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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Courses and tutors and learning

20 Oct 2020 9:39AM   Views : 884 Unique : 633


What are you looking for when you sign up for any sort of course?

You may be after specific solutions to a particular problem, or wanting to get a start so that you can gain traction in a new area. Almost whatever you do, you are going to be buying something that is only partly useful to you: whether this is something that you can live with depends on how hard it is to dig out the thing you want, how much chaff you need to discard to get to the wheat Ė and, crucially, how useful the content is to you. Thereís the money thing, too. If you have a really annoying and important problem, youíll probably pay quite a lot (in time and effort as well as in money) to find a solution.
For the third time since lockdown, Iíve signed up for an online video tutorial: itís the second time Iíve paid for it. Originally a live broadcast (which allowed those signed in advance to ask questions), itís long, and was broadcast at a time that didnít suit me. Itís a Thomas Holm erotic nude workshop, with a model called Lilith Etch, and itís five hours long.

The length allows for far more explanation and analysis, which is (at the very least) interesting. Thereís an awful lot in there, including a psychological explanation of what makes a successful image Ė and I can analyse images that Iíve shot in these terms, including the way that a good picture makes you notice it, engages your attention, and then rewards the attention with interesting detail. I worked from this in my Three Stages of Lookingí blog.

It appealed to me that the model and photographer hadnít planned what to do in any detailÖ Even for a live tutorial, the Great Plan consisted of putting four white posing boxes in front of a white background. At one point near the end, Lilith emphasised the importance of the photographer creating a safe space for the model to work: both she and Holm put a lot of emphasis on relaxation and having fun making pictures. Thatís actually far more important than having a mood board.

Also, priceless advice, and probably not giving away any secrets Ė always remember to put the flash trigger on the camera, and switch it on.

In the last hour or so, TH deals with the editing side of a couple of images. He uses Photoshop with a skin smoothing plugin called Imagenomic, and does a lot of work with curves, dodging and burning. Thereís a deal of precision and management of tones and contrast in monochrome. Interestingly, he uses dodge and burn at much higher levels than I usually do Ė 10% opacity, or even 20% with the brush tool on an adjustment layer. This is complicated stuff by my standards Ė thatís probably why heís making a living from his pictures and Iím notÖ

That part went far too fast for me: suffice it to say that one of the moves involved feathering a mask by 677 pixels, and the overall result is a ripped and bronzed look for the modelís skin. Some of the changes are subtle, and other things that seem to me to be rather distracting (defects in the finish of the posing boxes, for instance) are left untouched. However, this was done live, and a full edit would probably both take longer, and be less constrained by time!


Thereís some iffy sound during a slideshow that fills a technical and comfort break, but otherwise thereís an awful lot of material that will benefit any photographer of the nude, whether or not they wish to follow THís exploration of erotic images. And, indeed, thereís a lot for anyone who uses studio lighting or works with models in any way.

Five hours is a very long time to pay attention, and it took me nearly two weeks to watch all of it. I feel that the length was telling on both photographer and model at some points Ė sustaining concentration on taking images for five hours is quite hard work: more so if you are running the whole show, as Holm is. Possibly the ideal is to have one assistant to handle the multiple video feeds and computer programs that Holm uses. (This by contrast with the other paid tutorial, where there were two photographers demonstrating slightly different styles, a model, a makeup artist and two videographers in a much smaller studio, producing a much less useful result, to my eyes.)

Thatís nit-picking. Holm is a superb and self-aware photographer, and Lilith matches and mirrors his ability. Sheís now on my Ďwant to work withí list when models begin international travel again. And if TH ever runs a workshop in England, Iíll be saving my pennies to attend.

And Iíve downloaded a free trial version of the Imagenomic software, and played with it a bit. It deals only with skin softening, and it seems to me to do it well, and without eliminating all texture and character. Maybe Iíll end up buying it Ė though it is expensiveÖ But it gives a sort of burnished look that is very attractive for art nudes Ė not only does it seem to work far faster than Anthropics software (the only sort of competitor Iíve tried before), but is deals only with skin, without trying to reshape faces. Maybe another dayÖ

If all of this has intrigued you, but you are put off by the term Ďeroticí, donít worry. Iíve checked with Mr Holm, and the same content on composition and lighting are in his art nude workshop, also available online.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
20 Oct 2020 9:42AM
For absolute clarity, the pictures are mine, not Thomas Holm's. I make the point lest you think he's a lesser photographer than he is: I urge anyone interested to have a look at his amazing work online.

My models were Simone H at the top, photographed with a Lensbaby Velvet, Aimee_Is_Weirdd, and Freya at the bottom. I photographed Simone at f/8 Studio in Gloucester (Dave, mistere, will corroborate this!), and Freya at Silverwell Studio in Bolton.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
20 Oct 2020 11:03AM
My reason for applying for a photography on-line course in 2014 was because I had become stale. The course MyPhotoSchool with Michael Freeman made me go out and take a new look at things.
Much more satisfactory than 4 years submiting images to be scrutinised by camera club judges who seemed like ducks and lions and elephants above anything else and to want to criticise every tiny little detail of my pictures rather than praise anything.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
20 Oct 2020 11:23AM
Michael Freeman is very good indeed - his books are thorough and authoritative, so I imagine his courses are excellent.

I think the best camera clubs are very good: but it's easy for them to become cliquey, in all ways. A ducks, lions and elephants clique would be just as bad as a nudes clique...
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
20 Oct 2020 11:54AM
There's always something to learn on a course.

The thing is, does the course offer enough for you in terms of cost to what you'll get out of it? For example, a course or seminar may introduce a new accessory amongs a plethora of familiar ones. A novice would be overwhelmed and an experienced photographer may well get bored. A difficult balancing act for course design.
Five hours is a long time, certainly online.

Club judges, certainly in their judging role, don't have the time and resources function as a wholesome learning experience (what you'll learn most likely is thieir pet preferences and hates). They have their place, rather like fallen leaves having a place blocking a drain. I don't suppose they've been compared to that before. But it is seasonal Smile

I do attend free webinars using particular software and the youtube presentations on Affinity (some given by epz's ivanweiss) and there are always little tips and tricks that you can pick up.
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 29 Scotland
20 Oct 2020 12:17PM
Hmmmm - I used to use Imagenomic and am sure I have the file somewhere. I wonder if it would still work with my current version of PS.
Chrism8 Avatar
Chrism8 17 1.1k 34 England
20 Oct 2020 1:36PM
Hi John, you can turn off all the face sculpting modes in Anthropics and let it just sort the skin out, I keep the sliders well to the left if and when I use it.

Certainly any lassies I've shot recently and Simone included, don't need any skin work at all.

AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
20 Oct 2020 1:50PM
@Chrism8 beat me to it. As I was about to say that if I use Anthropics I will mostly turn off everything except the skin softening. I prefer that to to blur techniques in Photoshop or Skin Softener in Nik Color Efex at reduced opacity on a separate layer (NB. There's still legal free versions of the Google owned software about) because you can add back a skin texture into the softened areas.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
20 Oct 2020 3:54PM
I've used Portrait Pro, and it's slower than Imagenomic, and doesn't seem to offer the same innate subtlety. At some point, I might resurrect my copy, but it didn't impress me. That may just be me: I wouldn't deter anyone who finds it does what they want in a way they find comfortable from using it.

And that was quite a minor issue coming from the whole thing. As much as anything, it was the way that TH worked, and (I'll use the phrase again) created a safe space for his model. I know a lot of photographers who do that, including my friends on here: and I've met one or two who absolutely do not.

I think a lot of people who have never stood in a studio facing a person with no clothes on across a camera and lens may have taken their idea of how it works from TV drama, or from Blow Up - but you'd need to be exceptional to get away with that sort of bad behaviour, and I don't just mean THAT scene with David Hemmings and Verushka...
JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
20 Oct 2020 5:23PM

Quote:What are you looking for when you sign up for any sort of course?

To learn something is the obvious answer.

I rarely attend courses / workshops but one I did pay to attend ( including lunch ) also gave the opportunity to try out & learn how to use various pieces of equipment, filters, tripods, tripod heads in this case, with a purchasing discount for the attendees for a few days after the course.

These days I tend to watch Webinars & You Tube videos which in effect are free as I pay for the internet connection anyway.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
20 Oct 2020 5:35PM
I understand the appeal of free courses, and YouTube can be a wonderful source of information: though I admit that I prefer the quieter presenters who don't have big beards and buzzcut sides, and who refrain from calling me 'guys'!

My feeling is that it's worth paying serious money for a really good course, online or in the room: someone like Holm knows more than any five standard photographers put together, and (crucially) can build rapport and trust with a model. No big deal if you don't work with models, of course: vital if you do. He has one or two clips on YouTube - not to be confused with another Thomas Holm who seems much more prevalent on there!
JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
20 Oct 2020 5:50PM

Quote:My feeling is that it's worth paying serious money for a really good course

But how do you know that it will be a really good course in advance / before attending ?
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
20 Oct 2020 5:58PM
I certainly don't want to sound like I'm promoting Portrait Pro and I agree that it is or used to be slow to get it to recognise where the facial features are. But certainly the latest edition mostly seems to automatically recognise faces without manual intervention. To me the main attractions are: 1. It can be used free standing without people needing photoshop or Lightroom, 2. It will run for people who still use Windows 7, and 3, the cost at only around £30 (as there's always valid discount vouchers around) and I'm reluctant to pay six times the price for something like Imagenomic when I ought to be doing it unaided in Photoshop myself!

You mentioned safe spaces for models. Now one thing that I'm led to believe is that most photographers who shoot from home, or anywhere other than professional studios, don't have somewhere separate/private for models to undress or change. Such an area should always be available for models, even if it's just a curtain.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
20 Oct 2020 9:01PM
Fair comment on Portrait Pro.

I can't speak for other photographers, but I have a separate room that the model takes over for the session if she wants. I also have, generally, a dressing gown if the model wants one, washed after each use. I strongly suspect that many other amateurs make similar provisions, and that's only right. Some models will insist on this, soem simply don't care (or, maybe, don't care when they're with people they trust).

A safe space is more than a private area: it's reason for the model to have confidence in the photographer. That means - for instance - not emulating that scene in Blow Up, , not gawping at the model, and not making suggestive remarks: and I know that's a load of negatives. The positive side is treating the model with respect. Just about the nicest thing a model has ever said to me was 'I know if John's there it'll be OK'

A good photographic reputation is something it takes time to build - it means, for instance, deleting the odd picture because the model doesn't like it, and not holding to the letter of a model release form. Everyone makes mistakes, but one can avoid making too many...
Mrserenesunrise Avatar
22 Oct 2020 1:44PM
Another great blog John.
Lilith is certainly on my WTWWL .Her work with Barry Spence is very good.
I havenít heard of Imagenomic before so I will take a look.

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
22 Oct 2020 4:31PM
Tim, I think that seeing Lilith talking and commenting adds to the attraction of working with her. She clearly both thinks about what she's doing, and enjoys it. and laughs a lot.

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