How do you talk to a model?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by zinnanti, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    When doing a model shoot - particularly a nude shoot - how do you talk to your model(s)?

    What verbiage do you use with respect to anatomy? What words do you avoid using? Or, does that depend on your acquaintance with your model?

    How do you cure the situation if your model is just not getting it?

    What advice would you have for others?
     
  2. Aurelien

    Aurelien Advertiser Member

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    With my mouth, not with m hands :smile:

    You have to make it easy to speak, not to lookk at her as if she were a sexual bait...
     
  3. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    HUGE question..

    but I am always careful on how to say things to a (female) model.

    ex: I'll never ask her to spread her legs; I'll ask her to take her feet apart.. (sounds wierd in english..)

    I am also trying to be honest. But avoiding the words that could take her mind the wrong way, if that makes sense..

    I'll call her breasts for breasts, not tits or anything else.

    I am not afraid to go to her and touch her - "mold" her in the position I like.
    If I do it right, it won't be misunderstood, and so many times the model doesn't know/understand what you want her to do with her body. I'ts all about the details.

    I'll tell her that I'd like to show her what I want, and then do it without "fumbeling"..

    The more I know the model, and the more she knows me, the more free the wordings.

    There would obviously be a huge difference when I use my girlfriend, than if I use another girl, and it is her first time posing.
     
  4. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    On a related note, how do you ask someone to model nude in the first place?
     
  5. David William White

    David William White Member

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    French accent & broken english splattered with apologies?
     
  6. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    You should try to take your model off the
    pedestal and deal with him or her as you
    would any other stranger you engage in a
    business transaction.
     
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  7. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    I respect your work but I disagree with this
    suggestion. I almost never touch the people
    I am photographing. The exception is when
    I am shooting a view camera and a fallen
    strand of hair needs to be repositioned -- and
    then, only after asking permission to do so.
    Otherwise, words and gestures suffice to
    direct a model into position.

    Part of shooting nudes successfully requires
    winning the model's trust. Approaching the
    model to move them into a pose is a quick
    way to undermine that trust, and puts both
    in an awkward place that neither ought to
    occupy in a shoot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2009
  8. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    With respect.
     
  9. Aurelien

    Aurelien Advertiser Member

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    Yes respect is the only word ...
     
  10. Videbaek

    Videbaek Member

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    The subject line caught my attention... Brought to mind a particular session in one of my "life drawing" classes (drawing from the nude model) back when I was a student...
    Drawing class was like a box of chocolates, you never knew who you were going to get as a model. Could be Fat George, who'd been modelling for at least 30 years and struck
    his poses with a devilish grin and considerable panache that held for the longest of poses. Could be the young woman whom I simply could not look at properly for many humming minutes
    because she was so astonishingly, breathtakingly beautiful that I could hardly bear to look at her, let alone draw her -- and then, when I could, my attempts, representing her appearance and presence so utterly inadequately, peasant scrawls in the radiance of a Queen, had I kept plodding along, would surely have made me burst into tears, so I fled the studio and sheltered in the mens' to collect myself...
    It was an entirely mature and adult environment, I must stress that. Could be the tall, skinny fellow with the long, stringy black hair and piercings, could have been that class when he disrobed, struck a warm-up pose, and we drawing students found ourselves contemplating his posterior decorated forthrightly by a proverbial skidmark, an elegant swatch of shit. He had miswiped. Or perhaps he had calculated it on purpose, he could have been of that kind. So I found myself wondering whether, in the interest of accuracy and realism, I should draw the skidmark in or leave it out so as to avoid comments later... "That's quite a birthmark he has there!" "Funny you should say that, it's not actually a birthmark..." And then we students were on our coffee break, sitting quietly and sipping, when someone brought it up: "Um, er, I suppose you've noticed the, er..." "Yes, yes of course." "Do you think someone should bring it to his attention? I mean, I'd prefer it if..." "Yes, yes, without a doubt, someone should." "Who?" "Er, well, ..." Someone did.
     
  11. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    When working with a model, for the first time, I always ask her to bring a female friend. I think it adds to her (and my) comfort level. Often, if a pose/hair/etc. needs adjustment, the friend will do it, as I like to keep a respectful distance. The three-way conversation flows a little better, adding to the model's ease, which usually improves the results.
    Normally, after the first shoot, the model and I have developed a good working relationship, and I've earned her trust, so she will come alone, if she chooses.
     
  12. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Good question.

    I will NEVER touch a model, even if asked. Every problem with wardrobe or hair, or ... has either been solved by the model or those on the scene dedicated to such activity.
    I have the HIGHEST respect for the models I've worked with - even those where our personalities did not "mesh", and the session was unsuccessful. Hopefully that respect will be evident in my mannerisms and speech.

    I would suggest that anyone interested go to the Jock Sturges interview, and read what he has to say about the subject. I agree with him, word for word.

    More about that interview later.
     
  13. eddym

    eddym Member

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    You should have forgotten about Art, immediately fallen on your knees before her, and proposed marriage right on the spot!
    If she refused, then you should have gone to the mens' room and slashed your wrists.
     
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    zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    I agree. I never touch a model unless I have their permission. I find that just the act of asking goes a long way.
     
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    zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    Thanks. I kind of popped my cork last night with that post about the media.

    To tell you the truth, the conversation has reawakened my interest in artists advocacy. Maybe a new direction for my legal career.

    Re models, I think you really have to be careful when putting your hands on someone, legally and otherwise.

    I posed this question as a survey to see whether there is a consensus or a variety of differing approaches.
     
  17. eddym

    eddym Member

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    My first nude shoot outside of a workshop was of a woman whose husband accompanied her. That solved the problem of touching; I just asked him to do it, explaining what I wanted. I have done a good bit of nude and seminude prenatal photography, and there is usually a spouse, sister, or mother present to help. But there have been a few who came alone, and I always make it a point to stay behind the camera, except to position a light or take a meter reading, always explaining to her exactly what I plan to do and why. Always be polite and professional, never use slang or "street" talk, but don't hesitate to call a breast a breast.
    I use the same principles and techniques with clothed models/clients. I always explain in detail what I want her to do, sometimes talking her through the adjustment, like "turn your head to your right very slowly until I tell you to stop." In the case of stray hair, I tell her about it, and only if she can't get it right will I approach and ask permission to touch her to fix the problem.
    Respect and good manners means everything.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It all depends.

    Sometimes short simple commands do the trick, other times an incessant chatter is the only way to make the model "forget" being shy.

    I've even worked with models who responded best to "rude remarks", and only managed to look goot when I got downright dirty.

    Another young lady seemed almost terminally shy, and every pose looked cramped and far too self-concious. The next time I worked with her I was far more strict and vocal - and I had "waterproofed" the chair on which she had left a large wet spot during the first session: She was a real exhibitionist, quite likely with a good dose of masochism, and enjoyed the embarrasment! So the second time I didn't try to coddle her - knowing she actually enjoyed the situation meant that I didn't have to try to protect her sensibilites. :wink:

    don't forget that models are persons, and all are different. Finding out how to treat each individual person for the best result is the most difficult part.
     
  19. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I'm always careful!. And respectful.!!

    I have had dozens of models asking me to "touch" (I can't get by the feeling that this word means something different than I have in mind.... being danish and all that) them - to let me mold their bodyes as I wish.

    Maybe it is easier for me, as I am danish? and mostly use danish models?

    I have used foreign models also, but no americans (yet).

    It is about trust.

    And if you trust one another, where is the problem then?

    for the kind of poses I use mostly, it is almost impossible to get the right pose just by talking.
    A few models of mine are so used to my poses that they seem to know, even without talk, but that's a rare thing.
     
  20. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I have the HIGHEST respect for my models too. And my mannerisms and speech will always be of respect.

    Don't you think that is possible?
    or is it only respectful, if you always refrain from touching?
     
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    zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    I could be wrong, but there is somewhat of a chasm between American sexual values and those of Europe, particularly the Netherlands region. If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.

    I think, however, when you get to the level of art production, it's different. (By the way, I didn't take your comment as anti-American.)

    I'm always careful as to what words I use. I always state something like, "You have beautiful anatomy here, let's try . . . ."

    I guess it gets tricky when you're really down to the fine details. I have a model that I'm going to be doing a shoot with and the way her pubic hair has been in other work is perfect. There's a natural, but manicured, look that's important.

    So, I'm just trying to figure out how to broach the matter.
     
  22. tim_walls

    tim_walls Subscriber

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    I'd agree with this, of course. I've only shot a few models nude - half a dozen or so - but the other watchword for me at least is 'humour,' or at least I try. By which I don't mean putting on a standup routine, but if you don't take yourself too seriously and the model is on the same wavelength then hopefully you can both relax.

    Like I say, this is the advice of a total amateur rather than a seasoned pro, but it's worked for me.


    It helps shooting film of course. Explaining that the whole process might be a bit slower than a digital 'snap snap snap snap snap' type shoot and the whole process will be quite relaxed while I'm busy fighting with recalcitrant Polaroid backs and the like helps (as an aside, this is why I hate instant pack film rather than the single sheet Polaroids that I'm still hoping Fuji will take up - pack film seems to decide two sheets want to jam together or otherwise gum up always in the presence of a model...)

    As a beginner at this stage though I for the timebeing will only shoot with experienced models - I take the view that at least one of us should have half a clue what they're doing...
     
  23. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    Tim - help me here.
    I don't understand your second last sentence..

    do you want her to alter something to her pubic hair?
    or ?

    I've never asked a model to shave/manicure or anything else in the pubic area - and I don't think I ever will.
    I might change lighting or make different images alltogether if the pubic area is "wrong" for the original inage in question.
    (difficult to explain)

    About the (maybe) differences in models from Europe and America, I think it is there.
    here in Denmark for example, the models tend to be very very relaxed in their bodyes, and being far from shy.
    It makes the communication between the photographer and the model easy (in my book).

    (William Mortensen even claimed, that there are "American breasts" - European Breasts" and "Asian breasts" (I think he preferred the "European breasts"..)):D
     
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    zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    It's just, how personal do you get? That's all.
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I work with male models, which puts a different wrinkle on it. On some levels, I think working with models of the same sex makes it easier, because they often just understand where a request is coming from without discomfort. On the other hand, the question of the sexual intentions/motivations of the photographer vis the model still comes up. I try to maintain a humorous banter to keep the model relaxed, and let them see that I'm not some leering perv. I do touch models, but as mentioned previously, only after explaining what I'm looking for, and asking permission. Often after making at least one rather pathetic attempt to demonstrate the pose I'm looking for myself, and sending the model back to the camera to look from my viewpoint. I also try to compliment the model's appearance, particularly if there is a feature I'm trying to capture - "You've got great abs - I'm trying to show the contours... could you arch your back a bit more and tighten them up so the light brings out the muscles?". But as always, first and foremost there needs to be a clear demonstration of respect. I usually have a half-hour or more conversation with the model still clothed while I'm getting the camera, lights, and backdrop set up, and sometimes enlist their help, so they get a feel for the seriousness and honesty of the photographic enterprise.
     
  26. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    I try to treat models professionally and courteously. My professional approach begins with the first e-mail and continues through the shoot. I have found that well written proposals and complete descriptions of the planned shoot help the model to understand what I am trying to accomplish. I also state the limits of the shoot, no shots with the models legs spread , no “adult“ images, etc. I did one shoot where the model had her legs spread, but her crotch was in shadow so no detail was visible in the final prints. I explained that to the model so she fully understood before she showed up at my studio. I think it is better to broach any controversial topic with the model long before the shoot so there are no surprises which could lead to bad feelings or mistrust.

    I have discussed pubic hair with models before the shoot. In my e-mail discussing details of the shoot, I mentioned that it was a sensitive topic, but one that needed to be discussed. In the two cases I’m thinking of, I needed the models to be shaved such that the pubic hair did not introduce an additional element into the photograph. I was working on a project entitled “Triangles”, and pubic hair detracts from the triangle formed when the models are on their back with their knees slightly raised. The models understood and it was really a non-issue, except for my initial discomfort at bringing up the topic.

    I guess it’s really not much different from discussing other aspects of the model’s grooming. I usually discuss hair styles with the models. If I need the model to wear her hair up, I will tell her that so she can bring the needed clips or pins. Models often have varying hair styles in their ports, I will mention which one I prefer so she can match that style. In the US, models shave their arm pits and legs, that may not be true in Europe. I would have no problem telling a model to shave her arm pits if it was an issue.

    Bottom line, be professional. You can discuss any topic with a model, and it is best to do so before the shoot.