It seems inevitable that when photographers have tons of experience working with models, they’re going to form some strong opinions about the things models can do right and wrong over the course of a shoot. In search of some good stories, we asked several pros, “What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to working with models?” (In fairness, stay tuned for part two, where we’ll ask models the same question about photographers!)
Arriving In a “Bad” State
“If the model partied the night before and is tired, grumpy, looks bad and has low energy, that can really affect a shoot, as you can imagine. Makeup will only hide certain things, but generally if the model has low energy in her eyes, and is too tired or hungover from a hard work week or party, then that really can deflate the shoot.” Peter Koval
“He or she doesn’t take care of him or herself. Unless we are shooting an ‘art’ project, for most commercial work it usually involves making the models look good. So coming in looking like you haven’t slept in 3 days or heavily intoxicated is generally not recommended. There is also the distinction between being fashionably thin and starving yourself to death. Hint: The latter defeats the purpose. I have literally stopped a shoot mid-way and asked a model to rest and eat something because she was obviously starving.” Tommy Zablan
That said…Showing Up Late Or Not At All
“One of my biggest pet peeves that models can do to make the shoot more difficult is to be late. If the whole crew shows up at a call time and everyone is waiting on the model, it kinda takes a lot of steam out of the momentum and energy for the shoot.” Peter Koval
“Being really late for a shoot or cancelling a booking last minute. While there are perfectly reasonable situations when these things happen, a model can also make a reasonable effort to avoid having to do this. Nobody wants to re-schedule an entire crew or location.” Tommy Zablan
“When you’re working you’re working. Don’t leave in the middle of a session because you have to go somewhere. And show up on time.” Bernhard Kristinn.
“Being Italian, I cannot imagine having to deal with my business without food. It can sound odd but food is part of my culture, it is a symbol of happiness, and when I shoot in studio I want to share the same feeling with the team, starting with the model. If you cannot enjoy food and smile at it, how you can smile for my camera? But sometimes I do not choose the model and she comes from the agency. When this happens I always have a bit of fear…The face of the model, when I offer her some sweets, a bit of wine, becomes terrible and she looks at me like I was trying to kill and destroy her career! Pure fear of food and pure fear of happiness! That make me crazy and the shooting never goes as it has to be.” Massi Tiberi
“I find a lot of models don’t seem to realize there is a lot more to it then just looking good. Most of them don’t practice posing, facial expressions and conveying emotions. Time and time again I see models who have one look. They learn how to pose their body from pictures in magazines but they forget to look at the details in the facial expressions that tie everything together. There is a major difference between someone who looks good and someone who looks good and photographs well. I remember shooting a guy for his portfolio, he had all these poses but the same facial expressions. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get him to emote any other look but this same facial expressions over and over again. So we ended up with a set of photos that pretty much looked the same. To make matters worse he thought it would be best to tell me how to setup the lighting, so maybe models should keep their egos in check as well.” Tristan Jud.
“I’m not a therapist–don’t get in front of my lens and tell me how much weight you have gained, or you have a turkey neck, double or triple chin. I’m there to make great photos of you. And don’t force me to flirt with you. If you tell me you are bad looking or pictures of you look terrible, I’m forced to tell you the opposite.” Bernhard Kristinn
Messing With the Photographer’s Work
“My pet peeve is models walking all over my seamless backdrop. I know it is easy to fix in Photoshop, but when you are doing 50 looks for a catalog, you just start adding up the minutes of your life that are going down the drain if you have to correct it 50 times. Now, I know it annoys me, so I start by bringing the model over nicely and explaining the retouching predicament. I point to the exact spot and ask if she can take one big step to get there. I am not sure why this next thing happens. Maybe it is wolves marking their territory. But, 1 in 4 models somehow still seem to enter from the side and take six steps to get there. My beautiful white background with the first of many traces of grey.” Michael Creagh.
“Don’t put on the Zoolander lips. I too often get the ‘blue steel’ or ‘magnum’ look, and it’s terrible.” Bernhard Kristinn
“The thing that drives me crazy is when models are skeptical. Maybe it is that they don’t quite trust your creative process or some incorrect bias on how they think the direction of their portfolio should be, but it is a recipe for disaster. Years ago, I had a young woman who loved my work and the way I made people look. But when it came to her, she micro managed everything to death. I was so frustrated with all the wrong choices from background to lighting, that in the end she actually got me to concede and hold a mirror next to the camera lens. The shoot was horrible. Why did I do it? By the time I held that mirror, I was in so deep that I would have done anything to get that shoot to end. It was funny when she came back a few days later to go over the shots. I was editing another shoot, and she was like, ‘Wow that is great. Why didn’t we do that?’ I guess it is because she hadn’t thought of it.” Michael Creagh