For most men, a woman is a mystery but for a photographer it’s important to understand women the best you can to create great photos of them. In glamour photography of women, a photographer must gain an insight into their female subject before they even think about picking up the camera—and it’s not always easy, because everyone is different, especially men.
However, here are some photography tips, mainly for male photographers, that might help from my decades as a photographer of women. These are 20 quick photography tips when working with women professionally as a photographer, not how to pick them up!
Let silence help you build rapport. While knowing what to say, how to say, and when to say it, learn to listen too. Silence sometimes is golden when you build rapport with your subject. Let your subject talk to you and remember, depressing the shutter-release button is only five-percent of the equation for a great photo.
Smile, open her door, be polite and always be a gentleman. Photographers should never say, “Here, put this on!” Instead, they should say, “What do you think about this outfit?” Let your subject make the decision, don’t make it for her—the exception is in a paid client shoot that requires a female model, usually there is no choice for either party.
Never say, “Make love to the camera baby.” If she doesn’t slap you, I would. This is a very unprofessional statement often seen in movies, but poor taste in real life. Instead, as a photographer takes photos he should say, “You look beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous,” or something in that manner and in a nice, gentle tone. Don’t overdo it, make it infrequent, but say it throughout the photography session more than a few times and do it with sincerity.
It’s about her, not you. Your goal is to make her smile with your images, rapport, and for a lack of better words when it comes to communication, in a great “bedside manner” as an analogy if you were a doctor. Remember though, you are not her doctor. You are not there to solve her problems, only to listen and capture her beauty.
Never say, “tuck your tummy or suck your gut or belly.” Always say, “Can you please straighten your back?” If you’re married you know this already as at some point in your marriage your wife will say, “Honey, do I look fat?” If you even hesitate to answer while gasping for air, you’re wrong. The answer is always, “No sweetie, you look as beautiful as the day I first met you.” If she mentions that other photographers or photographs of the past make her look fat, say, “It was probably the photographer’s fault because they didn’t turn one hip away from the camera in the pose and a camera lens perspective will naturally add weight, especially if the hips are photographed straight on.”
Never say “we can fix your wrinkles or crow’s feet in Photoshop.” If she asks about her wrinkles, let her know, “That’s just the good-life and I’ll take care of it for you naturally, don’t worry about a thing.” Taking care of it in postproduction is nothing a model really wants to hear, because in essence, you’re acknowledging she’s got faults. And for the record, photo editors and art directors don’t want to hear that either.
Never refer to augmented breasts as “fake” even if she says they are. Breasts are all real, augmented breasts are just enhanced. The skin and breast tissue, augmented or not, are real.
Explain to your subject you’re there to capture her inner beauty too. Any photographer can capture outer beauty. You’re there because you’re a professional at capturing that inner beauty. The perfect smile comes from a relaxed model when the corners of her eyes are in harmony with the corners of her lips.
Compliment, compliment. Compliment her eyes, her hair, her legs, her physique, her voice, her femininity, and her talent. Compliment anything you can throughout your photography session, before, after and during the session too. Give your subject confidence, do not destroy it and she’ll send you more customers by word of mouth.
Never offer to be a model manager and manage her career. Real professionals in the modeling and photography industry despise model managers, but they respect licensed model agents, agencies and their bookers. You are a photographer, stick with what you know best not what you think you know—you’ll only annoy professionals. Rule of thumb, avoid “model managed” subjects like the plague.
Use a make-up artist when all possible. A good make-up artist can grease the skids for your first shoot with a subject. A good make-up artist knows how to comfort and build confidence in your subject before you ever start. A good make-up artist supports you and a great make-up artist is loyal and understands your photographic style.
Don’t offend your subject. Not sure about what you may say, then walk up to a mirror and ask yourself what you plan on asking of your subject. If it sounds weird or strange to you, it will be ten times worse to your subject. Be considerate in all you ask your subject and never force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Remember, it’s all about the face, not what she’s wearing or not wearing. Without the face, the rest doesn’t matter.
If your subject is a model, her portfolio should only contain a few of your images and also photos from other photographers, no different than your hand-carried portfolio should be a book of diverse talent from other models. This can differ on specialized on-line portfolios.
Don’t spray and pray. With high-speed motor drives and huge memory cards, too many photographers hold the shutter release down on their camera and pray they’ll capture something good. Well it sounds like a machine gun to your subject, so don’t do it. It’ll just make her uncomfortable!
If all seems not to be working right, reschedule the shoot. After you’ve done that, go back to first item on this list and start over from scratch—the past is the past, move forward. Also, ask yourself why it didn’t work? Then work on improvement.
Build rapport with your subject. Rapport starts with the first email, phone call, etc., and never stops, even after the shoot. Like credit it takes time to build and just one incident to destroy it. Rapport never starts when you pick up the camera, it just continues from the beginning and never ends.
It’s about quality, not quantity. Make each shot count and only show your subject the best photos in the end. Never burn a CD and give her everything you captured. The real difference between a professional photographer and an amateur isn’t money, it’s the fact that a professional photographer understands what makes an image great and never shows their bad photos—we all take them. It’s called “burning film” to arrive at that perfect moment in time.
Never tell your subject your problems. Your subject is there because she wants to feel like a queen for the day, not your psychologist, bartender, beautician, etc. She is your subject, it’s her day, not yours.
Make sure your equipment is ready the day before. Your camera batteries better be charged the night before. Your lights all ready to go. Don’t look like a clumsy fool during your photography session, otherwise your subject will lose confidence in you and you will not capture that face.
Joke with your subject casually, not obnoxiously. Joking, especially mild humor relaxes the facial muscles. If you can’t do that, provide some chocolate, better yet, dark chocolate. Forget white chocolate. The idea is a relaxed face and make sure the clothing you select or ask her about is something she’s comfortable with, otherwise you’ll wind up with “tight face” images that are wasted time for you both.