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A few more things to bear in mind

Model Advice from Mark Curtis of Design Zero

How do you work?

Generally I do believe the process is a two way thing, so it would be great of course if you want to try a look/outfit that you’ve always wanted to, but you're not sure will work – I am happy to let you experiment!

I do have a pretty laidback, relaxed and easy going approach that may suit new or inexperienced models that are seeking someone sympathetic to work with.

I do prefer to work with female models, and you really must be over the age of eighteen.

Assuming it’s a general portfolio shoot - when shooting any model for the first time, the ideal process is to work on portrait, clothed, lingerie and ideally some topless or nude figure work. These would be interior standing and seated shots with basic backdrops. Prone shots can be done on a bed or floor.

With any model I will go through a “pose book” at the start of a shoot so we can talk about what we are going to do. This isn’t to try and faithfully re-create these images but is simply a tool help us both to be clear on what we’re looking for -it’s easier to “discuss” and “point at” an existing picture than talk abstractly about what we are going to do. At this point the general poses that we think may suit, the overall “look”, image and styles etc can be planned.

I appreciate that there seems to hundred of euphemisms that are used for different styles of photographic work, and frequently these descriptions of “work types” mean different things to different people! I understand that there are limits and boundaries’, fundamentally; the basic way I tend to describe the way I work, is that it is intended to be interesting to me -although personally I have no problems with people finding the nude/topless/sheer work I do “erotic”! (Blush Blush).

What are your influences?

Generally my work has been described as similar in style and approach to Ellen Von Unwerth and Corinne Day – both female photographers, oddly enough – Also my stuff has been likened to Guido Argentini. – Certainly those three names come up time and time again.

Feel free to do a Google image search on those three and see what you think! Personally, I don’t think too much about it!!!! - but it’s nice to mentioned in that company I suppose!

Nude? Topless?

I do understand the content of one of my shoots can be a “worry” for any new or inexperienced model – so although you might say, “well he would say this wouldn’t he?” I have too much to worry about in terms of light, focus etc to get the slightest “thrill” from a nude shoot, and believe me once you’ve spent hours processing the images – you pretty much get fed up with the sight of them!

Anyway, at 36 - I’m too young to be a dirty old man quite yet! And no, I don't "position" models - that is really only be necessary at super high level shoots where there's 15 odd lights/flash heads and so the photographer will have a really narrow area of perfect light balance to work in, therefore models get “positioned” as they may not be able to follow the lighting balance without the aid of a compass, protractor and set of logarithmic tables!

I do feel that it is an issue rarely properly addressed by photographers– but in truth I’m happy to talk about the issues of “limits”…From a models perspective, it is critical to remember that in any shoot what you “think” is being shot is not always what is “actually” being shot; secondly the actual final picture once processed can again change markedly – Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at a bit of porn as much as the next bloke but I’d just rather view other peoples “take” on the subject!!

So all in all – it’s about trust and respect I suppose.

What is your approach to nude, topless and other erotic content?

They key for me regarding any erotic stuff I do, is the “drama” in the images when any element of nudity or eroticism is involved.

Of course, on the one hand it’s easy for me to say that any nudity/erotic element is used to add "drama" rather than be "tacky glamour" – but I’m mindful that it’s an easy thing for photographers to say that! (Yep I can hear the models of the world – breathing in deeply as a collective whole an muttering “yeah, righto mate” in unison)…. but what I really need are either models that like what I'm doing – or professional and experienced enough models to understand what I’m doing with my work and know I ain’t going to turn the shots into porn.

Although (if you forgive me sounding like a pretentious sounding idiot for a minute!!!) - I do feel that to produce “cool stuff” – that some “nudity” be it topless or whatever - is simply one part of a whole palette a photographer has to work with – like a whole bunch of paints – sometimes I use a particular colour – sometimes I don’t – but I’d always want models to trust me when I’m shooting. If a model won’t trust me on “x”, “y” or “z” (whether it be wardrobe, head position, or an element or nudity or eroticism) I don’t feel they ever get the best out of a shoot with me. I suppose it’s kind of like being told you can’t use “green” or “blue” if you were painting a picture – I hope that does make sense!

It’s not a point I ever labour with any model on the day when we’re working – all I’d ever say is just be mindful of this as I honestly think models on TFP/TFCD can lose out… Do take the time to look at my portfolio – hopefully there’s nothing “tacky” (it might be rubbish but not tacky!!!) After all, if I just wanted to shoot “porn” there’s plenty of adult content models out there!!!

So what do you want to do?

Since starting, my views and attitudes towards the nude/topless content is always changing – I love to do straight fashion/portrait work, and much of any shoot centres around these areas – so do bear in mind that any of the more “revealing stuff” is not the entire content of any shoot time we agree.

I have been lucky and seemed to have got a bit of niche and a bit of style going, I’ve found my services to be reasonably well in demand - both commercial work and also by models wanting to add some of my stuff to their portfolio (I do turn down around 70-80% of the commissions I get offered – I do have a proper job too!). I’d like to think I have developed a solid style and innovative approach to the subject – so as far as my own portfolio is concerned, I am keener now to work with individual models on a “time for prints” basis.

That said, the content of the shoot still should ideally mix straight portrait/fashion and some topless/nude work. However, with any shoot I can guarantee you ain’t ever going to end up looking like some 1980’s “porn dolly”!!!

I like to keep any of the more “revealing” stuff that I do – “in context” with the overall look or series of images we are working on at any given time.

Sooooo all in all – the greater the flexibility any model can offer me – even for “time for prints” work – will in my opinion yield far better results across the whole of the shoot. Finally, I would add that around 50% of the models I work with have not done topless or nude work before – basically I think because my take on this subject is fairly sensitive and most importantly, sympathetic to the model. The key from my perspective is to keep any of the more revealing stuff consistent with the overall look and feel that we’re trying to achieve…. and my references are pretty good – so feel free to ask around!

Anyway, ultimately it’s up to you, I'm sure we'll have a giggle and get some good stuff together.

Any ideas for the shoot?

At the start of things in March 2006 I was on a bit of 60’s retro thing – I still am to some extent so the eye make up as well as general make up is super important to me and probably the only thing I can be a bit fussy about. Lately – the work is more centred on images with an “urban” feel.

Prior to a shoot I generally send out a guide/information as to what I need in terms of make-up from the model but don’t worry - just please do let me know if you are not confident with the application of make up, etc so I can prepare and adjust my approach accordingly.

I am happy for any model to choose a few outfits for the shoot that they are comfortable with, but it’s not critical – I have some arrangements with a London based clothing wholesaler and a couple of second hand clothes shops – so I tend to have a pretty decent wardrobe of items to work with at any time.

I have built several 1.8 square metre timber cloth backdrops, one tends to stay matt black – the others change a fair bit, I have a few more solid backdrops around 1 metre square for headshots and “tighter” work. Again these are regularly changed, updated and hand painted by myself. I also have cloth backdrops that I can use (and are mobile if I need to visit you for a shoot).

In addition, dressing a model up a “nurse” or a “police woman” and lord knows what else is really not my scene at all!

Do you supply wardrobe for your shoots?

I supply all wardrobe required for my shoots– as companies send me stuff and I also get to keep most of the wardrobe I use the for pro fashion work and hair work I do. I am generally known for what seems to get called my “retro style work (mainly - 60’s London – 70’s/80’s New York punk/new wave) and the whole “modern urban decay” thing….

How much will I get paid?

With regard to fees, I can on occasion pay models myself, if they have a certain special something that will look amazing in my portfolio – but this sort of thing gets booked up many months in advance and has been decreasing as my own portfolio has grown and luckily my work has proved to be attractive… at least to some people!.

In the future there will be some further expansion to Design Zero’s activities commercially so there will be much work that we do commission ourselves on our own account.

How long do you shoot for?

Models are paid for their “shoot time” – i.e. time in front of the camera. For a Time for Prints shoot, I can shoot for up to around 3-4 hours – so you change outfits lots of times! This way we can experiment with a variety of looks, make up and generally be sure of coming away with an interesting and varied portfolio of work.

I’m new to this! What do I need to do to prepare?

In terms of the make up - most girls will "arrive" with their basic foundation etc on, Eye make up and lipsticks etc are normally done by the model at the shoot location itself. - Nothing too heavy - just stick with what you know, you like, and are comfortable with. I can adjust the image for any "shine" so whatever you do don't make yourself look like someone has fired a shotgun full of Dulux magnolia paint at your head.

I will generally send a quick make up “guide” as I do like certain things but in all honesty - If in doubt - just go with you would do normally.

If you are going to use coloured lip gloss (and I’d rather you didn’t use a gloss at all) beware – you need to check this yourself and touch it up very often during the shoot. Under studio lighting, if parts of the gloss rub off, the photo can give you the appearance of having a “cold sore”, I can remove this rather unpleasant effect during processing, but it helps me work quickly if you keep an eye on this during the shoot.

Do make sure you wear loose fitting clothes in the morning and for the journey to me- airbrushing marks out of a models skin where her underwear has dug in, is a bit of a pain! Same goes for watches and jewellery – anything that marks the skin is something to be careful of. Same applies to “love bites” – if your boyfriend is that hungry – buy him a bag of crisps. Either that or ban sex completely for several weeks.

In terms of piercings, I’m fine with these wherever they are and however many you have, simple is best – plain silver where you can. Personally I don’t like the photographic look of nipple piercings so please remove these prior to any shoot. Now since we’re in that sort of general “personal” area – yes I do get asked a fair bit about um…“grooming lady bits” – to be honest – being completely shaved is fine and a reasonably “safe bet” if you’re not into the whole “topiary thing” but it doesn’t photograph that well. To get the best results from nude work you must be.. (Ahem) pretty closely cropped - the “landing strip” style seems to work best photographically.


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