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Working with Models: A Beginner’s Guide

Running a shoot from start to finish can be pretty demanding—working with creative staff, managing your camera, adjusting settings, directing, and ensuring that everything is going smoothly. It can be pretty daunting with the prospect of trying to handle all of this right?

One of the more challenging aspects when starting out can definitely be getting comfortable working with the model(s) on a shoot, and how to ensure everyone comes out happy and satisfied.

In this article I’m going to tell you:

  1. The principles and attitudes behind successfully working with models from all walks of life;
  2. How to talk to models, and how to get over that initial nervousness of being a director on a shoot;
  3. How to treat models on and off set to ensure a solid and strong professional relationship can be developed.

I have also created a video which outlines everything in this article. Feel free to watch or alternatively read on.

So let’s go!


Note: this article has been written from the perspective that the majority of models I work with are female. Everything in here applies to men and women, but it has been written from the mindset of working with female models.


Preface – Getting into fashion photography from other backgrounds

Chances are if you are reading this you may be interested to get into the world of fashion and portrait photography. You might be a fashion enthusiastic, you might want to get published in a magazine, or you may simply want to get incredible shots of people. Hopefully it would be all three of these.

“But I have only shot wildlife and landscapes before!”

Join the club! I have a background of shooting exactly those things, and suddenly came into enjoying shooting portraits when a friend of mine asked me to pick up the camera and get a basic photo of them for their Facebook profile. I had no clue as to how to direct or work with models back then but I snapped a photo, and loved it. From then I decided I’d give this whole portrait photography thing a try.

That was two years ago!

One of my old photos from 2010 – as you can see it is very different from what I usually produce nowadays, but this was where I came from!

So don’t fret if you haven’t got the background, we all need to start somewhere, and in this article I’m going to give you a thorough breakdown of how you can effectively work with models.


Part 1 – Fundamental principles of working with models

Let’s lay a solid base here. Having the right attitude and personal principles in place is essential. The following principles are what I abide by, and what I feel makes the whole experience of working with a model professional, personal, and fun!

Principle 1: Models are people too!

This is perhaps the biggest point I want to highlight. You have to remember that models are people too. These are people who have hopes, fears, anxieties, and dreams just like you or anyone else. They are not soulless objects, nor items without motivation. These are people who want to have fun, do the best they can, and be able to showcase some awesome work.

They can get nervous before shoots, worry about whether the makeup looks right, and overthink if they perhaps didn’t do a pose completely right. I’m not saying all models are like this at all, but these thoughts are probably more common than you think!

Please remember that! It is also important when we move onto Principle 2.

Everyone’s uniqueness is what makes them special. Models aren’t just items and objects you can move around; you have to remember that these are real people too.

Principle 2: The model’s comfort is your top priority, and they deserve your respect at all times.

I like to make a point of this again and again, and here I go again; on a shoot, the model’s comfort should be your top priority. By that I mean if at any point a model isn’t feeling comfortable with what is happening, the shoot should stop, and if the discomfort can’t be rectified immediately, the shoot should end. Period.

I say this for a number of reasons. The first is common human decency. Come on. If you are in an environment where you can usually easily stop what is going on, and someone isn’t happy, you should just stop. No photo is worth putting someone through something that could physically or emotionally hard them.

Nay sayers may say that this is me being over the top, but I can hand on heart say that I could turn away from any photo and be sure to capture another amazing one with the same team at another time.

Portrait and fashion photography should be fun! However, you always have to make sure that the model’s comfort is your top priority and that you make sure they are well looked after throughout the whole process.

The next reason is that if you have a model who isn’t feeling the shoot, and who isn’t comfortable, that is going to reek through the photos. If you are taking a photo of someone who doesn’t want to be there or isn’t interested in the shoot, you are going to see it in their eyes, in their posture, and in the end results.

Finally, one point to hammer home is that you should always ensure that everything that happens on a shoot abides by the rules of consent. That is ensuring that if you agree to do a fashion based shoot, you won’t be encouraging a model to remove clothing, or asking them to get into positions which are not in line with what was originally agreed with in the shoot.

This comes down to basic respect, and also (to put it bluntly) not being a sleazy creep who exploits models just so you can see a bit of skin. 200% not cool, creative, or in line with great ‘photography.’

Consent is one of the most important parts of a shoot; the photographs captured should be of a nature of which was agreed upon when the call was made for models. No model should ever be put into a situation that they did not explicitly consent to.

Principle 3: Realize that photographers have it easier than models in the majority of cases.

This may be a heated discussion point but I’m going to give you my opinion here. Photographers have it way, way easier than models do, in terms of what is expected, and behaviour.

Let me explain. As a photographer, on average you have to put your trust in the model being polite, able to listen and dressed as agreed, as well as making sure they credit your work properly post shoot.

Models on the other hand have to trust that the photographer will:

  • Conduct themselves in a professional manner before, during and after the shoot;
  • Be polite and respect agreed boundaries;
  • Take photos that are flattering and suitable for the direction they want to head in with their modeling career;
  • Edit the photos to a respectable standard and not go overkill on the editing so it looks fake (unless of course that is the agreed aim);
  • Credit the model properly on social media;

As you can see there is a lot more expectation and trust needed from the photographer when it comes to shooting and processing a photoshoot. Fair enough, this also highlights the hard work a photographer has to put in, but consider the above as a mindset of the trust models will put into you.

Models can face a lot of unseen pressure when it comes to thinking if the pose will look right, if the photographer will conduct themselves professionally, and if they will also subsequently process the photos in a flattering manner.

Principle 4: Don’t be intimidated by the model, and the perceived fame of modeling and the fashion industry.

I say this in the most respectful way to everyone involved in fashion photography; don’t be intimidated by the fame or glitz of the fashion industry. You will work with models who are incredibly beautiful people, and whom you could find intimidating. Society always pens a lot of weight onto someone’s looks and of course you will be working with people who can sometimes be exceptionally good looking.

Why am I saying this? Because I want you to remember Principle 1: models are people too. You are also a person as well, and the fashion and portraiture industry is open to anyone who has the gall and passion to work professionally and create beautiful artwork for everyone involved. Heck, I used to do wildlife photography, and had a very, very loose grip of fashion before I started working in portraiture. However, I channeled the passion I had to learn more about it, and this is where I am now. You can do it as well. Don’t ever feel like you can’t, because that is complete bull.

As an example, I recently was fortune enough to shoot with the absolutely stunning Stefania Ferrario. Those of you who know her may know that she was recently voted Sexy Australian of the Year, is Dita Von Teese’s Australian Rep, has over 450k Instagram Followers, and over 200k Facebook Fans.

Now I’m not stating these facts to attribute Stefania’s only worth down to numbers, but more as a comment on how social proof and following can lead some people to think “I could never work with her, I’m not worthy enough”.

I can tell you first hand that Stefania is an absolutely lovely person. Throughout the whole time I have known her she has been nothing but fun, approachable, and so incredibly easy to talk to. Stefania, like so many awesome models, is also a real community engager, and has shot with a whole incredible range of fantastic photographers, from novices to industry pros.

Don’t be intimidated by these numbers; behind the fandom and well deserved following these models have lies a real person who has a real passion for the industry they work in (I appreciate I sound like the most broken record in the world right now).

Stefania’s incredible modeling career has been spurred on her being passionate, thoughtful, and engaged about what she does, and her love for creating beautiful art.

Principle 5: You should be aiming to develop a strong, personal, and professional relationship with everyone you come into contact with.

As with so many art scenes and industries, it isn’t always what you know, but who you know. I have seen photographers who don’t have the technical skills when it comes to shooting as some of the big name photographers, but they have a huge following and people will sing their praises constantly, because they put the effort in to build strong working relationships with people.

This can be anything from offering help to another photographer, trying their best to assemble a team so that they can get a model published in a magazine, or giving a recommendation to other photographers when asked about a potential job when you may not be available. The fashion and portraiture is stronger as a community, and people who take the time to help each other do not go un-noticed.

For example I once was contacted for a professional paid shoot because a model I worked with had told her friends that I gave her free advice on how to improve her iPhone photography. This conversation I had maybe took up about 5 messages over Facebook over the course of about 2 hours.

Building a good professional working relationship with models and other creatives will help you get noticed, and help better your reputation.

Saying that, you have to be genuine. People will always value others who are honest, genuine, and passionate. Don’t expect anything in return and do it because you want the community, of which you are a part of, to grow as a whole.


Part 2 – Best practices and techniques for working with models

With the above principles in place, you should now have a good mental base for now learning how to actually set up a shoot, and most importantly, how to communicate and work with models effectively.

The process of how to set up a shoot from start to finish can seen like a daunting task. However, once you get the fundamental process down, you’ll find it is a breeze from start to finish.

I want to give you a breakdown of how I work with a model at different stages of a photoshoot.

Arranging a Shoot

I’m not going to go into a heap of detail on where to find models here, but I will tell you that one of the most common ways to arrange a TFP (Time For Print) photoshoot, is by joining your local area’s Modelling Facebook Group. Trust me, unless you live out in the wilds, there should always be a local one if you search on Facebook; and if you can’t see one for your local area, set it up!

Here is how it usually works; you will go onto the Facebook group, and post something like:

Calling all models / MUA / creatives!

I’m new to the fashion and portraiture world and am looking to set up my first shoot with some willing creatives! I’m 30, and have previously shot real estate and wildlife but am really excited to get into the fashion world!

I’d like to arrange a shoot with a natural boho theme in the local national park this weekend.

Please find below my recent work, and inspiration photos for the shoot!

My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/whoshothim if you want to check out some more or my work and a bit more about me.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

This instantly lays a good base for you to then arrange a shoot with people who will PM you in response, or reply to the request. From there you will want to see who replies, and if you feel the model is a good fit, you can get them on board for the shoot.

If you take the time to create a thoughtful and passionate post showcasing what you are all about, chances are you will get a good response and be able to start shooting with other local creatives.

So just some basic pointers for when you do talk to models for the first time:

  1. Use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I can’t stress this enough. Please. If you can’t be bothered to spell the word ‘there’ properly, how can you assure someone that you can be bothered to edit their photos properly?
  2. Don’t be demanding. Remember that people do have busy lives, and the majority of people who do TFP shoots aren’t able to supplement their entire income with modelling gigs. If a model says they want to shoot but when you send them a message they don’t get back to you, leave it. Archive the message and move onto who is interested. This isn’t being mean but maybe they have changed their mind, or something has come up. Don’t blame, persecute, or harass people. This is unprofessional, rude, and just not appropriate.
    You can find out a bit more about the model in terms of what they have done previously, but keep it based around the job at hand. By this I mean don’t start asking personal questions about their private life, when not everyone is comfortable about that. Remember this conversation is about working on a photoshoot, not about how long they have been with their partner for.
  3. If you want to, arrange to have a coffee together to introduce yourself; however this isn’t necessary or possible in some cases. When I first started out, I did this with every model, as I wanted to show off my portfolio in person, and explain what I’m all about. This was especially helpful considering I didn’t have a huge portfolio, and nobody really knew me. I highly recommend doing this for photographers new to the scene. It goes without saying that you pay for the coffee as well.
  4. If a model doesn’t want to work with you, or isn’t available for a shoot, don’t take it personally. There can be a lot of ego involved in photography, and as per Principle 5, you want to make sure you are helping build a strong community. So if it turns out that it just doesn’t work with a model, don’t take offense. There may be a whole myriad of reasons you don’t know about for why they don’t want to do the shoot, or arrange a shoot with you.

The Day of the Shoot

So now that you’ve set up the shoot, here comes the big day; shooting and directing the model. It can see pretty daunting right? Well I have a great series of points here which showcase exactly how I operate, and how you can direct a comfortable, fun, and awesome photoshoot.

One of the more challenging aspects of a photoshoot can be how to direct a model. However, once you learn a few principles and techniques, you’ll find it a lot easier.

These little points are all based on basic politeness and decency. These are some of the key things I do:

1. Chat with the model

As previous mentioned, you have to remember that at the end of the day, models are people too. When I first meet up with a model on location, I will more or less always ask “How has your day been?”. This is a simple opener to help everyone relax and get into a chilled conversation.

2. Remember to compliment the model

Models will go to a lot of effort to get ready for a photoshoot, and there is nothing more flattering than a simple “you look amazing!” from the photographer. Don’t be fake about it, but obviously they will look incredible as you got them on the shoot, and this is a perfect little confidence and ego boost!

3. Ask the model thoughtful questions about their experience with photoshoots, and anything else that isn’t too personal.

People love to talk about themselves. This has been proved by a mountain of scientific studies, and of course every day life! You love to talk about yourself when asked a question right? I’m not going to lie, I do!

So when you are working with a model and in-between shooting, ask them questions about what they enjoy about modeling, if they have done any shoots lately with any other photographers, and if they have been published before. I do genuinely find these kind of chats interesting and have learnt a lot about the local fashion photography scene as a result!

If you are on good terms with the model, then feel free to ask other questions about how they are finding work, and if they have been busy; but only do this if you are on good terms as it can sometimes wander into the realm on ‘too personal’.

4. Do not touch the model or their clothing without first asking permission, and only do so if it is necessary.

Another key philosophy I have when it comes to working with models is that you shouldn’t need to touch a model on a photoshoot. I believe it can be a little bit too personal, and opens the possibility of photographers breaking boundaries and acting inappropriately.

Directing can be tough sometimes, and it does take time to get comfortable. However one thing I will always say is that if you are having a hard time trying to direct a model into a pose, do the pose you want yourself (yes, yourself!) and then get the model to mimic you. Not only does this work well, but also will probably elicit a laugh or two which eases the pressure off even more.

In all of the 100+ photoshoots I’ve done, I only probably had to touch a model once or twice, and that is just because a leaf was caught in their hair and it was easier for me to remove it for them. In this case as well, I told them “there is a leaf caught in your hair, would you be ok if I got rid of that?”, and only when a “yes” came back, I’d do it.

If you have an idea in your head of the specific pose you want a model to emulate, there is no better way than to do the pose yourself so that the model can mimic you. There should be no reason to touch the model, unless the model has explicitly agreed to it and it is necassary.

5. Tell everyone on set that you will need five minutes to scout out the next shot before setting up

This was probably one of the biggest game changers for me when I learnt how to do fashion photography. With so much rushing around and perceived pressure, it is so incredibly easy to rush around and try to get a hundred shots in ten minutes.

Simply stop and tell everyone that you’ll need five minutes to get an idea for the next shot, and they can relax. People will be more than happy to find another few minutes to relax.

6. When it comes to directing, if you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t stress

Directing was a big challenge for me when it came to my first experiences with moving a model into place, and setting a scene up. After doing over 100 shoots I can honestly tell you do not get stressed or worried if something doesn’t work out.

So what do you do if you pose someone and it doesn’t look great? I have the solution. Simply tell the model to ‘relax’. This will put them at ease, and stopping the pose, hitting the reset button and allowing you then to take a few minutes to reassess what you want to do next (as per point 4 above).

Please trust me when I say that I have had a whole ton of posing directions which didn’t work before getting that one pose which did work. Don’t let it get to you, and above all just take your time.

Directing models can be tough, and you will find that sometimes that a pose you think looks good in your head, won’t play out so well in real life. That is part of the creative process, and I can tell you that it is completely normal and happens more times than not! However, this is the learning process, so don’t give up and keep trying! The above pose we got after trying three other poses, and it was great to finally capture this moment.

7. If the model is going to be changing half way through the shoot, respect their privacy and give them time and space to change

Yet again I feel like I’m wandering into OTT territory here but if a model is going to be changing outfits through a photoshoot, you need to give them privacy. I use a pop-up changing tent which I got from eBay for about $100 and it works like a charm; alternatively if you are shooting in an urban area see if there are any restrooms nearby.

If none of these are options and the model needs to get changed out in the open (for example in a forest or in a car), then tell them you are going to give them privacy and leave the immediate area until they say it is all good to come back.

Bottom line: be respectful.

8. Welcome partners, friends, and family on the shoot

This was mentioned in my post about the importance of crib sheets for a shoot, but in my opinion don’t be afraid of offering the opportunity for family members, friends, and partners to come along on a shoot.

There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, models may want to bring along family, friends, and partners for support. As I’ve touched on, it can be a pretty nerve wracking experience sometimes, and that moral support may mean a lot to the model. Not only that but it is a legal requirement for any shoots with under 18 year olds, that a parent signs off the model release form; this means it is more or less granted that parent will want to be on the shoot as well.

Secondly, and this is incredible important for more boudoir based shoots, they may want people there for safety. I once heard of a photographer who set up an erotic shoot with a model, and when told that she wasn’t allowed to bring her boyfriend to the shoot, the photographer stated that it was because ‘his male energy may interfere with the shoot’. Complete and utter rubbish. I’ve never had male energy be responsible for damaging my camera, nor for producing sub par shots. The entire premise comes across as creepy and inappropriate.

Now, one point I will make is that just because people come along doesn’t mean that you should also allow the shoot to be derailed by these familiar faces. I always say that the model can bring people along, so long as they respect that it is a creative shoot, and that the directing should be left up to the photographer.

I’ve experienced times where friends have said “maybe you should pose X this way?” in regards to setting a scene up. This may happen, and if it does a friendly “thank you, but for the moment I just want to make sure we get some awesome shots for X so we may try that later” will do. This isn’t being rude, it is just asserting that you are the one who has the experience in portrait photography and know best for the model!

Saying that, there may be some good suggestions as well but at the end of the day don’t let people interfere too much.

Friends, family and partners can all provide great moral support for any models who are on the photoshoot, and should always be welcomed; as long as everyone respects you taking the creative lead.

9. Remember to do your model release forms

A vital necessity for all TFP shoots is that a model release form is completed. Model release forms are vital for a legal point of view, ensuring that the model agrees that all images taken are your copyright, and this also acts as evidence that you did a TFP shoot. If you want to get published, Magazines will require this as well.

I use the Snapwire app for iPhone, which is unbelievably free. It is fantastic, and has a model specific agreement that can be altered if you wish.

For Android I used to use ‘Easy Release,’ although it does come with a bit of a price tag.

It is easy to get carried away with the shoot and call it a day at the end, but you need to make sure that you get this done.

10. Do not drink before or whilst on a shoot

I’m saying this because I have heard more than a couple of incidences where this has happened. Do not drink before a shoot to give you ‘dutch courage’ to get over your nerves. I have this as part of my crib sheet for models as well, and it is extremely rare that people do it but regardless, you should never be encouraging or taking the consumption of alcohol at any part of a shoot.

The only exception to this would be at weddings and events of course, but when it is a professional one on one session with an individual or couple, I don’t recommend this.

I have heard of these incidences once from a model who said she smelt the whiskey on a photographer, and second from a photographer who admitted he did this to get over nerves. We all get nerves in some form of another. I still do sometimes; but you cannot drink to try and solve this. It is not only potentially dangerous, but also sets a bad professional standard for the shoot.

If you want to get over your nerves, I’d suggest meditation before a shoot, or just run with the feeling and you’ll eventually get over them the more shoots you do. I know that isn’t the best advice when starting out but trust me, the energy and creative stress from nerves is actually a good thing!

Whilst it may be tempting to get over your nerves with a bit of help from a drink, it can potentially cause a lot of problems, as well as being unsafe and unprofessional. The confidence to work on a photoshoot comes from your own confidence and experience with learning from the ups and downs of doing a photoshoot.

11. Have fun

At the end of the day, you want to make sure everyone who is on the shoot has at least some fun! We don’t do photography because it is a chore (well I don’t!), but because we love to create beautiful images and experiences for people! My photography is my creative outlet in my life and I adore doing shoots because of how much fun they are, and the end result that is created from everyone working together.

Fashion and portrait photography is a social hobby / business, and so you should enjoy yourself, and find fun in the small directing mistakes you make, the comedy in a pose you joke around with trying, and the pleasure in getting that photo that makes you shout “yes!” as soon as you see it pop up on your screen.

We all do photoshoots because they are awesome fun! It’s an experience unlike any other, bringing together a team of creatives to create something beautiful to showcase our unique ideas.

Final Comments

Working with models can be challenging. Directing can be challenging. However, life is just a series of challenges to overcome, and you know deep down that once you get over a challenge, you can revel in the satisfaction of perfecting your craft, and the next big challenge that lies over the hill.

In summary, you should now have an idea that:

  1. Models are people too, and may be equally, if not more nervous for a shoot;
  2. The model’s comfort is your top priority, on and off set;
  3. Chat and engage with the model and other creatives – people love to talk about themselves, and having a relaxed atmosphere can help everyone on set feel much more comfortable which will always lead to better photos;
  4. Directing can be tough but there are ways to deal with it – remember the take a break rule which eases off the pressure from yourself so you can revaluate what you want to do next in the shoot;
  5. Encouraging and being part of a strong community is the best way to build professional working relationships with creatives.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you agree in the comments below, and tell me about your experiences getting into fashion photography!


About the author: James Harber is a fashion and portrait photographer from Canberra Australia. Originally starting his journey into the world of photography in with Kodak Film at a young age, James has since expanded to shooting primarily fashion photography. He’s a big advocate of education and positive attitudes in the photographic community, and enjoys helping others, especially when it comes to understanding how to process photos. To see more of his work, visit his website or give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

What Lens Should I Buy? This Video Breaks Down All Your Options

“What lens should I buy?” It’s one of the most common gear questions that pops up in the PetaPixel inbox, and while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, photographer Peter McKinnon does a great job of explaining what’s out there and what you need to know to decide on your next lens in this informative video.

The video is titled, appropriately enough, “What LENS should YOU BUY?!”, and it tackles the problem in a very systematic way. First, Pete explains the three questions you need to ask yourself before making any lens purchase:

  1. Do I want a lens for photos or video?
  2. What’s my subject?
  3. What’s my budget?

Then he takes you, step by step, through basically all of your focal length options (explaining compression along the way), talks through aperture options, and dives into what lenses suit what styles of photography best.

The video is 14 minutes worth of advice that beginners in particular will benefit from greatly—a basic breakdown of what lenses are most commonly used for what style of photography, and which options are going to give you the best bang for your buck when you start out. It’s a great resource worth sharing with your favorite photography novice.

So check out the final video up top, and then give Peter’s rapidly-growing YouTube channel a follow if you like these kinds of tips and tutorials.

My Guide for Attending Your First Photography Workshop

workshops1

I have been a model for 1 to 1 workshops that last half a day, full day, two days. I have been a model also for a 3-day long workshop with over 50 photographers. Working on both sides of the camera I can get incredibly passionate about being part of workshops, but I can get equally distraught because when you deal with people in such close proximity and so intensively, emotions and feelings are bound to be stirred in every single direction.

So, you’re thinking of attending a workshop? Here’s a brief guide (there must be something I have forgotten, though!):

Research

Have a good think about what you like, what you would like to develop more in your photography or what you’d like to learn about, and based on these three questions decide on the type of workshop you want to go on. There is something for everyone, but just because there is such a vast number of different workshops available, do not blindly pick one without actually researching what it’s about!

Knowing what the workshop is about, what is expected of you as a ‘student’ and what the workshop leader offers you, will help you pick the right workshop for yourself. If you like landscape photography but are not keen on walking or hiking, a landscape photography workshop might not be for you because travel on foot will be most definitely included!

Attending a course, where you know you definitely will not like a part of it will not only put you in a bad mood and make you less likely to engage but it will also put a downer on the workshop leader, who will pick up on the negative vibes. I am not talking about taking on courses where you genuinely wish to challenge yourself, however!

For example, I have had some photographers who very well knew what the theme and location was set for the day and in one occasion they said ‘I’ve shot at X plenty of times, I don’t want to do it again’, even though the style he was used to shooting was completely different to what we taught. In another occasion someone else said, ‘this is not my cup of tea’, even though they very well knew what the plan was for shooting seeing as we e-mailed it to them when they enquired about our workshop before they paid for it.

Knowing exactly what you’re throwing yourself into will not only ensure you are thoroughly enjoying yourself and are able to focus on the workshop schedule, but it will make life a lot easier for those organising the workshop as well as your fellow attendees!

This is not to say that you should only sign up for courses that are ‘safe’, no! Go immerse yourself in something new, try different things, but go in this endeavour with a positive and open mind!

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Prepare

OK, so you picked the workshop you wish to attend? Again, it’s crucial that you read through everything your workshop leader sends you, whether it is a brief information pack in a PDF form or whether it is a few lines on the website. If they haven’t said anything to you before the shoot, are you sure you have enough information about the workshop before the day?

Do not hesitate to ask any questions, your workshop leader will be pleased you’re looking ahead and preparing for it.

If you know what’s required of you, have you got everything to be able to attend the workshop? Certain day or few day courses only require you to bring your general digital camera kit (body, few lenses, batteries, memory cards), but others might be focusing on using flash equipment. Is that something you need to purchase beforehand or will it be provided on the day?

If it is landscape photography workshop, have a good think about what you might require on the day, starting from comfortable outfit and shoes that are waterproof (unless you are shooting somewhere nice and warm…), to all your camera equipment, most likely also including a tripod, to any food or drink that you might need during the shooting period. Again, make sure you know what’s provided for you and what isn’t. Don’t be shy asking the workshop leader for a list of items to bring.

OK, so now you’re all packed and ready to go. Wait, do you know how you’re getting to the location? Make sure you know where you’re meeting up. If it’s a rather wild area, do your research and check for any pointers to look out for on the day to lead you to the right place, e.g. local pubs, national park information centres, hotels, or anything else. This is where having a fully charged mobile phone always comes in handy, just in case you need to rely on Google Maps!

If your workshop is abroad, are the flights included? Is any transport from the airport included, too? If the flights are included, do not necessarily rely on someone else to pick you up from the airport. Ensure you know any other transport you need to use after your flight, whether it is a local taxi, public transport or a car hire.

Also, do not forget to obtain some local currency before leaving your home country. You might be required to pay in cash for transport on arrival, so it’s better to be prepared than not. Also, if you don’t use that cash for transport, it’ll certainly find its use, especially if the workshop is lead near small villages where debit and credit cards might be frowned upon.

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Mingle

You’ve arrived. You’ve met your workshop leader and any other attendees (if there are any, 1 to 1 workshops are just as popular as group ones).

Get to know your workshop tutor as well as the models, and more importantly relax. This is not like attending school, where you will be told off by teachers who don’t let you express yourself outside of what’s accepted as the norm. Whilst a good workshop will generally follow a schedule, otherwise it becomes ‘a few days of shooting stuff’, generally your workshop tutor will work with you on a more personal level to see where your photography is at, because none of the attendees will be in the same exact place of their development.

If the workshop takes place over several days, it might not always be easy for adults from all walks of life to come together with possibly only one thing in common (photography), and try to remain friendly throughout the workshop. Friction and bad emotions might occur, but remember that at the end of the day you paid plenty of money to learn something new, to develop your photography, and that’s exactly what you should focus on. Do not let any bad feelings take over the reasons why you are here.

Worst comes to worst? Take your tutor aside and see if you can work 1 to 1 with them for a moment, instead of working in a group. Be the bigger person. And remember, this isn’t high school where people get bullied. Adults should treat one another with respect, and if they don’t, simply ignore them and focus on the positive aspects of your workshop.

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Focus

The first day of actual shooting arrives, and you’re ready to go. Wait, before you jump head first, remember that there is a backbone to the course, which is a schedule set by the tutor for a specific reason—it might be to develop certain technical skills in your work, or it might be teaching people how to feel at ease working with models. Whatever the ‘exercise’ is, try and follow it. Go with the flow, and trust your workshop leader that there is a genuine reason for doing this, not just a random activity that does not bring anything to you.

This is why it is important to research the workshop and the person leading it beforehand. Only then you can truly trust that they know what they are doing and why they ask you to do certain things. Try to get over laziness and get your focus on—you’re only here for a day, or a few days, and get all your money’s worth!

Is it a new style you haven’t shot before and feel quite anxious and out of your comfort zone? That’s great! Acknowledging that and expressing your concerns to the tutor will benefit you tremendously. People who come on workshops and do not try to push themselves will remain vanilla. Why be vanilla, when you can try all sorts of amazing flavours? Being stuck in your ways with no intention to change makes the workshop absolutely pointless for you.

Like I said, get your money’s worth: absorb the information, don’t blindly take everything away for yourself but extract the information that you feel really corresponds with you, and do not forget to use it in your own future work.

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Homework

Enjoyed your workshop and learned lots of new ways of shooting and seeing things? Great! But don’t let the brief after-workshop euphoria disappear so quickly. Put what you learned into practice before you forget it.

Some workshop leaders offer post-workshop guidance, whether it is done through e-mails or Skype. This is why I believe it is important to create a long lasting rapport with your tutor, because one day you might be stuck with something that you know they’d easily help you with, or you might want to hear some feedback from work you’ve produced after the workshop.

Geoff Powell and myself offer all this to every single ‘student’ who comes on our workshop. Hardly anyone takes up our offer, even though we’d do it for free. Geoff has also previously helped his ‘students’ prepare their work for exhibitions, advised on any printing and framing questions, as well as personally printed and framed 40 images for someone who had come on his workshop, just to help them with selling the work.

Do not be afraid to send follow-up emails, give your own feedback about the workshop or show your work to them. Yes, we all are busy but those who are genuinely passionate about teaching will get back to you when they can.

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Give something back

Do you feel like it was a good investment in your photography? Do you feel like you have elevated your development and have a clearer vision on where you wish to go with your photography?

If this is thanks to the workshop that you have attended, it’s always a good idea to spread the word. Positive feedback is always very welcomed, the same way wedding photographers often get new bookings through word of mouth. If you enjoyed yourself, why not tell others about it and give something back for what you learned on the course?

It’s such a small but kind gesture, but it goes a long way for those who rely on getting bookings from photographers just like yourself!

If anyone has had positive experiences on a workshop, I’d love to hear which workshops you have attended. It’s always pleasant to see positivity in the industry.


P.S. There are some bad apples that you might come across at some point. Some people are not meant to be leading workshops, but that’s the same with any industry where you might run into someone who’s incompetent or scams money from you, so be careful!


About the author: Anete Lusina is a wedding, commercial, and fine art photographer, a model, and a free spirit. The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To see more of Anete’s work, visit her website or give her photography page a follow on Facebook. This article was also published here.

Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Magic Lantern (Safely)

Getting started with Magic Lantern can be a bit daunting for a beginner. That’s why computer science student and filmmaker Jake Coppinger put together this easy-to-follow step-by-step video guide that shows you how to (safely) install and use the powerful software add-on.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Magic Lantern is a free “software enhancement” that adds a bunch of features to any compatible Canon DSLR.

Adding ML to your camera can make life a lot easier and even save you money (no need to buy an intervalometer for timelapses, for example); however, you also risk ‘bricking’ your DSLR while installing or using the software, which is why many people never even give it a shot.

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Coppinger wants to take away some of that risk with this short, easy-to-follow beginner’s guide. Not only does he show you how to install the software and use some of its key features, he also shares a few important safety tips that will keep you from permanently damaging your camera.

Of course, no video can entirely mitigate the risk involved with using third-party software/firmware (and as such, PetaPixel cannot officially encourage that you use ML). But if you’ve been on the fence, having an easy-to-follow guide might just give you the peace of mind you need to finally give Magic Lantern a shot.

Check out the video for yourself up top, and if you’re already a veteran Magic Lantern user, don’t hesitate to drop some advice in the comments for the newbies!

Infographic: Building Confidence as a Photographer

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If you’re just starting out in photography and your goal is to eventually make a living from your photos, one of the big obstacles you’ll need to overcome is being bogged down by insecurities. Business and marketing guru Vernon of Shoot and Prosper has created an infographic to guide and encourage those struggling with this issue. It’s called “The Ultimate Guide to Building Confidence as a Photographer.”

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