Modeling Tips: Ready for your closeup
I work with many models who are new to modeling or have limited experience. Whether you are just getting started or have a lot of experience, it is helpful to review some key tips for modeling for a photo shoot. This page includes links to a variety of resources that I feel will help you prepare for your photo shoot. It's a lot of information, but if you have only limited time to prepare for your upcoming shoot, I would highly recommend reviewing the Posing Tips below and watching the start of both videos mentioned.
While I'm providing advice and resources, you should be yourself and feel comfortable during the session. You don’t want to overthink this and try too hard to do the right things as a model or you will be uncomfortable and unnatural. I'll work with you during the session and help guide you in terms of poses that work best for you. There are links on this page to third party resources as well as to the model's galleries if you want to see more of any model below.
POSING TIPS: The following tips will help you think about posing. Peter Hurley has created two videos that are very helpful in terms of explaining the first two posing techniques below.
1. "It's All About the Squinch" - this video discusses how you don't want your eyes wide open (like deer in a headlight). You want to "squeeze and pinch" or raise your lower eye lid to increase the impact of your eyes. The video is about 15 minutes, but you will get the idea within the first 5 minutes or so. The two images I shot below illustrate how the slightly "squinched" eyes produce a more attractive appearance:
2. "It's All About the Jaw" - this video discusses the importance of positioning your head forward. Again, after about 5 miutes you will get the idea. In the first two images below, Matthew B has gone from his head positioned up a bit, to pointing forward and down some. The third images show Matthew H also positioning his head and his eyes in an attractive manner. It is also better to drop your front shoulder (as shown in the 4th image) and not the back if positioning at an angle to the camera.
3. Tension Muscle Control and Know Your Lighting - including flexing and relaxing muscles in your body. You can convey emotion through the tension of muscles throughout the body. This combined with knowing where your light is coming from, will help emphasize your muscles.
The image of Milo below on the left has some muscle definition, whereas the image on the right shows a greater amount of definition horizontally. This is due to tightening his muscles before the shot combined with the way the light creates some shadows based on the position. The photographer will direct you into the light to help provide shadows as desired and minimize where not flattering. This also relates to the tip that if the photographer asks you to "hold the pose", it is a good idea to stay where you are. Something looks right, but often the lighting or camera setting needs some adjustments to capture a perfect image.
4. Angles and Shapes - the body can create some interesting angles and shapes by freely moving your arms, legs, torso, spine, neck, and legs. After the photographer captures a shot (and they don't ask you to hold the pose), try moving to new angles, change placement of your hands, the angle of your head (not always straight). Contrapposto looks at shifting weight onto one leg. Triangles can be very interesting and a single image can contain many triangles based on the positioning of your body. The images below show James in various positions and creation of multiple interesting shapes. Also, James shifting of his weight on his left leg is demonstated in the image on the right. It is acceptable to either be looking into the camera directly or off in another direction. The photographer will look at how the white of your eyes is showing and will want to avoid having too much on one side when you're looking off to the side. When you're looking elsewhere, you will want to focus on something to give some life to your gaze vs. a dead look. You want to avoid completely losing a limb, so you may be asked to rotate or move an arm to bring it into view. The PDF link below is a document prepared by Ian Jacob for one of our workshops and it details more examples on angles and shapes. We also look at the negative space created outside the parts of the body. In general, complete symmetry is not in fashion in the modeling world.
5. Connect with the Camera - think about the mood you want to convey and use your face to tell a story. Get your mind to focus on the character and emotion you want to convey for the images. Discuss with the photographer a joint vision for your shoot in advance and think about what you're trying to convey as you pose. It is a bit like acting and you're on stage. You are not just sitting there waiting for the photographer to tell you what to do. While you can expect to receive some direction during the shoot, you are an active participant and you should mentally get into it to help your body react in ways that support the vision. Ask for music that sets the mood you're going for (dance, country, jazz - whatever helps you feel the part). For the images below, the model was trying to convey a message and used their body and facial expressions to help.
As Ian Jacob says, "Practice... while some say confidence is everything, confidence without knowledge and skill means nothing. Be confident, be excited, be inspired, be well versed. Know your body and face. I’ve learned a lot about my body by doing everything from yoga and dancing to starring in a full-length mirror. You should know your body so well that you are almost never surprised by what a photographer can capture, because you should already know what you look like, even without a mirror."
Additionally, Ian Jacob says "Confidence with the uncomfortable and unnatural feelings that often create a great photo. Every pose has a positive and negative to it, a push and a pull, meaning that a pose may, for example, make you look very muscular but shorter than you are simultaneously. We must focus on balancing those, or in certain cases abandoning one aspect and fully committing to the other- The body is all interconnected, every movement causes a resulting change somewhere else, and it’s noticeable even if that part is not in frame, this is related to the Greek idea of Contrapposto and weight shift within the body. Be conscious of this, not fighting it will help to create more natural poses, and also be conscious in breaking this as it can create some interesting (but uncomfortable) pose."
I often hear successful models tell me they learned a lot by simply spending a lot of time studying themselves in the mirror. Another related tip is to take a bunch of quick shots of yourself (could be a simple webcam) and learn how the camera is capturing you.
Spend a lot of time looking at photos of models and learn how they position their body. My galleries of our Super Models is a good place to start. Other places to look for images of male models include the following:
Recent winners of photo contest - thinking outside the box: http://imagesmale.smugmug.com/Portfolio/IdeasMM/n-qN49g
The following galleries are a collection of images from other photographers used as inspiration. Please request the password for these.
http://imagesmale.smugmug.com/Inspiration-Ideas-from-others/n-NVgvd (two model ideas)
http://imagesmale.smugmug.com/Portfolio/IDEAS-MODEL-G/n-VfKxL (general ideas)
CLOTHING & PROPS
Unless your session is a nude only shoot, you can always benefit from having a wide variety of clothing options. You can think about casual, dress, fetish -- it's all good. If you have a hobby (such as sports, dance, music, etc.), bring any items related to the effort. Also, look around your house for interesting props that can add interest to your photos. If you're planning to do any nude posing, it is helpful to avoid wearing underwear and socks (especially tight ones) that may leave marks on your skin.
Read more about my thoughts on props at my blog.
SKINCARE & MAKEUP
This article offers some common sense advice for skin care. It includes drinking lots of water, eating healthy, exfoliate regularly, keeping your skin moisturized, and avoiding sun. I have asked models who use makeup what they do. One puts on a basic concealment to cover blemishes first, and then he dabs Tinted Moisturizer with a sponge on his face. Others use a nude powder to reduce shine. Whatever you use, keep it minimal. The camera tends to capture the texture if you cake on makeup and it will be distracting. I tend to prefer to retouch after to hide obvious blemishes and smooth skin a bit.
These pages offer a great set of tips and are easy to read.
I wrote a blog post detailing what I consider 6 keys to great male portraits.
Thanks for reviewing this page!
I look forward to meeting you for an upcoming shoot! -- David E
To download a PDF summary document, click the icon to the left.
FROM SENIOR PORTRAIT LOOK TO MODEL
Comparing one of the first shots captured to one later in the session... this shows how I try to move from a "senior portrait look" (not that there's anything wrong with that) to something a bit more seductive or "modelesque" -- a word I've never used before.
Beyond the draped jacket, hopefully, it appears that his eyes connect with you in a more sensual manner. In this case, he had many self-doubts and part of my job was to help him see himself as a top model. It wasn't too hard given his natural good looks.
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