CQ:Unless you like to shoot only flowers and birds (not that there’s anything wrong with that), chances are that sooner or later you’ll do portraits for people outside family. While the technical and logistical aspects are discussed in depth on photo sites, the social aspect is barely touched upon.

The following tips are geared toward pro or semi-pro photographers shooting commercial stuff, but most of them apply for cases when the model is also the client or even when it’s just for fun.

Everything starts with trust

I can’t emphasize this enough. In other areas you may get away with a co-worker you don’t get along with, but if you don’t trust the model or they don’t trust you – it will show on pictures.

If possible, spend some time before the photo session to get to know who you’ll be working with. If it’s a location shoot, drive or walk together to the location. Break the ice. Explain your vision/plan for the session. Tell a little about yourself, why and how you got into photography, ask them why they model.

During the session, show how pics are coming along. This will further help in establishing trust (the model will see that you know what you’re doing) and will build confidence.

Be professional

Treat your model like a co-worker – you must work together to achieve the goals, so remember that your model is a human being, not like a prop. Don’t yell, don’t make inappropriate jokes, don’t be sloppy, don’t be annoying, don’t be loud, don’t be late.

Especially if you’re a man and your model a lady: don’t drool over her, don’t comment on her body, don’t ask her for a date. Things like “Yeah baby, show me what you got” will make you look like a third-rate sleazy low-budget porn flick director wannabe.

Handle with care

eep your hands to yourself and only give verbal instructions. Don’t touch the model to fix anything (a curl in the hair, the position of hand or anything else) unless you get explicit permission. If you think it’s over the top, keep in mind that your model is your co-worker, not your lover, perhaps not even your friend.

Some photographers feel offended if the model comes in with a relative or significant other. This is usually a sign of missing trust and can be annoying especially if their companion keeps making comments on how they’d “improve” the shots. The trick is to “win” them over – ask them to help you with the lights for example; unless they’re really cranky, they’ll gladly do something useful instead of sitting in a corner.

When it comes to underage models or glamor/nude shots, my advice is to actually demand your model to be accompanied by a family member. Think of it as insurance and make sure they sign in the model release stating that they have no complains. You never want your reputation to be questioned – or worse.

Be flexible

As the photographer, you are in a position of power. Unless there’s a very important shoot with its own art director, you will be calling the shots: camera position, lighting, model’s body posture and expression.

Don’t abuse your power. Don’t yell, explain. Don’t demand, guide.

Think about it. Chances are your model likes to be in front of the camera as much as you like to be behind it. Even if they have no experience, they like it and usually they love to experiment. If your model says “let’s try this”, don’t frown. Megabytes are cheap; say “OK, let’s do this; but then we do my way too” (unless you’re photographing H.M. Queen Elizabeth II – she doesn’t like being asked to remove her crown)

Play around, experiment. Try to keep it fun.




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