Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.
I opened the introduction of my recent Project 40+* book with this quote. Although the events of this chapter occurred probably 5,000 years ago, I raise the issue to prove a point: that the faces and figures of women have been noticed and admired from the time we straightened our backs and walked fully upright (and most likely a good deal before that!). It’s how our brains are wired, and let’s face it: it’s what makes the world go ‘round.
I did my first studio sessions 10 years ago this month. The first was a shakedown cruise of newly-purchased (but well-used) Paul C. Buff ‘coffee can’ strobes and a second (third?)-hand Nikon D70. The second was three fitness models, anxious to see what this new guy could do for them. Things clicked: We all liked what we saw, and some of the pictures can be seen in the gallery pages around the site.
For me, it was using an existing skill for a new purpose. I had been lighting TV news sets for many years, making anchors & weather gurus & sportscasters look as good as possible. But, they were already chosen for their good looks (well, generally speaking) so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. The real challenge came when I dove into the amateur modeling scene, doing group shoots and TFP sessions with whoever was willing...how could I make them look like they just stepped off the pages of a magazine?
It was a challenge I accepted, and did so enthusiastically. Once my business started rolling, it seemed to steer towards women who have never modeled before but wanted to step out of their treadmill-like lives to see how they’d do in front of a camera. Now, it’s one thing when a producer or director thanked me for a good news show but ten times as rewarding when a client looks at their pictures in my camera’s LCD and grows a big grin. And ten times that when she sheds a tear or two. That’s the best litmus test of whether or not I’ve achieved my goal of making her look beautiful.
That brings us to the Playboy Factor. In addition to the usual lighting & portrait seminars every photographer sits through, I took this from a skill to an art by attending a Shoot The Centerfold lighting seminar. Here, five veteran Playboy photographers shared the lighting secrets that made this magazine the gold standard of glamour photography for decades. These are ascended master craftsmen who love women, who are passionate about making them look as beautiful as possible, and in whom the world’s most gorgeous women place their trust to do so.
But beyond that, just to be around these men, catching the pearls of wisdom they threw out, to learn what it takes to become a great photographer, is really what made it such a rich and unique experience.
Why does a woman book a Nightwing session? It starts with the ‘star’ treatment. This is their day...a two-hour block of their lives where they get to feel special. Next, there’s the effort I go through to set up all those lights. The current trend among photographers is to achieve maximum results with minimum set-up & gear, thus increasing profitability. This is one trend I buck.
Finally, there’s the end result. So many times I’ve responded to the question, ‘Is that really me?’ with ‘Yes, that’s really you!’.
The Nightwing Philosophy is based upon five pillars:
- The highest technical quality of camera, lens, and lighting hardware.
- Creativity, particularly in lighting as the core element.
- A driving passion to show every client at his/her best.
- Hand-retouching where the look of the subject is maintained.
- A ‘Wow!’ factor of seismic proportions.
And most important, that every session is fun and easy-going; because what goes on off-camera will certainly manifest itself on-camera.
* Project 40+: A series of self-published books that began among members of Model Mayhem in 2008. Each of the 6 or so books features women (and a couple of men) over 40 years old, in various themes. I was the editor of Book 3, “Sexy Fashions,” and the author-editor of Book 4, “The 40-Over-40 Women: Muscle & Fitness.”