Now that the Digital Single Lens Reflex or DSLR Camera has become more accessible to more users, these days have also seen the proliferation of photographers who want to be the next Richard Avedon or the new Mario Testino. Add to that the hordes of young women who want to become the next Anna Bayle or Bessie Badilla, and you have a situation where any amateur photographer can pair up with an amateur model to try and produce a portfolio for the photographer and a set card for the model, oftentimes as an exchange deal.

I have heard of stories where models fall prey to the pseudo-photographer who had the idea that if he had a big black camera, women would throw themselves at him. Unfortunately, some unsuspecting young lasses have done just that. Amidst this paisley print of fauxtogs and nubile potential Gisele Bundchens are the earnest newbie photographers who have no idea of how to treat a model right. In fact, one of them has asked for my advice on how photographers should behave with their models, and because of that I have written this list.

Before we proceed I must say that I wrote this list more from the point of view of a mother with a daughter than of a photographer who shoots models every now and then. I shoot portraits, mostly, and more often than not I do so with my mentor Rolly Magpayo. It is with his advice through almost three years of mentorship and good friendship that I have learned these tips that I share with you here.


1. Respect your model. Treat her like you want any other guy to treat your own sister. Or your favorite female cousin if you don’t happen to have a sister. This applies whether you are paying your model or working with her on an exchange deal. Respect your model.

2. Be professional. Give your model a definite call time (say “2pm”, for example, but not “between 1 and 3 pm”). This will give her enough time to prepare her own gear, especially if she is her own MUA. Models take time in preparing themselves, so that they can look good for you.

3. Back to rule #1. Respect your model. If you feel you have to help direct her or help her fix her hair or any part of her dress, ask permission before you touch her. Better yet, just tell her where the problem is, and ask if she can set it right herself.

4. Be prepared. Know what poses you want beforehand and make sure you know how to do the pose so you can demonstrate it to your model in case your model is a newbie. Don’t spend too much time chimping. Chimping makes your model wonder if she’s doing something wrong.

5. Give the model time to rest. 15 to 30 minutes straight shooting can also be tiring for the model. You think she’s just standing there? Nope. She is emoting, she is responding to whatever cues you give her. She is also trying to stay beautiful despite the heat or whatever discomfort your amateur set exudes.

6. Your model is a model, not a mind reader. She will find it easier to respond if you give her clear cues or instructions.

7. Be nice, be friendly, but not too friendly. Do not make crass jokes to try and make her smile. Even before the shooting session, make sure you spend some time getting to know her, so that you will know what to talk about during the shoot. Find out what makes her smile, so she can smile beautifully for your camera.

8. Be positive. Don’t say words like “pangit ang pose mo (I don’t like your pose)” or “hindi ko gusto ang hair mo (I don’t like your hair)“. Emphasize the positive, and give positive instructions. If she strikes a pose that you don’t fancy, say “Can you pose like this instead?” and then show her what you want.

9. Share your shots. If you think you got a good one, show the LCD to your model. It will encourage her to help you get better shots. If you are shooting for her set card and/or your portfolio, share with her ONLY your best shots — never show her the bad ones, that can be discouraging for her and not very good for you.

10. Make sure your model gets home safe. If you picked her up from a meeting point, take her back there and ask her to text you when she gets home just so you know she’s safe. Girls like that.

Merce Grace Raquel
Merce Grace Raquel

And when it’s time to post photos online on Facebook or here on the forum — post only the GOOD ones, the ones where she looks stunning. She will remember that you made her look very beautiful in her photos and she will want to work with you again. Better yet, she will recommend you to her friends who might also be looking for photographers to do their set cards.

I’m sure other professional photographers will have their own rules to share, and I would appreciate it if they could share them here as comments.

Hope I’ve managed to help an aspiring photographer out there start out on the right foot with models. 🙂

How to treat your photography model

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