Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Social Media Mistake for Creatives


Last night I received the most intriguing question from a model we had never photographed before. She asked, “Can you please have a look at my portfolio and tell me things I can improve on? I use to get far more likes and comments than I usually do but now I can’t seem to understand why my follower base is quiet. Has my photo quality diminished or should I be working with different people?”

I was both humbled and mystified over the question. We thought it was something best asked of a modeling agency or an experienced model. I made that observation known to her and yet she insisted on getting our input. She sent links to her Page and her website. We checked it all out. I must confess the images she has there are all quite stellar. They were all very well done and of the highest styling and quality across the board. It further baffled us as to why she would ask us considering the multitude of phenomenal photographers she has worked with. 

We looked at her Page and social media sites over and over again and we didn’t find anything wrong with the images. We scratched our heads trying to work out why her engagement and popularity had waned so much in the last few months. You would be surprised at the conclusions we came to. Read on.

The first clue came when we started to study her post dates, frequency of post and message content. That is when it hit us like the blunt instrument of a lumberjack. You must understand that Facebook changes their “reach” algorithm seemingly at a whim. The fallacy that Facebook is a free application for business is far from the whole story. It may be that you’re not paying anything in the traditional sense but it is also true that the amount of people that saw your daily, weekly or monthly post have diminished considerably when compared to when you first began your Page. They are the gatekeepers as to how many people see your feeds. Aside from your known followers, seeing your Page suggested to a non-subscriber isn’t likely to happen like it once had. They do this because Facebook - like any business, wants you to pay for visibility. They want you to pay for advertising. They wanted you reliant and fattened up on popularity and you might even say addicted to their app. If and when the most attractive feature (reach) was taken away, they had high hopes you’d be psyched up and willing to pay for that same reach you once enjoyed for free. Those days are over. It is why many creatives that once relied on Facebook for their sole social media outlet are abandoning it in droves for other apps like Instagram and Snapchat; the former being a Facebook sister-company. Essentially, being a sister-company means that once the bait and switch routine is worked out for Instagram, people will soon see that application monetized as well. 

Now that wasn’t this particular model’s only social media faux pas; far from it. In fact, it may not even be the largest discovery. The largest hit to her social media accounts were due to her infrequent inactivity. If you can’t manage your Pages and you intend to keep a subscriber base then you should probably hire someone to do it for you. Maintaining social media is time consuming and frustrating at times. It requires due diligence and an almost reverent attitude toward maximizing those hidden algorithm gems to great effect. Additionally, prospective clients and fans come to expect a certain degree of frequency after having enjoyed it from you for all these months and years. When that frequency wanes, they lose interests. So this model’s on again off again, I’m still modeling but I’m not doing anything right now doesn’t cut it. People have a vested emotional and artistic interests in following you. When you stop, you let fans down and being that social media is what it is, people quickly lose interests and move on to the next shiniest thing. 

If you’re taking a break, have someone take over your Page or sites to keep fresh content coming. Disappear for weeks or months at a time with no posts or interactions and people will soon forget even the most popular person. Some aren’t aware that if they are taking a break that they can schedule posts far ahead and have them automated. That is an option if you’re on an extended vacation or taking a much needed respite. 

Most of this model’s engagement derived from when she posted at least three times a week. She also replied to more comments that time; thus, encouraging others to interact with and participate on her site. These same people followed her other Pages as well. She created unique content on some Pages not seen on others - sparking further reach, links and participation from sources she may not have otherwise attracted. Her greatest slump came when she had not posted anything for more than six weeks. She returned with single image and disappeared for several more weeks. That engagement had dropped more than 50% from her previous post. Now when you go from posting a minimum of once a week to six weeks of absolute silence you are going to lose people’s interests. Certainly, many of them hung around but even the most entrenched fans went silent. 

We concluded that the largest hit to her social media presence was simply inactivity. Photography, modeling, designing, stylists, makeup artists, fashion or even decorative painting etc, are all visual industries. If you are to be taken seriously and stay relevant you need to stay present and out front. Unfortunately, these groups don’t get to take as many breaks and disappear from our core base as often as other careers. Unless you are out of the game completely (in which case you need to actually un-publish yourself), then you need to stay engaged with your followers. They’ve invested in you and you owe it to them to satiate their creative thirst. Otherwise, you’re another one of those people that has a currently active social media site with a “Last Activity” date of June 12, 2014. You know what we call people like that? We call them “IRRELEVANT.” 

We all can learn a lesson from this. We certainly did. You do not have to be a model or in any creative industry. This applies to all business types. You absolutely have to stay engaged with prospective clients and fans to insure you appreciate their patronage and attention. It is that simple. Did Facebook algorithm changes play a part in her engagement fall off? You bet it did. But this falloff happened across the board on many of her social media Pages and sites, not only Facebook. They all revealed the same thing; a somewhat lax and inattentiveness to her base. 

  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How NOT to get a photoshoot

Each and every photographer and graphic designer gets asked a time or two to work for free at some point in their career. Whether they need the exposure, to create a book of work for creative exploration or simply doing a favor for a friend - it can, it will and it does happen. As that creative becomes more established, more popular and quite frankly the best at what they do, securing those freebies will get more challenging. More importantly overhead expenses become larger along with the popularity. We have insurance to pay, equipment rentals and purchases to make to further business interests. Some photo shops may have staff, building lease expenses, health insurance costs and we all have those dreadful taxes to pay. Regardless, notoriety and business prosperity has a price and it is seldom free. 

I can’t say how to get a free photo shoot or a free business card design or website done for you. What I can tell you is how NOT to get that free photo shoot, business card or website. For the sake of this topic, let us focus on the photo shoot. Keep in mind, we are speaking only for ourselves here as our processes are different than most.

Everyone has different goals, different objectives and varying ways of achieving them. What we all share is a biological and instinctual need for self-preservation. As an extension of that instinctual need we all have desire if not the drive, to look our best, to be our best and to realize our highest potential. That is a big order to fill. How do we do all of that? Well, you do that by managing expectations. How do you manage expectations? You determine what you want and need, you gather resources and you do research. You would then remove the extraneous and superfluous elements and choose the best option within your means. Then and only then do you execute your plan from a well versed, educated and informed position of strength and knowledge. PERIOD! You have a well thought out plan because you know what you want and  you’ve measured and anticipated the likely effects of different actions you may take. From all of this, your probability of coming to a predictable outcome is all but assured. 

What is this guy going on about you ask? Well, everything is that way. Life is all about choices and compromises which all lead to an outcome based on cause or in our case… “ constructive input” and a bit of chance. Let me give you the real world example of how one might go about improving their chance of getting anything around these parts.

“Hi, my name is Jasmine. I have been an admirer of your work for some time and I have been eager to do a shoot with you. I particularly like your work I saw on Facebook with Bethany when you mixed denim with leather and several other separates. The detail, the styling and the entire look is the path I’d like my portfolio to take. It is like portraiture meets high fashion. It is all beautifully done. I read on your other social media page that you do not often take TFs or trade work but I would hope you would consider me a candidate should a need for such work as I’ve mentioned comes available. Perhaps an idea or something creative and exploratory may spark your interests and you have a need for someone with my look and talent.

I’ve modeled for Hennessy Photography on a fashion shoot (images attached) as well as several shoots with Forte Images along with many others. I’m also sending my site link along should you like to investigate further. However, I’m very interested in the way you style and light your clients and models. I’ve gone so far as to comment on the pages of other clients and models you’ve worked with and they all say you are very professional and driven to get great results. You may have seen my comments on your Pages as well ;) I am comfortable doing my own make-up for a test shoot or trade if you would consider working with me. I’d love to hear your ideas should you think me to be a TF candidate. I welcome an opportunity to meet you in-person or message if and when it is convenient should you think I am a good fit for whatever you may have coming up. Thank you for your time and consideration and please let me know if you have any follow up questions or would need information on my schedule.”

That is ideal example of managing expectations toward a positive result. How do I know the results were positive? I know because we photographed and published that model nearly five years ago and we have photographed her multiple times since then. Guess what? I never ever charged her. We’ve improved each other’s style over time despite my having a position of superior experience at that time. She has become extremely well known and respected regionally and internationally for her style, her beauty and her extraordinary talent. She went further to become the cover model of several publications both domestically and internationally and walked in many international high fashion runway shows. Most important of all, she still models with no sign of letting up. 

Now what does all this have to do with TFs now? First of all we haven’t taken as many TFs as we once did because TFs like any shoot is expensive to NOT get paid for. They don’t always cost less. They are never free in the truest sense and sometimes they cost more. As a result, it needs to be worthwhile. But unlike paid assignments which are comparably easier, a TF candidate has to meet Jasmine’s professional benchmark and that isn’t difficult but it does require effort. That is the interesting part. Something as delicate, intimate and sensitive as how you look and your online reputation is often relegated to “Hey! Like your work. Wanna shoot?” People have simply become lazy. They want everything right now with no effort, insensitive of the costs, the workmanship, the hours upon hours of post work, the overhead, the scheduling challenges, etc. The general passerby is blatantly unmotivated to do great things. To be frank, shoots are expensive and the higher quality is that you expect, the more effort you need to put forth for it to be successful. Consider if I answered yes to a Let's Shoot free requests without any information than thumbnail images of a person. How much could I really complain if I never met or even spoke to a person before agreeing to a free shoot or I have no idea what we're shooting and I didn't ask? Just how upset could I be if a failed to convey what I considered basic information and the shoot ended up being a total bust? 

Why did Jasmine succeed? She did so because she is driven, motivated, focused and she managed her expectations. Just as a paying client would do, she expressed interests in our work. She demonstrated she had seen and even exchanged messages with people we have photographed. She told us what kind of looks she was interested in doing when she referenced other images we had done. She noticed and acknowledged the clause for “Paid Assignments Only” work - proving that she follows us and had been reading up. Yet, she tried anyway. A HUGE observation is that she didn’t let her past shoots play a part in what she wants to do with us. She didn’t have to tell us she was Ms. Universe or Ms. Denmark or whatever because we can find that out on our own should we decide to research further. Those things are only samples of what she HAS done. Jasmine was looking forward to what we could do together because she knew we didn’t care much about the past other than showing she could do certain looks, but more about what she was looking to create with Helios. She didn’t brag or boast. She simply implied that she wanted more and we were the means to getting more; more premium, more looks and better quality results with someone reputable and respected. She was upfront and absolutely clear that she is not to be considered a paying client. The biggest takeaway from Jasmine’s first message was that she was wiling to meet to discuss looks, ideas or anything that might get her a free shoot even if there was a chance we wouldn’t do it. There was humility there. That WAS HUGE!!!!!!! It shows she respects the time, the effort and the work it takes to put a shoot together. She didn’t want to waste our time with mediocre results and we didn’t want to waste hers by not trying to at least find out what she expected from her shoot. She was just as concerned about the results as we were and she took it seriously. She was and is a professional. That is what impressed us most.

Now on to the main point of this all. HOW to NOT get a free photo-shoot. Just be lazy. That will work. Send a message like, “I’m free. Wanna shoot?” Don’t provide any details beyond “my name is…” Pretend you want an estimate and then pretend you have no money after you get one and then ask for it all free. That is disrespectful of our time, effort and expenses. We spend minutes to hours and occasionally days exchanging rates and shoot details for a person to say in the end they were hoping to get it all for free. How about not wanting to meet for the proposed “free” shoot first? That is sure to get you blocked at worst and ignored at best. LOL! I mean we don’t know you. I can’t possibly risk renting gear, hauling lights out, spend hours prepping, formatting memory cards, creating a mood board, calling an MUA (if applicable) setting up a style detail all based on a “Love your work. Let’s set up a free shoot” message. Sounds kinda dumb now that you read it out loud doesn’t it? It happens. What do you want to shoot? Where? When? How many changes? How long will it take? What days of the week? What are you using the images for? Are you willing to sign a model release? Do you understand copyright law? Do you understand image use and the difference between commercial use and private use? These questions must be answered and we can’t get that from “Cool looks. I can shoot on Tuesdays after 1:00pm but before 5:00pm but only on the third week of the month after Labor Day when my escort is available to be on the shoot and the babysitter is free. Oh and can you validate my parking when I get there.” SERIOUSLY??!!!

Okay so I got a little carried away but you would be surprised what we get sometimes. The point is to know who you are soliciting for any work from lawn service to a car mechanic. Would you want a free brake job from a guy walking down the street with no car of his own in sight because he says he does great work? I’m guessing you would not. You would ask for credentials. You would at least look for references. You would want to know if they are authentic and real OEM parts. You would want to know if there was a warranty. But if you were smart you would go somewhere reputable where you would choose to pay a modest and honest price relative to the quality and craftsmanship you expect. Why is design or photography any different? For that matter why is styling or modeling any different? It is NOT. It’s your face, your body and your reputation. It is your business. That is more important than what car you drive. You can buy a different car but you only get one face and one reputation.

Do your homework. Manage your expectations and get to know who you will be working with. Find out what they expect of you and establish what you can expect from them. People deserve your respect of what they bring to the table in knowledge and talent. Understand and respect the expense they may entail even messaging you back not to mention doing an entire free project. 

We understand that everyone cannot be Jasmine. Yet, we have had a very small handful of Jasmines in our time. They are few and far between and even fewer have had her level of success because they lack her commitment. We get requests and accept paid assignments most of all because they bypass the BS. They know what they want. They tell you what they expect. They are clear about their schedules when the booking fee is paid. They want to know how long the shoot will take because you may charge by the hour. They want to know if you will shoot on location or shoot in their home or photo-friendly locations they know of. They want to know when the images will be sorted and processed. They would like to know how the images will be used afterwards or it they have a say. They want to know if they are purchasing image use as well and prints and digital copies or just paying for the shoot. They are managing their expectations. Why should free be any different?  

If you are expecting a high-quality something from nothing then just keep doing what you’re doing… nothing and see how that works out for you. But I would not recommend that free brake job from the guy you just met no more than we would recommend a free photo or design job for someone you haven’t met nor even shared any details with. But if you want more out of where you are and you have at least an idea about where you're headed or want to be… be like Jasmine. Take ownership of yourself and your path because nothing worth doing is worth doing half-assed.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Top 7 Images of 2017 by Helios

Can you believe it? The year has nearly passed us by. It has been an adventure like none other. We've had several new faces cruise by this year; a handful we have photographed, a few we did not and some we may decide to photograph later. In keeping with our normal tradition, we have done a great deal of casting interviews for future published work. As a result, we have met some beautiful people and I expect we will meet many more before we have selected any finalists for serious collaboration and publishing. Sometimes the spark you're looking for takes several dozen interviews before you find it. What we did manage to find was the top seven most popular images of 2017.

For those of you that keep tabs on us (and we hope you do), this is about the time we select a model of the year - this is usually the person that has been exceptional all year long, producing captivating take after take of riveting imagery session after session; someone driven and passionate about what they do and has a strong sense of purpose about where they are going. This year will NOT be a year for a Model of the Year we're afraid. We simply didn't photograph some people enough or didn't work with many at all for several reasons. Sometimes it's a bad vibe, incompatible scheduling or it just didn't work out. But every year we have chosen someone the bar is raised. The next year selection gets even tougher because when the bar is raised the selection criteria becomes more difficult. Additionally, we have had a handful of great collaborations this year and I'm fond of them all but MOY candidates usually come from a pool of the year's published work which was minimal this year because of the aforementioned reasons. Hey, it wasn't due to a lack of trying. We just didn't feel it this time around as often as we would have liked.  

Now about those images... it took some doing. We combed thru our Flickr metrics, Google analytics largely from our www.heliosimaging.com website and several other media sites to find out what has been trending the strongest all year. There were seven images that reigned as the most popular among of all images taken this year. Based on views, comments, shares, visits, likes, favorites and a tiny bit of barely perceptible personal bias, these are our best images of 2017 chosen by fans, followers and maybe a few Page or Site stalkers. LOL!

We always obsess over data so it was interesting to note that some of the images were of people we had never photographed before this year. We drew a few conclusions from that. First, our fans and followers like new faces and they want new and interesting ideas from us even if it comes from familiar faces. People just aren't content to see gorgeous people in gorgeous things if they're the same sorts of things. They want shock and awe. They want interests, variety, intrigue, mystery with great styling and new locations. Also, the images that are the most popular this year for us had looks and styling not representative of that model's normal look or her normal portfolio which again emphasizes their followers' and fans' desire for variety and newer points of view in our humble assessment. I guess people want to be awed all the time. Otherwise, they get... well... they get bored. I can see that. We do too. What was surprising is that these were simple collaborations were not like our normal more complicated published shoots which goes to show great things can come from simple ideas if your styling is on point and you have the right people. Most of the looks are simple and yet incredibly stylish. We attribute that perfect balance to the models' keen talent to project the mood of the looks and their expressiveness along with relevant composition and location selections.

In all their magnificent splendor the top seven images of 2017 are as follows: 
Model: Shweta Pandey

#7 with model Shweta Pandey. It was our first time ever photographing Shweta and she did not disappoint. Following a brief and productive face to face meet-up prior to the shoot, I knew upon meeting her working with her would be amazing. She is very expressive and her friendly personality and willing attitude made all the difference. She exceeded every challenge put before her without complaint. Despite not having tried looks and posing such as this before, her trust in our eye, our style direction and compositional style with her confidence made all the difference in creating such a riveting masterpiece of fashionable sultriness. 

Model: Yuliana Kelley
#6 with model Yuliana Kelley. Yuliana is a gift from the fashion gods. Here in her fashionably casual delectable goodness, she demonstrates a complete and total mastery over her environment; casual look equals casual pose with casual and summery location. Seldom do I meet someone that understands the association of expressiveness to location to styling as well as she does along with an ability to project the appropriate mood in the context of her garment and overall wear. The comments included with this image were things like, "beautiful and casual." "Great location. She really knows how to pose to show the best of the clothing." "Laid back but stylish." "Phenomenal shorts!" "Summer love." The list went on and on and you had to be there to appreciate how well she emoted that scene. One look/change equals one location/scene is a philosophy her and I both share. 

I had never photographed her before and I can't even imagine where we would be now had we ever worked together or met prior to more deliberately coordinate our ideas. She is extraordinary!
Model: Shweta Pandey
#5 There are few things in this world more precious than working with someone that gets what you're trying to do with your look; not with words but with feeling. I often explain what I'm looking for using abstract emotional concepts or phrases like, "How does the romper make you feel? Where do you imagine you would be if you're wearing it? How would you look if you wanted to capture attention or how would you move if no one was looking?"

Understanding is key to such a well executed look and Shweta SLAYED it. Even before going there I gave her some idea of the location; a location she had never been to. Sure I had shown her a mood-board but I didn't tell her how to pose because when you have a great model you don't have to. I told her simply to "feel" her way thru the look because once she saw the location and we started shooting that she would understand. I had confidence that she would understand what to do. Emotional intuitiveness is so huge and I can't stress that enough. 

Having the pleasure to have met her in-person prior to the shoot tells me so much about how a person might react to a certain look, their level of skill, their confidence and what they are comfortable doing. I knew beyond any doubt she would fully embody the look and feel of this garment and this location the second I met her. She will tell you herself that when I met her that within seconds I had a ton of ideas I felt she could be great with despite not having tried them before. We can confidently say that she is one of the best discoveries of the year.
Model: Yuliana Kelley

#4 Yuliana again?! Damn right it is and for all the obvious reasons. "OMG! She is a doll." "Her eyes..." "Her hair is so thick and luscious." "The light is perfect." "Love the background against the strong contrast of her garment." "Beautiful jewelry." The comments went on and on and on. I must confess it is one of personal favs photographs this year. Her gaze, the guarded but innocent stance is yet warm and approachable and yes she does look flawless like a doll. LOL! But perhaps her stance isn't guarded but embracing. Love of self perhaps? See? That is what wonderful images make you do. You're engaged and thinking and longing to know what is transpiring in the scene. What is she thinking? What is she looking at? 

I don't know what else to say other than it was a fantastic day with great light, good company and positive vibes all around. It didn't take long before I began envisioning Yuliana as a SIRCUS magazine cover model someday. I'm just saying. It is possible. She is THAT good.

Like any top elite model she changed clothing and became a different person; a person that emoted the personality of the garment. Yes folks, garments have personalities whether you want them to or not. You can make the garment or the garment can make you. The key is understanding the difference and controlling the contextual relationship. Okay, I may be losing some of you but Yuliana understood and projected accordingly. I barely know her but I can't help but love this girl and it would seem everyone else does as well. She rocks!

Model: Tanya Sonkin
#3 No "best" image lineup will be complete without my bestie, my friend, my rock - fashion, runway and beauty model Tanya Sonkin. When spoken about in creative circles, Tanya incites an almost worship-level reverence from fans who speak of her from jaw dropped mouths and glazed over eyes. She is the one person I can't seem to photograph enough for obvious reasons. She is one of those models that the more you shoot the more you want to shoot and I see no end to that so as long as I can lift a camera. 

This image is the most commented on from all the images of her by Helios this calendar year. I've been getting..."The most beautiful model I've ever seen." "This is your best work ever with Tanya." "This image is all I would need to work with Tanya forever." "Why aren't we seeing more Tanya?" "What is next with Tanya?" "When is Tanya coming back?" Only her denim looks from last year, that has an almost religious following is commented on more. That is saying something because despite not creating half of what I had hoped we would produce together this year including vid, we still created some of what I consider some of our best work this year. 

It is that look of hers here -that glance towards you that stills your heart. Honestly, she sort of surprised me with this one; stepping out of her comfort zone a bit and nailing us with some serious fire emanating from her thru softly parted lips and tousled hair. She was fully engaged on this shoot and it speaks volumes as to Tanya's skill and incontrovertible prowess in front of the camera when it counts. It is spicy enough to show you that she can go there if she wants to but not so much that you'll ever have enough. It is as she is... insatiable.

The styling is point perfect -screaming of casual upscale elegance with a splash of sexy that only Tanya can bring. 
Model: Trexie Dorrell

























#2 with Model Trexie Dorrell. The one who is many. Fitness, fashion, beauty, glamour, art and everything in between. Except she can't sing and she can't dance worth a damn. LOL! Believe me I've seen her try. Otherwise, Trexie Dorrell is my one tried and true everything model. No one understands me as much as she does and for this reason it takes us all of 10 minutes to shoot any look in any location in any kind of weather. Emoting? Check! Styling? Check! Makeup & Hair? Check and Check! Posing? Double Check! There is no one I trust more with my brand image. She truly understands the scope of everything I try to achieve with every look no matter the genre. Perfectly sculpted, beautiful and religiously driven she is the singular person that can step in for any look or any model from lingerie to avant garde. Cocoa_pecan complexion, chiseled high-born cheek-bones with abs to match, she has no equal. For posing, styling, fit-level and expressiveness she garners the most attention than most of the models I have met and/or photographed combined with few exceptions. She has the most no-nonsense casual and laid-back attitude about it all despite being the Cover Model of SIRCUS™ magazine Issue 12 in the editorial "Doll Play"and a key player in the making of Issue 11 "Fitness is in Fashion." 

Arguably the most accomplished in terms of her role around these parts and her widespread everyday offline popularity, she, not unlike the aforementioned Yuliana Kelley, has a strong sense of style and natural affinity for aesthetics. Trexie simply doesn't take any of it that serious though. She is as casual about her looks and her personal style as she is about her rainbow fuzzy sock collection she wears around her apartment throughout the week. I believe her followers can sense the "this is so easy but I'm not stuck up or haughty about it" attitude coming thru on her images and they are draw to her authenticity. That laid back relaxed aura says I could just as easily take a nap here rather than get all bent out of shape about how I look right now. Yet, she looks ravishing and completely content. But she would also lie down in the same spot in the pouring rain if it meant the shot would be perfect. That is the commitment you want on every shoot - relaxed, stylish, beautiful and it will be done when it's done as long as it's perfect kinda attitude. That is my Trexie and the people that worship her as I do get it.

Model: Yuliana Kelly
#1 One more time with Yuliana. I know I know. She accounts for three out of the seven top 2017 images and I'm not even making this up. The numbers don't lie and it shows our followers have great taste. She owns her space is the best way I can sum it all up. You had to be there but everyone that attributed to these numbers and given us this feedback was NOT there and they are as enamored with her as I am. 

I can only explain it as natural ability coupled with gloriously heart-stopping beauty. It still amazes me how much she reminds me of Trexie in that she seems so "in the zone" on the shoot. Being as I've only worked with her once I can only guess that it is simply who she is. 

You can fake a great many things but talent isn't one of them and I can say she is definitely born to model. Whether she is smiling or not, standing or sitting, leaning or reclining; each image conveys a sense of belonging, a strong sense of style and environmental awareness. 

"Angel." "Beautiful." Beautiful work." "Great styling." "That smile..." "Very fashionable" etc etc. The comments are carried the same message and the views were astronomically high. It is definitely a I wish I was there kind of image. I want to do what she is doing. I want to wear what she is wearing. I want that happiness and comfort. I want that hat and bracelet. I want to get to that location. I want that life. That is what modeling is about. People need to want to be the person who the model seems to be; the lifestyle, the scene, the moments and the feelings that emanate from that world. 

Despite not having chosen a single Model Of the Year for 2017. We had a fun time assembling the top images of 2017. Thank you Shweta Pandey, Tanya Sonkin, Trexie Dorrell and Yuliana Kelley for making 2017 such a special year. Extra special thanks to all of you that made these images possible and for everyone else for collaborating with us this year. It has been an absolute pleasure meeting new people and I look forward to continuing to work with some of you again. 

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.