Model Photography: What is It?

December 14, 2009

in Featured, Instruction

Model Photography is the focus of everything we do at Photographer and Model, so I thought I should write a little about what it is. At the most basic level, model photography is about creating images of models. There are lots of kinds of photography and we generally define them by what the subjects of the photography are. For instance, landscape photography is creating images of natural scenery. Portrait photography is creating images of people, but specific kinds of images of people, generally focused on expressing the person’s character, often just using their face.




Well model photography is defined the same way, taking pictures of models.

What is the Difference Between Model Photography and General People Photography?

The biggest difference is that the subject naturally has or develops skills to work with the photographer to create the best image possible. If a photographer decides take a portrait of a person the subject depends on the photographer to tell them what to do exactly. They have to tell the subject where to look, how to hold their limbs, and what expression to have.

With a good model, they know what to do to make a good image. The quality of these skills are what differentiates “good” model from a “bad” one. Much, much more than their looks.

When a model photographer is working with a good, experienced model, he can focus on the aspects of the photography task and not tell the model exactly what to do. They tell the model what they are trying to accomplish and she uses her skills to accomplish that. The two of them work together to create beautiful images.

Photographing Models Isn’t Easy

When you work with regular people most of the time, you think it will be easier when you work with a professional model because you won’t have to do all the tedious directing. That is true, but it is also harder because now you have to actually have a good idea and the photographic skills to accomplish it.

It would be like being a good high school football player and suddenly getting to work with a pro football team. You think your job would be easier because your team mates would be less likely to let you down. What you quickly discover is you need to go to a whole other level of quality because now you’re in a different league and the other players are better than you. You have to rise to meet their skill level.

What Make A Good Model Photographer?

In our photographer interviews and model interviews we ask “What makes a good Photographer?”. Everyone assumes technical expertise and the adds things like communication, knowing what you want to do, making models comfortable and being fun to work with.

Model photography assumes the same kind of skills other photography needs. Namely understanding light. A model photographer can specialize in one kind of lighting, but they need to understand it well. You may only shoot using natural light, or never leave the studio, but you need to understand how your light works and how it is going to effect your final image.

By specializing in model photography you get to focus on how light interacts with the human form. Just like a landscape photographer knows how morning light effects the view of a mountain range, you know what golden hour does to a model’s skin tone.

Model Photographers Need A Whole Other Skillset

Photographing humans requires people skills. I doubt most landscape photographers choose mountains and trees as subjects because they don’t know how to talk to a pretty woman, but my bet is some do. Plus you are dealing with a subject that moves. Luckily in the case of models, you can tell them how to move.

I could compare model photography to each other genre of photography, but that’s too big a task for today. I think you get the point that model photographers need people skills in a way photographers of inanimate objects don’t.

One piece of good news is you can learn these skills just like you can learn lighting. Hopefully Photographer and Model helps you with every Photographer Interview in the podcast and seeking the other side in every Model Interview is a learning experience as well.

What is your biggest question when taking up the mantel of Model Photography? Write it below and I’ll answer you question either in the comments, in a future blog post, or maybe in the up coming Photographer and Model Academy.

1 Chris Adval March 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I still don’t get what is the difference between portrait photography and model photography, but I’m assuming portrait photography term is used for a broader sense, this right?

2 Ron Davis March 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I think the biggest difference is the subject. In portrait photography you are generally taking pictures of people who have no idea how to pose or express for the camera. In model photography by definition the subject/model uses their skills to help create the image.

3 Chris Adval April 11, 2011 at 2:16 am

My question is, do the models judge you based on how attractive you are -as a photographer- when they first meet you [or see your image]? Not just how you dress, or if you have the best people skills, but actual physical attractiveness? I feel many models wouldn’t shoot with a person if they look creepy/unattractive just cause of that reason alone, and those photographers who are physically attractive (or decent) may come off as less creepy or more safe looking… What you think Ron?

4 Ron Davis April 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I’m not the one to ask, Shawna would know better than I.

That said people do get a sense of you, a vibe, from how you look. I don’t think physical attractiveness is that high up on the list of what you look at. I know good looking photogs that are still creepy.

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