opinion

Shooting Outside My Comfort Zone

Holly Randall
In the face of an economy steadily sliding into an ever-more frightening recession, and in light of my newfound status as an independent and now freelance photographer, I began to covet the chance to work for other adult companies. And when I say other companies, I mean the biggest and the best in all of Pornoland. I was hungry and I wanted my fingers in everyone's pie.

I already had negotiated the ability to shoot Wicked contract girls, and I'd established a great relationship with Adam & Eve through shooting their box covers and now their on-set feature movie stills. So when Digital Playground emerged on the scene as one of the newest and hottest companies around, I knew I wanted an opportunity to work with them somehow. Not to mention they had signed some amazing girls who I'd never had the privilege of having in front of my lens, and I have to admit I'm a bit of a slut when it comes to my photography: I want to shoot everybody. Providing of course, I don't wake up in the morning, roll over and wonder how some random unattractive girl ended up on my hard drive. But I knew that would not be the case with these guys: nobody regrets finding Jesse Jane or Stoya in their bed — I mean, err, shoot folder.

So when Acme Andersson, who had developed a friendship with Digital Playground's power publicist Adella, got me an invite to the "Pirates II" premiere, I knew this was my opportunity to get my fingers sticky. At the premiere I met Adella briefly, but as she was understandably completely swamped with running the show, we didn't get a chance to talk. But she was very friendly towards me and I felt encouraged enough to email her a few days later and see if there was any way we could find a way to work together.

After much back-and-forth negotiating, we decided that I would shoot Stoya and their brand new girl, Angelina Armani, in a solo set each and two girl/girl sets. I quickly agreed, not thinking that four full layout-quality sets in 10 hours was really pushing it. Not to mention that I was shooting in a downtown loft with no windows, so each set would have to be carefully lit with several lights, instead of relying on the sun and ambient light to give me the brightness I needed. I think I was just so happy to get the job I figured I could be Superwoman for a day and get it all done.

Nine a.m. on Monday morning we arrived at the loft, with Stoya as my first model. Adella wanted a fetish-y look on her so I decided to dress Stoya in latex and light her with spots. Though spots are a beautiful, dramatic light, this choice was a much more time-consuming lighting job than with large sources of light such as umbrellas or soft boxes. And since this was my first set, and I was overly anxious that the photos come out perfectly and impress Digital Playground, I spent way too long on it. This really set me back for the rest of the day, especially since the intro shots I wanted for the next set — a girl/girl, would be a very involved lighting setup.

And involved it was. Again I lingered too long on the set. There was a stage at this location with a stripper pole, and I had Angelina up on the stage, dressed as a burlesque performer. She was lit brightly with a single spotlight, while Stoya was in the foreground, watching Angelina from the audience. Stoya was dressed in man's white shirt with a top hat and a cane, her back to us. I had her silhouetted against Angelina's bright image, and it made for a truly dramatic photograph. It looked absolutely gorgeous, but that setup alone took up about half of the time it took me to shoot the rest of the girl/girl.

By the time we were ready to wrap up this scenario, we only had a few hours left and I knew there was no way I was going to get another girl/girl shoot plus a solo on Angelina. I began to panic and my heart was racing. Faced with owning up to the fact that I was not Superwoman and that I would be unable to shoot all the content that I'd promised, I was extremely upset.

Wringing my hands, I approached Adella and delivered the dire news. What took me completely by surprise was that Adella was unfazed by the fact that we would be unable to finish up with a solo on Angelina — in fact, she was perfectly happy with only getting three sets instead of four that day. "I'd rather have three high-quality sets than four rushed, unimpressive ones," she said. "Besides, I love your attention to detail and I can see why it would take you longer to shoot each setup."

I cannot describe the relief that washed over me! Suddenly I wasn't in danger of a heart attack, and I could concentrate on the next set (a fetish girl/girl) instead of rushing through it and ending up with material I knew to be hurried and that I would not be happy with.

I dressed Stoya up in military gear, and without knowing it, replicated almost perfectly the cover image of the famous 1974 movie "The Night Porter." I really shouldn't have admitted I'd never seen the movie, and instead pretended it was my intention all along as the knowledgeable movie-buff that I am (not). Angelina was dressed in simple latex bra and panties (looking nothing like any character from "The Night Porter") and was more than happy to put a ball gag in her mouth. There's nothing I love more than a model willing to do whatever it takes for a good shot! And, not to mention it's fun to play charades as she is unable to talk to me, and instead has to gesture wildly as a means of communication. She was a great sport.

Once the shoot wrapped, I was exhausted, sore, and I reeked of cigarettes (the owner, and my crew smoked constantly inside), but I was happy. There is nothing more satisfying than the throbbing of tired legs after a long day of shooting beautiful women. And at this point in time, I look forward to two things: my iMac, where I will edit the photos, and a hot bath, where I will reward my aching body with a replay of the day's events, eyeballs-deep in frothy white bubbles.

But my excitement and anxiety over the photographs overrode my physical needs. My bath grew cold and the bubbles slowly melted away as I sat transfixed before my computer. I fretted over shots where lights had crept into the frame, and scolded myself for not seeing it at the time. Small areas of latex stockings that were not perfectly polished screamed out "Amateur!" to me. Cropping that was a millimeter off, a hair caught in the lip gloss, a barely-there wall socket mocking me from the far corner of the photo — all of these small, barely noticeable imperfections were like glaring failings crying out for my exposure as a fraud.

Yes, I am much too hard on myself. Yes, I am terrified that Digital Playground won't like my photos, and yes, all of these things will keep me up at night, and out of the bath that I so deserve. And there is really only one thing that can set me at ease with a new client, and that's being rebooked. So despite Adella's reassurance that everyone liked the photos, it wasn't until her email with the words " …would like to book you again for Angelina and maybe Jesse Jane in January …" could I finally let out that proverbial breath that I'd been holding in since I delivered the photos. And I swore to myself that next time everything would be perfect: no hairs in the lip gloss, no damn wall sockets in the shot. Maybe next time I can be Superwoman.

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