Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015's Greatest Models Part 1

It has been nearly 15 years since we began this process - never perfect but always perfecting and always striving to improve. As one might imagine we've come across more than a handful of talent from the vastly experienced to the person getting in front of the camera for the very first time. Even though we didn't officially publish her this year, she was this year's most popular model by every single measure.

Every blog, every image sharing site, every website and photo-stream where any picture of her appeared went viral. By every metric we could obtain she is the most talked about, most shared, most visited, messaged, emailed, tagged and liked model we've had for the entire year. We could simply post a picture of her and received essays about her beauty. We might share a photo from a recent shoot and get email server errors due to the inbox overflow. She is a phenomena a photographer can only experience to believe.
Kim Jonet
All Rights Reserved
We simply don't know anyone that doesn't love her. She is kind, patient, flirty, fun, intelligent and incredibly sexy. She has a natural kind of sultriness that can't be duplicated and it emanates from the sites, pages and blogs where she appears.

What impresses us the most is her preparedness, trust and humility. She is always ready. She brings what was agreed upon - sometimes more but never less. She is never boastful or demanding. She is gentle, soft spoken and incredibly humble. She doesn't pretend to know everything despite you knowing there are few things she doesn't know. She will ask you if she needs direction and yet she is confident without arrogance. She is without a doubt one of the most gifted individuals we've worked with over the entirety of our creative careers and most of that stems from a most agreeable personality and an intoxicating visage interlaced with malleable and endless talent.

When you're shooting she truly puts herself in your hands to do your craft. She relinquishes creative control so that you're not inhibited as an artist. In a very real sense, she is yours to command artistically and creatively. She will not argue, complain nor make unnecessary requests. She does not whimper, whine nor cry. She is 100% committed and confident in herself and to her love of modeling but she never takes advantage of people with her obvious enchanting wiles. It makes getting those challenging shots that much more fun and we always get the look we want with Kim.

You can't pay for that kind of trust with anyone else. But even so, you have to earn it; you have to nurture it over multiple photo shoots and collaborations. More importantly, you have to deliver with Kim. Make no mistake, she is there to work and you owe it to her to get it right and never leave her wanting. You'll want to buy her an island, cars, houses and pretty much whatever you can acquire to keep her happy and satiated. But all Kim wants is a great experience, your artistic respect and of course stunning images.

People never ask why we have Kim back again and again and again. They see it in the image. They see our comfort with one another and they can feel our sense of camaraderie. That feeling you feel when you see her, that distinct but fleeting gasp that escapes you when you stand in front of her is a real thing. She will always have a spot on my schedule without even asking for it. She is one of a few who can call at a moment's notice and get whatever it is she wants. For us, she is more than a model; she is a cherished friend and we wish her all the best for 2016. If we're as fortunate as we have been in the past then 2016 will belong almost entirely to her. In a nutshell it means that for 2016 if Kim wants me to shoot with her then she will have the highest priority. What do you say Kim?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best Photo Models

A colleague of mine (fresh to photography) practically begs me to reveal some secret to him about how to get the best models. I’ve said it again and again. You don’t. You focus on quality and style and the best models will find you or you will run into them. 

At one point I suppose I was like him in some ways. I desperately wanted to shoot a model named Amanda from Seattle at one time; a dark haired stunning beauty in the area. I didn’t think I could be a photographer without her in my port. Guess what? I realized in a very short time that it wasn’t about Amanda at all. It was about my own need at the time to create a crutch as to why I may or may not be flourishing. In literally days I came to realize if I focus on quality and style that there will be several Amandas to come along on their own.

In time, you work with who you were meant to. Several years later I still haven’t photographed Amanda and I don’t care. I’ve worked with in my opinion the best people in the region and if it I haven’t yet then it’s only a matter of time. The best people always find you and you will always find them. Just focus on your work. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Photography and the Pitfalls of Emotional Attachment

You thoroughly enjoyed yourself. The photographer was a total joy to work with. You had so much fun. He made you feel confident, beautiful and quite frankly it was a total blast. This guy has an awesome sense of humor and he (or she) is so chill and laid back. But the main reason you enjoyed working with this photographer may or may not be the one the matters most. But that all depends on what you wanted from your experience.

From both sides of the camera, I believe we can safely admit that no matter who your are, creative synergy and getting along always makes for a better overall experience. Additionally, how well you vibe with people on set creates a more collaborative and open process thereby resulting in better results. But does it always? Can everyone say that just because they had so much fun on a set mean that the results are exactly what they wanted or needed? Or is it fair to say that their emotional experience tainted the perception of the results? 

I’ve seen cases where photo subjects so highly praise someone that I wonder if they truly took the time to actually compare the results of the project to what they might expect from someone else. I read phrases like, “she was so nice.” Or I hear ‘he is so cool and easy to work with.” Or the most recurring expression is “he(or she) is my favorite photographer.” Why is that I say to myself when I read those kinds of opinions? I can only conclude that the experience; the emotional element clouded the perception of the results in an industry where the results are paramount beyond all other considerations. I think the simplest way to express what I’m driving at is simply asking yourself, “do you want to have a good time? Do you want to get fantastic results? Or do you want both? But beyond all other considerations, can you be emotionally detached enough when it’s over to judge the results of the project completely and objectively. I think everyone would want both but that is not always what happens. I believe that runway models have the greatest temptations. They really like posting everything as a carryover for being caught up in the elation and overall experience of flashing lights, music and hundreds of eyes peering at their every single step. But it doesn’t mean that we have to see or need to see every single step of them in a picture with bad light walking on a stage from the beginning to the end of the show. We get it. You were in a show. You walked out, turned and went back. But the feeling of it and rush of it spills onto your Pages and your media. It’s okay. You love it and you’re good at it. Yet, it’s a perfect example of a slippery path into the boring and the mundaneness of senseless barely inspired repetitiveness and you wonder why you’re not fetching the shares, posts and likes you once garnered.  

I’ve had photo shoots when the experiences were not always stellar. Good, fair, average, weird, unusual, acceptable, incredible, magnificent, extraordinary, mind boggling awesome… we’ve have had them all. Then sometimes the talent isn’t as polished or experienced as I might have believed. The talent may be dismissive, condescending or just didn’t play well with others. Or a pet peeve of mine was flagrantly violated by an assistant or another creative on the set. Yet, despite those few and very far between bad ones, at some point I had to detach myself from my feelings and really judge the results of my efforts with this person or group of people. Why? Because in this image driven industry and culture, results are all that really matter and only the ideal manifestation of those labors should make it into a portfolio or page for public viewing. 

You just shouldn’t ever put a picture out there because you “Like” a photographer or other talent when a single image can be a career altering decision from a would-be project. You only put out what your emotionally detached mind decides can positively influence and advance the public’s perception of your range and talent as an artist. On the other side of the coin, you can’t always disallow yourself the option of releasing an image because you “Dislike” someone either if it will further your ambitions. I’ve become absolute best friends with someone from a single shoot but that doesn’t mean I let that friendship cloud my creative critical judgement. I show his or her best and in doing so hopefully show my best.

Fortunately for us, my best collaborations paid and unpaid have come from people I genuinely like for various reasons. Of course, I’ve had one or two bad apples; people you just don’t creatively mesh with or just a bad collaboration for whatever reason but it’s natural that some people don’t get along. But I still have to give it 100% because every single shot is my reputation. People have certain expectations and I must exceed them or at least live up to them. The image industry doesn’t get a free pass or a day off. Every shot needs to be on-point. Therefore, a stream of mediocre pictures just shouldn’t be shown just because I couldn’t decide if the image was great or that I think the model I worked with was great. It’s easy to confuse the two and both things do not fetch the same perceptions in the public’s eye.

Then the question comes up, how do you know if it’s not a great picture if you can’t judge your own state of objectivity? You ask someone who will be honest with you and not someone who will agree with you for sake of your feelings. Ask a colleague that will give you honest and constructive criticism. I could have been tempted to fall into the “Like” trap. I’ve liked models so much as friends that I may have wanted to release any and every picture because I thought SHE was fantastic. You catch that? “SHE” was fantastic. It’s the image, the output, the result of her that people will see. The public doesn’t see the process or the experience. They see the product. But as a designer my every single working day is spent giving and receiving critiques so I have learned to think objectively as a publisher and a marketing professional and not just as an artist. I place what is good for that model’s portfolio and my business identity and style above all else. When he or she gets premium bookings as a result of what I’ve done then it makes me feel like I’ve given them something more and something they can’t get anywhere else.

So when I may find myself photographically crushing on someone, I give myself some time and step into business mode and ask, would I want to hang this on my wall? Would I buy this or do I want to work with this model, videographer, makeup artist, stylist or photographer as a result of this picture? More importantly, would a pay a premium to work with anyone from the project that produced this art? 

It’s challenging to think this way but the hardest roads to travel have the best things at the end. Right before you hit “Post” or “Publish” on your social media Page, pause and think before you do it. Is it the best I can offer right now? Do I really “Like” this or am I caught up in the elation and excitement of it or gushing over the person that helped me to create it? Don’t let sentiment cloud judgement. 

 I still ask myself the aforementioned questions when I post something and I’m sure I’m not always right because art is still objective in large part. But I think it’s still smart to ask myself, “Is this really a fantastic image or was it just the experience of creating it or was it the model or stylist I created with that I find so fantastic?" Is it possible these things can both occur. Possibly. The point is not to mix up the two and continually create and publicize poor work due to an inability to emotionally detach. 

Now would you continuously work with someone who repeatedly produce amazing results with you but that person wasn’t all that agreeable? More to the point, do you think you would even give the images a second look and find any of them gorgeous? That’s an interesting question but you’ll have to decide for yourself. I guess when you think about it modeling and photography isn’t all that different than any other gig when an actual career is at play. You will have people that you like, people you love and people you just don’t ever want to see again along the way. If you’re running a day to day business you learn to work with the good and the bad and try to consistently release good products and services that will grow your customer base whether you choose to do it for fun or not. Your favorite customers aren’t always the most profitable customers. In fact, most cost you money. Yet, the most needy, most pain staking solid spenders are often the most profitable. The bottom line is when it comes to business and in life, it’s best to put your best foot forward in work, fun and play. Avoid the embarrassment of saying that a "photographer is so awesome" if his work is not up to par. Avoid writing things like he is so "easy to shoot with" and the you put up dozens of strange automaton-looking images because you “like” him as a person and have not objectively critiqued what might be the fall of your once premium visage. You can keep a friendship without the bad publicity but you can’t get your reputation back that easy. 

If you’re just funning and enjoying yourself, then there is something to be said of pure unleashed elation and not really caring what anyone says. That has it’s place to. Just be mindful that it’s importantly to keep some objection perspective on what you’re doing and what you’re publicizing thru the rose tinted eye-ware you may be peering through.