Christian Webb

The Esquire Maternity Shoot! (sort of!) by Christian Webb

So...here they are,  our maternity images! Literally 2 days to go before the arrival of our boy Leandro! So what's the deal with these images and why so last minute?

For a few months now, the requisite maternity shoot has been on my mind and of course, Patsi has been eagerly wanting to get it done. I've put it off and put it off and put it off. So, when the final month or so came around, I had to get serious. So what to do? Well, I knew what I didn't want to do: A typical maternity shoot with the mom to be standing in beautiful light holding her belly and looking down. Or..any variance of said pose and set up.. (most definitely not a shot with me standing behind her, arms cusped around the bump.  I simply didn't want a plain ol' portrait of any type.  I needed something a bit more funky and fun. Convincing Patsi to NOT do the typical pregnancy type of shoot was another challenge but....she trusted me and we prepared for the day.

NOTE: There's nothing wrong with the aforementioned type of maternity shoots.  I see incredibly beautiful work out there all the time and it's super DOPE! 

"I got this!"   

So what to do?  About a month ago, I came across the famous, somewhat controversial Esquire Magazine shot of Bill Clinton shot by Platon.   In the image, Bill sits tall, proud and confident,  legs wide open, crotch straight to the camera.  For obvious reasons, the image implied a certain...arrogance and pride in a sexual sense.  So I thought, well, what's more powerful and sexy than a woman with child?  There's pure strength there unlike any man can know.   And that's just sexy.  This was the start.   Turns out, that about 8 years after the Clinton shoot, Esquire and photographer Cliff Watts decided to recreate the cover using that year's Sexiest Woman Alive winner, Halle Berry.  Again,  power, sexiness and confidence but this time, a woman instead of a man.  Was time to recreate it...and take the power theme and sexiness to the next level! 

Esquire article on the Halle shoot:  

My Nikon D800 fitted with the Nikon 15mm f/3.5 AI-s Fisheye.  (forgive the random iPhone photo here. ) 

My Nikon D800 fitted with the Nikon 15mm f/3.5 AI-s Fisheye.  (forgive the random iPhone photo here. ) 

Examining the inspiration for my shoot,  it was obvious the the original was shot with a fisheye lens. At least, that's what I researched and found out.  Since I don't own a fisheye, I had to pick one up from my go to rental source in NY, Fotocare.   Wasn't too used to using this type of lens and knew it required some skill to get the right angles and effects.  

The start.  Test shots to see what that lens would get me. 

The start.  Test shots to see what that lens would get me. 

You literally have to be very close to the subject to get the best results.

You literally have to be very close to the subject to get the best results.

Once I was all set with the lighting and getting familiar with the lens, was time to get Patsi in place and start shooting.  Keeping with my desire to not have a typical maternity shoot,  I wanted to make sure the wardrobe wasn't something that took too much attention.  To me, it's unrealistic anyway.  Those long, lovely, flowing dresses and wraps work well for those type of shoots sure, but how many women 8-9 months into their pregnancy are running around wearing all that? I wanted Patsi to be 100% at home, relaxed and just...pregnant! Comfortable as she could be.  So that meant barefoot in a tank and some leggings! Simple.  We also wanted the expressions and the poses to be much more lively and fun so dresses and such wouldn't have worked. 

"No, not yet!" 

So, we got into the flow of it all and within an hour about, we were wrapped.

We had a great time getting this all done and I had a lot of fun in post recreating the Esquire cover.   Was such a pleasure as always working with my lovely wife.  Working with her and my soon expected child in her belly was even better!  Now I just have to come up with something funky for the newborn shots!! Hmmmm.....                                    ~ Christian

"Okay, this is it!" 

A Simple Portrait - Beauty & The Beast of a Background by Christian Webb

The Mrs. -  Christian Webb Photo

I received a few inquiries regarding the above portrait of my wife.  A few had questions regarding the lighting, the retouch and the background.  A few just wanted to know how the hell I got so lucky having her as my wife!  That's a whole separate post!  But I can discuss the portrait.  

While I'd like to make this seem like some incredibly artistic, grand portrait of master photography that involved a $3,000 hand painted backdrop, a medium format camera and a fancy light......in reality, this is nothing more than a 5 min natural light photo of her sitting in front of an ugly old painted piece of foamcore I keep around.    In reality,  the subject here is everything and fortunately....she photographs so well.  I had little to do with it. 

Here's the SOOC shot with that nasty background. Nikon D800. Nikon 50mm 1.8,  f/2.8, 1/50, ISO 800.  

I sometimes shoot videos in my home studio and use that same piece of foamcore for my background.  I originally purchased a couple of them and spray painted them black to be used as vflats of sorts.  Over time, they got broken up and ugly.  I keep only the one laying around and will use here and there for random whatever.   Mostly to absorb or block light.   

My wife was preparing to leave for work. I saw her in her soft cashmere sweater, her beautiful belly, full and round at 31 weeks so I asked her to sit for a minute.  She was waiting on her UBER so literally, I only had a few minutes.  We haven't shot any real pregnancy pics as of yet and may not even bother.  As far along as she is though we wanted to be sure to highlight it, even if just a little and more casual.   

Oh that's ugly yeah? Works fine for when I'm sitting in front of it to shoot a quick video.  But for a beautiful portrait...it's the last ting you'd think of yeah? 

Oh that's ugly yeah? Works fine for when I'm sitting in front of it to shoot a quick video.  But for a beautiful portrait...it's the last ting you'd think of yeah? 

There are a few large windows and a large set of glass doors on the other side of the room that I use for the natural light.   She sat,  I got my exposure, posed her and took a total of 10 shots before she had to leave.  

Once I had her there, I immediately saw the vision of what I wanted and knew of course that I'd need to do some work in post to deal with that mess behind her.   

A bit of clean up in PS, some color adjustments and some final work in Exposure 7 and I was done.  If I were more skilled in my post work, I may have been able to come up with some even better looks. 

So the point of this post?  I just wanted to show that anyone, in a limited space, with limited gear and even the most random background can create truly beautiful portraits so long as the fundamentals of good portraiture photography are what lead your work.  Would I love a custom Oliphant backdrop? Heck yeah!  Do I really need one to get a decent portrait?  Not at all. No lights, 1 light, 4 lights or 10...hand painted muslin, seamless or a crappy piece of foamcore....doesn't matter.  

A portrait is all about the subject, the person.  If you focus on photography fundamentals, understanding light and know how to pose people,  you can pretty much shoot wherever with whatever in little time, with no prep or planning at all.   Get in the habit of finding random, spontaneous moments to see what you can come up with and learn fundamentals of light/exposure.   In addition,  master the basics of your post processing including how and when to utilize the right tools when you need them to create your final image as you see it.  

Here's one of my selfies while I prepped the set up for my video.  My wife of course makes a far better subject! 

Black turtlenecks are cool!  Someone said I look like I'm modeling a watch! lol.  Well, on that note then - Shout out to G-SHOCK! 

Hope this inspires some to use whatever they have to work with and not feel restricted by the lack of certain things. 

Shooting A Don by Christian Webb

If you're a Brooklynite or someone who at least keeps up with the Caribbean dancehall and Reggae music scene, you no doubt know the name DJ Ron Don.  For the last 25 years, Ron Don has been a staple in the music scene dj'in numerous parties across the globe and putting out probably THOUSANDS of "mix tape" cds and party mixes.  So, having the opportunity to photograph him for some recent promotional materials meant having to capture Ron Don as the only way I could imagine - Capture him as...a Don! 

The location was a lounge in Canarsie called Trendz.  I had zero opportunity for pre location scouting and the only available images to give me a sense of the place were from their Facebook page which didn't give me too much.  So, we hit Brooklyn on a cold NY Sunday and just figured we'd wing it as best we could.  Had 2 hours in the place and had to work quick. 

1 Profoto head via octa for key and a Profoto Ringflash for some fill.  

The lounge wasn't too big of a space to work in but there was enough room for me to try and get the shot I needed.  The walls were all white, stucco and had a few round mirrors hanging.   For furniture, there was a bunch of faux leather red chairs and two seater love seats.  The tables were painted black wooden boxes with some dark tile of some sort for tops.    

That plain wall and all back there just didn't work. 

What was I going to do with those empty walls?  There were of course a bunch of large speakers sitting around.  My first thought was to create a wall of speakers right behind one of the 2 seater chairs and sort of surround Ron with the speakers.  Figured that would be great but as the speaker count wasn't what I thought, we couldn't get get it to look uniform enough for it to work.  So, I scrapped that idea and instead, figured....."hmmm...perhaps I can make a wall of tile using the tops of those box tables!?"  Okay, let's try that.  Dave and the other dude from Trendz who was helping us out gathered every table there and arranged them as I wanted behind Ron. Wasn't as easy as we thought but we ended up with something that may in fact not be too bad. 

Needed more tables to fill in those blank spots to the left and right there. 

D. Mack on the metering. (still haven't figured out why he holds a meter that way!) 

Got down to business and started shooting.  Few adjustments here and there wth Ron and we were jamming.   

And the image we decided to go with.  

But really though, gotta be all about them socks!! 

The Digital Don

And here's the natural light portrait shot I got before leaving. 

Was a good day overall. Ended up getting pretty much exactly what I wanted to get.  We did do some work on white seamless but I decided to scrap that stuff for now as the main shot nails it.  Got out of there and hit my old neighborhood of Ft. Greene for some seriously needed food!  Many thanks and shout outs to my assistant David Mack for the hard work and the bts shots.  Had him moving mad furniture around in addition to the photo stuff.  

Christian Webb - DJ Ron Don

NYC NIGHTS - Street portraits by Christian Webb

Took lil' bro' out last night to work on his photography. Teaching him about the constantly changing lighting conditions at night...and finding/using available light when shooting street portraits. Here are a few I managed to snag myself, including one of my apprentice! lol!  He got a bunch of great shots as well and had a BLAST meeting and hanging with people downtown. (stay tuned for his blog to see some of his work! ) #NYC #NIKONNIGHTS Christian Webb Photo-Ariana!Christian Webb Photo-BlondeChristian Webb Photo-BeardDudeChristian Webb Photo-Miriam&MaxChristian Webb Photo-Apprentice

 

What makes a photographer? by Christian Webb

  Picpeeps

Everyone has a camera these days yeah?  Whether it's a high end, low end, mid range DSLR, a digital compact camera or a camera on a mobile device.  Everyone and anyone can pretty much shoot photos, upload and tell their stories,  whatever they may be.   So, are all of these people actually..."photographers?"  Well, yeah, sort of.  And not exactly.  What exactly is a photographer?  Well, here's what came to my head when thinking on this:

"Everyone thinks they're a photographer,  until they actually try and become a photographer."

Yeah, that's how it came to me and I think it makes sense.  Let me explain.   Taking photographs, of any sort is a mechanical process. "Click!" "Snap!"  Boom.  An image is captured.  (yes, I'm over simplifying the process here but I'm just keeping it basic.)   Add the artistic element to whatever subject chosen and it becomes...well,  art.  Subjective of corse but,  who's to say what is and isn't art.  Each photograph is that one person's capture of life.    So many mistake the ability to take a picture with actually being a photographer.   Add to that,  the fact that just about everyone has a camera,  and you have tons of people calling themselves photographers.    I drive a car.  I drive fast sometimes but I'd never say "I'm a race car driver" would I?  I like to cook and I cook very well (just ask my wife!)  but I don't say "I'm a chef."   Perhaps it's all just nit picking and a matter of semantics but there is a reason why I bring this up.  A lot of aspiring photographers make the mistake of thinking that having the camera, maybe a light or two (if that) and having some sort of desire and vision to be a photographer is essentially all that's needed to actually be a photographer.   Maybe they have an idea and maybe they have some artistic sense of what they want to do.  More than likely,  they even have some rudimentary sense of photography and actually CAN shoot in manual mode and understand many of the basics when it comes to shooting.  BUT, still,  a photographer this does not make.   (did that sound Yoda like?)   To truly head down that path of becoming an actual photographer first requires that desire to study/learn everything one can about the craft and dedicate to a constant learning process.   Even beyond this, and most important,  is experience.  A person can shoot a hundred selfies or shoot a few friends here and there and still, their experience can be lacking.   A person can read, study online and take courses and still not be a photographer.    Most of my learning and my best moments have been my worst moments.  Being on a set,  on location,  in studio...wherever and having those "uh oh" moments.   Forgot my pocket wizards.  Forgot my memory cards.   Left a power cord.   Forgot my spare batteries.  Left a particular light modifier home.  Something breaks.  A random camera setting is throwing me off.  My time is cut short by the client.  The weather acts up.  There are tons of potential issues and problems and how someone deals with those problems and manages the issues is what makes them a photographer.  At least, in the professional sense.   Some may call it all paying dues.  Putting in the work.  All of those experiences and those mistakes will serve to make you a better photographer.   Knowing how to deal with those mistakes and what to do in any given situation is what separates a photographer from a person who likes to take pictures.   Is there a bit of snobbery here?  Maybe.  I think many photographers are sometimes annoyed with the idea that there are people out there who get themselves a camera,  make a business card,  put up a half ass website and then run around calling themselves "photographers."  They sort of undermine the actual craft and the real work that goes into what real photographers do.   It's not easy.  Not if you're doing it right.     I think my point with this post is more about reaching out to those people who actually WANT TO BE photographers and taken serious.   I want to share what I know and have learned.   I can't emphasize enough,  it's not the camera.  It's not a business card.  It's not having a website.  It's not photographing people every now and then.   It's constantly working on a project.  Constantly shooting.  Constantly learning/studying and more important,  putting things into practice.  It's MAKING MISTAKES and learning from them.  It's about investing in and mastering your equipment.  It's mastering your craft by any means necessary and staying committed.   All of these things combined with vision, time, patience and passion will serve to make you a photographer.  Or, at least someone worthy of being considered a serious photographer.

Miss America - Nina Davuluri by Christian Webb

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

When I got the call asking me if I wanted to shoot the new Miss America Nina Davuluri,  I thought "Let me guess, a media frenzied event with a bunch of other photographers somewhere right?"  Turns out,  it was an exclusive interview for entertainment web-site THZ (The Hot Zone).  Exclusive.   Which just meant host Jason Robinson and myself as photographer.  I said yes of course and soon found myself nervous.   She's not just Miss America,  she's the first of Indian descent.  A fact that caused a lot of uproar for some.  Those ignorant few still out there with their racist, ancient, semi retarded perspectives on what being an "American" means.   Nina represents ALL that's American so, for me, shooting her was much more than just shooting any Miss America.  She's a part of history.  A ground breaker and quite significant to Americans and to her Indian heritage.    We shot at a  restaurant/lounge in the city called Pranna.  A spacious,  absolutely gorgeous place.  I had about a 15 minute time slot with her and wasn't too sure about what if any restrictions were in place regarding the shots I could take.  In my mind, if I had my way,  I very much wanted to set something up with her sitting down,  scoffing down a HUGE cheeseburger with a basket of fries and a Coke on the table!  Oh and of course,  a HUGE slice of apple pie on the table.  All things "American!"  Maybe even get her to wear a fitted Yankees cap!  Well, that fantasy came to an end.   Wasn't going to happen. So,  I did a pretty basic set up  using 2 lights.  I had maybe 5 minutes to shoot  her before she was off to her next stop.  We shot in the lounge upstairs which overlooked the restaurant from above.  A huge chandelier of all glass and illuminated round bulbs hung in the middle of the space and I wanted to have the lights in the back.  I think it came out pretty nice.   Below is a shot of my  assistant for the day prior to having the 2 lights on.  Just metering for that background and adjusting shutter speed.

AmbientNina is absolutely beautiful and incredibly nice.  Was truly a pleasure working with her albeit for such a short amount of time.   We did discuss perhaps doing the "All American" shoot sometime in the future.  So,  who knows!    Fingers crossed!

Below is a shot of Pranna owners,  Payal and Dajiv Sharma.   Many thanks to them for letting us use the space.   Pranna is located at 79 Madison Ave. at 28th St. New York.

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

Self Portrait Photography -Using Strip Boxes and rim light by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo-Under Armour I have a few clients looking to do some sports/fitness type of shoots pretty soon.   So, last night, unable to sleep anyway, I was up in studio messing around with lights and figured I'd pull a self portrait / lighting test party.  (Just me by myself!)   I haven't settled on the exact set up for the up coming shoots, but I do know that for the in studio stuff,  I'm looking to use at least 2 strip boxes in various positions for some nice side lighting and highlights.  Most likely to highlight arms, shoulders and such.  Well,  I haven't got any strip boxes!! UGGH!  (how is that possible?)  I know they're not absolutely necessary depending on how much of the person I want to light and how much I want to control the spill, but they do serve a purpose.  Anyway, without the strip boxes, I just focused on getting some highlights on shoulders and back/side of my head.   The two back lights are strobes with silver reflectors and the main light is just an Einstein w/ 40 degree grid on a boom directly over me and in front of camera.  I think it worked out  well.  Now, to get the nerve to take off my shirt and try and light.....muscle! Wait, first gotta get some muscles!  lol.  (Shot at f.14, ISO 125, Shutter 1/125)