Monday, 21 February 2011

New ideas, and what to expect when arranging a photo shoot

It's a bit of a long one this time, so grab a cup of tea and snuggle up and get comfy. Also, this is just how I do things. I've no doubt that other photographers work differently! Enjoy!


Coming up with ideas for fashion and fantasy themes is always fun. It's even better when one jumps out at you and gives you a dose of inspiration so large you end up grinning like an idiot. The most recent idea I've had that I'd like to carry out came to me out of nowhere after seeing a recent photo of one of the models I'm in contact with. I realised in some roundabout way that she'd make a fantastic Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. It actually turns out that she has some stuff we can use for it too, and she's more than up for it. It's great because I've wanted to do another, bigger Alice in Wonderland shoot for a while! Next in line is finding a location and getting down to taking photos. Before I can do that however, it requires some other preparations too.

Fortunately, I love the entire process from start to finish. To begin with, you have your idea. You might want to start sketching your ideas at this point or writing them down, but don't consider them set in stone. More than once I've had ideas for a shoot and come out with something entirely different, whether it be a mood, pose, styling idea or location - you will come up with ideas as you go along, it's all part of working as a team - something I'll get to later. I keep a journal for ideas I get so even if I don't do them straight away, when I'm lacking in inspiration I can go back and look through it to see if anything new strikes me or if there's an idea I could carry out that hasn't been done yet.

After you have your idea, you need your model(s). If you're just starting out, you might be wondering where on earth you're going to find people you can get to model for you. Don't worry about it. Ask your friends if they'd like to model for you, or consider using yourself! If you're in a school, university or college, put up posters for a casting call. People will probably turn up. How do you hold a casting call though? 

It seems daunting, but it's not so bad. First, you make a poster or announce it to the world somehow. Keep it as short as possible without leaving any details out, and let it grab their attention. Type it out in a nice, simple font if you're making a poster to stick up - it's easier to read. I'd recommend doing this at least a week or two before you plan to hold your casting call. It gives just enough time to garner some interest. You don't want to leave it up for too long though, or people will get used to seeing it and might get bored of waiting.

So it's the day of the casting call. What now? First, arrive there long before you've told your potential models to arrive. Set everything up if anything needs setting up. At least make sure everything is working. When your models arrive, get them to fill in a piece of paper with their name, contact details and anything else of use to you. Make sure the entries are numbered. Then give them a sheet of paper with the number on it, photograph them, and then you won't get confused as to who is who when it comes to deciding who to use. Take a full body shot face on, full body shot side on, and a head and shoulders shot from the front and the side to see their features better. Then move on to the next model. Keep an eye on how they react in front of the camera - are they awkward? Shy? Stiff as a board? Or do they act like they were born to be photographed? How do they take instruction from you? How do they look photographed? These are all things you're trying to find out, and is the purpose of the casting call. Keep doing this until you work your way through them all. Review the images in your own time and let the models know if they're needed or not via the contact methods you collected, thank them for their time too. You might come across one or two people who aren't any good for your current idea, but are good models and could be used in future. Let them know this if that's what you think. And that's a casting call. It really is that simple!

As you progress and build a body of work, you'll be able to use sites such as Model Mayhem if you want, which simplifies this process. You'll still probably have to do a casting call every now and then though, so it's worth knowing how to do it. Test shoots are also recommended if you use the Model Mayhem method, so you can see how you get along with different models.

Right, so, by now via some method or other you've found the perfect model(s) for your idea. This next bit is a really fun part. Many models like having a say in what they're participating in, and may have ideas that previously you hadn't thought about. Talk to them either over coffee, via email or the phone, and just discuss various ideas for poses, costumes/outfits, locations, anything! It should be an inspiring and exciting part of the process, so enjoy it and make the most of it. On the plus side, you also get to know your model a little which is something I consider important if you're going to work well as a team.

Now, what about outfits, makeup and hair? Well, you could try and find a makeup artist (often abbreviated to MUA) and a hairstylist, but in the beginning it's often best to keep it simple try and do things yourself until you're used to organising shoots. The model may be able to do a lot of things themselves or be able to recommend somebody they know who can do what you're after, so discuss this with them. Make sure you can get to and from whatever location you choose to use safely.

It's the day of the shoot. Problems will arise in some shape or form, I can almost guarantee it. I've yet to have a shoot where a piece of equipment doesn't have a funny five minutes either down to user error or plain murphy's law. Don't worry about it though. Have confidence in yourself in being able to solve it. Treat it like a puzzle and try and enjoy sorting it out. Most importantly, prepare for it. Take extra batteries if you need them. Take sticky tape, scissors, a torch, pliers, rubber bands - anything you think you might need. Chances are you won't, but if you have them you'll be a lot better off than you would be without them and they don't take up too much space. I can't stress this enough. Also, make sure your phone is charged and you have enough money if you need it (this is all assuming you'll be away from home, but it still doesn't hurt to have these things to hand to save you time hunting for them.) You might want to take a friend who's willing to help with you too, to help you out and to look out for you. Make sure people know where you are and don't put yourself in any danger.

Aside from all this, enjoy yourself! You're doing what you love. Make the most of it, and make sure you take breaks for a cup of tea/coffee and some biscuits every now and then. Your model(s) will thank you! Take care of your models, and they'll be more inclined to work with you again. Not only that, but they'll probably tell other people about you and how great you are to work with. Networking is something you'll want to encourage - as time moves on, you'll find it easier and easier to find people work with because of building contacts, keeping in touch with people you've worked with before and a strong portfolio. You might even have an address book just for people like that! 

Something else worth noting is don't be afraid to tell the models what to do. They rely on you for instructions. Even if it's something as small as moving their left thumb up a little, ask them to do it! Be polite though. Nobody likes an impolite, bossy photographer. Talk to your model(s) and let them know how things are going. Got a good shot? Tell them! Like a particular pose? Let them know, they might come up with more of the same. You're giving them feedback and keeping them in the loop, plus you're making them feel even more involved. Communication is very important, don't underestimate it :)

After you have the images, then comes the editing. Chose the best ones - don't put every single one online! There's a good reason for this. Every photographer takes dud photos every now and then, even the most famous ones. I know, it's hard to believe! But they're human and it happens, you just don't see them. Look at your work with a critical eye. Ask yourself what makes you go wow, and what doesn't seem quite right. If you're not sure, get somebody to look over it with you who's opinion you trust. If on the off chance there aren't many photos you like at all (I hope not!) then learn from it. Don't get put off. It might happen from time to time. It's certainly happened to me, especially when I was starting out. Ask yourself what you could have done to improve. Write it down, make a note of it. This way when it comes to doing another shoot, you'll know exactly what to avoid and how to make things work out even better. Consequently, write about what really worked. As before, this could be anything so don't limit yourself. It could be poses, it could be a model you worked really well with, it could be a location, certain lighting, camera settings. Jot it down, keep it safe.

How you edit your photos is up to you, there's no right or wrong way to do it. There's plenty of tutorials on how to achieve certain looks in photoshop/gimp/etc, so don't be put off by frustration or a lack of technical understanding. A good site to use is Lynda, but you might have to pay for a membership to see some of the tutorials. Personally, I think it's worth the money if you're just learning for the first time or even if you just want to learn a more effective way of doing something. The tutorials there are of a high quality. If you'd rather not pay for tutorials though, good news! There's absolutely loads on the internet available to you for free, you just have to look for them. They're easy to find :) There's even magazines with tutorials and the like - one of the ones I get is Advanced Photoshop.

Anyway, process those photos you thought had the wow factor and give them a little boost if need be. Of course you don't have to do any of this, it's entirely optional. From here though, you should know what to do :) Make sure you let your model(s) and anybody else involved have a finished copy for their portfolio - not only does it mean double the exposure but it's a nice way to say "Thanks!" (It's often good to work on a TFCD/TFP basis to begin with to build up a strong body of work. TFCD = Time for CD, TFP = Time for Prints. It basically means "I'll give you my time and work with you on this in return for a copy of the final outcome") 

So, there you have it. A photoshoot from start to finish. As you can see, taking the photos is only a small part of it, but no less important. 

Now get out there and take some amazing photos!

No comments:

Post a Comment