Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Photographers: Know When You're Dealing With a Pro Model

I am far from the expert. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I'm just beginning to really get my feet wet. Some might disagree with my modest assessment of my personal knowledge of photography in general, but the moment anyone starts to believe they have learned all that is learnable their IQ takes a hit; not a bright proposition nor a very bright person. I'd much rather share my experiences and you take what you can from it. How do you know when you're dealing with a professional model or at least a model that has a few sessions behind her? There are indicators and I will share a few here.

1.  She confirms the appointment prior to her session date. It is very reassuring to not be the only one that likes to confirm an appointment. Whether she is a professional model or a retail client, I appreciate a confirmation text, email or call reassuring me they will make their scheduled appointment. Things happen. I don't care for cancellations but some circumstances are unavoidable. Whether or not if it's a retail or a professional commercial model, I very much appreciate the reassurance. Furthermore, she is showing you that she respects your time and is mindful that you have other business to attend to.

2.  Communication. Though this is in no particular order, this should have been number one. This is most applicable to a retail situation and not a commercial one but before, after, during and even post session, she is appropriately touching base to make sure she understands her role in this assignment. She acknowledges what she is to bring, what her role will be and she has a basic understanding of the shooting sequence. Again, these are my experiences and related to my type of shoots. Simply put, she is prepared when she arrives because her agent (if commercial), or she herself has communicated well enough to know what is expected of her. I always tell clients, "You Cannot Over-Communicate With Me." If it's a commercial model then her agent is handling everything and she need not be involved in this part of the assignment at all.

3.  Preparation. If it's retail, then he or she certainly knows what they were to bring or not to bring prior to your session based on the communication you've had. If it's commercial, she's likely showing up empty handed knowing that clothing, accessories, styling, make up etc. is likely someone else's domain. She need only be appropriately prepared, ultra hygienic and a blank slate ready for whatever the shoot is about. Retail clients have the fortune of knowing almost everything about their shoot beforehand particularly if they're working with me. I've likely given them a do and don't list such as: body hair tips, skin conditioners, makeup tips, hair styling, wardrobe ideas, etc. Working in concert with a mua and/or stylist if applicable, your client should be prepared when he or she arrives. If he or she is not, then they have likely not communicated well or not quite the professional person or client you wanted or expected them to be. Either that or you yourself dropped the ball.

4.  She removes her personal effects like personal jewelry, almost immediately upon arrival. I'm already reassured when this happens. Unless the shoot calls for it and it is deemed appropriate, losing the wedding ring or necklace the significant other gave you that may not be conducive to the look or market our images are to seek is probably the first thing she does. Commercial glamour models, fashion models or any other genre of model knows that the public doesn't much care if you're married or not. In fact, it may even be counterproductive to the photographer, editor, or financier is trying to achieve. In most instances, you may need to look available even if you will never be available particularly for certain markets. However, if it's retail and it's a wife taking anniversary photos for a husband then the more personal effects the better. Or if she's wearing her "world's best mom" t-shirt the kids gave her then perfect if these are portraits for the family. I've had several clients wear cherished jewelry the husband gave them from prior anniversaries or other special occasions; totally appropriate but an unlikely occurrence on a commercial project. On a commercial project, a model or client will likely show without much icing at all. More than likely she will not wear any jewelry with the expectation that it will be provided. Otherwise, she will be told what to bring by way of accessories from the agent, the stylist or other party with appropriate authority for the assignment. (Another nod to communication).

5.  "Which light is to be my key light?" This should be right next to communication. It's not necessary for her to know all the lingo. Learning lingo comes with experience and having experience doesn't necessarily mean you're a professional in my opinion. A subject will either intuit or verbally inquire the directional source of the primary light. From experience, she knows that that direction dictates the angle of her poses and the way the lights will strike her body and garments which is a make it or break it point for the photographer. She will move while being mindful not to stray far from that source unless purposely directed to do so. I personally like it when the client or model asks whether she already knows or not. It's a kind of "I know that you know I know" where the main light is moment. Directing the shoot, I am thinking about composition, light settings, wardrobe malfunctions, and often times the meticulous financier that might be looking over my shoulder. The last thing I want to think about is whether or not the model is going to stay in the light or not. When a model immediately looks or turns toward the primary light source or verbally inquires before I even heft up my camera, then I know I'm dealing with someone who has worked with several photographers before or at least knows how to put one at ease right up front. When she constantly steps out of the light unexpectedly I know that she's new to the game. I have to constantly bring her back or move the light to her which is not something most photographers are willing to do myself included. It's likely not the look we're trying to do. Follow my lead! If I direct you to move, then do so. But if you're a pro, you will almost anticipate my next action; another indicator of a pro.

6.  Hygiene. I shouldn't have to mention this but it is the another key indicator that separates professionals from amateurs. This is a huge indicator. Wax on... Wax off. Be clean, be smooth, be moisturized. That is as simple as I can make it. The model or client has likely received ample notice on the session date. There is often time to prepare. If the model needs a bikini wax then a properly prepared model will have one. If her arms were hairy and you want glamour images, she will do something about that. She will never look like a swimsuit model if her armpits and mustache are like a gorillas. Professionals make it easier for the mua and the photographer or retouch specialist. That peach fuzz that is considered normal and that most have gotten use to seeing (or not seeing) will wreak havoc for the mua. Makeup will not set well floating on top of facial hair. Additionally, it will look horrible on the images and that's a problem the photographer or retouch specialist need not deal with. If you're experiencing your.... well, that! Then don't schedule for that week unless this is your job and you haven't a choice.

There are several factors that immediately tell me how my session will proceed and I've just started naming a few to pertain to me. I try to abstain from making judgements at the onset and try to give everyone a wide open opportunity to show me what they bring. Experience has given me indicators on what I can expect. Yet, some of my best sessions have been with retail clients and amateur models. Why? Because they have no pre-conceived notions about how they think things will be. They arrive open to direction and a willingness to learn. They have little interests in becoming models. They just want to look their best today and have fun in the process. Sure it's more work on me but I enjoy process if in moderation. If someone approaches me with that willingness and openness, they're communicable and follow directions well, then they are a professional in my opinion. If they've followed my directions well prior to the shoot and arrived prepared; given the appropriate budget I can make images that rival any model, the alleged professional or otherwise.

But that's just my humble experience and opinion.

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