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Behind the Camera: Inexpensive Secrets for A Great Model Shoot!

Behind the Camera: Secrets Revealed in a PhotoShoot with a Model

A photographic image with a model is the most challenging photo session ever. It takes at least three, preferably four, people at a minimum. Take my word for it.

Below are two sets of recent photos, one the "money shot" followed by the "behind the scenes" reality.

Money Shot #1

Photo shoot of Aqua necklace, photo by Alyssa Endoq

Now a behind-the-scenes revelation. We had five people working; the model, photographer, stylist/lighting, gaffer, and documentary photographer. The day we took the photos was less than ideal as it was very windy, and getting windier, but we wanted to be outside with natural light. We had to make it work! Everyone had already scheduled the four-hour time slot. 

photo by Alyssa Endo as we fix the model's
Photo by Alyssa Endo      Model Jen Ohara

We were all fussing over the model. Even so much as one hair out of place looks terrible in a photo. I must have put a ton of hairspray on the model's hair. The jewelry photos are filled with warm glowing sunlight, but in fact, we were all freezing including the model.

The photographer is leaning in to check exposure up close so the camera is not tricked by reflected light.

Below, two people (me and Ace Shelander) are both holding panels to bounce the light (indicated by white lines and arrows) onto the model. I am using a flexible hoop that is metallic on one side and white on the other. Ace has a white foam core board.

Photo by Alyssa Endo , the light bounces off bounce cardsg lilight EndoPHOTOshootaquabehindcameraboucinglight.
Photo by Alyssa Endo.

We also had two mirrors (outside of the camera's view) bouncing light into the eaves above the model. This showered the model from above with beautiful soft white light. On the ground, below the model, are large sheets of white foam core board bouncing light up into the eaves of the house.

Photo by Alyssa Endo shows a photo shoot of bracelet by Harriete Estel Bermanuabehindcamera800
Photo by Alyssa Endo.

The light bounced from the foam core is very white, soft, and subtle. This is why it works so well - no harsh shadows, just warm glowing light. Of course, because the sun keeps moving, you have to frequently move the mirrors and bounce cards to maintain the light.

Photos by Francois Duhamel © 2008
All Rights Reserved.

Bouncing light is not for the lighthearted. The entire movie, Revolutionary Road, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet was filmed in a small Connecticut house. They constructed huge bounce cards to push soft white light from outside into a small house. (left photos)

To maintain the consistent feel of natural light outside the Connecticut house, giant 12' x 12' ultra bounce reflectors and large muslin sheets were arranged to bounce light into the scene.

 Photo by Alyssa Endo of photo shoot with bracelet by Harriete Estel Bermanshirt
Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

Everything counts for a great shot. So much can go wrong when using a model. Above, the shirt is too wrinkled. We are all looking at the angles of the model, the bracelet, the slightest angle of the hand, her fingers, wrist, arm, body, clothing, and jewelry. We tried to fix the shirt in the photo below.

Photo by Alyssa Endo as we fix the shirt during a photo shoot for jewelry by Harriete Estel Bermanrt
Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

The photographer, stylist, and gaffer are all responsible for spotting problems.


Money Shot #2

Jewelry by Harriete Estel Berman in a proposed Billboard formatBerman02
Photo by Alyssa Endo

I am using this amazing shot (above) for an outdoor billboard.  

Below, check out the reality.

Photo by Alyssa Endo

I had two jobs during this shoot, bouncing light onto the model while trying to "see" what the camera sees. The photographer only gets to look through the camera. The stylist and the assistants need to see what is going on around the model and the camera. What is happening with the light? Everything counts when doing a shoot with the model.


Money Shot #3

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

In the above image of jewelry by emiko oye, the model glows serenely. The necklace looks fantastic! The reality was a lot less polished until we got it right.

Below, you can see how we were meticulously and precisely placing the necklace. Every link of the chain had to lay just right....or it looked terrible. We spent a lot of time, while the entire crew waited, trying to fix the necklace chain just right - so many shots were rejected because of the chain not laying right.

The model doesn't look too happy, the light is shining in her eyes.

Photo by Alyssa Endo

Here I am are taping the necklace to the back of the model with masking tape because it needed to lay a little higher on her chest. The light is glowing....but in fact, we were freezing (which is why the model is wearing sweat pants). It was getting more windy by the minute. The model had to stand in the shade while we bounced sunlight into the photo and into the model's eyes. The model can't let any of this show.

Money Shot #

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

Look closely at the photo above, the bracelet looks like it is poking the model. We have to see this during the shoot and fix it.

Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

We used a white sheet as the background. I ironed the sheet which we stretched and thumbtacked to the house, but it still had wrinkles. Next time I am going to try a sheet of white laminate.  

Look at the fabulous shot below.

Photo by Aryn Shelander of bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Did you wonder why the model is not standing in the sun? If the model stood in the sun, the lighting would be too harsh with strong shadows. Soft, diffuse, and glowing light is one of the secrets to success.

There are a number of things you need for a photoshoot that don't cost much, but help lead to success. Stay tuned for the next post.


This post was updated on February 9, 2022.