OK, I’m not big on rules, but when it comes to working with a model, I have RULES!
1. Hire your model
Keep this on a professional level. Don’t ask your girlfriend, sister, or the guy next door to pose for you. You’ll get better pictures working with a pro, who is a true collaborator, and you won’t find yourself in an awkward position when it comes to getting the model release signed after the relationship ends. You will, of course, always get a model release. There are examples on the internet. Find one that’s fair, meaning you promise as much as you ask. In other words, you get to use the photos, but your model will also be happy with how/when/where you use the photos. Be sure the model release includes a birthdate. Your model needs to be over 21.
2. Know your model
He/she has a name and a life outside the studio. Share what you do when you’re not behind the camera. Keep in mind that you’re asking more from your model than the compensation you’re offering can cover. They’re exposing everything, including their reputation. Both of you need to be comfortable with the trust you’re building. Note the most fine art nude photographers work with the same few models over and over. In time, you get to know each other and want to further each other’s careers.
3. Communicate well and often during the shoot
Tell your model what you want to accomplish, ask for input, let him/her know when they’re doing well and when you are getting great shots. You’ll both be more relaxed. Models hate being asked to pose without knowing what you want. It’s only fair to be as clear as you can. Recognize that modeling is hard work and not always fun.
When things are not going as expected. Stop. Take a break. Discuss why you think things are not going well and see what suggestions the model has for getting on track. Then try again. Not all shoots will be great ones and that’s not usually the model’s fault. The person behind the camera is responsible. Own it.
At the same time, you need to keep the communication professional. It’s appropriate to say, “You have great lines, just keep doing what you’re doing.” “I’m getting an interesting S-Curve when you swing your hip out, can you exaggerate it even more.” “Your skin tone is nice under these lights, but I’d like to set one more.” It is not appropriate to say, “Great body.” “Good tits.” You get the idea.
4. Ask, don’t touch
“Can you move your left arm . . . ?”
“Take one step closer to the light and . . .”
“How do you feel about a sequence of jumping shots . . .?”
“There’s a stray hair, can you brush it back . . .?”
Never, ever grab a shoulder and physically move the model into position. That’s not professional. What’s more, it’s not nice.
5. Never ask your model to do anything uncomfortable
If your model shows any hesitancy about a particular pose, back off. It’s not your business to ask why or try to overcome that hesitancy. Another model may have no such qualms. This also means that you need to pay attention. If your model even seems uncomfortable, you need to ask. “Are you uncomfortable? We can move onto something else . . .”
5. Share your photos with your models
Most are building portfolios. All want to see what came out of the session so they can improve on their skills and/or just like having copies of the photos. Be generous.
BIG NOTE: I’m a woman of grandmotherly age. If I’m being this careful, imagine the care a young male photographer should be using and adjust accordingly.