New Photography + Video Tutorials Up On Skillshare

Just popping in for a brief blog revival to mention I’ve been posting photography/ video editing tutorials on Skillshare, one of those neat online learning sites.

My current classes are “Get Surreal In Adobe Premiere”, “Capturing the Great Outdoors: Nature Photography For Beginners” and “Introducing Chaos: Creative Image Transfer”.

get surreal in adobe premiere

I tried both Skillshare and and ended up going with Skillshare since they have specific project oriented tutorials that suited my interests in motion graphics, graphic design, business, etc.  If something like Skillshare existed when I was in college I could have saved $20,000 in student loans, but c’est la vie!


Closing Up Shop

A brief announcement that, coinciding with my shift to Primordial Creative multimedia, I’m closing this blog.  Tumblr, Instagram and Vimeo have become my primary social networks and it’s difficult to feed all these beasts and still do the work I need to do.  If you enjoyed my work and tutorials and want to keep up, please do so at one or all of the above!  Thanks for sticking around and happy holidays!

Announcing Primordial Creative

I’ve spent most of 2015 producing videos that build upon my photographic style while incorporating original music, graphic design and animation.  Having my business name “David Miller Photoworks” isn’t relevant at this stage, and “David Miller” is a name so common I have had multiple times where I’m mixed up with another photographer.  This brings us to Primordial Creative- a multimedia production studio focusing on video shorts, sound design, animations, and still photography with a surreal pop flavor.    primordial more lite

In 2016, PC aims to open a physical studio space and bring on other local creatives. It’s been a lengthy transition from basic still photography of an indie artist to this monstrosity of production so I hope anyone following my work enjoys what’s next!

Photographer without a camera

My beloved Fuji X-T1, which I shoot the majority of my still and video work on, went into a coma in Los Angeles last week and had to be sent off for repair- likely a 6 week ordeal that will cost hundreds. November and December are also the time when I need the camera the most for family shoots, so I’m asking friends to consider helping out by shopping my Etsy site for art. Any sales will go towards getting a new camera/ repairing the old one. I also have my e-book “Capturing the Face” available on Amazon, and for people in the East Valley I have 2 classes running at Tumbleweed in December, Making Manga and GoPro Fundamentals. Thank you in advance to anyone able to help out!

Excerpt #3 from “Capturing The Face- A Guide To Creative Photographic Portraiture”

Capturing the Face cover

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from my new e-book on creative portraiture, “Capturing the Face”.  The book is subdivided into the 10 considerations we need to make when we approach a stylized portrait shoot.  The full 44 page, $2.99 e-book is available for the Kindle here, and if you enjoyed this I encourage you to check out my image transfer workshop video tutorials on Skillshare!

This excerpt is taken from a section covering “Image Capturing Method”:


Each method of capture brings with it expectations and handicaps, a particular vibe that affects the entire image.  Since I like surrealism in my imagery, using less traditional means of image capture adds surrealism without me having to introduce it in post via photoshop.  My favorite camera at the time of this writing (September 2015) is the Fuji Neo Classic Instax Mini, which makes what could be described as a “half Polaroid”- a 2×3 instant film print.   It also has additional controls that allow me to make in-camera double exposures, something that is unique among instant film cameras.  It’s not very sharp and the image is small and physical, so I need to scan it or rephotograph it with my phone if I want to present it online.  

The softness is actually an advantage, as it makes subjects look younger, eliminates unflattering lines, acne etc.  When I photograph people with it, there is absolute delight on set as we wait to see if it was a keeper or trash.  It’s both treasured and disposable.  If a double exposure experiment ends up trash, we can course correct in a matter of minutes.  

Another of my favorite methods of image capture is the scanner, which my subject has to lay on or directly place their face on.  It is somewhat the polar opposite of the instant film in that it reveals every defect of someone scanned with it- every tiny hair, pore, wrinkle- shows up.  Like the instant film cameras, we can see instant results on the computer screen and make course corrections if there are flaws going on.  When we can see how the process is going, both the subject and myself get ideas on how to improve the work while making the work rather than in post, and it’s great. 

I’ve owned many cameras over the decades and some did not really work out for me creatively.  One that stands out is the Diana F, a plastic medium format camera that deliberately introduces light leaks, film winding issues, and other “adorable” defects.   

Another camera that didn’t end up suiting my overall style is a 4×5 Graphlex- a 1940s sports camera made of metal, large and difficult to maneuver.  It used expensive film that took a few minutes to compose, make manual exposure settings, insert film holder, pull dark slide, click shutter, re-insert dark slide… yawn.  Any large camera leads to very stiff, formal compositions since the subject cannot move around much once the composition step is accomplished.  

These cameras didn’t work for me but I have seen amazing stuff out of other people using the Diana F and Graphlex.  The photographers felt a kinship with those cameras, felt their creativity sync with those tools, told themselves they would master these things no matter what.  I wasn’t really into the instant film images until I told myself “I want to make amazing work with this camera”, researched what other artists had done, and pushed myself to take it seriously.  


Heat Transfer on Tile from Mexico City

2015-10-07 13.40.23

In the course of making some online tutorials about image transfer, I used shots from Mexico City that I wouldn’t exactly put alongside my creative portrait work; in this case, an iPhone shot of a statue.  This was printed on heat transfer paper and transferred onto a travertine stone tile.  What’s fun about using these non-portfolio images in a creative way is that it gives me some neat wall art for my house that reminds us of our adventures, truly unique vacation memorabilia.  I have a video tutorial of this and other transfer techniques up on Skillshare– the great creative learning site that taught me typography, poster design, and how to use After Effects and Illustrator among many things.

Excerpt #2 from “Capturing The Face- A Guide To Creative Photographic Portraiture”

Capturing the Face coverOver the next few weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from my new e-book on creative portraiture, “Capturing the Face”.  The book is subdivided into the 10 considerations we need to make when we approach a stylized portrait shoot.  The full 44 page, $2.99 e-book is available for the Kindle here, and if you enjoyed this I encourage you to check out my image transfer workshop video tutorials on Skillshare!

This particular excerpt is a discussion of “Styling”:


Styling was one of the most difficult things for me to get down in my own portrait photography, because I don’t know the names of particular fashions or hairstyles, and google image searches are a real crapshoot if you don’t know specific names.  I will work with stylists and send them inspirational imagery but that’s no guarantee that they know how to achieve the particular look, or if the model we are using has the right hair length/ size for whatever is available.  

The styling crew (hair, makeup and wardrobe) are the people who get the least out of any photos you take, so this is likely where some money is going to be spent.  Because I like a particular amount of production in my images, a hairstylist is top priority for a shoot- people generally cannot do their own hair as well as an actual stylist can, who has 360 degree access to the subject’s head. 

Makeup is something most men do not need for creative portraiture, and the majority of women I’ve worked with can do what I refer to as “going out on a date” makeup- stuff that looks great in real life but doesn’t communicate well in a photo.  An actual makeup artist can do film/ photographic makeup with astronomically expensive supplies and it’ll actually show up in the images.  Makeup artists are generally more costly than hair stylists, and if you have both hair and makeup on set, you’re easily adding an extra hour or two to the shoot time.  It’s a frustrating scenario to have a studio and models booked for 4 hours and hair and makeup eats up the majority of that time while the photographer stands around.

Beyond makeup is fx- bodypaint, gore, fake scars, adding jewelry, making people look frozen or cartoony.  The more specific the look, the more it covers, the longer it takes to do.  The bodypaint shoots I’ve done have ranged from 1 hour (a chaotic mess which still looked cool) to 6 hours (elaborate designs involving words).  Each time I work with an fx artist, I leave thinking it was worth it, but the process of getting it done is quite tiresome for all involved.

I don’t have too many words for wardrobe and prop styling- but one can see how budgets could spiral based on the styling alone.  It’s said that setting a film as a period piece makes the cost skyrocket in such a way that Hollywood does its best to avoid them.  If you do choose to create something that is period specific and requires styling, then there should be a lot of extra research to make sure everything fits the way it is supposed to.  A few years ago I came across a fashion shoot based on the D-Day, with a bikini model among  a platoon of soldiers who were all holding modern weapons but dressed in 1940s GI outfits.   

There was a time when my photoshoots were really over complicated.  Lots of patterns and textures and accessories and unique styling, and at the end of all that effort, I maybe got one portfolio piece out of it.  

The problems with a “busy” look are:

1. it’s expensive to get everything right and looking good, and if you start cutting corners (like getting stuff from the Halloween store for wardrobe), the whole scenario collapses like a house of cards.

2. the less versatile the look, the fewer outlets the final image has- unusable as gallery images, unusable as stock or mixed media pieces or anything really.

3. Busy compositions are overall less appealing than simplicity.  Think of “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles vs. “Master of Puppets” by Metallica.  What song can you actually hum?  Or to put it another way:  who wants to live in a house full of junk?

This takes me to shooting things very cleanly in an almost “generic” sense.  It’s a lesson I learned from Richard Avedon, Man Ray, and other photographic heroes with a strong sense of design, and movies like Drive or Pacific Rim or Jaws.  Start simple, and build it up, rather than get super complex and have it fall apart like a house of cards.