“Think about the images’ effects you want to cause on the viewer”
Part 4: How the model’s attitude appeals
On we go with part 4 of how your campaign images appeal to the viewer. This time we are having a closer look at the model’s attitude. If you want to find the perfect imagery for your target group – imagery that makes them desire your fashion – then you should be able to tell your model what she or he’s supposed to represent. The way the model moves and looks usually implies the sensation that she or he seems to have, thanks to the presented fashion, of course. So depending on whether you are selling hiking boots or tiaras, the model has different possibilities to set off the product in the best way. If you can give her or him the right instructions or at least point out what you like or don’t like regarding the poses, that’s even better. One of the most powerful tools in photos are the eyes of the model because humans are always FIRST catching sight of them in order to recognize faces – that’s due to our evolution as social beings.
1. The eyes
Usually the eyes, respectively the facial expression, sell better than “sex”. If you want to connect with the viewer immediately, the model looking straight into the camera might be the right solution for your photos. His or her glance is able to make the captured moment a very personal one between the model and the viewer. The given hold of eye contact (because it’s a photo) appeals like strength and confidence, as well as competence, which then applies to your brand’s qualities too.
If you prefer a subtler way of showing your fashion, the model might better look away, so there’s the impression of her or him seeing something else outside of the picture. At the same time, the viewer becomes an observer of the model. Those two factors are able to create a much more narrative imagery. Suddenly, you’re telling a story and stir up curiosity. Now there’s a good chance that the viewer’s eyes wander the picture, exploring your products unconsciously, as well as the model’s pretended lifestyle.
A similar way of directing the attention to all the details in the picture is showing the model with closed eyes. It causes a very sensual impression, enables connotations like “passion”, “pleasure”, “dream”, “secret” and in case of a female model “womanhood”. On the other hand, the model show’s her- or himself vulnerable – which is a good thing in pictures, because it evokes a certain amount of profound sympathy.
2. The emotions
In commercial photography, a happy smile is worth a mint, because people mirror each other’s emotions, even if it’s just a picture that they’re looking at. So if your model represents happiness in the picture, it’s an invitation to your costumers to be happy too … as long as they are wearing your products (;
A smiling model mostly comes across as natural as the girl or boy next door and the pictures may moreover remind us of our own attempts to look good on photos. But for this very reason smiling pictures may also seem a little boring at some point. If you’re into happy pictures, I’d recommend a good mix with rather serious ones, so that the ones with a smile will look real and honest.
A serious-looking model can be suggesting a rather cool or at least very unforced attitude. The pictures are mostly artsier or they may look more like snaps from real situations. Fashion editorials are commonly showcasing serious expressions if they don’t go for other fancy notions. Fashion campaigns quite often too – besides the fact that being serious makes the model look cool and casual, it leaves enough room for interpretation, so one might also see sexiness, while another one sees confidence, etc.
Emotions are sexy nowadays because they imply a story. It might be effective to show an angry (and sexy) model scratching and damaging an expensive car, as long as she’s acting her part well. In this particular case, most people would imagine that her boyfriend or lover has betrayed her and so they might feel bad for her, rather than seeing a glorification of violence. But don’t worry, normally you don’t have to get as dramatic. If the model offers emotional expressions, this will do, even in a neutral studio setting – but again, only as long as she’s a good actress!
3. The dynamics
Dynamic poses are literally and figuratively more edgy and therefore they fascinate and draw interest. Depending on the pose, they can appeal very casual and natural, like true-life situations. In other cases, they can look strong, fierce, or bold because the model fills the picture with her or his arms or legs. In both versions, you can see the fashion in motion. For sure, that way some pieces don’t look their best, but as these pictures attract so much attention, they don’t quite have to. When you rely on dynamic poses, what you sell is the verve. So if your target group is young and agile and your fashion is not too stiff, go for it.
The opposite of dynamic poses are straight or still ones. Especially when the model looks into the camera, this is a great way to create symmetry – which people perceive as beautiful or perfect. You can play with more details and put the focus on what the model is wearing. With a rather soft facial expression, the model is able to create a quite romantic atmosphere. If you emphasize accessories (or if that’s your product), non-dynamic pictures should determine your imagery.
Everyone knows that sex sells, so when working with a model, it seems natural to try to work with this aspect. As long as it doesn’t turn to be cheap, this can’t be faulted. But I think that you need to be careful though. In my opinion, when your fashion is flirty, the model wearing it will look sexy enough without posing too offensive. Here, clashing with the style would be favorable. The same applies to the opposite case: when your fashion isn’t meant to be sexy per se, the model posing in a more passionate way can add the certain confidence and sexiness you may be looking for. Another way of involving sex to sell is to overdo it like e.g. Gucci did in 2003.
To defuse that image in your head now, the last but not least way of photographing your campaign is to stage the model in a real set, a real situation, where she or he’s forced to act naturally. Of course, that’s not as easy as it sounds, but a good model should be able to credibly eat a cake and look great while doing so. It’s going to be the story again that is told through this, catching your costumers’ attention and making them feel like they want to fit in that dress AND eat this cake, right?
An experienced model should be able to get into the spirit of almost any attitude you expect for the very campaign you shoot. That’s why you shouldn’t choose her or him by the looks only, but for her or his attitude too. It’s always a help to examine a model’s book carefully and pay attention to the details. If the poses seem to be creative and real and there’s something special in her or his eyes, it’s likely that you’ve found a great model. If she or he’s a new face in the business, you may want to invite her or him to a casting or Go See before confirming. But sometimes even in polaroids (the very simple pictures of model agencies, showing the model in underwear or plain clothes), you can see whether there’s talent. Whether a newbie or not, she or he might surprise you with a great attitude, due to her or his interpretation of your fashion. You may always give the model instructions to make sure that the style of the pictures is correct. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s interesting to just allow her or him to act independently because then the photos will look very authentic and that’s what sells best, promise!
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