Rule one, the mirror is your BFF. Stand there, perfect your poses and learn how your body shapes. The mirror is a perfect tool to show you what the camera can see – try to imagine it behind your photographers head when shooting and always consider what can be seen from that angle. For example, if your foot is closest to the lens, it is worth remembering that your foot is going to the largest thing in the picture….and nobody wants to be remembered as Bigfoot…
Create separation between your limbs from your body. Not only does it prevent the arm/leg from being squashed against you spreading out any fat, it is also an optical illusion for a slimmer appearance in terms of overall width. A basic cheat that makes a massive difference.
Fat arm to thin arm Body width shrunk by optical illusion.
Have a basic understanding of light. For example, if you raise an arm to the light, it could be a whole F-stop brighter in camera than your face (being the object closest to the source of light according to the inverse square law). It will also cast a shadow across you. You can counteract this by using your other arm (!)…or, move your arm a fraction backwards, away from the direct beam of light. Learning how lighting falls is invaluable. Ask which is your key light and then work towards it.
Be aware of ‘mothing’. If the light has been metered to an exact spot, try to stick to it, or at least notice when you’ve crept closer to the light so you can rectify it if required.
No harry, don’t fly into the light!”…”I can’t help it, it’s so beeeeautiful… (A Bug’s Life)
Recognize when your eyes are over-rotating. It is always advisable to follow the line of your nose to keep your sight central. This stops you from looking bog eyed from too much white of the eye showing.
Know how far you can turn your head before your nose ‘breaks your cheek’. Go back to the mirror to see what angle becomes too far. This is perhaps a dying rule, but one that many competition judges still take into account so worth being aware of.
Elongate your neck to simulate height and poise. Possibly one of the hardest things to remember because it genuinely feels unnatural. Stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself…stand normally, then roll your shoulders back allowing your face to come forward…notice the difference in the width of your neck? An instant slimming trick.
Go one step further by popping your jaw towards camera if you want a strong line created by the shadow.
If the photographer is at a 12 o’clock angle, then standing angled at 1:30 rather than 3 o’clock will lose inches to your overall width. When you do, make sure it is shadow you are turning into and not the light. Always one rule: hide what you don’t want seen in shadow. Forget Weight Watchers, it’s all about tactical posing!
If you want to appear slimmer you can create a ‘false waist’. You can do this by positioning yourself to camera, then creating the waist you want seen with the positioning of your hands on your ‘hips’. See…crafty huh 🙂
If you’re like me and you don’t have natural curves, then fake them! And I don’t mean plastic surgery. As shown above, learning how to pop your hip is not something everyone can do but can be a big advantage if you can for great shape. Allowing your knees to cross slightly will emphasize that ‘S’ figure with it.
Keep your hands loose and fluid. The term ‘ballet hands’ is often thrown around…but if you’re like me and the only dancing you do well is the truffle shuffle, then keep your middle finger lower than the others whilst relaxing them with a slight curve. Don’t clump your fingers together and avoid showing the back of your hand. Why? Because backs of hands are big and ugly…sides of hands are small and dainty. This was drilled into me from the start of my career by friend and photographer Gary Hill.
See how much longer and larger my hands look when left straight:
Play with what is available. If you are wearing a flowing dress, play with it by tossing it into the air or working the movement in the bottom. Remember if you are wearing trousers then your legs don’t need to be so clamped together.
Putting theory into practice in Paris, photograph by Andrew Appleton (MUA Donna Graham & assistant Vicki Head)
You should have knowledge of what you are wearing and why. If you have been hired to sell a specific product, make sure you are pulling poses that are commercially complimentary and not hiding the product.
Own a ‘modelling kit’ and take it on all shoots. These are the things you will need, but may not be directly mentioned in pre-shoot communications. They are; outdoor/studio shoes, nude/black underwear, face wipes, moisturiser/oil for your legs, a plain vest top, safety pins/clamps, a straw for drinks (as not to ruin your lipstick), your own water with a sugary snack to keep you going (your shoot location may be far away from shops), spare stockings for lingerie shoots….and also hairspray, a top up lipstick, hair grips, brush and eyelash glue (in case the MUA can’t stay). If you have been booked for a specific job such as bridal, it is also well received if you bring appropriate accessories i.e. a pretend wedding ring.
Please be honest about your size and measurements. Nobody minds how tall or small, big or slim you are…but they do need to know in advance for obvious reasons. You may be sent home unpaid if you have exaggerated the truth and wasted time by not fitting the casting criteria. Save yourself and others the embarrassment.
Talk to other models, check references and don’t ever assume anything. Despite many people thinking models are the bitchy ones, it’s actually very untrue most of the time. We look after each other and the best out there are very supportive. I was terrified to talk to the people I admired, but then I realised they’re only human, we are all the same…and they’re pretty damn awesome guys and girls when it comes to helping you out.
Most of all be fun, easy going and willing to go that extra mile! If you are genuinely a delight to be around, you are 100% more likely to be rebooked. You are part of a team so pull your weight, diva’s are so 2010.
Fun times to get the shot despite being in the cold rain, creating ‘I bleed colours’ from my personal Dreamcatcher Project with Richard Powazynski, Lauri Laukkanen and Donna Graham
I hope this letter has been of some use to you and that you can take something from it. As I said, not all of this will work for you, it’s just tricks I wish I’d known when I began modelling. But then again look at Kate Moss, she breaks all of the ‘rules’…and still looks amazing – that’s fashion darling.
The day you stop enjoying your job is the day you need a new one. Work hard and love your life!