As a photographer, I’ve worked with several different types of models from people who do it on a level that rivals professional to random Joes and Janes who’ve never modeled a day in their life. I’ve found the best way to get the most beautiful picture out of a person is to make sure they are comfortable and direct them as needed. I decided to write this little note about some things I thought I’d suggest to models as they go out on their quest to get their portfolio’s built, as well as anyone else simply looking for a nicer picture of themselves and/or their families other then main stream mass-photo stores :)
A simple thing I do for my models is have music going, either my iPod or them bring their own. I have my nice little portable stereo which can plug into the wall or can run on batteries so I can go shoot outside with it too. Music makes the world better in so many ways, plus I find that if the model starts dancing you can get some lovely poses and expressions from them simply being themselves. For as many people that have come to me for pictures, be it models or family photos, you’d be surprised how many people are not comfortable in front of the camera. As a photographer, it is my challenge to make sure my subjects are relaxed and familiar with the lens as best they can be in the short time we have together.
Never shoot with a person you are not comfortable with taking your picture. Yes, there is a difference between not being comfortable with the lens versus not being comfortable with the photographer. I had a model friend of mine call me up a while ago asking for my advice, as I did a little bit of modelling when I was younger and could get away with being 5’5”. She told me she went for a TFCD (Trade for CD aka Free Shoot in exchange for photos) shoot with a guy tried to pressure her to take her clothes off. She ended up doing it but felt really bad afterwards, however she said she was a little more comfortable because her friend was with her. She asked if I had ever had that happen to me and what she should do if that ever happens again. I cannot tell you how many people I have found claiming to be “photographers” and are really just trying to get what they want out of the deal, men and women a like. With cameras being as they are these days, anyone can buy a Digital SLR, load up on photo gear, take a picture, and fool around with an image in PhotoShop but I’d never label certain people a “photographer”. It’s so much more then just taking a picture. Anyway, I digress… if you are not comfortable with a person, either before or during a shoot you have every right to say “No”. There is no amount of money or pictures in the world that should ever make you compromise your safety or self-image. Also, I highly suggest always taking someone with you to a shoot, especially if you are not familiar with who you are shooting with or the area you are shooting in. I’m not saying every photographer is shady, I’m just saying that it’s a safety thing. The Buddy-System works, even for adults :) When in doubt, meet with your photographer before hand so you can chat, get to know them, and plan what you want to shoot. Most photographers have no problem with this, and ones who do you probably don’t want to work with anyway.
Know just like any other service in the world, you get what you pay for with your photographers. If you’re going out in search of a private photographer for any kind of photos, know you’re probably going to be paying more then what you would for some place like Glamor Shots or Picture People. With this in mind, be particular about who you contribute money to. What are you getting out of your money? Look at portfolios, ask pricing, does the photographer help you after the shoot with your selections, is hair and make-up included, how much does retouching cost or is it apart of the price, etc. I can tell you right now, any sitting session with a professional photographer ranges anywhere from $100 to $1000 (depending on outfits, hair and make up, locations, etc.) Many people’s reaction is “Are you kidding me? That’s so expensive!”, here’s something to think about; remember the expense of your shoot should be determined by the number of outfits, shots, and time it takes to execute the shoot — this includes hair and make-up, outfit changes, and the actual shoot itself as well as the post-shoot work.
For example, my headshot sessions cost $100. What that includes is two outfits of the client’s choosing, unlimited pictures, several different angles and poses, a proof site to select the images from, as well as four final retouched head shot photos both print size and web sized for social networking sites in both colour and black and white.
Let’s break down what goes into a shoot like that:
The Actual Shoot: 1-3 hours
Uploading the Photos and Editing Down the Photos (getting rid of shots with eyes closed, misfires of lights, etc): 1-2 hours
Creating the Proof Site: 1/2 hour depending on how many photos
Editing Final Selections (Color correcting, hand-retouching, resizing, formatting): Depends on how many photos. For four photos, typically an 1 1/2
Total Hours of Pictures: 4 to 7 hours
That’s just a head shot session, it’s much more extensive for shoots with multiple outfits, settings, and looks (changing hair and make up). As a model, you work hard for your money and hard for your shots. You want a photographer who is going to give you the kind of product you want. This is why I say look and ask what you are getting, and understand what happens after you leave your shoot as well. If you’re short on money and/or just starting out, feel free to look for people who are willing to do Trade-For-Print (TFP) or Trade-For-CD (TFCD). They can be just as good as anyone you’re paying for, however, in my experience from when I modeled it may not be as extensive as a paid-shoot. My advice when hunting for TFP/TFCD try to find someone who is looking for models for a concept they have in mind already. This is usually a great opportunity to get some experience and great shots for your portfolio.
Ask your photographer for a reference and even a referral to another photographer. A good photographer will be able to help you improve as a model. Myself personally, I am a visual person and I find many models are as well. If my models are having trouble posing like I want them to, I have no problem showing them first and having them mimic me. I try to make suggestions for the way their poses are as well in the future. This is not something I do unless I am asked though, simply put some people don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to make my clients unhappy. So if you’re going to ask for criticism, take it with thick skin and an open mind because some people will give you helpful advice and others are just going to try to bring you down. Another good practice after your shoot is done is to ask your photographer if they know anyone else who you may want to shoot with. While some photographers may be insulted because you want another person shooting you, it’s simply wise to have a variety of styles in your portfolio. That’s not to say if you have a favorite photographer not to go back to them again (THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY LOYAL CLIENTS WHO KEEP COMING BACK TO ME!! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE ;) ) but many professional photographers network and at least know of other people who they may admire and refer you to. It can’t hurt to ask, right?
Have fun with the camera! Photographers love their job so love yours too! Have fun, be silly, be expressive. If you think you look ridiculous, chances are you might be pulling off one of your best shots. If you are not having fun with what you are doing, then you should not be doing it. Life is too short and being happy is the key to enjoying it.