Put Yourself In Her Shoes
I’ve actually lost count, but in the last 15-years plus, I’ve taught hundreds of photography workshops throughout the world to thousands of photographers, the majority male photographers—and I’m still at it! During that time, I’ve had to scratch my head at least a handful of times each year, more for male photographers and rarely for female photographers, when it comes to photographing female models.
Here are the top-ten examples where male photographers make me wonder at times.
The first mistake made by male photographers is a pet peeve of mine and when I see it happen, I scratch my head then think how I’d like to take the photographer out back and chew his ass out. This horrific mistake is one reason my latest book, “Taming The Trouser Snake, A Man’s Guide to Relationships, Romance, Sex and More,” while not written specifically for photographers, will help male photographers work better with female models. It’s that self-esteem killing question you never ask to any female model, no matter how thick or thin she is, “Can you suck your stomach in?” Sometimes I’ve even heard, “Can you suck your gut in?”
The minute a male photographer asks this unprofessional question to a female model, the model suddenly changes her expression because what the male photographer has just done is tell the model “she’s fat!” Men have guts, women have abdominal areas and the women that do have “guts,” well let’s just say it’s a different type of gut, the one that will kick your ass especially if you tell her she’s fat! If a woman’s abdominal area is a little “poochie” chances are it’s because of the pose you have her in, especially if it’s a model that is in great shape.
Seriously, the wrong pose can make the abdominal area look puffy and if your subject does have a bit of a natural pooch, then pose her abdominal area into the camera lens, not a profile or “Page Three” classic pose. If the Page Three pose or something similar is a must in your photo concept, the correct question is to politely ask your model, “Can you straighten your back out for me please?”
The second mistake made by male photographers and not so much female photographers, is that male photographers practically mark a treasure map “X” on the ground, stand there and never move while photographing their subject. They basically use their “zoom lens” and stand in the same spot—MOVE AROUND—chances are you won’t find the treasured photos in that one spot!
You’ll be surprised how you can find interesting angles and even the lighting will change (without physically moving the lights) when a photographer walks around his model and shoots. The latter is caused by the physics rule used in photography, The Angle of Incidence is Equal to The Angle of Reflection.
The third mistake made by male photographers, and sometimes females too, is that they do a photo shoot using a 70-200mm focal length lens and shoot at the lower end of the focal length, yet have plenty of room to back up and use the longer focal lengths. Longer focal lengths reduce distortion, compress the background and separate the subject from the background better than shorter focal length shots. When you use a longer focal length, you get a more pleasing mood in your photo, or bokeh affect, due to the lack of depth of field combined with a compressed background.
In addition, when you use a longer focal length shooting perspective with a wider aperture, like f/4 or f/5.6, and focus sharply on your subject’s eyes, you have an optical smoothness of the facial cheeks from the simple fact that they are in less focus than your subject’s eyes. Think of it as “optical makeup.”
The fourth mistake male photographers make is that they don’t do, or do very little post-production on their photos of female models. In fact many will give a model every photo taken, basically another “no-no” mistake and a true sign of an amateur photographer. We all take bad photos, even the top, cream-of-the-crop professional photographers do, but nobody cares about the bad photos, they only want to see the great ones!
This also comes with experience, but this is why a photographer must understand there is a difference between photo editing vs. editing photos. Photo editing is the affect that influences the effects of editing photos. Photo editing involves the selection of your best-executed photos from the shoot, while editing a photo is the actual process of making corrections on your photos. While I’ve heard many photographers say, “You’re not a great photographer if you do post-production,” well frankly, that’s horseshit.
Back in the film days we did post-production in the darkroom, it was called, “burning, dodging, spotting, corrected colors, contrast, etc.” Now I’m a firm believer in “get it right in the camera” plus don’t make Adobe Photoshop your crutch, but we’re dealing with a female model’s self-esteem here, not your machismo attitude of what makes a great photographer. Plus if you select the appropriate focal length, lens aperture, correct lighting, a proper pose for your subject, use great makeup, and shoot at the right camera angle, your post-production becomes minimal—and unless you’re an ace at all the above, you’re going to need some type of post-production of your final images. Besides, a finished, final photo is a direct reflection on your professional abilities as a photographer.
Great photographers want their models to love their photos, but also love how they (the model) look in their photos. In the end, it’s about her, not about you—once again, especially if you don’t understand the latter, read my seventh book, Taming The Trouser Snake, A Man’s Guide to Relationships, Romance, Sex and More.
Think of the “more” part of that book as helpful information for you as a male photographer to understand what a woman goes through and her psyche. Quit acting like a man and start thinking like a woman—it will make you a better photographer, especially if your subjects are predominately females. Take pride in your finished product. Perhaps it helps to think about NASCAR. Those cars on the track are fine-tuned racing machines, but they are also highly polished!
The fifth mistake male photographers make is focusing on, or photographing, only their “type” of women. You have to show diversity in your photography. You can’t open a photography business and say, “I only photograph tall buxom blondes with blue eyes.” Your business will not only fail, but chances are you’ll gain the name of a creeper or pervert. Besides, every photographer, especially if your goal is to get your photos published, needs diversity in their portfolios.
The sixth mistake male photographers make is spraying and praying. You are not in a war zone but if you depress that shutter release button on your camera and hold it down in burst mode, your model might think she’s in a war zone. The camera burst sound is not only distracting, but also a sign of an amateur praying they’ll get one great photo instead of taking the time to make every shot count. It’s about being selective in your shooting, not indiscriminate. One great photo is worth more than 100 mediocre photos!
The seventh mistake male photographers make is not saying a word during the photo shoot with a female model. Communication, which is thoroughly explained in the first chapter of “Taming The Trouser Snake, A Man’s Guide to Relationships, Romance, Sex and More,” is key on a photo shoot. A model can’t read your mind. She needs affirmation about herself and a sense of purpose.
Talk to her, tell her she’s beautiful, and don’t be afraid to give direction. You must also keep in mind that body language, or lack of it is a form a communication, not just verbal. For example, say you see a camera stand sticking out in the background when you are “chimping” your photos and just shrug your shoulders with an “ugh” while looking at your LCD screen. Chances are the model will interpret this as though you are not happy with her talents—talk to your model, let her know you have to move that background stand. Build her confidence not her uncertainty.
The eighth mistake male photographers make is trying to get to the “nudes.” Never ask a model to pose nude, let her ask you. Look at the clothes she’s brought to the shoot—normally it will provide an indication about her comfort zone. If you see no lingerie, that’s a great indicator she wants the shoot done conservatively, however, even if she’s brought lingerie, let her suggest it when she’s ready. Never assume a model will pose nude just by her clothing.
Never force a model to pose nude either. In fact, when a model tells me she’d like to pose nude, I first discuss with her the ramifications it can have on her career, with family, a significant other, etc., and not only until I’m positively sure this is what she wants, will I pursue any type of nude shooting—obviously check her identification to ensure she’s of age, never assume she is, and keep in mind, not all states in the U.S. recognize 18 as the minimum legal age to shoot nudes. Some states it’s 19, some 20 and even 21 in other states. Check the local laws, and if you’re not sure, call a lawyer.
The ninth mistake male photographers, plus some female photographers make too, is a lack of preparedness. Don’t wait until your model shows up to set up the lights. Set up your lighting before she arrives, then adjust them accordingly to the shoot. Make sure everything is working properly and always make sure your camera batteries are charged up the night before—and bring a spare! Make sure you have the proper lenses readily available before you take the first photo.
The tenth mistake male photographers make is they fail to build rapport with their subjects. Rapport starts with the first communication whether it’s an email or phone call, and rapport takes time to build plus continues beyond the shoot. Rapport is the photographers’ credit with the model; it takes time to build rapport by knowing what, when, and how to say it, plus just like credit, it takes one negative incident to destroy rapport. Not sure how to build it properly, just read what is inside the book, Taming The Trouser Snake, A Man’s Guide to Relationships, Romance, Sex and More, and you’ll figure it out much faster.
If you’ve made it this far and decide to attend one of my photography workshops, I hope you will not make any of the mistakes above, especially if you are a male photographer. With that I close and as always, please don’t forget the men and women who proudly serve to protect our nation and our freedoms—God Bless them, their families and friends, Rolando.