Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Shooting Newbie Models (Part One)

First off, thanks to all who sent me suggestions and ideas either here, on my blog, or in an email or on the couple of forums where I posted a teaser for my last blog update. Much appreciated!

Think I'll kick this off using the first suggestion posted in the PGS comments of my last update.

An anonymous commenter wrote: How about working with brand new models and model direction? Most of what you post is about using seasoned models.

Fair enough. Shooting with "brand new" or inexperienced models it is. Besides, this should be somewhat easy--altho shooting newbie models can be quite difficult--as I can plagiarize some of this from my e-book, Guerrilla Glamour. Is plagiarizing yourself plagiarizing? Beats me.


Shooting with inexperienced models is something I wrote a fair amount about in Chapter Six of Guerrilla Glamour. A chapter I called, "Glamour Girls: The Objects of Our Photographic Desires."

Whenever I begin with a model I've never shot before, whether they're experienced or inexperienced and, after I've snapped a few, quick, checking-the-lighting shots, I'll ask the model to show me what she's got.

"Let's see what you got," or "Show me what you've got," are some of the less-than-clever things I might say. That's pretty simple and direct. Sure, it lacks any specific direction (or wit) but it clues me in, in a general sort of way, to how experienced or inexperienced a model might be or, in the case of newbies, how relaxed, confident, and at ease (or not) they might be in front of a camera. If the model responds with something along the lines of "Like what?" I shrug, act very casual, and tell them, "Whatever. Just strike a pose. You know. Like Madonna in the song."

Often, this little exercise says it all. Well, maybe not all but it says a lot. It says much regarding how difficult--how difficult to direct, that is--the model is probably going to be in front of the camera. If not *how* difficult, then it might say *how much* direction will be required. Also, it might reveal, in a general sort of way, how much the model has practiced or studied posing, if at all. (I always encourage new models to study and practice, especially practicing in front of a mirror.) Fortunately, it says even more: It says some things about how aware of their bodies they are and how they "carry" themselves. It also shows how well (or not) they work and pose with their arms, hands, legs, even feet. It also says more than a little about their abilities using attitude and expressions and their willingness to engage the camera with those 'tudes and expressions.

After those first few "Let's see what you've got," shots, I give models directions based on what I've just witnessed. The less experienced the model is, the more DETAILED and SPECIFIC my directions will be. I don't really care for being a puppeteer but, sometimes, especially with new models, that's how I'm going to have to engage the model: Much like a puppeteer.

At all times, I constantly engage in positive reinforcement. I do this even with experienced models. With "brand new" models it's even more important! They're nervous, self-conscious, and generally in need of plenty of ego strokes when they're out there, in the lights, suddenly the object of the photographer's focus. Don't be overly concerned that your ongoing and repetitive ego strokes might sound insincere or as if you're on auto-pilot. Trust me. Models, new or experienced, love hearing them. If they didn't have an ego that loves hearing compliments, especially about their beauty and allure, whether they admit to loving it or not, they probably wouldn't be modeling.

Speaking of repetition, less skilled models are in need of constant direction and continual reminders of already-given directions. Doing so might seem rote and redundant but it's not. It tells the model you're paying attention. That you have an eye for detail even when that eye causes you to vocalize the same direction, over and over. (Assuming, that is, the model keeps forgetting or brain-farting the already-given direction, over and over.)

Look at it this way: Glamour shooters do what they need to do to get the freakin' shot! Even if it means giving the same directions, over and over and over. Why? Because later, when others are viewing your images, they have no idea how experienced (or not) your model might have been. All they know is what they see and if what they see doesn't impress they're not going to assume it was due to the model's lack-of-skill or their level of experience.

It's all on you. Like it or not.

Okay. There's Part One of "Shooting Newbie Models." I know, I know. It seems so incomplete. That's because it is... incomplete, that is. This subject will definitely be a two-parter... I'm thinking maybe even a three-parter.

The pretty girl at the top is my friend Kori. I've shot Kori quite a few times but this particular image is from one of our first times shooting together: A time when Kori had very little experience in front of a camera, leastwise in front of a pro camera. I don't mean that to sound all full of myself. Prior to Kori shooting with me, her modeling experience wasn't much past MySpace photos. And they weren't MySpace photos snapped by anyone who had much more experience as a shooter than Kori had as a model. Sorry about using that cliche feather-boa in the pic. It was Kori's idea. (Heheheh... I'll just blame the model even though I sorta wrote some words, a few paragraphs above, regarding how blaming the model doesn't usually work. Guess I don't always take my own advice. Oh well... Breaking rules and all that.)


Sarah said...

Great post! I'm a newbie so I'm gonna take a few things that you said (or wrote) and put them to work. I'll be posing in the bathroom mirror shortly after completing this. ;) And the only camera posing I've done is for my husband, who's far from pro. Or even mildly experienced. Maybe one day we'll meet, you behind the lense, and me in front of it.

Anonymous said...

right on! this kind of post is giving us the information we can use in becomming a Pretty Girl Shooter. nice post JD!

John said...

One of the things I've learned to do is do the pose for the model (as best I can anyway). If I want her to turn to the right and put an arm here, a leg there, and turn the hand a certain way; I'll turn to MY left and mirror the pose for her. It's quicker than explaining it sometimes.

Also, if possible I will make sure to chat for a while when she getting her make-up ready. Gives a chance to go over details about the upcoming set, make sure she's styled the way you want, and relaxes everyone by building the model/photographer relationship before they step under the lights.