“Thanks.” I say with a bit of a laugh. “But if I could get a job at National Geo, I wouldn’t be here.”
Karl Taylor’s DVDs are porn for photographers, just as Martha Stewart makes porn for homemakers and Norm Abram makes porn for woodworkers. I love Karl Taylor’s DVDs and I love his style and the images he creates. Could I create the same images that Karl Taylor creates by following his advice? I’d like to think so-but it would be easier if I had the super models and the Hasselblad as well.
As part of my recent attempts to improve my portrait photography I have been watching a few photography instructional videos. It’s great that so many people want to share their knowledge, but a lot of these things have the look and feel of an Army hygiene film. And few of them have any information that is useful for an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer.
I recently found an old copy of Dean Collins on Lighting, talk about a blast from the past. Dean shows how to take portraits with light panels, how to use multicolored lighting gels, and how to make everyone look like an 1980’s new wave video star. I actually tried a number of his techniques, and the results looked predictably dated. It was fun trying them out-though I never went all out and used the 8 foot P22 light panels Dean loved so much as my main light sources.
Karl Taylor has his own set of photography DVDs-and he even uses his own version of 8 foot light panels-his are made of white paper instead of non-rip nylon. Karl Taylor is unlike any of the other photographers I have seen in instruction videos. Karl Taylor acts like he really likes what he is doing. Most of the other photographers are so damned serious and so earnest about telling the poor, dumb photographer the difference between a softbox and an umbrella that they come across as condescending pricks. Karl Taylor is more like Ron Propel, he’s excited and he wants you to be excited, too!
Jack Reznicki’s videos for Kelby are also very good. He used lighting techniques I could put to use the same day I watched One Light Lighting. He’s about the only Kelby instructor I like watching. I didn’t follow his advice exactly, as I don’t have an 8 foot softbox to play with, but I was still able to get similar results using a 42 inch white umbrella. One funny thing, I happen to have the same muslin background he uses in the videos, though I seldom light it the way he does. I might have to give his background lighting a try as well.
Karl Taylor is a real gung ho fellow. He speaks in exclamation points! And to be honest, much of what he has to say doesn’t apply to Assembly Line Portraits taken for a church directory-but they are pretty damned cool shots. Karl with his $50,000 camera and massive amounts of gear and his small army of helpers is a lot of fun to watch in action.
Karl Taylor’s Masterclass DVDs show him shooting portraits and night shots in Paris, out in the field using a flashgun to paint with light, and in his Studio shooting near perfect models. I say near perfect as he spends the bulk of his Retouching DVD going over one of the models images-fixing such things as skin imperfections and stray hairs-which he says he spends hours doing. Makes me wonder how much he sells an image for if he can spend so much time and effort in perfecting it.
Being a studio photographer, I especially liked parts of Fashion & Beauty Lighting Secrets, in which he does a number of portrait shoots with single models. Two of these were mostly normal studio portraits, one result being the image above. One thing Karl does a bit different from Assembly Line Portrait photographers is that he takes a lot of frames of the same image-whereas we tend to snap one shot and move on to the next pose.
I was also greatly impressed by Karl’s outdoor shots where he underexposed full daylight while lighting the model with portable strobes. These are pretty amazing images-dragging around a couple of light stands with umbrellas is a lot easier when you have a two or three helpers to do the setup and tear-down for you.
It would be possible for an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer to do a few of these Studio shots-but it would also be a lot more work than any of us normally do. Karl Taylor’s studio has a number of simple light modifiers, 4×8 insulation sheeting that is either black or white depending on what he wants to do with them. Regular reflectors. Grids and Beauty Dishes for his light-heads. All easy enough to buy for the equipment I have, or to make following the advice of one of the DIY Photo blogs. For me the idea of adding more stuff to drag from location to location is enough to dampen my enthusiasm.
Karl Taylor’s videos are fun to watch and I might even try using his take on Butterfly Lighting. I would like to try that shot with the car lights in front of the Eiffel Tower, all I need to do now is figure out how to get to Paris. I wonder if Notre Dame de Paris could use a new photo directory?