No matter if you want to photograph your non-modeling friend or a stranger who just got into modeling, you need some skills to break the ice, help them feel comfortable and get some great shots. Walid Azami photographed a newbie model James, and from this collaboration, he came up with a set of 11 tips for making such photo shoots successful.
Choose a model
The model can be your friend or an acquaintance, or even a stranger. I know it’s awkward to approach a random stranger and ask them to be your model, but there are ways to overcome it. If the person is a minor, make sure to ask their parents for the permission. In case the answer is no, always respect it and don’t push anything.
Walid met his model James when they were both in jury duty. He noticed that he had a unique look and asked him if he had ever considered modeling. James responded that he had thought about it, but didn’t know where to start – and the collaboration was born.
When you’ve selected the model, it’s time to choose the location. For the first photo shoot of the new model, it’s important that they feel safe. The location needs to get the job done, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Walid points out that you should just make it work to your advantage. And you can do that even in ugly locations or your own neighborhood.
Select the gear based on your preferences. According to Walid, it doesn’t have to be “the latest and greatest,” and I agree. Choose what fits the task and the style you want to get.
Choosing the right wardrobe is also an important step for the first photo shoot. Tell your model to go with the more “classic” look and avoid the fashion trends that are popular at the given moment. Just make sure that the model feels good and don’t make them dress too differently from their regular style. This way, they will feel more comfortable. They should bring several combinations so they can change them during the shoot, or just pick the best one together with you.
Camera setting goals
As for the camera settings, Walid reminds you that this is just a starting point, and you can adjust them based on your preferences, goals, lighting conditions, the message and so on. In this photo shoot, he doesn’t shoot wide open, but rather at f/6.3 to get the whole face in focus, and not just the eyes.
Walid gives another useful piece of advice: keep a checklist of your goals and the settings you need to achieve them. This way, you will remind yourself not to shoot at the aperture too large or ISO too high. It’s okay to change your mind mid-shoot, but it’s good to always have your initial idea in mind.
Talk to your model
It’s their first time in front of the camera, so the chances are your model is nervous and uncomfortable. Talking to your model will help you get to know them better and help them feel relaxed, self-confident and calm during the shoot. Don’t be afraid to be goofy and funny, help them with poses and even pose yourself to show them what you expect.
Find their best angles
We all have the “better side” of our faces or the angles that work best for us. Work with your model to discover theirs: get them to face at different directions and find their best angles.
Beat the harsh sunlight
If you’re shooting outdoors in harsh sunlight, it can be really uncomfortable for the person to pose while the sun is hitting their eyes. So, have them close their eyes, count “3,2,1” and when they open them, take the shot. This will spare them the uncomfortable feeling, and it will give you better shots since the model will not be squinting.
Show them the photos
Since this is their first time posing, your model can feel awkward and uncomfortable not knowing how the photos turned out. Put yourself in their shoes and show them the photos after every once in a while. Walid says he does it after 40-50 photos with professional models, but with newbies, he shows them the progress after every 10-20 photos. You can guide them through the images and tell them what works well, what doesn’t, what you want to repeat or avoid.
When you chose this model for the photo shoot, there was something that drew you to him or her. Keep it in mind, and let them be themselves during the photo shoot. After some time passes and they relax a bit, let them express their personality and capture it in the photos.
Finally, always have the purpose of the photo shoot in mind. In Walid’s case, he wanted to sign up James for an agency based out of L.A. So, he chose the wardrobe and the shooting style that matches the agency’s aesthetics. I guess this point should be higher on the list, because it can help you determine the wardrobe, gear, shooting and maybe even the location before the photo shoot begins.
To sum up, there are many things to take into consideration before you photograph a new model. Plan ahead, bring everything you need, and most of all: help them through the process and make them feel secure and relaxed. You will both be rewarded with a great day of shooting and some beautiful photos.