The two questions I get asked most frequently are one, where I find my models and two, how do I get them to shoot with me. In the event that the individual I'm shooting with is not a friend of mine, chances are I met them through Instagram or some other online platform. Today, I am going to add some anecdotal arsenal to your “interacting with internet strangers” toolkit.
Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Congratulations! After months of trial and error, you finally perfected the art of sliding into the DM and you now have a model who has agreed to take pictures with you For Trade. Not sure what to do next? That is most definitely NOT an option!
Being prepared demonstrates a level of professionalism. Whether that means scoping out your predetermined photoshoot location an hour before your model arrives, or scanning over Google Street View the night before, know where you’re going and have a gist of how you want to manipulate with the environment around you.
Proper preparation also includes accounting for the logistics of your shoot. Given that many of my pictures are taken outdoors with female models, I suggest they bring a pair of shoes they’re comfortable walking in and to change to nicer shoes later on. I have found that Pinterest boards are a great way to help less experienced models conceptualize your vision.
For this particular shoot, I decided to check the Yelp page of our location and found a creek that I wanted to use in my photos. Thus, I packed a beach towel, some wet wipes, and a small plastic trash bag so that Cindy could clean up after.
Foster a Comfortable Atmosphere
Portrait photographer Mark Del Mar states it plain and simple in his book Retrato,
“We photographers get a bad rep for being creepy… so don’t feel offended when someone is being cautious.”
I don’t care if you’re shooting boudoir or a maternity wear catalog. Leave your one-line Tinder zingers at the door. I have found that I develop the best chemistry with my models when I do what I like to call “talk to them like they’re a human being.”
While there are undoubtedly models out there who are strictly business and prefer to minimize chit-chat on the job, striking up a friendly conversation is seldom ill-received.
Setting a comfortable stage for your model to perform is critical to a seamless transition into the shoot itself. It really all boils down to one thing: don’t be a creep.
Practice Escalating Levels of Intimacy
In 2010, best-selling author, photographer, and blogger Brandon Stanton took the internet by storm with his project Humans of New York. With over 18 million Likes on Facebook and nearly 7 million followers on Instagram, Brandon has since expanded to recounting the stories of individuals around the world in over 20 different countries. Now how does Brandon Stanton, towering intimidatingly at six-foot-four, convince complete strangers to divulge their deepest, darkest secrets to be shared with millions of readers around the world? After publishing two books and taking tens of thousands of photos, Stanton reveals that his photographing and interview process follow the same cookie cutter mold: Start off broad and general, then slowly increase the level of intimacy.
Upon approaching the aforementioned creek, Cindy expressed discomfort of being in the rapidly flowing water. It was only after about ten to fifteen minutes of posing on dry land did Cindy agree to get in the water, as long as I hopped in with her. It was a done deal.
For starters, begin with a full-body shot. It’s simple. It’s standard. It’s non-threatening– harmless, even. Next, perhaps take a photo from the torso up while your model warms up and finds her groove. From there you have the opportunity to transition into more sensual, intimate poses. Similarly, this archetype of escalating intimacy can be applied to having a friendly conversation.
When meeting up Cindy, our first interaction went something like this:
“Hey, how’s it going? It’s so great to finally meet you in person! Thanks for coming out! So, what do you do when you’re not modeling?”
“Yeah, of course! Well, I’m actually studying animation and illustration right now. What about you?”
By the end our two-hour session together, we went from talking about college degrees, to swapping music and sharing future personal aspirations. Whether it's literally or figuratively, it's better to dip your toe in the water prior to diving in.
Ask Questions and Actively Seek Feedback
Even the best of the best constantly push themselves to learn more and perfect their craft. Among the plethora of conversational items I touched upon with Cindy, I took the opportunity to ask “What was your best experience with a photographer like? How about the worst?”. For the sake of confidentiality, I will not be revealing the finer details of Cindy’s cringe-evoking experiences with her photographers. However, I will strongly suggest that you capitalize on other people's personal knowledge and experiences. Intentionally ask good questions. Facilitate meaningful dialogue. Seek out constructive criticism and feedback. You never know. Maybe that conversation you have will jog your brain on best practices when working with models. Hell, you could even write a blog post about it.