Timothy Phelan

Hi Tim: Thanks for taking the time to go from being the one asking the questions to answering them.

Not a problem Steve, though I doubt many will actually read it, the models are so much more interesting!

1. What got you into photography and how long have you been a photographer?

I was in high school and my friend suggested we take a photography class because we could take photos of the cheerleaders. Sadly I never did take any photos of the cheerleaders, but I fell in love with photography, this was way back in 1977. Eventually we graduated from High School and my friend gave up photography, I never did.

2. What photographers have been the biggest influence on you?

Without a doubt it would have to be my High School teacher, Mr. Chenoweth. He taught me to see photos where ever I looked, I look back now and I’m amazed at how much he was able to teach me.

3. What us one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs?

That you can create Art by photographing people. I spent the majority of my life NOT taking photos of people.

4. What is your preferred equipment?

Currently it is a toss up between my Nikon D-7100 and my Fuji X-H1. The Fuji is my new camera, but I have to admit I got consistently sharper images with the Nikon. There is a lot of truth in the statement that it is the photographer not the camera that makes the photo, but it is also true that a good tool makes the job easier.

5. I know you mostly from the local photographer and modeling community. How did you first get into model photography?

I used to be married with a beautiful daughter. My then wife suggested that I go to a meet and greet on model photography. She pushed me kicking and screaming into going, once I did, I discovered that there was so much to learn and that photographing people, and doing it well, was a brave new world for me to explore and master. (Note: I’m a long way from mastering this, but the trip is fun) My marriage ended (no connection to photographing people) and I threw myself into learning all I could about photography.

6. What is your secret to a successful modeling shoot?

There isn’t just one, there are quite a few actually.

• Learn how to operate your camera. P is not for professional. I shoot in manual (where I pick what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO)

• Learn how to use and control light. This doesn’t always mean you have to use strobes, it means you learn to see light, how it is going to affect the image, how to control it, so the resulting photo comes out to look as you visualized it in your mind. So many photographers say, I shoot natural light, which translates into they have no clue about lighting and they just shoot and hope the photos come out. Don’t get me wrong, there are also people who shoot with natural light but know how to pose the model to take advantage of it. They know how to use reflectors and strobes when needed.

• Be relaxed around the models. Don’t worry about them thinking you are hitting on them, they are intelligent people and can tell that you love creating art! Oh, and if you are hitting on them? STOP! It isn’t a dating site.

• Constantly look for the small details in the image, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating beautiful images and you have to take a moment to look at the small things, oh her eyes are dark when I wanted them light, there is a shadow on her face, I cut off a shoe, there is a piece of garbage on the floor.

• Involve the model. Stop and show her the images you are creating together, the more excited she gets with the images, the better they will turn out. While it is ok to encourage her to push her boundaries, remember they are her boundaries and you should always respect her decisions. This is why I like to end the shoot by handing my camera to the model, let her review the images, and if she is uncomfortable with any image, just delete it.

• Listen to the model, they are usually intelligent people and come up with incredible ideas!

• In the end, remember it is only an image, so enjoy the process and if you don’t get a particular shot you wanted? Just smile.

7. What advice do you have for first time models?

• Be safe. Ask to bring a friend, if they say no, or if they are very controlling, like no Parents, or no males, that is a red flag.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for references from other models who have worked with the photographer.

• Don’t EVER feel forced into doing a shoot you are not comfortable with. It is your face, your body. You never want to do any shoot, no matter what a photographer, or anyone else, tells you, that makes you uncomfortable. This is supposed to be a fun thing!

• Look closely at the work someone does before you say yes. I’ve heard from so many people that someone photographed them and they didn’t like the images. Then I look at the images and they are exactly what he has done with all the other models he has photographed. In other words, if you don’t like his work, don’t expect them to do a better job with you. It is a waste of your time, and unfair to the photographer.

8. What's the biggest challenge to working with more inexperienced models?

Actually, it is a pleasure to work with an inexperienced model because they bring a sense of excitement to the shoot. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you show someone a photo on the back of your camera and their entire face lights up with happiness. I’m going to let you in on a secret, almost every woman knows how to pose, they just don’t realize it. I can’t tell you how many times I will look over at the model, and she, without even thinking, has suddenly gone into a perfect pose. I will mention one thing that every new model should do, practice making different expressions in the mirror. I seem to be able to communicate how I want a model to pose so we usually end up with incredible photos. To go slightly off track from this question, I highly recommend that any new photographer hire an experienced model in the beginning, you will learn so much from them, not only how to pose a model, but some of the best under stand lighting and can help you learn that also.

9. If you could take your art in any direction, where would it lead?

Hopefully it would lead to better images! Lol. I find myself being drawn to more dramatic lighting, to creating more mature, sensual, images. I love it when I am able to capture the inner person in the photo, sometimes that is the actual person, sometime that is what the person wishes to be. I want to do more detailed themes and less, just pick out three outfits.

10. Do you always find yourself looking at the world as though it was a photograph?

I do. One of the biggest debts I owe my high school teacher is he taught me to see images/beauty everywhere. I often find myself lost in thought because I am seeing something that would make a beautiful image. This happens whether I am happy or depressed, the images are always there, just when depressed, I see the beauty and don’t always care.

11. What advice do you have for newer photographers?

You have a great eye! Great. Now take that great eye, and LEARN photography. Learn what makes a photo better, learn how to operate your camera, learn, learn, LEARN. Turn your dial to M and leave it there. Yes, I know many experienced photographers will use other modes, but You are smarter than the camera, you are more creative than the camera, take control of the camera instead of just letting it try and do the work for you. One last thing, after you take an image, don’t just bask in the glory of your image, look at it closely. Are there shadows that shouldn’t be on the model’s face? Can you see her eyes or are they dead looking, did you get all the technical details right, are there details in the blacks (as opposed to being pure black) details in the whites? Trees growing out of the head? Body parts cut off, Great shot, except you cut off half her hand or foot.

12. What is your favorite photoshoot?

Who is your best friend? Your favorite sibling? Honestly, I’ve had so many wonderful shoots, it would be impossible to single one out. So instead I’ll just let you know what they all have in common. We are having fun, Trying something new, creative.

13. What's your dream photoshoot?

Epic. Having Jessica Alba model for me would be a good start. 😉 To be serious, my dream photoshoot is a moving topic, because it involves doing something creative and new, so once I achieve my “dream photoshoot” then I’m going to be looking for a new Dream! I do want to do more elaborate planned shoots.

14. How would you describe your photographic style?

In general, I would describe it as a total rejection of having a style. To me, I would much rather have someone reaction on seeing a photo I took be, Tim took this? Than, yea, I can tell Tim took that.

15. Who haven’t you worked with in the local photography and modeling community that's at the top of your list?

That is a little too fanboy of a question for me! Suffice it to say there are so many talented Models and Photographers that it would be a pleasure to work with. There is also a huge amount of people that I have worked with, that I would love to work with again.

16. What's your favorite lense and why?

That is easy. Nikkor 35-70 2.8 lens. It is incredibly sharp and focuses under difficult lighting conditions like a dream.

17. How do you improve your photography skills?

Have I improved my skills? I have taken classes, lots of classes, I watch videos online, I set goals for myself and try to figure out how to achieve the goals, I am always learning. I watch other photographers to see if they know something new to me. No one likes criticism. But I make a HUGE effort to listen to those I respect. I shot some photos for a friend, they mentioned that not all of the images were as tack sharp as they liked. My reaction was I looked at the images, I looked really hard, and I realized that I was getting sloppy, I wasn’t holding my camera properly. I wasn’t bracing myself. I corrected that. While I’m answering this, we are in the midst of the convid 19 shutdown, so I’m doing Zoom conferencing with a friend, to learn new things about photography, about Photoshop, etc.

18. What is your greatest strength as a photographer?

I often see shots that others don’t. I remember I was out shooting with a very talented photographer. He stopped, and took a photo, I walked up to the spot he was and looked, and it was an incredible shot, I walked on without taking a photo and he asked me why I didn’t take the image, that just because he shot it didn’t mean I couldn’t shoot it also. I just smiled and said, actually yes it does mean that. If I go with a group of photographers, I strive to find something unique to capture.

19. What's the one part of photography you want to improve upon?

Right now, there are two that I’m struggling with. One is to get better at making selections in photoshop, the other is to learn my new camera better, the Nikon was second nature to me, the Fuji is more of a challenge. I find that I did better with my Nikon and I’m still trying to discover if it is just pilot error (I’m doing something wrong) or if the Nikon is a better system. The Jury is still out on this one.

20. What is your normal portrait editing workflow?

You would think this would be easy. In very general terms, because it changes depending on the image, this would be fairly typical.

1. Check the amount of light (not just in the studio) Check the color temperature. Try and get everything as perfect as possible IN the camera. Photoshop is to improve the image, not to make up for crappy photography.

2. Import the images into my computer using lightroom.

3. I have a strict import process. I import into a folder using this format TJP-1339-Name TJP stands for my name, Timothy J. Phelan. 1339 is the shoot number, it increases every time, Name is a descriptive name of the shoot, such as Alba. When the photos are imported, they are also are renamed the exact same way, so the first one would be TJP-1339-Alba-01, then 02, etc. This means whenever I look at the name of the image, it tells me exactly where it is on my computer.

4. Once in lightroom, I switch to the Develop module and do any global adjustments, then I export to Photoshop. Every photo is different, but I use the healing tools and perspective warp as needed. Content aware fill is a powerful tool. I use layers quite a bit. Often, I will change out the background or modify it. Then I save it and go back into Lightroom. I find lightroom does a great job of softening skin, whitening teeth, etc. This is where I prefer to crop the image also, since it is nondestructive.

5. While there isn’t a need for this, I export the finished, edited image as a jpeg.

21. What didn’t I ask you that I should have asked you and what's your answer?

What is the best and what is the worst about photography.

The best is making someone happy and creating art.

The worse is people who don’t want to put the effort to grow beyond the GWC stage (Guy/Girl with Camera) With that said, I came to a decision about a year ago. I decided that there was too much negativity in the photography world, and I didn’t need to be part of that. So, when a model asks me about a great photographer, I say, He is a great photographer! Or I may volunteer, this photographer is really, really good at… In general, though, If I am asked about a particular photographer, my go to answer is, to tell them if I think the person is safe (there is only one I warn against) and then I tell the model, beyond that, look at his work, do you like it? If so, they shoot with them, if you don’t like their work, then don’t shoot with them.

I have never been, nor am I now, a perfect photographer, friend, or person. But in all three categories, I try to be constantly improving.

Thanks, Tim!!

Thank you Steve Deisig