“Gimme a sexy wink, like Marilyn Munroe…”
“Er… I think you need to practice your winks, Tash. You seriously wink like a Quebecois farmer! Haha!”
This moment between photographer and friend Danniel Oickle and I several years back had us rolling in stitches. We were doing a 1950s/60s period photoshoot in his retro studio basement in Ottawa Canada, and in three hours, we created around four-hundred photos. That evening, we didn’t produce a single ‘sexy wink’ shot. Some of our images were later used in Danniel’s Ottawa photography exhibit, The Corruption of Flesh and were seen by thousands of visitors at SAW Gallery, Ottawa in 2011.
Why write this article?
I have never really taken modeling seriously. Modeling has been a hobby for over ten years, and I do it because I enjoy the experience and love the results. I’m no professional model, but having worked in the fashion and beauty industry and knowing a thing or two about photography, it’s my hope that aspiring models may benefit from my experience.
Meeting my first fashion photographer
I met my first photographer, Combie McNeil, while I was doing esthetics and make-up artistry courses in Ottawa Canada. While the students were introduced to working with television and photography make-up, the academy invited Crombie to discuss intricacies of photography, and he explained how make-up application affects photographs. Make-up artists and photographer usually work together for TV and photoshoot purposes to get the best possible result on camera.
After Crombie’s presentation, he took photos of the students, which gave us a chance to observe how our own make-up applications appeared on printed paper. We could see how we needed more contour here, or blend eye-shadow more there.
Crombie invited me to take more photographs with him as a model. Thereafter, we did about four photoshoots together. My first was horribly awkward and I had no idea what I was doing. He patiently told me how to position my body, where to focus my gaze and how to place my hands.
The second shoot was much easier because I felt more comfortable and had an idea of what to expect. As a result, I could pose more naturally and even initiate poses without receiving instructions every time. Crombie and I didn’t stay in touch, but I was grateful for the experience because I developed the confidence to model in the future.
Since that initial introduction to modeling, meeting photographers has been fairly easy. I met several amateur photographers who were building portrait portfolios who needed volunteer models. I met Dann (from Daniel Oickle photography) through my work. I met photography student Samantha (Samantha Garafalo photography) at my university. She needed a model for her final exam project. I met Aaron (Mad_Zoge photography) in a coffee shop after striking up a conversation about his camera in Itaewon Seoul, and I met Don (don.macdonell photography) through expat social networks in Korea. Photographer Izzy (easy_izzy_photography) is a friend of Don’s and so when Don organized a photoshoot, he invited Izzy to join us.
Networking and locating photographers
Although in my case I largely made personal connections with most of the photographers before working with them, actively seeking photographers is probably easiest to achieve through social networking. Portrait photographers who are building portfolios need to find photography subjects so they place adds on Facebook group pages and organize Meetup events to get photographers and models together. Often, photographers have photographer friends, so this gives models the opportunity to meet and work with more photographers with different creative styles. This was the case when I met Izzy through Don.
Figuring out the deal
Before doing a photo-shoot with Dann, he asked me to sign a contract acknowledging that any photos that he took legally belonged to him. This made our understanding very clear, and defined for me what typically tends to be the arrangement between amateur models and photographers who are not making money from a photo-shoot.
Modeling for amateur photographers usually entails an exchange of services, where the photographer retains all rights to the photographs, meaning that the photographer can sell the images for a profit. The model often receives a copy of the photographs, and if s/he wishes to share the images, the model expected to credit (identify) the photographer. A model often selects their favourite images to build a modeling portfolio.
Some photographers prefer studio photography while others like outdoor destinations. I personally prefer outdoor locations as I find that studio bright lights can tire my eyes after hours being under the spotlight. Outdoor shoots also include circulating fresh air which gives me more energy to perform for the camera. Outdoor shoots also offer variety because photographers often want to change from one location to another, looking for different backdrops, and occasionally, shelter from the rain.
But studio photography gives the photographer a lot more control over lighting settings and it can be much more convenient since both the model and photographer don’t have to contend with bad weather and models don’t have to go far to change an outfit.
Before going on location, discuss where you and the photographer have in mind to shoot. I have done shoots on roof-top car parks, inside fancy restaurants, on castle grounds and in parks, beside interesting architectural structures and within university and home studios. I really like street art so that’s what I hope to incorporate into my next shoot.
I have several guidelines I loosely follow before a shoot. I often plan for a good sleep routine in the days leading up to my shoot, and prefer to schedule my shoot for later in the afternoon to ensure I get eight hours sleep. Sleeping well is a famous routine models famously stick it. You don’t have to be a genius to be aware that good sleep patterns create healthier, happier human beings and side effects are often glowing complexions.
I also avoid changing my skin care routine. Beginning an experimental skin care treatment just before my shoot risks pimples on the day of shooting. It’s simply not worth the risk. I may paint my nails the night prior, and also plan outfits beforehand, including shoes and accessories. I like to bring scarves, gloves, fans, umbrellas, hats and so on because props help me with movement and variety of poses during shooting, especially when I hit moments when I can’t think of any interesting pose to do.
On my last shoot, my hair was a disaster due to the intense humidity from Korean summers, and I was grateful for some of the black and white finishes which drew less attention to my crazy hair. Ideally, I prefer to have my hair cut about three weeks before a shoot, so that the style is refined, and I’ve learned how to manage it. Also, my hair would have had a chance to grow and doesn’t look shorter than I tend to prefer.
I happen to be a trained make-up artist, so that makes make-up preparation much easier. Although I take about seven minutes to do my daily make-up routine, I tend to take more care with things like symmetry and precision for photoshoot make-up, and as a result, I end up taking about twenty to thirty minutes. For someone who doesn’t have too much experience with make-up application, and plans to do their own make-up, I suggest the following.
Consult your photographer and decide on a particular theme (urban chic, classic, and so on) which can help you decide on how present your make-up. Consider your outfits before deciding what color lipstick and eye shadow to use. Your make-up may need to be suitable for several outfit changes. Brown tones work with almost every outfit. I sometimes consult make-up tutorials available on YouTube for new ideas. I recently bought a new palette of eye shadows, and having this available meant that I had a great deal of flexibility with choosing colors.
In the same way that actors wear plenty of make-up for the theater stage so the audience can perceive facial expressions from afar, likewise, make-up for the camera serves to enhance facial features so the camera can pick up details. With photography makeup, more is better. You need to wear more contour and blush, and need richer lipstick colors. Peach tones work really well for photography.
Bringing friends along for shoots makes the whole experience a lot more fun, and sometimes, you can even convince your friends to participate!
Parks or gardens provide neutral backdrops that are often easy to work with, particularly for models doing a first time photo-shoot who prefer to get away from crowds and onlookers. On this occasion, we actually had a group conference of around fifty Korean men and women suited up pile into the gardens and stare at us. They were also there to take a group photo! It was actually quite funny.
Day of shoot
I like to do an aerobics morning workout before showering and dressing for my shoot. The endorphins and energy it produces helps to put me in a good mood, feel empowered and confident.
I also like to go for a coffee with my photographer just before starting the shoot to get to know each other and enjoy a little banter first. This will give me a chance to discuss previous modeling experience and expectations of the shoot.
On a recent shoot, I didn’t clarify what I had been looking for, and to my surprise, many of the shots turned out very artistic, moody and mostly profile and mid-body shots. I had expected lots of frontal face and full body shots, however that was something I failed to communicate. Photographers and models can’t read each other’s mind, so it’s pretty important to discuss ideas prior to the shoot.
One of the more challenging things for me has been creative posing. Figuring out what to do next, where to look, and what to do with my hands and feet.
Sometimes the photographer had something very specific in mind and gave lots of direction over body placement, facial expression and so on. But many times, I have been left to own devices and created my own movement or poses.
As the model, I cannot see through a camera lens, and thus often rely on feedback from the photographer to know what body movements to do. Models should not be shy to ask for direction. This aspect of the photo-shoot gets much easier with experience. After getting over the initial anxiety of learning how to pose, I began to actually enjoy it and this switched happened, in my case, within the first two photo-shoots.
My PROS AND CONS to getting involved in modeling shoots
I enjoy the experience of going out and participating in these events. They can be a lot of fun.
Supportive friends and others will give you lots of accolades and it can be really confidence-boosting on a very superficial level.
If modeling is something you want to pursue professionally, unless you get ‘spotted’, you will have to put yourself out there and therefore need to build a portfolio showcasing different sides to your look, your creativity, and your potential to sell products.
Photo-shoots can be tiring. They may last hours, and as center of attention, you would be expected to be professional and ‘produce the goods’, namely, be able to perform for the camera. It helps to have an exhibitionist personality type that likes to receive attention. If this is not your cup of tea, then modeling may prove uncomfortable and stressful.
I think that high expectations and self-criticism are two of the hardest things about modeling, and living in world surrounded by media that demands perfection can make marketing yourself emotionally challenging. Modeling exposes you to your own and everyone else’s critique. Sometimes, we are our own worse critiques, and photos often pick up on our insecurities and these might leave you feeling down.
Benefits to investing in modeling experiences
Oftentimes, the fun experienced during the photo-shoot itself and the accolades received from others make photo-shoots worthwhile, even for someone who is not pursuing modeling as a career. Helping amateur photographers build their portfolios can be as serious or as fun and ridiculous as you dictate.
Modeling has helped me develop in surprising ways. Organizing and performing in shoots pulls together various skills, including learning how to network, and creating grit. Learning to pose has trained me to ‘be photogenic.’ Working with photographers has also helped develop my confidence, by learning to build rapport quickly, and brought out my social skills. Overall, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to dabble in this fascinating industry.
easy_izzy portrait & fashion photography
*featured photo: easy_izzy_photography
Don Macdonell photography, photo-shoots, video work, modeling
Instagram: don macdonell
Webpage: don macdonell
Danniel Oickle photography, artist, musician, sculpture, guillotine
Facebook: Dann Oickle
Mad Zoge photography
Crombie McNeill photography
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you disagree with anything mentioned here, or have tips to add? Please share in the comments below.
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