Friday, January 02, 2015

Art Versus Commercial Artwork in Model Photography

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I regularly view a fair amount of model photography on social media sites, photography web sites, as well as the work of many pretty girl shooters via their portfolios. In my mind, the work falls into two, major, classifications: Work produced by and for the photographer's (or the model's) personal uses and work produced for commercial clients, i.e., clients other than the models themselves.

I'm often blown-away by the work of hobbyists and semi-pros. I. Mean. Blown. Away. BTW, what's a semi-pro pretty girl shooter? Well, in my mind, it's a photographer who earns some money shooting models, but not regularly. In other words, it's not their full-time careers or represents the lion's share of their income.The exception to that are photographers who earn full-time career money shooting models, but they're doing it for their own, owned-and-operated, educational businesses: workshops, seminars, private mentoring, etc. Those people aren't working much for commercial clients, they're working for themselves.

When you're working for yourself in that sort of way,  a training and education way, you're not only the boss, but you get to choose how you will shoot the pictures you've engaged yourself to shoot. You know, much like a hobbyist does. That doesn't mean you're not good at what you do. You might be blow-Jimmy-away good. But part of that is because you don't have to suffer work within the artistic confines or inhibitions put upon you by commercial clients.

The differences between hobbyists, semi-pros, and pretty-girl-shooting educators, trainers, workshop promoters and the like,  and those who shoot models for commercial clients for a living, can often be seen in the approaches to the work itself.

Hobbyists, SPs (semi-pros), and those other guys, the teaching guys, aren't (for the most part) inhibited by the requirements and expectations put on them by commercial clients. If you think being a commercial photographer means shooting whatever you're hired to shoot in whatever ways you want to shoot it is how things work, you're sadly mistaken. Sure, as the photographer you have a certain level of creative leeway when shooting but that "certain level' of artistic freedom generally isn't too high or wide or representing much leeway in terms of artistic freedom.  Commercial clients have expectations that go beyond their obvious expectations regarding producing good and useable photos which meet certain technical, quality, and other expectations. Their expectations also include levels of artistry in the photos. And those artistry expectations, frankly, don't encourage a whole lot of artistic freedom or levels of unrestrained artistry.

I've said it before: Commercial photography clients aren't art patrons.  Art patrons are people who buy your art for the sake of it being art or who fund your artistic pursuits for mostly altruistic reasons. (I'd love to find me one of those art patron peeps!)

What is commercial photography? To me, commercial photography is any photography that is specifically intended for commercial purposes, e.g., product packaging, advertising and advertisements, marketing media, that kind of stuff.

The artwork commercial clients hire photographers to shoot -- please note that artwork and "art" aren't necessarily one and the same things -- most always have specific purposes for the artwork and, as such, commercial clients specifically expect the artwork to conform to specific standards and to specific levels or degrees -- not particularly high levels or degrees -- of what is often considered "art" by many photographers who don't do this thing, this commercial pretty girl shooting thing, for a living. You know, a living funded mostly by commercial clients.

When I'm shooting for myself, or even when I'm shooting for a model's portfolio or an actor's (or other performer's) personal branding and marketing uses, I have way more leeway in terms of my approaches, artistic approaches, to the work. Sure, there are still certain and specific levels of quality and more those people expect, but it's usually less-defined and less-specific than when shooting for commercial clients.  If and when I begin hosting workshops or other sorts of training (like I keep saying I'm eventually going to do) I will have way more leeway in my artistic approaches -- think lighting, composition, shooting environments, styling and more -- than I ordinarily have, make that ever have when shooting for commercial clients.

If you're a model photographer who wants to go pro, just remember that the job/career you're hoping to achieve isn't one that's going to permit you to flex your artistic and creative muscles in overly big ways. Yeah, you'll be able to do some artistic/creative muscle flexing. But just some. And some isn't usually a whole lot.

Your photographic art, produced as a hobbyist or SP pretty girl shooter, even that produced in conjunction with educational and training-related efforts, might go a long way towards getting you the jobs you want or entry into a commercial photography career, but once you're in, it's not going to be a job or career where you get to be the unrestrained visual artist that may have gotten you there in the first place. Just saying. 

The pretty girl at the top is Lupe Fuentes, a former porn star who has gone on to a career in music (as the lead singer in an all-girl group) and being a club DJ. I understand she's doing quite well with her music and, especially, her DJing. Good for you, Lupe! The image was snapped, along with a bunch of others, for her personal branding and marketing uses. That's why it's not so much of a commercial pretty girl pic and leans a bit more towards pretty girl art. Was I permitted to shoot Lupe in any way I wanted to shoot her? You know, with all the creative forces I could muster? Nope. Not even close. Why? Because she had a manager and her manager was not only present during the shoot, but had specific expectations and directions for the photos and the types of photos expected. "Art," per se, wasn't at the top of the list of those specific expectations and directions.


Winston Cooper said...

Jimmy, you often mention that you read a lot of photo blogs. I do also but most of them are technical blogs (Thoms, Kens, Photography life, Fstoppers etc etc etc)but what I don't have is other Pretty Girl Shooter blogs like yours. I do visit our Check friends blog but yours and his is all I have. Would you mind sharing a few of your other PGS type blogs? I promise not to abandon yours I just would like more input. I am but a hobbyist PGS, retired old dude, who's main interest is more mature PG's.


jimmyd said...


These days, it tends to be more of Facebook pages than blogs. I used to participate a number of forums but they're not as active as they were. Nino Batista, for instance, has a an active FB page with lots of pretty girl shooter participating. While some of his page (and a few others' pages) are, to varying extents) intended to promote workshops and that sort of stuff, there's still a lot of photos posted and comments regarding glam photography. Course, it's FB so no nudity but people post links to their ports and that stuff. My favorite FB photography group is Ed Veroskey's About Photography. It's not dedicated to glam and nudes but there's a fair amount of the genre discussed along with pics posted.