Photographing Your Models

If you're making kits or leaflets, you need photographs of the finished stitchery. These need to be good photos, too, because a picture is worth a thousand words!

Unless you are a skilled photographer (amateur or otherwise) or can afford to pay whatever a professional would charge to make these still life shots, you probably will do your own photography. Or, at least you'll try before you holler "uncle!"

Some hints:

Other Options for Photographing Models

Hiring a professional has been mentioned briefly. Look in the Yellow Pages, call your local newspaper (perhaps one of their people freelances), or seek photographers who are skilled with product shots (as opposed to outdoor shots in the park with kids and the family dog).

Ask for prices.

Visit the photographers (make an appointment!) you think might be a good match. When interviewing them, ask to see their portfolios, in particular still life or product shots. Indicate that there will be repeat work down the line, which may encourage the photographer to take you on if she knows that once the two of you come to an understanding about what's needed in this shoot that administrative time can be minimized for future projects.

Ask each photographer for references. Call these people. If possible, get references for past work that is like your own (ex.: not the kids + dog shots). Finding a needlework (or even a craft) photographer would be wonderful, but a long shot unless you live in a city where a needlework or craft magazine is published!

A professional's fees will be high, as befits the quality of the work you'll receive, but this might be more than you can spend, particularly if you are just starting a design studio and are opening on a shoestring.

Go to your local college or junior college and speak with the chairperson of the photography faculty (or the chair of the fine arts department). Ask for the names of several students who might have the skills you are looking for and who might be willing to take on a paid assignment in addition to schoolwork projects.

Sometimes a high school student will have sufficient skill and talent to do the job for you. Call the school district office and ask for the high schools which have photography classes; and/or the chairperson of the fine arts faculty for the school district.

Since you know what a professional will charge you, you will have an idea what the going rate is for the work you have in mind. Thus you can come up with a reasonable fee to offer the student. As before, ask to see shots from the portfolio and request references. In the case of the high school student, there may not be any references other than the student's teacher.

You may be able to barter for services with a student: the photographer will shoot for no fee; you will allow the photographer use of the prints in his portfolio and maybe you'll buy some chemicals for his darkroom. Ask. Students know about operating on a shoestring, and if you're honest with each other, this helps set up a good relationship. The student knows that down the road, when your business is going, you'll be able to pay cash.

Also consider working on a tentative basis. You pay for film plus a small fee for the student's time for a trial roll of film. If the pictures come out in useable form, you pay the student the balance of what you would have paid. If the pictures do not, you decide whether you want to pursue work with this photographer or continue your search for another.

Designer Markena Lanska offers these tips for photographing models. (I thank her for permission to put them in this file.)

Shoot outside on an overcast day in the morning. You'll get the truest color this way.

Make a support against which to rest the model. Cover the support with fabric. Velour fabric typical of bathrobes is best. (Store it rolled up so it does not have wrinkles or folds.)

Especially if the piece contains beads or metallics threads, make a 3-part backdrop, like a 3-part mirror in a department store fitting room, to help reflect light. Cover it with aluminum foil.

Place the support in the foil box, but do not let the foil be caught in the photo! Or plan to crop it out.

It may be necessary to lift the foil box "up and over" the prop box a bit to cast better light on the model.

The Kodak Advantix system gives three "views": panoramic, regular, and close-up. Markena suggests you investigate this.

Markena feels that props are a distraction.

copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.

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