Sometimes one shoot isn’t enough to really get what you wanted. You come up with a cool idea and then do it, but you know it could be better, or you could do something a little different.
The obvious solution is to shoot it again. In one sense that seems like you are shooting the same thing over and over, but every shoot is a little different. You may change the lights a little, or shoot from a different angle. You might use a different model and hence get different personality and physicality.
I’ve recently realized I’ve been shooting some themes. Three to be exact. One is based on content, one is based on set up and one is based on concept.
Girls With Guns
I’m a firearm enthusiast and like beautiful women with guns. So I’ve often shot models with firearms. Been doing it for awhile now and there is a infinite variety of things you can do with that theme.
If I get a new gun, or access to a new gun, I’ve got a new thing to shoot.
Every model is different, some know firearms, some have never held a gun. Every one gets a lecture in firearm safety and training in how to to hold the gun. Some remember to keep their finger off the trigger, others don’t.
I had this idea about shooting models under a shower. I shot some in the studio’s actual shower, but I wanted something more artistic than that. My partners figured out how to set up a shower at the top of our car ramp. Then I got to figure out how to light it.
My style includes a lot of shadow and dark backgrounds, so I lit it so only the model had light to start with and then added lights to bring out the water spray. Recently I’ve added color to the background/water light.
I’ve also shot the theme in jeans, a bikini, nude and in a dress. It is an on going project – one models are approaching me to shoot.
My newest theme is called Pull – the first one to have a name. It is a fine art series where I have a model pull on a rope. I think there is a lot of possibility and look forward to exploring it.
Since the lighting is almost exactly the same, I’m getting most of my variation via the models themselves. Don’t really know where it is going to go yet, but it is fun to explore.
Since Pull is so model centric I actually wrote a Pull Shoot Specification for it. It is hard to explain simply but in depth.
This isn’t an easy to write about because what creeps a woman out varies from woman to woman and model to model. I think the models who are most successful are the ones that get creeped out the least.
It is Different When Talking to Models.
When you approach a model on a modeling site or at a live event they understand you are probably not hitting on them when you ask them to shoot.
When you are talking to a pretty woman in the real world you are probably going to have to explain things more. Matter of fact, I’d start talking about something related to being a photographer and then make it personal to them. If you start with “Hey, baby want to shoot?” or some variation they are going to just think you are hitting on them.
Talk About The Photography
The other night Shawna and I were at dinner discussing where the podcast is going in the future and we got to talking about crazy stuff in photographers profile text. One thing she mentioned was how explaining your life story and how you are happily married and going on and on about it is just weird to her. You are there to do photography, focus on that.
You don’t have to defend yourself before you ever talk to them. Don’t start making counter arguments to bad things you believe she is thinking about you. If you stay on topic that is good enough. Make it obvious you are passionate about photography and she’ll never think you are interested in hitting on her.
Don’t start off messages and discussions with personal topics. “Hey, how you doing?”, “What’d you do today?”, “How about them Cowboys?” are not good first questions when talking to a model. They are off topic and boring.
Talk about the photography and modeling first. You may not know you want to shoot with a model the first time you talk to her. In the case of models on modeling sites, you probably aren’t sending them a message for any other reason, but if you a meeting at a networking event you may not be sure she’s someone you want to shoot with. In this case start out talking about modeling. Asking things like…
“How long have you been modeling?”
“What kind of model are you?”
“What is your favorite stuff to shoot?”
“What haven’t you shot that you want to shoot?”
Talk to The Model
I know a lot of us are shy, but you need to open up and talk to the model. As I said in my post on One Thing That Makes You Look Creepy. If you stare at a model and say nothing you are going to seem creepy.
Those are a few suggestions. Do you have any tips on not sounding creepy? I know there are models who listen to the podcast and read the blog. Feel free to chime in here and give us your tips on what photographers do that is creepy.
Model Photography is the focus of everything we do at Photographer and Model, so I thought I should write a little about what it is. At the most basic level, model photography is about creating images of models. There are lots of kinds of photography and we generally define them by what the subjects of the photography are. For instance, landscape photography is creating images of natural scenery. Portrait photography is creating images of people, but specific kinds of images of people, generally focused on expressing the person’s character, often just using their face.
Well model photography is defined the same way, taking pictures of models.
What is the Difference Between Model Photography and General People Photography?
The biggest difference is that the subject naturally has or develops skills to work with the photographer to create the best image possible. If a photographer decides take a portrait of a person the subject depends on the photographer to tell them what to do exactly. They have to tell the subject where to look, how to hold their limbs, and what expression to have.
With a good model, they know what to do to make a good image. The quality of these skills are what differentiates “good” model from a “bad” one. Much, much more than their looks.
When a model photographer is working with a good, experienced model, he can focus on the aspects of the photography task and not tell the model exactly what to do. They tell the model what they are trying to accomplish and she uses her skills to accomplish that. The two of them work together to create beautiful images.
Photographing Models Isn’t Easy
When you work with regular people most of the time, you think it will be easier when you work with a professional model because you won’t have to do all the tedious directing. That is true, but it is also harder because now you have to actually have a good idea and the photographic skills to accomplish it.
It would be like being a good high school football player and suddenly getting to work with a pro football team. You think your job would be easier because your team mates would be less likely to let you down. What you quickly discover is you need to go to a whole other level of quality because now you’re in a different league and the other players are better than you. You have to rise to meet their skill level.
What Make A Good Model Photographer?
In our photographer interviews and model interviews we ask “What makes a good Photographer?”. Everyone assumes technical expertise and the adds things like communication, knowing what you want to do, making models comfortable and being fun to work with.
Model photography assumes the same kind of skills other photography needs. Namely understanding light. A model photographer can specialize in one kind of lighting, but they need to understand it well. You may only shoot using natural light, or never leave the studio, but you need to understand how your light works and how it is going to effect your final image.
By specializing in model photography you get to focus on how light interacts with the human form. Just like a landscape photographer knows how morning light effects the view of a mountain range, you know what golden hour does to a model’s skin tone.
Model Photographers Need A Whole Other Skillset
Photographing humans requires people skills. I doubt most landscape photographers choose mountains and trees as subjects because they don’t know how to talk to a pretty woman, but my bet is some do. Plus you are dealing with a subject that moves. Luckily in the case of models, you can tell them how to move.
I could compare model photography to each other genre of photography, but that’s too big a task for today. I think you get the point that model photographers need people skills in a way photographers of inanimate objects don’t.
One piece of good news is you can learn these skills just like you can learn lighting. Hopefully Photographer and Model helps you with every Photographer Interview in the podcast and seeking the other side in every Model Interview is a learning experience as well.
What is your biggest question when taking up the mantel of Model Photography? Write it below and I’ll answer you question either in the comments, in a future blog post, or maybe in the up coming Photographer and Model Academy.
Finding models offline can be a challenge. It isn’t hard to find pretty girls that you know you’d love to shoot, but getting them to shoot with you can be difficult and scary.
To me there are two main ways to go about approaching a stranger to model for you. Direct and indirect.
Before I tell you what these mean, let’s discuss why I put Model in quotes in the title. There is a lot more to being a model than being pretty. And if you just recruit a pretty girl you are going to be taking on a big burden to get good images. You are going to have to teach her how to pose, how lighting works with her body, how to take direction, and all the other things a model would know. Just keep that in mind.
Now to the two methods of recruiting models in person.
So you are at your local grocery store, or Hooters, or where ever and you a see super hot babe and you want to shoot her. How do you do it?
Chris Rock has a routine and he says when you walk up to a girl and start talking to her all she hears is, “Want some dick?” That’s crude, but pretty girls get hit on all the time and they get kind of calloused to it. While they don’t want to be rude right off, they are generally looking to get rid of you as soon as they can.
The Direct Approach To Recruiting
One method is to get in and out quick so she knows you aren’t really hitting on her. Walk up to her, hand her your business card, tell her briefly and directly you want her to model for you, pause for a moment to see if there are any questions and then leave.
The theory is she won’t think you are hitting on her if you don’t stick around.
I’ve done this a couple of times and never got a response. There is just too little time for her to get a bead on you and build some trust. But it has worked for other photographers I’ve talked to.
I also think it works better if during the pause she actually responds and asks a question. Then you can have a trust building conversation.
Which leads to…
The Indirect Approach To Recruiting Models
This method is a little harder because you actually have to interact more and build some trust. In this method you approach the girl and start a conversation with her. Eventually bring up you are a photographer and think she’d make a good model.
The biggest problem here is most guys don’t know how to start a conversation with a pretty woman without sounding like they are hitting on her.
Teaching that is really beyond the scope of this article but here’s a quick tip.
Ask her, and the whole group she is with, her opinion on something. It would be nice if that something might be photography related. Maybe something like “Do you think most models thought they were pretty in middle school?”
I just made that up, but it is a good opener because it is about modeling, its about being pretty and it will let you sound like an expert when the discussion comes back to you. You can lead from your answer (which IMHO is “No they didn’t”) to talking about if she felt she was pretty when she was that young.
If you try that out, leave a comment and let me know how it works.
I teach that when approaching models any where – online or off – you need to know what the next thing you want them to do. Don’t try and book a shoot right then unless you are really in good with her. Instead get a means of contacting her and ask her to look at some of your work online.
Have any of you approached models in the real world? How did you do it successfully? Or post a great failure story we can learn from.
The other night I went and saw the Revolve Dance Company and was blown away. The visuals I got are feeding future photographic endeavors and I recommend going to see dance whenever you can. I’ve said before that dancers make great models because they know how to use their body and “pose” naturally.
I noticed another thing about my thought processes. I started attributing all kinds of positive attributes to the dancers.
They were beautiful, talented, flexible, expressive. All true.
I also started thinking they were nice, friendly, intelligent, loving, likable, and other positive character traits. Now it may be they are all those things. I don’t know because I don’t really know them. Were I not a married man I can see how these things would attract me to those dancers.
Why am I telling you this? Because I see photographers do this all the time with models.
You start attributing everything positive to models, often just from looking at their portfolios. Then you start projecting all these positive feelings on them and start fantasizing about how it would be to know them. In extreme cases you fall in love, or more accurately you fall in lust.
The easiest cure for this is to shoot a bunch of models. After 10 or so interactions with various models – including ones you’ve had these feelings for – you’ll learn they are just people. Pretty people, but full of all flaws and foibles of everyone else. And you’ll find out how they really feel about you. You’ll get to the point where just cuz she’s pretty don’t mean she’s your next girlfriend.
You’ll also get treated poorly by models and learn some of them are just like the cheerleaders in high school. They think they are all that and you should serve them.
You’ll learn they are full of insecurities. They will tell you parts of their bodies are ugly and how they hate them and you’ll be incredulous because those very parts are what you want to photograph.
My advice is not to fall in love with the models at all. Don’t go projecting onto them all things wonderful and good from carefully crafted images. You know photographers and models create illusions, right?
Now I think I’m going to go track down some of those dancers from Revolve and tell them how much I love them…I mean how much I loved their dance. 🙂
It’s Las Vegas week here on Photographer and Model. I’m going to Las Vegas Wednesday night and staying through the weekend. This week’s guest on the podcast is Tiffany Jackson, a Las Vegas model. While I’m in Vegas I’m going to be shooting with Tiffany and another model.
While interviewing Tiffany for the podcast I talked to her a little about the Dos and Don’ts of shooting while in Vegas. I thought it would be cool to expand on that with her and create an article for the blog, so I got her on the phone and asked her some questions.
Before I get into her tips, I wanted to point out something. Vegas models want to shoot with you. As Tiffany put it in the podcast, there aren’t a lot of photographers who shoot in Las Vegas, but everyone travels there sometime. So in order for the Vegas models to expand their portfolios, they look for traveling photographers.
Tiffany’s Dos and Don’ts
Make sure of your travel details. Be sure the trip is actually going to happen. You need to know when you are going to be there. You can’t expect models to wrap their schedules around you and then change it at the last minute.
Don’t assume everything cool is in one place. You are probably going to have to move around. It is best to rent a car, so you can get from location to location.
You can’t shoot in a casino. Security will be all over you really quick if you do that. So don’t have a concept that depends on shooting in a casino. Supposedly you can ask permission and get a permit, but I think for most of us non-commercial shooters that isn’t going to happen.
Plan out makeup and wardrobe. This is true of any shoot in my opinion, and always impresses a model – which shows some of pathetic traits of average photographers – but is especially true for you when traveling. You do know you can use Model Mayhem to find MUAs as well as models, right?
Don’t expect the model to show you the strip. You may go to Vegas to pick up women, but your models aren’t valid targets.
Book multiple models for the same day. Does Vegas have more flakes than other towns? Hard to say, but it does have flakes. If you have to shoot it is better to double book.
How do you avoid the flakes? Look at how often they update their profile. Gage how quickly they respond. If they take too long, cut your losses. Ask other models if they can vouch for them.
What The Model Can Do For You.
You are coming in from out of town, so you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. You will have to depend on the model somewhat. So I asked Tiffany what a model might be able to do for you. I’ll add the caveat that Tiffany is a go-getter; she gets things done. Not all models are that proactive.
She can help you arrange makeup. Models know MUAs. Therefore they can recommend them to you. Sometimes you can get a break from the MUA because she knows and likes the model.
She can help find locations. She knows the city better than you do, and has probably shot in a number of places. Tiffany also said she can tell you what times are best to shoot at different locations.
Where Are Good Places To Shoot?
There are some good parks in Vegas. Believe it or not if you want a natural setting Las Vegas has some cool parks.
Dry lake beds. There are a couple of dry lake beds with in driving distance of Las Vegas that make cool locations.
Downtown Las Vegas. Has a cool neon look and an old Vegas feel. It is cool to shoot there, but Tiffany says you have to be wary of the bums. They can be aggressive and disruptive to your shoots.
Valley of Fire. A cool red rock location. Tiffany says Valley of Fire actually looks cooler than Red Rock park.
Vegas is a great place to visit, and while you are there you can shoot. If you are a good photographer, both from a creative and character point of view, the models will look forward to shooting with you. But models are going to be wary. They have to worry if you are just trying to pick them up. They also worry – like most models you shoot TFP with – that you will shoot with them and never give them any images.
Tiffany suggests you bring a laptop and burn them a CD right there. I don’t give my models everything shot, only the retouched images, and I’m not spending time in Vegas retouching. But you can find ways to lessen this worry. Maybe you could give her references from models you’ve shot with and delivered in a timely manner. Or you could agree to give her a CD of images, but she can’t use them unless you don’t send her anything with in a month. Be creative.
I’m going to be shooting while in Vegas with Tiffany. She’s helped me find an MUA and we’ve set a time, talked wardrobe and locations. It should be fun, and I’ll report back next week.
We were having an open house at my studio and I asked a photographer, “What do you shoot?”
His answer? “Canon.”
I kind of laughed and said, “No, I meant what are your subjects.”
People, we don’t shoot cameras, we shoot landscapes, or models, or cars, or pickles.
During Frederik Van Johnson’s interview we talked about how people get caught up in the manufacturer debates, and how unimportant that was. One guy put on his name tag “I’m a Nikon”. He was a nice guy and obviously very into photography, but dude, you camera brand matters squat.
Please people say what you shoot. Or like to shoot. Or want to shoot.
It may be you shoot one thing – like weddings or flowers – but what you really want to shoot is something else – like models. Answer that. “I mostly shoot landscapes, but I’m getting into shooting models.”
You may have to shoot lots of different things before you find the thing that is it for you, but I doubt that thing is camera bodies.
One of the things people wanted to know in my recent survey of the Photographer and Model email list was how to NOT seem creepy to models. So this was in my head while I was observing at the workshop.
When shooting nudes I think the fear of appearing creepy to the model is enhanced, as is general uncomfortableness. Most of us aren’t used to standing in front of a naked woman, even if she doesn’t really care. (See Lesson 9 of the mini course).
When you are photographing any subject you will stare intently at it. You’re looking at how the light is hitting it, what the lines are, what’s in shadow. When the subject is a model, you are also looking for imperfections and how you need to pose her to cover them. This is natural and necessary.
Second you may be nervous, or just really in the zone so you stop talking because you are thinking.
This is where the problem comes in.
It is creepy to stare intently at someone and not say anything.
You really need to keep talking. Tell her what you are doing or what you are trying to do. Just keep the lines of communication open so she doesn’t think you’ve gone off into creepy voyeur land.
Ran this past a couple of models and they agree staring silently is creepy. Sallie Lou mentioned it in her interview on the podcast, saying she’d break out the autopsy stories if you were too quite.
I’m not in this for the money. Matter of fact my photography costs me money, it doesn’t make me money.
But that’s fine.
What is a Professional?
Von R Buzzard at his blog had a post entitled What Kind of Photographer Are You? Part 1. I think a better title would have been What is a Professional Photographer? In it he says this:
My teacher in college, Bob White, used to say there are three types of photographers in this world…
Professional: They know what they are doing and they make a living at it.
Amateur: They know what they are doing, they just don’t make money doing it
Picture Shooters: Everyone else
I like that definition because it doesn’t connect quality with professional. That’s where people get upset. There are people like me who are passionate photographers and produce what I like to believe are quality images. But we’re not Pros because we don’t make a living at it.
Then we see people who do make a living shooting that produce low quality images. We get upset because most people equate quality and professionalism.
Another problem is people want “professionalism” from a photographer, even if they aren’t being paid. What does this mean?
To me it means you act with integrity. You are there to produce quality images, not to ogle or fondle naked girls, or meet women. You are there to do what you say you there to do – photography.
I think I’m going to start pronouncing amateur with an accent. Like provocateur. That will make it sound cooler. 🙂
I don’t care if you think I suck because I don’t do this for a living. I’m irrationally passionate about creating beautiful images of beautiful models. I strive to do it extremely well and act with integrity. If that isn’t enough for you, I’m making no more apologies.
I’m tired of feeling link I’m “not a real photographer” because I do certain things.
So I’m going to start a new series of blog posts this month. These posts will cover things I’m not going to apologize for any more. I’m not going to argue with others about them. These are my way of doing my art.
If you don’t like it, I don’t care.
If you think I’m not a real photographer because of it…screw you.