Tips to Make Your Models Comfortable During Test Shoots

Tips to Make Your Models Comfortable During Test Shoots

When it comes to photographing models, a comfortable subject can make for exceptional photos. Making your subjects feel like they are in a safe and welcoming environment will make your photoshoot a successful photo set for both your portfolio and the models. As a photographer, it is your responsibility to make the subject of your images feel comfortable and in a safe space.

If They’re Represented, Speak to Their Agents When Booking

if the model is represented, make sure to communicate through with their agent. Their agent needs to know about the booking, so it is best to go through them in the first place. They need to make sure that the model will be available and that they see the model as a good fit for your style. Not all styles of photography may go with a certain model’s portfolio, so it is best to check with the agent before you try to book a model.

Use the Agent as a Point of Contact

Make sure that all communications stay between you and the agent when you are booking a model. This maintains professionalism in your photography business. Plus, it will make communication easier overall, as it is an agent’s job to handle booking sheets, while it is not a model’s job to be checking their email all the time. It also gives you a point of contact in case there are any issues leading up to the shoot.

Send the Agent a Mood Board Ahead of Time

Send the modeling agent a mood board ahead of the photoshoot. This will allow them to understand where you are planning to take the session. When they can see the direction, they also can recommend other models for you that may be a good fit for what you were thinking of. Create a quick and easy mood board by putting together a collection of photographs that goes along with the vibe of the photoshoot that you are planning.

Check Pronouns With Their Modeling Agent

Check on the model’s preferred pronouns with the modeling agent. This is a small gesture that can show that you are trying hard to make the model feel comfortable. Using the model's preferred pronouns on a shoot date will show that you are intentional and thoughtful about your communication with your subject.

Unless It’s Where You Connected, Don’t Follow Your Models Until After You Work Together

Unless you initially connected with the model over social media, do not follow them until after you work together. It’s normal to follow models on social media as a photographer. But if you are anticipating working with a model in an upcoming shoot, don’t head over to their Instagram account and start leaving a bunch of comments ahead of the shoot. It might make them feel like you are watching them a bit too closely.

Create a Comfortable Environment for Your Models

Create a physically comfortable environment for your models on the day of your shoot. This is important to the overall results of your session. If you plan to have the model in more revealing clothes, make sure that the air temperature is comfortable and that there are precautions taken for privacy. Also, ensure that you have covered the wardrobe with the agent ahead of time so that there are no misunderstandings on any front.

Ask Them if They Have Any Musical Preferences

Ask your model if they have any musical preferences. Before you put on your classic photoshoot playlist, see if there’s anything that they like to listen to that gets them feeling good. If you need music while you are working, check if you have any shared favorite artists in common. Music is always a great way to cut the silence when you are warming up before a photo session.

Don’t Be Silent

Offer your model encouragement and enthusiasm when you are shooting. Don’t be silent when it comes to taking photos. Make sure that you are giving them direction and that you are letting them know what they are doing well. If something isn’t working, be careful about how you address it and work to get them into a different pose. The more communication we have, the more comfortable the environment can be.

Offer Bottled Water, Coffee, Tea, Light Snacks

If you are feeling extra hospitable, offer your model a bottle of water or go for a quick coffee run. Having light refreshments can make for an energized photoshoot. Staying hydrated and potentially fed is important for anyone’s comfort. Show your subjects that you care about them. Even if they don’t take you up on it, it’s thoughtful to make the offer.

Have a Conversation With Your Models Before You Start Taking Photos

When your model arrives, don’t just start taking photos. Have a conversation with them and get to know them a little more personally. Keep the conversation light and friendly, and make sure you are staying within appropriate boundaries. Let them know a little about you and your photography style and how you will be conducting the shoot.

Listen to Their Needs and Pay Attention to Body Language

If your model is expressing discomfort, listen to their needs. If they do not communicate it with words, pay attention to body language. When doing a session, if there is a pose that they are not comfortable with, it’s not going to make for great photos. Pay attention to what they tell you and what their body language is reading. It’s important to make sure that if you sense any discomfort, you adjust what is going on.

Focus on Your Model’s Comfort During a Test Shoot

Models of all experience levels want to feel comfortable in a photoshoot environment. Making a conscious effort to make them feel comfortable and safe is important and will result in better photographs for your portfolio. Many test shoots are with newer models, where you will need to make them feel more comfortable than a model who has been on site hundreds of times. Every person is different and should be treated exactly as what they are: human beings.

Megan Breukelman's picture

Megan is the owner of Brooklyn Wedding Photo, and host of the Photo Opp Podcast. She aims to share actionable tips to help photographers grow and scale their businesses.

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Some good classic tipps, and I had to think about the "Don’t Follow Your Models Until After You Work Together" a little bit and I think I love this one, thanks!

I think it is about how you address your model: do you call them by first name, a nickname, or more formally like sir/madam or somethink like that.

Some people go by he/him or she/her, others prefer to go by they/them or other variances of pronouns!

It would be in reference to the model when speaking to others like a MUA, or posting about your shoot on social/blog/site, for two examples :)

It is good to check how the model likes to be addressed / referred to, especially when appearance and genetic gender are not the same.
In many cases 'he' stands for male persons, 'she' for female persons. It might sound simple in English, but other languages are more complicated where also other terms and/or suffixes need to be changed according to the gender of the person.

Very good! I use all of the above. I reserve the "Don’t Follow Your Models Until After You Work Together" for teen models.

Put these tips into general business context (meetings, workshops) and they still make sense. (Alright, the revealing clothes part is somewhat specific.) Kind of run-book for all professional interactions.