Friday, February 24, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
This is a post that explains what separates the amateur models from the professionals.
The first thing is that a model has to realize that they are a business. They ARE A BUSINESS just as I am a business as a photographer (contractor, investor, etc.). They are not just a pretty face or body that moves and holds poses. There is SO much more to their success than their technical skill. So here are the points I've weeded down to a concise list.
Factually every artist is a business. And the successful artist will not only know their technical skill cold, but know also administrative skills and will use them to their advantage over other artists who only focus on their craft.
There are GREAT photographers and models out there that no one has heard of and it isn't because their work isn't great, it's because they aren't treating themselves like a business. There are plenty of mediocre photographers as well who are in business and they do alright, not because of their skill but because they can run a business.
2) Your skill set is the technical aspect of your business but it's nothing if you neglect the administrative side of your business which includes:
3) You realize that Communication is king! and the basis for relationships to form and continue. One of the fastest ways to drive customers away is with poor or NO communication. Answer people's questions and be prompt in your reply to people inquiring about your services.
4) You have and you exude professionalism including; keeping appointments, understanding your role in the shoot, not indulging in drugs or excessive alcohol before or during your shoot. There are a myriad amount of apps that make scheduling and appointments easy. There's no excuse anymore because we've had the technology for a while now!
Looking for an edge?
6) Bonus: You understand other aspects of the industry (different than knowing your role as a model or in a particular shoot), such as dabbling in photography as a flanking skill. Photographers that also know how to model are some of the best, just look at Peter Hurley! This guy has got to be the king of head shots yet he was also a successful model!
7) Bonus: You just KNOW how to pose and work it. I don't expect every model to be there, in fact I don't expect most models to be there as it's, in my opinion, an advanced skill of someone very experienced. But you are always working at perfecting your craft, just as a photographer should never stop learning more about their craft!
The purpose of this writing was to give you the correct perspective as to how to treat yourself as a model and that is as a business. There are many books on what makes a successful business. A modeling agency is such a place that handles the administrative functions of your business for you so that you can focus on your craft. They will take their cut as well. The advantage of being part of a reputable agency is that they will be able to market you and get you work. But understanding you are a business may give you an advantage from the start!
Feel free to chime in on what you think as well. We all have a different point of view.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Such was the Cota for Kayla event in Ballard at the Elks Lodge, last night, 9 July 2011. Cota stands for the Children's Organ Transplant Association.
I was initially approached to shoot this event by a friend I had met last season at the Des Moines (Washington)Farmer's Market, Liesl Ayers-Southwell who with her husband run two booths at the market, Happy Mountain Farm premium bovine cuts (that's my phrase not theirs) and Liesl's "The Little Road Said Go" antiques and collectibles.Here is Curtis and Liesl, Curtis by the way did the PR for the event.
I took a look at the Cota for Kayla website and I think I probably read the first page. I knew that the cause was good, that Kayla was no slouch and I've always been against the medical profession sentencing people to death by their outrageous fees, not to mention their underhanded dealings with Big Pharma.
Being a visual creature (go figure right?), I next browsed the photos section. As a photographer since I was 13 years old (a long time ago
in a galaxy far, far away) when I first started shooting it's been my specialty to look at a photo and to empathize and to get fairly accurate feelings about a person or a situation. Bear in mind, as a photographer it is sometimes my job to create photos which present an image which is otherwise from reality. It is definitely an art where you can make or break your subject by how you capture them. You can make the nicest person seem angry. You can make the meanest person seem nice. Part of my ability is to be able to see through the facade that could possibly exist which another photographer could create about the person they were shooting. In other words, I usually get true and accurate "gut feelings" and I've learned not to doubt my first instincts about people or situations.
I knew by looking at the photos that Kayla is indeed a genuinely enthusiastic being who cherishes life but was unfortunate enough to inherit a body with a problem. When I later met her my earlier perception was confirmed. Inside that small body of hers is a life spark that burns brightly. It all made sense, her outlook and optimism and enthusiasm for life has probably kept her going this far where many would have fallen already.
That was my sort of spiritual level realization for the evening. I don't know how other photographer's do it but I can't be mechanical about shooting. I have to feel something. And with that aside, now onto the details about shooting the event!
I brought my trusty Olympus E5 camera and accompanying that were two lenses, the 35-100mm and the 12-60mm topped off with the FL50R flash and two new attachments, the Lumiquest Pocketbounce and 80/20 which I purchased from Glazers Camera in Seattle just the day prior. I didn't really know what I was walking into, but the Pocketbounce served as the final companion as the ceiling height was around 12-13' and ceiling bouncing wasn't working as well as one would hope for.
In the beginning of the event I used the 35-100 hitting ISO 400-800 and 1600 at f2. The results with the 35-100 are always spectacular. As the event progressed I switched to the 12-60 and added flash.
As a side note, I'd like to confess that I never, ever, ever shoot with a flash on camera. My first exposure to flash photography was in the portrait niche and I was introduced to it by David Hobby.
Next confession, until I attended the Flash Bus tour in Seattle earlier this year I didn't even know what or how TTL worked. Joe McNally helped me figure out the possibilities of it. Probably without that educational event I wouldn't have really considered TTL and I probably would have shivered in my boots a little at the pressure of shooting an event with a technology I know little about.
Technical note: When I use my 12-60 with a flash in the hotshoe, I ALWAYS put it in Manual mode adjusting my shutter speed to around 125th-160th of a second, depending on the ambient light and my aperture somewhere around f4-f8 depending on what I am shooting, etc. I had my flash set to TTL and compensated the plus or minus on it, fairly well for my first time.
Back to the event, in the beginning was the silent auction with several tables of items precariously laid out for all to bid on. My wife ended up with a vase by the way. It was a trade-off I guess, I had asked her to come along to just sort of help me where needed (getting me food, water, etc.) but her instincts took over and between the vase and chocolate cake ... well much fun was had by all.The first band played some nice tunes in the background. And it just turned out that I know the drummer. What a small world!
After the silent auction came the buffet style food. Boy by 7:30 I was starving (note to self: always eat SOMETHING before showing up to an event, any event, whether you are working or not). The food was excellent and the lady who was in charge of the catering was very nice to talk to. I kind of quizzed her backstage about what it was like in her line of work.
After the meal came a dance. I didn't catch the back story to the ensemble but it was very nice that they were there entertaining people for this cause.
After that began the live auction for desserts. Cake, cake, cupcakes and more cake! As you can see this is when people REALLY came alive!
After the dessert auction, a nice video presentation about Kayla and then Kayla's mother spoke, a little about Cystic Fibrosis and the story behind why they needed to raise the money for her operation. It seems that while the insurance would cover Kayla's operation, the insurance would not pay to have lungs removed from an organ donor for Kayla. Typical insurance people. I already know that people die every minute for lack of insurance and that insurance companies are heartless businesses with a bottom line who will always opt to NOT pay out if they can. But I wonder how many people die because of a situation like this? How many other Kayla's are out there dying because the insurance will only cover their operation and NOT the full meal deal, start to finish? Crooks! But this ISN'T turning into a rant against the low ethics of insurance companies.
Next began the live auction for the more higher priced items, a beautiful (for a girl) Electra bicycle, dinner and spa packages, golf trips, and a bottle of the 1987 Marilyn Merlot reportedly valued at $2700!
By the time the second auction started we were already about an hour behind schedule. The next band had arrived and I had remarked to the drummer Steve Smith (of the Seattle Drum School) to hit the bar next store and just chill. This is what he looked like when he got back from the bar, primed and ready to play (just kidding).
After the last auction Steve and his two bandmates finally took stage and threw down some great bluesy stuff which definitely had an early to mid 1970's feel.
Teri, Kayla's aunt (right) and Stefanie family friend (left), two hard working volunteers pause for a quick photo!
So why did I shoot this event? Well, my sense of wanting to help give someone a chance, to help in the forward push to save her life. My want to further my experience in such shooting situations. My suggestion to other photographers: Do shoot for the experience and for the sake of giving back to the community from time to time. It's enlightening and satisfying.
All in all it was a great evening. Yes, I worked hard. Yes, my feet were sore by the 4th hour. But in the end, my heart was satisfied by a good deed well done. I really wish Kayla the best. She is a bright star in a universe of dim light and I hope she lives a good life and that those who meet her get to experience her "abundance of energy" like I did.
The only thing I didn't get to do which I would have loved was to have a 1 on 1 photo session with Kayla. Maybe in the future.
To see or purchase photos in color or B&W from this event please visit my site at:
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I recently looked at Walmart, Sears and Yuen Lui before I started to get the flow. They are all in the same neighborhood in terms of pricing. At least in the “hook” price.
Here are some of the advertised prices you can find with these bigger studio stores.
“Over 30 portraits for $7.99”
“Portrait Package $7.99”
“$39.95 for session and an 8x10”
Now we all want to save money. No doubt. Some family’s get their portraits done every year because every year the children are growing older and sometimes parents wish to catalogue these changes for future viewing.
But are they really saving money going to these box store studios?
I can’t nor won’t speak for every major department store’s portrait studio in terms of cost or quality. I will say that the lighting of the shoot is usually the same throughout. The camera is usually mounted on a tripod and the photographer rarely if ever moves the camera.
What you get are well lit portraits that are just plain boring. But here’s the real dig. The fine print is that most of the “photographers” are really salesmen who want to sell you a package. The package that will end up costing you $300-400 or more depending on your needs and/or wants.
The fine print is “yes we will take 30 portraits of you – 30 frames and charge you $7.99 for it and if you’d like a copy of the prints it will cost you X amount". A digital disc can run over $100.
I haven’t run across freelance guys like myself who promote their services this way. I’ve seen a few recently that say, “portrait sessions, 2 hour minimum, X photos = $200” or some such.
That’s right, the little guy, the free lance, the one-man photography studio might just be able to save you more money.
Let’s look at some pros and cons.
Using your local PROFESSIONAL photographer
- Will usually tell you upfront what your money will buy
- Will offer in studio or on location shots
- Will vary the lighting (usually)
- Will get you professionally printed shots
The potential drawbacks:
- One man shows are just that and when things go wrong, such as the photographer can’t make the appointment for whatever reason, you will have to reschedule. That can suck if you just got your hair done.
- Your photographer might be limited in backdrops or lighting accessories. Hey most one man shows don’t own 30 backdrops.
- Your one man show might have a SMALL studio, because it’s in his or her basement, living room, etc.
Box Store Studio Comparisons
- Someone will be there to take your photo. If you made the appointment it will happen. They usually have a couple of people who are able to stand in and click buttons.
- It’s in a room large enough to be called a studio, not a basement. That’s got to account for something right?
- That hook to get you in the door for $7.99 because you wanted to save money might actually mean paying MORE than visiting your local photographer because they won’t release the OTHER photos they took at the time of the session unless you pay for them.
- They got you to come to them through deceptive advertising. Face it, you won’t walk out of there paying $7.99 or whatever astronomically low fee they painted in their window or on their website. They will try to “upsell” you a package which may cost anywhere from $100 for barebones to $500 or more for deluxe.
- They usually won’t change the lighting or angles. Headshots can sometimes be done on a tripod but how boring to have the whole shoot on a tripod!! Your Christmas photos should have some pizzazz, some life to them. This isn’t the 1970’s where family photos were just plain BORING!
Alright, enough said. You know where I stand. We as photographers who are trying to make a living are the underdogs (not to mention being underbid by amateurs who suddenly think their pro cam can replicate the knowledge inside the professional's head). There are plenty of great wedding photographers who more so now than 10-15 years ago get underbid by the "cousin, uncle, or nephew" with the pro cam who's never shot a wedding and specializes in macro photography.
If we are ethical then we don’t try to deceptively lure in families for $7.99 and then try to upsell them. I don't like that as a customer, and I definitely wouldn’t be imposing that on MY customers.
So what to look for in a free lance photographer who will shoot your holiday portraits?
- He or she would likely have a portfolio. You would be able to see this before making any commitment.
- He or she would give you the upfront cost for your portrait session and what that includes in terms of prints or whether or not you get a digital copy of the photos, etc. Everyone wants to upload photos to their Facebook right?
- He or she would have an ample sized studio, whether it is a living room or basement but which can facilitate the delivery of the product YOU want.
- The prints would be printed by a professional lab such as MPIX or any of the other reputable online photo labs. This would guarantee the BEST quality print.
- He or she would have a contract signed prior to starting which defines the terms of the shoot, the costs, etc. which YOU get a copy of and which ultimately ends up protecting YOU and the photographer in terms of guaranteeing some pay for delivery of a product.
Choosing a photographer isn’t a hard thing to do. It’s best to give the underdog a chance. One last thing. The underdog, the private photographer who wants to do your holiday portraits will often try harder than the box store competition to give you the BEST. Because let’s face it, MANY will be lured in by the promise of $7.99 and it’s hard to compete with deceptive BIG stores.
To view my photography website please visit:
For more info on holiday portrait pricing please contact me lisimages @ gmail. com
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Naturally, the more time you spend with someone communicating, the better potentially, the relationship. Communication can make or break a photo shoot faster than your light.
Communication establishes the reality, what’s expected, what’s to be done, what the mutual goal is and so forth.
That said, here are some basic guidelines which may assist you in photo shoots. (You can skip to the end to read the summary if you don’t have the time to read it all.)
0) Figure out WHAT type of product you want to end up with and plan your shoot accordingly. Then choose your model. Conversely, you can choose a model and plan a shoot based on that model’s looks and ability to model (number of poses). Do the preliminary prep work which includes procuring props, location scouting, location permit (if applicable). If you model requires make-up or hair stylist procure this for the date. Some models will have a preference on who they work with, some will provide their own, and some will do their own make-up and hair.
1) Start your photoshoot by communicating with the model.
Yep, the opening of this article stressed the importance of communication. Before you shoot it’s good to open up and get the model to open up to you and that’s best done with communication.
You can ask them whatever; just don’t get too personal with someone you don’t know. Some people may find it uncomfortable to discuss topics which are somewhat personal.
After you’ve broken the ice, established good communication, now would be a great time to go over what you expect to get out of the photo shoot, and also get what the model wants to get out of the shoot. Establish goals for the shoot, even if the goal is as sporadic as “whatever happens”. At least get some agreement on some kind of goal.
2) Be patient, clear and concise when directing the model.
Models aren’t born telepaths. They aren’t necessarily going to strike the exact pose YOU are thinking every time. The direction, “turn right” isn’t very descriptive and if the model turns completely right, when you meant for the model’s head to turn right such miscommunication can slow down the shoot. When the model hits the right pose, tell him or her. “Yes, that’s it, hold that a sec!” click click. You get the idea. It’s good to validate and acknowledge the model when they hit the correct pose or if they strike a great pose on their own. It reassures them, it makes them feel like they aren’t wasting YOUR time (and theirs).
Try to be clear and concise. And polite.
3) Observe the stray hair, the missing jewelry, the lint, the face which went from it’s make-up’d look to sweaty or needing a touch up.
Try to observe the little things in the photo which while many of these things can be corrected in post, it’s always best to get it right the first time. I don’t really know any thing that takes less time to correct at the time of the shoot than it does in post. I guess I am more of a photographer than a photoshop specialist.
If you are working with a hair stylist or makeup artist they usually will catch these things for you and correct them. I’ve had these people on my right or left waiting to run forward between clicks and adjust certain things. If you are alone, don’t overly correct. This introverts a model’s attention and can close down the creative flow.
But ultimately, you are the Master and Commander. The photographer is the most responsible (for the finished product) person on the set.
4) Take a break, keep your model fed and watered.
After an hour or two, it’s great to take a break. Some models smoke so the breaks will come more often. More important than food is water or drink. Plus just as your arms may get tired holding your camera for a good stretch, imagine the model. They are “on stage” holding certain poses and yes it is tiring. Relax, stretch your legs, get some fresh air. You’ll be surprised how new ideas can sprout when your body has had a chance to rest a moment.
5) Don’t touch your model.
It’s very simple. Just don’t. Doesn’t matter if they are the same sex or opposite. If you have a hair stylist or make-up, wardrobe, whatever, have them tend to something you’ve seen which needs correction.
But especially when you are alone, don’t don’t don’t don’t touch your model. It’s rude, it can put them on edge, make them nervous about you and can break down what you spent time building up with communication.
If you do see something, point it out to them and have them correct it. If you see lint, tell them where, or point, don’t just grab. If the model asks you to help them with something, such as a clasp on a piece of jewelry or a strap on the back, then sure help them. But never assume you have a right to touch your model.
6) Don’t hit on the model!
Compliment yes! But don’t overly compliment because it will start to make the model uncomfortable.
Don’t ask if they are seeing anyone, dating, married, etc. It’s data NOT needed for a photo shoot. It’s off topic. And it’s rude.
Need I say it? Don’t ask for their phone number. Allow your model to volunteer such. Hey you probably already have the model’s email. If you are uncertain and your AREN’T trying to score a date with your model, you can always ask “is your email address the best way to get a hold of you?” The model may or may not then offer their phone number.
If you end up with such information do not abuse the privilege by calling them obsessively, or at strange hours, or leaving them strange messages.
In fact, if you HAD to be told anything under guideline 6 that you didn’t have in your mind already as common sense, maybe you should consider shooting mannequins.
7) Keep some magazines or posing books available.
Sometimes you have a particular pose you have in mind and you haven’t figured out how to communicate it. A picture is worth a thousand words. Show your model what you mean. This can sometimes turn ordinary into Win!
8) Don’t be afraid to ask your model for ideas.
Some models have their own ideas about what they want or they are experienced enough to know that they look good in certain poses. Get their input as well, it can add to the creative process.
9) We know you are going to chimp – so share the joy.
You just shot a great photo right? Show your model! Models want to know they are doing things right. In my experience, even models that are there on paid terms still retain interest in how things turn out. With a newer model, a great shot can do a lot to build their confidence.
10) Never make negative comments about the model or their poses, body, clothing, hair, etc.
It’s rude to make introverting comments even if you weren’t intending to. You know, “well that dress makes you look fat in the legs” or “your hair is too thin for this kind of shooting” or “that pose is unflattering to you” … instead try something like, shoot the bad pose then ask the model to change the pose and later you can delete such bad pose.
Ok, your model’s legs look big in the dress they brought. Fine, deal with it. Shoot them in a way that pulls attention away from the legs, or at an angle that brings them into better proportion with the rest of their body. You’re in control. The importance to grasp here is don’t do things that make the model self-conscious, upset, or lose self-confidence.
11) Bonus Tip: Always be ready. Sometimes when a model is adjusting their clothing or hair or are otherwise distracted, you will get that special moment of candid perfection. Be ready to take your shot. I’ve been in shoots where some of the best pics were those candid, model distracted shot between the “official shooting moments”.
12) One last thing. Always get a model release. This sets the terms of how the photos can be used after the shoot. Some models don't care how they are used. Some models are paid not to care where or how they are used. It's best to have these terms agreed to in writing. You really only get into trouble in two places from my experience and that's using photos positioned with some sort of product, group, etc., that the model may not like and for which you had no permission to do so and if you published a nude or otherwise compromising photo without permission. The model release can specify use and distribution. It can protect you the photographer and it can protect the model as well.
1) Plan your shoot and get your “ducks all lined up” in a row.
2) Begin and maintain good communication before and during your shoot!
3) Give your model directions on their posing in a clear and concise manner. Always acknowledge the good poses! Be polite.
4) Observe the little details, such as stray hair, clothing malfunctions, etc and work with the model to correct them.
5) Keep everyone fed, watered, bathroom and take breaks. With models that are also my friends, I usually provide wine or something better than water! I wouldn’t for a stranger because it may make them uncomfortable.
6) Don’t touch your model. Keep your hands to yourself!
7) Don’t hit on your model. This is the verbal aspect of #6.
8) Keep magazines or tear sheets around for ideas or to convey a particular pose.
9) Don’t be afraid to ask the model for ideas too.
10) Share the Joy! Show your model the truly good/great pics DURING the shoot.
11) Never make any comments that makes a model self-conscious or uncomfortable. Do the exact opposite. Make them confident, make them feel good about their ability.
12) Always be ready. The moment you set your camera down, your model will strike the best pose of the day while she adjusts her hair. It happens more than you might guess.
13) Model release. (ok I lied, it's 13 guidelines))
All of these guidelines are easily figured out if you simply act like a professional. In fact in situations not covered above, just ask yourself what a professional would do. (Portrait) Professionals don’t just have confidence, technical know-how, experience, but also manners and a great ability to communicate with their subjects. Be a professional photographer and not a professional creep, professional amateur and make some art!
Friday, October 29, 2010
Zooming in while the shutter is open.
This is a super fast tutorial on shooting Halloween pics. i.e., pics of the kids that show up at your door looking for candy. Of course any of this information can be used and expanded upon. I will write this middle of the road, meaning, with the beginner in mind, but you can use any digital camera you want.
You can pre-stage an area for your tricker treaters that has a background that is uncluttered and doesn’t have random elements ruining your photo. For example, you don’t want a lot of disrelated objects cluttering up the background drawing your attention from the subject, which are the kids.
You also don’t want broom handles or posts/pillars rising up out of the back of their head. Compositionally this is a no-no. If you are a photographer and have a background, then you can use it, a sheet could work, a brick wall, tall fence, a thicket of trees, something that looks spooky, whatever. Just keep it clean and not MORE interesting or distracting than your subjects.
Last, don’t shoot DOWN on the kids, unless of course it looks good. Try kneeling and getting down to their height. Makes for better impact. Or get lower. The point is, short people, ie. Kids are short. You get down to their level and you will thank yourself later because the neighbor got the boring cliché looking down on the kids shots and you were different.
Second, white balance. If you are shooting RAW then you don’t need to worry about this, much. If you are shooting jpegs then you need to get it right, in camera, now. What kind of light is on your porch? Is it a tungsten bulb or perhaps a daylight balanced light? If you don’t know, you can wait until tonight and test out some shots. Put it on tungsten and see if the photos look too blue, daylight, etc.
By the way, your flash will is pre-set to daylight so if you solely intend on overwhelming ALL LIGHT with your flash just leave it on Daylight. If however you are going to mix lighting then you can play around and see what looks best. Shoot RAW if you can’t figure this out.
Third, Iso. If you are using a flash you can use 100-400. If you are relying on your porch light, better hope it’s a bright one and shoot at ISO’s upwards of 800-1600 … expect noise in the shadows. Expect noise anyway unless you are using a 5k camera. And then expect softness.
Fourth, Use a second person to entice the children into action, acting or posing. If you are not great at interaction with kids, then get someone to hand out candy and watch as the kids reach in unison. Take the shot! Or simply say, “okay kids look scary” and most kids will make an effort.
Fifth, of course get permission from the adults present. I am supposing that you AREN’T a professional and therefore WON’T be selling your images and there you don’t NEED a model release. By the way, if the parents look like dull boring parents, ask them to stand out of the picture for the sake of continuity.
Sixth, Rear curtain. This is a function you might need to dig into your manual to find out how to set your camera up for. It’s where the shutter is opened for a set amount of time, thus recording with what available light there is, anything you are pointing you camera at and then at the end of the exposure the flash goes off freezing whatever you are shooting. It’s fun and can make for some real motion filled wild photos. You can zoom in while the shutter is open too …This is rear curtain in action.
Seventh, people blink. So shoot a few frames. It’s annoying to get what looks like a great shot on the back of your camera only to find that on your computer half of the subjects are blinking.
Eighth, if you have an off camera flash you can set it up at an angle. This is getting more into the complications of lighting. But let’s put it this way. Shooting them dead on with your on-camera flash is the most boring. If your flash is at an angle it could make some very nice shadows and enhance the creepy effect. Likewise, put the flash lower than Count Dracula and shoot it upwards and you will have the new Bela Lugosi shot.
Ninth, Zoom in and out. Some kids will have costumes that are all face. So zoom in appropriately. You aren’t documenting for Wild Planet . If the torso, legs portion of their costume is boring but their face is cool then shoot that. If however the face is boring then hopefully something else makes up for the full length shot you will shoot.
Tenth, have fun. Happy Shooting.