Sometimes it's a good idea to take a look from the opposite perspective to yours. So today we have a guest contributor, model Miss Voodoo Valentine, sharing her thoughts on collaboration photo shoots between a photographer and a model. (The types of shoots she's mainly referring to today are fine art, pin-up, portfolio builders, TFP, and small scale commercial and/or fashion. The following tips and information may not necessarily apply to large production shoots for editorial, commercial, or fashion where both the photographer and model are hired by another person, agency, or company.)

My first impression of a photographer comes from their portfolio. The things I notice the most are versatility, lighting, and polish or clarity. They matter because they are the seed of inspiration. I am a firm believer that to get the best product from a shoot, both parties need to be inspired. I really enjoy when a concept is given to me to be played with and tweaked into a personal best. When a model feels that the photographers skill is higher or equal to theirs, they will put forth more effort to go the extra mile.
A collaboration is always an exciting opportunity, but again, inspiration is the key. To ensure we all give our best, we each need to bring something extra to the table. These things may include having a designer, make up artist, hair stylist, or props on hand. Another incentive (in addition to either pay or trade) is also nice, and may include things such as promotion, images for submission, or something new and special to add to a portfolio. Keep in mind that extra intellectual or financial investment cements a bond of purpose between photographer and model.

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A few tips to keep in mind...
  • Listen to comfort zones, and pay attention to what the model is interested in, so that the shots do not turn out flat.
  • Communicate on shooting.
  • Offer basic amenities, to show some sort of genuine care at working with us.
  • Talk yourself up. We know your abilities are amazing and world renowned, please stop telling us. A photographer’s work does speak for itself, and where there is no harm in talking about method and inspiration, it is a huge turn-off to listen to you sing your own accolades.
  • Make it so rigid that when the time to shoot comes, the project is stifled by guidelines.


Models should also meet or exceed the photographers standards as well. There is no harm in inexperience, but you may need to spend some time to help them in their weak areas. Good models should know their angles, and how to best optimize their features. The photographer should also search the models book to learn their best angles. When the photographers job is composition, the models is position. Key things for you both to keep in mind are: marks, angles, body position, eye and facial expression, and hand posing. If you find that your model isn’t quite acing the shoot, don’t just let it ride, communicate ways to make it better.
  • Suggest channeling a favorite model, not to recreate, but to inspire them to reach the next level.
  • Let them peek at the camera, so as to self-critique.
  • Keep a mirror handy, so they can be assured that they look their best.


  • Ignore your intuition if they are falling flat (they want a good image as much as you do).


When seeking a model for your collaborative shoot, choose potential. Even if a candidate doesn’t have the greatest work in her portfolio, how does she interact in her shots? Is she interested in your subject matter, size appropriate, and willing to put forth effort?
I admire skill, creativity, and investment equally. To me, the thing that discerns a great photographer from a good one is not only the visual clarity of their work, but also their dedication to it.
Model bio: Miss Voodoo Valentine is a pinup and alternative model out of Nashville, Tennessee. She frequently works with national photographers and has represented such designers as Liberator Latex. She can be seen most recently in the pages of Retro Lovely 4 and Pin Up Magazine. (Above photos are from the modeling portfolio of Miss Voodoo Valentine, used with permission. Photographers noted under each image.)