What is Garden Shoot?
A Garden Shoot does not specifically refer to a photoshoot done in a garden. My ex commercial makeup artist friend, Tricia Lee, started using the term to teach me when I was new to portrait shoot because I did quite a few shoots in a garden and park kind of environment. Therefore, I started using Garden Shoot to describe amateur kind of photoshoot. There is, of course, nothing wrong with shooting in a garden and I still depend on them at times, depending on the theme.
Amateur photographers and models do not usually plan their shoots properly and thus leaving the results to luck. I use "amateur" instead of "new" because many hobbyists are likely to remain as amateurs no matter how long they have been working on the art, be it five or ten years.
What most amateurs usually do is to set a location and time, and the model may bring along two or three sets of clothes on the day for the photographer to choose. Time and effort for discussion is minimal; both photographer and model are pleased for the ease of preparation and there is low chance of having any disagreement. During the shoot, the model will do some poses and smile for the camera. They call it a "fashion shoot".
From my experience, some girls would request to shoot at tourists' spots or popular Instagramable places like Marina Bay Sands or even the Buddha Tooth temple. It seems more like they're trying to let their followers know "I was here". Therefore, the "fashion shoot" resembles a tourist's photograph.
The problem of doing a Garden shoot is that nobody is forever lucky. There will be a few times that everything will turn out fine and some reasonably acceptable photographs may be produced; but the chance of getting good photographs is low. What if none of the two or three outfits the model has brought along is nice enough? What if there is a set of nice outfit but it just does not suit the location - a green dress in a garden or brown dress in a place made with wooden planks (example, Henderson Waves)? Without proper planning, what if the direction of sun is wrong? What if it's sunny day and the outdoor shoot is scheduled at 12 noon?
From my experience, most amateur models do not have a 10/10 fashion/styling sense. Many over-confident models may also think that they are good in doing their own makeup. They may have been blinded by the countless of compliments by their admirers. It is, however, challenging to correct them in a way that will not offend them. This is an additional skill that photographer has to pick up along the way.
Often, amateur photographers will let them (models) have their ways. Most of these photographers are hobbyists and some may be more interested in the process of doing the photo shoots (mingling with model) than getting better photographs. Photography is a good way to date girls of reasonable good looks out and get to know them better. Some photographers may even try to take advantage of the girls physically.
For models who have done a few Garden Shoots, it can be difficult for a professional photographer to communicate with them because no matter how much they wish to cooperate, subconsciously, they don't see the planning necessary. When a person does not see the necessity in doing something, she is less likely to spend the time to do it. Perhaps, if a model has been smiling in front of the camera all along, it may be difficult to get her to create other more interesting kind of shoots, such as one that will require her to show emotion instead.
This is the reason sometimes I will be hesitate to work with models who have done quite a number of Garden Shoots - I may end up offending them when I try to get them to cooperate with me, especially when dealing with an over-confident "model". Unfortunately, I may not be able to determine their half-heartedness at the start of discussion and some models do drag the discussion until the planned shooting day. They degrade the quality of my work although it is not professional for me to point out to my viewers on the exact people and things they have done, and explain why I'm not able to get a proper HMUA or assistant to work together. At least for sure, I will not get a third person involved until I can ensure the model is someone worth working with and won't postpone the shoot.
With the gigantic number of amateur photographers and aspiring models, including HMUAs, these days, more and more people are taking Garden Shoot as a norm. This is something inevitable and we cannot blame amateurs for starting a bad trend but perhaps, everyone has the responsibility to learn more and not pass on wrong mindset or procedure to their future team-mates.
It's time for every photography enthusiast to progress and move out of the Garden Shoot phase.
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