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From Fashion Photography to Starting a Virtual Model Agency

So, I went ahead and launched a virtual model agency. Let me tell you about Gen VI don’t think I need to mention how COVID-19 has affected the photography industry, it has been well discussed and keenly felt by the majority of us here. 

During the first few weeks when it hit the shores of Singapore and the jobs started drying up, I spent a huge majority of my time sleeping in, playing computer games, and probably eating way too much. It was a hard time, okay? I convinced myself that all was fine, I might as well take the time to rest up. However, it was not very long before I started getting incredibly restless and in need of a new creative outlet. So I decided to take up knitting again because it’s clearly a useful hobby to have in hot and humid Singapore. I made my cat a bed and my living room table some socks and then basically ran out of things to do. I then tried to relearn ukulele again, but it did not last very long to the relief of my husband. Eventually, I went all the way back to my roots from a decade ago where I had learnt some 3D in school.

When I think back, I do remember my time of learning 3D then quite fondly. It was an incredibly huge subject with so much to learn. The problem, however, was that with a subject as big as 3D, it needed an amount of time and attention that would not fit well into the school’s curriculum. Immediately right after school was also the time I picked up photography and let’s just say I was able to achieve instant gratification instead of the hours-long wait for renders.

So back to the present, with some basic decade-old knowledge and way too much free time, I figured I might as well give 3D a shot again and decided that I was going to create myself a realistic virtual model. Since I can’t photograph one, I might as well create one! I talked to a friend who is currently working in the 3D space and he viewed my goal of realistic humans is basically the holy grail of 3D. Shoot for the moon or something right?

Well, turns out the moon is terribly far and incredibly frustrating to shoot for. To describe my journey of picking up 3D again and ultimately creating Gen V, it’s like walking into a wall multiple times until you either get a concussion or the wall gives. I mean, it’s also been a lot of fun but I’ve watched more YouTube tutorials than I ever expected to in my lifetime (Hint: Watching them at 1.75x speed with caption turned on can save you hours in total).

(The famous rite of passage Blender donut, made from following Blender Guru’s donut tutorial)

I’ve picked up 5 different software so far to create my models (Daz, Blender, Marvelous Designer, Mari, ZBrush), which I know sounds impressive but what’s even more impressive is the pain it’s cost my wallet. Creating these models require quite a lot of planning beforehand. Before I begin on each model, I usually have an idea of how I want her to look in my head. I will then go ahead and collect as many images as possible of real people that have the features I’m looking for to keep as references. Like planning a photoshoot, having references and a mood board is incredibly important so you have an idea of the direction you’re going for. References are also critical in 3D when trying to achieve realism.

The decade long experience of being a photographer has been hugely beneficial in this Gen V journey. I knew the days where I stared at their pores blown up 300% during my retouching hours would come in handy one day! This helped me recognize better whether I was going in the right direction when trying to handle skin textures in 3D. Lighting and composition also came to me much much quicker, which seems to be a consistent issue that plagues most beginner 3D artists. Having the photographic knowledge to pick the right camera focal length, light choice and most flattering angle definitely help to bring renders to the next level.

(Collaborated with makeup artist Andrea Claire for these looks)

I currently have 3 models in my roster at Gen V and I plan to create more in the future spanning over more skin colors, genders, age, size, etc. There’s also just so much potential on what I can do with them such as animation or even VR. I’m very excited to see where this can go. Creating this virtual agency does come with its concerns. I’m not blind to the fact that this could potentially negatively affect the jobs of others. However, I am also of the firm believer that technology will always advance and the future is coming whether we want it or not. We all need to find ways to adapt accordingly.

The main software that I have used for my models in Blender and it’s free! I highly recommend everybody to give it a go.

You can see more on the Gen V website, Instagram, and Twitter.

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