Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Look Fabulous in Pictures

Do you hate the way you look in pictures? Well this series is for you. I'm going to tell you how to look fabulous in pictures, and I'll also provide you with a little bit of insight as to why you like the pictures that you like.

Everyone knows that in order to look great in photos, you just have to be yourself and say Mozzarella, right? Wrong. In fact, as a former model, I'm here to tell you that I've been in your shoes and they hurt. A lot.

Go look at yourself in the mirror. Go on, go. I'll wait. As you're looking at yourselves in the mirror, look in your own eyes without moving your face. Is your head straight or turned? I'll bet that your head is at an angle. Most of the time, when we look in the mirror, we look from the side, with one eye or the other forward. We are making a triangle for ourselves, so that we look more interesting to ourselves.

In pictures, as in life, any part of you that makes a horizontal line looks less interesting, even something as small as your head being straight up, causing your eyes to lead the viewer straight across the page and off, enables the viewer to turn the page, which leads me to the most important part of a photograph: The Triangle.

In order to look great in a picture, in addition to the right clothes, makeup, lighting, framing, and body positioning, all of which I'll talk about at another time, it's a good idea to make as many triangles as possible. Check out this shot, which has pretty much won every award in the civilized world: It's a nice shot, at the height of
the action, I think it was my first assignment for the LA Times, and I just turned around and it was there, so I shot it, and my mentor, the incomparable Rick Corrales, looked at me and said, "Oh my gosh, you just took a great shot!" Well that was in the days before digital, so I couldn't believe that he would know that, but he was right, and I didn't know why, so he drew me a picture:

Tons of triangles. They lead your eye around and around and simply don't allow your eye to leave the picture. How does this apply to you? Tilt, bend, twist, cross, dip, pretty much anything that keeps you from being in a straight line. Consider a picture of my beautiful friend JB,
Now this shot is, of course, before makeup... Even if you are "nature girl," do not allow yourselves to be photographed without makeup, preferably a professional makeup artist, as regular "day makeup" doesn't transfer to makeup for photography. JB is posing like most people do, face straight forward, shoulders straight, a kind of half smile because having your picture taken makes you uncomfortable. Now here's a shot after makeup and making triangles with her head and shoulders:
She turned her shoulders to the side, and dipped her head to the side, and as an extra, added bonus, there's a twinkle in her eyes and a kind of Mona Lisa smile on her face that shows the viewer that she knows exactly how hot she is. Even her neckline and collar form little triangles that point back to her face, so if your eye accidentally slips off of her face, the neckline and collar point you right back into the action. Even taking it farther, if you add an elbow to make the triangle that keeps swirling around and around, encircling her face, and a super confident smile, make it into a painting:
Her eyes are at different levels, and the tilt from our left to right angles up to her shoulder, her back is making a triangle with her shoulder, the couch that she's leaning on is a triangle, which moves around to her arm, forming a triangle with her elbow, shoulder and face that's hard to leave. And she loved the shot! Of Course!

Monday, August 6, 2007

How to Make Something That Looks Great in Person Look Great When You take the Picture

My photo project today involved making a collage. Diving is a beautiful sport, but it's sooooooo hard to make a diving picture look good. I adore taking ordinary things and making them look cool, so I thought that this would be a good project. My daughter, Zoe dives, and her diving teacher is absolutely amazing, and we wanted to give him an end of summer gift for being so great, so I photographed him diving. Gosh darn it, it was super early in the morning, but the light still looks hideous, and there are distracting elements to say the least...ALL OVER! So I slowed down the shutter speed to show the motion, which I part of his arm is in focus, or not moving, there are some amazing strings of water splash from the bounce of the board and some killer sunspots, but no face on the guy, and the ugly brown building, those fabulous orange cones really don't work at all, so I decided to try to make something special out of it. I added two more shots, one of him diving, one of him getting out of the pool, because, after all, he is a good looking guy and also, there was some cool water pouring from his shoulders that I really liked. I saturated them a lot to be able to see them better, and softened the background to a kind of blurry neutral. I would have just made sky but I wanted to keep a sense of place for him, because he might be leaving and I thought it would be nice for him to remember the Anthem Community Center. I kept the people in the background to show him that he has fans, but for another design element: triangles. Yes, the omnipotent triangle. There are lots of reasons that people like pictures, but the triangle and rule of thirds are probably the most prevalent. They literally force your eye to bounce around the picture, keeping you on the photo for longer than normal. I use triangles a LOT, and I win awards a lot, so I'm guessing that they work. The people and the in-focus elbow of the blur shot make a little triangle that spreads out to Jeff's face. He's looking up and to our left, right at his left hand of the top picture. That hand makes a perfect triangle with his other hand and head, pointing to the next shot, which points with his head and hands to the blur, and the in-focus elbow, which leads to the close-up shot in the lower middle again. Even if you fall out of all of those triangles, the diving board, the line of flags, the roof on the top left and the roof at the right are all there to shove you back in to the main picture. So what if all of those triangles just pass you by and you're ready to turn the page? You may have noticed that I removed the orange cones from above the water, but there is still a red reflection. I changed the hue of the orange reflection to the same as his swim trunks, and formed a myriad of color triangles with the reflection, the blur, the other two diving shots, and his skin tone in the closeup so that you'll never, ever want to leave the shot. But I exaggerate. A lot.

The sun was too high in the sky and I was on the wrong side of my subject to get any good sky color, so I tried silhouetting Jeff:

It wasn't a perfectly black silhouette...remember, I can make miracles happen with an eyelash curler, fishing wire and a sheet of aluminum foil, but as far as solid, tried and true "there's only one way to do this" technique, I'm totally allergic. Anyway, I played around and came up with this: I kind of like it, what do you think?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Barbara Stitzer Photography First Blog

So, Hi, here, I am, Barbara Stitzer, technophobe, starting my first blog. I have owned Barbara Stitzer Photography for 14 years. I live in Anthem, Arizona, which is near Phoenix and Scottsdale, with my husband and two children, Zoe and TT. My husband took that picture of us over there. He was so proud that it came out that I put it up, but that will be the only photo on my site and blog that isn't mine. The things you do for love.

I have to tell you that, despite having won more than 400 local, regional, and national awards, including a piece of the Pulitzer Prize, I don't have any photography training, with the exception of Marilyn Sholin, Painter Goddess, who taught me everything I know about painting. I am too mortified about looking like a dork to ask for help, so I have learned everything through good, old fashioned trial and error, and I have always maintained that if you give me an eyelash curler, fishing wire and a piece of aluminum foil, I can pretty much take on any photo assignment, because I have done it and the first one that I used those tools for ended up in Vogue, so I guess I know what I'm talking about in a very non-knowing what I'm talking about kind of way. Good God, I'm articulate.

I do commercial photography of all kinds, from fashion to lifestlye, advertising and products to food. I love shooting models and senior pictures/graduation pictures, because teens are just so totally cool and have a unique way of looking at life.

Anyway, I'm going to be talking about what I do, how I do it, how you can learn to take better pictures, how to have a successful photo shoot, and more, and I'll have links to examples of what I'm working on, what works and what doesn't if you would like to see them. .. Here's a bunch for you to get started. See you soon!