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Shooting models lends itself to slightly different equipment than say, a landscape shoot. Here we will explain what you need for your first model shoot and why it will become useful.
While a DSLR is a given, lens choices will make the difference here. Anything in and around the 100mm range tends to be the most flattering for portraits and even full body shots, and premium lenses with fast f/stops will give the best look. Even if you aren’t shooting wide open for shallow depth of field, these premium lenses have better coatings on them.
At the top of the pack would be the Canon 85mm f/1.2 and 135mm f/2, and Nikon’s 105mm f/2. For studio shooting, the length of your lens will be determined in part to the size of your working space. Keep in mind that short lenses, even 50mm ones can give a distorted view of the model. Outside, longer lenses are favored, both Canon and Nikon 70-200 models make perfect and versatile lenses for shooting models.
Regardless of indoor or outdoor shooting, a fairly large lens hood should be used to reduce lens glare, either from strobes or the sun. Additionally, the hood helps protect the end of the lens from accidentally knocks.
Removing the filter on the end of the lens for indoor portraits will often yield sharper images. While the debate of filters will remain as heated as Nikon vs Canon, my experience has been in controlled environments a filter isn’t needed. Outdoor and location shoots, where the end of your lens is exposed I still feel the extra protection is validated. Don’t buy no-name UV filters though. It’s silly to put a $10 filter from the sale bin on the end of your $900+ lens.
Perhaps the most overlooked piece of equipment for photographers getting into shooting over the last few years is a light meter. Your setup time in the studio will be much faster and location work with both ambient light and strobes assisting for fill will become far less frustrating and far more rewarding. Relying on the image preview on the LCD screen and histograms will only get you so far. It’s also worth bringing a laptop, preferably with a hood attached to it if outside to review photographs on.
Other essential items for a model shoot are not so common to photography, but more akin to what you’d find in your home. They include items like lint rollers, small sewing kits and binder clips in various sizes. Often times clothing won’t fit properly, or the way you need it to look in a shot, so binder clips are the dirty little secret of the fashion world. Likewise, wardrobe malfunctions are bound to happen; having a small sewing kit never hurt anyone.
For studio shoots, most will dim or completely turn off the house lights and only rely on the modeling lamps or their strobes. This is done to better control the color of the light being shown to the model, but it has an adverse effect.
The problem with this is the pupils dilate, that is the black portion of the eyeball gets very large to allow light in, often covering most of the person’s natural eye color. The fix is to put a simple light behind you, up on a light stand that isn’t triggered by your radio on the camera and let the model focus on that. A bare 45 light bulb will often do the trick and won’t have any effect on your studio lighting setup.
Music is almost always essential when working with people, so bring an iPod full of music, or ask the model to do so. It will also help them relax and feel more comfortable with you.
Aside from physical items, bring a good attitude. Remember, working with models is collaboration and they are not below you, nor anyone else on set or location. Saying please and thank you, and just being a nice person will go a very long way.