11 Important Steps to Photographing a New Model for 2018
Unless you live in one of the big metropolitan cities like New York or Los Angeles (and our European/Asian cities), photographing a model is easier said than done. That's because any chance of success in the industry, and the models move to the bigger hubs. That will not change, but there are opportunities to photograph models in generally any location before they flee for the bit cities.
HOW DID I FIND TODAY'S MODEL?
James is a brand new model that suffered jury duty with me and I loved his look. James looks many cultures and with the new wave of diversity in fashion modeling, I saw an opportunity for him. We spoke for a few hours and then I asked if he ever considered modeling.
Photographers are shy when it comes to approaching new talent and to me, it's always been about the approach. I think we should be self-aware and put ourselves in their shoes. Once you get passed the inquiry stage, there are a number of other steps in to increase the odds of a successful photo shoot. One side note about the inquiry stage: Please respect their NO. Maybe they say it politely, maybe with less tact? Either way, we must respect their NO and keep it moving.
I asked James if he ever thought about modeling and he responded by back saying he thought about it. However, he had no idea where to start and that's where I found my opportunity to help him and the followers of this page. We set up a photo shoot and in this awesome tutorial, you can shadow me and learn. By the way, if you're not a member of my newsletter you might be missing out because I allow members to shadow me on certain sets. I also hire from this newsletter and I send something out about 2x a month only. Click here if interested in joining the free newsletter.
The video will teach you a lot of content, and worth every minute of the 12 or so minutes. I'm going to break down a list of 11 things I did to have a successful photo shoot with James. The rules apply to any and all photo shoots, no matter how beginner or advanced you are. Even in y own photography, I am constantly learning!
11 STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL PHOTO SHOOT WITH A NEW MODEL
1. PICK A MODEL: Even supermodels come from small towns around the world, and before they head on a plane to NY or Paris, you can be the one who discovers them in coffee shops, grocery stores or even on a social network. Find someone who has an interesting look and approach them. If they appear to be a minor, approach their parent first and explain in detail your idea for the shoot. Then invite the parent to attend BEFORE they ask you if they may attend. If it's a female and you're a male, understand they might be hesitant and you should assess each situation before approaching them. Use common sense please.
2. LOCATION: Pick an area where the model feels safe, where you can get the job done and you won't be bothered by the film-police. Locations should not make/break the shoot, that honor goes to the photographer and the model. Locations can contribute to your overall aesthetic but in fashion photography, we want to see the face and the clothes more than the background. In other words, just pick a place and do not let it slow down the process!
3. GEAR: I don't believe in the latest and greatest. Have a good camera and a better lens. You can borrow, rent or use the one that you have. Kit lenses? They're not the best, but I've been published with them many times for many celebrity photo shoots. You'll do fine! The camera industry brainwash into buying new product all the time, and it is not essential.
4. WARDROBE: This is a test shoot, and intended to help your portfolio. Clothes are great if you can get a stylist but if the model uses their own garments, remember that less is more. If you're looking to do a test shoot with a newer model, consider asking for clothes that are basics and won't expire as quick. Fashion changes but certain basic will always stay in vogue, like blue jeans and a simple t-shirt "the Gap look".
5. CAMERA-SETTING GOALS: I keep a checklist and review if I'm on the correct FStop or ISO based on preliminary planning. Jot notes down because at the moment, you might forget key things. I once did a beauty shoot, aimed heavily at cosmetics. I picked an F2.8 for most of the production. I had the eyes in focus and much of the face had a blur. It was a fail on MY part. They didn't see the whole face as instructed and I should have written notes down for myself like: Stay above F7.1 or whatever might be appropriate. You might change your mind in the middle of the shoot, but it's always good to write yourself notes.
6. TALK TO THE MODEL: This is key and failing to communicate with the model means you failed as a photographer! Speak to them and be approachable, be relatable and kind. Make them feel comfortable and if you must, do the pose yourself first. Give them reassurance on what they're doing right and what should change. They are nervous and you have an opportunity to really make a positive impact on their future and self-confidence. Talk to them and make them feel comfortable! Photography has a "they're just button pushers" reputation and it's our job to undo that thought process. We do far more than push a button and our expertise has a big affect on culture.
7. FIND THE ANGELS: I do this on every single photo shoot despite their level of expertise. Look left, look right, look up and down, etc... Sometimes it's about finding their best angle and other times it is about eliminating the weaker of angles! Watch the video you'll see how I do this.
8. THE SUN: For our light complected friends, this is a tough moment. I ask if they have issues with strong light and most do. So I do the, "1, 2, open! ... great, close your eyes. 1, 2, open!" thing with them. It goes at a slower pace, but we get better images and the trade-off is worth it.
Bonus Tip: I pick something dark in the distance (The direction where the model should look) and have them focus on something dark and more soothing for their eye. Play around and each situation is uniquely different, adapt and have fun with it.
9. SHOW THE PHOTOGRAPHS: Please sit down with your model through the shoot and show them what you captured. For professional models, I stop about every 40-50 photographs. I show them what I love, what I want more of and maybe what we can omit. Each time we sit down, they get better and my ratio of great photographs increase. With new models, I stop every 10-20 photographs.
Everyone appreciates positive and constructive criticism. They want beautiful photographs like the next person and this can be a win/win. In fact it should always be a win/win situation.
10. FREEDOM: Remember that you selected that model because something about them caught your eye. It could have been the look or their energy. Once you have them relaxed and more familiar with the camera, allow them to move around more and be themselves. You'll get magic because this allows their real personality to come through.
11. SHOOT DIRECTION: Why are you shooting? In my case for this video, I thought James would be great for a particular agency based out of Los Angeles. We aimed the photographs to match their aesthetic. James said he wasn't the 6-pack abs model and I showed him what the market hired. I said look at ASOS Models and Forever 21 to make my point. Our direction was that, the ASOS model who was hired from that LA agency. Know your direction and reason behind the shoot!
I hope my tips and techniques help you and you found them useful. Remember this is supposed to be fun and experimental, we as photographers often forget that. Have fun experimenting, making mistakes. Appreciate the beautiful images that you capture because it was a puzzle solved and a level you grew.
Develop your own style and do not worry about the pesky critics! I want you to remember this: The loudest internet trolls are the ones doing the least. Ignore them, like everyone else ignores them. You're on a mission to win, and I'm here to help you with that!