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How to Photograph Models on a Catwalk: Directing and Poses

Improve your model photography on the Virtual Catwalk with these essential tips on directing and posing models in the studio.

9 Essential Tips on Directing Models and Model Poses

Knowing how to photograph models on a runway is one thing; taking model photos on the Virtual Catwalk is another. The Virtual Catwalk transforms any small space available into a rotating platform with a moving treadmill for model photography. 

It’s much like a treadmill that also spins 360-degrees. Both the belt and the platform rotate at the same time. Meanwhile, there’s adjustable speed for models to easily enter or exit the runway, and to walk safely while on it.

During photoshoots, cameras remain off to the side around the platform, capturing what’s known as a “flying camera effect”. This effect works across the board: applying well to still photos, 360 spins, or filming product videos of live models

Whether it’s photos for an e-commerce website, or video for an online fashion show, the Catwalk makes photoshoots easy. The real challenge is in working with the models: building relationships, directing poses, and taking the best photos. 

And this photography tutorial will share how. Read on for 9 tips on how to pose & photograph models on the Catwalk, from prep to execution.

1 - Prepare well in advance of the model photoshoot

Working with models on a photoshoot calls for a lot of preparation in advance. Not only are we working with live subjects, we have numerous extra-photographic conditions to consider. From the lighting setup for photographing models, to camera settings and exposition, this is only the beginning. We must consider unsuspected surprises, and all moving parts in the studio: equipment, support, and the interpersonal and technical aspects.

Studio setup with catwalk, model, lights, and computer.

It’s as the pros always say: preparation is key. This is even more true when planning how to photograph models. It’s necessary to have clear goals, timelines, and strong communication to prevent any misunderstandings (and limit wasted time). Thus, when preparing for a shoot, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What is the product, and what kind of photos do we need to capture? (Is the aim to create still images, 360 spins, and / or product videos? Are we photographing for the web, print, or both?)
  • Which angles will be most vital for marketing and PR purposes? (Usually, professional studios will have this information from a brand style guide. Style guides often dictate not only the types of pictures we need, but also angles, backgrounds, retouching and more.)
  • What unsuspecting surprises might be waiting for us? (Will we need any additional scene props, or perhaps a back-up model in case one falls ill?)

The answer to these questions will help when building a detailed roadmap of the photo session. Form a detailed plan covering all goals, mapping out processes step-by-step, while taking into account any possible surprises along the way.

2 - Have a session support team on hand

An experienced, creative support team can provide invaluable assistance to a photographer realizing their vision. Support teams can arrange assistance for models (hairdressing, make-up, etc), and help with technical aspects of scene prep. 

Image of model exiting computer screen walking on runway.

Not only that, there is always communication to coordinate. Session support can take the load off: working between managers and assistants, or scene and product stylists. They are the studio liaison, taking on everything from setting the scene, to prepping products and attending to models. Meanwhile, the rest of the team can focus on their individual responsibilities.

The stronger the coordination, the more efficient the photo session will be. Support can even take on the responsibility of monitoring physical details of the scene, or prepping products for each session. Although, with smaller projects, these responsibilities might be on the photographer. With higher workload, the more value the support team adds to the studio.

3 - Use photo examples of model poses you want

Next, always have references on-hand for how to pose your model. Show them a few example poses to help them familiarize themselves with both the photoshoot and the style guide. The more you can show rather than tell, the more likely you are to achieve the specific look you want.

Professional photo of model with futuristic background.

If you don’t already have references, just find some examples online to convey the general idea. Then, consider collecting example poses for a manual or style guide, as this will help streamline photoshoots in the future.

4 - Direct the model’s attention with non-verbal cues

Rather than verbal direction, create a system for non-verbal communication. Simple hand cues or pointing at objects and places in the studio works well. The model won’t have to first hear and then think about directions, allowing for better flow in the photoshoot.

Female model in elegant, blue dress posing for cameras.

This approach is useful when using the Virtual Catwalk as both a rotating platform or when capturing individual angles. The technique can help better direct the model’s stare or elicit expression, and is much easier than vocal instruction.

5 - Plan for poses to model handbags or jewellery

What about poses for handbags and jewellery? Here, there are a few considerations before you get into positioning the model.

First, it’s always crucial to combine products like handbags and jewellery with the right apparel. Colors should bring the product to life on the model while also showcasing any fine details.

For any photos of accessories that hang off the arm, you’ll want the item in full view. This tends to call for a close-up product photo, so the focus is usually on the lower-half of the model. 

Model in designer sunglasses posing with ladies' handbag.

Consider arm and hand position, and monitor these during the session. You’ll also want pictures from a 3/4 angle, as well as from the back and sides.

6 - Work with static vs dynamic model poses

Pictures of models can either create the illusion of movement or appear still. Often, style guides will call for a combination of these two, also known as static vs dynamic model poses.

The Virtual Catwalk provides a platform for both. Models can stand still on the platform while it rotates, they can stop at individual angles, or they can walk on the platform. Obviously, taking pictures of a model walking on the runway leads to more naturally dynamic pictures.

Graphic showing rotation of Catwalk's moving runway.

If trying to create the illusion of movement, typically we do this by posing a model's hands and feet. Position the hands and feet outwards to make it look like the model is approaching the camera. 

To achieve more static poses, point the feet more towards shoulder width and lay hands by the model’s side. This will capture pictures of a model so that they appear standing still.

7 - Find the best model pose for the product

Ultimately, how to pose your model for a product photoshoot will depend on the product. If it’s sportswear or sporting goods, such as hockey apparel and equipment, you’ll want dynamic lifestyle pictures.

Compare that to for example sleepwear, or casual clothing. The poses in your product pictures need to showcase not only the product, but also the lifestyle associated with it.

Model in sportswear posing on Catwalk.

The more consumers can connect with the model, the more products you're likely to sell on that webstore. Thus, aim to capture the product as well as the lifestyle through your model’s poses.

8 - Make work easier on the photographer and the model

Working with live models requires a lot of human interaction. While this might again fall on a creative support team, there are ways to better prepare for unforeseen challenges. Sometimes models and photographers are in a bad mood, or even worse, unable to work due to illness.

Model in studio giving the thumbs down.

Thankfully, there are a number of techniques to keep everything running smoothly – for the photographer and the model.

  • Monitor even the smallest details. (Notice an irregularity: a dangling label, a blemish or wrinkle? Tend to it as soon as you notice it. The fewer pictures you need to repeat, the better, and you also establish trust with your models.)
  • Build a relationship and create the atmosphere. (Teams should always build rapport with the model. Seemingly little things like a warm greeting, a nice introduction, or a cup of tea can go a long way.)
  • Feed your photographer and the model! (Never forget to have healthy snacks and refreshments in the studio, and breaks for quality meals. Everybody gets hungry, and skipping meals, especially during longer sessions, creates more difficulty for everyone.)

9 - Pay close attention to the fine details

Finally, paying attention to fine details when photoshooting will save considerable time in post-production. Remember that an extra 2 minutes in the studio can often save 10 minutes in retouching. Look for any minor concerns like dust, wrinkles or creases that may call for major changes in editing.

Layered images from software interface to final imagery.

Keep in mind, the rules for post-processing human models are the same as for still life and packshot photography. In the end, the less editing on your fashion photos, the better. 

Heavily-edited photos more often than not increase product returns, so aim for visual content that accurately represents the product.

Also, beware of overemphasizing color saturation or vibrance. Increasing these beyond normal levels is a common mistake in fashion product photography. Always review final pictures and consider a second opinion on what impression the colors make.

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