Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rejected! The Worst Portfolio Bio Mistake

Earlier this very morning I was going through the portfolio of someone that gripped my attention. 6’1” tall. In my opinion, her height simply makes her all the more striking. Height is my thing. She has a gorgeous lean figure, poised and nearly ivory skin with a physique reminiscent of the perfect stereotypical high-end runway model. I went thru her port images first and by any measure they were good; very good but not quite great. Not in their entirety anyway. It was like mediocre mixed with fantastic; light on the latter. But that’s a subjective thing. One person’s okay is another’s perfect. Then I read her self-written bio and profile information. That is when my fascination ended.

Word to word, sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph made me think that working with her is just a terrible idea. It was a novella of all the things she “MUST HAVE,” and things “SHE CAN’T OR WON’T DO” and how much money she has to make for it to be “WORTH HER TIME” and “YOU MUST SIGN MY WAIVER.” Who in the hell is this person was all I thought? She’s good but not THAT good. The entire novella full of vanity and conceit. All of it was negative, red light, STOP, WARNING, DON’T GO THERE and I wanted nothing to do with it. She felt entitled to these insane demands. You would think that a person making demands like this portfolio could stand up to a more critical eye but it doesn’t. If offers promise and potential but not stellar, mind blowing extraordinary work indicative of a fashion diva. 

It’s amazing how one’s attitude and disposition can change a person’s perception of them. I had even directed a stylist to her pictures and after briefly speaking with a stylist about her we decided to take an even closer look. What started off with me hovering over my email send key to invite her to a meet as a candidate for a special project we are working on; a project that could very well lead to big things and great exposure for her, ended with a cancel. But as always, we paused to read what she had to say about herself. Wanna know about someone? Just read about what they’re saying about themselves and see how much unwarranted vanity shines thru. It was the greatest professional turn-off I’ve ever read. EVER! I don’t care what she thinks she looks like but she should have made sure her port could withstand all the bullshit she was throwing around. Hey no one is perfect. But suddenly, she just didn’t look that great anymore. All the potential we had for her evaporated. Then we start noticing flaws and blemishes. Then you think you see poor styling choices for her frame and how bad her teeth are or the hair with split-ends because she dyes too much. It’s a horrible thing to say about anyone because some of it may have just been our minds trying to cope with her horrible bio. A bit of it may have been imagined but you do start to notice things about a person when they open themselves up to more scrutiny. However, in our defense, she coins herself a model and scrutiny is just part of the biz.

One of the most damning things we read was “I must approve all images before they are released and you will be made to sign an agreement to my rules before the shoot starts.” We were floored. Who the hell is this person that would have the audacity to tell me what I will do and won’t do with my own images? I find it curious that anyone else would ask to approve images before they are released. I don’t mind going thru the shoot’s images while the model is there. In fact, I rather enjoy it. In totality these unjustified demands from this model makes her not a person you want hanging around after your session. She is not a creative director of a magazine or even a fashion writer or art director. She is there to model and nothing else. How about this? How about she just not take any images that she would not want released. Or maybe just do selfies because then it’s always perfect and the way she would want them to be every time. Problem solved. For example, if you don’t want nude images of you released to the Internet for all to see, how about you just not take any nude images that may be put on the Internet. Or perhaps she needs to simply better vet potential photographers, stylists or makeup artists. 

I don’t know her history but I don’t know of any reputable photographer that would grant such rights - for a now what seems to be, a second rate candidate. Photography is about creative freedom with or without a financial imperative depending on your business model or why you do it. Why would anyone bottleneck that freedom? She just seems to be one of those people that you are never going to please so my advice is that any photographer, makeup artist or stylist that still chooses to work with her despite every single sign to STAY AWAY is this - Pay her! Pay her because once the pictures are taken, you owe her nothing; no pictures, no follow ups, no input no nothing. The payment is the agreement should she choose to take the job and draw up a legal contract to that effect. She has zero say on anything because the money she takes is it. Of course, you can negotiate other solutions but that’s usually how paid shoots are supposed to go. Sign here. Snap snap. Pay. Thank you and goodbye with an understanding that you may or may not ever hear from me ever again. Sometimes it’s the best way with such people you just absolutely have to work with or want to work with. 

I’m not the only creative that feels this way about certain people. I’ve spoken with several photographers who much rather pay outright than have to deal with anyone again. They own the images anyway but they feel it’s just a much better solution to not have to deal with potentially overly needy talent. Services Rendered. Service Paid. Easy! After reading this person’s profile, we don’t even want to pay her or trade or anything. It’s just bad bad bad all the way thru. 

It is regretful despite all that. She is wonderful if in nothing but physical stature. We will not take that away from her. She is also comparatively very attractive but that’s where it ends for us. It’s just not worth it. We encourage anyone and everyone to take care of what you say. Write about what you want to do and not bragging so much about what you’ve done. Keep it simple. Make yourself agreeable and easy to approach. If you have demands (everyone does), keep them straightforward and simple. Make sure people understand how and why these things are important to you with a phone call, an email or preferably meeting them in-person. 

Our only regret is that she will likely never read this. She will never learn. We’re not sure how she stays busy or working but we hope she is doing well in her modeling. She claims to be signed and maybe her agency is feeding her this madness. We’re just not sure. If they are they’re just turning people away from a potential very fruitful and beneficial career. Despite what happens she will not be working with us. Email Draft Pending… DELETE.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Recipe for the Perfect Photoshoot

It is a common practice of ours to meet models we wish to publish face to face before undertaking any serious project. Generally it's non-negotiable. Given the extreme time, effort and expense, we feel that not only is it an opportunity to get to know the model but it's also a wonderful chance to go over looks and set expectations on how the project will unfold.

The establishment of trust is a key component to working with someone new. It's something that needs to happen as fast as possible and when it's reasonable to do so I'd rather have that out of the way before shoot day. When it's shoot day we need all the extra time we can get for potential wardrobe issues and spending more time with makeup, hair styling and on actual production. I'd rather not spend all that time trying to get to know everyone for the first time.

A confident model is a fantastic model and it can often take a bit of time to warm up to a photographer's shooting pace, style and his or her general way of communicating what they want to see. One of the most beneficial things I've done when meeting face to face is to actually give the model prospect visual and auditory cues as to our process. When I say this I mean this (showing a pic) or when I say "own it" or be more expressive I mean this (pointing at an image from the storyboard). I emphasize that I don't want to copy the looks. I want them to absorb the mood of it, the idea, the feeling and make it their own. It can often start with a storyboard if it's an editorial and at least sample picture(s) I've put together even if it may not be an editorial. 

All Rights Reserved
Kim Jonet 
You see, I shoot mood, feeling and atmosphere rather than just taking a picture so the vibe of the shot is really what I'm after. Providing the model understands the idea, it gives her a great deal of latitude and how to take it beyond just a picture but into something more profound bearing her unique visual and expressive signature. I'll show the model sample images from wherever I can find them that I think best illustrates my perspective and our objectives for the shoot. I categorize them by look if the shoot entails more than one change. If it's a single editorial then I will give her the background story and show an image or two we think best conveys that feeling. It's up to her to take it the rest of the way. These things can't really be talked about via email and text unless I've worked with her before but even so I prefer to meet if it's more than a common photo shoot. It makes meeting face to face ever more important and I consider meeting first a courtesy shared by each of us. Sure it can be a little inconvenient but it shows how much you respect he process, how engaged you are and how important it is to you to get it right. Often times it eventually leads to that model becoming a cover model maybe not always right then but sometimes in the near future because statistically those that meet first outperform those that do not. Why? The model and the other project participants are more engaged, they're more confident, they're more vested in the outcome. They've also proven they care about the results more than some common passerby and as such they give more of themselves to the process. That's worth more to us than ten passerbys because the results are always extraordinary. 

When she arrives the model is thinking sure I may be a little nervous but I already know this guy. I know what to expect. I am comfortable with everything we've discussed. I may even try some new things I've always wanted to because he's given me a license to be myself and take ownership of the idea. I'm exactly what they need for this editorial. I got the final call to do this when no one else did. I'm not a backup. They've already seen me in person. I've been measured and fitted and the clothes will be perfect. I'm their first choice and I will now show them why I'm even better than they already know I am. 

A confident model. A photographer confident in his or her abilities and a competent team is a flawless recipe for success. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A New Model Search for a New Idea

I've had this idea in my head for the last 18 months or so. I've kept it to myself because quite frankly I just haven't had the time to cast a model or number of models for the series and sit down and map out an editorial story for it. I still haven't quite nailed down the model for the series yet but I figured I'd get something just to hold me until I do find my model. In comes Kim.

Now if you've read how I carry on about her you would know that she's often described by me as sexy-quirky and she hasn't changed a bit. I had zero plans for her to do any of these looks. Not because she isn't perfect. On the contrary, as you can see she is more than capable. It was to be something of a mashup of beauty mixed with glamour with very dramatic lighting effects. Kim is a perfect blend of extraordinary beauty and glamour. My decision to not use her stems from a need for a new face, variety and simply just the want of something fresh. Forgotten was the fact that here is a stunning capable woman willing and able to do anything I wanted done within reason. Kim would do it not just because I asked but she would also do it to show me that when pushed she could do it. You can't but love those kinds of models.
All Rights Reserved
Model: Kim Jonet

I still shared the idea with her if for nothing else but bouncing it off someone else. I didn't have a sample pic or anything to show her but I guess after working with me more times than I remember she intuited where I might be headed with it. After a few minutes she pulls up this article of clothing; the one in this pic. I thought I'd died and went to heaven. My first question is always the same. "Have you ever been photographed in this before?" That's kind of a pet peeve of mine in case you didn't know. She said "no. It has been sitting in my closet collecting dust for nearly two years. I just didn't know how to use it or what to use it for. I knew I should have shown it to you before but I kept forgetting it was there. Do you want it?" Is she serious I thought? As if my slack jaw didn't give it away she waited with a sneaky smile for a reply. I think I died and went to heaven again. That's twice in the span of two minutes I think. She was saying all the right things as usual of her.

It was perfect. One of the first things a fashion photographer learns to do is envision how something will look on a particular frame of model. How it fits, how it will hang and hug all flashed through my head within a millisecond. That will dictate the angles and the light setup for maximum effect. I knew Kim would be the one to wear this glorious thing for me. It was just too perfect for her body and if pushed just hard enough, Kim can be immensely expressive and emotive which is what this situation called for.

While she will not likely be my final model for this series, she kicked it off nicely. Her successor has some work to do to follow her. That's for sure. Maybe a dozen or so pics later we're jumping up and down hugging as to how epic it looks. She was happy she got to use the garment and I'm just happy that she's happy. I finally kicked off this series the right way with the right model. 

It ended up being just a test shoot for this a larger idea and it was wildly successful. I've named the series and planned it out but now comes the even harder part. Who will be her successor? I'm starting the hunt right now. 

Why Have a Model of the Year?

It is for exceptionally talented individuals that demonstrate excellence, poise, professionalism and a drive to succeed. It is not handed out to those that feel entitled or that reek of privilege and expectation but solely for those individuals that show inexhaustible diligence and unrelenting positivity. They create, they inspire and they always attribute to others in a way that makes them want to be better people, better friends, better neighbors and better artists.

While it is something that we do not necessarily have to do, we felt an obligation to recognize how absolutely rare and wonderful such people are. They make us better. They inspire thru action and encourage others thru sheer perseverance, optimism, talent and warm personality. 

The Model of the Year DOES NOT give up. They DO NOT retire. They DO NOT dwell on regret. They DO NOT hold grudges. They are NOT content with sameness and mediocrity. They are ALWAYS looking forward to the next challenge with a magnetic sense of character and steadfast dedication to everything they do. One past Model of the Year says, "I will not stop until I achieve my goal and when it is won I will set another. There was a time when there were things I would never consider trying. Soon I realized I can't grow as a person that way. I can't experience life or develop as a model that way. I have to keep trying new things." To paraphrase another Model of the Year, "I will travel as far as I need to, move to wherever I have to, go anywhere if it will help me improve upon what I already have. I also thank everyone that has helped me get this far and coaching me along the way and I am eagerly anticipating meeting even more people and overcoming even greater challenges." Even another says, "I will never retire. Quitting isn't in my personality makeup. Whenever I accomplish one thing I'll simply bore and shrivel if I don't try another. It is how I thrive and mature as an artist and as a person." 

They don't just say these things. They live these personal philosophies all year and all the time we have known them. The "Model of the Year" title is just a title. Yet, it represents something for greater than words or trophies can show. It represents the exceptional, the unique, the bold, the fierce, the driven and the true. 

When we discover such people; people that make us want to rise and not give up - we want to recognize how special they are and let other people know it. After so many years amid a sea of seemingly endless talent, there is always a single wave that towers above all others. The Model of the Year out-crests them all. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why Photographer Takes Stellar Photos But Not Of Me?

Just last night a prospective collab asked why it is that some of even the best photographers seem to be able to take better images of some models than they do others. I had a few theories as to why and she certainly didn't like either of them. 

She cited a personal example of having carefully and thoroughly vetted a photographer. She looked through his port and all throughout his social media sites and saw nothing but extraordinary premium quality images. The photographer had been published multiple times in various magazines and had even been interviewed a few times by others as well as being a part time instructor. In other words the guy knew his stuff. But when this particular model worked with him, her pictures were amateurish at best. To be frank with her, I had to admit they were bad; very very bad. They appeared to not even have been done by the same guy. Had I not seen this sort of thing before I would not have believed her. What gives?

Well it could be several things that could have attributed to the problem. Some of them having very little to do with the photographer. Hold on now. I'm not suggesting he didn't screw up royally. He most certainly did fail miserably. After all the final call is often his as to what is and what is not an acceptable image. 

As a photographer I can tell you that we are very finicky about our reputation. It was a simple exercise to figure out what happened in this case. I just applied a bit of deductive reasoning to her case. All things being equal, if every image of other people by him is stellar and hers is not then you can narrow down the problem by eliminating the uncommon potentials. Whatever remains is your culprit. In this instance we have the same photographer, with the same gear in the same location. What is different? The model is the only difference. Even that is to say that it may or may not have been her fault either. Maybe he was having an off day and just didn't care or couldn't focus. Maybe she was not quite herself that day either. But what happens when this happens over and over again with the same model? I'd say they're just not vibing. It happens to even the best people. There is simply no creative chemistry there. I see it happen most often when the photographer is accustomed to having most of the creative control or he or she has a stylist on their other shoots but instead on this shoot the photographer allowed the subject to dictate the creative and style direction of the shoot. 

After talking more to the model I learned that there was very little communication or preparation prior. After almost bullying him to do a rare free shoot through dogged persistence, he gave in. I just don't think he was as committed to it and decided to forego his usual vetting and styling process to save time and effort. It would seem he normally shoots with models of a very certain type; young, signed, very experienced, tall and lean. She met part of that list but not all. That part is his fault. If you don't want it and you can't or won't do it well then don't do it. How did I know it wasn't styled or planned? She said as much and I'd seen her wear that same exact clothing with multiple photographers far and wide. It was just a tired and played out look with garments that quite frankly had no business on a photo shoot. She just doesn't know she's not a good enough stylist for this and he didn't tell her otherwise. Again. His fault. 

After more questioning I leaned that they really hadn't planned on anything in particular to shoot. She didn't volunteer what she was bringing and he didn't ask. Even I don't meticulously plan out every single detail all the time but I do like to have a rough idea of what we want to accomplish if nothing else. If it's someone I know very well photographically then I will forego most if not all of that due to our familiarity but never on an unknown. But given this photographer's port I can't imagine he just wings everything given the detail and grandeur of every look from different models. 

So whatever have here are several things causing her problem and less than stellar results from what is otherwise an extraordinary artist. 

1. A lack of Trust - never worked with her before and didn't work to build any kind of camaraderie or familiarization with each other's style or experience. They were unevenly matched. If you have trouble completely relinquishing visual and creative control to another person then modeling may not be for you. Sure you can choose who and who not to work with. Once the commitment has been joined then you as a model have agreed to be shaped, molded and finessed often to someone else's eye depending on the project. The photographer as to give in to another's will often times when a creative director is present or if the model and the photographer have both conceived an idea to work together on. But when the time comes full and total trust that he knows what he's doing and she knows what she is doing is paramount. In short, you've established an understanding for the entire project. 

2. Poor communication - setting expectations is a key component of every project. What are you trying to achieve? What would you like to get out of this? Where will these images be used? How much time are we shooting for? How soon can you arrive? Can you provide an example of your idea or describe it? What genre? Or are we just having fun and seeing what happens? Who will be doing the editing? Sharing ideas or asking for direction. Gauging the other's primary creative interests. 

3. Resource management - what do we need to accomplish our goals? What are you bringing? Who will be responsible for what? Makeup, clothing, hair, accessories, assistants, props? What are we shooting? 

4. Over your head - don't pretended to know when you don't know. Just because you think your clothing is bomb doesn't mean that it is. Ask the person who knows. If you're really going hard after a person whether or not you're the photographer or the model, it's important to know when you're outclassed and you may want to seek the other's advice on things like styling, posing or even lighting. But never invite yourself unless your opinion is welcomed. 

5. Know your role - let people do their jobs. If you're gonna model then be a model. Don't start dictating to the photographer your best angle or how to place the lights. That's the photographer's expertise. That's why you're here remember? It's because they're the best and you want to work with them. If you want to be a photographer then be one but don't try to be both and frustrate the photographer by telling him or her what light works best on you or how to edit your pictures. Trust me, they don't want your opinion unless they ask for it.

6. You're not ready - sometimes you're just outclassed and not ready. Don't beat yourself up. There is a reason his pics are incredible or her port is amazing. Some people don't match or don't match right now. You may need more experience or better styling before you step up or accept a project. You should always strive to work with people that are perceivably better than your are. That's how we improve. We learn from others and apply those good attributes to our own process and style. Yet, sometimes it's best to just back off for a bit and get yourself primed before stepping into something or someone currently beyond your skillet.  

7. You're not her - you've seen the ports and you have to understand that everyone is different. Everyone is unique. You're not gonna ever look like the girl in the picture because that's not you. You have a different bone structure, different hair, you're taller or shorter. You may be wider or thinner or even heavier. Be honest with yourself first. Set reasonable goals. She's 100 pounds and you're 150 or vice versa. Unless you're edited beyond recognition it's not happening. It's okay to use an idea but make it yours and put your own signature touch on it. Embrace your uniqueness and most often your results will exceed your original idea. 

8. Trying to please - in a side example of what not to do I asked another model why she put an obviously less than stellar pics on her social media Pages. She admitted they were bad but didn't went to offend the designers or the photographers that produced them. Well that's on you in thought. It's your brand and your reputation. I quietly but vehemently disagreed. This is a business and if you're a model or a photographer it should be your goal to your brand identity with unrelenting diligence. I'd equate what she did on her Page to a restaurant serving contaminated food knowing it was bad but served it anyway because they didn't want to anger or disappoint their suppliers. That makes absolutely no sense to me but I let it pass because from that point onward I questioned myself on whether or not I ever wanted to work with someone who would allow such images right alongside my own. Does that not call into question her decision making and style acuity? Yes it does. It also undermines the very reason people come to me in the first place. We don't collaborate with just anyone and just because you're nice or sweet isn't reason enough to ruin my business or my rep. All it takes is one bad photo for people to say what was he thinking. I try to minimize those instances. 

All of these issues that I discovered with her and many like her attributed to her problems. Even after all of that is addressed and considered some instances just don't work out. Despite how much I can like a person's style, how they look or even their current work, sometimes people just can't quite sync on a creative level. It's best to just let it go because every single bad picture you take is ruining your visual brand whether or not you're the photographer or the model. Digitally it will lasts forever and you don't want that blemish on your rep. Always choose quality over quantity. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Married to a Model

It's tough being married to a model. They're always traveling. Your model/spouse always has dozens of people swarming all over them, inviting them to parties, shows, events and so on. They're seen changing in front of strangers, people they barely know - people adjusting and repairing wardrobe malfunctions. It's also not great having the feeling that some stranger on the other side of the city or the world knows what colors are best on her than you do. It takes a very secure person to be married to a model. Yet, the way to survive it is easier than you know. 

Despite often wondering when your super in-demand model/spouse is gonna give it up, you (the lonely at-home one) soon realizes how much your model/spouse loves it. You know that if you ask her to give it up and stay home, she'll likely hate you for it later; not now and maybe not next year but at some point it's likely gonna be some friction about it. You know it's best to let her come round on her on without any pressure from you. You may haven't realized it yet but modeling for her is in her blood. It's not a fanciful pastime. It's a passion. Once a model. Always a model. It's not switch that can be turned off which is why it's so difficult for her to stop. Despite her doing so for years, if she's honest with you and herself she doesn't want to stop; not ever. 

It's not her fault. She's good at it and she loves it. Don't feel bad. You're paranoid about her being alone or finding that her glamorous life will soon find you boring her to death when she finally makes it home for a minute. 

It's okay to feel a little threatened. She's around other beautiful people male and female everyday all day; people telling her night and day how perfect she is, people giving her gifts and exotic trips and spoiling her with affection in fancy bars, clubs, villas and cafes the world over. You're at home likely changing a pamper wondering who might be pawing on her next, or you're at a soccer game cheering your pre-teen on in a sole voice of familial support.

Do you know where she is? Well after all the dancing, seasoning engagements, video recordings and posing is over and the lights are out and there are no more catwalks to be walked today, she's in some quiet hotel room thinking about you and how she can't wait to get back home. You're her rock. You're her support. You're a steadfast pillar to lean on and that consistent strength that allows her to do what she loves with vigor. That's why she's so good. That's why designers, stylists and photographers want her so. Your support gives her even more zeal to excel. The strangers don't know where her aura, confidence, talent and strength comes from. It comes from you - her foundation and the one she will always come home to. The one she loves and gives her unswerving loyalty. 

So the next gig that comes along don't scowl, don't fret or whimper. If she wants to pass on it let her make her own decisions. Instead offer her your support. Help her book the fare. Help her choose a bag for her pumps despite your color blindness and lack of fashion sense because when she's half a world away in a dressing room she'll be thinking about how bad you are with colors and laugh at your sad sense of style. She'll giggle about your thinking that gray is good with everything. She's thinking about how much you support her and then she'll get on her next catwalk or photo shoot and kill it. 

If you're truly supportive you'll see it in her face when she meets you at the terminal gates. You'll see how grateful she is that you're there smiling again with your pre-teen future soccer star; exactly where she thought you two would be. She'll be happy that life is truly beautiful because she loves what she does but she loves that you love her enough to let her.