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Modelling 101: Tips for Dealing With an Inexperienced Model

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Read Time: 6 mins

Whenever I organise a shoot, I try to find models who know what they are doing. That said, you will always come across someone who you would love to strut their stuff for you, but isn't quite sure how to. I like to give my models a 'Modelling 101' before I get started. Not only does this give them some ideas of what to do, it also relaxes them a little as they are no longer diving into doing something they know nothing about!

1. Be Confident

Any photographer will tell you that, as a model, confidence is the key. Nothing stands out in a photo more than a model who is shy or uncomfortable. Getting a model to be confident is one of the hardest things to do, as it's generally an internal issue rather than something objective (such as holding your body a particular way).

In any shoot I take up to 2000 photos, sometimes more. After processing them, I come out with maybe 100-150 high-quality, usable photos. An awkward or unexperienced model will always try (and fail) to make every shot perfect. Let them know that any bad shots will without doubt be censored, so there is no reason to be worried about that.

nell at bondinell at bondinell at bondi

Nothing throws a model off more than having an unwanted audience. Shooting in a quiet location is also another easy way to get your model more comfortable, as it will be just you, and him/her. If you're already good friends, that's another plus.

It can also help to have one of their friends there with them! I always let my models know they can invite a close/arty friend to help out with the shoot. That way, they are more comfortable and you get an assistant!

Finally, don't get lost in the camera. Despite the results, your model is still a human. You are not photographing an object, and they need attention and feedback! Tell them how wonderful they are, or take a break every 20 minutes to sit down and run through the best shots. This not only boosts their confidence by seeing good photos of themselves, but also allows time to think of more poses or work out new compositions.

2. How to Hold Their Body

The beautiful thing about the human body is that it gives us so many different ways to show beauty via different positions, angles and poses. There are, however, some surefire ways to ensure that the shots you do get exemplify this, rather than disadvantage them.

Crossed legs is one of the oldest tricks in the book. There is no doubt that having spread can give a feeling of power, however most times it can just make the model look fat (especially if you're working with the more curvy body types!). Whilst a model is walking around a location or set, ask them to try to place one foot in front of the other whilst walking. Let them get the hang of it before you start taking some serious shots, so that you've got the slim look and they appear natural whilst doing so.

crossed legs on a rockcrossed legs on a rockcrossed legs on a rock

Another old but effective trick of modelling is to try to keep their hands occupied at all times, or at least giving the arms some shape! If you want to shoot without any props, ask your model to bend their arms instead of keeping them straight- these kind of shots come out static and plain.

Taking props to a shoot is one of the best ways to ensure both variety and aesthetics. If your model is playing with an object, it opens up a whole new range of candid shots- most of which will be quite satisfying! Take for example you're at a green, overgrown location with a stream. Imagine your model bending down looking into the water. Now imagine the model looking into the water, leaning over holding a nearby branch, or placing leaves in the water. Suddenly an action is involved, and the shot has more character!

jess in the waterjess in the waterjess in the water

If the model is a lovely lady, ask them to twist or bend their abdomen- this disrupts the boring flow of a straight line down the body and can also give you some very sexy shots. If a male, get them in positions that flex muscles in natural but effective ways. as well as that, make sure they always place their weight to one side whilst posing!

meike in studiomeike in studiomeike in studio

3. It's All in the Face

Facial expression is one of the biggest influences to the mood of a photograph. The most subtle differences can make your model appear angry or happy. Unexperienced models will smile with every shot, and I hope that this would be something you pick up early on in the shoot!

A frown will, without fail make the shot inquisitive, just as a giant smile with make it a happy shot! Variety is extremely important, especially if you're taking photos for a studio (who will look for variety as well as beauty!). Sporting the same facial in each shot can get very boring, and there are much smarter ways to carry a theme throughout a series of photos.

Mix it up a little. Being over the top can produce rich results, but can also lead to fake-looking photos. Subtle differences bring out the individuality in each face, so exploit them! Get your model to show the camera why their face is unique and special.

meike happy in studiomeike happy in studiomeike happy in studio

Hand in hand with facial expression is telling your model where to look. Covered in a recent article, the eye contact of your model is extremely important. In this article, David showed us the three types of gazes: direct, in-frame (between subjects), and out of frame.

The model's line of sight can dramatically change the mood of the photo, and the audience interaction with the photo. A model looking right into the camera pulls us in and talks to us, while anywhere else we're observing. This ties in with facial expression as, if a model is smiling at an object, he/she is going to come across as content with it.

Any emotion on a face will be directed where the model is looking. Use this to your advantage - a smile at a toy will make a child seem happy, whilst a pained expression at the camera makes us sympathise. It's all up to what you want to convey.

Jess on a rockJess on a rockJess on a rock

4. Trust the Photographer!

Lastly, tell them to trust you. You are the one seeing the frame through the camera, not them. They need to know that what you're shooting is producing good results, and if you ask them to move in a way they might find ugly, tell them that from your point of view it looks beautiful.

Ultimately the photo will come from where you are, not where your model is. You might see a curve that they can't, so you need to let them know what looks good!

trust my cameratrust my cameratrust my camera

Those are the top 4 tips I always offer my models before starting a shoot. Of course, it always helps to get to know a model a little before hand so they are more comfortable strutting your stuff.

Never forget to compliment your model, smile at them and tell them when you get a beautiful shot!

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