Monday, November 30, 2009

pre-meets

You know, I just get more and more fond of brief pre-meetings with models before committing to a shoot. It isn't always possible with models who are too busy to do it but in those cases I can generally check references so that's fine too.

I had a gal send a picture of her looking super cute, long hair, very clean cut. Just what I was looking for at the moment. So I ask for some current nude shots, as I always do in these cases (even a little clothing can be very misleading - I've gained a real appreciation for what a good bra can hide.). She said she didn't have any pictures and couldn't take any but was willing to meet.

This is a pretty big red flag. Especially when they don't claim that they have a digital camera (and are sending you email from an iPhone! Or a Mac for that matter - I've received pictures that were clearly taken with the built in camera on all Macs and taken with the little photo booth application). Some models express concern about "picture collectors" but when it's in the context of somebody who takes nude pictures for a living usually what it means is that they're not sure they're going to go through with it and they don't want nude shots out there until they're totally sure. But still, if they're willing to come out here and do a pre-meet I'll meet with them briefly, although it's about 50/50 that they'll look good enough to shoot and of those it's about 50/50 that they'll actually show up to the shoot itself - many get cold feet. So there's only about a 25% chance it will result in a shoot. As a result we meet at a coffee shop a half block from my house so I don't lose much time. If they don't want to come out here they can get a portfolio first. It's just the kind of system you have to put in place if you want a shot at beginning models but don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

Anyway, getting back to this particular model - once she realized that since there was a step before the actual shoot she realized that she couldn't just guilt me into shooting her anyway when she showed up looking nothing like her pictures. So then suddenly she admits she has some more recent pictures, but they're still a year old (not that she'd ever mentioned it was apparently a 2-3 year old picture to start). And in the new picture she looks nothing like the original. Hacked up short hair of a different color, different features, everything. I would never have guessed they were the same person. Not unattractive, but not what I was looking for either. So basically she decided to come clean to save herself the trip if I wasn't interested in the reality. Of course it's still an old picture so really I still have no idea, but rather than be a douche and have her drive over here and undress for me even though I suspect that there's only a 10% chance I'd hire her I told her to skip it.

But geeze, back when I was first starting I'd probably just have had her come on by for the actual shoot. How awkward...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Extra light

I have an extra Alien Bee 800 unit that I really should sell. This was my main light from I think early 2004 until sometime in 2007. In 2007 I bought four White Lightning units over the course of the year (same company, but a step up) and it became redundant. I sold off my other bee but kept this one as a backup and thinking it might be useful on location, but I haven't used it in probably two years.

I just plugged it in. Fired the flash at different powers. It works fine.

"Gotchas"
1. The fan's abnormally loud, although if this bugs you I'd recommend getting a White Lightning instead anyway because their fans are on thermostats and don't run all the time.
2. There are two sync cords in the bag. If you're not using a wireless system they might be useful, but are officially "as is" because sync cords are notoriously flaky.
3. I do have the optional bag but the zipper's toast. I'll throw in the bag for free - if you want a new one they're really cheap on the Alien Bee site.

New they're $280 plus shipping. On craigslist they go for 80-90% of new, and if I don't get an offer by Monday I'll list it there. Local pickup only, preferably in the east bay. No lowball offers, please, last time I sold one of these I was physically handing over the light for cash about 18 hours after I listed it on craigslist.

Oh, and it's "Alien Green" for those who care.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday

Amazon's running deals all week, apparently trying to get ahead of the rush. I have a little sale set up myself on eBay for the store items for Thursday/Friday. If I have it set up right it should be the same price as if you had won them at auction without competition a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Model: Meghan

Here's the set with Meghan. That's nude shoot #30 for the year. The goal was 30-35, so yay. :-)

For those who prefer my studio work and who have noticed I've had three outdoor shoots in a row - the next one's a studio shoot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stable?

This is just a quick note to say that I'm done trimming down individual sets. If you get weird errors try reloading the last page that worked, and if it persists feel free to drop me a note (email address in right sidebar).

The process of moving/deleting entire sets is part way done with six gone. I believe I'm at 112 nude sets now so even if I were to remove another dozen if you can't find something you like you probably stopped looking by then, you know?

The picture is just to brighten the place up a bit with all of these status updates. I'll post her set once things settle down a bit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Even more housecleaning

The latest book is due to be retired 1/1/2010. I haven't had it in stock for a while so it's just a question of disabling it at the publisher. I'll probably do another one in the spring with the latest material (it's normally an annual project but 2009 got skipped due to the baby sucking up every spare moment!). I'll have to do a little competitive runoff - sending copies to Blurb and Lulu and whoever else does this stuff. Blurb seems to be the popular company right now but I keep hearing about people having all kinds of technical and service problems I've never seen at Lulu, but maybe they'll get things straightened out by then.

The other thing is I decided to give some warning about the "buy the set" experiment - after some initial interest sales have been slow enough that I don't think the ugly table I stuck on the bottom of each index page is justified. I might bring it back later if I can make it more attractive, but the current plan is to kill the feature sometime after 12/1/2009 (basically the next time I get the urge to regenerate the site after that).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heads Up Update

Just an update on a couple of things I talked about last week. I'm about half way done using Lightroom to zip through the sets quickly, re-rate them, and eliminate the shots that are not up to current standards. Depending on the set it's been anywhere from no change to a third of the shots - some of the sets have been slimmed down quite a bit. I'm about half way through the sets, working very roughly from old to new. Every time I do this I always end up removing something that somebody was just about to buy, really they were, could I put it back? So consider yourself warned. I usually do this roughly twice a year but with the baby it's been closer to a year since I've done a really comprehensive pass, and with the new 27" monitor the images are flipping by at slightly larger than 8x10 inches vertical or even larger horizontal so any tiny bit of softness or whatever and it's gone.

Once that's done it's time to do a quick set and see if there are any sets that are worth removing entirely. I've been better about keeping up on that approach so I don't think there will be huge number of sets being removed, but once again consider yourself warned because that's a more constant process and anything can go at any time.

Still loving the iMac - it's zippy and the big monitor is a big help. Once they get the latest Boot Camp drivers out I'll install Windows 7 on it - there's just a couple of useful tools that I haven't bothered to find on the Mac or I don't want to pay for an upgrade quite yet or the company's announced a Mac upgrade in 2010 and I'll wait until then. Plus there's a new Call of Duty out. (I note from the reviews that people are cranky about the way multiplayer works, but I barely have time to do single player let alone multiplayer... let's just hope they lower the cost by then because it's kind of crazy right now.)

It's fast enough I actually got the next set ready to go, and made good progress on the one after that. I have some portrait shoots scheduled but no model shoots. There's an urban nude shoot I want to do and a model who wants to do it but I need to get my butt out into the city at the right time of day and pre-check some lighting things. But mostly I'm on hiatus until the end of the year unless somebody on my wish list pops up. (Fire performer? Pregnant and don't mind signing a model release? My email's in the right sidebar over there.)

The eBay change took effect as planned - new items listed of as of today are at the new pricing, although I'm just going to let existing auctions run out without revising them so if you want to grab something currently online you'll save a few bucks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Never a bus when you need one

At least the bus stops are attractive.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cheap Drive

I have something like a dozen 1TB drives at this point (mostly backups - good thing too considering that my PC died completely.) I just bought a 1.5 TB Hard Drive for the first time because the prices are finally cheaper per TB, at least while this deal lasts. It's $130 and the 1TB version is $100. I have maybe a half dozen of the 1 TB model and they work great - the enclosure is basic but rugged. That's the enclosure I used to salvage the data off of my internal drives on the PC (just undo the screws, slide the drive out, slide the new one in, put the screws back in and roll. Voids your warranty obviously.)

I think the low price is because they're discontinuing that particular case design, which is a shame, so I have no idea how long the price will last. Anything lower than $150 and it's a great deal though.

Also note that these are USB only drives and not the fastest option. But I don't think most people edit on their externals - they edit on the fastest drive available and then use these for archiving. When you're done with a set copy it to a couple of externals and stick one in another room and another at a friend's house and you'll have a great backup system, even if something terrible happens to your main machine (stolen, water damage, virus...)

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Pictures: Zinn Outdoors

I just uploaded the new set with Zinn!

iMac first thoughts

Wow, that's screen's big. 27" turns out to be wide enough to block my printer. I'll have to do some desk rearranging when I get a chance.

I got various Adobe products installed but haven't had a chance to do too much with it yet. For one thing the monitor's not calibrated yet.

I did run the free version of Geekbench and in 32 bit mode my MacBook Pro does 3885 (2.8 core 2 duo, 4 GB RAM) and the iMac does 8357 (2.8 Core i7, 8 GB RAM). It seems reasonably zippy but I haven't done anything really intense with it yet.

First impressions of the new keyboard and mouse are very positive.

I'm working on my laptop finishing up this set. I'll probably transfer things over to the iMac for the final steps if I can get the monitor calibrated without any trouble. Hopefully it will be done tonight...

Update - Calibration went smoothly and I did the final steps editing the Zinn set with the new machine. It's very zippy - it does some operations literally ten times faster than my PC did. I looked online and the iMac Geekbench score for 64 bit is around 9500 - very impressive.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/11

One of the problems with running a blog with 50% of its readership outside of the US is that I feel sometimes like I should mention various US holidays, but it's not always clear to what extent people know what the hell I'm talking about. I sort of assume your average European has seen enough American movies to have the basics down, but judging from some of the folks I've worked with over the years (and had to explain the details to) maybe that's not a safe assumption.

Today's a weird one, because it's the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended WW I. It's kind of morphed in the US into Veterans Day which is basically about thanking living Veterans. In some places it's morphed into Remembrance Day which is I believe a little closer to our Memorial Day - a general-purpose day to remember wartime sacrifices but not based on WW I per say. And in yet other places they've maintained it as Armistice Day, which commemorates WW I specifically.

Just in case you're not confused yet, other countries have Veterans Days on other days, or similar holidays that are called something else.

Anyway, if you don't have a veteran handy to hug, you might want to note that the Soldiers' Angels Valour-IT fundraiser is wrapping up. They do cool things like make sure that wounded soldiers have disabled-capable laptops so at least they can stay in touch with folks.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Heads up

I'm doing a lot of stuff that's either planning or location scouting or back end work on the websites and I'll say more about all of that as things progress but one thing I wanted to give a heads up about in advance is that one side effect of making Lightroom catalogs of all of the old material is that it's much easier and faster than before to weed through old sets, and frankly a lot of them are overdue. So if you want anything, especially on the archive page (I'm doing the oldest stuff first), this would be a good time to get it. There's always a balance between making it easier to find what I hope to be the best stuff, and the reality that not everybody agrees about what's the best stuff. But I do try to go through and both slim down individual sets and I've removed a ton of shoots entirely (sometimes a hint remains behind in the form of one or two shots in the one hit wonders collection.)

I'm making a little adjustment to the way I do eBay stuff. This doesn't effect the "store" just the auction items. I've historically started them at roughly 20% below the usual price. It's actually closer than you might think because I charge shipping on eBay and not on this site. But I'm going to pull that in a bit starting in a week or so - make it more like a 10% discount although there will be some rounding to the nearest convenient price. Basically as time goes on I just want to give people less and less incentive to buy there instead of direct and this is just another little incremental step.

I'll probably be posting the next set (an outdoor set with Zinn) around the end of the week, yay. I'm really pleased with it and hopefully everybody will agree!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Time Flies

You guys remember Sarah T? There are still some shoots with her on the archive page, outdoors and in studio. It's some of the oldest material on the site. And later we did a quickie little portrait shoot.

Anyway, we've kept in touch and she dropped by and caught up, which was nice. She was kind enough to spend a moment in the studio, and while I don't know that I'll be posting an actual set or anything I thought folks might like to see what she looks like now...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

$2 haircuts

There's something about this commercial that just makes me happy...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

New Pictures: Helena

I've just uploaded a new set with Helena. I shot with her a couple of times back in the day - it's some of the oldest material still on the site, here and here.

There are definitely things I like and dislike about doing urban nudes with flash. You can shoot in places you couldn't otherwise, and you have more control over the lighting (duh) but it attracts a lot of attention and you kind of have to keep moving. Between that and setup it's hard to get a whole lot done. It's also hard to find locations that really benefit from it. I don't think I'm going to do that many more shoots this way - I'll mostly stick to ambient light (fast lens, high ISO, relatively well lit area) but keep the flash for when there's just no other way to make it work.

(I think I mentioned this already, but this is the shoot where we got a little attention from the police. Nothing bad - when she was nude up on the wall a police car drove by and just slowed a bit. They or another car did come by in the other direction a few minutes later but we were packed up (and dressed!) by then and they just kept going. I'm not sure if they wanted to chew us out a bit or if he just wanted a second look...)
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