Mary O'Neil

This March Covid crisis kicked us out of our comfort zones. Some of us started to shoot more still-life, street photography or self-portraits, some tried to stay with portrait and fashion, but go into remote mode. Myself I did both + worked with some of my trusted models IRL (I made sure to have 2 weeks of self-isolation in-between shoots to not spread the virus).

Ira D. asked me to talk a bit about my experience of doing remote photoshoots so I will share some lessons learned: it will be a mix of purely tech issues and more people related tips.

First of all (obviously) don't just shoot through chat or using Photo-booth or whatever - you won't like the quality of it at all. What you want to use is a camera, controlled from the computer using soft-wear like EOS Utilities - download correct soft-wear for your model's camera and laptop for Canon, Nikon or Sony.

Now you can control model's camera from her laptop, to control it from yours, you need to use Zoom and allow remote control option (model will need to find it in her laptop security settings)

At this point you have 4 possible problems:

  • model might not have a camera OR camera-laptop connector (camera's wi-fi is not an option due to delay!)
  • not all models will be able to download and instal the soft-wear, change Zoom and system settings, and make sure camera is properly connected. I was doing it together with a models through Zoom, googling what I didn't know as we went through the process
  • Delay - this I didn't fix - it will be at least 2-3 seconds between you pushing a button and you seeing the picture on your screen, so in those 2-3 seconds you can't shoot another picture. I think it's not a problem for most, but for me it was annoying because I like to be able to capture subtleties of the gesture, so I want to catch the pose not once, but several times over.
  • Last technical problem was sending me .raw files - they are huge and took forever to upload through google.docs or dropbox, dropbox also had problems with displaying .raw files

Now for more soft skills:

  • For all the remotes I worked with models who I worked with previously, so I knew their style, they knew my style. It was easier to direct them because we didn't need to take time to sync.
  • I also picked models, who had great personal style.
  • For the light, I asked them to use a big window for a soft light - it's easy enough, and I happen to like this kind of light.
  • I asked models to move me (the camera) up and down and to change angles and zoom. We didn't have a ┬átripod so it was a bit challenging, but we did it and only dropped a camera once (we had some safety-measure - read "pillows on the floor")
  • If you would like to send a model wardrobe or materials, make sure to set your expectations right. Due to covid a small parcel took 2 month to arrive from San Francisco to Kiev for me.

With all the trickiness of the process there are two huge upsides I found working remotely. In fact they are big enough for me to continue this kind of shoots after the crisis.

  1. The models is alone at the place, and the shoots feel much more intimate and relaxed, a bit voyeuristic even.
  2. You can work with whomever you like in the whole world, I have so many good friends left in Switzerland, Kiev and Boston, and with this remotes we can really plan something very special together.