Sunday, January 08, 2012

Challenge Your Models to Mimic

I work with quite a few new(ish) and inexperienced models. While most of them aren't particularly camera shy, they don't have much of an idea what they're doing in front of a camera. It's not like many of them went to modeling school.

While my mouth usually remains running when models are in front of my camera, I don't like having every other word or so being a direction. While, in some ways, models are much like meat-puppets (and I mean that in the nicest if brutally honest way) the best models, like actors, pull it from within. Just like acting comes natural to some people, so does modeling. Unfortunately, those people are few and far between.

Directing a model's physical presentation to the camera is the easy part: Move this, twist that, point your belly button over here, make your shoulders go back, drop your face, turn your head, arch your back, make your knees touch and all that kind of stuff.

Getting poses and expressions to come from within is another matter. One of the ways I do that is to ask models to mimic what they've seen or experienced. For instance, I sometimes ask new models if they've ever watched the TV show "America's Next Top Model." As it turns out, many of them have seen the show. I then briefly talk about how dumb and stupid some of the poses are the wannabee models in the show engage in. More so since, on the TV show, we see them do it in motion rather than just in still images. My newbie models usually giggle and agree. Then, I ask them to mimic some of those dumb and stupid poses and expressions they've seen.

Most of the time, the models find this a fun exercise. Since they're often new(ish) to modeling, they rarely over-exaggerate the posing and expressions they're mimicking. Instead, what most them exhibit is not too over-the-top even though I might have asked them to go over-the-top with it. They're new to modeling, remember? As such, they're often a bit inhibited in how they present themselves and how they might appear even if they're not particularly inhibited about being in front of a camera in their birthday suits. That might sound like something of a paradox but that's how they are. Go figure.

Often enough, I hear models saying things like, "I feel stupid doing that." In response, I quickly tell them that, quite often with modeling, the stupider it feels the better it looks. Since I've already gone out of my way (in one way or another) to convince them I know what I'm doing as a photographer, most of them tend to accept those words at face value.

There's all kinds of things you can ask models to mimic. Use your imagination. Most anything you come up with calls on what the model has seen, what she knows, or what she's experienced. Because of that, the mimicking, while not always being sincere and/or serious, comes from somewhere within, even if it's a simple memory or "call-back." Things that come from within, even when their little more than a mimic of something they've seen, come off more "real" than many new models imagine. Especially since those mimicked poses and expressions are being captured in such tiny slices of time. I mean, the finished pictures' viewers aren't aware the model might have busted up laughing moments after what appears to be a serious or sensuous (mimicked) pose or expression was snapped.

Just some stuff to think about and try when you're working with models who have very little experience and might not be delivering what you hope to capture.

The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is Dani, snapped a few years ago.


Unknown said...

I LOVE working with new models! I find them to be a breath of fresh air as they don't have the ego or baggage that comes with limited experience. That being said, I hardly ever pose my models. I put on music, turn it up loud and tell them to dance. Some do it with no problem, others need to be encouraged. I've been known to "Stanky Legg" to get the party started.

Anonymous said...

yes a good read!
i'm also tell my models that if they feel this is over the top mostly the doing great and that feeling they send us to the camera is a feeling of doing nothing preserved but enjoyable funny and sometimes far away from there normal behavior. when they look great , the light is good, and you pick the right ones out to show off they react like. wow is that me?? - yes thats a 1/160 of a second of your life captured, LG, we got a wrap..

The Next top model is a favorite show here also in Holland ill keep that in mind to tell them the next time.

-off topic thanks for the Shirt it fits, design logo is super!

greetings, T