Chat with a Pro: Interview with Photographer Tanya Constantine

They don’t have to be gorgeous, but they have to be someone you want to get close to. If not, there’s no point in shooting that model. They just won’t sell.

Tanya Constantine is everywhere. Even if you didn’t know her name, you’ve seen her work because it’s used by major brands across the globe. Maybe even in outer space.

She’s the kind of photographer every model dreams to work with. I’ve worked with her several times over the past few years and asked for an interview because her creative process embodies the three things I think are most important in a shoot: creativity, trust, and fun.

CP: How long have you been a professional photographer? How did you get into it?

TC: I have been a professional photographer for the past 12 years. Prior to that, I always had a camera (since a teenager) and took photos and portraits, but I rarely got paid, except a few times when I photographed my father, who was an American movie star in France. He got me a couple of paid photo gigs, one of which was for an ad campaign (in the 1970’s). But somehow I wasn’t able to find photography work that paid, so I just did it as a hobby, and made a living doing dance, working for attorneys and doctors. And then, in 2001, I met a woman photographer (Trinette Reed) who showed me how to earn money doing what I love to do. She had found a way. With stock photography. I got encouraged by the results of one of my shoots which she submitted to Getty Images and one of those shots got plastered all over Europe and brought in $10,000. That gave me the impetus to continue doing stock and ever since then, that’s what I’ve been doing, and loving it.

CP: What’s your specialty? Outdoors? Children? What makes that type of photography exciting to you?

TC: My specialty at this point is headshots/portraits, and dance photos. I do them both in the studio AND outdoors. Look Talent Agency in San Francisco refers me to all their models and actors, and I’m gearing up towards getting other talent agencies to use me too. What I love about doing portraits is that there’s a connection that happens when I come close to a model and the intimacy allows them to express who they are, and for me to be able to extract their essence (when they’re not able to do it on their own… and eventually, they learn during the photo session, how to do it). It’s very exciting. What I love about doing dance photos is that since I was a dancer when I was living in France, I know timing, and timing is essential to catch the moment. I also have a keen sense of aesthetics, so I can catch the style of a movement and that makes for spectacular shots.

CP: YAY Look Talent! So, for stock work, what do you look for in a model?

TC: Bright eyes, attractive-looking people. But especially expressive eyes. For stock, the biggest and most important thing is that they have something that attracts attention. They don’t have to be gorgeous, but they have to be someone you want to get close to. If not, there’s no point in shooting that model. They just won’t sell.

CP: If you’re working with first-time models, how can they prepare for the shoot? What should they bring? Any pose advice?

TC: For first time models, the best thing they can do to prepare is for them to look through magazines and set aside some tear sheets of shots that they like and how the models are posing. They need to bring wardrobe with collars that suit them. Very important. They also need to watch themselves in the mirror and play act. Then they can see how they look and what looks good and what doesn’t. Then, during their first shoot, it’s the best thing for them to be able to look at all the shots – the good ones AND the bad ones, to see how they are in front of the camera. I either allow my models to look through the images at the end of the shoot, or I send them the CD of all the images so they can see what they did. It’s extremely useful for them, and I feel good about offering this to them. It’s like offering them a free seminar. My models come out of our sessions feeling encouraged and inspired. I LOVE that. Another thing I love is when I get e-mails from them saying they got cast because of my photos. That’s the best! Or when I see an ad with one of the photos I took of them! Yay! Like yours, Cynthia, on the cover of that health magazine. What a blast!

Our cover for Delicious Living Magazine <3

Our cover for Delicious Living Magazine <3

You asked about any pose advice… Full frontal should be avoided. There are very few models who look good full frontal, so the best is for them to stand in diagonal (not totally sideways), with their head facing the camera. However, that said, I like to have them move to the music so that they can be natural. Posing is an art (as you well know, Cynthia) and the best pose is the one that doesn’t look like it’s posing. Not easy to do. Takes years of practice. But initially, models can get there by relaxing and not thinking too much. It shows in the frame when the model is thinking. The eyes literally look like they’re not there. That doesn’t work. Self-confidence really is the best thing for that!

CP: Any additional advice you have for new models?

TC: Yes. Relax and enjoy yourself during a shoot. Hopefully, there is music, and it’s great when you are having fun. There’s nothing like it. It really shows in the frame.

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