My Afternoon with Frida

What fun we had today – trying to photographically interpret a Frida Kahlo poster that I had seen on the web. I found the poster after watching the movie, Frida, and then by doing a search on the web for the artist's life and work.

When I say "we," I mean my model, Gloriana "Glo" Gonzalez, who happens to be my friend Gonzalo's daughter, and my stylists/photo assistant, Susan Sammon, who happens to be my wife. :-)

The project was surely a team effort, so I only take 1/3 of the credit for the final photograph - which is one of my favorite studio portraits.

Here's a look at the evolution of "My Afternoon with Frida" photograph, which I made with my new Canon EOS 5Ds and Canon 100mm lens. The details (including the smallest eyelash) that the Canon 5Ds captures is astounding. Click here to read a previous post on the camera.

Here are the screen grabs of the Frida Kahlo posters that I found on the web. I did not want to copy the poster on the left exactly. Again, I used the poster as a suggestion. I wanted to do my own interpretation.

I don't have a studio, so I turned my office into a temporary studio. Setting up a home studio is the topic of my next KelbyOne class, which will be on-line later this year. For now, my most popular KelbyOne classes are listed on my Learn On-Line page.

Above is a shot I took of Glo before the official shoot. I asked her to pose so I could test the lighting before we got serious – if you can call having this much fun being serious. My lighting was two Westcott Spiderlites – which provide beautiful constant, even and soft light.

Earlier that day our team went to a Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft store and picked up the props (material background, flower headpiece and costume jewelry) we needed. Cost was $80 with Glo's student discount. Above is a shot that I took in our kitchen of Susan helping Glo get ready for the shoot. We had the poster of Frida printed out, as well as displayed on Glo's iPhone, so we could match, as closely as possible, the position of the props.

Here are two fun shots of Glo. Left: taken while I was testing the lighting. Quick tip: Test the lighting before an actual shoot. That will make your shoot go faster and smoother. Right: taken while I was joking around with Glo so that she would be relaxed for the shoot.

Glo has a inner and outer glow about her, but to enhance that glow and to soften her skin, I used Perfectly Clear, the number one plug-in I recommend for enhancing portraits. You can get a discount on Perfectly Clear on my Save On Plug-ins page.

Here's my photograph of Glo after applying Perfect Clear. For a realistic photo effect, I like the image. But I thought, after looking at the image for a day, I'd try a more artistic approach.

To add a painterly quality to the image, I applied the BuzSim filter in Topaz Simplify - another one of my favorite plug-ins. You can also get a discount on all Topaz plug-in on my Save On Plug-ins page.

Glo could not believe the first shot I took when I showed it to her. This behind-the-scenes photo by Susan captures her surprise. Added to her surprise: We (again it was a team effort) nailed it on the very first shot. I took six more photographs, but the first image was our favorite.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the poster and my photograph. Sure, they are different images, especially when it comes to the feeling and mood of the images. Frida suffered greatly with pain most of her life (from a terrible bus accident). I wanted a more uplifting image.

If you want to learn about lighting and portraiture, try this:  find a photograph or painting that you like and try to recreate it . . .  using your own style. Above are two of my photographs that illustrate this idea. Left: My interpretation of Rembrandt's Old Man in a Military Costume. Right: My interpretation of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Both of these images were taken in my office.

Explore the light,

What's New?

My 36th book: Creative Visualization for Photographers. The story of my Girl with Pear Earring photograph is in the book, as well as tons of tips and processing ideas for shooting indoors and out.

My 2016 photo workshops, where I encourage my workshop participants to visualize the end result, as we all did for "My Afternoon with Frida" photograph.



Excerpt #2: Creative Visualization for Photographers

This week on my blog: I am running excerpts from my latest book, Creative Visualization for Photographers. Now, both the e-book and paperback editions are available!

In music, there is a big difference between listening and hearing. You can hear a song, but you may not pay attention to the words, how the musicians are playing their instruments, if the song changes key, if there is two- or three-part harmony, and so on.

Listening gives one a much greater appreciation for a song or piece of music.

The analogy for photography is that there is a big different between looking for a photograph and simply seeing a scene. To find pictures, we often need to look for them. Carefully. Creatively. Thoughtfully.

In the book I share with the reader some images that illustrate the difference between looking verses seeing.

Looking for pictures while motoring around in a zodiac (inflatable boat) in Antarctica helped me find the interesting subject that opens this post. To me, the ice formation looks like a polar bear resting on its back. If you don’t see a polar bear, what do you see?

While I was looking for pictures, rather than just enjoying the view, I noticed the interesting iceberg. It was an okay shot, but nothing to write home about. I asked the zodiac driver to move around the iceberg so we could see what it looked like from different angles.

I was pleasantly surprised when the shape of a polar bear came into view. Thanks to my effort to look for pictures, I was able to make an interesting photograph.

Click here to order - and to start your journey on creative visualization!

Explore the light,

Excerpt #1: Creative Visualization for Photographers


This week on my blog: I am running excerpts from my latest book, Creative Visualization for Photographers.

Excerpt #1

Photographers, myself included, usually photograph what we recognize, consciously or unconsciously. What’s more, some photographers specifically travel to popular locations to get the “iconic” shot, the same shot that a million other photographers on the planet have taken. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can be fun and rewarding.

Thinking about what others will see (recognize) in our photographs often influences our decision of what to photograph, how to photograph it, and what images to show and share. 

I recognized a human face in this image.

The technical term for seeing a human face in an image is anthropomorphic, which stems from the Greek word anthro, which means man, and morph, which means shape or form.

I have many pictures in which I see faces, profiles and suggested faces. I took this one in Antarctica. The profile is easy to see. It is an anthropomorphic image.

Both the paperback and hard cover editions are now available!

Click here to order.

Explore the light,


No Other Old Car City Photo Workshop Offers This Much!

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Above: Old Car City. Model photography is included in my October 2015 Old Car City/Southeaster Railway Museum photo workshop. Canon 5D Mark III, 17-40mm lens.

Registration is open for my October 2015 Canon EOS Destination Workshop: Capturing the Classics: Old Cars and Antique Trains. I can't wait to return to Old Car City and the Southeastern Railway Museum - both of which are located outside of Atlanta, GA.

I'll be teaching: composition (the strongest way of seeing), "croposition" (combining composition with cropping), storytelling,  lighting, HDR – and how to use reflectors, diffusers and speedlites when photographing a model.

My friends from Canon will be there to loan you the newest cameras and lenses (including fish-eye lenses and super-wide-angle lenses) to photograph some of the oldest cars in the country. You will also have plenty of time to process your images – for our group slide show/critique session. And, you'll even get to make a print or two on Canon printers.

No other Old Car City photo workshop offers this much. In addition to the teaching, model session, processing and printing, each workshop participant will receive an autographed copy of my three favorite books: Creative Visualization for Photographers, Exploring the Light and Travel and Nature Photography. In addition, everyone will also receive a free download code for two of my on-line classes: Master the Art and Craft of Bird Photography and Master Landscape and Seascape Photography - both available in my on-line store.

All participants will also received an SD card loaded with Perfectly Clear (see my Plug-in page) for both Lightroom and Photoshop. Thanks to my friends at Athentech for your support!

Total value of these items is over $250.

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Above: Lounge car, Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 15mm lens.

Here's a look at some of my favorite photographs from my previous trip to Old Car City and the Southeastern Railway Museum.

The lounge car photograph (above) and the mail car photograph are HDR images, created in Photomatix. I recommend Photomatix for this workshop. You can get a discount on Photomatix on my Save on Plug-ins page.

rick sammon old car 1.jpg

Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. 

I removed some of the reality from my images in this post either by using a fish-eye lens, by altering the true color of a scene, by applying a plug-in, by shooting HDR, by selectively blurring parts of an image –  or by using a combination of all these techniques.

I can show you how to apply digital enhancements during the workshop. Of course, I'll show you how to get awesome in-camera shots, too.

Above: Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

About removing some of the reality from a scene: When we remove some of the reality from a photograph, the photograph can - but not always - look more artistic.

Photoshop, Lightroom and plug-ins make creating artistic images relatively easy - if you have a creative vision. 

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Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm lens.

On my workshops I stress light and composition, the topics of my two latest classes on Kelby Training. The picture above (taken on my previous workshops) of our model Hanna (she's coming back for this workshop) illustrates the benefits of shooting on an overcast day, when contrast is low. It also illustrates creative composition: shooting at an angle creates a sense of depth in an image, the Bel Air insignia adds a sense of place to the image, and shooting at eye level helps the viewer of the photograph relate to the subject.

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Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. Effects added with Nik Color Effects Pro. Several Photoshop CS6 enhancements.

Above: Old Car City.  Like abstracts? You will find them in pealing paint and in rust at Old Car City.

Another element of photography we talk about on my workshops is the importance of cropping. In the above photograph, the extremely tight crop (I know it's extreme) emphasizes the fins and tail lights of this cool Caddy.

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Above: Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

Yes, the railway cars and old automobiles are awesome subjects. But hey, I especially enjoy photographing people on location. That is why I was so glad our model Hanna is returning! 

I hope to see you at Old Car City and at the Southeastern Railway Museum - where we not only make good pictures, but where we also have a ton of fun.

If you can't make that workshop, all my workshops are listed here.

Explore the light,

If you have any questions about this workshop, or any of my workshops, give me a call at 914 271-6132. Note: I'm in the Eastern Time Zone.