Staying Natural in Front of the Lens: Model Behavior

Being Natural in front of the lens on Lighting Essentials

Briana Shaker adds a new article on having fun and getting the job done. It is good reading for photographers and models alike. More after the jump as they say.

I want to take a few minutes and let everyone know how much I appreciate the great emails and comments you are all making on the site. And to my workshop attendees, I can only tell you how amazingly humble it makes me feel that you come to the workshops. I work hard to make them pretty special. And the feedback seems to indicate that you feel the same way. Thank you.

I am preparing next years schedule and want to get that up as soon as possible. This week for sure… (yeah… we’ll see – ed) but know that I am on it.

We still have openings for Boston (1), Pittsburgh (2), Vegas (4) and Boise (2). The Toronto and Florida workshops are full at this time. Woohoo! If you are thinking about getting toned up for the holidays, come on down and join our merry band of talented photographers.

I want to link to a few articles that I have been excited about on other blogs.

A Photo Editor has a wonderful interview with Sam Jones, and editorial portrait shooter.
Sam Jones Part 1
Sam Jones Part 2

Heather Morton’s Blog is just a fantastic source of great information. This post on Email marketing by photographers is a great read.

David Hobby (Strobist) has a timely article on creating a color pallete for your work. It is something a lot of photographers don’t think about, but they should.

Selina Maitreya’s audio book is now available on her site. Wow… it is a fantastic look into the world of creating a kick-ass portfolio, finding your voice, and living your life with photography. Check out the free chapter and you will be sold.

And Robert Wright has a post on the use of digitally alteration and the news on his great blog Wrighting.

BTW, my friend Kirk Tuck has a new book out, Commercial Photography Handbook: Business Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers, for those of you thinking about starting out in the crazy world of commercial photography. I will be reviewing it soon, but I think you should check it out as a great source book for the move into commercial.

Well, let’s get on with Bri’s great new article on having fun and being professional in front of the lens.

Say, “Cheese?” Please… Say, “Natural.”

“Amateurs focus on the model, pros focus on the shot.” – Don Giannatti

By Briana Shaker

As Don says, pros will focus on the shot, so if as the model, you’re bringing the “cheese”, it’ll disrupt the shot. It’s about blending or contrasting with the environment, harmony or disharmony, but never amateur. For instance, if the shot is comprised of some form of architecture with numerous vertical lines, the model can either stand tall and reflect the image, maintaining the shot’s feel or work horizontal or angular lines to create a disjointed shot, making both aspects stand out so it “pops.” But the amateur? The amateur smiles likes she’s on vacation. Just think of the stereotypical “ignorant American tourist” complete with Hawaiian shirt, camera, and straw hat. True, he stands out. But not in a good way… he’s best… behind the lens, right, Don? ;) Or even think Florida. Spring Break. Drunk girl. Big smile. Good for MTV, but not for the runway. (You got a problem with Hawaiian shirts, kid? –ed)

In front of this bush as a design element, the photographer wanted a lot of lines to break the symmetry.

In front of this bush as a design element, the photographer wanted a lot of lines to break the symmetry.

Socialization

Now why do we act so cheesy when first in front of the lens? Simple. It’s natural. It’s how we were raised. Our parents pointed a camera and said, “Smile!” And thus we smiled. We’re conditioned to behave this way. A philosopher I once read wrote that we see the world before we name it. And it is those names that label or place something in its category. We see a camera and we say cheese. Conversely, we want to be models and we see a camera and we exaggerate our looks. But which is right? Or is there a better place? Somewhere in the middle? Or… is it as I suggest? A chameleon effect? That effect where the professional model knows how to blend and how to make something stand out. Yet, how does she do it?

Having Fun with the Moment can loosen everyone up!

Having Fun with the Moment can loosen everyone up!

Au Natural

Now some shoots, like high fashion, demand such exaggeration, but, equally, some shoots prefer that “girl-next-door” look or the “lifestyle” image to gain a desired effect. Yet those shots never really seem natural do they? You really think that woman in the Wal-Mart ad hangs out with her friends in their underwear smiling at each other? Sorry guys don’t hate me, but we don’t. But it works. It blends with the environment created in the ad and it plays on stereotypes to stand out and thus get a desired effect… you to buy the product. The point is that modeling is seemingly anything but natural, but a good model can train her self to do it… naturally. Because it actually is something very basic and something we all already know how to do. Make sense?

Here we are being silly in a coffin in Jerome, Arizona

Here we are being silly in a coffin in Jerome, Arizona

And here we are being a bit more serious in the image. Jerome, Arizona

And here we are being a bit more serious in the image. Jerome, Arizona

Retail Clerks and Baristas

Now some people really do like their jobs and are naturally cheery, but… we know it’s false… no one is that happy. But we can still learn something here. The clerk or barista gets us to buy. And we expect them to be overly happy. They stand out. But we remember the coffee, not the guy who whipped our latte. So they blend too (metaphorical joke intended.) That’s natural. The clerk is what we expect, annoyingly there to start us a dressing room, but that’s where her role leaves off. We still have to try the stuff on. The barista is there to wish us a good morning, but doesn’t come with us to make sure it is truly a good morning. But they are what we expect and what we want; a natural part of the process. They got us to look at the products and thus buy.

This ad for Apricot Lane called for me to be a bit more aloof.

This ad for Apricot Lane called for me to be a bit more aloof.

A model is the same. We’re there to sell a product. Early in our careers we’re selling ourselves in the portfolios we create for agencies to view. And later, we’re there to sell the product our agents set up for us to sell. For instance, I just finished a campaign for a gum manufacturer. Will my name roll in the credits? No. I was just paid to bring attention to the product. To get potential customers to look and then get them to see what I have to sell. And I did my job well. It comes naturally.

In these ads I was to act like a Volleyball Player in the middle of the woods. It was an ad that focused on not using up natural resources by using software instead.

In these ads I was to act like a Volleyball Player in the middle of the woods. It was an ad that focused on not using up natural resources by using software instead.

Model Naturally: A Guide

  • Environment – the set – what is it? A Zen garden? Then feel it. Be Zen.
  • Assumptions – the theme. What is it? Zen? If so it makes you think of Zen’s purpose in our lives. Most people are stressed and need a moment of happiness. Zen offers happiness. If it’s linked to the product. Then show that connection. If chewing gums leads to Zen… show it!
  • Curiosity – it’s a natural thing. So use it. Let people formulate their own opinions… well, opinions you lead them to see through your manipulation of their assumptions. If your look arouses curiosity in the viewer, they’ll look at what you’re doing. And want in.
  • Draw Attention to Self – seem a part of the experience. Be one with the set, product, and theme. If you’re part of it and seem that way, it’s believable. So act the part… believe you’re there.
  • Draw in Viewer – make them feel as part of the experience too. Let them know if they have what you have, then they too will experience what you experience.
  • Know the product – knowledge is power. The more you know about what you’re selling the more you’ll be able to sell it. It allows you to enter the world of the individual that is using the product. It’s hers. It’s yours. And soon… it will be the consumer’s.
  • Fashion is Exaggeration – Naturally

    Yes, fashion models stand out. But that’s natural. When we buy clothes it’s not because we want to hide. We don’t shop at ninja stores, seeking the best camouflage for our night out clubbing. No we shop for the look that makes us “look” good. We want to stand out. We want to be seen. Now how does a model do the same? If she just wore the clothes would we see the clothes? Or do her exaggerated poses make us pay attention to the lines of those clothes? The colors? Do we see the product and not the model? Quick test: open your Victoria Secret catalog. Turn to page 7. Look. Now shut quickly. What color was her bra? What color were her eyes? Gotcha ;)

    In Nova Scotia, Don and I found this great bridge. Contrasting the straight lines with lots of curves and attitude was my job. This was really early in the morning and it was chilly for us desert folk!

    In Nova Scotia, Don and I found this great bridge. Contrasting the straight lines with lots of curves and attitude was my job. This was really early in the morning and it was chilly for us desert folk!

    Conclusion

    Nature is about adapting. Evolution if you will. And being natural is the same. It’s about evolving to meet the needs of the environment you find yourself in. The carnivore stands out and the herbivore blends. The model can naturally be both. It’s as simple as pretending we’re something other than what we really are… a process we are all quite good at: The world’s a stage and we all play our parts. Now go play yours, sell some stuff, and make some money ;)

    Just relaxing and being myself was the catalyst for Don shooting this series.

    Just relaxing and being myself was the catalyst for Don shooting this series.

    P.S. This article is dedicated to the Canadian photographers I met recently in Toronto.

    Thanks Bri. Glad you are having a great time up in the Cold North.

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About 

This is a place for photographers.

Hi, I'm wizwow - also known as Don Giannatti. Photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amhearst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and e-zine with a slightly different slant than most photography related sites. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out Project 52 Pros.

Thanks for visiting.

1 Comment

  1. Great article. The photographs complement what you are saying well. I really liked the volleyball shot. Playing in the woods is so out-of-place, but it does leave a somewhat subconscious image or feel for what the add is trying to convey. I do not think you would have gotten that with your typical beach volleyball setting. But, that is the setting. From the model’s standpoint, you need to convey that you might be a pro volleyball player to add to the credibility of the shot. At this point I am somewhat rambling on how that one shot affected me. One of the other shots I loved was you and the other model in the coffin. That just appealed to my nature. The bridge shot was also good with the way you “connected” with the other elements of the shot. Great article.

    Doug