Come on in, the water’s lovely!

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I can’t help tripping over gorgeous guys in Key west – get down here girls, it’s the place to be!

When I first met Terje and saw his home in Key West, I was instantly inspired and reminded of a David Hockney picture of a guy in a swimming pool*, that I’ve always loved – so I spent a few weeks working out how I was going to persuade Terje to recreate something similar!

Check out the video below to see “behind the scenes”.

Terje, 42 (yes, unbelievable!) is a producer/editor from Norway, but lives in Key West for part of the year, and as he’d never had a proper photo shoot before, I started with some simple shots to get him used to being photographed. It’s no good starting a shoot by saying “take your clothes off and get in this pool”!! You have to build up their confidence first!

Whenever I do a shoot, I have some ideas about where I want to go with it, but psychologically you have to let the person catch up with you first, by making them feel safe. Having a photo shoot is a very nerve wracking experience for many people, and it’s amazing how nervous they often look at the beginning of the shoot, compared to how they’ll look later.

They go through a range of emotions including apprehension, self-consciousness, and worrying they’ll look vain. You have to take them through a process, and work with them to get them to trust you. They may feel uncomfortable at first, but several hours later they just won’t want it to end!

Locations

  1. Covered area at front of house
  2. Outside empty house next door
  3. Disused road
  4. Swimming pool at rear of house

Safety shots

As always, I start by finding an area which is private, so the client doesn’t feel embarrassed that someone may walk past and see them. This house has a large covered patio area at the front, which provided perfect top shade creating soft, flattering light. We also put some music on and turned it up quite loud to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

I rearranged the furniture in the background and faced Terje towards the light. At this stage I don’t want to place him directly in the doorway of the patio area, because it is very close to the street, and someone may walk past. As it is slightly dark further back from the doorway, I need the reflector to bounce some light into the shadows.

The 3 main images above show how a few simple changes to his position produces 3 very different shots, and I chose the T-shirt as I thought the red would look good with the green chairs which I used to add colour to the background.

The 3 main images above show how a few simple changes to his position produces 3 very different shots, and I chose the T-shirt as I thought the red would look good with the green chairs which I used to add colour to the background.

Once we’ve practised a few shots, and Terje realises he doesn’t have to pose – he just has to follow instructions, he is more confident to venture to the doorway.

I ask him to change his clothes to make the shots look different, even though we are using the same location.

I love the white lines of the doors, especially when the camera is tilted. The shot bottom right, looks much more interesting because of these lines, than it would if it was a plain white background for example.

I love the white lines of the doors, especially when the camera is tilted. The shot bottom right, looks much more interesting because of these lines, than it would if it was a plain white background for example.

House next door

Next we set off to walk to a disused road, but on the way I spotted a house I liked, which is why the next two shoots are in the same clothes.

I love using shapes in pictures, and this house is basically a series of different shapes in a very neutral setting. The star shape of the palm tree contrasts with the square shapes of the windows, and tilting the camera makes the pictures more dynamic.

I love using shapes in pictures, and this house is basically a series of different shapes in a very neutral setting. The star shape of the palm tree contrasts with the square shapes of the windows, and tilting the camera makes the pictures more dynamic.

As you can see above, anything can be used to prop up a reflector!

Note the difference between the two pictures above (left and right) – lying on the floor and shooting up at someone (right) makes them appear taller – not necessary in this case, but very useful sometimes – its a technique I often use on weddings to make a beautiful dress really stand out.

I deliberately chose this ripped and faded T-shirt because I loved the colour, and as soon as Terje put it on he just looked really relaxed, proving that even the oldest clothes can look fantastic in a shot. Next time your subject says they have nothing to wear, don't listen!

I deliberately chose this ripped and faded T-shirt because I loved the colour, and as soon as Terje put it on he just looked really relaxed, proving that even the oldest clothes can look fantastic in a shot. Next time your subject says they have nothing to wear, don’t listen!

Disused road

It’s not often you can run around in the middle of a road! But because this is not a public roadway, we could do whatever we liked. We also chose it because it was so long and straight, fading away into the distance and creating amazing perspective in the photos.

Images above enhanced using "Colour creative" and "rounded edges" - both Lightroom presets.

Images above enhanced using “Colour creative” and “rounded edges” – both Lightroom presets.

It usually takes several attempts to get a good shot when the subject is moving. Just keep doing it over and over again, and shoot wide so you can crop later, as it's tricky to get the person exactly in the right place in the frame, when you are shooting like this. Throw out the blurred ones and choose the ones that work! Using a wide aperture (F2.8 in this case) to throw the background out of focus will put your shutter speed up too, and help you to freeze the action.

It usually takes several attempts to get a good shot when the subject is moving. Just keep doing it over and over again, and shoot wide so you can crop later, as it’s tricky to get the person exactly in the right place in the frame, when you are shooting like this. Throw out the blurred ones and choose the ones that work! Using a wide aperture (F2.8 in this case) to throw the background out of focus will put your shutter speed up too, and help you to freeze the action.

Back to the pool

By now Terje is really enjoying the shoot, and feeling much more confident, so we go back to the house to create the shots that I’ve been waiting for.

Again it’s all about using shapes, so I move the camera around until I decide where the shapes look best together, and how much of each shape I want in the picture – which is how I decide how much of the house to have on the left and how much of the shed on the right. It’s a case of looking, and selecting, and trying different angles – it’s up to you to decide.

These are three different compositions of the same elements - there is no right or wrong - each one works in it's own way. Experiment and see which shots you like best.

These are three different compositions of the same elements – there is no right or wrong – each one works in it’s own way. Experiment and see which shots you like best.

Next I asked Terje to stand in the pool, but we had a big problem – it was way too deep! If he stood at the shallow end, the background was not right – I needed him at the deep end, because I also wanted a lot of water in the foreground – so I decided to put the stepladder into the pool and ask him to balance on it!

I tried all sorts of ways of achieving the look I was after, but in the end the best way was to put the ladder in the pool and raise him above the water!

I tried all sorts of ways of achieving the look I was after, but in the end the best way was to put the ladder in the pool and raise him above the water!

In all these pictures below he is carefully balancing on the ladder and still manages to do everything I ask him – what a great model!

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The most difficult thing for Terje was keeping his hair dry every time he fell off the ladder! We gave up in the end and went for the wet hair look!

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Then on to the Hockney style pictures! It took some persuading, as understandably, Terje didn’t want to pose naked for the shots.

These are my favourite shots, influenced by a series of paintings by David Hockney. Bottom right: I love the way the water makes shapes as Terje swims through it - I just asked him to swim up and down the pool slowly while I took shots.

These are my favourite shots, influenced by a series of paintings by David Hockney. Bottom right: I love the way the water makes shapes as Terje swims through it – I just asked him to swim up and down the pool slowly while I took shots.

Finally, I was inspired by his now very wet hair, so we did a few more pictures to finish off the shoot!

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Another amazingly fun shoot – I consider myself very lucky to be able to shoot such a gorgeous guy in one of the most photogenic places in the world.

Thank you Terje!

Annabel x


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*I can’t show you the original David Hockney image here due to copyright, so here’s a link to where you can see it if you’re interested to see how I was reminded of it when I saw Terje and his house: Walker Art Gallery – ‘Peter Getting Out Of Nick’s Pool’ by David Hockney

For more photo shoots of men check out: