In my photographic life I have worked with all types of models, women, men, old, young, experienced and not. The non-pros, amateurs, or what ever you wish to call them, are sometimes the most fun to work with. The people I am referring to are generally people you know, have worked with before in a wedding, or portrait setting or even people you meet in a social setting, either in person or on-line.
The reason I like working with them in some situations, like for artistic projects or if you are doing work for pre-wedding or gifts for their spouse, is that they know virtually nothing. They have seen images or have them in their mind, but nothing else. This can be hard for an inexperienced photographer, but it is a great opportunity to not only learn how to direct but to improve or hone your people skills. In these situations you have to think. Not only how to pose and get the expression you want, but you have to talk to them in terms they can understand.
If you are using them for your own project you have to be very specific in what you want and guide them to achieve the idea or look you want to have. This take patients and critical thinking to make sure they understand what you are looking for. Seeing a bit of doubt before you shoot is normal, but as you progress they are looking for direction. Be sure to give it to them. Having them “do what they feel like” will have detrimental effects on most models and most shoots.
If you are sucessful, not only will you get genuine exprressions and poses but a image that the subject did not know was he/she was capable of doing. This will without doubt help build your repuataion with them but with the people they talk to and inteact with. Being sucessful with this does take preperation and planning on your part. Take the time to get to know the subject before the shoot if you can, this is crutial to a great photographer – subject relationship during the shoot. If they are comfortable with you and you with them it will truly show in the images.
Working with first time subjects that want to get into modeling, the rules are pretty much the same. get to know them, talk to to them about what they want. Promise NOTHING you can’t deliver. Don’t lie to them. Be honest open and if you promise images within a certain time, deliver. There are many fly by night people out there, so separate yourself by being the one they can trust. The networking advantages to this can be huge.
Having said that, don’t be afraid to say no to a model that want something you don’t necessarily want to do. Keeping your focus on a certain style builds your brand as a photographer. That doesn’t mean that you can’t grow and change. You should and you will, but having certain look or style will keep future clients looking for you when that is the style they are looking for.
So if you are working with or being approached by “non-models”, look at it as a great opportunity for you. Not only expand your market and help you learn, but you might actually produce some images that you enjoy and images that no one else will have in their port.