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INTERACTING WITH MODELS (During Erotic Art Photo-shoots)

By Association Member Robert Babylon.

Overview

The key to working with models during an erotic art photo-shoot is having respect and consideration for them, understanding who they are and what they want to achieve, and for this being able to ‘read’ and empathise with people is a very helpful skill.

For as long as I can remember I have been very comfortable in the company of women, many of my closest friends are women as was my best ‘man’ at my wedding. Perhaps it’s something in my genetic make-up or perhaps it’s because I went to a girls’ school, or more accurately my year was the first intake of boys into what had previously been a girls’ grammar school.

I wouldn’t claim that every shoot I have worked on has been a perfect success or that my relationship with every model I have ever met has been completely harmonious. I work hard during a shoot and I expect the same from my models, I have little time for divas and prima-donnas nor the work-shy, but even then some people, however good they are at what they do, simply don’t get on.

For that reason choosing models from amongst your circle of friends means that you will be off on a good start to interacting well with your model. Most of my art models are close friends.

Different models work in different ways, some perform best with detailed direction and some like to be left alone to get on with it, so choosing a suitable model for your shooting style and for the shoot itself is important. All of which means that building a working relationship with models is a good idea, or being able to ‘read’ people very quickly from initial communication.

A common misconception is that erotic and fetish photography degrades the model. I have never found this to be the case. The models I have worked with have, almost without exception found it to be an empowering experience. The images being created are important, individually crafted images that reflect the personality of the model never degrade or insult.

Some people think that having a semi-naked or naked model pose in front of them must be a very erotic experience. It seems like a cliché but I have seldom really found it so, as I’ve been too busy composing and creating the image. I know if the image I’m creating is an erotic one but I am detached from the feeling myself.

Before the Shoot

Before the shoot, communicate with your model, and make the communication more than simply setting date and time. Find out what they are like, what their modelling limits are and what sort of photographs they want from the session.

If you don’t meet until the day of the shoot you can still communicate by e-mail, phone or even text. Most of my models are personal friends, which makes understanding their needs and requirements far simpler.

If you are paying for a model then it is reasonable to expect them to be willing and able to create the sorts of shots that you have negotiated for them to provide. The case of Time For Prints (TFP, or more recently Time For CD) shoots is more complex.

Ensuring that models get the sort of images that they want from a TFP photoshoot is something I feel is very important. Not least because when people have a stake in what they are doing they are happier and work harder, and this always shows in photographs; and after all, if both of you are investing time and effort in a shoot it’s only fair that both of you should benefit from it.

Always allow models to bring a chaperone to a shoot (in some cases I’ve also found it appropriate for me to have a chaperone of my own on a shoot); but do retain a tight control of who the chaperone is. Jealous partners or relatives are not ideal chaperones for this sort of work.
Check a model’s references and always offer yours for them to check in return.

Let the model know what is expected of them during the shoot and what they can expect from you in terms of images.

During the shoot

If you are using a digital camera show the model the images that you are creating as the shoot progresses. This way the model will feel comfortable about what you can see and how they look. Be prepared to delete any that the model is unhappy with.

It has been suggested to me more than once that photographers, particularly in the field of erotic photography, shouldn’t touch their models. This is too easy and sweeping a statement since touching to adjust costume, or give direction can be a useful tool during a shoot. Therefore it would be accurate to say that all touch between photographer and model during a shoot must be appropriate and negotiated. Find out if your model minds being touched to be positioned; always ask and never touch a model unexpectedly.

Give clear instructions, be polite and understanding and think how you would feel if you were in your model’s position. Encourage, praise and improve, don’t criticise.

After the shoot

Say thank you.

If possible review the images taken during the session so that the model can see what images you have recorded. In some cases it also helps to review the images on a large screen during the session. Listen to the model’s opinions about the images.

Send the model any images that you have agreed to send them, and send them without undue delay.

© Robert Babylon 2009

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