Modeling – What a great word! But just what does it mean?! Everyone will have their own definition, idea, and perception of what modeling is or what they believe it to be, however, I simplify it to really one concept. Communication. Pure and simple. As a photographer, my goal when behind the camera is to capture an image that “speaks” to me and ultimately to an audience. For a model, his/her goal is the same – to express oneself in a way that has an effect upon the viewer. The model communicates to the viewer with body language and facial expressions. So I have 3.5 secrets that you can use to enhance your current modeling skills!
Secret #1. Modeling is not about posing. Modeling is about bringing an inner emotion/feeling outward in a body expression. You naturally model everyday based on how you ‘feel’. If you feel happy, you model happy. If you’re sad, you model sadness. As a model, your most valuable skill will be the ability to ‘attach’ to an emotion so that your body can ‘model’ it. AND stay in character!
Tip: Practice in the mirror to observe yourself ‘feeling’ emotions. When you do this, pay attention to the differences in how the facial features change, how your posture affects your display of the emotion.
Secret #2. Build awareness in the world of emotions. You must become aware of the full range of possible emotions so that you can identify them when you see it. Distinguish the small details among emotions and catalog what they look like in your ‘mental toolbox’. For example, the ‘shocked’ emotion is very similar to ‘amazed’, however, there is a slight subtle difference in the way the eyes express because of the context, i.e. the situation in which you’d have those emotions.
Tip: Try watching TV or a movie with the sound turned off. Observe and try to imagine what they are trying to communicate. Are they using their eyes? Body? Is the person facing toward or away from the other actor? Even better if you have the capability to rewind the scene with the volume on to determine if your assessment was accurate or close.
Secret #3. Learn the vocabulary of emotions. The better knowledge you have about words used to describe emotions the easier it will be to communicate with your photographer! Imagine if I ask a model to give me a ‘melancholic’ expression and he/she says “um, what’s that?” Now, I have to find other words in order for the model to understand what my photographic vision entails and that could translate to more time wasted. Time wasted is money wasted! Photographers love models that don’t waste time! As a model you not only need to master control over your body and facial expressions, you also need to learn how to communicate verbally so that you can be a high-valued talent that gets booked again! Your language skills and vocabulary will help you be that kind of talent. The faster that you can translate ‘word’ into an ‘emotion’ will be a measurement of your modeling skills. Near-instantaneous is ideal. Needing longer than 15 seconds to ‘feel’ or display the emotion is too long.
Tip: An Internet search for “list of vocabulary words for emotions” is a great starting point to learn new words and review already learned words. Challenge your fellow models and friends to display their interpretation of the emotions. See how many different emotions can be displayed in 30 seconds! Alternatively, you can choose an emotion at random to express and have them guess which one you were trying to emote.
Secret #3.5. Broaden your experience by studying techniques from acting to make you a better model. I believe wholeheartedly, that modeling is acting and vice versa. Too many talents get hung up on labels and believing they are a ‘model’ and do not do ‘acting’. Or the reverse, “I’m only interested in acting, not modeling.” Really? What a waste! As a photographer, I primarily care about what I can capture in an image, not what you call yourself. A talent agent would feel the same, too. If the agent can book a talent for a modeling job, a TV commercial and a feature film, would the agent really care what you call yourself? Nope. So branch out! Try new things, learn techniques to express, interact, and communicate!
I hope that you’ve found these secrets and tips helpful! In my years of photographing models, I personally have felt more fulfilled when models are great communicators. Every photo shoot and project is a collaboration among models, photographers, make-up artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, creative directors, and so many others. Without great communication, chaos would ensue! Your participation as model is the final home stretch of making those images a reality, so hopefully you get that chance! “Keep Calm and Model On!” Francis Chau, Professional Photographer