Photography Advice

Work the Shot to Dramatically Improve Your Photography

The Best Shots Are the Ones You Haven’t Thought Of

Before I go any further, let’s make sure that you know not to be that cliché guy with a camera telling your model “work it baby – that’s hot!” If you really want to improve your photography, work the shot. I’ll also share with you at the end what your subject or model really wants to hear from you.

There are so many directions I could go with the phrase “work it.”

When I say “work it” what I am really trying to say is: don’t be lazy and don’t be arrogant when you have a camera in your hands. If you want to improve your photography, you need to be curious, be creative, and work hard!

As I mentor new and young photographers, I am constantly presented with images to review. When I ask to see more of the images from the same shoot, they only have a few frames of each shot and sometimes they even have only that one frame that they showed me.

That tells me they are either very lazy or very arrogant. Lazy because they didn’t explore multiple options
or arrogant because they were convinced that the first thing they tried was the best option and there was nothing that could be better. You’re not going to improve your photography that way!!!

Now, I am sure that some of you are still scratching your heads and not quite getting my point, so let’s jump right to an example of how I approach this “work it” philosophy in my shoots.

Example #1

Here is a shot that I did for this young woman’s first modeling portfolio.

Model in white tank top and blue panties sitting with back against white wall

It is a simple relaxed, casual shot that was lit with one studio strobe bounced up into the ceiling. The white walls did the rest of the work.

This was my intended shot. I asked her to sit with her back to the wall and did about 45 frames with simple variations on the head, hands and expression. I wanted a shot that was relaxed, pleasant and engaging.

Even though I got the shot, I didn’t stop there…

Next, I asked her to turn towards me and sit with her back towards the other wall. She was relaxed and all I did was change her hands slightly and move her foot to the center so that I wasn’t making a crotch shot. Still one light, bounced into the ceiling. I shot another 40 frames or so to get the right expression.

Model sitting and leaning forward

Things were going well and I had only invested about 5 minutes so far, so I asked her to pull her legs up towards her chest and, again, I had her move her foot to block the blue panties. I shot about 30 frames, still with the same light.

Model sitting with legs up to chest

Then I had my makeup artist flip her hair over to one side. I asked the model to lean forward and rest her hands on her knees and shot some headshots- another 45 frames.

Model with hair flipped to side

At this point I was about 15 minutes into the series and about 5 of that was spent on hair. I decided to finish with something a little more creative and had her do some hair flips.

Model doing hair flip

This took about ten minutes and I only shot 15 frames, because you only get one shot per flip and the process takes some choreography and coordination. If you want to learn more about how to shoot the hair flips check out this video.

So the net result is 5 different shots all from one setup. That’s how you work the shot.

Five variations and why you should work the shot to improve your photography

Just so you know, since the first three were very similar, we only used one of them – the second one. We selected that position because we had lots of other shots for her portfolio with great smiles. The close-up headshot also made her book and while I like the hair flip, it didn’t really have a place in her portfolio.

Great photographs are the result of hard work, planning, exploration, mistakes and a little serendipity.

Back in the day it would cost money to shoot this many frames and variations. With digital technology, it costs virtually nothing. So take advantage of it, and use it to improve your photography.

Example #2

Let me show you another version of “working a shot”.

This is a beauty shot that my makeup artist and I planned to shoot in black and white. We did some heavy contouring of the model’s cheeks to make the black and white image more dramatic and I shot it with the fluorescent lighting rig that you learn about in this video.

Model in black and white

Since this was a very distinctive look between the hairstyle and the makeup, it was a challenge to see what else I could make out of this look. So my next step was to shoot in color, crop off the top of her head so that you can’t see the hairstyle and then add the black vinyl to create the drama in the color shot.

Model wearing black vinyl on shoulder

Not wanting to quit there, I removed the black vinyl, cropped even tighter and over exposed slightly.

Model with overexposed lighting

Last but not least, we messed up the little poof of hair and threw some glitter on her.

Model with glitter

When all else fails – throw glitter at it!

Please understand this concept doesn’t just apply to portraits and models. The “Work it” mentality applies to ANY photograph that is worth taking. It could be a landscape, an architectural shot, you name it. If it is not a fleeting moment work the shot! It’s the surest way to improve your photography.

What your subject really wants to hear

So I promised to tell you what your model or portrait subject really wants to hear from you when you are photographing them. It is really, really simple…. They don’t want to hear That’s hot! They don’t really care if you tell them they look great – it’s good to do that though – they want to hear click, click, click, click click! So don’t treat a click like it costs you money. Work your shot! And if the subject is a person, reward them with this sound. It will help them relax and feel confident about the outcome of the shoot.

I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman

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Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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