Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stylistic or Not?

When I'm shooting for clients, I have to decide how stylistic my images should be or can be or might be. Another way to look at it is this: I decide what stylistic elements I might get away with, that is, sneaking them into my shooting approach, and I do so at my own risk.

Most of my clients aren't exactly art aficionados. They want to see pics of their models posed in sexy, seductive ways, well-lit and properly exposed. ("Well-lit" being entirely subjective from many points-of-view.)

My clients generally rely on their post-prod people to either add stylized elements to the photos or not. If I begin stylizing my photos to a noticeable degree, they might love them or hate them. Regardless, they prefer them not being too stylized. If I do add much in the way of style, I better do so in ways that allow their post-prod people to undo my efforts and return the images to un-stylized levels should that be how they want them. (And that ain't an easy thing to do.) I often feel like I'm teetering on a balance beam between infusing a personal style into the pics or shooting them in more generic ways.

Generally, my clients aren't big fans of shadows or too much contrast. Not all shadows and contrast: A modicum of shadow and contrast is okay. But too much emphasis on shadow and contrast and they're liable to freak out... unless they really love the images, shadows/contrast notwithstanding.

For example, if I want to add a fair amount of personal style, and if that personal style might include a fair amount of shadow and contrast, I risk my clients being unhappy with my work unless, of course, they happen to like what I captured with a specific model.... stylistically, that is.

Shooting brightly-lit models, near-shadow-and-contrast-free, is always the safe way to go. There's less for clients to dislike. In fact, if they don't like the flat, brightly-lit images, their dislike usually has more to do with liking or not liking the model than it has to do with liking or not-liking how I captured the model. And since they're the ones who hired the model, I'm generally off the hook, liking the pictures-wise.

On one hand, shooting safe might be a somewhat good idea from of a client-relations perspective but, on the other hand, it risks me, the photographer, becoming more replaceable in their eyes. In other words, practically anyone with a fair amount of photography experience can light up a model brightly and with little contrast, producing competent, if lackluster, images. Because of that, there's less impetus to hire me again simply because so many other photographers can easily produce the same (near-style-free) results. It's like a glamour photography Catch 22.

For those not familiar with Joseph Heller's novel, "Catch 22," think of it as being dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Anyway. Just sayin.

The pretty girl at the top is from last night's shoot. It's almost like she's doing a one-handed juggling act with her breasts, giving them an unusual lop-sided appearance. (Which their normally not... lopsided, that is.) Her name is Yurizan. (First time I've ever heard that name, Yurizan being her real name I should add.) For this gig, which is an ongoing gig, the models are all shot in front of a seamless. I usually have about 20 minutes with them. I went with a bit more shadow and contrast with Yurizan, adding some small amount of style to the images. We'll see what the client has to say after they see the pics.


Jim in Huntsville said...

So, to cover your bases, do you shoot what you know the client wants, but also some shots that 'push the envelope' somewhat? Sometimes seeing something unexpected may stir the client's creative juices a little? Or do we stick with the tried-and-true, and when the client is not looking, take all the other photographers out of his Rolodex?

jimmyd said...

@Jim-- When there's time (which there often isn't) I'll shoot some other stuff but I don't always give that other stuff to the client. I've had some experience hearing, "What am I supposed to do with this artsy shit?" from a client or two so, when I shoot some "artsy shit" (which isn't that often) i usually keep it for myself.

Rovingrooster said...

Hey Jimmy. When you do shoot some extra artsy photos for yourself, do you have to keep it solely for yourself? Are you able to display them online or publicly? I'm thinking since the model release must have been signed for your client instead of to you?

jimmyd said...

@RovingRooster: Yeah, that's potentially an issue. I have posted some of those sorts of pics on forums and did so without having a model release in my personal possession. I'm confident my clients would give me a copy of the model release if it became "an issue."