Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get the Job Done: 5 Tips for Directing Models

I happened upon this great set of tips this morning from the Zoom in Online blog for directing "models," especially people who aren't used to being in front of a professional's camera.

1. Don't Show Your Worries

Getting your subject to relax is half the battle. Most people are concerned that they're going to look stupid, fat or ugly, and the more they focus on that, the worse the images will be. So, I try to set an example by making it clear that I don't take myself too seriously. In my head, I might be worrying about the light, the right angles and all that stuff, but by keeping all that to myself and outwardly focusing on the connection between myself and the model, I find it helps to make my model relax.

2. Go For the Real Smile

When you ask someone to smile, you'll generally get a flat, fake smile that doesn't appeal to anyone. So make your models smile for real, but try not to make them laugh too hard. Smiling is endearing in photos, but most people look a little strange when they're actually laughing. I ask my models to think about their parents or significant others, and that works almost every time.

3. Smalltalk is Your Friend

Keep talking to your subject throughout the shoot. Give questions that they are comfortable answering, and don't make them think too hard about the answers. The idea is to keep that part of their mind occupied, that would otherwise make them nervous about posing right. I ask people what they do for a living, how long they've been doing it, if they have kids or pets, that sort of thing. Easy questions that make for good, light conversation. Just remember to make it about them and not yourself.

4. Keep Notes Short

One thing that can really upset an already nervous subject, is if you overload them with directional notes. I try to slip mine in between smalltalking. It could go like this: "So, how long have you lived in Seattle? Chin up a bit. How do you like it here?". I've noticed that by sneaking direction in like that, most people tend to simply comply instead of overthinking it.

5. Make Happy Sounds

If you're having a bad day, don't let the model know. It will only make them more nervous, and if it's a paying client, they might look at your work with a more critical eye later on. However, during any shoot, there will be moments where the light mixed perfectly with the expression, where you clicked the button at just the right time, and when that happens, you should let the subject know. That way, they know they are doing a good job and they will feel better about the entire shoot.

Bonustips: Don't chimp too much during the shoot. It takes away from everyone's focus and any connection there might be between you and your subject. Don't touch models, if you don't have to. And if you do, make sure you don't do it in any appropriate places or ways. If your model is uncomfortable and thinks you're creepy, it will show.

Rasmus Rasmussen is on loan from iStockphoto, where he is part of the image inspection team.

I think all of these tips are very useful. I have shot fashion models as well as friends and clients, and ALL of them were concerned about how they would look in front of the camera, if they were fat or if a certain angle made their face look too angular etc.

I have found that sharing your best images directly from camera also helps you connect with a model. It's a great advantage of shooting digitally and that instant feedback of a lovely portrait helps the model relax even more.

I also engage the model by asking about what THEY want to do, or what poses THEY have been thinking of or would like to experiment with. People get irritated if you just bark orders at them through an hour long shoot; show some vulnerability and get some by-in from the client at the same time that this is a shared venture for greatness!

Inspite of all of my best efforts to help a model feel more at ease, I think it's human nature to feel more secure in any situation given time. To this extent, most of my best images are near the end of a shoot. By then, the model seems more natural and comfortable and actually appears to be having fun. You can see the difference in these two portraits I took of one model who wanted to surprise her boyfriend with sexy boudoir shots. In the first set, the model is fully clothed and her shots seem more "posed."

An hour later, she is footloose and fancy free, not only in bearing more skin to the camera but in laughing and dancing her way through the shoot, which made for infinitely more endearing and realistic images.

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