Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lingerie vs Swimwear: The Great Debate / Style or Trash

I had no idea lingerie and swimwear was such a controversial topic when it comes to modeling and photography. I mean sure, I know some people are more… “conservative” isn’t the right word; maybe timid or paranoid might be more appropriate. It is true that nothing you put online is private despite the number of filters and blocks you put up. It is impossible to perfectly block a picture that is online from a committed person. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal. Some people model swimwear. Some people model lingerie. But sometimes I can encounter someone that doesn't do both and it is baffling and a bit befuddling to say the least.

First, let me give you a bit of a background with the kind of person writing this. I come from a very conservative and religious background. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being hardly ever seeing the inside of a place of worship except for on Easter or just saying you’re a Christian during Christmas, and 10 being a totally dedicated to convert everyone or the world will go up in flames… I’d say I grew up in a household around a number 7; 8 in a pinch. So you might say, I know a bit about scripture, morality, ethics, burning in hell or not (depending on what your interpretations are), idolatry, family responsibilities, chastity and everything in between. I still hold many of those truths close to heart like not living with someone unless you are married to them. I’m not so demented as to think burning bushes will start talking to me in this day and age but once those things are with you those sense of moral don't go away. 

Now that you know something about my level of “letting it all go” if you will, you can take comfort in the fact that I’m not to be taken casually when speaking on a topic as sensitive as lingerie and swimwear. First, I’ll address the first part of the topic. The "I will model swimwear but not lingerie" group. This group is the most mind-numbingly baffling. Why? Because swimwear is lingerie on the beach. Not only is it that, it is public for all the world to see and it shouldn’t bother you. The more we make something forbidden, the more people glorify it, taboo it and think it's dirty. The more any degree of freedom like swimwear or lingerie becomes labeled as dangerous or wicked, you give it its power. 
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You might say I’ve been desensitized over the years because of working with so many people. That might be somewhat true. But that further proves my point. That theoretical desensitization doesn't make it any less private, personal or intimate, but it does lessen the impact such draconian ideology has on society and human sexuality as a whole. I would never want a child of mine to think somehow the human body is not a work of art. It’s imperfections and its perfection co-existing in unending upswept curves, tips and lines are to be marveled. I asked several people why they would do swimwear and not lingerie. The answers I got all started with, “My husband…,” my boyfriend…,” “my culture…” or “my religion…” Do you want to know what no person in the history of photographing people for nearly 15 years started out aying? No-one started out with telling me what "they" wanted or thought as an individual. They had convinced themselves that the opinion of someone who had no true control over their decision making to make them feel unclean and dirty to even consider such a thing. They were being treated like property. That shocked really shocks me to my core. What year is it anyway? We don't own people anymore nor should we ever.

Having been around art much of my life, I’d long developed in appreciation for art in all forms; not despite my conservative upbringing but because of it. You see it was never a topic shunned in my family but rather respected, protected, discussed and revered but not by wrapping oneself in chastity belts and wraps but my instilling values to respect yourself first, then other people, their opinions and their values even when they do not coincide with your own. That laid the foundation for me to see the world in a broader context. Such as, knowing that in many parts of Europe nudity is no different from riding a bike down the street on a hot summer’s day. Yet, in other countries it may be a public beheading offense. I respect that like I respect anyone’s opinion about even modeling lingerie, swimwear or even nude because I believe anything that has an appropriate level of tastefulness and style applied that can make any and all things beautiful and visually palatable and that such things should at least be considered with an open mind. 
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What do I mean by the latter? I mean anything not done well will be bad for your reputation and your career considering how paranoid and Draconian the sometimes overly-righteous US can be about such things. I’ve seen some of the most distasteful swimwear in poses that would make my grandmother roll over in her grave. She would say, “why is that woman outside in her drawz with her business in the street? That is just filth,” or she would say worst things. Just go online and you can see swimwear models in extremely compromising poses, horrible styling, inappropriate clothing and it is not always a matter of skin coverage. It is a matter of style and appropriate taste for what is being presented. Consider that I can show a fully nude photo of a model posing in an appropriately beautiful and artful way and yet another fully clothed in a less than flattering way and the clothed one will offend far faster than the nude. Why? It is because of style, appropriateness and quality not how much skin is showing or where the model is or what she's lying on or if she's inside or outside.

You might conclude that this notion of not modeling lingerie but openly modeling swimwear because lingerie is too closely related to sex is dumb in hindsight is it not? Is that what your small minded husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are thinking? That seems more like a trust issue. To say such a thing means that I can take a model dressed in nothing but lingerie out to a public beach and it would be just fine. That is the logic people that model swimwear but not lingerie is using isn’t it? Swimwear is in fact lingerie outdoors exposure-wise and modeling one is no more controversial than another. I’ve seen far more revealing swimwear than I have lingerie in my time. But even so, skin visibility isn’t the issue. It is that fear of getting it wrong. That fear that they might be shown in a most sexualized and unflattering way that sends the wrong message; a horrible message that objectifies instead of empowers. A message that says I’m easy trash. It is that along with a paranoid boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband right? Can it go down like that? You bet it can. But any kind of clothing or lack thereof can do that, swimwear included. 

People often project how they feel and assume they know how other people will feel. That other husband thinks my wife or girlfriend will look like a slut they think. But that is only what he would think in such a position. But let’s get to it while it’s fresh on my mind. I know you’re all wondering so I’ll just lay it out there. Would I let my wife model lingerie? You’re damn right I would with very few conditions. My only rule is to do it well. I may want to help her choose the photographer and have some idea of the set or theme of it. I would like to be sure it’s extremely high quality, fashionable, tasteful and resembling of something from Victoria’s Secret, SIRCUS magazine, Vogue or Harpers. Other than that I trust my wife completely to make reasonable decisions that would not endanger her, her career and put either of us in harm’s way. I don’t treat her like property. She is as smart and intelligent as I am, perhaps more. If she chooses to she can do whatever she likes and I’ll be sure to support her fully should she want me to. 

Now that elephant has left the room what about modeling lingerie and not swimwear? This was a rare one; far rarer than the first but I encountered it once several years ago and once again no more than three weeks ago. This is a far simpler explanation. A lingerie shoot is far slower. There is time to think, consider, plan and organize. It is more private, there is more interaction with the team and above all else it far less public. There aren’t strangers walking by and despite the fact she may be wearing more or less, every pair of eyes may feel like eyes of judgement for less than confident model. I get that. It is far more believable and valid a reason than the “swimwear not lingerie” crowd. Outdoor photo shoots are a whirlwind at best. Things are happening fast because of changing light. There can also be great deal of moving, the weather changes constantly and people going to and fro gawking and commenting aloud. Unless of course you have a private space to shoot, I imagine that anxiety building and interfering with concentration is difficult. But for the most part this type of fear is far less common than the aforementioned one. 

Like anything each and every person can make their own decisions about what is and what is not appropriate for them. I can’t possibly understand everyone’s motivations for doing or not doing anything. Something as private and deeply personal as lingerie and swimwear is a personal decision that I respect one way or another. I would never and have never asked anyone to model anything they don’t want to. I heard the horror stories of other photographers that have but I will say even those instances are very rare. Once a model makes her limits known, they work it out or she walks away. It is that simple. 
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We have been fortunate to work with some viciously gorgeous people over the years and hope to continue to. Some model only fashion, some beauty, others lingerie and swimwear. We love them all. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and different life circumstances that dictate their decision making. No marriage is worth losing over a pic and no job is worth risking because you look beautiful in La Perla. Okay maybe if it’s La Perla it might be worth considering because I’ve never seen anyone look bad in La Perla. LOL! In all seriousness, the decision is your own and no one should be able to make you feel bad for doing so or not doing so. 

I have done my fair share of lingerie shoots, boudoir, glamour, fashion, art-nude, beauty, fitness, swimwear, avant garde, implied, cosplay and other ideas that defy genre classification. Boudoir is most popular largely among wives and girlfriends and guess what, they are not even models in the traditional sense. They give them as a gift to their husbands or most of them gift it to themselves as a gift of empowerment, bravery and strength. Many have commented that it is as if shackles have fallen off. They feel braver and more empowered than they ever had before. It is not a dirty thing. It can and often is a source of strength if you let it become so.

We love it when people that may not model lingerie or swimwear themselves can look at a Helios image of someone that has and appreciate its style, beauty and attention to detail. I’ve seen the comments and read them. “I don’t model lingerie but this is very tasteful and beautifully done” is often said. Or we read “I do not model lingerie or swimwear but I would like to do so with Helios if you would consider giving me a quote and explaining your process.” We appreciate that level of trust and understanding because before I am anything I am a professional. My concern is not only that you get the image or design that you want, but that we also exceed your expectations.


That same model I mentioned earlier that told me she has modeled lingerie but that she never considered modeling swimwear flipped thru SIRCUS magazine Issue 9, the special swimwear edition we submitted to and changed her mind on the spot. Before, she was worried about not looking classy and decent in public. Well, her worries were dispelled immediately and she decided on the spot that making a gorgeous timeless image is less about what people think about you. She realized that it comes down to style, taste, appropriateness and finding the right people you can trust to give you the high quality you need. 

There is nothing trashy about swimwear not more than lingerie and vice versa. This is about perspective and managing expectations that will insure your success with either or both. Nothing is beyond your control when you have the right people supporting you and not making you feel lesser than you are.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Are You a Helios Model? And What is a Helios Model Anyway?

Who or What is a “Helios Model?”

To be completely honest with you, we didn’t know this phrase was a thing until about the third time we had heard it from at least three different people. We’re not a modeling agency but I do believe that over time we may have indirectly chosen or maybe created a different classification of models and clients.

I don’t believe it is a look. I personally think everyone we’ve photographed is beautiful. I really mean that. Everyone we have ever photographed in uniquely gorgeous in their own way. Our portfolio is far too varied to say it is just blondes or brunettes, dark hair, asians or blacks, whites or otherwise. But I do think that most of the models who collaborate with us have a refinement unseen anywhere else. It’s not a job, or a label. It’s just something people tend to remember the model by. We guess it’s a thing now. 

For example, I did a follow-up with a model two weeks ago. This follow-up was long after my initial shoot with her. We met just to discuss future ideas and just to see how her shoots with other photographers have gone since our first shoot together. She is having a blast. However, it was the recent photographers she had worked with that also gave her the label as a Helios Model which in essence meant, she was in a different and more elite class than normal. Hey, we’ll take that. Again, it is not our saying, this seems to be public opinion. We’re not an agency but we do often brag about finding the absolute best people to photograph. To be honest, even the paid assignments are exceptional in our opinion. I believe good people are simply attracted to good things. You want the best then you should always strive to be the best. If I want the best models I try not to beg for them, pay them extraneous amounts of money. I put my time and effort in honing, improving and perfecting my skill as a designer and photographer. In time, if it is meant to be we will simply cross paths; if not, we will not. We certainly don’t have a monopoly on premium people. In fact, we would say that there have many more people we would like to work with; all of which are well-suited to the ideas we have planned. Are they “Helios Models” before we even work with them? We can’t answer that if we don’t know why the label exist.

We don’t happen upon active photo shoots from other photographers very often so we don’t see their process with how they select, engage and direct models but I can’t imagine it would be that different. You select, research, schedule and shoot or you reply to a message or an email, agree on a rate, schedule and shoot. Simple right? Or so we thought. Apparently, somewhere along the line we seem to develop these new classifications and what some are designating as a higher echelon of talent than what is normally found. 

We honestly don’t know what is going on. But what we do know is that we are eternally grateful for every single paid assignment and collaboration that comes our way and we have fun doing them. As you might also be aware, we often credit the talent and clients themselves with how well the images manifest. We couldn’t be who we are without their skill, vision and talent. 

So what is a Helios Model? I still don’t really know. Perhaps someone else can define why people we photograph just seem so categorically premium and elite. If I had to guess we believe people decide to become a Helios Model when they make that first email, send that first message or make the initial phone call to setup a shoot. It’s a mindset not a look. They’ve decided to take a leap and see what happens and that within itself suggest a creative and more open minded way of approaching art and photographically specific. If the label derives from the results then that is most certainly our theory. Full trust in the process is over half of our successes. 

Our final theory on what constitutes a Helios Model is a person that constantly strives to improve their craft. They encourage others to be the best they can be while they themselves work hard to expand their creative opportunities. They want to forge productive relationships and work with other people like themselves that respect style, taste and refinement above all else and they would much rather have quality above quantity. If that is a Helios Model then I believe nearly everyone we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with suits that label. 



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Are Models and Photographers Territorial with their Collabs?

Can Photographers and Models be territorial?

We all have our favorite models and photographers we like to frequently work with for simple creative exploration and editorials for publishing. As the years have gone by and as skills and techniques becomes more refined, I find my list quite short. In fact, I think it is safe to say that it is very short. 

I’ve long since grown beyond the days of port building unless it is decided that we want to explore a different market and a take a different direction to broaden our appeal to another target audience. In those instances, I will certainly reach out to different people to see if they want to be apart of that process. Otherwise, it’s business as usual - paid assignments, commercial work, test shoot; rinse and repeat. There is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love to do every day and we certainly love it. There is no doubt of that. But how do you feel about your favorite model or photographer stepping out on you to work with someone else for creative work? As a model have you caught yourself thinking, “wait a minute, that’s MY photographer. What is she doing with him?” Or does the photographer occasionally think, “hold on. I thought she was with me. Did I do something wrong?”

I’m of the mindset that no single person can do everything perfect all of the time. Or that everyone isn't as easily available all of the time. A photo friend down the street can give you enough images for your Facebook feed to get you thru for a while. But when it is time for grown-up photography she’ll call me right? LOL! I know models that do not shoot lingerie so what am I to do? I call a model that I shoot lingerie with when I need to shoot a lingerie series. I know models that do not shoot fashion and prefer to shoot swimwear. What do I do? I call someone I know that does fashion if I need to. It’s just important to me to have a diverse enough contact list for the things I want to explore creatively. However, I still keep a very short list of high-quality contacts. I’d rather shoot less with high-quality talent than more and get mediocre inconsistent talent.  

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to artistic collaborations. I certainly can’t do makeup and hair styling. But there are a few photographers that can do that as well as take a decent picture. Therefore, your favorite model may sometimes venture out for some creative collaboration on her own without you because it’s just a better arrangement. To the photographers, you can’t be everything to everyone. Besides, if a photographer is dead set on a certain style of images all the time, the model may need to mix it up a bit. Additionally, she certainly doesn’t need permission from the photographer.

The same can be said the other way around. I’ve heard from a few models that have seemingly felt betrayed when I seek out their model friend or someone else they know in the industry. Hey, How was I supposed to know that they were rivals? I’ve received an email or two in my time worded “I would have done that look for you. Why did you have to contact HER or HIM?” It is as if some people can get a little jealous over collaborative choices. It isn’t dating but it can often feel a lot like you’ve been cheated on when your favorite photographer starts photographing the rival model you really can’t stand to even be in the same runway show with; you know the one that you secretly wish heel would break when she walks out. LOL! Okay not that bad but you’re getting my point I think. 

What do I do then? I do what I’e always done. I focus on quality. I focus on taking better pictures and spoiling the people you like to work with the most. I actually encourage them to seek out an assignment or two so you don’t ever feel taken for granted it happens. Don’t laugh. It happens. They’ll come back and appreciate you THAT much more. Your favorite collaborations will always come back to you when they want the best or they’ve had their feel of trials and tribulations and now want consistent mind-blowing results. They don’t want to feel taken for granted either, which is one more reason to diverse your collaborations when you’re starting out. 

I’m in the “been there and done that” phase so I don’t venture out far from my fav creative partners. I still step away for the occasional test shoot but when I really really want my best model or models I know exactly who to call. It’s an understanding that took years to nurture and develop so we know what we are creatively to each other and where we stand. We know that we each want to be first on every consideration or idea. Now we are. I can’t even fathom trying out an idea without considering this model or models first. They get first choice on everything. 

I wouldn’t say I am territorial in such regard but there has been a couple of times over the many years when I’ve been a little miffed about where someone’s head was. Of course, art is very subjective but if you’re a photographer then you have had those times when your favorite model takes an image with someone else and you say WTF?! That’s terrible. Why didn’t she call me if she wanted to try that? I would have done that so much better and why didn’t she even ask me if I wanted to do it? Now we both look bad because I’ll be that photographer who worked with THAT model that shot with the new photographer… and it was horrific.” LOL! Then I check myself and remember that my focus should be on my own level or proficiency. I encourage everyone I meet to shoot as often as they can with only the best photographers you can find; not just anyone. But remember that creative exploration is one thing but a dumb ass decision is another. 

“Quality over Quantity.” That is my motto that I want everyone I collab with to employ. I don’t really care who any collaboration or paid assignment I have ever had works with after me so as long as they keep that philosophy in mind. Shooting with someone far better than I am doesn’t tick me off. In fact, I love seeing people succeed and doing bigger and better things. It justifies the faith they had in me. You wouldn’t want anyone to do worse after you would you? That’s crazy. That would mean they make consistently bad decisions so what are you? A fluke? An accident other than a deliberate intelligent decision? But shooting with someone far worse… well that can get under my skin a little even now. LOL! 

I am acutely attuned to who is encouraging each other on social media and websites. I read post and notice when and what models are actively commenting on other models and what photographers are promoting and commenting about other photographers work that they admire. Or are they only commenting on their own pictures that get posted? The people that share, comment, like and post on other work not involving themselves are people I want to work with because it displays confidence and people good enough at their crafts as to not be threatened by petty territorial pissings (to borrow a Nirvana song title) :)

All we can do is encourage each other and try to build each other up creatively rather than the other way around. To me, a person that actively encourages other people is not only being positive but they are showing that they are confident enough with themselves to understand their worth. So when a favorite model of mine shoots with multiple other photographers, eventually when she sees me or contacts me it will be something like, “I can’t wait to shoot with you again. You have no idea how I’ve missed your eye. Here are my ideas if you have some time to talk about our next adventure.” Isn’t that validation enough? Focus on your craft. No one wants to see anyone fail but if you focus on making yourself better and encourage others positively things have a way of working out without having to be so dogmatically territorial. Yet, when you're out and about with one of your favorite collabs, there is a certain level of comfort one gains from being referred to as MY friend and MY photographer. Or when I introduce my friend by her name followed by she is the best model that has ever been in front of my camera. It shows a certain creative kinship that illustrates to everyone around that I know this guy or this model. He is the best and we've been thru the creative thick of it and I trust no one else more than him or that I prefer her over everyone I've ever worked with before. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Who is To Blame When Your Photos Turn Out Bad?

We have been fortunate not to have these things occur. Yet, we hear about them all the same. We’ve had a misunderstanding or two over the years. Who hasn’t? Usually it’s about start times and styling choices. Even after all these years there are some things we still simply refuse to photograph. There can be a great deal of finger pointing when things go bad on or after a photo shoot. When the pictures aren’t of the quality and caliber of what everyone expected then who is to blame for that?

Is it the subject, the client, the photographer, the creative director, the makeup artist or hair stylist, the agency, the wardrobe stylist, the retoucher or the booking agent’s fault that these images are so horrible? There are several people blame can and will be assigned to. 

The photographer wants to blame the agency for sending him such an inexperienced model. He says she doesn’t understand his instructions or that he has to almost babysit the model and take him or her thru every single pose like a baby having to be guided through taking it’s first steps. Or the model came unprepared, she didn’t bring the right clothing discussed, she didn’t wax, she was unable or unwilling to do the required looks. I’ve also heard photographers say the model simply can’t model. She can’t pose or move. Everything was jerky or incomprehensible and out of context with the theme. It happens but is that all the model’s fault? Read on.

The stylist or booking agent might say that the modeling agency sent the wrong model. Or the agency will say the model is exactly what the creative director asked for. But someone will complain that she's too tall. She’s not expressive or that she doesn’t have the dress size or hair color we requested. Is it the stylist’s fault or the agency? Read on.

The model blames the photographer. He was too pushy. He was weird. He spoke too fast. I couldn’t understand him. He was not communicable. He was too quiet. I didn’t want to do lingerie. I thought we were doing lingerie but he wanted swimwear. I told the agency I only shoot nude. I don’t shoot nude; why was I asked. I was cold the entire time. I was too hot. The location was far away. He wasn’t good with lighting. He focused too much on lighting. The list goes on. Could she be right? Read on.

I think you see where I’m heading with this post. Everyone has a complaint about someone at some point in time. The simple answer is that it’s your fault your pictures are terrible. What do I mean by “your” fault? I mean anyone reading this. In short, it’s everyone’s fault. It is no single person because pictures can’t make themselves. If there are humans involved in their creation and a human is on both sides of the camera then it took both and all involved to create that image.

Most of the problems associated with photo shoots is a lack of preparedness and a failure to manage expectations. This all starts with communication which is why I cannot emphasize enough of knowing and preferably having an open dialogue with everyone involved with your project. Blind photo shoots are like blind-dates in that you don’t know who you’re getting. Why set yourself up for failure? Study a port. Look for inconsistencies in shooting styles. Models, check the photographer’s work ahead of time and look into the ports of the models he or she has worked with in the past. Message one or two and ask how he shoots, if he’s communicable, if he’s difficult and then decide for yourself if it’s worth your time. Ask how long it takes to get pics, do you get to choose them, how will they be used, how much are his or her photography rates? Ask if you’re expected to bring your own clothing or will you have help. 

Models… go further and ask the photographer if you can bring an escort ahead of time if you need one. In fact, for many photographers its a deal breaker. Not because they’re up to no good but largely because they can manage one stranger in their home or business but not two. Additionally, that’s one more distraction he or she doesn’t need. Don’t surprise us. We hate unexpected tagalongs. A photographer shooting from his home or basement isn’t unusual. In fact, it is common. If that freaks you out then choose another photographer. But you better believe some of his best work was created in that same garage or basement. Do you believe every single image the photographer created was in a $20,000 per month ocean-facing loft studio? A great photographer can create an incredible image almost anywhere if they have enough space, enough light and a willing model. But if someone is too high brow for a basement then go and pay someone with a huge posh studio willing to shoot a start up model with zero experience. You never know. Maybe you’ll get lucky that way. Besides, that option is readily available to you here as well. But that is what portfolios are for. If you saw a scene you like in his portfolio then ask about it ahead of time. Be clear that’s the kind of look you’re interested in and communicate that is what you’re expecting within your level of resources. If that isn’t possible with your resources then be sure the photographer communicates that to you. Don’t assume they can and will do that just because you brought it up. If you wanted a twentieth floor ocean front balcony view as your background image and you’re not paying the photographer, you haven’t spoken to them or referenced them with another model or artist that may have worked with them, then you have reason to be suspicious; but that’s on you. You have reason to be concerned if you’ve been told escorts aren’t allowed and you’re being led into a dark basement in the middle of Idaho looking for the ocean. Some things are just common sense. 

Ask for examples of ideas ahead of time that the photographer or director expects you to do. If you’re working through your agency then ask them to be specific. If they can’t be specific then adapt but don't complain. Beforehand and if applicable, ask if you need to sign a model release and what is in it. If you don’t then why or why not? Ask your contact about image use and how many images within reason you can expect. How long will it take until you get images? How will they be delivered? As professionally as possible ask the photographer if nudity is expected or if implied is okay? Provide a visual example of your level of nudity that you find appropriate or inappropriate. Ask the photographer if there is a changing room or if there are bathroom facilities there. Exercise due diligence and work with creatives that consistently gives the kind of quality and performance you want from the beginning. Even if it means working less or collaborating less - choose high quality projects and be deliberately discriminating on your choices. It only takes one bad image to ruin a reputation and scores of extremely good ones to recover your reputation if it can be recovered at all. 

Agencies… what can I say about an agency? They’re very good until they’re not which is to say most often they’re not. Call the agency, email them a call-sheet with the ideas along with the model you’re requesting. Ask the agency if they can send the model’s current pics (this should be automatic and already current but don’t assume) to be certain her look hasn’t changed. Be sure to cover the aspects of how the images will be used and share your expectations to them as to what you expect them to do and the model that you are expecting to arrive. Confirm arrival times and duration of the project. Do this all and do it twice more. Agencies can be notoriously selectively forgetful and inconsistent. Furthermore, agency turnover is atrocious so who you spoke to this week may be a different person the following week. Therefore, manage your expectations by keeping a trail of documentation of your correspondence. 

Make up artists and stylists… share, share and share again. Make sure you know exactly what the creative director or photographer expects of you. Be sure you are familiar with the look and have your kits and your clothing accessories on par with what was shared, planned and discussed. DO NOT assume autonomy over how the makeup and hair will look. Chances are the people you’re shooting with will want full creative control over the end result and how it got there. Ask ahead of time which looks will be first and the order of shooting those looks so you're prepared. Suggest but don't demand a sequence more efficient for your application. Why not demand? Well demanding is rude for one and there are things beyond your station in-play. In cases like mine, I've had to take into consideration tide forecast times levels if we're shooting on the beach. If it's the tide is too high when the model is there we're doing indoor looks first if it's on the menu. As it the tide subsides, there are areas we can now get to  they were not available when the tide was at the maximum level. Photographers have to consider sun position. Backlit images are best for certain parts of the day. That means shooting a certain look may need to be earlier or later. No one should assume they know everything that's going on. You have to ask, email, call and/or message each other. You’ve probably been given a mood board of a plethora of styling ideas supporting the theme you’re expected to execute. If you're not sure who you’re reporting to then ask. There is no shame in getting it right and asking questions if you don’t know. Too much pride is often times are greatest enemy. Ask your primary project contact about what you’re expected to do and what, when and where you’re doing it. Ask for a mood board and ask specifically how much latitude you have on the look and who will manage your applications. 

As you can see, most problems can be addressed before a shoot ever begins. When that image didn’t turn out like you expected it to then it’s probably something you didn’t do or neither of you talked about. When model’s tell me that they worked with a terrible photographer and the images weren’t that great I have to wonder. Did the model even look at his portfolio? I mean really really look as in study it? Did the model reference other ports of models that this photographer worked with? Were they prepared for the shoot or did they just bring what they had or what they wanted to shoot without discussing it with the photographer? Quite frankly I wouldn’t work with a photographer I didn’t know well if he or she didn’t ask me what I was bringing. Wouldn't that photographer want to be reasonably prepared for what the model was bringing even if it’s something casual and carefree. I would want to know which background I need to put up or even if I should gas up the car for a location shoot on a collaboration. 

When the photographer says a model was stiff and inflexible and just overall inexperienced and haughty, I think… did he meet her first? Has he spoken to her at all aside from her “Hello, I love your work; let’s shoot this weekend,” messages many upstarts let themselves get entrapped by because they're so eager to get pictures of a beautiful new model they haven’t worked with before.

Let me level with you on a little secret. Photographers are prideful and models are even more prideful. They really don’t like contacting one another for advice on a model or photographer. They want everyone to see, believe or think they did this all on their on. Yet, the regional photographer and model community is a small one and people talk - if not now then soon. Eventually every nuanced thing, bad habit, good habit, preparedness, lack of professionalism, flirt, whisper or word of encouragement gets passed around. So why not, just manage those expectations, talk to each other and share your experiences to improve your projects. I’ve been more than disheartened about how many photographers fail to contact us about models. Yes, it has been several over the years but you’d think it would be dozens of times a week at least. Then they complain and whine about what they didn’t shoot or couldn’t shoot. Or they whine about a lack of image quality or that the model was this or that or didn’t model lingerie when they talked about lingerie. Well I might have told you she would do that. Well that’s the photographers’s fault. We’re the one’s pulling the proverbial trigger. Even though it’s everyone’s responsibility, the pressure is on us to perform despite the circumstances that led to the bad images or lack of images. 

Retouchers retouch. Stylists style. Models model. Photographers manage, direct, orchestrate, adjust, manage people, often times style, produce, help to design sets, and create the circumstance by which the entire project will be executed. It stands to reason that we would take every single measure to insure the results are nothing short of stellar. Sometimes despite our best efforts, something or someone falls short. But it’s not our time to point fingers. It’s everyone’s fault but ultimately we have to get up, dust ourselves off and see what we can do to keep such things from occurring again. I have found that in the end, it still comes down to communication, preparedness and managing expectations of every single project.  

In conclusion, whose fault is it when an image fails? It’s everyone’s fault. I can’t take a picture of another person all alone without the other person. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

All Time Favorite Model Finally Revealed

I said I would never do this. I said it was disrespectful. I carried on about how it’s a slap in the face to everyone I know and everyone I’ve worked with. But after days, months and years of thinking about it. I decided to unveil who my favorite model is/was. 

First of all why the change of heart? Well people deserve to know because I think she is a source of great inspiration and a magnificent example of poise, grace, beauty and endless professionalism. Additionally, I spoke with one of the most well-known photographers in the world and he chatted publicly about his fondness for one particular model and even raved how she is his absolute favorite. I thought “Wow!” He just shocked me and went against everything I’d ever said and I admire this guy’s work like crazy. 

I realized, that much of my apprehension in admitting such a thing was because people have a way of disappointing you when you throw all your weight behind them. The second you build them up is the moment they tear you down and crush your every expectation. But I don’t own her. She has no obligation to live up to any idealized view I have about her beauty and her infinite talent. She is her own person and I have to accept that and take the gift she bestowed upon me; that is the gift to collaborate with her and create some of the best images I’ve ever done. Perhaps it was her personality, her confidence or her willingness to simply put her trust in me to basically try everything I threw at her. That’s a special and unique thing; not to question, not to get overly disturbed about the unknown but to have an open mind and a willing disposition. 

Not to put too fine a point on it but I went back and re-read her interview from SIRCUS™ magazine Issue 10 at www.sircusmagazine.com. Her interview reaffirmed my conclusion that she is the best model I’ve ever photographed. That interview reminded me of why I was drawn to her in the first place. If that wasn’t enough praise, I can easily say that only my wife has impressed me more as a model and that is no small feat. I read and then re-read something in that interview that shook me. In paraphrasing she said, “I decided to be beautiful.” You have to read that interview to get the full context. It’s one thing to say such a thing. But it’s quite another to live it. It was clear it wasn’t just idle talk but a philosophy of life. That sat with me. That sentiment grew n me and changed me as an artist. She raised the bar to a height few will ever achieve. That is not to say some will not. I’m scaling back but I have a few more shoots left in me yet. I just believe that Lauren Moon is the best model (to date) I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. With the combination of beauty, talent, personality, confidence, adaptability and talent, she is/was my absolute favorite model. 

It’s not all about beauty, talent or just ability. It’s all of those things and yet none of them. She’s a special blend of perfect attributes that simply makes everything or everyone else seem a little dimmer in comparison. There were unexpected last minute personnel changes on our shoot with her and yet Lauren never wavered. Without showing the slightest bit of hesitation or doubt she forged on. Creatively malleable without end, she didn’t frown with challenges, she accommodated change and even welcomed the unknown. She did it all with a regal disposition and fearlessness I’ve rarely seen in a single person. 

I thought of all the best traits of every model I know beyond my present company and thought what a model might be when it’s all put together. In less than a second, I thought of Lauren Moon. Thank you for a great experience Lauren. May you continue to enlighten us all with your grace, your gift and your beauty.


Also a special thank you to model Chanel Alexis and The One that is everything, Trexie Dorrell. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

"I Don't Want To Look Chubby"

I’ve amassed a litany of platitudes from people over the years; platitudes designed to help them cope with their never ending self-loathing and other perceived inadequacies. While many are simply par for the proverbial course, others grate on my last nerve like the dragging of fingernails down the chalkboards of the past. The complaints began even before the shoot day arrives.

“What about the weather? I’m so worried about the weather. What will we do if it rains, blah, blah, blah?” Guess what? Weather happens. There isn’t anything I can do to control the weather. Rain chants and dances, sun worship and the deity of light don’t do my personal bidding. If you’re a smart cookie then you have some contingencies for that eventuality. First and foremost, we live in the Pacific NW. Rain is inevitable. Whether it be right now or later, it’s just something you have to get over. If you’re waiting on the perfect weather for every single photo shoot you intend to have, then you will not get much done. Our advice is to stop deflecting your inadequacies or your lack of confidence to things beyond your control. You probably just don’t want to be outside or get your hair a little damp. But if you’re a real model then you’ve done your homework. Have you ever seen running makeup, or flattened hair in this photographers port because it rained? Likely not. Are you worried about looking bad? Have you seen a picture from said photographer where the model looked “bad?” If not, get on with the shoot. If it rains, it rains.

If there are indoor portions of the photo shoot planned then focus on those. At worst, you get to spend more time on perfecting poses, enhancing and trying out different angles and quite often getting more out of the shoot than you originally planned. If there is an impending deluge in the forecast then one can simply shoot all indoors and save the outdoor segment for a later date if possible. But don’t complain to me about weather for a shoot that is weeks away. Not even a meteorologist can forecast that far out so why are you nagging to me about it? Some people I just don’t get.

Don’t get it twisted. I’ve had shoots rained out before when and only when the entirety of the shoot was outdoors and it was nothing short of a downpour. A sprinkle here and a sprinkle there never stopped a dedicated model or a committed photographer from getting it done. Situations vary, but if it must be done, there is a good chance that it can be with some adjustments. I’ve had models shoot in the rain and the pics were epic. Of course, one was swimwear so that worked to our advantage. The other was fashion and the rain wasn't heavy. It was a very recent shoot no more than two weeks ago and the dreary gray skies actually enhanced the general atmospherics I could never have gotten without the dismal looking sky. A bleak sky meant drama and contrast I would never have dreamed of. The images turned out gorgeous. But the model was absolutely incredible. She knew rain was likely but forged on. She refused to cancel. That’s dedication. In short, that’s a true professional model that understands what it takes.

The second biggest gripe is the “chubby” factor. “I don't want to look chubby” she says. Chubby?!!! Chubby”!!!! If you don’t want to be chubby then go to a gym. Wear a girdle. Go on a diet. Does anyone look any more “chubby” (as this prospect says) than they are in pictures I have personally ever taken? Or more to the point, do you consider yourself “Chubby?” Ahhhh! Now we get to the meat of the problem. You feel that YOU are chubby and are worrying and stressing about how you will look on your shoot that has been over a year in the making. But you’re an experienced model and you’re stressing about looking chubby and then telling the photographer and stylist about it? That’s just wrong. What were you doing during that time all those months ago before meeting this person? Apparently it wasn't worrying about being “chubby.” Are you not prepared for a photo shoot you have been pleading for and begging for all that time?

Now before any of you get your panties in a bunch, I am not bullying nor body shaming. This person used the phrase “chubby” herself. I personally found her to be gorgeous. I never even noticed anything beyond what I can shoot with her. I don’t box people into anything based on some made-up societal stereotype. But I’m gonna do a meet-up regardless. In large part, a meet-up is to set expectations, discuss copyright, image use, take measurements (if applicable), go over looks and ideas and address concerns. But any concern of me making her look “chubby” never came up during that face to face. It came up in a text from her weeks later. It wasn’t brought up by me because I saw something in this alleged model that promised extraordinary. Something in her that screamed premium but had yet to be let loose and tapped into. I had some reservations but looks wasn’t one of them. My reservations were about personality and the very thing that has occurred. The complainer. The excuse maker. The person looking to find fault with a picture before a picture has even been taken; a self assigned fault that she herself has absolute and total control over.

You’ve seen me type “alleged” because a real model wouldn’t complain so much. A real model might be body conscious about her weight or height but she brings her confidence and her daring. Or he brings his talent and his looks. He or she knows how to pose and angle themselves in such a manner so as to de-emphasize those things they want de-emphasized. Furthermore, he or she would seek out collaborations willing to accommodate their self-proscribed flaws about themselves. Well, I’m not that guy. I shoot people that are ready and able to do what needs to be done. I work with people that are confident, bold and daring as they are beautiful. But what I won’t do is appeal to a person’s sense of self-loathing as an excuse for looks and posing they can’t do or don’t want to do. Modeling isn’t a field for the docile, the tame and the fearful. It’s brutal. It’s cut throat and it’s beautiful. A model is only as good as the next model who is more bold, more daring, more beautiful and more fearless. It’s that simple. I don’t care for complainers. I don’t get to complain when my lighting doesn’t work. I have to look for ways to solve it. I can’t say oh it’s raining so no need on shooting indoors either. That’s a waste. I don’t have excuses so I don’t allow them from anyone else.

If you don’t want high fashion looks then don’t pursue collaborations that do high fashion without doing what needs to be done for such looks. If you don’t want Guess style looks then you probably shouldn’t work with a photographer that loves those looks and want to such looks with you if you think you’re “Chubby” and then stress, moan, nag and complain that you don’t want to look chubby. Get over yourself. You’re not a model. You’re a fake. I need to move on to people who KNOW they’re models. 

One of the things I stress in this particular meet-up is that fact that the model had to trust the process. She has to trust the styling that has been selected. But no one has to do anything they don’t want to do so as long as it’s made clear at that meet-up or shortly thereafter. You get to change your mind. You get to say, I was caught up in the moment but on further thought, I don’t feel comfortable doing that look because I feel chubby. You get to cancel and never call me up again. That’s everyone’s right. Unless we have a contract signed prior to a shoot, you get to back out and I’m hoping beyond hope that she says she can’t do it. I can’t cancel. It’s just not my thing. Once committed I stay committed even if I don’t like a situation because that’s what professionals do. But I hope this model cancels if she doesn’t feel comfortable. I hope she messages and says I appreciate your time but I need to feel more confident in myself before I’m ready to shoot with you. Maybe she thinks she needs to lose weight. I don’t know and I can’t speak for her. I wish she would say she wants to take more time to be sure she’s ready. 

Don’t ever say you’re ready when you're not. Don’t pretend to be a attuned to what we are looking for when you’re not. Some people aren’t ready for Helios and there is no shame in that. Cancel your shoot before these weeks we have left turn into days or days into hours when my niceties turn into vehement disgust. Cancel your shoot and come back when you’re absolutely ready - when you can at least fake being bold. Any less than ABSOLUTE confidence shakes my own confidence in a person. I don’t want to spend hours post processing, or dollars in gas going from one location to another hauling equipment because you’re gonna think you’re chubby later no matter how much effort I take in this prospective collaboration.

But if you must continue, speak nothing ill of yourself in my presence. I need you to know you’re beautiful. Don’t just think it. I need to see yourself as I do. I see possibilities. I see stunning and breathtaking. I see windswept hair when I see you. I see backlit sunlight glistening against raven colored hair. I see endless creative depth. I see you in slow motion wearing red against a ocean colored sky. I see you lying in a pond suspended on lilies. I see your face with scarlet lips surrounded by white orchids. I need you to believe beyond a doubt you’re amazing. I need to YOU TO KNOW that you are Helios material. Do what must be done. Ask for tips. Look for ways to resolve the problems rather than complain about issues that have yet and may not ever manifest themselves. 

Worried about a less than narrow waist then get  a girdle and practice poses until it’s a non-issue. Worried about your hair color then seek a person willing to touch up your hair in line with the look(s). Not sure your hair is thick enough then look for extensions and request to have them added or ask if you should have them put in. 


Otherwise, take some time and get your head in order and build some confidence. It’s okay to put this off right now; tomorrow not so much - the next day less so and so on. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Full-Figured Models?

Awhile back I was asked on a meet-up, what my policy was on full-figured models. I’m sure I did the dumb Ben Carson slow-blink a couple of times as if I forgot how to speak or what planet I was on. I felt better about it later because I soon realized that no one is as dumb as Ben Carson except for maybe his parents for spawning that vile imbecile. But it did take me a moment to understand the question as I’d never been asked that before. So what is our policy on full-figured models?

The policy is that we don’t have a policy on full-figured models. I replied to the model, “I wasn’t aware that we needed one.” She went on to explain that the Helios portfolio and specifically the published models tend to lean strongly toward very lean, very fit, very athletic physique-types. Well I can assure everyone that that is not by design. It is more than likely by chance. You see, we just find whoever is qualified for a look or style of photography we’re shooting at that time. I never pay any mind to who the scout is sending me but more on that model’s ability to do the look; her commitment, her enthusiasm, her personality and her talent. We’ve never cared what her dress size is unless we anticipate getting clothing for her or having something made. I seldom even ask height unless it’s necessary for how I’m composing the image later. We generally get everything we need to get from her model portfolio specifications (everyone calling themselves a model should have one) and/or our face to face interview/casting. 

On the other hand, if this is a full-fledged Helios magazine submission event and it’s a all-hands-on-deck affair, we’re gonna want to know everything; every detail. But that’s not in any attempt to type-cast or shut someone out. It’s more of an attempt to insure that what we do get and what we decide to shoot is well suited for the model’s body type. 

What we will not do is to make some special accommodations to overcome how a model feel’s about his or her own body. That’s personal. Those are his or her own insecurities that must be faced. Our changing what I want to do to make you feel better about yourself isn't our responsibility. That’s another personal responsibility. If you’re simply unqualified for what we have planned and those qualifications are never based on your body but more on your ability and your creative malleability then that’s just tough luck. Now if a client commissions us to shoot a model for a size 2 gown then we will go find a size 2 model. But that also applies to any other size model. We have no strong disposition toward anyone. Now if you’re a freckled-faced Ewok and you’re trying to get me to shoot beauty shots for free so you can submit images to Neutrogena to get a modeling gig then we’re gonna have a problem. Someone may find that beautiful but it’s not likely to get you far. Some things can’t be changed. You simply need to go to someone that caters to the Ewokian (is that a word?) sense of beauty. 

Even as I write this my stomach churns as it sounds more like an attempt by me to defend what we shoot and how we shoot. That is not the goal here. The goal is simply to say if you’re qualified, if you’re paying, if you’re available, if you’re talented and/or suitable to what is being sought then we’re game. There is no policy on body-type being for or against anyone (my stomach turns yet again). Yet, what we have noticed is that those so-called “lean, athletic and stereotypically runway body-types gravitate to us.” That’s not exactly our fault and I make no apologies for that. The truth is, never in the entire history of Helios did we ever get many full-figured model shoot requests paid nor unpaid. Could that simply be because they themselves feel inhibited, shy or maybe fearful of judgement? I don’t know. That’s not for me to say. I can’t know how someone feels about themselves. I’d always hoped for a more diverse port when I first started out but I have what I have and we’re very pleased with it. 

At first I was offended by the question from that model. I soon got over it because after looking back through all of my work I can see how someone might think that. Oh, “Helios only wants hot, lean girls.” Uhhh, who doesn’t? That is, if you think lean, athletic girls are hot I guess. Personally, I think anyone that is qualified to meet the criteria of the look is hot - whatever that may be. That’s just us. I do believe this particular model was projecting her experiences from other people onto Helios. I get that. She may have been turned away a few times for less than legit reasons and I can empathize with that.   

This isn’t the only question of it’s type to rear its head over the years. We’ve gotten the emails saying, “you don’t shoot enough African models.” A week later we’ll get, “you don’t shoot enough Caucasian models.” Or, “where are the Asian models?” “Why don’t you shoot more red-heads?” They never stop to think that maybe Asian models never came to a casting or a meet-up. Maybe African models aren’t interested or maybe Caucasian models aren't that plentiful. We don’t know. Maybe because we were shooting swimwear at the time and redheads don’t generally do a lot of swimwear due to skin sensitivity maybe? Ever think of that? Just guessing here. Or maybe there were no French models that wanted to shoot glamour at that time. We can’t chase every theory and we will never try to. This is a matter of you can’t please everyone all the time. 

The next time you think that Helios doesn’t shoot Ghanian models, male models, Iranian models, Spaniard models or French models, full-figured models, older models, short models, blondes, natural hair, Canadian models, etc; go back thru our pics. If you don’t find enough of the models you think should be there, then step up or shut up. It’s that simple.