I am in the process of booking a lovely September wedding that will be partially outdoors….the formal portraits will be in a lakeside meadow, which is awesome! I always look forward to interesting location weddings with people as nice as they are. I asked them if they had a backup plan in event of bad weather, which they have thought of in passing, but did not have a plan B location…..but are currently working on it. Of course we hope we don’t have to use it, but as sure as you don’t plan for it, it can happen. Outdoor weddings are great, but there is always a possibility of being at the mercy of the weather…..so, now I’m waiting for someone to say “Thanks Captain Obvious” but with so many details to plan for a wedding, even this could be easy to overlook
When doing a photoshoot for any client, it’s about doing it the way they need it done, and getting paid for it of course. Doing only that, ever, could easily turn one complacent with their work and creativity, if they don’t do a fun creative shoot sometimes. As time allows I do these, to keep my vision fresh, the model and I discuss the concept of the shoot, and agree on it. (Though the muses I use are not always actual models, per say)Here is what I look for in a muse…..we appreciate each others’ work and respect each others’ boundaries and time, they don’t bring anyone to our shoot unless directly involved, they have the look I need for this specific project, and are ok with getting the best of the shoot as compensation. It’s a sacred bond, that if broken, may not be able to be pieced back together. Doing this occasionally helps us both be at the top of our game when shooting for clients. It should be fun, creative, and drama free! Raises mug to the good muses I have had, and will have for future projects!
By popular demand I am touching on this topic. If you are agency represented, the agency of course negotiates terms of the photoshoot and is familiar with the photographer and company who is using their models. Models show up alone, on time, ready to work…..and any needed team members such as stylists and art directors are there, no extras. But for freelance modeling gigs, it takes due diligence to be prepared for a photoshoot, and have favorable outcome. Like anything, it requires common sense, and not paranoia. Whether a freelance commercial photoshoot you are being hired for, or a test shoot with an individual photographer, it is up to you to do your homework. Like any field, there are those that are highly professional, and those who aren’t. How to tell the difference comes naturally with some life and industry experience.
Looking at the work of the photographer, asking models who have worked with them about their experience, and getting a basic feel of their personality when talking or emaling, will give you what you need most of the time. If the compensation, style of shoot, or the look of the photographer’s book isn’t beneficial to trade with, it’s ok to say no. It’s a gross misconception of the public that models are in danger on photoshoots if they research who they are working with. People watch too much tv and don’t research things themselves. It’s the sign of a newbie to insist on bringing their boyfriends, or friend to a shoot. If they are doing it because they don’t feel safe otherwise, they shouldn’t be there in the first place and they should not be modeling. All that does is endanger another person, if that photographer really is ill intended (makes horror film noises lol). I for one, don’t test with nervous Nelly’s, the photos show it and they are generally uncooperative. Not only that, but young guys especially try to act tough and white knight-like, and we have no way of checking references on the model’s escort, the way they can a photographer. Here are reasons why escorts have no purpose. Jealousy issues, distractions, and the model worrying about entertaining her companion during my time, risk of getting my gear stolen when I cannot watch them or verify their reputation, insurance liability of the extra person (who is not part of the shoot), also if that person’s schedule changes, that doubles the chances of me getting a cancellation. And no, I wouldn’t let them be my assistant. Insurance reasons as well as valuing my equipment. I’d hire an assistant if needed, who knows photoshoot protocol.
Your safety should definitely be a priority, and so should the diligence process. Being too lazy to do it, and relying on someone else to play bodyguard for damsel in distress, will get you fewer, and generally lower quality photoshoots…..if you get a bad vibe, or something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Good luck, and be safe, and sensible. Discussion welcome!
The night after going to the resort to shoot, Greg treated the class to a great French restaurant in Santa Fe, and we just bought our own wine, that was quite an experience! I feel sorry for other restaurant patrons, there was so much buzz over what we covered that week….so that night we all got together and worked with our images from that day, ready for the final day of critique time and final day of class. That day turned out to be an open Q & A with Greg, which was the choice of the entire group, as opposed to shooting, as he had to fly out early the next morning and wouldn’t be with us. We then had a dinner at a hotel in downtown Santa Fe with a presentation, of the best of the images we submitted. The same was done for attendees of other classes going on there that week and those instructors, so it was a cool night!
That Saturday morning, I was prepared to make my way back to Albuquerque to fly back home….it was late March and we woke up to about 6 inches of snow, and it hadn’t even been very cold so no one expected it! A small group of us went to the Photo Eye bookstore in Sante Fe which is very well known….and walked around to see some of the many independent art galleries…..and ran into the California Sunbounce guys one more time at a coffee shop before they left town. Lunch was at Maria’s, some of the best tasting Southwest / Mexican food I have tasted….I knew I would miss Santa Fe but would return one day for another course…..it just might be years before being able to afford another one LOL!!! But the investment was well worth every penny! No way can 10 of the average workshop compare to ONE in Santa Fe. The personal interaction, critique time, open Q & A, and the whole experience made it an awesome experience! There was a lot to cram in, it was very busy but I somehow returned home feeling relaxed.
Day 2, we took a field trip to Lake Abiquiu, in Northern New Mexico, maybe an hour North of Santa Fe, for some outdoor shooting by the lake, and later, in the desert. It was very windy that day, we had people there from California Sunbounce, and we had use of scrims and reflectors to reflect / cancel out harsh sun on our subjects, but they blew around like sails that day LOL! The California Sunbounce people were awesome, we got to be in on some research and development that was taking place……in fact Greg was helping them develop a portable cage, to shoot in, in studio or on location, quite brilliant! Their website is www.californiasunbounce.com . One thing that was interesting was we ran across a guy from Oklahoma that some of us photographed, who was riding the Santa Fe trail on horseback….more power to him, I’ll stick to my car LOL!
Day 3 was my favorite, we got to go to the old Santa Fe prison to shoot…..that place was shooting mecca! It has not been used for a prison since the 1980 Santa Fe Massacre where a bunch of inmates seized control of the prison, it got ugly, there were fires etc. so the building was no longer fit for living…..but to this day is used for national guard training with paint guns. The next day was also awesome, we went to a resort in Galisteo I think, about a half hour outside Santa Fe, and worked with male and female nude models, in indoor and outdoor settings. Of course each morning was image critique from the previous day…..and the cool thing is Greg saw progress in us, from our first day to the images we were showing him in presentations (maybe by then his critiques were getting a little more predictable?) Maybe a tad, LOL! I guess that means we all learned from it and knew what to avoid by then! One more post about the trip coming soon…..
Breakfast was served in the dining hall, surprisingly good food! The school provides breakfast and lunch in the meal plans….but we are on our own for dinner, which turned out cool because you could go with most people in the group, or a few different groups of people break off into smaller numbers and go somewhere different, so it’s a cool opportunity to get to know people in the course better.
Each of us provided 10 of what we felt were our strongest images, prior to attending of course. Greg Gorman spent the morning presenting on slideshow each person’s images after that photographer shared their background and what type of photography they do, etc. There were 12 photographers in our group BTW. It was neat to learn more about those people, and see their work, as well as hear what Greg had to say about each image, and the details he noticed! He is very detail oriented, as the slightest detail is a major factor in making a successful photo. THIS is the most valuable part of the workshop in my opinion, and your average workshop does not offer that….quickly I was seeing this was a very high quality group….. of course Greg Gorman is in a class by himself, and the school really has it together.
For shooting time, we split into 4 groups of 3. We helped each other with lighting and setup, and discussed what we would do different than usual after the first critique time we had. We spent a few hours in the afternoon shooting 2 of the school’s models, which were very good! Our job each evening, after going to dinner, was to select 10 of our best images from that day, do whatever retouching needed on our laptops, and present those images to Greg in the morning for critique time. A couple of the nights we had presentations to attend, of the teachers’ work / exhibits, and storytelling about their careers! It was a lot to cram into a day, but somehow none of us grew tired. It was also neat how most of us gathered in the main area of the housing area, to work on our images together. I was seeing all those things were part of the experience. This was Rick, one of the models from there….he was a good sport and nice to work with!
The plane landed in Albuquerque and I took a shuttle bus to get my rental car……I asked the driver anything interesting about the area. He said high elevation, you get drunk faster, you need to drink more water than usual, and NM has one of the highest DWI arrests in the nation…..oh and get chap stick, the air is dry! Ok, no problem then, LOL! Santa Fe does not have a commercial airport, so that’s why I flew into Albuquerque, it was about a one hour drive, very barren but different from what I was used to!
I get to the school in Santa Fe and get shown to my room…..I was expecting a crappy little dorm style room, but the campus really has some good character….rooms have textured walls, steam radiators, and view of the desert. The first day of class was to start the next day, but that night all enrolled in the class were to meet Greg Gorman, meet one another as well, and have a dinner together. We also got to meet the workshop staff and assistants. We used that time to get prepared for the week, like a course intro and listen to Greg speak, as well as view a slideshow presentation of the various instructors’ work, which was cool! Most people stayed on campus, it’s the most logical move for sure. There is a common area where people gather and work on their presentations and photo selecting / retouching, that night we just got to know one another a little bit and we could be ready for the big day the next day! Each of us chose 10 of what we felt were our best images for the morning presentation and image critique by Greg Gorman, which I was excited and slightly nervous about LOL! More to come….
I believe continued education in our craft is a great investment, it keeps our vision fresh and passion alive! I was researching top workshop schools to attend, I just wanted to get that extra edge, not only to improve my work, but also how to think about things, and running it as a business. After a lot of research, I chose Santa Fe Workshops, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their website is www.santafeworkshops.com . They have various instructors traveling from all over the world to teach a class there, for a week, all world renowned photographers! It was a tough choice, but I selected Greg Gorman’s class, titled “Capturing the soul of a portrait” I was in awe of his work, he builds such a strong connection with his subjects, from the time I signed up, I knew it was a world class establishment, and I couldn’t wait to attend! Just to think, spending a week with him, how much that would strengthen me as a photographer, and strengthen my business strategy!
When I contacted the school about this course, and enrollment, the dean of the school spoke with me, to qualify me for this course, and gave me guidance to make sure I chose the right course, which was nice! He asked what my business plan was and about what type of photography I do, looked at my work, and helped steer me in the right direction to make sure I would benefit most from the course I chose. I appreciated the attention to detail, rather than just being excited to take my money LOL!!! I opted to stay on campus and buy the meal plan, and he explained in detail what I would need to bring, and the schedule of the course’s events…..I could hardly wait to get there! To be continued.
I think for photographers, or other artists / models, it’s a bad idea and a distraction. Unless a musician’s or band’s website of course. Not all clients will share your tastes in music, for one. Also, think about a worker in an advertising agency, looking for a photographer to hire, or a bride checking your site out, from her workplace for a wedding photographer……and they don’t realize their speaker volume is up, and BOOM! Music. My guess is they won’t be amused. Sure, sometimes it can be a nice touch, but it can also be an annoyance and a deal breaker, especially if it catches people off guard. Not only that, you aren’t giving your viewers a chance to not hear music.
From what I have experienced, people want a simple, easy to navigate website, and be able to get their information quickly. Sometimes keeping it clean and simple is the best approach. I usually ask my own clients what drew them to my website if they found me that way, and get their feedback. Who better to ask? Those who x out generally don’t give feedback.
Back on the studio lighting topic once again…..if you read my earlier posts on lens or camera body selection, you can see I’m not a huge fan of kits, for the most part. Even with Alien Bees, the kits have things like light stand bags (really?) and modifiers you may not want or use. I think it makes a more disciplined shooter to start out simple. One strobe. Learn to use it, and control light with it. Select a modifier based on your needs, whether the spread of an umbrella, the nice soft but powerful punch of a beauty dish, directional light of a softbox, etc. I always recommend spot grids, they are cheap. Also reflectors to bounce light, and black foam core to cancel out light and create shadow play. Then once you get a feel for the style of shooting you do, you can gradually add strobe heads and / or modifiers. This way, you learn to use what you have and become resourceful, and not waste money on bad purchases. Gear is expensive enough as it is LOL.
Especially for making your initial purchase, there’s always the temptation to buy the cheapest strobe set you can find on ebay, or wherever. In the end it would probably mean more time lost, and aggravation than if you buy something good to start with. First you must decide if you want continuous light source, or strobes. Continuous are usually tungsten bulbs, some very high output and expensive, and generate a lot of heat. Plus more tiring on your subjects’ eyes, shining all the time. Strobes emit a flash, you adjust the power, and is fired off a transmitter or sync cord from the hot shoe of your camera. Before I was able to buy strobes, I used Home Depot construction lights set up on dimmer and made homemade diffusers. It looked really cute, promise. Cords everywhere, LOL! The aforementioned were complaints of the models I was working with…..I could only tell them soon, we can move on up like the Jeffersons
I don’t endorse, I only recommend companies that I have good experiences with, both product and customer service. Paul C. Buff company here in Nashville is certainly one of them! They manufacture Alien Bees and White Lightning strobes, modifiers, transmitter / receiver systems, grids, etc. And ship worldwide. I just happen to live here, lucky me! Alien Bees are their less expensive line, and overall are a low to mid priced unit in the market. I have used them since 2005, after upgrading from JTL. They are light and travel well, have been very durable, they recycle plenty fast for me, and have been powerful enough even to overpower outdoor sun with fill light. I have had zero problems with them. Sure, I’d love a set of Profotos, but my Bees are working just fine! You can also use a portable AC power unit for location use, they make called the Vagabond. That comes in really handy! One time they serviced my Vagabond unit, very fast turnaround, and covered it under warranty no questions asked.
I know what it is to be on a budget, but no one said this was a cheap business to run. Blowing fuses and flash tubes, slow recycle time, and ?where do you go if you need service after the sale? are reason enough for me to stick with what I know works and recommend them to others, and avoid no name brand strobes. These people have always been friendly and helpful. There will be a follow up post about this shortly….you can visit them on the web at www.paulcbuff.com
I just want to take a moment to recognize their great service, and way of doing business with me over the years. I always support local and small business anytime possible, and Dury’s is very easy to do business with, and has competitive prices! They have a knowledgeable staff, and very extensive inventory, anywhere from cameras and lenses, film, color management and software, filters, lab and scanner, framing, printers, paper, ink, studio lighting, etc.
I like Dury’s because they are good at what they do, they are big enough to have what I need, but small enough to treat me like family when I come in there. They also educate the community about photography, and sponsor classes for amateurs and pros, a valuable service for sure! The people there are honest and friendly, I recommend them for sure! I am lucky to have them close to where I live, and I encourage you to visit them at www.durys.com and stop by there to have a look.
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