Las Vegas – June 4th & 5th, 2011 Seminar Summary.


“Amazing!” “A once-in-a-lifetime experience.” “What a thrill to work hands-on with such great and gifted photographers.” “A completely unique learning opportunity for anyone interested in improving their photography skills.”

These were just a few of the comments overheard at the end of the most recent “Shoot the Centerfold” photography seminar and workshop held June 4th and 5th, 2011 at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. For two days jam-packed with instruction and information, 106 attendees from destinations all around the country and as distant as London, Mexico and Australia had the opportunity to work with Arny Freytag, Jarmo Pohjaniemi and David Mecey, three of the world’s leading glamour photographers, each of them sharing their expertise in all aspects of glamour photography.

The experience of the attendees varied widely: there were established professionals looking to hone their lighting and posing techniques in order to break through to that next plateau in their careers; there were part-time professionals specializing in weddings, events, sports or children, all looking to broaden their skill sets and increase their opportunities in photography; and there were avid photography enthusiasts thinking about turning professional or with the simple desire to learn how to become better photographers.

The first event of the weekend workshop was a Friday night welcoming cocktail party at the Ambhar Lounge in the Tropicana. This was a Tropicana sponsored meet and greet with Arny, David and Jarmo, say hello to the attendees who would be shooting during the workshop, meet the hostesses and other workshop facilitators and have the chance to get acquainted with some of their fellow participants. Festive as the mood was, with jet lag and a packed two-day schedule of activities looming, most participants retired early in anticipation of what was to come next.

Day one opened with a keynote address by Gary Cole, long-time Photography Director of Playboy Magazine. Cole, twice selected by American Photo Magazine as one of the 100 most important people in photography, covered a wide range of topics including production planning and organization, copyright and model release requirements, understanding potential photography clients and the importance of developing the ability to critically judge one’s own work.

In following 30-minute sessions, David Mecey, Jarmo Pohjaniemi and Arny Freytag each introduced themselves, offered overviews on their backgrounds and approach to photography and showed samples of their work with explanations on each specific image.

The participants were then split into two groups: one accompanied David Mecey to an outdoor situation to demonstrate outdoor light shooting methods. At the same time, Gary presented a brief history of Playboy photography replete with lots of celebrity shooting anecdotes to the other group. The groups then rotated with David and Gary repeating their presentations. An energetic question and answer period followed both of Gary’s presentations. In fact, participants were invited to ask questions and make observations during any of the sessions that took place over the two days. After a quick lunch, participants were divided into three groups of approximately 35 each. Three separate stations, each with a Playboy Playmate as model, were set up. Arny Freytag and Jarmo Pohjaniemi had interior set constructions, Arny’s more elaborate, Jarmo’s a bit simpler. David Mecey’s station was set up outside next to the pool. The three groups then rotated in two-hour shifts between the three stations.

David Mecey kicked his instructional session off with an in-depth explanation of his working philosophy. David first shot for Playboy as a freelance photographer back in 1980, then as a staff photographer for the magazine before returning to freelance so that he could pursue an even greater variety of photographic challenges. David opined on practical subjects as wide ranging as how to scout for and secure locations, what to consider when making a model selection, how to establish a good working rapport with models and finding the right lighting solution for every situation. Underscoring his “less is more” approach to photography, David ran the gamut of practical information every photographer needs to know when mixing artificial light with the sun and when shooting in difficult and sometimes impromptu situations. David’s model for both days of the workshop was Playmate Ashley Hobbs, a gorgeous blonde published in the December, 2010 issue of Playboy. Bikinis seldom look as good as they do on Ashley. An extra bonus that afternoon was a drop by hello from Holly Madison, currently starring in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood on the strip.

Jarmo Pohjaniemi is Finland’s answer to how to be an accomplished commercial photographer, an art photographer who actually manages to find markets for his artistic work, a successful entrepreneur and a handsome man-about-town all at the same time. Jarmo has worked consistently as a with Playboy Magazine and for Playboy’s Special Editions since 2000. Jarmo’s focused on developing the ability to switch shooting styles, working to achieve a traditional Playboy glamour look to creating a contemporary fashion feel in his images. A former professional model himself, Jarmo offered unique insights into methods for relaxing and relating to models and in finding the best angles for each individual model in front of the camera. Jarmo’s model for the workshop was Playmate Kassie Lyn Logsdon, long and lithe and with a great smile. Kassie appeared in the April, 2010 issue of Playboy.

The third working session of the day belonged to master glamour photographer Arny Freytag. Arny has photographed 140 published Playmates. That’s nearly 12 years of Playmates and he’s still at it. He’s also shot innumerable Playboy covers, celebrity pictorials and fashion and lifestyle features for the magazine. And, while Playboy has been his major client for most of his professional career, he’s also found time to squeeze in a host of advertising clients as well. Arny demonstrated his famous studio lighting techniques, sometimes utilizing as many as 15 lights on a set. He explained his proven techniques for getting the most tantalizing facial expressions and body movements from models with little or no experience. He even showed how he executes an overhead-down shot, an angle he used successfully a number of times, most recently on a Girls-Next-Door Playboy cover. Arny’s model was the gorgeous Shanna Marie McLaughlin (July, 2010). Shanna become a Playmate after appearing on the recent “Playboy Shoot Out” television in which she and amateur photographer Kate Romero emerged as winners.

With so much to cover combined with the intense interest of the participants, the sessions ran long and late leaving just enough time for a dinner and dress up break. Now things shifted into party mode. There were opportunities for red carpet photography featuring the three aforementioned Playmate models plus two additional Playmates: Christina Smith (12/05) and Tamara Sky (8/07) who also morphed into her professional DJ personae, cranking out great tunes poolside the next afternoon. Robin Leach, Vegas personality and host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” made a red carpet appearance as did the host of sponsors who generously support the efforts of “Shoot the Centerfold.” The party then moved into one of Vegas’ newest and hottest spots, the exclusive Club Nikki. Beautiful people, great music and plenty of bubbly were there to be enjoyed until participants remembered the hands-on workshops scheduled for the next day.

Sunday morning wake-ups are never easy but waking up to learn more about one’s passion for photography makes it less painful. Participants were broken into small groups that then rotated among several instructional and informational stations. Station one featured Arny Freytag demonstrating lighting and posing. Freytag is a master at lighting the human body in environmental situations, real or created, of using light and shadow to create the illusion of perfection in face and figure. It’s been often said of Arny that he never met a light he didn’t like because his lighting set ups approach science in terms of complexity and design. However, every light has a purpose and participants had the opportunity to hear Arny’s detailed explanation of the how and why of every light placement and density.  Each participant then had the opportunity to try lighting adjustments and to pose and shoot Shanna Marie McLaughlin themselves, all under Arny’s direct guidance.

Jarmo and David were doing similar demonstrations with their Playmates, Jarmo inside, David outside. Again, participants had the opportunity to shoot a Playmate under the direct personal supervision of each photographer.  There were additional two additional set ups, one for head shots, another inside Nikki Beach. Meanwhile, each group had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion and individual portfolio review with Gary Cole and Jeff Cohen who joined the workshop on Sunday. Jeff has been a photographer, producer and photography editor and headed up Playboy’s Special Edition publications for many years. The exceedingly forthcoming participants had the opportunity in these sessions to share their unique stories and aspirations with one another and get insights from two highly experienced photography professionals.

Other stations featured Playmate Angela Mellini (6/98) who provided practical tips on how to find, approach and deal with models, all from the perspective from the other side of the camera. In addition, the sponsors of Shoot the Centerfold had displays and explanations of their equipment and services. The sponsors included:

Leica Cameras, a historic name in cameras and still among the best in the world;

Samy’s Camera, the go-to camera and photo equipment sales and rental supplier on the West Coast;

Hensel, makers of heavy duty studio strobe lighting systems, location battery powered packs and a full range of light controls;

Chimera, maker of a range of lightbanks, speed rings, lanterns and a host of other lighting solutions;

Lightware, a leading manufacturer of DVI-HDMI and DP matrix switchers and holder of a number of proprietary technologies;

California Sunbounce, maker of a myriad of light reflectors, diffusers and scrims;

McKennaPro, the “not-your-average pro lab” which offers a variety of albums and books, gallery wraps and fine art papers;

Playboy Energy Drinks, the easy way to look cool and stay energized;

Nikki Beach, the hottest club in Las Vegas and a special shout out to The Tropicana Hotel, an incredible blend of historic Vegas completely contemporized and featuring the don’t miss Las Vegas Mob Experience.

As if all this wasn’t enough, there was also a model search going on poolside at Nikki Beach on Sunday afternoon with a representative from One Model Place on hand. And kudos to Jon Paulsin who masterfully choreographed and managed the entire event, Tim Pelham, the red carpet host and Mary Alejo who did triple duty as wardrobe coordinator, hair and make up artist. Mary who also is a model became the celebrity of the event by been featured on the Tropicana marquee for all Las Vegas to see.

To be honest, Sunday was a satisfying but exhausting day, chocked full of hands-on learning opportunities, crammed with information and activity. The day ended with a camera giveaway (Leica Dlux 5) courtesy of Leica and a lighting kit provided by Hensel Light.

The participants came away with a totally unique and personalized photography learning experience conducted by some of the top glamour photographers and photo editors in the world. The “Shoot the Centerfold” crew was invigorated by the energy, curiosity and passion of the participants. There is so much knowledge to share and it was a pleasure to share it with such an eager and enthusiastic audience.

“Shoot the Centerfold” is already planning its next, even more ambitious, workshop. Keep your eyes and your lenses open so as to be sure not to miss it.


Gary Cole
Playboy’s Director Of Photography
  1. Angel07-19-11


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