How to make your model comfortable during shoots ?

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Guiding your model is as important as it is to do proper lighting, or proper camera settings. I personally believe guiding and making your model comfortable , is the key factor to get the exact output or poses from the models.

One of the more challenging aspects when starting out can definitely be getting comfortable working with the model(s) on a shoot, and how to ensure everyone comes out happy and satisfied. This article has been written from the perspective that the majority of models I work with are female. Everything in here applies to men and women, but it has been written from the mindset of working with female models. So lets start with the pointers and tips.

 1. Models are people too! 

This is perhaps the biggest point I want to highlight. You have to remember that models are people too. These are people who have hopes, fears, anxieties, and dreams just like you or anyone else.

So always remember to ask them for their choices. They are not robot they need rest so do not think by paying their shift you are buying them. You are simply buying their services not the model. So be humble with the models and they will be happy to work for you.

2. The model’s comfort is your top priority, and they deserve your respect at all times. 

I like to make a point of this again and again, and here I go again; on a shoot, the model’s comfort should be your top priority. By that I mean if at any point a model isn’t feeling comfortable with what is happening, the shoot should stop.

I say this for a number of reasons. The first is common human decency. Come on. If you are in an environment where you can usually easily stop what is going on, and someone isn’t happy, you should just stop. No photo is worth putting someone through something that could physically or emotionally hard them.

The next reason is that if you have a model who isn’t feeling the shoot, and who isn’t comfortable, that is going to reek through the photos. If you are taking a photo of someone who doesn’t want to be there or isn’t interested in the shoot, you are going to see it in their eyes, in their posture, and in the end results.

This comes down to basic respect, and also (to put it bluntly) not being a sleazy creep who exploits models just so you can see a bit of skin. 200% not cool, creative, or in line with great ‘photography.’

 3. Remember to compliment the model

Models will go to a lot of effort to get ready for a photoshoot, and there is nothing more flattering than a simple “you look amazing!” from the photographer. Don’t be fake about it, but obviously they will look incredible as you got them on the shoot, and this is a perfect little confidence and ego boost!

4. Ask the model thoughtful questions about their experience with photo shoots, and anything else that isn’t too personal.

People love to talk about themselves.So when you are working with a model and in-between shooting, ask them questions about what they enjoy about modelling, if they have done any shoots lately with any other photographers, and if they have been published before. I do genuinely find these kind of chats interesting and have learnt a lot about the local fashion photography scene as a results!

5. Do not touch the model or their clothing without first asking permission, and only do so if it is necessary.

Another key philosophy I have when it comes to working with models is that you shouldn’t need to touch a model on a photoshoot. I believe it can be a little bit too personal, and opens the possibility of photographers breaking boundaries and acting inappropriately.

Directing can be tough sometimes, and it does take time to get comfortable. However one thing I will always say is that if you are having a hard time trying to direct a model into a pose, do the pose you want yourself (yes, yourself!) and then get the model to mimic you. Not only does this work well, but also will probably elicit a laugh or two which eases the pressure off even more.

In all of the 100+ photo shoots I’ve done, I only probably had to touch a model once or twice, and that is just because a leaf was caught in their hair and it was easier for me to remove it for them. In this case as well, I told them “there is a leaf caught in your hair, would you be ok if I got rid of that?”, and only when a “yes” came back, I’d do it.

6. When it comes to directing, if you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t stress

Directing was a big challenge for me when it came to my first experiences with moving a model into place, and setting a scene up. After doing over 100 shoots I can honestly tell you do not get stressed or worried if something doesn’t work out.

So what do you do if you pose someone and it doesn’t look great? I have the solution. Simply tell the model to ‘relax’. This will put them at ease, and stopping the pose, hitting the reset button and allowing you then to take a few minutes to reassess what you want to do for the next shoots.

 7. If the model is going to be changing half way through the shoot, respect their privacy and give them time and space to change

Yet again I feel like I’m wandering into OTT territory here but if a model is going to be changing outfits through a photoshoot, you need to give them privacy. I use a pop-up changing tent which I got from amazon for about 1000Rs and it works like a charm; alternatively if you are shooting in an urban area see if there are any restrooms nearby.

If none of these are options and the model needs to get changed out in the open (for example in a forest or in a car), then tell them you are going to give them privacy and leave the immediate area until they say it is all good to come back.

Bottom line: be respectful.

 8. Remember to do your model release forms

A vital necessity for all TFP shoots is that a model release form is completed. Model release forms are vital for a legal point of view, ensuring that the model agrees that all images taken are your copyright, and this also acts as evidence that you did a TFP shoot. If you want to get published, Magazines will require this as well.

It is easy to get carried away with the shoot and call it a day at the end, but you need to make sure that you get this done.

9. Do not drink before or whilst on a shoot

I’m saying this because I have heard more than a couple of incidences where this has happened. Do not drink before a shoot to give you ‘dutch courage’ to get over your nerves. I have this as part of my crib sheet for models as well, and it is extremely rare that people do it but regardless, you should never be encouraging or taking the consumption of alcohol at any part of a shoot.

Whilst it may be tempting to get over your nerves with a bit of help from a drink, it can potentially cause a lot of problems, as well as being unsafe and unprofessional. The confidence to work on a photoshoot comes from your own confidence and experience with learning from the ups and downs of doing a photoshoot.

 10. Have fun

At the end of the day, you want to make sure everyone who is on the shoot has at least some fun! We don’t do photography because it is a chore (well I don’t!), but because we love to create beautiful images and experiences for people! My photography is my creative outlet in my life and I adore doing shoots because of how much fun they are, and the end result that is created from everyone working together.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you agree in the comments below, and tell me about your experiences getting into fashion photography!

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