Chuck Espinoza Photography

Los Angeles Based Freelance Photographer.
head shots and portraits

Shooting Personal Work Results in Booking Jobs You’ll Love

May 7, 2012

The reality is that being a freelance photographer isn’t always filled with glamorous or interesting jobs. The fact is that most of my time as a photographer isn’t even spent with a camera in my hand. A few months ago Chase Jarvis posted about the realities of what it means to be a professional photographer (Via SwissMiss). If I break up the 12% piece of the pie into fun and/or interesting jobs I’m probably down to 6-8%. That’s why I shoot for myself. Self created assignments with fellow creatives allows me to experiment, control the outcome to suit me and the people I am working with and to just have fun taking photos. Me booking this job was a result of one of those, for-fun, unpaid, self assigned jobs. It’s actually the second “job” that’s resulted from that shoot. We licensed one of the images from the bodypaint shoot to Chef Rubber for use in a full-page ad in So Good Magazine.

Original credit Swiss Miss

It started with an email through my website. A plastic surgeon in Australia contacted me asking if I’d be interested in shooting some artwork that would be displayed throughout his office.  I’m not sure exactly how he stumbled on my work, but he noted reading my blog as well as watching the behind the scenes video I made of Seth’s body paint shoot. His goal was to use the photos to showcase women’s figure and beauty. The photos would be displayed throughout the waiting area, exam rooms and his office.  Did I mention the images would be nudes? It is and was a delicate line. The images would need to be beautiful, tasteful yet remain PG13. If I put my self in the shoes of a woman visiting his office for a consultation, the images would need to spark interest and discussion but not alienate anyone.

My thoughts went to abstract nudes. I’d be able to show parts of the body in a way that weren’t immediately identifiable. My goal was to to use light and shadow to get the viewer to look past the fact that they were looking at a naked body.  I enlisted the help of Marie who is an experienced figure model.



In addition to the abstract images I’d be shooting one main beauty image. I pulled some reference images and we decided on the stark, yet beautiful landscape of El Mirage Dry Lake Bed. Little did I know how challenging shooting out there would be. After months of planning we finally made it out to El Mirage. I booked Megan as our model and enlisted the help of Sura Radcliffe to help with hair and Tiffany Selby to help with makeup. I’ve worked with both of these talented stylists on different shoots and knew they would make me and Megan look great. The hair and makeup process was pretty involved. I’d need Megan’s makeup to read from about fifteen feet away. I also knew that there would be a potential for wind in the desert so I wanted to make sure the hair style was one I could get away with if the wind were to move it around. We prepped from noon until almost 4PM, spent a couple hours in the car driving out to El Mirage and caught the last hour of the setting sun. (Yes eight hours prep/wrap – One hour shooting) Despite a weather forecast to the contrary we were greeted by 20mph winds when we got out to El Mirage. The temperatures made the wind bearable and luckily the wind was blowing from the west. I was able to use the setting sun and wind to my advantage.

A few weeks ago I came across an article about Herb Ritt’s exhibition at the Getty. One of the images noted was this amazing image shot out in El Mirage.  I was at the fabric store a few days later with hopes of creating an image as beautiful.


©Herb Ritts – Versace Dress, El Mirage


We got to El Mirage with about an hour of daylight left. We had taken some wardrobe to experiment with  and plan what we were going to shoot while Megan still had clothes on but I couldn’t run the risk of Megan getting wind blown and ruining the reason we were there. I was there to shoot a beautiful nude. The fabric and drape was a bonus and I figured with the wind howling it might actually work. It allowed me to figure out where I wanted to position her once she dropped the fabric. Turns out my client loved the images of the drape in addition to the nudes.


Megan – El Mirage


We shot both the drape and the nudes as we watched the sun fall like a rock. The sky in the west as the sun set was beautiful, and despite the wind we tried shooting into the wind to see the beautiful sky. We put Megan’s hair up and tried shooting her with the wind at her back. Utter FAIL, that much wind blowing that much hair looked horrible.  In addition to Sura and Tiffany I had my friend Bill to help with the shoot. Even though we had the shot I came for we figured why not break out the strobes. Having Bill there to hand-hold the light was an incredible save because the sun was pretty much down and it was getting darker every second.  We took her hair back down and put her facing the wind. We spent the last three minutes of the shoot using the strobe and once again came away with amazing surprises like the following image.

El Mirage


Despite the challenges, the amount of work and planning that went into it we came away with beautiful images that everyone was happy with. It also reinforced my opinion that if I shoot my own type of work, people will notice. A big thanks goes out to Megan, Bill, Sura, Tiffany and a very trusting client.

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