If you’ve ever been on the other side of the camera you’ll know exactly how uncomfortable it can be when you don’t get any feedback from the photographer. Even if you’re a natural it’s always nice to get positive reinforcement, and generally, the more inexperienced the person in front of the lens is, the more you need to communicate with them. This goes for models, singers, actresses and the rest of us mere mortals. In this video, you’ll see photographer Peter Coulson giving real advice to new model Layla in her first ever shoot.
The first point Peter makes is just how uncomfortable Layla, is when he starts photographing her without saying anything to her. And he’s right, just look at her body language. Her hands are held up together in front of each other, closing off her body. It’s a little difficult to watch and she is obviously feeling self-conscious and doesn’t know what to do.
This all changes when he starts engaging her in conversation. Now he brings up a really interesting point and draws the model’s attention to her facial muscles. He says that when a person is feeling tense, they typically tense their jaws, even if they don’t realise it. I find this a lot with my portrait subjects, the jaw holds a lot of tension, and Peter says it can really distort what a face naturally looks like.
Peter says that what you do with your whole body affects your face. He asks Layla to act some scenarios. First, he asks her to be a strong powerful woman, followed by a cute demure personality. He then poses her to better depict these two stances. In the strong powerful pose, he asks her to stand with her feet wider apart and look intensely down the lens. He then shows her how to look away and reset if things are getting too much. This can be a great way to help anyone in front of the camera relax for a few seconds. Simply looking elsewhere and then back at the camera be enough to get your subject to relax again.
For Peter, it’s all about the eyes, and he encourages Layla to remember a time when she uses her eyes and expression to get something from her father. It does the trick and Layla knows exactly what to do! He then explains to Layla that as the model, she has the power to demand that the photographer takes the photo, not the other way around. Immediately her demeanour changes and together with an outfit change, she starts to become more commanding.
It’s all a very subtle art and Peter has a ton of experience in getting what he needs from his models. It’s a fascinating insight into how an experienced photographer can train a new model and help get them feeling confident behind the lens.
Do you have any extra tips and tricks that you use to help your subjects feel confident and happy?