James DiGiorgio aka JimmyD is a long-serving adult industry veteran with an extensive knowledge of shooting, the industry itself and life.
JimmyD is shooting, producing and editing glamour and nude photos and videos since decades. He is simply THE Pretty Girl Shooter and the editor of his personal blog with the same title .
In addition to his visual job, JimmyD is writing pretty darn good eBooks about different topics related to his photography..
His guides are a fantastic read and excellent for enthusiasts (and pros) searching for comprehensive, easy to understand knowledge and good edutainment
I had the opportunity to get to know JimmyD closer through our correspondence and I must admit I just love his dry sense of humor and laterally thinking.
So I am very pleased to have Jimmy here as my special guest, talking about his immense and rich life experience and personal pro insights:
Interview by Dan Hostettler
Where are you living now and for how long have you been a photographer?
I live in Santa Clarita, California (USA). It’s a community of about 200,000 people located approximately 25 miles North of Los Angeles.
I began my life-long interests in photography when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was then my Dad gave me my first camera, a Yashica Pentax J 35mm SLR.
Photography has been a very important aspect of my life for most of my 60 years.
Did you go to school to study photography?
In junior high school, I took graphic arts classes because it gave me access to a darkroom. Same thing in high school. When I first went to college, I was a graphic arts major. I never wanted to be a graphic artist but those were the classes I needed to take in order to have access to a darkroom.
Later on, after I was discharged from the military and was married, I went back to college as a film major. While going to school, I earned my living by bartending and by shooting head shots for Hollywood hopefuls. I put together my own darkroom (B&W only) and converted my garage into a makeshift studio, although a lot of the stuff I shot was outdoors.
So, I suppose I have a combination of both formal education as well as being self-taught in terms of studying photography.
How would you describe your vision and visual signature of your style?
I wouldn’t say I have a particular “vision” or “visual signature” or style. Obviously, there are stylistic elements I often incorporate into my photos but they’re not particularly unique or exclusive to me. Generally, I’ve always been a people photographer and, as such, I’ve adopted various styles – styles that were/are in vogue and that match up with the current styles my clients prefer.
When I was shooting a lot of head shots for actors, I studied what other photographers were doing. I tried to figure out what worked best and what didn’t and adopted styles that reflected the best style trends. My goal, of course, was to shoot the sorts of head shots that got my clients, who were mostly actors, auditions. Those styles were sometimes dynamic, changing with the times, rather than being static. That meant I needed to be fluid and adaptable, style-wise. Much later, when I started shooting lots of glamour, nude, and tease, my job continued being one where I needed to shoot the sorts of photos my clients wanted.
A lot of that means adopting various styles that are called for by clients, be it through lighting or something else. I’d like to say I have a signature style but the truth is I don’t think I do. If I do, it’s generally the result of me going with the flow. (Whatever the current flow happens to be at the moment.) That means my shooting styles aren’t much different from what many others are employing. I do, of course, try to stand out amongst photographers who are my competitors, but I’m not sure that means having a definable personal style helping me to stand out.
I think it means being good at producing work using a variety of styles, but striving to produce them as well or better than others produce them.
What was the first photograph that meant something special to you (by you or anyone else), and why?
Very soon after my father gave me my first camera, I had a chance to visit New York’s World’s Fair. (Boy! I just totally dated myself because that was back in the early 1960s.) Anyway, I shot lots of color chromes of the World’s Fair with that all-manual camera.
My Dad worked nights as a bartender in addition to his day job. He worked at a Bavarian-themed restaurant at the time. The restaurant’s bar had plenty of customers who were German. It was a fairly upscale restaurant. My father proudly showed off the best of my slides to anyone at the bar who would look at them. (I’m not sure how he showed off 35mm slides in a dim bar but he managed to do so.) One night, a customer saw my work and thought it was pretty good. Apparently, the man had some connections to galleries in Germany. He asked my Dad if he could get copies of my slides to take back to Germany. Later, we found out some of my work became part of a gallery tour in Europe.
To this day, I’m pretty proud of that even though I never got to see which photos they selected or how they were presented, that is, whether they projected the slides or converted them to prints. While I didn’t have much information to go by, what it did do was to say to me that perhaps I’m pretty good at snapping pictures and I should continue pursuing photography… which is exactly what I’ve done.
How did you get started in shooting the nude-oriented work that you are into right now?
I had been working at an aerospace company for about 15 years. I was their in-house photographer and video producer. (I shot a lot of marketing videos for their products which were mostly flight control systems.) I got laid off when the company was purchased by another corporation and they proceeded to get rid of most of the employees. I guess they wanted the contracts and products, not the people.
I always wanted to try my hand at stand-up comedy so that’s what I did. One night, I was performing at a small club in Hollywood and there was another comedian on the small stage doing her act. She was talking about being an editor in the adult business. I talked with her after the show and mentioned that I had a fair amount of editing experience, much of it on digital non-linear systems which was still new technology at the time. She asked if I’d be interested in working nights editing adult videos. I said sure, why not?
Next thing I know, I’m the night editor at a fairly large adult company cutting smut. The company went through a big growth period and, next thing I knew, I was running post-production for them with about 4 or 5 editors working for me. Not long after that, I also began shooting and directing some of the company’s movies.
I had plenty of camera experience both with stills and video after working at that aerospace company plus my earlier work shooting actors’ head shots so… to make a long story short, at some point I also started shooting stills on my sets as well as making myself available to other directors/producers as either a video cameraman or a still photographer. I’ve been doing that for nearly twenty years now.
How do you find the models to work on your projects?
Many of the models I work with are, like me, people my clients hire. More often than not, I don’t find and/or hire the models I work with, my clients take care of that. But I do sometimes seek out models myself. When I do, it’s usually via Model Mayhem.
How do you – in today’s digital world – earn money with your adult photography? Client work, exhibitions, retouching jobs or education?
Currently, the adult industry is in the toilet. That’s doesn’t just include porn but also magazines and other media that aren’t what’s called “hard-core.” There’s not a lot of production these days. I still work, but not nearly as much as I once did. I used to sometimes turn work down because I was booked so often. That hasn’t happened in quite a while now. Mostly, the downturn has been the result of piracy on the internet.
Technology has also added to that downturn. Today’s cameras, whether still cameras or video, have flattened the learning curve for producing acceptable work; leastwise, what I’d call minimally acceptable work. Also, the markets have changed. There was a time, not far back, when the bigger company’s revenues relied heavily on cable sales and those cable sales required meeting certain criteria, both in terms of technical quality as well as factors like stories and more. That’s pretty much history these days.
The bar has been lowered and much of what would have been immediately rejected just a few years back is now acceptable. It’s all about price these days, not quality. I saw the work going downhill a few years back and decided I’d better do something for myself about that.
One of the things I considered was to author and distribute an eBook on glamour photography. And that’s just what I did. My first eBook is called, “Guerrilla Glamour” and it still sells fairly well. I’m now working on my 5th eBook.
Do you prefer shooting indoors, in a studio or rather outdoors?
Good question. I’m not sure. I like having the lighting control studio shooting affords. But I also enjoy the challenges of shooting in natural light, either natural light on its own (with reflectors and scrims and such) or with artificial light added. If I were to say I prefer shooting in the studio it would only be because that control means I usually don’t have to work as hard to get the shots I’m after.
When I’m outside shooting in daylight, conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly. For some reason, that darn sun refuses to stay in the same place I’d prefer it to remain and, consequently, I have to stay on my toes and work with it as it won’t stay still and moves across the sky… and then there’s those pesky clouds that sometimes move in and out between it (the sun) and my subjects. Wind can also be problematic at times, not to mention heat, cold, rain…
Many photographers would like to explore nude work but just don’t know how to get started. Do you have some advice for taking the first steps?
That’s a semi-tough one. Obviously, if they’re looking to do it all on their own and they have the confidence to do so it’s not too big of a problem, especially if they’re willing to kick a few bucks over to their models.
While getting models to peel their clothes and pose for free from websites like Model Mayhem isn’t always so easy to accomplish, there’s plenty of models who will do so for fairly small amounts of compensation. Personally, I would suggest that anyone about to get started shooting nudes might consider doing so via the many workshops that are offered. I advise them to do some research in order to find the better workshops.
In terms of learning, there’s plenty of resources available. My eBook, Guerrilla Glamour , is one such learning resource. There are many more. Some good, some lacking, some a waste of time and money. Again, do some research to find out what’s good and what’s not so good.
As already mentioned you wrote a couple of great easy to understand photography ebooks. What is your drive to share your expertise and experience?
I think I’ve always had a mentor’s personality. I’m often the first guy to step-up and help others learn how to do something or to explain it. I enjoy sharing what I know with others. Fortunately, there’s not all that many things I know how to do with any real skill and competence beyond shooting people with cameras. So, it’s not like my whole life is devoted to teaching others one thing or another.
I’ve been authoring my glamour photography blog, http://prettygirlshooter.blogspot.com for about 6 years now and have posted nearly a thousand updates. I don’t make money directly from my blog and I’ve only used it to sell a few products for the last two or three years of its existence so it’s not like I’m totally driven to create revenue via sharing my skills and experience.
At the same time, I have transitioned that sharing to some amount of income-earning via selling my eBooks as well as the eBooks of a select few others. As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently working on my 5th eBook, it’s titled, “Location Flash: How to Shoot Awesome Portraits Combining Natural and Artificial Light.” It doesn’t focus exclusively on glam or nude. It targets all kinds of portraits. I’ll readily admit I haven’t put in the kind of work it takes to produce these eBooks for purely altruistic reasons.
Tech QNA: JimmyD’s Gear DNA
Do you work solely digital or also analog these days?
Most of my work is digital although I do own a number of film cameras and, when the spirit moves me, I shoot with them. But that stuff is only for me. I don’t have any clients who want film any longer.
I made the transition from film to digital when Canon introduced its EOS 10D. I believe that was about ten years ago. I’ve been all digital ever since, leastwise in terms of paid work.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with?
I shoot mostly with a Canon EOS 5D, the original, and have done so since that camera was first released. Lately, I’ve been shooting more and more with the Fujifilm X100. I also own a Leica D-Lux 3 which is a little point-n-shoot digital that, as you might expect from a Leica, snaps some very decent photos.
I take that along with me to various places altho lately it’s been mostly replaced by my X100 as my preferred walk-around camera. My little Leica doesn’t have a hot shoe so that’s a big minus for me. The X100, of course, does have a hot shoe.
What lighting equipment do you set up for a shoot?
I mostly shoot with monolights. I have a number of them. They’re either Novatron, Photogenic, or Bowens. The majority of them are Novatrons: I have three or four 300WS units and a 500WS unit. The Novatrons tend to be my go-to lights. I also have plenty of grip: light stands, arms, c-stands, booms, sand bags, various clamps and such, and more. I also have portable power so I can take those monoblocs wherever I want to use them regardless of AC being available or not. I have both an Innovatronix Explorer XT system, as well as their newer Explorer Mini for my portable power needs.
I love portable power and Innovatronix, in my opinion, is the premier manufacturer of those products. I also have a Canon 580EX speedlite and well as a pair of Canon 540s. I tend to use them less and, when I do, the 580 often has an Orbis Ringflash adapter attached to it.
As far as modifiers go, I have a Mola 33.5″ “Euro” beauty dish, a Photoflex 5′ Octo, a Photek 4′ Softighter, a couple of Chimera strips, and a number of smaller boxes, umbrellas, shoot-through umbrellas, and brolly boxes. For a while now, my go-to main light modifier has been my 4′ Photek Softlighter.
I also have a Westcott Medium Scrim Jim and at least a half-dozen reflectors of some sort or another and they all get used frequently, especially the Scrim Jim.
I know that Photoshop is very important for your final images and realizing your concepts. How intensive do you integrate the planning of retouching and composing work into the concept phase?
Most all of the post-production work for the images I shoot is performed by others. My clients either have in-house art departments or they contract with independent retouchers and/or graphic artists. I only do post-prod on the images I post on my blog or use for my eBooks.
I’m okay I suppose, skill-wise, with Photoshop but I’m not very good compared to so many others. I think of myself as a photographer first. I’m most definitely a “get it right in the camera” guy. I admire the Photoshop skills of others and I’m sometimes a bit envious, but apparently not so envious that I’m willing to invest the time and resources necessary for enhancing my PS skills to some sort of expert level.
I don’t own Lightroom and the only add-on 3rdp-party software for PS I have is Nik’s sharpener. 🙂
Are you rather a Mac or a PC lover?
I do most everything on a PC. I currently have an ACER all-in-one desktop computer with a fairly big HD screen as well as an HP laptop. I also have an Android tablet. I do own a MAC, one that has Final Cut Pro (video editing) and some other software installed, but I don’t use it much.
JimmyD, thanks a lot for joining me and the time you dedicated to my readers!