Model Advice to Photographers

Ever since I first picked up a camera, I had questions that wouldn't be easily answered by reading a book or watching an edited YouTube series. I wanted real and unedited conversations, something you might have at a bar or coffee shop.

I wanted discussions with models in a real way with real advice, nothing edited or in the "safe zone". I do recall wanting to ask people questions that pertained to marketing, and how they ran a set, or how they hired their photographers. There was, of course, an unwritten rule in this town: you act cool and act like you are already doing great things and never show vulnerability. Yuck!

So with part of my channel, I wanted to surprise my industry friends on camera. The last time we published one of these, we had some people who did not understand the concept or appreciate the method. These are my friends. They are people I've worked with and have a casual relationship with. I would never ask a client or someone sensitive to the matter. Honesty is important, and being able to hear working professionals give their advice is invaluable.

The interview with Haley (model) is probably the least "surprise interview" but she was sitting in the makeup chair and I thought it would be a great time to ask her some questions on behalf of photographers.

Haley is a working model and she works for many beauty ads and lookbooks. She's a signed talent for Wilhelmina in Los Angeles and started her career as a little girl modeling for Quinceanera magazines back in the day. In other words, she's been around her fair share of photographers and does have experience in the matter. 


I asked Haley what photographers can do to help a model be more successful on set. She mentioned something I've always thought, which was to stop for a moment and make them feel welcomed. Often times photographers go from a quick hello, to shooting the model. While this is may seem efficient on time, it actually ends up costing the photo shoot.

In my experience, this approach is your riskiest one. I prefer where the model and photographer find their groove and develop a relationship. Why not develop that relationship sooner while they're in glam. Have a little conversation about life, traffic, a recent pop culture event, etc..

It is far more difficult to get fantastic photographs in while you're warming up and so is the model. Sitting with them for a few minutes to talk, to have a casual conversation is more than just polite; it builds a relationship, trust, and makes everyone feel even more welcome on set. Remember, this is your set and it's up to you to make everyone feel at home.


Haley also spoke on photographic instruction on set. When I asked if the photographer should give the model instructions on set or allow them to simply do their job, she answered "both". 

Give them instructions on what is needed, the attitude, the type of movement and then allow them to do their job by stepping back. Each photographer has their own style and mine is about giving them a character. In Los Angeles, every model is an actor and I present it like I would for an actor on set. 

I might even say, "this girl is bold and she isn't exactly your girl next door. She is envied by all, she knows it, and often times lets everyone know that she's the prettiest in the room". It works! They love working with characters.

DM Me?

Being that everyone is on Instagram nowadays, that's how models are often approached. I asked Haley how photographers should approach models on Instagram.

She responded by saying a photographer should be professional and the body of work on Instagram should be a good representation of what you're capable of doing. Avoid being "creepy" and she later told me off-camera that guys will have girls in very suggestive poses and then DM them about how beautiful they are. Many models are young; barely an adult. They're taking a risk and often times photographers forget that.

If I approach a model away from an agency, I'll do so by mentioning everyone on set. "Hi ________ I love your look, and what you've done so far! I am doing a series of test shoots in the next couple of weeks. Would you be interested in creating something awesome with my team and I? I work with @________ for makeup, @________ for styling, and maybe an assistant. We keep it small but very effective!" 

This way the model knows they won't be alone, and exactly who else will be on set! Just be professional. Tell them they have a great look, and then give your ideas for a shoot. Cover the 5 Ws in your proposal: Who, what, when, where, and why are all required for the model to feel confident and comfortable.

Ultimately, there is something to learn from each and every person no matter where they stand on set. All of it is relevant. As photographers, we are the lead and it's imperative to understand the shoot from every person's point of view.

Walid Azami's picture

Walid Azami is a Photographer/Director and creative consultant from Los Angeles. He got his start working with Madonna + Co by contributing to her many projects. It was then he realized his place in the creative world & began teaching himself photography. He has since shot Kanye, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bernie Sanders, JLO, amongst others

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Translating her “Like” language to English she basically says: Do not treat me like an object!

Waaay too many "likes".

Her "likes" are because she's nervous. She's a model, not an actor. Thus the nervousness talking in front of the camera.

That's exactly it. She was kind enough to give us her insight, maybe the delivery wasn't to everyone's taste. I'm still hoping everyone gained a bit of insight though.