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Recently I attended an Annenberg lecture with the famous fashion and beauty legend, photographer Melvin Sokolsky.

It was extraordinary for many reasons.  Melvin Sokolsky has an opinion which I appreciate. In a world driven with perfection he dares to have his own opinion. Sokolsky has great stories to tell.  He’s a genuine guy who would have answered questions all night long (versus the 3 that he was allowed to)  if they would have let him.

I got to get this off my chest. This is not the first time that I went to Annenberg where the staff was challenged by time management issues.  They get flustered when photography speakers don’t watch their time and the cut off is so harsh that it comes across as plain rude. As a suggestion perhaps you could install a light on your podium so that your speakers know when their time is ending. If that doesn’t work have someone in the audience with a 15, 10 and 5 minute sign signaling the speaker.

Back to Sokolsky The essence of this evening was how unfazed and utterly unimpressed by technology and digital advancements this legendary photographer is. He says you have to know how to light. You have to be able to see how the light falls and understand how to manipulate it to get an interesting result. Photoshop is good but it won’t cover up the fact that you haven’t gotten a clue about lighting technique and it will show.

My personal favorite was that Melvin knew every models name he worked with. He remembered her distinct features and was able to explain why she was good for a job and not the one before. Sokolsky knew what type of clothes a model has to wear to maximize his desired effect in the image. Sokolsky even knew about the quality of the clothes he photographed and had a few things to say about how interesting photography can make bad clothes look great.

This reminded me very much of my days as a Photo Editor at Elle magazine. As the photographer you must know your subject inside out and are able to contribute on all fronts to the end result. This includes making up for a possible weakness of the merchandise and/or picking a girl whose uniqueness enhances your message. The requirement is to got your technique under control so perfectly that you know (and not guess) what the result is going to be.

What I took away from this evening was simple. Don’t hide behind Photoshop but loosen up on the technology side of things. Fine tune  your craft. Really study the art of setting light and understand it. Be playful and don’t worry about a blur or something not being 100% in focus. Explore and create.

Give yourself a lot of leeway. Recognizing that the biggest amount of pixels won’t make the better picture. It is always going to be about what you see and feel and your ability to translate that to the viewer.

I think I am in love with Melvin….

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