Monday, November 8, 2010

Less Is More- 5 Ways To Turn A Terrible Shoot Into a Hot Show

Did you ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong in the studio? I am sure you did. It happens to all of us. I should have known that this time would be a hard day the minute that model’s agent called me to say that the fashion stylist canceled. The other flag that should have gone up is when the make-up artist told me that she would be doing the make-up AND the hair as well. Then when I saw what clothes the model brought with her, I nearly fell over. She was a very ‘green’ fashion model; this could have been her 2nd or 3rd fashion photography shoot. I knew I was in for a hell of a day. To say the least, this threw my entire game off. I felt it into my bones – I should have just gone home and worked on getting new clients, but that is just not me. I am one determined SOB. I do enjoy the challenge of making a great image from nothing and fighting thru it, and this was shaping up to be a battle royal! I said to myself that if I could walk away with one or two images that I was happy with, then the day would be a success.

Number 1: The Clothes Make the Image (and Ruin It)

I’ll start with the clothes. Why do fashion models think that wrinkled shirts and jeans are going to look good in an image? I have no idea what this model was thinking when she opened her closet. There was nothing to work with and I, believe me, I tried. Also, I think she got all her moves from watching Fashion TV. The cheese that she brought was not the good stuff but the cheap ‘cheez wiz’. Sure she had a nice body but nothing in the eyes.

Number 2: What You DON’T See is Sexy

Her agent pulled me aside and said “David, you have to make her sexy –if that means shooting her in her underwear than that’s what needs to be done!” Hey I am no sleazeball, and really for me what you don’t see, now that is sexy. I knew I had to do something, so I started.

Number 3: Start Small, Lose the Bra

We lost the bra, which did not look good under her tight shirt. No bra, a little nipple, but really just a hint of nipple. I felt the tide turning. This only after about 2 -3 hours of shooting with tears in my eyes. She was wearing this horrible denim shorts, but I noticed she was wearing a sexy thong. I had her expose her thong just a little. At that point, something amazing happened, and the uptight, difficult model started loosening up. Slowly we removed another article of clothing, and another.As the clothes came off her body, she actually gained confidence! . Looking at me for reassurance, I showed her a few images to assure her that the images were in good taste and that really nothing was being captured that resembled a porn shoot.

Number 4: Keep an Idea Book Handy

I also keep an idea book with me. As I find inspiring fashion photography images I print them and paste them into this book. I showed her a few nude images and said, “If we can get something like this, than I will be very happy” It was funny, because as she was taking off her clothes she asked me to look away. Not sure why, because once I was behind the camera I saw everything. I guess not seeing my eyes made her more comfortable.

Number 5: Always, yes always, Show Your Wife Your Work

The day drew to a close and I knew I had my two images! I always show my wife my images, even the risqué ones, before anyone else. When I showed her the two that I liked she said “Oh that’s no so bad you don’t see anything.” The next thing she said was “David those are really sexy.” My wife is used to my work as a fashion photographer and being around half-naked models all day, but I really hardly ever shoot nudes, honest.

What a day, taking a green fashion model from plain ordinary to something sexy as hell.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you find that as the clothes come off the model becomes more confident?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

4 Essentials Qualities To Becoming a Successful Professional Fashion Photographer

Over my career as a professional fashion photographer I often stop and wonder to myself, how am I different? What qualities do I have that are conveyed through my images. Is just having a good eye enough? No! It’s more than that. Below I list, some of the main qualities that you bring to a shoot that will make you a real fashion photography success. .

1 Don’t Act Sleazy

When asking the average person on the street about being a professional fashion photographer, somehow one of the top reactions that comes up is ‘someone sleazy’ (maybe Terry Richardson has something to do with it). So it might sound obvious, but when it comes to working with models, you can’t be sleazy.

Once on a fashion shoot I knew the fashion model was a bit modest and did not want to show too much skin. There was one outfit that showed a bit of nipple and I knew it would bother the model. I could see all the guys around getting excited, and being, well, a bit sleazy. I told the model and I showed her one shot because I didn’t want her to see it later and get upset. She appreciated this and we dealt with the issue. We got a band-aid and covered her nipples. She was so thankful that the rest of the day we actually made jokes about her boob boo.

We are all in the studio for the same reason - to get the job done. Fashion models have their job to do and they deserve our respect. Maybe some models are less than modest but that does not mean you can be unprofessional.

2 Be A Good Listener

You want to get the most out of the model on a fashion shoot. So there needs to be a connection, something that me as the photographer can evoke from the model. So, I enjoy sharing a coffee at the start of the day with the model and talking with them as a person and not just treating them as an object or another prop. I always try to give the model a glimpse of who I am and in return (most of the time) they share back with me. This makes the day much more comfortable for both of us. It can be a fine line when being a bit personal with the model, but I have always achieved better results doing this. My clients can definitely see it in my images.

3 Have A Sense Of Humor

Making images is not only work but, as professional photographers, it also something that we love to do. Some days are harder than others but keeping a sense of humor can turn a bad day in the studio into something magical. I have seen this time and time again. As the fashion photographer, whether for editorial or advertising, it is my responsibility to set the mood. Why not laugh and smile all day, it’s better than being a tight ass. As a professional photographer, I am thrown into a new situation everyday, with a new cast of characters and nothing breaks the ice better than a good laugh or an endearing smile. I love working with people and the ability to make people comfortable with a laugh or a smile is just as important as the camera or other equipment that I choose.

4 Be Honest And Ethical

I cannot count how many times my honesty and strong sense of ethics has lead to a great portrait or outstanding image. If I think something is not right, it’s my responsibility to make it right. I have seen so many people be rude or disrespectful on a photo shoot and I just can’t ignore it.

A client once asked me if I could make the fan blow so the model’s skirt would go up just a bit more. I thought to myself ‘now why would he want that?’ and I quickly realized that the model was not wearing any underwear. I really felt bad for her because she had no idea what was going on. She was doing her job and was making sure that there were no panty lines. To say the least, the client was so far from being professional at that point that I stopped and walked over to the model, and asked her to put something on. Then spoke with the client and I told him that if he wanted a strip club I knew a great one that was just down the street and we could go after the shoot. Everyone was happy the model had panties and I paid for the beers.

It might seem hard to do, but trust me the final product, the image, will be so much stronger and so much more believable when your integrity is upheld and you focus on the image with a clear head.

Your Turn!

What qualities do you bring to the a fashion photography shoot and how have they made an impact on your shots?

Monday, October 25, 2010

4 Unforgettable Lessons Learned From Finding the Perfect Location for an Editorial Fashion Photography Shoot

I’ve always loved old dilapidated buildings. It does not matter to me if it’s in a city or out in the countryside. I love the raw feeling about them, the mystery of what happened to the site, why it has gotten to this condition and always how will it look as a backdrop/location for one of my fashion shoots. There is something deep inside me that draws me to them. Every time I drive past one I quickly try and figure out how would I get inside the building. I find something very sexy about old broken down buildings I don’t know why but I do.

Lesson #1: Find the Perfect Location, THEN Worry About Your Gear

Anyway, I had made contact with a local modeling agency, Yuli Models, and we agreed that I would use one of their models for a fashion shoot that I wanted to do. I was new to Tel Aviv and had no idea of the area, no access to a studio so I decided to take it on location. A studio was not the only part of the production that was missing, rental equipment was practically non-existent, I was like a fish out of water. Putting together a fashion shoot in New York City is so much easier but I was determined to do it.

Lesson #2 Trust Your Feelings to Find a Location

As I said I had no idea of the Tel Aviv area. I had never shot on location here. So I first set out looking for my location for this fashion shoot. I am not sure if I could really see it in my mind but rather feel it in my body. I was looking for something that I would only know once I saw it, the location would have to talk to me.

Lesson #3 Don’t Let Carrying Heavy Gear Affect Location Choice

Funny cause the location that I finally choose was a pain in the ass to get to. I had to carry all of my gear, all of the models cloths, the hair and make-up stuff and all through sand. It took 45 minutes of back and forth to the car to get everything to the location. Out of the sites that I scouted this had to be the hardest location to get to. I guess I did not want to make my life easy. I always take the hard way even when it comes to locations.

Lesson #4 Location Shooting Can Be Full of Surprises

I rented a few lights, a brand that I had never heard of and cannot even remember the name. Trust me when I tell you they were very cheap and did not sync with my camera. I was shooting digital and I guess it had something do to with the electronic charge that was causing a sync problem. Fortunately for me I had a little on-camera flash that would give me fill light and a large silk to defuse the hard sun light. It was a day full of surprises at every turn. As a professional photographer I have learned to keep my cool, solve the problem and get the shot.

The end result was that everyone was happy with the images, the model, the agency, hair and make-up and most importantly, me the photographer.

Your Turn!

What have you gone through to find the perfect location for your shoot?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kick Ass Fashion Photography

Okay -- so I have been down on myself for sometime now and that's because I know that I am a dam good fashion photographer and I am having a hard time moving forward. Maybe fashion photographer is the wrong term for what I do maybe I should call myself a dam good creative photographer because I really don't fit into the category of fashion photographer completely.
What I try to do is push the limits of fashion photography to the another place. My current body of work is much more conceptual, much more advertising than what the local market considers fashion photography.
I did a job for a local wedding dress designer Karen Kavim which I am very proud. As I was seeing the final images I thought to myself "did really do that"? I thought these are the kind of images that I always want to create but could never produce. I was so happy with the results as was Karen, the designer.
This is one of my favorite images from that shoot that makes me feel good and gives me a sense of hope. Hope that I can do it, that all I need to do is keep pushing myself and not give up cause it's to hard. I am a firm believer that if it is to easy it is most likely not worth doing. So on with the struggle!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where do the tough go to?

The saying goes "when the going gets tough the tough get going" right? The more I think about that statement the more I really wonder what that means. I have been a fashion and advertising photographer for as long as I can remember and right now it's tough! So I should get going, right?

The question is where does an advertising photographer like me go. I have knocked on the doors of fashion houses, called and called Ad agencies, sent email after email to folk that are potential clients and where has that got me, in a tough spot! I never thought that being a fashion photographer would be an easy life but come on! I think my work rocks not to say that there is no room for improvement, but I am very proud of my current body of work. I have received, "great work", "awesome images", "keep them coming" and other complementary remarks by fashion and advertising photographers. I have received these comments from Ad agencies but yet not a thing that resembles a paying assignment.

So as things get harder and harder (and I am not only talking just about a cash flow issue but an emotional tough spot as well) where the heck do I go? Some other fashion photographers have told me to do a 365 project and that is all well and fine but that is not what I am after. I want and need to pay my bills, support my family (you know the wife a few kids are running around) maybe just maybe go to a movie without thinking "this money could be used for something else". Where the hell do the tough go to?

I am sure that I am not alone in this situation and I am also sure that fashion photographers are not the only people that suffer from this. Does the world truly only work on luck and money? Cause that would freak'en suck. If I had no money issues I could just keep battling the "no doors opening emotional problem". Go to the doc and ask for some happy pills, but the truth is there is a money problem; I don't have any. Maybe all these people saying, "if you really want it you can do it" have never really done anything, have never been out on the edge,have never not slept for days at a time cause the car payment is due and you have no idea where the money will come from. I know, I know most of the world is in a recession and it's hard everywhere. I do not need or want to be rich or famous all I want is to make a living doing what I am great at and what I love - -MY CALLING, MY CALLING - know what I mean? Just to pay my bills on-time, have my little economy car and my little 4 bedroom apartment outside of Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv is supper pricy).
If I only knew where the tough go I would join them cause I am lost!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hopelessly a photographer

My buddy Martin, a marketing guru in my opinion is not going to be happy with this post!
I just turned 41 which should not be a big deal but somehow it feels huge. I have been living my dream for a while now with only a piece missing - my aspirations to be a working photographer.
If I had known that making a living as a photographer in Israel would be so hard I would have thought twice about it cause the alternative as I see is is BS.
Maybe I am being an idealist about it but through my blood I am a photographer. Every time I say to my self " I can live without my photography" six months later I find myself saying " I need to make images". The balance is just killing me and I am sure that I am not alone in this. What drives us? Why do we choose such a path that is so frustrating and so dam freaking hard? And as I right this I know the answer -because IF you do get to have your vision seen it is the most rewarding feeling, at least for me. For me it's not the money or fame but to say "hey check that out I made it" fills me like love fills me to the core.
I wish I could sit here and say I am making it but I guess the truth is that I am not and I feel so disconnected from my passion of photography.
I am not the guy that needs to have a camera in had 24/7 and maybe cause I do not consider myself as an artist but rather a commercial guy that likes to execute an idea is the wrong approach.
Creating the mood of an image that a client is after is just as critical as the idea. If we did not have the spices to cook with, food would not be the same. So I consider my self a spice part of the mix. Without hair, make-up or styling would the image be same? For sure not. Even a different team would create a different image. Creating something from thin air that sends a message, says something. The message, important or not does not matter to me cause we live in a commercial world but creating an image that communicates someone's ideas physically (thru an image) gets me all hot and bothered!
Give me your idea and lets make it happen.
I often wonder what makes a good photographer cause really anyone can take a great image and I always come back to it truly lies in the heart of the person behind the camera. The one directing the scene, the one in charge of creating the mood, to bad an entire country is missing out on some one that loves life and breathing life into ideas cause it's fun to do.