Shelly Waters

The road to the image above was long and hard-fought. The shoot was a total of 773 images, including test shots and all. Some days you have to work harder than others. There have been more than a few times that the first few images of a shoot are the strongest. Sometimes you have an immediate connection with your subject, the light is right, the mood is clicking, and the stars are aligned. Other times you have to build. You create a foundation, you lay the concrete and build up on top of it one piece of timber at a time. The end result is hopefully something you’re proud of. Those images seem to have a special place in my heart, mainly because I knew what it took to get there.

It’s not the subject’s fault either – Obviously the image was/is in them all along. It’s just that some days are harder than others. The trick is in working your way though those days and going back to the basics of everything you know about relationships, art, and technical ability.

Shelly Waters

If a person starts off a shoot by telling you that they’re terrible in front of the lens, yet when you’re talking to them beforehand they’re full of energy and charisma, you know that they’re full of crap (I mean that in an endearing way). But, they don’t know that. It’s time to become a creative psychologist and figure out the problem and create a solution. You pull out your potato peeler and start peeling back that tough skin.

Shelly Waters

I loosen up the subject and ask them to do some awkward things that get them out of their head. I make sure the music is making them move when they think I’m not paying attention. I pull out some strange props or ideas to see how they handle it…

Shelly Waters

The hair/make-up artist is a valuable tool to break any tension. It’s a person who you can bounce ideas off of and he or she can be a real confidence booster when they start getting excited.

Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose
Amanda Rose assists Shelly Waters

But, once the subject starts to open up, then I start to act like a personal trainer – It’s my job to keep pushing the subject to their limit. I’ve gained their trust and now I’m bending it as far as I can. I’m forcing them to react by shouting, laughing, dancing around the set… Whatever it takes to get their personality to appear vividly in a two dimensional photograph.

Shelly Waters

Shelly Waters

Shelly Waters

At the end of any job, I ask myself “How was the experience?”. A shoot like this one was long, but it went by quickly. We struggled but we ended up laughing. There’s a valid reason why I love shooting people, and it’s simply the human experience of it. My day is filled with little interactions, but when I can work so intimately with another person I barely know in such a unique way and come out with a memorable experience as well a piece of art, that’s a good day on the job.

Here’s Shelly Waters’ new cover artwork for her latest record, “Drive” (click here to go grab a copy from her website):


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