Ripped Me a New One

One year ago...

As much as I was internally pushing myself to just open my mouth and say something, intimidation locked its legs and arms fiercely around my tongue. Not only was I the youngest in age, but I was also the newest photographer in this workshop (led by Joe Dallas). While most had at least a year's experience, I had just launched my website 3 months ago.

The workshop started and we met our first speaker: Bambi Cantrell. If the name doesn't say enough, picture a fiery, short, blonde woman whose words should have been followed by a *snap snap* "Got it?!" Yes, including hip movement.

I looked down at my kit lens and my 50mm, begging them to not let me down today. We pull up to a gorgeous Victorian home with our models and our workshop leaders. Since it's only 10 of us, they divide the group into 2 and decide to have Bambi with one group, then rotate her later on. My heart rate begins to increase when I realize I'm in the group that is starting with Bambi.

After picking a room, Bambi simply crosses her arms across her chest and smiles. You all do whatever you need to do and I will just simply watch. Breathing. You could hear everyone's breathing and feel everyone's fear at the idea of going first. Then I remembered. You know how you can tell a good photographer from a bad one? Pay attention to how long it takes for them to take the first shot. Bambi had told us this less than an hour ago at her lesson.

And I did it. I LOST MY MIND.

My tongue managed to slap some words together and before I realized what I was even saying, my words betrayed me. I'll go first. Everyone's eyes turned to me and Bambi simply raised a brow. I gripped my camera and asked the model to sit on the bench in front of the camera.

What are you doing? Where is your light?
You realize it's behind her?
Yes, I'm trying to... (
THINK!!!) get a silhouette shot of her.
But -- never mind, just KEEP GOING.

I start to pose my model, trying to remember everything Bambi just taught us.
Sit on the edge of the chair ... bring your chest towards me... move your left ar-

DON'T USE LEFT OR RIGHT!! If this were a wedding day, she would be emotional and she shouldn't have to think rationally.

Don't cry
-I think to myself.

I focus on my model. B-b-bring the arm near the bed towards your other shoulder.

What is your purpose in moving her like that? Look how awkward she looks! Can you tell me what's wrong with her legs?!

No, but I can tell you what's wrong with mine -- they're about to buckle UNDER ME!! Holding back tears (why do I feel so emotional?!) -- I look to my peers for help. They look at me with sympathy. I'm literally being ripped a new one by Bambi.

After a few more lecturing moments from Bambi, I decide to just take the photo and find a crack where the earth could swallow me up. Ceasing to find one, I step back and focus my eyes on my camera LCD screen fighting back tears of embarrassment and intimidation.

The first shot out of my camera

At least she had the guts to go first. I know that takes a lot. I didn't see any of you jumping to take the first photo.
Who's next?

I drifted towards the back of the group to regain my composure and watched the others step up to Bambi's challenge. Bambi took over and I marveled at her ability to communicate poses without touching the model or ever using "left" and "right." It is then that I realized how Bambi creates her shots around light. She finds the light FIRST, then moves on to posing.

Our session ends with one last challenge. You will all go into a room, individually, that you have not seen at all, with your model. Bambi and I (Joe Dallas) will stand there to observe and you will be given 5 minutes to pose your model and take your photos. Apply what you've learned and we'll share the images tomorrow.

This was it!! There was nobody to hide behind -- just you and the model and observation.

I walked into the room and both Joe and Bambi greeted me. The first thing I looked for was the light. In the corner of the room there was a window with white blinds. I moved the model against the wall. The shutters were closed so I opened them to let in a lot more light. As I moved one of the shutters, I saw that it was reflecting light on her face.

I heard a "MHM!" from Bambi. Phew! I was doing something RIGHT, finally!

Suddenly Joe said: Alejandra, take a few steps back and take a look at what you see.

I did. I couldn't see anything. Look on your left, motioned Joe. A MIRROR! Her body was curving into her reflection, with light coming in beautifully through the window. My heart sang. I asked her to shift her hips and... snapped the photo...

It would have been so easy to focus on needing a wider lens with better aperture, but in that moment, I learned to focus on something bigger. Natural reflectors, utilizing the room, curves of a body, COMMUNICATION. The lack of a lens is a lack of money. However, creativity and confidence can't be bought and hardly taught. We have to take risks (even at the cost of failure), to understand the value of what we do.

Joe Dallas guided me and showed me that sometimes you're only (and literally) steps away from an amazing shot. Stop focusing on your lens! Bambi -- she clearly ripped me a new one. But guess what? I will NEVER forget that experience. She taught me that direction and confidence is something YOU must do for yourself and will not be given to you by a client or friend.

So why am I bringing this experience up that happened a year ago? Because we're covering the Jasmine Star Posing & Lighting notes next and there's a message of empowerment there that I don't want you to miss.

I had to make a fool of myself to get to where I am today. I'll never be ready enough. Never. I'll always have moments of doubt and hesitation and WILL still fail. But I have finally discovered my brand. My style. And by knowing this, I have the power to pose my clients and give THEM the confidence to feel amazing. I just hope next time it doesn't involve being yelled at in a room full of photographers. But Lord knows this journey is just beginning...

Jasmine Star on regrets:
First: I wish someone would have told me to have fun. I worry. That’s part of the journey. Second: take bigger risks. The rewards will be bigger. Take a step back and give yourself room to fail.