Now it’s time for you to step-up and do your thing. Your model-shooting photography thing.
It’s time to open your mouth and say something.
To interact. Direct.
Make the model feel like she’s the most beautiful, sexy, alluring, captivating woman who ever appeared in front of a camera.
And that’s going to take more than you hoisting your camera to your discerning eye and giving some minor verbal indication (or non-verbal hand signal) that you want her to begin busting out her repertoire of poses, expressions, and more.
And guess what? If she’s not too experienced, she doesn’t have a repertoire. She’s got a face, a body, a mind, and that’s about it.
Oh yeah. She’s also got you.
You want her to do things with her body, face, and attitude?
Epic posing things?
To do that, you’re going have to do some things. You’re going to have to open your mouth and keep it open as you direct, cajole, reassure, stroke her ego, challenge her mind and body, all the while framing, focusing, and clicking… framing, focusing, and clicking.
I’ve shot many, many models: From beginners with little-to-no experience to wildly experienced pros who have been in front of the camera hundreds of times. They all need those things. Those
communication, direction, and positive feedback things, regardless of their level of experience.
Lines I Sometimes Use
I’m often asked what sorts of things I say to models when they’re in front of my camera. I confess to having some standard dialogue I often mouth. Most of the models I shoot don’t end
up being in front of my camera more than once or twice. So, I’m in little danger of being perceived as a photographer who spouts the same old garbage, I mean verbage, out of my mouth over and over, even if that’s what I often do.
Here’s a few of the “lines” I sometimes use. I’m not encouraging others to steal these lines and use them. They’re not all that great. And they’re not all mine, exclusively mine. I stole some of
them myself. They’re just lines. Model shooting lines.
But if you like one or more of any of them, go ahead and steal them. Use them. They’re yours. Be my guest and snag them for your own or modify them to fit your style and personality. If nothing else, take what they’re saying and figure out what they’re really saying. If that makes sense.
When working with new or less experienced models — and I’ve worked with plenty of them that fit that description — I often encourage them, i.e., I direct them to let themselves go and become extreme, intense, to go over-the-top and exaggerate their poses, expressions, and emotions. I do that because I know, for the most part, that’s not what they’re going to do. But if they give me just half what I’m asking, I can work with that. “You ever see that Next Top Model TV show?” I might ask. “Do what those models do. Only overdo it. Really overdo it. Mock them with your pose and attitude!”
You see, what they perceive as exaggerations or going over-the-top or mocking rarely is… over-the-top, exaggerated, or all that mocking-like that is. That’s because
A) they’re new and/or less experienced, which makes them insecure, self-conscious, and inhibited in front of the camera, and
B) all that over-the-top stuff makes them feel like what they’re doing looks stupid and dumb. Because of that, most of them don’t actually engage in poses and expressions that are as over-the-top as they think they are. Self-perception can be a funny thing that way.
No One Wants to Look Stupid, But…
No one wants to look stupid or dumb in front of the camera. Especially if they’re naked or barely covered up. I know I don’t want to appear that way. And that’s why I don’t ever, I mean ever
glamour pose for a camera. I might mimic a glamour pose for a model. And I guarantee I do look dumb and stupid when I do so. But sometimes that’s the best, make that the easiest way to help them understand what I’m looking for them to do. Mimicking also works great when you and the model don’t speak the same language.
One of the “lines” I use when I know my new-ish models are feeling weird about what they’re doing goes something like this: “If it feels stupid, it looks good.” Or, “The dumber if feels the better it looks.” And you know what? That’s often the plain, simple, truth! If it feels stupid or dumb to the model, it probably does look good… for the camera, that is. Go figure.
By the way, if a model doesn’t believe what I’m telling them – and believe it or not, some models are very skeptical that way — I simply shrug and agree that it doesn’t make much sense.
But I also tell them, those models of little faith, faith in me that is, that that’s how it often works. I ask them not to think about looking dumb or stupid but to just go with the flow. “Trust me. I’ve done this before,” I tell them, while pretending to be humble and wise.
I sometimes direct models into poses that rely on flexibility. Lots of flexibility! I bend them this way or that. I’ve had models tell me they feel like they’re doing pretzel poses. Again, I simply shrug. “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right,” I frankly and honestly explain. I’m not a sadist. I know that some poses will hurt. They’re supposed to hurt. That’s why they look good. And they can’t be done without a bit of pain. Muscle pain. Especially when they, the models, have to hold those unnatural poses for a few moments or more. But hey! No pain, no gain, right? And what are we trying to gain? Terrific images, that’s what!
The Eyes Have It!
A model’s eyes can be everything in glamour photos. They can project so much in terms of emotion and more. I’m not shy about saying things that are quite direct, blatant, and to the point. Words that some might consider overly explicit.
“Come on! Give me those ‘come fuck me’ eyes,” I’ve said on plenty of occasions. If I’m being a bit more politically-correct, I might say, “Come on! Sell it!” You know, “sell” their sexuality and sensuality to the camera. Usually, they know exactly what “Sell it!” means without further explanation. With newer models, I might ask them to oversell it. “Give me the hard sell!” I might say. (Pun intended.) Generally, with newer models, the “oversell” or “hard sell” won’t look overdone. You know, because they’re new and all.
Turn the Headlights On! High Beams! And Hit the Gas!
When I’m trying to get some real intensity out of their eyes and their body language, some extreme attitude, I might ask them to look at the camera like there are laser beams or arrows firing out of their eyes while saying things like, “Come on! Hit me with it! Hit me here! Right between the eyes!” If they really hit me. If they “nail it” (nail me) with their eyes, I might mimic being painfully hit by one of their beams or arrows. “Ow! Perfect!”
From Cellos to Violins
Many women have wider hips than men. There are obvious biological reasons for this difference between the shapes of men and women… shaped to birth kids and all. I try to avoid having my models pose perpendicular to my camera in order to reduce the wideness of their hips. I don’t explain to them that I’m trying to turn their cello shapes into violin shapes with their bodies. If I did that, they’d get even more self-conscious. One or two of them might even smack me in the head!
Instead, I simply have my models use their belly buttons as pointers. I might hold one of my hands to my left or right or point to something on my left or right and say, “Point your belly button here.” Doing so, of course, turns their hips towards my hand or whatever I pointed at and away from the camera. Doing so automatically turns their cello shape into a violin shape. It’s an illusion, of course. A matter of perspective. But who cares? As long as it does what it’s supposed to do in the photos. If I want something of a straight-on pose, I still have them turn their hips, but I then have them bring their shoulders back to being perpendicular to my camera, keeping their hips, I mean belly buttons, where they are pointing.
Whenever you’re asking models to give you more with pose, expression, and attitude – and you should often be asking them to do that — it’s even more important (than it already always is) to give them constant positive feedback while you’re shooting and to keep that kind of dialogue going. Positive feedback, no matter how rote or repetitive it sounds, and regardless of whether you’re directing your model in traditional glamour poses or having them put forth much more emotion and attitude, and asking more in terms of physical poses, is extremely important.
Models want and need their egos stroked, well stroked, while in front of the camera. They want to hear they’re doing a great job and that they look hot! Beautiful! Sexy and more. It doesn’t matter how experienced, confident, or self-assured they might seem in front of the camera, they all still love hearing it. They all need to hear it.
You don’t have to be Mister Personality or a comic genius to effectively communicate and direct your models. But you do have to do it. Trust me on this.
I’ve done this before.
Thanks for reading!