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NY Photographer Vlad Grubman - beauty, fashion, glamour

Photography by Zealus Media


You Can Keep Your Hat On
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Sexy Magician / President Lincoln - Photography by Vlad Grubman / ZealusMedia.com




 


Started working with this upcoming, but very promising model. Not sure if the projects we have scheduled will work out but at least I am working on the stuff I have never done before. The styling and makeup are impeccable and the overall results are impressive.


She came up with this idea of gender bender of President Lincoln, although it looks to me more like sexy magician or circus trainer.



 


What Is The Best Camera To Use For People Photography
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The most obvious answer is the one you have with you when you take a photo. But I’m going to assume the interest goes beyond just snapping selfies with friends – any smartphone is good, (D)SLR camera is actually awkward and bulky for selfies. I know, I tried. DSLR, however, is good for images like this:


Beauty with pearls - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Brand is not important, so I will not throw around any brand names. I started my semi-professional photography with Soviet-era cameras, switched to digital going through Kodak, Minolta, Fuji then finally arriving at Nikon after extensively testing Canon. I loved Canon’s usability and handling, it’s just Nikon’s images look better to me personally. So go and pick your own toys. All cameras these days take amazing images – technically speaking. It’s not the hardware that matters.


What is important in taking photographs of people is how you use the camera you have and how you compose (or frame) the shot. Trust me, I’ve seen people with $6000 cameras and $12000 lens not knowing what they do. I’ve worked with a gentleman who used 10 years old flash, gaffers tape and pieces of a cardboard to stage a fashion photo shoot outside in direct sunlight with clouds swinging in and out due to high wind. The resulting shot looks like it was taken in the studio.


If you are just starting you may not know which “people” photography you want to do. It could be portraits/headshots, could be fashion/editorial or it could be action – like sports or street photography or recreational activities. In most cases you can start off with one or two lens and when you figure out where your passion lies – you can start investing in a more specialized equipment.


My personal favorite is any of the vibration reduction basic zoom lens. You need to cover range between 35 and 135 mm when using standard 35 mm frame – called FX or full frame in digital photography. Consumer-grade cameras usually have smaller size sensors so you need to adjust lens’ native focal length to sensor size.


As a rule a 50 mm is considered “human eye” perspective. Portraits mostly shot at 80 – 85 mm. Depending on how far from the subject you are positioned – a longer range can be used. Personally I prefer to use my 70–200 mm for portrait, beauty and glamour and boudoir photography, but I constantly run into issues if I have to shoot in small spaces. In those cases I fall back to Nikon 24–120 mm. Yes, it distorts images differently but if you apply proper correction in Camera Raw or Lightroom (whichever one you’re using) – it shouldn’t be an issue. One nice feature of 70–200 mm is the aperture of f/2.8 which blurs background nicely. It’s a big “YES” for beauty or fashion but I’d say it’s a “NO” for street photography.


Beach Date - Fashion styling photo shoot - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


For anything involving fast movement (sports, street) you want to use fast lens and probably could invest in the camera that supports less noise on high ISO settings. Depending on your budget it could be something semi-professional or completely high-scale. I’d suggest studying DPReview’s extensive camera knowledge base before making a decision here. For me it’s always a compromise between budget and camera’s capabilities. For example – this photo of a martial arts athlete still came out somewhat blurry at his feet even when I used fast shutter – it wasn’t fast enough.


I haven’t done a real street photography for a while, so I can’t really say what you may want to do there. Again – do you want to focus on a specific person, emotion or face, or do you want to capture the street, the location with people interacting? Based on that I’d say the same basic 35 – 135 mm range is enough to get started and figure things out. The closest I got to shooting street photography was obviously staged “Love Story Gone Wrong” but I still ended up pushing my equipment to its limits (I give a better account on that in my other blog post: How To Learn Night Photography?)


To conclude (TL;DR): pick any camera you can afford, start with lens that cover most shooting scenarios and work your way through specific topic that you are passionate about.



 


Cheap Alternatives To Professional Photography Backdrops
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(I recently answered this question on Quora – feel free to discuss this answer there as well)


The full question is: What are some cheap alternatives to professional photography backdrops?


Short answer – you can use pretty much anything.


Long answer – anything you can work with if you know what to do with it.


Not being a full time photographer puts a lot of strain on my options. I can’t always afford to use a professional studio. I can’t always buy any kind of supply I need for my shoots. A lot of times I have to make do with what I have.


You can use folded white bed sheets for solid white background. Better if they are pressed (see problematic spots on the right in the image below) or you can work around it using short depth of field to blow them out of focus (may not work due to short distance to subject).

Sexy dress - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


If you have a spare $50 – you can buy a few foam core sheets at your local Staples/Office Depot (you’ll need one or two if you are shooting portraits, you’ll need more if you’re shooting half or full body). A lot of professionals are actually using them because it’s cheaper than anything with the word “professional” in it.


Actress headshot - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Alternatively, a lot of bathrooms offer white painted or tiled walls. I’ve shot in plenty of hotel rooms – by lighting them in a specific way you can get anywhere from overexposed white to underexposed gray colors.


Designer headpiece - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Another white alternative is overexposed sky. Put your subject against an open sky, lit it properly – and you’ll have even white background behind.


Fashion designer shoot - Photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Black foam core boards can serve as black background. Alternatively – shoot at night with your subject’s back to the darkest background you can find (large window or door). In most cases you should be able to get background close to black while keeping your subject lit.


Designer swimwear - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Any painted wall without major color discrepancies would do the trick. Properly blown out of focus it can give you a nice one-tone backdrop.


Same with the floor – a lot of times a floor would be much more monotone than walls.


Hair and makeup salon shoot - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Last, but not least – you can make a one-time investment into a chroma key background. With that and a knowledge on how to separate your subject from the background you should be able to superimpose your subject into just about anything.


Druid - model photography and image manipulation by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com , background is someone else's image (no credit claimed for background photo)


At the end of the day – it’s experience and knowledge of how photography works that can help you figure out your options. Did you know you can build your own beauty dish for under $10?


How To Learn Night Photography
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(I have recently answered this question on Quora – if you prefer you can comment or discuss this question there)


It’s not difficult to learn night photography (or low light photography in general), but it’s difficult to master. As with everything else – practice makes perfect.


Night Photography - article by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Here’s a story how I learned my night photography. I was approached by a very talented team wanting to shoot tango dance moves in the streets of NYC. The problem was – neither one of them was a professional dancer, so it took way longer than anticipated. In other words – the photoshoot went way into the night. We picked a spot where we had dancers under a street light and we’ve got this night photography image.


We went back and did a second shoot on a different day. Instead of tango we shot a “west side love story gone wrong” concept. You can see the resulting “Love Story Gone Wrong” image here. Both images were shot around 10 – 11pm.


I had no prior experience shooting during night hours before participating in these photo shoots. However, I had a basic understanding of how low light photography works. There are three parameters you can work with – aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. You push each one (in that order) to the point when you can’t push it anymore and then you start pushing the next. It’s good to have equipment that can help at night photography – fast lens for wide aperture, tripod for slower shutter speeds and camera that doesn’t have much noise on high ISO settings. The only thing I had was f/2.8 70–200 Sigma lens, D700 camera and slow breathing technique to shoot around 1/60s shutter speed.


I took literally hundreds of shots – I knew some of them would be out of focus due to holding camera in hands (no tripod). I assumed a seated position (look up sniper poses online – there’s very little difference between stabilizing the camera and stabilizing a rifle) and had models to ease into their poses slowly. I used continuous shooting – high speed setting on the camera in order to get as many frames of the proper pose in as little time as possible. For the second shoot – they just acted their “scenes” out in the street and I took as many shots as camera allowed. If I remember correctly D700 allowed 7 or 8 frames per second on high speed and a sequence would fit about 14 before buffer overloaded and camera needed some time to store buffered images onto CF card.


Sometimes, however, you just don’t get lucky to have time to think and prepare – you just get your camera out and shoot without even a moment’s notice. I had over a hundred shots standing in the middle of the pushing crowd and only one came out the way I wanted – it’s the image at the beginning of this answer. This was taken on full manual with bracketing (+/- 1 stop) – because shooting this on auto would have increased shutter speed to the point when everything would have been jittery.


In most cases you, however, can be prepared and even bring your lightning equipment with you. That’s when you can experiment, set up proper lighting and get simple images like this Catwoman (this is shot around 11pm).


This shot of Chicago at night was done around 10 – 11pm from tripod and on slow shutter speed, fast lens (50mm f/1.8) and wide aperture.


And sometimes you get to make night time out of 2pm bright sunny day. Simply because you just won’t have another chance at the scene line this (this is shot during Marcus Hook Pirate Festival in Pennsylvania at around 2 – 4 pm).


In order to get really good images you will end up post processing them – I don’t believe there’s a way around it. Unless you are happy with grainy images with somewhat strange colors – you’ll end up in Photoshop/Lightroom/whatever else you like and you will get them fixed.


Therefore it’s not just the knowledge itself (although I encourage anyone to learn as much as possible) but knowledge plus experience and experimenting that will get you where you want to be.


Catwoman On My Roof
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Catwoman Cosplay - Photography by Vlad Grubman / ZealusMedia.com


Being Catwoman is hard. Being a photographer catching one on one’s own roof – even harder. But think about all the excitement! The thrill of the chase! The sound of shutter and thick prick of Nikon SB-800 flashing from somewhere on the side!


Buidling A Beginner Model Portfolio
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Developing modeling portfolio by Vlad Grubman / ZealusMedia.com


Building modeling portfolio is tricky. If you look online there are tons of articles advising you to hire a full blown professional team – photographer with assistant, make up artist, hair stylist, fashion or wardrobe stylist and so on. Another ton of articles advise to avoid all these unnecessary expenses and just take a ton of selfies without filters and makeup and send them to as many agencies as possible. Sometimes I see this kind of advice on agencies’ own web site. How should you build your beginner modeling portfolio?


Well, both schools of thought have the right to exist. If you are agency standard – selfies wouldn’t do you wrong. The trick is – different agencies have different standards. By wholesale spamming every agency on the planet with your instagram pics you are effectively communicating that you have no idea what you are doing. As with any job – big or small, career or part time – proper planning and execution will deliver positive results. This is where having a professional photographer helps – he can help you segment types of agencies that might be interested in your type and will help you build your first portfolio to best match with those agencies.


From agency’s point of view your unfiltered images show your raw form and agency saves time and money by not inviting you for a look-see if they have doubts about you. This day and age when every girl with an iPhone and sepia filter thinks she’s a model most agencies are looking for a reason to say “no” to you. They have another 100500 models to look at before lunch time. That’s why your phone pics may not be the best choice. Neither are pictures your friend would take on his or her iPhone just because it’s a latest model.


A professional photographer, especially one that knows how to work with beginner models is a godsend for building out new portfolio. A lot of high level photographers don’t want to bother working with beginners – some because it’s not creative and fulfilling task and they can make same or more money shooting something they actually like, some because they just don’t know how (or, rather, don’t remember) to work with models that are just starting out.


Working with beginner model (regardless of model’s age) is like working with a child. They don’t always listen, they don’t always follow the instructions, they don’t always understand what you want and most of all, they almost always think they know better. Photographer, who is experienced in working with beginners would know how to overcome these obstacles, will be more cooperative and act more like a coach instead of producer. One of the main reasons to hire a photographer who is experienced in building beginner modeling portfolio is his experience building beginner modeling portfolios for many different models. Just because you are beautiful doesn’t mean you know how to model.


I’ll divert a bit. What separates real modeling from instagram modeling? The instagram modeling has a goal of building online presence, score likes, follows, comments and overall online fame. Most of instagram models don’t make a single dollar off of it. The real modeling has a goal of model being part of commercial, artistic or creative process by participating in photo or video shoots for artists, designers, commercials, catalogs, showrooms and the like. Almost all real models are getting paid for their work. Some of them do participate in TFP-based shoots as well, letting their own creative spirit out. Overall they are always a part of a larger process involving multiple creative individuals.


In order to successfully launch your modeling career you must have a portfolio. An agency may spot you from one of the zillion selfies you send out, but the chances of that are slim to none. By providing carefully built portfolio of images that feature your best features and types of modeling you are interested in you are communicating that you are taking your work seriously and agency can rely on you. Photographers and modeling web sites are full with stories of models’ no-shows for commercial and paid photo shoots, thousands of dollars wasted because model didn’t take her role seriously. These no-shows are extremely damaging to any agency’s reputation, so by showing that you had put thought and effort into your portfolio you demonstrating that you will be serious about any jobs agency will send you on. Approach building your portfolio with “this is how we can do business together”, not “look how cute I am in this pic” attitude and agency will have a lot more reasons to hire you.


One more thing to get out of the way – quality of images in your portfolio have nothing to do with the kind of camera the photographer is using. Many times I’ve been asked “what kind of camera are you using? I’ve heard you can only use Nikon/Canon/ for modeling portfolios. Do you have a professional camera?”. Hardest part of this question is not laughing in response. Of course, you shouldn’t settle for an iPhone just because photographer told you so. There is, probably, a few of photographers in US that do shoot on iPhone as a part of Apple’s marketing, but I doubt they’ll do this for beginner modeling portfolio. As long as photographer is using a decent (D)SLR camera that provides adequate image quality – it’s good enough for portfolio.


A more important question is alignment of your own modeling goals and interests (what do YOU want to model?) with photographer’s own interests and experience. For example, oftentimes I would take on a beginner model who is a professional dancer or fitness trainer to get good action or fitness photos, or an actress to get a good character impression – simply because I am interested in working on those concepts and such individuals are a perfect fit for them. Additionally, models themselves are passionate about those concepts and respond better during the photoshoot. On the other hand – using a fitness coach or bodybuilder for a romantic or glamour scene usually doesn’t work very well. It’s not what they are interested in and their posing is almost always off. Of course there are people who are more versatile, but when it comes to beginner models it’s hard to teach them whole modeling book in one photo shoot.


To wrap things up – your beginner model portfolio should be put together by the team. You will need to hire a photographer and a makeup artist, together you will be able to narrow down the concepts you want and would be able to get good 5 – 10 images from an average of 4 – 5 hour photoshoot. Since you are not working on any specific creative concept you can take care of your hair in your regular hair salon (again, after discussing all looks with the team). Your own closet should work most of the time, so you don’t need a wardrobe stylist – at least not for beginner portfolio. Make sure you arrange to have as little retouching as possible as agencies would not want to see over-edited images. Get enough of your beauty sleep the night before, show up on time and ready for work. Remember, modeling is work. The more glamour you see – the more work was put in behind the scenes.


Creative Portrait With Crystals
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Creative portrait with crystals - photographer Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


Took makeup artist a little while to create apply all these crystals to beautiful model’s neck and chest, but the result was totally worth it.


Model Headshot from 2010
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Headshot with guitar - photography by Vlad Grubman / Zealusmedia.com


This headshot was made in 2010 for a modeling portfolio – shot in home made studio using Nikon D70s and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 D lens. This was the best setup I could afford at the time and it was the first fast lens I ever bought. I was just starting so I did mostly beauty headshots and mostly in home studio with whatever lighting setup I could scrap.


This was also some of the first tries at reasonably well retouching. It wasn’t always done well, so I figured it would make sense to dig in some old photos and apply more modern retouching techniques (or, rather, more experience in retouching that I have today).


Beautiful Sunset In HDR
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Beautiful HDR sunset - photography by Vlad Grubman / ZealusMedia.com


Beautiful sunset shot on Nikon D750 with 1 stop bracketing and merged in Adobe Photoshop to HDR. Selective color filters and color correction applied.


Photo is available as print on demand.


Masks Project - Headshot
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This headshot was done as a part of my Masks project. I have a raw, on-the-camera image in my instagram feed, now I finally got around to editing it to the proper look and feel.


Masks Project - Headshot - photography by Vlad Grubman / ZealusMedia.com


Want to get headshots like this? Head straight to contact form where you can book a shoot with me.


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