Shooting Portraits, me and the models.

I love to shoot portraits, not just because of the pretty models and the lovely faces.  Not at all, I enjoy as much an old men or lady versus a young model. Fact is that most of the models that I do encounter are rather young.

I love to shoot models

I love to shoot models

A shoot is teamwork

Models that work with me know that they don’t get away with a quick shoot.  Oh no, I take my time.  The first hour we meet around the coffee table and get to know each other.   We talk about the shoot and more generic things.   The reason is simple , a shoot is teamwork and if the model has no trust in the photographer ,well then it is not going to work and you might as well stop.

I don’t think so

It has happened that we just didn’t got along .  I just canceled the shoot, the model was a bit surprised.  What did she expect ?  Arriving late, chipped nails and then making comments that I can correct it in Photoshop…. I don’t think so.   They have to be punctual , disciplined and conditioned. Of course I have a Make-up artist that will work the final touches.  It was  not the chipped nails that pissed me of . It was the attitude and the fact that some believe that Photoshop is the fix for all.

Now in most cases it juste works fine and we build up a great working relation. Some have lasted for years.

The surrender pose

Well wintered models are always a pleasure to work with , although they tend to have their own interpretation of poses.  The one I really hate  is what I call  ” the surrender pose” where the arms go up…great shot if you  love armpits….I don’t. Once they have this habit it is hard to change it.  The hands are an ever returning issue, for some reason most models do push the fingers into the skin.  Hands have a purpose, and in photography they create elegance in the view if placed correctly.


But most of all I like to work with rookies, it does take a lot of effort and coaching during the shoot.  But then again you keep a bond with the model, I tend to guide them , praise  and critic them.  A good model will accept a critical remark, as long as you bring it in the right tone and show why it wasn’t that good and how it can be better.  Recently I had a model on a visit, very nice girl.  The only problem “she only had one facial expression” .  The shoot came soon to a grinding halt, she was surprised and wondered what was wrong. I showed here the shots , something I never do during a shoot and asked  ” have a look on those pictures , what do you see ?”.  Yes…., the same facial expression in each shot.  We took a break , me with a nice warm cup of tea and the model with a 30×30 mirror.  I had here sit down for almost an hour, trying to create different facial expressions.  Finally it work and when I asked to create a melancholy look she just did it right. Well done girl (see picture).

Rookie models are always fun

Rookie models are always fun

Patience and communication are the key

Patience and communication are the key to a good shoot. It is not always the model that makes mistakes, we all do. When Stacy came for the first time in my studio she was so surprised  about the fact that I continuously talk to the model  and every so often pull a joke on them (and they on me).  It has to stay pleasant for both.  When I asked here why she was surprised, she answered ” this is my second shoot and on my first one the photographer didn’t say a word, I thought I was doing things wrong and felt a bit lost on the set”, “But I love this shoot”.

The big mama bikini shoot

But what do you do when the model wants a bikini shoot and either the bikini is two sizes to little or the model has some extra reserves (fat). Yes, I know we are not all perfect and we do not have to be. But when a model wants to pose in a bikini that is too little and the excess body masses are pushed out and hang over the edges then you have a problem.  There is only one solution and that is trying to convince them that there are more elegant shots.  Do not say that they are to fat, if you want to continue living. If they are persistent , then I just try to work the light and the pose in the best possible way….  People are strange.

The lover

Recently I received a call from a guy who wanted a duo shoot with his lover. As usual, I planned the shoot and prepared the set before they arrived. When the car turned onto the driveway I noticed two guys in the car.  We met and had a long chat over a cup of coffee ,  I needed a strong coffee.  It turned out they were couple and were about to get married , yep two guys.  For all clarity , I don’t have an issue with this ,and believe that everybody has the right on his fair share of problems in life.  During the shoot things became a bit awkward . You see normally during a couple shoot I guide them into different close and intimate scene’s.  Being a straight guy, it just works naturally. However with this shoot things were different, it isn’t that easy to talk to two guys to be close and intimate.   At the end it worked out, just because I adapted to the situation and used the camera as a shield, and it was a big camera.  I need to admit that there have been moments that I was happy to have the camera in front of my face, it covered nicely my smile. So never shoot with a small camera body…


The strangest shoot I ever had to do was a portrait of a 48 year young lady and the family.  When we met the lady mentioned that the intend was two fold.  First to have a decent picture for here funeral card and second to have family pictures so she could be remembered.  This confused me so much and I thought that I had been set-up for a practical joke.  It turned out that the lady was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and had only a few months to live.   This kind of shoots don’t work to well, you can’t be the happy chap trying to keep the fun and energy in the shoot.  And what do you say to a lady who is dying “smile you are on camera”.   I could just see all the emotions in the eyes of the lady the husband , daughter and grand daughter.  It is these situations where I learned the most, and it was not just photography but mainly human relations.

New borns are another story  and I have been sprayed in several instances.  But that is all part of the job.    I truley enjoy shooting with people, and hopefully they enjoy shooting with me.

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