Written by- M.X. Déry | @xaviermarik
Featuring- Natasha | @Natashagottfred, Stephen | @Blackfishphoto
Months of planning, location scouting, generators for lights, custom made clothes, multiple models and photographers, you would be forgiven for believing that this amount of preparation is reserved for a professional crew shooting an ad campaign, but sometimes it is some non-professional creators working hard to get the shots they want.
All of the elements described above went into a concept planned and executed by Stephen Ban (IG: @blackfishphoto) for a Little Red Riding Hood concept undertaken last May in the woods at Horth Hill Regional Park. I sat down with Stephen in his home-studio to talk about his ideas about his collaborative process.
We were joined by Natasha Gottfred, a model signed with Coultish Management, about her experiences working with Stephen.
“Your shoot concepts are based on a lot of books, movies and shows, right?” asked Natasha.
“I draw heavily from pop culture for a lot of my ideas,” said Stephen, explaining that his first few shoot concepts were inspired by a friend who had done some modeling work.
“I think the more shoots I do, it happens more often that the concept comes first and the casting comes later, but having said that, once you’ve worked with enough people you start to develop a rapport,” he said. “You know this person is versatile enough that they could work in this role.”
Stephen enjoys sourcing the materials before a shoot, asking friends for costumes, figuring out lighting, scouting locations, etc. Eventually though, it is time to find a model for that shoot.
“When [a photographer] messages me,” said Natasha, “the first thing I do is look at their portfolio and if it’s going to benefit me in any way and if it isn’t,
I have to ask myself: do I want to do something that is so out there that I can’t use it for my portfolio?”
For paid work, the decision is simpler and the focus becomes the photographer’s reputation for being professional. However, when looking to collaborate, models can be very discerning about the projects they accept.
“Some people are amazing photographers, but always use the same angles,” said Natasha. “I look at the variety, who they’ve shot with, the colours and the styles.”
Sometimes, a project can seem like a stretch, but having a good relationship with the creatives involved can have serendipitous results.
“Like the ‘Ginger Shoot’,” added Natasha, in reference to a shoot involving four redheaded models that Stephen organized. “I didn’t know how that was going to work for my portfolio, but it ended up producing some of my best shots, so you never know. You have to put yourself out there.”
Once the project is planned and the models have said yes, the execution and success of the shoot depends on everyone showing up at the location on time.“I can’t emphasize enough how important reliability is,” said Stephen.
“The best impression you can make is showing up on time. Showing up early is mindblowing. Everything else after that is icing on the cake.”
For the model, arriving ready to shoot takes preparation and they expect that the photographer is just as organized. Inspiration shots should have been sent before the shoot, some models may appreciate music, and if the shoot is outdoors in cold weather… blankets!
Most importantly though is for a photographer to clearly communicate with the model. Natasha recalls a shoot where she expected the photographer to make use of her natural hair but then had the hair and make-up artists go in a completely different direction:
“I get in the chair and [the photographer] starts putting fluffy clouds on my head. Then it was an afro of fluffy clouds... it wasn’t even my hair at all! Throughout he didn’t say a word to me about the concept he had in mind. I had no idea what was going on, and I’m sitting there looking like a clown.”
Communicating your vision as a photographer is a must to develop trust with the model and to give direction when required, while being careful not to micromanage a professional.
“Coming from someone who is relatively new to shooting models,” said Stephen, “it is so much nicer working with experienced models. You don’t have to give them a lot of direction and they’ll just flow pose, but I know some photographers like to micro-adjust.”
“I hate that!”
interjected Natasha. “I’m like: ‘You haven’t even seen me yet. You sure you want to micromanage me? Give me a second, this is my job.’”
For large collaborations with many unpaid participants committing their time and resources, it is critical to make sure that photographers get the shots they want before calling it a wrap. Getting feedback from models and fellow photographers during the shoot can save you from regret later.
“I think there will be a few concept re-visits to get the shots that I have regretted missing,” said Stephen.
Once the shoot is over, the photographer gets to go home with all the images, leaving the model to sit back and wait. “I try to be really patient with the photographers because I know they have so many photos to edit,” said Natasha. “Usually they are pretty good, like 80% of the time they’ll send me a preview within a day or two.”
She remarks that newer photographers tend to take longer, which can lead to her prompting for updates if they leave her waiting for weeks - not the kind of first impression you want to be leaving!
For Stephen, usually within 15 minutes of reviewing, he knows which shots are going to be great and tries to send models a representative unprocessed, straight out of the camera preview.
“He just slides into your DMs,” says Natasha about Stephen’s post-shoot feedback. “‘Here’s your preview.’”
There is a plethora of ways to send photos to the model, but making it easy for them can save time and frustration.
“I’m really bad with technology,” said Natasha. “I’ve spent hours just sitting there downloading photos one by one because someone will send me 90 photos on Google Drive, rather than Google Photos.”
The way you send the photos can also affect them in undesirable ways, like compressing them, renaming them, or affecting the colour rendering. A low-resolution shot might be okay for a preview, but the final product of a collaboration should be of sufficient quality for a model to use in a print portfolio if they wish.
“It drives me up the wall when they send me low-resolution photos,” said Natasha, noticeably annoyed.
“I need high-res photos!”
Watermarked or not, just make sure they are delivered timely and in an appropriate resolution. However you decide to make that transaction, make sure there is a conversation before the shoot, to avoid leaving a model waiting and wondering when or if the photos will arrive.
While Natasha and I discussed closing remarks for the interview, Stephen began setting up the strobes and a backdrop for a short studio shoot. Natasha laid out the possible outfits while the music began playing and Stephen and myself tested the flash triggers and settings on our cameras. It was nice to be included in this impromptu collaboration, despite having met Stephen and Natasha only a few months ago through Creators.
Written by :
M.X. Déry | @xaviermarik
Natasha | @Natashagottfred
Stephen | @Blackfishphoto