A Friendly Greeting
Be a Model of Relaxation
Communicate, Don't Command.
Your Model is a Human.
Carefully Express your Point of View.
The Model’s Choice
As a photography hobbyist, or even serious amateur, you may be attracted to portrait photography, intrigued with capturing human emotion with body poses and facial expressions, or learning how to create stylish fashion statements. Whatever interest you’ve discovered in photographing people, developing an excellent rapport with them is an essential element in composing exceptional photos. You must become part movie director and part friend to interact with your subject in a manner that will make him or her relaxed, but also focused on helping you achieve your vision. With the tips in this PhotographyTalk article, you’ll develop some important people skills and make it much easier to convince your portrait subject or model to follow your directions.
Even if you’re photographing a family member or a longtime friend, approach the photo shoot just as if he or she were a professional model. By doing so, you will have the experience to work with that professional in the future, if the opportunity presents itself, and be treated as a professional in return. Smile when you greet your portrait subject or model and spend a few minutes being genuinely friendly and maybe talking about anything but the photo session.
The portrait or fashion photography environment is already challenging for you and your model, with all the equipment, hot lights, etc. You won’t make it any easier for her or him and yourself if you’re a bundle of nerves. An important part of the professional’s demeanor is to remain calm, relaxed and unflustered by whatever may occur. It’s also critical to be conscious of the atmosphere surrounding the shoot. Don’t hesitate to use humor, appropriate humor, to keep everyone relaxed. Play a bit of soft background music. Burn a stick of incense.
Another important professional quality is an appearance of confidence. Much of this comes from your complete preparation for the shoot. Whether you make a shot list or sketch some guide drawings of your vision, approach the shoot knowing exactly what you want. If you appear prepared and confident, then the model will assume the same attitude, either consciously or unconsciously. Share your plans and goals for the shoot with the model at the beginning of the session, so he or she understands your exact vision, and then is able to make a conscious contribution to the accomplishment of your goals.
Models don’t appreciate a photographer that commands or takes a high-handed attitude…and neither does your mother (if she happens to be your subject)! This only creates tension that makes it more difficult to work as a team and accomplish something truly unique. Develop a tone of voice that is friendly, but describes, in a professional manner, exactly what you want the model to do. During your shoot preparation, you may want to make note of a few directions for the model that relate to the images you want to create. You don’t want to sound vague or seem to be unable to describe in direct terms what you want.
As you’re preparing for your portrait photography session, also think of the model in terms of what poses will look best, considering his or her body type and shape. Don’t hesitate to confer with your subject or model prior to beginning the session about what side of the face or body he or she thinks is best. Positioning your model in a pose that is physically, or even psychologically, uncomfortable won’t help you achieve your goals and could negate all the excellent rapport you’ve established to that point.
It’s likely you perceive what your camera is capturing much differently than your model, which is rather obvious since you’re holding the camera. Maintain a regular dialogue with him or her, without being overly chatty, about what you’re seeing. Interject a bit of praise when it is appropriate, but keep it to a minimum, so it’s taken as genuine approval. Any portrait or fashion shoot is sure to include a few poses or facial expressions that are honestly awful. There is no reason to comment on them in a negative manner, simply provide new direction to help your subject or model to strike a different pose that fits your game plan.
You can boost the rapport between you and your portrait subject or model when you give him or her the freedom to choose poses or positions that feel comfortable and expressive from his or her perspective. When you are planning your shoot, designate a period of time during your shoot to give the controls to your model. At the beginning of the shoot, explain that you’ve reserved a 10-minute period (or whatever amount of time) to allow the model to be in charge.
Image credit: smartphoto / 123RF Stock Photo
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