Of pageants and fashion shows

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As a fashion photographer, I get invites to pageants and fashion shows courtesy of designers I work with.  In the recent years, I noticed the mushrooming of grand productions of pageants from the usual female beauty, male, and even gay pageants.

Back in the day, I used to shoot the main pageants but again quit because of physical exhaustion.  Photographers stay in a boxed area where they elbow each other for a good shot of the pageant front runners and if they win, their photos may land on the front pages of newspapers and probably in news features of fashion glossies.

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I kinda miss those days and occasionally, when a good friend or a client asks me to shoot, I do not act diva but simply request for a good vantage point and equipped with my neck and back pain inducing zoom lens, I can shoot from afar without stepping on somebody.

That ladies’ pageant was extremely memorable because I was seated in the VIP area during the finals night and whenever I needed to shoot ala sharp shooter, I would stand and crouch to the dismay of the person behind me.  I got cursed several times for ruining their viewing pleasure and apologized that its not personal.  Since then, when covering events, I bring my zoom lens and ask for an apple box and a good vantage point so I don’t bother anyone.

No concept no shoot

alexphucNo concept no shoot.  That has been my policy even since I took my photography to a higher level of seriousness.  Starting out trigger happy like everyone else, I used to borrow dresses from designers and shoot them in whatever way possible.  With modern lighting, location, photoshop and many more techniques, I came to the realization that there must me a concept to execute a shoot.

First and foremost, there must be a good makeup artist and hair stylist for a portrait or fashion photoshoot.  Unless the model can do it on his or her own.

I remember getting a salon sponsorship one time to do the hair and makeup because I do not want to spend countless hours applying digital makeup to a model.  But when the time comes, I do digital blush and eyeshadowing and countouring courtesy of training from my creative buddy who is an excellent makeup artist.

Yesterday’s shoot was awesome.  Makeup was done by Vietnamese dude Phu Co and Thai girl Jee.  My photography assistant is Spanish dude Alejandro who was awesomely excited to experiment with lighting.  Cheers to the team and look forward to our next creative endeavors.

Click here to see the first portraiture photo I shot of model Isabelle Rouger.

Why I stopped taking landscapes 

Beppu, Oita, Japan, my home for the past ten years.  I have taken this shot probably a hundred times and so did many students in our university. 

It is said the Beppu has its own ecosystem  blessed with mountains, rivers, and seas. When I used to own a point and shoot camera, I literally pointed and shot anything picturesque to my eye – flowers, sunsets, seascapes, landscapes.  It sure looked fresh for the first time in a year, or maybe a second or third time.  Now on my tenth year here, if I remember it right, I stopped taking photos of cherry blossoms on my fourth year.  It’s on my Facebook page anyway and younger people with newer digital cameras will post the same macro and artsy shot anyway.

The only funny thing about my ordeal is the thing that awakened my creativity is the same thing that ruined it.  My philosophy is anybody with a camera given the right settings, (and in this model age, the right filter) can take the same shot.  And that is why I stopped taking landscapes, travel, food and many more social media kind of photos.

I ventured into portraitures and fashion photography because every model, situation, outfit, mood, look, concept,… they’re all different and unique.

Trolls may follow me on Instagram, screen capture and rework the entire lighting but still, it is not the same flower, sunset, landscape and seascape. Every person is unique and that is what I love about portraitures and fashion photography.

Rebirth

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I have been hibernating for the past months from shooting fashion and portraitures and tomorrow is another exciting day when I explore new levels of creativity with a young dynamic team from my university students.  Yes, I am a university professor in Japan teaching business and I used to shoot students as my subject for photography.

Since I turned pro in the last years, I kind of stopped taking photos of students since shooting them entails a lot of expectations management which actually conflicts with my role as a university professor.  The thing with millennials is that most of them want instant gratification and portraiture photography is no instant deal.  It involves careful selection of photos, post processing, and ‘consent’ from the subjects since they’re not really professional models.

Secondly, after spending hours cleaning and attaining the desired image I intended it to be, some young models toast it up on Instagram or Facebook with all those crazy filters.  Worse, some of them demand immediately a jpg copy so then can instantly share whats going on without consideration to the original concept of the shoot.

And yes, no concept, no shoot.  I always begin with a concept.  Tomorrow’s concept is a beauty shoot and I want to show them how uniquely beautiful they are.  Probably, models are the most insecure people in the world, so constant reassurance is needed that that they are beautiful.

In this rebirth, I have learned from the past, manage expectations and discuss in detail what the shoot tomorrow will be about.  Once these are clear, they maybe, if everything goes well, I will continue shooting students.  They’re such a breath of fresh air to work with and that’s a bonus for a middle-aged photographer.

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