The best shooting mishaps


Sometimes shit happens. We all know that and as long as you can laugh about the past, you clearly have learned something from the situation. That’s the essence of growing with your job. I’d love to share my best and/or funniest shooting breakdowns with you. As you might have already read in the other article (Why I name my editorials after songs or lyrics) I had some troubles when shooting editorial “Trouble”. If you haven’t read it yet, you are welcome to click on the link in brackets and read about that cold and rainy shooting night.

In this entry, I’d like to talk about those awkward situations when you (almost) panic because someone from the team canceled on the very morning of the shooting when you just entered the studio. In those moments the very first thing that I think of, is that the money and efforts spent are gone down the drain for nothing. But fortunately, I could always save the situation with the very kind help of agencies, friends, and strangers. And the most beautiful thing about it was the relationships evolving from those unlucky situations.

Munich, January 2015

Samir Abou-Suede and I had planned a great shooting with a whole lot of stylings. There were enough looks for two different series and we were hoping to be able to do both with the same model in one day. The girl was very young but she had great potential and everyone in Munich wanted to shoot with her. So we were very lucky to get her for the project and confident about managing to shoot a great number of outfits. We had heard that she was really quick and posing to the point. We had collected the pieces from agencies for two days before in my car. When we just had entered the studio on the shooting day – on a Sunday at 7:30 am – with all the luggage, suddenly the make-up artist wrote me a message. She claimed that she didn’t feel well at all and couldn’t get up. Of course, I was worried about her physical health at first, but I kept on asking, if she couldn’t do anything about it, e.g. coming in a little later and have some more sleep and painkillers meanwhile. She didn’t quite answer my questions properly but kept on saying how sick she felt.

While we were writing, the model called me, telling me that she had to go to the hospital, because she had surgery a couple of weeks ago and now a sudden pain occurred. She promised to come in later if the doctors were going to say that she was okay. I was shocked as well as worried and so I tried to call her agent to ask her to provide us with another model just in case. Now imagine trying to reach people through their business numbers on a Sunday morning. Of course, it didn’t work out. At first. Samir and I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Meanwhile, the make-up artist stopped writing back. She had asked one or two other artists who unfortunately were busy that day. Then she obviously gave up and seemed to not care anymore. We started calling other make-up artists we knew. Or more precisely did we try to reach anyone. Most people were sleeping or if up, they were booked for another production. We even called other photographers and asked for more contacts when we ran out of numbers. I was talking to so many strangers that morning and they were all very kind. We absolutely got a wave of phone calls going through Munich’s fashion industry. People I didn’t even know before called their friends and asked if they were free to come. I even talked to a girl who said that she couldn’t come because she was visiting her home city Mannheim, where I had studied. Then we realised that we had already met at shootings years ago when I was a photographer’s intern and she worked as a hairdresser.

After an hour, Samir had almost eaten all the salami from the buffet I brought to the studio and we felt so desperate that we soon opened the first bottle of champagne, all for our strained nerves. We were laughing and panicking at the same time. Our model soon called me back again and told me that she would come. She was so sorry because she was usually very accurate and felt bad about the situation. But I told her not to worry and to take her time, as the make-up artist problem wasn’t solved yet. Meanwhile, the model’s agent had gotten all my messages. So she wrote me back and proposed two other young girls. They didn’t quite fit our concept, but we decided to have one of them just to be on the safe side. She would fill in if the original model would still feel too weak after the incident in the morning. The agent was really nice: she picked the model up at her home town near Munich and brought her to the studio personally. I was impressed and thankful for her sacrificing private time.

Now that there was a model involved again (in fact there were two), we started calling and re-calling more people. One artist wanted to join us in the afternoon after her on-ging production and help us do the second shooting. We were all ready to burn the midnight oil. Another contact we had gotten that morning seemed to care a lot about our situation and really wanted to help. It was Melanie Hoppe with whom together we would work many times after that day. She was booked for a different production as well, but it wouldn’t start until noon. So we tried to convince her to come over for basic and quick styling. I’m glad that she got roped into the idea and came over.

When finally the original model and the extra model where both there and Melanie could style the first one, everything seemed to start working out. The main model felt okay and shooting with her was easy. We were right guessing that she was very quick and well-posing. The pictures of the first series were done by 6 pm, which would be a usual time to end shootings. The poor other model had to wait all the time and looked very bored as no one took notice of her. Also, the studio was very cold and at some point in the afternoon, I dismissed her, because I was so sorry for her and quite sure about the other power girl. Unfortunately, in the end, the ladder was too exhausted for another shooting, but we were quite happy and thankful for the first one and let her go.

I guess that you would like to know which editorial I’m talking about. All this happened when shooting “Blackout”. You are right if you perceive a reference between the name and the story behind it. And yes, we had dogs organised for the shooting, too. They were well-educated and we all had a lot of fun together. Usually, animal shootings turn out complicated. This time the dogs where the only thing at the shooting that didn’t cause any problems.

Female black and white fashion editorial by Heidi Rondak with sausage dog for Ajouré Germany showing model Theresa Schreck

Berlin, December 2016

Don’t worry, this story is shorter. Kind of the same thing happened some months ago when I captured a male fashion editorial. Some days before the shooting the stylist told me that he would be abroad that day and he’d send his assistant to do the styling on location, a studio in Kreuzberg. It wasn’t big of a deal, because he had already organised all the outfits and I had met his assistant before and knew she would work properly. I picked her up on the shooting’s morning and we drove to the studio. There was a little heart-stopping moment when she realised that she had forgotten some pieces at home. But we were early enough to return and so we were lucky to have everything together and be at the studio right in time. We entered and started setting up everything. The make-up artist arrived too and we all had a nice chat when suddenly the model’s agent called me.

Yes… the model couldn’t come. He needed surgery. Again, I was shocked and had a mental picture of the shooting chaos back in 2015. It turned out that the model went to the dentist for some toothaches in the morning and the doctor didn’t let him go because he needed immediate surgery. Poor guy. And poor us. I immediately asked the agent to provide us with another male model. But she said the problem was that the agency had just started managing men a few weeks ago. They had only one more boy at disposal who was only sixteen years old and a complete starter. She promised to send me some images and a video of him walking.

Meanwhile, I went on to tell the team about the situation, which all felt quite unreal. The studio manager who hadn’t left yet was astonished at my calmness and I guess the reason was that I felt like it was somehow funny to go through all that again. We just couldn’t be satisfied when we saw the e-mail with the other model. He was a sweet boy but definitely too young for our shooting plans. So I knew I’d have to call other agencies. Luckily it was a Friday morning, a normal working day and so I could reach out to everyone I knew from e-mail model requests. It didn’t take too long until we chose another model that could come to the studio within an hour.

So we resumed preparations and I set the light, which was quickly done. But when I had taken the first test shots of some flowers and I went to my laptop to upload them, I realised that I had actually forgotten to bring my card reader. It was the first time for me forgetting something essential for the shooting. I immediately called the studio manager who had already left by the time, but she didn’t give me the information I was hoping for. There was no other card reader at the studio. She gave me the address of a shop where I could buy a new one because it would be closer and easier than driving home again. So I took my bag and jacket and told the others that I’d be back soon. I rushed through the city and subway to the shop and back. When I arrived, I felt really nervous about the whole thing. The model had already arrived and was getting groomed.

We could start soon and everything went quite well for the whole afternoon. Still, there was one little awkward moment, when I set up my camera the wrong way (or the flashlights were too slow for what I wanted to do) and all the pictures came out with a black bar covering half of it. I had already seen the phenomenon years ago, but unfortunately, you can easily mistake it for a shutter defect, which looks quite the same. And of course, I did so at first. I desperately called out “The camera is broken”. Everyone was shocked again for a short moment: the amount of time that I needed to find out that it was my own mistake and the camera was alright.

And here is an extract of my editorial. I was telling you the story of “The Nature of Reality”.

Male fashion editorial with model Nick Androbik by Heidi Rondak for KALTBLUT Magazine

See the whole editorial “The Nature of Reality”

As you can see, I’m a lucky photographer. I really hope that everything goes well again for today and in the future. I’m happy for the experiences I’ve made and the help and connections I’ve got through all kinds of situations. And I’m trying my best to keep chaos to a minimum. Touch wood!


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or the other, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!


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