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5 Dos and Don’ts When Shooting With Models


Photographing a human subject successfully has a lot to do with making a connection, making sure your model is feeling comfortable, and being respectful. In this 10-minute video, photographer Manny Ortiz teams up with his wife Diana (who is a model herself) to talk about the do’s and don’ts of working with models.

The 5 Dos

Here are Manny’s 5 tips on what you should be doing when you’re working with a model:

1. Give Positive Feedback

Your attitude is going to be reflected in your model, so remember to give positive feedback even if things aren’t going well for you. If you’re grumbling because the lighting isn’t right the model’s positivity is likely to be affected, and they may think they’re doing something wrong. Stay positive and try something new.

2. Show Them the Good Photos

As Diana explains, showing your model your best photos will motivate them as they can see that you’re getting great shots.

3. Play Music That the Model Enjoys

This may not work for all shoots, but Manny suggests taking along a portable speaker and asking the model their favorite music so you can play it during the shoot. Playing music can help everyone feel more comfortable, and can help your model get ‘in the zone’.

4. Direct More, Pose Less

Be specific with your direction rather than just asking the model to try a different pose. You can try directing your model to actually move a certain way or act out a scene to get a more natural response.

5. Save Posing/Concept Ideas to Your Phone

We all run out of good ideas at some point, so it’s great to have some backup concepts on your phone with you on a shoot to show a model and get across the feeling you’re trying to convey.

The 5 Don’ts

These are the 5 don’ts to keep in mind when working with models:

1. Don’t Touch the Model Without Permission

If you want the model to pose or move in a certain way, direct them and don’t touch them to position them how you want. That is just common decency, especially when working with a model who you don’t know well.

2. Don’t Assume the Model Can Read Your Mind

Make sure you properly communicate what you are looking for from the shoot. Models aren’t always mind-readers, and communication is important to ensure you’re on the same page. Make sure that you make your vision clear to your model.

3. Never Put the Model in Harm’s Way

This is another one that should be common sense, but it’s possible to forget when you’re trying to get the perfect shot. Don’t direct your model in a way that will put them in harm’s way. If you absolutely must get a shot in the middle or the street or on some rocks by the water make sure you ask first and make sure the model feels completely comfortable with it.

4. Don’t Be So Serious

Your own mood goes a long way to setting the feeling for the shoot. Sure it’s a job, but try to make it fun. Engage with your model and bring the vibe up – it will pay off in the form of better expressions and poses from your model.

5. Be Careful With the Terminology That You Use

Always be polite and respectful with your model – you’re working with a human and not a mannequin. Don’t refer to their body in any way that they might find offensive.

The example Manny uses is don’t ask your model to push her chest out or stick her butt out more, rather ask her to pull her shoulders back or lean her hip to the side. It’s the same outcome, but a little more professional and sensitive to your model’s feelings.