Friday, December 10, 2010

Before a shoot even starts.

Recently I think I've been making some progress as a photographer, and hopefully, as an artist.  I can feel and see the difference in my approach to the work over the past six months or so, and I believe it's showing in the shots I've been posting.  Actually, as this blog is addressing, I'm not even keeping up with posting many of my shots.  It is no simple matter to sort through the shots after a shoot and then pick one or two to post as the best.

In any case, even with a small sampling of my recent stuff being publicly visible, it seems that more and more these days a model I contact will respond that "yes", she would like to work with me.  This in itself is a marked change since I first started photographing models (about a year ago).  It used to be that I'd write an email (through Model Mayhem) and never get a reply.  So I'd write more, and more, and on it would go until somebody would respond.  I completely understand that.  Who wants to work with a photographer who's just starting out, and hasn't demonstrated competence with the basics, let alone established their own unique style and approach?

Things are a little different now.  Being a single father (part time) I have somewhat limited time.  I have my twins on alternate weekends, for example, and weekends are the most likely times for planning a shoot.  But I'm acutely aware of the reality that the shoot is only a tiny part of the entire process of capturing and creating meaningful photographs.  As much as I like the act of clicking on the shutter button, I realize I have to discipline myself by not over-committing to schedule too many shoots.  There is a lot of time spent both before and after the shoot, and if I short-change any part of that, I won't reach the full potential from our time together.

For me, it starts with getting to know something about the model, and what we could create together.  If I don't know much about the model - her personality, her desires, her shyness or boldness level, even what she looks like prior to applying the wonders of post-processing - I am like a chef that doesn't know about his raw ingredients.  It might not be this way for every photographer, but for me it is.  I've found that if I know at little about the model before the shoot, I am more able to imagine a scenario where she's going to naturally come into her own.  This carries over into choice of location settings, how I might set up the studio, and wardrobe choices.  At this point, my work is on the less complicated side insofar as makeup is concerned, so I haven't found myself pondering hair styling and makeup choices.

During our first meeting, I like to get a feel for each others' personality, and just see how well we can communicate and how easily ideas flow between us.  Do we have a comfortable dialogue?  Why does this person like to model?  What are some things she's been wanting to shoot but hasn't had the opportunity?  Where is her comfort level in terms of different kinds of wardrobe (or even partial or full nudity)?  Does she prefer outside locations, or looking to do studio work?  What did she see in my profile or my approach that interests her in working with me?  Usually, I will have a dozen or so ideas I've jotted down even before our meeting, and I'll run over those to try to peg her interest against them.  More times than not, there will be some new ideas that come up in our discussion.  When this happens, I start to get a good feeling about the shoot.

At the conclusion of the initial meeting (hopefully we've had one), it's time to start narrowing down the setting and the wardrobe items.  By now I've got some ideas about wardrobe, and will have (or soon have) an idea of what she's able to supply.  If there's something I really want for the shoot that I don't have, I'm going to have to start shopping.  This can take awhile, as I'm always trying to keep my costs down and that means looking for a bargain somewhere.  Often times I'll simply end up adapting the idea we initially conceived of based on what I could find for a good price, or what I found that seems to just jump out to fit into a shoot idea or the model's personality.  For instance, recently I was planning to get an Asian fan (one of those paper or silk fold-open numbers) for a model to "hide" behind in an implied shot.  I couldn't find one that was attractive enough, but in the stores I was looking in I came across some really gorgeous silk umbrellas that were only about $4 each.  So I bought one, thinking maybe I would use it.  I did end up using it, and looking back, I would say that the shots we did with that umbrella were among the best shots we took in our entire session.

I'll talk more about various things I need to do before a shoot in my next post.

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