November 6, 2015

Things I've Learned Working on Both Sides of the Camera

Advice for models and photographers.


Models and photographers have a very special working relationship. The way they interact and understand the requirements of their job ultimately effect the quality of what they produce, and whether or not they may work together again in the future. Although much is required of this relationship the specifics of this interaction can vary a great deal from shoot to shoot, as many creatives have their own particular practices in the ways in which they work.

Having been a model for over a decade, and now working on the other side of the camera as well, gives me a bit of an insiders perspective on some things. There are some aspects of modeling that really didn't hit home until I got behind the camera and had to run a photography business. And vice versa. There are some things within my photography work that I am intensely grateful for understanding due to my years as a model.

Here are some insights I believe are worthy of sharing…

1. It's ok to take a month to edit photos. It's not ok to take three.

Editing photos is a lot of work. That's understandable. It takes time and being in a certain mindset to sit down and do a lot of editing. Models, please don't ask the photographer for photos right after shooting. It is extremely unthoughtful of you, and that lack of empathy really does make the photographer less excited to do the work. Give the photographer a little space after the shoot.

On the flip side, there are some exceptions to that rule! Just imagine you're a model with a so-so portfolio. You just did a photoshoot with an amazing photographer and you know the images are going to take your book to the next level. Then, low and behold, you score a meeting with a huge agency or client. By all means very politely (and with much flattery and appreciation) share this information with the photographer, and see if a rush on edits is possible. Having the best book possible makes a huge difference at a meeting. It also means the photographer's work could be seen by that agent/client as well. The photographer may not be able to get the photos done in time, and that's ok, but at least you tried. If it's not possible be humble and say thank you anyways.

Last but not least, photographers - it is never ok to take longer than three months to edit photos. If you are working so much you can't get to them then you can hire a retoucher. If you are just playing around at too many test shoots and can't get pictures to your models then you are being rude and unprofessional. There is nothing worse as a model than getting pictures from six months ago and looking different than the images and not being able to use them. So get it done.

2. At a photoshoot energy is everything… from the photographer too!

I can't tell you how many times as a model I've had to suffer through a long day of shooting, trying to keep my energy up and fresh, while the photographer just mopes around like a bump on a log. It is the worst! While communicating well with your model is key to getting a great shot I will argue that creating the energy of the shoot is even more important. Think of yourself as a DJ, the whole party is looking to you to set the mood. If you want your model to smile then BY GOD SMILE AT THE MODEL. Your energy speaks louder than words, trust me. I have worked with some photographer's who weren't very good at communicating directions but were great at setting the mood and letting me do what I do, and we've gotten amazing results.

3. Models are going to ask for free test shoots, get over it. Also, if you get a free test shoot spoil the damn photographer.

As a model I always get sick of hearing photographers rant about being asked for free test shoots. I mean, many of you are clearly doing SOME shoots for free (yes it's obvious), also you say nothing about rates on your website (bad marketing). So of course models are going to try to shoot with you for free. If you don't ask you can't receive. And news flash - we are just as broke as you are. So please just be flattered if a model nicely asks for a shoot, and feel free to say no or quote your rates. End of story.

BUT… models keep in mind that doing a free test shoot is a lot of work for a photographer. They prep their equipment, scout the location, make sure wardrobe/hair/makeup are good, shoot all day, unload the equipment, download photos, edit edit edit, then upload photos and get them to you. The scope of a photographer's work, I'm sorry to say, never really fully sank in for me until I was doing it myself. It is A LOT OF TIME CONSUMING WORK. So models, if you happen to luck out and get a free shoot, any little way you can show your appreciation for all that effort is EXTREMELY appreciated by the photographer. I once had  a model bring me a Kombucha and macaroons on shoot day, and I swear it made me feel so damn appreciated. To this day I will shoot that model any time she needs photos. Surprisingly that kind of thoughtfulness is rare, and it has set her apart from the rest in my mind. Knowing a model understands and appreciates the work I do really makes all the difference as a photographer. Small gestures are big.

4. Sexy doesn't try to be sexy, it is sexy.

The best note I ever got from a photographer was this: "Don't try to be sexy. You are sexy." That simple switch in mindset changes everything. It means you are more relaxed, confident, and YOURSELF. You can't be sexy when you're trying to be something other than yourself. It just doesn't work.

That same note works for photographers as well. Trying to get a model to stick her ass in the air is not sexy art. Having a model who gets caught in a moment and arches her back a bit - THAT is sexy. Make the model comfortable and feel beautiful and she will take care of the rest. Don't try to force sexiness. Let it happen. The pictures will turn out so much better.


Gypsy Revival Photography
Typical me: giddy smile doing a lifestyle shoot with a model in Joshua Tree.

Model Ellen Hancock photographed by Paige Craig
Model Ellen Hancock photographed by Paige Craig
From one of my first shoots as a model with photographer Paige Craig - who is to this day one of my favorite people to work with.

3 comments :

  1. I saw this on 500px and wanted to comment. All great advice, but the one that hit home for me and that I will be using is to tell the models "Don't try to be sexy, you are sexy"

    Another thing I've learned, but you touched on it in a different way - is to make the connection with the model first, then figure out all of your equipment/lighting afterwards. I sometimes see photographers that focus a lot of energy on the technicals and behind the camera, that they forget that there's another person there who's essentially the other half of the team.

    Thank you so much!

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  2. I like this look. It is really nice. I hope that you'll share more ideas here. I'll wait for them, in any case.

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  3. This look is really great. You know, it seems to me that this place looks quite in another way in an old style.

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