The Importance of Direction

Too many times I hear from models that their experience during a shoot was nerve-wracking, confusing, or uncomfortable.  The number one reason?  “The photographer never told me what to do.”


If you are a private portraiture photographer, you more than likely are photographing the average person and the occasional independent model.  Not all the time will you be lucky enough to photograph someone with extensive modeling experience, and should be aware of the extra guidance your subject may need during the shoot. The fact of the matter is; every photographer’s taste is different, and models realize that.  When a subject doesn’t have the confidence from extensive experience, the worst thing he/she can hear from a photographer is…silence…  We think to ourselves; “Does this angle look flattering?”  “Should I open or close my mouth?” or, “Do they even like this pose??”


I remember feeling this way in the before I had put in the time in front of many cameras.  I was absolutely shocked in the worst way when I showed up to my first shoot where the photographer looked at me and simply said; “Go.”  I learned quickly that as a model I would need to learn to pose myself. But what if you are shooting a subject that just doesn’t have this confidence and the experience it takes to do this?  That’s what brings us to today’s topic; the importance of direction.

Model: Ashley BeLoat – IG: @ashleybeloat
Photographer: Carlie Chew Stephens – – IG: @carliechewphotography
Makeup Artist: Nicki Marie – IG: @nickimariemua


We Want to Know What You Want

                  No, you are not bossing us around.  You are not barking orders (at least, not unless you decide to yell at your model). We actually want to know what images you have in your head that you desire us to bring to life.  We want you to direct us into a better pose if a certain angle isn’t flattering.  The first step to being a good director is getting past this mental block.  For myself and many other models it is most important that you are pleased and satisfied with the photos.   Never be afraid to give direction if we begin to stray from what you want.


You Will Not Offend Us

                  This is a common misconception for male photographers photographing women.  As long as your direction is respectful, you avoid crude language, and treat the model the way you would want your daughter to be treated on a shoot, we will not be offended if you mention our body in your direction.  Note – there is a BIG difference on mentioning our body to direct us (i.e. ”Arch your back a little more to create a stronger curve.”) versus commenting on our body in a disrespectful or sexual manner (need I even bother putting an example here?).  The key is to be diplomatic with your word choices.


Visuals May Help

If you are describing a pose to your subject and they don’t seem to understand – or you would just like to make work easier from the start for them – show them an inspiration picture of a similar expression or pose that they can imitate and adjust to make their own.  If you cannot find an accurate picture of what you want, you may have to bring out your own posing skills and show them yourself what you are looking to capture.   The latter is utmost dedication, especially if you’re a male photographer demonstrating a very feminine pose.  We appreciate the effort…and love sharing a quick laugh over it.

Model: Ashley BeLoat – IG: @ashleybeloat
Photographer: Eric Kinney – – IG: @ekinneymedia
Designer: Yong Lin – – IG: @yonglinbridal
Hair & Makeup Artistry: Eileen Infante – IG: @einfantemakeup
Imagine the Tables are Turned

Think about how it feels to be in front of a camera.  For someone who isn’t used to – or is still growing accustomed to – having their picture taken, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.  Every insecurity is exposed and potentially immortalized in every click of the camera.  A person can easily fall victim to stage fright and forget how to move naturally.  As stated before, the worst thing you can do is remain silent while shooting an inexperienced subject/model.  Compare silent clicking of the camera to performing on the stage…but the audience has no reaction after your act.  You would wonder; “Did they even like it?” You may even think to yourself; “Oh my goodness, they hated me!” or “I knew I should have practiced more!”  All things that models can and do think when their photographer stays silent.
That being said, what direction cues have you ever tried used during your shoots?  Have you ever had a moment where you just couldn’t describe to your subject what you wanted them to do?  Models, what instructions have you been given that you found helpful?  Let me know in the comments below!


~Ashley BeLoat

Model: Ashley BeLoat – IG: @ashleybeloat
Photographer: Lady Rose Warne – – IG: @ladyrosepotography


  1. Stephen Arena on December 22, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Unless a full theme and direction have already been planned out, which should always be the case, it falls to collaboration. As a photographer and art director it is my job to have the theme, the set, the people, the wardrobe, the equipment, and the poses all laid out as a story board. Everything from the makeup the hair, and even the accessories fall to me. But, this is a plan for a professional shoot. If the shoot is more impromptu or casual then it may be more of a collaborative effort. The model will want to highlight her best features and poses, maybe even her own wardrobe and makeup/hair skills. While the photographer is highlighting their lighting, composition, and artistic talents.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: please remember that during any shoot there is always more than one artist involved. The art director, the photographer, the model, the set designer, the hair dresser, the makeup artist, the accessories designer, and the wardrobe designer, and they all know what shows them best. A great leader wants input into the vision to create a piece that shows the best of us all. So after the main shoot is done let everyone have a say in the next round of shots. You never know what can happen.

    • Ashley BeLoat on December 23, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Absolutely!! Every successful photo is the pure result of teamwork! More experienced models will be able to bring much stronger poses to the table and may require little-to-no guidance during the shoot. However, models/subjects that are not yet used to being in front of the camera may require more direction. I still remember when I was learning my angles, features to highlight, etc. I can’t thank my mentors enough for all the direction, advice, and time they gave to help me improve my craft. But yes, for every shoot to succeed, it requires that everyone brings their BEST to the table. No holding out — no solo efforts. 🙂

  2. smoore on December 22, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Great! Even as an experienced model, direction or communication during a shoot is so important. More than once I’ve had a silent photographer who seemed to not be getting what they wanted from me, when they couldn’t give me any idea as to what that was. We want too perform our best for you, so please don’t be shy! Speak up!
    Same goes for models looking to construct a shoot. If you have a certain look or vibe, you need to show your photographer and team just what you’re hoping to accomplish. Bring everyone to the same page before shooting starts, then allow the freedom to play within those understood guidelines once the shoot gets going.

    • Ashley BeLoat on December 23, 2017 at 9:06 am

      Yes, I’m experienced too and I could not agree more that a couple comments or inspiration photos from the photographer go such a long way. It helps to understand what they see in their head so that we can bring it to life in our own way.

  3. Yaamon on December 22, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    As you have learnt communication is the key to capturing the best images.

    As a photographer you have to be able to give guidance no matter how experienced the model is. The model may have a perfect pose and if the photographer is not standing at the right angle and don’t say a word then you will never be able to capture good images.

    We are not mind readers so there needs to be communication through the shoot.

    • Ashley BeLoat on December 23, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Absolutely! That’s the key phrase there; “we are not mind-readers.” Nobody is. Communication and teamwork on everyone’s part is so crucial to the success of every image. That is the most beautiful thing about photography, it relies on the talents of everyone involved…not just one person.

  4. Gabe on January 20, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    I totally agree with you that giving directions is very important and I acknowledge that I struggle with that. However, as a male photographer, I’m very aware that women are given directions on how to pose since they’re little girls (don’t cross your legs this way or the other, stand up straight, don’t hunch, do your makeup, etc) and also indirectly through the countless fashion magazines and ads on TV that they go through in their life. They kind of know what poses look good and flattering. Me, as a male, I have no clue. I find it difficult to tell them how to look cute or sexy, or how to model a dress or how to part their hair because it’s a language that I haven’t been trained on. I do my best, I check Vogue or Cosmo or other fashion magazines and watch videos to improve my fluency when it comes to posing, but please next time that you stand in front of a photographer who finds it difficult tell you what to do, remember that perhaps he doesn’t know how to make you look your best; be patient and offer your help, too. You have more experience than he does, whether you believe it or not, and a collaboration between the two will yield the best results.

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