On News Stands Nationally This Month: My 10-Page Spread, 'Sojourner' in FSHN Magazine

 

Check out my editorial titled, 'Sojourner' in this month's issue of FSHN magazine available in all Barnes & Noble stores across the U.S.  We shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico featuring labels brought in from Los Angeles such as Guess, Sam Edelman and Burberry.  Thanks to our model, Marissa from LA Models and makeup by Miranda Qualls, hair by Amber DeJesus as well as the team for getting a lot done in a short time.  You can see an online version of the spread starting on page 56 here.  Also I've posted some behind-the-scenes shots in the On Set page.  Feedback in the comments appreciated!

 

I've Got Issues: September Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, ELLE, etc. Have Arrived!

 

Now with handy carrying case to lug the 1700+ pages of fashion along with you!  I'm very pleased to see Vogue featuring actual models on the cover; it almost makes up for the Kimye blunder earlier in the year.  Inside each issue is a feast for the eyes with the new ads from all the top labels along with the editorial content.  I'm also impressed with the new Ralph Lauren line for winter featuring complete white-on-white thick layers with no separation whatsoever.  Great photography, great styling, great models.  Between all the issues, there's enough content to enjoy a winter hibernation until Spring.


 

Crew Spotlight: Pro Makeup Artists Are Essential.

 

I'm been a believer in the lasting photographer's adage that, "A photographer is only as good as his weakest crew member."  True that it is paramount to have the right team when constructing complex images for top-quality fashion and beauty work in an industry where a photographer is only as good as their last photo.  To survive is one thing, to succeed is another.  Success is a very illusive endeavor that requires both high quality and lots of luck.  But if the quality isn't in one's work, one better hope they have a large supply of luck.  

Kevin Hees preps Elite model Noel in New York.

Kevin Hees preps Elite model Noel in New York.

I bring attention to one of the key members of any good fashion photography team: the Makeup Artist.  I emphasize "artist" because a true "MUA" is so much more than a makeup applicator- the MUA is arguably the most critical  team member a photographer should hire for a shoot with possible room for exception for a good first assistant and a great model.  

I've been fortunate enough to work with and around some top-level MUA's including my roommate in New York who is the Creative Director for Kevyn Aucoin Cosmetics, Kevin Hees.  I've also had the pleasure of working on numerous shoots with Conrad Sanchez who spent nine years with Chanel and I quickly learned the difference between a true makeup artist and someone who just applies the makeup.  A true makeup artist can interpret a mood board, understand the creative direction that the photographer and CD or AD wish to achieve and correlate that to the model's particular facial structure and features.  A talented MUA can cover all the bases; from light, beautifully clean makeup to complex, powerful, hard-edge and near-theatrical editorial looks.  A great MUA will contribute a refined, professional statement with the makeup in the photograph rather than an obtrusive, amateur design and tacky application.  A photographer needs to know they can rely on their makeup artist to deliver the makeup design that best fits the creative direction.  For me, it's such a great feeling when the model comes out of hair and makeup looking better than what I had in mind.  Makeup artists with talent and vision are true artists and rightfully deserve their title.

There are sometimes elements on any given shoot that may not look right according to plan and the team can figure out ways to work around it.  Stylists can strategically clip clothes that are too big for the model, assistants can adjust light to favor the scene, photographers can even trick an inexperienced model into getting a "lucky shot" when they can't model at all.  But there's no workaround for bad makeup.  Bad makeup will ruin the shoot, period.  The only possible way to save the shoot is to fix the makeup in Photoshop- but that's an enormous  hassle to retouch bad makeup in post.  It's a far better action to hire the right MUA for the job in the first place.

TRAITS OF A VALUABLE COMMERCIAL & EDITORIAL MAKEUP ARTIST:

Pro MUA's like Justin Paul in NYC bring everything they need.

Pro MUA's like Justin Paul in NYC bring everything they need.

  • Valid work experience.  A professional MUA can show a work history of being booked for diverse print jobs with high-quality photographers.  A good MUA will have a strong book, even if it's mostly test shoots.  The level of photography a makeup artist displays in their book is a good indicator of who wants to work with them.  When their work is displayed in great photos, it shows what level they are on in terms of their career as well as the level of creative professonals who hire them.  It shows they can do the job and that high-quality professionals rely on them.  A MUA who's experience is limited to only having done tons of weddings or only regularly work with amateur/hobbyist photographers isn't really up to par for the skilled nature of real fashion/editorial print work.  They inadvertently show they don't have the drive to be successful.
  • They bring all their own equipment.  I love it when I'm shooting on location and the MUA arrives with their own makeup chair and whatever they need to do their job.  There's been a few times when an MUA showed up with only a makeup bag and began asking me for tools such as a makeup chair, a mirror, a table, lights, extension cords, even a hair straightener.  I felt like asking the MUA if they brought some strobe lights I could use.  It's the same thing.  Photographers bring photo gear, MUA's bring makeup gear, period.  Really pro MUA's will have an assistant or intern to help them carry and setup their gear.  This is very intuitive since it's imprudent to expect the photographer's assistants to lug the MUA's gear.  The best makeup artists bring everything they may need and look after it themselves.
  • They pay close attention on set.  A real MUA knows that the most critical time to watch the makeup is during the shoot.  Smudge fixes, hairs sticking to lips or minor touchups are always something needing to be addressed while the shoot is in progress.  A makeup artist that applies the makeup then stands around playing with their phone during the shoot is one of the most obvious signs of an amateur.  A good MUA is present on set to correct unwanted flaws or to make adjustments during shooting.  This saves the photographer from shooting the next hundred frames only to find out later that those shots are unusable due to some problem that went unnoticed while shooting.  Believe me, it happens all the time.
  • Models (and everyone else) speak highly of them.  Great MUA's take proper care of the models by being careful around their eyes, making sure the model's aren't allergic to the products and by generally being pleasant and fun to work with.  Pro MUA's treat models and everyone as people, not as objects.  They want to be an integral part of the team and do their best to have the shoot go well.
  • They can approach anything asked of them with optimism and honest feedback.  The best MUA's not only know how to do perfect work, they can change it if asked to without taking it personal or getting upset.  They also can be a great creative asset by informing the photographer if a certain makeup look requested may not work with the model's facial features.  A good MUA won't falsely assure a photographer that a look will work if it may not, which can result in wasted time and a lot of frustration.  It's a team effort and the makeup artist is expected to be the expert advisor on the makeup while at the same time working toward the creative goal.
  • They stick to the creative plan.  This is possibly the most important factor in a makeup artist being invited back.  A MUA who agrees to apply a certain makeup look according to the creative direction, then goes off-script and applies something different is a detriment to the entire shoot.  There's nothing worse than setting up a shoot, agreeing to a mood board and then having the model come out of makeup looking nothing like what was expected and agreed upon.  There's probably no worse of a way to waste everyone's time, other than being late to the shoot.
  • They never, ever, show up late.  It should go without saying, but the best of the best MUA's are absolute professionals and will be at the appointed location prior to call time.  Many even arrive early so they can take their time to set up.  Great MUA's do what they can to make the day go easier for everyone else, so they can ensure that they will be invited back again and earn a great reputation.
  • They have awesome personalities.  This is important for anyone, but everyone loves a makeup artist that had their own identity and is fun to spend all day on set with or even hours on the road with when driving to a location.  For example, sometimes early morning call times can be a drag (especially for the models), but a makeup artist with a great personality can get the day started off right since they are often the first ones to start work.  Personality + performance is always in high demand.

Makeup artists are mission-critical to a successful outcome; they can make or break your shoot.  Don't be complacent when considering one- it matters.  Great MUA's are not a dime a dozen, so when you find one, keep them happy and they'll do the same for you.  They are worth every penny of their day rate.

MUA's like Kata Baron have to be ready to work in any environment.

MUA's like Kata Baron have to be ready to work in any environment.

MUA Hannah Morrow with her positive personality is always a model-favorite.

MUA Hannah Morrow with her positive personality is always a model-favorite.


 

New Work: Zink Magazine.

 

I did some work for Mark Pardo Salon & Spa a few months back and just had a couple of my favorites from the shoot featured on the website of one of my favorite New York fashion magazines, Zink.   Check out the feature on zinkmagazine.com    

Here's a couple of behind the scenes shots.  I didn't take many since it was a busy day and the schedule was tight.  Had to keep my mind on what I was doing!  Many thanks to the Mark Pardo hair and makeup crew, the models and my assistant + digital tech Jess.  Great work, great day.

 

New Mexico Fashion Models

 

I recently spearheaded a new business endeavor that I felt was truly needed in the New Mexico fashion market.  I'm proud to be a part of the newest and most sincere New Mexico modeling agency and I'm very proud to be working with these wonderful and incredibly positive-sprited people.  These are the faces of the newest and most professionally dedicated New Mexico fashion models.  Please welcome to the New Mexico fashion market as well as the fashion industry, MTM Model Management.  

 

A Simple Reason Many Photographers Retouch So Often.

 
Photo posted by Lorde to her Twitter account recently showing her skin retouched in the top photo and 'au naturale' in the bottom shot.

Photo posted by Lorde to her Twitter account recently showing her skin retouched in the top photo and 'au naturale' in the bottom shot.

Yesterday this tweet was posted by the music artist Lorde in which she herself didn't see the necessity in her photo being retouched and preferred to show a separate, unedited image along with her statement that, "Flaws are ok."   It inspired me to shed some light on what this epidemic of retouching, i.e. "Photoshopping" is really all about.  In the extremely competitive world of photography, photographers are doing everything they can to make their images stand out from their competition.  By retouching their images, photographers are not trying to make any sort of statement about facial blemishes, weight or other human "flaws".  They are not saying, "Lorde's face is ugly, I need to retouch it for the sake of society.".  In fact, photographers aren't retouching her or anyone else for the sake of their subjects at all.  Photographers retouch their images so that they can market them to as many media outlets as possible.  Those media outlets demand very high quality, "flawless" photos for their publication standards.

Every photographer wants the reputation of having the best images.  I, we, they, all want a reputation for our work to be heralded as the best, so to photo-editing software we turn.  It isn't because we necessarily want the people we photograph to be flawless, it's our photography we want to be flawless.  As if we magically have some sort of talent that makes whoever and whatever we shoot come out looking better than real life.  Well, photo editing software does that.  There are even programs, apps and even some cameras now that have face recognition software that can automatically retouch someone's face to flawless perfection.   Although the results usually aren't even human-looking and in fact quite often look ridicules.  That too will change as technology becomes more intelligent.  

In addition to every photographer's desire for their work to be regarded as the best and therefore hopefully acquire more jobs, there's also the notion that a celebrity being photographed might disapprove of images in which they look, well like they really do.  We've all heard the whining demands in the media of certain celebrities who require their photographs to be retouched to so-called perfection before being published in any magazine or on the web.  We certainly see that practice being over-endugled on most mainstream magazine covers.  In this case, Lorde has preferred the unedited image, but that's seldom the case.  Magazines are also in competition with each other to have the 'best looking' celebrity covers and photo editorials.  So the standard practice has become for most photographers that any un-retouched photograph submitted for publication will be an automatic rejection...and usually is.

So to clarify the reason behind all of the photo retouching going on in today's media, it's not that anyone feels that someone's flaws are to be erased for the sake of societies' approval, it's simply a matter of marketing and competition.  You as a consumer are more likely to select an apple with the most pristine and flawless appearance in the produce section.  Ergo, the same theory applies in the magazine section.  Every media company is just trying to climb above their competition by presenting the most-polished and flawless products.  So much so, that "flawless" has become the new "normal".

 

Billboard Time Lapse

 

Ever wanted to see how a billboard goes up?  One of my clients, Gertrude Zachary Jewelry, had a billboard that was torn and needed replacement.  Here's the job done in 1 minute!

 

Congrats to model pal Samantha Hoopes as the new face of GUESS!

 
Samantha Hoopes of Guess 2014 photographed by Yu Tsai.

Samantha Hoopes of Guess 2014 photographed by Yu Tsai.

It's always nice when you're flipping through the first few pages of a magazine like ELLE Italia and you come across a double page GUESS ad with a model you know and have photographed before.  "Hey, that looks like Samantha Hoopes!"  I thought,  so I had to send her a quick message and  receive her bubbly and excited reply confirming it.  Samantha has been featured in both the new GUESS Spring/Summer 2014 campaigns as well as their lingerie campaigns.  By her smoldering gaze she brings to their gorgeous photography, I'd say she's a perfect fit for the iconic brand.  She's still currently in my portfolio in the beauty, commercial and swim/lingerie categories.  I also booked her for the Gertrude Zachary 2012-13 holiday billboards that ran last year.  I was happy to hear from her that our photos we did together in New York are still used in her book that she carries with Elite LA and Select Management in London.   I requested her from Major Models New York and was very impressed with her when she first walked into my apartment in Manhattan to meet up for our shoot.  I'm even more impressed now.  It's evident that she's really making a strong presence and a definite connection in the industry judging by these new GUESS ads.  Rumor has it she's one of the new rookies in the upcoming 50th Anniversary Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.   I suppose we'll find out on February 18th when the much-anticipated issue hits the stands worldwide.  Samantha was really fun and easy to work with and I look forward to another opportunity to work with her again.

So please join me in congratulating Samantha Hoopes on her new venture to the forefront.  She's well on her way toward stunning the whole world with her all-American bombshell looks as well as her lovable personality and can-do work ethic.   Here's a few of my favorite outtakes and snapshots from us working together in New York.  Cheers, Sam!

 

Behind the Scenes: Michaela

 

Here's a few BTS shots from out shoot with Michaela from MTM Model Management.  She's only 15 and is already 5'10" with a stunning look and modeling versatility.  Big thanks to Armani Leon for makeup and Santiago Romero on hair.  Looking forward to the selects publishing soon but for now other looks of Michaela can be found at mtmmodelmanagement.com.

 

Welcome to the New Site!

 

Hey I just wanted to welcome you all to my new website.  I decided since it was a new year, I'd rebuild my website with some mighty improvements.  First, all my photos are now displayed in huge, full-screen format so that the quality and detail can be seen.   With the smaller size photos I had before, I always lamented that so much effort goes into making high quality work, yet it gets lost in the small size displayed.  Not any more.  Now you can see every degree of work that goes into the final images.

Next is that my blog is now an "in house" part of the website.  It's just nicer to have the blog right here than having to click and be sent to a separate blog page that's not connected to my website as it was before.

And finally, you have the ability to view my work as large thumbnails or full-size just by clicking on the "Show Thumbnails" button on the bottom left of the site.

I hope you like the new digs as much as I do.  Thank you and enjoy your visit!

-Matt

 

Really liking Max Factor's approach to cosmetic ads

Just a quick shout-out to Max Factor for publishing what I think is a proper-looking cosmetic skin care cream ad.  Featuring beautiful model Candice Swanepoel, the ad reflects a more natural-looking photo to promote what the skin cream does, rather than what Photoshop does.  As a digital artist myself and a fan of post-production poetic license, I'm also aware of the impossibilities that are being presented to mostly women and young girls showing beauty in advertising that is simply unachievable.  When I recently flipped through the pages of a current fashion magazine (I think it was British 'Elle'), I was pleasantly surprised to see a cosmetic ad with a gorgeous face, sans the usual amount of computer pixel replacement.  Kudos to Max Factor for a realistic and plausible image displaying what their skin care cream does and not leaving it up to the Photoshop artist.  This turn in the direction of truth in advertising makes me want to go out and buy the product myself, though I doubt it would help me get a date with Candice.  :-)

max_factor
max_factor

My new video, "NYC Tribute".

I recently finished editing one of my first videos that we shot in NYC.  It's sort of a vibe just showing the nightlife and some behind-the-scenes of the fashion shoots I do.  I edited the whole thing as well as wrote and recorded the music.  If you click on the outward-facing arrows at the bottom of the viewer it will display in sharp 720 HD.  Let me know what you think! http://vimeo.com/71536277

A Toast to Alexi Lubomirski and the Crew of Interminable Heroism.

Shout out to this guy (on the left) and some of the coolest/ hardest working/ best-looking people NYC has to call their own.  To Emily, Marian, Steph-bomb and Ryan, pleasure working with you ladies and gents.  Thank you for the experience and knowledge, I promise to use it wisely.  Looking forward to discovering yet another unguarded beer tap with you.

Bromance
Bromance

For those who aren't familiar with this ruggedly handsome photographer and this team's genius work (also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs!), please grab a cup of tea and sit back...

ALEXILUBOMIRSKI.COM

Alexi_Lubomirski_2011_Vogue_Germany_cover
Alexi_Lubomirski_2011_Vogue_Germany_cover

My "Top Five Things Models -or Anyone- Can Do To Get More Work"

I recently had a casting call for a print ad campaign and wanted to give some feedback to models who may have submitted or been called in, but could use some help on how to improve their next casting or opportunity to be selected for any project. This article is designed more for unrepresented aspiring models without professional agencies. Others looking to improve in the fashion world such as makeup artists, hair stylists and wardrobe stylists can also benefit from this post. If you're a legitimate agency represented model (not a small town scam agency represented model in which case you're screwed) then most of the info here will be handled by your booker. For those who are not represented, here's a first-hand experience look at how you can improve your success with photographers, companies and even real agencies. A lot of this is geared toward fashion modeling, so if you a are different type of model, then this info may not apply to you.

1. Be very timely in your response to those who contact you.

If someone whom you would like to work with reaches out to you, don't take days to return a communication with them. This sounds common sense enough, but you're be surprised at how many people have no sense of professionalism and readily prove it with flakiness. Nothing says "difficult to work with" more than someone who is slow to respond. People in the fashion world in particular are very busy, and by not responding quickly to them you are showing that you are careless and lazy. By the time you remember to return an email days later, the offer is no longer on the table. Don't use the "I don't always check my email or have time to reply" excuse, because it's not valid. I don't know anyone who doesn't check their email, private messages, voicemails, etc multiple times a day, and you always have time to return an email, it only takes a minute. Bottom line: You only get one first impression, use it wisely.

2. Have at least some sort of portfolio book to present your work.

Other than a new model meeting with an agency for the first time, in which a book is not needed, one of the first ways to identify yourself as a professional or at least pro-minded is by having a portfolio, otherwise known as your "book". A book is important because it shows that you are taking yourself seriously enough to place your best work in a book format where you can present it to someone in a professional context. A portfolio doesn't have to be expensive or large, it can be a regular artist portfolio bought at a local hobby or art store for a few bucks. The prints in them can even be printed with a home inkjet printer. In this digital age, a lot of people use their iPads, tablets, laptops or even smart phones to show our work (myself included). This is fine for impromptu situations where having your work on hand to show is convenient. However, I would never show up to an important scheduled meeting where I needed to impress a client or business contact without a portfolio book. If you go to a meeting and when asked to see your portfolio you proceed to set up your laptop and show your Facebook page, you've variably taken yourself out of contention as a professional. Bottom line: A book gives you and your work more validity.

3. Quality, never quantity.

I can't remember how many times I've been interested in working with a particular model or makeup artist and when I see their portfolio, it basically talks me out of working with them. A clue that it's a bad idea to work with someone is if they put every photo shoot or project they've ever done in their portfolio. A few good shots in your book can easily be overshadowed if the majority of your work is generic, boring or poorly done. It looks like you have a couple of lucky shots, but as a whole you are unusable. I've even heard people say "I don't really like these photos" to which I have to ask why they put them in their book. Your portfolio shouldn't be "the good, the bad and the ugly", it should only be the best examples of your work. Your book is your representation of what level you are on. Are you a beginner? Do you only work with the same amateur hobby photographers or are you shooting with really skilled and inventive artists? Your book communicates that. Don't advertise yourself as a skilled professional and then present a book that is full of badly produced, amateur work. It defines that you are as such. Bottom line: What's in your book directly communicates how professional you are.

4. Models, be for real.

There's nothing more obvious than someone who calls themselves a model but their photos show that they are more appropriately described as, "someone who needs photos to feel pretty". Real modeling is a business as well as an an art. Showing that you can have your picture taken doesn't do anything for showing that you are a legitimate model. Sure, it's important to do a lot of test shoots with (good) fashion photographers when you are starting out, but don't post up every amateur, boring shoot you do with the need for your friends to comment on how "stunning" you are. That's just showing desperation for acceptance. A real model doesn't need modeling to fill an empty void with compliments from endless amateur photos. If you want to be a model, show that you are for real in every way possible. Otherwise you will only be sought by other amateurs and you'll receive no interest from those who need good models for legitimate projects. Bottom line: Modeling is a skill, not a compliment.

5. Direction is not just doing what you are told.

If you are doing a photo or video shoot or other project, chances are there is going to be someone giving direction. From a photography standpoint (and being that photo shoots are about 80% of what you will be doing), the photographer will direct you. All photographers are different; some like to micro-manage you and some will let you do more of your own thing. Speaking for myself and the lion's share of photographers out there, it's very frustrating when someone calls themselves a model and then has no clue how to actually model. Unless it's your first time or you are very new, no one wants to work with someone who has to be told every single thing to do when shooting. Models are booked for their look, but more importantly for their ability to have great presence on camera. Direction is an idea, a mood, or an improvement to make the shot better. Direction is not telling you exactly what limb to move, how to stand, what to do with your head, what to do with your eyes, what to do next, etc. That's "puppeteering", and it's extremely frustrating. Modeling is not showing up empty-headed and having the photographer do everything for you to make you look good. I've done shoots where I had to use every trick in the book to make a so-called model look good, to which they gladly accepted the credit that came afterwards. I'd love to show everyone the first 100 frames and the unedited shots, then we'd see how she really was.  Bottom line: Understand direction, but make it your own movements, expressions, etc. Be a model, not a mindless puppet.

Hope this is helpful and I'll check comments for questions or feedback. Until next time, always do your best!

Avoiding Scam Model Agencies Day 3: The Photo Scam- Can You Say "Cheese"?

December 20th, 2012 (Earth's last day!!) :-D  

VISITING AN AGENCY FOR THE FIRST TIME :  WHAT TO EXPECT

When you walk into an agencies' door for the first time, what do you see?  Are you flooded with a visual sales pitch for the agency or is it an environment of business being conducted?  Let me explain.

THE SCAM AGENCY

When I walk into a small-time scam agency, the place is a sales pitch from the second I walk in the door.  The walls are plastered with big movie posters, framed magazine covers, glossy model photos and generally a lot of glitter and prestige.  It's obvious that it's a sales pitch, not a place of business.  There is nothing much going on and I feel overwhelmed by their "we're so successful" decor.   When the agent or representative greets you, they expresses a false sense of excitement for your visit.  The agent begins to tell you how glad they are you came to them, and they'll usually make sure to slip some passing line of BS about how they just got off the phone with the big-time fashion name or director who's looking for someone just like you.  They name-drop like crazy.  I mean according to them, every big name in the business is booking their models, and you're lucky you came by at the right time to sign up.  Every line out of their mouth, every sign, every false smile is based on making you feel as if though you've came to the right place.  Their biggest trick is putting stars in your eyes.  Once they've got you believing that you are on the verge of making it big, they have you.  Your checkbook practically flies out and writes itself to them.  Sometimes the chair you're sitting in is still warm from the person who just sat there before you arrived and fell for the same lies.

THE PROFESSIONAL AGENCY

When I walk into a major agency like IMG Models in NYC, I'm somewhat greeted by a receptionist who is continuously on the phone transferring calls.  The walls are plain, sans for a logo on one wall, and all you see are bookers busy in front of computers with phones to ears, working.  Hard at work booking and promoting their models.  At a real agency, they are not glad to see you unless they know you.  It's all business.  To a real agency you might as well be a bum coming by asking for money.  You're lucky to even get a "hello".  It's more like, "Who are you here to see?  Do you have an appointment?  Who are you?"  In other words, they are a successful modeling agency, and they don't need to sell you on that fact.  Their reputation is enough.  The scam agency however, IS NOT a successful modeling agency, and that's why it is paramount that they make you believe that they are, otherwise their lies won't work.

 

THE LIST OF COMMON SCAM AGENCY RIP-OFFS

So how does the various "talent agencies" actually rip people off?  Here's the most common ways that a scam agency stays in business.

1.  SELLING YOU PHOTOS - THE MOST COMMON SCAM

So the agency has you hooked with all their BS that they told you about how you're just what they're looking for, but you don't have photos (or the ones you have "won't work"), and they can't get you started without photos immediately.   So they either:

a).  Hand you a piece of paper with their "Photo Shoot Packages" rates.  They tell you that they have an "in house photographer" and who better to shoot your photos than the agency?  So you pay them anywhere from $300 to $2500 for photos (based on what you can afford).  But what you don't know is, the agency hires an amateur photographer, gives him/her $50 for the photo shoot, and keeps the rest of the money for themselves.  I've had an agency even call me once and ask me if I'd do a shoot for a total of $300, for 25 girls ages 8-14 and they wanted multiple images, retouching and all the rights.  I found out they were charging the models' families over $1,000 each for their photos.  That's $24,700 profit for the "agency" in one day.  I declined to be a part of it, but they found someone else.  There's always a cheap photographer who doesn't do photography for a living that will do anything for cheap or free.  The photos were very disappointing from what I heard.

b).  The other way the scam agency sells you photos, is instead of shooting the photos themselves, they have a business buddy set up a photo business and the agency sends you to them to have your photos done.  They work a deal with each other to split the money somehow, but the scam is still the same.  They still hire a cheap $50 photographer, and keep the rest of your hundreds of dollars for themselves.  It just looks more legitimate because the agency will actually pretend to be doing the right thing by sending you to a "recommended photographer", but it's actually the same scam.  You're overcharged for cheesy, amateur photos, and the agency is behind the shady deal with their buddy.  Or boyfriend across the hall. :-)

2.  CHARGING YOU MONEY TO BE ON THEIR WEBSITE  (OR OTHER AGENCY PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL)

Yes, they actually have a scam where they tell you that it's a "separate company" that runs their website otherwise you wouldn't have to pay.  Well, that's a lie.  They do it themselves, and keep your money.  If they didn't, then website management would fall under any business's normal operating expenses.  I was charged $150.00 by one of my former agencies and lied to the same way.  They did it annually for each person on their talent roster.  KA-CHING!

3.  "MODELING SCHOOL"

What a joke.  Let's see, how many professional, successful models in the industry today went to small town modeling school?  None.  Now how many girls that went to modeling school became successful models?  None.  These agencies are such effective liars that they can even subvert facts that would otherwise prompt people to ask, "Why should I pay you for your modeling school when it's never done anyone any good- ever??" When they try to teach you your "runway walk"- there is no one runway walk.  How you would walk for Karl Lagerfeld is different than how you would walk for Betsy Johnson.  Their runway coach will show you what they want during rehearsals (if there are any) or backstage before showtime.  It's not hard enough for their to be an entire school for it, much less taught by people with no experience.

4.  WORKSHOPS, CLINICS AND SEMINARS

So the agency makes an announcement that they are hosting a guest speaker, acting coach, photographer or someone that you should come to hear lecture to help your career.  But there is an "admission fee".  Well, guess who's going to be keeping the money?  Yup, your  agency that you are so loyal to.  Best yet, the guest speaker is some loser who's doing workshops for free or a small percentage.  They have no credits that you have ever heard of -or can find- or it's some hack who's real job is working in a cubicle but wants to make models think he/she's someone important.  They just make stuff up and try to sound like a big deal for an hour or so and you don't even know that you're listening to complete fodder.  And you paid for it.

5.  WORKING YOU FOR FREE

So the agency calls you and says they have a big cool runway show for you!  But it doesn't pay anything, it's just "good exposure".  What that can mean is that your agent just isn't paying you for your work.  Yea they're just keeping all of your money for themselves.  An agency doesn't go into business to supply models to other businesses for free.  Chances are, your agent is charging the business that is putting on the runway show something like $200 per model.  You should be getting $180.00 after your agent takes out their %20 commission.  But the scam agent makes 100% when they lie to you and get you to do the job for free.  Legitimate models get good exposure AND 80% of the job fee.  The only time this ever may not apply is for charity shows.  But I have also seen an agency charge a charity for models and then not pay them because it was for "charity".  There are no limits to what these people thieves will do to take your money.  To this day I have never seen a model do a local runway show for "good exposure" and had any sort of career advancement come from it.

6.  BOOKING YOUR OWN JOBS FOR THE AGENCY (DOING THEIR WORK)

Every model agency knows that not everyone who walks in their door is model material.  Legitimate agencies just turn those people away, but scam agencies welcome them in with false praise and temptations of success.  If you're one of these people, not only is the agency going to put you through the ringer, but if they really think you're desperate, they sometimes will tell you that you have to go book your own model jobs for the agency to "prove" your worth to them.  Of course the real tall, pretty girls don't have to do this, they will be used other ways (agency advertising), but the shorter, 'ordinary' girls have to hit the streets finding clients for the agency.  Wow.  Now you're doing the agents' work for them- for free.  It's just their way of saying, "Hell no I don't think you can be a model, but I'll lie to you, take your money, and have you do my work for me.  Sucker."  I know a girl with a scam agency that did all her own promotion as a model- and her agency did NOTHING for her.  She booked all of her own jobs and her agent made her pay %20 to the agency anyway.  Why would a scam agency turn you away when they can use you for their own profit?  Oh yea, because they don't have those things called ethics or morals.

There are other ways that scam agencies swindle you and do nothing for you, but the underlying message here is that if you don't feel good about the way an agency is treating you, or if they are trying to sell you something, or if they sound like a used car salesman, or they generally don't seem to be showing you that they care about you, get out of there.   Tomorrow we finish this up with what you should expect from a real agency, as well as some extra tidbits of knowledge to arm yourself with as you look for the right people in this business, and they do exist. :-)

Avoiding Scam Modeling Agencies: Day 2, Website or Web-Trap.

December 19th, 2012 Agency websites: Website or web-trap.

Your first clue of whether or not a business that calls themselves a "modeling agency" or "talent agency" is going to be legitimate or a possible scam begins with their own website, current model roster and reputation around town. Chances are the first time you see a modeling agency is when you look them up online. How does their website look and feel?

THE SCAM AGENCIES WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE

Simply put, the scam agencies' website is designed to impress the general public. Their website is usually full of unverifiable testimonials of success, tons of promotion for themselves, overly-glamourous model photos, flashy graphics and the overall appearance (illusion) of their agency being very successful and in-demand. That's done on purpose. Their website is designed to lure in hopeful girls and their parents, not for getting their models booked. They want to hook you in by making up all this hype about themselves. They make it appear as if their models are being sought after by all the biggest names in the business, and that their agency is THE place to be. Now take a look at their model roster, what do you mostly see? Their roster reveals that their models are anything but in-demand.* The photos are cheesy, portrait studio-style photos that the agency sold to the model themselves at grossly over-inflated prices, or at best, test photos by amateur, weekend hobby photographers. Most of the models on their roster are obviously not working models. That's because they "sign" anyone who walks in their door with a checkbook.

*The scam agencies' SECRET WEAPONS: Now, lots of scam agencies have what I (sarcastically) call a 'secret weapon'- that is a model or two who might be semi-success stories. Yes, every scam agency knows that they have to display a couple of models who are at least semi-successful to put up front on their website for the purpose of creating the illusion of making successful models. But what you don't know is that the agency may have never had anything to do with that models' success story at all. That's right- sometimes young models find their own jobs, or are discovered by someone who actually does have the ability to put them in high places without any help from the scam agency. But because that young girl signed a contract with the scam agency at some point before she found success on her own, that agency now uses her success to lure others in thinking that they will get the same results if they sign up with the agency.  Oh and the flood of lies they tell you about how they got that model the job.  It's sad, but even the scam artists have their luck.  They have someone they never did anything for, yet found their own way into some success, and the scam agency exploits it to the fullest. Often times these agencies will just all-out lie on their websites about what these models are doing in order to really get you in the door.  But of course, what you'll never see are the hundreds of people who came through their door with the same hopes, and left months or years later in worse shape then when they arrived. Once I even read an article in a local newspaper about a new model's success story that was filled with completely false information about her contract's monetary worth and her overnight super-stardom in the industry (which of course turned out to be lies). No doubt this article was fabricated by the agency to dispense completely false information to the public for the purpose of getting more girls and their parents with the checkbooks into the agency. Think this is ruthless? This isn't even the tip of the iceberg of how immoral and driven by greed these so called agencies can be.

THE PROFESSIONAL AGENCIES WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE

Simply put, the legitimate, professional agencies' websites are designed to showcase their models to large companies, fashion designers, magazines and to be seen by professionals in the industry. Their sites are usually very simple, subdued, professional and clean, without much- if any at all- frivolous and excessive promotion for themselves. They have pages that show their model roster, and many have a page about how to be discovered with all the info you need and what to send them. That's right- you don't need a small town agency to get you to the large ones, you can follow their instructions and submit yourself. You can also walk in and visit them during open calls. Now take a look at the agencies' model roster. The pro agency has very professional photos of their models which may feature magazines they've been in, ad campaigns they've shot, or for the newer girls (called "New Faces" or "Development Board") just generally striking photos usually shot by professional or semi-professional fashion photographers. The photos are scrutinized to represent the model in the best way they see fit. There are no cheesy photos taken by weekend amateur photographers (normally). There also aren't any 'secret weapons' on the front of their website. All their models are listed in alphabetical order by name. Most all of their models are working continuously, and most of their photos are from the jobs they've done. These are called "tear sheets" (pronounced tare-sheets). That's a sign of a working model who has a real, hard-working agent behind her or him. The professional agencies' website is not based in hype, it's based in real results.

You should always inquire in as many ways as possible as to whether a small local agency is someone you can trust. Ask around town. Talk to their current and more importantly, their former talent. Is the talent agency listed with the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Franchised Talent Agencies? Here is the list for the New Mexico talent agencies that are SAG/AFTRA recommended. If an agency claims to book their talent in major movies and television but isn't on that list, you might dig deeper to find out why. SAG/AFTRA does not recommend talent agencies that have been known to pull scams. Don't ask a talent agency themselves why they aren't listed as a reputable establishment, they might already have a lie fabricated for that question. Use good judgement. Remember, scam agencies make their living by being expert liars. Always have your built-in "lie-detector" on when speaking to a talent agency. If it sounds like they are trying to sell you something, well, there ya go.

Tomorrow we'll explore visiting an agency and the biggest, most obvious clues that you are either in a place that can really bring success closer to you, or if you're entering a Black Widow's web.

Avoiding Scam Modeling Agencies, Day 1: Welcome to the Jungle.

December 18th, 2012It's been awhile since my last post about avoiding modeling scams, but it's time for another refresher course on keeping yourself informed on how these so-called "model agency" scams operate. As a commercial fashion photographer based in New York, I currently work with some of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world as well as in Los Angeles and Milan. I have casted, booked and photographed models with top modeling agencies such as Major Model Management, DNA, Elite, New York Model Management, ONE Management, Mc2, Soul Artist Management, Wilhelmina and others. I'm hired by and work with these agencies and their models on a continuing basis and can tell you that there is a vast separation between a legitimate modeling agency and a small business scam "agency". But there are just not enough educational resources out there for people to learn how to recognize the many predators posing as talent agencies and cashing in on the frenzy of young girls with modeling aspirations. The illegitimate business of exploiting these model hopefuls is now an entire industry in itself.  It makes tens of millions of dollars a year by scamming mostly young girls and their supportive parents who think their child could be bound for greatness.  The scam industry is keen on this hopeful desire and it's the key ingredient to the scam industries' continued success.  Every year there is a new generation of young upstarts with model dreams, but unfortunately the first place they usually visit are the small "modeling agencies", "talent agencies" or "modeling schools" who mostly do anything but represent and book models.  The bad places are owned and operated by expert liars that have years of experience refining their skills at scamming young models and their parents.  Like a Black Widow spider, they build their trap and just wait for their prey to come to them.  The scam agency drains them of their money and their time, while always promising them that success is just around the corner. I know this information first hand, because I was scammed by one of these predators myself once- and only once.  This fake industry is bad for everyone but these borderline criminals.  They hurt the legitimate fashion industry no differently than a sweatshop making fake Louis Vuitton handbags to sell in Herald Square for $25.00.  Fake is just wrong.  Fake agencies scam the money out of people who probably don't have money to waste, and leaves them feeling bitter and used about the fashion industry as a whole, as well as hurting their self esteem for being tricked and victimized.

The scam agency wants to make you believe that they hold the key to your modeling dreams-- and you will end up believing everything they tell you. They will lie to you and convince you to be loyal to them. They will brainwash you into putting all your trust into them, and to alienate anyone who tries to warn you away from them.  They are so experienced at lying that you will believe whatever they say.  You'll spend months if not years of wasting your time and money on them.  Your career window will close and your dreams will turn to failure while these scam agents just work on recruiting the next wide-eyed model hopefuls, leaving you to figure it all out after it's too late. This is a hard look 'behind the scenes' of the world of small-time scam modeling agencies who make their living ripping off the very people whom they are supposed to be taking care of- the young models.

DAY 1: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

Now, I first want to clarify that unfortunately there is nothing illegal about what these scam agencies are doing- they are operating within the law.  Calling their business an agency, lying to you and taking your money, is all perfectly legal. It's your own problem if you fall for it. The FBI won't bust down their door and arrest them. You can only report them to the Better Business Bureau, review them through online review websites, or sue them- the latter being difficult and expensive to do. I'm also not here to tell you where to spend your money. If you want to give these scam agencies your money, go right ahead. I'm just informing you of how their scams work, so you can make an informed decision before you get fleeced.

There is also an understandable contrast in how business is done at a large major-market agency verses a legitimate small town modeling agency. A legitimately run, small town modeling agency basically does two things: 1) Books models for paid local/regional jobs, and 2) finds models to scout to the larger agencies, for which they make a commission. The latter task is referred to as being a "Mother Agency". The small agency cannot (for the most part) book models for major ad campaigns, magazine editorials and all the large modeling jobs because they don't have the connections, business history, negotiating savvy or experience handling highly paid models that work on high-profile jobs. Only the large agencies have teams of people who possess that level of experience and skills.

HOW A LEGIT MODELING AGENCY MAKES ITS INCOME.

Legitimate modeling agencies represent models in exchange for a commission from the jobs the models book, normally 20%.  Real agencies do a lot of things for models, but they don't get paid unless the model works, period.  You as a model go to castings, go sees, fittings, and other "job interviews" that the agency sets up for you.  When you are chosen for a job (called a "booking"), the agency handles all the business and financial aspects of the job, plus coordinates for you all the logistics for you such as hotel, transportation, addresses, directions and call times.  They negotiate the rate you are paid for the job and handle any licensing limits of your image.  They take 20% of the job's pay for their income.  There's a lot more that agencies do for models, like print and organize your portfolio (called your "book"), make your comp cards, put your photos and sometimes video on their website, and can even set you up with a place to live.  All this costs money, but they don't make the model pay for this up front.  The model is given an account, and everything the agency pays for on behalf of the model, such as airline tickets, rent, or to print your book, is entered as a balance owed by the model.  When the model works and gets paid, the agency deducts their 20% commission, and also reimburses themselves the money they have "advanced" the model for expenses.  Some agencies policies are different than others, but this is generally how it is in the U.S.  Now- the agency is making an investment on the model because if the model doesn't ever make any money and the agency releases the model from her contract, then the model doesn't owe that money.  So the agency is taking a risk, and making an investment on the model that they may not, and often don't, make that money back.  If a legitimate agency believes in you as a model, and signs you, then they spend their money on you- not the other way around.

HOW THE SCAM AGENCY MAKES IT'S INCOME

Well, there's tons of ways they do this, but I can guarantee you if a business that calls themselves an agency is not continuously booking their models on real paying jobs for a 20% commission, then they are keeping their doors open some other way.  The most common way being that of hiring a cheap photographer and then charging you ridiculously over-priced rates for photo packages in which the agency makes most of the money.  Another is claiming that you need to take their expensive "modeling classes" (more detail on these later).  Other ways include charging you money to put you on their website, having you work promo jobs for the agency that they don't pay you for, making you go out and book your own jobs in order to network for the agency - without paying you, and- get this- putting on clinics, seminars or acting classes by people who absolutely don't know what they are talking about and then charging you money to attend. And yes, your agency keeps the money because the guest speaker they brought in is a moron with no experience and will do the class for free or cheap just to make a name for himself.   Another classic scam is to tell you that there's a local runway show in town that "doesn't pay anything but is good exposure".  Right. This agency just exists to supply free models to other businesses.  When your agent tells you that a job "doesn't pay anything", that probably means that your agency just isn't paying you anything.  Instead of paying you and taking 20%, they are just taking 100%, and you have no way to know any different.

So when you are searching for or being scouted by a modeling agency, how can you tell what's legitimate and what's a scam?  It can be very difficult sometimes, because the scam artists are so experienced at lying and making it seem like they are the ticket to your modeling dreams that you don't even know what to think.  But that's where their weakness is.  The scam agency always has to sell themselves to you.  They always want you to want them.  So no matter how cool they try to seem, they need you to "sign" up with them.  They can't get your money if you walk out the door.  So everything they do- even acting not interested at first- will lead to them somehow wanting you to sign with them.  The real agency doesn't need you.  They might be interested in you, but that's about it.  Since they're not going to be ripping you off, the only way they make money is if you make money.  Therefore, they don't sell themselves to you, they have to decide (usually after several days) if you are right for them or not.  The scam agency signs anyone who has the money, or whom they can use in other ways.  That's the one thing that is blatantly obvious between the two.

Tomorrow we will explore the differences between a legitimate agency or one to be warned away from in the first place you'd be looking for information on them- their own websites and online presence.  I'll show you how to see the obvious clues that a scam agency uses online verses the websites of trustworthy and reputable agencies.  Until tomorrow, see you back here then.

 

Gertrude Zachary Billboards - Holiday 2012.

November 18th, 2012

'Tis the holiday season and  I'm proud to have shot and designed the 2012 Holiday billboard ad campaign for Gertrude Zachary Jewelry.  They have a newer jewelry line (or at least new to me) called "Drusy"  which has an iridescent quality to it where the colors and intensity of the metal changes at different angles.  Very sparkly and engaging, much like a champaign.  To launch this during the holiday season, I designed the concept of a gorgeous lady wearing the jewelry pieces, possibly preparing for a holiday party and gazing out a window as snow softly falls upon pine trees.  Her reflection an afterthought of warm holiday wishes and occasions yet to come.

This board is with the Red Coral Inlay jewelry.  Another brightly textured and polished design with embedded silver.  The concept for this billboard was more of a "Got what I wanted!" theme with a beautiful warm/gold environment and some matching red holiday light sparkle in the background.  Holidays are the times for parties, and what better place to wear your new jewelry than at parties?

Special thanks to our model, Samantha from Major Model Managment/MGMT New York, Makeup artist extrordinaire Juston Paul and my assistant Max.  I hope everyone enjoys the new boards, and have a very happy holiday season!

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