Creating Images (create an image and slaying the naysayers along the way).

Melina Martin at Eastern States Penitentiary greenhouse.

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 50 130mm

One of the biggest problems any photographer will run into when trying to create an image is that “you and only you” know what you want  to create and you cannot let anyone stand in your way or your destined to fail at creating what you want.

So let me take a few steps back and explain my opening statement. First let me say I am talking about creating an image and not just taking a photo, although the two topics sometimes are the same. Secondly if you are creating anything you are an artist of some sorts on some level, so… if you are the artist how does anyone else see your vision? They don’t, they can’t, they won’t or maybe the answer is all of the above. Get over it, don’t fight it, don’t dwell on it, just embrace it as if it were a mountain and find the road around it or the path straight up and over it. There has never been a mountain that could not be climbed.

Now let’s get back to our DSLR in hand and work our way through the murky waters of trying to create an image and slaying the naysayers along the way (say that three times real fast lol).

I have been sidetracked so many times when trying to create an image and today I’ll focus more on a model shoot then say an outdoor long exposure image. I talk about working with a model because this is the one topic I think a lot of new photographers need to think about and digest.

So at some point you start to get visions of what you want to create, you can see the colors, the particular model you want to use, the pose/s and of course the location, wardrobe and so on. Depending on the depth of your vision you may see everything down to the smallest detail. However… is life going to play along with your finely tuned game? Well most likely not. But this is where you need to muscle up and start smacking heads… well not quite, but seriously that is just how frustrating it can be and you as a person need to understand that nobody can see what you see and most times they don’t even care. Even paid models, hair stylist and makeup artists can be less than caring as to what you’re trying to do. And that’s people that you may be paying, but if you’re a new photographer starting out working with models and you want good images, you need to go to the next level and start designing what you want. Essentially you are just making a plan (you should be writing it down) to get to an end result. But working on a limited budget you will most likely be finding a TFP (time for print/photos) model and this is the first quagmire you’ll be stuck in. Just finding a model let alone one that is coherent and will actually show up and can at least follow your direction. Now please know I have worked with a lot of downright wonderful models who were also wonderful people. But you & I both know that not every single model out there is… shall we say “well grounded.” Did he/she get enough sleep? Is he/she high or drunk? Is he/she even connected to this universe? Again I am not trying to demean anybody, but fact is fact. So how do you get around this problem? “Test Shoot” you need to qualify the model with a test shoot and see what kind of person they are. I do this with paid models if I’m paying the bill. If a client pays and they trust the agency or the source where they found the model then that is on them. So do a test shoot and see how you relate with this person. And really all the above goes for makeup artists and hairstylist too, even assistants or lighting help.

There can be many other road blocks and I could do a single post on all of these but let’s just gloss over them here.

Location; did you scout out the location recently? Are you sure there is not going to be anything happening there the day of the shoot. Do you have permission to be there? Do you need a permit? Sometimes permits are not that expensive at all… I say sometimes, but it’s worth looking into.

Wardrobe; who’s is providing it and where is it. Do you have possession of it 24 hours before the shoot? Have you inspected it? Is it clean, no wrinkles, dust, and lint and so on? Does it fit the model?

Time; Have you checked that everybody is available for the amount of time that you will need? Is the shoot going to take more than one hour, if so you might want to have some sort of refreshments on hand like bottled water and other soft drinks? Sport drinks if it is a hot day and light snacks. Keep in mind if you provide this for everybody it keeps them from saying “I need to run out and get something.” When people leave the shoot it distracts and kills time. Sure this is going to cost you something, but if you’re smart it can be done good for very little amount of money. Always check with all people who will be on the shoot for food allergies and maybe their favorite brand of drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Evian ect…)

When I contact models, makeup artists and stylists I give them my phone number and tell them “texts are ok”, I also give them my email address, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (business page) and my website address. I encourage them to follow me and I do the same back. I want them to see what I do and I want to see what they do. If they have no interest to follow me it throws up a red flag and I’ll really think hard about shooting with them.

“Stop texting me and pick up the phone.” Yes I am old enough to have grown up before mobile phones, the internet and DSLR cameras. Most of the models I have photographed have never even had the photo taken with a film camera; they have no idea about film at all lol. But so many people today both young and old love their texting and I do too, but at some point there has to be person to person conversation if you’re serious about working with me. And this can be another red flag as to really how much a person pays attention or really cares about what I (you) are trying to do. Remember this is not all about me; the final images are going to be used for the benefit of all parties involved.

Don’t think for a minute that a good or “great” image is going to happen for free. You will be hard pressed to find a model who shows up with hair, makeup and wardrobe worthy of creating great images. I will admit it has happened on occasion and when it did I was shocked… and of course I still shoot with those models again and again, why not. But don’t expect it to happen all that often. Remember you’re a photographer and your world is f/ stops and ISO, focal lengths and lighting. Nobody else lives in your world except other photographers. Models, makeup artists and stylists have no idea what your vision is, you have to be patient with people, embrace their short comings and most of all love people. Be kind, gentle and think of their needs, treat everyone with respect. I’m a lot older than most people I shoot with, sure “older is wiser” but that wiser can sometimes make younger people feel inferior or less confident. Famed fashion photographer Lindsay Adler once said (paraphrasing) she listens to people’s comments and ideas and then moves on. Sometimes using their advice and most times not, but she always listens. I too found Lindsay’s advice to be very useful. Listen to what people are saying, really genuinely listen maybe they have a great idea (for free no less) but then move on. Most times when people offer advice or ideas they are genuinely trying to help you, although they may not have a clue as to what you are doing and how you are doing it. Quick example would be something that happens to me all the time with portrait shoots; client wants photo is a special park or outdoor area. It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a bright sunny day and they think the perfect location is right out in the bright sunlight because… well its bright sunlight. I simply explain I need even light and we move to a proper area.

I could go on and on but this is a blog post and not a book… speaking of books there are some really great books on the topic of model shoots Frank Doorhof has a great book “Mastering the Model Shoot”. Lindsay Adler also covers shooting models in her “Designing an Image” tutorials. Both are great sources of knowledge on the topic.


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