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Top 10 Actions for Stunning Results

  1. Brush your hair out of your eyes

    This is a great one to start with. Even though it’s a natural, everyday action that will be supereasy for your subject to perform over and over again, some nonmodels are hesitant to do something as simple as brushing their hair out of their eyes without the photographer’s permission. So go ahead and give her this little direction from the beginning. In fact, it will be a necessity when you direct the fan at her, ask her to toss her hair, or have her moving a bunch.

  2. Shake out your hair

    This is the easiest direction to shake the nerves loose and have some fun, so it’s another great action to begin with. I like to ask my subject to shake her head side to side with her eyes closed and a slight smile (FIGURE 2.9). An alternative is to have her look directly at the camera and mess up her hair with her hands.

    Figure 2.9

    Figure 2.9. The simple instruction “Shake your hair and head side to side with your eyes closed and a slight smile” works with every woman I’ve shot. It’s a brilliant tool for easing nerves while creating authentic emotion and sensual movement that looks stunning.

    24–70mm lens, ISO 100, f/2.8, 200 sec.

  3. Jump, run, skip, or bounce

    Any of these actions will help deplete her nervous energy when she’s asked to repeat it over and over again, helping her relax. So these are actions that I like to coach early in the session. Depending on the location and wardrobe, I have my subject either jump (FIGURE 2.10), run toward or away from the camera, skip toward me, or bounce playfully on the bed. Here, I asked the model to do a silly cheerleader jump. We repeated it a few times, and I was thrilled that we captured a genuine and joyful emotion.

    Figure 2.10

    Figure 2.10. Shot in Florence with a young model, who was struggling to give an authentically joyful expression. I wanted to loosen her up a bit and create a happy mood that matched the flirty and fun dress.

    50mm lens, ISO 200, f/1.8, 2000 sec.

  4. Play with your clothing

    Suggest to your subject that she simply play with an item of clothing that she’s wearing, whether it’s a bra strap, garters, shirt collar, or a hat. This is easy, flirtatious, and a great way to get partially dressed shots with some natural movement. Directions could include: Pull down your strap a bit (FIGURE 2.11), flirt over your collar, peek out at me from under your hat, unzip your dress, and so on.

    Figure 2.11

    Figure 2.11. Shot in New York City with a young aspiring model. I coached her to lift her shoulders a bit and slowly pull down both straps while looking down her body. I coached my subject to continue pulling down the straps of her dress (or lingerie), revealing as much or as little as she likes depending on her comfort level.

    85mm lens, ISO 100, f/2.8, 160 sec.

  5. Shake it

    Turn on some music and ask your subject to jam. This is mostly to loosen things up and have some silly fun. I like to coach my subjects to shake it if they’ve got it because it usually creates a fun atmosphere and some laughter and lightens everyone up. It also leaves it up to your subject how creative or daring she gets with it.

  6. Twirl around

    This action can be useful, depending on your subject’s wardrobe. Whether she’s wearing a dress, skirt, nightie, or silk robe, it’s easy to get a shot of movement and a twirl of fabric, sometimes showcasing a gorgeous pair of high heels or a sexy peek of thigh and bum. Plus, this is another fun action for your subject to perform and another nervous energy buster.

  7. Yell “Hey!”

    Ask your subject to vocalize and really let it out. She’ll release some tension and probably laughter along with it. It’s a great way to loosen her up, get the blood flowing, and keep her present on the shoot. I also might direct this action if I see my subject’s energy is waning in order to wake her up a bit.

  8. One, two, buckle your shoe

    Most women love shoes, and any action involving women’s shoes is generally a good idea. Taking one off, buckling the sides, running her hands along them—these are all actionable directions that are easy for a nonmodel to perform and that elicit fun shots.

  9. Run your hands along your body

    This action is my favorite, and I direct this one on every shoot whether it’s with a model, a muse, or a real woman. Since it’s a little more intimate, you may want to do this one once the shoot has progressed a bit. Direct your subject to use an elegant touch with her fingers barely touching her skin and to keep her hands moving slowly. I also often coach her to not move her hands parallel to each other, but to have one up and one down. It’s important to note that wherever the model places her hands is where the viewer’s eyes will go. So be specific about where you ask her to place and move her hands.

  10. Close your eyes and...

    I let this direction be more of a suggestion that trails off so she can fill in the blank. Usually, this action provokes either a blush, a sigh, a smile, or some other genuine expression unique to your subject.

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