Paris Photoshoot: Models & IMG Paris
Write-up after my Paris Photoshoot – the cameras, IMG Paris and other freelance Paris models, model agencies and Paris weather!
Paris Photoshoot Model Photography
This was my first visit to Paris for about 10 years and I had no model contacts there so it was going to be interesting as to whether it would be a success or not. When I visit the same cities over and over (Budapest, Poland and Ukraine especially) I build up a large pool of contacts so I then pack my days with as many as five models back to back. I thought I would travel to Paris from the UK by Eurostar but it actually worked out much cheaper to fly with Air France instead. I am so used to flying with Ryanair and Wizzair now (for the destinations I enjoy visiting) that Air France all felt very civilised and nice.
For model photography trips I tend to use my hotel or apartment as a base for most of the photos and / or the surrounding streets but generally don’t travel far so not to lose time. Paris hotels and apartments were much more expensive than I am used to so I booked a tiny apartment and then planned to work with models on location around Paris to include some of the classic landmarks. This plan is great if it is not raining! We had rain on and off for 2 of the 3 days so that made it more challenging!
Model Photography – Timing is everything
This is of course very true for photos but also for when visiting Paris as a model photographer. I found a low price flight online so based my stay in France purely on the cheap flight days. I didn’t consider anything else. One huge factor that I overlooked is February 28 – March 8, 2017 is Paris Fashion week. Although I had spoken to some of the Paris model agencies prior to flying when I arrived I found that trying to work with any of the girls was near impossible as all the agencies had the girls booked out for casting ahead of the fashion show. What a disaster! A huge selection of models in town from all over the world and some very interested in working together yet not possible as the agencies would not release the girls to test in case they were needed for casting calls.
IMG Models Paris
I was fortunate enough to still have a day shooting with a model from IMG Models Paris after endless emails trying to find a girl who was available. Considering that IMG is the number one model agency in the world I was impressed with the quick replies to my messages. Working with IMG Paris is perhaps my biggest achievement to date I think so I was thankful for the opportunity and hope it is the start of a strong working relationship together going forward.
Paris Freelance Models
I had been busy messaging models I had found on Instagram in the weeks leading up to Paris. I managed to organise 3 models for my second day, a Norwegian girl who had come to Paris after participating in London fashion week, a Brazilian girl from Rio who was living in Paris with her boyfriend and a local French guy I found via a French photographer’s Instagram photos that I knew from Facebook as a fellow Leica photographer. Everything was perfect except for the strong wind and rain!
The start and end of the day were cold but mostly dry but the main shoot during the daytime had to be postponed while we sheltered from the elements mid shoot. With all that against us I am still very excited to review the resulting photos! I enjoyed working with all 3 models but the last shoot with the male model was perhaps the most different to my usual photos. I work with girls so often that if I find a guy with a strong look, a passion for fashion and with real vision then it really gets good. As I’ve written in the past, lighting a male model is completely different to lighting a girl so I loved the lighting aspect of the shoot especially.
My last day in Paris was wet again and every model and agency I had spoken to seemed to be fully involved in the Paris fashion week casting. Booking a model in Paris during this time is very last minute so you don’t know if you have a model for the following day sometimes until the morning of the day itself. After a busy first two days sadly there were no models available for day 3. I was pretty tired after three late nights planning and two early mornings to travel to shoots so I decided to catch up on sleep for once until it was time to go to the airport to fly home. My body was probably very grateful of a rest even though I felt very unproductive and it was a rare opportunity in Paris wasted. I will be back.
As usual, I spent a few weeks trying to decide what cameras to take to Paris, and trying to visualise what cameras may be best for my needs. I took the Mamiya RZ67 to Budapest because the Hasselblad 500 series was broken /out of action. I still think the Hasselblad 501C has captured some of my highest quality photos I’ve taken so I decided to buy a replacement Hasselblad camera body in the meantime. I was then tempted to take my Mamiya 6 medium format film camera too as it is more portable than the Hasselblad and I can use it at slower shutter speeds handheld as it is a rangefinder. Never someone to make life simple I thought I would also take the 35mm Leica M4-P film camera as standard practice but then I also considered the 35mm Hasselblad XPan to try to capture some panoramic scenes in Paris. I had my digital Leica M240 camera as my main camera and also packed the new digital Lumix LX100 as a digital backup camera. Many cameras!
Hasselblad 500 Series
The new Hasselblad camera I bought was a well used 1982 black Hasselblad 500cm body (only) to be exact. Hasselblad v series cameras have leaf shutter lenses so most of the controls are on the lens itself. The Hasselblad camera body is merely a box to attach the lens, viewfinder and film back. As such I bought a new ‘box’ and transferred the lens, film back, acute mate focusing screen and PM45 prism viewfinder from my existing Hasselblad 501c onto it. I now have a fully functional Hasselblad to take to Paris! I decided to take the Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm f4 lens for more compression and a close up option rather than the Zeiss Distagon 60mm f3.5 lens that I usually pack.
I had decided in my head that I would use the Hasselblad with a longer lens but then wanted something wider and medium format film to make the most of being in Paris. The standard Mamiya 6 lens is 75mm f3.5 so I decided to buy the highly regarded Mamiya 50mm f4 G lenses for the Mamiya 6 camera for something wider. The Mamiya 50/f4 G is said to be one of the sharpest lenses and in 35mm terms give an approximate view of 28mm. The new lens arrived just in time for my trip so that secured a place in my camera bag for the Mamiya 6 + 50G lens. The smaller lighter Fuji GA645 60mm f4 camera was another option but I wanted to use the Mamiya 6 even if it is bigger and heavier.
Hasselblad XPan / Leica M4-P
The plan was to take both the 35mm Hasselblad XPan and the Leica M4-P film cameras but when I checked the weight of my bag I was well over my limit so I had to leave the Leica M4-P and Hasselblad XPan 90mm f4 lens behind. I just took the Hasselblad 45mm f4 lens for wide-angle panoramic photos. I could also use the camera in normal (non-panoramic) mode as a standard 45mm lens. At least it was a change to my usual camera choices and the panoramic photos would be different to the digital photos. (The Leica M4-P photos can look very similar to the digital photos as I use the same lenses and same film format.
Leica M Lenses
My preference was to pack both wide, standard, fast and telephoto lenses for the Leica M240 to cover all situations but cabin bag weight restrictions limited me a little. I had to leave behind the Leica Summicron 90mm f2 lens and the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 ASPH lens. I packed the tiny Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5, my go to Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 lens and a fast 50, the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens.
When I’m now more accustom to working with around 10 models on my model photography city breaks, working with only 4 models in Paris was very disappointing. I was hoping to photograph maybe 2 to 3 models a day to account for the additional travelling between photo shoots but I had not accounted for Paris fashion week. All photos were outside the apartment and the models were very different so it should produce some more varied photos to my usual style. I didn’t use my Hasselblad 500cm as much as I expected, partly due to less models but also the poor weather and less light. The Mamiya 6 was a complete disappointment as the 50mm G lens didn’t seem to ‘talk’ to the camera so the camera wouldn’t fire. My fault for not testing prior to flying. (It was later returned to the seller). After my eyes have got so used to the Leica M4-P viewfinder I found the Hasselblad XPan viewfinder very smaller and harder to focus. Fingers crossed I nailed the focus on the XPan photos. I used the Hasselblad XPan the most of the film cameras, mainly for the speed and ease of 35mm film. I tend to use medium format film more sparingly these days. I used mostly black and white film; 35mm Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222 (bulk rolled), 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 and 120 Fomapan 100.
The model style in Paris was to me quite different to Budapest and Eastern Europe. I find Budapest much more glamorous in the way girls dress and prepare their makeup. Paris is much plainer but strangely still quite photogenic when done properly by a French girl. I didn’t work with any French female models this time but I got a taste of the style from reviewing lots and lots of local model profiles when searching for potential models. I didn’t find I noticed girls (at all) when walking through the streets of Paris in contrast to the East. It was more like being in the UK but generally a slimmer version in terms of body shape but with less makeup and maybe plainer clothes styling. I found I had similar observations in other areas of France in the past when there on business too. I will travel to Paris again to work with the Paris model agencies but in general I find Eastern Europe much more to my taste. That said, I found the French language much easier as I had studied French at school so I remembered some of the basics and it is the shortest distance to travel from the UK.
A big thanks to IMG Models Paris for the collaboration opportunity and to quite a few other Paris model agencies I spoke to ahead of future trips. Thanks also to the individual models I had the pleasure of working with; Bronwyn, Linn, Flavia and Clement, each bringing their own style to my photography and made the trip as enjoyable and memorable as is was.
Paris Photoshoot Regrets
- Check the dates of fashion shows prior to booking an overseas model photo trip
- Check cameras fully before packing them (I do normally)
- Always always pack a Leica M film camera. Leica film cameras are much more practical than the most of my other film camera options (faster lenses, reliable, compact, no mirror slap and a good viewfinder….)
More digital Paris model photography photos to follow and then the film photos too once I get time to develop them. Next stop is back to Sopot, Poland in March and then Budapest, Hungary is booked again for May. I also have Ukraine planned for June so lots to look forward to and more opportunities to try to improve.