Annabel Williams takes two readers out onto the streets of London to show them how to use the urban environment to achieve successful portrait shots. Tom Doyle reports

Portraiture Masterclass – Working with Models

Who you are shooting is fundamental to how they are shot. The two models today are Soroush Pourhashemi and Gus Neto, and Annabel stresses that location and lightning are the keys to considering your subject and how they will react to the demands.

Photo by Helen Schryver

Annabel’s theory is that a portrait shoot is a two-way street. ‘Models think they have to be perfect for you, but that’s just not the case,’ she says. ‘You, the photographer, have to be a person first. When a relationship has been established, the shots will flow.’

In terms of lighting, Annabel suggests that you should be aware of harsh sunlight, particularly as the low autumnal sun begins to draw in sooner: ‘Most people’s faces can’t take harsh sunlight,’ she says. ‘But due to Soroush’s fine bone structure, the “real strength” in his face means he can be shot in harsher conditions than most.’

Photo by Helen Schryver

While it’s important to have key locations in mind, you should be on the lookout for new ideas

Both models have slender frames and strong jaw lines. Annabel advises the readers to ask their subject to aim their face down and jut their jaw slightly outwards. ‘This takes years off your face – the difference is incredible,’ she says.

Rather than a typical straight pose, Annabel instructs the models to give a ‘tiny smile’, as a full-on smile on request often looks unnatural. ‘A small smile gives the picture that bit more feeling if their eyes are smiling as well,’ she says.

A quick tip that works wonders is to shoot down onto people, as Annabel believes it adds to the mystique of a picture. With Soroush’s intense eyes, it’s easy to grab that elusive side of the subject. Of course, these kinds of eyes are always going to be easier to shoot, so it pays to be aware of who you’re shooting and how they will react to your methods.

Photo by Sue Kennedy

A succesful shoot relies on a combination of clothing, location, light and a good relationship between the photographer and the subject

Another simple yet effective trick Annabel uses is to get her subject to say something stupid. Soroush is forced to yell out ‘bananas’, but the effect is clear as his face lights up for the next shot, which Annabel

‘The trick to making people relax is to not be afraid to look stupid yourself as the photographer,’ says Annabel. ‘You can look as silly as you need to if it relaxes who you’re shooting. Then you’re left with a great

The first difficulty of the day comes when Soroush starts to look uncomfortable while in a topless pose, but Annabel stresses that a photographer should never be afraid to change a shot if it isn’t working. ‘You have to have the confidence to move instinctively,’ she says. ‘If it’s not working, move it.’

Soroush looks visibly awkward spreading his arms behind him against a glass background, yet Annabel confidently repositions him, working with what’s available in terms of the background and gets some interesting shots of him looking more comfortable, yet retaining his mysterious air.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Portraiture Masterclass – Preparation
  3. 3. Portraiture Masterclass – Working with Models
  4. 4. Portraiture Masterclass – It's behind you
  5. 5. Portraiture Masterclass – Lighting
  6. 6. Portraiture Masterclass – Phoning it in
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