Monday, June 22, 2015

My Absolute Favorite Model to Date

I received the most unusual question the other day. I was asked by an acquaintance of sorts, "do you have a favorite model? Who is he or she and why are they your favorite?" Several people came to mind but for totally different reasons. I had to ask myself if I had an all time #1 favorite model I've worked with. It's harder to answer than I thought. 

After being in and around photography for years you meet a large number of people. Some you hope to forget and others become very close friends. I've been lucky in that regard. I hold no ill will toward anyone. In fact, I'd even say that my instincts have done me well. Sure I have a couple of stories that began well but ended with frayed nerves and tension. Nevertheless, those are very few from my side. It's just the nature of the business. Therefore, it's best to get over yourself and develop very thick skin and chalk the remainder up to misunderstandings to get over. 

But having a favorite model is a different kind of question that required me to give the question deep consideration. Why? Surely I must have a favorite right? Well maybe but not really. You see, the very person who may be my favorite today may not be later. I learned that years ago. People move on and develop different tastes, habits and preferences and I'm sure some of those models have as well. But as it pertained to having single person that I'd publicly proclaim as my definitive favorite, I'm thinking no. There are people around that I have amazing creative synergy with. But to say they're my favorite might be inaccurate or more to the point, to say so publicly would be insensitive and unprofessional. Are there models i'd prefer to work with more than others? Absolutely!! But my projects are so specific that I always seek out the best person for the best look and not necessarily someone I personally like despite the look. I'd be doing myself and that model a disservice to not consider whether a look, clothing or otherwise is appropriate or consistent with my style of shooting or what I'm after or they want. No one would believe me if I said that I didn't prefer a specific person for a project over another on occasion and they would be right not to. But to say "favorite" publicly is a bold move I need not do. I only want the best for everyone and myself. Publicizing a list of Favorites isn't smart anyway. I praise everyone because quite frankly they're all magnificent men and women. Firstly, I'm honored to have an opportunity to create art with them. They chose to work with me and for that I'm fancied beyond words. 

The other consideration is why would I be so obtuse as to publicly declare a favorite person on anything in this business unless it's a celebrity model or someone I haven't worked with yet. Not only would I be alienating every other model I've ever worked with, it makes those models think I didn't appreciate everything they've done with and for me. It's just not smart unless I've decided to retire. Even so it doesn't look very professional. That's the kind of opinion I think should be kept private and discussed among colleagues. Should someone ask me privately I might share more insight. Or should I feel compelled to privately share with a model how I feel about his or her ability I will. But if you're out there saying this or that about your all time specific favorite anything in this business I think you're setting yourself up for some intense resentment. 
To clarify, my answer is NO but with a "however." I may have a go to model for sports photography, a go to model for lingerie, a go to model for fitness, a go to model for fashion and so on. But no one is better than another. I've help choose over a dozen cover models and select images for ads out of hundreds of pictures daily. Are they all my favorite? Is there a single one? They are or at least they were at that particular time for that particular project. They're different people with different gifts. Sure they'd be flattered for me to publicly call them my favorite but what about everyone else I've worked with? Would they be flattered? Or would they think "wow, what a bastard. I've worked with him six times this year and SHE is his favorite?" 

Now I know everyone reading wants me to just stop BS-ing and just say who my favorite model is. You've followed my posts, my blog(s) or other social media pages. You can decide for yourself who you think my favorite might be. But if there is a person that matters the most to me creatively and photographically, you better believe that they PRIVATELY know who they are and it doesn't help for me to publicly downgrade anyone by saying I have a singular favorite. It's just bad manners.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What studio strobes do you use and what should I buy?

I was recently asked, “what type of strobes do you use?” My short answer is, “anything it takes to get the shot and anything that is available.”

It took some time to develop a knack to adapt to whatever I had on hand; even so, a situation will arise on nearly every shoot where what you have isn’t quite doing what you need and you are forced rely on your creativeness and resourcefulness to get the shot. 

I’ll be honest, I did not always have the budget for quality strobes. Despite having obtained a few, I find them grossly overpriced. Consequently, I try my best to minimize my dependency on any particular brand as much as I can. You’ll find that that when you start buying that most of the connectors are proprietary and that you’re obligated to buy into a system of modifiers and attachments that won’t fit anything else. 

Back to the question at hand, “what type of strobes do you use?” I’ve used Elinchrom RX strobes, Canon Speedlites and something tells me I’ve used AlienBees before but I can’t remember where. Additionally, I must have used a half dozen third party cheap import lights over the years before learning that quality matters in color and power consistency. 

For a person looking to buy strobes my top criteria would be to buy for:
  1. Mobility - nothing more frustratng than lugging wires and huge heavy lights everywhere. Find a head with a built-in power pack or at least is adaptable to work with a power pack.
  2. Price - Don’t ever buy what you can’t afford. As long as your strobes can produce consistent color and power you can become highly proficient in whatever you have. Even the least expensive unit can produce high fashion looks if you’re creative enough. I’ve often had to build my own modifiers, reflectors, or flats to shape the light.
  3. Adaptability - sometimes you will need a beauty dish, a barn door, a soft box, a reflector, a strip box or an octabox. The more adaptable and configurable your strobe is the better off you’ll be in doing different types of photography . 
  4. Cross brand capability - every single modifier you need may not be available in the brand you’re considering so consider a brand that has conversion rings and adaptable plates for moving from one popular brand to another on your modifiers.  
  5. Availability - You need one more light but the local shop’s inventory doesn’t go into your setup or power needs. There are times you need to run to the camera store and rent another but they don’t carry a brand that matches your modifiers. Or the brand you have has been discontinued. Buy a mainstream top brand largely for it’s sustainability, it’s applicability to your shooting style but not because of popularity or price. 

I hope this was of some help. I can’t really say what I shoot with specifically because I’m always changing and adapting what I need to a given situation and a given photo shoot.