The Secret to Working Effectively with Models


“It’s a wrap!” are three of the most important words for a fashion photographer. Knowing that you’ve done an excellent job and that the day has been productive, fun and creative makes it worthwhile to wake up early for 6.30 am call times and the lifting of some hundred pounds of equipment to the location. But getting to the wrap of a shoot involves more than just being able to light and compose shots. You have to learn how to care for your models, too.

Caring for your models means great relationships in the industry, and great relationships could translate to references later on. Caring for your model during a shoot whether in a studio setting or outdoors is a really important part of your role as their photographer. Here are some ways you can make sure your photoshoot is fabulous and your model is happy.

Wait for the moment

When you’re photographing a beautiful person, it’s easy to get carried away with the shutter release. Because you’re excited, you want to get everything. But do you really want to get everything, even the blink? Keeping yourself calm and waiting for a moment which is expressive and emotive is key to getting artful images instead of hoping to get lucky and getting a few good ones out of every ten shots.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Encourage the model

Models want to know how they’re doing. Feedback is a great way to shape how a shoot goes; it’s vital to improvement in most things people do, including modeling.  If you like what the model is doing, say so. Conversely, if you find that something doesn’t work, tell the model. It’s better to avoid a bad pose than spend time weeding out shots later because the model’s knee looks like a yamcha dumpling.

Learn how to direct in concrete ways

When you’re photographing a model, it’s very easy to say things you feel about the shot you want, like “Can you look like someone whose quantum reason for existence is no longer a quark but has broken up into photons without mass?” or something similar. Remember that the model has no mirror to create a pose that works. Also remember that the model doesn’t read your mind but needs clear direction. So if you want the shot to look like what it does in your head, tell the model how to move their body and face. Say things like, “Can you tilt your head to the left and open your eyes a little more.” Clear directions help a shoot move along and when a pose works, it’s a lot more fun.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Take breaks

Yes, time is money, but when you take care of someone, they work harder. Take breaks—wipe sweat when it’s hot, give your model water. A little kindness can establish you as a caring photographer, but most of all, it makes you human.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Know when it’s a wrap

When working with models it’s easy to keep shooting, especially with a dSLR since memory is so cheap these days.  Dominique, a model with Elite Switzerland told me on our last shoot, “I really like photographers who know when they have the shot.” Modeling is difficult; it is work. Holding poses can be extremely athletic, and looking happy for eight hours for the summer wear catalogue can wear a person down.  Know what you want before the shoot, and know when you have got it. Then you can say the three most favorite words of photographers and models.

About Author

Aloha Lavina is an Asia based photographer and writer whose photographs and writing have appeared in CNNTravel, Canon PhotoYou Magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, and several books. You can see her work at her website and follow her on her blog.

good advise, the only thing i think worth adding is not my advise but advise given to me ‘ the camera look both ways ‘ i guess it ties into the section on feedback and being human, looking miserable behind the camera will not bring out the best poses in even the most professional model and will not help the relationship.

Thanks Bryan. I agree that you have to watch your face–it is the best source of feedback even before you speak. Smiling helps tons.

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