Working with first time models Jury & Nguyn

by Ben Heys, August 12, 2013

In this post I’m going to collect a few images from several shoots I did with two models over my most recent trip to Asia.

The setting is various locations around the town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia and the girls are a pair of local girls who have never worked as models before or with any other photographers. It’s not that I’m trying to keep them to myself. It’s just that it turns out there’s not much of a photographic community in small ex-fishing villages in Cambodia. Who would have thought?

Before I get into the main part of what I want to talk about I just want to mention that like my other recent shoots these images here were all created with very little or no equipment bar a camera. None of the location shots have any sort of artificial lighting. Many use a reflector, which is held by whatever model isn’t featured in the shot. The indoor and studio looking images are all shot with low priced, portable LED lights off ebay. What looks like a what studio background is just a bed sheet hung over the curtains in a hotel and the black background is the night sky on the balcony of my room. With no flash used in any of these, I could have even technically shot the wider angle ones with a camera phone. That shoot is coming, don’t worry ;)

But back to the current topic. I’ve worked with a lot of amateur models and even girls on their first ever photo shoot before so there’s nothing particularly new with working with “non-model”. I find you can still get fantastic images out of girls that aren’t models, you just have to work a bit harder for them. The first part of almost every photoshoot can be thrown straight in the bin. As such I normally set up my least promising look first. This is more of a “warm up” for the model than anything else. It is always a fashion look, well covered, to give the model a chance to relax a bit and get used to the camera. It also allows us to get a feel for working with each other. She can get a feel for the type of poses and looks I’m after and I can get a feel for what type of direction she responds to.

Some new models for instance require lots of encouragement and positive feedback. Where as others can just get embarrassed with the same communication style. You have to pay attention to the subtleties of your model’s body language to get a feel for what type of feedback, if any she responds well to. But then you should already be paying very close attention to your model’s body language as in a photo body language becomes even louder than it is in real life. And it’s already pretty loud in real life…

The other thing that generally becomes even more important than it normally is, is making sure the model is as comfortable as she possibly can be. Now once again obviously it’s always going to be important to make sure your model is comfortable. However professional models are used to wearing strange outfits (or none at all) in strange places doing strange things. They are even used to having people take their photo and forever record this rather singular behaviour! Their tolerance for the types of weird things that happen in photoshoots is very high and to be honest most experienced models are pretty hard to phase. And as a (even if only an amateur) photographer you are probably used to working with a few models, viewing lots of youtube videos of shoots and talking with lots of other photographers. For you this type of thing is much closer to how it is to a pro model. Just another day at the office. Or at least nothing particularly weird or bizarre. But for a girl that hasn’t modeled before, or perhaps only for her creepy uncle Jim with the 20$ tripod and on camera flash, well for girls like that having someone stick a big camera in their face while ordering them about in a weird and/or skimpy outfit can be quite an intimidating affair. And if a model feels intimidated, unsafe, scared, worried etc then this WILL show through in the photos.

So back to Nguyn & Jury: over the coarse of time I’ve worked with both of these girls many times now, and I have to say almost without question every shoot brings about more consistently better images than the one before it. Here are a few of the most recent:

Models: Nguyn | (external link)
Jury | (external link)


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