Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Models: What's On Their Minds?

Before I begin writing (and pretending) I know what goes on in model's minds--they are women, after all: Leastwise, most models I shoot with are--here's an end-of-the-year holiday reminder: It's Winter Holidays time!

Wait! D'uh. You knew that. End-of-the-year = Winter, leastwise, start of it. And start of Winter = Holidays. Again, D'uh.

I'm only making this oh-so-obvious reminder because, while I could be wrong, I'm guessing some of you might be contemplating buying yourself a gift, you know, something nice or practical or cool or completely unneeded just to say "happy whatever" to yourself. I say do it! You deserve it! You've been good throughout the year, right? Course, "good" is relative but I'll bet you've been good enough!

Anyway, I'll also guess some of you might be purchasing gifts for others, holiday spirit and all, and whether those others have been good, naughty, nice or otherwise, you ain't no Scrooge! So, if that's what you're planning to do, and if you're of a mind to buy something from the good folks at Amazon, you might also extend some holiday cheer this way, that is, towards your happy PGS blogger! I've been good, bad, naughty, AND nice! I deserve it! And doing so is easy as mincemeat pie! How? By using (i.e., clicking-on) the Amazon link in the right-hand column of this blog when browsing and/or ordering from Amazon.

Buying through Amazon by clicking my link doesn't cost a penny more to you but, by doing so, you'll be purchasing through my Amazon-associates link and helping support the PGS blog.


Okay. Enough with the begging. It is SOoo unbecoming. Besides, last time I did the 'alms for the needy' thing, many of you responded so incredibly well that I ended up getting tossed off Google's ad-thing for uhhh... well, for begging. But that won't happen with Amazon because, unlike those Google-nerds, the peeps at Amazon are some cool people!

Back to photography and pretty girl shooting:

In my most previous update, I replayed a recent shoot writing about a personal experience with a model. In the comments to that update (who reads the comments, right?) photographer Ed Verosky, who originally suggested the update's subject, asked, "...I wonder what goes through a model/subject's mind as you're doing your thing. Does she want more direction or less, would she prefer you to be more animated, does she want lots of encouragement and praise? What's been your experience, Jimmy?"

Here's what I replied: "I've found the more direction the better. I'm not talking about micro-direction where you're directing every finger and toe in addition to the rest of the model, but a steady stream of general direction, both in terms of pose and body(parts) positioning, with some emotive direction for expressions and the all important 'tude, combined with lots of positive feedback, even it that feedback starts sounding rote and repetitive. That's what seems to work pretty good for me. (Sorry about that long, run-on sentence.)

Oh! Music helps too!

Nothing worse than, to borrow from radio people, "dead air" when you're shooting."

I'll add to that a bit--

In my experience, "dead air," on a shooting set, is like expecting to catch fish in the desert. I guess it's possible to do so, depending on which desert we're talking about, but the odds of that happening, in many deserts, are long. Way long. Same with getting good pics while shooting with your trap shut. Models, no matter how experienced, want to hear direction and reassuring words. They want to know they're not alone out there in the lights. Like children, they want your approval. On model-shooting sets, the photographer is the boss for that time, no matter how brief or extended. As that boss, you need to be a constantly communicating leader. How else, if you're not communicating, will your model understand your "vision" and mimic it with her face and body? ESP? Vulcan mind-melding? I don' think so.

On sets, photographers are also, in some ways, a bit like parents, guiding their (model) children. That's not to say you should treat models as if they were children, they're not, although some act like they are, but that approval thing is very important. And it's important for your "model-children" to hear that approval fairly often. If ever ther's a time to voice approval and stroke a model's ego, it's when she's in front of your camera.

When you're shooting, models put themselves in your hands. (BTW, that's not to say your hands should be on the models.) They're trusting you to do the right thing, the responsible and the protective thing. Those right, responsible, and protective things are all about making great pictures of them. Regardless of whether your model is a "5" or a "10," doing your best to make great pictures of every model you shoot is the right thing to do. It's your responsibility as a photographer. And by doing so, you're protecting their image: Images they want others to favorably view and, I'll bet, so do you.

So what's the model thinking about while you're shooting?

Sometimes, she's thinking about how to present herself in the best light, pun intended, while you're shooting. Sometimes she's thinking of all those things she's insecure about, i.e., what it is about her face and/or body that makes her insecure. Yeah, some of those things, if and when you discover them, might seem ridiculous and untrue but that doesn't matter much. It's what she thinks about herself that matters. Your job, besides wielding your camera like a Samurai camera guy, is to help her overcome those insecurities.

Some models are appraising you while you're shooting them. Is he/she any good? Does he/she have an eye? Is he/she hitting on me or just innocently babbling-on, engaging in photographer-speak (for lack of a better term) to make me feel comfy and secure?

Other models, often the very experienced models, might be thinking about almost anything other than what's going on at the moment. Your job, when you sense that's what's going on, is to redirect the model's attention to you, to what *is* going on, to what she's doing in front of her camera. That's right. While shooting, it's her camera-- She needs to "own it" if the results are going to be good. Conversely, you need to "own" the model. That's not to say she's your puppet but, in some ways, that's not a completely untrue way of looking at the process.

Still other models are nervous and afraid in general. Usually, these are new and inexperienced models. If you're not careful, your pics of these models are going to feature deer-caught-in-the-headlights expressions. The few times deer-caught-in-the-headlights expressions work is when you're actually photographing deer caught in headlights, if that's your thing. Or, sometimes, when shooting certain types of bondage-and-discipline and fetishy pics, again, if that's your thing. I know I sometimes enjoy shooting that stuff, when I'm feeling in touch with my dark side, that is. ;-)

If some of this is sounding like you need to be part psychologist, in addition to the photographer parts, you're right. You do.

The gorgeous one at the top, in the Xmas lingerie, is Tera Patrick. It's one I snapped during a holiday-themed shoot last year. Tera certainly knows how to put the "X" in Xmas!


snapshot said...

Very insightful Jimmy. I agree 100%. As an amateur jedi-pretty girl shooter, being friendly and showing them you're a real person, not just some guy with a camera, helps put them at ease. Just my 2 cents..1 cent after taxes.
ps- just found your blog yesterday and totally enjoying it and appreciate all the good information regarding lighting, models, etc.
chuck k

rovingrooster said...

Hi Jimmy,

I love your site! I recently discovered it through an old comment you made about Michael Grecco's "Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait" on David Hobby's Strobist blog. I spent a couple of weeks reading all of your archived posts from 2006. I love your No-BS insight of glamour photography.

Help me support you from Vancouver, Canada. How about a duplicate set of your recommendation links from Amazon.ca? I'm sure, I'm not your only Canadian fan. At the very least, check if you could partner up with a link from a cross-border friendly store like B&H Photos.

Really looking forward to your upcoming tutorial DVD.

Keep the faith,


jimmyd said...


I'll check with Amazon about an Amazon.ca link. Thanks. Great idea. As for B&H, I already tried that but they turned me down based on the pictorial content on the site. (No nudity, says they) Same with Adorama and a few others. Oh well.

UPDATE: Amazon.ca approved me and there's now a link to amazon.ca on the blog. Thanks again for the suggestion!!!