I was recently hired to photograph a post-adolescent girl who hopes to enter the world of commercial modeling. Her parents were willing to spend a few bucks and, as a result, this young girl's first experience in front of the camera included a rented studio, an MUA/hair stylist, an assistant, and your's truly. She (and her parents) wanted 4 or 5 "looks" in order to put together a beginning portfolio and a comp card.
The young lady was very pretty and the camera liked her quite a bit. Although it was her first time, she took to being in front of the camera and lights like she'd been there a few times before. I think it was a great experience for her and the resulting images came out very good.
The toughest thing for me, however, was resisting shooting her in ways that evoked a bit too much sex appeal. It wasn't that, secretly, I wanted to shoot her in subtlely sensuous ways. (Requiring me to keep those inclinations in check.) It was that almost everyone else on the set seemed to be nudging me in that direction... the Mom included! My attitude was this: She's still a kid (at 13 years) and that's how she should be captured. Please don't take it wrong about the Mom. The model's mother wasn't looking to create a less-than-subtle "Lolita" look for her daughter. I think she was simply guided (misguided?) by what she often sees in fashion magazines (who feature post-adolescent models) or in child model pageants and, therefore, she wanted to re-create some of those looks, figuring that would make her daughter more marketable.
The MUA had applied the make-up in a somewhat glamourized way with hair to match. The young model brought along quite a bit of wardrobe and I asserted myself into the wardrobe selection (to keep it wholesome) even though, as I've mentioned, others seemed to want to give the images a decidedly "Lolita" appeal. I didn't want to go that way and it wasn't completely about morality: It also had to do with, what I thought, would be best in terms of capturing the model in marketable ways. Personally, I felt this model, although she was 13 years old, could easily "play" an age-range from ten to fourteen or so and I thought that was the way she should be photographed, i.e., with some of the images going after the "child" look and some a bit more mature without going for obvious sex appeal. For instance, we shot a two-piece bathing suit series and I went out of my way to keep those shots on the "kid" side of things. Overall, I wanted to keep in mind her age, while also depicting her having "range."
Although I lit the model in a glamour-like style, I didn't permit her to pose or exhibit expressions that had that "come hither" thing going on. It required a conscious effort on my part to keep the images in that direction: I sometimes go on autopilot when shooting and my autopilot is generally pre-set to "sexy" since that's what I most often shoot. Because of this, I found the experience very positive in terms of my growth as a photographer: It's easier to make an image stand-out when you have a beautiful, sexy model posed in provocative ways. But it's not so easy when the model, although beautiful (in that blossoming into a woman kind of way) and could be shot sexy, is still too young and shouldn't, in my opinion, be captured that way.
In the end, everyone was more than happy with the images, myself included. I'm not posting any of these pics because I've made it a rule on this blog not to put up images of models under eighteen years of age.