What is the 48HFP
The 48hfp is a filmmaking competition where participating teams have just 48hrs to write, film, edit and submit a short (4 to 7 minute) film. The films must be original, and to ensure that, each year the filmmaking teams are assigned a character, a prop, and a line of dialog that aren’t revealed before the kickoff event. What’s more, each team will be given a genre their film must adhere to, which they likewise are unaware of prior to the kickoff. At the kickoff event, team leaders will gather at a predetermined location where the organizers will have each team draw their genres from a hat, and will announce the required elements at the official start time. Usually 7pm local time. The character, prop and dialog are the same for all teams, while the genres vary.
A few key things I think are important to consider before participating the 48HFP:
It’s a lot of work, I think people (myself included) can underestimate how draining it is. Tensions will likely run high at least at some points over the course of the weekend, you’ll probably be physically and mentally exhausted, AND so will everyone else on your team, so everyone needs to understand what they’re getting themselves into, and be ready to accept the workload.
Your film will not likely be a masterpiece. You’ll probably get some decent footage for your reel. And make something fun that you and your friends can enjoy and feel proud of. But with all the time constraints and the fact that you have to jam random props, characters and dialog lines into it, combined with the fact that you might be making a film in a genre that doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t count on creating your Magnum Opus. In short, keep your expectations low when it comes to the final product.
It’s not free. And not only do you have to consider the entry fee. Consider eating takeout for an entire weekend (unless you expect to have time to cook!). Remember you’ll likely be purchasing batteries, thumb drives, extension chords, props, and whatever else is required as far as filmmaking supplies. Your teammates will likely want to attend the premiere, which means buying tickets. Etc etc. Suffice to say, there’s some coin involved!
If after reading the above you’ve decided you’d still like to proceed, congratulations! You’re one of the crazy thousands of us around the globe who do this year after year. Now read the rest of the blog for advice on how to make the most of it, and learn from my own successes and mistakes!
Registering for the 48HFP
Find out the dates of the filmmaking weekend for your city, and keep an eye out for the registration deadlines. Look out for the early-bird deadline to save some money! Most cities offer a lower price for teams who register in advance. Decide if your team is going to split the fee, in my case I considered myself the producer and paid it outright, but in the future if I have people on board ahead of time I’ll probably suggest we split it.
Assemble a team
There are 3 types of teammates:
I’ve put together teams consisting entirely of people I found, one where it was entirely people I knew and their friends, and I’ve done a mix. It all comes down to how hard people are willing to work. I can’t say one is better than the other, but there’s a clear advantage to understanding the personality of someone you’re planning to spend a very exhausting weekend with. So if you are working with people who are strangers to you at the start of the project, be sure to at least have a conversation with (and preferably meet) them in advance!
A few things you’ll need to be sure to plan/recruit for:
First and foremost, figure out what your role as the team leader will be. Most often it’s director, producer or both. Roughly speaking in the context of the 48HFP the producer is the person who recruits the team, makes sure all the paperwork is assembled and completed, keeps the team on schedule, etc etc. Whereas the director is on set making sure the cinematographer/camera people and actors are getting what’s needed to make the film, and in the editing room working through the footage with the editor to ensure the film comes to life. If you're going to have someone else take on one or both of these roles, I highly recommend it be someone you've collaborated with before and trust!
An editor (and an editing setup that comes with them if you don’t have one to provide them with)
You need someone who knows they’re way around video editing software, such as Adobe Premiere. And even better if they have their own software and setup to use throughout the weekend. You’ll need to secure this equipment one way or another. You can film on an iPhone, but editing on one would be a nightmare. So if you don’t have the necessary equipment yourself, explicitly state that you’re looking for someone who does while recruiting your editor.
In an ideal world everyone wears just one hat, but usually with the 48HFP we don’t have that luxury. I will say a pro-tip is for the director and editor to be the same person if at all possible, because having the editor innately know what goes where will save a boatload of time. If that isn’t feasible, I would at least ensure the editor is very familiar with the story, maybe even insist that they sit in on the writers’ room. No matter what, ensure they have everything they need to understand the story and piece the film together. The director should also check in with the editor every time they’re dropping off footage to be certain the editor knows what they’re looking for and how to use it.
The people who make up the writers’ room vary project to project. It’s common for an entire team to sit together in one room and brainstorm a story idea. The benefit of this is that everyone gets a say, so no idea “stone” is left unturned. Another very valuable benefit to this approach is that the entire team understands the story inside and out, so you don’t have to spend any time bringing people up-to-speed while the project is in full swing. Usually with this setup spending the time to writeup a screenplay isn’t totally necessary, an outline and storyboard will suffice.
Another setup is to have one or several dedicated writers, usually people with some sort of background and skills in this type of thing. The team leader provides them with the required elements and genre, then they get to work! If this is your setup, I recommend asking them to actually write the film as a screenplay which you can email to the entire team *especially* the director, editor and actors before first call the next morning.
Lastly, but perhaps most common, is for the team leader and one or two of their friends to write the film and then tell the crew what they’ve written the next day. As I mentioned, 48HFP participants tend to wear a lot of hats! So this ends up making the most sense a lot of the time. In one instance, me and my director went to the kickoff, and came up with the idea for the film during our drive back to home base. Then we spend the night turning it into a storyboard and getting our teammates acquainted with the story.
Like editors with their software and setups, you’ll need to find a cinematographer with a camera. Having multiple cameras (even a recent model iPhone) can be a blessing and cut the time it takes to film, as you can film multiple angles simultaneously instead of changing your setup for every needed shot. If you can find multiple camera operators that’s great, however I’ve gotten by with just one camera person (usually me) on every 48HFP I’ve done and having just one camera person was never a problem for our projects.
Sound and Lighting
Good audio is immensely important. You should 100% use external mics, so if you don’t already have some ask your crew and other people in your network if they could lend them to you. And if that fail, just buy some! If filmmaking is going to be an ongoing hobby, you’ll need them again and again, so they’re a modest yet crucial investment. A nice set of lavaliers for dialog-heavy scenes and a shotgun mic that goes onto the shoe mount of your camera should suffice. But if you can add a boom and boom operator to your team that’s even better!
BONUS: Hair, makeup, costume design
I think most teams usually just tell their actors to show up looking a certain way, and that’s how we’ve done it for most of my films. However one one of our projects we had an amazing hair, makeup, wardrobe and prop person who really elevated the production value of the film. Highly recommended if you have someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to this stuff!
I recommend having a pre-project meeting if at all possible. This could be the night before kickoff, or even day-of. The pre-meeting is a good opportunity for your team members to get to know each other, and for you to give an orientation for everybody on what to expect from the weekend. The project is a TON of work, so it’ll make things much more manageable if your teammates know what their role is, and understand the stress everyone will be under, and how to best help the team succeed. This is also a good opportunity to take care of the releases and numerous other pieces of paperwork the 48HFP asks you to fill out. Make it fun, have some food and drinks and play some get to know you games. It’ll be good for the team to get to know each other in a low-pressure setting before the heat is on!
The launch is usually a shit show. No shade to the organizers, it’s a big job! But don’t expect it to be organized, timely, or to go smoothly. 2 people should go to the launch: team leader and whichever team member they like hanging out with most, they might be there a while! It’s nice if you can have the writers gather together at homebase in the meantime. That way as soon as the teammates at the launch get the genre and required elements, they can text the writers’ room and have people get to work on crafting the story!
Here’s the first big hurdle - writing your story! The best advice I’ve ever read when it comes to writing stories is: it must feature someone who wants something. THAT’S IT! It sounds so simple, but so important. So my advice would be this: start with your genre. What character and thing that character wants would make sense for that? A film featuring a soldier who wants revenge on the man who killed his best friend might not make a good romance. But a story about a soldier trying to save his best friend could make a good action film indeed! So your genre will help determine who you decide the main character to be and what they’ll be after in the film. Keep in mind you only have 4-7 minutes, so the story needs to be pretty straightforward, and something that could be communicated in just a few scenes.
There is a character you’ll be assigned as one of the required elements, it’s up to you if you want this character to be the main one, but they must appear in the film somehow! All you’re given is this character’s name and occupation, so they could likely be molded to fit virtually any story, just give it some thought!
The other elements, prop and line of dialog, can be incorporated however you want. I’d caution however that one mark of an amateurish team is one that makes a hammy joke out of these. After you’ve seen 12 of the tongue-in-cheek teams using the required banana as a telephone, you’ll get tired of the gags. Try to take your film somewhat seriously. You’re putting a lot of work into this, it can be fun and can have jokes, but it shouldn’t itself be a joke.
The logistics and timing of filming are something your writers should be keeping in mind. Don't write a classroom scene unless you have access to a classroom, don't write a child into the script unless you have a child actor on the team, etc etc. Fairly obvious but very important to remember!
Shooting should start as soon as possible. If you can squeeze a scene in Friday night, great! Otherwise, plan to start filming early Saturday morning. You should have your locations secured and equipment organized well in advance. Have the crew set up while giving the actors time to go over their lines, then once everyone’s ready, lights, camera, action! Pro-tip: have not only extra batteries for the camera(s) you’re using, but extra chargers as well! I’ve been held up quite a few times by dead batteries, because we couldn’t charge them as fast as we were using them. So a lot of time got wasted just waiting for batteries to charge. Don’t make that mistake!
I recommend shooting your first scene, then immediately bringing that footage to the editor. That way they can get scene 1 edited while you’re shooting scene 2, scene 2 while you’re doing scene 3, and so on. Also, scenes don’t need to be filmed chronologically. I recommend shooting them in order of their crucialness to the story. Also bear in mind if something needs to happen while it’s light out, you’ll need to get it filmed before sunset, and other similar environmental considerations. A huge portion of filmmaking is planning and organization, so make sure to spend plenty of time considering the logistics!
This is the real danger zone, the editing is what brings it all together. Make sure you have someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s hard because you largely have to go with whoever has the needed equipment. If your editor drops the ball you’re screwed, more so than any other crew member. Therefore, it’s crucial your editor has everything they need to succeed. Importantly, this includes a thorough understanding of the story. You don’t want to have to sit down with the editor and explain to them where every bit of footage is supposed to go. They should be ready and able to run with whatever shots you dump on their lap. A good way to achieve this is to have them sit in on the writers room, but if that’s not possible, be sure to get them a screenplay or at least an outline and storyboard. Additionally, each time you drop off footage, spend a few minutes explaining what scene(s) it is you’re giving them. Additionally, if you know for sure which take you want them to use, indicate that somehow!
This is the finish line. The moment of truth. The deadline to drop off your film. It must by on a *physical* storage device, either a DVD or a USB drive. So you have to drop it off in-person, and on-time! Twice I’ve exported my film on a laptop while waiting in line at dropoff, very stressful! Recommend avoiding that drama at all costs if at all possible. In order to do that, I recommend the following:
So, to recap, my recommended timeline for a successful 48HFP weekend is:
BONUS - Poster
One thing a lot of the 48HFPs do is tell you design a poster for your film and submit it before the screenings to be considered for a prize. In my experience they don’t really tell you this until the Saturday (2nd day) of the filmmaking weekend. So if you think this is something you’d like to participate in, maybe recruit an artist/designer while you’re recruiting the rest of your team. I definitely recommend it as it’s something cool to share with the team and you can use it when posting about your film on social media. And if you win a prize, even better!
This is where your film has its big-screen debut. Decide how you’re gonna make this special. Maybe your entire team can meet up for dinner or drinks afterwards. During the screening itself they’ll show all the films that were submitted. Or in bigger cities all the films from your screening group. After the films have screened they’ll collect ballots for the audience choice award. You’ll have to vote for several films to keep it fair, so don’t be shy about voting for your own! As team leader one curve-ball they throw you is: after all the screenings are done, they’ll bring all the directors to the front of the theater to answer questions. I’ve done this 4 times in 4 different cities, they all do this yet not once have they ever given any advance notice, so consider yourself warned! The questions are always: what was the best part? And what was the worst part? So if you get stage fright, just have a generic and brief answer ready, and keep it moving!
Figure out what you’re gonna do with your film after it’s done. Hopefully it’s something you’re proud to share! Usually teams simply upload it to youtube/vimeo and share via social media. But some teams create accounts specifically for their films to help promote them even further. Whatever you do, it’s something you and an entire team put a lot of work into, it deserves to see the light!
So, there you have it, my (not so) complete guide to a successful-as-possible 48HFP weekend. To be honest making these films has always been an extremely rewarding experience, without exception! So despite (or perhaps because of) all the challenges, I do recommend you give it a shot. I imagine I might think of more things to add to this post as time goes on, so check back periodically for updates. In the meantime, please share comments and questions in the discussion below.
This week's post is from a good friend and fellow photographer, Robert Siegelman. Siegelman works primarily in drawing, photography and artists books. He teaches at Tufts University in Boston, and works with artists privately.
His work is in many collections including the Boston Public Library, Harvard, MIT, The Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City, The Leather Achives in Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Notable exhibits include shows at the Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and “untitled male id” at the Angus-Hughes Gallery in London. In 2017 his drawing installation, “Do You Worry a Lot” was exhibited at the Winfisky Gallery, Salem State University. In 2018 a one-person photography exhibit, titled “In the Flesh” was held at HallSpace in Boston MA.
Some of the images in this blog post contain nudity, and may be considered "NSFW", please proceed accordingly
I am an artist and fine art photographer who has been working and teaching at the university level for nearly 40 years. Both photography and drawing are important for me. They are the cores of my work. I also make installations both in my studio and in nature.
In photography I work in portraiture and nudes with men of all ages. I am looking at how to represent men as sexual beings while showing my subjects’ vulnerability and tenderness. The work may be sexually explicit but, in the end, it is about our need for intimacy and connection. I work toward making visible images of men that run counter to how we normally see the male represented in culture and in the media.
In this piece I want to talk about my work, it’s content, and some of the logistics of working with nude models.
My photography work is primarily studio-based. I use my studio as a blank slate and also as a kind of character in the work. While I have a wall hung with black fabric backdrop and another painted a clean white, I also have one with big industrial windows in which I place mirrors, photographs and other objects that have meaning, and underline the personal content in my work. Mirrors show up a lot in my work. The model is often shown reflected in these mirrors, so that multiple angles can reveal the models body and personality.
Photographing the male nude is a very personal exploration for me. While I am clearly looking through my camera’s lens at the model, my search is a much wider one. I am looking at the model but I am also metaphorically looking at myself, and my relationship to the model. I wonder who this person in front of me is, but I also am asking who I am. The portraits I make are as much self portraits as they are portraits of the model. More and more I am also appearing in the photographs with the model.
This inclusion of the photographer started many years ago after I asked a model if I could touch his face while I photographed him. I realized in looking at this image, that I had broken through the invisible wall of the photographer being completely behind the scenes–behind the camera. I felt that I, in doing this, had implicated myself in the interaction and allowed the viewer to enter the act of seeing and touching as well.
This was a kind of breakthrough moment for me. I was entering the picture and not just directing the model. I could explore more of my own desires this way, and the pieces could become even more about my relationships with the models and with men in general.
Over the years I have been including myself more and more in the work, through touching the models’ faces to other parts of their bodies. Some of these have become pretty explicit, and in some cases I am also nude in the photographs. The model and I may both be in front of the camera. From time to time I have used a remote or the camera’s timer to realize these pictures.
In many pieces I appear in one of the many mirrors that line my studio. I am reflected while taking the picture and simultaneously appearing with the model, whose own reflection may also appear in the image. The act of taking a picture and being in the picture is recorded along with the model and their reflection. Sometimes the mirrors are at angles and leaning on one another in such a way as to create a kind of “cubist” fragmenting of the image. For me this is a statement on the way we see and take in ideas in multiple ways and find meaning and desire from sometimes conflicting feelings. It is also a nod to art history, an inclusion I find important. There often tend to be little art historical quotes in the work.
The mirrors in my photographs are about looking inward. We look at ourselves in a mirror often in very prosaic ways, to shave and make ourselves presentable. We also look into mirrors to see who we are and examine ourselves. We look into mirrors to see who we are on the inside, as well as to see how we think others may perceive us.
My work explores these ideas of how we see and look at ourselves and each other. I am looking at my experience and identity as a queer man and exploring issues with aging, desire, memory, body positivity, and loss.
While many see my work as being erotic or homoerotic–and it is–the work is also very introspective, and sometimes melancholic. I strive to layer my work with meaning and possibilities for the viewer to explore.
I seek to show men in a variety of ways in which we are not usually represented. I want show men with their vulnerability in place. I want to show men being tender and intimate. I want to show men questioning who they are.
As I said earlier the mirrors are meant to be a metaphor for looking into and at ourselves and for exploring our inner lives. Another element that is often reflected in these mirrors is an American flag. I have one draped over a piece of furniture in my studio. On occasion it is used as a backdrop for portrait work, but more often it has become a casual and regular presence. My studio is a private place and I strive to make it a space that is very comfortable to work in for the model and for myself. The flag stands for the ever-present sense of turmoil and anxiety that the current government (regime) injects continually into our lives. The flag is a representation of my anxiety. It is a metaphoric and actual backdrop in my work, and a scary presence in my life. I want the flag to be a character or player in the work, and to express the near constant worry I feel about the current political climate.
I have worked with nude models since my first figure drawing classes as an art student many decades ago last century. I teach drawing, and the nude model figures prominently in my classes. It is a convention in teaching and art-making that goes back many centuries. While there have always been both male and female models utilized by artists, art schools and academies, traditionally it had been the female nude that was prominently represented in painting, early photography, and also in advertising.
The male “nudes” that we are most commonly familiar with are in the religious pictures and paintings of Jesus. While these painting usually depict a handsome European-looking man, they are not intended to have erotic content. Yet they do. In academia nude models are always thought of as chaste. There have been many conventions over the years as to their use in classrooms and studios. At one time drawing classes were separated by gender. There are still places where male models are required to wear a posing strap. We are told that sexuality is meant to be private, but in advertising it is a primary selling point. Historically paintings with nudes are “Art” (with a capital A), but somehow even those in which the nudity is titillating, the fact that it is a painting seems to excuse the erotic. Our culture has had and still has so many double standards about sex, sexuality, the sensual and the explicit. These double standards often get underlined when the male-female heterosexual binary gets crossed. My works are from a queer perspective. I aim to break down the conventions of working from a model. I want to question the standards that separated nudity into categories of art and pornography, acceptable and unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. I want to speak about the body, identity and desire directly and with candor. I recognize that my work can be explicit and arousing, and I think that is an important element to explore. While I want to explore the erotic and the intimate, I want the work to be layered and evoke many meanings including the nature of desire and also of loss.
I work with models of all different body types, ages and races. I work with models that are queer and not. I have worked with a few non-binary / trans models, and while I work with men primarily, I have worked with women on occasion.
It is important to me not to limit the kinds of men that I work with. I know of many photographers that only work with young men. I want to speak to the range of experience that men have over their lifetimes and share images of men with varying body types. Talking about body positivity in my work is also important. I have worked with men in their eighties. I would be happy to work with older men too.
Older queer men often feel invisible and undesirable in a culture where youth is valued very highly. This work is a layered portrayal and my personal coming to terms with aging and my struggle with body positivity. I am 66, and most of my models are younger, and in better shape, than I am. By sometimes appearing in my work I often show men with bodies that are at a stark contrast to my own. This contrast is important to me. I have also paired men together that are very different in ages, body types and races. I want to explore and share the ways that we differ, inside and out, and the ways we are the same.
Also being 66, I have lived though and experienced the loss that is endemic in having known many men with HIV/AIDS, many of which have passed. In having known an existence from a time before AIDS to the time now, with drug therapies making the disease manageable and also with Prep, I have seen a history that is both sad and celebratory. Times have changed in dramatic ways for Queer people and they are continuing too. My window and participation in these times, and having been out since I was 19, is one of the many contexts that informs my image making. I aim to speak to the owning of one's body, and one's desires, but also to one's emotional makeup and temperament and ability to connect.
Many who have modeled for me have felt this ownership personally in the way we have worked together. I strive to set an atmosphere in my studio that is welcoming, relaxed and enjoyable. I want to present a place where a model can be themselves and express who they are. Many of my models have found the process to be therapeutic (I am certainly not a therapist though), and many with body image issues have found the process enlightening and transforming. Some have opened themselves up to the camera in ways that are unlike how they can normally express themselves or their sexuality. My work is staged and directed in an improvisational way. It is a spontaneous collaboration with the model.
Logistics of Working with Models
I am often asked how I find models. I used to actively search for models and utilized Craigslist and Model Mayhem regularly. I do still have a page on Model Mayhem, but I have not updated it in years. These days, I am pretty lucky that most models tend to find me. I do ask men to work with me but I only look for models in the most casual way. Instagram has become one such source, in which conversations can begin about the possibility of working together. Most though have seen my work and are interested in participating in it. Men pose for a wide variety of reasons. Some are very shy and are looking for ways to be more open about their bodies and who they are. Some are explicitly exhibitionist, and are looking for situations in which they can explore this part of themselves. I work with models that are professional figure drawing models and I work with men who are just curious about what the experience might be like. I have rarely worked with a model who did not enjoy the experience.
When I am having my initial conversations with potential models, I ask them to look at the range of my work. Some come to me having only seen the work say on Instagram, which doesn’t include my full nude or explicit work. I want a model to have an understanding of what I am doing. Generally these conversations are through email or texts. At one time I made sure to have a phone conversation with each model prior to the initial meeting or photo shoot. Now that rarely happens. When we do meet though, we generally talk about the kinds of images that I will be taking, and their levels of comfort around full nudity and making images that are erotic. I also talk to them about the possibility of my appearing in the work and of touching them in the images and process. Trust, respect and consent are of the utmost importance here. Some models are happy to do “anything” and others have very specific boundaries. Both are fine with me. This is important to talk about in advance of shooting. While some models are happy to come in and undress right away, I tend to ask them to stay dressed and I shoot the process of their disrobing. For me this is also about turning the prosaic, the taking off of one's clothing, into a metaphor for revealing who someone is and exposing themselves physically and emotionally.
I don’t want any surprises to come from me. I am happy when a model has an experience that surprises themselves though. This could be a personal insight or the ability to be part of the creative act that is often very rewarding.
Working with a model though is completely individualized. One size does not fit all. Sometimes I talk with a model at great length before a shoot sometimes the conversation is concise, quick and to the point.
Here are some points to consider when thinking of working with a model:
Always be professional and personal. This means being respectful and polite. This is important whether you are a professional photographer or just have a casual interest in the medium.
Be open and honest with the potential model. This means explaining your concept, your hope for the shoot and your ideas. Sometimes these ideas may be vague and not totally realized. That is fine too and also should be expressed. If this is your first time shooting with a model, let them know that. If you are a beginner let them know. Acting professionally doesn’t always mean that you are experienced in what you are doing. If possible show the model examples of your work in advance, so that they may have a sense of what you are looking to do.
I ask all that pose for me to sign a basic model release form. This gives me permission to use the work we make, and states that the model is of age. Generally I use a release form that I have written and have used many times, sometimes the language is negotiated with a model individually. I always email a potential model this form well in advance of a shoot. This underlines my seriousness and my expectation of theirs. I always check in advance that a model has read and understood the release form and I ask if they have any questions. This is repeated when we meet in my studio, before they sign the form in person. I always ask that the form is signed prior to the start of shooting and before a model is undressed.
Explain and make sure in advance that your idea of nudity and the models are the same. I ask very early in our conversations if they are comfortable with “full frontal nudity”, images that include their face and their genitals, and that the work created may be published (online, exhibited, or in print). Some are only comfortable with “implied nudity”. This means that they will be completely naked in the studio, but that their genitals will not appear in the work. This is not work that particularly interests me, and I generally do not work with men who have this kind of restriction.
Sometimes I set up dates to work months in advance sometime less than a week. Make sure to confirm with the model the arranged date and time at least two days in advance. Sometimes I feel like more than one confirmation is necessary. Make sure the model knows the best way to contact you if they are running late.
My shoots last approximately three hours. Arrange a time that is mutually convenient and that is not rushed for either of you. This can be difficult, but it is important that you both are relaxed. You don’t want to be needing to rush out the door at a certain time. If the model is late you still want to be relaxed and have a good shoot, rather than be looking at the time constantly. I recommend that both the photographer and the model put away their phones to avoid being interrupted by notifications and texts. You want the focus to be on each other and the work for the entire time.
The general rule of thumb when working with a model is that the photographer never touches the model. This is very important. Describe how you want them to pose. Feel free to be specific. However don’t actually put them in a pose. It is certainly easier to place their hand on their leg in the way you want them to do it, but don’t do this. Ask them to place their hand on their leg in a certain way, or if possible take the pose you want yourself and ask them to mimic it. This helps the model be comfortable in their own space, and with you. That said, you can see in many of my pictures that I am touching the model. Some models are open to this or being touched in the process of finding the right pose. However, this should never be assumed. I always talk with a model about their comfort level around being touched. I do this even with models that I have worked with regularly. I don’t assume that their comfort level is the same as it was in the last session. It may be, it may not be. When you have this discussion about touching, listen to the model very carefully. Listen to what they are saying, not for what you want to hear. If you ask them if they are ok with being touched and they say “maybe” or just “I guess so” that may actually be a “no”. If they say yes, but then seem uncomfortable being touched, stop touching. Generally, if a model gives their general consent around being touched, I ask permission to touch them each time, and not assume that I have a blanket permission for the entire session. Remember that you want the model as comfortable as possible, to get the images that you want. Also I have found that when I describe a pose that I would like to see, often a model gets my description off, and then does something better than what I expected. The way a model moves naturally is often better than what the photographer visions in advance.
The more comfortable and at ease the model is, the better session you will have and the better work you will produce. The photographer creates this comfort level with the initial contact. It is continued with subsequent communications and by the time you meet the model for the first time, in the studio, there should already be a level of comfort and trust in how you communicate. When the model gets to my studio, I welcome them, and thank them for coming. We generally sit and talk for a few minutes, or longer, and I invite the model to look around the studio if they like. I show them where the bathroom is, and the area that we will be working in. I generally also invite them to have a coffee or water or beer, if appropriate. I try to have some sort of snack available for them too. Once you get working, ask if a model needs a break. Ask if they are comfortable with the work and if there is anything that they need. Even if it is as simple as changing the music.
I am very lucky to have my own studio to work in. Many do not, and some work in borrowed spaces, their homes or outside. I used to borrow a nearly empty room in a friend’s house to work in. I have also worked in my home, and even in my bedroom. Be very clear as to what kind of space you are working in, and check to make sure that they will be comfortable in this setting. If any one else will be present let them know. Even if a shoot may have very intimate content and if you are shooting in your own home or even bedroom, let the model know your intentions are in the work, and that you are not inviting them into your bed.
Some of my work can be quite explicit. I never assume that this is an area that a model is comfortable in exploring. While some certainly are, this is always to be discussed in advance, even with models that I have worked with previously. A model’s consent to a certain kind of pose in one session is not necessarily a consent for future sessions.
After many of my sessions I give the model some or all of the images we make. It is important to know in advance what the model wants for their time. Some want to be paid monetarily, some are happy to trade for images, some just want the experience of participating in my work, and some do this out of curiosity, or for their own enjoyment. Always be sure that you know what a model is looking for and why they want to work with you. This should be acknowledged and agreed to well before shooting. There are a variety of reasons that people want to model.
This is by no means a definitive list or guide to working with models. All photographers and models have different needs, reasons for working, and boundaries.
Here are some ways to see more of my work:
If you might be interested in working with me, or have questions about purchasing or seeing more of my work, please feel free to contact me at: Robert.Siegelman@gmail.com
To read more about me and my work check out my interview in Boston Voyager.
Getting your Corporate/LinkedIn-style headshot taken can be a little intimidating. Whether it’s for your personal profiles/website or for your employer’s website (or even just your ID badge), you want to look your best. But the “assembly line” of quick photoshoots can make you feel like your back at school picture day or the DMV. The fear is that you get just one shot, and if you blow it you’re stuck with it! Thankfully that’s rarely the case for headshots, and while you don’t always have the luxury of time, a dedicated photographer will know how to help you look your best.
As one such photographer, I’ve compiled some of my general tips that will help make pretty much any headshot look significantly better. I’m confident that, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be a lot happier with your next headshot, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t feel so confident when getting your picture taken.
What to Wear
Solid colors are your friend, avoid patterns including (especially) lines. Small vertical lines and other fine patterns tend to look “glitchy” on digital photos, and larger patterns tend to be distracting and draw attention away from your face. So, keep your outfit to solid colors. The colors don’t have to be muted, if you want to wear fuschia, wear fuschia! But leave the fuschia pinstripes at home.
Dress up. Even if you don’t work in the corporate world, your headshot is not a “dress-down” occasion. It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie (though it certainly can be!) For architects, painters, dancers etc etc, it may be an entirely different look, and that’s totally ok! Just think of your headshot as a chance to impress, and dress to do so!
Iron your clothes. Whatever you wear, wrinkles can make it look shabby, so ensure your outfit is nice and wrinkle-free!
How to Pose
Your photographer should be able to help you with this during the session, but you’ll make it easier on both of you if you keep these things in mind
Hair & Makeup
Your headshot is not the time to experiment with a drastic new hairstyle or color palette. Tried and true is what to go with here. Trust me, the night before you get your picture taken is not the time to cut bangs. Keep it to what you’re used to, while of course putting in a little extra time to make sure your look is nice and spiffy. That means no nose hairs poking out, earrings on backwards, nothing in your eyelashes, nor your teeth, etc etc. Most photographers will have a mirror on hand for you to do a quick check before getting into position, but don’t count on it!
Now that you know how to prepare for your headshot session, it feels like a good time to announce that I’m offering completely FREE Corporate/LinkedIn-style headshots in my Brooklyn, NY studio between now and July 31st. With Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA) coming to a halt on that date, I'd like to do what I can to help people in their search for their next career move. I’m hosting 3 FREE Corporate/LinkedIn-style headshots in my studio in BedStuy by the Gates J on:
Appointments are required so please email me at MJStewMedia[at]gmail.com with your name and what day/time you’d like to come to RSVP.
As always, please feel free to leave questions and comments below!
Today I’m turning 30, and I’m really happy and proud that at this milestone I’ve reached a point where I can celebrate achieving two major dreams: 1, I earn my entire living through photo and video work. And 2, I finally have a studio space to call my own! So while I’m certainly not the biggest of the big shots out there, I feel very lucky to be where I am now. On my journey to get here, I’ve encountered quite a few folks who, like me, are chasing their dreams. So in case you’re one of them, I’d like to share some thoughts/philosophies I’ve built up over the years when it comes to developing a mindset that will help you pursue your dream. I may not be the expert in every field (or even my own necessarily), but I definitely think these tips and strategies would help anyone pursuing a fulfilling career or any other personal goal. So, here are my top tips for anyone chasing their dream:
Own it, be who you want to be, right now
Go to parties, introduce yourself as a(n) X, whatever it is that you want to be. For me, it’s a photographer/filmmaker. Once I started introducing myself to people as one, I started to get a ton more referrals. This is because when people think of me, they immediately associate me with my craft. If you have a day job you’re not that into, answering “what do you do?” with that position is a huge wasted opportunity to make connections. Whether for potential job referrals, collaborators, people who might be interested in following your work, or just people on your team. If you want to get photo work, telling people you’re anything besides a photographer is not going to work to your benefit. You gotta be who you want to be right off from the start! As Coco Peru said in her one woman show: “not next time, now’s the time!” Start embracing yourself and your craft right away. If you’ve been waiting to take the plunge, start right now! From now on, as far as anyone is concerned, you are exactly whatever it is that you want to be.
Plan on plan A, not plan B. I talk to so many people who have a dream, but are afraid it might not work out, so they develop elaborate contingency plans. I know so many people who’ve gotten so wrapped up in plan B that they’re now years and years into a job that was just meant to be a backup. That doesn’t mean be reckless, of course people need jobs and money to survive. That’s why it’s so important you look for ways to start making money from your dream asap. Money doesn’t corrupt the art, that’s a load of crap that only serves to make people further resign themselves to a dissatisfying fate. Also the starving artist sounds romantic to everyone except the artist who’s starving, so prepare to follow your dream and make money while you’re at it.
Now back to my point, all your energy needs to get thrown at pursuing your dream. Got some savings? Spend it on materials/trainings/conferences, anything that’ll help you get towards your goal. If you dream of being a writer, skip that Master’s degree you’re hoping will help you climb the corporate ladder and think of what you could do in service to your writing for $100,000 (or maybe just get that Master’s in writing instead?). I was talking to my teenage cousin about his college plans. He wants to work to combat climate change, so he’s planning to get a BA in business with a minor in environmental studies… WHAT?! NO! Major in Environment, become the undeniable expert in your niche, and then you’ll be able to find 500 finance bros to fund your project for you. Why put your plans off for decades because you think you need to build up savings? For a lot of people nowadays a 4 year degree = at least 10 years of massive debt, so you’re planning to *start* working on your dream at... 32? No problem with starting late, you’re never too old (or too young) to work on your dream! But think about all the great work you could do between age 16 and 32 if you work tirelessly in pursuit of your goal! That’s a whole 'nother 100% of your life we’re talking about! Plan B should be just that, a fallback if all else fails. Don’t give it your heart and soul.
Invest in your craft. I touched on this in the previous paragraph, and it’s oh so important. Of course your financial means have an effect on this, I used just one camera body and lens combo for almost 10 years before I bought a second lens. So you can do a lot with a little! Just remember you can really keep yourself fresh and your talents current by keeping up-to-date with your field. If you’re a writer, pay for newspaper and magazine subscriptions and buy books as soon as they come out. Sure it costs money, but so does a suit and tie for that office job. If you’re a filmmaker, get a decent camera! It might cost $1,000, but so do 6 months of train passes for commuters in NYC. To put it plainly, we easily convince ourselves that spending money on plan B is essential while cash put out for plan A is somehow a splurge, don’t fall into the trap!
Believe in Yourself (It makes more sense than you think)
Feel confident! Easier said than done? What I want to do in this paragraph is help you think of things from the other side of the table. I’m not an expert in every single field out there, but I do have a variety of experiences. And one thing I can say I’ve experienced first-hand time and time again is: people who follow instructions and try hard, really do have a fighting chance.
A few personal examples I’ll draw on: hiring committees. I’ve been on the hiring teams at quite a few organizations and companies, and every single time we were EASILY able to narrow down the pool. If not to one obvious winner, at most to two for us to choose between. This isn’t because these candidates were gloriously amazing in every way under the sun. It’s because all the others were clearly unprepared, unenthusiastic or both. So it was exceedingly simple for us to cross them off the list immediately after their interviews. Another example is reading grant proposals in a few different jobs I’ve done in the past. We’d have a set number of grants to give out, let’s say 20. And then we’d get 100 applications. You’d think it might be super competitive, and that a lot of qualified candidates wouldn’t make it to the 20. FAR FROM IT! Every time it was actually that there were 5 good proposals, and then we’d have to scrounge through the 95 crummy ones to find 15 passable ones to give the rest of the money to. Perhaps a little sad but true, but I think it’s encouraging to know that you really should go for things. If you can follow the instructions/meet the qualifications, and actually care about what you’re trying to do, I can say with a good measure of confidence that you’ll at least have a shot.
That doesn’t mean every time you get rejected that you totally suck ass either, I’m not so naive to think nothing out there is more competitive than the things my teams were evaluating for. There are certainly jobs, competitions and other opportunities out there that are fiercely competitive and reject hardworking, stellar candidates all the time. And sometimes it’s just not a good fit, even though your work might be quite good. I just want to see people stop second-guessing, hemming and hawing, and putting things off because they’re afraid they’re not ready. If you gave it some serious thought and then made a conscious and informed decision that your work isn’t where it needs to be in order to be competitive yet, that’s fine! But if it’s truly more a question of nerve and confidence than your caliber/talent as a candidate, please, JUST DO IT!
Speaking of rejection, it can be a really good thing! A comedian in NYC, Emily Winter, set a goal to get 100 rejections in a single year. She ended up getting 39 wins to her 101 rejections. Would she have those 39 wins if she wasn’t on a veritable spree of putting herself out there? Who knows! And while 101 rejections sucks 101 times, Winter explains she was “making myself more comfortable with failure to reduce my fear of it”. And don’t think because you didn’t get the thing you’re going for that you didn’t get noticed! People remember work that had an impact on them, and if they liked what they saw they might be on the lookout for what you submit next time! RuPaul talked about this in his Masterclass, sharing a story of auditioning for a part he ultimately did not get. But, the casting director remembered him and reached out about another opportunity. So going for it can actually be to your benefit even if it doesn’t seem like a success at first.
Caution: It is, however, important and fruitful to work until you’re ready
Now the flipside of my previous two points is: every interaction makes an impression! So, please don’t misunderstand my advice as me urging you to submit your half-baked ideas or unfinished whatnots! You don’t want to get a reputation as a spammer or someone not to be taken seriously. I recently read a fantastic book on screenwriting: “Writing Screenplays that Sell” by Michael Hauge. He reiterates this point: if you submit bad screenplay after bad screenplay, you’ll eventually be known as that bad screenwriter. You don’t want to be known as that amateur who won’t leave people alone.
So there you have it, my reverse bday gift to you: a few pieces of advice from a young-ish dude who has somehow found a way to make a living off his art. I’ll reiterate: please don’t take my advice as the word of god. I’m sure in another 10 years I’ll have a whole lot more to say, a whole lot more learned, a whole lot left to learn, and a whole ‘nother 10 years worth of mistakes and triumphs to look back on. It’s all a journey, and the important things include: enjoy the ride, help and collaborate with your peers (high tide raises all ships) and make yourself proud.
As always, I’m open and eager to discuss these ideas with anyone out there who feels like they have something to share! So leave a comment below, and I’ll look forward to connecting with you!