How to Put Your Inexperienced Model at Ease

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.

Marissa Zando for Astound Magazine


Photographer: John Ricard / Model: Marissa Zando Hair: Britney Powell /  Makeup: Jessica Rios /

Photographer: John Ricard /
Model: Marissa Zando
Hair: Britney Powell /
Makeup: Jessica Rios /

Photographer: John Ricard / Model: Marissa Zando Hair: Britney Powell /  Makeup: Jessica Rios /

Photographer: John Ricard /
Model: Marissa Zando
Hair: Britney Powell /
Makeup: Jessica Rios /

I met first met Marissa at Unique Photo where I was presenting a seminar on studio lighting.  She was 17 at the time, but she did a great job posing in front of 20 or so photographers who were present.  By the time we shot this spread a couple of months later, Marissa had tunred 18.  I think my model release was the first one she ever signed for herself.


Model: @melissa__martin

Model @feliciaverna

Hair: @alstyling

Makeup: @urbanglamher

Latest shoot from my Model Test Monday project.  Really enjoying shooting every single Monday.  

Why We Create: Carmen Lilly, fashion stylist.  @stylecarmen

I met Carmen when I was the house photographer for BET’s 106 & Park.  She was the stylist for Rocsi Diaz, who is now a host on Extra.  I used to watch Carmen use her phone to photograph Rocsi’s look of the day during commercial breaks on set.  It seemed to take her forever to get it done and the photographs weren’t very good.  While the iPhone camera is indeed amazing in most situations, it failed at capturing the correct white balance in the mixed lighting setup at BET.  So I offered to take the look of the day images for Carmen.  I felt BET should have these images as part of their daily take anyway.  

Carmen left BET about a year before I did, but we always stayed in touch. We’ve done a few shoots at my studio.  You can find a goth shoot we did if you scroll to my previous posts from the past few months.  Carmen is an amazing stylist with true vision.  Like me, she lives in Brooklyn with her spouse.  She has a daughter who is about 5 years younger than mine, and when I see her, it makes me miss the days when I could just pick up my daughter (literally) and carry her with me wherever I wanted to go.  (These days it’s more like, “Do you want to come with me into the city?”)

This video is part of a series I’m doing called, “Why We Create”. I love the combination of stills and video but it takes forever to shoot the content and even longer to do the edit on the computer.  The images of Carmen and her daughter run for maybe 10 seconds in the video, but they took me hours to shoot.  But I’m choosing to make this video series.  Can’t really complain about the workload 😉

Model: Divani IG: @theedivani 

Hair: Ashley @alstyling

I’ve been doing model tests at my studio every Monday for the past couple of months.  It’s a creative endeavor with no real endgame.  Usually, I don’t know how I’m going to shoot the model(s) until I get to the studio and meet her in person.  I’ve been experimenting with light, props, wardrobe, posing and anything I can else that comes to mind at that moment.  Sometimes I shoot with a full team -hair, makeup, styling and nail tech.  Other times it’s just me and the model.  It’s about being creative. It’s not about seeing how many people I can bring into my studio for a shoot.

I created a hashtag on Instagram where all these images are grouped. It’s #ModelTestMonday. I’m curious to see how many different shots I can create over the course of the next 6 months or so.

Los Scandalous.  

My favorite city.  I shot these images of Kimera Morrell on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles.  She’s an ex New Jersey resident whom I’ve shot several times in my studio.  

We didn’t have permission to be here and our shoot took about 4 hours.  During that period, not one person came up to use the roof nor did anyone come up to tell us to leave.  Things would be different in NYC.  Any location with cool backgrounds and great lighting would have dozens of photographers setting up camp daily.

All images were shot on the Leica M9 and Leica M240 cameras.  The M9 is such a great camera, that it is still the first camera I reach for when the light is good.  Using it is much like using the M240, even though the M240 is a more advanced camera.  I give Leica a lot of credit for creating a camera like the M9 that is still worthwhile even when its superior successor is released.  


I’m back from LA -one of my favorite places.  Actually I’m back from both San Diego and LA.  I went to SD to photograph a great artist named Michael “Monstro” Amorillo.  He’s currently working on a children’s book about a sea monster who can’t swim.  I’ll post some images of Michael in a future post.

Los Angeles was the main destination.  And the main reason for the trip was to train BJJ at 10th Planet.  The vibe there is so cool, and the head instructor, Eddie Bravo, is the closest thing to a rock star that you’ll find on a jiu jitsu mat.  I always feel like I’m home when I’m training there.  I put my daughter into classes at the Gracie Academy in Torrance.  The quality of instruction there is second to none and she really feels comfortable there. I  wish we had a kids jiu jitsu program of that quality here in NYC.  I might just have to start my own…

We also made a stop at the Leica gallery.  Nots sure why.  I own 2 of their bodies and several lenses. Not much left for me to buy from them at this point.  But there is that Monochrom -an $8,000 camera that shoots black and white only.  My wife was looking at an exhibit of black and white portraits shot with shallow depth of field.  She asked why I never shot her that way.  I told her, I don’t own a Monochrom and maybe she should get me one 😉

Knowing that wasn’t likely to happen, I asked to borrow the camera from the gallery for a few minutes.  I created the B&W shots you see here a few minutes later.