The Need For Quality Photographs
By Bill Dobbins
Not every young woman is “model attractive” but given how many pretty girls there are who get into modeling and specifically into fitness modeling the total number is pretty large. When you take every one who is the prettiest in her gym, her school, or even her town or state and you put them all in one place (like the Arnold or Olympia Expos or the FIBO in Germany) you’ve got a staggeringly large group.
Some of these young women just want to model and they need photos for their portfolios. But large percentages are also fitness, figure or bodybuilding competitors and they need pictures to promote and publicize themselves, for websites and Facebook and to sign and sell. Where can get the necessary photos? Until recently the physique magazines assigned a lot of photos of women from the fitness industry but this is happening less often. Also, the photos they do assign tend to be more along the lines of “cheesecake” than pictures celebrating and glamorizing the female physique. These T&A photos are fine as far as they go but they tend to make the models all look pretty much alike and they are often designed to minimize the physiques these women have trained and dieted so hard to create rather than to show their real sculptural qualities.
Increasingly, women looking to be photographed are being approached by photographers at contests to do pictures outside of and around hotels – by swimming pools or fountains, against various architectural backgrounds – or in hotel rooms or other interiors. And there also more and more photographers on hand – especially in the age of the digital camera – that will offer to shoot photos of beautiful and fit women.
For any model, the aim should be to work as high on the food chain as possible. When you first get started you need some photos – any photos – and it’s hard to be choosy. But in this age of visual imagery in which we are all bombarded by photos and video all day long it is very difficult to rise above the “noise” and get noticed. It is no doubt a thrill to see photos of yourself when you are first starting out but as you become more experienced it usually becomes evident that there is a big difference between really good and not so good photos and that “good enough” frequently isn’t. Large numbers of “me too” photos do not equal just a few really spectacular shots.
The problem is that most photographers these fitness models have access to – either locally where they live or who approach them at a contest – are probably not going to be able to give them the kind of shots they are looking for. Maybe they will at some point in their careers but if they are hanging around shooting any model they can they are probably not at the level where they can create really significant images. And even if a fitness competitor or model can arrange to be photographed for a magazine there is no guarantee the kind of photo the publication wants is going to be what she needs. The point of a portfolio is that it contains all sorts of pictures – physique, glamor, fitness, fashion, lingerie, head shots – and the magazines are not usually interested in such a wide range of different shots.
And the fact is that free photos are too often like free advice – easy to come by but not of much value in the long run.
Then there is the problem that too many photographers shoot a lot of images, promise to give the models copies but never deliver. Here is an excerpt from an Email I just received from a figure competitor/mode:
i hope this message finds you well. I have been training for a natural figure competition in June, Not really concerned about winning or placing, just a personal goal for me. I know the “politics” behind competitions and I will be up against more seasoned ladies. Because of the lack of dependable and responsible photographers within my vicinity I have no recent pictures showing my progress. And I have made some very significant gains and losses. I use many training methods from the book that Arnold wrote. And on the subject of photographers…
CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTO GALLERY < --opens new tab/window I need your opinion. Many models go through this, but I experience it a lot. I did a shoot in July, and still have not seen any images from the shoot. I have contacted the photographer twice and there is no response. I know that they are active because they update their Facebook every day. I am not rude or demanding in my asking but I go thru this situation a lot. And it's a pain in the ass. Are the images that ugly and they just don't want to tell me? What is your opinion of this situation? I understand that it can take time to process images, especially if a photographer is shooting a lot. But seven months delay and refusing to answer Emails is not acceptable. This kind of thing rarely happens if you are shooting with a well-known industry photographer (although it’s not impossible). And when it does there is little a model can do except spread the word about her bad experience to give warning to other women. But in general I would recommend the following when it comes to picking which photographers with whom to shoot: 1. Work with the best photographer you have access to. Are they well known? Have they been published? Do they have a track record? 2. Ask to see a portfolio or their website to determine the quality of their photos. You might not be able to shoot with the best photographers early in your career but you can make sure the person you are working with has at least some professional qualifications. Otherwise you are giving your time and effort to help a beginning photographer “practice.” 3. Ask for referrals. Has this photographer worked successfully with anyone you know? Were his images satisfactory and did he give the models copies in a timely manner? 4. Don’t accept inappropriate behavior. Hey, you’re a pretty girl and you know that lots of men are interested in hitting on you. If a photographer acts in any way that makes you uncomfortable don’t be reluctant to say something or simply bail out of the shoot. Beware of photographers who insist you don’t bring anyone with you to a shoot. 5. Be careful shooting nudes. I do a lot of nude photos and I know how very difficult it is get really artistic images. I can show prospective models hundreds of examples of my nudes so that they know what to expect. If a photographer can’t show you similar images and if they don’t measure up to your standards of quality, you would probably be better off not posing for this kind of photo. Ultimately, a lot of models decide it’s worth it to hire one of the top photographers and pay a fee to be certain they are going to get the maximum amount of the best quality photos and that they are going to get the copies of the photos they are promised. Since it is so hard to make sales of female physique photos to magazines and the demand for pictures of the women is not that great in the fitness industry in general there is often no other way for professional photographers to make any money shooting fitness competitors or models. And the bottom line remains that you have to accept the fact that “careers” for models in the fitness industry are few and far between and that it takes a lot of hard and persistent work to become as established as a model. There are only a handful of women who can support themselves full time with this kind of work. But while getting great photos is not enough to build this kind of career, it is a necessary component. So despite the difficulty of finding a photographer who is good enough and making sure you get copies of the photos this is something that simply can’t be avoided if you have ambitions for success. CLICK FOR INFO ON BOOKING A PHOTO SHOOT WITH BILL DOBBINS AT HIS LA STUDIO