Model Photography From The Model's Side of the Camera

Photography Greg Powers
The stuff I post here about model, fashion and beauty photography is mostly tech talk: lighting, cameras, lenses and so on. To change things up a bit, I asked my friend Laurence Yang, editor-in-chief of Runway Weekly, to write a post about what it's like to be on the other side of the camera - the model's side.

Take it away Laurence!

Yes, models do need to be beautiful. For photographers, however, a model's beauty is not only skin deep. It's more than that. A good model needs a good photographer where he and the model work as a team. By doing that, they must have certain qualities that will help create stunning images.

I must say when modeling at seminars and workshops - I get a lot of comments and questions from amateur photographers who always asks me, "How can I make you comfortable during a photo shoot?" I also get asked, "What can I do or say to encourage the model?" 

Well, it's very rare that I feel uncomfortable during a shoot anymore but I have to say - I was once a beginner as well and didn't know what to expect at times. So I do know how unpleasant and awkward it can be to shoot in front of a camera with some random photographer who's probably feeling the same because he is possibly just learning himself. So I've come up with a list of suggestions for photographers who are trying to help the models feel  comfortable shooting.

I. Get to know the model.

When you have a committed team, the whole experience is very rewarding for everyone. Whether you're trying to have a consultation with the model before the shoot or spending sometime on the actual shoot day. Try arriving early to set up lights and backdrops so you can test everything before a shoot that way while the model is getting hair and make up done you can discuss the mood and goal you are trying to achieve. It's just an advantage of getting to know everyone.

Tip: Want to break the ice? I love it when photographers offer to do a coffee run while hair and make up is being done.  

II. You can look, but you can't touch! Don't be creepy - PERIOD.

It doesn't take a scientist to figure this out. Just don't get all touchy with the model. It's not ok to put your hand on her arm, knee, or even to give a hug - unless initiated by the model. Yes, all of this has happened to me. Instead, give her a high-five. Acknowledge her after a fabulous shot. Sometimes photographers hound models to drop their tops, and they end up getting a bad reputation.

There are many awkward situations between photographers and models; like changing outfits on a beach. If this happens ask a female assistant to cover the model with a towel or suggest her to change in your car. Also, if there is a piece of hair or clothing in the way of your perfect shot, point to it and let the model know so she or an assistant/stylist can fix it, that's what they're there for.

III. Put a TEAM together. Hire a makeup, hair and wardrobe stylist and if needed a photo assistant.

I always get asked to do my own make up for shoots and sometimes even clothes. I don't mind but having someone else who knows what they are doing is great. Models are meant to pose and look good in front of the camera, not to put on make-up or to go buy outfits and then return them the next day. That's what the rest of the team is for. Here's the thing, some photographers don't get it - they think they can just snap a picture and make the model look good. Guess what, at times it does work and that's fabulous. These days especially in this industry - DETAILS matter!

Depending on what your shooting bad hair and make-up may ruin your shoot. Some photographers don't have a clue as to when it comes to picking out the perfect eye shadow shade or the perfect belt to go that top he/she is wearing. The key is, it's in the photographer's best interest to keep their model's hair and make up as fresh as possible - which means this shoot isn't going to work if you hand the model a huge pelican case and make her truck all your gear half way across the desert.

IV. Give direction and don't over exhaust your model!

For some photographers, this isn't the easiest thing to do. Most of it is learned over time. It all depends on the model. Some need guidance on what expression to give and how to pose and some are experienced and don't need to be told what to do. I've been on shoots where I was told how to pose, when to smile and when not to smile. It was bad!!! I've also been on shoots where I've had no direction to the point where I feel lost and had no motive to shoot.

Giving SOME direction is ideal. Another thing don't keep pushing your model to shoot if the outcome you've hoped for had already been achieved. Modeling is exhausting. When the shoot is taking longer then expected, things start to get uncomfortable. From my experiences when I'm tired, the pictures simply don't look as nice - especially if your team is worn out after a draaaaging day. If there isn't any more juice to squeeze out of the lemon then there is no need to keep shooting.

More helpful Do's & Don'ts TIPS:


** Show them works you have already done.
** Put on some music. Ask the model if she has anything she would like to listen to while shooting.
** Bring a large t-shirt, towel/sheet or robe ready for the model.
** Offer refreshments. Fainting models aren't fun!
** Give your model plenty of breaks. 10-15 minutes is a long time to be posing.
** Show images during break, it gives the model a feel of how she's doing and what she needs to work on for the next set.
** Be upbeat, professional, encouraging and confident.
** Compliments! Compliments! Compliments!


** Push your model beyond her boundaries.
** Watch your model change.
** Act like a giant douche bag, then you won't move up the ranks and won't be able to work with more experienced models.
** Ask the model out after a shoot!


Laurence Yang
Runway Weekly

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If you want to get better at model photography, Hal "Bull" Schmitt and I are running a model workshop later this year. Click here for info.