In a typical Malaysian camera forum, a newbie comes along, uploads a few supposedly beautiful pictures of a model, elicits some 'oohs' and 'aahs' from fellow members and hopes for some comments / criticisms. I was that newbie once, but then after sometime, it gets pretty mundane because I wasn't learning as much as I'd like to.
About a month ago, I decided that I required some 'accelerated learning', hence my foray into some casual model photo shoots. After a few sessions, you start to get a hang of things, and here are some stuff which I've picked up so far.
1. How to use your gear to their utmost potential for shooting portraits in different light conditions and environments. DSLR cameras are complicated things with a whole load of buttons that are customizable for a whole lot of aspects, eg. ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, live view. If you don't know your camera well and what specific functions do they cater for, how will you be able get the images that you want ?
Then there are lenses. I'm not a very big fan of ultra wide angle lenses in shoots, so I usually stick to a standard zoom (24-70mm) or telephoto zoom (70-200).
2. How to best utilise your current enviroment and incorporate models into them. It can be a garden, a piece of sculpture or a room. Shaded areas are very good for avoiding harsh shadows.
3. How to post process your images. What use is a good portrait session when the photographer decides to be 'overly creative' and apply various effects like cross process, heavy vignetting, and heaps of other junk that detract from the beauty of the image in the first place. OK, I'm not Scott Kelby or Matt Kloskowski by any means, but I get a little irked when I see any of those overly-creative examples. I'm usually quite light-handed on my processing, and prefer to render the image as beautifully as I saw it in person during the photo session.
4. How to interact with models. Although our photos will inevitably be shown as bits of data on the Internet, models are people too. Treat them with respect while at the same time build rapport with them throughout the shoot, and you'll get the best expressions possible. You don't want to be known as the grumpy old photographer, do you? Help to carry her bags that contain her clothes change, buy her some lunch, and compliment her how sexy she looks when a pose suits her very well.
In our club, most newbies usually just ask the model to do a pose in whatever fashion they'd like. That's not a very good way to start a shoot unfortunately. We photographers also have to be familiar with some model poses so that we can direct them efficiently and save time for both yourself and the model.
4. How to interact with other photographers. Unless you're single handedly shooting the model, most likely you'll be shooting the model in a group which I advise to be no larger than 3 or 4 photographers per model. I've seen a group of 10 photographers trying to get a decent shot of a single model, but its highly unlikely that anything fruitful will arise if you have a group that large. Don't be a pain in the ass and get in the way of the shoot. If some strobes need to be held up, do your part and become the set instead of wondering idly around getting some cheap shots.
So what if people don't like your images? You can't possibly please everyone, can you?
What matters in the end is that the more photos you shoot, the more experience you'll have, while lazy bums who don't shoot and just offer uninspiring comments that wouldn't necessarily improve your photography aren't learning as much as you are and don't have any business in mucking around with your learning process. So what the heck are you waiting for? Get out there and shoot, now !