How the Art of Portrait Prepares You for More

For those of you who follow me on social media, you may have seen that I directed my first short film this week. I was blessed to have three immensely talented men behind the camera volunteer their time and talents to help my vision come to life.  I was given the freedom to develop the entire concept, shot list, wardrobe selection, location, shooting schedule, prop list, etc.  Everything to the last detail was graciously given to me to decide, approve, or negate.  I was also starring in this film with one other actor, and what an experience it was to be able to write the parts we would play!


Why is this important to modeling and photography?  Simple.  Producing a still scene is a major storytelling challenge.  You’re given the task of communicating an emotion, sending a message, or selling an illusion without motion or words.  Constant practice in this can cultivate significant skills in setting a scene.  Allow me to share with you how my past experiences and acquired knowledge crucially helped me throughout the process of creating a moving, breathing portrait.

My co-star Derek O’Donnell and myself as we watched a cut of our scene with videographer Eli Meyer.

Moment captured by Eric Kinney.


Knowing How the Shot is Captured

Not being a stranger to the process, I knew a decent amount of how the videographers should capture the shots to make it match with the visions in my head.  Even though I’ve never clicked a camera for a high-quality portrait, I’ve studied the way my photographers work along with the results different techniques yield.  I was better prepared to communicate which angles I wanted, which direction the shots should be facing, when scenes should be cut from one to the next, when I wanted a moment backlit or lit from straight-on…

I spent days at my laptop designing the shot list.  This list included as many details as possible, yet still allowing spur-of-the moment creative freedom for Derek and myself while filming. I wanted to capture as much organic interaction as possible, and focused mainly on angles, frame, focus, etc.  Sharing this list with my team before filming day was vital, as everyone said it made them see my creative vision in a way they understood and resonated with.


Understanding the Dynamics of Light

As I’ve stated before – and you no doubt know if you’ve taken/posed for any pictures – lighting is crucial for setting the mood.  In my film we strove to set a variety of moods, and I wanted them guided by natural light.  Keeping this in mind, I designed the script and shooting schedule to allow for filming the happy, lighthearted, and mildly eerie scenes during the day when the light was at its brightest.  We shot the more somber, bittersweet moments at sunset followed by the sad, emotionally gripping scenes in the darkness.  To make this schedule work I not only had to know when each scene should be shot, but design the scenes so that we could remain on-schedule to achieve this goal. Knowing how much time is required for certain shots, wardrobe changes, and scene preparation was a major benefit of my modeling experience.

Derek, myself, and Eli watching one of our more somber scenes play back.

Moment captured by Eric Kinney.


Realizing the Significance of Body Language

I always suggest models and photographers study the science of body language.  Why?  It can make or break the shot and what emotion you are trying to portray.  It’s all in the little details; a nervous person will fidget subtly with their clothing, avert their gaze downward, blink slightly more.  Somebody feeling attraction to another person will avoid closed-off stances and remain open versus crossing arms, angling their body away, etc. Knowing these things helped me immensely in not only playing my – and my co-star’s – roles, but also in the directing and writing process. When I wanted to focus on a particular detail, I knew when to tell Eli to zoom in.


Understanding Color Selection

Color plays a major role in the subconscious perception of mood.  Thankfully, we were blessed to find a set with a color palette of whites and greys.  This allowed for maximum reflection of the natural light and an ability to capture a variety of moods with minimal alterations. Grey in particular is one of my favorite colors because it’s a somber, blank canvas.  It can easily be portrayed as somewhat happy, or somewhat sad.  It’s a wonderful beginning middle-ground.

Next, I was also in charge of the wardrobe selection.  I instructed Derek to bring as many neutrals, greys, and whites as possible (doing the same for myself).  We stayed away from patterns whenever doable to keep distractions from the story to a minimum.  I was able to plan our outfit selections to include whites, light neutrals, and faded colors for the happier moments, followed by mostly darker colors during the emotional ones.

Eli filming a tender moment between Derek and I on the sofa.

Moment captured by Eric Kinney.


There is so much more I could include on this experience, but will save it for a future article.  I can’t wait to share this final product with you when the editing process is complete!  Be sure to check out the links to websites and Instagram profiles (provided below) of these immensely talented gentlemen, this day would have never gone so seamlessly without them!


What would you like to know about the filming process?  Have you ever been able to use your skills for modeling and/or photography in other areas?  Leave me all your stories, comments and questions below!


See you next week,

Ashley BeLoat


Eli Meyer; videographer – – IG: @elimeyerstudio

Derek O’Donnell; videographer/actor/model – – IG: @derekod

Eric Kinney; photographer/videographer – – IG: @ekinneymedia


  1. Larry Renner on November 11, 2017 at 11:12 am

    So happy for you that your creative vision came to life!!

    • Ashley BeLoat on November 15, 2017 at 8:10 am

      I really can’t wait to share this video with everyone! I poured so much love into it and my team could not have been more incredible to work with.

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