Ron Davis is a master of the genre of modern pinup photography. He has the eye of an artist, and the ability to translate his vision in elegant pictures reminiscent of pinups from times past. Many photographers are willing to sell and share their photos- Davis is willing to share his gift for taking pinup pictures, with you and I through his video and ebook course entitled, Practical Pinup. You can see some of his work featuring model shoot Kimberly Boenker, by playing the video at the start of this article (click the picture). His credits include being published in the national fashion magazine Gothic Beauty, a 2007 Goth Swimsuit calendar, the TV show Best of the Best 2.
Practical pinup started out as a $300 two day workshop in his Houston Studio. Davis took his notes, rewrote them, and added more to them. He then had them professionally edited, and the result was the first piece of the course, the 40 page Practical Pinup ebook. He also shot the course on video- and finally included a live pinup shoot. You can actually see the pictures and photographer/model interaction. For $37, you get the entire course, which is distilled down to a highly informative series of instructional books and and almost two hours of video. He provides the media in mp3 and mp4 format, so you can listen/watch on your ipod/iphone as well. Let's go through each piece of the course.
The book is written in a conversational tone, much like you were sitting with in the studio lobby with Davis, asking him about how he creates his craft. He manages to clearly explain that a pinup photography is not about taking pictures, but capturing a moment in a story. The images look carefree and unplanned, but they're anything but.
Next he goes into the planning of the pictures. Unlike your vacation pictures or those graduation pictures, the better planning you do prior to the shoot, the better your results are. Davis talks about clearly defining the image you're going for in your mind's eye, and assembling the pieces to make sure that your authentic vision is in the final picture. He also talks about some post production tools retro pinup photographers didn't have, like Photoshop.
He goes into specifics about the four big details that every professional and amateur pinup photographer needs to know to turn out pictures that look natural and authentic. Your model and set should match the era you're shooting for. There are also tips on how to select a makeup artist, which are relevant to all forms of photography, and not just modern pinup. He also provides reference sources.
Location, location, location - Ron Davis details the myriad of possibilities for background, foreground and props in the pictures. He discusses vehicles, and where to find places to shoot pinup- some exotic and some right under your nose. Okay, you have your vision, your iconic picture set in your mind. You know what she's going to wear, you know what she's going to be doing- you even know where. But how do you find HER? Davis goes into three types of women who make stunning pinup models, and where to find them. He also goes into the skills a model needs to pull off pinup. It's certainly not just "Stand here and look pretty". Although the models are certainly beautiful, they need to know how to position themselves and display the emotions that bring the picture to life- that tell the story.
Next Davis gets down to the nuts and bolts about technique, what separates a professional photo from a casual snap. There are details on lighting and color. Finally Davis closes with some thoughts on post production, and a little bit on Photoshop. Overall the book is comprehensive without turning into a lecture, and keeps a light and fun tone that is perfectly inline with what pinup photography is all about.
Practical Pinup Online Photography Workshop Video
The lecture is basically exactly what you see/hear if your were in Ron Davis' studio as a student. It covers the same material as the book, which is great if you're a visual learner. You get a feel for Davis' methodology, as well as a look at the studio and his teaching style. You also have the option of downloading the entire presentation as an MP3, which is great if you would like to learn or review on the go.
A three page bonus ebook that includes imaginative ideas for the photographer to make the models look fun, flirty, and bring out that girl next door look. It goes over situations where a pinup moment could be captured- such as household chores. You'll see some clever ideas for occupational shots- if you're shooting a male pinup calendar, you HAVE to have a firefighter, right? Finally there's a list of props, that extra bit of authenticity that completes the composition of the picture perfectly.
Kimberly Photo Shoot - Raw Footage Video
Behind the scenes look at the set, the lighting, and model preparation. You get to see Davis do some lighting configuration, as well set up the camera. You can also see the rapport between photographer and model, and see how the comfort of the relationship results in great photographs. You get to see Kimberly in a variety of outfits, and what it's like to be on the set of a professional photo shoot.
Overall I think Ron Davis does a very good job of capturing how to take good pinup photos. Rather than provide you a rigid formula, he gives you a logical framework you can use your creativity to build off of, and create your own little works of art. If you want to learn pinup photography, Practical Pinup is a great way to do it, and is money well spent.