Quite often I get approached by people who want to start taking fetish and bondage photographs. What follows is a bit of a brain dump about how to approach those first shoots based on my experience and the numerous conversations I’ve had with models and photographers over the years.
If you’ve suggestions for improvements or other advice you’d offer just pop them in the comments…
The absolute starting point for any photographer who wants to shoot bondage and fetish is to be professional in your conduct. If you’re out to meet pretty girls and maybe have sex with them please stop reading now and go hire an escort. Models are professionals who deserve to be treated with respect and if you do this you’ll build a great reputation that will last years.
Planning the shoot
The temptation is to hire a model, book a studio and see what happens. This doesn’t often work. Planning before you shoot will save a lot of problems later one. For a start it’ll mean you’ll be able to find models who are comfortable shooting the style you want. For someone starting out I’d suggest pulling together a simple “mood board” of other people’s shots that reflect what you want to achieve.
Timing is a factor in the shoot. I reckon on about 30-40 minutes for each set to allow time for the model to change, lighting to be reset, tying, shooting and untying. If you’re planning a 2 hour shoot with a model that’s just 3 or 4 different positions. Generally I’ll now work for 3-4 hours with a model.
You’ll also need to find a suitable studio. Not every studio allows adult or fetish work to take place, so take care in finding the right place.
All of this then wraps into your budget. Studios publish their rates so this is easy to gauge, but models can be more private in what they charge and often casting calls are required to explicitly state what’s being offered as a fee. A quick scan through some model profiles should reveal an estimate of what models are charging.
A quick word about fees
Fees for a shoot can add up quickly. One way of offsetting this is to shoot “time for prints” (or TFP). This is where the model gives you her time for free in exchange for copies of what gets shot. In fetish and bondage modelling this is generally frowned upon unless you happen to have a highly successful blog that represents good exposure for the model.
Portfolios and sites
There are plenty of “portfolio” sites where models and photographers can connect (I use PurplePort and Model Mayhem). You’ll need to join them and create your own profile so that models can see who and what you’re working on.
As a new photographer you probably won’t have much to include on your portfolio, but you can improvise. A well composed still life of bondage equipment as a first image is far better to include than any number of “selfies”, stolen pics or personal pics taken with a lover and cropped.
Don’t be afraid to say you’re a newbie. Many professional models are happy to work with new photographers and can generally weed out the creeps from the genuine hobbyists.
The casting call
Think of a casting call as a job advert. You create one, it sits out there in the ether and models apply. It’s that simple. Almost.
A good casting call carries enough detail for the model to understand what’s involved, when and where it’s happening and what they’ll get paid. The detail of the content of the shoot is pretty important as this sets the expectation for what the model will be expected to do. If you’re looking for a model to shoot nude bondage say so up front because saying it’s non-nude and then asking her to get naked on the day is not going to build your reputation.
Also be clear on where the images will be used. I expect models to be comfortable with having their bondage pictures spread across the Internet (and half-joke about a retrospective at The Tate), which puts some off. If all you’re after is something for a personal collection that’s fine too – just remember that once you’ve said this trying to sell them to magazines or websites in a few years time might bring problems if the model produces your casting call and claims breach of contract.
Assuming your casting call has hit a sweet spot you’ll start to get applications from models eager to work with you. Don’t panic! The first model who replies is not the one you have to employ. In fact I suggest keeping away from your inbox for a day and then working your way through the applications.
As you work through them look not just at how pretty the model is, but also the quality of their reply, their profile and their references. Models who ask for money up front, who want to change aspects of the shoot to fit their limits or who can barely manage a coherent sentence never make my first cut.
The profile can be awkward as some models will not include fetish, bondage or adult as work they do on their profiles to keep time wasters away. If you want to work with a model who hasn’t explicitly said they do the shoots you want don’t assume they’re OK with it – go back and ask for confirmation.
References can be equally awkward. Sites like PurplePort don’t allow negative reviews to avoid people getting into slanging matches, but it also means time wasters can slip through. Check the references and if you’re happy with what you see pass them through.
Declining a model
The models who don’t make it through the cut should be contacted with a polite decline. A brief, neutral message to thank them for their time and wish them well is sufficient.
Deciding who to shoot
Once you’ve selected a model it’s time to start negotiating dates, times and details. If possible I try and speak to my models before committing to a shoot to make sure they’re happy. Most of the time everything is fine, but I have had instances where they’ve decided it isn’t what they want to do.
This is perfectly acceptable.
During the discussion I try and establish what the model is and isn’t comfortable with, as well as their general health and physical fitness. This is particularly important as there is no point in planning a strenuous sequence of latex clothed bondage positions if the model has a bad back and a latex allergy! I’ll also try and establish what dates and times they’re available ready for when the booking takes place.
Again, if you’re not happy a polite decline is perfectly acceptable.
Booking the shoot
If you’ve planned correctly by this point you should have a rough idea of what you’re going to shoot, a place where it’s going to happen and a model. Now you need to bring this all together into a confirmed booking.
Start with the studio and get this booked using the dates the model has given you, then confirm the booking with the model. I will send quite detailed notes to the model that include when and where the shoot is happening, what they need to bring, confirmation of the fee and a copy of the casting call. If I’m booking them through PurplePort I’ll use the site’s “booking” feature to confirm all details so it is caught on file.
The day before the shoot
This is time to prepare. I pack my equipment, make sure my batteries are charged and pull together all my props, costumes, ropes, model releases, cash for fees and safety equipment. A quick word on props and costumes – make sure they’re washed and clean, even if they’re brand new.
A quick text to the model also confirms she’s OK and there aren’t any last minute hitches.
My own administration is also taken care of. Take plenty of drink with you (I prefer a certain sports drink to keep my energy levels up) and choose loose clothes that give you plenty of movement and layers that you can remove as the lights get hot. And charge your phone!
Finally, I check Google Maps at the time of day I’ll be travelling to get a rough idea of journey times so I can leave in good time.
If everything has gone well I can wake the next morning, load my cases into the car and head off to a productive shoot.
During the shoot
Be professional, be courteous, but have fun. Stick to the limits you agreed with the model, avoid excessive physical contact and make sure your model is cared for and treated respectfully.
It’s also important to remember that the purpose of the shoot is to take photographs and NOT tie someone up for fun. If you’ve got to this stage and you’re still thinking you can molest or rape a model then you’ve a bigger problem that will involve the police.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and enjoy yourself. You’re likely to be pretty nervous, so take your time and pace yourself. Keep a rapport going with your model, joke and listen to her ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask her to pose in a certain way or adopt a specific expression. Her job is to do her best in getting you the images you want. If you’ve got your shooting list and mood board this should become easier with time.
After the shoot
Once the shoot is over try and get the first couple of shots edited quickly and posted onto your portfolios. Tag the model in each image and then write them a reference. If the shoot has gone well you should get a reference by return, which is the first step to building a reputation, and those who click on the profile of the photographer she just worked with will see the fruits of your labour.
Bondage and fetish photography is a huge amount of fun and I’ve enjoyed pretty near every moment of working with the models I’ve shot. Taking those first steps though can be daunting, but as long as you approach it professionally, plan in advance and treat your models with respect you should have many years of kink-themed photography ahead of you.
Tagged: Photographer Tips
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