I have always viewed working with a still photographer in commercial modeling photos as an acting job without words. The best commercial models (who are generally actors) not only have the skills to show believable expressions, but also have the ability to offer plenty of layers of expressions and emotions.
One of the first things a commercial model must do before beginning a shoot is to ask the photographer what types of emotions are needed. While many photographers understand this type of process and love working this way, you may sometimes run into a photographer who is not. For instance, if your role is a doctor and you are told to smile, the question to ask would be, “What is making you smile?” Your smile will look very different if you saved someone’s life, stopped accepting insurance, or won a crazy malpractice case. If the photographer says, “I don’t know why the doctor is smiling, just smile,” then you need to make the decision for yourself. Just like with any acting audition, it is always better to make a definitive choice. The more generic the choice, the less interesting the shot will be.
After deciding on the emotion needed and before the photographer begins to shoot, ask him or her to wait one second. Then physically turn your head slightly away from the camera so the photographer understands you are preparing, think of a real experience in your life to give you the emotion needed, quietly say a word or two or make a sound that will strongly connect you with the experience, and then look up into the camera or wherever the photographer has asked you to look. After the shot is taken, look away and repeat the same process, but perhaps with a slightly different experience. This will allow you to tap into strong emotions and feelings and always show interesting and believable variations of different expressions.
The best way to learn how you can easily and quickly tap into these needed emotions is to practice. Here is how.
1. Look through magazines for ads featuring your type
2. On a sheet of paper, make a list of the types of expressions you see the models showing in columns. For example, have columns with the following types of emotions:
Happy Sad Sick Frustrated Excited etc…
Then underneath each expression write down a more specific description. If the person feels sick because they have a horrible headache, write down headache. If the person is frustrated because her computer keeps freezing, write that concept down.
Then you want to think of real experiences in your life that will give you that type of recall. The next step is to find a word or two or a sound that will allow you to relive that moment.
Once you have practiced this, get anyone with a cell phone to take 7–10 pictures of you showing each emotion. Look at the shots. If you believe the expressions, you can use this for every commercial modeling job, go-see (the model’s audition), and test shot. If you don’t quite believe the expression, then you need to think of a different experience. And if you are ever asked to show an expression that you never experienced, then think of an experience that will give you a similar feeling.
Using this method will allow you to always tap into whatever emotion is required when working with a photographer. Being able to show many layers of expressions and emotions during a photo shoot makes you a very marketable commercial model, and one that photographers will want to hire again and again.
Got your photos ready? Check out our commercial audition listings!
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