Megan Love is a very busy escort. She’s an escort. The founder of SouthernGFE.com. And she has a growing photography business. She debuted her revamped photography site in the past year. It impressed me and I asked her to volunteer an interview. Not only is the quality of her work impressive, but her approach to photographing escorts is pitch-perfect. Basically, if I were to create the ideal escort photographer, it would be Megan. She’s a girl after my own heart.
One of my big gripes with typical boudoir photographers is the amount of retouching — too much!* Usually the results are nice but no one can call the pictures “real.” Or…I’ve seen photographers who apparently don’t retouch at all, which doesn’t work for any woman who doesn’t look naturally-airbrushed. Megan strikes a very nice middle ground. Her subjects appear real and look good, without obvious manipulation of the image.
She’s also a fan of natural light and continuous lighting as opposed to strobes. This means her lighting mimics what the eye naturally sees, giving her pictures an inviting feel. She has a very good eye for posing her models, which probably comes from her beginnings of shooting herself and learning what does and doesn’t look good. As if that weren’t enough, she believes that the photographer should make corrections during the shoot instead of in Photoshop! The last time I heard that view espoused was by my photo teachers in college.
She admits she is still learning and is clearly open to experimenting with technique and collaborating with her models. Her portfolio will continue to grow and her models will continue to look great.
Megan is an extremely ethical photographer, which is a rare quality in a field overrun by those ready to take advantage of escorts. Her rates are reasonable. Though they will probably rise to meet demand, she plans to keep them within reason. The next time I need some sexy new pix, I’m going to see if Megan is available.
You’re a very busy girl: escort, owner of SouthernGFE.com, and professional photographer. How do you manage your time and energy?
It took a little while, but I have learned how to prioritize my life and cut out as many distractions as possible. I’m fairly low volume in my escort world, and that allows me to spend more time with other areas of my life. Thankfully, with SouthernGFE, I do have help with site maintenance and all technical aspects of the site, as well as my other sites. I really am a simple kind of girl, and that makes it a little easier to keep everything organized and moving forward.
Have you taken any photo classes or training? Any photo books that you found useful or inspiring? Any online resources?
I’ve taken a grand total of one class. It was a lighting class, but that class didn’t really address the low lighting, erotic style that I shoot. The emphasis was more about portraits and head shots. The vibe of the class was very dry and technical, and I tend to be a better student when the learning environment is a little more artistic and “outside the box.” There are, however, a few workshops that I want to attend in the near future. The only online resource that I can say that I have used is Youtube.
How did you make the decision that you were good enough to be paid for your photo work? That’s a leap of faith for many people.
I wasn’t completely convinced that I was ready until about 4 years ago when a couple of girls asked me to take some pictures for their websites and insisted that they be able to pay me for my work. At that time I was still getting comfortable being behind the camera, and having that kind of reassurance convinced me that I was ready to turn my hobby into a career. It still took another couple of years of learning my camera and developing my own style before I felt confident enough to put a firm rate up.
Do you get many boudoir or model portfolio requests? In other words, civilian women? Do you want to reach more civilians or are you happy working mainly with escorts?
I do get inquiries from ladies who just want a simple boudoir shoot for their husbands or fiancés. But most of the inquiries come from the escort world. I can say that I feel extremely comfortable working with ladies in the adult business, but at some point I would like to incorporate more civilian shoots. Got to keep a balance somehow, right?
Is there a difference (to you) when you do a civilian boudoir shoot vs an escort shoot?
The only real differences are technical. I have to be more aware of the final size/resolution of the images and make sure facial features and expressions are flattering when dealing with the civilian shoot. The escorts tend to not show their faces or have me blur them when editing, and they are getting their images done for their own websites and using them on other online advertising sites where the size and resolution of the image isn’t nearly as important compared to prints. The civilian ladies might also be using them for some type of website, but there is a very high probability that they will be printing the images I give them.
Have to say I’m amazed at your incredibly reasonable pricing. I assume at some point you will raise your rates for the same reasons any small business-person does. Do you ever see yourself charging $1000 per shoot at some point? More?
Above all else, I try to be fair with everything I do. The hours for the packages that I currently offer will probably be adjusted in the near future, but the rate for those packages will more than likely stay the same. This really isn’t for any other reason than the fact that as I gain more experience and become more efficient, I don’t need as long to get the right shots. What might have taken me 10 minutes to set up or figure out a year or even six months ago only takes me half as long now. I want to also keep a lower rate for the basic package for those girls who might be struggling, or maybe they just don’t want to spend a lot of time or need a lot of images.
I do plan on adding a higher rate package or two at some point. But in order for me to feel that those higher rates are justified, I want to be able to offer more than just a simple X amount of time and x amount of pictures for a specific rate. When it comes to escorts, I can relate to what they are trying to achieve, so I try to think of things to offer and a way to offer it to them that isn’t just beneficial for me and my career, but beneficial for the ladies as well.
Lots of photographers offer all-day shoots and you don’t. Is it something you want to try, or do you recognize that you and your client reach a point of exhaustion?
I do plan on offering all-day packages at some point. I have done a few lengthy shoots and even a couple of weddings that were 9 hours straight and, yes, the exhaustion factor definitely had me ready to pack it up and call it a day. Some ladies are even exhausted after only a couple of hours. I do think that under the right circumstances, and with the right model/photographer chemistry, the all-day shoots would be a great opportunity to incorporate indoor and outdoor shots, with multiple venues and locations being used.
How do you feel about music, food and beverages during the shoot? Do you allow pets on the set?
I always have a bottle of wine and music available, and I will play whatever music the model is in the mood for. If she wants to bring any type of drinks, food or music of her own, then I certainly wouldn’t mind. I haven’t been in a situation where pets were on set, but being a pet lover myself, I wouldn’t mind it at all if that were to happen.
Your turnaround time on pictures is incredibly fast. How do you manage that when many full-time boudoir photographers can’t?
One factor is that I don’t believe in over processing my images. That’s why I spend a little more time “seeing” or eyeballing the shot when I’m taking the picture rather than believing I can rely on Photoshop or Lightroom to correct a mistake that I could have fixed before the image was taken. If I get the images right before the editing process, then obviously there is going to be less time I have to spend editing them for mistakes. That means the model is going to get her images much quicker than if I were to have to spend hours on each image.
Another factor is that I start working on the pictures as quickly as possible. I enjoy going through images of a photo shoot and finding the ones that I believe are the best representation of the model. It almost feels like opening presents on Christmas day. The fact that I’m eager to get started and the fact that I don’t want to keep the ladies waiting for their images makes the editing process fun and efficient at the same time.
An escort brings in a magazine photo and really want you to copy it as much as possible. How do you feel about that?
The “look” that each lady wants to achieve is completely up to her. I will accommodate her as best I can. Sometimes it can be really helpful if the model comes in with some ideas of her own and then we blend that with some ideas that I have. She doesn’t have to come in with any concrete examples or ideas of her own, but I definitely encourage it, because it can make for a more enthusiastic and focused shoot.
Do the escorts do their own hair and makeup? Or do they come in professionally done? Does it matter to you?
They usually do their own hair and makeup. Most of time they aren’t showing their faces or they plan on having their faces blurred. It really depends on the lady, but whatever they feel is best for them is usually what’s best for me.
What’s the worst pose a girl can attempt?
Whatever that pose is where a girl stands up with her hands against the wall, legs spread like she’s being arrested, looking back at the camera making those awful duck lips. But to each their own I guess. [This made me laugh out loud.]
What is a universally-flattering pose?
An angled body shot with the lady laying down really works well with most ladies and body types. But getting the right angle that accents the model is critical to making it work.
How do you handle model releases and copyright?
Since most of my models are using aliases and constantly live under the threat of having their anonymity compromised, I tend to not really mess with model releases. When a lady hires me to take her photos, then those images are hers. What she does with them is her business. If she requests that I remove all of her images from my website, I remove them. Copyright protection is something that I don’t think much about. Maybe I should, and maybe at some point I will, but at this stage of my career I just don’t spend any time thinking about it.
Do you suggest that escorts digitally-watermark their pictures in case of theft? (i.e. using a service like Digimarc)
I can only suggest what’s been told to me and the way I’ve since approached watermarking: “For a simple way to protect an image, visual watermarks are a good idea. They can be done tastefully and, when done right, are a far better deterrent to theft than the embedded data or invisible watermarks that some programs offer. In some cases that invisible data can be stripped out just as easily as it was put in when someone compresses the image or blurs it. With the kind of photography you’re dealing with right now, and the types of individuals who might want to steal those images, anything beyond the visual watermark is just overkill. Better to put the emphasis and time on making them think twice about stealing the image in the first place than to waste time trying to catch them after the fact.”
There aren’t many escort-turned-photographers out there. I feel your portfolio stands out. I’m very picky about lighting and posing — something you seem to have a natural feel for.
I think the fact that I have posed in front of the camera many, many times before gives me a slight advantage over other photographers. That has given me the confidence to not just be able suggest more flattering poses for the model to try, but to be able to convey it to her in a way that gives her some confidence as well. I will do the pose myself so she can see what exactly it is I want her to do.
I’m slowly learning more and more of the technical side of photography, but I believe my talent and strength is(and always will be) in the artistic side of the picture taking process. Some photographers are thinking more about ISO, shutter speed and aperture as they look through the viewfinder. I tend to see the image almost exclusively in a way that tells a story. I think about what’s most flattering on my model, and then I try to capture it. I see the pose I want in my head, I then figure out the “technical” aspects and lighting effect that I’m going for, then I put my focus on the bigger picture.
Do you stick to learning only about boudoir photography or has your learning been a la carte from different types of photography?
Boudoir, Pin-up and anything artistic and erotic seems to keep my interest a little more. Most of my ideas come from things I’ve learned by looking at those types of images and being involved in those types of shoots(whether behind or in front of the camera). I have been a second photographer at a couple of weddings. My learning process has also included portraits, senior pictures, pets, and even some architectural photography. I’m not saying that I haven’t learned anything from those experiences, and I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy them or wouldn’t want to do that kind of photography again, but they just aren’t my niche and haven’t given me the same level of learning as the erotic stuff.
Any awkward moments with an escort shoot you care to share?
I can honestly say that I haven’t had any real awkward moments. I seem to mesh well with the ladies and there’s never been a situation where personality differences have come into play. I’m pretty balanced and open-minded, so that probably has a lot to do with it.
I’m sure you’ve heard horror-stores about male photographers, what’s one of the most memorable?
Nothing stands out other than the same recurring theme that I have heard from more than a few ladies. The client/photographer who tries to barter his services and ends up giving the lady horrible images or not giving her any images at all and uses those images for some kind of personal gain. They usually prey on the newer girls who are either just getting started and don’t know any better or might not have the funds and see the bartering as the only way. Part of the reason why my rates are lower than some of the other photographers out there is to make it possible for the ladies to never have to deal with those types of faux photographers.
As a photo nerd, I have to ask what equipment you use, especially for lighting? What equipment did you start out with for yourself?
I guess I should first say that for the way I shoot and what I’m most comfortable with right now, I prefer continuous light over flash/strobe. I’ve heard some photographers say that’s the “wrong way” to do things, but I go with what I get the best results with, and right now that’s continuous light in most situations when dealing with erotic shoots.
A Canon 7D for now, but I have the 5D Mark III and possibly the 1D-X in my sights. [Very nice!]
Various Canon lenses, with my favorite right now for erotic being the EF 50mm f/1.2
2 Canon 600EX-RT speedlites. I’ve only recently started to incorporate a little more flash into shoots, and they are great
2 Alien Bees B800s that I love, love, love.
A few soft boxes and light modifiers. A Westcott Halo is my favorite so far.
Other than some gels, diffusers and various unmentionables, that’s about it.
When I started out my equipment was as basic as can be. I had a Canon Rebel, the lens it came with and nothing else.
What features do you think hotels need to change to photograph better?
Aside from larger rooms and more upscale furnishings, there need to be more theme rooms and variety. Some cities have a decent selection of theme rooms and boutique hotels, but many cities don’t.
What would be your dream photo shoot?
The only thing that pops into my head is a photo shoot for a Playboy Playmate of the Year, or maybe the personal photographer for a room full of Suicide Girls, and then maybe a naughty naked pillow fight with them all. A completely professional naughty naked pillow fight, of course.
You’ve designed your own sites as well. Ever see yourself going into web design?
I actually have help with most of the design and technical aspects of my websites. I have just started to experiment with more banner designs. Banners aren’t nearly as time-consuming as website design, so it’s easier for me to try my hand at it and still put most of my focus on the photography. I have thought about adding different elements to my photography services, like banner design and even website design being included with certain packages. When that might happen is something I’m just not sure of right now.
Have you ever considered doing any side projects, like a photo documentary on escorts?
Yes. I’m always thinking about side projects and things a little out of the norm. Something like that would definitely pique my interest if the opportunity ever presented itself.
What’s next for you? [professionally speaking]
I plan on doing more traveling to areas that I haven’t been to yet, like out West and further NorthEast. I would love to attend a few seminars around the country where I can learn some more technical skills, but have the learning environment blended with artistic styles and presentations. Continuing to network and bettering my skills is something that never really stops.
*None of this applies to images that are obviously manipulated to create artistic effects, like desaturated colors, graininess, cross-processing or any number of ways the image can be manipulated to create a mood. Creating artistic effects is a whole different idea than retouching the model in order to reshape the body or paint new skin.