Working with models – Tips

Working with models – Tips

As a photographer, there is much that is attractive about working with models. It’s also a big challenge, often requiring that the photographer take a leap of faith in relinquishing some level of control to the model (let’s face is, us photo-types are always kinda control-freakish!).

Whether in fashion, wedding, domestic or fine art portraiture (including nudes), the key to effective working with models is communication.

Your model is not a piece of furniture, or a plant, to be positioned and then passively photographed. You’re working with a person and communication is the key to having them participate in the creative process.

In a recent workshop, I discussed the notion of a shoot with models as being an exchange of energies between photographer and model. I put a great deal of energy into the start of a shoot, much of it in engaging my model and having them respond physically and emotionally. In other words, they respond by investing energy in the shoot. It becomes a collaboration, a shared experience and the creation of images that embody this remarkable exchange, this synergy.

My top three tips for working with models:

  1. Eye-contact: When you’re not looking through the view finder, make eye contact with the model. Even if you’re not speaking to the model, eye contact is critical in keeping open the lines of communication between the both of you.
  2. Give praise: Modeling is hard work, and it’s often difficult for the model to know if they are doing the right thing. Giving praise is a form of feedback and guidance that they are on the right track.
  3. Show them how: If you’d like the model to assume a particular pose, it’s much easier to demonstrate the pose yourself (to whatever extent your body can manage) rather than trying to verbally describe the pose. Your demonstration can be a starting point and you can then verbally direct micro-poses once the model is able to assume the main pose. I was at a shoot once where the (fashion) photographer totally demonstrated the pose and action for the model, right down to the look he wanted her to give the photographer.

Do you have your own tips for when you work with models? What are they?

The Photoletariat has a fantastic article about the seven tips for photographing models. It’s sage and sound advice, and definitely worth reading if you’re considering working with models in your photography.

Shooting with models brings a whole other element to photography unlike nearly any other type.  With wedding photography for example, a photographer’s job is more akin to a documentary style, and landscape photography is all about the mood and lighting.  When shooting models, creating the mood, style and feel is left almost entirely to the photographer, and sometimes an art director.

To read the article in full: Seven Tips for Photographing Models (by the Photoletariat).

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