Photography Sessions for Models

Joanna Moja

It may seem obvious but it is so very important for a model to choose the right photographer.  Most photographers have a certain style to which they always stay true to so, for the model to do this research is essential.  Simply reviewing the photographer’s portfolio and trusting that gut feeling about what is there can be a great guide.  Personality for me is one of the the most important bonds between the photographer and model.  Without that bond it will be very hard to feel comfortable in front of the lens and it will show in the photographs.

Communication and Planning Between Model and Photographer

Even a quick casual meeting before the shoot builds chemistry and trust or provides the warning signs to cancel for either of the participants.  With communication the model has a better idea about the photo shoot, more ideas to contribute and a chance to rehearse.

Planning is equally important to the photographer to ensure fresh new images and less dependency to find inspiration for every picture during the shoot.  Some plans are never carried out, some plans become great photo shoot ideas or even evolve into something unexpected through improvisation.

Model Release – Ownership and the Use of the Photographs

This is not a cut and dry issue but one thing is certain: the photographer automatically owns all photos taken.

The future use of the photos can be determined by the type of release signed. Most importantly who can sell the photos and the possible changes in ownership of the photos.
There can be as many types of releases as photo shoots. It is up to the model and the photographer to agree on the terms. If a model refuses to sign a release the photographer has every right and a very good reason not to photograph that model.
Most photographers do not do photo shoots without a model release. The model release is not written to take advantage of the model, it is there to protect the interests of both parties.

Practicing in the Mirror

Experimenting with different facial expressions, emotions, poses, hairstyles, clothes in the mirror is very useful.
Knowing what one’s good side is important but trusting in the photographer is also essential.
If the photographer decides to shoot the “wrong side” let them, I have heard from models that the photos I took of their “wrong side” came out surprisingly to their liking.

Being Yourself

When it comes to modeling no experience is better than having bad experience. Once a model has learned bad posing it is very difficult and often impossible to “unlearn” it.

For the model being herself and being comfortable with herself is a great start. It can be built upon.
For a natural intimate setting my first instruction for the model is not to try anything special for the camera, no need to try to impress me, not to be overly cute or sexy, not to over exaggerate emotions or poses in other words at first do less or nothing for the camera.

The next step is to stop trying to do that nothing, because doing nothing for the camera IS doing something.
It is just the next level of being more comfortable or even unaware of the camera.

More expressive situations and settings can be built on this foundation of self confidence to create the story of the photo using the location, wardrobe, makeup, accessories, poses and emotions.

Uncomfortable Situations

If a pose is uncomfortable it will probably show on the model’s face on the photos. Some models can hide it better than others. The same is true with uncomfortable situations or requests.
The photographer might have a request which is within reason for him or her but unacceptable for the model. Planning and discussions before the shoot and communication during the session can often prevent or resolve these situations.

The Question of Nudity During the Photo Shoot

This falls under discussions but the subject is more personal. In the USA nudity is more taboo and frowned upon more than in other countries. The model and the photographer might have completely different ideas, value systems and upbringing considering nudity. An artistic photographer and an erotic photographer will certainly have different views, approaches and photographic results.

The question of nudity is best discussed and decided clearly before the shoot. Viewing the photographer’s portfolio is a good indicator. When in doubt ask!
Obviously the model has the right to change her mind during the photo shoot either way about this subject but setting parameters is most advisable.

A Good Night’s Sleep

One night or several good nights’ sleep can do wonders. It is obvious but often ignored.
Yes, there are ways to retouch the photos later but it is expensive, time consuming and not the right solution. Often lack of energy or bad mood can be side affects of not enough sleep as well.

On the other hand there is a time and a place to break every rule. Moody, dramatic, edgy black and white photos can benefit from tired look even dark circles under the eyes, having a more “documentary” feel perhaps expressing the hardships of life.
But not in the case of a beauty photo shoot.

Selecting the Best Photos

The selection can be done by the photographer and the model separately or together.
If done together it offers a chance to learn more about what worked and what did not using someone else’s view point.
Another person’s opinion can ensure a more balanced selection.

Much can be learned from both the “bad” and the good photos.
Honest self critique or listening someone else’s criticism requires self confidence and a bit of letting go of the ego. But the knowledge gained will benefit future photo shoots.

Digital Retouching

It is not always a speedy process to receive the touched up photos.
I have seen many photos in model’s portfolios which were not touched up but no matter what the reason is this should be avoided.

It is understandable that the model wants to display the latest and greatest pictures but in the case of digital images photo shopping is often a must. Otherwise those photos will look unprofessional and a model’s portfolio is as strong as the weakest picture in it.

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