Directing & Collaboration Advice

Recently, a well-established (and super-experienced) glamour/nude model I know, one who works regularly by the way, was complaining on Facebook about one of her recent shoots.

She wasn’t angrily complaining as much as firmly voicing her displeasure with photographers who micro-manage models during their shoots. Trust me. This particular model knows what she’s doing in front of a camera… and then some! I know exactly where she’s coming from. As a photographer, I don’t like clients who try to micro-manage my shoots. When or if they do, it’s like throwing a monkey wrench in the creative works.

What Some Photographers Had to Say

A lot of photographers commented on her post . Some of them, a fair number of them in fact, said things along the lines of, “If I’m paying you and I want to micro-manage you that’s my business.” Or things like, “It’s my right to direct you any way I want!”

The ‘Boss’ Factor

First off, photographers don’t have any special or task-master “rights” when shooting with models. When a shooter hires a model, they don’t ‘own’ the model for the duration of their shoot, nor is the model their employee in the normal sense of the word. Sure, photographers are the ‘bosses’ of their shoots (for lack of a better term). But as everyone knows, there are good bosses and there are bosses who are assholes. (Most of us have all either had or have bosses who are assholes.) I’ve never done anything close to my best work when some asshole of a client was trying to dictate every detail of my shoot. In fact, it has led to some my worst work. Being an overbearing, micro-managing boss might work in the military, a factory, on a construction project, or in a retail store to name a few workplaces. Photography, however, is a creative endeavor, whether you’re shooting for work or for pleasure and entertainment. In my experience, creative endeavors rarely result in successful, creative work when someone involved in the process is being an asshole.

Finding Creative Balance

Directing models effectively and efficiently takes practice, skill, and experience. The photographer’s job is to gain rapport with the model, create the proper balance on the set, and get the best out of the model.

Call me crazy but gaining rapport with a model and directing her in ways that make great photos doesn’t often happen by being an overbearing, micro-managing jerk. It’s an ensemble process; a team process. If you’re working with an experienced model, it doesn’t mean you don’t direct her, but you’re really going to be wasting your time (and money) if you’re not listening to the model’s ideas and input, allowing her to contribute to the process. If/when you don’t give the model some creative ‘space’, she’s likely going to give you bare minimum of what she’s capable of. Generally, the more experienced a model is the greater (and better) her contributions will be. Why anyone would work in ways that do not take advantage of a model’s skill and experience is beyond me.

As a photographer, have you selfassessed your shooting demeanor? You might not be getting all your model is capable of giving you simply because you’re being a micro-manager.