How To Treat Your Model For Fashion or Portrait Photography

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You don’t want a tense model, and if you seem tense, the model will pick up on that and also tense up. Joke around a bit, and take on a casual air. Chances are, if you relax, you’ll both have a much more positive experience too. Don’t start with the heavy stuff, either: work your way up to controversial or serious shots, giving the model a time to work their way into it first.

Do Not Touch

This is really a very important thing. Want an arm moved? Tell them, don’t move it for them. Many models will feel like this is an invasion of privacy, and even being overly meddlesome in their art. Female models will feel particularly uneasy about this. If you want to touch them for whatever reason, ask first, and don’t do anything that might be construed as “perve” behavior.

Be Nice

Really. This may seem obvious, but being a model really means exposing yourself in both a literal and emotional way. This isn’t just a feature of stereotypical female models, but of everyone. To one degree or another, everyone is sensitive about their body, and for models, they need to make a living off their body, and so they are exceptionally sensitive.

Think twice before saying something potentially critical of them. On the other hand, honesty is important—just try to put it in a nonjudgmental manner. If you think a color clashes with their hair, say it; if you don’t like a particular pose of theirs, ask them not to repeat it. Just be sure to explain why in a kind and calm manner.


Depending on the level of experience your model has, or the lack thereof, pay may not be a requirement. At the very least, travel expenses should be covered, extending to cost of make up, wardrobe and other necessities for a photo shoot. One form of potential payment is by providing prints of the shot to the model or a CD, which could be useful for her own portfolio, particularly if she’s only just starting out. Base salaries start around ten to fifteen dollars an hour, while more experienced models might require more. Most models don’t take too well to haggling, so don’t push their prices down too much. They need to eat too!

Before The Shoot

Make sure you have everything arranged before the shoot. Who is doing makeup? What sort of clothes should she be wearing? Jewelry? Location? Time? Rates? Model release? You might want to meet with her beforehand to pick out clothing and other objects for the shoot, just to reduce deliberation on-scene and not to waste time, as well as scouting out potential places to do the shoot. This will put the model at ease, having everything arranged ahead of time, and will prevent any potential frazzlements from even happening.

Accepting Feedback

Models are people too, and at that, creative wellsprings who know their body a lot better than you do. Make it clear that you are open to any suggestions they may make, and when they make them, be open to both utilizing them and developing them further.

For more information, check out this excellent article on working with a model for your first time at Digital Photography School. The advice applies to everyone!