Three Tips for Photographing Models

Three Tips for Photographing Models

If you're tired of scouring Google images and Pinterest for model posing ideas, read this article for three tips on how to do so.
I was super nervous when my first solo model shoot came around. I'm used to photographing only couples and weddings and had never worked with a real model before. I was pretty anxious before the shoot and kept referring to YouTube, Google Images, and Pinterest for posing ideas. I thought that directing a solo model was going to be so much more difficult than two people, because you can have the two people play off of each other, whereas with one model, that is not possible. What I actually found was that directing one model was much easier than directing clients who might not be the most comfortable in front of the lens. Here are three tips and poses that worked really well for me, and hopefully, they'll work well for you too! 

1. Dirty the Frame

This is a classic technique used in almost all types of photography. But when shooting a solo model, it can really be to your advantage. Dirtying the frame adds unique foreground interest and can create a new element in the image that carries a viewer's eye toward the main subject (the model). For this photograph, I shot through a nearby bush to dirty my frame and told the model to look directly into the lens to make the viewing experience more intimate. I also directed her to get on eye level with me so I wasn't shooting up or down on her, which would've given the image a much different mood. 

dirty-the-frame-image-example

Photograph by Timothy Behuniak. Model: Jordan Niles.

2. Use Water

Like dirtying the frame, utilizing water can add more interest to your portraits. Water can create beautiful reflections that you can use to your advantage as the photographer. For this image, I had the model get in the water up to her chest to keep the focus on her face. I also directed her to cross one arm and put one hand on the brim of her hat. I think the reflection from the water made this photograph stronger and added useful negative space with nice color around the model. 

use-water-solo-model

Photography by Timothy Behuniak. Model: Jordan Niles.

3. Put an Arm on a Shoulder

This is a simple but effective trick when shooting solo models. I had this model put her right arm on her left shoulder to add to the composition. Her arm creates a diagonal line that draws the viewer's eye toward the model's face. If she kept both arms at her side, I believe there would be less interesting elements in the photograph. 

arm-on-shoulder-solo-model

Photograph by Timothy Behuniak. Model: Jordan Niles.

In Conclusion

Shooting a model, especially one that is experienced, can actually be much easier than shooting multiple people or a couple. By using external elements or the model's body, you can add interest to your images. What do you think of these tips? Are there any others that you've used in your own photoshoots? If so, leave ideas for others in the comments below! 

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7 Comments

Felix Wu's picture

Tips for shooting a model: 1. Beautiful model 2. Beautiful model 3. Beautiful model. :)

Jim Hawkins's picture

"I just want you to make me look beautiful". It's a camera not a magic wand.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Why have a landscape photographer give tips on shooting models? These look like the "before" shot. To be fair the opening shot is ok, the best of the four.
Lost in in the leaves has some potential, but needs work
You can always tell when a photographer or model is at a loss.They touch their hat or do the same thing with their collar.
Awkward pose, big shoulder, big hand distracts from face in the last one.

Have Tim write about landscapes next time.

stir photos's picture

"he's convinced me, gimme my dollar back..." haha!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn9nnOkASDg

;)

David T's picture

I found that describing a vague mood, instead of biomechanical micro-instructions works best for me.

"Right hand on left hip, higher, lean to the right, shoulders out" doesn't work that well.

Models were more comfortable with stuff like
- "dreamy look, a bit to the side"
- "bond girl, fierce look straight into the camera"
- or (depends on how well you know the model and the context blabla) "show off that booty".

It's the idea that makes you pose unconscously. As a man you can test it by looking at the mirror and thinking "SUPERMAN!" for a straight back, chest out post.

I've always felt uncomfortable with micro-instructions. It seems to make the model feel hyperaware of everything and thus a bit rigid. It's something that keeps me from shooting people a lot. I'll have to try the mood method.

#3 I have an issue with- the hand is closer to the lens than anything else and draws attention away from the face/body (which we usually want to emphasize). Might be good for a jewelry/nail ad- but not for beauty... A good general rule- Be careful what body part is closest to the lens!