Tip One: Use simple Lighting set ups.
A few weeks ago I set up for a Saturday morning portfolio shoot with a local model named Iris. As this was a casual session to help her add to her portfolio I decided to do the shoot in my living room against a simple black low key backdrop. With a model who has some experience you need to keep it simple. Wasting time fiddling with complicated lighting or camera configurations will break the models sense of timing and ruin the mood. I had seen a few sample photos of her and knew her black hair would look great against a black backdrop. I was not prepared for the beautiful red highlights that were added by her stylist before the shoot. Gotta get that persons contact info. The sample photos she sent me were not enough to prepare me for our first meeting. Gentlemen, this is a beautiful, athletic Vancouver gal. My Key light was a 5500k hot light with a shoot through umbrella turned backwards in reflection mode to further soften and create a bigger light source. I placed the light in a 45 deg X 45 deg position to the left of the camera axis to allow easy Rembrandt lighting or simple dramatic short lighting just by positioning her in slight increments. I had a back light which I didn’t end up using because I wanted to give her space. The single light was pretty bright and really peeled her off the black background.
Tip two: use a rim or fill light only when needed
The above images were about half way through the shoot and Iris had warmed up into a posing rhythm. The next shot below was so nice in the viewfinder it caused me to blurt out a very unprofessional omfg. I used the Rembrandt position for the key light to camera left and the fill light set lower and to camera right to light up her hair and left cheekbone. The Rembrandt lighting really helped to carve out her left jaw line with a slight shadow underneath.
Tip three: don’t touch the model
Iris had a series of poses that she liked and after getting used to my “no thumbs” instructions she blatantly ignored my “weight on your back leg” advice and actually looked better with the fuller front thigh and booty curve as in the above shot. One of the things I stress with fellow photogs is to never touch the models. In this case it paid off as Iris was comfortable trying several poses that I had not thought of. Allowing her to flow in between shutter clicks really brought out some more natural candid looking photos. Below her dress strap had fallen off her shoulder as I was fiddling to drape a veil over my lens to use as a softening filter and she shows some experience by just leaving it and tilting her head and slightly angling her shoulders. The relaxed demure mouth open pose lacks that cheesy smile seen in many pre set portraits. If I had gotten in there to reposition her or do anything it would have ruined this somewhat candid soft moment. Don’t touch the model.. if she can’t work out your instructions just let her do what she feels comfortable with and you will get more natural looking poses.
Tip four: Capture the in between moments
Below is a shot I took after going on for a while with a boring anecdote only to be annoyed that my camera had turned off automatically because I was talking too long. I said something like oh dammit! my camera turned off because I talk too much and Iris burst out laughing. Rather than check my settings I simply lifted the camera framed and punched the trigger. I am pretty sure Iris won’t put this one in her portfolio but its the one I like and it would be the one her Dad would order prints of. This is the essence life..laughter.
Tip five: Get some solid head shots.
When you look as good as Iris does it isn’t clear why you would take a photo of just the head and shoulders. Most modelling agencies however rely on them to quickly sift through thousands of people to get the right look for a particular magazine campaign. Making sure your model has a few solid head shots that can be put on a “zed” card to be sent out to casting agents is only going to improve their chances of getting that editorial exposure or a night on the runway at VFW. Below are two shots that show Iris in Butterfly and Rembrandt Lighting
As a reward for reading the whole article I will leave you with a short slide show of select images from the shoot. Enjoy!!