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10 Things You Don’t Know About Working With Models

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Read Time: 9 mins

Fashion photographer is commonly assumed to be one of the easiest job in the industry. They're the ones behind the lens who gets to work with professional models, the beautiful ones who already know how to pose, give the right expression, and aren’t shy to do whatever it takes to get the winning shot. If you’ve ever considered about being a fashion photographer or want to start working with models, here are a few things you need to know. Turns out being a fashion photographer isn't so simple after all.

1. Models Have a Good Side and They Know It

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

We all know that no face is symmetrical. Models can almost always tell you which is their preferred side to photograph. Compared to the typical client, they just get photographed more.

By asking your model which side is their good side prior to the shoot ensures when you are posing them in a specific way or evaluating lighting for a location you can make sure they show off that side. No model will ever select an image showing their less favorite side, so you’d be wasting your time photographing it.

Models will be normally be comfortable if you shoot straight on. They can always give a slight tilt if they are really insecure about it.

All that being said, this is only really important if you're shooting for the model's portfolio. If you are photographing for an editorial spread, you don't need to be as concerned because the editorial publication hired you, not the model. For this tutorial, we'll be concentrating on working with a model who is also your client.

2. Models Need to Look Like Themselves, but on a Good Day

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Models need to look good in order to be hired for jobs, but they do have to go to auditions carrying their book and card in hand. It’s important that the shots still look like them. Casting directors can still find images misleading, but also want to see an array of looks which is why in-person auditions are still being held.

Always ask what looks they need. Often their agency will notify you if you are working with them, or the model will know. The makeup and hair shouldn’t be overly glam or pageant like, just well groomed, clean, and pretty, so don’t be alarmed if she arrives with very little makeup on to begin with.

If you are working with a makeup artist, start your model’s face with a fairly clean and natural look and build as you continue to shoot for different looks, saving the more dramatic makeup for the last shot.

You should also edit the images to perfection. Even though models are supposed to look like themselves, the images they want for their portfolio should be free of wrinkles, sunspots, the flaws that makeup couldn’t conceal. All of this would be edited anyway if the images were for a paid gig for advertising. It would be very rare to have a model upset about editing, unless it's done poorly.

3. Models Need a Good Hair and Makeup Artist

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Known as MUA in the industry, knowing a talented and versatile makeup and hair person will be beneficial. Most models and actors will want the hair and makeup service as a package with your photography unless they have someone they regularly work with.

Don’t pick just any makeup artist because not everyone is a professional or uses professional quality makeup. Make sure you have seen their work and you like the way their models have looked before referring them to your clients.

Make sure their personality is a good match for you, and your model clients since they will be working closely with them, and you, most likely sticking around for the entire shoot and making necessary adjustments. You should also consider packaging your sessions with hair and makeup included.

4. Models Need Specific Shots According to Their Needs

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Always ask your model what shots they need. Typically they will need a fitness or swimsuit look, a clean face look, a professional look, and a glam shot. By knowing this, you can determine your locations for the variety of lifestyle images.

Depending upon the city you live in, you should know if the industry is more focused on commercial catalog work or high fashion. In the U.S., high fashion is much more common in New York and Los Angeles.

Specify how many looks your client will be receiving in the price, in other words how many wardrobe and makeup changes. Sometimes a client only needs two looks to update, while others may need four. You can show them culled images and tell them they will get a specific number of final edits or you can select them yourself.

The editing process is up to you, but it’s much better to provide a handful of edited images since the model and agent will select them and be ready to move forward with ordering their comp card.

5. Vertical Images are Preferred

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Headshots and modeling composite cards are primarily vertical, consider this while you are shooting. For modeling comp/ZED cards, there are typically 3-4 shots on the back.

Black and white images are also well received occasionally and primarily saved for the front of cards, especially if it is a clean or dramatic look. You also do not have to shoot every look on location. Sometimes a studio can provide a perfect setting if the model can pose and provide movement

6. Models Are Well Networked with Fellow Peers

The modeling world is a small community, especially in small cities. Unless you live in the entertainment capital of your country, good commercial and fashion photographers are hard to come by.

When a model is photographed and the images are well received, her agency will often share it on social media networks, and the referrals will start coming in. Knowing this, make sure to always be positive, polite, upbeat, and professional.

It always a good idea to over deliver as well! Beat your own deadlines and offer a few extra edits. Giving images quickly will make your impatient model client very happy because the sooner they get updated shots, the sooner they can get out and book more jobs.

7. Models Want to Be Involved and at the Same Time Be Directed

Models are creative artists too, so they may come to the table with a vision, so be open to that. They are not like most clients who need constant direction, but they do need some help with posing and being directed what to do.

You should know some great poses to capture a lifestyle look or to create drama. You should know poses that will flatter, slim, and how to get the mood you want from your client. Engage them throughout the shoot and encourage them to move as much as possible.

A good model should know that every time you click your shutter, they should move. If they don't, make sure you encourage them to do so even with the slight tilt of their head, chin or angle or else you will get the 100 images that look the same.

During a shoot you should also watch for flyaway hairs, makeup flaws, and know when they need to refresh their smile.

8. They Need Advice with Wardrobe

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Models will come with more than they need, and perhaps arrive with an overload of options in a suitcase. They will ask for your input, so be willing and able to give it. Remember that as the photographer, you know what will photograph best.

If you have extra outfits or jewelry, feel free to put them on the rack for your sessions as well. You never know when you can take a Hanes undershirt and rip it apart to make something off shoulder, or that old hoodie can come in handy for a cool headshot look.

If you team up with a stylist or you’re daring enough to shop for the model, go ahead and offer styling as well to the package. Models jump at the chance to wear fresh clothes and this also gives you more control over how your final product will look.

9. Models Aren’t Rich

Models aren’t rich and don’t get paid as much for their gigs as you may think, so expecting to get rich off them may be a dream. However, they do need headshots updated regularly, almost on a yearly basis as they mature and their hair style changes.

While photographing models may not be as lucrative as shooting a wedding, they certainly are the most easy and beautiful clients to shoot and will be a repeat customer year after year when they need to build up their portfolio.

To maximize your time, have specials and advertise to agencies so they can get the word out to their signed talent. You can book between specified dates and make use of your days by booking up the entire day. Since models aren’t big spenders, know that your sessions might be cheaper than other sessions you offer, but the rewards are truly stunning and artistic images.

You may also use these images as a portfolio in order to branch into commercial work, which can pay well. The benefits of working with models to build a strong portfolio can open many doors, so whether it’s for editorial purposes or their modeling portfolio, always take the perspective of photographing models as your own career building opportunity.

10. They Trust That You Know when You’ve Got It

Photo by Diana Elizabeth

Models don’t need to see every shot you take. Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about working with models is that they are an ideal client who trust photographers. They are realistically aware that they aren’t going to look pretty in every shot and they understand the editing process.

When you want to present the images, you can either send them directly to the model, or if you worked with an agency to book up days, be sure to copy them on the email to download the images as well.

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