Finding models to photograph can be a real challenge at first. Sometimes it’s all about meeting the right person at the right time. But it’s doubtful that you’re going to meet them unless you’re doing things that one does that leads to meeting people. It sounds simple enough, but trust me, it’s not always that simple.
As I’ve progressed down this photographic path I’ve noticed that my interests have really been solidifying into photographing people. I’ve dabbled in street photography and it’s OK, but not really my cup of tea. I’ve photographed family members and that has worked out pretty well. Fortunately my wife, for example, is generally game for my photographic ideas. And even more fortunately she is particularly qualified; she’s tall and athletic. I love taking photos of my wife. Some of my favorites are here, here, here, and here. But the fact of the matter is that she’s not exactly enthusiastic about it. She doesn’t mind it, she can take it or leave it, but there are times when she is definitely indulging me.
Bless her heart.
I’ve often thought that I would love to shoot other people just to mix it up. I’ve even dabbled a bit in Model Mayhem, but it hasn’t been fruitful at all. I’ve gotten a lot of people there that say, yeah, I’m all in, but then you don’t hear from them.
Oh, well. It is what it is. And then I’m back to the conundrum of finding models to photograph. But what to do?
A while back I started doing the 100 Strangers Project for the simple reason of forcing myself to approach people and to get a decent shot in a quick and impromptu situation. It’s a whole other skill set that I’ve noticed adapts well to photography in general. My project is, at this time, currently on number 9. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m so going to finish it. In fact it’s probably something that I’m going to continue indefinitely.
So, you may be wondering what this has to do with finding models to photograph. Well, my wife, being the awesome supportive wife she is has been totally on board with the 100 Stranger thing. Often times when we’re out and about she’ll point out a particular face and say, “Man, you should try to get a shot of them.” That kind of thing. That’s how this Stranger shot came to be. Every weekend we go to Costco and do our weekly food shopping. One of the people that works there, like my wife, is a fellow emigre from Ukraine. Because of this shared background they have talked a few times. A few weeks ago they were chatting and I had my camera with me in case I had a Stranger opportunity. A few times I had thought about asking Yana for a Stranger pic, but every time that I’ve seen her in Costco she was so busy that it just wasn’t a possibility. During this time, however, she looked at my camera and asked, “Are you a photographer?” Right away my wife jumped in, “Yes, he is. You should have him take pictures of you, you’re beautiful.”
Right away Yana said, “Yes, I’d love to do that. Do you have a card or something?”
Of course I always carry a card with me. Note, always have a business card on you. Even if like me you’re not a “pro.”
A couple of weeks later using the email address on the card, Yana reached out to me to see if we could get together.
We set up a time to meet at a local park on a weekend. As we communicated via email Yana let me know that she had never done anything like this before, but she was game.
My wife and I met her at the park and we took a few shots. My goal was to get one for my Stranger Project. At this time I still considered Yana a “stranger.” It also gave me an opportunity to mess around with my reflector.
She was a bit nervous, as was I; not quite sure how to approach it. I just treated it like a normal Stranger session and asked her to just look right into the camera. We came away with this shot:
Technically it’s not a great shot. I could have done a lot better. I’ve got some blown highlights, a bit of upward lighting going on (messing with the reflector), but one thing is certain. The only reason that this photo is even remotely usable is because Yana is just so amazingly photogenic. She naturally engages the camera and just rocks.
After we took a few shots we decided to get together for an actual photo shoot; one in which we actually plan a little and spend a bit of time. So we planned to meet at the same park and go from there. This time I took some off camera flash gear; a simple speed light and umbrella. I had a particular place in mind, but after we met in the park I decided to get a shot there in a place that the lighting was particularly good. I’m not experienced at all with directing people to pose and Yana is not experienced at modeling. But we came up with this shot; the first real shot:
I like this shot. A lot. For me, it goes way beyond a simple photograph of an attractive person. It conveys something. Exactly what I don’t know, but it’s something.
A couple of weeks after that first real session we got together again. This time at a local place that is popular for people taking Instagram shots. It’s called the Cents of Style Wall. You’ll notice looking at their page that most everything is pretty Instagramy for lack of a better word. But it’s cool in that there are ready painted walls to stand against. I wanted to do something a bit different than what most people are doing with this wall, though.
This is what resulted:
Yana just exudes awesomeness in this pic. The way she engages the camera is, in my opinion, what separates a picture of a pretty woman from, damn, girl, you look like a freakin’ model.
Again, she was a bit nervous; a bunch of people standing around, trying to take direction, posing.
Here is another from that session:
Again, the engagement is just great.
After a few more weeks we got together again. This time in my little home studio. My wife and I invited Yana over to visit and do some pics. Since both my wife and Yana are from Ukraine they talked a bit about, well, Ukraine and drank a bit of tea.
I wanted to experiment with some very contrasty lighting using just a single speed light through an ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid. It resulted in a very concentrated narrow beam of light. I placed the light camera left and we came with this:
This is a radically different look. Some may not like the heavy contrast, but I love it. And, again, Yana does an amazing job.
The point of this whole thing is that finding models to photograph is a challenge; especially when you’re just some schmo like me who would not exactly qualify as a “pro.” Just getting out there and jumping in and asking people, though certainly not easy, is really the only approach. I think finding someone new with whom you can experiment and grow together is quite fortunate. I’m always learning and growing as a photographer. Yana, here, has definitely progressed as a model. I think it’s apparent when looking at our very first Stranger shot and comparing it to the most recent shot above. Doing the Stranger Project is simply a way of forcing me to reach out to people and asking them if I can take their picture. That’s the big step. The next step of asking them if they would like to set up a more formal shoot is a tiny step.
Especially if you create something that they like.