When I arrived in Chongqing at the start of June my business partner, a Chinese woman in her early 30s, took me to the local motor show. She insisted I must bring my camera to photograph the models. So off we went in a taxi and met up with her friend, a professional make up artist. The first request of course was to photograph my friend and her friend but soon after that I was pushed into the crowd with instructions to shoot the models.
Of course, I was a little shocked to be part of the huddle, to be right where a few weeks earlier I had been on this site making fun of the perverted guys harassing motor show models and doing their best to dehumanize them, as well as trying to shoot their breast, bottom, and under their limited clothing. But remember – it was my Chinese female companions insisting that I get in there and take good photos. So I did my best.
First tip is know your camera and learn how to use it. Get a decent lens to use for portraits. Since we all take a lot of pictures of people, you can get a very reasonably priced 50mm F1.8 lens for the popular brands as they make a LOT of them. I got one better and use a pro lens but that is not required for most people.
So, you have your camera and a good lens. Go do a weekend course and learn to use it. I am amazed that people will spend over US$1000 on a camera without question and never learn to use it, assuming they already know. It’s like having no driving lessons, you might get the hang of it over time, but if you could get a weekend with a skilled racing driver (the equivalent of a weekend course with a pro photographer) you would be streets ahead. After all you couldn’t expect a virgin to be a satisfying lover. Thus my tip – get some photography lessons.
My mistake for the day was not having a proper flash gun, sure I had the pop up flash on my camera, but it does not have the power over distance to wash out the shadows that you can see over the faces in some of the images, and for a professional that is just not acceptable, most of the shots would not be publishable.
I have been hard on a couple of people posting photos here on this site in the past, especially ,one person who said he had a good camera and was happy with his images. I think we should try to be better at most things in life, and no - I was not trying to be personal, I was urging him to learn to use that expensive toy that so many feel they need to have now. I hope you think that a little knowledge and familiarity with my own camera has paid off.
Now that you have the camera and you can use it, you need to learn to get the attention and connection with your subject. This is the key to a great portrait. Have a look through my shots here and see how well or poorly I have managed to get the focus and often a smile from the models. You can see from the crowd shot that I was in a competitive space, of course being tall, not Chinese and having some experience helped. But so did treating them like a person, giving a big smile myself and then being ready to capture the moment, that is what a photo really is all about.
Many of the models had travelled from around China for this job, but the promotional girls at the desks of each stand are Chongqing local girls.
Who do you think are really the most attractive?