Hello all!

Back in February, I saw a themed contest on Instagram which inspired me. The theme was Androgyny, which presented a lot of options for how to depict the theme. 2020 being what it was, it had been quite a while since I’d done a creative shoot that involved models. Coming out of the pandemic (knock on wood) I was eager to get back into such pursuits and I had a model (Alana Whitehead) who was interested in partnering up with me.

As I was working on the concept, I thought having a second model on board would be a great idea and it turned out that the second model I reached out to (Bri Nguyen) knew of Alana. They were also able to bring on a make-up artist (Jade Alton) and several other friends (whom we nicknamed the Grey Crew or Grey Gang) to help make my vision a reality. Everyone I was working with lived in Kalamazoo, which I hadn’t been to in ages. The core team was quite helpful in suggesting locations that met my vision.

For my main concept, I wanted a building with history, as well as one with either a grey or black facing as the backdrop. The former American National Bank (now the Fifth Third National Bank) in downtown Kalamazoo fit the bill, and we scheduled the shoot for a Sunday so as to have as little foot traffic as possible in front of it. My goal was to have the main two models stand out amongst other people on a “busy” street. The other pedestrians would all be dressed in grey (with matching masks, to boot!) to blend into the background, and that’s how The Grey Gang was used.

The due date for the contest was in late-March, so we waited a little while in hopes of finding a day where the temperatures might be more conducive to an outdoors shoot and also when the snow would be gone. Fortunately, the winter was fairly mild and we had a day that fit our needs in early-March. It wasn’t the warmest of days, but 40-degree temps after a long winter feels nearly tropical! I bought a bunch of hand warmers for everyone, so that helped.

It’s been my experience that a shoot hardly ever goes off as envisioned, especially when you live hours away from the location and have to trust that what you’ve seen in pictures matches up well enough in person. The best you can do is put in a lot of prep and hope to get things as close to the vision as possible. The plus side of going from vision to reality is that other ideas can pop up on the day which exceed expectations. I think there was a good mix of the two and everyone, especially Alana and Bri (A & B, for short), were great to work with. The Grey Gang were troupers too. We shot a few versions of the group concept and then I shot several other looks in a nearby location with A & B.

The results of the shoot were so good that it was really tough when it came time to choose what image to submit for the contest. In the end, we decided on the original concept. I really loved the image and I felt like we should choose one that included the whole crew.

Contests on Instagram, in my opinion, are often decided by how popular an account is. I didn’t have a major following (a little over 900, at that time) and everyone involved had pretty modest accounts, but I felt like we had a strong enough image to at least be competitive. In most contests on the app, your image is matched up against another image, and people vote on which they like better. If you win that match-up, you move on to the next round. For this contest, I think there were either 32 or 64 entries (It was our own March Madness!). You do what you can to try and get votes, which usually means that you share about the contest in your Instagram Stories and ask your followers to vote. I’m not a fan of the process but I am competitive so, since I entered the darn contest, I did just that. The good news is that we won our first match-up. The bad news is that that meant we had to go through the same process the next day. And the next, as we won again. We eventually made the finals, which turned out to be three images instead of two. We did not win the contest but we did surprisingly finish second! I don’t think any of us were expecting that result, as the image that finished third was both a strong one and the photographer had several thousands more followers than my account.

Overall, it was a good experience. I truly love doing creative shoots. Now, I enjoy doing headshots too, but getting to do something a little more unconventional, where I can tap into my imagination is really my passion. Also getting the opportunity to create with others and bring a team aspect to a shoot is something that gives me joy.

I must add that Alana and Bri were excellent models and they worked so well together. I think that shows through in the images. Jade did a fabulous job with the hair and make-up too. I would work with any/all of them again in a heartbeat!

So, we did this! And since we had a lot of great images beyond the contest entry, we decided to submit to some fashion magazines. A & B were very helpful in this process. It was not something I’d done before and I knew very little about it. They both had recommendations for what publications to submit to. The first one I tried did not accept the series but the second one did! Not a bad success-ratio! The publication is a European magazine called Mob Journal. The issue just came out. You can buy the hardcopy of the issue via their website: https://www.thisismob.com/ but below are the tear sheets from the issue.

I titled the series Better Together.

I’ve already got a couple of more creative shoots in the works and I’m excited about what might come of those!

I’m also looking forward to finding clients who want to have their own creative shoots. If being a model for a day sounds like a lot of fun to you (and maybe your friends), don’t hesitate to reach out to me. We can make it happen!