Directing the models

successful mOdel directiOn comes down to a few key factors—the professional level of the model, experience, and how comfortable they feel. First and foremost, a shoot’s environment should be physically as comfortable as possible for everyone involved, especially as they are usually long days.

In order to get the best out of your models they should understand clearly what is being asked of them. It pays to share your shoot ideas with your models on the day or, if possible, before the day of shoot so that they understand the themes and concepts you want to capture. It is also useful to bring along visual references such as tear sheets or printouts with poses you find interesting.

When I’m planning a shoot, I often
create a role for the model, who is then cast appropriately. On the day of the shoot I tell the model who she’s going to be and how she should act. A good model will understand your requests and work with you toward your chosen theme.

One of the most important roles of the photographer is guiding the models correctly. You need to constantly encourage their movements or tell them when it isn’t working— all models will appreciate this! You should also give them reference points—for example, pointing out the source of light and how this falls on their faces. Keep your requests simple, as small suggestions can work wonders.

If there is a client on-set, or an art director leading the shoot, he or she will also be responsible for how the model is performing. Although care should be taken to ensure that the models don’t get confusing direction from two separate sources. 


  • Show the models your themes/visual direction before the shoot.

  • Encourage and compliment the models as they’re posing.

  • Frequently show the models the images on the back of the camera or the computer.

  • Provide refreshment for your models to keep them hydrated and energized.

  • Play upbeat music.

  • Make sure your location is neither too hot

    or too cold.

  • Mirror the models—show them the poses you want!

  • Take regular breaks throughout the day.