Tattoos! Occasionally when I talk with other photographers about models and which models they like to work with, the conversation sometimes includes a discussion of tattoos and whether or not they are a good or bad thing for a model’s career. This discussion isn’t so easy to evaluate as it really depends on the nature of the shoot and how the model wishes to portray themselves.
For the most part, I really don’t care that a model has tattoos. If I have a shoot that I know tattoos will be an issue, I may reach out to models that do not have them. The only time I had a second thought about tattoos was with my first projection shoot. There were quite a few models for that shoot and each model researched images they wanted to have projected on their bodies. In essence, a projection shoot is using the shape and body of the model as a projection screen. For the most part, the projected image is the focus of the final picture, in the shape of a body. However, I had concerns that a large tattoo covering a large section of the body might interfere with the intended effect. One of the models, my all-time favorite, Dina, had (and still has as far as I know) several large tattoos on her back curving up and over her shoulder. Both of us had concerns that her large tattoos might not work for projection photography. We tried it anyway and I honestly do not think her tattoos ruined the effect of the images. It worked out just fine.
Other than that, if a model has tattoos I will try and incorporate them into the shoot if at all possible. If they have several tattoos, I will ask them which tattoo is their favorite and would like to emphasize in the final images. If I really do not want tattoos showing in the image, I will attempt to take the shot from a different angle or cover it with clothing or props. Frankly, I rarely do this. For the majority of the shoots I do with tattooed models, I simply don’t care. In fact, I have recently been considering a photo series focusing on tattoos specifically. (If you have a lot of tattoos and wish to be a part of this series, hit me up!)
However, this may not be the case for all photographers. Some photographers may want a very clean look for a certain shoot and will only consider models without tattoos, or at least tattoos that can be easily covered or concealed. If you are a model or an aspiring model, consider very seriously getting tattoos. I can definitely image scenarios where having large tattoos may mean you miss out on certain types of shoots. Although you can edit out most tattoos in post-production, some photographers would rather not even deal with it. It is my understanding there are makeups and concealers specifically designed for hiding tattoos, such as Dermablend, but they are apparently very expensive and are rather difficult to properly apply.
I have nothing against tattoos personally. Although I do not have a tattoo, I have considered getting one. I just haven’t found an idea that I think I would appreciate over the course of my life. I would note however, that for me, a tattoo is a reflection of the tattoo artist’s ability and sometimes their creativity. As beautiful as tattoos may be, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than the skin underneath it. I do not see skin as an empty canvas to be covered, but rather to be appreciated - as is. However, some people see it as exactly that – an empty canvas. I understand that some people get tattoos for sentimental purposes and reminders of people, places, and/or things, and I have routinely said, ‘to each their own’. But if you are an aspiring model and you are serious about making a career out of modeling, think long and hard about getting tattoos, especially large ones. Unless you strictly want to be a tattoo model, which is a very limited modeling career choice, tattoos may cost you certain modeling opportunities. Although tattoos are becoming less of a stigma than they once used to be, there are still individuals out there, photographers included, that may judge you on your tattoos and pass on an opportunity to shoot with you simply because of the tattoos. Perhaps that is just their loss, but it could be yours as well.
When I first started Steele Style Shots, I picked an arbitrary mile mark to measure my ‘success’. The goal was to simply have my photography Facebook page outnumber the followers on my personal Facebook page. In actuality, not much of a goal as my day job forces me to pick and choose my Facebook friends cautiously. I picked this goal to prove to myself that there are people out there that liked my work that were outside of my friends and family (and I knew my mom couldn’t create that many fake accounts to like my work). Over time though, my goal has changed.
Now don’t get me wrong. It feels great when I stumble across my images on other sites (even without my approval) or when something is shared far more than I ever could have expected. That’s all great, but that’s also all just gravy (or the icing on the cake for those of you out there with a sweet tooth). By the time one of my images hits the internet, I am generally finished with it. If it garners likes, comments, and/or followers, that just makes it even better. The joy of an image starts with the conception of the idea, finding a way to make it happen, finding a model (if needed), transferring the image in my mind into a camera, and finally editing the image to make it the best it can be. From day one, I set out to make my sites a visual gauge on my photography over time allowing others to follow along on the journey if they wished. But something else has happened along the way. Something I honestly did not foresee or could have ever guessed would have flowed from my work. Connections.
Because of my photography, I have connected with numerous individuals and moments in ways I never would have anticipated. I have been touched so deeply by these individuals and events that my life simply will never be the same. I have experienced moments that will last a lifetime. I have connected with star-filled night skies in a way that has profoundly helped me find my own unique place in the universe. These are some of the reasons I am so addicted to photography.
One of these ‘connections’ has once again made a mark on my heart and soul. After a recent photo shoot with my good friend Alecia Earle, she pulled out a box and handed me a gift. This wasn’t the first time she has caught me off guard with something amazing. You can read more about the first time she made me cry, here. Covered in fake blood (a session for my upcoming Halloween album) I started to open the box until I realized this was more than just a gift. This was something far more. Alecia had reached out to an online photography equipment site and had inquired about a unique gift to fit my passion. Not only did she mention what type of photography I like, but she also gave the person links to my sites to check out my work. The owner of the site responded back with a suggestion and Alecia followed up.
I am now the very proud owner of a Kodak No. 1 Series III camera. This camera was produced between April 1914 through December 1914 - an incredibly short production run. In addition to being in great condition, this camera is rumored to still be in proper working order! And yes, I do plan on purchasing some film and taking this camera out for a spin after some careful cleaning! This will be a test of my abilities in operating a camera in manual mode as this is just about as manual as you can get! No chimping at the screen to see if the exposure looks about right. No do-overs if it wasn’t spot on. I won’t know until the film is developed! It took me at least 30 minutes to figure out how to open the camera to put in film and probably another 15 minutes just to figure out how to open the front of the camera up. Thank God for the internet! As you can imagine, I was blown away. The gift is amazing but it’s the individual and the thought behind the gift that has etched a mark on my heart. Even without the gift, the connection I have made with Alecia, because of photography, is something that has made me rich beyond measure.
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I have captured tender loving moments at a wedding that still give me goose bumps when I look at the images. I have documented what a type 1 diabetic goes through day in and day out and that session was by far the most intimate photo shoot I have ever done. I have captured brand new faces of babies and proud parents. I have captured the shadow of Venus crossing between the sun and the earth – something that will never happen again in my lifetime. Even in planned model portrait shoots, I have captured amazing people in genuine smiles and laughs. And they in return, have captured a piece of me. Strangers have become friends, colleagues and friends have become best friends, and all because I have a camera and a few lenses. I couldn’t begin to tell you who or how many people liked one of my photos a year ago today, but I can tell you what made the bride cry. I can tell you who I was with during the Venus transit and eclipses. I can tell you why some of the individuals I’ve worked with got into modeling. I can tell you why my best friend switched from landscapes to portraiture. I can tell you why I have a hard-bound book of my astrophotography. And I can tell you why I miss one of my favorite models. Connections…
Thank you again, Alecia Earle!
Keep the interesting parts of life in focus.