Working with male models is a bit terrifying, isn't it? We are all used to see all these glamorous female models everywhere - on Facebook, Instagram, on all billboards; I've even seen one on my toothbrush pack for some reason! Don't ask me why I think she was there because I wouldn't know what to say to you! But I know for a fact that she was well happy to brush them pearl whites.
That's not necessarily the thing that I wanted to talk about in this blog post. Yes, we see them everywhere, and yes, we love seeing them everywhere because we are hardwired to love them! And because we see them so much, we really got used to their posture, their big smiles, the way they breathe and carry themselves. And, of course, the way they pose! And that's probably why most photographers find posing women easier.
I bet I am not the only photographer that is a bit frightened of posing straight men. I say frightened with the best intentions, probably the best word to describe it is challenging. And it is challenging mostly because everything is about masculinity and sex appeal and how to build a really strong façade as an alpha man. I believe the way to tackle this is to facilitate a process where the real personality of the model will shine through. And my model (Joe Akram) made it so easy for me.
We started the photoshoot around the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, place where we are apparently not allowed to shoot. As a result, we have been kicked out after 10 minutes. But that's not my point! We had a really quick start and I think I might have intimidated my model a bit because I tend to work in a really fast-paced manner, which I think is good because I get to provide my client with more options this way. The more, the merrier, right?
When we started to shoot, I first asked my model to lean against a column, which he did. At that moment my mind started working as usual as if I would work with a female, so I asked the model to bend the elbows a bit, tilt the head to one side, lean a bit forward, bring the chin forward and engage a bit more with me. Little did I know that this was not going to work for me or my model in this circumstance.
After a short while and a mini internalised panic attack (only joking), I decided that the best way to tackle this issue would be to catch my model in one of his candid moments. I really wanted to preserve that sense of masculinity specific to male models but at the same time show pure emotion. So the next thing I did was to give my model a backstory moment when my experience in acting came in really handy. I settled on an initial one that would work with the location: "You are in Italy, in Venice. And it's 23 degrees centigrade, you feel perfect thermal comfort. Just imagine Venice, the sun is slowly setting, and you are watching that and having a sip of coke. Maybe you're waiting for your friends and maybe they are a bit late. But you don't really care because you could as well enjoy yourself in this setting too. You feel your shoulders slowly melting and you really start relaxing." And holy Jesus, son of Mary the Virgin, did it work? Well, see for yourself!
I am so glad that when in doubt, I decided to think it through and find a meaningful solution instead of coming up with a quick fix like: "Give me a big smile, don't forget to smile with your eyes too!"
In post-process, I decided that I don't want to edit his skin, as I would usually do with other female or LGBTQ+ models, just because I wanted to preserve that straight masculine appearance. I also wanted these photos to be typically candid.
All I have done to the photos was to (see hyperlinks for tutorials on how to use):
- Correct colour balance in Lr
- Dehaze and increase sharpness in Lr
- Play a bit with the HSL (toggle the greens specifically), Vibrance and Saturation in Lr
- Apply a vignette and feather it a bit in Lr
- Lighten the eyes and increase depth in the face using the radial filter in Lr
- Apply a different gradient filter to each image in Ps
- Rebalance the Brightness and Contrast after applying the filter in Ps
- Create a basic S curve and apply it in Ps
- And finally play around with the Selective Colour tool (especially with the blacks in Ps
Again, I would usually do a skin edit using frequency separation but I really didn't want to in this case.
I overall could not be happier with the outcome of this photoshoot and with the fact that I overcame this challenging experience leading me to broaden my expertise. Big love to Emi G for helping me get in touch with the model. Also, many thanks to Joe for agreeing to be my model.
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