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Top 5 models to book – 2011

Since 2011 came to a close I have been mulling over in my mind the best experiences I’ve had with models and the shoot results from us working together. When I first came to Buffalo I really didn’t know who to work with. I like to think that I got really lucky and managed to get by with very few no-shows and worked with some amazing people who showed up and were ready to work with me. The following guide is simply a list of recommendations to photographers who are looking for models who are professional, look amazing on camera and have a lot of talent.

I wanted to whittle this list down to 5 individuals both as a challenge to myself and to keep it short and sweet. There is not a single photoshoot I have been part of that I have not learned from or look back upon fondly. I would like to make it a habit to write about my experiences with models as I work with them, especially for the first time. Consider this my big kick-off with that resolution!


I have worked with Anatomy twice now. My first thought upon seeing her in person was “model”. She fits the title of model through and through. She is tall, has amazing long limbs and a very unique face. It might sound weird but I was impressed with her down to her fingernails which she kept very nice and unpainted.  One thing that is important to pay attention to is Anatomy’s portfolio: She does not have “one look”. Beauty, industrial goth, artistic, fashion, pin-up, it’s all there and she looks amazing in each photo. (Find her on Facebook.)


Rachel Stephanie

Rachel’s code name at the studio is “Chameleon” and for good reason; she can transform into any character in an instant for the camera. She is also bafflingly gorgeous and I constantly point out that I have not been able to find a single “bad angle” to photograph her at. She makes anything work. I’m pretty sure I could dress her in a pillowcase and take photos of her while napping on the couch and it would look amazing. She is fun to work with and brings a lot of energy to our shoots. Did I mention that she’s fearless? (Find her on Facebook.)



I was seriously bummed when Zaftigg announced that she was leaving the Buffalo and I know I’m not the only photographer who keeps one ear cocked for an announcement that she’s coming back to visit. Z is tall, curvy, imposing, graceful, feminine, and fight all rolled into one. It is so much fun working with this woman because her energy is fantastic and the resulting images are a testament to her drive to put everything in to what she is doing. Being uniquely gorgeous and so much fun to work with apparently isn’t enough for Zaftigg because she makes every photo incredible. (Find her on Facebook.)

Katie Oh

The first time I worked with Katie she told me she wanted to do something different, something darker. Our first shoot was a faux bridal shoot theme with dark undertones. Coming from a background of mostly beauty shots, Katie pulled it off perfectly and I knew I had to work with her again.  She has an amazing figure for any type of photography and is so sweet to work with. Really. I’ve felt bad about all the things we put her through for some shoots but she’s always cheerful and dedicated to getting the look and feeling right. She’s definitely one of those “actress” models. I know that if I need a model who will deliver a difficult but sincere performance for the camera, Katie is the one I will call.  (Find her on ModelMayhem.)

Vena Kayta

I was instantly struck by the girlish doll like aspect of Kayta the first time I worked with her. So often she looks almost unreal on camera, as if whatever character she is portraying was painted from imagination alone. Kayta has a natural beauty that is anything but “safe” or simply pretty. Her look is perfect for daring photographers or makeup artists who want to try something new and wild. I always love working with her as we always joke around and laugh a lot but in an instant she is focusing and posing for another photo and looking fantastic. (find her on facebook.)


Again, I have been fortunate to work with many models and I’m always willing to recommend those I’ve had the experience of shooting with to any photographer looking for someone to be part of their projects. The above models are all women I have worked with more than once. I invite anyone looking for experienced models who can really carry a shoot to a new level to contact them and ask for their rates. You will not regret it!


I have definitely been on a hiatus this past month, photographically speaking. I’m slow at becoming accustomed to a new area so I definitely have slacked off. Anyway, today was the perfect day to do a nice shoot inside (cold and rainy outside) so I asked my sister if she would be willing to pose for me again. The last time I did a session with Terina was three or so years ago so it was interesting to meet again in a familiar setting to see how much has changed. For instance, I am WAY better at styling hair now, thank God.

Halfway through the shoot we decided to change some things up as I often like to do. Getting more than one concept per shoot is my favorite thing to do as it gives everyone more variety and often leads to spur of the moment creativity.

This was one of those situations. With one piece of fabric we changed Terina into a witchy character, but something was missing. I felt like she should have a companion or a strange embodiment of power. That’s when she said “I have the weirdest thing downstairs”.

You know how sometimes people will say that and then when they show you what they had in mind, you’re completely unimpressed? This was not one of those situations. This indeed was the “weirdest thing” – but what a character! For the curious, it was something that was found washed up on the beach. That’s about all we know.

I like creating names for the characters the models play. I thought the vibrant makeup character would be known simply as Lotus and when I looked at the veiled character I spelled Lotus backwards to get her name, Sutol.

It was a great shoot and we had a lot of fun.

Top 5 Mistakes Models Can Make

While out in the wide wild world of photography we all notice some things that kind of rub us the wrong way. I have worked with many amazing models and stylists who are an absolute blast as well as professional and creative. This blog is about the warning signs that cause myself and other photographers to hesitate when it comes to booking a model or working with them again.


1. Tell a photographer you’re bringing an escort for “your safety”.
This is not a dig against bringing an escort (bringing someone you know to a photo shoot). People opt to bring escorts for various reasons whether it’s simple transportation or help with styling and makeup. Security does come in to play but you should never begin a professional situation by informing the person you’re working with that they make you fear for your safety. No photographer wants to deal with that. We know safety is important but we don’t like being treated as a threat.

2. Stating your universal right to all photos taken of you.
Negotiating rights to images should be done on paper with a signed release, not as a general verbal claim to all photographers who are looking for someone to book.  By default, copyright belongs to the photographer while an image’s usage is determined by a release.  Demanding that all images belong to you without consideration for the type of shoot you may be booked for will cause photographers to scratch you off their list and never look back.

3.  Over direct a shoot or other models.
This isn’t about a power struggle; it’s about remembering where your focus as a model should be. Personally I appreciate a model’s input or suggestions because we’re all creative people getting together to bring something to life but it’s vital that models don’t forget to really be in the moment of the shoot. Distracting other models by “over-supporting” and giving them tips can interrupt and derail a shoot as well. Directing is done from the outside of a shoot so don’t remove yourself.

4.  Edit images without permission/crop out watermarks.
This is a bit of a doozy and can get you blacklisted by photographers. (Ooh scary scary).  Part of the responsibility here lies with the photographer and the release they put together for a model to sign. If you don’t want models to edit the photos you’ve taken of them you need to include that restriction in a contract. Regardless, cropping down a photo and removing a watermark (even for a facebook profile photo) can reflect poorly on you as a model. Most photographers aren’t going to pitch a fit about you changing a color photo to black and white, but drastically editing an image without permission can land you in hot water.

5. List warnings in your portfolio.
Unless you have a medical condition that people need to be made aware of first and foremost, avoid listing warnings on your website or modeling site profile. Let me put it this way; we don’t want to date you or get you naked. Any douchebag photographers out there who DO want you naked or as their significant other aren’t likely to pay attention to your warnings. The only people you are keeping at bay are photographers who know it’s important to work in a comfortable and professional environment. Yes you don’t mean it to be taken personally, but when you make general statements that put photographers in a bad light can work against you.

Pixels or Brushes?

Are Photoshop Wizards taking work away from MUAs and Props folk?
Truth be told, I’ve heard the panic about this from very few people. It might have something to do with the already close relationship of editors and photographers that makes such a thing less unexpected and threatening. Whether photographers retouch themselves or hire out for it, editing has long been a staple in photography.
Is it possible that one will phase out the other aspects of photography, specifically, editors eliminating the need for makeup artists(a.k.a. MUAs) and prop creators? An important facet to this argument is cost and convenience.

Many people, mostly editors trying to sell their services, claim that using their skills instead of hiring a MUA (Make-Up Artist) saves a photographer time and money. On average, retouching prices seem to range from $10 to $30 per image on the more affordable end of the scale scale. Many retouchers charge more than that if they have to add makeup and special effects.

Is it worth it?
You should only continue reading if you want my personal opinion based on how I do things.

Simply put: No.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to hiring an experienced editor to put a finishing touch on my photos but I would not request anything more than high end skin and hair retouching and the standard fixing of makeup. (Darken eyeliner, enhance colors, etc)


Let me put it this way: A single makeup pallet I got over 3 years ago for $30 still has ALL of its colors. I do all of my own makeup effects except when the infamous Joseph Frank graces my studio.


My makeup brushes cost me $25 (love ebay) and my extensive collection of makeup has lasted me for years and still has more to go. If we’re talking about at least $10 per photo to add the makeup effects I want, doing my own makeup styling is more affordable.
If you’re not someone who can do makeup then it might make more sense to hire a digital artist to add it in for you. Personally I would find it difficult to do a photo shoot where all effects are added in post production; how could I possibly be sure I’m conveying the right feeling during the shoot?

A photo session that is going to depend entirely on post production to be completed is going to focus more on making sure that the photos taken will accommodate post shoot editing and that’s just not my style. I prefer a shooting environment where I and the model can move and be flexible with how we shoot.
When the effects are really there, the feeling changes. Sometimes literally. Michelle’s thorns were so effective I got cut while finishing her makeup.

As far as shopped in props and other extensive effects, I view it the same as movies that overuse CG effects. I’m not a big fan of either outcome. No matter how experienced the artist is and how good the results are, most people know it’s fake. If you want to give your entire image a fantasy feel that might be perfect for you, but if you need reality with a touch of special effects, relying on an editor to create your props from 3D files, stock art, or by hand will be both expensive and have a somewhat unrealistic result.

In conclusion, you can spend 10 minutes on a photography networking site looking at MUAs, stylists and other artists and know for certain that no Photoshop Wizard will be able to take away their jobs. Saying otherwise is to completely ignore the fact that many of these people are ARTISTS and often come up with concepts that make the entire photoshoot complete.
Can't fake it
You just can’t fake it.