Sexy Lifestyle Advertising image

This very sexy couple image was photographed near Miami Beach, Florida. I had the models meet me about 1 hour before I wanted to shoot to allow enough time in case one of them ran late due to traffic, and the southeast coast of Florida has a lot of traffic. This also allows my stylist to pick through the wardrobe I asked them to bring to get something that will “work”.

In any type of boy/girl intimate imagery, believably is of paramount importance. When using models that may not know each other it will be up to the photographer to see the problems and direct the models through their potential reluctance or hesitation to engage with the other model. I have had a few projects that one or the other model just could not work through the issues they had even with me directing. Normally with professional lifestyle models vs. fashion models this is never a problem.

Most fashion models are normally photographed by themselves, and as a result of this they are not accustom to working with another model in the same photograph if it is a lifestyle project. If you shoot with 2 fashion models they might look like they are on their own separate planet, and even though they may be touching… they will look worlds apart. For a major lifestyle project, I will always look for photos where the models are interacting together with other people. If they do not have these types of images I will try to set up a test shoot and see if they can look real or not. The reality is if the models can’t work together and look 100% believable with another person, the photo will be a failure.

I have had a few projects where the client hired 2 fashion models, a man & a woman. On one of these projects it was like pulling teeth to get them look real. It was not that they did not try, it was they were like a fish out of water, so they looked, and were, uncomfortable. I did finally get a photograph that worked but it took hours to get there. After I was able to show the models some early photos next to a “Real” image, they started to understand.

So many clients & photographers think just because they have a good looking man & a good looking woman and you put them together they will look natural. Maybe, but unless they are really good professional lifestyle models, the odds are against you. When I go to the mall, a restaurant or a social get together, I will watch people and observe how they interact. Not just if they touch the person they are with, but HOW do they touch, where do they touch, what is the expression on their face, what is their body language telling me?

All of the signals that will tell someone who does not know the couple they are looking at, but will instantly know they “Belong” to the other person or not. These same set of signals will tell a person that when they see a man & a woman in a photo that was not properly modeled or directed, that it was staged photo. For me this would be a failure.

Fortunately for me, this couple had no problems at all, and it really looks like they have a lot of natural attraction.

The Gear:
Canon camera & lens – 1/160 second, ISO 100, 85mm lens set at f4

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Cowboy in the snow

Here I am following Jimmy to the location

This is my shadow while riding, the big lump behind me is my 35 pound (16 KG) camera bag

Another select 2 frames later

Location wise for this shot I looked for a large flat area that has pristine snow, i.e., no animal tracks. I then asked Jimmy if this area has good “footing”, meaning is it safe for the horse. I don’t want to run a horse where there are rocks, holes, irrigation ditches or anything else that could seriously injure an animal.

Once I have established a good and safe spot to shoot, I then look for where I need to be. I’ll then dig out the snow down 2 or 3 feet (0.6 – 1 meter) so I can get into the hole. This allows me to get down to the snow level without having to lay down on my side.

So I now am standing, sitting or kneeling in the hole in the snow with my right hand holding my camera and my left hand on the zoom control of the lens while also holding onto the reins of my horse. This is very important because I want be be sure I can ride back & not walk back.

The trick here is to have the horse close so if it moves it’s head it will not jerk the reins, and therefore, move my hand on the lens while I’m taking photos. It also helps to have a a calm horse and a comfortable spot for the horse to stand, a level spot is best. This way the horse is not dancing around, stepping on you and/or your camera bag or being a nuisance in general.

Most horses, being a herd animal, want to be with their buddies. In this case my horse would prefer to be with the horse Jimmy is riding. But since I have used this horse before it knows it would be better to stay with me rather than running. I have shot with other horses and they sometimes are almost out of control jerking on the reins wanting to leave. After a few “Lessons” applied to the horse they normally decide that standing still is a better idea. If they are still a problem, I will use a different horse the next day.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 70-200 Canon Zoom lens at 100 mm, 1/320 sec., f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Cowboy on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains

This Cowboy image was shot a little after 6 am on a ranch on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I was on this location for 2 weeks and when I first arrived all of this vegetation was gray or brown due to a drought. Shortly after arriving it either rained or was solid overcast every afternoon and caused just about everything to really green up. This was the last day I was able to shoot before returning to Denver and then home. This photo was shot a few minutes after sunrise but a mountain behind the cowboy is blocking the direct light and will for another 20-25 minutes. Click on image to enlarge.

Shot with a Canon 5D MKIII set at 1/400 second, 640 ISO with a 400mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f2.8 and everything resting on a Gitzo fluid head and a set of Gitzo carbon fiber sticks.

Styling credits: Coat by Miller Ranch – Hat by Larry Mahan – Saddle Blanket by Mayatex – Wildrag by Cowboy Images  

Fashion in Bel Air

This image was shot in Bel Air, California about 10-20 minutes after sunset & I’m using the modeling lights from 2 Lumedyne battery powered strobe systems for additional lighting. One head is in a FourSquare 30″x30″ travel softbox, which is pressed up against the opened car door with the window rolled down and the other head is directly in front of the car aimed at the model. I’m shooting with the new Canon 5D MKIII set on 2500 ISO, 1/40 second shutter speed, using a 16-35 Canon zoom lens set at 16mm & f2.8.

This new Canon camera body has a great auto focus system that actually works about 95% of the time, a HUGE improvment over the 5D MKI & MKII.

The jacket, an Alan Michael USA creation, is made from leather with fish skin trim which sounds really strange but is really an interesting combination.

Cowboy – Western Lifestyle Fashion Image

This Cowboy-Western Lifestyle Fashion image was shot for The Milano Hat Company for catalog, web & ad use near Eagle – Vail, Colorado inside an unheated 1890’s homesteader’s cabin. This was the first set up of the shoot and it was about 10 (-12C) degrees inside. Most of the light on the cowboy is from a battery powered strobe inside a softbox just to the right of the camera.


Sunset in Deerfield Beach lifestyle shot with  Tara & Duane. This project took about 70 minutes and both models were wonderful to work with. They both made the shots 100% real. Generally speaking the hardest part of boy/girl lifestyle imagery is knowing what looks real and how to move your models from “Hello, how are you doing” to them looking like boy friend/girl friend in 5 minutes. Casting is very important but so is knowing how to direct the models if what they are doing is not “Real”. This only comes after years of experience in shooting lifestyle with models who did not know each other before they were on set. It is really tough to get believability if the photographer does not know what to look for. It is just as important to know what looks wrong as what looks correct.

Hello world!

This Cowboy Lifestyle image was shot on a ranch in Colorado for a client’s Christmas card. Click here to see it larger The real story here is not how I shot the photo, but what I had to do to get the photo, specifically the tree. I shot this image on January 31st so buying a good looking tree was out of the question. In looking at the ranch in this photo you can see there is not a tree in sight, other than the one being dragged behind the horse. I found out that the US Forest Service allows you to go and cut a tree for Christmas for a fee if you wanted. So I contacted the local forest service office and explained what I wanted and they approved the permit. I called another office that I was told to go to and the woman said “Yes I have your permit waiting here and we close at 4 pm”.

So I drove to the office got the permit and drove to where it was suggested I go to locate an appropriate tree. I then got out the tree saw, put on my snow shoes and headed to the tree line, about 300-400 feet (60-90 meters) away. After 5 minutes trudging through the snow to get to the tree line, I spent an additional 15 minutes looking for the best tree that was not too small. I finally located the right one and cut it down. Up until now everything was going according to plan and I truly had not a clue what I was in for next.

I folded the tree saw back into it’s handle for safety, turned around and latched onto a branch of the tree and started to drag the tree out. It was at this precise point in time did I realize just what I was in for. Upon the first attempt to move the tree, it did not move. The sheer amount of all the needles and branches added up to a tremendous coefficient of drag. (A little physics term there). What this meant was I was going to have to really work hard to get this tree out. Now a little bit more information, this location is about 10,000 – 11,000 feet above sea level (3050-3350 meters) meaning what little air is left is a bit thin. So within the first 20 feet (7 meters) of really dragging this tree I am starting to huff and puff a bit. About half way back to the car (some 30 minutes after I started back) simply huffing and puffing would have been preferred because I’m now wheezing and honestly wondering if I’ll make it back to the car before dark…. if ever. I was also glad I was not needing to drag this “King of the Forest” up a hill.

I kept dragging the tree and when I got to gasping for breath I just fell back into the snow, closed my eyes and sucked in as much of the bitter cold oxygen starved atmosphere my poor lungs would tolerate. After an hour I finally was able to drag the tree back to the car. I took off my snow shoes and worked the tree into the back of my Ford Explorer. It was then apparent that the tree was 2 feet (60 cm) too long. So I closed the back hatch and opened the back window and drove back with the tree sticking out of the back window to the ranch with the heater on high. The things I do for an image.

When I was shooting this project the cowboy was complaining that the rope was painfully cutting into his leg and was surprised how much drag there was. You can see from the 3 foot wide (1 meter) scar violently scraped into the snow that the tree, with every fiber of it’s being, is still resisting being moved. I of course was not surprised in the least and after I finished shooting this got back on my horse and rode back to the barn thankful that I able to make it back alive, without spitting up blood and this job was finally over.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 16-35 mm Canon Zoom lens set at 16 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop CS5 Beta and using the Adobe RAW converter.

Note: When shooting in the snow, or just in extreme cold, take spare batteries. I have a Lightware GS6000 “Small flat stash” (don’t ask me who thinks up these names) where I put my spare batteries. I then, depending on how cold it is, put 1-4 chemical hand warmers in with the batteries. You can buy the hand warmers at Home Depot, ski shops, outdoor shops like REI, Cabela’s etc. This way the cameras will still work because the cold kills the charge in the batteries quickly.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!