If you’ve ever had any questions about breaking into the industry Jason has answered them here in great detail, he also takes a different stances of the constant flow of TFP requests the photographers get. This is a great read, what are your thoughts on TFP? Leave your comments below.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Well I’m 34, half Maltese, half English and live in south east of England with my amazing and supportive fiance, photography is my passion, hobby, profession, all of the above, maybe none of the above, i try not to define it or let it define me.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
I use the Canon Eos 5D Mark 2 and have a backup 10D, just encase, though I dread the thought of having to revert to it. My go to lens is the Canon 28-135mm, it’s an affordable lens which enables me to quickly switch between full body and head shot without moving my position, perfect for studio work. I don’t like switching lenses when working with a model, the time taken to switch lens could be the time in which the perfect next shot could have occurred.
I generally shoot in my own studio, I use up to 8 elinchrom lights ranging from 250’s to 600’s, I absolutely cannot live without the skyport remote system, being able to stay in position shooting a model and adjust several lights power settings without moving and without the model even realising is key to keeping the focus and energy of the shoot, wondering around the studio fiddling with the backs of flash heads is no good when working with a professional model and even worse with an amateur who may be nervous
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
I believe in creating self marketing content first and foremost, create a striking image and it will market itself, social media has provided an important platform to enable this self marketing to take place of course. Although maybe not considered social media in the modern sense, we all tend to think social media = facebook and twitter, but networking sites such as www.modelmayhem.com have proven to be invaluable in achieving the goal of connecting me to other people, essential for creating the images in my portfolio. These networking sites have also provided me with a constant flow of models wanting to work with me on a TFP basis, ideal for building a creative portfolio, so social media is great in that respect.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
This is my current favourite photo, taken of a model who had only done one previous photo shoot, there was no makeup artist, no hair stylist or clothing stylist, just good teamwork between a model and photographer. I’m a big fan of glossy photography and this ticks all the boxes for me, that’s the significance it holds for me I guess, it achieves many or most of the goals that I strive to achieve in any given shoot.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
Another shot working with a model on her second ever shoot, no makeup artist, no hair or clothing stylist. This was shot on a grey colorama with a single Elinchrom head pointing at the background, the power cranked up high to create the dramatic pool of light and the model positioned so that the light spilled onto the models skin. Positioned to the front right was an Elinchrom octa light box, 2 metre wide circular soft box with the power set to a low level just to give a subtle fill light over the models body, I wanted to keep some dramatic shadows across the body so let most of the work happen with the strong light to the right of the model. To the left of the model is a third elinchrom head with a rectangular softbox rotated to the vertical position adding a strip of light down the left side of her body and leg. to the right of the model was a fan pointing at the lower part of the models body with the aim to lift up the material wrapped around her thighs. I didn’t want her hair blowing across her face and ruining the effect. The RAW image was taken into photoshop where basic cleanup took place on the body and face. I used a mix of cloning and healing tools only for clean up and then liquify for body refining. Finally I enhanced the image by duplicating some of the pieces of material to create the illusion of a much bigger piece of material blowing in the wind. I am very careful with the degree to which I edit to ensure the integrity and look of the model stands up against her main body of work shot by other photographers.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post ?
Photoshop and adobe RAW, if you try and do all the work in the camera you will miss the shot, I have trained other photographers in the past and see them trying to get things perfect in camera, adjusting the lights to perfection, fiddling with their light meters, and all while the model stands there twiddling her thumbs, this to me is a massive waste of a models valuable time whether it be TFP or whether it be your time paying the model. My belief is just shoot, keep the energy going, shoot fast and don’t waste time getting the light perfect on every shot if it means you lose time that could be spent shooting the model, directing or controlling styling and creating a connection with the model, these are the things that make a great shot, not worrying if a light is 1 stop over or underexposed on your light meter, shoot in RAW and tweak it later. Even if you have time on your hands and feel that you can afford to spend time perfecting every shot in camera, think about the model, her time, her energy, her flow, your technical fiddling will work against those things. As mentioned earlier this is where tools such as the Elinchrom skyport comes into play, as while directing a model to a new pose which might take 10 seconds, during that time I can also adjust several of my lights remotely using the remote attached to the shoe of my camera, the model isn’t even aware that I have just completely tweaked the lighting to suit a new pose ensuring that the flow of the shoot is not affected and energy levels remain high.
Post editing serves many purposes and if photography was invented with Photoshop we wouldn’t even be questioning it, as it was the camera was invented before the computer and as such an entire industry was built with something missing, now we have the missing element, we seem to question its place, I have no interest in people who abuse Photoshop, that’s their business, but for me as a way to fix a moment that was so close to perfection, a crease in the side of the body from a great but slightly awkward body angle, a spot on the chin that appeared the morning of the shoot, the list goes on, if we could have fixed these things before digital, we would have, i shoot with a digital camera, a complex computer in my hand, the process of moving the image to my other computer that sits on my desktop or lap is simply another part of my camera, if the new canon eos 5d Mark 5000!!! had a setting to eliminate spots, creases and tired eyes, I would make sure that button was pressed and enabled before every shoot, wouldn’t we all?
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
My beauty dish with honeycomb grid, it’s fantastic for creating hard controlled shadows to give images an edgy look.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
Model Mayhem to stimulate model interest for shoots and 500PX to gauge feedback from other photographers. Model Mayhem i see as a work tool, it helps to connect me with the models i need to do my shoots and 500PX as a showcase tool where other togs can comment and feedback on what i do, with Model Mayhem the comments tend to be primarily from models which is great, but sometimes i wanted feedback and critique from other togs as well.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
If I work with an uninspiring model and I have got in a bit of a shooting rut, then yes definitely, but all it takes is a creative model and I wouldn’t even know that I was in a shooting rut, I like to see what a model can bring to a shoot so it’s not only my ideas and creativity that drive the outcome, although I let models bring creativity to a shoot I absolutely always stay in control, I never let a model take control, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
I wish I hadn’t done so many shoots on a white background… Although it was all part of the learning process as i had no formal training, self taught from day one, looking back it really held my portfolio back in terms of variety and contrast. I still shoot on white, on occasion, but its different now, i make sure that the model and clothing contrast, I didn’t understand this concept when I first started out, now it’s all about contrast for me, I would say it’s more important than light, which photographers often think is the most important thing and the only thing to concentrate on.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Identify the tools, skills and resources that you need to obtain and work towards ticking each of them of your list, once you have done that you will have all the elements in place to go pro, then it’s just down to the industry and if there is room for you. I wouldn’t recommend approaching big magazines if your lacking in certain areas, they might not open your email the second or third time, get it right first. Network with good models on a TFP basis using sites like Model Mayhem and gain practice at arranging shoots with a model, makeup artist, stylist if you need. If paying for shoots spend your money wisely on professional models from the top agencies, working with high end models will elevate your pictures way beyond your current technical ability giving you a boost and gaining more interest from models looking to do TFP. Don’t waste your time shooting mediocre models, this may sound harsh, but if you’re serious about going pro you need to be working with models that would sit well in the pages of a glossy magazine, shoot high end models and high-end models will want to shoot with you, shoot high end models and potential clients will be able to picture how your style will fit within their pages or in representing there brand, its blunt advice, but it’s true. This is the only issue with Model Networking sites, there are many girls looking to do modelling for fun or some quick money and they will approach you to do a shoot, don’t spend your time or money on this, you might think that its good practice, it’s not, if you really want to practice your lighting or how to use a camera watch some videos on youtube, don’t waste valuable studio time and money on mediocre models because it’s been made all too easy by this type of site, there are great models on model networking sites however ,so choice widely and value your time. Many beginner photographers will spend £100 a time hiring a studio or booking an amateur model and repeat this process for dozens of shoots falling into a rut with a portfolio that develops at a painfully slow rate, fast track your career by spending the equivalent budget of multiple amateur shoots on a professional model from a top agency.
On the technical side of things, if you’re not already, shoot in RAW, always, no matter what, dont ever shoot only in jpg, it may seem easier now, but you will regret it later down the line once you have learnt the process and want to go back to old shoots, limited by what you can do with those jpg’s. Create a workflow, download into Adobe bridge, go through your shoot once tagging images that you think have potential for editing with a red label, don’t spend too much time deliberating over each image, try to let your eye judge the images in a second or two, this is your first pass. Now apply filters to hide all the non tagged images, go through the images again this time applying a star rating, either 5 star or 4 star, 5 star would be an image that you would consider portfolio worthy, 4 star would be good enough but might have a flaw or be similar to one of the 5 stars but not quite as good, during the 4 star/5 star process pay attention to detail, once you have done this hide the 4 stars leaving only the 5 star images in view, now go though these images one more time casting your eyes over the images quickly, wait until your eyes stop you, trust in your subconscious viewing judgement to stop at something that stands out, the image will stop you in your tracks, this is the image that you spend the time to pre for your portfolio, no others, you may have several images that pop out like this. To give you an example, I may shoot 500 images in a shoot and edit only 3, although the model will be pleading with me to send more, those 3 images will all be special, the others can stay where they belong, in the depths of my hard drive. This may sound like a lot of work but once used to it you will be able to go through a shoot very quickly, maybe 30 minutes maximum and you will always ensure that you spend time on the absolute best shots from the shoot. Don’t just skim through your pictures and pick out random shots that you like, the overall quality of your portfolio will suffer.
Get a good website built, only include your absolute best images, going pro isn’t a choice you make, the choice is made by others as to whether you go pro, I consider going pro to being paid to do your work, you can’t dictate if someone will pay you, but you can make the proposition sweeter, get all your boxes ticked, a great portfolio of striking images, well presented, with a quality website, a quality bound portfolio for physical meetings and a professional phone and email manner, then it’s time to see if the industry will let you play……
Visit Jason Slade – website