LensDiaries.com, Let the Stories Be Told

In today’s world of being anyone, including a photographer, we have to constantly evaluate our situation and adapt to the changing times, so I’ve launched LensDiaries.com, my new hybrid photoblog created to spread the gospel of photography as I transition away from an exhaustive, 11-plus years of conducting over 450 photography workshops and seminars to thousands of people around the world. At LensDiaries.com you’ll find the stories and technical specifications of photos I choose for your insight in my photography. This photoblog is an extension of the five photography books I’ve published–so please help me spread the passion of photography.

With your support I will add photography tips and multimedia content along with photo critiques. For the inquiring minds that want to know, I will continue to conduct workshops and seminars, but on a very limited basis starting in the Fall of 2010. This will allow me more time to continue with my writings, future books and my photography. My focus is aimed at smaller, more exotic workshops to provide a more semi-private and a more intimate environment that you sometimes lose in a larger workshop environment. I’m always available for private photography instruction, just contact me here with your contact information and best time to call.

I will still blog on this site and inform you of my schedule and other items that I feel are better left on here, on my personal blog. On occasion, you will see a replication of content on both blogs, but remember, this site is a more personal blog and LensDiaries.com is a hybrid of a photoblog and blog, so both sites will have unique content too. I will also shift my focus from workshops to concentrate on Photographic Therapy, as a concept and the website, PhotographicTherapy.com. I hope you’ll visit all three sites.

Overtime, with your support, LensDiaries.com will transform into a more established photoblog–-this is a photographic journey we can accomplish together. Finally, I close by saying that I need your help to spread the gospel of photography by tweeting all the blog entries both here and on LensDiaries.com. Please tell all your friends and colleagues through all the social media networks—there are Facebook “like” and Twitter “retweet” buttons, please utilize them, every tweet and mention helps. Let’s spread the knowledge together. Let the stories be told! Thanks, Rolando

Capture a Headshot Easily!

Tess' headshot from a more glamour shoot in Philadelphia.

Tess' headshot from a more glamour shoot in Philadelphia.

Often you’ll hear photographers or models commenting on their need for a good headshot for their portfolios and indeed, the ability to showcase your talent as a photographer of models needs to include a nice headshot.  Models, especially agency models, have comp cards to showcase their talents to potential clients and the front image of an industry standard comp card is the headshot, though I’ve seen many variations of what people consider a proper headshot.

I’d say first, don’t confuse an actor’s headshot with a model’s headshot, usually those are two different types of headshots and for this quick blog post, my focus will be on capturing a model’s headshot—not so much the technical, but the approach.

Normally when a model comes to me needing a new headshot, I take a simple approach. I set up one of my normal photo shoots with the model and let her know that if I see the headshot I’ll take it, as I don’t want to plan a “headshot shoot.”  I let her know most models, even some experienced ones, will “freeze” up when they know the photographer is focusing on a headshot.  So I educate them with the idea, that the best headshot comes when the model doesn’t know I’m taking one, thus, I push for a regular photo shoot.

Elite agency model Jenni provides a great comp card image from a normal shoot.

Elite agency model Jenni provides a great comp card image from a normal photography session that include full-length poses.

Basically, when a photographer and a model agree only on a shoot to capture a headshot, it becomes too planned and everyone expects it to be done in 30-minutes. Based on my experience, the model becomes a different person and a great headshot is usually harder to capture in this mindset.  Not to mention, the photographer becomes too focused on creating a headshot under a short period of time and tends to lose their creative passion.  It’s this passion along with great communication and rapport with the model that normally creates a marriage of the minds to bring out that perfect smile—when the corners of the model’s eyes are in perfect harmony with the corners of her lips. Normally a great photographer won’t achieve this in 30 minutes.

I prefer to shoot a normal glamour, fashion or flamour photography session and as the shoot evolves and I “see” the headshot, I step up to the plate and capture it—usually the model doesn’t even know what I’ve captured it in my camera and assumes I’m still shooting her entire pose.  One advantage to this approach, if the model is posing for me in sexy clothes, she’s going to feel sexy and usually it’s easier to capture one of the four S’s of glamour photography, sexy, sultry, seductive, sensual or a combination of the four in her looks. This leads to a more alluring image, a more provocative but tasteful image.

Headshots are like portraits and in most people photography, if you don’t have “the face,” you have nothing, no matter what the model is or is not wearing.  It’s always about the face when it comes to a great image of your model, especially the headshot.  So if you or your model needs a great headshot, the best approach, treat it like a normal photo shoot and capture the headshot when it happens, not when it’s planned.

Well that’s it for now and as in all my closing remarks, please remember our men and women serving in the military along with their families and friends, as ultimately they sacrifice many things in life to give us the ability to enjoy our freedoms.  God Bless them all and may they all come home safe!  Thanks, Rolando

20-Photo Tips, Working With Women


"A woman is a mystery a man just can't understand"--Billy Currington

A woman is a mystery most men don’t understand, and in the type of photography I do, you have to gain an insight into women before you even think about picking up the camera—and it’s not always easy, because everyone is different.

However, here’s some tips for you “male” photographers that might help, most learned over my 30-years of photography.  These are 20 quick, photography tips when working with women professionally as a photographer, not how to pick them up!

1. Many of you know I like to talk a lot, can’t help it, it’s my passion, but as a photographer, I build rapport with my subject by just being silent, and listening.  I become the bartender, beautician, clergy, psychologist, etc., and just listen.  Remember, pressing the shutter-release button is only five-percent of the equation for a great image.

2.  Smile, open her door, be polite, be a gentleman, don’t say, “Here, put this on!”  Instead, say, “What do you think about this outfit?”  Let her make the decision, don’t make it for her—the exception is in a paid client shoot that requires a female model, usually there is no choice for either party.

3.  Never say, “Make love to the camera baby.”  If she doesn’t slap you, I would. (grin)  Instead, as you shoot, say, “You look beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, or something in that manner in a nice, gentle tone.  Don’t over do it, keep it infrequent, but say it throughout the shoot more than a few times and be sincere.

4.  It’s about her, not you.  Your goal is to make her smile with your images, rapport, and for a lack of better words, “bedside” manner as an analogy if you were a doctor.  Remember though, you are not her doctor.  You are not there to solve her problems, only listen.

5.  Never say, “tuck your tummy or suck your gut or belly.”  Always say, “Can you please straighten your back?”  If you’re married, you know this already as your wife will some day say, “Honey, do I look fat?”  If you even hesitate to answer while gasping for air, you are wrong, the answer is always, “No baby, you look as beautiful as the day I first met you.”

6.  If she mentions that other photographers or photographs of the past make her look fat, say, “It was probably the photographer’s fault because they didn’t turn one hip away from the camera in the pose and a camera lens perspective will naturally add weight, especially if the hips are photographed straight on.”

7.  Never say, we can fix your wrinkles or “crow’s feet” in Photoshop.  Instead, say (if she asks about wrinkles around her eyes), “That’s just the good-life and I’ll take care of it for you naturally, don’t worry about a thing.”  Taking care of it in Photoshop is nothing a model really wants to hear, because in essence, you’re acknowledging she’s got faults.  And for the record, photo editors and art directors don’t want to hear that either.

8.  Never refer to augmented breasts as “fake” even if she calls them that.  Breasts are all real, augmented breasts are just enhanced.  The skin and breast tissue, augmented or not, are real.

9.  Explain to your subject you’re there to capture her inner beauty too, not just the outer beauty that anyone can capture with a disposable camera.  You’re there because you’re a professional at capturing that inner beauty.

10.  Compliment, compliment.  Compliment her eyes, her hair, her legs, her physique, her voice, her ladyness, her talent.  Compliment anything you can along the way.  Give your subject confidence, do not destroy it and she’ll send you more customers by word of mouth.

11.  Never offer to be a model manager and manage her career, real professionals in the modeling and photography industry despise model managers and respect licensed model agents or bookers.  You are a photographer, stick with what you know best not what you think you know—you’ll only annoy us professionals as I avoid “model managed” subjects like the plague as do most agencies and credentialed photographers.

A perfect smile comes from a relaxed model, when the corners of the eyes are in harmony with the corners of the lips.

A perfect smile comes from a relaxed model, when the corners of the eyes are in harmony with the corners of the lips.

12.  Use a make-up artist when all possible and let your make-up artist pre-grease the skids for your first shoot with your subject.  A good MUA knows how to comfort and build confidence in your subject before you ever start.  A good MUA supports you and collects a check, a great MUA is loyal, understands your work, and knows she’ll be well-compensated for her talents, but not just with money, but with future work and references.  Loyalty comes with loyalty, just like respect.

13.  If you’re not sure you might offend your subject, ask another female first.  Walk up to a mirror, then ask yourself what you plan on asking of your subject.  If it sounds weird or strange to you, it will be tens times worse to your subject.  Be considerate in all you ask your subject and never force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.  Remember, it’s all about the face, not what she’s wearing or not wearing.  No face, and the rest doesn’t matter, you might as well cut your shoot off.

14.  A models portfolio should only contain one or two of your images and one or two of other photographers, no different than your hand-carried portfolio should be a book diverse of talent from various models.  This can differ on specialized on-line portfolios, like my Moab Light portfolio on my .com pro site by Livebooks.com.

15.  If all seems not to be working right, reschedule the shoot and go back to item #1 on this list and start over from scratch—the past is the past.

16.  Build rapport with your subject. Rapport starts with the first email, phone call, etc., and never stops, even after the shoot.  Like credit it takes time to build and one incident to destroy it.  Rapport never starts when you pick up the camera, it just continues from the beginning and never ends.

17.  It’s about quality, not quantity, do not “spray and pray,” make each shot count and only show your subject the best images in the end.  Never burn a CD and give her everything you shot.  The real difference between a professional photographer and an amateur isn’t money, it’s the fact that a professional photographer understands what makes a image good or great and never shows their bad images—we all take them.  It’s called “burning film” to get to where we need with our subject.

18.  Never tell your subject your problems.  They are their because they want to feel like the queen for the day, not your psychologist, bartender, beautician, etc., they are your subject, it’s their day, not yours.

19.  Make sure your equipment is ready to go the day before, camera batteries charged, lights ready to go.  Don’t look like a clumsy fool during your shoot, otherwise your subject will not have confidence in you or your results.

20. Joke with your subject casually, not obnoxiously.  Joking, especially mild humor relaxes the facial muscles.  If you can’t do that, provide some chocolate, better yet, dark chocolate, it’s best, but have both.  Forget white chocolate.  The idea is a relaxed face and make sure the clothing you select or ask her about is something she’s comfortable with, otherwise you’ll wind up with “tight face” images which is wasted time for you both.

Well that’s straight off the top of my head as I write this blog entry in five minutes or less.   Please don’t forget our military members, their families and friends this holiday season while you open gifts or sit by that warm fireplace.  Without them, you wouldn’t have that luxury or the luxury of photographing a beautiful subject.  God Bless, thanks, Rolando.

Phototherapy, Photographic Therapy, Therapeutic Photography–Yes, it’s Real!

American Idol Star Amy Davis, misses her hubby during a Virgin Islands Workshop

American Idol Star Amy Davis, misses her hubby during a Virgin Islands Workshop

After the article, “Posing naked for a women’s magazine felt brave and shocking,” by Melissa Whitworth came out in the UK’s version of Glamour magazine, the photographic therapy (phototherapy, therapeutic photography) topic has risen in photography forums world-wide. In fact, the very next day, I was called by a journalist and psychologist Clara Soares from the largest, weekly Portuguese newsmagazine Visão (www.visao.pt)  and answered some interview questions (actual story here)

The following day, I noticed the topic on one photography and model forum and as I engaged in the conversation, one female photographer said “…but I think that saying photography is therapy IS psycho-babble.”

Photography as therapy is not psycho-babble. I can tell you stories after stories, like the young woman, a former military police sergeant in the U.S. Army whose ex-husband used to beat her. She is not only intelligent, but beautiful and stands at 5′-10” tall. I photographed her for Playboy and she’s in my first photography book. She also modeled for me in some of my glamour photography workshops after she left the U.S. Army as an active-duty soldier. The process of our photo shoot, as she said, “Made her feel like a woman again.” She’s now remarried, with family and is a Federal law-enforcement agent. She’s obviously not working workshops or posing for Playboy anymore. She served and still serves her country well and patriotically.

I had another subject whose husband left her for the bridesmaid of their wedding. She’d just returned from completing the U.S. Air Force Officer Candidacy School and found her own clothes thrown on the front porch and her husband in bed with her best friend. Obviously it was instant divorce. Prior to her military enlistment she was a Wisconsin beauty pageant queen, in fact, she won the “Miss Photogenic” award and was the third-runner-up for this state beauty pageant. She felt hurt in this relationship to a point where she hated men for some time afterwards. During the phototherapy process, she stated, “This makes me feel beautiful and like a woman again.” She’s now happily remarried to a military pilot and they have kids and she’s honorably discharged out of the military service.

Another subject I was hired to photograph for a bariatric surgeon friend had lost 131 pounds thanks to that type of surgery—at the time she was 31-years of age. She’d come over for the “after” photo the surgeon had paid me to capture, a normal one-hour at the most photography session where the subject is photographed up against a plain, seamless, background paper illustrating how much weight she’d lost. I loved her charismatic qualities and inner- and outer-beauty, so I asked her to let me photograph her in a more “glamour photo,” perhaps on the couch or on the bed—for those wondering, with clothes, no nudity was involved. She mentioned no man had ever given her a second look and just to be in front of the camera, made her feel beautiful and like a woman again.

After the shoot, both her and my 275-pound assistant at the time, a tough guy that looked like he was a member of the Mexican Mafia, cried when I showed her the photos on my Apple Cinema display immediately after the shoot. I did something I rarely do, I burned her a CD of every photo taken and handed it to her, free of charge. She was beautiful with a clean complexion, there was no need for post-production. She gave me a big hug with tears still dripping from her eyes, that hug was my photographic therapy.

Now, to credit the photographer that made the initial statement about photographic therapy as psycho-babble, she also said, “An insecure woman may trust the photographer, but what if she trusts the wrong photographer? Wouldn’t that do more damage than good? “

A photo of "Shelby," a 27-year-old mother of two children.

A photo of "Shelby," a 27-year-old mother of two children.

She is precisely correct, the wrong photographer photographing someone in a depressed state of mind can make that depression worse. Depression kills. Depression comes in many forms from many things including postpartum depression. Just ask Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields about the latter form of depression. The problem is, most of the time we don’t know what’s on a person’s mind, hence building rapport with our subject is of the utmost importance before, during and after the shoot. A photographer, without prying too hard, should know enough about their subject to understand their state of mind, but a photographer should never think they are there to replace a trained, medical professional.  A photographer must learn when to listen and heed what they hear.  A photographer must know when to ask the right questions, how to ask them, where to ask them and why to ask them to help build that rapport between them in addition to understand their subject better and to help the phototherapy process flow with positive images.

If a photographer’s subject suffers from depression and that photographer doesn’t know how to recognize it, no matter how slight the depression may be, it can lead to a bad situation. A photographer should only look at their photography as a “layer” of treatment helping to build or re-build self-esteem but never to replace a physician prescribed drug or as a substitute for a therapy session by a trained, medical professional. Statistically, there are more male photographers than females, and even though some males feel they understand women, they will never know what it’s like to be a woman.

Motherhood is a good example. Unless a photographer has delivered a baby through a bodily canal, I doubt they understand what it’s like to give childbirth. It has nothing to do with changing diapers after the fact, that’s what good Dad’s do to help Mom’s out during postpartum recovery. “New mothers” go through a complete body change after childbirth. Photography is awesome, if done right, to make moms feel more secure about themselves again. Another article I wrote for my blog, Is it a Lens Barrel or a Gun Barrel? addresses that statement. Bravo for the photographer on the forum that brought this up because if a photographer doesn’t know what they’re doing, they can make postpartum depression worse and perhaps even leave a new child motherless for their entire life.

We grow up with "Ken and Barbie," but this photo of my daughter and her husband on their honeymoon illustrates that romance is there, no matter what physical features you don't see.

We grow up with "Ken and Barbie," but this photo of my daughter and her husband on their honeymoon illustrates that romance is there, no matter what physical features you don't see.

Now that leads me to another phototherapy experience. I had a subject, 8-weeks into motherhood. Her figure was gorgeous, though she didn’t think so. It was her first child, her only marriage. She wanted to “rekindle” that romance with her husband of a few years because she felt her body had changed and the fact that she had to give so much attention to her new-born that left no time for her husband. She also wanted this photographic therapy session for a surprise Valentines Day gift, a sweetheart romance gift, all for him. You could see the love for him in her eyes as she asked me to help her create the perfect photographs of her for this romantic moment she was so meticulously planning.  She wanted to show him she was still beautiful.

She hired me to photograph her on the beach in conservative swimwear and some fashion beach clothes. I photographed her for two days, never did she pose nude in any form. Never did I photograph her suggestively in any sorts. Beach clothes and swimwear, the most risqué, if you want to call it that, was a two-piece, full-bottom, bikini. She presented these photos from her phototherapy session to her husband with red-wine, strawberries and chocolates on Valentines Day right after consuming the in-home, candlelight dinner she’d carefully prepared all day—the baby was with the sitter that evening and night purposely so they could have this romantic time without interruption. She’d even disconnected the telephone.

It was a long-overdue romantic, quality-time with her husband, she later told me. All went well until she proudly presented her hubby with these professional photographs. Perhaps it was the wine, perhaps it was the built-up sexual frustration, perhaps it was insensitivity, perhaps it was the fact he was just a jerk. We’ll never know, but ultimately, he accused her of being a “slut” a “whore” a “worthless piece of crap” all because she had posed in photos with a male photographer–they are now divorced. She still cherishes those photos today and actually is thankful that she found out what she really married. She’s a proud parent feeling sexier and secure than before those photos were ever taken.

Moral of that story, no matter how good the photography or photographer is, no matter how much the subject “needs” to go through the phototherapy process and no matter how good it makes the subject feel and how much it can uplift self-esteem, others can still destroy it.

I might add, phototherapy isn’t just for women in their 30’s, like writer Melissa Whitworth, or women in their 40’s or even 50’s, it has a lot to do with women of every age and perhaps society is the reason. The minute we’re born, momma takes us to the grocery store. There we sit, in the grocery cart. As momma puts our baby food on the conveyer belt at the checkout counter we see magazines galore in every direction that we look. Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated Swimwear, the weekly trashy rags too, all filled with buxom Barbie looking beauties proudly displaying their cleavage.

Young girls grow up with Barbie dolls–never are the dolls over-weight or middle-aged. When is the last time you saw a single parent, Barbie Mom? Society trains young girls way before puberty with the belief that to capture your perfect male playmate, he must be a tall, blonde, blue-eyed “Ken,” and that girls grow up to be a tall, slim, curvy, blonde, bombshell, Barbie.

As men, even our self-esteem is hurt when we realize we are not Ken. We accept who we are and move on. We age gracefully with our salt and pepper beards and hair. Perhaps that’s why many photographers, like myself, feel photographic therapy from the back-end of the camera, knowing we’re making our subjects happy with the results because obviously it’s not with our Ken-less looks.

Nudity is not a requirement of your subject during phototherapy.  It's ultimately your subject's decision if she will or will not pose nude for the camera.

Nudity is not a requirement of your subject during phototherapy. It's ultimately your subject's decision if she will or will not pose nude for the camera.

Society teaches us that the perfect body comes in many forms, from Playmates to Victoria Secret Angels. Our dads unknowingly add to that on football Sunday when the video camera pans across the playing fields broadcasting the sexy, slender, sultry and sensuous cheerleaders with butt cheeks and cleavage hanging out their mini-outfits. Bookstores across the world sell their cleavage abundant calendars, we later put them on our walls or desks to remind us year-round what we’ve been trained to like in qualities of a woman.

We see all kinds of television shows celebrating “T and A” in many forms, the television industry executives know, “Sex sells.” One of the hottest shows around the world was Baywatch and it was often joked about at the office the next day as “Babe Watch.” Our own society has programmed us to accept certain things, hence why the United States is a leader in the volume of breast implants and plastic surgery. I’m even sure the same holds true for tanning salons and Botox treatments. We are guilty, even I, as a photographer whose portfolio includes Playboy Playmate beauties, for creating this perception.

Do I regret it? No. I enjoy making women feel great about themselves because of my camera.  My finished photos and post-production with Adobe Photoshop fills in the gaps to help them look like that Barbie they never will be.  Perhaps that’s why the term “Photoshopped” was coined, because like a darkroom, it allows for corrections of blemishes with the clone and the flattening of stomachs with a little liquify tool.  “Heck, you want big breasts, no problem, just liquify them right out in Photoshop,” is something I’ve heard photographers tell models at some of my workshops.

I was hired by St. Martin’s Press to photograph a New York Times best-selling romance author, Lisa Kleypas for her first mainstream book, Sugar Daddy.   At the time, Lisa was a 42-year-old mother of two and  explained to me before the shoot that she didn’t want to look “fat” in her photos.  I understood.  Lisa later wrote on her blog, “This is the photo that will go on the back of Sugar Daddy. Lisa-au-casual. It was taken by an incredibly talented photographer, Rolando Gomez, who is great at making women look their best. He finds the right angles and the right lighting, and he makes you feel comfortable and unselfconscious. The photo hasn’t been touched up or photoshopped . . . which leads to the following confession: Before the first picture was even taken, I was looking forward to that photoshopping.”  (read more from Lisa and myself)

New York Times best-selling romance author, Lisa Kleypas in the original photo chosen for her book, Sugar Daddy.

New York Times best-selling romance author, Lisa Kleypas in the original photo chosen for her book, Sugar Daddy.

As proven through her book sales, Lisa understands the female audience well and the market for romance novels is extremely large in the book industry. Romance novels are the fairytales many Barbies experienced, perhaps the foundation for those novels started at the Barbie stage, obviously without the more provocative and sexually discriptive vocabulary.

The Internet model and photography websites are no different. I’ve seen profiles of models that display anger because people criticize how they look in their more poorly done photos, especially when the photographer does no post-production or doesn’t know how to do it properly. Thankfully for them, a seasoned professional photographer knows photogenic beauty when they see it and normally does not judge a model’s talent for lack of the photographer’s talent or photoshopping skills.

I’ve already written about 35,000 words of a 50,000-word book on phototherapy and it wasn’t done overnight. A typical book takes at least a year to write, this one I’ve been working for what seems like 20-years because the experiences come from my 30-plus-years as a professional photographer. This is not a book of photos or photo essays, this is more a book of words, perhaps a follow-on book will be more a photography book, coffee-table oriented. Unlike my previous three photography books (fourth due out soon), this book on phototherapy is a mainstream book for everyone. The more specific target audience is people who believe in the power of photography to help build or re-build self-esteem. Ultimately I hope that a reader will come to realize that a close friend or family member is in need of a little phototherapy in their life and will recommend a well researched-out photographer. Perhaps they will indirectly save a life with this recommendation. Photographers will hopefully learn from this book by simply understanding the phototherapy process and scenarios.  (Literary agents take note, I don’t have one, but need one!)

My only hold back, unlike “How-To” photography books, mainstream books require a good literary agent if you want to land a decent publisher. This type of book not only requires a top publisher, but it deserves it. I also want to add, while Melissa Whitworth’s article in the UK’s version of Glamour magazine was about “nude” phototherapy photography, I firmly believe nudity is not a requirement though the subject should have that as an option. The golden rule in any type of photography, whether it’s coined photographic therapy, phototherapy, therapeutic photography, etc., is that the photographer should never force their subjects to pose in any manner they don’t want. It should be a marriage of the minds between the subject and the professional photographer, a collaboration to create photographs that will ultimately please the subject and enforce her self-esteem in a positive manner.

Well I close now, and if you want to hear my thoughts, here’s an interview I did in Oct. 2006 while attending Photo Plus Expo in New York as a guest speaker–yes, I’m speaking this year again, though a different topic.  Enjoy, and don’t forget our service men and women, their families and friends and all those that help protect our freedoms.  Thanks, Rolando