You could argue that a model must be “attractive”, but for portrait photography, to me a great model needs something else. I look for something more in women. It doesn’t matter if they’re a regular woman, a new model, or an experienced model. This is what a great model needs for me:
A GOOD PERSON
It seems strange that a woman’s character/personality is able to come through an image and be seen, but it’s true.
This doesn’t mean you have to have a Type-A personality or be an extrovert.
In fact, I personally like to photograph the quieter women. These women still have all the personality in the world. As an introvert myself, I understand that it isn’t that introverts are necessarily shy or quiet, but that they don’t have much to speak about. That is, of course, other than what they’re passionate about.
That’s why I’m able to right all these blog posts. Is it tiring? Of course! These things take about a day to create.
Back to personality though…
Being able to smile isn’t a necessity either. Smiling can signal various emotions combined with posture and facial expression. Once you remove smiling there’s even more variation.
A great model can use her personality to create so many different looks. The one I like the most is what comes naturally. Often times I’ll tell the woman in front of my camera to just relax and pretend like I’m not even there. She could be standing up against a wall, sitting on a chair, or lounging on the beach. All that matters is she’s free to be herself.
A great personality if probably the most important thing I look for because I also create personal connections. If the person has a kind heart, is confident, and is respectful then it’s a lot easier for me to find commonality and help bring out the best in her.
That said, there’s more to a great model than just a great personality.
CONFIDENCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PHYSICAL LOOKS
I slightly touched on confidence in the last point, but this is important.
If you follow other professional photographers’ work you’ll usually find images of women that look like they’ve been molded in a Photoshop factory. Although the industry is moving away from morphing body parts to create unrealistic expectations there are still physically immaculate women out there. They don’t need vast amounts of editing!
There aren’t a whole lot of those women though. And even they work their butts off to look their best for their images. They spend hours everyday taking care of their skin and hair, hitting the gym, eating healthily, knowing how their bodies look at certain angles, practicing in the mirror, etc. So…just don’t even worry about comparing yourself.
While physical looks are important I’ve found that confidence trumps it. This is especially true for portraits I take of regular women. The already great models know how to pose, but I essentially teach regular women this on the spot. I help them using angles, lighting, professional hair and makeup artists, and coaching to boost their confidence.
If you’ve never been in front of a camera then nervousness can be an issue regardless of how confident you are. Once you get comfortable though, that confidence can shine through.
I also just want to mention that confidence isn’t just about your feeling towards how you look, but who you are. If you are a generous, kind, and empathetic woman then you should feel the same amount of pride you do about your beautiful neckline or sculpted calves.
Let’s go over one last thing that makes a great portrait model to me.
Yea, empathy. Does that seem weird to you? Why is empathy something I think a great model has?
The reason is that not only does she have to express her own feelings, but she has to understand mine. Now I’ve completely lost you, right?
When I’m explaining what I’m trying to do with my photography I need the model or subject to understand. They need to be able to put themselves in my shoes. The more empathetic they are the more they’ll see just how much I’m trying to help them. In turn, they trust me and can relax and be themselves.
If they didn’t have empathy then it would be a one-way street. I’d just have to hope that they’re naturally great model material in all other respects. That isn’t usually true with regular women who aren’t professional models so it’s something that is very important.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
The reason should probably be at the top instead of here, but oh well.
The reason why I’m sharing what I think makes a great model is because I want regular women to know that physical appearance isn’t everything. It certainly isn’t in the case of my portrait photography. There are so many more important characteristics that determine how great you are. Personality, confidence, and empathy are just a few of those characteristics; there are others, but let’s be honest, you probably would have stopped reading.
I want you to know that if you struggle with what you see in the world around you (like on social media) and it makes you question yourself and feel like you don’t deserve to have your photo taken, then you are absolutely wrong. Check out all the women in our photoshoot inspiration galleries or the rest of the Made by Ten blog and see that you belong for yourself!
You are beautiful, amazing, confident, and artistic!
If you think you struggle seeing yourself as someone who can have their photo taken then I implore you to get in contact with me. I don’t care if you just need help taking selfies; I just want to be able to help women overcome obstacles like self-esteem. Leave a comment below or use our contact form to get in touch with us directly.
Jonathan How is the photographer behind Made by Ten and calls Milton his home. He specializes in creating beautiful, creative portraits of real women. He uses photography (and this blog) to help them build confidence and love for themselves and creates artistic images for their homes and offices. You can see him driving around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Ontario, Canada from portrait to fashion shoot and back again.