Posing is hard!
If anyone tells you otherwise then they are a bona fide genius or they don’t realize how bad they are at either directing the action or being a model.
Some models are simply born with the ability to move freely in front of the camera, some are not. Either way it is the job of the photographer to direct the shoot with just the right amount of attention. Too much or too little are equally bad, and the tricky part is every shoot is different.
Over the years I have had a lot of experience working with models, in all that time I’ve learned a lot of tricks for directing the action. How to make someone smile naturally, how to make someone laugh, how to make someone feel comfortable and how to start ordinary people on the path to being great models! As always this process takes two people. A director that knows their stuff and a model with enough talent and passion to actually make the shoot better.
Here is my single best piece of advice for working with new models.
Adapt (and use) these three styles of of directing
And know which one is best for the particular shoot and the particular model
1. Meticulously guide the action
Many photographers shy away from this technique, either they lack the confidence or on the opposite extreme they proudly wear the badge of honor that “I do not pose the model, it’s too contrived and I want PURITY in my photos.” I’ve got news for everyone, the photos you see in magazines in advertising and editorials? Lots of those are meticulously directed to look like they weren’t directed. It is a rare combination for the model and photographer to be so in synch that absolutely no direction is necessary… though it does happen.
Personally I find myself using this style most when I’m doing conceptual shoots, close-ups and beauty head shots. I also revert to this style when the model is unexperienced or unconfident in her actions and just needs the extra help.
2. Shut up and Shoot
Sometimes a model knows his/her craft so well that any advice you give them couldn’t possibly make things better. Just watch and move your camera/lights accordingly.
3. Inspire and Suggest
My favorite style! I work with a lot of brand new models, a majority of them have never even posed before. This style is a great way to give the model confidence enough to experiment with posing, in doing so you can mentally assess their modeling talent and create a collaboration worth documenting.
Here’s how you know when you’re doing it right!
Brynlee is not a professional model. A month or so ago Ryan Muirhead and I went in to get a quick bite to eat on a lazy saturday afternoon, as we walked into the fast food restaurant we both spotted her. She stopped us both in our tracks, literally, and Ryan and I exchanged a look.
She was beautiful.
So I did something I rarely do, only the second time in as long as I can remember I wrote a note on the back of a contest entry form they had at the front register. It said simply:
“My name is Jake Garn, I am a photographer and I’d love to photograph you. No charge. Check out my work and email me if you’re interested.”
I left my website at the bottom, I only had to wait a day or two for an email.
Since then I’ve photographed Brynlee a couple of times, the images at top are from her third photoshoot. I gently guided her to play with her dress, shake her hair, stand on tip-toes, and just play around. Then I just shut-up and watched, click… click…. click…
According to the time-stamps on these images we started shooting this look at 7:13 exactly. The last frame from this look was clicked at 7:18 and 6 seconds.
5 minutes and 6 seconds. I think I may make a habit out of doing the five minute modeling challenge in the future… if you’d like to see future 9-image collages like this one leave a comment and let me know!
Equipment used to achieve these images
Classic lighting from both sides, put the softboxes as close as you can to the model and expose accordingly. For this one I put the left-strobe slightly behind the model and the right-strobe slightly in front of her, the ratio of each strobe is about 1:1.
- Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
- Lens: Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM
- Tripod: Manfrotto 190XPROB
- Tripod Grip: Manfrotto Ballhead (322RC2)
- Memory Card: SanDisk Extreme 16GB
- Strobes: Two Elinchrom 600RX Monolights
- Light Modifier (right strobe): Rotalux Midi Octa by Elinchrome (53″)
- Light Modifier (left strobe): Medium Photoflex Softbox with grid
- Software: Adobe Lightroom