There’s so much involved in making great photographs with models. Of course there is the technical and aesthetic considerations that go into making any visual a powerful one. But one of the most, if not most important thing to consider is your relationship with your talent.
Over the years of teaching workshops, I’ve noted the different ways in which photographers communicate with their models. Some are very collaborative from the beginning, explaining in detail what they want before ever making an image. Others like to turn their models loose and explore what happens without saying much at all. Whichever way you choose to start, however, how you communicate during the course of shooting can make a big difference in the outcome of the session.
One thing to pay attention to is how you nurture the creative collaboration by either saying yes or no. That is, when you ask for someone to do something and it is not what you had in mind, do you say “No, don’t turn so much.” Or do you say, “That’s good, now try turning back a little bit.” The difference is subtle but important in that when you say yes, you are telling your model that their ideas are good and encouraging them to explore. Continuing that process of positive reinforcement will add substantially to the energy they bring to the creative process and pay off with better images.
Another thing to think about is language. We are all the sum of our experiences, and our background in terms of where we grew up and the language we use has an impact on our talent, just as it does in the rest of our lives. Words that may have been fine to use in our past, for example, may no longer be socially or politically correct.
Recently, one of the participants in a workshop, when a model would do something he liked would say, “Good girl.” After the workshop was over and I followed up with all the talent, one of the models said something to me about it. She said that she felt the words were degrading and changed the working dynamic she had with this photographer.
Now, this is a person whom I spent a good amount of time with and I know him to be a kind, considerate and sensitive person without a sexist bone in his body. So the only assumption I could make was that this was just a term he grew up with, and saw no harm in using.
Have I done the same sort of thing, using words that might not fall well on someone else’s ears? Certainly. Having grown up in New York where being direct is the norm, but not nearly as welcome in other cultures, I’m sure of it. It’s only through self reflection and friendly feedback, though, that I’ve learned to measure what I say based on whom I am talking to.
My point here is that we should always be looking to improve our communication skills to create a positive, mutually beneficial relationship at all times. Your creative collaboration and resulting images depend upon it.