The challenge in photography should be turning the scene in front of you into a beautiful image. It shouldn’t lie in creating the scene itself. For photographers who take photos of people however, the skills they need aren’t limited to getting the light levels right and choosing the composition; they also involve tracking down models and helping them to pose and relax.
Of course, for those either in or on the edge of the fashion industry, hunting for beautiful subjects is relatively easy. Heather Parker, a New York photographer who works with the Tammy Ford Agency, for example, has found that networking is a good way to fill her studio. “I have got most of my models from word of mouth, through agents, and occasionally through talent websites,” she says.
Few photographers are that lucky though and most have to rely on the goodwill of friends and family. Look through the portfolios of even top-earning microstock photographers such as Andres Rodriguez and Yuri Arcurs, and you’ll be able to spot Andres’ wife and Yuri’s partner as well as many of their friends.
The advantage of asking people you know, of course, is that you rarely have to pay them. They’re also unlikely to balk at the sight of a model release form. “They don’t expect anything in return for me taking their pictures, they just love that I’m doing what I love and what makes me happy,” Stephanie Resendes, a student studying photography and design, says of photographing her friends and family. “And it makes them happy to see the final product.”
But unless your contacts list looks like the Yellow Pages, relying on people you know can give you a pretty limited portfolio. An alternative option, and one practiced by many photographers, is to attract up-and-coming models with the offer of free images for their own marketing. “When I am doing a shot for personal work to develop my book, I shoot in exchange for a retouched high-resolution set of files on DVD…. Of course not all shots come out good so there’s no reason to show a shot that isn’t flattering to the model.” explains Heather.
While that makes finding models relatively simple, the challenge of using amateurs or semi-pros is getting the sort of natural, expressive poses out of them that professional models can supply from experience.
“A model relaxes when they are comfortable with you so it helps to meet early to get to know each other,” advises Heather. “A few purposefully crazy shots gets them to loosen up so they can show personality without feeling on edge.”
Stephanie also tries to create a relaxed atmosphere to help her models get in the mood, then shoots while they barely notice. “Instead of saying ‘Go sit over there, I’ll be over here taking your picture,’ what I’ll usually do is set up the situation as natural as possible,” she says. “I’ll have my camera out but for the first few moments, I’ll interact with them and just let the camera sit on my lap or a table. Then once everyone gets to talking or moving or whatever the situation might be, I just start shooting. I never shoot from the outside, always from within the situation.”
But sometimes, not even the gentlest of prodding can bring out the look the photographer wants. “A model can sometimes have difficulty understanding direction, get tired, or hot with the lighting,” says Heather, “but when you nail the shot it’s really a great feeling for everyone involved.”
Photo by s.OliverImages.