Tuesday, November 25, 2014

'Running The Photo Asylum' Will Soon Be Moving!

Just a head's up. Lots of changes on the horizon at The Photo Asylum. Most notably, the whole kit-and-kaboodle is now being hosted by Squarespace. But more on that soon.

A major part of the reorganization of my web sites is the migration of this blog to the new location! It will soon become 'The Padded Cell', but have all the same news and advice as before, only with much much more!

Watch for the new blog in the coming weeks. Days if I can muster the energy to get the work done!

See you there...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wow! The Lady In Red! You're Perfect! Or...Are You?

 "Oh, Cordelia Brown, what make your head so red?" ~ Harry Belafonte

Like many photographers, my heart sometimes skips a beat when I see an attractive ginger. Man or woman, a handsome, pretty or even interesting-looking person sporting a shock of red hair is fairly unique, at least when it comes to our portfolios.

It's tempting to approach someone right off the bat when we see the hair. If you have any skill at all as a shooter, you figure it's a can't miss. A styling element that will automatically make your image jump off the page.

And maybe you'll be right.

Still, even those of us who are experienced at critically looking at people of every conceivable color, shape, and size (to the point of being our own casting agents) can be fooled by a single strong visual or wardrobe element, and it's often hard to separate the feature that may wow you in person from the way someone will actually appear modeling in a photo.

I know because it's happened. And when it does, and that special someone you swore was perfect when you met them just doesn't look right on your monitor screen, you can only shake your head and wonder what went wrong...

It's a question of learning to really look at a person critically and differentiating between street attractiveness, which many people have (regardless of how photogenic they are), and strong visual features that will come across in a wonderful way when you throw some light on them and the shutter clicks.

Ad photo for kromamakeup.com. Model: Katie. Makeup by Lee Tillett.
Red hair and beautiful face provided by nature.
So, what is one to do? Obviously, there is never a guarantee that someone you meet in person is going to look amazing or be great as a model at a photo shoot. But, you can put the odds more in your favor before you approach people, and that's what my advice here is all about.

Knowing that a person's hair frames their face, it also becomes clear that beautiful hair or a great cut, or in this case hair color can mask subtle or sometimes even major flaws in that face. So, just as casting agents and photographers often want to see potential models with little or no makeup and their hair pulled back away from their face (something that's not at all very practical when you meet someone on the street), I always try to imagine what someone I'm considering casting would look like with a different color hair.

Now, maybe this sounds obvious. Maybe it sounds odd. No matter. It works for me, and by works, I mean it helps me sift through folks that might have really nice or cool or red hair, but otherwise are nothing special when it comes to sticking them in front of the camera. And in my case, one nice feature is usually not enough for me to get involved with them as potential models.

Obviously, you're free to try to style and pose and shoot whomever you want for whatever reason you want. My point is, women with red hair or more importantly, those who change their hair color or appearance to get noticed sometimes get your attention using a bit of smoke and mirrors and for the wrong reasons.

In my experience, it always pays to take a moment and try to imagine someone without the feature that attracted you to them in the first place, and figure out if all the other stuff is strong as well.

You'd be surprised how often it's not...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Photo Shoot BTS Video Teaser From 'Photo Asylum Moving Pictures'

Well, the toothpaste is out of the tube...

Or, perhaps a more fairy tale analogy would be the Genie is out of the bottle. Yeah, I like that better, because what I've launched and the direction it appears to be taking me makes me feel as if there is magic in the air. And for a creative artist, that's one of the best feelings you can have.

I'm pleased to announce that the teaser for my upcoming behind-the-scenes video of Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Photo Shoot is finally in the can. And no, that's doesn't refer to the toilet, but rather an old movie expression from way back when referring to finished films being placed in metal canisters and shipped to theaters to be shown to audiences.

In this case, the video, the first non-animation project I've directed and released through Photo Asylum Moving Pictures, will flow throughout the internet to reach its viewers, but the dynamic is the same.

Photo Asylum Moving Pictures Teaser
Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Photo Shoot BTS Video

The ninety seconds that lauds me finally hanging out my video shingle, this miniscule World Premiere that announces my new company and an accompanying slew of new services for creating photographic and fashion motion content, contains only one shot of actual moving footage, a handful of stylized (degraded black & white) still frames, and a couple of visual and audio fx to playfully create an atmosphere that (hopefully) makes you anticipate and want to see the full bts video when it is finally released later this summer.

And that is exactly what a teaser is supposed to do. 

The feature-length film equivalent is the trailer: a short "mini movie" that ranges from the length of a television commercial to something up to several minutes and serves as a preview or coming attraction in a movie theater or on a dvd.

On the surface, it may seem like a bit of smoke and mirrors in the sense that it maintains a level of viewer interest in a motion project (for marketing purposes) without me really having to do much heavy-duty visual or audio editing. 

In that respect, it buys me time.

But don't be fooled by this false simplicity. The significance here is that the workflow, from start to finish, of a short teaser compared to a fully completed video, is exactly the same. And in this case, the learning curve and software choices to be made organizing and editing all the bits that go into what you eventually see here are also identical.

And so to me it is a big deal. I didn't just arbitrarily yank one take of a scene out of a pile of motion footage. I didn't just throw a dart at a board to help me decide how to create the audio soundtrack to put with the visuals. And I certainly didn't just string a bunch of random words together to pass along the particulars of what this film is about and when it will be available.

Like most art, and certainly most videos, much thought went into it, and there was a great deal of trial and error. Seeing (and hearing) what works and what doesn't. Altering the looks and lengths of scenes and sounds, and figuring out if they go together or not. Creating a pace and emotion to the entire piece that fits the time limitations, yet still gets across what both I and Kareen need to register with the viewer.

Speaking of Kareen, I want to be sure to get my credits, props, and thank yous in. One important aspect of the teaser is to give a glimpse at the variety of costume looks and locations she planned and used with model Lisa Fuhr to complete her Fairy Tale Series. That will suffice for now. Interviews and explanations of the nuts and bolts of the shoot come later. As do the obligatory humorous bloopers. Kareen was great in pausing her own work to allow me to get all the shots and multiple takes needed to complete mine.

A tip of the cap also to Lisa, who thankfully, knows how to play to my camera in both a deadpan as well as a comedic fashion, something I can assure you, a director does not take for granted.

And let's not forget Dennis Panzik, a pleasant last-minute surprise addition to the crew who not only was a big help with styling and makeup, but ended up serving as an assistant to both me and Kareen. Oh, and he can juggle as well, which many of you will find out soon enough.

Future motion projects will be featured on my Vimeo page, my YouTube page, and of course the video page on my website www.stevenpaulhlavac.com.
And as I've said before, and will undoubtedly say again, feel free to subscribe and follow me on my video sites, and please leave comments or ask any questions that come to mind...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

'Photo Asylum Moving Pictures' - Audio Track Promo

As I prepare to publish the teaser this Friday for my current motion project (a behind-the-scenes video of photo artist Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Series Photo Shoot), I wanted to take a moment to address a crucial aspect of filmmaking that often gets overlooked: the audio element.

Below is a video I currently have on my Vimeo page. It's the teaser mentioned above, but the actual footage is intentionally missing and replaced with narrative text to allow the viewer (listener?) to actively concentrate on the audio soundtrack, and better understand it role in the process.

Photo Asylum Moving Pictures Audio Promo
Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Photo Shoot BTS Video

In this instance, I used SONY Acid Music software and some wonderful loop collection music clips to build a melodic, yet haunting aural picture that emphasizes the emotion and tension of the teaser footage, and hopefully makes you anticipate and want to watch the actual video when it comes out.

I'll go into much more detail in an upcoming blog post of how I choose, create, and edit not only the music, but also the dialogue (there will be interviews in the behind-the-scenes video), as well as ambient sound and additional noises and efx I choose to include.

The reasoning, both of this promo as well as future posts dealing with the subject, is to make clear my skills with audio, and showcase my ability to include that as a valuable service provided by 'Photo Asylum Moving Pictures'.

In an interesting twist, I think of this audio promo as a sort of teaser to the teaser that will follow in a few days.

BTW, the idea of revealing a project piecemeal (the full video coming this summer) is one that is currently used on nearly all levels of commercial art, be it movies, videos, music, or books. It is all part of marketing my creative work to the public, social media, and hopefully clients and potential clients.

As always, I invite you to subscribe and follow me on my video sites, and feel free to make comments or ask any questions that come to mind...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

'Photo Asylum Moving Pictures' - An Idea Whose Time Has Finally Come (Part 1).

It's been roughly five years since the first DSLRs featuring video recording capability appeared on the consumer market. At that watershed moment, high quality motion imaging finally became not only affordable, but conveniently contained within the same camera package that photographers were already familiar and comfortable with.

Since then, many, if not most, still shooters have had to ponder and often struggle with the decision to begin acquiring and learning about video gear and software, film planning, production and post-production, and most importantly, packaging and marketing a finished quality product in order to offer these new services on the professional level.

I can tell you firsthand, it is not always a painless and intuitive process. Even many years of experience using traditional still cameras and lighting gear does not always immediately translate into the ability to shoot and produce great videos.

Then consider that the market is already saturated with established video production companies and freelance filmmakers that have spent a lifetime honing their craft, not to mention an army of amateurs with their camcorders and iPhones who think they can make a great video of anything they point these devices at.

You can quickly see that the very notion of joining this workforce in a competitive way can be...shall we say...daunting, if not downright overwhelming and intimidating.

And so, my coming into the fold and finally including myself in the big, bad world of motion pictures was not an easy decision to make.

Not easy at all...

This is the new "signature logo" for Photo Asylum Moving
Pictures. It appears at the beginning of each video to  identify
my company, sometimes with sound, sometimes without.
More on the striking imagery in a future blog post.

My personal transition to including motion in my photographic repertoire was fueled by three major developments.

The first was the cost of equipment, and how the price of what is needed to create quality film footage has dropped dramatically in a very short time. And while I quickly learned that video production is indeed a money pit if you insist on having every little piece of professional gear that's available to help you, most of the basics to get you started are but a fraction of the price they used to be only five or more years ago. The biggest savings, of course, is the simple fact that you can use all of your existing DSLR lenses and bodies to shoot.

Secondly, post-production and video editing software was created that works wonderfully on an average PC or Mac system, and much of it was incorporated into existing programs that most still photographers already owned or had access to.

Adobe has led the way by not only adding video editing capabilities into some of its Photoshop titles, but fine-tuned Premiere Pro to give it a very similar interface to PS, adding powerful, but simple-to-use features to make it a breeze to create a professional-looking product. As my Creative Cloud membership already gave me access to all of these amazing tools, it was a no-brainer to finally start using them.

Finally, as much as I try to shun negativity in this business, I couldn't help but notice that there is a sea of mediocrity out there when it comes to video and filmmaking. My years of competitive creativity and strong visual storytelling made it obvious to me that there is a lot of bad work out there, and at some point I knew I could do better, and had to start trying.

So that's it in a nutshell. A new and exciting chapter in my artistic life and the evolution of The Photo Asylum. Be a witness as I (hopefully) take on more and more challenging and edgy motion projects through my Vimeo page, my YouTube page, and of course the video page on my website www.stevenpaulhlavac.com.

There's much more to the story of my start in professional filmmaking, but I think this is enough for now. Look for many more details in a follow-up post.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

TBT - Fashion Photographer Patrick Demachelier 1993

"Throwback Thursday" (or TBT as the cool cats call it) seems to have caught on in a pretty good way on most social media. Each Thursday, you post an image from the past, hopefully one that holds meaning to you or your audience. The idea appears harmless enough, and considering how many older images I have that I think are interesting or at least fun, I've decided to incorporate it into my blog posts when I can.

The reasons should be obvious. Lord knows I need to start spending more time here sharing topics and items that are photo-related, and it seems to me these certainly qualify. Also, I'll most always have a good story to go with the pic, usually something describing the odd series of events or happenstance that led to the photo.

Today's will be brief, however, as this is my first one, and I am quickly running out of Thursday daylight!

You may or may not know it (I've certainly said it enough times), but for me, shooting celebs and club life on South Beach back in the 1990's was no big deal. Nothing artistic, simply being in a certain place at a certain time with a camera that had a dependable flash. In fact, a monkey with a camera could...oh all right, all right, I digress...

Yes, it was (and still is) fun meeting well-known people from various walks of life, especially the entertainment business, but I rarely get excited about the idea of rubbing elbows with famous folks. Especially if I can only take grab shots, and not a real creative portrait of them.

Still, there are exceptions. Which brings me to a particular run-in back in 1993 with arguably the number one fashion photographer in the world at the time, Patrick Demarchelier.
Fashion photographer extraordinaire Patrick Demarchelier. Sinatra Bar, Miami Beach, 1993.
It was early evening, and I was mulling about outside of the Sinatra Bar on South Beach. I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the place, other than I had to photograph someone there. I suppose you can dig on Google if you'd like to discover the history of the joint, but I'm pretty sure it was brief.

Out of the blue, walking up the street comes Monsieur Demarchelier.  Oddly enough, he was alone, although I've learned from experience that's not really unusual for people famous in their profession, but outside of the pop culture mainstream. Now this was someone whose work and career I not only admired, but aspired to myself as a fashion shooter.

You better believe I was excited...

As he strolled up to where I was standing, I was caught off-guard by how unassuming and humble he was. He almost seemed clueless about what was going on nearby and if he should even check it out. As if he was out for a walk and had nothing better to do.

Our conversation was brief, and no, did not involve me acting like a fan or much about photography at all, for that matter. I greeted him (by name, of course) and wouldn't you know it, he seemed genuinely surprised I even knew who he was. Perfect. A true gentleman.

We talked about how nice the evening was, maybe a bit about how great the Miami light can be that time of year, this and that, and eventually how lame the club seemed. If I recall, he even decided not to go in. I can't say I had the same luxury. Anyway, a quick snap of him looking debonaire, and we both went our separate ways.

And so, this photo will always remind me of my quick brush with true greatness in the very field I had chosen for myself.

BTW, Patrick's amazing work is available online: www.demarchelier.net