Model Photography: What Makes a Great Model?

Model Photography: What Makes a Great Model?

From debilitating body issues to showing up late and unprepared, a model has the ability to make or break a photo shoot. Here are the three most important characteristics of a great model.

How To Be A Great Model

Over the years I’ve photographed a wide variety of human subjects, from friends and family, to aspiring new models, to highly experienced agency talent. I’ve found that the best models can come from any background, provided they are confident, reliable, and receptive.


A few years back, I was shooting a series of portraits for a big personal project. One of the shoots unravelled when the modelan acquaintance who had eagerly volunteered—revealed deep-seated body issues and began to spew self-hatred the moment the shoot started. She thought she was too fat. She apologized for not being ‘pretty’ enough. It went on and on, and no amount of reassurance made a difference. We ended up cutting it short.

A model needs a healthy level of confidence in herself and her body. Otherwise your shoot will be much more difficult, if not impossible.


Recently, I called a new model to book a test shoot the following morning. The model was very polite and easygoing, and described herself as reliable and respectful of others’ time. This struck me as quite professional, so I was looking forward to working with her. The day of the shoot, she showed up 30 minutes late and unprepared. Instead of arriving camera-ready, she spent another 30 minutes at the makeup mirror, putting us a full hour behind. Guess who’s not getting a call back?

It’s imperative that your model is reliable and shows up on time, every time. Shoots are expensive, often including the cost of renting a venue, makeup artists, equipment and assistants. If a model isn’t ready on time, it costs you.


I’ve photographed highly experienced agency models, and it’s always wonderful. The pros are vetted and trained and know exactly how to pose their bodies. Their professionalism is undeniable. Pro models are used to working with photographers and can be very intuitive during a shoot. They respond instantly to feedback and work hard to get the right shot.

It’s important to work with a receptive model who listens and responds well to feedback during a shoot. Avoid models with giant egos who don’t value your input. You’ll be more likely to capture your shot and have a much more successful photo shoot.

Need help finding your dream model who meets all these characteristics? Check out How To Find Great Models.

Photo credits
© Vitaly Valua / 123RF

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Written by Hillary Fox

Founder of OnGoingPro, Hillary Fox is a travel and lifestyle photographer working throughout Europe and Africa. Visit her site at

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