Hannah is a wonderful young actress and a good friend of mine and I recently had the joy of photographing her out and about in Manchester City Centre, and a little back in the studio. Manchester, for those of you who’ve not visited, is a massive, massive place and is already well over-photographed, so when we set out we deliberately tried to use locations that others have not.
Hannah and I already get on very well and are comfortable working with each other, but that is not always the case.
Here Are A Few Tips For Making Models Comfortable:
Models aren’t mind-readers.
Effective communication is essential in every creative endeavour. Give feedback after every shot or new pose. It is vital that the photographer is the one leading and giving instructions, a model won’t ask you questions while you’re shooting because he or she knows that people look weird when they talk. Speak clearly and calmly, and break down your instructions into as basic a form as possible. Try and use as few words as possible – I often speak almost clinically: “Alright, put your shoulders back and your head up”.
Give positive feedback
Everyone likes getting positive feedback, so give some out. Probably the most common thing I say is “That looks great”.
Never go negative
This is as important for photographers, as it is for filmmakers. If something looks bad, only you know! You’re the only one who can see the image on the back of the camera, and whether it was your fault or the model’s, it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the model as relaxed as possible. Don’t tell them if something looks terrible, simply make the adjustments that you need to make to make your shot work. If necessary move on to something else, a different pose, costume or location. As a director I’ve had to train myself to direct through positivity, if an actor is performing a take in a way that I don’t think works, instead of breaking down all of the ways in which his performance is failing, I’ll say simply: “alright, let’s try it like this…” and then fix the problem.
Finally, touching people is weird
I try not to touch models (I never thought I’d say that), physical contact is weird at the best of times, but photographing and directing someone in an effort to show their beauty is a very intimate thing and if you’re not careful it could get awkward. If I need to move a stray strand of hair for example, I always first ask permission – “Do you mind if I just…” – you get the picture. On a similar note, I was speaking to a model recently who had been booked in with a photographer she had never met before and he had refused to let her bring a friend to accompany her on a shoot. Obviously you don’t want someone to distract your model all through your shoot, so there is a balance to strike, but if it makes my model feel safe and comfortable to have a friend with her – and that friend understands his or her role (to sit and read a magazine or something and to intervene only in the event of murder) – then by all means, my model can bring a friend!
There are a million different intricacies to working creatively with other people and they’ll never all get covered here, but if you think something is important that we’ve missed out, please do let us know!
Peace & Love,