The past month I’ve certainly spent my fair share coaching models in front of the camera. I’m constantly reminded that modeling is challenging work. The goal of creating images is to make them look effortless and natural, but the process getting there sometimes doesn’t feel like it. It’s interesting; when I’m watching models I can often see what’s not working and correct it. However, when I’m in front of the camera myself modeling it’s much more difficult. There usually isn’t a mirror in front of you so you have to learn the skills and the best way to do that is practice.
Having seen hundreds of people on-set at this point, and coached a number of them, I thought I’d offer five tips to think about when going to a photo shoot.
What resonates on film and looks natural does not always feel natural when you are doing it. Many new models show up and as they are posing say “this feels really awkward” or “I would never do this.” Yes, we realize that. Some of the best shots taken are sometimes uncomfortable. Let me give you an example. When shooting for Pepsi recently I spent 2 hours holding a granola bar in different positions. Time after time they adjusted my hand, my leg, my angle, to the point where I kept thinking I would never sit like this nor hold a snack like this. I knew, however, that it was working for them. It was actually uncomfortable sometimes and by the end of the shoot I was exhausted from holding the position. Obviously had it felt natural I would not have been so tired sitting. Keep this in mind as you shoot.
You must look natural. I talked above about feeling unnatural in a pose but I’ll couple that with the fact that you need to appear relaxed. I spent a lot of time saying this to models:
Relax your arm
Relax your face
Open your eyes
It’s hard to relax, especially when you are a new model. You’re focused on doing it correctly. What you need to do is focus on simply being in the zone. That means try to forget about the camera and show some personality. Think about a scenario that mimics what you are shooting. Mentally imagine yourself in this setting. If you are shooting a running image, imagine yourself preparing for a long run. What does your face look like, what you are thinking about, how do you really stretch or prepare for a run?
Watch your core. This tip is more specific to those shooting fitness or bathing suit images. Your core matters. You have got to remind yourself on set to tighten your core by lifting up. Imagine there is a string attached to your head gently pulling you up and elongating you. Unless the shot calls for you to be bending over in some format do not hunch. Keep in mind that no matter how fit or small you are, everyone has an angle that doesn’t work. Paying attention to your core will help control this.
Listen to your photographer and any coaches you have on-set. You hired these people because you trust them. Let them do their job. If they tell you to look down, look down. Remember that they can see the image and know what’s working on camera, so trust their judgment.
Bring a lot of wardrobe items: You can never show up with too many clothing options. I’ve been at countless shots where we have run out of options or something the model brought didn’t work. Even when I’m styling clients I always bring extra options. It’s much easier to have choices. I’ve been on larger scale shots where I’ve been hired to model and there have been times when I’m asked if I happen to have an item with me (an extra pair of tennis shoes, a strapless bra, a camisole to layer under an outfit, accessories or props). Bring options!
If you are shooting for your own personal use or for portfolio development and the photographer you are shooting with doesn’t bring someone to help, I’d consider two things. Either hire someone or consider bringing a friend to play this role. I cannot express how much stress is alleviated by having someone on-set who knows what they are doing and can help with all the details. They should be someone who can assist with wardrobe and help you dress, make sure everything is fitting properly and in-place, help be your advocate on set, make you feel more comfortable and major added bonus if they have experience in front of the camera as well and can help you with that.
Good luck with your shoots. Remember practice makes perfect. Relax and have fun during the experience and as always, please feel free to post questions on my Facebook page at Kim Miller Style. I’m always happy to share any resources and knowledge I have!