Take half a look at Laylarc‘s profile notes, and it won’t take you long to figure out that 1) She’s funny as hell and 2) This chick’s got balls. Oh, and maybe she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to modeling. I’m a long-time fan, so I was extremely pleased when she agreed to write for the blog.
I fart on your Jaffa Cakes
How to irritate a model
A few years ago I worked with an amateur photographer who couldn’t say lingerie, and instead of simply saying underwear or knickers and bra, kept insisting that we do some ‘Lannnjeray’ shots.
It’s hard to describe how irritating this was, but I’ll try: It was like when you have toothache, and it hurts when you put your tongue on it. But you have to put your tongue on it every now and again, just to check that it still hurts as much when you put your tongue on it. Do you know what I mean?
It was in this way that I kept getting him to say ‘Lannnjeray’ during the shoot, seething and shuddering with rage at his every mispronunciation of the French word for posh knickers. By the end of the four-hour shoot I could have cheerfully garroted him with my thong.
It wasn’t really the ‘Lannnjeray’ that irritated the shit out of me. The truth is, this guy was on an: ‘I’m a glamour photographer I am!’ trip, and I was a bit jaded. If you want to know why I was jaded, please see Aimeeboo’s article. After twelve months of modeling, this was pretty much the story of my life.
You won’t hear the following from working models. Not ones that wish to keep working anyway. So this article is dedicated to all the smart, sensible, hard-working models that have, at times during a shoot, suppressed the overwhelming urge to delicately remove one stiletto and whack the photographer in the face with the pointy bit.
It’s also dedicated to the awkward, bumbling, often but not always loveable buggers that decide to take up model photography.
Before I get really brutal, I’d like to point out that I loved being a model. I loved the process, I loved the adventure and I loved, loved, loved working with amateurs and creating images. I like nearly all of the photographers I worked with as people. I would actually stop and piss on most of them, if I found them on fire by the side of the road. Most of my shoots were wonderful, and I’d get home buzzing and happy, with a huge smile on my face. But it’s human nature to remember the negative in high-definition Technicolor. Believe me, some of these incidents are acid-etched into my memory. They weren’t traumatic; they were just really bloody irritating.
Being irritated isn’t intrinsically terrible. But to a model, particularly an art model, that has dedicated her time, her youth and her fleeting beauty to creating art, and helping others to create, it’s really bloody frustrating. Basically, we arrive open-hearted and willing, and it’s the irritating stuff that puts a barrier between us and you.
You’re killing us, you’re making us shut down, when what we really want to do is to push you to create great stuff. I can rant about how irritating you guys can be, and it can be as funny as hell, but if you think about it in this way, it’s a missed opportunity and rather sad. It’s the spirit of the faux-pas, rather than the actual events that I hope to get across. In a nutshell, it’s this:
Even the nicest, most well-meaning guy can come across as an irritating, creepy prick when confronted with an attractive girl in a bikini. The most important skill you have to learn as a model photographer, is not to be irritating and creepy. Stop fiddling with the camera and read this. It’s funny (probably only to models) but it’s not a joke.
As a newbie photographer, you’re bound to innocently piss a model off sooner or later. It’s not the end of the world. We just don’t complain about it as much as you guys do, because it affects our chances of getting booked. Ahhh, sweet revenge.
In the spirit of everyone getting along with everyone else, here is a list of things that piss us off:
Stop being scared of us. Don’t go to pieces when we walk out the changing room in a thong. Pull yourself together and don’t be a dick.
This applies only to a few, but it’s worth kicking off with. Being sexy, sensual and beautiful for the camera is not the same thing as being horny. This might come as a shock to some wannabe glamour photographers. Especially those under 25 years old, or those that have been married for five million years. But as a rule, we’re generally not horny at all on a shoot. This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many former noobs have admitted to me that they were actually nervous. NERVOUS that a model might get so turned-on during a topless shoot that they would try and have sex with them.
Errrr, no. We don’t want to have sex with you. We’re not thinking about having sex with you, we’re not considering it, and we’re not even worried that you’re thinking about having sex with us. We just want to take some photographs please. Why don’t you stop holding your camera as if it’s a bomb that might go off, and concentrate on getting some bloody good shots.
Oh, and here’s a helpful tip: Thinking about lighting, composition and F-stop thingies stops you getting a boner. OK? Now relax.
You’ve been a photographer for eleventy-billion years? Well so what? Nobody ever says ‘Oh Bill’s been doing this for years. We don’t even need to look at his photos. They’ll be brilliant. In fact Bill, don’t bother with the camera. Just stand there and look at stuff. Bill’s a photographer you know. You should see his art nudes. What that man doesn’t know about putting rose petals on fannies isn’t worth knowing,”
Photography isn’t like guarding the Queen. You don’t get any kind of recognition for long service. You’re not automatically better because you’re older than the collage kid with the second-hand SLR. You’re not entitled to any special respect or awe, because you started growing your beer belly when the model was still in nappies. It makes no difference whatsoever, and we do not give a flying fart.
There’s a porn studio near where I used to live. A local photographer mate of mine used to joke about the shenanigans that went on there. He said if you shined one of those special torches that the police use to detect traces of semen onto one particular set (somewhat disturbingly, this was the set that strongly resembled my Gran’s bedroom), it would light up like Blackpool illuminations.
Well, a similar thing happens to your photographs when you tell us how great you are.
While we may like and appreciate your wonderful photography, because you’ve just told us you’re amazing, each & every flaw lights up like a spunk-stain on a flouncy duvet. Particularly flaws to do with models, as in you not communicating with the model i.e. the bits that you should have fixed before you clicked. The more you bang on about being fantastic, the more we’ll notice that kind of stuff.
Pssst, I’m going to tell you a secret now. We don’t just stare down the glassy bit. We do actually look at lots of photographs as well. And nobody we consider awesome has ever felt the need to tell us how great they are.
Talking over the model when she’s speaking is something that only newbies do. Particularly on the telephone when you’re discussing the shoot. It goes a little something like this:
“…I can bring some….”
“Oh yeah bring some lannnjeray, bring some shoes, bring some straighteners and things for your hair. Bring some dresses, and some of those short things that aren’t dresses, what are they called? Skirts?”
“…I work up to nude, but I don’t…”
“Oh well I’m not interested in all that stuff no. I don’t need to see a model’s fanny. Not interested. No sireee! No fannies for me. Don’t need’em. Can’t use’em. Don’t like’em to be fair. I’ve always thought they looked kinda sore to be honest. Weird looking things…”
And while we’re on the subject of chunnering away without noticing that the model has slipped into a coma, we certainly don’t need to hear a long, overly delicate monologue about how you’re definitely not going to rape us or wank yourself inside-out over the photos after the shoot. We get it. Gross. Shut the fuck up please.
Perhaps the most damaging assault to the model/photographer/let’s get some great photos relationship is pretending that ‘models’ are a species unto themselves, and you are some kind of special anthropologist that understands their baffling little ways. Even thick models resent this. They might have more interesting things to do than look up the word ‘patronising’ in the dictionary, but it’s perfectly clear when they’re rolling their eyes at you behind the photographer’s back.
When I’ve just split up with my long-term partner & moved to the other end of the country, I’m understandably knee-deep in Wolf Blass, Kleenex and Ben & Jerrys, and I mention to you that I’m going through a break-up so I’m not accepting bookings this week, I’m not expecting a violin concerto. I’m being honest & responsible, and talking to you as an adult.
Saying ‘Oh you models, always breaking up with your boyfriends,’ in reply to this virtually guarantees that I’m going to spit in your tea during our shoot.
Saying ‘Oh you models, always on your ‘phones’ when I’m answering an email about a booking, or talking to my friends at the barbeque I’ve missed to prance around in Lannnjeray for you for ninety minutes, while on a break, or during unpaid travelling time is really fucking annoying. If I’d already spat in your tea, I would probably fart on your Jaffa cakes for this.
Haggling over the fee for no good reason can be very irritating. There are good reasons to negotiate. Parking, distance, hours, levels, this is reasonable stuff. But the fact that you just fancy paying £40 less than the stated rates isn’t a good reason.
Model fees have already been covered in this blog. So let’s just say, there is an awful lot of fuck-arsing around that we have to do to get bookings, and to travel to places with big, heavy bags full of stuff. We are not bald tyres or garden walls that need repairing. We are people, with stuff to do and lives to lead. We like modeling, but why is subsidizing your hobby all bastard morning suddenly my fucking problem? I’m sure your wife is relieved to have you out from under her feet for half a day, but I’m not the idiot that married you. If you can afford a camera, some lights, Photoshop, a computer, a car and parking, you can pay a model’s fee. Stop being a tight-arse.
We do not want to hear your entire, excruciating philosophy behind the unique and special way that you alone take photographs. Particularly if it involves the idea that you only shoot blondes in gold bikinis for the art. We get it. We don’t mind. In fact we don’t care. Shut up.
Amateur photographers sometimes bafflingly tell models to not pose at all. Apparently they like natural photos, and imposing a blanket ban on arching your back suddenly achieves this.
No it doesn’t. But I suspect this approach is often more about trying to throw the model into a tizzy so that you can capture some ‘real emotion’. Sometimes it feels like the photographer is just trying to establish control or dominance by stopping the model from doing what she’s hired for.
This really does just piss us the fuck off. Seriously, we groan inwardly when we hear this. Look, you’re not freaking us out. You’re not going to get raw emotion or a natural feel, because you’re not working with us, and therefore we’ve shut down. You might as well get a sack of potatoes from the corner shop and photograph that. At least it won’t give ‘harmless prick’ as a reference.
“I want to capture the real you,”
That’s just weird. Is this is a portrait shoot then? Oh you want to capture the real me, when I’m rolling around on a sofa in my pants in full makeup, like I do all the time. And you don’t want me to pose, so I’ll just squash my legs against the sofa and not worry about giving the camera more than one chin. Top banana.
“I don’t like my models to be uncomfortable on a shoot,”
It’s basically a choice between looking shit-hot and being uncomfortable, or being comfortable and looking shit. We’re models. It’s not fucking rocket science. I’m not a doll and I will not break. And if I feel uncomfortable with anything, physically or otherwise, please credit me with enough gumption to say so.
IT IS A MODEL’S JOB TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE. We bend, we stand in the cold, we ache, we suck bits in and stick bits out. This is what we do. Please stop interfering and let us do our job.
Oh, and ‘my models’ sounds creepy. I shot at the home of a very well-to-do photographer in the country. As soon as I entered the building I saw lots of black & white nudes with their fannies tastefully arranged in shadows. “I see you’re admiring my nudes,” said Mr. Photographer. He made it sound like he had a herd of nude models munching straw & rolling in dung round the back of his shed. Weird. THIS SOUNDS WEIRD! You own the split second that you captured in your photograph. We are not yours. Not even metaphorically. Fuck off.
So with all these terrible ‘thou shalt nots’ I’m spouting, is there anything you can do right?
Yes there is, and it’s very simple. Concentrate on the shot. Not the model, the right kind of concentration towards the model comes from concentrating on the shot. Yes, it’s amazing and impressive when a model rattles off a million poses in five minutes, and you do feel you have a duty to keep up. But unless you’re a couple of professionals shooting for a magazine, it’s boring & pointless for both of you. Models only tend to do this when they’re bored, or when they’re in ‘work mode’. Neither of which, as an amateur, is any good for you.
So if you want to work with a model successfully, do your homework. Choose what kind of shots you want to do. Don’t try to copy the professionals on TV, barking ‘yeah babe that’s lovely’ at a model in front of a blank white wall. That’s fantasy-land. It doesn’t work like that. Coronation Street isn’t a documentary, and proper photographers don’t go click click drop your strap love, magic.
Instead, look at photographs before the shoot. Rip pictures out of magazines. Look at books. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘I want this kind of pose, but with that kind of lighting,’. Or knowing that you want to experiment with something. Or trying to re-create something just for fun or practice.
We know. We understand. We’re patient. We spend our lives sitting in studios waiting for photographers to finish fucking around with lighting. We want you to take your time. No honestly, we do. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes even. Whatever. We want you to think. Not about us, we’re just fine thank you, and if we’re not, we’ll tell you.
Think about your shot. Get it right. Learn something. Improve. Talk to the model. Listen. Get better. That’s why we exist.