In the summer of 2015 I plucked up the courage to message my first model on PurplePort, a site I had joined where you can register as a photographer, model or makeup artist.
Eyes towards the camera
I really did not have a clue what to expect (or for that matter what I was going to do) but quickly learned that working with an experienced model is the best thing a photographer can do to learn portraiture. They know how to pose, leaving you to concentrate on getting the picture.
Okay, I did have some idea of what I wanted to achieve and part of my plan was to capture a kind of Cinderella look using the large hearth area I knew the cottage I was shooting at had.
Add some light
It was only a small room and I realised that part of my kit consisted of the world's largest octagonal soft box!
I had used my studio flash before but for some reason I found myself a bit flustered. I cannot begin to tell you how many school boy errors I made on this first shoot, from leaving camera bags in shot to not looking at the shutter speeds. There were already enough reasons to get camera shake!
I was soon able to calm my nerves down a little and capture some lovely beauty shots. I'd read tutorials and watched many training videos and soon started to concentrate on the technical aspects.
Although there was light coming in from a small window to the left in this shot I again used the soft box as a main key light.
Here are a few more shots from my very first time! Give yourself time when shooting. I never really book any less than half a day (four hours) for a shoot. This gave us ample time to get a variety of shots.
This was also the first time I used somebody else's studio - even though I did turn up with all of my own stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed my first shoot with Kristina and have since returned to the studio to work with her and other models.
Recently I have added some portable studio flash to my system, which will allows me to add more dynamic lighting to outdoor scenes from simply getting more light onto the subject to allowing darker moodier backgrounds by deliberately underexposing the ambient light.
Up next the fantastic and ever so patient Pinup Doll Alice. No pinup for this shoot though. I had been in conversation with Alice for a while and we had built up a comprehensive Pinterest board of ideas. Pinterest is a great way of collecting photo ideas and sharing them with models so that they know the kind of look you are going for or the sort of images you would like to capture.
Then we realised it was nearly Halloween so all that went out of the window and we enrolled the services of my favourite makeup artist Karen Evans, who set to work turning a beautiful face into a bleeding tree bark wood nymph!
On goes the makeup
This was a fantastic shoot because it started me thinking about conceptual ideas and bringing in a team to make them happen. It was not Alice's prettiest shoot and limited in what type of pictures we got so I desperately want to arrange another shoot with her in the future to make it up to her.
The downside to model days can be that you are a little more limited on the control you have over the lighting. Try to work with small groups where you do have the chance to suggest setups. Although having a studio owner or more experienced photographer setting up the lights means you will probably get some good shots, it is nice to experiment on how light changes the look and feel.
That evening we had our dinner, watched the telly and nothing was said. I concluded the whole idea would be better left to fade away. Hannah, my daughter, went off to bed and I offered to make a drink. As I approached the door Tina said 'So about this shoot ....'. This was followed by difficult questions like 'What benefit will it bring to your portfolio?' Perhaps I should have taken the time during the day to formulate some sensible answers! It was a strange evening as the two of us sat looking at boudoir style photos but after a long discussion I could tell Coco yes to the shoot.
This shoot was in a well lit open hall space and once again I found that instead of using the studio flash that had been set up I was using ambient light and in some cases the modelling lights of the studio flash for much of the shoot.
A happy return to Studio Visage this time sporting my brand new Elinchrom ELB400 portable flash (so once again spurning the help of the enduring Dom Regan). These are shot sometimes using the flash and sometimes just using the modelling lamps on the flash heads. Whilst using the flash gives a nice high aperture of f8 ensuring good depth of field, using the modelling lamps allows you to open the aperture up as far as f1.2 on my Fuji X-T1 to get a lovely soft shallow depth of field. This is what I love about modelling photography and portrait work in general. You have the control over the light to dictate the style of picture you want. Stick a great model, as all of the models I have worked with have been, in front of the camera and really you only have yourself to blame if you get it wrong. I guess it is not so different from landscape photography after all!