52 weeks

52 weeks later

52 weeks.  It’s been almost 365 days since I embarked into this.  April 24th of last year was the 1st time I got out of the house with all my gears with the unique goal of taking pictures of people at Studio4Fun.  The whole idea was scary.  I was having a hard time imagining I could do that but I figured if Vince could do it, why couldn’t I?  I was tagging along with Vince and Victoria that day.  It took me only a few minutes to realize I am no Vince.  Vince is entertaining, direct, outgoing.  He is the kind of guy if you get lost, you ask him for directions.  He has that personality.  Me?  Well, I am a bit more reserved and shy.  I don’t have that outer personality Vince has.  I looked up at Vince that day and wonder how I could manage to go through this knowing myself.  Change.  Change for which I don’t have full control on.  This could be difficult.  Obviously, if I wanted to have fun on that journey, I had to stay me with a few tweaks on the road.

Madyna Kanoute – My very 1st model that I have shoot with

Sandi Fares who I had the pleasure to shoot with later.

52 weeks have pass where I manage to fit a few personal projects and photo sessions that lead me to more serious stuff, more complex shoots and commercial work.  52 weeks where I managed to develop an eye, far from perfect, to capture human elements.  With retrospect, I am happy to see close relations to what I was shooting before.  I still embrace the environmental elements that complete an image making me tend to shoot more on location that in studio.  In 52 weeks, I made many “friends” in the photography arena and a few others I can call that, friends.  Anyone who has followed this blog so far, or knows me in real life, knows I have a photography partner.  We got to shoot quite a few times together, in the same locations, in the same organized photo sessions as separate photographers but always as a team.  Every time one of us has a photography opportunity, the other one is not far behind.  I just love shooting with Victoria.  No matter if we are shooting the same models in the same locations, we always end up with different perspectives and styles.  It makes it a pleasant non-competitive atmosphere.  No matter what tricks one will pick up from the other, it is never with the goal of copycatting the other.

Last week, Victoria called me.  “My mom is gone on vacation.  You want to shoot in her house?”.  Who wouldn’t?  We had been trying to get a shoot going in a hotel for a few weeks now with no success.  I even have a model on hold just for that.  We checked out the place one night and it was perfect.  It is a small 1 bedroom bungalow.  We are really not talking big here.  Was that a problem?  Why would that be?  As we walked in the house, I knew I wanted to shoot in the small hallway, the small TV room and the small bedroom.  A place is only as small as you really want to see it.  It was decided; we had a week to plan everything before Victoria’s mom was coming back.  I immediately contacted the model I had on hold and Julia Liscio for the makeups.  Victoria started to contact models on her side too.  Everything was falling into place nicely; Victoria had a model, we had a makeup artist.  Unfortunately, it turned out that my model could not free herself on Wednesday due to other commitments.  I was back to square one.  I started to go through the models who had contacted me on Model Mayhem before.  As I was writing to one, Victoria informed me she had already contacted her and she was unavailable.  I turned to Facebook.  I looked through my contacts and decided to contact Stephanie Vincent.  I knew Stephanie was in demand and had a busy schedule.  I explained the situation I was in and the type of shoot I wanted to do and hit the send button.  1 minute later (no kidding, 1 minute), a response came in.  Stephanie saved the day, she was onboard.  We exchanged several emails about the shoot direction, wardrobe and concept shots.  I reflected back on the house and what the house could deliver and built a list of images I wanted to pull.  I tend to do that before every shoot I plan.  I like the idea of having 8 to 10 shots already detailed in my notebook to start with.  As I typically go through the list, new ideas surfaces and fill the rest of the session.

Me showing my sexy side, or standing in a doorway, which ever works for you…

Victoria showing you can wear white socks with black pants.

Wednesday arrived.  Victoria and I moved in.  As Victoria suggested, we took mental pictures of everything we were moving.  Everything had to return in its original place or her mother would notice.  Victoria’s mom apparently knows where everything and anything is.  If there is a table in the living room and you move it an inch, she will know you “reorganized” the living room.  Talk about the pressure Victoria has to live with; I suck at mental pictures and memory games and did I move stuff around!  I emptied the entire TV room to keep only the couch.  Victoria and I setup our lights, tested them, made sure everything was dialed in correctly so we would not lose any time setting up while the models would be waiting.

Explaining to Stephanie the bedroom shots.  Victoria’s mom will freak when she will see this picture!  My eyes are closed so I can pretend I did not know Victoria went that much out of control.

By 12:45, I was picking up Stephanie at the subway station, under pouring rain.  Once back at the house, while waiting for Julia to finish with Lisa-Marie (Victoria’s model), we walked the different rooms I wanted to use and explain the angles and goals of the images.  We started shooting at 3pm in the TV room, then the bedroom, hallway and finished in the bathroom.  I was able to go through all of the ideas I had written in my book (sucky memory again here; got to write those ideas down).  We shot for a total of 3 hours.  Given the physical size of the environment, I opted for a 1 light and reflector setup only.  I think I could have used more lights in a few shots but that would have limited my angles possibilities with all the stands and modifiers.  The house’s walls are painted all in very pale colors so it did not take much to fill it.  It was funny that Julia noted we have so much gears.  So true and yet, I tend to use about 10% of it.  I know the day I will decide to leave my gears home I will need them.

Working with Stephanie was bliss.  Not only she has a great presence in front of the camera but is also open minded to ideas.  I have to say I was really happy when she accepted to work with me, not only because she was putting an end to my model searching but also because I really like her work.  She can go from glamour to fashion looks with a detour through vampire style concepts.  I was taking a day off work for this and so did Stephanie.  This put shoots like this a notch higher as both parties want good results.  We have another shoot happening shortly, theme oriented, more complex, and demanding.  Now that I worked with Stephanie once, I can’t wait for that next shoot.  In the mean time, I wish her luck as she is part of the 20 finalists or so for the Miss Canada pageant and also in a good spot for the Maxim Magazine S-pace contest.

52 weeks ago, I attended an organized event and relied on Vince to approach people.  52 weeks later, I wrote to a model in demand, explained what I wanted to do, got a thrilling answer back in a minute and got her to even lay down fully clothed in a bath tub filled with water.  If I had a DeLorean and a flux capacitor to go 1 year back in time and tell myself to follow Vince’s lead and enjoy the ride, “52 weeks ago Steph” would told me I was full of it.

On a side note, I hope Victoria was able to figure out the stuffed teddy bears puzzle her mom left behind ; they all looked the same to me…








Got to make sure everything works before asking Stephanie to jump in the water.



dirty old man

The dirty old guy

I wrote a lot about opportunities before.  I don’t want to rehash that.  I get emails and messages on regular basis from people who came across my images saying they would like to do that too but unsure where to start.  My only tip for them is usually to stop wondering about the how and the when and simply do it.  There are resources closer than expected; the kid next door, the stone wall across the street and there you go, you have a model and a set.  Do it.  It does not need to be more complicated than that.  What is the worst that can happen?  You will have spent a few minutes with someone with no images in return.  It is not that bad when you think of it; you might have found one of the many ways not to have a successful photo shoot.   You learned.  Next time, you will remember what you have done wrong and avoid it.  My 1st shoot with people ended in several hundred frames and minimal number of images.  I had them all; blurred eyes, busy background, harsh shadows, cut limbs and more.  Today, after a few shoot under my belt, I am able to have a higher good image rate with fewer frames shot, along with the blurred eyes, busy background, harsh shadows, cut limbs and more.

I had never boudoir or lingerie before.  I had shot artistic nudes but never sexy and revealing photos.  Something in my mind kept tripping off every time I had a glimpse of willpower to give it a try; I don’t want to be the dirty old guy.  We all know one.  Well, maybe you know a few.  I came across a few myself.  Every once in a while you see that image pop on your screen; a young girl in a suggestive position with very little clothing.  There is nothing wrong there just yet.  Where I start having trouble with the image is when I try to figure out the reason the image was taken and published.  What is the photographer’s trying to say here?  If the only answer coming to me is “he want to show the hot piece of a** he was with yesterday”, ding ding ding!  Dirty old guy alert.  I might be totally wrong.  The truth is probably the model wanted photos for her boyfriend.  Ok, that’s it, it was a gift.

What if I shoot those pictures?  Will people think they are gifts for the boyfriend?

So, back to the “I never did boudoir” thing.  A couple of weeks back, Peter from the local camera club I am member of told me that Motti (another club member) was putting together a group photo shoot in an old house converted into a museum.  The Trestler house was built in 1798 and is a perfect setup for a boudoir and glamour oriented photo shoot.  “Do it”.  I signed up and then the dirty old guy idea jumped left and right in my head.  Back home, I Googled “boudoir” to get inspiration.  That just gave juice for that dirty old guy dance.  Am I the only one with that self-inflicted presumably useless pressure?  There was one seat open for a 4th photographer so I immediately called Victoria.

Victoria offered to place a casting call for models and makeup artist for her and me and again, did she deliver!  The initial cast listing she sent had already great models in it and she asked me to make a short list of the ones I would like to work with.  The minute I started to build my preference order list, dirty old guy!  Was I picking models to work with or to show them off after?  The list changed a few times over the days as new models were sending their names to Victoria.

In the meantime, we went scouting the house to make sure we could plan ahead the shots we were hoping to pull off this session.  My attention was immediately pulled toward a bath tub.  It dated probably from the 60s or 70s and had that feel I could not yet put my finger on but it would come to me.  Back home, Victoria had sent me a final cast listing and changed again my number 1 pick.  No dirty old guy now.  My model would be fully dressed in a tub with a killer rock star party hard fashion look.

The day arrived.  I was still at work when the models, makeup artists and photographers were all heading to Motti’s place.  I packed the truck and left as soon my shift was over.  I arrived there, met Elena Ferrato, my starting model, along with Diana Luu who was Victoria’s starting model getting her makeup done by Julia liscio.  Elena then proceeded to the outfit selection.  I swear, the dirty old guy was lurking; I could smell him.  Victoria actually had a good laugh about it when she explained my dirty old guy theory to everyone else.  Anyway, minutes later, the outfits were all picked and we were ready to head toward the house.

Elena and I took my truck.  On the way, we talked about her modeling career.  It got her to travel the world as a professional model, a career she started when she was only 14.  Now at 21, after a 2 years hiatus, she is considering returning in front of the camera.  I felt the pressure a bit.  It would be the 1st time I would shoot an international professional model.  Let’s face it, she has seen the business.  She knows what it takes on both side of the lens.  Right there, I am reviewing all my setups in my head.  I think I have all the gears.  Once there, I dragged my stuff in the house, gave Elena the tour, explained where I was going to shoot, the angles, the lights and we started.

We started up in one of the smallest room if the house; the 2nd floor bathroom.  You can only fit 2 stands in the room.  The walls are all white so I opted for 1 HSF (540ez) mounted in a 24 inch softbox and a 86 inches silver reflector.  Elena stepped into the tub and delivered!  She gave me the party out 80s rock star I was aiming for.  Once the tub was fully explored (well, I am sure I could have spent a couple more hours with it because it was that awesome), we moved to the window and then we were done with the bathroom.  We moved into the stairs did a couple of shots before hearing Victoria saying “Are you ready to switch Steph?”.  I could not believe we were half way into the shoot already.  There were so many other shots left undone.


I then got to shoot with Diana Luu, currently in her 1st year of modeling (and I am convinced it won’t be her last).  I started up with the few images I had no time to do with Elena.  The 1st one was in a hallway that I had planned to flood with light.  For that, I used my Alien Bees 1600 bare bulb at full power, sitting in the room at the end of the hall.  Diana frontal exposure was done with the 540ez and the 24 inches softbox (this is the only light I basically used all night except for that one Alien Bees shot).  Worked as plan; everything was blinking on the LCD screen, telling me every highlights were blown except for the floor and Diana.  We then did a few shots against a plain white wall.  Then came the wooden floor images with the casual looks, and the claw foot tub.  For the claw foot tub, I wanted to give a voyeurism look.  For that purpose, I used only available light and slightly closed the door so it would be in frame.  I pulled the flash in for the rest as available light was not enough for the look I was going for.

By then, it was still relatively early.  It was only 9pm and we had the place until 10pm.  I was starting to feel out of ideas.  The rest of the house was not firing any ideas in my head right now.  This is when Diana suggested lingerie.  She pulled out what she had and told me what had been used before and what was left which came down to mainly bras and panties.  “Let’s do it”.  I did not dare looking up to the window; I am convinced the dirty old guy was watching me.  We headed to a bed room and a small living room and shot sexy looking photos.  How sexy?  Sexy enough to keep the dirty old guy out.  The fact Diana looked comfortable in front of the camera told me I was doing something right.  If not, well, maybe the photos are to be a gift for her boyfriend.

A piece of advice when shooting on location with models who you will ask to take awkward positions in cold ceramic tubs or any other kind of settings, make sure they are ok.  Offer way outs; if they don’t like it, you move on to something else.  This is so important.  I make sure the way out was there all the time.  When Elena and Diana were sitting in the tub with their legs over the ledge while I was putting together my gears, I asked several time if they were ok.  Don’t do just that; talk about other stuff but once in a while, drop the question.  With a way out on the table, the person in front of the camera will be more inclined to keep going, twist that leg a little bit more, lean a bit more against the cold ceramic, more the long hair a bit further away to reveal a bit more cleavage.  With no way out, you risk to end you session on a “No”.

We then wrapped up, went our own separate way, loaded images to the computer and started post.  I have to say it was one of my easiest post sessions.  I guess with time, my lighting techniques have been more consistent, eliminating the occasional heavy correction work.  I finished with images that made me feel good for both the models and me.  The professional model’s photos look professional and the sexy model’s photos are just that, sexy, not dirty.

After reading this, you might think “Man, that guy has personal issues”.  Maybe, but I know where they are coming from.  There are things people can think of me for which I don’t really care.  What I care about is my professional integrity  This is something that I value most during a shoot; I care about my reputation.  With bad reputations, you can’t build trust with anyone.  If your models don’t trust you, they will be on the lookout for the person you are not.  The problem is that there have been so many stories about photographers shooting that sort of images simply to build their “own” photo album that many good guys professional attitude photographers have to live with like a red wine stain on their white shirt.  I don’t like that stain, I don’t want that stain on my shirt and I don’t want to be someone else’s stain.  Plain and simple.  That dirty old guy dancing around in the back of my head is annoying as hell but as long he is there I know I will be cautious about the images I take and take them for the right purpose, not to satisfy some kind of needs for trophies I can carry in my cellphone and flash into anyone’s faces.

The feedback I received from Diana after I sent her the images made my day; I am not a dirty old guy.