Reader’s Question Time: I’m a Photographer. How Do I Get the Best From My Models?

Another exciting letter came through on Modeltypeface mail! I just love your questions so keep them coming! Without further ado…

Dear Rebecca, 

I come to you today with some advice on photography. We’ve got this fashion thing going on at uni over the summer and I am photographing the “models.”

I say model loosely because none of them have had any experience in modelling and the few that have has been really small stuff like clothing for teeny tiny brands. I haven’t had much experience photographing people, I’ve sometimes set up a tripod myself to photograph an outfit post for my blog or sometimes photograph my sister but it’s never been portrait style photography and that’s what this will be. I have no idea how to keep them relaxed, no idea what sort of advice I should give on poses and there’s this one guy that i’m gonna photograph that i have a crush on and i worry i might stop breathing 🙁 as a person that’s been in front of the lens, could you share your wisdom? any advice would be much appreciated and hope you can :)~

What a fab question! And kudos for putting in lots of preparation. Photographer-model chemistry is a fascinating subject and it’s no wonder that so many photographers and models end up marrying (just look at David Bailey).

Obviously that’s not the aim of your game here, but it is so important that, in order to get decent photographs of your subjects, you make them feel comfortable both with you and in themselves.

So the best photographers I know always come up to me when I arrive and give me a little chat. This means that a) I like them, b) I want to give them good pics and c) we have a connection. Make them a cup of tea, ask them what they’ve been doing and ask them about their passions. That loosens them up and gets their mind ticking, which is what makes a good pic.

Then I would recommend you have a bit of a mood board up on the wall to give them inspo and also introduce a low level of competetive feeling, making them want to give as good pose as they see in the magazines.

Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want from them and how much fun it’s gonna be and how beautiful they look. The first few times it might feel a bit cheesy or false, but it really helps calm people down and feel great about themselves. An example might be… “Today we’re doing quite edgy, quite editorial and androgynous, so I want you to bring your attitude but keep it calm. You look amazing so that makes my job easy – we’ll just play around and have fun.”

Then when you are shooting, you have to try keep calm. Make sure you have tested the light and locations as much as possible, so you feel confident and not like you’re faffing around them. Also, when you do test the light/make a mistake don’t get stressed, even the big photographers get it wrong the first few shots.

Make sure you give feedback the whole time. THERE IS NOTHING WORSE than a silent photographer. It’s like the most quiet, awkward sex in the world. It may make you feel like Austin Powers but constantly say ‘great’ ‘yeah’ ‘move your hands’. But it really helps the model!


Oh, very importantly, don’t say ‘no’. It’s like the law of improv here where you never shut an idea down – saying no makes your subject clam up. Give ideas rather than negative comments.

In terms of the guy you’re crushing on, I think he’ll find it very attractive that you’re in control and confident and skilled in the situation. He’ll possibly be more nervous about modelling, so you have the upper hand 😉

Lastly, don’t show them all the pics as you go. Keep it secret and wait til the end of the shoot to show them the best one. Otherwise they start obsessing that they had a double chin in the shot they saw and again, they clam up.

So basically – breathe, have fun, stay positive and stay in control! And show me the pics when you’re done! 🙂

What would my MTF readers suggest?

Rebecca x

Leave a Reply