Part 23 of 50: Models with Cameras vs. Guys with Cameras: There is a Difference

This is part twenty-three in a series of blogs on my photography adventures at ZoeFest X, in Todos Santos, Mexico.

NOTE: To really appreciate the photography of the models discussed in this blog, definitely click on the links in the text below. The photos on you see this page are simply snapshots of us hanging out, sometimes in questionable lighting. I decided to link to the photography pages of the models instead of use their images on the blog here, first because even though they probably wouldn’t mind, we photographers respect the copyrights of other photographers and second, because by sending you to their pages, you’ll really get to explore their work better than the one or two images I would have posted here.

Before I continue with the next story of photographing the lovely Candace Nirvana, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a topic that would occasionally come up among the ZoeFest models and photographers during our stay in Todos Santos, Mexico.

Models with cameras.

Late afternoon editing and comparing notes at the Todos Santos Inn veranda.
Photo by Keira Grant

It’s a much more common sight to see models with pro and very nearly pro cameras these days on location. The unusual thing is, perhaps out of deference to the “real” photographers at ZoeFest or maybe because a few of them have only been doing it for a short time, many of them were almost apologetic about it.

It turns out, they needn’t have been. The models at ZoeFest are good photographers. Very good photographers.

And it makes sense that they would be. They are all professional models that have been working in front of cameras for years. Just as photographers learn from assisting other photographers, the models have been paying attention to the pro photographers and stowing away the nuggets of how to make a good photograph. And perhaps equally as important, they have learned a lot about what not to do from less proficient photographers.

I talked about this with a few of them, imagining them standing there during shoots, posing for all those years and probably once in a while thinking to themselves, “This light is really awful,” or “why are we shooting against this wall, when there’s a much more interesting space right over there?”

Some of the models of ZoeFest with their camera on the Baja coast.
Photo by Billy Sheahan

After a time, from simply participating in so many shoots, good and bad, they would learn what good looks like. They would have suffered through the occasional shoot that wasn’t going so well and think, “I would do this differently if I were the photographer.” And perhaps they would do it better.

In the meantime however, when models would begin to pull out their own cameras during down time or point their lenses at other models while the next shot was being set up, they would have most likely experienced an eye-roll from a few photographers. Not among our group, but out there in the elsewhere in the world. The condescending, “Oh look! The model fancies herself a photographer too. Adorable!”

They would be labeled, a MWC. Model with Camera. A put down.

MWC is actually derived from a much more well known photography acronym: GWC or Guy with Camera.

A GWC is defined in the modeling and photography world as a guy whose motives, artistic and/or technical ability are questionable at best. It’s not that he’s just a photography hobbyist, which is not, in itself, a bad thing. We all need hobbies. No, the GWC’s interest in photography is more of a means to meet and be around beautiful women than anything else. And if he can talk the models he works with into wearing nothing or next to nothing while they’re being photographed so he can get an eye-full, better still. It’s not about the art for the GWC, it’s about seeing the skin.

A GWC is not merely an amateur photographer, because not every amateur is a GWC. There are plenty of amateurs who are serious about learning the craft of photography. They work at improving their lighting, composition and have a strong desire make compelling images as they gain more experience. Everyone has to start somewhere. Even the legends of photography probably sucked at it the first time they picked up a camera. I know I did.

So to be clear, not every amateur photographer is a GWC. Most of them aren’t.

Zoe Wiseman and Meghan Claire discussing cameras.
Photo by Billy Sheahan

Which brings us back to Models with Cameras. Models who have been in the business more than a couple of minutes have heard every line, every come on, every creepy proposition that has ever been uttered by a GWC with nefarious objectives. If a model decides to move to the other side of the camera for a few minutes or perhaps as a new career, her motives are most likely going to be more sincere because she can empathize with what inappropriate attention feels like. And her skills are probably going to be better than most newbies who look through the viewfinder for the first time.

Why? I’ll say it again:

Because she knows what good looks like.

During my ZoeFest adventure, I was constantly impressed by the knowledge of the craft of photography that the models had. And when we’d all be sitting around the veranda doing our initial edits on our laptops it was a chance to see what everyone was up to, both photographers and models.

Rebecca Lawrence was one of the models staying with us at Todos Santos Inn, so when she would pull her laptop out at one of the tables to edit what she had been shooting, I would always sneak a peek over her shoulder. And what I saw was always impressive. She had a great command of the craft and a wonderful point of view in her work. She was good and you could see her getting better every day. All those years in front of the camera were transferring very nicely to behind it as well.

Photographers and models relaxing at the Hotelito.
Photo by Billy Sheahan

Every morning I would step out of my garden villa and look at my little porch tucked away among all of the palm trees and other vegetation in the garden. I knew there was something there, but I was having difficulty trying to figure out exactly where I would place a model if I was going to photograph her there.

One afternoon I was making a quick stop in my room to drop off my compact flash card from the morning’s shoot and switch camera batteries. When I opened my door to head out again, I nearly tripped over one of Rebecca’s shoots, literally happening on my doorstep. I excused myself and hurried along so as not to break the moment, but even with a quick glance, I could see that Rebecca had found what I could not. A beautiful palm leaf shadow played across Claudine’s torso. Simply and lovely. She found it.

Rebecca also loves to use double exposures in her photography. And she does in a way that is fresh original and incredibly human. It’s one of her signature styles and having a signature style is what makes a photographer a photographer.

Candace Nirvana is another of the ZoeFest models who I had been aware of her modeling work for a long time, but never had the chance to work with her until we found ourselves together at ZoeFest. She too was often armed with her camera.

Candace is a pro. She knows what she likes and has the ambition to get it. Both in her modeling and now in her photography. She’s very good at capturing the essence of anyone she’s photographing. Some photographers just have that thing where they create a rapport with her subjects in a short period of time and the images she makes really have that sense of empathy in them. A true view into what her subject is about.

More relaxing at the Hotelito.

It’s this sensitivity and curious nature about her subjects that has led her to focus one part of her photography on portraits, children and families with lovely results. Some of her images literally take your breath away.

Meghan Claire is wonderful fun to photograph and I would imagine fun to be photographed by as well. Here is a look at her inspiring behind the camera work.

Anoush Anou is also amassing a striking body of photography work which you can see here.

I know Keria Grant is heading behind the camera as well, based on her posting that in addition to her modeling rates, she’s also willing to negotiate for Nikon gear as payment! I love it.

I may have missed the website and blogs of a few other ZoeFest models doing great work as photographers, and if that is the case, I apologize. Hope-fully this topic will have many more updates of inspiring images photographed by some of my favorite Models With Cameras.

Next, my final ZoeFestX shoot in Todos Santos with the incredible Candace Nirvana.

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