I’m so excited to have David Wagner on my blog today! David is the awesome photographer who photographs the models for the covers of my X-OPS and SWAT Series.
The covers are truly amazing and I can’t thank you enough for doing this interview, David! As a former art director in advertising, do you ever find yourself looking at covers featuring the photos you took and want to change them?
Yes definitely. There are always man factors that determine how a final cover looks. The characters need to be portrayed in a genuine and authentic way. But the cover also has to market the book and compete with hundreds… thousands of other covers and the final image has to pique the interest of readers browsing the shelves or online. And the graphics have to work with the photo…author’s names, the title, etc. There is quite a bit that goes into making sure the image doesn’t overpower the author and title, but that there is also room for the image to intrigue the viewer and express the author’s story.
How does the photo shoot for a cover work? Does the publisher always send you model they want you to use or do you sometimes pick the model from their specs?
Most of the time I get a character description and synopsis of the book and I do a casting call to find a few models that I feel have a look that could embody the character. And then the art director the publisher will make the final call. There are times when either the art director or the author will just happen to see a photo of someone and ask me if I can find them and see if they are interested in modeling for the cover.
My X-OPS and SWAT books feature military heroes, cops, shifters, and werewolves. What kind of specs do they give you about the book to help get the model into character?
I always get a physical description, hair color, hair length, eye color, etc. And there is usually a sentence or two that describes the character personality so that we can look for traits beyond the physical aspects of hair color, hair length, etc., and find models that can evoke the personality of a renegade savior, or character that has a huge heart but it’s rides a chopper with skulls painted on it, petite school teacher who suddenly finds herself in a situation where she is fighting for her life.
The models on my covers wear everything from military uniforms to full tactical gear, and even hold weapons. Do you have to get your own props? If so, where do you get them?
I have a pretty big selection of male and female wardrobe that covers everything from military, special ops and western attire, to roman warrior looks, kilts and other vintage looks. I have prop weapons, wigs, hats and fake jewelry. From time to time I do rent wardrobe, if I need a very specific uniform and period/vintage dress. There are several places that I rent from…one has been around for almost 100 years and they did the wardrobe for “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” (they actually created Dorothy’s ruby shoes). The place is the size of an airplane hanger. There are also places that rent props only…you can get anything from coffins and body parts to armor and period electronics like 1980’s cell phones and phone booths.
What’s the craziest photo shoot you’ve ever done?
Wow. This is a tough one. My dining room table has been the ledge of a skyscraper a couple of times. My air up mattress has been a field of grass for a Celtic warrior and his maiden, my desk has been the wooden fence on a Montana Ranch and my broom and dining room chair have been a motorcycle more than once. But as far as the craziest I would say is a couple’s shoot that I did a few years ago. I won’t go into details but let’s just say that the female model took the romantic aspect of the shoot a little too far making me feel like a third wheel and the male a bit uncomfortable. I think at some point she may have forgotten we were doing a photo shoot!
Is it easier to work with male or female models?
Well by far the majority of the covers I work on feature one male model, then a few male and female couples, and very rarely a lone female model. So I’m working mostly with male models. I don’t find either more or less difficult really. Working with a new model for the first time (male or female) can be difficult. Not everyone is good a holding a plastic gun as if it were a heavy and deadly…it’s can be difficult to hold a plastic rifle and make the viewer feel like it has weight and power. Some models aren’t as good at showing subtle expressions of apprehension, confidence, or aggression. There is a fair amount of acting involved even though it is a still shot. By far though the models we work with are amazing at what they do!