Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Fenton Moon Media

Hello, dear readers. Here I am in the month of March, writing yet another blog. I was feeling kind of bad when I realized that I didn’t write a blog until we were in the third month of the new year, however, when I went back over the previous year, it was the same thing. I didn’t start gaining speed until March. I guess because I’ve been so busy with work (again, thank God), but also if you’ve been following the winter in New York, it’s been absolutely horrible.

The reason for this blog is I’ve been coming across a lot of models (both male and female) who have been asking me for advice with regards to their careers, and even though I am flattered, I have to let you people know something: I am not a modeling agency. I am a professional photographer with a career of my own to manage, therefore, I really don’t have the time to follow you and your career. When I DO decide to help a model, it is usually one reason why. They listen. It’s just that simple – hence the title of this blog.

When I decide to work with a model, it is because I see potential in them. I see beauty in them. I see grace in them. I refuse to work with stuck up models, arrogant models, untalented models or wannabe models. The model that is the absolute WORSE to work with is the model that does not listen. When I (or anyone in the profession that are able to help you, are wise, or can get you  - as you like to say “put on”) you should take that valuable advice and run with it. I have two colleagues that come to mind when it comes to getting a wealth of information regarding the modeling business. That’s Karen Lee ( (formerly the director of scouting for Elite Models) and Michael Maddox ( and Right there before you is a wealth of information. Most times when models approach me, I refer them to their websites. The owners of these sites have been in the modeling industry for well over 20 years. They knows the ins and outs of the industry, the whys the wherefores, what to do, and what NOT to do. If Michael Maddox was to say “stand in the middle of Times Square at 12 noon and spin three times” you better to do it and don’t ask why.

But you know what I get when I tell models to go check it out. They go to these websites, but it gets to a point that you have to actually sign on and join (for a small fee). That means you have to pay. Guess what? They don’t want to. They expect the information to be handed to them on a silver platter. In the age of instant information and instant gratification, they feel they shouldn’t have to pay. These are the same models that think they shouldn’t have to pay for a photoshoot as well. But think about it: for the price of a decent lunch, you can have a wealth of information placed before and even ability to speak to the them personally.  Isn’t that worth its weight in gold? To think that if they could bestow a few pearls of wisdom upon you, that you can possibly get into an agency, possibly get to the next level and possibly get put on? Why won’t you do it?

Because you don’t want to listen. Therefore, since you don’t want to listen why should they waste their time with a model that doesn’t heed the advice given to them.

The reason why there's a Marcus Hill, Marlon Yates, Steph Jones, BJ Williams, Brandon Thomas, Anthony Gallo, and Mehcad Brooks, because they listen. Michael Maddox started these boys along with numerous others, and together they’ve created an undeniable team of success. Thinking that you know everything when you really don’t gives you a losing result every single time. I always likend Michael Maddox to Anna Wintour (the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine). She shakes and bakes Vogue. People may not like her that much, but she gets the results of success. Personally, I would rather listen to someone who knows the business rather than pay exorbitant amounts of money running all over the place and listening to people who can’t do anything for me, in all honesty you're not getting anywhere or gaining anything. Then what happens? You get angry with the world because YOU didn’t listen, or YOU didn’t follow the path to guaranteed success. There is an old saying that goes “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  Be careful of the other side. The roots of that grass may be weak. Listening, patience and persistence will give you a win-win outcome every single time.

So if I tell you to lose weight, then lose it. If I tell you to cut your hair because it will make you more marketable, then cut it. If I tell you that you are NOT a “high-fashion” model that you will be better as a “commercial” model, take heed.  If I tell you that a particular photographer is not suitable for your book, I am not hating on that photographer, I am telling you what you need to do to advance your career.

I gain NOTHING by telling you the truth. I gain NOTHING out of bestowing knowledge on you. I gain NOTHING out of giving you my industry “hook ups”. That’s all for you and to help you launch your career.

I have a proven track record for the work that I’ve produced for models (ask any one of the many models I helped get signed). If you let me do my job, you will get signed. If you do your job, you will get signed. If you listen, guess what? You will get signed.

The rest is up to you. So if you’re serious… REALLY REALLY serious… Then LISTEN.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Billy Payne

Credit:  Photographer Daniel Serrette via hodginsphotography

Wow. Look at the date (March 2, 2011). This is my first official blog of 2011. Sooooooooooooo Happy New Year, Happy Valentine's Day, Happy President's Day and Happy Ground Hog's Day.  I can’t even BEGIN to explain why I haven’t been writing. I apologize for not writing sooner (yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard THAT before). I’ve been busy with shooting (thank, God), building my brand (finally realizing what I need to do to make that happen), upgrading equipment (new studio lights are on their way) and promoting my lighting seminar ( So dear readers, I want you to know that even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been busy plugging away making things happen for me (and others) behind the scenes.

I will do a re-cap of what’s been going on in the past few months and when time allows address each one of these topics in their own blog.

Let’s see. I FINALLY met the wonderful and illustrious Michael Maddox face to face and we had a modeling seminar (that will definitely be a blog).  He was so much fun.

I was introduced to a new and talented designer by the name of Vaughn Jereaux Adams ( and did some shooting of his women’s line.

The shoot for Adha Zelma called “Autumn” ( was met with rave reviews.

I was featured in article in Style-ology Magazine and finally my long awaited and much anticipated editorial with the wonderful and talented designer/stylist Robert Durant for Bleu Magazine finally on the shelves at various bookstores and newsstands (

I was approached by the African-American painting phenom Kihende Wiley ( to be his lighting technician and photographer for some upcoming art projects. (Let's see what our agents have to say). 

And lastly, what I am known to do, I shot a few models and changed their lives.

But back to the topic at hand. When I write a blog, it usually pertains to the fashion and modeling industry as a whole, however, anything that is discussed here can be used in any walk of life. Just change the occupations and some of the anecdotes to suit your particular lifestyle and voilá, you have your own life altering epiphany right before your very eyes.

The reason for this blog was a person asked me most recently “do you consider yourself a talented photographer or a skillful photographer?” I didn’t have to give it much thought. My answer immediately was “skillful.” That prompted the next question: "How so?"

There are a lot of talented photographers out here. With the advent of digital photography, the learning curve has dropped into the toilet and almost anyone can pick up a camera kit at your local Wal-Mart and start snapping away. If a person takes 10,000 photographs, its inevitable they will eventually take a nice picture. I will venture to say they may even take a good one. They may go on to take several good pictures. It does take a certain amount of talent to produce a good image every now and then and most photographers when starting out (if they know what they are doing) have some sort of talent, passion and drive, hence the reason for this blog.

So where does the skill part come in? The hours upon hours upon hours of perfecting my craft, the endless sleepless nights of understanding just where to put a particular strobe to achieve an effect that I want. To understand the precise moment of the sun rise or sun set and how it glints in a subject’s eye. To figure out and master the most exact ratio where the blending of flash and ambient light comes together to produce a stellar and dramatic image. To understand that if I stand just right at a particular point in the room, I can look at a model and see just how the light is going to flicker in his or her eye to create an image the will make the viewer heart skip a beat. That all takes a level of skill. You will only get so far on your talent. You need consistency and wherewithal to get the job done time after time and that can only be done with skill. And lastly, knowing enough to never have to talk about just how good you are, because honestly, your work should speak for itself.

As I said earlier in this blog a lot of people are buying cameras, lighting equipment, building a website and setting up shop. They are charging unsuspected and gullible models fees at a time when they should really be learning their craft. The unsuspecting models think that they are getting quality images from a skillful photographer, because they don’t know any better. But when you hear from someone (usually the horse’s mouth) about how FABULOUS they are, you tend to buy into the hype.

It’s bothersome and even hurtful for those of us who have made this an actual livelihood of producing consistent, quality images. We put in the time, the effort, the love, the passion, the hours and the money. When we set a particular rate it is because we have proven track records. If a model comes to me and says “I need photographic images that will help me get signed.” I know what to produce for them time and time again. If a client comes to me and says “I want to shoot like a Revlon campaign” they need not say more, I know what to give them. When a person says “I need actor’s headshots not model’s headshots” I know EXACTLY

It took me almost three years of studying and learning my craft before I even thought I was worthy enough to start charging for my services. It takes a lot more than just pointing your camera at a model and clicking away before you could (or should) call yourself a professional photographer. I’ve seen countless “newbies” come on to the scene and say “Yes, I am just as good as Dallas and I don’t charge as much.” Oh yeah? I have YET to say I can shoot like any of my peers or contemporaries (which I am constantly compared to other photographers – I get that), but I am not going to brag I am just as good or better than the next guy. You came to me for a product, either you’re going to like me or you’re not. You’re going to pay my rate or you won’t, but I will not have to brag about my work. I am at a point of my career, I don’t have to.

So to all you so-called photographers: Learn your craft. Master your artistry. Stop bragging. Get to a place where you are producing quality images (time and time and time again). Stop taking money from unsuspecting models and producing substandard work.

So, shut the fuck up and let your work speak for itself.