I am a wildlife and nature photographer but I often like to step out of my comfort zone and photograph other subjects. I feel this makes me a better photographer and allows me to see the things I photograph with fresh eyes. I had the opportunity to attend one of Sigma’s events called the American Photo Model Shoot in NYC where I would also get to meet my fellow pros; Lindsay Adler, Kevin Ames, and Jennifer Rozenbaum. Before I went to the event, I took a peek at their work so I could get a better idea for what was in store for me. I have tried to photograph models before and I have had very little success getting great images and that both surprised and annoyed me! After all, you know the models are beautiful so why was I having such difficulty? I grabbed the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 and set off to see what I could come up with. The image above was one of the first I took that day and what struck me about the model was the light on her hair and I wanted to showcase that. I continued to walk around the other set-ups and it became clear that I needed a better understanding of what went into making a successful model image. I decided that I would carefully listened to Lindsay, Kevin, and Jennifer as they were giving instructions to the group and absorb as much as I could.
I wandered over to the natural light section where I found Jennifer talking to the group about the light direction as well as instructing the model with some posing tips and what we should be looking for. Following her instructions, I positioned myself where I felt I could make the most dramatic rim lit natural light image (shown above) and then it dawned on me…..these are some of the same things I look for in wildlife photography so in this environment, it had more to do with some of the posing techniques and knowing what to look for in order to make a pleasing portrait or boudoir photo. I knew Jennifer would be doing a presentation shortly and I just had to listen in.
As I watched her program, I quickly understood that while I may know a great deal about lighting, I knew very little about posing and how little tricks; like keeping the models chin down and shoulders back, accentuated the model in a subtle but very dramatic way. This is why most of my previous model images were terrible and I also realized that the good ones were pure luck! Armed with this new information, I set out for the afternoon session armed with the new Sigma 24-105mm F4 lens.
As I continued walking around, I often bumped into Lindsay at one of the stations teaching the group about adjusting the height and position of the lights to the particular model. In the image above I took advantage of her re-positioning the lights to illuminate the harsh and unwanted shadows that were presents on the model just moments before. Just like in wildlife photography, the direction and position of the light would be critical to my success. I did also get a chance to make it by Kevin’s station where I discuss with him in depth about my past failures photographing models. He reminded me that I needed to try and make a connection with my subjects…. just like I did in nature photography and reminded me to explore new and different angles as well! The image below is of the same model after she did a wardrobe change. I decided to move from the traditional position that everyone took out in front and tried isolating her against the brick wall in the studio. I kept my finger on the shutter as she was facing away from me and as soon as she turned into the light I fired off a few images.
In my continued quest to explore different opportunities I wandered over to one of the model set-ups, which was illuminated only by candlelight. A simple change of settings was all it took to create the image below. I like the dark mood of the image with just the warm candlelight illuminating the models face. It was becoming clear that controlling and adapting to the light was key, just as they in the field when photographing nature.
In my macro workshops I often like to photograph high key flowers. I use my old slide table for this. Applying that same idea to the model pictured below and positioning here in front of one of the light boxes gave what I think is a pretty unique look to the standard image.
I had a great time at the event and by the end of the day was pretty spent. Meeting Lindsay, Kevin, and Jennifer was a blast but watching them work gave me a new appreciation of just how hard their craft is. The thing that impressed me most was how effortless they make it look! I had to leave before the end of the day for a prior commitment, so I didn’t get to see Lindsay’s program on how to process my images. I know proper processing plays a vital role in the final result of these images. In all the images you see here I corrected them as I normally would my wildlife photos but I do understand that you can’t treat human portraits the same way. Fortunately I have a good friend, Susan Candelario, who has experience in retouching models so I sent her my images to put the finishing touches on them. I compared my original images with the ones she emailed me back and the results were quite dramatic. I knew I missed a great opportunity to learn from Lindsay on processing my images the day of the event and I will be sure to sit in on one of her lectures in the future!
Looking back at the days events I realized all the talent, hard work, and wealth of knowledge in posing and photo finishing that Lindsay, Kevin, and Jennifer put into this genre of photography so perhaps the most important thing I learned that day….even though it was fun….. is that I’m staying a wildlife photographer!!!