Model photography – Introduction: Chris Goddard

About Chris Goddard – Model Photographer

Amanda Santa-Ana

My name is Chris Goddard and I’m a full time photographer based out of Portland, OR. I’ve been shooting for 2 years now but editing for around 5. Up until 2 years ago, I’d never taken pictures other than a point and shoot on a vacation. Ever since I picked up my first DSLR, It’s become an obsession that I think about all day, every day.

I primarily shoot portraits but also love shooting everything from land/cityscapes to cars/motorcycles. I love shooting portraits because the ability to capture that specific emotion in time. I can shoot a Lamborghini 100 times in an hour from the same angle and not much will change but if I shot a person 100 times, I’d get 100 different shots. I also love the challenge where you can make an otherwise beautiful model look not so flattering or perfect and on the other side, take a gorgeous shot of someone who wouldn’t necessarily be considered “beautiful” by society’s standards.


What equipment do you have Chris?

I started shooting with a Canon T1i (Canon 500D) and kit lens. I quickly bought a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and 55-250mm f/4-5.6. Then I bought a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 because at the time, I shot a lot of cars and needed a good wide angle. A few months later, I decided to move up from the T1i to the Canon 5D Mark II because I wanted something better in low light and I like the look of images taken on full frame. I sold my T1i and all the lenses and picked up a Canon 5D mk II and Canon lenses: 50mm f/1.4, 17-40mm f/4L and 70-200mm f/4L IS.

After a while I realized that my shooting style was changing and ended up selling all those lenses and bought a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L, Sigma 85mm f/1.4 and Canon 135mm f/2 L. I loved this setup and used it for a while until I started shooting fashion/glamour/editorial out of my home studio. I realized the 135mm was great for head shots but that’s about it in studio and the 85mm was just a little too long for full body shots of models who were over 182 cm (6’) in heels. I sold both the 85 and 135 and picked up the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II which I still use along with my 35mm f/1.4 L. My lights include a PCB Einstein and ABR800 and my modifiers include a BD, large octabox and a moon unit for the ring light along with a couple speedlights.

Read more about Chris opinon about his equipment here.


How do you pick a model for a photoshoot and how do you interact throughout the shooting?

I believe the eyes are the most important feature that sticks out to me. They can convey numerous emotions without seeing any other part of their face.  You can still see pain or happiness in the eyes of a woman shrouded in a burka and I think that’s captivating.

BTS setup shot of Mary
BTS setup shot of Mary

Working with models is completely different than working with a family or a senior. I believe that it’s a collaborative effort and that the model brings their own style to the shoot. If I like what they’re doing then I don’t give much feedback except positive reinforcement or to make subtle changes like “chin up” or “shoulders back”.  If I do work with a model who’s not that experienced or looks uncomfortable then I try to talk with them and relate to them until they get more confident. I put on some good music and just try to have a good time because no one can fake having a good time. I’ll snap candid shots because sometimes the posed shots just don’t come out as planned.


How do you promote your work and  which keywords/tags you use?

With the way the world is today, news travels fast. If your work is great then word will spread through friends and social networking sites like facebook and twitter. This can also hurt you if you don’t put out good material as then you will be known for that, so you really have to be on top of your game and keep up with the styles and trends that surround what you shoot.

I should also mention that I promote my pics on facebook with a link to my flickr for hi-res which helps and I’m also a very active member on lots of forums from cars to photographer and retouching.The people there really know what they’re talking about for the most part and the criticism is very constructive and has helped me beyond words.

As far as the “tags” and “keywords”, I tried it out on a few pictures like the one of Jessie but I found that it didn’t get me the exposure I was hoping for, maybe I should give it some more time. When I use them, it write basic descriptions about the shoot like lenses used, aperture, strobist, information about the lights used, etc. I try and promote myself and my work equally and as much as possible without becoming annoying like others I’ve run in to. I’m also an intern for a photographer in Portland by the name of Quavondo. Helping him on shoots and taking/editing the bts (behind the scenes) pics also helps me meet a lot of great new people within the industry including new makeup artists, hair stylists, designers, models, etc.


If you could pick any, which camera would you like to have and why, or which lenses and why?

I love the 5D mk II but the AF is lacking and could use a boost in the dynamic range. I’d love to shoot with a MF sometime like a phase one but they’re not really practical for most of us who can’t justify the price. The new Nikon D800(E) is really tempting although I prefer Canon lenses. I’m going to wait until news about the 5D Mark III breaks before I make a final decision. The 5D II is still a very capable camera. As far as lenses, I’d love to try and incorporate a TS lens into my shoots as well as a dedicated macro for close up head shots. Another 85mm prime would also be nice but I can’t justify it when I’ve got the 70-200 in my bag. My main priority over the next year will be building my light kit. I would ideally like 3-4 more Einsteins and some Mola bd’s and PLM’s and a couple gridded strip boxes. As most of us know, buying gear never really ends.


Jessie on the roof top
Jessie on the roof top

This is a shot of Jessie from a workshop run by Quavondo. We took this on the roof of his studio last summer on one of the hottest days of the year. It was harsh midday sun around 3PM. This was shot with my Canon 5D MK II  and Sigma 85mm and settings were f/7.1, ISO 50 and shutter speed 1/160 to match sync speeds. We setup a WL X1600 with a BD very high and camera right as the key light and a WL X800 on full power with a strip box for the rim on her right side and the sun as a rim/hair for her left.



This was a shot of Amanda, my first MUA (make-up artist) I had the pleasure of working with.  She was a great mua and just happened to be gorgeous too! We decided to do some different looks for head shots one night and this was one of the shots. I used a 5Dmkii and Canon 135mm L and the settings were f/11, ISO 100 and 1/160

Strobist info:  ABR800 with standard reflector to blow out the wall/door behind her since we didn’t have a proper bg to use. The key light was my trusty Einstein with socked BD above and silver reflector below to throw just a little bit of light back underneath and to add a bit to the catch light. Triggered by my ever so reliable Cactus V5 Transceivers.


Keighla Night
Keighla Night

This was shot a few weeks ago in studio with the lovely Keighla Night. I’ve shot a lot of different models but none of them had the amount of body modification that she had. I went in to it wanting to try a different light setup specifically tailored to her style but also bringing a fashion feel to it. This was shot with my 5Dmkii and 70-200 f/2.8L IS at 150mm, f/5.6, ISO 100 and 1/160.


What advice would you give for all photographers out there? Btw, what do you think where you stand in the world of photography?

My advice would be to never settle. I see so many great photographers who settle in the same routine and get comfortable. They refuse to push out of their comfort zone and their work, although decent, becomes monotonous and boring. I’m always learning and studying new techniques. If I have nothing to do on a day off, I’m still researching magazines/blogs/forums for latest trends in photography and editing.

I’d like to think of myself as a jack of all trades that can light, shoot and edit for any situation and that’s what will hopefully shine through to my future clients. They can pick and choose which style they want from me and I’ll be able to produce it without any issues. Right now, I feel like a tiny fish in a gigantic pond but I do think that I’ll be able to make a splash sooner or later. My main goal right now is to keep evolving and to get more exposure so that one day I can focus 100% on commercial/advertising/editorial and fashion.

Can you please give us more details about your lenses.

Canon 50mm f/1.8: cheap, good starter prime, AF was horrible in low light but a decent lens for the price
Canon 50mm f/1.4: Better build than the 1.8. Great AF speed/accuracy, light, sharp, bokeh was a little nervous looking but you get used to it
Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6: good starter zoom, IS was nice to have, great price but cheap build
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6: loved this lens. Great ultra wide angle on a crop body with fantastic results. Cheaper than Canon 10-20mm
Canon 17-40mm f/4 L: Best wide angle for the money on a full frame. All around good glass, sharp, color, contrast, AF, all great but it is only f/4
Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS: Probably the best bang for the buck lens in my opinion. Fantastic image quality. Tack sharp wide open, AF was very quick and accurate and 4 stop IS was really nice. I loved this lens but it was f/4
Canon 35mm f/1.4 L: My first and only wide angle prime. Love the look on full frame. Just wide enough for land/cityscapes and environmental portraits. Low distortion and the best color rendition I’ve seen from any lens.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4: At less than half the price of the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, it’s very close to it image quality wise. Very sharp wide open and controls chromatic abberation better than the 85L. AF is fast.
Canon 135mm f/2 L: My favorite lens and one I compare everything else to. It’s the perfect lens in my opinion aside from the FL. Best AF speed/accuracy, sharpness wide open, contrast, color, image quality buttery cream bokeh, the list goes on. A+
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II: Fantastic overall lens that’s as close to a prime as any zoom will be. Tack sharp wide open and the AF and 4 stop IS is beautiful. It’s built like a tank but is heavy.

Do you have your own personal page, with your domain, your hosting?

I’m currently in the process of building my website but for now 500px is my portfolio which also has my contact info on there for those interested in my services. You can view it at



Email: goddardca[at]