Tag Archives: fine art

The how, why and where of going “on tour”!

12 Apr

**Illustrated with photos by the incomparable Ben Ernst- from my latest tour of Holland!**

I don’t think there’s a single freelance model around who can live and work full time without touring. That isn’t to say that touring is a last resort or a bad thing- I’ve written a lot about how much I love to travel- so much so that I can’t imagine staying in one place! Still, I often read posts on modelling forums asking how to go about planning tours in the first place. For the first two years I had no idea what I was doing so made a tonne of mistakes and lost a tonne of money. I still enjoy the shooting more than the planning but I no longer assume everywhere is a couple of hours away and have to take a last minute sleeper train across Germany…
BREAKING NEWS: you can’t get to Dusseldorf from Berlin in three hours- you heard it here first!! 😛
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This is the foolproof guide to planning a tour:

LOGISTICS:
So I don’t have to write fifty addendums, I’m going to assume your first tour is in Western Europe at the absolute furthest. America is a legal nightmare, Australia requires some logistics gymnastics and I don’t know a thing about visiting Asia. 🙂

1) Decide where you want to go.
Are photographers constantly asking you to go somewhere? If so, go there. If not, ask on social media and networking sites. There are probably many photographers who want to book you but don’t know you’re about to start life as a touring model. I’d advise going somewhere at least four hours away from your home base as most people wouldn’t travel four hours each way for one photoshoot (though I have had a photographer travel from Sweden, which was a lovely thing to do!)

2) Check your dates- it helps to be flexible.
I usually book my tours 2-3 months in advance. It helps me not panic as days slide closer and closer, and I can rethink my plans if my location looks to be a “touring model hotspot”. Try to make sure that other models aren’t touring there at the same time. It isn’t a total disaster if there’s more than one of you but work can be thinly spread for all involved. (If you do find yourself in the same area as someone else though, it can often be a lot of fun meeting up and either getting booked together or doing something touristy!)
If your tour books up faster than you expected, if you have a day or two either side, you can extend the dates to fit demand.

3) Snoozing and cruising!
Once you have your dates set, you need to know where you’re sleeping and how you’re getting around- then it’s just a case of booking work.
If you drive and are staying with someone, you’re sorted. If not, check train costs on nationalrail.co.uk and nationalexpress.com. Those are the main train and coach sites. This is when it helps to have flexible days as travel costs can vary. For a place to sleep, check hostelworld.com, airbnb or any hotel booking site you like. I recommend laterooms.com though others swear by booking.com

Unless you’ll be absolutely bankrupted if you aren’t booked solid on your planned tour, book the above *well* in advance. It really is cheaper- especially if you’re coming by train. If you have left it a bit late, don’t worry too much- have a look at coach times and fares. Eurolines often have some amazing deals if you’re travelling internationally. If you’re in the UK, try Megabus. There’s usually a hostel available in any city at any time*, but if you’d like to be a chooser rather than a beggar, make your booking quickly.

* Except Amsterdam. If you are going to Amsterdam, book your bed NOW.

Once the above is planned out, that’s the scary part over.

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JOB HUNTING:

1) Start casting
If you’re already working as a model, you know how to post a casting call and advertise on social media. I don’t bother with flyers but I know a lot of models make a nice flyer advertising their dates so that people can share it as an image and get the word of the tour out more easily. If you want to do that, go for it.
I contact photographers who have already expressed an interest in working with me before I start posting public castings as it gives them a chance at a first refusal which is usually appreciated.

2) Language skills
– If you’re going to another country and know the language, say so in your casting. Even better, write the casting in both languages. (Keep it short though.) If you don’t know the language and are going to be working with several photographers in quick succession (for example, a workshop or studio day) check that the organiser or studio owner can help with translation! Nothing is worse than being yelled at by six people at once in a language you don’t understand.
– I almost always list my rates in the currency of the country I will be shooting in- it makes things easier for the photographer booking me if they don’t have to convert cash.
– In the body of your casting, emphasise anything popular in the country- are there any fashions you would suit? (For example, if you work to nude levels, you may get a flurry of bookings in a conservative country that has a large photography scene.)
– I shouldn’t need to say this, but use correct grammar. No txt spk. Try to use spellchecker if you aren’t sure. Not only do you look more professional but if you’re advertising for work in a country speaking a different language, you’ll be difficult to understand if you’re sloppy when advertising.

3) Locations for dummies
I never used to charge travel expenses thinking “what’s a tenner here and there?” Well, my first ever Scotland tour had four days filled by two half-day bookings on each day- a decade ago, I was charging £100 for a half-day. I was commuting around an hour or two each way and sometimes to EACH shoot. Not a particularly hard commute- I like travelling- but the £20 or so (not booked in advance of course- I wasn’t sure exactly where the studio would be in relation to the station) mounted up. By the end of my tour, taking off the original travel costs to and from Scotland, travel expenses in Scotland, accommodation (even though it was just a hostel) and food, I was left with £500 profit. After a six day tour in which I had run myself ragged. It was heartbreaking but a good lesson in why booking in advance and charging travel expenses when you leave your host city is so important.
Many years ago, I also made the mistake of judging all countries by the UK’s size. So I went to Germany and booked two full day photoshoots- one in Berlin, one in Dusseldorf. To my horror, I realised my mistake halfway through the first shoot and in my lunch break, booked a night train very quickly and moderately expensively. I got to Dusseldorf in time, pretended I’d come from the suburbs and the photographer never knew…. until now. 😛 Make sure you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there!

If you’ve done castings, shouted all over social media and still have gaps in your schedule, consider taking a day off to explore. If that isn’t an option, can you shorten your tour or try another place? (For example if you are casting for Leeds, try Manchester too).
Bear in mind that tours can be unpredictable. I’ve expected visits to sell out in hours and they haven’t, and trips I added as an afterthought have had to be extended by days! If it’s your first tour, you have no client base there… yet. You need to get the ball rolling and things may start slowly but if you’re a skilled model with a good reputation, things will pick up.

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SERIOUS STUFF:

1) Insurance of all kinds
A lot of things are up in the air at the moment due to Brexit but if you’re travelling outside the UK, get health insurance- you don’t want to lose your hard earned money in hospital. There is no reason not to- peace of mind is priceless.
Just in case- because you never know, pack that little leaflet your bank gives you when you travel, as well as the emergency numbers of the country you’re in.

2) Time travel.
If you’re travelling to a different timezone, remember that you may need a day or two to get over any jetlag from long-haul flights. If you travel back and forth a lot, you’ll know how long you need. If this is your first time, set aside a couple of days after arrival and you should be over the worst of it. Keep one thing (phone, alarm etc) on “home time”- especially if you’re on medication or the contraceptive pill, which should be taken at the same time every day.

3) References
I can not stress the importance of references enough. In your own town or country, at least if something happens you can speak the language, call the emergency services, find the nearest train station or taxi company, get cash out etc- it’s familiar territory.
If you’re on the other side of the world with little knowledge of the area, what are you going to do? It is so vital that before you confirm a photoshoot with someone, you contact two or three people they have already worked with to make absolutely sure that they are okay. It’s important in your own area, but doubly so when you’re touring.

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FUN STUFF

Exploring!!

Have a walk around when you arrive. Is there a tourist information point? Any pretty places to look around? Always know where your food is- if your shoot finishes late and the cafes are closed, knowing where your local supermarket or 24-hour store is will save you from breakfasting on anything you can see when you wake up starving. This has actually happened to me in Spain- I finished working with two other models and had luckily noted the 24-hour shop down the road. So we went shopping and had a bed-picnic!

I came to realise that I was travelling to all these amazing places but relying on location photoshoots to show me around! On my days off, I mostly curled up in my hostel to read and do admin work. Set up an auto-reply on your e-mail to let clients know that it may take you a little longer to answer queries, and take yourself somewhere on your free days. If you look in the lobby of where you’re staying (especially in hostels), you’ll find they usually advertise budget tours. Modelling does not last forever and while you’re doing something so amazing, make the most of it!

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p.s. I couldn’t decide which version of the “wrapped up” picture to post! Which do you prefer? The full colour one of this one?
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The Winds of March- shooting in the freezing cold

15 Mar

Spring is springing! I returned from a week long trip away shooting for my sister site to find that even though it was night time, I could smell the blossom on the trees and I woke up in the morning to early sunrise and the annual “East side/West side nesting goose turf war”. The weather has improved and I cannot wait to shoot outside again- I’ve even picked up some new floaty pretty things and am working on improving my art-nude pose repetoire to really wow everybody this year.

I began writing this post as the weather turned in Autumn and though I am optimistically hoping we’ve seen the worst of the really bad weather, March and April can still be windy and cold so… better late-ish than never, right? 😉
Here’s my guide for getting the best from your model in a freezing situation:

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All images by Imaginary Revolutionary unless otherwise credited

BEFORE THE SHOOT

1) Keep a ‘model kit’.
An experienced model will have many of the things listed but supplies can run out and sometimes there just isnt enough space in the suitcase for everything. 🙂 I’ve been so grateful if the cold has really got to me, I’ve slipped on a rock and I’m hungry and the photographer has been able to offer me a plaster or water to wash the cut as well as a blanket and a snack.
– A towel (for changing and/or wet feet)
– Cereal bars or Mars bars (Food is always good but Mars bars are for serious sugar crashes- hopefully it shouldn’t come to that!)
– A couple of bottles of water
– Loo roll. (Especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere!)
– Plasters and painkillers
– A blanket and possibly hand warmers if it’s REALLY freezing
– A flask of hot drinks and a hot water bottle if you know you are really going to suffer for your art.

2) Book an experienced model.
I know professional models charge higher rates but you will get a wider range of poses and more usable images in a shorter amount of time with a model used to cold weather photoshoots- especially when it comes to art-nude work. Overall, the extra cost is offset by the level of productivity.
If you really want/need to work with a new model, bear in mind that a lot of ‘tips and tricks’ come from experience and what may seem obvious may not have occurred to a total newbie- even down to the fact that they are going to be very uncomfortable in the first place! Tell them to bring warm stuff and food.

3)  Plan ahead
Have two or three overall images in your mind that you would like to achieve. Work on getting those first and then consider everything else a bonus. This counts doubly on windy days when your model will freeze much faster than on still days.

4) Remember that shooting as a duo or group may halve the work for you…. but it doubles the work for your model.
If you’re working with another photographer who can act as assistant, your model must pose for you, wait for your assistant to set up their camera and then pose for them too. You may feel rested and ready to go again after your break from shooting but your model will not have stopped. This is not to say that duo shoots cannot work- they definitely can and I have had some fantastic and memorable times. Comfort is relative and we won’t be warm and cosy but this is how to help models out and get the best from us:
– Offer your model regular fully-clothed, snack-eating warm-up breaks even if that means waiting an extra 5-10 minutes for them. Cold muscles are stiff, tense muscles and you’ll get better results if your model can warm up to a degree.
– Understand that standing still in the cold, half naked while somebody does a lighting test does not count as a break.
– The second you have your shot, chuck the model their clothing or blanket (especially socks or something to warm their feet) and ask if they want a snack or some of whatever is in the flask.
– Your model will be far more willing and happy to push for the extra shot and pose if they feel you care about their safety and comfort.

5) Check out the location beforehand and have a Plan B.
Certain places- especially involving water- are often extremely dangerous depending on the time of year. It’s a good idea to check a day or so before to make sure the pretty little brook has not become a rushing torrent. I highly recommend the fantastic Marmalade- Urbex Model’s article about shooting in watery locations. This woman knows what she’s talking about and takes stunning pictures.
If the location is absolutely impossible in the conditions, have a backup location- even if you have to postpone the nudes in sweeping landscapes in favour of arty beauty shots using the reflections in your car mirror. ;P
I was shooting a project with Magpie Tommy many years ago- we returned to the same bit of woodland and I posed in a similar manner by the same tree. One day, in biting wind, we arrived to find somebody had driven a tractor through our patch. Cue us frantically replanting bracken with numb fingers.
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We got the shot though… 😉

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DURING THE SHOOT

1) Timing is everything
If you’re working with a team of stylists, start somewhere warm, well-lit and indoors so they can get the first look ready in relative comfort and don’t have to contend with numb fingers early. If not, advise your model to arrive ready to shoot so that she doesn’t have to do her make-up outside.
Set up your shot before asking the model to change or undress. Clothes should come off at the last possible second after all the experimenting is over and you have the perfect light and exposure.

2) Check on your model
Experienced models know their limits. Still, it is nice to be asked if we’re okay or need a minute to get warm again. (Though don’t worry- you don’t need to check every moment- we’ll tell you if we need to take five.)
When I first began modelling, I was so fixated on doing a good job and being ‘professional’ that my safety would suffer and I’d push myself to the point of danger especially in the cold. Newer models may be more worried about saying they’re in pain or too cold so check on them at slightly more regular intervals (but not every 30 seconds!) and reassure any model of any experience level in advance that if they are uncomfy or need a break, to say so and they can take a few minutes out.

3) Be on the lookout for warning signs.
Has your chatty, enthusiastic model gone silent? Are they shaking with cold? Pale, or flushed? Ask them if they are okay. Take anything other than an immediate confident “yes” as a signal to wrap the shoot. Most photographers I have worked with have been fantastic if we’re both too battered by the cold to continue but I’ve heard a fair few horror stories about models being asked to stay in the same place with the cold getting into their bones, while photographers shoot and shoot and shoot. I assume anybody reading this post wouldn’t be that photographer in the first place but I couldn’t not mention it.

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ADVICE FOR MODELS

1) Be prepared
Carry snacks and buy a hot drink before you arrive. Make sure you have a warm jumper or coat in your bag as well as plasters and any other medication you want to have. Keep snacks close by as they can make all the difference. The diet may go out of the window but I find a protein bar, chocolate or something like a flapjack is better than nibbling on nuts and grapes, which are healthier but don’t really fill you up.

2) Know yourself.
I know it’s one of my ‘suits all situations’ pieces of advice but seriously- what can you cope with? If you’re okay with cold, still weather but not roaring wind then take that shoot in a freezing, snowy but sheltered mountain valley- not the one with blowing material and streaming hair on the top of the cliff. 🙂
At what point do you need to stop and warm up. When you start to shiver? When your fingers go numb? When can you tell that the cold has reached your muscles? Once the cold has reached your bones, it’s all over so listen to your body and warm up before that.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for a break.
You’re entitled to a break! Especially if your ears are going to drop off and your nose is gushing water down your face. You’re a human being and being warm(er) and less hungry will make you feel so much better- even if you know the pictures will be beautiful anyway.

4) Relax your face and try not to tense your jaw
I wish I had known this earlier! It’s one of the things that I notice about myself as a new model vs now. Luckily my tensed face suited the style on the left (my first mostly-nude shooting trip back in 2010) as I was going for the water vampire/evil siren look but there were plenty of other pictures from earlier shoots with this same expression and they did not work! The right is a later shoot- 2012. I was memorably freezing during this shoot and running around to keep warm in between shots but I’d learned how to relax my face more.
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Left pic by John Downs, right pic by Imagesse

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GENERAL GUIDE: (This may be different depending on your level of health.)
Shivering, goosebumps: You’re cold. You can usually work through it or do some more active poses to warm up.
Stiff muscles, fingers and toes going numb. The cold is in your muscles. Take a warm-up break and wait for your fingers and toes to regain a little feeling.
Actually shaking with cold, fingers and feet numb, you’re clumsy and cannot get warm: The cold is in your bones and this is dangerous. Stop the shoot immediately, if not sooner.

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Over to you guys! Any more tips about shooting in the cold? Anything I’ve missed? If so, I’ll add things to this post. 🙂

Thankyou to all the photographers I’ve worked with who have been wonderful in freezing conditions, especially Imaginary Revolutionary who was a perfect example of how to shoot in the cold on a dawn photoshoot with me last month and whose images are the illustrations for this post! 🙂

ROSWELL x

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