Whether you’re a photographer or a model if you want to get published and paid, you need to shoot lots.
In the Spring of 2017 during a mentoring session, my wonderful mentor shared some wisdom that I will share with you here. He said, shoot more, not a little bit more but lots more. He asked, “How long would it take you to shoot 100 sessions?” I said, “I can do it in a year” and the goal was set.
I had been filming a yoga video for my wife’s YouTube channel (Yoga with Dr. Melissa West), every week for almost 500 weeks in a row and I wanted to improve. I didn’t want to improve just my photography but also my filmmaking skills and as my mentor explained, focussing on just one frame at a time would let me see light better, improve composition and slow my process down.
He was so right. In March of 2018, I checked my numbers and saw that I had done 168 shoots and I haven’t slowed down since. Today (March 2019) I see that I have shot with more than 100 models on over 300 shots.
It’s not about the numbers. But it is. I wanted to improve and by buckling down, contacting local modeling agencies, joining Facebook Groups and putting myself out there for TFP (Time For Print) shoots, I was able to fill my calendar up quickly. Each week shooting with different models, events and for a variety of companies, I was able to develop a style. I must say that when I first started I really didn’t know if I had a style but as I progressed I could see that I had a look that I was drawn to.
What were the benefits of shooting so often? Firstly the fear of not being good enough evaporated. In the beginning, several local models were kind enough to work with me (including the editor of this fine publication) and this gave me the confidence to invite others to shoot. My portfolio grew, my Instagram account grew and soon people started contacting me to shoot. I had the opportunity to shoot as a second shooter on a wedding, assist on various commercial shoots and met and shot with several other amazing local photographers at meetups around the city.
The bottom line is that not only has my photography improved but my filmmaking has improved. My understanding of light has had a profound effect on how I shoot and I am forever grateful for my mentor’s candid advice. I hope this inspires other photographers to shoot more.
Written by Timothy West
Models: Natasha Gottfred & Melissa Morimoto