Outfits for Photos (on the CHEAP)

How to Dress Your Model for FREE!

Ok, here’s a post that’s libel to bring me some criticism but that’s okay.  As most people who know me will tell you… I like saving money wherever possible.  BUT, I also like to be fair about saving money.  With that in mind, I’m going to tell you a little ‘secret’ (shhh… don’t tell anyone with the exception of everyone you know and everyone they know — but to everyone else… MUM’s the word) as to how you can have your model (i.e., the person you’re going to photograph) dress (at least temporarily) for FREE.  Seriously!

Before I get to the nitty gritty of the secret allow me to tell you what prompted me to ‘think outside the box’ when it came to figuring out this secret.

At some point in time (remember I have short-term memory deficit so I’m going by some notes I found in my phone) in 2011 I happened to be asked by a young lady (Shelby) how much I would charge to take some photos of her for her birthday.  I gave her a card and told her to have her parents give me a call.  A couple of days later, they did.  As I talked to the father of the young lady it became apparent that they had very little money (he’d been laid off a few months prior and had just gotten a new job and his wife was disabled).  So, while they wanted to give their daughter what she wanted for her birthday they simply couldn’t afford my prices.  Once I had negotiated a price they could afford I got together with Shelby and we began to talk through the photoshoot.  At some point the conversation turned to the types of outfits she would wear.  I found out that the young lady only had one really pretty dress to wear but no shoes, shawl or purse to accentuate it.  I could tell that she was very aware of her family’s lack of money and, not wanting to embarrass her (after all, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt) I changed the subject.

Somewhere during our conversation I had a sudden thought… an inspired thought… a thought that would forever change the world of photography… a concept so outstandingly brilliant that by the end of the 21st century would bring about world peace, lower the tides of the oceans, reverse hot house gases and, most importantly, would stop Hollywood from ruining good sitcoms by producing reboots!

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little but, still, it was a good thought!  Here’s what it was:

Use Retail Stores to Help Dress Your Model (for FREE)

The concept is simple and it works!

All you do is take your camera with you (as you read further you’ll realize why you can’t take your light set-up — but you can still bring an off camera light as long as you have a shoe cord), go into any major retail outlet, help your model choose the clothes, shoes and accessories they’ll wear and bring them to an out of the way dressing room.  After your model dresses themselves you’ll be able to tuck price tags into place so they don’t show and then start snapping photos.  The wonderful thing about ‘most’ dressing rooms is that they usually have good lighting and two to three mirrors (so the customer can see themselves from different angles without having to move much.

The only drawbacks to doing a photoshoot like this are: 1) You have to be calm enough to continue to take photos even if you’re approached by staff (most of whom, quite honestly, will be more interested in actually what you’re doing than stopping you from doing it — especially if you’re gutsy enough to ‘include’ them in the photos).  2) You should have enough money on hand (i.e., cash or credit card) to actually buy something if the store clerk insists — something I’ve NEVER had happen. 3) You’ll (possibly) have to work around other customers.

The last drawback will be the least of your worries if you know the ‘slow times’ for stores (in my area the slowest days and times in our mall are Mondays and Tuesdays between the hours of 9:30 – 11 am).  The other two drawbacks can actually be turned into positives if you’re ‘happy’ enough about what you’re doing.  For instance, my son, for his 15th birthday, wanted to have a photoshoot wearing a new suit he’d gotten.  I took him to the local mall, headed into one of the shops and came out with the following photos:

Brance Cool2P Brance Fedora 2 B&WP Brance Fedora 2P Brance GQ2P
He didn’t have either the pair of sunglasses or the fedora you see him with when we entered the store (they were provided for us by Beall’s).  We actually liked the sunglasses so much that I purchased them for him but the fedora was put back on the rack.  As you can see, just a couple of accessories (and the promise of a name placement — Beall’s) allowed us to have a great time (that and the excellent DNA my wife and I gave to our son).

Shelby, who is not my child (and therefore isn’t shown herein) had a great time as well.  We went to both Hot Topic and JcPenney’s and accessorized her to the max.  About the only thing she ended up wearing that was her own that day was her dress and even that only got into a couple of shots — not that it wasn’t pretty (it was) but we found jackets and blouses and boots and necklaces etc. for her to try own.  I explained to the clerk(s) who came over to watch her model that it was her birthday and she wanted to try on clothes she thought she might want to get at some point in the future and that I wanted her to see how she looked in each one.  One of the clerks actually got into the ‘act’ and modeled with Shelby (which made for a very, very fun day).  At the end of the photoshoot Shelby ended up spending $15 at JcPenney’s and $25 at Hot Topic (her birthday money) because she found some stuff she actually liked.  So, for a few minutes of time, the use of their clothes both stores made a profit, got their names used in an article and, most importantly, made a young customer very happy.  Not too bad, eh?

Until next time… 

Blessings from Lonnie and Honeycutt Photography, Mobile, AL (Alabama)

 

New Faces, New Friends, New Photos

It Happens Every Time

It never fails to happen… ever.  Not even once. 

Every single time I do a photoshoot for Honeycutt Photography I go away knowing I’ve made a friend — or, at the very least, a close acquaintance. 

The reason is simple enough… for me photography is fun and I think it should be for everyone — behind or in front of the camera!  It’s truly amazing to me how uncomfortable people can be when they’ve got a camera lens trained on them.  It’s almost as if they’re being held at gun point.  At least until we start talking.  That’s when the fun really begins.  I like talking and telling stories and listening to stories and learning about my models.

The Photographer and Model… A Relationship

I’m now going to make the most obvious statement that’s ever been made (well, at least one of the most obvious).  If you are being photographed YOU are a model.

See?  That’s pretty obvious isn’t it?  Most people don’t think of themselves as models but, if they’re being photographed that’s exactly what they are.  One of the most important things a model has to learn is how to ‘act natural’ in an unnatural setting.  I’m convinced that this lack of training is why most people are convinced they don’t look great in photos.  And that’s probably true.  Most people don’t look good in most of the photos taken of them.  Why?  The answer is very simple: they don’t have a trained photographer taking the photo.  A professional photographer ‘knows’ how to help people relax.  Once a person is relaxed the rest is, as they say, history.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a trained model, a corporate executive or a ranch hand… if you aren’t comfortable with the person snapping photos then you are going to look uncomfortable in the photos.  On the other hand, if the photographer is polite, upbeat, excited and comfortable with their models, their models will mimic the same attitude.  Sure, it make take a few minutes to settle into a hand-helping-hand relationship but it doesn’t take as long as most people think.

Smile vs. No Smile

Many (if not most) people honestly don’t think they have a pleasing smile.  For most people that’s simply not true.  Everyone (people who have no teeth or bad teeth or missing teeth) laughs and smiles around their friends.  It’s something that’s as natural as breathing.  So, why not smile for the camera?  In most cases it’s because the model has had a photo snapped of themselves that isn’t complimentary.  But, as I assure all my clients, if something is wrong with the way they smile I can help fix it.  In some cases I’ve actually taken the time to teach people how to smile for a portrait.  Believe me, as with almost everything in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to smile.  In other cases I’ve had to actually show the person the difference between how they look not smiling versus when they smile.  One thing is certain… when a person first meets you the first two things they notice are 1) Your eyes (whether they are bright and responsive or dull and squinting) and 2) Your smile (or lack thereof).

As an example, look at my friend Melvin:

Melvin 1Melvin 2Believe it or not, these photos were taken just seconds apart.  Besides adjusting a bit for light and repositioning him, what is the major difference between these photos? 

The most obvious is that in the one to the Right Melvin looks more approachable.  Why?  His smile and his eyes. 

Look at the difference.  A small, nice smile gives Melvin a softer, friendlier looking face.  Don’t get wrong… regardless of whether or not Melvin is smiling he’s a VERY nice fellow… it’s just that when he smiles you can TELL he’s a nice fellow.

By the time I’d taken these to photographs, Melvin and I had known each other for a total of, maybe, 10 minutes (at the most).  It was probably more like 7 or 8 minutes tops — if you include the time it took us to walk from where we’d first met to the location I’d set-up to do our session.

As we walked together to the ‘studio’ (this was actually shot in a room barely larger than my living room) we chatted and smiled and talked about nothing in particular with the exception of one thing… his name.  Melvin just happens to be the name of the man I affectionately refer to as ‘Dad.’  Dad isn’t my biological father but he and his wife are surrogates for my biological parents and, as such, hold a place that is near and dear in my heart.  I told Melvin this and we smiled and laughed more.   Then, something strange happened.  When we I sat him down in a chair to snap his portrait, he stopped smiling!  No joke.  It was like someone had hit a switch and he just kind of stared at the camera.  I took my head out from behind my camera, smiled at him and said, “Can you give me just a little grin?”

He smiled, I snapped and then showed him the difference.  That was all it took.  From that point on, unless I told him not to, he smiled. 

KiloIn certain photos a smile isn’t warranted.  ‘Power photos’ (those photos in which the person needs to look stern or in control) sometimes lend themselves to a no smiling option.  Or, if you’re going for a classic portrait look (the kind you see in paintings) then a full-on toothy smile simply won’t do.  In this case, a ‘composed smile’ looks much better.

My friend, Kilo (to the left), has one of the best smiles I’ve ever seen (it’s toothy, broad, full of energy and it makes his face light up) but it just isn’t appropriate for every situation.  So, when I took this photograph of him I asked him to gently smile so that some teeth were showing but then to let his face kind of ‘settle’ as if he were looking at something pleasant rather than funny.  As you can see, it worked.

Really It’s Up to You and Your Model

Ultimately, the type of portrait/photograph you end-up with is up to you and your model.  If you are asked to help the person or group decide, remember that everyone has an opinion.  And, thankfully (as long as your photos are good quality), there isn’t a ‘wrong’ decision when it comes to ‘most’ situations.  However, if you have a corporate executive who has expressed the need or desire to present a strong image I’d usually suggest throwing your weight behind a composed smile image rather than one that looks too happy.  Even in the case of the executive who wants to present a strong image there is some wiggle room.  For example, I’d normally encourage a bank president to choose a composed smile portrait whereas the president of a kid’s party company should probably be encouraged something that looks less like a principal and more like a friend.  Opinions abound but, in the end, the customer is always right!

Until next time…

Blessings from Lonnie and Honeycutt Photography, Mobile, AL (Alabama)