As a portrait, branding, and boudoir photographer, one concern I hear from nearly every client or potential client is “I Am Not a Model”, brought up usually at the beginning of our first conversation. Sounds very familiar, isn’t it? If I have to guess, you probably voiced that concern yourself at least once before. Well, to that I could reply simply with: ‘You don’t have to be a model. I will hold your hand, guide, and direct you throughout the session so that you look and feel sensational’. Because that is exactly what I will be doing.
However, what if, instead, I tell you that not being a model actually plays IN YOUR FAVOR? That’s where you’d probably get a little lost. How does it make any sense, you’d think to yourself? In reality, it’s actually much easier for a portrait photographer to work with someone who isn’t a professional model than with someone who is. Why? Because a great portrait is all about your personality and reflecting on your brilliant, weird, quirky, honest self. So while your pose is still important, your emotional state at this exact moment is what we are after! That’s what is going to lend itself to the essential authenticity of your portraits.
Naturally, you are going to be much better at showing real emotions than a professional model. They already have a trademark ‘image’ that gets them hired. That image comes with a certain look, an adopted posing style, and a signature walk that gets them to the fashion show podiums. But try to remember how many times you saw anything other than a commercial smile or a straight face in a fashion magazine or a printed ad. ‘Never’ would be correct.
Enters muscle memory. It is a great challenge to be able to significantly re-pose a professional model, and it only gets harder when in addition to changing their assumed pose we are trying to evoke emotions in them. Ask any model and her non-commercial photographer, and they will both admit to that struggle. Even if I win at this game of ‘wills’, it will be a very short-lived win, and the light in the eyes and in the face will be gone right after the first click. The face will go back to being beautiful and non-descriptive. The pose will revert to one of their signature poses. They aren’t doing it on purpose, of course, but the muscle memory proves stronger than anything. The same thing sometimes goes for actors. Think about Disney princess characters, for example. It takes months to get back actor’s normal walk and vocal intonations. To that, I can attest personally. After playing Brigitta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music for three months, my daughter kept walking around with her hands behind her back. It took ‘only’ about 6 months of constant reminders to help her get rid of that muscle memory! Can you imagine? Ouch!
Now, the next time you are concerned with ‘not being a model material’, remember that professional modeling is both a blessing and a curse. And, with the help of an awesome portrait photographer, you have a much greater chance to totally rock your portrait session than a professional model does…