Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning From Zoolander

Okay, Derek Zoolander is a guy, a fictional male model in a fictional movie, and this blog is mostly about shooting pretty girls, but there's stuff to learn about shooting glamour (and fashion too) from Stiller's campy satire aimed at the fashion industry.

It's been a number of years since I watched Ben Stiller's, "Zoolander." The film, with it's story-line about a top male fashion model, Derek Zoolander, who is dethroned by rising-star rival, Hansel, played by Owen Wilson, and then gets caught up in a plot to assasinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia is more than a little silly. But the parts I liked best are when the movie mocks over-the-top posing and expression as demonstrated by Stiller's and Wilson's characters.

To be sure, the poses and expressions they demonstrate seem (and are) absurd, especially when engaged in by male models. But if you replace their characters with hot female models, would the posing seem equally silly? I don't think so. Certainly less so.

When I'm shooting pretty girls, I often encourage them to go over-the-top with pose and expression. I sometimes tell them, "If it feels dumb, it will probably look great." I wouldn't call that an axiom set in stone but it's pretty damn close to being one. I'm not talking about having them make dumb, silly, goofy faces. I mean having them go over-the-top with the expressions they might ordinarily make, albeit they ordinarily make them more subtly.

Often enough, the poses and expressions that feel stupid to the model (while she's engaging in them) end up looking great when captured and frozen in and around 100th of a second. I don't know why that is but it's the way this stuff works. Especially when photographing glamour models.

Another thing I sometimes advise models, especially when I'm directing them to bend and contort their bodies in unusual ways (mostly so my camera can see as many of her "goodies" as possible within the same pose and capture) is: "If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right."

Once again, much like dumb-feeling, over-the-top expressions, unusual contortionistic body poses might be somewhat painful when the model engages in them but often look great in the finished product.

Besides capturing a model's sensuous allure, and there's many ways to do that, more than a few of them not requiring silly expressions or yoga-like poses, we often hope our pics will have "wow" value. There's a lot of ways to add "wow" value to our images beyond shooting models who are so freakin' beautiful and sexy, the "wow" value can't be denied regardless of the image's elements. One of them is with the kinds of poses and expressions I've just referred to.

So, next time you're pretty girl shooting, have your model spend some of that time engaged in over-the-top, silly-seeming expressions and direct her to assume anatomically-defying, even if slightly painful, body poses. You might find some terrific "keepers" in the results.

The pretty girl at the top is Sunny shot in a studio. I added the BG graphic of the black and orange city skyline in post. Her expression isn't unusual but, when shooting this, I kept encouraging her to bend further at the waist while arching her back even more while pushing her butt out further and further while keeping her left leg straighter while turning her upper body towards the camera so I could see both breasts, as well as her face, and to look playfully happy while she's doing it. It probably doesn't look like there would be the slightest amount of pain associated with that pose but you try doing it a bunch of times and, each time, holding it till the friendly semi-sadist with the camera says okay or clicks or whatever.


Robert said...

It's funny you covered this topic now Jimmy, the gal I had in the studio last Friday got just about this same speech as far as if it feels over the top, it'll probably turn out great. She felt silly in some of them and it actually lightened the mood even more. We both agreed it was a great session and the pics are some of the best I have gotten IMHO. So, yeah, I say tell them a little over the top is good and hope they don't just get weird!

LOL, Robert
Fusion Photo

jimmyd said...

@Robert-- You definitely hit on point that I neglected to mention, that is, how going a bit over the top tends to lighten up the session, helping build rapport between model and shooter.