Saturday, August 21, 2010

Starting Out Pretty Girl Shooting (Part One)

A while back when I asked for blog update suggestions, "Jim in Huntsville" wrote: "I read your book (Guerrilla Glamour) and am interested in how you, as a beginner, found models who were willing to let you learn the craft using them as subjects. Every book/blog I've seen on the subject assumes you have a portfolio to show. How do you get started when a) you don't have a portfolio, b) the photography budget doesn't allow for hiring models, and c) as an older man, approaching any younger women to ask if they would like to model comes off as a dirty-old-man, GWC come-on?"

Thanks for the suggestion, Jim!

Speaking of suggestions, I think I'll also take the King of Wonderland's suggestion to the White Rabbit and begin at the beginning and end in the end. Well, perhaps not the absolute beginning nor the ultimate end--that's still unfolding--but somewhere thereabouts for both.

A small caveat: Unfortunately, the story of how I began pretty girl shooting probably isn't going to have much value helping any of you find models to practice this craft. Please don't be put off by that and stop reading. As the words continue keyboarding off my fingertips, I'll eventually get to sharing some ideas some of you might find helpful and useful once my story arrives in the present.

I began shooting models somewhere around 1980. I did so to earn some extra-money. They weren't exactly "models" in the normal sense: They were actors and actresses. All actors and actresses, after all, need head shots to pimp themselves. Many of them also need commercial portfolio shots.

At the time, I lived with my (then) wife in North Hollywood, CA. She was an aspiring actress. I was an aspiring writer/director. I was also attending film school using my G.I. Bill educational benefits and working as a bartender to make some cash.

I'd been "into" photography since I was 12 or 13 when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Yashica Penta J SLR. Throughout junior high school, high school, and my first foray at college, I took every graphic arts-type class I could. This meant, of course, access to the schools' darkrooms.

Since I had plenty of background and education in photography, coupled with my wife's acquaintances with many actors, I decided to buy a Canon AE1, some glass, convert my garage into a spartan but usable studio, build a small B&W darkroom in a storage shed on our property, and encourage my wife to pimp me to her friends and acquaintances as a photographer. As a result, especially once some decent word-of-mouth got going, I shot hundreds of actors and actresses. I also had some opportunities to shoot a bit of local fashion work and some other portrait genres. This, of course, became the foundation of my pretty girl shooting skills.

Eventually, as often happens in marriages, I impregnated my wife and suddenly needed more consistent income as well as things like medical insurance. (The idea of a starving actress and a starving writer/director/photographer becoming starving parents with a starving kid didn't appeal to us much.) So, I sought gainful employment and, eventually, ended up working for a Fortune 200 aerospace company/defense contractor. In that job, I became their in-house photographer and filmmaker. (Graphic Arts classes, photography and film school paid off, even if not the way I'd hoped.)

Working in aerospace, of course, did not include shooting models, actors, and actresses. It did include going up in small aircraft, hanging out the plane's doorways (which had been removed) and shooting things like RPV/Drones and other aircraft. I shot this stuff with a still camera as well as a video camera. (This was before small, compact, pro video cameras were available.) I also shot other products the company designed and manufactured. As the corporation's resident filmmaker, I also had the opportunity to learn analog video editing and, later, digital non-linear video editing. In the early 90s, aerospace went into the toilet and so did my job. I was laid off.

I tried my hand at a few other things. One of them was stand-up comedy. I mean, why not? From producing corporate media to stand-up comedy seemed a natural progression. Around this time, I should add, my marriage went into the toilet. I guess my wife didn't think I was very funny.

Suddenly, I was a single, unemployed, former aspiring writer/director/photographer, former corporate media producer, stand-up comedian. I also, by the way, suddenly had a second child.... albeit with a different Mom, one I wasn't married to. Yep. There I was: Once again a new father, this time in my 40s.


One night, while performing in a club, another comedian was on stage doing jokes about working in the adult business as an editor. When she came off-stage, I started up a convo and let her know I had editing experience. Long story short, I ended up freelancing at night, as an editor, for the adult company she worked for. Less than a month later, she got caught doing something or other, was fired, and the company asked me to come on board as their full-time editor. The company experienced a rapid growth and, before I knew it, I was also managing about 4 other editors.

From stand-up comedy to the adult biz... yet another natural progression.

One of the first things I noticed while editing was that most of my time was spent fixing OPFUs. (Other People's Fuck-Ups.) Eventually, I went to the company's owner and told him about the OPFUs, also informing him I had plenty of experience shooting cameras, both still cameras and video cameras. He suddenly had what he called "an epiphany" and decided the best person to shoot his movies would be an editor. Next thing I knew, I was shooting smut, directing smut, and still editing smut. In other words, my life, leastwise my working life, was immersed in smut. (I could now afford the second child.)


The pretty girl at the top is Kayla. When I saw the way the MUA/Hair-Stylist piled her locks up on top I knew i was gonna have to modify my usual 3-point glam lighting by getting one of those kickers, the kickers I often place either side and from slightly behind, up high so as to put a highlighted crown-of-light on top of that piled-up hair.


Anonymous said...

Love the story of how you got into the business. Have admired your "pretty girl" work for a long time. Looking forward to the next segment.

Mark said...

Great story Jimmy, can't wait for part 2!

I started shooting pretty girls by going to night clubs and shooting the paid models/gogo dancers for the producer. I handed out thousands of cards and for the last 5 years, I've shoot hundreds of girls. The producer pimps me out to other model groups, fashion shows etc.. all the the time now :)

Also when I'm out in a club shooting, the party goers want pics too. I snap 'em, they hate/love them and I hand them my card. This has led to all sorts of later photographic meetups.

Now people know me by name and trust me not to post their pics all over the place. It's been great so far!


george said...

"In the early 90s, aerospace went into the toilet and so did my job. I was laid off."

Been there, done that.......twice,
unfortunately didn't get a job shooting "smut" out of it...not that I haven't shot "smut", just didn't get paid (i.e. it didn't sell).

Most of my nude work has been either wife (who can't/won't let me publish) or workshops with amateur models who have the same restrictions. How do I build a portfolio?