Newbie Tips for Working with a Model


Fashion photography model tips

If you’ve ever tried taking pictures of someone (or something) that isn’t extremely cute and fluffy like a baby or a puppy, you’ll know it can sometimes be difficult to capture people in a flattering way. Some people are extremely shy or don’t like getting their picture taken. Others really do like having their pictures taken. Some even make a living getting their picture taken. They are called models, and today we are going to consider what it is like working with models.

Where can you find a model to practice with?

There are two ways to go about working with a model.

One way to find a model to work with is by going to a model website like Model Mayhem that connects models, photographers, makeup artists, etc. In fact, Model Mayhem is the best resource for up and coming photographers to find models, because a lot of beginning models are on there looking to build their portfolio and will trade their time for pictures (see section below). Check it out today and see who is in your area, ready to shoot. Be clear and specific about times, what you want to shoot, and what they will be receiving. Some sites have a lot of models to choose from, and if you are courteous and professional through correspondence, you can connect with a model and set up a shoot.

Fashion photography model tips

Another way to find a model is to ask around your town or city. There is a good chance there is someone in your town who has the looks or aspirations to do some modeling, whether it’s on a national scale or a local one. If you don’t know someone directly, simply ask around or a make a call out on Facebook. I remember when I was taking a lighting class and needed someone on short notice due to a cancellation. I put out a request on Facebook for a model as replacement and I had two subjects willing to step in within an hour. Some people really love having their pictures taken, it’s simply a matter of putting yourself out there.


Either way, if you have someone who is interested in posing for you, now you have to decide what arrangement benefits both of you.

Trading Time for Pictures or Prints

There is a great rule of thumb that goes something like this – if the model is benefitting the photographer’s portfolio only, the model should be getting paid. If the photographer is benefitting the model’s portfolio only, then the photographer should be getting paid. But if you are both benefitting each other, meaning you both are trying to build up a portfolio of images and you are both more at less at the same stages in your career, then you can do what is called Time for Prints, or TFP.

Fashion photography model tips

Time for prints means the model is giving up his or her time in exchange for images at the end of the collaboration. This could be called a “trade” or, in the commercial modeling world a “test shoot.” It is not expected that you are actually printing images and delivering them to the model. I believe that is a term left over from the glory days of film.

Model Release

When working with a model, it would be wise for you to obtain a model release form. You can find them easily on the web (here’s a PDF you can download immediately), and there are even a few great apps that you can download. I use an app called Easy Release, which is powerful and lets you and the model sign right on your smart phone or tablet.”

A model release form, when signed by the model, grants you the photographer legal permission to use the photos online or in advertising.

If you don’t get a model release, the model has the right to ask you to remove images from websites and even sue you if you end up making money using those photos without permission. I’ve personally never had issues when I’ve forgotten to bring along a model release, but it is always better to be prepared.

Fashion photography model tips

Picking a Location and an Outfit

Now that you’ve done all the prep work, where do you shoot? What should the model wear? This is where the fun begins!

It makes the most sense to either start planning with an outfit or with a location (assuming you aren’t shooting in a studio). If you start with an outfit, say a summery dress on a girl, then the location should probably match the outfit. Maybe think about shooting in a field, or the beach, or in the forest. If you have an amazing location in mind, like a great old building with Victorian architecture, then think about what outfit would match that setting best, in terms of colors, shape, patterns, etc.

Just to give you a few ideas about location, I’ve shot in abandoned buildings, under piers, in wheat fields, in flower fields, at vineyards, against brick walls, yellow walls, graffiti walls, in studios, in parks, on carousels, in casinos, and more.

fashion photography model tips

Working with a Model

The next (and final) step in working with a model is to simply begin shooting. If you have an experienced model, you won’t have to say much to them in terms of posing, because they will already know what to do. The best models I’ve worked with will actually change poses or expressions every time they hear the camera click, so you’re never getting duplicate images.

If you have an inexperienced model consider getting some posing inspiration from sites like Pinterest,fashion magazines, and right here on dPS. Do your homework. Look at lots of images, practice those poses yourself so you can articulate what you want from your model. Here are a few to get you started:

A fun and easy rule to remember is “make triangles with the body” (see photo below). How many triangles can the model make using legs, arms, and body? This advice works better on women than on men, by the way. Sometimes working with models means stretching them in ways that might not feel natural but can look awesome. The best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice. The more you shoot, the easier directing models becomes.

Fashion photography model tips

Now let’s see some of those model photos, please share your images in the comments below and if you have any questions please ask.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Phillip Van Nostrand built his photography business in Santa Barbara, CA and New York City, where he has shot over 140 weddings, countless head shots, and events for the past 9 years. Currently living in NY, he manages to travel abroad at least once a year and is up to 30 countries traveled. Published in the New York Times, Huffington Post, New York Times Magazine, featured in Santa Barbara Dining and Destinations Magazine, Cretus Mag, and San Diego Style Weddings magazine. You can connect with him on his blog and on instagram.

  • Geoff Smith

    Great tips! Thanks.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Anytime, Geoff! Hope some of that helped 🙂

  • Chris D

    I normally shoot sports but on occasion shoot individuals (not models) and am interested in learning different poses. I see above the “make triangles with the body” comment. I have never heard of this but can see the reference in a couple of the pictures in this article. Could you elaborate or point me in the right direction to learn more. I have looked the referenced article as well, like the tips from them too. Thanks!

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Hi Chris! Thanks for commenting 🙂 If you examine closely, you can see in the last photo on the blog the model is making at least 4 triangles with her body. A triangle with the right leg and the bench, a triangle with the right arm and knee and head, a triangle with the right arm knee and waist, a triangle with the left arm and knee and waist, and an INVISIBLE triangle with the right leg and ground and waist.

    Basically, make sharp contact points. They define the body, define the clothing, and make the photo more interesting. I hope that helps. You can start examining images in fashion magazines or on Pinterest and look for those triangles 🙂

  • Barry E Warren

    Thanks for sharing this, I like the Idea of TFP. I just had someone contact me on FB and asked I I needed someone she would model. This couldn’t have came at a better time.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Barry, that’s fantastic- One of the things I should have mentioned in the article is to simply get to know your model as a person and chat with them beforehand so they can relax. I don’t even use my camera for the first 10-15 minutes. Have fun!

  • Amaryllis

    Useful tips! I really like shooting portraits but I’m not confident enough in myself to actually try contacting models… so I try on my friends when they’ll willing to let me practice. I often lack inspiration to direct them, though. It’s either that, or I have a great idea but we’re in the middle of winter and it can’t happen in this season… In any case, thanks a lot for the tips, definitely saving this page to my favorites!

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Amaryllis, hi! Thanks for reading 🙂 I have two thoughts about your response. First of all, keep on shooting! The more you practice, the more inspiration/confidence you will gain in directing others. I’m pretty sure I’ve done something like 500 or 1000 portrait sessions by now. It takes time to feel good about it, but you’ll start to pick up tricks or notice things that look good over and over again (like a girl brushing her hair back with one hand, or telling someone to turn their shoulder towards you and lean down a little bit).

    Also, in the winter time you can always shoot indoors and do some moody window light photos. Some of my favorite model/fashion images are shot in natural window light.

  • Marvens Compere

    Thanks for this article, i just started inviting some friends to pose for me and here is one of them. but i did not sign a model realease i will do this next time because is very important. I need your critics plz.

  • Marvens Compere

    Thanks for this article, i just started inviting some friends to pose
    for me and here is one of them. but i did not sign a model realease i
    will do this next time because is very important. I need your critics

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    This photo looks great! I love the style and her look 🙂 Nice job on creating “triangles” with the body. One thing that I always notice now on MY photos is how the light hits the face and where the shadows are. I notice the light by her ear and the light on her chest is a little “hot” and I would try to avoid that if I can by using a scrim (

    That’s the only thing I can think of that I would change- Otherwise the picture is really strong. I like the angle that you posed her in, and the composition too. Nice work!

  • Great article Phillip! This is some great advice and can certainly help anyone who needs models for shoots but doesn’t know where to start 🙂

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Hi Julie!! You rock 🙂

  • Marvens Compere

    Thank you a lot Bro

  • Yuebi Yang

    Hi Phillip. Thanks for the tips. As an amateur photographer who is mostly interested in portraiture, the article was really helpful. I do find it tricky to find people to model for me but I will definitely have a look at some modelling websites now that you’ve suggested them!

    If you could have a look at my work and give me any comments, I’d really appreciate it.

  • Rikki

    Great article. I just asked my friend who has a son that is a senior.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Great website Yuebi! I love your dance pictures and your portraits of Hannah. Also the Oxford Gargoyles made me laugh 🙂

    You have a really strong start and I think you have a lot of good models! I’m sure you will find more and more people to shoot with. Good luck!

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    This is a great portrait Rikki!

  • Guest

    Didn’t know bout creating triangles until now but looking at a photo I took a while back, I must say, it does work.

  • Didn’t know bout creating triangles until now but looking at a photo I took a while back, I must say, it does work.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Exactly! Sweet shot- 🙂

  • Thank you!

  • I’ll join in with those who have already commented, I never thought about triangles. Nice point. Now I’m sure I’m going to be seeing triangles all day. Thanks for the tips!

  • Anthony James Bennett

    Great advice, thank you. I used MM when I got to Thailand for my first two models. After that getting models was so easy as every one knows everyone else in The Bangkok model network. The girls were so easy and fun to work with and friendships were formed.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    That’s cool, Anthony! I tried using Model Mayhem while traveling through Eastern Europe last year but my schedule was so unpredictable I couldn’t pull it off. I bet you have a ton a great images though

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Haha triangles everywhere!

  • I planned my schedule around my shoot Phillip. I booked the models and the studio when I was still in China. The studio cost 7000 baht for 4 hours ($150). That studio and those models were my first ever model shoot. I had so much fun and got some amazing shots (in my opinion). I posted a shot from my first ever shoot. Hope you like.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Very nice, Anthony!

  • Rikki

    Thank you, Phillip!

  • Good article.
    The tips and the legalities are really helpful.

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing, Krishna Bv!

  • DeLouis EnZo White II

    Some shots I took of my wife in our living room…that red silk backdrop is actually our front window curtain….I love this site

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    That’s a great backdrop! Great shot, too 🙂 What light source did you use?

  • DeLouis EnZo White II

    Thanks I used a large softbox on her left side and the umbrella light on the right beaming downwards and the external camera flash with the white.cone light diffuser…thanks for accepting my Facebook request too

  • DeLouis EnZo White II

    Wife shoot

  • Nik Raval

    Nice tips and most importantly thank you for that model release form …
    I’d like to know what you think of the shot below? I contacted this model though MM

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    Nice, man! Love her eyes and hair!

  • Phillip Van Nostrand

    hi Nik! Nice use of the triangles here 🙂 Cool concept shooting at the cemetery, I like it. The editing is nice, too, it matches the feel of the photo. I wouldn’t change much except maybe I’d want to see a little more of her face. If she tilted just slightly towards you I wonder what that would look like.

    Great execution and really original idea! Nice work- Phil

  • V Flatline

    Great read learned a lot from this website. Check out my photography company iPAVE based out of NYC

  • Michael Owens

    Great old article, full of info! Here’s a recent shoot I did. Actually first time I’ve shot using professional models.

    I actually utilised some of the info here! DPS has severely helped ME grow as a photographer.

  • ?mber Rose Plaster

    I have to say the biggest technical problem I’ve had as a print model with photographers has been communication on set. I think they must be shy or distracted with camera settings a lot, but it’s hard to hear instructions with that camera in your face. Take it down, give me an instruction (I won’t move) and then put the camera back in your face! I can’t hear you!! (Most times). And then I scrunch up my face and my body tenses, trying to hold the pose I think you like while trying to sort out what you’re trying to tell me.
    Also, tell us if your eyeliner smears or our hair is doing something weird. We *assume* you’re looking out for that if there’s not Hair/MUA on the shoot.

    Hope that helps!

  • ?mber Rose Plaster

    This is a good shot. The model is lovely. She looks a *little* posed, but her jawline and face is relaxed, which is great! I think the only thing I would change is the leaves in the middle background and her neckline are a little blown out (Winter White is a hard color to shoot). The shoes are little out of focus (not sure if that was intentional), the angles look great. I might suggest replacing the big (*almost* distracting) earrings, with a long, thin metallic necklace that elongates her neck, and creates another “layer”. Also, your logo on the bottom left is so large and bright, my eyes keep roaming to it, instead of the model’s face (not sure if that was intentional). Lovely image! Hope this helps!

  • ?mber Rose Plaster

    LOVE this. Great angles and interesting perspective. Wish I could see her eyes a teeny bit more but the beautiful hair light makes up for it. Nice!

  • Mark

    Hey, very cool article!

    I wrote something like this some time ago as well as I thought there is quite a lot to learn when you start out and it’s good to have any help you can get.

    So in order for shameless self-advertising, here it is in case you want some more tips on shooting with models:

  • John Paul Dumalan

    nice article…

  • Philippos Kaiafas

    Here’s a recent photo i took during a TVC shoot hope you like it ! thank you for all the incredible articles , tips and tutorials !

  • Chip Riggs
  • Neal O’Bryan

    I had my first two modeling shoots a few months ago and I really struggled with articulating the poses. I was constantly going to my computer to show examples and it did not feel very professional. I am happy with some of the results though.

  • roger ramjet
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