Can I photograph you in the nude?
Working with Models
Photography is all about shapes, textures and lighting. Sooner or later you might start thinking that there are some interesting shapes and textures to be found in the human form, if so then you need to persuade people to model for you.
Persuading people to model for you can be a daunting task, and can be vaguely reminiscent of asking people out on a date. Unlike dating though, you do not have to appraise yourself before deciding who to approach.
People generally have a fair idea what they look like and how they look in photographs, their modesty may prevent them from talking about it, but deep down inside they know. So you have the most chance of success with good looking people who are less likely to be afraid that they might be making a fool of themselves.
When you approach people, do so with complete confidence as though you have done this a million times before, your confidence will help to reassure them and put them at their ease. Don't embarrass them in front of their friends, wait for the right moment and don't try to force a decision there and then.
Give them a professional looking card with your phone number and ask them to call you if they're interested. If you have some good pictures, put them on a website and include a link on your card. When people are hassled in the street their first instinct is to say no, it's an in-built reflex reaction we have all developed in the last few years, so it's important to let people make their mind up in their own time.
If you persevere in a professional manner and don't come across as 'creepy', the phone will soon start ringing and you can arrange a shoot.
If you want to use the pictures you take, or offer them for sale then you must get a model release. The best time to talk about this is while you are arranging the session. Of course as soon as you mention model releases and selling the pictures, the model will think you are going to earn big bucks and will ask for a fee. You need to explain that the chances of you selling any pictures at all are probably quite slim and the chances that you will make any large amounts of money are very remote indeed.
If you are a reasonably good photographer, most models can be persuaded to work for pictures, they always need new pictures for their portfolios and often have to pay for them. So, if you are prepared to do some shots in the style they want, and they will pose the way you want, then you can arrange a trade.
I cannot stress too much the importance of getting the model release, if you don't you will regret it later on, I know I have, on several occasions, don't leave it 'til later.
As far as locations are concerned you really have three choices. You could use your house, work outside, or hire a studio. Hiring a studio might cost a little bit, but it creates the right impression with the model, and using studio lighting will help you to get great shots. I used to rent studios quite often, it's not as expensive as you might think, and they are bigger than the average front room. It's surprising how much space you need when you start putting lights up and a background.
If there is no reasonably priced studio nearby then you could use your house. If you have at least some studio equipment, some basic lights and a background of some sort, this will help to create the impression that you know what you are doing and put the model at ease. Make sure that anyone who you share your house with is under strict instructions to stay away, photography is definitely not a spectator sport, nothing will scare your model away quicker than having an audience. It's also best to keep the model's boyfriend, girlfriend or mum away too, this is a job for the two of you on your own, anyone else will just be in the way.
Working outside can be a problem if there are a lot of people around, as soon as you start shooting everyone will be fascinated with what you are doing, so you need to find a quiet spot or come back at a quieter time of day. Early in the morning can be really good, the light is beautiful and there are not many people about, but beware of the dog walkers and early morning joggers. Working outside, if you can find a secluded place, means you don't need to buy lots of extra equipment to get started, even the top professionals just use the sun, and a reflector or two.
Plan your Shoot
To ensure that things go smoothly on the day you need to plan your shoot like a military operation.
Most importantly make sure all the equipment works and, if you have anything borrowed or new, that you know how to work it. Get your lights set up the way you want them, take light readings and then set the camera settings and fire off a few test shots, once your model has arrived you don't want to be messing about with camera settings.
Plan what you are going to do and discuss it with you model before you start. Of course you should be prepared to take advantage of any spontaneous moments, but you don't want to be dithering around wondering what to do next, also you don't want to be springing any nasty surprises on your model asking for things that you have not discussed beforehand. Trust me, it will only land you in hot water.
Plan start and finish times an be generous with breaks, it can be quite tiring work for both of you. I never got any sympathy from my wife when I arrived home tired and said that I had been 'slaving over a hot model all day', but there you are.
Shooting - Keeping the flow going
Once you start shooting keep the flow going, it's very important to shoot quickly and move on to the next pose. This quick backwards and forwards, pose - click, pose - click, is how you set the tempo for the shoot. The more you get into the rhythm the more lively your pictures will be. These days, when you don't have the cost of film to worry about, there is no reason to be stingy with the number of frames you shoot. If you shoot 100 pictures to get one good one it doesn't matter, you can delete the rubbish and it didn't cost you anything.
So even if you don't like a pose, click the shutter anyway just to move on to the next one and keep the rhythm going. If the session is going in a direction that you don't like then you have to stop, explain what you want and try something different, but don't try to make every shot a winner.
Talk to your model the whole time and make encouraging comments, you don't have to get silly about it but building the right atmosphere is very important. The atmosphere in the room will be reflected in your pictures, an unhappy model will look unhappy or bored which is even worse.
Finally, once you've gone to all this trouble, do something creative and different. Don't just add to the world's ever increasing pile of 'glamour' photos, think of some new twist. Study the great photographers, what makes their pictures rise above the mediocre? Usually it's just a question of coming up with a great idea.
If you enjoyed this page you might
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Learn Photography with Geoff Lawrence
Other tutorials in this section
A few tips for the budding wildlife photographer.
Lighting and perspective.
What you need and what to watch out for.
All the settings you need.
Photograph flowers like a professional, what you need to know.
For when you need extra depth of field.
How to get those ultra close-ups in focus.
Shooting a panned sequence of shots and stitching them together to make a panorama.
Techniques to help you capture those golden moments.
Getting the exposure right in all that white.
Tips on how to capture fast action.
Take better holiday photos without losing your sanity.
A complete 'how to' for weddings, with an accent on crowd control.
Bribing people to sit for you.