Photographers Shooting Inexperienced Models – You Need To Read This


These Modeling Photography Tips Will Make Your Life Easier And Your Model More Confident

Ok, the photographer's checklist:

  • Got the gear,
  • Got the location scouted out,
  • Got the model,
  • Got the formal paperwork done, let's go then…

If you're going to the hard effort of setting up and arranging a photoshoot with a model, you want the outcome to be as awesome as it possibly can be, right? Well, today we're going to make your life easier and your model feel more comfortable.

Sound sweet? It definitely does, so we've got some great tips for you today…

modeling photography tips
Image by Rondell Melling

Our Modeling Photography Tips Begin With What You Do At Home.

The issues can arise when your (inadequate) posing skills (i.e. your ability to direct effectively) collide with your inexperienced model. So, how do we overcome this little predicament?

One word: Preparation.

Nobody likes the word homework, it reminds you of times being forced to study, at home, in your spare time, urrgh!

But, we've got to do some homework for this assignment ladies and gents – if you turn up to your shoot with the expectation of “hope” and trusting everything will look and feel good, it might turn and bite you in the *ss!

Preparing (aka Doing Your Homework) For A Model Photoshoot

Questions to ask yourself in order to prepare:

  1. What type of shoot is it going to be, as in what style?
  2. Explain (or remind your model) the whole concept and big idea behind the shoot – what do you want to achieve?
  3. Have an approximate schedule to stick to, show your model, just so they also know what kinds of poses/actions will be coming up.
  4. Have some ideas from magazines and online and bring them with you – that way you the photographer can refer to them and also show your model if they look unsure at any point

The Shoot Itself

As a portrait photographer, you are bound to work with all sorts of models: male, female, professional, amateur, unaware and so on. Working with models who know what they are supposed to do, and know how to do it is really cool.

It speeds up the workflow and you get the shoot done faster.

However, what would you do with models who are new to modeling, or simply aren't models but they are doing a favor to you? Well, you'll practically need to train them on the spot.

But that's no easy task. More often than not models don't have a clue about what they are doing, nor they are aware how they look like from a point of view other than theirs. Therefore it's your job to ensure that they're given simple “bite-sized” directions – keep it easy to follow.

Further Learning

This article doesn't imply you'll be shooting indoors or out, but there will always be times when available light (or lack of) is an issue.
This training will teach you the fundamentals of how to use a Speedlight to capture those professional-looking headshots, in super quick time! Photo by Man Alive!

Confidence – How Does Your Model Feel?

The problem arises mostly with confidence or lack thereof.

Models can be either extremely confident or the opposite, both can create issues.

Photographing Confident Models

With extremely confident models the hard part is guiding them because mostly they feel like they know everything and it is all about what they like in a picture, not what the job or idea is.

  • In this case, you'll have to be a bit strict and set some ground or you are bound to fail, which is counter-intuitive. However, if you are pushing too much, they can get stubborn and you won't be able to work at all.
  • The thing is, you'll have to find common ground and reach a “compromise”. If you are good with words you can make the whole situation look like it is working exactly as they would like, while you are achieving what you actually got the model for.It's a bit manipulative, but time is money, and that applies for both of you. If you can't get the job done, you don't get paid and the model doesn't get paid. The other way, well, it's a win-win. Photo by

Photographing Shy Models

With shy models, however, the problem is completely different (as you'd expect). Many of them don't feel confident at all, often not with their bodies. Also, add to that the fact that they haven't modeled before.

  • The trick is, you need to ease the tension, and for this, you'll need to get to know the model a bit. You'll need to know what makes them relax, whether it is music, a friend (even chocolate, lol). Whichever works, do it.
  • Just don't be too pushy or not confident enough – you'll need a balance of the two. If they sense that you aren't confident enough everything goes into the wind. It helps to get to their level and talk them through it.
  • If you feel that the model isn't confident with their body, don't make the mistake of showing them the pictures. If you are good enough with words, you can avoid that part for the entire shoot. Explain the time constraints (not in a hurried manner) and how you've got loads more great photos to shoot of them still to come.

And when they see the final result they will be more than satisfied. This way you'll boost their confidence and get the job done. Win-win again. This time, though, with much more than just the pictures.

Constant Direction And Communication

In both cases, communication is the key. The magic words can go a long way. Saying “please”, “thank you”, “you are doing great”, “perfect”, “excellent”, “you are a natural” will make the model feel much more confident and competent, naturally yielding better results.

And, they won't feel weird around you which can help you when you'll need them again! Have potential future shoots in mind…
Amy by Lisa L, on Flickr

When it comes to guidance, you'll need to explain to the beginner models that the pose they are doing doesn't have to feel natural, but if it looks natural on camera, that's what counts.

When you need to explain to them what to do:

  • Don't use too many words and confuse them and yourself,
  • Be clear and precise, even use your body to show them if necessary.
  • However, do not touch your subjects, if you absolutely need to touch a model, explicitly ask first. Even it is a minor adjustment to their arm, ask.
    Experienced models are aware that somebody will have to touch them eventually, in order to adjust their pose or whatever, but amateurs aren't, therefore make sure you ask – it's polite anyhow.

After your shoot is done, give them a photo or two which they can use wherever they want. It will feel as a much bigger reward than money and will boost their confidence for further assignments.

It will also increase your reputation with them, thus you'll be able to work with more flexibility with them in the future (win-win). This also applies to professional models. Photo by dmsumon


To finalize things from this article: acknowledge the model's emotional status, whether it is overconfident or the opposite. Accordingly, respect their personal space and always ask for permission before you do anything.

Say please and thanks, and reward accordingly. Good deeds go a long way – and guess what, they don't cost much. 😉

Modeling Photography Tips For Beginner Models – Top Takeaways

  • Ensure you are prepared – do some homework and have a decent idea of what you want to achieve during the shoot.
  • Be respectful and polite, even if your model is proving challenging to work with – give them a chance, particularly if they've never modelled before.
  • Be direct in your communication and ensure it's always flowing. Constant chat from you the photographer places great ease with the model – you'll be surprised how a little chit chat can really relax the mood.
  • Ask the model some questions about their life: likes/dislikes, favorite foods/music/cities they've traveled – keep it informal and natural.

Further Resources

Further Learning

This article doesn't imply you'll be shooting indoors or out, but there will always be times when available light (or lack of) is an issue.
This training will teach you the fundamentals of how to use a Speedlight to capture those professional-looking headshots, in super quick time!

About Author

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

Wow, some top tips to get you on your way. It does help. I find that the preparation and idea is key and then follow the guides !

Love this article and all the tips you’ve provided! I found this website that I wanted to share that helped me find and book models that are local to me. The website is called AGENT Castings – it provides you with the top places/ websites where you can book models, it’s a great resource so I hope it helps!

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