I always try to remember where it all began. For me, it isn’t too hard as it was not too long ago but I still do the necessary to keep it fresh in my memory. The model shooting learning curve can be steep, as steep as modeling for that matter of facts. I remember the very 1st time I had to ask someone to model for a shoot. I knew I could do it but had I done it right before to show that person I could do a decent job with her? How about Madyna when I met her at the Grande Séance and she asked me if I was shooting models on a regular basis? I had to be honest and said she was basically my 1st. According to my photo catalog, about 65 people trusted me so far to spend time in front of my camera in the course of a little bit more than a year. Richard Blouin said it right the other day on Facebook in a very unrelated post I made on my wall:
“To be a good photojournalist you need only four things: One eye, one camera and a pair of balls”
I think the term photojournalist can be substitute by many; editorial, wedding, fashion photographer and more. Think about your photography. Not only when you approach people as a photographer convincing them you are the right person for the job but when you throw the results on the digital world or the walls of a gallery for anyone to look at it, there is a balls factor involved.
OK. So what triggered such long post title? Over the year, I joined a few online photographer groups, either on my own initiative or by invitation. I am normally very quiet on these communication conduits and jump in only if I can add value to a discussion. People don’t always realize that what you write on these public forums reflect your persona. Even if you delete your posts later on, the few who read it will remember. The other day I came across a post made on Facebook by a model mentioning her availabilities to shoot. As many others, her profile was set to private and other than her profile picture, no ways to see if she had any other photoshoot images. In my case, it was no big deal;her profile picture grabbed my attention, I sent her a friends request, got accepted and could see her style and possibilities merge into my shooting style.
So back to that post she did. I guess what I did to see her photo album was out of the ordinary because a few photographers and models jumped in. I could not understand why someone would take the time to dish out on someone because they think it was an unprofessional approach to join a Facebook group with the pretention to be a model without having photos to prove it. Would she really expect any photographer to waste valuable time, energy and talent? No photos to support your “I am a model” claim; you could even be a guy for all we know! Really!? These are the response the post was getting. To everyone vomiting raw comments on others, do you think that is what will rise you above the crowd? You are on Facebook and in groups that have for function to seek potential models for photographers and dates for creeps. This is not the Ford model agency and you are not showcased in the Magnum portfolio. Get down to Earth. Are you acting that way because you were once targeted by the verbal regurgitation of another being? There is therapy for that; Google it.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe in critique. If someone is wrong, they should know it in a way it will be beneficial for them. A negative can be turned into a positive if the right words are used. If you have a beautiful photo of a person conveying strong emotions with an unfortunate garbage can in the background, do you think “Nice garbage can dude LOL” will be constructive? It goes the same way when someone presents herself in an unclear way. Instead of calling them pretentious, ask them a follow up question. Another option is not to say anything and carry on with your bubble.
Last weekend, my son left on his year end cadet trip. I had to pick him up at 10pm in Valleyfield. This was the perfect opportunity to work with Naomi and the concept I wanted. We got in contact after that rough Facebook saga. Via email, we discussed different clothing options, locations and shoot direction. Once agreed, we met in Valleyfield, punched in the 1st location in the GPS and let technology take us there. That was a street I had been before and thought it would be a good starting point. I wanted to shoot with sunsets in the background but we had at least a good hour before the light would be right; a good hour to break the ice, see how each reacts to the other with directions. Don’t forget, this is a team effort. You can have the best model in the world, the results won’t be stellar if the photographer is unable to connect with her. After a few curious looks given by the driving by locals as I needed to move my lighting equipment out of the way for them, we decided to give a try on the next location, closer to the sunset preferred spot. I knew this was heading toward the right direction.
We ended up shooting the sunset shots I wanted in 2 different locations. We were lucky because the 1st sunset location we did was not quite planned and I had no idea how far from the next one we were. Turned out we were only a few minutes away. For light, I used a single Alien Bee 1600 powered by a Vagabond II through a small 3ft octa. I could have used a reflector but the location changes and wind would have made that difficult to manage all by myself. I was already hoping the flash stand would not flip when setting it up in the road ditches in 30 degrees angles.
The route was planned ahead of time. Street view of Google map is your friend in such case. It is digital scouting from the comfort of your house. It is easy to figure out where the sun will set and avoid a situation where you are running out of time to find a place where there is no house in the background, no mailboxes or unwanted other elements. You might get surprised by a sudden residential project that was inexistent when the Google car drove by but it is a good alternative to on location scouting. Even with all the planning, keep your eyes opened. While driving around, you will come across locations you might not have considered before. This is how we ended, against the wall of what looked like an abandoned garage in a shopping mall parking lot we drove by while going to our 1st spot. The shoot lasted about 2 and a half hour during which really flew by.
Why did I decided to go through contacting Naomi, planning an on location shoot with lighting gears, 2 days of post processing and a long blog post. No, not pity for an aspiring model looking for a shoot. Not to have a date with a cute 20 year old blonde. I saw a win-win situation. I saw potential to deliver images I was thinking about that could benefit both Naomi and I from a portfolio and experience perspectives. I pulled what I consider some of my best images that evening and I know these can help Naomi get more gigs. We all started at one point; no one was born with a book and I believe everyone deserves a chance. It is surprising to see how many supermodels were discovered in unsolicited locations such as malls and on the street. Not all of them walked into an agency asking if they could work for them. I am not saying I will shoot everyone sending me an email but I certainly look into each requests and respond to them with other stuff than “I think it is pretentious of you to ask me for a photohoot”.
Ill attitudes and boosted egos only hurts you.
Safety tip: I am sure by now you realize I am mainly an on location and outdoor shooter. There are certain risks attached to this. Make sure you take the time to assess the location and be on constant look out for dangers. It might sound silly but not everyone slows down and change lanes on a country road when they fly by you at 130KM/H. Also, if you ask your model to position herself in places like high grass on the side of the road, right next to a ditch, go test the ground yourself rather than letting her sink in the mud.