'Directing Stills': A Look at Directing Photoshoots as a Photographer

"Directing Stills," a video from Clinton Lubbe, was made in an effort to provide a video lesson on directing models on a shoot or project. He touches on many subjects that are important and powerful tactics to have the best success with models. It seems though that the most important aspect of it all boils down to one simple thing really, and that's communication, whether it's with the models, the makeup artist, or even an on-set assistant. It's important that you communicate in regards to what your goals are with the final images. 

One of the common misconceptions that many people have about photographers is that on a great many projects, the photographer is given a phenomenal amount of credit for having taken the photograph and that they did so alone, but so often, that's not actually the case; in fact, it's quite often the complete opposite. You see a photograph of a model in a scene. What you don't see beyond that is the assistant holding a light or reflector, a makeup artist and hair stylist that just spent the past hour prepping the model's face and hair for the images, and countless others that are sometimes present behind the scenes to make that one image come to life.

Communicating With Your Models

Before you ever even arrive on set, it's important to communicate thoroughly to your models what your intended goal and images are going to be. Be specific; don't give generalities, as this can just lead to issues and incorrect assumptions that only cause problems on set that you didn't plan for. Use references or shot descriptions. For the more manually inclined photographers, you can even draw out your image concepts and storyboards so that there are no misunderstandings. Communicate mak up and hair expectations if the model is doing their own and what wardrobe you will be using for the project.

One of the most consistent things I've heard when talking to other photographers or sitting in on sessions is the importance of building a rapport with your models on set, even if it is only on set. While you're with them, you're their best friend. Ask them about how they've been, how they're doing, what they feel about the project even. Being able to establish a normal friendly dialogue can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful shoot. If your model is nervous or tense or in any way uncomfortable, it will most likely translate into the final images.

Communicate With Your Team

When you're doing a project with more than one person, it's extremely important that you communicate the project to the entire team in detail, and it's equally important to let everyone there know specifically what their tasks will be for this project. Before anybody starts working, get the team together and have a powwow about what the goal for the day is so that as the shoot progresses, there won't be as much need to stop shooting in-between each set to figure out what comes next. That way, the project will move with complete fluidity and allow for as little stress to make its way onto the set as possible.

Building Relationships

One thing that Clinton talked about in his video is that in addition to communication is working with people you trust, and this touches on a point I made previously that most of the time, a photographer does not accomplish their finished projects by themselves.  Many, myself included, have come to rely on a close-knit network of other photographers or other creative artists that essentially help them look good. He touches on his professional relationship with his makeup artist and how he knows that she will have and maintain a positive rapport with the models on set and that initial dialogue on set can be the most pivotal as the first hour or two are generally spent with the models and makeup artists in close proximity.




Ryan Pramik's picture

Fstoppers Staff Writer, Ryan Pramik is a professional photographer and videographer that specializes in automotive work but crosses the line into other genres for work or for personal projects. Has several publications under his belt for automotive work as well as event coverage for the automotive genre as well as others.

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Great article and vid, thanks ! :)

Great video and article. Here is a Q&A session we had with Clinton from earlier this year. https://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/blog/qa-with-photographer-clinton-lubbe/

so helpful to me with a limited budget to "set the tone", well done and thanks