Stretch and Challenge
I’m amazed at the number of photographers who do not stretch and challenge themselves or the model when they are shooting. Doing the same style time and time again may be in your comfort zone but really only makes for boring photos over time and certainly does not improve your skills.
I’d had plenty of experience of photography having started when I was 17 shooting general topics such as landscapes and architecture, with a little street photography thrown in too, particularly around the city of York where I lived. I went on to do weddings and more commercial work for clients but really hadn’t touched on working with models until probably about 20 years ago. I look back on my photos at that time and think to myself, what the devil was I thinking. Poses were wrong, ideas were lacking, lighting was rubbish and personally I thought my model photos were just generally pretty poor and certainly not to be proud of. I gradually got a little better but it wasn’t until I met a wonderful young lady who I took on as my muse and, whilst she might not have recognised it at the time, she helped me with my photography as much as I helped her with her modelling career. So how did my work improve from that time.
I shot with my muse probably at least once a month, it was my mission to improve my photography as much as it was to improve her modelling portfolio and provide each of us with some photos for our portfolios. Each shoot I planned that we should do something different every time. So it might be commercial lifestyle one time, fashion the next, working on location another time, some glamour the next and so on. So we just generally mixed it up every time.
Now in the preparation of every shoot I had to research new techniques and styles and then practice as much as I could with camera technique and lighting in advance of each shoot. So by the time the muse and myself were working on that idea, whilst I was definitely nervous, I think I was quietly assured that we’d be able to pull off the look I’d planned for. Over the years we kept working with one another in the same way …. stretching and challenging ….. and whilst both her and myself went on to have respective careers with her modelling and my photography, I always extended myself to try something different most times. Many times I’d be learning new skills beforehand, but it paid dividends every time.
And still now, when I’m planning all my shoots with models I am researching new ideas and techniques. Perhaps looking at photos and videos of past eras to give me ideas to include in the styling and photos. Anything to try and make the most out of every shoot I undertake, to give me variety, to spark my interest and imagination, to extend my repertoire.
So my advice is to add some variety people … it’ll do you and your models the world of good in taking your work and abilities to the next level. Always be stretching your mind and imagination, challenging your skills and knowledge …… always be learning.
And remember, even with your failures …. and trust me there will be some …… you are still learning