As awesome as photography is, and as alluring as a job title like “photographer” sounds, there’s a major caveat that comes with the job: you kind of have to spend a few years just sucking really hard before anyone is willing to pretend to take you seriously (it’s a snooty profession, folks) and before you actually start taking decent images on a consistent basis.
At least, this is how the world of model photography works.
Even if you have a great eye and fantastic concepts, you’re still going to suck first. Obviously, you aren’t going to dive into this inevitable learning curve willingly, so first you’ll vehemently defend yourself against every critic (which is every other photographer that looks at your work with the intention to make you insecure and self-loathing (I told you, it’s NOT a nice industry), become a social pariah in some way, go on hiatus and spring back a month later, ready to do it all again.
Why do you keep doing this? Other than passion, masochism and self-loathing? Because eventually you notice – and so do other people – that you don’t really suck anymore, or at least as much as you did. Hey, a compliment! Seriously? Yeah, once again, the industry is COLD… but it’s enough to prevent you from throwing your equipment off of a cliff, and you shoot some more. It’s a cycle. It’s a horrible, vicious cycle. It’s an inevitable cycle, and it’s just the way it is.
Here are what I like to look back on as the reasons I kept sucking long enough to stop. Prior to the not sucking, there are moments of near-adequacy that pop up every from time to time, they kind of fortell of a possible level of near-good that you could eventually achieve. I picked up my camera for the first time in January of 2009, sucked royally for about two years before I achieved almost decency in January of 2011 (we’ll call that phase 1). So, this is a collection of my personal favorites from 2010 – these are the ones that didn’t suck as much as the ones that came before them. I had some good shoots in 2009 that I may or may not show you, but they really aren’t anything impressive – not that I don’t love them but yeah, the learning curve is painful to see.
Anyway, here we are – moments of non-suckage in 2010 that convinced me I might not have to suck forever, here we go.
Anna in Wonderland
This was one of the first shots I ever attempted with colored lights, or gels. I had no freaking clue what I was doing, so this shoot was sort of a crash course in “how not to use gels” – with everything from soaking the subject matter in one vibrant color and not being able to figure out why, to having a light start to burn. Yes, burn. But Anna is one of the greatest sports in the world, and the most patient. Somehow, we got this shot with burning down the entire apartment.
This was about a month after I started messing around with lights in a controlled environment (aka my little pseudo studio in my apartment). I had also recently gotten some lenses that were a bit beyond my realm of knowledge, depth of field was a weird and new concept to me. Here’s one of the moments where everything started to click.
Jess in Betsey
Jess was one of the first models that I ever shot. Naturally, when I got my first lights, she was one of the first models that I had over to test them out. This is one of the first times – maybe even the first time – I actually got what I was going for with my lighting. It’s a huge deal! Plus, Jess looks great in Betsey Johnson – so yay, we love this shot.
Sara via Kubrick
In December of 2011, I was asked to assist a good photographer friend of mine whose work is exponentially better than mine with a workshop he was giving on studio lighting. I love this shot because it broke my conception of simple studio nudes having to look desaturated and dull. Color is groovy.
Life in the Trees
This is still one of my favorites. I love everything about it – including the hours and hours of post-processing that went into this. And Adam is awesome. Just throwing that in there.
True, Jaylynn is one of those models that it’s nearly physically impossible to take a bad photograph of, but I don’t think that’s what made this one work. What made this one work was the control I managed to maintain over the highs, lows and midtones in the dark back-lit basement. I definitely learned A LOT with this shot. And I still love it.
This one is just awesome. Right? Totally.
For so many reasons, I love this shot and it will always have a very special place in my heart and portfolio. This was the second time that I worked with Sara, the first time I got to work with her outdoors. We were so freaking in-sync it was incredible. I was actually standing on the opposite side of a pond from her with a very long lens, so I couldn’t verbally communicate with her so if we were in-sync this wouldn’t have worked at all. We got a phenomenal set, this is probably my favorite.
This photo was one of those photos that I just loved, was just drawn to… but not a whole lot of people who saw it saw anything besides my insanity. Eventually, it caught on. I’m still proud.
I shot this at Al Morrison’s studio, it was the first time I used a Lastolite wall… I really liked it (and managed to recreate it, more on that later). My model was the beautiful Nicole Dragon – one of the most beautiful people, inside and out, who has ever walked the face of this world. Unfortunately, Nikki passed away in the early spring of 2016 from cystic fibrosis. She was a great friend, and an amazing human being. I miss her. This shot is one of my favorites.
This was also shot at the workshop with Sara Ferron. No need to explain why I love this one – it’s pretty slick. Still love it, still proud. And yeah, it’s still super groovy.
All photographs on this page ©Katie Potter*