Robin from NJ Asks… How do you find a good photographer? Also, I keep hearing the word ‘chemestry’ in relationship tp photography — what does this mean?
As an established model, I’ve learned that the chemistry between a photographer and model can either make or break a shoot. It is so important to know how to look for a photographer when building your book. Photographers can also be an amazing resource when it comes to the business, so I enlisted the help of Madeline and got in touch with one of our all-time favorite photographers; Michael Hermogeno, the photographer for Torrid. His insight is so valuable that I decided to dedicate the July Q & A to Michael’s interview.
Larissa: When did you first start photography?
Michael: Photography was a hobby that started for me back in 1992 when I worked at the Pasadena Police Department as a Police Cadet. Part of our job duties was booking juvenile offenders and working with a 35mm camera in the booking room, I became intrigued with photography. I didn’t actually decide to try my hand at full time pro until 2002. At that time, I was fortunate enough to get signed by a Hollywood agency that sent me out to shoot celebrity events and red carpet premieres. In 2004, I got my break at Torrid/Hot Topic Inc. In essence, I went from shooting mug shots to head shots.
Larissa: Who were you influences and where do you pull your inspiration from?
Michael: I was a Psychology major at Cal State Northridge, so I never took a class in Photography.
Because of that, I have no idea who the great photographers in history are. I have heard the typical names of Ansel Adams and David La Chapelle, but honestly, I have never studied their work to know what they have done, so essentially, I have no influences.
I just shoot what I see. Literally, I just point and shoot.
What inspires me is the fact that there is a story in every moment, everywhere you look. As you walk down the street, the stranger right next to you has a story all their own, and you wonder if that person is the next big thing. I find my inspiration in capturing the character and beauty of my subjects.
I find inspiration in trying to catch the essence of the subject and finding what is good about the subject.
Larissa: What event or job made you transition photography from a passion you had, to being a professional photographer?
Michael: At the time I decided to go pro, I was a financial analyst for DirecTV DSL up in Northern California. I was making great money and it helped finance my photography equipment.
I started taking on headshot and portrait clients solely from word of mouth referrals, and found myself shooting every weekend. I then began picking up clients back home in Los Angeles and started commuting every other weekend to shoot in L.A. With all the mileage I was racking up, I made the decision to take a chance, move back home, and dive right in. I became the starving artist, living off of Top Ramen, Vienna Sausages, and Spam.
Larissa: How long have you been shooting for Torrid? Michael: I have been with the company since October 2004. It has been a great journey so far.
Larissa: What do you see is a common mistake for photographers (or what should models look for when seeking a photographer) when shooting plus-size models?
Michael: I don’t know if I can answer this one completely as I don’t really stick my head into other photographers’ business. I just stick to my own projects and focus on what I am doing.
Nothing really comes to mind as far as common mistakes for photographers other than the fact that most photographers don’t seem to like to shoot plus models. The photographers I know personally who shoot plus models (Sita Mae Edwards, Les Delano, Victoria Sprung), are all awesome.
When models are shopping around for a photographer, my word of advice is look for someone who has plus models in their portfolio. If you are going to invest your time and money in a photo shoot, then make sure you are shooting with someone who has experience with it and will look out for your best interests. You want someone who will see the good in you, and their portfolio will reflect that. Look at their photo style and make sure you like their style as well. If their portfolios is too catalog for you, look elsewhere. If their portfolio is too sexy, move on.
Larissa: What is the most common direction, or advice that you give most plus-size models that you shoot?
Michael: Smile. Always smile. Make the connection with the viewer. Show them that in the end, it’s not about the size, but the vibe that matters. Here at Torrid, it’s all about the clothing style and being beautiful, not the dress size.
On the flip side, reality dictates that as a plus size model, you take care of yourself like any other model. (DISCLAIMER: My inner Simon Cowell can be blunt) That includes living your life healthy. Hydrate.
WATER. WATER. WATER.
Milk does a body good, but water does the skin good.
There is a lot more to being a plus size model than being plus size. Proportions are vital to the success of any model, and plus modeling is no different. Each company varies, so make sure to research the industry to see where you fit in.
Larissa: Any words of wisdom you would like to give to aspiring models?
Michael:Forget your height, your dress size, and your stats. Focus on what makes you a great person. Confidence is very important to one’s success in this industry, but balance is important, so don’t let arrogance ever interfere. I have dropped models like dead bricks for being divas, not so much to me, but to my team.
Remember to treat all with respect, from makeup artists, to stylists, to assistants. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Leave the baggage at home when going out on go-sees and photo shoots.
The most important words of wisdom though, would be to actually go out and do it. Don’t think about modeling. Go out and do it. I get asked all the time, “Do I have what it takes to be a model?”, and all they have are snapshots. You can’t tell from just snapshots. You need to get out there, get some pro shots done, and then submit to agencies and retailers. You have to take a chance. I did, and life brought me to where I am now.