Category Archives: Portrait Photography

KO-ed by a rookie error: get that model release signed first!

Recently, I got taken out by a small person with a large ego. And it’s all my fault.

Wasting time on Facebook, as one does, I clicked on a ‘friend’s’ picture, which took me to her album. ‘Hmm …,’ I thought, ‘we can do better than this …’ and dropped her a mail, asking if she would like to do a shoot with me.

She replied almost instantly, and most enthusiastically. Within minutes we had set up a meeting to discuss and, before I knew it, there I was, sitting in a coffee shop, listening to her life story. All very pleasant, cosy, friendly. She was a little stressed, having just been retrenched from her day job, and was looking forward to doing something a little different. She’s not usually the model, she said, but the stylist, and so this was quite exciting for her. I told her that I was working with a poet friend who wanted me to photograph images to accompany some of his work, and that I was to send him some images to inspire – I hope – a poem or two from him. I also mentioned that I had a slow-brewing plan for an exhibition (one day) and a book (ooooone day). She asked me to send her some examples of what kind of images I had in mind to shoot, we set a date, and parted ways, hugs and air kisses all round. It was all going so well …

I spent some time trawling through my inspiration folder, did some Googling and Flickr-ing, and sent of some pics that showed the kind of mood and style I was after. Then off I went to a costume hire company and hired some outfits, photographing them and MMS-ing them to her before hiring them, to make sure that she was comfortable wearing them and that they would resonate with her creative muse. We were going to collaborate. This was going to be a creative experience and together we were going to make some spectacular images – off-beat, creative, artistic.

She would have some great shots for her portfolio (she’s an actress), and I would have some pics for said exhibition, book, poet friend … maybe. If they turned out okay. I have learnt that things don’t always work out as we expect, and so wasn’t picking out galleries and publishers just yet.

Because I don’t have my own studio at the moment (long story), I hired studio space at a half-day rate (notice the dollars adding up …), loaded the car with all my equipment, off-loaded at the studio, got set up, and waited for my muse to arrive. In she breezed, dragging a wheelie suitcase behind her, stylist sister in tow, giving updates on her general state of exhaustion, her most terribly busy life, how it’s all so crazy, CRAZY, hand and hair blurring through the air. Then he flipped open the very stuffed suitcase, hauled out hair dryer, make-up, outfits, accessories … the Me Fest had begun. And the half-day arrangement was looking rather elastic.

She proceeded to pretty much dominate the shoot, having her own ideas about what outfit to wear and how it should be worn, and how to pose. Thinking it would be best to let her do her thing if I wanted to get the best images out of her, I let her direct herself for the most part, keeping myself to sorting out the lighting, angles and apertures. I did some direction, of course, and got some shots that I wanted, but mostly it was like trying to catch a butterfly in your hands, and I realised that I really wasn’t going to get anything remotely like the kind of images we had spoken about. Luckily I had set out being flexible about my expectations.

No sooner was the shoot over when I started getting phone calls, text messages, inbox messages – when can she see the pics; she’s so excited! We took hundreds of pics, and sifting and editing was going to take a while. I put together a shortlist of about twenty, though, setting aside other (income generating) work to do them. Then, when she saw them, she wanted to meet so that she could tell me which ones she wanted edited – lines around the mouth to be removed, pics to be deleted where she didn’t like some body part or other. Me-me-me …!

And then came the final flourish:

She couldn’t allow me to use the photographs. Not because she didn’t like them, but simply because she couldn’t allow it. They were purely for her portfolio and mine.

‘I didn’t sign a model release anyway, so you can’t use them.’

Just like that.

Because, see, I spent all those hours and all that money simply to provide portfolio images for an actress of no reputation who is not even an acquaintance of mine.

Now, of course I know about model release forms, and of course I get them signed. But this time I got carried away on what promised to be a creative experience, and didn’t whip the piece of paper out at the first coffee meeting. My understanding was that she had done some shoots before, as I had, on the arrangement that the payment for modelling is a selection of good photographs – TFCD. A good portfolio can be expensive, and if you’re a mostly-out-of-work actress, there is not much spare cash around to pay for updated portfolios.  I would get to the model release form a little later, I thought. We are both adults. We both know that the point of taking photographs is so that they can be shown  … and all the more so if I earn my living from taking (and selling) photographs. She is in the media industry anyway – if she wanted a different arrangement, she would have the savvy to say so.

Anyway. It all got a bit ugly, with her telling me what she would allow and what she would not allow, and me trying to get to grips with the notion that even thoug it was I who had spent all the money and many hours of my time, it was she who had all the rights.

So, in the end, we both lost. She has no photographs, and nor do I. They are sitting on a hard drive somewhere, and will never see the light of day.

Moral of the story: get the model release signed early. Don’t assume anything. Get it signed even if you have no intention of ever selling the pics – you just never know what might come up in future. Get it signed, no matter how sweet or friendly or accommodating your model seems. Just have a printed form handy, and get the model to sign it. It will avoid a whole lot of unpleasantness later on.



Leave a comment

Filed under Photography, Portrait Photography

Sometimes I get lucky …

… and sometimes I get very lucky.

This weekend I had an event to shoot – the Discovery Life end-of-year staff party hosted at the Big Bay Surf Life Saving Club. Derrick and Debbie Frazer did a superb job in transforming the club into a colourful beach-themed venue … but that’s for a different post.

The shoot was straightforward enough: loads of pics of happy, smiley people enjoying their fully catered, fully sponsored year-end get-together where everyone forgets the workday stresses and lets their hair down. All went well and I was just winding down when the live music started up … it was Goldfish

Yep. Sometimes I get very lucky.

Dominic Peters

David Poole

Visibility, angles and lighting were a bit challenging. They had a red gel lighting them from the side I was on, and the setting sun striking them from behind. I worked mostly with a slow sync shutter and fill-in flash so that I could still get the rim lighting, halo-effect, a bit of motion blur, an the lighting effects.

Red gel, setting sun and fill-n flash

Most of the pics translated well into black & white, although the red gel di cause the skin tone to get that translucent paleness usually seen in pics shot with infrared black & white film, and needed a blue filter to tone them down a bit.

They put on a superb show and had the 400-plus revellers bouncing and singing along. Look out for them at St Yves, Camps Bay, during season.

It would be really, really great to photograph these hugely talented (and photogenic) musicians from a slightly easier vantage point.

1 Comment

Filed under Events Photography, Flash photography, Photography, Portrait Photography

Boudoir photography

Another few pics from a recent boudoir shoot. I love the glam of these shoots – the make-up, the dress-up, the giggles … it’s great fun.

The most satisfying for me, though, is when the women see the photos of themselves – like they say in the advert ‘you, only better’!

Leave a comment

Filed under Boudoir Photography, Photographing Women, Photography, Portrait Photography

The camera just loves some faces

I did a portrait shoot on Sunday and, as much as every woman I photograph is simply beautiful, there are some faces that the camera just loves. Often it has nothing to do with classic beauty. It’s something else. That something else that Marilyn Monroe had – although she had incredible beauty also, so she’s probably a bad example, but you know what I mean.

This model had had no previous experience and was quite nervous to start. The camera didn’t care, though.

These were studio shots, with two lights illuminating the background, and one light with a softbox at about 45 degrees to the model and and slightly above her.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boudoir Photography, Photographing Women, Photography, Portrait Photography

Another boudoir shoot

Here are some images from a recent boudoir shoot.

These shoots are such a wonderfully positive and affirming thing to do – a celebration of your body, irrespective of its age, size or shape, and sometimes a gift for a partner. I love that the women take the time to have make-up done, select some outfits, and spend an hour or so in my studio so that I can light them fabulous! We go for massages, manicures, pedicures and therapy, all to make ourselves feel better. Why not add a photo shoot to the list? You’ll start out nervous and a bit timid, and walk out feeling confident and sexy. And when the pics arrive, you’ll feel supermodel awesome all over again!

These pics were taken at Dance4Fitness, as part of the Flirt Shoot partnership I have going with Nicky, the owner of Dance4Fitness.

1 Comment

Filed under Boudoir Photography, Photographing Women, Photography, Portrait Photography

Beautiful babies

I’ve had the pleasure of photographing the sweetest babies of late. I try to keep the light as soft as possible, and so use bounced flash – bouncing my studio lights off the white polyboards and off the walls. The white floors help to further minimise shadows, and keep the light soft.

I shoot all my pics in RAW (and so, obviously, in colour), and then open each one individually to create the photoshop effects, or convert to black & white and sepia.

This little fellow had the most beautiful eyes

Irrepressible curiosity!

This photo shoot stuff is thirsty work!

Baby smiles, like baby gurgles and baby kisses, are heaven-sent!

A flying cherub

This little newborn had little interest in being photographed. So many tears from one so small!

The pics were done on location, using only window light and a bit of reflector.

All this growing is very tiring

Safe with Mommy

My portfolio of baby, kiddy and family portraits is at

1 Comment

Filed under Cape Town, Children and Family Photography, Photography, Portrait Photography

Father’s Day photo shoot

Recording moments in our family’s history is far more important than we realise at the time. Looking back at raggedy pics of the kids when they were little and you were young, one always feels that there should have been just a few more, and maybe just a few better.

So why not book a session with a professional photographer and get some great pics of the family for Father’s Day? It’s as good a reason as any to go and have some fun in the studio. And one day, when you’re sitting in your rocker on the porch, you won’t be sorry that you had those few extra pics taken.

Jack & Sean (4) LOW



14 June 2008 (8)sepia low

Leave a comment

Filed under Children and Family Photography, Photography, Portrait Photography