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Learning How to Model

Working on Pose

This is a skill which you will develop naturally as you get more experience in front of the camera. A good photographer will usually help direct you into position also. One good way of working on pose is to start is doing activities that teach you how to move you body gracefully, like dance or gymnastics. Modelling books will usually contain guides on 'standard' poses (the set of basic poses are based on the five positions of ballet, apparently). Over time, a number of book reviews will be included on the store pages, describing the usefulness of a number of modelling advice manuals.

Try saving photos from the web, catalogues or magazines, where you feel particularly drawn to the model's pose. Pay particular attention to the tilt of the model's head and the position of her hands and feet. Practise these for yourself in front of a mirror, and try to recreate them for the camera when the opportunity arises.

In posing, learn to work with the clothes you wear. It helps to know how a fabric will drape or move when you are modelling it. It helps Know the lines of a garment so you can accentuate them and not break the line of movement. For fashion work particularly, you are selling the clothes. Practice showing important features of the clothing. Show off pockets, collar, belt, how the garment moves, what ever makes the garment interesting you want to call attention to it.

Another point that is important to understand is how much of you will show in the picture. Working full length is quite different from doing a tight head shot. When the camera is zoomed on your face, it may look best to twist the rest of your body unnaturally into an exaggerated position which would look plain daft if it were a full body shot but just adds atmosphere when it is just your head showing!

Gradually, looking at photos of yourself from shoots, you will get to know which poses work for you in the most flattering way.

Getting the Expression

To practice the facial expressions you will use when you are placed in front of a camera, first think of a number of different emotions, e.g. pensive, happy, sexy, wistful, excited. When you have in mind several emotions, think about situations that would make you react with each one. Then you will be able to place yourself in the situation as you practice personifying the emotions in the mirror. Once you have enough practice to be able to conjure up any given emotion on cue (this may take a while), you can try using them in front of a camera. This is where a digital or polaroid camera comes in very handy! Get a friend to take photos of you, and look at the pictures afterwards to see what 'works' and what looks forced and unnatural - make a note of what you need to work on.

The most expressive feature on a person's face is their eyes, so an important thing to remember about facial expression - though it might seem obvious - is to open your eyes. Unless specifically directed by the photographer, make sure that your eyes are wide open. You can test this by looking at two photos side by side, identical other than a tiny difference in the wideness of your eyes, and you will know which is the better.

When posing in a professional shoot, it is important to keep in mind what a photograph is saying. Different photographic styles require very different facial expressions. For glamour work, concentrate on a 'sexy' expression. In a fashion editorial shoot you may be required to look like you're having fun, or sophisticated and glamourous. For catalogue work the pictures may need a neutral, contented look.

Wardrobe

When you are starting out, for your own portfolio and composite cards etc, you will need your own working wardrobe. You can either consult a modelling advice tome on what this should include, or you could use common sense! Obviously pick flattering garments, and a range of different shapes and styles.

The types of garments you have in your wardrobe will, of course, reflect the type of modelling you want to get into. If you are looking to get into glamour then a good selection of lingerie, swimwear and sexy clubwear is necessary; if you want to make it in fashion then more trendy items are appropriate. But there are some basics which probably every model ought to have in her working wardrobe:

  • Simple black dress
  • High heel shoes - high heels lengthen the legs and improve posture, and are a must for models
  • Bikini - for full-length figure shots for your portfolio
  • Business suit - for interviews as well as modelling
  • Lingerie sets - including basques and bustiers if possible. Also, thongs are often preferred.

Your wardrobe will of course contain many more items than this, probably including an evening gown, casual outfit, stockings, short dress, denim jacket and accessories, but these are the absolute basics which I would consider to be essentials.

Again, as you model more you will get to know which clothes work best for you and can ensure that you take only the most flattering garments with you to shoots. This is a learning process for me too, so extra knowledge will be included here as I gain it.

Effects

This of course depends a lot on the photographer as well as the model, but it is important to remember the results of different effects and photographic techniques.

Different lighting can be used to create an entirely different mood for the photograph. Soft light produces a gentle image; dramatic lighting techniques result in dramatic photos. You may eventually find that a certain type or direction of light may make you look better. For example, I believe that a side lighting technique brings out my facial bone structure quite well, while an even, 'butterfly' lighting effect makes my features look flatter.

To produce a more interesting, unconventional image, a photographer might try different angles of shot. He might stand up a ladder and look down on you to shoot the picture, or he might crouch on the floor (note: if he does then its probably best for you to be looking up, to avoid a double-chin effect!).