For young and aspiring photographers, even the idea of working with models who aren’t friends or family members can be more than a little daunting.
There can be a lot of questions about whether to dictate poses, how much time should be spent in a specific area, and a million other little details that come up when the model actually steps in front of the camera for the first time.
If you find yourself in the dark about how to photograph a model, fear not! We interviewed professional Photographic Producer Olivia Oliver, who has worked with companies like Mont Blanc and Sony Music and fashion magazines, including Schon & TEETH Magazine.
Oliver’s work has taken her all around the world, and her art photography has attracted significant attention from galleries and audiences alike.
Most importantly, she has worked with many models and photographic subjects throughout her career, and during the interview, she shared all kinds of tips and advice that will no doubt be useful to experienced and inexperienced photographers alike.
When was the first time you worked with a model? Was it intimidating in any way?
Oliver: My first time working with a model was when I was seventeen, at school. I was photographing two models for a fashion label that my sister worked for at the time. I absolutely loved the experience and it left me wanting more!
Following on from this, during my three years of studying for my Bachelors degree at London College of Fashion, I worked with various modeling agencies and started to build strong relationships with them.
As my journey has continued, I have been lucky enough to have worked with incredible global agencies such as Ford Chicago, Freedom Models LA, MP management Stockholm, and IMG London | New York | Sydney.
Do you have any specific techniques or tips for making a model feel comfortable during a shoot?
Oliver: Of course my priority is always that my subjects feel comfortable and at ease with the environment that they are situated in. It also goes without saying that you always need to take the client into consideration when thinking about how you approach capturing the models.
In terms of tips and techniques, other than taking the time to get to know the model and engaging with them, for myself the real beauty lies in a model who is free to be exactly themselves. In my personal work, whether the model is shy and naturally awkward or the opposite, I believe all characters are beautiful and I love capturing and celebrating each for who they are.
How much do you “direct” a model? Do you like to give guidance?
Oliver: I am really captivated by seeing how models respond to my camera intuitively, without my guidance. From my perspective as a photographer, when you are working with the right model it will always be one who you feel drawn to and therefore it’s really not about direction or guidance, it’s about recording them in a moment in time and exploring why you feel connected to their beauty.
My most memorable shoot with a model was running around the streets of New York with a girl from IMG. It was my first time in the city and I absolutely loved what came out of those negatives.
When working with a model indoors, do you ever feel the need to adjust the lighting, or do you simply work with what you already have?
Oliver: I really love working with what’s available and keeping things honest. In my career so far, I have not been one to create work that has strong artificial lighting or has been heavily retouched. I rarely edit my images and have at times sold prints that are straight from the film negative scan with no post-production work! I think there is so much to be said about keeping it real.
Would you say there’s a danger of keeping a model on the set for too long? Is there an unspoken expectation to be very efficient?
Oliver: On any shoot, there is always the danger of a model losing their morale, especially if you are on location in the cold. You want to be sure you and your team are keeping them engaged and that their energy is high!
It’s definitely a two-way street and everyone needs to be willing to work and stay alert. The more experienced the model, the more efficient they are in increasing their energy levels when they are needed. One thing I would say is that music is extremely important. It can change the whole mood on set. You want to make sure it’s loud and fun!
What’s one thing you’ve learned from your many experiences working with models?
Oliver: The biggest lesson I have learned from working with models is that everyone is so different! By this I am not just referring to the different ways in which models approach their profession or a particular photoshoot, I mean that models have shown me how, as people in general, we are all so unique and each have incredible stories to tell.
I always admire hearing about the ways in which models have moved to new cities and traveled the world for their work. I have so much admiration for that and it really motivates me as an artist to keep taking on new opportunities.
Do you have any additional tips for photographers who might be working with models for the first time?
Oliver: I would honestly say that there really is no right way to approach doing anything in this industry for the first time other than going into it with the right attitude and being eager to learn from whatever you take away from the experience. Don’t be too hard on yourself, have fun with creating images, and enjoy getting to know someone new. You never know what could happen as a result!