Saturday, September 27, 2014

Photographers & Models - Why Should Your Stage Name or Working Alias Matter?

What’s In A Name? Everything. If you wish to be taken seriously in a currently overcrowded field of the visual and performance arts. Choosing a name to brand yourself with might be a good idea. 

If you’re a fine art nude photographer then names like “GetNaked” may turn away some of the more conservative clients that may want your services but prefer to keep a low profile at the same time. “Light it ‘Wear’ the Sun Don’t Shine” despite being fun and catchy might ruin a career in photojournalism if you choose to lead with that in on a serious job interview for the newspaper or TV network. A model with a name like “Miss Delectable” may struggle to find serious work because she may be sending the wrong message to the jobs and projects she actually wants all due to her name. In the same line of thinking a name like “Dead Zombie Girl” may cause you a difficult time booking a high fashion runway gig.

It is possible to create different personas for yourself but generally anyone that tries to do everything will find that they don’t do anything very well in short order. There is simply diminished returns because in essence you’ve spread yourself to thin. No one really gets to know what kind of artist, model, photographer or business you truly are if you’re all over the place. 

It’s really not a game, a joke or a fancy pastime because your name defines you. There is no such thing as doing this for fun. If so, it is important to take even greater care of your image. It is your brand and your professional reputation and you will carry it with you always whether you consider yourself a business or not. Once established it is a difficult thing to change. 

Actors and actresses often use stage names because that are more memorable, possibly easier to spell and/or easier to pronounce. Perhaps a name carries a unique story behind it that people can easily recall. All this can tank or make your brand. Additionally, several name changes and false starts are sure ways to tank your brand identity before you even get out of the gate. 

My recommendation might be to choose something not much unlike your given name (depending on your business profession). You may choose anonymity but in all honesty being completely public and anonymous is an oxymoron in this day and age. We’ve seen models that try to work us with less than flattering or less than serious names like “Cherry Blossoms,” or “Chocolate Sunshine” all of which sound like stripper stage names. Yet they’re trying to be runway and high fashion photography models. Talented though they may be, we passed largely due to the fact that we didn’t want our name associated with those kinds of misleading suggestive titles even for gigs we were personally funding and compensating the model for. It simply didn’t bode well for our image. But their goal was to be some version of sexy while still trying to remain anonymous. It took all of about five seconds to learn their actual given names. Anonymity is a modern day myth if you’re anybody or trying to be anybody.  
Let the viewer determine your level of sexy if that’s your goal but don’t do it with your name. Do you actually believe Angelina Jolie ever decided to go with “Sexy Angie?” Maybe. But if so, somewhere along the line her manager or agent said no-one will ever cast you for anything but a pole dancer role or worse you won’t get cast at all (assuming of course her dad wasn’t Jon Voigt). She would be the hot girl behind the scenes running to get everyone coffee between takes.

Don’t make up a cheesy name that will haunt you forever. Years from now when you’re trying to figure out why you failed despite all of your talent of being a photographer, model, painter, dancer, actress or actor, be able to say that it wasn’t due to a horrible chosen brand name. Also, do not go with something so obscure or common as to belong to anyone. A model name like Susie-Model is a bit vague and probably will render thousands of hits under a Google search. In several fields related to visual and performance arts, your brand is your name even sometimes despite having a separate and distinct company name. They are not the same things. 

If you think you’re not branding yourself think again. You’re online, putting up pics on your social media, texting and sharing all over the web on twitter, Instagram and tumblr. Guess what? That’s your identity and your reputation. If you were an actual tax paying and registered business that would be your brand identity. 

Get over it and get serious by choosing an adult and mature brand name that personifies you and what you stand for and not something you’re likely to be embarrassed about years later. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#1) Countdown

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Model: Chanel Alexis
If it was only the model then everyone we've ever worked with is great. Truly they are. We've come across some very beautiful and very talented people over the last 10 years. But we can only speculate as to why some images captivate us more than others. Some images get more attention, feedback and shares than others. We attribute it to a combination of factors not the least of which is the absolute stunning beauty of the model herself. But it was so much more than just that. There was real talent that put this entire series together. All that combined talent manifest itself in this final image that we have chosen to our #1 best image of the last 10 years.

No words could ever describe this photo shoot. No amount of lines would ever describe this model, the way she looks, her warm personality and her skill. No words could ever hope to describe her ability.

Chanel Alexis is the first model you might say we had a “photo crush” on. We didn’t want the shoot to end. Every single shot was perfect. We found her ravishing and quite frankly the kindest, sweetest person we have met since we have lived in the Pacific NW. Ironically, she wasn’t from here; but she is from South Florida and not that far from my hometown. I suppose we had creative affinity for one another that bonded us. 

There were zero complaints and no problems with punctuality. Every single garment was a perfect fit. Chanel needed very little if any makeup at all but the makeup artist Noelle, did a marvelous job. 

This image was one of many from a shoot that was part location and part studio. It is the most blogged about and most shared photo in the series; perhaps the most in all our series. Taking into consideration comments, tags, shares and likes, this image has been the most buzzed about across all sites, blogs and other social media. 

Of course it is purely visual for the onlooker. No one knows how flawlessly the shoot was executed by Chanel and by our stylist Trexie Dorrell. It was the easiest photo shoot we’ve ever had and produced the most enchanting and timeless results. Chanel has the talent and those exotic looks to make it all come together. She is one of few people that if she ever chose to come back, we would find a way and fly her back the country again if necessary should an opportunity exist. 

We all made instant friends; friends enough for her to crash here if she wants to. She is simply that laid back. She is always welcome. Thank you Chanel for being marvelous and creating truly timeless images with us. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#2) Countdown

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Model: Iryna
Stylist: Trexie Dorrell
MUA: Chyeeda Burt
Everything you want in a model with everything you want in a stylist and makeup artist. This photo really is what we have wanted for years. It is a culmination of all that we were longing for. We wanted a high fashion model with superior looks and talent along with the threads to match. 

Iryna literally personifies fashion in a way we had not thought possible. For years we have sought such a look and only with her and the stylist/lighting assistant Trexie Dorrell could such results have come to be. Perfect styling, exceptional lighting and sophisticated garments and accessories. We sought a look and went for it all in and the results were even more remarkable than we anticipated. 

This look holds all we want to do. We want fashion, and we wanted high class style and sophistication.The stylist had everything flawlessly prepared all the way down to the stockings. It was a perfect look and she had the shoot well organized from start to finish. We had discussed the look, the lighting setup and gave Iryna a vibe to shoot for and she not only nailed it, she surpassed it. She really took ownership of the look. Sure she gave us a few complaints along the way about the weather and so on, but nothing can deny the results. She is easily among the top best models we’ve had (not just within the last 10 years) but possibly ever when it comes to fashion. 

Her attitude somewhat brash and her personality feisty and mildly confrontational but Iryna is what she is and we love her for it. It is part of what makes her a great model. She knows what she wants and she lets you know. We may have done much much more with a bit of diplomacy but quite frankly, she could have had and can have anything she wants along the lines of modeling. She is unsurpassed by every measure. She captured the looks flawlessly and this image best exemplifies the direction we wanted to go and the sense of fashion we have been striving for for years and would like to continue to do. 

It was a beautiful collaboration throughout. The garments were perfect. The lighting was supple yet punchy while the styling and makeup was flawlessly executed. Thanks to the entire team for making this image possible. Special thanks to Iryna our very special and talented Cover Model of Sircus Magazine Issue 8 for bringing it all together and achieving this heightened level of fashion and finesse. Thanks to my booking agent & stylist Trexie Dorrell for helping to discover Iryna and assembling a masterpiece. She truly makes everything beautiful come to life. Also thank you Chyeeda Burt for another well executed makeup application. Also thank you Nique Haggerty for coming by to help tweak the makeup to our liking between looks. 

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#3) Countdown

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Model: Karleena Gore
It was only the second time in all my years of photography and design that I had chosen a car interior as my shooting space. This photo session was part of a larger editorial series that had to be cut short due to some extraordinary circumstances. 

Yet in concert with a beautiful and talented model, the light, the pose and the unusual dynamics afforded by the shooting space, this image easily made to the #3 spot as best of the best 10 images we’ve done in the last decade. 

Her car radiator literally exploded in the parking lot. I was so happy that she made it all the way to my driveway. Heaven forbid that she would be stranded alongside the freeway. Despite everything she literally made it to my doorstep. She was understandably distracted and completely rattled, terrified and nervous about what to do next. After hours of phone calls, tow trucks and mechanics we still decided to do something while we waited on the mechanics assessment of the damage. Despite not coming back to finish what we started, I will forever be appreciate that she could look and be so composed after such an event. 

Like many shoots, I had my own problems to deal with that the models and other people onset are seldom aware of. I had rented equipment, lenses, props as well as a second camera for the second phase of three phases of the shoot that we never saw. I was out of hundreds of dollars myself so you might say this is a $700 shot by itself. Given how it turned out it looks like much much more than that in all it’s glorious sexy elegance. I can only imagine what we might have accomplished given the full shoot. 

In the end, I got her home safe and sound while the mechanics continued to do what they needed to do to her car. It was one of the most memorable photo shoots I’ve had to say the least. It would be great to have her back to finish what we started but I am certain the experience struck fear into her and this side of Washington may have yet to see her again. 

Thank you for a wonderful time despite the challenges Karleena. You’re a real trooper.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#4) Countdown

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Model: Kristi Wright
#4 is a tie of the best image(s) of Helios. Ironically, the model is the same between the two images which we thought could never happen. I don’t even know if she knows but Kristi is the most published, most popular, most shared, blogged, referenced, worshipped and literally revered model we have ever worked with. Within one photo shoot alone, she and I had images published across at least four publications, a minimum of eight blogs and more websites than I care to count, none of which was yet our own. She made cover on at least one of our shoots on an extremely popular limited print edition special issue glamour magazine. By their own admittance, they received thousands of entries and Kristi was chosen from among them all from all over the world.

We attribute the popularity of these two images to their uniqueness. One has a innocent mischievousness about it while the other is a cropped acrobatic masterpiece of form and sexy gracefulness emphasizing the curves of her very fit physique. 

She had no idea what I had planned for the day. The moment I saw her garment in person was the moment  I knew I had to play around with shapes and contrast mixing both organic and synthetic for a sexy playful scape using curves and contrasting shapes. By most measures it was an instant sensation. Within hours of posting the picture on our photo blog it received thousands of hits, dozens of comments and shares and I’d received more than a dozen request for blog publishing rights. Everyone wanted to right about it or try to copy it. You might say that we were very proud of what we had accomplished using a little imagination. 

Even now her closeup adorns the pages of several blogs after several bloggers asked for permission to have it as their header (something we don’t give or permit lightly or easily). We’ve had writers comment and even write about these images more than any other; not just comments or shout outs but real commentary on our technique and moreso on how exotically captivating Kristi is. 

She is certainly the most daring model I’ve ever photographed. It’s ironic how shy and timid she can appear to be until it’s photo time. When the test strobes flashes she immediately goes bold and takes total control. She is so comfortable to be around and she brings such intense energy and skill. Glamour is her thing and we have yet to meet anyone that does it better. 

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#5) Countdown

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Model: Trexie Dorrell
Definitely among the 5 top images we’ve ever had based on popularity, shares, comments and blogs for various sources all over the Internet. We received questions and comments about the model’s identity and our watermark color choice all the way up to the split toning post processing settings we used. 

It kind of speaks for itself. Just a combination a deliberately placed lighting, to create dimensionality and what I refer to as “trimming,” joined by a model with a body to die for along with compositional framing that might be described as teasing. Even her pose radiates attitude and the leather on leather styling just sold it. We chose several crop options before releasing this version. We knew her gorgeous lips had to show in the image. Quite frankly, in our opinion it could easily have been the best image ever at #1 but there is so much more to consider with categorizing such things. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#7) Countdown

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Model: Kim Jonet

#7 wasn’t that difficult choosing Kim yet again for Best Images of Helios. She continued to bring her intense sultriness to every single look. Even unknown to Kim or myself at the time, we were both channeling “The Night Porter,” a scintillating controversial classic 1974 film by Italian director Liliana Cavani starring Charlotte Rampling.  

Leave it to Kim to get it done and she did it so well. It is Kim’s daring here that made this shot so appealing. I find it one of our most compositionally inviting as it draws you into the scene itself. Styling was spot on perfect and she works it like she was born to it.

Thank you Kim. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#8) Countdown

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Model: Kim Jonet
Image #8 represents a slight departure from our norm. Despite not being a glamour photographer, I'd had a few of such shoots under my belt. But I'd deemed this as something more than that. Categorically speaking, as far as genres go this has all the makings of the risqué flavor that currently epitomizes the glamour genre unlike glamour of the past. But this felt different. It felt more connected to me somehow. It was more real and personable than just flagrant nudity or breast visibility. It is tasteful and yet sinfully teasing.

I credit every bit of it to the model. She was simply perfect for the look. Her ability to intensify and project a connection thru the lens was/is incredible. Unlike any model I have ever photographed to this very day, Kim is by far the sexiest; not sexy in the act of having sex kind of way - but sexy when a woman is comfortable with herself and she exudes confidence and an awareness about her body; an awareness I'd never seen. It was not arousing but it was intoxicating and alluring all the same. Clothed or unclothed, multi-layered fabrics or scantily clad, Kim is enchanting and jaw dropping beautiful.

I'd like to say it's about the lighting, the grainy noire black and white finish but it's not; at least not entirely. I think she made this image her own. She took ownership of the look and that easily puts her into our forever Top 10 Best Images list.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#9) Countdown

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Model: Denielle Aduba
Technically speaking, this image has so many flaws. The lighting is dynamic but hugely flawed. The clarity and sharpness isn’t as precise as it could be. The shadows are clipped and it is over-processed. Yet, based on reviews, comments and critics from over five websites and blogs in conjunction with our assessment, we’ve selected it as Number 9 out our top 10 images over the last decade.

It’s over 5 years old but this photo shoot still produced more keeps than any other photo shoot we’ve ever had. That’s not to say that those images came from just a few looks. Nevertheless, we had a enormous amount of keepers. It was our first foray into expanding “production value” (more on PV later) for all of our photo shoots. We began to spec the makeup, the hair as well as develop styling for wardrobe itself. We built a set of sorts and seemingly floating platform. We included props and special fx. It was our earlier realizations that to insure consistent quality that we needed to take ownership of the entire look and that meant full styling autonomy. 

We also experimented immensely with gels. We knew the look we wanted and we went for it in what we conclude as having above average results even for a technically flawed image. We’ve found that most of the best images throughout photographic history need not be technically perfect. In fact, the most famous ones are not. Even so, they set an atmosphere. They tell a story or exude a feeling and stir emotion. We wanted a beautiful ethereal and floating feeling as made possible with the fog and gels. The fashion need not be designer threads at the time but it needed to be relevant and appropriate. 

I recall thinking when she arrived that this model was the most beautiful young woman I’d ever seen to date. Even without my knowing at the time, she set the physical benchmark for everyone we worked since I’d first seen her. In my naivete I thought, this is what every model should look like. Not to say that beauty doesn’t come in all body types. It is simply to say, that she was intoxicatingly attractive. Ironically, she was not technically a model but more a passive model enthusiast with some latent interests in modeling. But she responded excited to the invitation made to her by who was to become my chief stylist.

Denielle began the shoot quite shyly and timid. After a time she slowly fell into the role with ease. While not having nearly the level of experience of models we would later have the privilege of working with, she did very very well. It would be such a shame to see such potential wasted. 

We went on to work with Denielle once more but as they say, “It’s Never As Good As The First Time.” Even so, we love that she chose to work with us. 

10 Years - 10 Best Helios Images - (#10) Countdown

It was possibly one of the worst photo shoots I’ve ever had. But as results go, this image easily made it into the top 10 best as number 10. 

I’ve always felt that a model, a really really great model has to tow the line somewhere between arrogance and confidence. I for one, believe that at times it can be difficult to tell the difference. However, this wasn’t one of those times. There was no line here. That same arrogance/confidence balance emboldens me to do what I need to do as a visual artist to move to a higher creative potential. You see when we approach a project, we need to enter into it without doubt. We do not care at all for the shy, the timid, the weak, the doubtful or the unsure. When we hesitate the shoot falters and we never come to full a creative realization and will forever linger in what could have been. That’s a waste of time and resources; ultimately it’s a waste of money. But what happens when a model thinks herself far better? It’s doesn’t make for a good time that’s for sure.

It only took about five minutes into this shoot before I wanted to leave. I was constantly reminded how she was “doing me a favor” for some reason. I was actually told that I should feel privileged to be there and how no one has ever had an opportunity to be in her personal lair and I should feel “special.” It was kinda sickening. 

In hindsight, I largely blame myself. She can only be responsible for herself and not my own actions, attitudes or opinions. I mean who really cares what I think right? I could have simply packed up and left. Here is how I would do it different. First and foremost, I would not take on the project. It's that simple. I didn’t know her. I had not checked references or spoken with anyone else she had worked with. I also realized that people have different ways of expressing themselves when they’re nervous or uncomfortable. Some of them brag, others develop very negative attitudes, some get quiet and shy, too many others talk too much or do not talk at all. Since this shoot, we’ve had models get upset stomachs while others do the absolute worst thing and cancel before the shoot even commences. 

To this day I have never had a photo shoot so surreal. It was just bizarre. I've never had a model like this one in terms of personality. It just doesn't happen to me and has yet to happen again. A couple of hours after this photo shoot, a friend asked me "how did the shoot go?" I hesitated and said that I honestly didn't know. I was confused by the entire episode. I also know now that no matter how talented two people are, sometimes the collaboration was not meant to be. You just feel like you should hit reset and go back and have a do over. We may make great friends but we should probably never ever work together. Some relationships are just that way. At the time the atmosphere of it all was simply not conducive to a positive collaborative experience. 

After it’s all said and done and after a couple of years have passed and I’ve had time to reflect on the shoot, I’ve deemed it as a positive experience. I got a few fantastic images out of it. I will not take away from her the fact that she is a talented model. The experience also drastically changed who we work with from that point on. It changed the when, the where and what assignments we take. It caused us to limit our barter projects to almost nothing or under extremely special circumstances. The experience forced me to re-write my model release to the betterment of largely the model but also me, the photographer. I now include a full discussion before and after the shoot about what can be expected from me and what is expected from the subject before during and after the shoot. I learned so much from this shoot despite my having photographed people for several years and never having a situation as unusual as this one.

This really isn't a reflection at all on her ability but a review of what we feel our strongest and most memorable images are over the last several years. Yet, it's difficult to be objective about any image you've taken as a photographer. It's more about results. It's a cost-benefit analysis of all the things it takes to get there and most non-photographers can't appreciate the effort without having the background or having experienced it themselves. 

Since she has never used a single image from the entire shoot, I can only conclude that she felt like crap about the shoot too despite the fact that many of the images I had taken could arguably be among the very best of her known portfolio. That’s alright with me. But I know a great picture when I see one. I know a great model when I work with one. Therefore, nothing will stop me from giving her the credit she’s due. She is a beautiful and talented model and for that I thank her for the opportunity and sincerely wish her all the best.