The move from photographing Whiskers, the neighbourhood cat to Bianca, the 17-year-old leggy Italian model can be traumatic for both you and Whiskers. That didn’t make sense. I digress…
I’m not sure why people love shots of scantily clad female models. I find the subtleties of the western marmot’s feeding pattern a lot more interesting, but I’m guessing most of you will disagree with me. That’s why as a photographer /slash/ model who has experienced enough horror photo shoots to fill a pretty hardy paperback, I feel that it is my duty to inform you of some basic tips to help you take awesome model shots and avoid embarrassing, and often times, permanently scarring, photo shoots.
1. Hire a professional model.
Your girlfriend may be lovely, but unless she is a trained model, your shots will always look amateurish. Plus, asking your sweetie to pad her bra with tissues, suck in her gut, and angle herself so her butt doesn’t look huge, will never lead to relationship bliss.
If you are just starting out, then grab all your modelish friends, by all means, but modeling actually involves skill and if you want to take your shots from “Oh that’s really pretty” to “BAM! That could be in a fashion magazine”, you need a professional model.
What to do: Start by developing a relationship with a local modeling agency and offer to do a few “test shoots” with their up & coming models for free or a small fee. Beginning models will jump at this because they need to fill their portfolio as quickly and cheaply as possible. Because of my schister of an agent, my first test shoot cost me $900. Exactly. So if you take awesome shots and don’t act like a giant douche, then you’ll quickly move up the ranks and will be able to work with the more experienced models.
2. Hire a good makeup artist.
Details matter in this industry and bad makeup and hair can ruin your pictures. Unless you are a PS pro and can make Rosie O’Donnell look like Gisele Bündchen, then you need to get it right when you shoot. And if you are like most photographers you might not be completely in the know when it comes to picking the perfect shade of lipstick.
Oh I dunno, I much prefer “Innocent Starlet” to “Sassy Schoolgirl Scarlet”. I bet you didn’t even know lipstick had such lame and sexually stereotyped names did you? Exactly. That’s why you need a makeup artist.
What to do: Well, first don’t go down to your local department store and hire the first overly perfumed Chanel girl with black nail polished finger nails. Trust me. I mean really trust me. Not a good idea. Hire a proper makeup artist from an agency or professional salon. This will probably cost about $40. It’s worth it. If you don’t have the coin, check out the recent grads a professional makeup school, they are usually willing to do makeup for free for a print for their portfolio.
3. Hire a photo assistant.
No model will be impressed when you hand them a huge pelican full o’ gear and ask her to lug it over beached logs and heaps of sand. Trust me, it’s in your best interest to keep your model’s hair and makeup as fresh as possible. And that ain’t gonna happen if she’s truckin’ all your gear half way across the desert.
Ditto with holding the bounce. It’s awkward enough jamming yourself into crazy poses, let alone trying to hit those wacky poses while holding a huge white board in front of your face. Plus, if you are dealing with umbrellas and flashes and heaps of pricy gear, you’re gonna want to keep your photo gear protected from the elements, both weather and thieving humans.
What to do: If you don’t have the funds to pay for a qualified photography assistant, ask at local photography schools for someone willing to assist for free, or wrangle one of your friends or the model’s friend to help. Also, check out the bulletin boards at local camera stores. There are heaps of biz cards that might lead you to a good helper.
4. Don’t be creepy. Period.
Photogs who frequently hound models to drop their bikini tops, even in jest, get bad reputations with models and their agents. There are a lot of really awkward situations between a model and a photographer, i.e. changing clothes on a beach.
What to do: If you have a female assistant, ask her to hold a towel over the model or suggest that she changes in your car if it’s available. If none of these options are doable, make sure you bring a large towel, XXXL tee, or robe for the model to change in and make sure you keep your eyes in the opposite direction.
Also, be careful how and what you say when directing your model to move parts of her girly anatomy. “Hey darling, give your tits some love will you, I need perky perky for this shot!” And before you ask, yes someone said that to me. One more point, asking the model out after the shoot? Yeah. Not so much Creeperson.
5. Bring these things to photo shoots:
Bottled water to keep her hydrated. A snack if it’s a long shoot. Fainting models aren’t fun. A long puffy jacket or bath robe to keep her from freezing. A towel or blanket for her to sit on between set-ups. A water spray bottle to wet hair in the case of wind or to get that sexy dewy wet look. Hair spray because she will always forget and fly aways are PS hell. A lipstick or sample from the makeup artist so you can do touch ups during the shoot.
There you go! You’re on your way to become a photographer models love to shoot with and not that jerk she calls Pervy McPerverson to all her gossipy model friends.
Oh and if you’ve had any model photo shoot horror stories, you know I want to hear them.