A Chance to Grow – I love tall models

I love tall models; that’s my effing problem. – Sean

celeste nicole bikini

Recently, I was negotiating with a model from out of town to do a photoshoot as she was coming into town in the near future. She was pretty hot. An acquaintance had just posted some pictures of her and that’s where it started. As the conversation, via FB messages, continued I asked her height. When she told me, I replied that was a little short for me. She proceeded to give me the ‘whatever!’ attitude. And that basically ended it right there.

Now, let’s fill in the details.

1. She wanted compensation. That’s fair, I respect a model who values themselves.
2. I RARELY pay for models. And if I do, she’s got to meet the criteria I’m looking for at the time.
3. Models pay me. Yes, I shoot some TF when testing new equipment, or test shooting the model for potential future work.
4. Although I rarely pay for models, I do have ways of making models money.
5. I have a lot of photographer contacts in this city….some even value my opinion. ;)
6. I come from a land where models are 5’9″, even though I live in a city of 5’4″s

So, before I could even say ‘You’re too short for me, BUT…..’, I got attitude. Even though I mentioned previously in the conversation that I had other ways to make her money while she was here. And, I was about to explain those options. BUT, we didn’t get that far. Her loss.

Now, before you say I’m ‘profiling’ models….well YES. That’s kind of what modelling is about. I prefer my models TALL. And that’s a rarity in this city. So, I’ve actually lowered my standards to about 5’7″ and above for models I will hire on a regular basis.

HOWEVER, for glamour modelling, it’s not all about height. That’s just a bonus. With camera angles and such, height really isn’t an issue. Some of my favorite models are under the 5’5″ mark, and one of my favs is 5’0″. So, it’s really not so much about height as much as it is about attitude. And if you can grow as a person, your height may not be your second biggest obstacle anymore.

When it comes right down to it, it’s my choice who I photograph.  AND, IF I’m going to pay the model, she damn well better meet my criteria.  AND, if I’m going to present her to other photographers or clients, she damn well better have the proper attitude.

Two of my fav < 5’5″ models appear in this post.
Celeste Nicole of M.A.D. models and Claudia G of CG Entertainment.

Claudia G model implied nude workshop

Creating Art

We didn’t set out to create art that day.  It was just another glamour photo session.   I certainly didn’t expect if of my 30+ yr old mom of a client to help me create some of the beautiful images that we did that day.

But there’s something refreshing about a woman who is confident of her body, secure in her sexuality, and not bound by society’s limitations.   Especially in the deep south.

If more women could be like this, my job would be so much easier.

Keep an eye out for upcoming nude & fetish photography workshops.


People think we just show up and shoot…

“Ohh I love your work! Do you think you can come by my party? You’ll get some fabulous shots.”

Some people think it’s as simple as that. That if I show up at their bar/party/event I’ll end up with photos as good as what they see on my social media.  A lot goes into the photos I produce, and the camera/lens is not the only tool I use to make them that fantastic. It’s like a recipe.

A baker doesn’t just open the oven door and out pops fabulous cupcakes.  You may only taste scrumptious cupcakes, but I assure you there was a lot that went into the process that got them to your plate.

First, it takes ingredients. Like a baker, photographers have ingredients too. Ingredients like the model, the wardrobe, and the location. And, the better your ingredients, the better your end product.

Briana Barela getting racy on the bar at Klusoz, San Antonio Photography Workshop

Briana Barela getting racy on the bar at Klusoz, San Antonio Photography Workshop

Then there are the tools that bring all those ingredients together. Pans and bowls and mixers for the baker; lights, lens, modifiers, and yes even ambiance.

And think of the baker icing and decorating his cupcakes as the post processing. They don’t come out of the oven that way, and MOST professinal photos you see don’t come straight out of the camera with icing on them.

If you asked a baker to show up at your party and bring his over, would you expect the same cupcakes? Don’t expect a photographer to show up at your place with just his camera and hope to get the same style photos. You’ll get some great shots from an experienced photographer, but you probably won’t get what you expected.

Do you know you’re beautiful?

Claudia G Electrifying Heat Map

Do you know if you’re beautiful?

Most beautiful women don’t know they’re beautiful.

If you’re a woman, you already know this. But guys find this hard to believe.

Even models, who have their moments of awareness, usually suffer from low self-esteem for one reason or another. And haunts them with seeing flaws in themselves that others would never notice, or at the very least, overlook.

They may wear a brave outer shell, but many times that is just a defensive wall for what’s going on inside.

How far will you go to Improve Your Photography?

Briana Barela all wet in the shower at a Photography Workshop

Using two AB400's, one 22" beauty dish, and one 7" reflector bounced off the tiles.

I once had an photographer who drove overnight from Michigan to San Antonio, TX just to attend a one-day photography workshop.   I was skeptical when I first talked to him on the phone, but he assured me that he wanted to attend one of MY workshops.   And he paid, showed up, participated, learned, and took that knowledge and confidence back with him and applied it to his own studio and style.

More than a few have traveled from Laredo, Houston, and even Dallas.  But Steven has always held the record for ‘distance furthest traveled to attend’.  That is, until this month when I’ll be beating his record distance by travelling from Toronto, Canada  Lol.  But he’ll still hold the student record.

The point is, how far will you go to invest in yourself?   Are you satisfied with the photographs you’re producing now?   Have you ever looked at others photographs and wished you knew how to create them?

I used to be in the same boat.  I had all the gear (or so I thought).  I had bought a full set of studio lights, had 20+ years pressing the shutter; yet still I my studio photographs lacked that ‘ooomph!’ that I saw coming from photogs such as Tracy Hicks, and others.

So, when I saw Tracy putting together a workshop, I jumped on it!  Even though the 1st one I attended was 3 hours drive, and the 2nd was a 5 hour drive, I felt the ends justified the means.   And you know what?  It did.

And it was easy.   Once someone showed me how, and I got the hands-on experience.  I knew what gear I needed, I knew how to use it; I was confident in experimenting with new lighting recipes, etc.

Invest in yourself.  You deserve it.  And it’s easier than you think.  What have you done lately to improve your photography?

Always shoot for yourself first

A few days ago I read a post by Scott Bourne entitled something to the tune of  Top 10 Business Tips for Photographers.    At the top of his list was Passion.

‘Passion’ is the answer I’ve been giving people for the past 20 years when they ask me how I make such great photographs.   And part of passion is what I term ‘shooting for yourself’.   If you shoot for yourself first, you’ll always make better photographs.

Layla Nude in Tub

The model came to me with this concept based on a photo she had seen. We discussed the look, and came out of the session with an even better image!

I’m not saying not to listen to your client.  I’m saying that if you take the clients ideas, and shoot them with YOUR vision, you’ll almost be guaranteed to come out of that session with a photograph with which both you and your client will be pleased.   Even in the extreme case of wedding photography, where it’s ‘her’ day, shoot for yourself first.  Sure, you can cover the mandatory shots, and the shots she/they request.  But, in the end, you’ll get much better shots if you’re not restricted by a formula.  Shooting with passion, and shooting for yourself, helps you create your own style.  And style is what will set you apart.   And THAT is what will get you hired by your next client.   And then you’ll always be shooting for yourself.

I know it sounds selfish, but shooting for yourself, to be pleased with your own work, is the least selfish thing you can do for your client.   It gives you the freedom to express yourself in the images you create for them.   And in turns provides them with a better product.  If YOU’RE not happy with your work, what would motivate you to do it again?

If we wanted to be restricted to formulas and rigidity we wouldn’t be photographers at all; we’d be happy working that 9-5 desk job day in and day out.  And really, I haven’t met many good photographers who are nine to fivers.  Have you?

Working with new materials – Glamour Photography

One of the things my mentor, Tracy Hicks, taught me in his workshops was that almost anything can make a backdrop: it’s all in the way you use it.  So, when a private student showed up with a bunch of camouflage gear for the model, including a camo netting  that he wanted to implement as a background, we had to figure out what worked.

Briana Barela Xtreme Drilling Glamour Photography

Briana Barela sports company branding from Xtreme Drilling during a private Glamour Photography Workshops

I had never worked with the stuff before and wasn’t sure of it’s reflective properties, how to take advantage of the see-through nature of it, etc. The shot above was one of many different outfits we tried on the model.

The hat and t-shirt were part of the branding for a drilling company my student worked for and he wanted to include them into the shoot for possible use in a company calendar.  The model, Briana Barela, styled the t-shirt with cuts using some scissors.  The sunglasses were her own.   The only things I wasn’t totally happy with was the blue fingernail polish she was sporting those days.  I figured that if I really wanted to that it could be ‘fixed’ in Photoshop.

We proceeded to rig a black cloth backdrop, and then clamp the camo netting in front of it. I wasn’t sure if we’d need to separate the netting from the cloth, or could leave it resting against it.  As it turned out, just resting against it was enough.

In the original tests we lit the model, but left the backdrop unlit.  It turned out that there just wasn’t enough light to make it interesting.  We wanted things to ‘Pop!’   I put an Alien Bee 400 on a backdrop stand and inserted a green gel into the gel holder.   It took a bit of of adjusting to get the right distance and intensity with the backdrop light, but it wasn’t long before we were getting shots like that above.

Although the shot looked pretty good straight out of the camera (SOOC), a vignette effect was added in Lightroom to help frame the model.  A 36″ Octabox, two 36″ strip boxes (gridded), and a 22″ beauty dish were used on the other lights.


Are ‘Home Studios’ creepy? Read a model’s opinion

In the words of one model:

(My version may be modified and/or out of date.
 Please Read the original & updated posting by Model Rachel Jay, with examples of her own work, on her site here: http://racheljay.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/the-home-studio/)

There are some models who say a photographer who has a home studio is creepy, unprofessional, and is one to be wary of. There are even some who say that a photographer who has an actual studio (as in one separate from his place of residence) is far more legit, safer, and more professional. The reasoning is often, “I don’t want to be alone with a stranger in his house”. What’s even more mindblowing is when people say things like, “a home studio is fine as long as there’s backdrops, lights and other expensive-looking stuff, it can even be in the basement… but just shooting out of the living room with none of that is creepy!”.

football, dallas cowboys, tony romo, briana barela, glamour photography, home studio,

Created in a one bedroom apt home studio.

And to all that I say: BULLSHIT! Why?
Studio rental can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to rent space to shoot in (especially right now). And why should someone who has the space available in their home/apartment be forced to fork out more dough to rent more space? They shouldn’t. Renting space doesn’t automatically make someone a pro… it makes them someone who can rent space.

Space is space. If there’s room for a backdrop and lights to be set up, there’s room to shoot. Heck, a lot of the time, you don’t need the backdrop and lights to get a beautiful shot–a space lit well with natural light can create amazing images. And sometimes, the lack of space and the uniqueness of it might force the model and photographer to get creative, which can result in some great stuff as well.

When did expensive equipment and a “legit-looking” place start meaning that the person who owns it all is safe and professional? Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t automatically buy that person talent as well, so why would it eliminate their creep factor or make them conduct themselves in a professional manor? It wouldn’t.

So, home studio versus rented space…
What’s the big deal where someone shoots? Models (especially those building their portfolios) should be more concerned with portfolio quality, professional conduct, and communication skills than where the photographer shoots his/her pictures.

If a model is insecure with being alone with the photographer, even after she’s checked references, she has a couple options. She could make sure it’s ok to bring a MUA (or ask the photographer if he has one he works with often), and book one. She could ask the photographer to meet ahead of time, at a place like Starbucks. Or she could just not shoot with that photographer.

Need a Model Release? There’s an app for that!

I installed Easy Release from http://www.applicationgap.com awhile back while it was in it’s infancy. The latest update allows for custom logo’s, custom releases, etc. You can bring up a release, add the model’s photo, have her, you, and a witness sign it on the iPhone, and have it send you and the model a PDF version of the release. See the screencap below of a sample release.

Of course, they explain it better:

Easy Release by ApplicationGap replaces inconvenient paper release forms with a slick, streamlined application designed by professional photographers for professional photographers. Easy Release lets you collect all the data and signatures you need right on your iPhone, then mails a PDF and JPEG of the release right to you. Easy Release uses industry-standard and proven legal language that is accepted by the world’s leading stock photo companies, like Getty Images and ALAMY. Plus, Easy Release supports 12 different languages, so you can get the release you need, no matter who, or where you are shooting.

Easy Release, smartphones, model release, apps, iphone, christine trimm, photography studio

How do you do that effect?

Next to ‘Do you need someone to hold the lights?’, the question I most often hear in regards to my photography is ‘How do you that?’.

How do you get that vignette effect?

How do you get the models skin that smooth?

What is that material you are using for the background? How did you get it that color?

Those are just a few of the most commonest questions I get asked every time I post a new photo online. It never fails; a few minutes after posting a new photo, I get a chat window popping up, or an email, or just a comment on the photo itself.

glamour model, studio lighting, photography workshop, amanda steele, bikini

And, the truth is, at one time, I had those same questions. I’ve been shooting for over twenty years. And I had experience shooting models. But, one day I saw a persons work that just blew my stuff out of the water! And I had to know how to do it! Luckily this person put on his own workshops. I not only signed up for two of his workshops, I travelled many hours to get to them.

I invested in myself. I knew that by making a small investment in myself, I was avoiding the long term trail-and-error method of trying to figure out how to do this…and how to do it right. I mean, how many times can you get a model to commit some time, at her own expense, just so you can experiment with getting it right? Not only is she going to get perturbed, but you’re going to look incompetent with all the fiddling of the lights, chimping at results, readjusting lights, changing backgrounds, etc.

So, I invested in the workshops at almost $300 each time. And that’s just for the workshop. That’s not counting the 3 hour drive to Houston, or the 5 hour drive to Dallas, hotel rooms, meals, gas, etc. I think I figured out that each weekend cost me an average of $500.

Then, I came home from each and ordered more gear; lights, booms, backgrounds, softboxes and grids. I already had a plethora of lights and such, but I wasn’t absolutely confident in how to use them, or what other gear I should invest in to create the results I desired. And this is one of the things that those workshops solved.

lingerie, glamour photography, studio strobes, boudoir, photography workshops

So, ask yourself these few questions:

1. Do I want to improve my confidence in photographing models?

2. Do I want to improve my confidence in using my lighting system?

3. Do I want to know what equipment I need in order to create those images that will stand out from competition?

4. Do I want to learn using real, live models, creating images that you can add to your portfolio immediately?

If you said yes to any of those questions, do yourself a favor and invest in yourself. Save yourself from wasting time and money on trail-and-error, and learn it quickly and inexpensively. Sign up for one of our glamour photography lighting workshops at: iPhotoWorkshops.com