How to Effectively Communicate with models?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ColdEye, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. ColdEye

    ColdEye Member

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    First of I am not sure is the correct place to post this, So Mods, move it as you see fit. :tongue:

    So how do you communicate with models? I have yet to try a photo shoot with Pro Models. I have done a few shoots with my former classmates and it was using digital so I can see the results instantly. How do you tell the model what and how to pose? I am a very shy person and I have communication problems with people I don't know. :tongue: Do you just show them a picture of your intended outcome, or do you do the pose yourself for them to emulate? Here are some shots of how I usually take portraits (forgive the bad post processing and bad composition), and sorry if it is in digital. :sad:


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  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    You could try moving their bodies and limbs into position with your hands. Then you wouldn't need to try to explain it to them or look ridiculous doing the poses yourself.
     
  3. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    I've been shooting with models recently, so here is what has worked for me, and what I have read:

    1. Don't touch models to move them into position without permission, and even then many will prefer not to be touched; you may need to demonstrate the pose.

    2. Half the battle is making the model feel comfortable; explain the shoot beforehand (which means you need to have a clear concept of what you want), and don't try to go beyond that in the shoot (e.g. no surprise requests for nude shots if it hasn't been discussed in advance).

    I'm shy too, and working with models was one of my things to do this year; it gets easier as it goes along. One thing I have found is that if you describe what will be unique to a project using film (vs. the digital most models are used to) you will find many models will be very engaged and fascinated to be involved in film photography projects.

    Good luck!
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Here's my standard.

    If the model is opposite sex, DO NOT TOUCH. With children, DO NOT TOUCH unless parents are near by. I usually show what I want them to do myself. Yes, I do female posing myself. Yes, it looks funny but then again, if I can't do it myself, I can't really show someone else how/what to do.

    I get them into approximate shape, then start asking to move one body parts at a time. Right hand little higher... Turn your head to left a bit... a bit more... more.... bring it back some... PERFECT! Chin down a bit... good.... I need a little more smile, ok... good...

    I practice A LOT with someone I know. It's amazing how hard it is to interpret verbal command into body moving. Look up is often mis-interpreted. People just move their eyeballs. Chin up is more appropriate.

    I'm still learning. Your work look excellent though. Looks like you are doing some fine job already.
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Oh, by the way... I just had a conversation with a director of a modeling agency. I was delivering a print to one of their talents.

    Just about all the aspiring models I had an opportunity to shoot (photographs) went into a non-smiling, non-emotion, default model face instantly and automatically. According to the director, models expect being told what WE want. If we wanted smiling face, we need to tell them specifically. Then, they will be glad to smile.

    I thought it was kind of unique. Most non-models go into a big smile automatically. That's not what they do...
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Practice, practice, practice is about all that I think matters. Things are so variable shoot to shoot that I don't think general rules will help you at all. If you are bad with people, it just means you have to practice even more.
     
  7. heespharm

    heespharm Member

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    I suggest talking slowly and loudly and sometimes using crayons to distract them :smile:

    But seriously most are well trained... Visual aids help to get a look you want and just as we know how to use a camera, they know how to use their bodies... Do just be forthright with what you want
     
  8. ColdEye

    ColdEye Member

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    Thank you all for the replies.

    @JohnMeadows: I also believe in a no touch policy. These days it's very easy to get into trouble. I have tried the funny approach with friends (maybe they laugh out of courtesy) but I have yet to try it with others. :smile: That's a nice insight about telling them film will be used, they will think it's retro or something. :smile: This is also a good exercise for me to remove my inherent shyness.

    @tkamiya: Yes, with children I am very cautious in picturing them in general if I don't know their parents personally. I am also prepared to do the poses, even if it looks funny. :smile: I tried it out in one shoot and it was not that bad. Maybe I'll try and show the looks that I want by searching in the net (if it is indoors). They emulate mannequins that is why they don't smile. :smile:

    @2f/2f: Yeah, since I started in film, I did a revamp on how I did my shooting. I practiced everything again from the basics of exposure and composition.

    @heespharm: How will I use the crayons? :D I guess polishing of my communication skills are a must.
     
  9. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    What I would also recommend, if you are shooting for the first time with a model, make it as safe as possible; for my first project involving models, I purposely chose busy outdoor urban environments, as opposed to a shoot in a deserted building miles from anywhere :smile: It does seem unfair sometimes, but if you are a male photographer often the onus is on you to prove that you are not a "Guy With Camera" (Modelspeak for a man whose only use for a camera is to get close to beautiful women and get them naked).
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Talk to them, tell them what you want. Explain what look you are trying to achieve. If you are working with women, have a female assistant to help with make-up and posing. Be in control, never let them suspect you don't know what you are doing. Allow them to feel comfortable around you. You should be assertive, but not a tyrant.
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Another thing you can do is to have a female friend with you, if you are a male photographer. It softens the environment quite a bit and also comes in very handy when you have to discuss a sensitive body part issue with the models. Also, children feel safer and acts much more naturally with a female figure than a male figure.

    I often have my girlfriend with me to hold reflectors, etc, and be available for me. I can send her over to the model to tell her too much of her front bumpers are showing, for example... (actually happened) I also have her trained to see problems like wrinkles in clothing, stray hair, make up problems, etc.
     
  12. segedi

    segedi Member

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    Having my wife with me helps put my portrait subjects at ease. I approach people that aren't pro models and are skeptical. But once I explain the project, things go smoothly. And my wife can talk to them while I mess with camera settings and focus.

    Since I'm not terribly quick at focusing, I let them know, "I'm focussing the camera and this will take a second." And this helps inform and bring them into the process.

    Another aid that I haven't yet used is when working with a new model. Tell them what type of photo you are after and say, "let me see what ya got." you might find that they need very little direction and you'll get poses they are comfortable with that might be better than your vision.
     
  13. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Huh?

    How can you get into trouble by touching people in a non-sexual way?
     
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  15. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    They can claim anything they want.... especially in US. Not touching someone we don't know, and especially in professional environment, is sort of a standard in our society.
     
  16. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Had to say it, first pic, the girl, has a bit more than peach fuzz going lol

    I recommend you get a large book of standard poses and look them over, I have a poses app on my phone as well. Ranges from standard super basic portraiture, to more contrapposto contortions. Showing your model your idea may help communicate far more than words.
     
  17. rince

    rince Subscriber

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    Hi,

    I did my fair share of studio photography with models and yes it is not easy. The utter most important thing is to get your model to relax. Here are some things that I found very helpful:

    1. Introduce yourself. Very important! I have seen it so many times that photographers just get right into action ... Take 5 or ten minutes to talk to your model. Try to get a basic idea what kind of personality she is and be interested in what kind of shots they like. You will be mean and reuse this information in 4.

    2. Have a clear vision what you want. Talk to your model what kind of image you want to shoot. Talk to her about the feeling of the image (moody, aggressive, dreamy, ...) If you have an inspirational image, show it to her so she gets an idea of what you are looking for.

    3. Get the model in position. This is sometimes a little difficult, but don't touch your model. This is especially important if shooting girls or kids. If you know the model and have worked with the noel a couple of times it can be ok, but never just reach and touch. Always tell them what you want to do and ask for permission.
    To hep them you can either show them the pose you are looking for yourself, or you can direct them by giving clear directions (e.g. look at that point on the wall, look at a spot 5 inches higher...)

    4. Once you have the position you want. Get your model in the right mood. A little trick is make them remember certain situations or things. If you want them to smile you could tell them 'smile' or you could tell them 'think of your most favorite food'. You can tell them to look 'flirty' or you can tell them to 'imagine you are sitting in a caffe shop and then this cute boy/girl comes in and you are trying to make eye contact' ...
    Stuff like this. When done well you will see that a smile will not stop at the lips, but involves the eyes, etc ...
    So use your 5 min chat with the model in the beginning and try to adjust the stories to her/his personality.

    6. Be confident! If you are not confident, your model will not relax. If you realize after a few frames you had the iso set to a wrong value, don't make a fuss about it. The model must feel your confidence in order to let go. Especiallyif shooting digitally, don't look at the screen of your camera every 2 shots and say 'hmm...' or 'stupid...', 'not quite...'

    7. Keep the connection! If you so it right you will see that your model starts to relax at some point. They start to play with your camera and you feel a magic connection. Don't break that. Keep shooting! Have either a person at the shoot to reload your cameras or if you have a camera with multiple backs, have them lined up. If you are in a position to use multiple camera bodies so it to keep interruptions at a minimum.

    I guess the list goes on and on and on ... But start slow, build up your arsenal of tools. Working with models is really something you have to learn. Learn some basics for posing ('If it bends, bend it"...)
    Learn about how certain poses are better for men and women, how certain poses are better for certain body structures, etc.

    Most importantly? Have fun and let your model see and feel that you are having fun!
     
  18. rince

    rince Subscriber

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    Well 'non-sexual way' is very subjective. In general every physical contact can (and will by some people) be interpreted as a sexual or at least uncomfortable gesture by a stranger.

    Even though you will hopefully not get into legal trouble, the shoot can be basically over because your model will not relax because they feel you overstepped a boundary.
     
  19. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Wow - that's some great advise!
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    This "touching" thing is quite a bit paranoid to me. I don't much agree with the suggestion to do it in the first place, but I am especially in disagreement with the warnings about the possible legal ramifications of doing it. All you would have to do is ask, and be respectful (i.e. not a creepy groper or gawker). That being said, I've never touched a model for purposes of posing;I believe that if a model doesn't "get it," me physically positioning him or her isn't going to change that. I have done it for grooming reasons (e.g. to remove a piece of lint, a stray hair, a fallen eyelash, or to position hair, clothing, or the like).
     
  21. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Models are ordinary people and if you're relaxed and friendly then they'll tend to be relaxed and friendly.

    A good model will work with you to achieve what you want - but to do that they need to know what you want so you need to tell them. I've found that people tend to understand better if you show them - perhaps with some pictures or by posing yourself. That'll give you a shared starting point, but it'll rarely be the 'magical moment' that you're looking for. To get that magical moment you need to work with them - i.e. give them directions.

    The way you give directions will no doubt vary depending on what you're doing and the kinds of poses you're working on.

    Usually if people are in a pose for too long it gets uncomfortable and they begin to look tense and strained - which leads to bad pictures. Allow them to relax and drop out of the pose so that when they go back into it it's fresh. As you get used to working with people you'll begin to understand how the body is interconnected and how a small move here can have a big effect there. You'll also discover that some poses aren't possible...

    If you need to move a foot or a hand then it's usually much, much easier to simply say: "do you mind if I move your foot a bit?" than to try and explain verbally what you want. Likewise, if a hair falls then it's much easier to simply move it back than to ask the model to do it (because that will probably disrupt the pose) - if you have an MUA then you can ask them to look after hair.

    I prepare the model for contact right at the beginning of the shoot. I tell them that often I'll need to make small adjustments and that it's much easier for both of us if they allow me to do that - and I tell them I'll always ask first. Almost always its limbs or hair. If a model is not relaxed about this during the shoot then you probably won't make good pictures anyway.
     
  22. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Very good point. If you have to move your model's body parts like a mannikin's, then either you are lacking in communication skills, or the model probably has the brain of a mannikin, as well as the body. I always make it a point never to touch a model, except, as you say, for grooming reasons. I will first try to tell him/her, "you have a piece of lint on your shoulder," and then if they don't find it, I will ask permission to take care of it myself. Whenever possible, I like the model to bring a spouse or friend along to handle such matters.
    If it's a posing or positioning issue and the model doesn't seem to understand my instructions, I will say, "start turning your head away from me slowly until I tell you to stop." Such instructions may sound silly, and often provoke a laugh, but they usually work.
     
  23. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I'm sure situation varies and we need to be flexible. Subjects, ordinary people, models in training, or fully trained models come in variety of skill levels (in posing) and personalities. Some understands very well, some do not, and some misunderstands a lot. I just ran into that last week myself.

    I, too, make a point to NOT touch the models, and when I must, I always ask for permission first. (or send my girlfriend to do it for me) After several attempts at verbally instructing the model up close, I ask for permission. It's always a simple "can I touch you?" When you are there, it's obvious what I mean. Without exceptions, the response is either overwhelming agreement or reluctant agreement. I can tell easily which is which.

    Personally, I do not like to be touched. There is a guy at work who always touches someone's shoulder and arms gently. It is not a sexual touch in any ways but almost unanimously, people describe this touch as "creepy". I asked him to not touch me in non-certain terms twice and he doesn't get it. He is very close to be reported to HR for this by several people. So, be careful. It has nothing to do with what we as photographers intended. It has everything to do with how subject has perceived and it can be very unpredictable.
     
  24. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I don't know how old you are, but I can't believe anyone is so naive. good professional models know their job and know more about posing than most photographers, they have routines they go through that are a series of attractive poses that they know look good, if you want to modify their pose you just describe to them what you want I've worked with pro models for more than twenty years and made it a rule never to lay hands on them, the girls don't appreciate it or the agency s they are employed by.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2011
  25. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Well.... think about it this way.

    You can probably get away with a lot of things most of the time. But then, there's one client who came with an intent that she/he is going to gain from you - more than photograph. Or - something happened during the session and now the model is upset - he/she wants to get back at you. Bam!

    Many things are just annoyances but sexual misconduct - even if you are eventually cleared will put a stain on your reputation. Someone being accused of something will make a big news. Everybody will hear about it. Somebody being cleared of such thing will hardly ever be a news and most people won't hear about it - or won't be interested in knowing more. You'll forever be a guy with questionable reputation.

    I personally won't risk that.
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I'd be interested to hear from TheFlyingCamera on this issue, given that he works with male models.

    And I find it curious this is in the "Ethics and Philosophy" forum.

    My only input on the subject itself is that it works better for me to use hand gestures ("turn this way") than to describe ("turn to the right").