5 steps to getting the best from your model
By Sinopa Rin, written 1459259899
Manners cost nothing, as my grandma says. Whether you're new to photographing models or not, a little bit of kindness can go a long way. Having been involved in the modelling industry for over 8 years, I have worked with a huge variety of photographers and know that the contents of this article will not apply to everyone or every salutation. They are not hard-and-fast rules, but more guidelines for you to consider when working with models.
1. ‘How can I help?’
Quickest and easiest way to get the best from your model?
In your pre-comms (which should always be kept on PP), ask her if there’s anything you can do to make her feel more comfortable during the shoot. Maybe she has a preferred snack, a favourite album or likes to take an early lunch. These might not make much difference to you, but if you can make your model happy, she will surely reward you by giving her all during the shoot.
Bottom line: the better the working environment, the better the results.
2. Stop, collaborate and listen
They say two heads are better than one. Whether this is your first shoot or your hundredth, I hope you’re not arrogant enough to think that your model is incapable of bringing something to the table. She has several decades of life experience that are completely different from yours, that she is able to draw on at any moment – please don’t let that go to waste. Hopefully you will have discussed your ideas or vague shoot plan in pre-comms, in which case you should both arrive ready to sing from the same hymn sheet. But things develop on shoots; ideas change, inspiration strikes and quite often the images you produce aren’t how you imaged, but you love them all the same.
Models are very good (especially experienced ones) at looking at an image and spotting things that you haven’t. ‘Did you notice that weird shadow?’ ‘Hey, there’s a bit of dust on your sensor.’ ‘My arm looks strange from this angle – I’ll change it.’ Little things like this take seconds during a shoot, but could be the difference between you kicking yourself later because you missed it, or printing the image out as big as a car and proudly hanging it in the hallway.
I have worked with several photographers over the years who have refused to show me the back of the camera during a shoot. On the rare occasion (such as film camera, obviously!), this makes sense, but a lot of the time it's kind of frustrating. Seriously, do you think I’ve never seen my face pre-photoshop before? What could possibly be on that little screen that you don’t want me to see? I’m an artist – I realise that this is a work in progress and not the finished product. Let me help!
Bottom line: every shoot is a collaboration, whether money is involved or not. Communicate!
3. Get Low
If I had a pound for every photographer who shoots full-length images from standing, I wouldn’t be very much richer than I am now. Maybe I’d have enough for a nice meal out. There have been a lot, though: happens all the time. You get the idea.
Anyway, could you stop it? I’m a touch under 5ft 9, but there’s a whole load of images of me on the internet looking like a 5ft 9 body stuck on 5ft 1 legs, and I look ridiculous. What’s the point of having an elegant, giraffe-like creature in front of you with legs up to her chin if you’re going to make her look like a midget? Stop it! Pull up a low stool or get down on your knees and shoot from there. When shooting people, you will avoid distortion and create the best likeness by pointing the camera at the centre of your subject – the nose for portraits, the chest for 3/4 and the hips for full-length (roughly). Of course, if you're shooting a particular theme or style that involves looking down on your model, carry on, but if you're aiming for beautiful, flattering images, it's time to get low.
Lots of models have a side of their face that they prefer, so asking before setting up the lights is a quick and easy way to get the best from your model. It’s also really important to constantly update us on how much of our body you’re fitting into the frame – lots of poses that work for half-length images look stupid if you include the feet. Experienced models will also pose in a way that keeps stray fingers and elbows from escaping the edge of the frame, if you just let us know.
Bottom line: consider the best angles and lighting to make us look awesome.
4. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Your shoot is finished, your memory cards are full and you’re both delighted with the results. Awesome! It’s time to say your goodbyes and go your separate ways. That’s where it ends, right?
Assuming you’d like to shoot this model again, don’t forget to drop her a text or email to say how much you enjoyed working with her, and that you hope she got home safely. Let her know that you’re delighted with the images – specify one set in particular, if you can – and assure her that you value her input and contribution to your creative process.No one’s perfect and this is easy to forget, but after a day of back-breaking poses, this will put a great big smile on our faces and remind us that it’s all worthwhile. Be not afraid of enthusiasm! Finish this off with a glowing reference here, and hopefully you'll received a glowing one back.
Bottom line: gratitude will always be gratefully received.
5. The finishing touch
Someone once told me that you’re only as good as your worst image, and I think that holds a lot of truth. A model’s brand is not just made up of her personal portfolio, but of all the images that exist of her and are accessible by potential clients. Whilst we have to pay the bills, we’re like any other woman in as much as we don’t particularly enjoy seeing unflattering photographs of ourselves. Spots, shadows and make-up imperfections are to be expected – we’re only human – but they can cause unwanted flaws and distractions in your photographs. Plus, we are infinitely more likely to want to work with a photographer again if the finished product paints us in a positive light. I’m not telling you to liquify her until she’s three sizes smaller. I am telling you that your images will greatly benefit from a little polish in photoshop or lightroom. These programmes may seem really daunting at first, but they are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, and a very easy way of making models very happy.
‘I like the natural look.’
‘Photoshop is like playing God.’
‘Imperfections are beautiful.’
If that’s your opinion, that’s totally fine. BUT before you have a hissy fit about editing your images, have a skim through a photography or fashion magazine and have a guess how many of those images are straight from camera. (Spoiler: none. Maybe one. Unlikely.)
If you’re new to post-processing, check out the Phlearn youtube channel for easy step-by-step tutorials. Start gently and work your way up to more complex editing techniques.
Bottom line: when it comes to editing, a little goes a long way!
And that’s it! 5 very easy ways to get the best from your model and the best images for yourself. I really hope you've enjoyed this article and that you can take something positive from it. If you'd like to read more stuff like this, you can check out my blog right here: https://sinoparin.wordpress.com/
Take care, and happy shooting!