They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and it is true that if you can capture catchlights in the image, and the eyes are sharp then people will connect.
A number of years ago the family spent some time in Egypt and it was really the first time that I encountered women wearing the full burqha with only there eyes showing. It was amazing how good looking quite a lot of eyes appeared.
Then a couple of years later we had a secret Santa at the work Christmas party and I was given a blue plastic mask. I instantly knew what I was going to do with it, and it has been used in quite a number of shoots since.
Over the years I have collected quite a range of masks, and I really enjoy using them in shoots. In most cases the mask actually focuses attention on the eyes while at the same time adding a little element of mystery to the image.
Most masks have been very successful apart from one. It is a replica of a full faced venetian mask that I have used in two shoots. The shots are good but to me there is something that I am not quite getting. I suspect that the mask actually needs a very elaborate outfit to set it off.
The second outfit that Kristara and I shot at Palmer Head was a old style lace and satin wedding dress. I bought it some time ago for a “trash the dress” shoot but it ended up not being used. Rather than shoot inside the building this time we shot outside starting with the backdrop of the graffiti walls and then on one of the roofs. The latter location enabled me to bring in a more natural background to the shots.
The days turned out very fine and the shoot was a great practise session for the upcoming wedding session as we ended you shooting at around 1:30pm under blue skies. As such it is was fairly typical of the sort of days that most brides actually want. Ideally I could have done with an assistant to help out as in a number of shots I really could have used a reflector to bring up some of the shadows. Still on wedding days you have to make do with what you have.
Kristara was very brave moving round the site in 6 inch heels, and I think that she real enjoyed herself. The wind came up a little during the shoot and we were able to use it for some advantage to billow out the long train on the dress.
Ever since I did the shoot with Megan at Palmer Head I had wanted to return there and try out some different concepts. Kristara and I had planned to shoot at the start of the year but somehow never managed to lock in a date when either our schedules or the weather could align properly. With time on my hands we managed to arrange a shoot for a Friday afternoon.
I wanted to go with two quite different looks. The first I wanted to utilise a homemade outfit that looks very Victorian. I thought that this contrasted nicely with the fact that Kristara has piercings and dreadlocks. Kristara added a set of goggles for a steampunk sort of look.
I planned on shooting inside of the gun emplacement and to add an extra dimension brought an old style lamp in which I has placed a speed light covered in an orange gell. The first shot the speed light was set to quite a high power and while it produced the desired effect it was real too bright. So the flash was wound back a little and the following image was produced.
While the shot worked there was too much falloff in the light and so I positioned a second flash in a bounce umbrella to my right and then played with the positioning and angle of it until it only provided a level of fill and did not over power the colours I was looking for.
We did run into a major issue with the light in the lamp in that something kept creating a circuit that caused it to fire randomly. I suspect that it was something to do with the metal of the lamp. I managed to get enough good shots but it was frustrating.
For the final shot we moved into the main chamber of the complex that would have housed the actuals guns and I shot Kristara looking out. This is actually a composite of two images with one being exposed for her and the other for the outside, as there was two much difference in the light levels to handle in a single exposure.
For the last five weeks I have been taking a break from work and so I thought that I would be able to fill the spare time with photoshoots rather than being restricted to the weekend. As it turned out it did not pan out quite as planned and most of the shoots I have got in have been on the usual days.
Rebecca approached me some time ago to see if I would do a shoot with her and I agreed I would. She then mentioned that she would also like to include her daughter as well.
When I found out that they lived in Masterton it was decided that we would shoot in a location around the Hutt Valley rather than travelling into Wellington. As the weather was not looking promising I decided to use Percy’s Reserve in Lower Hutt as I knew that it gave us both open space and also some covered areas should the rain start.
Rather than go for a strictly high fashion model look, I decided to produce a series of images that would fit well into the family type shoot. The images below are mainly shot using natural light with an off camera flash providing a little fill.
Some times the inspiration for a shoot seems to come from random events. A couple of months ago I saw a box of old patterns in a book sale and bought them. My wife had been talking about using them to cover other objects and I instantly thought that it would be quite cool to make a dress out of them. My daughter then dashed my plans by telling me that patterns generally only contains half of a side because you folded the fabric in half to produce the whole piece.
Knowing that it would be difficult to completely cover a model in a single pattern the concept emerged of a girl that had run so late for the ball that they were literally trying to sew the dress around her.
Rather than post a casting call I approached a model (Suzie) and makeup artist (Crystal) who had both expressed interest in working with me. I had coffee with Crystal to go over the details of the shoot because I knew that hair & makeup would be quite unusual from what she had normally done for photoshoots. I knew that I would be compositing the body but I wanted the face to be from a single image. This meant that I wanted one side to be completely made up while the other was bare.
I sent a photo of Suzie and the dress to Crystal and left it up to her to come up with appropriate makeup. I did want to be slightly theatrical with the look in that I wanted large style rollers in the hair. Crystal informed me that such things are not really used anymore but what is used really didn’t work with the look anyway.
The studio I had booked for the day is in an old house so I knew that I wanted to use the room as is. I collected a number of props from home (some under strict instructions from my wife such as her dressmaking scissors were not to be used to cut the patterns) and staged it to look like a sewing room.
Suzie had brought a number of sets of lingerie so that we could see what they looked like under the patterns, which were attached to her with double sided tape. We selected one red and a black/white combination to try out. We started with the red set.
I had decided that the way we were going to shoot it was to do the patterns first and then the dress. I was shooting tethered into lightroom which meant that we could see a larger sized image than on the back of the camera.
Suzie took up different poses and once we had them I went through and selected which one I liked the best. Suzie then got changed into the other lingerie set and we shot a few images based around the poses we liked the best from the first series.
After looking at both sets it was apparent that the red lingerie set produced a much stronger look.
Suzie then put on the dress and we concentrated on getting as close to the chosen pose as possible. Lightroom made this a lot easier as we were able to compare the two images side by side. With the help of Crystal checking the images it did not take long before we had what I thought was a reasonably good match.
Once I had the images loaded on the home computer it was a simple matter of bringing them both into a single file and masking out. I increased the saturation in the lipstick and painted Suzie’s finger nails.
It was quite a fun shoot where pretty much everything went to plan. Thanks to Crystal and Suzie for their assistance in bringing this together.
Last Sunday I has a full day in a Lower Hutt studio to produce images that will be entered into national competitions. The first was inspired by an image I saw in the July issue of F11 magazine by Italian photographer Alessandra Favetto.
I has long held the view that models are often treated as mere clothes hangers, and so I knew that I could use the image as a base. However I wanted to have more than one person in the final image and to have the models hanging from a rack of some sort.
I posted the image in a modeling Facebook group and as I suspected got an immediate response. While I had initially thought that I would cast three models I ended up selecting five. Past experience from shoots had taught me that it was unlikely all five would make it to actual shoot day.
I also knew that the shot could be something that required assistance so I managed to elicit the help of fellow photographer Alan Raga.
As I suspected would happen, in the week leading up to the shoot one model discovered that the timing clashed with a family event and a second one sprained her wrist and ended up in plaster. A third model then failed to respond to any of the communications sent out in advance of the event, and simply didn’t show up on the day. This was exactly the issue that I had spoken about in my recent blog post on “Tips for models“.
In the end Summer & Renee turned up right on time. I had asked the models to bring a number of outfits so that we had a good variety. Renee brought a small suitcase while Summer only brought two (both of which were very similar). We selected initial outfits and the girls got changed. I had to ask Summer to go and change her bra because she had a purple one on under a white top.
In terms of preparation this was going to be a very easy shoot because no hair or makeup was required. I knew that it would require several images to be taken though and then composited together. Past experience in this area has taught me that when you plan to do this having the lighting, camera position and focal length consistent between all shots make it so much easier in post.
The staging for the shoot was very simple with a large fabric backdrop that extended onto the floor and covering a small platform for the girls to stand. The hangers were suspended on another backdrop support. Once the girls were in position we raised the support up to create the illusion that they were hanging from it.
The main light was a large octobox set just left of the camera and high. The fill light was set camera right and down low. I was shooting tethered into a laptop with the camera mounted on a tripod.
Once we had the shots of the girls on the hangers we removed the platform and positioned two high backed chairs in a similar position to where each model has been standing. The girls then raised themselves up and I took the photo.
I had originally envisaged three models on the rack but decided that there was room to shoot four so both Renee & Summer got changed and we repeated the process again.
Putting the images together was relatively simple process as the hem of the skirts provided a good point to merge the images. The hardest part was blending the backdrop and in future I will chose a material that is much more consistent in colour.
As often happens when you look at the images in post you realise that there was something that could have been done better during the shoot. In this case it was the realisation that the dress chosen for Summer in the second shot (orange) was actually hanging next to her in the first series. Fortunately colour is easily changed in photoshop.
The competition it is being entered into closes on August 13 so I still have a little time to tweek it further before then.
It was a very smooth shoot and it only took 40 minutes to get all the images we needed. Thanks to Renee, Summer and Alan for making it an enjoyable event.
Over the last five years I have worked with quite a number of models who have ranged from absolute beginners to those that are very experienced. While I do not claim to be an expert in this regard I thought I would share some tips for those getting into the model game based on my experiences. These are all from the viewpoint from the photographer as you will appreciate. I welcome any comments others may have.
Be realistic in your expectations
While stories like the girl being photographed at the World Cup being offered a lucrative contract do occur, the reality is that for most girls the opportunities to actual model full time are extremely rare and in New Zealand limited. Most of the offers you will receive from photographers will be for TFP sessions. This is a very old term that stands for “Time for Prints” which actually comes from the film days. In return for their time the model would receive hard copy images to use in their portfolio. Now days it will be generally be digital files.
Generally speaking you will only receive actual payment from a photoshoot under the following circumstances:
It is commercial shoot where everyone is getting paid, or
You are an experienced model with a solid portfolio and references behind you
A full nude shoot
In the event that you can get paid then the amount that you can charge is totally based on the level of experience that you bring.
For everything else just go along and enjoy the experience and learn from it.
Be reliable & honest
For most photographers reliability will be their number one issue with models and the worst thing you can do it get a reputation as a “flake”. Once the details of a shoot have been agreed it is very important that all parties stick to them. The most important is actually turning up on time and being in a state ready to shoot. Communication is key here to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.
If I am arranging hair & makeup for a shoot then the start time we agree will be when you arrive and the Make-Up Artist (MUA) starts their work. But if we have agreed that you are doing your own hair & makeup then the time set will be when I expect to start shooting. Under such circumstances you need to turn up ready to shoot.
Now we all know that things can happen but if they do let the photographer know as soon as you can. Never, under any circumstances, simply not show up to a shoot. If you do change your mind, be honest with the fact. Do not make up some lame excuse that you think sounds plausible because quite frankly we have a list. You would be amazed how many emergency hospital visits happen to models.
The sad fact is that many people think that because the shoot is not paid that it is somehow a lower standard of responsibility than a paid shoot. The reality is that while no money is changing hands all of the parties are giving up things to take part and therefore there is a cost. If a model gets a reputation of being unreliable when it comes to shoots that she will personally benefit from, then there is absolutely no way she is going to be recommended for paid work.
Practise your craft
Dancers quite often make good models simply because they know how to isolate parts of their bodies and use them to create expression. Dancers achieve this control through countless hours of practise. Really experienced models operate in a similar way in that when a photographer asks them for a particular look or pose, they can instantly achieve it. The way that they have done this is with practise. Now some of this will be at photoshoots but not all. Practising in front of a mirror is valuable because you get the instant feedback on what you are doing.
Know your limits and be prepared to stick to them
Most models will be required to have some images in their portfolio that show a little skin. Some people have body issues and won’t get undressed with the lights on while other people can walk around in front of complete strangers in the nude without batting an eyelid. We are all different and it is important when you are starting out to know how far you are comfortable to go when agreeing to shoots. This can fall into several area such as:
The amount of clothing worn ranging from fully clothed to fully nude
The poses requested and the angles that the photos are taken from
The subjects of the images.
It is also important that when you are discussing shoots that everyone is clear on what the terminology means. For example “implied nude” means that the photo gives the impression of the model being nude when in fact they may not be. A close crop of a naked back may not show the fact that the person still has clothes on. However some people think that implied nudes mean that the model is actually naked and items are covering the strategic bits. While the end images may be similar the actual shoot itself will be quite different.
Once you have established those limits and agreed them with a photographer then it is important to stick to them. That is not to say that once you have done an initial shoot at a particular level you will not want to try again and push the boundaries a little further.
Don’t appear to have double standards
This actually leads on from the previous tip. If you have set a limit on what you say you are comfortable with then don’t have images that show you will go past it. I see this so often in model portfolio on sites like Model Mayhem where in the profile narrative the model states that they do not shoot nudes, when in the portfolio there are nude images. Now that quite clearly says to me that this model has a double standard. It is better to be upfront and state something like you are prepared to shoot nudes but only under certain circumstances and then outline what those are. For example some models only shoot nudes with photographers they know and trust, or will only shoot them in a paid shoot.
Respect limitation on the images
This has happened to me on a couple of occasion and believe you me it is really annoying to the photographer. During the process of producing the final images you may be shown unedited versions for selection purposes, or you may be given final images with watermarks on them. Now I realise that you may be dying to show your Facebook friends these images but if the photographer has shown you them for your selection, DO NOT share them. You will eventually get the images that both you and the photographer want to be seen and only these should be out there.
And if you get an image with a watermark NEVER remove it.
Finally as I have a couple of daughters, “be safe”.
In the 1990’s there was a cop show called “Hill Street Blues” and every episode would start with the officers being briefed. The sergeant would always finish with the words “Let’s be careful out there”. While there are a lot of very good and sincere photographers out there, unfortunately there are some real creeps out with camera’s who prey on models. There are some simple rules that can keep you safe.
Try to meet beforehand in a public place to talk over the shoot. If you get a bad vibe from the meeting then end the discussion there,
Ask to take a friend along. This is especially important if the location of the shoot it remote.
Now I know that not all photographers will actually allow you bring along a friend but I always do for the simple reason that if a model in uncomfortable it tends to show in the images. There are however a couple of caveats. Firstly I tell them that I will put the friend to work as an assistant, and secondly I will generally not allow male friends to shoots that involve lingerie or nudity. This is for the simple reason that I have found that models get uncomfortable when their boyfriends are around and you are trying to create a connection with them.
I have for some time wanted to do a a shoot that incorporated autumn colours and fallen leaves. Over Easter Saturday I managed to set up such a shoot with Kat Kellock as the model and Grace Krishnan once again providing hair and makeup.
There were several locations that I considered as I wanted somewhere that had an avenue of trees, not too much in the background and with trees that would preferably have leaves of different colours. From several possibilities I chose an area in Maidstone Park Upper Hutt which I scoped out on Friday morning, as well collecting a selection of dried leaves from which I intended to make a headdress. As i was able to find the twine I wanted I entered up platting together several lengths of rough string until I got the look that I was after.
I knew that we could be running into an issue as the weather in the week before had been dreadful and the forecast for the weekend wasn’t great either.
Fortunately the Saturday stayed dry, although the ground and the leaves were wet. This was a shoot where I had decided the whole costume and it is quite amazing what can be achieved with a couple lens of fabric. We had a few issues with makeup but eventually we got to the park. As we were outside I chose to use my 70-200mm mounted on the tripod. This meant that I was able to get images that let let Kat pop out from the background.
I had wanted to get a shot of leaves raining down which ended up being a lot harder than imagined many due to the fact that the leaves stuck together so rather than falling individually they came down in groups. Grace and my daughter helped with the process as shown in this pullback scene.
With a little manipulation in Photoshop we need up with the final image.
I then had Kat get on the ground and I shot from higher us. We actually put a tarpaulin on the ground and then covered it with leaves.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and the shots turned out great.
Some years ago I found a very special little waterfall and pool beside a walk in Upper Hutt. I just knew that it would be great for a shoot. My vision was to shoot a model in flowing fabric where what she was wearing and the water would meld into a single image. Knowing that the water would be fairly cool I always reserved this shoot for Summer but had never been successful in finding someone willing to take part.
That changed this year when a Facebook group was set up specifically for models, makeup artists and photographers who wanted to collaborate on projects. I took a punt and posted the shot I had of the location and was absolutely blown away with the response. Something with the concept and location touched the right cord and within hours I had lots of models to choose from. That resulted in me developing the idea from a single shoot into two with the second using two models. As I had planned to extend Waitangi day holiday into the weekend I planned the first shoot for Friday (7th) and the second shoot for the Sunday.
One of the first models to approach me was Ashleigh-Jane who happened to live in Upper Hutt so she was offered the Friday shoot. She had recently done a shoot with another Wellington photographer that I know so I was given a good reference.
With my models I do try to meet up with them in a public place beforehand as I find that this removes a lot of nerves from the shoot itself. We did this and it was obvious that Ashleigh-Jane had thought about the shoot. After deciding that the original choice of material would not suit her complexion she left with a length on fabric that she was going to create a gown from. To ease her comfort I was happy for her to bring along a friend. You can image my surprize when the friend turned out to be Issy who was one of the finalist in the New Zealand Top Model contest. She had shot with some of the top photographers in the country, so you can imagine there was a certain nervousness on how I would measure up.
The day was perfect and the whole shoot went really well, apart from me slipping on a rock and coming away with a few grazes. We started on the rocks and then like a professional she moved into the water and then in the pool at the base of the falls. She was not concerned about the cold but was a little worried as to whether the stream had any eels in it. The location has really nice lighting at the top but was a little dark once we moved to the lower pool. This was easily remedied by getting Issy to use a reflector and shine it into the area. We used the gold side to create a very warm light.