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Model Photography: 11 Tips from a Hollywood Pro

7 min read

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professional model photography tips.

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or just starting out in model photography, it’s important to understand the key elements that go into making a successful modeling photoshoot.

I am a fashion photographer in LA and shoot for brands worldwide, plus modeling portfolios. In this article, we will explore my ideas and methods for creating beautiful model photos that stand out from the crowd.

The Scenarios of Working with Models

I have worked with many models through the years, some who can change poses faster than I can shoot, and some who are so good they see the shot in their mind’s eye just like I am in the viewfinder, and these are some of the best case scenarios.

model posing for a photo session.

The worst case scenarios are models who walk on the set unprepared, can’t pose, have scars from surgeries that need heavy retouching, have a skin rash, have lips that were injected with botox last night, are not in a good mood, don’t like me or are weary, and on and on.

Modeling is a fun and exciting career, but it can also be challenging, put yourself in their shoes! Models need to be flexible and adaptable, always ready to learn new poses and styles.

Their agencies provide a supportive network offering workshops and training sessions to help models stay relevant.

1. Breaking the Ice

photoshoot images.

Whenever possible, have the model see your portfolio before the shoot, even your social accounts, this is your best icebreaker.

You should create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere during the photoshoot, and by taking the time to get to know the model before the shoot begins. Most photographers find that building a rapport with the model before the shoot can make the model feel comfortable, at ease, and less intimidated by the camera. You need to ensure a combination of good communication, trust, and a relaxed atmosphere.

You should take the time to explain the process, show the model your portfolio, and provide tips and advice. A good photographer will make sure the model understands what’s expected of them, they don’t have ESP!

2. Red Alert

model sitting on a chair.

There are always stories of negativity floating around in the modeling world. Based on SKU, most fashion and beauty brands are for female customers, 3 to 1, and that holds true for the volume of money traded worldwide, so it is not a surprise that most models are younger women, while face it most photographers are men. Now you see how there are such sexual misconduct stories, lawsuits, and arrests that have happened and do happen.

As a photographer, know that the female model who is about to walk on the set or to your studio or the shoot location has many red alerts and fears in her head already without having spoken a word with you, and believe it or not, that is your first job on the set, to erase and remove all that negativity as soon as possible, and not doing anything which can validate or add to this mentality.

This should be your greatest red alert too. It’s a very quick end to any photographers reputation and career, so deal with it in the most professional manner possible.

3. Model Shoot 

male model walking with a bicycle.

A model shoot or session can be commercial for a brand or the model’s portfolio. You may also be shooting a model just for practice and building your portfolio.

The pressure is on when shooting a model for money, you have to perform, and the results must be pre-meditated, rarely do I shoot for money without any planning.

One of the most important tips for model photography is to never forget that models are people, not just objects, so always treat models with respect, especially if you are working with a model for the first time, male or female it doesn’t matter.

4. Posing is Everything

A model’s pose can make or break a photo shoot, as it can help to convey the intended mood and emotion to the viewer. For this reason, it’s crucial for you to understand how to direct your models.

Posing is a critical component of model photography. A good pose will accentuate the model’s best features, while a poor pose can make even the most beautiful model look awkward or unprofessional. You are the mirror of the models and should discuss the desired look and feel of the shoot with the model.

From standing to sitting, headshots to full-body shots, the right pose can make all the difference in a photoshoot. Models must be able to capture a moment and convey the right emotions, while also showcasing their figure and style.

5. Dramatic or Bland

model posing for a fashion clothing brand.

Some models prefer a more dramatic and high-fashion style, while others may prefer a more natural and relaxed approach. You should be open to exploring different styles and working with the model in a fluid manner, so instead of saying don’t, say that it was great, now let’s try it more this way.

It’s your job to guide the model through the process. Some models have experience in posing and may already have ideas for their shoot, while others may be new to modeling and need more guidance, so be patient as the model finds their comfort zone.

Understand the art of posing by working together, communicating effectively, and having fun, both you and your model need to be in a comfort zone, stress is a terrible thing when we are talking art.

6. Lighting

Lighting is another crucial aspect of model photography. You should experiment with different lighting techniques, such as backlighting, side lighting, and front lighting, to see which techniques work best for your particular photoshoot.

In a studio setting, a well experienced model will understand your lighting scheme and work with it, not against it.

7. Composition

female wearing sports gear while running.

Share your camera screen with the model, so they understand your intent for composition and work with you. You should pay attention to the placement of the model within the frame, as well as the balance of negative space and other elements within the photo, and consider the rule of thirds, which states that the subject of the photo should be positioned at one of the intersections of a three-by-three grid that divides the image into nine equal parts.

8. Models’ Hair and Makeup

Another important aspect of model photography is hair and makeup. Hair and makeup artists can play a crucial role in creating the desired look for a photoshoot, as they can enhance a model’s features, create a specific mood, and provide a sense of professionalism to the shoot, so you should work closely with hair and makeup artists to ensure that the final images are consistent with the brand’s vision.

9. Props

Another important aspect of modeling poses is the use of props which can help to add interest, texture, and depth to the images and make the poses look more dynamic.

You should be creative with their use of props, incorporating things as simple as apple boxes, chairs, stools, and stands to help your model get creative.

10. Wardrobe and Accessories

lights around a model standing in a studio.

Work with the model to choose the right wardrobe and accessories for the photoshoot. Some days I am both photographer and a stylist, and I have to take into account how the wardrobe and accessories will look in different lighting scenarios.

Personally, if I am working with a female model, I always let them have the final say on style, the reverse may be true when female photographers work with male models.

11. Post-Processing Pictures of Models

Fixing it in post is more true now than ever. I have saved many mistakes the models made or I made or were made on the shoot in post, and saved the session at the end of the day, without the brand knowing what happened, and that is a good day.

The Fashion Industry

The fashion and glamour industry is a highly competitive and dynamic space, with models and photographers constantly pushing the boundaries of style and creativity. 

When it comes to the fashion industry, models are the face of brands and designers, and it is important that they look and feel good during photoshoots. It is the job of the photographer to produce results, remember you are in charge of time, money, and the results.

photographer communicating with a model.

Modeling Agencies

Modeling agencies play a crucial role in the fashion industry. These businesses are responsible for discovering, nurturing, and managing the careers of aspiring models. For models, the right agency can make all the difference, your best models will be from agencies, and they are always more expensive than freelancers from model mayhem.

Photographers and models go hand in hand. A good portfolio is essential for models, and agencies often want to work with certain industry photographers for this reason.

The fashion industry has new styles and trends emerging all the time, and agencies help models stay up-to-date, offering guidance on what’s in vogue and what will make their portfolio stand out, whether it’s a specific hairstyle, a particular pose, or a particular type of shoot.

Money Money Money

Modeling agencies are businesses, and like any other business, they need to make money. This means that models should produce results no matter what their mood is.

The goal of a modeling agency is to help models make money and achieve their dreams and reach their full potential, and the right agency can help models build successful careers.

Communication between you, the brand, the model, and the agency will ensure success all around.

Are You Cut for Photographing Models?

By understanding the key elements of lighting, posing, composition, wardrobe, accessories, and post-processing, you can create stunning photos that showcase the best in the model and capture the essence of their unique personalities.

Whether you’re working with friends, shooting in a studio, or creating a portfolio for a modeling agency, these tips and tricks will help you to achieve the results you’re looking for. Study the works of the great model photographers and then go out there and have fun.

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David Victory is an American fashion photographer based in Los Angeles. He got his first camera, a plastic lens 120 roll film Diana at age 5, and printed his first black and white at 8. So far, David has traveled/shot in 75 cities worldwide and counting. He is known for complex and expensive projects.
David Victory is an American fashion photographer based in Los Angeles. He got his first camera, a plastic lens 120 roll film Diana at age 5, and printed his first black and white at 8. So far, David has traveled/shot in 75 cities worldwide and counting. He is known for complex and expensive projects.
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