study behind it. Most of the advice I’m going to write below are based on this standpoint, and I will take for granted that you’re going to shoot constructed portraits. Not all of my photos are strictly predicted, though: provided that the set and the model are always chosen carefully, I work partly developing the concepts I’ve elaborated at home, and partly taking inspiration from the surroundings, the current situation and so on. Basically, I shoot what I’ve thought of, and in between let inspiration run free. Both ways are equally satisfying for me, and my personal favourites feature both kind of photos, which I equally love. While seeing ideas you bore in your mind for quite some time come to life is really rewarding, being stunned by something unexpected is just as thrilling.

So, the big day has come. You got to the place, greeted your models, helped them get ready for everything that’s needed and then turned your camera on (not necessarily in this exact order, but you get the idea). Are you ready to shoot? Here we go!

1. Test shots are important.
Warm up. Take some photo of the set, then of the model, just to get into the rhyme, see how the light is and everything. This way, you will be more comfortable when it comes to the actual photos. Sometimes, you will love these test shots and will publish them too; sometimes, when you go straightaway to the actual shooting, you will find the first pictures unsatisfying and feel you have wasted some good ideas.

2. Mean what you do.
As I mentioned above, you can either develop some ideas you already have, or work on new ones that you get there and then. Whichever way, always try to be very focused: instead of shooting in the dark and see what comes out and can be saved when you’re home, take each of your photos thinking it must work. Of course not all of them will, as some will look wow now but be just meh then, but this way not only will you have less stuff to go through with postproduction, but you’ll also waste less potentially-good photos which didn’t work for some minor flaws you didn’t pay attention to. Working this way, I rarely have more than 100 photos to go through, and I scrap very few “groups” (see below).

3. Do multiple attempts.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you must take only one photo at a time. While being focused, always take multiple shoots of each idea you have. You never know what might go wrong at the first attempt and right at the second. If you are unsure about the exposition, try both slightly overexposed and underexposed photos beside the correct one, and do so also if you’re not sure about the white balance. Add variety, try a slightly different angle or perspective, but in this case take more than one shoot too. This way, you'll have not a single photo, but a “group” of photo to choose from.

4. Look after details.
First of all, your models are busy with posing, and secondly, they cannot see themselves from your perspective. Thus, it’s up to you to take care of their looks before shooting: always check if the hair or some part of their outfit is messy and adjust it. Details matter: sometimes, it’s the bad hair or the skirt that only covers half of the shoe to spoil the photo.

5. Take care you models’ flaws.
Your models are human too, so they will most likely have flaws. If you like them overall but just can’t get past some of their features, do your best to hide or soften them with your camera. Avoid certain angles if their nose is crooked, too big or somewhat strange, focus on their beautiful eyes if you think their mouth is too wide, crop the photo if you don’t like something. Rather than being disrespectful by retouching them into something they are not after you’re done, try to make them look their best while shooting.

6. Mind the cropping!
It sounds obvious, but while you can crop your photo after it’s taken, you can’t put back what you left out after shooting. So, be very careful not to leave out something important, like half feet, hands, head or so on. If you are unsure, I’d suggest a slightly wider square. Usually, camera producers are wise, so the actual photo will be a bit wider than what you see in the viewfinder, but you never know. You might sacrifice something in order for the photo to work better, but it’s better to cut aftermath.

7. The surroundings matter.
Don’t forget to have a look at what surrounds your model: the importance of the set depends on what you have in mind, but you must always pay attention to it. Some detail you neglected, both in what you leave out and let in, might make the difference in your photo. Most importantly, be careful of what’s behind your models, in particular their head: once I took a really good profile photo, but the model’s nose was just in front of a brighter spot which totally ruined it. Geez, it wasn’t a nice moment when I found out.

9. Behold the lines.
Be very clear with what you want to do with perspective. If you want to take a crooked photo, mean it; if you want to take it straight, do as well; and do so if you want the perspective to be upwards or downwards. This way, not only will you be sure not to screw the lines accidentally, but also to have your photo look aesthetically pleasent and actually done on purpose, rather than awkward and taken accidentally.

9. Reset the settings now.
If you have just used particular settings for a photo, like a different white balance, manual or selective focus, higher ISO or such, always reset them right after you’re done with that photo, or trust me, you’re going to forget about it by the next shot or session, with totally unpredictable consequences. It was pure luck that the tungsten white balance I used several days before and had totally forgotten about suited Musique once I opened my camera again, but you’re not always so lucky, in particular if you use high ISO speed or special focus settings.

10. Help your models.
We are all sadists at heart, but helping your models would be kind of you. Most of the time, the clothes (and in particular the shoes) they wear are anything but comfortable, so if you want them to walk on the rocks on 12 cm stilettos or climb on the tree with that skintight skirt, be kind and give them a hand. Also, if you want them to get all covered under summer sun or half-naked in winter wind, try to be as quick as you can while shooting, and check your settings before your models get covered or uncovered.

11. Enjoy yourself.
It sounds stupid, but the best way to take beautiful photos is to ejnoy yourself in the process. Have fun, try to be at your ease and make your models feel comfortable as well, laugh. If you don’t have a tight schedule, take your time: if you feel tired, hungry or like you’re losing your concentrarion, have a break and then start again. Be kind with your models and tell them to freely ask you for a break if they are tired as well. I particularly suggest that you bring something to eat, in particular if the shooting is going to take quite some time: as I suffer from hypoglicemia, hunger is the worst enemy of my concentration and I need to recharge my batteries every now and then, but everybody needs sugar in order for their brains to work!

12. Do not panic aftermaths.
If you don’t like your photos once you upload them to your computer, don’t panic. Sometimes you will love what you’ve done since the very beginning; most of the times, you will only after you’re done with postproduction. If the photo looked amazing on the camera LCD but is just ugly in full resolution, trust your camera: a good postproduction will restore all of its beauty. And that’s the step we’re going to take in the next post!