Working with non-model subjects - Weekend

Working with non-model subjects

Albert PedrosaAlbert Pedrosa
Photo Mania

ONE of the more difficult challenges when shooting non-models, whether for portrait, corporate or commercial shoots, is to make them look natural.

Most of the time, they’ll carry on with their smiles, but they sure look like cold as a block of ice. I totally understand the feeling of being in the center of it all when you have to trigger that look that the photographer wants in an instant.

Posing for a shoot is definitely not as easy as how pro models do. There’s a mental processing of re-enacting an experience so the entire posture and facial muscles will accord to the fake scenario. In common terms, this is called acting skills. The good thing is unlike video where there’s motion and sound, in photography it’s just a state of projecting that look.

When shooting non-models, I make it a point that I throw some casual conversation with the subject and talk about personal stuff just before the shoot. This is also the time for me to introduce myself and how I came to be a photographer. I also use this time to study the face of the subject and find their best angle.

When giving them instructions, try to give them the general look that you’re after. Don’t go into details and overload them with instructions.

The moment you do that, your subject will be mechanical and the entire body will reset into default posture waiting for your instruction. You will lose that natural posture.

I believe that everybody is a natural. You would know if it looks weird, you feel awkward. I always let my subject work with me and establish two-way communication during the shoot. I also make sure that I’m in command with that relationship so I can direct and bring it to where we need to go.

I find it really effective that the photographer should carry the emotion that the set requires. If you want your subject to feel good about themselves and project a natural confident smile, you need to help them become that person by doing it yourself while shooting. Smiling just like laughing is contagious.

During the actual shooting, I guide them and offer encouragement while they’re projecting their pose. I do this as I take photos. I also let them imagine and replace the camera as somebody they know – maybe a friend, lover or family. Again, pace your instructions. Do not overload and create stress.

Just like everybody, we all have personalities and we respond to certain triggers. It’s a good idea to learn from every subject that you work with. Develop a bag of tricks to find out which one works for your subject. Always maintain a strong line of communication.

Oh, just to clarify, pro models are a totally different species. They don’t need all this effort to strike a perfect pose. This is what they do for a living. The weirder they come, the better they are. Keep on shooting, everyone!

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