Photography tips: How to direct models on a photoshoot

Photography tips: How to direct models on a photoshoot

You want to use your friends as models on a photoshoot. Or perhaps you are heading into the world of professional photography. Find out how to get the best out of your models for beautiful photos.

Directing models

Before you start posing your model, make sure they understand the concept you are shooting, whether that’s a story or general mood. Go over it on the day as a reminder, especially if the shoot was arranged some time ago.

Music can be very helpful in helping the model relax. Make sure it sets the tone of the shoot rather than just being a collection of your favourite songs or it may work against you. Some models prefer to work without music.

If the model is experienced, allow them to freestyle between your pre-planned poses as they may have some good ideas you haven’t thought of.

If you are not very articulate, you may have to demonstrate the poses. For small adjustments it may be quicker to move the model’s hand, tilt their chin etc. yourself but make sure they are happy with you doing this. Try to give specific instructions. “Turn to me” is not as good as “turn 45 degrees to me”.

Pay attention to the hands, a small detail that may ruin your shot. Soft hands tend to be more photogenic.

Don’t forget to direct their facial expression; a coy smile, air of aloofness. Some poses are difficult to hold so you may need to remind the model to relax their face. Direct sunlight will cause even the best models to squint. You may need to have them close their eyes, look downwards or put their hands to their faces. Let the model know where they should be looking; just because they are facing you does not mean they are looking into the camera.

If you are moving around the model to get a new angle, tell them to hold the pose. Once they move they may not remember exactly how they were positioned. If you are changing your battery etc. let the model know they can relax to avoid them remaining frozen in a pose for longer than necessary.

Encouragement is important. If the model is doing well let them know. This is very important if you are letting them pose freestyle, so they get an idea of the kind of poses you want. This will also help models who may be feeling self-conscious in certain outfits. Let them know they look great so they can relax sooner rather than later.

Be sympathetic. High heels, corsets and other womanly wears can be very uncomfortable and make balance difficult. Combining heels and the great outdoors is very tricky as heels sink in mud and are dangerous over uneven ground. Corsets stop any bending at the waist and cause shallow breathing. Tight clothing such as pencil skirts also restrict movement – and therefore poses – a great deal.

It’s a wrap! Remember to say thank you and let them know when they can see the finished product. You should already have discussed editing but if you haven’t yet, let the model know if you are editing the pictures and to what extent. They may prefer a natural result. On the other hand, they may think that glamazon airbrushing goes without saying. Hopefully the rapport has been established and the model will want to work with you again.

More photography tips on Mookychick:

Basic photography tips

How to turn your amateur photos into art

Explore cheap settings – like woods. Photo © Simon Bird alt photography

Photo © Simon Bird alt photography

Photo © Simon Bird alt photography

Photo © Simon Bird alt photography

Photo © Simon Bird alt photography

Captin Ron doing a bit of a Pan’s Labyrinth. © Simon Bird alt photography

Magda Knight, founder of Mookychick, photographed by a good friend. The photographer (Miss Prouten) played drum and bass to soothe the model. The model was directed to keep their eyes unfocused and looking to the ground. The photographer asked permission to re-arranged hands and hair as required. Shortly after this the model was so relaxed she fell asleep.