• Raffaella

Supermodel For An Hour

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Does booking a personal photo shoot make you an egomaniac?

I travel solo pretty often. Even when I'm visiting someone or spending time with friends, I carve out swaths of time to go wherever and do whatever strikes my fancy. Most of the time that's because my face is firmly buried behind my camera as I explore my current world through the lens. For the most part I don't much care about getting photos of myself in front of whatever iconic location or landmark defines the place I'm visiting.

If I want one of those IG worthy totes adorbs facing away from the camera snaps I gotta do it myself. But no matter since apparently I don't stand right AND I don't have a floppy hat. I'm definitely okay with that.

IG account collects cliche shots ... I don't want to be "that gal"

However, I'd be lying if I said I was satisfied being relegated to either selfies or whatever a fellow tourist snaps for me. I rarely hand over my "good" camera so most of them are shot on my iPhone. Without falling victim to the slippery slope of chasing the Insta-perfect (i.e. utter cliche) shot, I had to admit that I still wanted some nice photos of myself just because. For me, for friends or family that give a crap, and yes, for Future Old Wrinkly Me because nostalgia is a demanding mistress.

So close, kind stranger! Of course I can't ask her to wait while I check and then do it over. Right?

My trip to Amsterdam seemed the perfect time to try out this quasi-narcissistic activity since it was a 1000% solo trip. This trip was also a bit of an emotional and mental reset for me, so I thought it would be nice to further mark it with some fancy pants snaps of my goofy mug. With a budget to at least try to stick to (spoiler: I failed anyway), I checked out the Experiences now available through AirBnB. If you're unacquainted with this side of the hosting economy juggernaut, it's no longer just for home and room rentals. You can now book tours, activities, and services. Since launching this option a couple of years ago, they boast of being on track to have 1 million guest bookings annually!

A common experience on offer is a photo shoot with a local photographer. There were quite a few options for Amsterdam, with most prices ranging from about $50 to a little over $100. As a photographer myself, I can tell you this is a terrific deal. The photographers offered 1-2 hours of shooting time, and promised anywhere from 15 to 30 finished images. Again, an absolute high value bargain. I settled on Hague-based photographer Dorin, for about $80.

Many photographers dislike shooting other photographers. Not because of rivalry or nerves but because we're kind of a pain. It's challenging for us to just relax and be a subject (because our brains won't switch off Photographer Mode), and I personally struggle not to be a back seat driver. Dorin was pretty understanding about this, and checked in with me periodically to see if there were ideas I wanted him to try. Truthfully I wish he'd been a little more commanding, as I have quite a strong personality which can sometimes lead others to kind of sit back and let me do my thing. Not always bad but it does demonstrate how important it is for personalities to mesh well. This is NOT to say it wasn't a good experience or that Dorin did a poor job!

I mean, lookit this. He got me looking all kinds of purdy and respectable!

I felt rather silly leaning on pretty bridge railings and composing my face in a way that didn't make me feel completely ridiculous. I don't "do" sexy or what I call "Influencer Looks" well at all, and bless him for not trying to steer me that way. I do have some experience in front of the camera, as I dabbled in modeling and acting in my teens and early 20s. It's been a very long time since that, and this wasn't a gig of that sort, so I felt weird. As we walked around town and I got periodic peeks at what he was capturing, I felt a bit less silly. Sure, people stared some but I ran out of fucks for worrying what strangers think of me quite some time ago. Though Dorin did keep having me stand in the middle of the street, which left me worried about one or both of us getting clobbered by a car or worse - irritated bicyclist!

Finally I just told him that when I was goofing off and making weird faces, that was when he should be taking photos. Those capture my personality best, and me laughing after pulling a face made for some very natural images. I need not have worried I wouldn't like most of the photos (because I'm my own worst critic, not because of him) as I had quite a time narrowing down my choices. Dorin kindly delivered more than double the promised amount of finished images. Will most of the photos see the light of day? Of course not. But it was great value for the money, and sometimes it is fun to show off just a little. I would definitely recommend treating yourself to this, whether traveling solo or with others. Having photos done shouldn't just be reserved for couples, families, and kiddos. Grownups deserve fancy photos too!

And yes, I'm shamelessly sharing a whole bunch of the photos here.

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About Me

My name is Raffaella. My three favorite things are photography, travel, and food.


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