• Andrew Schwark

My Photo Shoot Almost Imploded

Four weeks ago I was talking with my wife and we were discussing ways I could start shooting portraits and gaining a little more experience (beyond me just shooting her and close friends). Like learning any skill, it was time to step outside of my comfort zone.


Shortly after this discussion she said, “I found a lady who needs jewelry photography with models.”

I replied cool and went back to eating pilmeni or whatever.

Two days later and Viktoriya sort of casually mentions, “Ok so I found three models – what day works to shoot?”

I think I looked stupid for a while just staring at her until I figured out I needed to answer and, oh I don’t know, figure out a date. To make a long story short we settled for a four hour period, had a make-up artist, and five models. Five. On the inside I was sweating bullets: what the heck did I know about managing five models and did I really want to do this anymore?!

Despite my fears we forged ahead andddd I almost imploded. But not quite. Here are a few pieces of advice I’d like to pass on now that it’s over and I didn’t die:

1) Don’t ever schedule five models in a row. This was a TFP event (sort of – more on that below), but I didn’t really understand the time everything was going to take. Sure I had the jewelry and a make-up artist, but I didn’t have a grasp on the time I needed to set the lights for each model and more importantly the experience or inexperience each had. For the future I’m taking one model and not setting hard time limits. I struggled to focus on the current model, the looks, and the lighting because I was constantly distracted by knowing I had more models and the clock to worry about.

2) Don’t go in without understanding the legal aspects. TFP or time for photos have their own contracts and guidelines (of which there are about a billion guides of if you’re willing to do a Google search). Knowing how it works and the expectations involved allows you to work comfortably with the model and more importantly, during the culling / retouching phase after the shoot.

3) Don’t be a block head and leave the testing of equipment until the last moment. Yeah I was that guy – totally ready to shoot tethered until two shots in when I realized things weren’t working right. I felt like an idiot un-tethering the camera in front of a model who is posing and ready. I should be grateful the lights worked normally.

4) Do have snacks and beverages (when having 5 models – which I don’t suggest).

5) Do make a “look” board. Cannot stress how much this one thing saved me. I’m not a pro and I don’t have unlimited poses at hand to pull out at a moments notice. Instead I relied on a Pintrest board I created with looks and lighting I knew I could do. Huge. Especially given that I don’t speak Russian well and all the ladies were. The look board also lets you plan ahead – crucial with multiple models where you don’t want the same poses across all of them.

6) Do take the time to make people feel comfortable and at home. Now I’m not incredibly charming and my lack of Russian makes that harder so I have my wife to thank more than anyone for this. But I can say it put everyone much more at ease and less shy behind the camera. I also (tried) to compliment often and 100% avoided touching the models when trying to reposition or change pose. I occasionally hear horror stories of sleazy photographers that, well, are sleazy. So be a nice person!

I could go on but six seems like a good place to stop. Overall it was a great experience and yeah, I made mistakes certainly. But in the end, nothing ventured nothing gained.


Here are a few photos that I came away with


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