Since I started working with models in ~2003 I’ve used a number of methods and sites to look for new talent. I’ve used sites like OneModelPlace, Modelmayhem, LACasting, Craigslist and even Instagram. Each time I post a casting there is alway someone that stands out because of how wrong they are for the submission. As the casting process progresses I see more faux pas; and I see them over and over. So if you are a model or an actor this is to help you in the casting process.
1. Read the casting. This seems so simple it’s stupid. I know that booking acting and modeling jobs is often based on the law of averages. The more times you submit, the more auditions you get, the more castings you respond to the more likely a job will materialize. This is true, but if the casting is for a brunette that’s between 5’8″ and 5’11 and you don’t fit in the category then don’t submit. Yes I know you are 5’8″ in heels and that for the right amount of money you would be glad to dye your hair but what your submission says to me is I DIDN’T READ THE CASTING.
2. Don’t lie. A production designer recently recounted story of how an actor lied and it backfired. The role was a window washer to be sitting on a window-washing scaffold 40 feet in the air eating a burger. It was a national commercial so naturally the actor lied about his ability and comfort level being high in the air on a scaffold that was moving and shaking. As the scaffold with the talent, cinematographer and camera assist began to rise, the actor freaked at about 12 feet and couldn’t get past his fear. Thanks for playing please fill out your time card and go home. In addition to wasting people’s time he cost the production company thousands of dollars in wasted production costs. Time IS money.
3. Act professionally. Another suggestion that seems to without saying. I encounter this so frequently that it makes me want to scream. A lot of actors and models don’t consider themselves a business or a product. But you are. You are a business and should conduct yourself professionally. And just like your desk-jockey friends that act professional when they send cover letters with their resumes, come prepared to job interviews and communicate in a professional way with prospective employers you should do the same.
- Make sure your email reply information is correct and accurate. If your email is SuperProModel@aol.com and your name information is not included with your email how will I know who you are.
- Be professional when talking on the phone and sending emails. At this point I’m not your friend nor are we friendly yet. So treat me with the same professional respect you would when you apply for any other job.
- Come prepared. Clothes pressed, makeup ready, lines memorized, portfolio in hand. A few weeks ago a model showed up 30 minutes early, had all her wardrobe balled up in a bag, then asked to do her makeup and hair in the studio. Instructions were to come hair and makeup ready with her clothes pressed.
5 . Use your photos wisely. On the main website I use for castings my view is 24 thumbnail images per a page. Each person’s photo is about 1.5″ wide x 2″ tall. At that size Grace’s head is 1/3 of an inch in the dance photo. Make sure that main image is great. If you don’t look amazing I won’t even bother to look at other images. I know that it costs more money to host additional images on LACasting and other similar sites, but if your job depends on a photo don’t you think it’s a good investment to have multiple images? (see #4)
- Use the size and space wisely.
- Use only professional photos
- Pay for and use multiple photos in your portfolio/site
6. The Internet is forever. Another great feature on the large casting sites is my ability to make notes that stick with your profile. I noticed that a handful of models would submit to every casting I posted but then when I responded or asked for more information they wouldn’t respond. Eventually I started noting who those models were and ignored them on future castings. When you don’t follow the above mentioned suggestions we remember.
It’s simple, if you are an actor, model or any related freelance creative you are a business, now go act like one.
It seems that more and more I hear the beat of the drum that film is not dead. Although I agree that it’s not dead, it’s definitely on it’s last legs. Unlike a lot of photographers I don’t have the same love and passion for film. I started shooting film on a manual Pentax camera when I was 13. At that age, film was just the medium; all I cared about was getting the shot. What drew me back into photography in 1999 wasn’t a love for film, it was a love for photography and the ease and accessibility of digital. Without digital photography I wouldn’t be the photographer that I am today. When I think about the knowledge I have gained by being able to shoot anything I want without the financial and timely burden of shooting film I can only profess a love for digital. Digital is what I know and what made me the photographer that I am today.
So why the hell am I going out and buying a camera that was made in the 1980s, only shoots film, is no longer supported by the industry and weighs six pounds? Because I want to try something new.
Now that I have the photography experience I feel that I am better equipped to handle the responsibility of film. I want to use the RZ to slow things down. In the coming months I’ll have new work to show. Until then here’s my new toy.
When I shot this photo. I was working for free. Seth painted the wall for free. I paid for the supplies and installed the wall, for free. Seth used his own paint. Seth painted the wall on a separate occasion from the shoot. I shot and edited the video for free. Kyara was paid, but if this were a circus she would have been paid in peanuts.
From that free shoot we licensed this image to chefrubber.com who ran it as a full page ad in So Good Magazine. We split the money and got a nice tear sheet out of it. Seth sold a print at an art show. A plastic surgeon contacted me for an assignment after seeing the video of the shoot. His website and office will be decorated with images shot by me. My lab will make hundreds off my prints. A fine art framer in Australia will make thousands when they frame the prints. All in all I can directly correlate about $50,000 in income as a result of that one FREE shoot. Don’t get me wrong, not every test and for-fun shoot results in income. If there isn’t value in working for free I wouldn’t do it.
More than any other industry I can think of the the creative industry is built on the backs of free labor. It goes by numerous names: tests, trade, TFP, TFCD, intern, spec, portfolio, for credit, for my reel…We all do it. As long as I find benefit in working for free I will continue to do so. As I mentioned, I’m getting paid, it’s just not always in the form of dollars.
If you haven’t already read Malcom Gladwell’s book The Outliers he introduces the concept that excellence comes from practice, lots and lots of practice. He refers to it as the 10,000 hour rule; excellence comes after practicing/doing for 10, 000 hours. As a freelance creative how am I supposed to reach 10, 000 hours unless I create my own assignments? How does a photographer, filmmaker or graphic artist practice? By working for free.
I first learned the value of working for free when I interned during college. I interned for Merrill Lynch and learned first and foremost that I DID NOT want to be a
stock broker financial adviser. The next lesson I learned was that interning is about building relationships, not “learning”. I didn’t gain knowledge at Merrill; I made contacts. Those contacts and relationships led to me getting a job and building a successful career as an analyst.
When I was first started to shoot I needed subjects. I started with my friends, then I moved on to testing with models, makeup artists and stylists. We would work for trade; I’d shoot images for our respective portfolios and in turn they would model, style, do hair, or makeup for me. It’s a win win. I get to practice my craft, experiment, test new equipment all while building relationships and making new contacts. Am I working for free? Yes, but there is a huge intangible value I have gained by doing the work. First and foremost I got better at photography. In a lot of cases the relationships I made led to paid job. I shoot for free only when I know there is some value in me doing the work. If you can’t see value in doing something similar, might I suggest a new pair of glasses?
I currently have 585 photos on my iPhone. I love my iPhone. It’s an amazing tool to have in my pocket; so much so that it’s the camera I use the most when I’m not being paid by someone. When it comes to dragging a seven pound chunk of metal to Grace’s ice skating lesson I’d rather just reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. If you think the quality isn’t up to par, the following photo was printed at 20×16. I bring this up because, like me, the majority of my clients have hundreds of photos on their phones and in their digital library that they never do anything with. If you are like me, most of those images don’t see the light of day. Maybe a couple end up on a blog or on Facebook, some end up on Instagram but for the most part they are left in digital purgatory and after a few months the special moment you wanted to document is lost. I took it as we were heading out the door to have our family portraits shot.
Like most two year olds, Charlie doesn’t smile for the camera. He gets uncomfortable and goofy and often moves his eye-line away from the camera. This moment was special because both of my kids looked great…at the same time… and in the same photo. I love seeing this every time I walk in the door. It’s a reminder and a keepsake.
When it comes to hiring me to shoot your wedding, children, family portrait, fill in the blank; I want you to leave with something you can touch and cherish. This is a 16×24 Giclee canvas I recently made for a client.
In 2011 I started using this image of Tutu in my promo material. When Tutu’s mom saw the mounted 18×12 print she loved it. I asked her what she did with the CD of files she purchased from me; she confessed that she hadn’t made time to do anything with them. Life is full; we all get busy….I want your experience with me to be easy and result in photos hung in your house that make you smile when you stop to look at them.
I shot this (riveting) video to show the results of one of the hard cover press printed books I offer. This is the fourth book in a row I’ve made for this client and when I dropped this off she remarked how special they are and that she loves having them to look back on.
By handing over a disc or a digital file I am handing you work. It means you have to make the prints, buy the frames, frame the prints, send Grandma a copy of the prints…..I don’t want your experience with me to be sullied by the stress of added work after the shoot is over. This is the reason I offer the products and services that I do. I want you to enjoy your photos. Granted clients still want copies of their digital files which are available, but as a photographer I want you to have something you can touch.
A few years ago I made a slideshow using photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.
Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.
As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.
Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website.
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.
For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.
As I start planning my family portrait shoots for the holiday season I started digging for images to use for marketing materials. Phyllis suggested I use my year-end slideshow and then I figured I’d start fresh since a lot of those images aren’t family portrait based. The following are images shot from 2009-2011. The great thing about shooting family and children’s portraits over the years is that I get to see kids grow up. Towards the end I’ve grouped images of kid’s I’ve shot over the past couple years. Enjoy.
I’m now booking appointments through October. Mini shoots are $150 and individual sessions start at $250. If you want to kill two birds with one stone you get the mini shoot and 100 cards from Phyllis for about $300.