It goes without saying that creating a comfortable, safe environment while shooting beauty photography can go a long way towards building a strong working relationship with your model. Comfortable, however, is what I'd define as the "barrier to entry." What you really want to do is go beyond that by giving your model a slight boost in confidence. By building up the model's self-esteem you get her thinking positively, and that state of mind leads to fantastic moments which create a genuine spark of expression.
When shooting beauty I'm not looking for intense expression or an intense blast of emotion. Instead, I'm looking for a relatively blank expression that has the subtle glint of a creative mind at work. I'm looking to recreate the fleeting moment of the day when the subject is relaxed while daydreaming about something they find really intriguing. A blank expression that has been broken by a subtle, unexpected feeling.
Don't Hit on Her
There is a fine line between building your model's confidence and giving her the impression that you are hitting on her. The moment your model begins to wonder if you are just trying to butter her up to ask her on a date you will instantly lose any potential benefit that confidence building can bring. For this reason, avoid things such as complimenting your model's breasts or her posterior, for example. This also is probably a good moment to review the things you can do to avoid coming off as a creep during a shoot.
I'm going to preface this discussion by emphasizing the importance of honesty. Don't tell the model something that isn't true. That not only can shatter trust, it also almost always comes off as a flat compliment which can do more harm than good. Your goal isn't to compliment for the sake of complimenting, it's to get the model thinking about a very positive, genuine aspect of themselves so they stop focusing on being insecure.
Pick a Specific, Unique Quality
Every model I've ever worked with has at least one (usually many) aspects of her beauty that is quite rare and special. Often the model herself doesn't even know about these sort of qualities or is aware of them but has never given them much thought. By bringing her attention to it and showing her that it is an amazing quality of beauty, you can really trigger a feeling of confidence. An example of one I occasionally use is that once in a while a model has a dark ring around the edge of her iris. This quality is amazing because it is what we retouching types do in Photoshop to virtually every eye that we retouch. By darkening the edge of the iris in postproduction we are able to make eyes look as if they are deeper and have more intensity. I explain this to the model, then point out that she has this quality naturally which is why her eyes stand out so beautifully.
Pick an Aspect of Modeling That She Is Doing Great At
The majority of models I work with will tell me that they aren't very good at modeling and feel very awkward in front of the camera. Generally I find this to be somewhat true until I start coaching them, but I have also found that most models are naturally good at something specific. At the start of a shoot I'm often looking for that "something" so that I can tell the model about it to help dispel some of those feelings about being awkward. For example, in a recent shoot I could tell the model felt very self-conscious about her posing but was very good at being expressive. Thus, I narrowed her focus by complimenting her on her amazing expressions. She seemed surprised, as it was something she hadn't ever considered, but within a few minutes I could see the awkwardness in her posing start to drift away. Knowing that her expressions were amazing gave her the confidence to stop worrying so much about her posing.
One of the key factors in capturing effective beauty photos is in creating an environment that not only makes your model feel safe but also empowers her with a sense of magnificence. Make her feel like there is no other person in the whole world who is quite like her because she has these amazing qualities that make her extraordinary. Don't lay it on too thick though. It should be honest, genuine, and come out in the process of casual conversation as you shoot. The moment the model starts to think you are buttering her up is the moment she stops believing what you are saying.
What are some of your favorite coaching methods to help pull models out of their psychological cage so that they can show their best during a shoot?