Scientific studies on eye movement have shown that there are two elements of any photograph which will immediately draw a viewer's interest - the written word, or a human face or form. No matter the intent of your photo, or what its major, compelling elements may be, if there is a sign in the background, or a tiny human figure to the side of your glorious landscape, that is where the eye will go.
Which makes it all the more important to understand how best to photograph those items when they are the objects of primary interest. That said, as fun as it may be to shoot written words (and I have a pile of highly entertaining signs from a trip to China), most of us have a greater interest in photographing people.
And that takes us to the next level of consideration. Namely, which people? Most of us are fully capable of shooting a well-realized business portrait, but it's boring. For practice, fun, or remuneration, we shoot environmental portraits, which are more interesting. We take street shots, event shots, and images of family and friends. And, if you're like me, at some point you recognize that if you really want to learn to shoot people, and to be as creative as possible, it's important to learn to work with professional models.
Why? Because they will give you their time and attention, either for money or for trade of time-for-photos. And because professional models understand the nuances of posing, the relationship between photographer and model, and the unselfconscious professional approach that is key to success in any photographic session.
This past week I was fortunate enough to attend the California Photo Festival put on each year by LightWorkshops in Los Ossos. There, in the space of a few days I had the opportunity to work with models in a variety of situations, ranging from classic portraiture, to a Playboy-style shoot, to fine art nude photography.
A few key tips:
1. Understand how to keep the session fully respectful and professional. If you must touch your model, whether to slightly adjust hair or fix a turn-up collar, ask the model's permission first.
2. Do your best to make sure the model is comfortable. Adjust the room temperature if this is feasible with your shoot. Provide water and snacks. Modeling is harder work than it may appear - let your model know you're open to taking breaks as needed.
3. Study posing in advance. You can Google up a wealth of posing suggestions, whether for males, females, couples or families. Have some ideas in mind before the model arrives. Don't hesitate to ask your model for thoughts as well . . . but remember that it is your role to art direct the shoot to success.
4. Have your lighting configured in advance of the model's arrival. Test it out by shooting a friend, family member, or time-delayed shot of yourself. Even if you're shooting outdoors or in natural light, take test shots in advance.
5. Be sure to give the model instructions on how to dress, and what particular look you are going for. It's fine to ask him or her to bring several different outfit selections.
6. Show the model how the images are turning out throughout the shoot, and share the excitement of your positive results.
7. Keep the energy level up with lots of positive feedback - the model cannot read your mind. If things are going well, share your thoughts. If something different is needed, express it in a positive way.
8. Be effusive in your thanks and appreciation, and share photos promptly if you have promised to do so. A top notch model is a treasure, and strong, positive relationships between models and photographers are highly beneficial to both, no matter what your current career levels may be.
Above all - have fun!
And to see more of the fun I had this past week, visit my Food to Nude gallery, for images with models and more.