Finding Common Ground (And “no” I never raced a bobsled, so it should be interesting to see how I approach this situation.)

Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

Motocross Racer Greg Sampson

While I love shooting a fashion/beauty look any day, I really have thrown my heart & soul into shooting a more edgy style lately. I will admit to influences from famed photographer Joel Grimes, but at the same time I give a big hand out to Woody Walters for his extreme talent that he shares with the world. Aside from creating interesting images I get to work with really interesting models. And sometimes the models are not really working models in the sense that it could very well be their first time doing a full blown photo shoot. It is a little weird if you have never done a professional shoot before. I think just about everybody has been in the situation of getting a school photo taken or may have had to get a headshot for a passport and then there are many who have been in a studio for family portraits. However the average person doesn’t know what a softbox is or what a “T” mark is for. Then add in creative lighting and posing and for somebody who has never done it… well they could be overwhelmed to say the least.

So this is where “people skills” (as I like to call it) come into play. Nothing to do at all about camera setting here, it is all about interacting.

I’ll run you through my last personal photography project with a motocross racer whom had never done a photo shoot before.

I had briefly met this young man two years earlier at a motocross track while shooting day long coverage. When I say “briefly” I mean as in just maybe two minutes at the very most. But I did start to follow him on social media (Instagram) because he was local to my state of New Jersey. So when I knew I needed a motocross racer he (Greg) was my “go to” man. I contacted him in a private message and clearly stated who I was and what I would like to do. And he gladly accepted the offer and thought it would be a lot of fun. I will tell you that the answer “yes” can be hard to come by sometimes. After all I could be some creep, but that is where I rely on my body of work (portfolio, website, social media) to back up who I am and what I do and the quality of what I do. Most of all I need to build some kind of relationship with this guy and this can be the hard part. This really is the key to a smooth photo shoot, to have something in common, something that you can talk about in a genuine way, some sort of common ground. This common ground will bring comfort and a little relaxation to the overall feel the model is going to have towards me. Lucky for me I had done a lot of dirt bike riding back in the day and had even ran a few motocross races myself at one time. So in planning out this project we were almost a month away from the shooting date and I spent about an hour talking on the phone one evening. During this conversation we both got to know each other a little better and in concluding that conversation I felt very confident that Greg & I were going to have a great time together. So because I was somewhat familiar with motocross I think made a huge difference in the success of the photoshoot. But it is not always that easy. I have a two part shoot in the coming weeks with a bobsled racer. We are going to do a fashion/beauty look and then change up to a hard edge sports warrior look. And “no” I never raced a bobsled, so it should be interesting to see how I approach this situation. One thing I know for sure is that I will find a common ground.

So while shooting Greg the motocross racer, I can tell you we had a great time and fun was plenty. I had the benefit of shooting Greg at his home, meeting his family and seeing their workshop and all the motocross machines. So upon arrival I did not rush things. I arrived on time, but then I just hung out and talked for a few minutes. We talked about his bikes and then I said “give me a half hour to set up and you go get changed.” Certainly easier than doing a fashion shoot, but nonetheless I have to keep the model at ease and the best way is to show your confidence in the fact you know what you’re doing. I finished my set up and Greg was dressed in race gear and we were ready to shoot. We do some test shots and then move to headshots. I like to do some headshots first because basic headshots are easy, I get the bugs worked out of my lighting, it breaks the ice with the model and everybody can use a fresh headshot. Then I give the model my tablet and let them review the shots. I shoot enough headshots that it will keep them busy reviewing just long enough for me to reposition my lights for the creative lighting and then we move into that part of the shoot. I like to shoot a few shots and review, I keep doing this and then I’ll stop and let the model review. I just like to show them how they are doing and if there is a pose or something they don’t understand I can point it out during this time. All the while we are shooting we are having fun, the mood is happy and flowing. If at any time I have a gear problem that is when I start talking about something that would interest them, all the while I’m working out my technical difficulty, whatever it may be. I find that talking or getting the model to talk keeps the “air” alive and there is no dreaded “dead silence.”

So in conclusion the shoot went fine and the edits are coming, I like to take my time with the edits because just as the lighting is creative so are the editing processes. This project went very well and really the “common ground” was rather easy… this time. Now to find common ground with a female bobsled racer might not be so easy. However I know I will do it.

Thanks everybody for reading and have a great day.


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