Models say it all that time. Many photographers do too. “Practice in front of a mirror.” But what, exactly, is a model supposed to practice in front of a mirror?
Practice moving in general and expressions. Study your body and watch how it moves, both nude (or in a bra and panties) and clothed, so you can see what happens to your skin as you move, and to the clothes as you move. Watch what your body does as you move, and as you stop moving. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s far better than not knowing your body and its movements at all.
Same goes for your face. Sit in front of the mirror and make faces at yourself. Walk yourself thru emotions (get a list if it helps) and think of situations you might feel those emotions in. Use personal experiences as a guide. For example, remember how you felt when your childhood pet died, think of the first time you got flowers from a boyfriend, or what went through your head during your first car accident. Study how your face moves through each expression, and what happens to it when it stops on each one. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
A model would also benefit from taking dance, yoga, martial arts, acting classes, or any other kind of class that either teaches you how to move (and be aware of your body) or how to emote.
Using it on shoots…
Take what you’ve learned from studying yourself (and from any experience you have, both from a body-movement aspect and from a personal-experience aspect) and use that when you model. You flow from pose to pose, expression to expression, and alter what you do based on feedback from the photographer/art director.
It’s not something a new model can do right off the bat, usually (some dancers are almost natural posers). It takes a lot of practice, a lot of patience, and a lot of time to learn.
If you’re a photographer working with a lot of new models, I usually suggest scrapping the traditional pose book (mostly ’cause most of them blow) and make your own. Take photos you like the poses in, print them out or tear them out of magazines and catalogs, and put them in a 3-ring binder. Categorize them if you like–fashion poses, glamour, art nudes, commercial/lifestyle–to make it easier to dig through. Keep that book on hand at all times, and reference it. Show the model you’re working with what you want her to do, and verbally make adjustments as you go. You’ll be more likely to get poses you like (instead of stuffy, fake, senior-portrait poses) and you’ll be happier all around.
Here’s a bunch of modeling-related links (articles, videos, whatever) that you may find helpful. If you have anything you’d like me to add to the list, feel free to drop me a line. Modeling Articles & Videos