Thursday, January 11, 2018


Sometimes photoshoots go badly. Sometime you think it went perfectly but then you find that the results were not as good as you thought. Sometimes, and this is maybe the most frustrating, the client or the people you worked with are not happy with the results, even though you think they look great. 

I've been out of touch with this blog for more than a year, and in that time I've done a lot of interesting things. A lot has changed and I hope that posting in (pretty much) the real order in which the photoshoots took place will let me look back and see the progress I've made. That's why I'm going to try to catch up on 20+ posts, while I keep making plans for more shoots at the same time. 

But let's get back to this project and what we can learn from it...

July 1st, 2016. The location for this shoot was at the Weizmann Institute, behind the solar tower where a field of old, rusty, directionable mirrors were set up years ago for some experiment. Once I tried to sneak in to that area to take photos but was promptly kicked out by security. 

Shooting against the sun is one of the benefits of the improved sensor on my new D610

Since then I started working (and studying) at the Institute and have helped build an astronomical observatory in that field of mirrors, so I have a good reason to drive over there anytime I want. 

I started planning a shoot. I wanted to do something grungy and post-apocalyptic and like it usually does, it took me a couple of years to get my ideas in line. Also I needed a model with the right look. 

The classic fence shot

I had met Nastia a few years ago and I immediately thought she should be modeling and that she was perfect for the part of "lost girl in a post-apocalyptic world". I got the impression that she would not model for free, and I was not in the habit of paying for my personal projects (more on that later, perhaps). 

At some point she mentioned on facebook that she wants to get some new pictures done, and I was very excited when she agreed to model in this project in exchange for pictures. 

We kept things simple. She did her own makeup (just eyeliner really) and we used natural light. We met on a summer afternoon and tried not to die from heat stroke as we took a few test shots, getting a better understanding of what we want to do, while we wait for the sun to go down. This image for instance, from the start of the shoot, still in harsh light, with the observatory in the background.

Watchtower and telescope dome. Staples of the post-apocalyptic world

Finally golden hour began and we had some good shots in the field and next to this big parabolic reflector. The light was getting good and I tried to get the vibe I wanted. I think she really did have the right attitude and look for this shoot.

Below are some more dramatic closeups, with props. I had this knife since my trip to Nepal in 2010. I got the steampunk goggles in the Icon convention (Israel's version of Comicon). Finally I had the opportunity to use them as props.

Checking if it is sharp, a photographer's pet peeve.

Finally we moved to the edge of the field where a few shipping containers stood side by side, so we did some nice mood shots with a burned out sky and the reflector mirror in the background.

I was super pleased with the results. I thought it hit the mark precisely. But Nastia was not happy. She didn't like the editing and told me she had much more experience than me in photo-editing so she should do the post processing. I felt it was a matter of taste and, even though I agreed she could take the RAW files and do her own editing, that my own edits were just as good. After asking me not to publish anything at all from my own edit I realized our differences just can't be settled. We agreed on a subset of images that were "ok" for me to publish and I was left with that.

This really made me lose confidence and I nearly archived the whole shoot. I barely published any of the photos and I almost skipped this blog-post as well. 

But I think there's a lesson to be learned here. It is ok for people not to agree on the style of images or editing. But I have to be very clear in advance when I work with people: I will publish the photos whether you like it or not. Naturally I wouldn't mind taking down one or two images that the model thinks are unflattering. But the people I work with have to trust me and like my work and take the risk that they might not like how the one shoot they did with me doesn't turn up the way they expected. 

This almost never happens, but people can be very critical when it is them in the photo, and there's always a chance they might decide they don't want anything published at all. This already happened to me on a couple of small shoots I did with teenagers, and I thought I had learned my lesson. After this shoot I realized I must be clear about this from the start. If you let me take images, images will get published. Maybe not all of them, but I get the final say in the choosing the photos. 

And one more thing I learned from this shoot is that you can't let the arguing and disagreements get you down. I know this shoot is solid, and even though there is much room for improvement (more on this in another post) I shouldn't let stuff like this rattle my confidence. So the model didn't like the photos - it isn't the end of the world...

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