Hobbyist modelling doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
It doesn’t come with classes on how to pose, how to present yourself and how to make good connections. You sort of just, stumble upon it and make your own way.
Or at least that’s what I’ve been doing.
What started out as a competition won by someone else and given to me, and the thought that I’d then have “a cool picture on my Instagram”, has turned into something enjoyable and constant to occupy me on weekends when I would otherwise choose not to do anything. I still have no real idea of what to do each time I go into a shoot or the expectations of the parties involved but it becomes necessary to learn on my feet or the shoot wouldn’t be able to progress smoothly.
So, I’ve decided to share just a couple of literal rookie mistakes that have I have made, along with advice for how to navigate through collaborations. There are countless people out there at the moment who are involved in hobbyist modelling for various reasons, be it for that perfect Instagram aesthetic or to personally develop themselves, so it seems fair to lend a hand and share my own experiences to potentially educate others.
1. Never get pigeon-holed into signing up for what you can’t control
I had my hair curled nicely.
My outfits chosen for me.
A team telling me what poses worked best for the camera.
An extensive selection of incredible photos to choose for my portfolio…
Only to discover that if I even wanted 15 of them, I could be paying 1000’s of dollars, a condition that wasn’t made clear to me prior to the shoot, and I didn’t seem to have the option of walking out of the viewing session without taking something with me. After what was quite a significant time I managed to strike a bargain to take a handful of photos on a long-term payment plan, and to me this seemed like the perfect situation. However, a year on from the shoot, I was still paying my amount monthly but…where was this money disappearing to? And for how many months would it continue to disappear before I got any addition to my portfolio?
I did my calculations and realised that at the rate I was paying for this portfolio, my photos still wouldn’t be in production at least another 12 months. This would mean that two years on from my shoot, I still wouldn’t even have the results. This suddenly was unacceptable to me, I’d done several more shoots since this one and received amazing results in short periods of time; it no longer seemed plausible to continue with this payment, and I no longer felt that pressure to continue my plan with the studio.
My advice? Never feel pressured to take something away from a shoot if it is going to put a strain on your resources. Additionally, make sure that all conditions, terms and rules are clearly explained to you beforehand to prevent confusion. This was, for me, an error on both parties’ behalf, but in hindsight I saw that everyone needed to be more transparent. If the final products are beyond your reach, be content with what you have created and know that you have gained experience through what you have already done.
2. Establish clear communication with all parties in your collaboration
Now, this is a point that I’m sure many hobby photographers, makeup artists, stylists and models have all experienced when you receive that dreaded message of “I can’t make it today” or “So we’re going with this concept”. Nothing can be more disappointing or infuriating when the communication breaks down between parties.
Most recently, I have dealt with a photographer who had been somewhat intermittent in their messaging, suggested their own conceptual test shoot, and then said that I hadn’t offered up a concept, so I offered a concept, they said they hadn’t thought about doing it, and immediately offered up a shoot that was a concept I was not comfortable with. We both agreed to regroup to confirm exactly what shoot we were doing, but as I posted a request for an MUA for another shoot, I received a somewhat blunt message saying that I was unprofessional for organising that shoot and not choosing to do this shoot.
Let us take another situation, an advertisement on StarNow was offering the opportunity for a lingerie shoot with all photos supplied. So I applied, I was interested. Once again, the messages were slow, the details unclear until a week before the shoot was due to happen. The location got changed, the concept was developing from lingerie to implied nude – a concept that currently seems to be most popular among certain photographers, who then don’t want anything to do with you once you refuse to show your top half – and something about the shoot just didn’t feel right to me anymore.
I showed up to the shoot nonetheless, and was happy that I’d chosen to bring a friend along with me as I wasn’t getting a safe vibe from the photographer anymore. Sure enough, once in the shoot, the ideas that I put to the photographer weren’t sounding “good enough” to him. Instead there were questions, “would you do a shoot topless?”, “can you be a bit more cheeky?”, “can you be more sexy?”, “can you pull your straps down?”, which then turned into, “this shoot would look better if we did that”, “I’ve done shoots like this before”, “I prefer implied.”
I left that shoot not feeling great about my final products, but, I had looked at the camera during the shoot and had seen several shots that I would be content to add to my portfolio. I then waited nearly a month to hear from the photographer again, and as much as I wanted to email to enquire about where the photos were, I had patience. Finally I heard from the photographer, who asked if I would like some of the photos to add to my portfolio, of course I said yes, and after more intermittent conversation I received six photos.
But they were unedited.
They weren’t posed correctly.
They weren’t well taken shots.
I enquired for more shots, or for a better selection of photos, and now, over a year later, I’ve never heard from him again.
My advice? Always demonstrate and element of authority in your conversations. Don’t attempt to monopolise the conversation of course, but at least make it clear as to where you stand and present any and all ideas that you want to have on the table for consideration. There is no such thing as too much conversation in collaborations. You need to know exactly who you’re working with, where you’re working, when you’re working and what everyone is willing to bring to the concept and what their limits are. If an individual has limits as to what they’re willing to show, or the camera work they’re willing to do. Don’t push them. You will only make the shoot uncomfortable for everyone involved. If there is a shoot you want to do, be absolutely certain that you are free for it, make sure that time works for everyone, and don’t sign up to a project that you’re not sure if your availability matches, it will only inconvenience the parties left to carry on without you.
3. Remove yourself from situations and people who may effect the happy outcomes of your shoot.
I’ve worked on solo shoots, and I’ve worked on group shoots, and in my typical lone wolf style I do prefer smaller shoots. I won’t turn down larger collaborative efforts however as everyone deserves a chance.
Unfortunately though, I have been exposed to certain individuals who have not seemed to care about the greater scale of the shoot and would rather have all attention on them. Twice this year now, I have worked with individuals who lack the tact to approach their shoot professionally enough to understand the photographer or makeup artists vision. This results in questions like, “Can my lips / eyes be done this way instead?”, “Can I just look at the camera? I want to make sure you’ve gotten a good shot.”, “Can you delete that image? I don’t like it.” and statements like “I don’t like that shot.”, “I don’t like my eyes looking that”, “I know what looks best, I’ve done this for x years.”.
No matter which party is talking, and which party you would be talking to, there are certain questions and statements that should most definitely remain unsaid. No one wants to hear that their skills aren’t up to your personal standards, or to feel belittling by snide comments. Once again, it can drag the mood of the entire shoot down, and you may most definitely end up insulting one or more people. While I see this behaviour, and would much rather say something than bite my tongue, I simply distance myself instead and focus on the task that I am there to do, and I feel content knowing that I can professionally work with skilled individuals.
My advice? Don’t make conceited statements. Yes, you may have been working at your art for many years, yes you may personally know which shade of pink looks best on your lips, but this is not an opinion that needs to be voiced. Heading into a shoot with an open mind and a will to experiment (within your limits mentioned above – but these must be limits of worth) will show as brightly as your smile, because the other parties will be happy to work with you knowing that they can happily practice their art and everyone involved can increase their skills and learn from one another.
Hobbyist modelling, and indeed photography and beauty, is an industry where you learn from exposure and experience. No one is going to sign you up to a class and hold your hand through the process to get the best final product. Instead, you need to rely on the artists around you to gain knowledge and skills. Listen to one another’s input, don’t be afraid to make your own voice heard but keep it respectful.
The relationships that I have built during my time in this industry have been so worthwhile. There are photographers who I laugh with as though I have known them for years, models who offer me small tips to assist with camera timing or better angles, and makeup artists who teach me beauty tricks that I would never have thought of or educate me on products that I am curious about.
Each person will leave their shoots with different experiences, and that is okay, not everyone needs to align to your vision. Shoots are an opportunity for me to let go of my constant control, to develop a persona that I may never normally show, and I get to see that result visually. I get to sit down with the final product and say, ‘wow, these people are amazing!”
We have all worked together to create something great.
We have all made something unique and wonderful.
As long as we respect one another, amazing work will continue to be created.
If there are any Melbournian photographers or makeup artists or stylists reading this, I would be so keen to collaborate with you. Every shoot I do, I do it with passion and a keen interest to develop my skills. I’m also wanting to learn about what you do, and why you love doing it. These collaborations make my quiet weekends a little more worthwhile. I’d be more than happy to talk to you over on my Instagram or Facebook page which are both linked at the top of my blog.
Hopefully this ‘amateur guide’ has offered a little insight to a growing industry and shed some light on some situations to avoid and how to surround yourself with good energy instead. Let me know if any of this helped you!