Working with models is for me a great opportunity to experiment with different lighting styles, different looks and techniques whilst on location with a person who has the patient to stand there, to co-operate and to perhaps add interest to the shot.
I have learnt since working with the odd model a few interesting things:
- Models and photographers don’t appreciate the same thing, photographers are looking at light, at backgrounds, at stories and at what creates a great interest – models often want to look and feel good.
- If a model’s portfolio has just one facial expression – that could be all they can do, or all that they are happy with – a great model has a portfolio that showcases a range of styles and expressions and is happy to experiment and can often add value to the images with his/her input and ideas.
- Mature models are often more interesting to work with, they have more stories to tell, more life experience.
- Being a female photographer is unusual – a lot of models are nervous working with a girl at first, once they relax – it is often great fun, girl friends together and they open up about other photographers they work with, and some have made the model feel uncomfortable… my personal advice is to get to know the photographer before you shoot naked or part naked – be comfortable with them first, and to be honest if they can’t take flattering images with clothes on… I would not go any further.
- Models see a lot of photos of themselves – their view of the end image is just their opinion… they are looking for different things, and don’t really appreciate the value of the photographer at times.
These are some experimental shots from a recent beach shoot where I am experimenting with camera style and lighting out and about, the day was overcast, I had a flash on camera with a magmod diffuser and an off camera flash with a yellow gel behind the model. I wanted to capture the warmth of summer (it was March) – add my own touch (the sunglass) and create a shot that was a little different – in processing I added the lens flare and some bokeh.
The lens flare I think is a little too much, I think it does need some more work, but I was please with how you can see her eyes through the tinted glasses – it is an example of a style that I associate with glamour, fashion shoots, and professionals, the model in question does not like it.
Another experiment – it did not quite work, so it is something I want to try again – my focusing is off… I had a ND8 filter on the camera, it on a tripod and the off camera flash I moved closer to freeze the moment – I was trying to freeze the model and yet create milky water, and movement on the waves – I love the wave… it is a tad over exposed, but it is something I want to try again…. my model had suggested bikini shots but was reluctant to even get wet toes!
I added framing – which I think ruins the image totally and draws you eyes from the subject too … if the image is not sharp enough, no amount of editing will help!
Another experimental shot and edit – this shot is back lit with a yellow gel – it is a little bit strong, but I have included it because I am pleased I have now mastered and understood this technique … here a softer yellow could have added warmth and sunlight behind her. This is purely an edit in lightroom – but I managed to change the glasses to match the lipstick more, and lighten them to see the eyes.
This close up image also shows the problems that you make have when a model does her on makeup and has her own look – her lipstick is very strong and misses a spot, something which I should edit back in on every image – and is slightly over powering for her skin tones. It also highlights how a distinctive hair accessory can also restrict the versitily of the shoot – and as photographer, I need to learn to ask the model to change this about themselves if they have long hair, so I can create more variety.
This shot the model loved – for me I can see over exposure, blown highlights on her face and hair, the hairband is blown out – there is a lack of definition. I was experimenting to shoot much lighter than I normally do, and I do like the lighter images – but this to me is too light. I can see her eye lids, but not her eyes, the model pose is somewhat more intimate – something that would suit a boudoir session, but not really something I associate with a trip to the beach, there is a certain vulnerability about the end result.
Another one the model said she liked (below) … it is a lovely low contrast image until your eyes find the hair band, the bright lipstick and the carousel – and they ruin it for me… I also did not explain here clear enough what I wanted from the image – I suggested the model sat on the pier – all those leading lines – but she sat across them, blocking the horizon – but we had only just met and she had white jeans on!
The goal was to expose for the sky, capture an on location shot, but I think I added too much flash to her face – but her makeup was quite white … I am pleased with the fact that I created a much lighter image than normal – but this really highlights that the backgrounds matter and than I need to explain myself better.
Another shot the model liked – the hairband and the lipstick over power the image in my opinion – so I need to learn to communicate better, I think this style of lighting would make some great children’s portraits and I can imagine them playing on the beach, building sand castles in the sand – so I am glad I have had a chance to practice.
From a model point of view – there is nice eye contact, her legs look really long, I feel it is a kind of romantic pose ideal for the boyfriend or partner without revealing too much, which goes to highlight how we are all looking for different things in the images we create.
My personal favorites from the shoot – this one – I exposed for the sky, added a touch of flash camera left and on camera diffused… I love the space, the emptyness of the beach, the hint of cleavage, the fact she is looking down and thinking… and I feel there is a hint of a story as you think what is she looking at? It did not make it into the models top 10 choice of images, but all the ones she choose had the same facial expression, and here she was a little bit more relaxed.
Finally a commercial edit – I have tweaked the colours, added some text, created a vintage postcard feel to the image – inspired by graphic design to create something that could perhaps promote the area… it is a bit harsh, a bit cheesy – but mass produced on a postcard it would work!
And … after model feedback.
I always like to ask the model for feedback after the shoot…. and ask the model to select her favorites from the shoot…. and with this model the feed back was interesting – “The one’s I don’t like is because my eyes were wrong” – so nothing to do with the composition, the lighting, the editing style – more to do with how she looks… and her favorites – she first choose 15, she narrowed it down to 8 and choose one she had previously asked to remove from the collection, and two she did not select in her original 15…. and they were selected cause “I look relaxed.”
My commercial edit – did not make the model’s initial top 15… but somehow made it in the top 8!! Which highlights my point at the beginning – we are look for different things, even at different times to look for different things… and personal feelings can not come into the creation of photographs.