Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Photographer's Negativity Will Get Him Nowhere: Casting and Working With Models

We know it would seem that we feel every single model we work with is perfect. For the most part they are. We’d like to believe much of that is attributable to our casting, our professionalism, and style of photography and design. Among other things that includes makeup, colors, textures, spreads, layouts and looks specifically chosen to a very specific model for a very specific look. But that’s how we control quality and making sure he or she looks their best. It has also been our policy to never discuss negativity about anyone publicly. Speaking negatively about someone that YOU have personally chosen is not just bad taste, it's actually more of a reflection on your own choices and decisions. 

Think of it as a bad boss. We've all had or have them. They speak harshly, negatively or even defames one or several employees under their supervision. Now does that say more about them as a boss that had a hand in their being chosen for the job or more about the employee. I'd say it's the former. Not that an employee may not be completely at fault (that's a different issue). But if you don't like their performance you fire them. You don't diminish what might be a strong and positive corporate culture by creating a unsupportive and negative work environment. Working with your own business or specifically with photography and design is no different. You will have your bad apples but as long as you control which grove you pick from, part of that responsibility is your own. 

We’ve had a few setbacks, drama kings and queens, emotional issues, policy misunderstandings, image use clashes, cancellations, and flakes as well as talent that could use a bit more polish. But being negative and dogmatic doesn’t do anyone any favors. More importantly, we cast very very well. These models are the finest talent available and we take every single shoot and consideration to heart. So when I say she’s wonderful I mean that she really is. When we say a model has a wonderful personality it’s because she does. When we choose a model for our issue, it’s a very deliberate and planned thing. We have discussions and arguments and even disagreements about who along with the when and what he or she is to wear and how. Long after those clashes a new set of debates ensue regarding placement, cover spots and page count we assign to every model. 

However, I reserve the personal drama specifics about anyone for offline banter between professionals. Even so, we keep it above level and always take the high road. But we’ve also been lucky. We cast well but we also seek out potential personality clashes well beforehand. You might be surprised what you can determine from someone’s social media, and portfolios. We look for inconsistencies in styling or genre. We ask about time and scheduling conflicts ahead of time. Most importantly we cover expectations and clarify wishes and wants from reality. In other words, this might be what you want and in a best case scenario it’s a maybe. But this is what you are going to get. 

I wish we could control everything before and after a shoot; such as, what a model shoots afterwards. What he or she does afterwards effects how our images are perceived at large. Let’s be honest here. This is a visual business and you’re only as good as your last best or worst work. So when a model puts up what we believe to be a less than flattering photo right after your highly stylized extremely well done fashion photo shoot, it does dampen the effect of your work. However, that is personal decision and it’s not up to us to dictate the direction his or her portfolio is to take. It also means that we’re not going on a mission to discredit that model or defame them. It only means that we will put our efforts into casting better and being more discriminate about our own screening. We want to work with people who are striving to be better and as such get better and better. When everyone improves. Everyone benefits.   

Have we ever been tempted to say that a model is a neurotic basket case or that an MUA is not ready for the big time? Sure we have, but that’s not our thing. It’s not the way we do business. We don’t go around telling people a model flaked unless it’s a photographer asking non-publicly about punctuality. We don’t call people scam artists unless we know we’ve exercised our due diligence and taken personal responsibility for our part in a potential misunderstanding. Besides, you get far further in life with honey than you will with salt and vinegar. There have been instance when we have given more than we ever originally promised largely due to a person’s personality and general attitude before and after a shoot. 

Professionalism and quality is the key to a lasting relationship with us. Being genuinely interested in people, design and photography is what makes us tick. We know from experience that retaining that professionalism, quality and treating people like we want to be treated is how we will always do business. So when we say a model is the best or an mua is worth a phone call, or even that a stylist is the best we’ve ever worked with; you need to heed the advice and take it seriously. They’ve been vetted, screened and analyzed. If you need something further and more in depth we are always happy to provide a detailed summary of how that person is to work with pre-production, during our sessions and post production.