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.