Best Five Photos of 2011

The end of the year just invites reflection.  So on the last day of 2011 I’m going to look back at what I feel are five of my best photos of the year.  Notice the subtle shift from the title there?  Instead of just picking five photos, I decided to pick a few categories and pick the best photo in each one along with a little of the background behind the photo.  Fun thing is that since this is my blog I can be completely arbitrary and pick what I want.  As Mel Brooks said, “It’s good to be the king.”

My Best Photo of the Year

It came on a shoot in June, but this photo of Katlyn Lacoste I think has to be my best photo this year.  I thought so enough that I made it the cover of my eBook.  It’s not just me as 500px highlighted it in their “Fresh photos” the day I posted it to the site.  Everything just comes together amazingly with a great location, a wonderful model, and an amazing pose.  There were a number of great images taken here that day, but this one still stands out to me.


Best Processed Photo

I normally don’t believe in a lot of processing.  I try to get the photo right in the camera.  Of course I’ll clean up blemishes, tweak lighting, and other things, but normally I feel the longer I spend on a photo in Lightroom or Photoshop, the worse the photo was.  This one is an exception.  I documented the shoot before, but loved playing with the multiple exposure concept with Melissa Troutt and feel this is the best photo.  I love the effect of the model photographing herself and want to play with the multiple exposure concept more in the future.


Best Photo from Biggest Experiment

Most interesting experiment I did this year came when I did a shoot with Keira Grant, Hannah Perez, and Melissa Troutt back in late June.  Working with three models at once was an interesting experience.  It was very draining and required a lot of focus and work.  The results were wonderful, and I definitely want to try it again someday.  There were a lot of photos I could have picked to put here, but over time I’ve come to feel this photo best captures the idea of exploring the relationships between women.  What I think appeals to me also comes in other ways you can interpret the photo.  Why’s Melissa trying to pull away?  Why is Keria trying to stop her while Hannah appears indifferent?  So many ways you can answer those questions and each gives such a different story.


Best Erotic Nude

I haven’t shot much erotic over the last year, but I think it’ll be something I focus on more going into 2012.  Something about the erotic is appealing to me again as it hadn’t for the last bit.  I did one erotic themed shoot this year.  I have a bit of a poor track record on my shoots with two models with an intent to explore erotic ideas.  Seems like almost every one has something weird happen.  A model doesn’t show, we get kicked out of a place, etc.  Shoots with no erotic plans always go smoothly.  This one went wonderfully though so maybe my curse is broken.  Again a number I considered here, but in the end I think it’s the eye contact between the models that brings me back to this one.  It feels like we’re peering in just as they lose control.


Best Boudoir

The latest photo here, shot on December 23 with Brynn Cook.  I really love the intimacy of this photo.  It feels like the viewer is looking over at the model after waking in the morning.  I also feel the lack of nudity works as a strength since it gives it more of an intimate and less sexual feel.  I left in the cluttered background precisely because I feel it supports the casual feeling.


Two Bonus Photos

Okay I lied about five photos.  Here are two photos that really don’t fit in the theme, but I still want to highlight.  See above quote about the king.

Best Rediscovered Photo

Reason this one is down here it that I didn’t take it in 2011.  In fact I rediscovered it when I was sorting images for my eBook.  It’s a wonderful image I shot back in 2008 with a model I’d met on a trip to Raleigh the month before.  I think this might be the first image (or at least one of the first images) that I really nailed the lighting exactly the way I wanted it.  Again perfect lighting, wonderful model, and just an amazing expression on her face.


My Favorite Photo As I took It

Because it had been a long, hot day and this was very cold and refreshing.


Hope everyone had a great 2011.  Here’s to a even better 2012 (picture me raising the glass above).

Related Images:

The Fall and Winter 2011 Continued – The Erotic Nude

Continuing to catch up on shoots I didn’t cover in the last few months of 2011.  I’m developing a renewed interest in the erotic nude.  I’ve shot erotic in the past, but focused more on outdoor and artistic nudes much of the year.  In August I did my first erotic focused shoot in a while with Hannah and Jordana.  I’ve worked with Hannah several times before, but this was the first time I’d worked with Jordana.  The two models have worked together before and that comfort shows in their photos.  A few wonderful sensual images from the shoot.  Nothing fancy here, just playing with the erotic with two female models.  You can probably tell I’m a big fan of the sensuality of eye contact.


Had an erotic shoot scheduled for today, but unfortunately she got sick and canceled.  So this is the only erotic for now.  Still I expect I’ll be exploring the idea a bit more in the future.

Catching up on Fall Shoots – The Last Outdoor Shoots of the Year

I’ve not posted on a shoot since Keira Grant at the end of September.  Most of my writing time since then was devoted to my eBook.  So now I can actually go back and catch up on those shoots.  Instead of going through them by time or by model, I’m going to go by theme.

So first I’ll share a few images from my final two outdoor shoots of the year.  I met Melissa Troutt in mid October to work on an outdoor shoot in a nice later October day.  Weather was a little cool, but not bad for shooting outdoors.  In fact it was so nice that everyone seemed to be out that day.  We had trouble finding a spot with the isolation to shoot nudes as everyone seemed to be outside enjoying the beautiful late fall day.  We did a few shots at one amazing spot were Melissa posed in some trees over a stream, but it was just a little too exposed.  We finally ended up in a nice valley with some interesting rocks and overhangs for most of our shoot.  We were at higher elevations so there were plenty of leaves already on the ground, but still a lot on the trees.  Made for some nice mix of posing her among the leaves and still putting nice greenery around her.  Some wonderful shots from the day.


My last fall shoot of the year came with Adrina Lynn.  Last fall she and I had tried an outdoor nude shoot in November, but it was just too damn cold that day.  We gave up after less than an hour.  The lesson learned for me was valuable though in that I’ve learned to be much more careful about the weather.  When Adrina came through in late October we had cool, but usable weather.  We got an early start on a cool October morning and the two of us headed out to a new location.  We worked further up the same stream and trails where I shot with Melissa, Keira, and Hannah back in June.  I hadn’t scouted most of the area so it was a nice exploration along with the shoot.  It turned out to be a very nice and isolated spot where we had time to really work.  The water was too cold to get her in, but we could work along the rocks and trees around the water.  Adrina really enjoyed the sun that day though as you can in the photos.


One last photo of Adrina, more a peek behind the scenes.  Here you can see the big, happy smile on her face as I sat down in a puddle of water.  Think of it as model’s revenge.


My eBook is Out

t-3d-coverA bit more than six months after I seriously began writing my eBook, it is now available for purchase.  I’m both excited and a little nervous to put this out there after so long.  I always heard the description that art is never complete, but only abandoned.  Definitely put that as my experience with this eBook.  Until literally the last day possible, I edited and made changes.  I make no claims of perfection, but I really believe this contains valuable information for anyone either new to photographing of the nude or frustrated with their efforts to do so.  My focus is not on the equipment, but on planning, lighting, and working with the model to get the best results.  My focus is on making art through photography of the nude form.  You find learn more about the book and buy it at  Still working on The formatting for the Kindle version that will (hopefully) be available through Amazon early next week.

I’d like to especially thank Melissa Troutt, Katlyn Lacoste, Hannah Perez, Bree Addams, Nyxon, Keira Grant, and Brynn Cook who were especially helpful by doing interviews that are part of the eBook or reviewing parts of the eBook along the way.  You’ll find all those wonderful models quoted in the book along with photos of them and many more.  In the eBook you’ll see photos of:

  • Abree Anna
  • Adrina Lynn
  • Ali
  • Ashley Graham
  • Bree Addams
  • Brynn Cook
  • Carlotta Champagne
  • Charlie Kristine
  • Deanna Deadly
  • Ginger Lee
  • Hannah Perez
  • Katlyn Lacoste
  • Katy T
  • Keira Grant
  • Kimberly Marvel
  • Laura New
  • Lauren WK
  • Melissa Troutt
  • Nyxon
  • Rachel Dashae
  • Velocity
  • Xlcr Moon

It’s been a long ride and over the last month it feels that I’ve done little other than work and edit this eBook.  Writing it turned out to be much more work than I expected, but also more rewarding than I’d expected.  It’s also been the reason I’ve been rather silent on here the last few months with all my writing time focused on the book instead.  I have a lot of shoots to catch up on editing and a lot to post here.  The irony is that I shot quite a bit in November, but had time to edit almost none of it.  I have shoots with some old friends in Melissa Troutt, Adrina Lynn, Charlie Kristine, Nyxon, Katy T, Xlcr Moon coming in addition to some new models in Kerri Taylor, Rachel Dashae, and Briella Jaden.  I also have some material that didn’t make the final book for size or time reasons I hope to put out here sometime soon.

Sample Chapter from my eBook

Below is a sample chapter from my eBook Working with a Naked Lady coming out December 14.  You can find out more information about the eBook at



Let me begin by stating that equipment doesn’t matter as much as you think.  I don’t mean that equipment is unimportant.  I can be a tech head as much as anyone and spend hours discussing the differences between megapixels, sensor sensitivity, and lens specs.  I will spend hours researching any technology related purchase to make sure I find the one that is just a little better.

The truth is that you can have the best equipment and still take crappy photographs.  Great images are being taken every day with camera phones and simple point-and-shoots.  Equipment is a necessity, but knowing how to use your equipment is far more important than the brand or model of your equipment.  To take the photos you have in your mind’s eye, you will rarely find your equipment to be the most important tool.  Knowing what you want to capture and having a plan to do this are more important.

You generally get what you pay for when buying photographic equipment.  I suggest frugality when starting out.  In most cases lenses, cameras, and lights that cost more do so because they have better quality, more capability, faster recovery time, or more features (though there are always exceptions).  As a beginner you probably don’t need many of these more advanced features.  Starting with a beginner DSLR will be adequate.  The key is to buy solid equipment when starting out that you can expand and grow as your needs increase.  Be smart about spending money to get the best bang for your buck.

There are many brands of good cameras and other equipment out there and I’m not going to get into what brand is better because ultimately it doesn’t matter.  You can go out and buy the same guitar and amplifier as Eddie Van Halen or Stevie Ray Vaughn, but when you play it’s still going to sound like you playing the guitar. Likewise you can buy the exact same camera gear as another photographer, but you will be the one taking the photos. You need to know and learn how to get the most out of your equipment. Technical ability is the start, not the end of producing work that you’re proud to show others.


We’ll begin with the most basic, and most necessary, of the photographer’s tools, the camera.

I divide cameras in three types.  The first type is the point-and-shoot camera that is usually small and self-contained.  These cameras are generally designed to be simple to operate and compact enough to take everywhere.  They are targeted at casual shooters and work great for the types of photos that most people want to capture – memories of time spent with friends and family.  These cameras will make most of the decisions for you and get decent shots most of the time. 

The second type of camera is the camera built into most new cell phones.  Many cell phones now contain a camera nearly as capable as a point-and-shoot camera.  They also have the advantage of being almost always with you without carrying a second device.

The third type of camera, and the one we’re most concerned with, is the SLR or single lens reflex camera.  These are named for the mirror system that directs light from the lens to either the viewfinder or image sensor/film.  When the camera uses an image sensor instead of film, they are usually referred to as digital SLR or DSLR cameras.  I will largely reference DSLR cameras in this eBook for the times that I reference a camera.  Most of the concepts here are just as appropriate for a film SLR and many even will be relevant to a point and shoot camera or camera phone.

The first obvious difference of the DSLR from the other types is that the DSLR camera will feature lenses that can be changed.  This allows you to choose a lens depending on the type of photos being taken, a feature referred to as interchangeable lenses.  The greatest advantage of the SLR and DSLR comes from this ability to change lenses to match the needs of your shoot.  While many better point-and-shoot cameras will let you tweak exposure settings, a SLR will give you more options and a greater range of settings that give you more control and flexibility.  Most SLR and DSLR cameras also offer a mode that works similar to the point and shoot and makes most of the decisions for you.

You’ll want the extra functionality that a DSLR offers, but don’t feel that you need to buy the top of the line pro model and a dozen different lenses before you take a single photo. Start small and keep things affordable.  Buy a good, basic DSLR to start with and look for a kit that will includes a basic lens in one package.  If you want to splurge, spend the extra money on a better lens.  Be aware you can easily spend more on your second or third lens than you did for your camera body.  By starting small you can learn your equipment.  When you start to hit the limitations of the equipment you have, you’ll know it’s time look at an upgrade.

New cameras and lenses come out everyday.  Any advice that I give here will be outdated by the time you make it to this page of the eBook.  I suggest looking at reviews of the current equipment.  Some resources for sites that I currently like and use when considering new purchases are listed on the web site for this eBook under Book Resources.  Reading a number of sites to get a variety of opinions will serve you well as every reviewer will have biases and preferences that influence reviews.  Before you buy a camera you should definitely hold it in your hands to make sure you like how it feels and can work the buttons and controls easily.  Cameras are one of the items that you really need to touch and try before you buy.

I suggest that you ignore film when starting.  That may seem sacrilege to many, but the truth is that learning with digital will be a simpler process.  As a photographer of the nude you can’t just drop your photos off at the local pharmacy to develop.  You will likely need to find a specialty developer willing to work with nudes or learn to develop your own photos.  Developing your own photos will require a darkroom space, chemicals, and equipment.  I primarily work in digital, but do own and occasionally use a film SLR.  If you feel the desire to move in that direction, by all means follow that interest at some point.  Starting with digital will still make things easier while learning.

And just for the record, I use a Canon camera.


Without a lens, your DSLR is just a camera body.  As mentioned under cameras, you will often find kits offered that pair a camera body with a basic lens.  The job of the lens is to collect light and bring it to the sensor in the camera.  As a photographer there are two primary aspects of a lens you should be concerned about: focal length and aperture.

Focal length, usually measured in millimeters (mm), notes the distance from the center of the lens to the sensor when focusing at a point an infinite distance away.  Because of the way lenses are manufactured this might not be the physical center of the lens.  Think of it as a measure of the field of view or how much of what’s in front of you the camera will capture.  A lens with a low focal length will capture a wide field of view or a wide angle of the scene in front of you.  The scene will also appear further away.  In fact you can capture a wider angle than you can see with the unaided eye.  A lens with a high focal length will zoom in to a scene and show you a narrow field of view.  The scene will also appear closer to the viewer.  A lens with a low focal length will also be called a short lens and one with a high focal length will also be called a long lens.


Photo 3 – In both these images the model and I remained at same location, but I changed the focal length.  I shot the photo on the left at 40mm and the photo on the left at 51mm.  Notice that the objects in the photo taken with a larger focal length appear larger and that background objects in that photo appear closer to the model.

If you wanted to take a picture of an entire valley from a mountain, you would use a short lens and therefore a wide angle.  If you wanted to take a picture of just a cabin in that valley you would use a long lens.  Generally a focal length of around 50mm is considered to record a scene the way the naked eye sees it.

There is a complication on focal length specific to digital cameras.  The focal length of a lens generally is given relative to the traditional 35mm film size.  To reduce cost, many digital cameras use a sensor smaller than this 35mm size.  The smaller sensor results in what is called a crop factor.  This is the ratio that the smaller sensor changes the focal length of the lens.  For my Canon T2i this ratio is about 1.6 which means that a lens showing a focal length of 50mm will actually function as 50mm x 1.6 or 80mm would on a 35mm sensor.  The result is that I get a tighter field of view than I otherwise expect for the focal length of the lens with this camera.  Therefore if I want a result of a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor, I must use a lens showing a smaller focal length.  On my 1.6 ratio camera, this means I’d need to use a 50 mm / 1.6 or about a 30mm lens.

Using a lens with a small zoom will make objects appear further apart in distance from the camera than a long zoom of the same scene.  Think of a wide angle as stretching the distance between objects in the scene while a zoomed lens compresses this distance and makes objects appear closer together.  You can use this to either shrink or stretch the apparent depth of your scene.

Some lenses have a fixed focal length that cannot be varied.  These lenses are referred to as prime lenses.  Other lenses will transition through a range of focal lengths and are known as zoom lenses.  Zoom lenses are popular because of the flexibility, but this flexibility comes with some loss of clarity since the lens must work through a larger range of settings.  You also will usually find a smaller widest aperture in a zoom lens compared to a fixed lens of similar cost.

We will discuss aperture later, but for now know that a lens will usually be marked with the largest aperture it will support.  A fixed lens will have a single number, while a zoom lens will usually state the largest aperture the lens supports at each end of the lens’s zoom range.  You will hear the terms fast and slow to describe a lens.  This is in reference to the maximum aperture of the lens.  A lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 is slower than one with a maximum aperture of f/4.5.  A greater maximum aperture produces a faster lens.

For most work I use a zoom lens with a range of 18mm to 135mm. In addition I often use 24mm and 50mm fixed lenses.  Those fixed lenses have a larger maximum aperture than the zoom lenses allowing use in darker conditions or to produce a smaller depth of field.

Each camera brand usually has a specific mount and only lenses made for that mount will work with the camera.  Camera manufacturers generally only produce lenses for their specific camera and these usually work across models.  Many third party lens makers produce their lenses with a mount compatible with each of the major camera brands.  You can also find adapters that will let you use some lenses, especially older film SLR lenses, with older mounts on newer cameras.  These adapters usually do not support the automatic features the lens offers such as automatic focusing.

A better lens will provide more improvement in the quality of your photos more than a better camera body.  You will be better served upgrading your camera lenses before buying a new camera body.  In fact when you start running into limitations in your equipment you likely will find it in the kit lens before the camera that you bought with the lens.  As long as you stay with cameras with the same mount (generally the same brand) then your lens investment will come with you as you buy new camera bodies in the future.  The one exception will be if you buy a lens specifically designed for cameras with a cropped sensor and you later purchase a camera with a full size sensor.  In this case the lens may no longer work.

Memory Cards

Each photo that you take will require an amount of memory to store on the camera.  The device that the photo is stored onto is known as a memory card.  A few cameras include a small amount of built in memory to store images, but you will want or need a memory card to store the images taken by your DSLR camera.  There are two common types of memory cards you’ll find in digital cameras.  The first is the small, thin SD card and the second the larger Compact Flash card.  They are not interchangeable.  You should make sure which type your camera uses before buying a memory card.

The camera sensor size is measured in megapixels.  While many photo formats use compression to reduce the size of the photo, you can assume that the megapixel gives a good indication of the size of each photo captured by your camera.  Most memory cards will state on the packaging the approximate number of images they hold for a given megapixel camera.  I suggest buying at least two memory cards as it will give you a spare to use if you fill up one during a shoot or one malfunctions during a shoot.  Swapping cards only takes a few seconds while copying images off a card can take several minutes.

Memory cards will be rated with a maximum speed they can transfer data.  A faster card allows data to be written more quickly and therefore clears the camera buffer more quickly for new data.  You will want a higher speed card if shooting images in fast succession with your camera often called “burst mode.”  If shooting video on your DSLR, you will likely find it requires a minimum card speed.  The manual for your camera will provide this information.  On my Canon T2i a class 10 card or better must be used for video.

I’ve known photographers who use a different card for each set and then let the photos copy off the card while they begin the next set of images.  This minimizes the risk of losing photos if a card goes bad.  I do believe it’s a good idea to get the images off a card as quickly as possible and I never erase the images off a card until I’ve verified they copied correctly.

Other Equipment

You can conduct successful shoots with those three pieces of equipment.  After you have worked for a while you will likely find two items that you may want look to add to your equipment.  One will be artificial light sources and the second will be a light meter.  Both of these we will discuss in the section of this eBook on light.

Know Your Equipment

No matter what equipment you own you must learn to use it.  As boring as it may be, read the manual that came with your camera, flash, or other equipment.  If you don’t like the manual (or as happens too often happens the manual was badly written or translated) most popular brands of cameras have books that delve into the operation of your specific model of camera.  There may be features that would be valuable, but not obvious from the controls.  Ultimately equipment is your tool in photography.  You would learn to properly work your new chainsaw before trying to cut down a tree, and you need to learn your camera equipment properly.  While you are less likely to cut off your leg if you don’t read your camera manual, you are just as likely to not get the results you want.