We already had a short tutorial about posing techniques so today let me focus a bit on general interaction with your model. Again it’s a very personal thing and a chemistry between model and photographer can make or break the photoshoot. Everyone has their own tricks and techniques and even their own philosophy behind photographer-model relationships, mine is just one example.
One thing you should remember is that the model is young and beautiful girl and her experiences (and hence point of view) can differ from yours. For example in a world of young beautiful girls no-one says anything when you are late, especially if you act all nice. Also in this world many man are creeps who want to see her as undressed as possible even if it doesn’t do anything for the picture. If you work with agency represented models, normally you will not deal with this view differences so much, but if you are looking for your model elsewhere — be prepared to think like young beautiful girl would think.
Another thing is, models normally don’t speak up when they should. They would ghost you rather then express concern with what you are suggesting (again, young girls..). For example if you want to shoot with a model and the location is a private space, she might want to bring a friend, but would be too shy to mention it. Or when she is obviously too cold on set she would try to suffer through it (after watching too much of America’s Next Top Model) which will result in bad cold and bad pictures too.
So, I think the first and biggest rule is, model should be the one who makes decisions about her own safety and comfort. At the beginning of every cold shoot I tell the model “You are the boss when it comes to what’s too cold. If you are too cold you should tell me, because I can get carried away with my process. Being a hero here makes no good because if you start sharking, you will be shaking again every time you are exposed to cold and we won’t be able to keep working” and of course I also make sure we have a warm blanket, hot tea and hand warmers for the model to get warm between looks.
The same goes for bringing escort — yes, I know it’s distracting to have a strange dude or model’s mom on set to watch over what you are doing, but think as a young girl — she is asked to be alone with a stranger (maybe with the team, maybe not) in his/her space — is it safe for her or not? More often than not a model will come alone anyway, but you need to communicate that it’s up to her. If you do hotter stuff, it’s very important to set boundaries in advance. Different models have different expectations, some flirt with you quite openly during hotter shoot. You need to remember the flirty stuff is not for you, but for the photos. Let her do what she needs to do, but don’t do anything you didn’t agree upon in advance. I personally think that agreeing for example on implied topless and then trying to persuade or worse pressure a girl into doing full nudes is disgusting.
On the other hand, some young girls tent to get carried away and give you diva attitude. I had a model recently, who was very beautiful, but didn’t have any real experience. She was 1:15 late, was difficult and requested much more photos that we agreed upon. Another model in a big project waited until 2 days before photoshoot to tell me she doesn’t have a car and wouldn’t use public transportation to get to our set. I don’t know, maybe it works with male photographer (with an extra wink), but for me — it just throws me off. I can ignore it to certain degree, but after the line was crossed I just move on to other model (luckily many beautiful girls are ready to come work with me even with last moment notice)
Most important for the last, let’s talk about inspiration. When I contact the model before the photoshoot I try to give her all the details — concept, mood-board, team, meeting time and place, shoot location(s). It will give her an opportunity to organize and plan her day, plus it will make her think in advance about body language and facial expression. But at the same time I always leave the story itself for the production day. There is a point after model tried the looks and before she goes into makeup, when I sit with her and talk about the character — who she is, what does she want, how she feels, what’s her relation to the viewer (camera). I try to talk in a very personal manner and make the model relate to the character she is playing. I ask the model to use her own experience if possible, or else her imagination to really embody a character.
If the model comes on set prepared it feels like a dance — she gives her poses, but mirrors what you show her, you try the poses she use to make sure they feel right, you are focused to spot anything that might look wrong — from tense muscle on model’s chin to uncomfortable angle of model’s fingers. You give encouragement and push to try more and stranger poses, you reiterate and fix the angles, sometimes making only half inch change until you see the shot you wanted.