Photo Shoots: A guide for new models & clients
Getting in front of a camera for the first time (or first few times) can be intimidating. In fact, even professional models still get cases of nervousness. So don’t worry, it’s natural. All photographers including myself have worked with a number of first time models before and have a good understanding of what to expect and how to get the most out of photographing someone new. The best advice I can give is don’t worry about it. Relax. Most photographers will do whatever they can to create the type of environment and hopefully an atmosphere where you can do just that.
I consider a photo shoot to be a collaborative and creative effort between the model, the photographer, and the client (if present). Most photographers welcome an exchange of ideas and are always open to experimenting and trying something new.
Many first-time models worry about posing. When it comes to working with new models, I do not expect the person I am shooting to have a collection of different poses at their disposal. Most good photographers work with you with the skills you have and provide as much guidance and direction as you would like until both are happy with the results.
Photographers will most times have plenty of reference material available at their shoots and you should bring your own too. This includes magazines, books, photos, and anything else that might help you get ideas about looks or poses that you would like to try. All of these materials are there to refer to and get ideas from while shooting. Many of the experienced models I have worked with will still look at magazines while we’re shooting to draw ideas from.
Although photographers provide as much instruction and direction as desired during a shoot, it is a significant help if the person being photographed has an understanding of what their body looks like in different positions and to also understand how their face feels when making different expressions. I recommend that all first-time models, and anyone relatively new to modelling, practice posing and making different facial expressions in front of a mirror. It may feel silly to practice such things in front of a mirror, but it is a great way to prepare for what it will be like in front of a camera and should actually make doing your shoot easier and more comfortable.
Although interpretations of different expressions and looks may vary, practice a variety of different looks so that you are at least somewhat prepared should you be asked for a specific expression, such as: “sexy”, “intense”, “serious”, and “pouty”. Again, photographers will provide as much direction as necessary to get the look and expression desired, but the more prepared you are, the better. You should also practice smiling without showing as much of your gums, the tendency in professional photography is to limit exposure of the gum-line. Some of the best reference guides for posing are fashion catalogues and magazines. Study them. Pay close attention to the position of hands, the different angles the body makes (including the tilt of the head, arms, torso, thighs, and legs), and facial expressions.
Be sure to take care of all hair removal prior to a shoot, but leave at least 2-3 days between when you wax/shave any sensitive areas. This time is necessary to allow for any irritation to disappear before your shoot. Take care of your nails. Be sure that your nails are neat and well maintained. Short nails are preferred, natural, non-coloured. If you plan on posing barefoot, be sure your feet and toes are in good condition. If you plan on showing your smile, be sure that your teeth are cleaned and whitened.
Using make-up artists can be a huge advantage when attempting to capture compelling and attractive imagery. Using a make-up artist does not mean you have to wear a lot of make-up. Oftentimes, a little can go a long way, depending on the type of look you are trying to achieve.
Make-up provides ways to substantially accentuate your features, even out your skin tones, and hide any potential problem areas. If you are not extremely confident in doing your own make-up, but are serious about capturing professional level photographs, it is always a good idea to consider hiring a professional make-up artist.
Photographers like variety and options. Options are always good and you never know when you’ll feel like wearing something. And if you think you might want to bring something, but have second thoughts about it, bring it anyway. Models I have worked with almost always tell me that they wished they had brought something that they had thought about bringing but then decided not to. It is better to always bring more than you think you will need, however it may not always be possible to shoot with everything you bring. Please pack carefully. Clothes you intend to wear should be free of wrinkles and lint.
Chaperones are of course optional. However, if you’re under 18 you must bring one of your parents, or an adult with you, to act as a guardian. Your parent or guardian must sign a model release form for you. I encourage any new model working with a photographer for the first time to bring an chaperone to their photo shoot in general new models find having someone there for support and confidence helpful.
Photo shoots are a very collaborative process and clients are encouraged to share any ideas they may have for photographs they’d like to try and take. Although this can be done at any time, it is best done at least a few days prior to your shoot date so that any necessary preparations can be made ahead of time.
Often times, a pre-existing photograph may provide the inspiration for a new one. Clients are encouraged to share with the photographer any photographs they have come across (online, in magazines, etc) that they find interesting or inspiring. Many ideas can be found by simply paying attention to what a model may be wearing, any props that are used in the photo, the location where the photo was shot, and any effects used in the shot.
Unless otherwise arranged, clients (you) are responsible for supplying your own props for a shoot. What are props exactly? Props are any items you can help “accessorise” your photos with and potentially give it extra impact. Props can be anything from a cane or an umbrella, a mask, a furry rug, or satin sheets for a glamour shoot. If you have any items you think might be cool in a photograph, please consider bringing them. When in doubt as to whether you think you should bring something or not, you should consult the photographer.
Clients that supply their own props tend to bring things that have significantly more meaning than what the typical photographer might provide. Plus, photographers who repeatedly use the same props over and over again in shoots tend to have photos that all look the same (or at least less distinctive).
How long does a shoot take?
The length of a shoot is generally dictated by the client’s needs (and that is often determined by the number of wardrobe changes and the specific goal of a shoot). I have worked on most shoots for a minimum of two hours. Most shoots tend to average around four hours (and it usually flies by). Most photographers love to shoot, so unless they have other obligations, they are most likely to continue shooting for as long as a model or client wants. I have been at a shoot for 12 hours over the course of a single day.
The best for last
Over the years I have noticed that the majority of the best shots from photo shoots nearly always occur at least an hour after shooting has begun (and most often get progressively better until the end of a shoot). I believe this can mostly be attributed to everyone getting warmed up, used to each other’s style, temperament, method of work and communication. I also believe it has lots to do with a model’s confidence. Having confidence while shooting is a huge advantage in capturing great photos.
This is why I always suggest (when a schedule will allow it) that regardless of what I am shooting, that I start out conservative and leave the best and most interesting components of a shoot for the latter half. This includes elaborate make-up, exciting outfits, and exquisite locations.
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