It’s been a great 4ish years of both modeling and photography. Though I started as a model, I’ve been incredibly active in both worlds. Every now and then, someone will ask me what advice I would offer to someone who wants to get started with modeling. If you like what I do on either side of the camera, then hopefully these tips can help you out.
Here are some of the generic tips I offer to beginner models! If you’re a semi-experienecd model looking who’s looking to learn more, skip to tip #2!
- Go do a shoot! Being familiar with being in front of a camera is crucial to modeling. Of course, everyone starts somewhere. Doing a portrait shoot is a great way to get that familiarity. You could ask to collaborate with a beginner photographer, but keep in mind that they likely won’t be able to help you as much with posing if you get stuck and don’t know what to do. If you want help in posing and direction during shoots, you may have to pay an experienced photographer. Even then, make sure the photographer you work with is experienced in direction and able to provide the help you need by asking them or the models they’ve worked with.
When you work with someone who knows what they’re doing, you’re paying for all the time they spent learning their craft and paying for them to impart their knowledge on you. I’ve spent a good amount of my time working with up-and-coming models and helping them refine their posing or expressions, and I myself have had to experiment with those expressions myself. If I’m not available, I often refer up-and-coming models to Cory DePriester or Erin McConnell if the models are Detroit-based. Already have a couple shoots worth of experience? Read on to the next tip!
- Find your niche. Learn about the different genres of modeling and determine what you have the best look and posing style for. As a model myself, I tend to photograph best for conceptual portraits, high fashion, or beauty work.
“Why do I need to figure out a genre? Isn’t modeling all the same once you’re in front of a camera?” NO! Please never say this to me or I’ll cry in front of you. I’ve arranged shoots with people who label themselves fashion models only to find out their posing styles are more in line with that of portrait models or glamour models. It kills my soul inside when this happens, and it’s one of the best ways to make sure I never work with you again. Confused about what I mean by “posing styles”? Read tip #3.
- Learn body language. Different poses convey different emotions, and while good photographers will be able to provide some guidance and direction, they shouldn’t have to. Let them focus on taking the photos while you do what you showed up to do! Here’s a quick read that gives you a rundown on simple posing, and here’s to give you more posing ideas and tips. Study your favorite models and photographers to get a better feel for how poses translate, and try them out yourself. The best way to learn this, of course, is through practice – tell your photographer you’re working on refining your posing skills, or hire a model coach to help you out at a shoot. Practice in the mirror, take self portraits, do whatever you can to see how your poses translate! And most importantly – ask for feedback.
- Movement is good, communication is better. I’m sure you’ve seen the video of Coco Rocha posing. Listen. You’re not Coco Rocha. I’m not Coco Rocha. The quick posing she’s running through is intended to yield a wide variety of images in a short amount of time. That’s what they discussed. Move during your shoots so that you have a variety of poses and the photographer has a good handful of images to choose from, but ask the photographer you’re working with how quickly they want you to move. If it’s a low light situation, they might hate you for not standing still. (I specifically told a model not to move at all for a series of long exposures, and they kept changing position. I was irritated.) If you’re in something big and flowy and they want you to twirl, then twirl away! It all depends on the photographer’s skill and shooting style.
- Know your limits & keep yourself safe. Things that you are totally allowed to do: bring an escort. Models I’ve worked with have brought their partners, parents, siblings, or friends with them. It’s great for me because then I have an assistant, and great for them because then they have a cheerleader and someone there to keep them comfortable. Your limits can extend to styling choices, location choices, weather conditions, and so much more. Remember, you’ll have to take a break from modeling if you get seriously injured, so maybe standing in the middle of a street for a shot isn’t the best idea.
You are always entitled to your safety at a shoot. Say no to ideas that you aren’t comfortable with. Say no to going places without an escort. Say no if someone asks you to remove clothing and you aren’t comfortable with it.
Those are the basic tips I offer to models when they start out. If models come to me and tell me they’re interested in doing more fashion modeling, I usually recommend purchasing a styled session with me. Together, we select a concept, pin down a mood, discuss styling choices, and complete a shoot. You have freedom to pose as you will, and I help refine your angles with you and review poses. If you are looking to improve your posing, please do book a session with me! There aren’t a ton more tips I can offer without knowing the specific ways you’re looking to improve and seeing it first hand, but you’re welcome to send me photos and ask for my opinion. (I can’t guarantee I’ll be much help though.)
Occasionally, I’ll collaborate with new models. A bulk of my work is done with people who already have experience and a portfolio, but there are some of things I look for when selecting models, regardless of their level of experience.
- Your look. What you look like matters to me! That being said, I need to see what you actually look like, not just what you look like with hair and makeup done. Post a clean headshot every once in a while so I can see how long your hair is and what your bone structure is like. That way, I can imagine all the ways we can style you for a shoot without having to imagine what your real face looks like.
- Your ability to convey emotion. Your face and body have so much potential for expression in them! If you’re posting a bunch of headshots, I don’t know what you can do with your body. If you post a ton of selfies from the same angle and I don’t know what the other side of your face looks like, you probably won’t hear from me for a shoot. Finally, can you express a full range of emotion? Deadface is a great look for some editorials, but it’s better if you don’t look like a moving mannequin and have some energy to your face too.
- Your aesthetic. Do you normally look like a total badass or a soft indie pal? Are you a shapeshifter? Does your body language reflect a mood that goes with the styling of shoot? Some people can rock a natural aesthetic, but don’t know how to pose for edgier things. Some people only know edgy, and don’t know how to soften up. No matter what I’m aiming for, I want someone who can match the energy and keep up with the look.
- Your previous work. Really, this ties into the previous three, but I won’t to ask a model to shoot something that looks exactly like what they did last week. Additionally, I typically don’t want to ask someone to do something they’ve never done before as far as genres. I won’t ask models who have absolutely no revealing photos if they’re interested in a nude concept, and I won’t ask someone who posts mainly commercial work to pose for any concepts where I would need them to be dark and brooding.
- Your nails. Clean nails & basic nail polish please. I hadn’t noticed this until I started doing more beauty photography, but if you have large acrylic nails, I probably want to hide your hands somehow. Unless the shoot is about your nails, you should come with your nails cleanly done with natural colors (blush, nude, white, clear coat, even bare nails). It’s hard to cohesively do an earthy editorial when the model has neon orange nail polish.
So models, what do you think? Was this helpful for you? If so, please share this post on your socials!
Photographers, did you read through? What are your thoughts on these tips, and what else would you include for beginning models?
Keep your eyes out for a similar post intended for photographers!
(Featured image by Ahmad Malik)