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Suggestions on how to direct models on a session

ricardo buchner , Aug 22, 2006; 09:33 a.m.

Hello. Im a photographer with 3 years of experience, acting on the "semi-fashion" (more directed to womens catalogs fild). Call it semi because, at least for me, fashion is a more edgy approach compared to catalog photos. on a catalog, the model expression has to please all (or most of) viewers, and it has to portrait the colthes more than the model itself. For me its like the model is a live dummy, so u can position her or him, telling him how to pose. Every shot is previously thought, etc...

Above, I gave a small briefing of how I work in this subject and here goes my question:

I would like to prepare a portfolio aiming the fashion market, so I need more edgy photos to compose it. But I dont know how to direct the model in this case.

What is the right appoach to achieve a more strong attitude from the model?

How the masters work in this case? they let her do her thing, and just start shooting continuously from many angles, or every shot is a calculated and paused thing?

If its a continuous thing, is it possible doing it when you have a slow strobe (around 5 seconds recicle time)?

Based on my experience, I notice the model sometimes worried to please the client that is observing how his clothes will appear on the model, so her expressions sometimes seems a little "stoned"...

I dont know if I could express my self correctly, but I think some of you got the idea...

How do I post a sample of my work in this forum, so you can get a better idea??

Hope to hear your suggestions!


Attachment: Porao_V_06_3.jpg


Yana Vaslozhila , Aug 22, 2006; 11:19 a.m.

A smile on the model's face would be a big +

ricardo buchner , Aug 22, 2006; 11:46 a.m.

Dear Yana,

This is not the answer I hope to hear for my question, but I appreciate your willing to help. this particular sample I provided, the model is not smiling but I have tons of other examples with models smiling. Thats not the point here... I want to achieve a more edgy approach (which in most of times, smiles doesnt fit in the mood). but thanks anyway.

Attachment: baraccat_P_06_3.jpg

caleb condit , Aug 22, 2006; 12:40 p.m.

create a narrative

Look at most fashion mags and they have a title to the shoot, more like a short story or novel would. Look at movies, think of sequences of stills that will create an overall mood...If the model is in a park, think of why and build up your plot, make it interesting.

If she's laughing, do another shot of why, if she's edgy, create that environment, that mood on the set when you shoot. You have to perform, but also let your models know what you're looking for and the CONCEPT of the shoot. Write up a narrative, or storyline the shoot follows and talk to them about how to create the peice. Bottom line is that modelling is about acting as much as modelling and help them get into character.

Find poses you like in magazines and bring them along when you're shooting and have the model copy them if possible. Bring a mirror so the model can see how they're standing when they're struggling...it can help.

Yana Vaslozhila , Aug 22, 2006; 01:23 p.m.

Ricardo, the smile IS important. But it has to be the right smile. The guy on the next picture smiles FOR the camera. Instead, he should've smile because he likes the image that he projects - he likes himself, he likes his car, his clothes, his watch - whatever. Your model is just a dummy smiling for the camera. Caleb is absolutely right, make your models act - not just pose for the camera with or without a silly smile.

Yana Vaslozhila , Aug 22, 2006; 02:01 p.m.

Also, I'm just curious about the model on the second picture - what is he modeling?

ricardo buchner , Aug 22, 2006; 02:27 p.m.


answering your questions and debating, which is very usefull for improvement:

this is a mens shirt brand. In that picture (lower right goes the company logo)...

And talking about smile: You are analizing the exact picture I posted but of course I do have many other pictures of him smiling and looking for different sides and places, thats not the point.

I am very open to critics of my work and dont mind at all, I think its necessary for improvement. What Im trying to understand is the workflow on how people who shoot fashion works...

My photos are far from perfect, and Im aware of that. I am not asking for help on how to improve that picture in particular, or how to reshoot that exact picture better.

I just want to make a whole different approach (aimed for fashion) on NEW pictures (on those pictures posted, thats was not the GOAL at all to make them look fashionable - thats for a catalog - from a regionally traditional brand - no craziness allowed)

the pictures postes before are NOT the work I am aiming now, If you read my first post you will notice how I put those pictures apart from fashion pictures.

So its not needed to tell me that those pictures doesnt look fashion ones, because I already know that.

Attachment: baraccat_V_06_2.jpg

Beau Hooker , Aug 23, 2006; 03:20 p.m.

Hi Ricardo,

I've worked with quite a few models who pretty much refused to smile. I found it was usually because, for whatever reason, they didn't like their smile. This model was a good example... and warning, there are naughty bits! http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3606105

I asked her why she didn't like to smile (because she had a beautiful smile) and she said she just didn't like to smile. Now I *do* have some (very few) shots of her smiling because I told her some cheesy joke or something - but since she didn't like shots of her smiling, I never showed them to anyone.

Here's another example. I think this girl is just gorgeous but she doesn't like her smile (again, "naughty bits" warning!) http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=4839368 Here's the same girl, smiling: http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=4761978 Her smile looks fine to me but *she* doesn't like it.

So, I think she has a beautiful smile - but she doesn't - so I usually don't put up very many shots of her smiling simply because if I do, she might not want to work with me again. (And she always poses for me for free!) :)

I guess I have an unusual philosophy in that I try to make the model happy with the results because if she's not, chances are I won't get to work with her again. I live in a small town and it's very difficult for me to find good models (or for that matter *any* models!) so I can't afford to *not* make them happy.

I'd also point out that one can "smile" with their eyes. They don't necessarily have to show a big, toothy grin. Many times it's just the look in the eyes that says everything. And if a smile is faked, it shows.

A few other "tricks"... If a model I really want to work with poses for me for free, I'll get her a small gift - a dozen roses or something like that - to let her know I appreciate it. I'll ask what kind of music she likes and try to have it or something similar to play for her during the shoot. Lastly, if she has a good sense of humor, take advantage of that and tell her some good old corny jokes during the shoot. A bit of levity can go a long way. Just imagine taking your clothes off for a complete stranger so he or she can photograph you! That's gotta be tough! A decent sense of humor can go a long way. Good luck!

Marc G. , Aug 26, 2006; 05:44 a.m.

Hi Ricardo,

I'm very used working with models, for about 18 years professionally now, and all I'll tell you is this:

Know what you fundamentally want out of a given session with a given model - know it BEFORE the session, and plan your session well. Then find out the rest when she comes. :-)

In short, it's her personality, that has to "walk into your world". Once you believe this strongly enough, she'll feel it - well, if she's not too dumb... (Therefore, I tend to choose my models based on brains as much as body.)

Then, you also wrote: "What is the right appoach to achieve a more strong attitude from the model?"

- Get her to UNDERSTAND and FEEL your story, and the role she's supposed to play in it. How ? By EXPLAINING...

You asked: "How the masters work in this case? they let her do her thing, and just start shooting continuously from many angles, or every shot is a calculated and paused thing?"

All kinds of photographers work in all kinds of ways. But if you are aiming for a picture to put in YOUR portfolio, you surely don't want HER to call the shots...:-) On top of that, you are the one who truly SEES. She's the other side of the viewfinder.

Finally, about technique: "If its a continuous thing, is it possible doing it when you have a slow strobe (around 5 seconds recicle time)?"

No, that's too slow - or well, you'd have to accept missing 9 shots out of ten...

IF you decide to go for action shots... Use a lower power studio strobe - they have a faster recycling time - or simply use flash gun(s) instead - they are faster but... no modelling lamp...:-)

Phil Rushton , Sep 27, 2006; 11:07 a.m.

50% smile 50% creativity

yana mentioned it and i'll elabourate a bit.... most try to do the i'm not showing any teeth and looking all coy and seductive. it ends up looking grumpy in my opinion. if you get her to relax, she'll do her thing... look beautiful if you make her feel glamourous. she'll try more creative stuff. let her personality (tramp, princess, dancer, whatever) come through and you'll get some more raw emotions photos

i'm no pro, i've just do it for artsy fun for the last 5 years. so i don't know exactly how the masters do it, i just know they use their intuition and work really quickly and quietly, observing the personality and movements of the model.

studying the pros enough to know that every shot is purposely composed in every little detail from her dress falling a certain way to the angle of her wrist. study them up and look at everything from Elle, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar high fashion) to Victoria Secret, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy (who have some of the world's best photogs on staff). or look at gothy/punk (ripped up clothes, dark makeup), extreme sports (muddy, attitude) and racecar models (pure hotness)

the point of flipping through the fashion mags is to find pose you like and copying them to some degree. Right now, i'm totally into Marilyn Manroe's poses. now there was an undeniably sexy model and her moves worked well in my past few shoots. a gal don't need to look sexy persay, only graceful and beautiful to the extreme.

and you don't like any of the poses you find in the magazines, forge ahead and make it up as you go. find some dramatic locations to inspire you -- industrial, beaches under cliffs, iron wrought gates to parks etc. -- and work her into the landscape. take lots of water and a four foot reflector to erase shadows under eyes.

strobe lights are sweet but.... expensive and a pain, try some hot photoflood lights first to learn how rim, side, fill, main, and hair lights work together. studio's all about putting on a good show of what you do or don't want to show.

a cheap clip-on lamp or pair of trouble flood lights seriously work just as well as expensive gear until you want to invest in something that will pump up 250-500 watts. especially low light contrasty shadows -- that'll give you some drama for your edgy shots. it's all clothes and lighting. if you got clients' clothing, bonus.

assure her not to worry about the client, he trusts you, so should she. plus the clothes make her look sexier then you thought it was possible or some lame joke like that and she might totally lighten up. that or take her glass pipe away... :P

good luck

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