Saturday, April 06, 2013

Modeling is Acting Without Words

It's not enough for models to simply be beautiful, especially in glamour photography where eye contact with the camera is so often seen. Sure, a lot of pictures of beautiful models seem only designed to capture a model's physical beauty and allure, but the best photos of any glamour model will be those where the model is silently acting, i.e., conveying emotions, stories, or ideas without words.

Words might not be secondary to the story in most movies but, in terms of viewers' perceptions of the actors portraying the characters in a movie,  the things those actors do, i.e., how well they act out their roles beyond the words they're given to say, are generally paramount to an actor's success in the role of the character he or she is playing.

The famous British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, once said, "You know it's all in the eyes."  Olivier, of course, was speaking about acting. In a sense, Olivier was saying that the words an actor might voice are kind of secondary to the messages communicated via the actor's eyes.

Personally, I often find it amazing how a model's eyes can convey so much in a still photo without the help of words or movement. The best models are those who can use their eyes to communicate all kinds of emotions and more, just as the best photographers are those who direct, encourage, and inspire their models to silently communicate within the confines of that very brief moment in time captured in a photo. And what's the best way for models to communicate in many photos?  With their eyes.

Sure, other elements of a photograph support the messages the eyes convey -- lighting, composition, environment, pose, other elements of expression, that is, other than the eyes -- but in the end, and for the most part, the eyes say it all. Or, as Olivier observed with simple insight, "It's all in the eyes."

When I'm shooting models, I'm always encouraging them to "act" in front of my camera. I want them to say something to viewers beyond "Look how hot I am."  I'll readily admit I'm not always as successful as I'd like to be as a photographer-slash-acting-coach.  And when I'm being a photographer/acting coach I'm often directing my models to portray rather random emotions or "roles." In glamour photography, the goal is to capture images which do competently say, "Look how hot and alluring I am!" (or something similar.)  But that doesn't mean the emotions communicated in the photo cannot say something else or something more, even something conflicting or seemingly juxtaposed with the picture's intent... you know, emotion-wise.

Often enough, that "something else" will result in the best photos from any given set of photos, regardless of whether that "something else" makes much sense to the basic purpose of the photograph or not.

Next time you're shooting a model, any kind of model, remember that the emotions, stories, and ideas your model conveys, even if those things don't necessarily make sense to the overall purpose of the photo, are easily understood, or are quite subtle will generally yield more interesting photos. And that's what it's all about, right?  Snapping photos which aren't merely good from a technical perspective or that wonderfully capture a model's beauty and/or allure -- both of those things being very important -- but are also terrific in terms of drawing viewers in. And amongst the many ways to draw viewers in, whether it be lighting, composition, environment, pose and more, I think you'll find it has much to do with how well the model communicates with viewers or "acts" for them. More often than not, that communication/acting is "all in the eyes."

I can't recall the name of the model at the top whom I shot a few months back.  She certainly conveys a sense of mischievousness in the image.  I do remember that I asked her to "smirk" and act mischievous before snapping that one. How easy is that to help your model add a level of interesting emotion to a photo? All it takes is a word or two.

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