First things first, models can be just about anybody: your dad, mom, grandfather, sister or wife, so this tutorial could apply to them as much as to professional models. To begin with, using models for photography can be tricky. But if you follow the following advice, it should definitely become easier for you. Best of luck!


Timing is critical

Models are not like superman, who doesn’t need to shave, as he appears just as fresh in the morning as in the evening -but humans aren’t. Therefore, one rule of thumb: never shoot with models first thing in the morning if you can avoid it. Why? Because their skin would still be in ‘waking up’ mode. Take that to mean, swollen cheeks, heightened crow’s feet around their eyes and a general drowsy appearance. If you have to shoot in the morning and are faced with this situation, try to shoot the first few shots with the model wearing sunglasses. It will not only hide all the blemishes but also the previous night’s hangover. So what’s the best time, you ask? Well, the afternoons and late evenings are the best… 3pm-7pm is just apt to get that sun’s shadow on your subject like no other.

Hairstyle and skincare


No matter how good looking your model might appear to be, it’s of no use if her hairstyle and skin don’t follow the tone of the shoot you have in mind. If it’s supposed to be a fun and collegiate shoot, then there’s no point in just having a pretty young face. You need to give her attitude, and it’s just not about posing. The hairstyle should be rebellious and the skin should be picture perfect. So get her to visit a beauty parlour to get her manicure, pedicure, waxing and threading done before she sees you. While most professional do without your asking, the others – like your relatives – might not. So forewarned is forearmed. This will also save you the cost of having a hairstylist and makeover artist for the entire duration of the shoot. If your models happen to be men, just ask them to gel their hair and nothing more. The rest comes out in the post-processing phase.



Most models throw tantrums on location. Curbing them becomes as important as your photography, because it would throw your schedule off track. The best way to do that is to hire models who have no such attitude – screening them first and clearly making this clear before the shoot starts helps ease up things quite a bit. However, when the shoot starts, they need to have an attitude about their face that makes them stand out. Just a pretty picture of them won’t do. So ask them to first emote as many emotions possible and freeze on those that the camera likes. Try to observe them emote from the side, overhead, below and behind. You never know what you will end up with.

Watch the background


What’s in the background determines the level flexibility you will have in photo editing after the shoot. If you don’t want to take any chances, try to shoot the model in grey, black and red background. So if the model is fair, black is best and vice versa. Use red or any dark colour depending on the complexion and context of the shoot. If it’s a wedding festivity picture, having a red colour works best. But if the model happens to be dark, pale colours like ochre might work best.


Sometimes just having a model with several sets of clothes won’t do. Choosing the right accessory becomes as crucial, so decide beforehand what the model needs to wear to drive home the point of your shoot. For example, if you are doing a product shoot where the model needs to have gadgets around her, keep her wardrobe uncluttered, so the emphasis is on the gadgets and not on her accessories. However, if it’s a jewellery shoot, make sure, you get her to wear the right kind of watch, bracelet and ring even if the shoot is restricted to neck pieces and earrings. It adds to the overall feel of the picture.

Bounce light


Sometimes, you require a model to shoot outdoors where there is generator to power up your studio lights. While commercial photographers carry a generator vehicle with them on outdoor shoots, you can replace it with a reflector (white on one side and silver on the other) and an external flash. For some shoots, you can take a picture using sunlight and just the reflector and on other occasions, you can bounce light off your reflector using your external flash.

Wastage is natural

During the warm-up round when the model is still coming to grips with the shoot, there will be a lot of wastage. Therefore, prepare for this and you won’t get impatient and mess up the shoot. Also, make sure you don’t take your most important shots in the first half of the shoot. It’s ideal to do this somewhere during the middle of the session when the model is attuned to your way of working and is ready to drop her inhibitions and simply go with the flow.

Breaks help


It’s important to give breaks to the model during the shoot. This rest will give you valuable insight. For example, keep a watch on the model at her natural self. Is there a certain profile that’s more interesting than the rest? Is there a certain facial expression of hers that says a thousand words? Capture them while she’s blissfully unaware and make her formally do it when the shoot begins. Having a sense of humour helps in not only breaking the ice but also making the subject lose inhibitions and be their natural self. So crack as many jokes to maintain a jovial atmosphere that will reflect on your photography.

~Zahid Javali