The Go-To Model

Every photographer I know strives to get better each year. This means trying different lighting setups, locations, concepts and genres. This necessarily means photographing a model while attempting something different. It follows then that there is no guarantee of success.

Anne posing in her car while it was parked in my driveway.

Anne posing in her car while it was parked in my driveway.

No model wants to waste her time working with someone who is just learning. How then does one get better after practicing shooting family members? 

Bogart would have liked to work with this detective - I am certain of that!

Bogart would have liked to work with this detective - I am certain of that!

The answer is to find that rarest of the rare: the Go-To Model. This is someone who enjoys being with you, enjoys the creative process and helping you try new things on your path to improvement. 

Anne holding a smaller version of herself captive in a jar. This image is a composite of three images. The model needed to hold really still for this.

Anne holding a smaller version of herself captive in a jar. This image is a composite of three images. The model needed to hold really still for this.

For me, I found the perfect partner in my friend Anne from work. Based on what I know of Anne, I developed a list of attributes of the Go-To Model. Here is that list of qualities that make the Go-To Model someone really special: 

  1. She is willing to try new things.
  2. She makes the photographer look good. 
  3. She is available. 
  4. She is on time. 
  5. She prepares beforehand, bringing outfits with matching shoes and jewellery. 
  6. She knows how to buy clothes that look good on her. 
  7. She has no fear of the camera and the scads of lighting equipment. 
  8. She cannot be embarrassed. 
  9. She actually gets more beautiful each year. 
  10. She looks good from any angle. There is no "bad" side.
  11. Oddly, she may have no aspirations of becoming a model.
  12. She asks for nothing in return. 
  13. She does not tire easily. 
  14. She has curves in the right places to create dramatic shadows and highlights. 
  15. Her curly hair is a bonus if you want to learn how to composite. 
  16. She is capable of a great range of facial expressions, including a great inscrutable look, plus a great small, medium and big smile. 
  17. She effortlessly comes up with a vast array of great poses. 
  18. She takes direction well. 
  19. She never complains. 
  20. She has plenty of maturity and confidence. 
  21. She is not self centered. 
  22. She can get several different looks from the same outfit. 
  23. She is willing to help embellish your newsletter, if you have one. 
  24. She will help promote your photography.
  25. Her creativity helps you come up with new ideas. 
  26. She never retires - at least not until you do! 
There had to be a first time I tried using a blue gel on a light aimed at a grey background. Anne was there!

There had to be a first time I tried using a blue gel on a light aimed at a grey background. Anne was there!

On the downside, my Go-To Model Anne has an uncanny skill to blink while the shutter is open. After one shoot, I had to discard nearly 40 images because she blinked. However, I took 1,250 images that day. This remains a record. 

The mandatory mirror composite. Perfectly executed by the model.

The mandatory mirror composite. Perfectly executed by the model.

They say mystery lives in the shadows.  This is so true. If your model has the figure mentioned in #14 above, dramatic lighting really looks dramatic! A larger version of the following image can be seen in the Location gallery.

Some models just have "The Look." I love this mysterious, inscrutable expression.

Some models just have "The Look." I love this mysterious, inscrutable expression.

If you were to watch a video tutorial on Kelby Training by someone such as the German retoucher/photographer Calvin Hollywood, you might be eager to try his technique for compositing. Who do you call? The answer, and result is below. 

A composite of Anne against a building in Tucson, Arizona, made using Calvin Hollywood's technique.

A composite of Anne against a building in Tucson, Arizona, made using Calvin Hollywood's technique.

Wearing nearly the same outfit as in the image above, a Go-To Model can give a fantasy image zing! 

The idea for this came from a tutorial by Corey Barker on making artificial water and on making displacement maps.

The idea for this came from a tutorial by Corey Barker on making artificial water and on making displacement maps.

Another use of the same outfit - demonstrating principle #22 listed above. 

Another use of the same outfit - demonstrating principle #22 listed above. 

As mentioned in #15 above, if you like to composite models into various scenes, you need to become proficient at masking. You may as well start with the most difficult scenario, and learn to mask curly hair. 

Anne composited into a background from Singapore. The curly hair provides a good masking challenge, as noted in principle #15 above. 

Anne composited into a background from Singapore. The curly hair provides a good masking challenge, as noted in principle #15 above. 

If you happen to edit a newsletter about scarab beetles (the subject of a future blog post), such as Scarabs , she will help you embellish its pages:

Anne sporting the logo of the newsletter. 

Anne sporting the logo of the newsletter. 

Likewise, if you want to develop promotional images for your photography, she is there to help, along with her twin sister: 

What is better than one Anne? Two Annes! 

What is better than one Anne? Two Annes! 

How does one go about finding a Go-To Model? That will be the subject of a future blog post... if I ever discover the answer. For me, it was just dumb luck. But, they are out there.  Probably the best way to find one is to photograph a lot of people. If you find someone you really like, ask for another session. Soon, you may develop a special relationship with that person. Good luck!