I met Danielle at a jiu jitsu tournament where she was a competitor.  Although she was comfortable on the mat having someone try to break her arm or choke her out, I could sense that despite her being interested in doing a shoot, she was nervous about it.

Danielle Kelly photographed by John Ricard

This shoot was part of my “Model Test Monday” series, where I do a model shoot every Monday.  Sometimes I utilize a full team of hairstylist, makeup artist and fashion stylist.  Other times it’s just me and the model.  For a test shoot, either scenarios.  This day it was me, Danielle and makeup artist Jessica Rios.

Here are 3 steps I took before and during the shoot to make Danielle as comfortable as possible.  Note, these tips are best suited for a shoot where you don’t have a specific agenda -perhaps a shoot where you are testing new lighting techniques.

1) I allowed the model to wear whatever she likes.  I didn’t give Danielle any clothing advice aside from suggesting a tank top be included in her selections.  This is risky in that I might not like any of the outfits, but I knew there would always be things I could do with lighting and composition to keep the viewer’s attention away from the wardrobe.  But allowing Danielle to shoot in whatever she felt most comfortable in, would help give her a sense of control and comfort.

2) I gave the model input into the hair and or makeup styling.  Often, the creative direction is decided long before a model is even selected for a shoot and by the time we are on set, the model has zero input.  This wasn’t the case here.   I was open to shooting pretty much any look.  So rather than saying to Danielle something like, “I’ve worked with Jessica dozens of times and she has already selected a great look for you,” I told her, “You and Jessica can decide on a look for you today. I’m fine with whatever you both agree on.”  This helped to give Danielle a feeling of control over the shoot and helped insure she would project confidence in the looks we were shooting.


3) I allowed the model to make the image selections.  Normally, unless the model has paid for the shoot, she isn’t the one deciding which images are released.  However, when I’m doing frequent testing, and I’m make sure to keep each test to 4 hours at the most, I’m not as vested in each individual shoot as I might be if I were shooting only once every couple of months.  I wanted Danielle to be comfortable with anything we shot, so I told her, “At the end of each look I’m going to let you look through the images and select any images that you are ok with releasing online.”  I didn’t look over her shoulder as she made her selections.  And honestly, it didn’t even matter to me if she was going to not select a really strong image.  I knew Danielle would likely be contacting me a few months down the road asking if I had any additional images from our shoot, and by that time, I would have another 20 shoots completed anyway.

All of these small steps on my part resulted in not just our creating strong images during the shoot, but I also earned Danielle’s trust.  This will pay off tremendously, should I decide to call her another project in the future.

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