Fairmont shot

Model Etiquette and Partner Shoots

Mother and daughter. The affluent couple. The big happy family. When posing for relationship shots, the creative process is more complicated than just a one-on-one with your photographer. You’re in character, working with another model who’s in character, so creating a relationship dynamic is key to getting this shot right. Building a character still applies, but with the added requirement for some level of intimacy with the other character. Believable acting means listening, so in modeling, you have to establish that understanding without words. Sometimes, it’s not easy to get super cozy with someone you JUST met. Here are a few tips to get you there:

couple tub shot You might have to be in a bathtub with someone you don’t know. We were both surprised.

If you’re in a “couple” shoot:

Chat with your shoot partner immediately when you get on set — now isn’t the time to be shy. Ask about your partner’s background in the business, general personal questions (where’d you go to school?), and other basics to get a sense of the person (or people) you’re working with. Don’t ask overly personal questions about his/her personal life, you might create an awkward or uncomfortable dynamic. Creating a friendly rapport right away will not only help the shoot flow more smoothly, but it’s also an nice way to network. 

What if I don’t get along with my partner?

Let’s be real for a moment. As professional as we all are, occasionally, it might happen. For whatever reason maybe you don’t like him, or maybe he doesn’t like you. Maybe he smells like onions and he’s mentioned three times that he’s recently single, and wants to know what you’re up to after the shoot. Maybe he’s hostile and laconic to your attempts to be friendly. Now you’re forced to cuddle with him on a couch and pretend you adore him for the next eight to ten hours. Whattya do?

Vintage wedding photoshoot

Such a fun shoot! When you get along with your co-workers it shows.

Keep Cool and Stay Pro: 

Don’t get weird, or aloof, or whine to the crew about it. 1) They aren’t the HR department and 2) they’ve been watching–(trust me, they know). Stay positive. Keep the conversation on the work and how awesome it is to collaborate with such a professional team. In most cases this is enough to steer focus on the work. In situations with aloof models, it’s usually a lack of experience– the aloofness dies once you get to work and start having fun. I’ve only had one case of really outrageous behavior, and it was bad enough that a producer stepped in and shut it down. I personally don’t like lying to people (i.e. saying I have a boyfriend or a date if I don’t). Someone else’s behavior shouldn’t force me to hide behind a lie. But that’s just my personal policy.

Make up a secret story about your partner to gets you through it:

I don’t like lying to people to get through a job, but I have no problem lying to myself. Yes he seems strange, but he also (lie lie lie) gives half of his modeling earnings to literacy programs serving impoverished youth; he’s going to take the money he earns today and give it to his neighbor, a woman he hardly knows, so she can make her rent this month; he models so he can keep a flexible schedule to care for his aging parents… you get the idea. I know it sounds silly, but it works. 

william sonoma cakes

Shooting with a super pro.

If you’re in a “parent-child” shoot:

You should be able to spend a few minutes playing together or chatting with the set teacher or parent. Very young children (under two years) can be especially challenging, so brace yourself with some patience and flexibility. Little children usually don’t take direction and can burst into tears easily. Don’t get mad– they’re kids! To a toddler, all of the attention is really freaky, Mom is in the other room, and now he’s sitting on a strange woman’s lap and has to call her Mommy? CALL MY AGENT WAH. Really who can blame him?

In all of the “mother-child” shoots I’ve done, I’ve worked with some serious child actors, super-hyper kids (and a few nervous Stage Moms!) but never had a serious behavior problem. Production people design these shoots to be shorter to comply with parental requests, local laws, and children’s attention spans.

Japanese false eyelashes

How to Avoid a Cat Fight

Again: reality check. We’re all professionals but… occasionally you might be forced to work with people who are nervous or diva-ish and they might take it out on whomever is in front of them. It’s okay. It happens. And it might not just be your fellow models or actors. Once I had a makeup artist rip false eyelashes off of my eyes with such force (no warning) I lost about half of my natural ones! Instead of flipping out, try this:

Find out what’s really going on:

When someone’s a little nasty for no reason, find it in yourself to be extra kind. Something’s cooking and it has nothing to do with you. About an hour after losing my lashes, during a break, I gently asked this MUA what was up in her world, and she almost burst into tears. Turns out she was going through a horrible divorce and was flat broke as a result. She was having more than just a typical rough day. Up until then, this artist had a spotless reputation in the business, but her short temper was coming on to set with her– and she knew it. We talked more after the shoot and she was SO incredibly sweet. She’s still one of my favorites!

Don’t ever take it personally:

Drama is never about you. Ever. Anytime someone on set is being difficult to you for no reason, there’s a story that you don’t know about. Knowing this might not grow back eyelashes, but it does help you get through the shoot and avoid escalating the situation.

Model etiquette boils down to this: bringing positive energy on set is always the right move. You have more fun, your co-workers remember how cool you are to work with, and the final shots you ALL contributed to always look better. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about. 

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