Working With Models And Group Shoot Etiquette

Working With Models

When working with models, there are a few things I'd like to stress here. These are men and women who have taken a lot of time to hone their skill and style to work in front of a camera. Working with a good model can be a very positive and exhilarating experience, but the are things, as photographers, we should strive to do and things we must not do.

  • Always be professional! They are professionals and if you are not professional, you will most likely not get many shoots with models.
  • Keep a positive attitude. This is especially important if you are shooting a new or inexperienced model. Everyone has to start somewhere and new models need plenty of camera time to get used to the profession. Never be afraid of giving guidance, but do it in a constructive way. Tell the model things like, "Try it this way, or that way" or make it sound very positive and innovative. Never just "bark" orders on how you want your model to pose. This will make them tense and it WILL show up in the final photographs. 
  • Communicate with your models. While you are shooting, use buzz words like, beautiful, awesome, fantastic, gorgeous etc. This will let the model know you are enjoying the shoot and he/she is doing a good job.  If the model is not giving you the particular look that you are looking for, do not be afraid of giving them direction on what you are looking for, but do it in a positive way. Any good model should be receptive to direction from a photographer.
  • Pre-shoot meeting. If you have never shot with a particular model before or are looking for a particular theme, it is always good to meet with the model first to discuss the shoot. It doesn't necessarily need to be a face-to-face meeting, but messaging, emailing etc. can be beneficial. This lets both the model and photographer know the style of shoot and wardrobe needs. 
  • Shoot! When you are working with a high end model, he/she will be striking poses rapidly. When the model strikes the pose, shoot. The model will immediately go to the next pose and so on. If you are slow to shot, the model may think you don't like that particular pose and go to the next so you will miss that shot. There is no such thing as shooting too much. I can easily shoot upward to 150 shots of a model in 5 or 6 minutes. This is particularly important if you have hired a model for a job. You want to get plenty of shots in the allotted time and remember your time includes outfit changes. There may be times when you have to set a scene that takes time and you may only need a few shots, but always shoot more than you think you need.
  • Photographer presence. As stated before, communication is important, but keep a good presence. There is nothing wrong with joking a bit to get the model laughing and relaxed, but remember, never say anything that can be deemed as suggestive. A shoot is not a pick up time. Not only that, it is very disrespectful. Suggestive comments and looks will make your model uneasy and it is highly nonprofessional.
  • Escorts. Always allow models to bring escorts to the shoot, especially if it is the first time you have shot the model. This is for the model's protection. In fact, it is not a bad idea for the photographer to have an assistant not only to help with equipment, but for the photographer's safety also. 
  • NEVER touch your models. When shooting, many times there may be a tag showing, hair out of place, an unwanted string on the outfit, etc. Bring it to the model's attention and let the model take care of it. Never just walk up and tuck in a tag or do whatever adjustment needs to be made. The ONLY time you should do this is if the model specifically asks you to fix it.
  • Preparedness. Always make sure you are prepared to set up and shoot upon arrival at the location. Make sure all batteries are charged, cards are formatted, and you have all equipment you will need for the shoot. Different shoots will require different equipment. It is always good to make a "pack list" and check the items off as you load. If you are using things like speed lights, triggers, etc. always make sure you have fresh back up batteries. If at all possible, have a back up camera body in case you have a malfunction. 

Group Shoot Etiquette 

Group shoots are usually arranged by an organization or company for models and photographers to shoot and network. They are great for models to meet new photographers and vice versa. There are coordinators or lead people on site to keep them running as smoothly as possible and answer any questions that may arise. Most of the time there will be a theme or several themes depending on the size of the shoot. Make sure you know the details of the shoot so you can be prepared with the proper equipment. Group shoot etiquette is very important for everyone to have a good and productive experience.

  • When working with models, please observe the things I put forth in the "Working with models" section above.
  • There are usually quite a few models and photographers at the shoot, so time may be limited. Be aware of the amount of time you spend with an individual model so everyone get a chance to work with him/her. 
  • There may be 2 or 3 photographers shooting the same model at once. Rotate with the other photographers after you get several shots of the model. More experienced models can work with 2 or 3 photographers at the same time, but be aware that the other photographers need to get shots also.
  • At some shoots, models may show up for part of the shoot due to time constraints. If a "popular" model shows up, do not leave who you are shooting with at that moment to shoot the more "popular" model. There will be time to rotate in and out. A model can not function at the best with 5 or 6 photographers at once. This also leaves other models with no one to shoot with and is very disrespectful and not professional.
  • Be on time and ready to shoot. Usually there will be a pre-shoot meeting to convey important information about the shoot and location. At some locations there may be places you are not allowed to go, so attending the pre-shoot meeting is imperative. This is also a good time to introduce yourself to models and photographers you have never met.
  • If you see anything that is improper going on at the shoot, do not approach the individual yourself. Report it to the coordinators or lead people and let them handle it. This is important because the organization that has arranged the shoot is responsible for the well being of the participants.
  • Group shoots are not "social hour" . They are professional events arranged for the betterment of models and photographers.
  • New models and photographers should feel free to ask questions of the more experienced individuals. Group shoots can be a very valuable learning tool, so please take advantage of the opportunity.  
  • Leave your attitude at home. Group shoots should be a fun environment for everyone. No one likes condescending attitudes or rudeness. Remember, models and photographers talk, so if you exhibit a bad attitude or make improper advances, it will get around and potentially ruin your reputation.

All in all, it comes down to professionalism, respect, and pride in your own work. Model photography can be a fun and rewarding experience. People have different styles, personalities, and skill levels. It is always good to be flexible and adjust to whom you are working with and have fun with your shoots. Modeling and photography are art forms we all have an undying love for. Neither is easy and sometimes the roads are not smooth, but always strive for professionalism and excellence and happy shooting!