Tag Archives: models

Chloe Lane copyright Aloha Lavina

6 Questions to Ask When You’re Casting Models

The right model helps a photographer produce awesome photos. How many times have you photographed someone and come away with technically superb photos that just didn’t have that extra something? That elusive awesomeness in your portraits is inspiration, and inspiration can begin with casting the right model for your shoot.

Here are six questions you can ask when you’re casting models for your photoshoots. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have tips to add, please don’t hesitate to add them in a comment!

1. Does the model fit your concept?

Unless you’re just starting out in portrait photography and just want to practice using the camera, you will want to have a solid concept before you shoot. There’s nothing like a strong concept to enhance your technical skills and help you produce compelling images. Making sure your model ‘fits’ your concept is a choice you can have. Because you’re not Tyra Banks trying to mold a modeland train her to be able to interpret concepts, you want someone who already gives you a head start toward awesome photos. Talking to your model beforehand, looking at their portfolio, and seeing if your vision and their look and personality match is a place you can begin when casting for a photoshoot.

Vachini Krairaksh as Gaga Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Does the model match the clothing you will be using during the shoot?

Models come in unique dimensions. Someone could have a perfect face for beauty shots because any close-up of their face from any angle stuns your lens. But you’re not always shooting close-up photos. You’ll sometimes want to show off the clothing—a short skirt, for instance, requires nice legs, and an evening gown might demand that someone has miles of legs. Matching your model to the clothing you want to photograph is a way to ensure that you will get the shots you need.

3. What’s the budget?

Unless you have oodles of disposable income and can pay someone from Elite for a fun photoshoot, you have to think about the budget for your photoshoot. As a general rule, models with experience modeling for fees will charge money, and they can be pretty expensive, too.

Models who are just starting out might agree to do what is called a TFCD or “time for a CD” of photos. This means you exchange benefits—you get a model for a photoshoot, and the other person gets a CD of their photos. This is not a bad way to begin, but you also have to think of the modeling skill of the person whom you have an agreement. Do you have time to train them? What are you using the photos for? If it’s for practice and portfolio building, TFCD works for you.

4. How much experience does the model have?

Since experienced models have higher fees, you might consider casting family and friends to model for you. But having your beautiful family and friends model for you is sometimes not the right choice, especially if you are casting for a paid photoshoot. If the client casts their family and friends for the photoshoot, that’s out of your hands. But if you are the one casting for the shoot, it is better to cast experienced models. Why? Well, people you know might be beautiful and all, but will they know how to pose, how to use their face, which angles are flattering, how armpits are not good in a pose, etc.

Irina Lysiuk for Khoon Esmode copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. How much post-processing do you have to do after the shoot?

Time is money, we know. A good photog also knows that every hour spent zapping skin blemishes is an hour docked against the fee. Perhaps seeming cruel, but honestly, a model with a lot of spots and hasn’t shaved means you spend hours in front of the computer, and if this is a real job, you’d be getting less than minimum wage unless you charge for the time in advance. Knowing your model’s features before you cast them is essential if you are not planning to spend hours on each image meticulously retouching.

6. What experience does the model have?

It seems strange to be asking this question because why would a model’s motivation affect your photoshoot? In my experience though, it does, so you can take this with a grain of turmeric if you wish. Here is why.

Some actors feel like they can model. If your shoot has a kind of storyline and that is the creative thrust of the whole production, an actor could be the right choice. But at times, what you need is someone who can use their body and face to sell a concept or clothing, not to emote in front of the camera. Acting is a mostly a large muscle, large movement activity, whereas a good model will give you small movements, small changes that change the way the overall photo looks. You can argue that a good actor has subtlety in their facial movements—doesn’t that help them model? Yes, it does help them in a motion picture or on stage, not a still photo. Also, sometimes actors turn a photo into a snapshot by doing their ‘signature smile,’ and that’s just another shot you can’t use.

Chloe Lane copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Dancers are also sometimes cast as models. Dancers have great physiques, so if you are photographing an art nude shoot or something where you are sculpting with light, dancers would be great to cast. But if you are doing clothing once again, dancing is a large muscle activity, and you really might not want a dance move with arms in positions that might take attention away from the clothing.

Casting the right model for your photoshoot can give you that added inspiration to create magical images. By paying attention to your criteria when you’re casting models, you can ensure that you have one more of the right ingredients to create those awesome photos.

What questions do you ask when you’re casting models?

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conceptual portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Find the Model Beneath the Makeup

Make Sizzling Portraits Tip # 3: Seven Ways to Find Your Model Beneath the Makeup

I love makeup. Working with a great makeup artist makes our job easier—less retouching if they are skillful with the face, and if they are good at conceptualizing, you’ve got instant inspiration just in the makeup itself.

But as the photographer, what you do and how you do it results in the final image. Yes, the makeup artist begins the creative process, but you put the finishing touches on it when you create that shot.

At times, makeup also gets in the way of a portrait photographer’s important skill: the skill of directing a model. Here are seven secrets to honing your skill in directing models.

1. Get to know your model before the shoot.

Spending some time talking to your model before a shoot is the best way to get to know them, and for them to get to know you. If a model is comfortable with the photographer, he or she will relax and be easier to direct. Inviting a model to a planning meeting with the rest of the team is an ideal situation, but if you’re not able to get everyone together before the shoot, spend time just before you begin to shoot in casual conversation. This small and simple act will go a long way in ensuring that you will work reasonably well together.

2. Be specific in your directions.

Communicating clearly and succinctly helps you to get the shots you need. Make sure you know what images you’re after, so that you already have a list of directions you will be using to get those shots. If the model is new to modeling, make sure you remind them gently to find the light, to smile or not smile, or even to close their mouth or not show teeth. During the shoot, there is no way the model can get instant feedback about what they look like, so it’s up to you the photographer to give them the necessary feedback to get a good pose or expression.

conceptual portrait reflection makeup copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Use the LCD screen.

Spend time in between shots to show the model some of the shots using your LCD screen. This is a great way to give feedback, and saves time because from the poses or expressions on the images you show, the model will be able to adjust.

4. Be positive.

Keeping your tone and words positive and encouraging also goes a long way to coax a good performance from a model. People learn faster when they are relaxed, so if you keep your model relaxed, you can get magic out of their poses and expressions. Using encouraging words and smiles work better than harsh, negative comments. You can keep your model confident by keeping them upbeat, and that confidence will translate to beautiful portraits.

conceptual portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. Involve your model in the creative process.

Everyone can learn from everyone else. If you believe this, you also know that models, especially experienced models, can add to the creativity of a shoot. Asking a model what they think can result in added value to your images. If they respond to this invitation, you may get performance that you would not get otherwise if you just treat the model like a mannequin who happens to breathe. Being valued for ideas can go a long way when you are trying to produce a creative performance from someone.

6. Know when to speak, and when to be silent.

If your model is new to modeling, chances are they will really appreciate you talking to them throughout the shoot. Sometimes, even short phrases like “That’s it” or  a comment like “That’s beautiful, hold it” can help a model realize a pose or expression you need for a shot. Remember that you are their mirror while you’re shooting, so be helpful in your commentary toward reaching the creative goal.

Sometimes, though, magic happens and everyone gets into a flow. When this happens, it’s better to let it happen rather than talk over it. Being in tune with your model’s artistic performance can help you decide whether to speak or be silent, and this knowledge can produce poetry.

conceptual portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

7. Be confident.

Confidence is contagious. When the photographer is confident, the team is, too. Keeping yourself confident throughout a shoot—in the way you make decisions about lighting, wardrobe, props, and the other things that ultimately make the images— is something your creative team and model catch on. If the photographer is confident, that makes the model feel more comfortable than if the photographer is fidgeting or visibly anxious over something.

Prepare yourself well before a shoot. Know your concept inside out, and be familiar with the location. Be sure about the results you need and the equipment and settings necessary to achieve them. By taking care of these beforehand, you will be self-assured while you work, and the confidence will infect everyone on the set.

Directing your model is one of the most important skills of a portrait photographer. Practicing these simple guidelines, you can master this crucial skill and create portraits that sizzle.

Up next: Make sizzling portraits using beautiful light, right here on Imagine That!

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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How to Make the Most of Your Photographer

Some of photoshoots require more time invested, yet they remain the most memorable and successful.

Investing time, thought and effort into a project pays dividends for the client. You not only get your money’s worth from all the people you’ve hired, but you also build strong relationships that can only enhance your brand. Giving time, thought and energy into a collaborative effort can create win-win situations that serve as fertile ground for growth, be it for the client or the creative team.

Here are some tips from a photographer’s point of view.

1. Communicate ideas as much as possible.


Communication is key to collaborative creativity. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Time spent in planning a photoshoot is time wisely invested. For a photographer, information about the concepts the client has in mind, the colors and shapes and textures of the products she is shooting will help in the creative decisions. For example, light reflecting off a smooth surface behaves differently from light reflecting off a rough surface. If your photographer knows what materials you used to make your product, he or she can decide what sort of lighting suits that product. Similarly, a concept cannot be translated into an image unless the photographer has all the information necessary to ‘form a picture’ of what the client has in mind. Guessing or leaving this thinking process to the last minute can greatly impair the photoshoot’s effectiveness from lack of time to think through the concept and the added pressure of  reconciling a lot of novel elements in the process.

2. Give the photographer a lot of chances to make good decisions.

A lot of considerations go into a photo session. One of the most important ones is lighting, especially when there are models involved in the shoot. Different facial structures require different lighting set ups to either hide or show certain features. Introducing your photographer to your models before the shoot can help the photographer to think of the lighting decisions for each model’s facial structure and build. Allowing for this to happen by investing time in a meeting between the models and photographer can benefit your brand because the photographer is given more chances to succeed in making images that are interesting and propel the ideas behind your brand.

Different face structures require different lighting setups. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Organize the materials for the shoot.

Photographers pack with great care. A lot of photogs clean their equipment, follow long packing lists, and prepare a lot of small items that can make a difference between a good shot and a great shot. A good photog knows that preparation saves a lot of time; knowing where to reach in the bag when needing something is efficient and good practice.

In the same way, organizing the clothing or accessories can help a photoshoot move along smoothly. For example, organizing the clothes into sets and labeling them clearly with models’ names in the order of the shoot can really speed up the work. Because some shoots require a lot of moving and changing of lighting equipment, being ready with the clothing and accessories gives the creative people in your team more time to take so they can create their magic for you.

4. Trust the creativity of your team

You hired the makeup artist whom you thought would interpret the concept well and has great skills to execute it in makeup or hair. You hired the photographer whose vision and images match your brand’s beauty.

You must trust their creativity, skill and vision, right? You hired them, not someone else.

In a moment of creativity, the creative person is drawn into flow, a state of seemingly effortless innovation. Trusting this process, for many, have produced great leaps in executing a vision. Interrupting it will stilt the creativity and ‘burst the bubble’ of concentration, and it is a difficult thing to re-enter at will. If you had planning sessions and every one in the team is conscious of the time you have to make the magic happen, trust that what the creators do, in their own separate domains of skill, are geared toward making beauty for your brand.

5. Respect talent and skill.

If everyone could do what any one else could do, all images would look the same. We would not have any moments when we look at a photo and our breath catches because it is just so what we wanted to say.

Respect a unique vision and the passion that creates it. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The creative world is wonderful because each photographer, each makeup artist, pushes him or her self to do better, to learn something else. If you took this energy and passion and channeled it into your brand, you would have power indeed—power to distinguish your product from the others of the same kind, and power to make people look at your ad twice, catching their breath.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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Let Shadows Speak

Dynamic lighting in a photo begins with direction and quality of light, but it doesn’t stop there. Part of the effect in dynamic lighting is where the shadows fall. You know that rule in physics that says ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’? This tension also works in photographic lighting, except that we could rewrite the rule as ‘for every light there is an equal and opposite shadow.’

So controlling the light means controlling the shadows. This effect can create lighting that is dynamic, three dimensional, and eye catching.

We can learn basic lighting conditions, whether in a natural setting like in travel photography, or in a more controlled setting like when using strobes or window light. To add to this wonderful skill is the ability to read the stories that shadows tell.

Telling stories with shadows is a great way to learn dynamic lighting. When we can learn to see where the light falls, how much it falls off and in which direction, we can start designing images that tell stories.

Where you stand to take a photo affects where light and shadow fall in the final image.

The photo of the two people was lit using ambient light, light from broken walls and holes in the ceiling of an abandoned mansion. There was light coming from above both the woman and the man, and the shadows falling around them framed the shot. If I had moved a little to the left, two things would have happened: the man would have been out of the line of sight of the 50mm lens I was using, and the woman would have had less shadow on camera left. Positioning the camera where it was, I was seeing the way the shadows would frame the scene. Moving around is one way of controlling the direction and amount of shadow in a photo.

Pools of light and pools of shadow create drama in this image.

Another vantage point that was deliberate was in the next photo where the model is below the camera; I was standing on a ledge in another broken building. The light was coming from camera left, through a broken wall. The harsh midday light created deep, dark shadows around and beside the model, making shadows on the wall, and forming pools of shadow around the path she walked. The mystery created by the shadows gives the photo a story telling quality I would not have achieved if I had the whole scene lit up.

Paying attention to shapes created by shadow can make a shot dramatic.

Lighting a scene, we know, doesn’t need to be complicated. In this shot of some Indian fashion, I only had a high window to work with, and a distant doorway some 300 meters behind the model. I found a place where the window light would directly shine on her face and side. Having done this, I also saw that the curvy geometric shapes and their shadows in the image complemented the pose and dress of the model, so I played up the shadows by underexposing the background and using a small aperture. The slower shutter speed gave me a sharper take on the dress plus created a three dimensional image. Controlling the settings to augment shadows in a shot is another way of allowing shadows to tell part of the story.

Telling a story with a photo doesn’t just depend on where light illuminates and what it illuminates. Where the shadows fall also speak stories.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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When It’s a Wrap

5 Ways to Effectively Work with Models

“It’s a wrap!” are three of the most important words for a fashion photographer. Knowing that you’ve done an excellent job and that the day has been productive, fun and creative

(c) Aloha Lavina

makes it worth while to wake up early for 6.30 am call times and the lifting of some hundred pounds of equipment to the location. But getting to the wrap of a shoot involves more than just being able to light and compose shots. You have to learn how to care for your models, too.

Caring for your models means great relationships in the industry, and great relationships could translate to references later on. Because of my wonderful relationship with Anna, a Swedish model living in Thailand, I was able to work with her and Christian Dior’s Omar at a fun and fabulous photoshoot at the Sukothai hotel.

Caring for your model during a shoot is actually a really important part of being a portrait photographer. Here are some ways you can make sure your photoshoot is fabulous and your model is happy.

1. Wait for the moment

When you’re photographing a beautiful person, it’s easy to get carried away with the shutter release. Because you’re excited, you want to get everything down. But do you really want to get everything, even the blink? Keeping yourself calm and waiting for a moment which is expressive and emotive is key to getting artful images instead of hoping to get lucky and getting 3 good ones out of every 10 shots.

2. Encourage the model

Models want to know how they’re doing. Feedback is a great way to shape how a shoot goes; it’s vital to improvement in most things people do, including modeling.  If you like what the model is doing, say so. Conversely, if you find that something doesn’t work, tell the model. It’s better to avoid a bad pose than spend time weeding out shots later because the

(c) Aloha Lavina

model’s knee looks like a yamcha dumpling.

3. Learn how to direct in concrete ways

When you’re photographing a model, it’s very easy to say things you feel about the shot you want, like “Can you look like someone whose quantum reason for existence is no longer a quark but has broken up into photons without mass?” or something similar. Remember that the model has no mirror to create a pose that works. Also remember that the model doesn’t read your mind but needs clear direction. So if you want the shot to look like what it does in your head, tell the model how to move their body and face. Say things like, “Can you move your head to the left and close your eyes a little.” Clear directions help a shoot move along and when a pose works, it’s a lot more fun.

4. Take breaks

Yes, time is money, but when you take care of someone, they work harder. Take breaks—wipe sweat when it’s hot, let the model drink some water. A little kindness can establish you as a caring photographer, but most of all, it makes you human.

(c) Aloha Lavina

5. Know when it’s a wrap

When working with models it’s easy to keep shooting, especially with a DSLR since memory is so cheap these days.  Dominique, a model with Elite Switzerland told me on our last shoot, “I really like photographers who know when they have the shot.” Modeling is difficult; it is work. Holding poses can be extremely athletic, and looking happy for eight hours for the summer wear catalogue can wear a person down.  Know what you want before the shoot, and know when you have got it. Then you can say the three most favorite words of photographers and models.