After moving from Houston to Abilene I started looking for a way to connect with other photographers in the area and ended up joining the West Texas Photographic Society. This group has been around for decades and has monthly meetings that alternate between instruction and photography contests.
They also have an annual show at the Abilene Center for Contemporary Arts. This year that show started on October 11 and will hang until the end of November. I was lucky enough to join just in time to be part of this show. Any member’s work can be part of the show. Many of the photographer members didn’t think they had work worthy of it. Of those who did, it was their best work. Each member can display up to 6 images in the show.
It was an amazing experience to see my work hanging on the walls of a museum*.
I’m going to write a couple of posts on different ways to look at your work, but picking the 6 images you want to hang in an art show is an experience that really helps you think about your work.
For one thing, I didn’t put my six best images. Instead I tried to pick a theme for my images and selected my best work in that theme. Which meant some of the images I consider my best I didn’t use because they didn’t fit the theme.
I actually couldn’t pick six images in one theme and of sufficient quality. Instead I picked two sets of 3 in two different themes: “Girls with Guns” and “Fantasy”.
You give the gallery the images and they hang them. So you aren’t guaranteed to have them grouped like you expect. In my case they seem to have done it more by shape – grouping the verticals and the horizontals – than by content. Something to think about if you are in this situation.
I also learned how to stack my framed images so the hangers don’t scratch the frames, but not before I’d already done it. Good thing I picked black frames so I could fill in the scratches with a sharpie.
This just goes to show, when you get into photography you never know where you will end up.
* Is the ACCA a museum or art gallery? I’m not sure. I’ve always thought of it as a museum, but google maps says it is an art gallery, and if good says it is must be true right?
I’ve been shooting models now for 5 years and still am frustrated with trying to select models. Tonight is one of those times.
Next month I’m teaching a glamour photography workshop. I have one lovely but new model that will be working the already sold out practice session. I want an experienced glamour model to anchor the workshop. But I also need a model new to our workshops. Right now we don’t have many on call, so I have to go to Model Mayhem and OMP and look for models.
My frustration is you don’t always know if what you see is what you are going to get.
First, since I’ve never shot with them I don’t know if they are a good model, or that they will even show up. Can they pose well on their own? Since it is a workshop the photographers will not be super great at telling them what to do, so they need to be able to handle it themselves.
Second, glamour models have a lot of Photoshop in their images. For some every image has total skin smoothing. To me this is a red flag they have bad skin. But they look good and they have shot with some good photographers. Do ask them even if heavily Photoshoped?
Third, I’d like a model comfortable with nudity, though I’d accept one willing to only do lingerie. But that is sometimes hard to tell in their profiles and even harder when MM is not displaying all profiles.
Fourth, some models have excellent ports, but their profiles are so obnoxious or crazy I’m put off and don’t want to deal with them.
All of this is frustrating.
What I’ve decided is I want to shoot with a model before the workshop, but that doesn’t give us much time and I don’t intend to pay the model for this. I’m a little hesitant to contact a model and tell her she needs to “try out” with a test shoot before the 7th of next month.
In the end I’m waiting for a response from one of Houston’s best models, which we may not be able to afford. If I get a no then I’ll have to decide what to do next.
I thought I’d share this with y’all because it isn’t just the new guys that run into frustration when trying to recruit models. It happens to all of us.
This is a recount of the best and worst trip I’ve made to Vegas. This is the only time I tried to shoot while there, and that ended up being cool and horrible.
The worst consequence of a model flake ever, and the only time I ever stood a model up.
Things to learn from this. You can’t party till 4 am and shoot the next day. 2 am maybe. 🙂
I did have a great shoot with Crystal though. I need to contact her again. I thought I followed her on Facebook but had the name wrong. What a doof.
Of course everyone wants to know how the trip was. It was a roller coaster. Here’s a day by day break down.
Thursday night. Got in to Vegas at 7:30, that’s 9:30 Houston time. Went out and partied till 4 AM. Had a really good time.
Slept until 1 on Friday. I had a shoot at 6. Went a played a little poker and one some. Then it took longer than expected to get the car back from the Valet – like 30 minutes – so I was already running late. And the model was at the location early – an hour early. So we get on the highway and are driving, and get caught in traffic. I mention to my co-pilot that we’re heading South and he says the sun is on the wrong side of the car for south. We’ve been driving the wrong way for 30 minutes. Call the model back and she says I won’t make it back before the sun goes away. So I flaked on the model.
We go have dinner and then decided go to the nightclub Tryst in the Wynn. We get there at 11 and there is a big line. But they don’t let guys in by themselves. We wait and wait. At midnight I realize I’ve got a shoot at 10 AM the next morning and am not going to be able to stay out till 4 again. So I leave right before the others get in. My roommate comes in at 6 AM.
Saturday morning I feel like death warmed over. I’m nauseous, groggy and everything else at 8:30 when I get up. But the valet is fast and I find my shoot location with half an hour to spare. (Gave myself extra time to make sure I made it.) Meet Crystal and we have a great shoot.
That afternoon I play a little more poker and am down. Middle of the afternoon I get a call from one of the two models I’m suppose to shoot with and she can’t come. I try to call the other to arrange another meeting place, but she doesn’t answer. Which is a bad sign. We drive out to the casino we are suppose to meet at. I try to call her two more times. I get in the parking lot and starting driving around looking for her. Don’t see anyone. Decided to leave one parking lot and go to another. Get the the stop sign, there is a line of traffic in front of me stopped. A big truck stops for me. I pull out to turn left and get T-boned by and SUV.
So I spend the next 2 hours filling out accident reports. The model never showed either. Then I go turn in the car and don’t want another one. (Yes the rental agency would have given me another).
My model Crystal arranged for us to get into Jet at the Mirage that night. I was feel like extra crap after the wreck, but I wasn’t sure my buddies could get in without me. So I hung with them till we got in – and paid a $30 cover. Then I went back to the room and to bed.
We had to check out of the hotel at 11 AM on Sunday. So we were up at 10. Checked out, hassled the other guys who weren’t up because they’d asked for more time from the hotel. Then we ate some lunch and went to play poker. Played for about 5 hours. At one point I was up $400. If I could have made another $50 I could have paid for the trip. But I ended up only up about $148 bucks, but that was cool.
Here are a couple picture of the car after the wreck.
Being a geek photographer is different from being a photography geek. A photography geek is some one obsessed with the intricacies of how photography works. In the past that was how light acted on film and how to do development. Now is about megapixels and light sensitivity.
A geek photographer is someone who comes from the world of computers or other sciences and picks up photography as a hobby. I find at the workshops I’ve been part of there are a lot of people who fall into this category, and as one myself, I’ve got some tips learned the hard way.
1. It’s not all about the gear. When you are used to building stuff or solving computer problems, you can get real focused on the technical aspects of photography. But don’t forget that in the end it is an art. An painter needs to understand paint, but only so he can express what he wants in his painting. More megapixles are not going to make up for poor composition.
2. Don’t use technology to correct mistakes you shouldn’t have made in the first place. Which brings us to “I’ll fix it in post.” This is lazy. If you say you shoot RAW because you can fix your exposure if it is wrong, you are trying to fix shooting mistakes with technology. You can’t really fix exposure problems in RAW, you can just make your images lighter or darker. The DOF was fixed at the time you shot.
There are reasons to shoot RAW, mainly that you get a higher bit depth from a RAW file – 14 on my Fuji – which gives you more colors.
There are get-it-all-in-the-camera purists, but really you should get everything right in the camera you can. It is fine to shoot something knowing you are going to do something to it in post. But don’t use tech as a crutch.
3. Maybe introverts should stick to landscapes. This blog isn’t just about photography in general, but the photographing of models. While sometimes they may be inhumanly beautiful, they are still people.
We engineer and science types are notorious for our awkward social skills. I’m not sure we can fix it easily, but try to remember that people need you to relate to them. This is why I talk about building rapport in lesson 6 of my free mini-course.
4. Some things need to be perfect, some not. We geeks also get anal and focused on stuff. It’s what makes us create cool software and other processes. But it doesn’t work the same way with people. Models aren’t perfect and you can’t blame them for their imperfections. Your subjects don’t have to be perfect.
You should strive to make your technique as perfect as it can be, and details matter, but realize you aren’t going to be perfect. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to be.
Who are you?
I sometimes wonder who reads this blog. So tell me are y’all geeks? Post a comment and tell me what your day job is.
A muse is a model that you shoot with often and massively increase your skill and art in the process. If you’ve been following my blog daily you’ll notice a lot of images from Scarlett St. Vitus. Scarlett was my first muse.
There are very few models I’ve shot with more than once. Scarlett I’ve shot with more times that I can count. Remember that post apocalyptic shoot? That was a spur of the moment thing. She called and said she had a cool outfit and I drove down picked her up and drove around looking for where to shoot it. You can do that when you have a muse relationship.
I’ve also shot Scarlett’s husband, Bear, and the two of them together. I’ve gone to fashion shows she was in to shoot. Shot party shots of the goth dance club they ran for awhile. Been dragged into the woman’s restroom to shoot by her and her friends in the toilet stall. (There was great light in there)
How Do You Find Your Muse?
In one sense it is an accident. Shoot with lots of models and eventually you’ll click with one. Though you have rapport with a model doesn’t mean she’ll be your muse. She might not feel the same way about you, or she might have issues that make her worry about getting close to you.
Assuming the connection is mutual here are a few tips.
Shoot often. While this is the definition of muse, it is also a conscious choice on your part. Plan more shoots. Develop series together.
Form a partnership. Don’t just shoot what you want. This is always a good idea, but with a muse it is at a higher level. You need to be willing to shoot her ideas even when they don’t excite you. She’ll do the same for you.
Serve with your photography. There are often photographic needs models have you can meet outside a modeling photoshoot. Look at them as acts of service and new experiences. Scarlett was in the Heavy Red fashion show here in Houston. So went down the goth nightclub (remember I’m in now way goth) and shoot the show for her. I also went to her goth club and just shot regular club photography for her. The image at the right is of Scarlett and Bear from a maternity shoot I did with them.
Have fun. I hope you are always having fun with your models, but with your muse it should be more fun. You don’t have to worry about all that new relationship stuff. You know each other. You trust each other. You know each others strengths and weakness.
Downsides Of A Muse
There are some drawbacks to having a muse and you need to watch out for them.
Getting Tunnel Vision It is easier to shoot with your muse. You don’t have to worry if they will show, if they will be a primadonna, if they will be good. But don’t let that hold you back from shooting other models.
The All Muse Portfolio. I remember when my portfolio was 75% Scarlett. You need variety in your images and that includes having different models in there. Because of your special relationship and experience with your muse, you will produce really good work. You want your best work in your portfolio, but make sure you don’t go overboard.
Becoming Unprofessional The muse relationship can be pretty powerful emotionally. You need to understand that it is an artistic relationship and not a personal one. Don’t fall in love with your muse, or if you do understand it doesn’t have to be the kind of love that is romantic or sexual.
In conclusion, having a muse is a wonderful thing. I very much value my relationship with Scarlett and we’ve both grown as artists as a result of it. Remember to keep variety in your portfolio and keep things professional and friendly and you’ll have a great long term relationship.
That Monty Python quote could have described my experience May of 2005. I shoot Goth Celebrity Batty and then one week later I’m off to Playa Del Carmen to be one of the photographers competing in the reality TV show, Best of the Best 2.
The idea was 10 models and 13 photographers. You we suppose to shoot all the models and then you’d be judged to see who was the best of the best.
One thing you will ask right off, “If I was competing was this really the best of the best?” I’d only been shooting a few months seriously. Not really but that’s marketing for you.
There was only 8 models, because two took off after they go there. It’s in the show which aired on MavTV. That has to be the highest form of flaking I’ve ever seen.
Reality TV Sucks
It ended up being a very intense 4 days. They gave you a schedule where you shot with a model for 45 minutes. You’d shoot 3 a day. At the end of the shooting you turned in your images and were judged on them.
We spent the mornings in workshops while the models were in makeup. Then we shot in the afternoon – not the best time for light on the beach. Then in the evening there was a mandatory party till very late. I think sleep deprivation was part of the plan.
These are not the best of conditions for producing quality images. Now Rick Hughes, one of the guys running the show, said that is the real world. You don’t always get the time you need to get the shot you are suppose to get. Maybe, maybe not. He’s still more experienced than I am, so it must be so. It does teach you you must get it right in camera.
Most new photographers in this digital age think, “Oh so my exposure is off, I shoot RAW I’ll fix it in post.” Or “There is pole coming out of her head, oh well I can fix that in Photoshop.”. Not when you have 3 hours to do all of your post production on 6 shoots. I had some great images that needed mistakes fixes and I worked on them, but there wasn’t enough time didn’t get other images that could have been great fixed in time.
The other reason reality TV sucks is drama is the key to a good show, and drama is conflict. Among the guys – who weren’t really the focus of the show – there wasn’t really any conflict. Even when there was a screw up and one guy took the wrong model, keeping another photographer from shooting with her, there wasn’t any drama. But they could use the models against you.
There was a point where they brought every person into a room, you stood in front of a U shaped table with all the judges, MUAs, and TV guys and they asked you questions. During that interview one of them ask me out of the blue “One of the models said you were a little touchy feely. What do you say to that?”
Well I was stunned. I never touch a model without permission, and during all these shoots I only touched one model period. So I said something along those lines, probably with a little bit of heat in my voice.
The show was late nights and long days the whole week. And I was at the end of my emotional rope. This crushed me to such an extent I went and talked to one of the judges about it. I was deathly afraid I was about to be portrayed on national television as a perv and no model would ever shoot with me again. Robert Sanders, the judge I went to, told me not to worry, they weren’t out to destroy anyone and I got better.
I knew which model that had to have said that, so I later talked to her about it. She said she didn’t say anything as bad as that sounded and actually liked me because I was the only photographer who brought something for her to wear. It was all drama for the show.
You Are Better Than You Think
To this day I thought I had to have finished near the end of the pack. I saw some of the other guys images and they were great. All I saw was the flaws in mine.
But you know when the show came out I realized they used a lot of my images in the show. Kerriana’s title image is one of mine.
So is an image they used of Gelecia, which I thought was really bad. When we went to shoot it was late in the day and storm came though. I had a whole planned shoot, but suddenly there was no sun. I had to use (gasp) on camera flash. Which SUCKS. But they like the images enough.
We also didn’t get to shoot with two of the models in time for the competition. Schedule just worked out where we had to turn stuff in on Saturday, but didn’t shoot the last two until Sunday. For me those two were Kristin and Jessica B. Jessica ended up being the winner of the model competition.
This also means that until I decided to write this post and put an image of each model below, I hadn’t retouched images of these two models. So I did a quick once over, but they are pretty raw. And I forgot how small those D70 6 megapixel images were.
Below are some images from that week. If you have any questions about what it is like to be on a reality TV show, or shooting under pressure, use the comments.
I am not in anyway Goth. Matter of fact I’d never met or knew a goth before I became a photographer. Never even been in Hot Topic. (Oh my goth friends are not going to like that.)
At this point in the story I have some shots in my portfolio. I start getting contacted by proactive models (A rare breed). One of those models is Goth celebrity Traci “Batty” Robinson. Batty has her own goth clothing line and has done quite a bit of modeling. She’s appeared on the cover of the goth fashion magazine Gothic Beauty.
She wants to update her portfolio and would I be interested in shooting with her. I say yes. It isn’t really the kind of stuff I want to shoot, but there aren’t many asking. It also goes with my dating philosophy from college. We had Sadie Hawkins week back then, when the girls asked the guys. I would always say yes, even if I wasn’t interested in the girl. Why? Because that’s what I’d want a girl to do for me. Give me a shot.
This turned out to be a great shoot. Working with an experienced model is very different from working with an amateur. Batty brought her own clothes, her own MUA, and skills. Like in posing and expression and stuff.
Got Me Published
Remember I said Batty had her own clothing line? She did, but all the clothes she brought to shoot in were someone else’s. Well one was an old wedding dress died grey. But there was a black dress by designer Kambriel.
A few days after the shoot, Kambriel contacts me and asks if she can send in the image to the right to Gothic Beauty. They are doing a story on her and want pictures of her stuff to go with it. Long story short, I say yes and in November I can walk into a store and buy a magazine with one of my images in it.
Funny thing is, I don’t think it is all that great an image. First it’s underexposed. Second the background light is wrong and therefore the color is off. Its just a blah image. But they had a number to pick from and choose mine.
Here’s some more images of Batty from that shoot. Something I called Gothic Glamour.
And once you get an in into the goth community they just keep coming. More on that next time.
I want to impress you. Just like most photographers I want to show you my best work so you will go “Wow you are really good.” Ultimately I do this because I want you to let me teach you about photographing models.
Right now I’m going to show you some bad images.
Why would I do this? Because you need to know I was there. I was where maybe you are right now. I was just starting out. I made lots of mistakes. I learned and got better.
What was I thinking?
I come back from Rolando’s workshop and I’m gung ho. I want to shoot. I go on One Model Place and start looking for models willing to shoot TFP. (If you don’t know what TFP is, sign up for the mini-course in the sidebar.) And I end up with 3. In my first shoot. And I find an MUA willing to do TFP.
Of course everything went wrong.
First, three models for one shoot is a challenge anyway. Heather was 17 at the time. Brought her mom and Dad. She was “experienced” with some actual agency work. The MUA suggested the second model, Carolyn, who was a med student. The last model was a former Hooters girl named Kristin, and this was her second shoot.
Second, the MUA got turned around. She went south on Highway 59 for 30 minutes. I live about an hour north on 59 from where she started. So she was a good 2 hours late.
Third, it was my first shoot in my “studio”. I didn’t know what I needed for a shooting area. So there was no place for them to change. I had to leave the room to let them use it to change. There was no place for makeup, so they used my master bathroom. I’ll talk about my first studio in another post.
I can tell you lots of way to do this better. 🙂 But I did the most important thing right.
I shot the shoot.
There were challenges, but I found models. I communicated with them. I shot them. I gave them images.
Below are 6 images from the shoot. I really cringe to look at them. But they were where I started. Where I found out I could make images outside of a workshop. And where I learned it really was an art I could do.
Did I mention one of the models left a breast behind?
Models leave stuff behind all the time. This being my first shoot, what got left was interesting and good funny story.
After the shoot I found this clear half circle of gel wrapped in plastic in the studio. If you’ve ever seen what a breast implant looks like outside the body, this looked like half of one of those.
I didn’t even know what it was. Kristin, the former Hooters girl, had kind of ended up being the last one there so I figured it was hers. I emailed her and asked. She told me lots of Hooters girls wear them to give themselves a little boost.
See the kind of thing you learn shooting models.
Since that time I’ve shot over 120 models and I’ve gotten a lot better than this. Next time I’m going to talk about how I got classified as a Goth photographer.
Garage Glamour was a website started and run by Rolando Gomez. It was dedicated to the idea of doing glamour photography on a small scale. You aren’t trying to be Playboy or Maxim, you are a “guy in a garage”.
I don’t much remember what I did on there at first. Probably just looked at the pictures. I didn’t have much of a camera, I was still shooting film. I remember shooting some stuff and getting it developed straight to CD at Wal-Mart. Not the recommended place to get your film developed.
Then I decided to go to a workshop.
My First Workshop
It was August of 2004 and I went to Rolando’s “Glamour, Beauty & the Nude” workshop in San Antonio. Here’s what I blogged about before I went.
My big fears are I won’t be a good enough photographer and won’t know I shot nothing by crap till I get the pictures developed. My hopes are I’ll learn how to take better portraits in general so I can take pictures of friends that they will love. And I want to learn about the business of glamour photography. I’d like another hobby that makes some money.
Well I fixed the first problem. The night before I the workshop I bought a Nikon D70.
I was glad I did.
The workshop spanned two days and after the first day I went back to my hotel room and downloaded the images to my laptop. Looking at them I realized the eyes were soft. This means I wasn’t focused on them. Part of that was caused by very narrow depth of field, part by the newbie mistake I talk about in my 10 Common Mistakes of New Model Photographers report. (Sign up to the left to get that report)
It was a very interesting shooting experience. Here’s an overview I posted back then about how the workshop worked.
The workshop was very busy. You got there at 9, there was about and hour, hour and a half of talking and then you started shooting and kept going until 5:30 or so. You ate lunch standing up in a few minutes between shoots.
There was no shortage of shooting the models. I took over 284 images. That’s how many I brought back, I know I deleted some in camera if the eyes were soft or there was camera shake or any of the other obvious problems. At least I did the second day. The first day I took a lot of picture that would have been good, but the eyes were soft.
A Walk To Remember
One thing I do remember very well. After I got back to Houston, the Mrs and I went for a walk on the greenbelt. I was holding her hand and telling her how much fun I had and I remember saying,
“This is an art I can do.”
I never considered myself much of an artist. I can’t draw or paint or play an instrument.
But I realized I could take pictures and create something artistic. It wasn’t about the beauty of the model. It wasn’t about seeing a woman naked. No, it was art.
It changed my life, and I have been pursuing this art for the 4 years and counting.
Looking at the images below I almost cringe. I see mistakes and low quality I didn’t see at all back then. Those were really great images to me. In my portfolio for years to come.
I must have improved from those images in the next shoot, right? Actually no. I got worst. I’ll show you some bad images next time.