This is a guest post from model Aimee J. Martin
A touch of history
My experience with modeling started at the tender age of 11. My mom brought me to a Chicago Photographer, we shot for a day, and my first Comp Card was born. She took me from agency to agency where I sat amongst 100 other anxiously awaiting little girls. I read lines for commercials, I posed for Polaroid’s, and I was interviewed and asked spontaneous questions. Needless to say, I was not cut out for acting or commercial as I completely folded under the pressure of reading lines. I was however extremely photogenic and instantly connected with the lens. I then discovered my passion. Between the ages of 11 and 12 I was able to snag a United Airlines ad, A Hagen Daaz industrial commercial, and an advertisement in a catalogue for educational purposes. Sadly, I would not encounter the lens in this way again until I was 33 years old.
At 33 I met my first photographer in Chicago at a club. He was just starting out and asked me if I’d like to be his ‘muse’… basically he and I fumbled around the entire city snapping photos at the most awesome random and enticing places. Taking into consideration that I too was just reinstating my point of venturing out again, it was a very comfortable situation. He suited my needs and I suited his. We worked well together and inspired one another. It was from him that I began to learn how to ‘work it’ and he began to perfect high fashion photography.
Within a very short duration of time, I realized ‘Hey, I’m not half bad at this considering I had no formal training.’ From that moment in time my fuel was the photographer and my catalyst was the lens. Thus, my modeling career was re-born.
For the past 4 years I have worked with about 10 different photographers. You’d think in 4 years that number should be much greater, but when I found the best, I stuck with the best. I had suffered through complete failure shoots, and complete extraordinary and prodigious shoots.
Rules of Thumb
Here are my ‘Rules of Thumb’ – These are what I consider mandatory traits regarding what a good photographer should embody and encompass.
- They must be professional at all times. Hitting on your subjects at ANY time is inappropriate and I can guarantee you won’t be shooting that model again.
- They must not push your limits. If you express before your shoot what your boundaries and limitations are, they should be respected by the photographer. If you do not want to shoot ‘nudes’ then make this VERY clear before you even attempt book a shoot.
- They should interact with you throughout your shoot. You, the model, cannot see if your arm is blocking your main light source, the photographer should know this and correct you. If they are realizing and taking note of these things, you should respect their input and take it with you for future shoots. In addition, they should praise you if you’ve done well. For example, previous photographers have said things to me such as ‘You didn’t need any direction at all!’ ‘Your eyes are hitting dead on, they are extremely intense!’ ‘Your poses are amazing!’ This makes the model feel justified which in turns up her self-esteem and most likely, keep churning out better photos. Everyone loves positive feedback, but I also respect constructive criticism as well. Don’t take it personally if your photographer asks you to do something different. If you cannot handle that, then you cannot handle the modeling industry!
- If you are doing ‘TFC’ shoots – ‘Time for Comp’ which essentially means neither party pays but you both utilize the photos from the shoot to enhance one another’s portfolios, or if you are doing ‘paid’ shoots, a seasoned photographer will always have you sign a waiver. Make sure you READ the waiver before you sign it.
- Another aspect of a real professional is that they know their lighting and their lenses. If you book a shoot, ask questions. What kind of lighting they are going to use, what different lenses we will try out during the shoot. If they say they ‘just have a flash’… I’d probably take a pass on that one. A KEY sign of a STELLAR photographer knows that they have several key lighting elements and are well versed in WHERE to place them to enhance your features properly. This also heavily weighs on what time of the day you will be shooting. They should use key words such as backlighting, fill-in flash, reflectors, etc. They should also have a tripod… if they don’t, I’d be very weary. In other words, just KNOW your photographer. Look at his/her portfolio, if you like the work, then take it to the next step.
- CHECK REFERENCES! If you have seen that this photographer has worked with several other models, great! Another extremely important sign that your photographer is a pro – he/she OFFERS you to check his references. You should not have to ask. Some don’t mention it, but most do not mind if you contact the other models they have worked with. If you don’t see any names or references, I’d steer clear.
- Lastly, and unfortunately, this is something you don’t really find out until you start shooting, is model/photographer camera chemistry. This is very difficult to explain but when you encounter it, you will know. This is definitely someone you’d want to book another shoot with. It has to go both ways… and again, you will feel it if it’s there. If not, don’t give up; just keep trying until you find those that you have that connection with.
Please allow me to leave you with these words of encouragement. I am a 36 year old single mother of 3. I have been told by many that I am too old, not tall enough, too ‘commercial’ looking, etc., etc. Do NOT allow anyone to stop you from pursuing your dream! You are never too old and it’s never too late. If you believe in yourself, other’s will too! Now go SHINE!
~Aimee J Martin~ @AimeeJMartin
A post inspired by @ScottWyden