How I work with a model for a portrait photography shoot

I have worked with a ton of female and male models and I wanted to share with you my positive experience on how to make a great photographer-model relationship during a project photography photo shoot. Note, this is definitely huge advice for new photographers that haven't worked with models as their subjects. I think I'm still one of the most shyest people ever but sometimes I think the shyness helps because I can relate with models especially the new young ones to how being in front of a camera can be so frightening. Remember, there are many types of models-professional level, the experience and how comfortable they are during a shoot. They can make or break your entire day.


1. Meet up before the photoshoot and plan

This helps a lot with easing the relationship with your model. Treat them over to a cup of coffee or tea at your regular Fourbucks WITH the whole photography crew including wardrobe stylists, makeup artists and hair stylists. You get to know them, they get to know you. Get to know their desires, or explain the project, theme, show storyboards, show them tear sheets, bring them books to read, learn their personality and then hopefully use that personality to your advantage in the photo you create. Pick up the phone and talk and quit texting. Sometimes I believe it is an important time to have an intimate conversation before the shoot-and may be best if its between you and the model.

2. Be prepared.

Prepare your studio set way ahead of time. I've learned from my mistakes and this one is definitely important. Make sure lighting is working. Make sure all wardrobe and props are available. This prevents stoppage during the flow of the photoshoot and stoppage just kills it-literally kills it.


3. Guide your model

Do warm ups by taking the first few 10-15 photos without telling what the model they should do. Let them be. Let them pose and be free! Then you can eventually ask specific ways you want them posing or you can help correct posture.

4. Don't talk about anything else besides the job that needs to be done.

Casual talk is used during my step 1 and not during the photoshoot.

5. Lighting and Posture

Make sure the light is on them properly and no harsh shadows are visible. Read my step 1 and you should be good with lighting. Notice the models posture. The models hands need to be elegant and not stiff. S curve enhanced? Composition set properly? Take breaks often, especially if your model smiles often or else her smile will stiffen up and look like a grin.

6. Give Praise

Always be positive during your shoot no matter what. Try not to always look for perfection or else you will not get anywhere and you will always be disappointed with the work you're doing. Give positive reinforcement to your subject and praise them on how good they're working and give them the love that they want!! Let them feel adored especially if they are the subject you wanted to work with. If things aren't working out with the poses you want, rather telling them they look awkward or they don't look good with that pose, work with something different-change it up, ask them to try something different, show them the pose and they can mirror-always communicate, your model always looks to your help and advice. Never, ever insult your model.

7. Play music depending on the mood during the photoshoot

Depending on the type of theme you want in your work, play the music. Play the music they like to hear if you want upbeat movement. Hand them Pandora or even better, Spotify! Some shy photographers play music to avoid the silence but make sure you communicate often, talk and guide your model and make sure the music isn't deafening loud.

8. Never ever touch your model. Ever.

Never touch your model on how they should model properly. Show them the pose you want and they can mirror.

9. Don't Chimp

Chimping is the term where you take a few photos and then show your work over and over with the camera to your model during the photoshoot. This slows down the flow of the photo shoot. I always suggest to show them after the shoot or whenever your post processing has completed. I love being the painter painting my subject and not showing my work to them until after my masterpiece has completed. If I only shot tethered to my laptop, then I would definitely show my model a few of my looks.

10. Have fun

Lastly but most importantly, Love what both of you like doing. Have fun and hopefully you both do the best you can do but keep it professional.

Johnny