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[Part 19/23 | Module 4: WORKING WITH MODELS]

As a photographer, you should always stay confident when you are working with models. Your model will know that you mean business.

Nothing is more important to your model shoot than, well, than your model. She’s you’re reason for being when you’re shooting!

More often than not, your photography session’s success depends on your ability to work effectively with your subject, and there’s plenty you can do to help ensure you have a successful, effective, model/photographer relationship while shooting.

Helping the Model Feel Comfortable - Working With Models

Engage Your Model!

The key is to engage with your subject with words and actions in positive and friendly ways, in ways that recognize her contributions. If you treat your model like little more than a prop, she’s going to behave as if she’s little more than a prop. Shooting models require you to do things beyond what you do with your camera and lights. Things like making your model feel comfortable and insuring she remains comfortable throughout your shoot.

Communicating with your model is very important. Not in minimal ways but maximal ways! Make sure you continually express what you are looking for throughout the time you’re shooting.

By the way, the direction isn’t always a one-way street. Ask her what she thinks. Perhaps ask her for some of her ideas regarding pose and expression? It’s up to you to set the pace and the mood of the shoot. As part of that process, one of your really BIG tasks is to help her feel confident. Your model’s confidence translates into great photos. Here’s a hint: Positive reinforcement, from you, helps build confidence. It even does so when the words you use begin to feel repetitive.

In short: Besides all the technical stuff you’ll need to do to capture great pics, you have three other things that need doing to help ensure great model pics, and they’re just as important as the technical stuff:

  1. Help your model feel comfortable from the moment she arrives till the moment she leaves.
  2. Continually communicate with your model. It’s lonely out there in the lights.
  3. Direct your model, in specific ways, and verbalize plenty of positive feedback throughout the shoot. Remember: The shoot begins the moment your model arrives and doesn’t end until she has left the studio or location.

Having A Stylist On Set - Working With Models

Helping Your Model Feel Comfortable

Whether you’re working with the most experienced model in the world or a complete newbie, it doesn’t matter. Your goal is to do what you can to make your model feel comfortable, comfortable with you! (In addition to the creature comforts like keeping warm.) That’s called building rapport. Regardless of your model’s level of experience, if she hasn’t worked with you before there’s a good chance she may be a bit nervous, anxious, or hesitant to bare it all to a stranger, you know when it’s a nude shoot. She doesn’t know you, she’s not sure of your expectations, she doesn’t know how you work, she doesn’t know if she can trust you.

Try to be mindful, especially of your words that have to do with her looks, her naked looks, that is doesn’t sound like you’re flirting or coming on to her. Experienced models will figure that out in a nano-second and it won’t be a good thing for your shoot. Experienced models (and many less experienced as well) have finely-tuned “perv-dar.” That’s a female radar for detecting pervs. They can quickly perceive less-than-professional intentions and behaviors no matter how well masked they might be.

When your model arrives, chivalry counts. Introduce yourself and offer to carry her luggage or bags. Simple acts of courtesy don’t go unnoticed by models, regardless of how experienced they might be. Remember: Often, your model may be stunning! Drop-dead gorgeous! A sensuous beauty of nearly unimaginable good looks. In other words, a real “looker.” That’s probably why she models. Do not let that intimidate you. Don’t begin stuttering and fumbling around with things like a nervous schoolboy. Be yourself. She will appreciate you treating her like you would treat most any other person, that is, with kindness, courtesy, and respect. A bit of humor doesn’t hurt either. Just saying.

Ask her if she’s comfy with the room’s temperature. If not, do what you can to remedy that. Offer her a drink. No, not vodka or scotch on the rocks, but tea, coffee, soft drink, juice, or water. Remember, this is a photo shoot, not a social get-together or a romantic date with a wonderful model.

Ask to see the wardrobe she’s brought along, including any wardrobe you and she discussed before the shoot. Show her where the bathroom is located and where she will be applying her makeup and doing her hair if someone else isn’t there to take care of those jobs. In other words, do what you can to make her feel comfortable and at ease, physically as well as mentally.

Communicate with Your Photo Model - Working With Models

Friendly, Straight-Forward Communication Is Key

Communicating effectively is a big part of striking a good relationship with your model as well as for having a successful shoot. If there is a communication breakdown, try your best to sort through it and to help your model understand what it is you’re trying to say or you’re looking for. Resort to non-verbal communication if necessary, e.g, pantomiming a pose. You’ll feel stupid doing it and it might be good for a laugh for everyone there but you’ll probably get your point across. Very experienced models know what they’re doing in front of the camera. It’s doubtful you have poses in your mind that they’ve never done before. Experienced models will sometimes go into auto-pilot mode when posing. That can be a good thing and/or a not-so-good thing. When it’s a not-so-good thing, it’s often because the model is posing in rather robotic ways, without much feeling or emotion to go along with the poses. Working with experienced models can be easier in some ways but more difficult in terms of getting them to pose while not doing things like putting a shopping list together, in their heads, while they are posing.

New models are often a challenge. They often don’t know what to do in front of the camera beyond very basic posing. New models are there because of their good looks but little more. You need to be patient and explicit when directing them. Be direct and candid. Don’t be shy. Her breasts aren’t called “mammary glands.” They’re breasts… or boobs (if you’re comfortable saying “boobs” in a natural sort of non-vulgar way). Or, if you wanna play it safe, in the US & Australia, use the term “chest”. Here in Europe, both photographers and models are more casual – “boobs” is fine.
Her gluteus maximus is her butt. Or derriere if you’re French. Whichever can come out of your mouth in the most natural and non-vulgar way. Being yourself in simple, friendly, personable, straight-forward, non-threatening, and non-vulgar ways is the best way to be when photographing models. A touch of humor also helps. Again, just saying.

Note: Another part of the female anatomy sometimes comes into play in nude shoots and might need to be addressed. But again, don’t be vulgar! Be natural yet plain-spoken. Words like “pussy,” in America and the UK, are generally acceptable. The “C” word is not appropriate. Not ever! Whatever non-vulgar, non-negative, commonly-used slang word for a woman’s private parts commonly used wherever you might reside will probably be okay.

If you or your newcomer model is a bit shy with this one, use the word “downstairs”. The nude models you’re shooting aren’t nuns. But that doesn’t mean they’re sluts or hookers either. They are, for the most part, simply women who are less inhibited about their bodies (and displaying their bodies) than many other women might be. Bottom line: They’re models, leastwise while they’re in front of a camera posing, nude posing or otherwise.

Always treat your models respectfully, non-threateningly, without vulgarity, and in a friendly manner.

Doing Assistant Work As a Photographer - Working With Models

Top 7 Photography Tips For Building A Good Rapport With Your Model

  1. Ask her questions. Take a genuine interest in your model. Ask her questions, but don’t be too inquisitive. And restrict these questions to her professional life, not her personal life (for example asking about her relationship status is a complete no-go). Personal can be things like where she’s from, what are or hobbies, if any, what kind of music does she like, that sort of stuff.
  2. Listen to her answers. Far too many people are poor listeners. Actively listen, don’t simply nod, grunt, and act like you’re listening.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Just because she is willing to work as model, including a nude model, it doesn’t mean she has personal problem forcing her to make that choice or there’s something emotionally or mentally wrong or dysfunctional about her or in her personal life. If that’s your first thought, perhaps you’re the one with emotional or mental problems? Remember, your model is there for the shoot, not to get to know you personally, to date you, to become involved with you, or to sleep with you.
  4. Compliment her. Tell her how good she looks. Everybody likes to hear this. However, always do so in a professional and not-overly-flattering manner. Be sincere! Or at least try to sound sincere.
  5. Be organized. If you are organized, the model will recognize that you have given the shoot a fair amount of thought – pre-thought. It speaks to your professionalism. As a result, she will gain respect for you as a professional. Always try your best to adhere to your shooting schedule. Time matters. And not just to you.
  6. Include her in the process whenever you can. In fact, make her part of the process. Ask for opinions and suggestions. Model photography is a team effort even if the team is merely you and the model. Including your model in the process helps to get her involved and to make her feel a bit of ownership of the results. You need, of course, to sometimes include her ideas and suggestions in what you do. If your model is very experienced and you are not, her suggestions will be like gold. What is gold like? Valuable, that’s what.
  7. Remain confident and decisive. As a professional photographer or someone hoping to become one, or even if your interests remain purely in the realms of being an ardent hobbyist, always try to be confident and act decisively and professionally during your shoots. Your model will appreciate your business-like approach. She will have confidence in your abilities. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for humor or seemingly less-business-like moments. But overall, your shoots should be conducted in a professional and business-like manner.

Direct Your Photo Model - Working With Models

Top 6 Advices To Direct Your Models

  1. Preview images with your model and provide feedback. The two of you will gradually become more comfortable with each other once you have taken a few pictures and reviewed them. Review them somewhat regularly although that doesn’t mean your model needs to see each image as you capture them. Give her honest feedback. Not rude feedback but honest feedback. Feedback that includes suggestions on how things can be improved if they need improving. If you have some amazing pictures, tell her they are amazing. Doing so will build her level of confidence.
  2. Maintain the correct demeanor. Again, remain, as much as possible, professional and business-like. More so if you haven’t worked with the specific nude model you’re shooting. Never touch your model without first asking her permission. Generally, it’s best to ask the model to fix or adjust what needs fixing or adjusting. If she needs help, she’ll probably ask. As a rule, it’s best to avoid touching unless absolutely necessary, even if/when she agrees. Remember, your reputation as a photographer, professional or otherwise, can be at stake. What seemed innocent during a shoot might later be remembered or construed as something else and, well, and models talk… to each other and to others. And sometimes, it’s a small world.
  3. Establish a good and realistic pace. Don’t try to move the shoot along too quickly but, at the same time, don’t try to drag it out. Dragging it out might mean the model begins questioning your motives for doing so. You have a schedule, stick to it as best you can. However, should the model want or need a break, give her the time even if it slows your schedule down a bit. Working too quickly can compromise the quality of the photos. Working too slowly can do the same. (Nothing worse than a bored model who is impatient with how long you’re taking to do most anything.)
  4. Boost your model’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Even very experienced models need this and will appreciate it. Always be on the look-out for opportunities to do so. Everyone has bad days and your models are no exceptions. You need to sometimes recognize that and deal with it in positive ways.
  5. Sometimes you might find yourself working with big egos. Models whose egos are often on display, in addition to their bodies, are often referred to as “Divas.” Divas work hard to ensure everyone on a set is in awe of her beauty and allure. Divas sometimes become experts on photography and lighting, photo composition, and more. If you’re dealing with an obvious Diva, don’t lose your temper. Don’t try to knock the Diva out of her. Listen to her bullsh… advice and ideas. Continue building her esteem. And do your own thing photographically. If the Diva questions why you didn’t take her advice, simply shrug and, in a business-like way, tell you it wasn’t what you’re looking for.
  6. Always try your best to remain cool, calm, and collected. Occasionally, there’s a bit of stress involved in a shooting. Don’t let it get to you. Keep calm and relaxed. Take a break if you need to cool down and relax. Maintain your sense of humor. Don’t let it get to you.


Thanks for reading!

Dan Hostettler - Photographer & StudioPrague Owner

Author: Dan Hostettler   Verified Account; StudioPrague Owner  Switzerland

A traveler at heart, inspired by women, working along Swiss precision.

Dan is a mediapreneur, photographer, author of several books, owner of StudioPrague and Founder + Editor in Chief of Being a successful photographer for more than 15 years Dan got internationally published and featured on/in GQ Online, The India Times, FashionONE TV, FotoTV, GoodLight Mag, amongst many others.

Dan is currently residing and working in Prague, CZ, conducting nude photography workshops, productions and pushing educational formats to a new level.

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Consider a Small Donation?

Your donation helps to sustain, create and regularly update the free content for you.
I love offering my knowledge to you and a small token of appreciation helps to keep the lights on.

Thank You!


Starting Out: Looks & Portfolio Building

Limited Special for: U$79 | RRP $199

Just $79