In the new television show The Shot, VH1’s new stab at the America’s Next Top Model market, ten budding fashion photographers are pitted against one another for a shot at the grand prize of $100,000, a spread in Marie Claire, and a national ad campaign for Victoria’s Secret. The first episode aired last night, and the blogs are already weighing in (here, here, and here). Keeping with the tried-and-true formula of such reality competition shows, each episode includes two challenges, from which a winning photographer is selected — and after which another photographer gets the boot. The part of the insider guru and arbiter of judgment is played here by Russell James, a fashion photographer who manages to keep the drama to a minimum (at least by reality TV standards) while handing out some genuinely useful information to the competitors and, undoubtedly, many aspiring viewers.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a reality show without a stock of outlandish characters with phonetically spelled names who we will undoubtedly come to love to hate. The Shot’s competitors include the model-loving Airic (“I love the ladies and sometimes they like me”), former model turned amateur photographer Balbinka, who has perfected the Zoolander pose, and John, the self-proclaimed “straight out of GQ magazine” wedding photographer. They and seven other ambitious photographers live in a house together for the duration of the competition, having their every move recorded and edited to pigeonhole them neatly into our concepts of the basic reality television types. Will being on the other side of the camera make these photographers more compassionate toward their models? Only time and eight more eliminations can tell.

The Passion Assignment:
For the first assignment, James presented the contestants with two nude models and a mattress. Their mission was to capture “passion” with only five minutes and no props. The photographers fumbled with misplaced emotions (Balbinka: “When I think of passion, I think of anger”) and ineptness at handling the models (Dean’s abrupt manner upset the male model). James asked for the competitors to tell a story of passion with their images, but what he got often looked more like pornography. The lesson? Even in fashion photos, go easy on the skin and don’t forget to tell a story.

The Steamy Romance Assignment:
In gym class dodgeball fashion, winners of the first assignment, Ivan and Piper, got to be team captains for the second competition: a five-page, five-outfit editorial assignment about steamy romance aboard a yacht. Each team had two and a half hours to get five shots — which turned out to be plenty of time for them to violate several of James’s photography commandments. Not only did both teams expose Victoria Secret supermodel Marissa Miller to the unforgiving midday sun, but they also added a silver reflector, which only augmented the harsh light. Dean continued to bark orders at the models while Ivan narrated a complex plot line to Miller instead of giving her simple posing instructions, burning time and the model’s patience. Meanwhile, Airic told Miller, one of the most recognizable faces in the industry, that she was “hot,” crossing the lines of professionalism with each camera click. The high-seas lesson? Treat models with courtesy and professionalism, and watch your lighting in already harsh sunlight.

The Final Shot:
James gave a harsh critique of the editorial stories, harping on distracting background objects and a pointing out a prominently featured vent in one photo that distracted attention from Miller. One team didn’t include all five outfits, failing to accomplish even the most basic goals of the fashion spread. In the end, Balbinka was in the hot seat for her poor choice of background and the lack of passion in her first photo. She was let go with the appropriate tagline for the show: “That was your last shot.” Next week the contestants will work with camels for their main challenge. Can’t you just hear the whining and bad jokes already?
— VH1’s The Shot airs Sundays at 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central.