Thursday, 4 August 2016

Pinup Q&A with John Bellingham aka Portraits & Pinups

Today's blog post is the second installment of my Pinup Q&A series. Today we are finding out about pinup photographer and all round lovely guy, John Bellingham, aka Portraits & Pinups.

I had the pleasure of doing a photo shoot (my first photo shoot!) with John back in 2015. He was so wonderful to work with and extremely well educated on the subject of photography and modelling, so I knew he would be a great candidate for a Q&A. John has his own photography studio and has worked with many well known pinups, such as Vintage Doll Laura, Stephanie Jay and Lola Diamond to name but a few. But if you have not heard of John before, read on to find out a little bit more about him!

Zee pinup model by Portraits & Pinups
Zee - Photo by Portraits and Pinups

When did you start doing photography? 

I started doing photography when I was at school and a few years later bought a developing kit (black & white only) as I really enjoyed playing around with images & getting different results. Sadly whilst I was at university, my camera was stolen & being a poor student, I wasn’t able to replace it at the time. Fast forward quite a few years and whilst I bought the occasional new digital camera, I felt they were fairly rubbish, however I was lucky enough to visit a friend in Alaska who convinced me to buy a DSLR and everything changed – I was totally hooked.

What is your studio like?

I’m very lucky, I had an attic in my house that was totally untouched and after a few years of shooting in studios, with their inherent costs, I decided it would make sense to convert the attic into a studio. The studio is now the entire top floor of my house (the changing room & makeup area is the bathroom) and it is wide enough to have full-width paper on rollers suspended from the ceiling like any proper studio is. It’s quite full of ‘stuff’ due to my doing a lot of vintage Pin Up - I have a large collection of props & backgrounds to get the most out of this genre.

You operate under TFP (Trade for Print). Can you explain what this is?

TPF at it's most basic level means that a photo shoot is done with no money changing hands. The model, photographer, makeup artist etc all provide their time and skills for ‘free’ but with the aim of everyone getting finished edited photos (usually done by the photographer) that they will all be able to use for their portfolios.

Do you provide hair and makeup for your models?

I certainly can do. I work with 3-4 HMUA's (hair and make up artists) mainly, but equally I’m happy for someone who is skilled in this area to do their own. I would say that a good makeup/hair artist can really raise the quality of results above those by someone who is simply ‘OK’ at doing their own makeup. So saying, I have worked with some models who are able to do their own makeup to a very high standard and could be makeup artists themselves.

How do most of your models get in touch to shoot with you?

Previously almost all of my shoots came from a portfolio website I use that helps get photographers and models together. However, since I joined Instagram just over 18 months ago, I now find I get most of my shoots this way. Some are established models who are also on my portfolio website, but who have found me on Instagram, whereas others have no experience of photo shoots, but would like to give it a try.

How long does a photo shoot usually take?

It really does depend on if makeup and hair are being done in the studio before the photo shoot. At the weekends I roughly plan for 4-5 hours so we can get the best possible results without being rushed (including a break for lunch etc) whilst ensuring everyone has enough energy to keep things creative. However, as I don’t have to pay studio fees, it’s possible to shoot for up to 8 hours if necessary. On a weekday evening where time is a bit more limited, I usually shoot from around 6-9 ish, which in the right circumstances is plenty of time to cover quite a lot.

Do you work with props and different sets?

For Pin Up shoots, I work with a lot of props as unlike most other genres, this style really requires a wide range of items to bring the results to life. I’m also constantly trying to improve the quality of sets as well, which include a nautical set that I’ve had for about a year and a Tiki set that I’ve just starting using for shoots that I’m really very happy with.

How long does the post production and editing process take?

Tough question! I endeavour to send the photos to all involved on the day or day after the shoot for them to choose their favourite images. Based on the number and complexity of the editing required, I try to get as many of the finished photos completed and sent within a 2 week window as possible. Of course this does depend on the number of edits requested to which I would say that it’s better to have a smaller number of images edited well, then 50+ ones where time simply cannot permit the same high standard across all.

Has any of your work been published? If so, where?

Yes, I’ve been published 3 times so far. Twice in Vintage Life (Jan & May 2016 issues) and the Summer (no. 7) issue of In Retrospect magazine. I’m also hoping that another set of images are published soon, but I don’t want to jinx it, so I won’t say any more at this point!

What is your favourite music?

I try my best to listen to (nearly) all styles and take the best of each. If I could only listen to one style, then I guess it would be indie, but I’m happy listening to pretty much anything. On a photo shoot I try to encourage others to bring music as I think it helps them relax and also helps widen what I listen to.

What is your favourite film?

Simple – Withnail & I. When it was originally released it didn’t do all that well in the cinema, but it is an absolute gem of a film & I simply cannot remember how many times I’ve watched it.

What makes a good model, in your opinion?

I’ve shot with a wide range of people, from established models who’ve been working from years to those who’ve no experience but want to give it a go. I’d say for me, a willingness to research what you will be shooting, practicing at poses (more difficult than it sounds), genuine enthusiasm, good communication and a willingness to really give it a go and throw themselves into a shoot gets the best results for everyone and is most fun to work with. I totally understand that for some people who have never done a photo shoot before it can be a bit daunting, but hopefully once any initial nervousness has been overcome, just go for it as it will show in the resulting images.

Modelling can sometimes be a risky business. What should new models look out for to help them stay safe?

Sadly it can be risky – try to find out as much about the person/people you’ll be working with (this is where a portfolio website that has references from other models can be very useful). Whilst many photographers might not like chaperones, I’d say that certainly for your first shoot you should strongly consider bringing one – especially if the photographer sounds reluctant at the idea! There are some who insist you come on your own or that you’re dropped off and picked up at the end of a shoot, that’s not a chaperone, that’s a taxi driver and these photographers should probably be avoided. Other advice I’d offer is always make sure that at least 1 person knows exactly where you’ll be. Also, get a mobile number from them in advance of the shoot and check it works (a friendly ‘Hello’ text to illicit a response can’t hurt) and lastly, try to meet in a public place even if the shoot is somewhere a bit of a distance off.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of doing a photo shoot for the first time? 

What I’d say is that you get out of a photo shoot what you put in. Some of the best shoots I’ve ever had have been with people with no prior modelling experience. I’d say that for Pin Up this is especially true as unlike some other genres if you have done some research by looking through existing images on Pinterest or general web searches, then you’ll get a real feel for what’s required. I’d say it’s important to understand that this style of shoot has its roots in wartime when those away from home wanted something fun and even dare I say, a bit ‘flirty’ to look at, so it’s worth keeping this in mind. Also, do try out Pin Up poses prior to the shoot, as believe it or not, even experienced models can fail at making these poses convincing if they only work in other genres. Try to get together as many co-ordinated outfits as possible and ensure that each has its own ‘personality’ so that you’re able to do specific poses in them (i.e. a wiggle skirt isn’t great for trying to do some elaborate leg poses). Lastly, stay in contact with all concerned as much as possible, turn up on time on the day, show lots of enthusiasm & be willing to try out ideas (as long as you stay within the limits of what you’re comfortable with). The camera can only capture what’s put in front of it, so give it your absolute best.

You can view John's Portfolio on Purpleport

To keep up to date with John or to book a shoot, you can contact him on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

If you have any questions for John, please put them in the comments box below.

-x- LMDW -x-

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