Saturday, June 30, 2012

Model to Photographer: "The Dog Ate My Homework"

I usually try to squeeze in one or two TF photo shoots within a given year. That’s down significantly from when I started doing photography for hire. That’s probably normal since most photographers do a great deal of free work building their ports early on. However, as of late TF work has certainly put a sour taste in my mouth.
If you’re familiar with TF work, it usually stands for “Time For...” Time for Prints, Time for CD, Time for... some consideration between a model and a photographer; a photographer and an mua, an mua and a stylist or any combination thereof. It generally takes the place of cash and allows two professionals or upcoming professionals to trade or barter for one another’s services for mutual benefit. 
As the years go by the need to expand your port is lessened as you tend to add more paying client work to your port. The benefit now is creative potential. If you shoot mostly executive clients a CEO is not gonna let you simulate rain in his office. If you’re mostly doing weddings, only your most adventurous client is gonna let you photograph her in her dress underwater. Therefore, I use TF as a creative outlet to push beyond normal photographic work and do something more editorial without boundaries. It is usually this unrestrained work that gets business because clients want to see more than a basic portrait. They want fantasy, mystery and imagination even if they’re just booking you for a family photo session. They need to no what you’re capable of. 
Now more than ever that TF and editorial work is important because it sets you apart in an industry now overrun with wannabes. Everyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer and everyone with a pulse is a model. But what’s happening is an across the board quality deterioration because the bar has been lowered. No one really knows what it takes to be successful anymore. There are now just “spray and pray” photographers and fly by night wannabe models; neither with a clue. 
So what has me so bent out of shape? It’s that lack of professionalism in the modeling talent I often find that comes with TF work. I read a few years back that the only way you will get that high quality talent for your portfolio is to hire (that’s right HIRE) a professional MUA, a professional agency represented model, and/or a professional working stylist. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect when they swipe your credit card and cash your check. But in most instances you’re insured that your model will show up on time. Or when your model sent you her latest profile shot with long wavy brown hair, rich blue eyes, and tattoo free, you’re nearly guaranteed that she’s not gonna show up with a kid in tow, a shaved head and tattoos all over because she wanted a life change just hours prior to your shoot. That’s not what you signed on for TF or not. But what you’re likely to get with an agency model is professional. Someone that values his/her time as much as you do. They've been pre-screened and there is definitely something reassuring in that. They flake out a few times and they lose their agency contract and will not get booked for paying jobs to come. 
Regardless of whether or not money is changing hands between myself and the other participants, I can sometimes have several hundred dollars involved in a TF shoot. The most I’ve had was $2500 on a single shoot many many years ago and that’s not gonna ever happen again. It’s not that I didn’t get great shots with the $2500. It’s just that I found later that it wasn’t necessary. Chalk that up to a lack of experience at the time.
Even so, time is money and the equipment I own and have rented is incredibly expensive whether I’m paid or not or if a TF is in play. Even the cheapest TF could put me out $200. I’m not gonna say I will never do TFs again. They just seldom pan out. If the subject shows at all, they’re inexperienced, camera shy, late, doesn’t take directions well, can’t connect or emote, have zero posing aptitude or something else. The trick is getting them to show up, be on time and be without drama and strings attached.
The excuses and situations I’ve received over the years are incredible. The most unprofessional subject I’ve ever had showed up for a shoot with her child in tow. The excuse was not being able to get a babysitter in time despite weeks of knowing your shoot time and date. “ARE YOU SERIOUS???!!! I think not,” I exclaimed. Another one said “I forgot I have a baby shower to go to. Can we re-schedule?” “SERIOUSLY! Go to your shower and don’t call me. I’ll call you” I said. The latter one being only a few hours from the shoot time. Here is an awesome one. After meeting with a model with very long beautiful hair, going over the shoot details and styling, wardrobe, shoot diagrams and time schedule; she shows up with a buzz cut. This is after we discussed windblown hair shots. “What the $@*# ??!!!” You can pretty much figure out my reaction. Doesn’t some of this sound like “THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK” BS kids give their teachers. What about the "I don't have any money right now but I would love to do a huge photo shoot." ^**&%^ HUH??  I have to remember to take down that damn FREE PHOTO SHOOTS sign. Oh yeah, I don't have one. Am I projecting the word FREE somehow? NOT! 

The sad thing is that this behavior produces bad photographers after a time. They stop caring. They put out crappy work or make it almost impossible for a model to get any shots from the photo shoot. But all you hear is the yap yap yap from the disgruntled wannabes. You seldom hear photographers complain. They're like me. They suck it up and say I should have known better. Or I've heard many say I should have called the agency for some real talent. Fortunately, I still have my professionalism and dignity despite the bad apples that frequent my doorstep and litter my email inbox requesting TF photo shoots. 
Again, I’m not saying never again. I’m simply putting myself on notice to be even more discriminating about who I choose to work with on TFs. I simply can’t take the disappointment any longer. I’ve never had a disappointed paying client or a paying client that disappointed me. It’s definitely something to think about. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


212tr-opt by helios00
212tr-opt, a photo by helios00 on Flickr.
I had no idea when I took this photograph that it would later remind me so much of the Goldfrapp "Supernature" album cover. How awesome is that!!! I knew it felt right the second it appeared on the computer screen. Now I know why.

Later I found that Goldfrapp themselves "liked" this photo on my Tumblr page. Not only do I love Allison G, I am humbled by the fact that they can take the time to follow their mentions and care what their fans are doing and thinking. The only thing better than that is to photograph Ms. Allison herself. Regardless I'll take what I can get. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Creative Portfolio Creep

I think we’ve all suffered from Creative Portfolio Creep if we’re in or have ever been in any type of creative field whether it be photography, creative painter, pottery, graphic design, modeling, print design, muralists, web design or the like. 
Deciding what to put into your port is very challenging. What you may consider your best work someone else may find downright tacky. As a result, we end up with portfolio creep or a portfolio that’s so large and ambiguous that it seems to lack a direction or any specificity. 
I’m a marketer first; concerned with analytics, data, statistics and numbers. Photography up until the most recent couple of years was a side-game for me. Recently, it has pretty much taken over my life and is the most creatively rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. But it has had it’s problems. Large among them is deciding what and who I want to shoot. Since my background has always been dabbled with creative fields of some type or another it should not have been much of a surprise that I’d get into photography. But you start out wanting to shoot everything. Yet, like any good businessperson, you soon realize that you can’t and won’t shoot everything because you don’t want to be known as the “everything” photographer. They don’t get hired. The person that specializes and becomes the best in their field gets the work. 
Another realization hit me. I could not have gotten into this at a worse time. Everyone with a camera thinks they’re a photographer. Blame technology if you like. It is true that technological improvements have created the “spray and pray” culture. That's short for set your digital cameras on auto, hold down the button and eventually you’ll get a series of incredible shots. That makes you a photographer. NOT! Time will separate the losers from the winners. It will show in the quality and consistency of the work. On a side note, I am appalled at what consumers expect and accept in terms of quality. Everything from pictures of toddlers to weddings, the lack of quality out there is appalling and people are paying for it because the multitude of amateur shooters and their poor quality.
It didn’t take long before I knew that I had to specialize if I wanted to get better and separate myself from the masses. Otherwise, I’ll be that person that “knows a little about everything but I wouldn’t know everything about anything.” I’m sure you’ve heard that slang phrase before. Chances are you’re not good at everything; no one is despite how wonderful you think you are. For me, striving to get better is a life long process. The moment I began to think I’m awesome is the moment I’ll lose my ever sharpening edge. 

Your portfolio should reflect your strengths and you need only put your best work out there. It takes tough self love and a bit of welcomed creative criticism to know what is and is not working for you. Chances are that painting you created and love so much isn’t bringing you any business. Or you’re wondering why your model portfolio isn’t creating the bookings you want. Most people think it’s either quantity or quality but they seldom do they think too much quantity or overly saturated with seemingly endless subjects and genres or projects.
Show what you know. Play to your strengths and grow from that point outward. Dabbling in everything from the start won’t land you more jobs. What it will get you is overworked and underpaid with a lousy and large portfolio that lacks direction. I do the proverbial slash and burn about once a month. I go into my portfolio and trim the fat. It hurts to do but if an image isn’t bringing about the reaction “I” feel it deserves then it has to go. Also if I find I’m not excelling at a particular type of photography or other business venture (after a thorough analysis, debates and tweaks), I must move on. If it fails repeatedly to pay the bills then it’s time to move on altogether. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive hobby. 
This really doesn’t apply to only creative types despite the multiple references. Your investment portfolio follows the same principles. If you keep losing on pork bellies then you don’t keep investing in them right? It seems elementary. Yet, you end up with a bloated book of business that looks nothing like the businessperson or artist you want to be. Trim the fat and learn to play your portfolio to your strengths. 

Friday, June 1, 2012


fedora.jpg by helios00
fedora.jpg, a photo by helios00 on Flickr.

I worked with this model nearly two years ago. Only recently have I been able to get around to making a second run thru all the pics from that shoot.

It's quite a shame being that now this has emerged to be the most popular image from that entire session. Only now have I been able to give it it's due post tweaking attention and get it posted.

However, recent software releases largely attributed to my reassessing images once thought unsalvageable due to misfires, or wardrobe malfunctions. I guess I shouldn't feel too bad for not getting it done immediately. I once thought it was flat due one of the strobes not firing.

Who knew it would be one of the best shots when given a little post edit love with the new software update.