Five Go Mad in Gran Canaria

I only had multiple girls out to Gran Canaria a couple of times, but they were two of the most entertaining shoots I’ve ever done. It’s very hard work shooting from sunrise (in make-up at 4.30am!) till after sunset, around 9.30pm so it’s more important than ever to have models you can get on with. Fortunately these three are particularly lovely & lots of fun, as you can see from the photos :) These are Behind The Scenes shots, I’ll put some finished ones in a future blog. Click on the photos to see a slideshow with captions.

Featuring Lisa Maffia, Donatella Panayiotou & Jakki Degg. Hair & Make-up by Frederick

Do I have what it takes to be a model?

I often get emails from girls asking if I think they have what it takes to be a model, so here are my thoughts…

Firstly, beauty is subjective, & very much in the eye of the beholder (there’s a word that doesn’t get used often enough). Everyone finds different things attractive, & that includes picture editors & model agencies, so just because someone rejects you doesn’t mean everyone will (I’d just choose to assume they have no taste :) )

So, it’s not for me to say whether you can make it or not. I’m all about the eyes, & what’s going on behind them, whereas agencies & magazines will be looking at the whole package. They’ll also be looking for what they don’t have, for example if any agency’s full of brunettes, a redhead might have a better chance, but with another agency the opposite could be true.

I would say that only a very few people make any kind of living from modelling, so you really need to have a passion for it to get anywhere.

There are some things that’ll increase your chances.

1) Look after yourself. If you’re working as a model, your body is the tool of your trade. Whatever shape you are, make sure it’s healthy looking & take care of your skin & hair.

2) Get the best portfolio you can afford. If you look like Kate Moss, you might get spotted on the street, but most successful models get there by hard work and determination, & having a portfolio that jumps out from similar-looking girls makes a big difference.

3) Be organised. Turn up on time, reply promptly to emails, avoid cancelling. If you keep a studio full of people waiting for an hour, then turn up looking hungover, they’re unlikely to book you again. And be polite, enthusiastic & happy on shoots.

4) Know how to pose. It’s not enough to be pretty, you need to know a variety of angles that you look good from. The photographer can help with this (I spend much of the shoot posing models on portfolio shoots) but for a paid shoot you’ll be expected to know what you’re doing, & get great shots quickly without too much direction.

Good Luck!

Matt x



Continuing to showcase some of my favourite shoots & models, this is Jewel. She has an amazing face to shoot, & spends a lot of time keeping her body in perfect shape. These glamour shots were taken in London, all using natural light with an occasional reflector, & were published in Penthouse Australia.

More of this type of shoot on my site here
These shots as they appeared in Penthouse here

Favourite Outdoor Shots – Gran Canaria

Having posted my favourite beach shots recently, I discovered a whole bunch of outdoor shots from Gran Canaria that were shot in other locations, so I wanted to share a few with you. as with the Beach Shots, these are all from 2006-2008, some are among the first shots I ever took.

Abigail Aston nude against a wall

This is one of my all-time favourites. It was actually taken in my garden, with natural light, up against the wall. It’s another one of those shots that everyone wanted to copy but struggled to get into a similar position. Abigail’s very bendy. The difficult thing is not so much getting your body into that position, but managing any kind of decent expression while you’re so uncomfortable. Pretty much everyone else who tried it got the pose close enough but could only grimace while doing it (& there was one notable case of someone who’d over-oiled herself & kept sliding off the wall…)

Rachel ColeThis shot was taken in a local avocado orchard. It was also used for paintball, so occasionally paintballers would run by & get somewhat distracted. The light coming through the trees could be tricky to work with, but there’d be some beautiful shaded areas.Model:Rachel Cole
This shot of Sophia Smith was taken in the same forest. She’s sitting on what looks like a giant cotton reel, & is a similar thing used for cabling.
Nude in a TunnelThis is another great example of beautiful natural shade. It was taken in a tunnel under a road (in Gran Canaria, when it rains, it really rains, so these tunnels are for the rainwater to avoid flooding roads). I just moved her far enough back so that the light is fairly even across the body.

This is another shot from the same tunnel. I really love the juxtaposition of skin against concrete. Plus I’ve always wanted to use the word juxtaposition in a sentence :) Model: Carrie Spencer
Rachel ColeThis image of Rachel Cole was taken on some rocks at the base of a cliff between Puerto Rico & Amadores. There’s a fairly hairy staircase to negotiate to get down there, but it’s well worth the trip.

Ruth Reynolds against some rocks
This shot of Ruth Reynolds was taken just by the last one, but facing the cliff, rather than the sea. As with previous photos, the light is fabulously soft in the shade.
This shot of Tino Leonard was taken on the walkway to Amadores Beach. I wasn’t planning to shoot there, but the colour of the sky against the palm trees was too good to miss.
Sophia Smith in Gran CanariaIt’s always good to make use of shapes when you find them, & putting someone in this circle always worked well, providing the model could fit inside it!
MelvinaContinuing with the circles theme, this is at the first viewpoint on the mountain road from Playa del Ingles. I like the way Melvina curved her arm to match the circle. I needed to use some fill-in flash to prevent the mountains behind from being too bright.

Shot taken in a similar place to the last one. We made use of a cloudy day to get this; during the day the sun’s too harsh to get a decent shot of the background, & at sunrise or sunset, when the light would be great, I was always at the beach.
Jemma in a ruined building.There are ruined shacks pretty much everywhere in Gran Canaria, with limitless opportunities for shooting. Here I made use of the shade from the building to bathe the model in soft light, with the setting sun in the background. Shooting this just before the sun went down gave us time to get to the beach for the sunset itself.
I included this shot mostly as we shot it at Sioux City in the afternoon, when it was full of tourists. They’d mostly gone to watch the show, so I asked the nearest worker if he’d mind if Chantelle got naked, & he said we were fine as long as we finished before the show ended & all the tourists came back out. It all added a bit of excitement to the shoot!
ChantelleLovely colours in this shot on the island at Anfi Beach. Note the cunning use of leopard print by the model to give the impression she’s in the jungle.

 Abigail Aston in Gran Canaria
This shot of Abigail works for me as the lines of the bars lead the eye to the model. Shooting from below made her legs longer & the sky adds an impressive background.

More outdoor shots on my website here

Favourite Beauty Shots

I do love a good beauty shot, but it’s not an area I’ve done much work in. You need a certain type of face & really clear skin to pull it off, & with the focus being on the face it’s vital to get a great expression. I’m interested in testing a lot more in this area, hopefully with some weird & wonderful make-up designs as well. Watch this space!

Matt x

Project Kitty

Everybody wants to be a cat….

It’s occurred to me that many girls I know have a tendency to become cat-like at certain times, & if you give them some kitty ears they fall into character pretty quickly, so I’m going to set up a series of shoots embracing your inner kitty.

I’m looking for women who are drawn to cats, & maybe even have your own set of ears already. I’ll be shooting a variety of shapes & sizes, & some will be fun, some sexy, some serious. I’m mostly aiming to shoot you in lingerie or less, but we can keep you as covered as you’re comfortable with, & I’m open to suggestions for other outfits. Obviously if you have a catsuit that’d work too.

Shoots will take place at my studio in Shadwell, E1, Central London over March & April, so if you’re feeling feline, drop me a line.

Emma Bagwell

If you’d like to be part of it, please comment below, & if your email’s not in the comment send me a message to Please include:-

  • A photo or link to an online profile (unless I know you already)
  • Why you’d like to be part of the project
  • What, if any, cat accessories you own (ears, tail etc). I’ll have some but would like a variety in the shots.

Model: Emma Tiger
Twitter: @ThatEmmaTiger 
Facebook: Emma Tiger

How To Unpack A Model

Emma Glover in a boxCongratulations on ordering the Emma 3000 Deluxe Model. This model can produce excellent results if the following instructions are followed….Firstly, take the lid off the box to check if they’ve sent the right one..
Emma Glover in a boxThen check the model is in working order. Contents may settle during transit & she may look a bit sad…
Emma Glover in a box…so check that she can smile when asked.
Emma Glover in a boxIf she can smile ok, move on to the next stage, which is getting her to stand up & press a few buttons. If she manages this, it’s safe to assume everything is in working order & you can take her out of the box.
Models can work well for several years with only the occasional malfunction
Emma Glover in a boxFinally, some models can be reluctant to being repackaged for delivery back to the agency, so help may be needed to get them back in the box.Model Website: Emma Glover
Twitter: @MissEmmaGlover
Hair & Make-up: Lisa Harris
Twitter: @LisaLuuu
Location: Adrian Pini Studios

More shots of Emma & other Glamour Models here

Why We Retouch

Much is made in the media about how models are retouched in magazines. This is an important subject & I’ll return to the Size Zero debate in a future post when I’ve collected my thoughts, but for today I just want to look at why we retouch at all. Why not show someone as they naturally are?

Firstly, when are you really you? In the morning when you wake up with no make-up on? At work? At a party looking glamourous? We all look very different depending on the situation.

Secondly, and I’m focussing on women here as that’s mostly who I shoot, it’s normal to wear make-up & have your hair styled for a shoot. This is great, & perfectly normal, but is it you? You’re already being enhanced before the first picture’s taken.

Thirdly, you pay me to make you look good, which means shooting you with flattering light & from your best angles. I don’t think anyone would argue that this is a better plan than shooting you with unflattering light from bad angles, but again, I’m showing the best side of you, bringing out what’s naturally gorgeous about you that people might not see in daily life.

The point is, everything about a photoshoot is designed to show the best you, not the one you show to the world on a daily basis. Retouching is just another part of that. You change on a daily basis; your weight goes up & down over the course of a month, boobs change size, spots come & go, a photo is a snapshot of a single moment; retouching just evens out the differences.

When you talk to someone, you focus on their eyes & lips. If you’re paying attention, you don’t even see wrinkles, blemishes or spots (unless it’s a really big spot). You see their soul, not the size of their waist. However, when you look at a photo, it’s not animated so you see the whole face, & the wrinkles, blemishes & spots really jump out at you. All I’m doing when retouching is making you look as good in the photo as you did when I was talking to you.

In summary: in person, you’re all fabulous & amazing; retouching helps me show that in a photo.



Shoot with Skin Diamond

Skin’s one of those girls who the camera just loves. I’d met her in a club & thought straightaway that she stood out from other models, & she’s great to shoot as she brings a lot of personality to the shots, and comes up with unusual poses (more importantly, unusual poses that work!)

This first set was all shot with natural light. The smoking shot at the beginning wasn’t set up, she was just having a quick fag before we started. It’s always worth having the camera in your hand, you get some great natural shots when the model isn’t posing. The outfit is what she turned up in but it matched her hair & the top hat so well we shot it anyway!

This outfit was hired by my then girlfriend for a fancy dress party, it looked so amazing on her that I couldn’t resist shooting it with Skin. Note to photographers: It’s much better to check that your girlfriend’s ok with this first #relationshipfail

Skin Diamond in a latex strait-jacketSkin Diamond in a latex strait-jacketSkin Diamond in a latex catsuitSkin Diamond in a latex hoodSkin Diamond in a latex hood with riding cropSkin Diamond in a purple latex hood with riding crop


The outfits for this part of the shoot were provided by House of Harlot latex. The first is one of my favourite shots of mine, it definitely has something unusual about it. Probably because you don’t see people in latex strait-jackets every day of the week.

You can see more of Skin on her blogTumblr, Twitter & Facebook

Hair & Make-up for all these shots by Natasha Daniel

Shot in Notting Hill, London

More latex & alt model shots here



How to get a Free Shoot

It always surprises me a little when I read online profiles saying “Paid work only”. Obviously we’d all like to make as much money as possible from what we do, but most of us get started because of a passion for photography (or modelling, or make-up, or any creative discipline), & day-to-day work, however much fun it is, can get repetitive, as clients & customers want similar things from you.

It’s very easy to get out of the habit of testing new ideas as your days fill up with paid shooting, retouching & admin, but I’m always more excited about my work when I’m trying new ideas out, & the successful tests filter through to my paid work & give me more options.

What I’m looking for in a test is someone who’s also still passionate about their work. If I approach someone & they’re only looking for paid jobs, it makes me feel like they have no interest in being creative, & that makes me not want to work with them. (I should point out that not liking my work or my creative concepts are perfectly valid reasons for turning me down!)

I guess what I’m trying to say here is twofold. Firstly, I took up photography because I felt passionate about it, & it’s important to me to keep hold of that passion; it guides me through the long hours & lean times. Secondly…

How to get me to test.

1) If you’re approaching someone (particularly me) about a test, come bearing ideas. A test has to benefit all parties; it’s no good for me to shoot you in exactly the same way as I shoot everyone else, I appreciate you’ll get nice new photos but I need something different to help me grow as a photographer.

2) Don’t make me have to hunt around for your portfolio. I charge a lot for shoots; if you want me to give it up for free, always include a link to your work in the initial contact, & ideally attach at least one photo of yourself. I have to look through a lot of emails, it’s really helpful to have a face attached to each one.

3) Give me a reason to shoot you. I get a lot of emails saying “can you test with me, I need new pictures”. That’s a reason for you to do it, not for me to.

4) Be positive, polite & friendly. If I’m going to spend half a day with you, & another one retouching you, I’m generally going to pick people who give the impression that shooting them will be a pleasant experience for me.

5) Don’t phone me! I can’t say yes to you without seeing your work, so phoning is just a waste of time.

6) Include contact details. I may have a cancellation & need someone at short notice, so giving me a variety of ways to contact you increases your chances of getting a shoot.

Edit: The next three points were added Sunday Feb 19th.

7) At least appear to appreciate the photographer’s work. I’m sufficiently ego-driven that I’d rather work with people who *get* what I do. Starting your email “Dear Photographer” & copying in 87 other togs doesn’t really help with this.

8 ) Somebody pointed out on twitter that photographers can be rude when approached for a test. Hopefully anyone who is asked politely will turn you down politely, but the reason it happens is this: You’re approaching a professional, & asking them to do their full-time job, for you, for free. It’s just like asking the plumber to fix your pipes for free, or your dentist to fix your teeth for free. If you have no online portfolio, no experience & only camera phone pictures to show, & you send an one-line email to someone well-established saying “wanna shoot tfp coz I’ve dyed me hair, innit?”, it is a bit insulting (the same applies to newbie photographers approaching well-published models). So, appreciate they’re giving up their time & show that in your email. (I know you’re giving up your time too, but you’re making the approach here).

9) A quick note on terminology; Testing, TFP (Time For Prints), & TFCD (Time For CD) all mean the same thing i.e. nobody pays anybody, everybody gets pictures for their book. However, & I’ve no idea why this is, TFP sounds a bit like what amateurs do, & testing seems more grown-up & professional, so that’s what I call it.

I stress that all the above is my personal preference; other photographers may well be completely different. Also, if you’re paying me, feel free to contact me any way you like :)

Finally, I don’t have as much time for testing as I’d like, & I get asked to test a lot, so don’t be mad if you get a no. It’s more a reflection of my current needs for my portfolio than of your ability as a model. There is another way to shoot without paying me, have a look at