What Modeling Has Taught Me About Photography

A photo posted by Jen Brook (@jen_brook_model) on

When asked what modeling has taught me about photography, I didn’t want to talk about F-stops and apertures because, to be frank, I don’t know everything I could about camera settings. But what I have learnt as a model I consider to be invaluable — and I recommend any photographer taking the time to pose for self portraits before approaching a model and vice versa.

1. Light fall.

The way light touches the skin is essential to understand. Shadows are intrusive and can change a face and body shape entirely. Lighting patterns are good to be aware of knowing the difference between a rembrandt, butterfly or loop and whether you are broad or short lit. I’ve found that the most flattering light for me is to be butterfly lit, carving my cheekbones and providing a soft kiss of light to my face, where the light source is directed from above looking into it. A slight turn of the head changes the shadow direction instantly. Of course there is no perfect light pattern, it just depends on what you hope to achieve and who is modeling. All good models should have a basic knowledge of where their key light is and how to work into it.

2. Posing.

I could write forever on this topic, but as a brief introduction to posing I’d always advise new models to practice, practice, practice! Hours in front of the mirror with music playing and with tearsheets of poses in front of me, I’d spend a lot of time perfecting my pose flow. Models need to be able to ‘flow pose’ by gliding from position to position seamlessly so modeling itself becomes less of a conscious thought and more of a fluid movement. Rigid arms and legs look awkward, confidence really is the key to overcome this.

3. Communication.

Knowing how to talk to clients and referencing are two of the most cardinal skills a model or any self employed person can learn. Speaking professionally and clearly, covering everything from location to duration, and compensation for a shoot provides no error for confusion or mistake. It is good form to go over all finalized details in a basic bullet point form when an agreement has been met, to avoid any issues beforehand.

4. Composition.

Recognition of how composition works steads any model in good way for their own portfolio. It sounds obvious to say it, but being able to detect a really good image and why it works, really is an essential part of portfolio building. Knowing about the rule of thirds and negative spacing, for example, shows in a models image selections. Pulling a good pose and facial expression isn’t enough to secure an epic image – the lighting and composition have to work too, ensuring it all comes together.

5. Styling.

Working with stylists and more often than not, makeup artists, I’ve come to notice that fashion really is; anything goes. Styling a shoot is not like styling yourself for a night out and certain props or outfits don’t work as well for the camera. Costumes and millinery with texture and color are much more highly regarded by the lens, than a plain but beautiful dress I might wear out for a picnic.

6. Working with a team.

When working on collaborations, the shoot is designed for each team member. Where the model might want to show off her posing, the MUA is more interested in her face and the designer more concerned by the clothes. When a project comes together for portfolio use, it really is important that everyone secures the shots they need for themselves – and makes sure they happen on set, rather than complaining they didn’t get them afterwards.

7. Distance and relativity of limbs to camera.

When posing, a model needs to think of herself as two dimensional. Everything the camera sees is flat, so each pose needs to designed around that. With a hand gently caressing the neck, the arm must be pulled to the side. If it’s not, the elbow is protruding to the camera front on. Not only does this leave the model look like an amputee, but also enlarges the arm. Whatever is closest to the camera, is the thing that appears the largest in shot.

8. How to research and prepare.

Planning a shoot as any member of the team, takes time, patience and cooperation. Great sources are Pinterest for moodboards, charity shops/eBay for costumes, and fashion magazines for posing, makeup and crops. Pinterest is especially good for group pinning, allowing secret boards to be built but providing a place for the team to share their ideas and inspiration.

9. Appreciation for retouching.

Photographers like to get it right in camera so they don’t have to fix it in camera. Having sat with a photographer for an entire day editing one shot, it’s understandable why they’d prefer to get it right on set! Editing is hours of work and an appreciation of those skills and long hours is absolutely critical if you want to get along with your fellow photographer friends! As a model, working together with the photographer hiding sneaky slipped bra straps, loose hairs and smudged lipstick will be much more appreciated than you think.

10. Reputation.

The photography world is a huge industry but such a small community. Bad mouthing travels fast and blacklists are not a good place to be. Reputation is everything for a freelancer and working hard to maintain a high standard is compulsory.

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Jen Brook is a fine art and fashion model, as well as a freelance photography writer. Follow her work on her Tumblr and her Facebook Page.