One of my regular clients, a client who has hired me more times than I can remember over the last 6 or 7 years, once told me, “You’re a pretty good shooter, Jimmy, I’ll give you that. But do you want to know why I keep hiring you over and over?”
I was all ears. “Sure,” I said. “Why’s that?”
“Well, it’s not because there aren’t plenty of other photographers who can shoot as well as you. In fact, there’s more than a few who can shoot better than you.”
“Okaaay…” I said, rather hesitantly and not sure where this conversation was now going.
“And it’s not because your rate is cheap. You’re not over-priced but I can get someone to shoot this stuff for way cheaper than you. I can get decent-enough photographers to shoot these girls practically for free.”
“Gee. Sounds like a great deal,” I countered, a bit facetiously. “Maybe you should hire them?”
“Nope,” he said. “I keep hiring you because of how well you work with the girls.”
That sounded more than a little like a “left-handed” compliment, especially the part about there being plenty of photographers who can shoot as good or better than me and they’ll do it nearly for free, but what the hell? I’ll take compliments from a paying client regardless of which hand it’s offered from. (More so considering all the work this particular client has given me in the last half-dozen or so years – and it’s been a considerable amount of work!)
WHAT DOES “WORKING WELL WITH THE GIRLS” MEAN?
In a nutshell, “working well with the girls,” from a client’s perspective, leastwise my clients’ perspectives, means there’s never (or very, very rarely) any on-set drama that was caused by the actions or the behaviors of the photographer. In this case, that would be me. It also means the models the photographer has snapped on behalf of the client – again, that’s me for the purpose of this example -have nothing (or nearly nothing) but good things to say about the photographer’s “setside manner” or, at the very least, nothing negative to say about him or her (or me) in terms of the photographer’s interactions with said models.
Glamour and nude models, you see, especially those with at least a modicum of experience in front of a camera, generally have highly-sensitive and finely-tuned pervdar. Their imaginary pervdar antennas…
Wait. What? Pervdar? What the hell is pervdar?
Well, pervdar is a lot like radar, spinning attenai and all, but instead of detecting airplanes or rain clouds, it detects pervs and pervishness. Lots of females have it. Most certainly, lots of females who model nude and semi-nude have it. They not only have it, they have it finely-tuned and super-sensitive.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. Far from it. I’m a red-blooded, heterosexual, male who might be getting old, but I’m not *that* old if you get my drift. So, when a gorgeous naked or semi-naked model is posing provocatively in front of me, especially when they have that “come fuck me” expression on their face (because expressions like that can be effective parts of a glamour model’s posing-and-expression repertoire) certain sorts of thoughts are bound to enter my mind. It’s only natural, after all. I’m only human! To paraphrase Dr. McCoy from Star Trek, “Dammit Jim, I’m a man not a eunuch!”
YOU KNOW YOU KNOW
But guess what else? I’m also a man who knows how to keep those thoughts tucked safely out of view. One who knows how to avoid the pitfalls of them being detected by a model’s pervdar due to how I’m acting, behaving, or via the vibes I might be throwing off. And so do you!
That’s right. You know how to do that whether you know you know or not. It’s not rocket science or brain surgery. Don’t bullshit yourself and pretend you don’t know how to cover for that stuff or keep it internalized. You know how. You know you know how. C’mon, dude. We’re straight-talking here, guy-to-guy, aren’t we?
How do I know when I might be doing or saying things that could sound an alarm via a model’s pervdar? Well, for starters, while I’m always friendly when shooting glam/tease/nude models, I’m not “too friendly” or overly friendly. I’m certainly never “touchy/feely” friendly, if you know what I mean. (And I’m confident you do.)
Where’s the line between friendly and too friendly? I can’t specifically tell you where that line is in every shooting situation or for each person but I’m confident, in your own minds, you know where those lines are. If you’re smart enough to figure out how to operate that high-tech camera in your hands, you’re smart enough to figure this stuff out. If you can’t, perhaps you shouldn’t be shooting glam/tease/nude models?
When you’re shooting a glam/tease/nude model and you even suspect you might be behaving a bit too “friendly” for the model’s comfort, you probably are. If you’re paying attention to your model’s behavior and demeanor while shooting – and you should be – you’ll know you’re approaching or crossing that imaginary line because the model’s behavior and demeanor will tell you so. This stuff isn’t advanced psychology, guys. It’s Basic Male/Female Human Interaction 101.
DON’T BE A STRIP CLUB SHOOTER
Here’s an (obvious and over-the-top/exaggerated) example: You’re shooting a nude model and you’re behaving more like a like a strip club patron than a serious photographer. If that’s the case, you’re probably not going to have a very successful shoot unless, of course, your purpose for shooting is for you to create your own, private, strip club. And please don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-strip clubs. I’m anti turning photo shoots into something with the “feel” of a strip club or like a guy/stripper relationship (for lack of a better word.) If that’s what you’re doing, you’re definitely NOT a serious and professional-acting glam/nude photographer. In fact, you’re someone who gives serious, professional-acting, photographers of the female form, guys like me and others, a seriously bad name.
How so? Because, in a word, you’re a “poser.” You’re also someone often referred to by other shooters and models alike as a “GWC,” i.e., a Guy With a Camera. (We’re all guys with cameras but the connotation associated with that particular acronym isn’t a positive one if you didn’t know. It’s not in the least positive. It’s a universal negative in fact.)
Posers and GWCs give serious, professional-acting, glam/nude photographers a less-than-good name and reputation – in fact, a decidedly bad name and reputation. So, if that’s you, knock it off! Go to a strip club and get a lap dance or do something else to satisfy your fantasies.
Look, I’m not saying you’re a GWC. But even if you suspect you might sometimes give off that GWC or pervish vibe when you’re working with models, it’s time to take stock of your setside manner and make appropriate changes to it. All it takes is a bit of self-awareness.
IN OTHER WORDS…
Do yourself and your nude/glam shooting contemporaries a favor: Don’t be a GWC or act like one. Be self-aware of your behavior, words, and actions at all times when shooting models. Don’t over-step the boundaries or cross the lines. Both you and the model are there to make great photographs whether you’re doing so for pay or for pleasure. Shooting sets aren’t strip clubs and they’re also not social environments intended to provide you opportunities to “score” with models, live out your “wet dreams,” or to be a jerk.
Be and act professional.
Be and act like a gentleman.
Be friendly but not overly or overtly friendly.
Your models will appreciate it and they’ll work harder to help you make awesome pictures.
Thanks for reading!