Above: Image by Gina Milicia
He was the best-looking guy I’d ever seen in my life. At 6′ 2″, he towered over me – I’m 5′ 7″ (5′ 8″ with my hair done).
When he locked his piercing blue eyes onto mine, I actually gasped. Seriously.
So there we were, alone together. It was my first time, and I was so nervous. My heart was beating at a million miles an hour. My mouth was dry. My palms were sweaty.
“Pull yourself together, woman,” my inner tough chick scolded.
I was only 22. I was worried I’d do something wrong. I thought I knew where everything went, but it’s not until you’re actually in the thick of it that you know for sure… I stumbled and bumbled my way along, and then I finally let myself go. It was rough, it was raw, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was my first time, and I was so proud of my achievement.
I’d just completed my very first professional portrait shoot.
I can still remember every single second of that shoot like it was yesterday. I’d been an assistant for a year; I felt so intimidated by the skill and confidence of the photographer I worked for that I hadn’t picked up a camera all year.
Then a model agent I knew asked me if I’d like to test with some of her new models. “Testing” is when model agents who are developing new talent send the models out to work with as many different photographers as possible to build their portfolios and develop their modelling skills. This type of thing is mutually beneficial to both the emerging photographer and the new model.
I was lucky because I had an amazing mentor who taught me some really helpful tips on lighting, posing, and how to define and enhance facial features and make skin glow.
This was a huge advantage, but the minute I started shooting, I forgot most of the stuff he had told me. All I could remember was “Focus on the eyes and expose for the something, something…” I was so preoccupied with trying to get my shot in focus, trying to get the exposure correct, and thinking about how incredibly good-looking this model was that I completely forgot all of the lighting rules.
I hear stories like this all the time from my students “I thought I was prepared until I got to the shoot and then forgot to change shutter speed” or, “I was so nervous, I missed the focus.”
It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, the only way to improve is to get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot.
Forget about being perfect or the next Avedon. It will be messy, you will fumble and miss focus, or underexpose images. The good news is, the more you shoot, the easier it gets and before you know it, everything becomes second nature.
How was your first time?