Working With Models

Jennifer - One of our local models building her portfolio

Working with models and talent is one of the hardest facets of photography, outside of strictly technical aspects, and one of the most necessary for being successful in the business. You not only have to be skilled at navigating the technical aspects of photography like framing, lighting, and exposure, you have to be able to connect with another person to bring out real emotion rather than simply poses.

Basic Posing

That’s a huge topic for a single article. The best way is to get as many different fashion magazines as you can lay your hands on and analyze the photos, don’t just look at them. Figure out the lighting and body positioning in detail. Study books like Doug Box’s Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers and 500 Poses for Photographing Women by Michelle Perkins.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The only way to get good at it is experience. Fortunately, when models are starting out, they too need the practice and need to build their portfolio. Sometimes you can work out a deal based on mutual need. Those are called “TFP” shoots or Time For Prints: Their time, your photos. It’s a great way to build a portfolio when you’re starting out.

That’s how I met the girl pictured above, at a TFP shoot sponsored by a local gallery.  Keep building those relationships and you’ll be successful.

Collective Action

Another thing you’ll discover getting involved in the business is that professional photographers practice even when they’re not working. Remember this article on Do You Have What It Takes?  Pro photographers are working at their craft constantly.

Frequently groups of local photographers will partner up for a TFP shoot or pool together to hire paid talent. If you’re new to the business, absolutely get involved. You’ll learn a lot about posing just working around other photographers.

While you’re at it, get a box of business cards and get your name out there. Maybe you can pick up some work as a second photographer at weddings or event coverage while you’re gaining experience and models remember the photographers who make them look good and some have the clout to recommend photographers.

TFP Shoot
It's not unusual to have 20 pro photographers at a TFP shoot

Branch Out

Everyone likes working with pretty girls and that’s where the biggest money in the modeling industry can be found, but don’t ignore men and more mature models. As our population ages there are a lot of jobs out there for older subjects. Not focusing exclusively on glamour shots for younger women is one of the ways you can set your work apart from others.

So remember, you can get a Canon 5D or a Nikon D700 and the best glass and studio flash units on the planet, but if you don’t know how to work with your subjects to get the best look possible, you’ll never grow in the craft.