How to stage and direct models in a commerical setting
5 Jul 2008
Recently I have taken to uttering these words, I am a director trapped in a photographer's body. In another entry here on JPGmag.com I outlined how came to know that I am not a portraitist. I am a conceptualist. I enjoy having models play roles. Knowing this about myself enables me to proceed with photoshoots where the objective is to tell a story. But telling a story involes a narrative. Who tells the story? From which point of view is it to be told? When the story is important to you, you should discuss it with at least one of the models prior to the date of the shoot. This is a time for straight talk with your model. This can be challenging as you may feel embarassed. Since I know the story in my head is already based on preconcieved notions I allow them rule. I allow my prejudices to guide me. When I get in a jam they guide me out. Simple ideas are simply executed. When shooting in a commerical place during its open hours requires simplicities.
1) Arrive early before the place gets to crowded. Decide your perspective. I often set the models in a one/two scenario in the least cluttered space as possible. I step back and I become the third eye. Thus I tell the story from the "third eye perspective". I tell myself "what if I saw this...and that..." then I start instructing the models.
2) I shoot horizontal in the opening shots because this is where you introduce your characters and you dont want to do that individually as the individual shots may fall out of context. Wide shots relay information. Choose a direction your characters will move. Riyak ( the women in the shots here) was instructed to move toward the left. The male (her boyfriend) is the still one. He gestures more but moves from his place less. This person is usually the one the viewers will watch. He receives action.
3) Remeber that you do not have a bullhorn so practive breathing that allows you to feel comfortable yelling ( with a friendly tone) at your models. Holding the camera up to you eye and focusuing can become introspectively driven and ( if you talk while you shoot you may have noticed often you speak in whispers) But models will rely on you if there is no art director. So learn to frame then hold your shot by holding your camera still; all the while lifting you face away so that you can project to your models. Or use a tripod.
4) Think sequentially. Tightly framed shots work best here. I began to think of my frames and how the subtle yet definate movements will advance the story. I advance the action not by rapid firing but by directing my models to change their expressions and body gestures every three feet or so.
5) When working on one location used the doorways and windows to convey a change. Moving toward an interior or the opposite will move the story along. But set your lighting up before you start. This way once you have your action going you spend less down time.
6) If your story calls for intimacy, Intimate shots are easier for the untrained professional if they already know the other person. Tis was Riayk's boyfriend. But if you are one to engage in this kind of shooting, it will help if you design yourself a questionaire. Whenever you meet models began asking them questions about themselves. Make a file of it. It makes casting easier.
7) Repeat shots as much as you can. Instruct yout talent to stay in the same pose while also instructing them to make subtle changes.
8) Know when you have reached a middle or half way point. Guy gets girl and they began to play. This maked the end of this story.
9) Watch out for othe patrons. Answer questions with a "customer is always right" kindness. Remember this is a commercial establishment and the proprietor may be just onthe edge of being worried. You dictate calmness by staying calm.
10) Watch for those unexpected moments and try different angles. Know when to STOP.