There is something romantic about the idea of photographing new faces against a backdrop that is in a far off place. Whether it is shooting against incredible European architecture, the sunset colored sands of Dubai or near the exotic beaches of Bali, working in a foreign location is an aspiration for many fashion and beauty photographers alike.

Fashion week is a perfect time to reach out to each market’s modeling agencies and inquire about testing or even hiring models for a shoot as there is a vast amount of talent in the area. But what happens when it is off season and very few models are in fact in the area and even fewer are available to shoot?

This is precisely what I encountered when traveling to Europe recently during the off season. A trip to a local Irish pub in Salzburg one evening introduced me to a woman who had incredible features that inspired me to ask her to sit in front of my lens.

The subject doesn’t always have to be a working model in order to achieve beautiful imagery. Here are some tips to pull it off.

Keep It Simple.

The key is to keep it as simple as possible, and that also goes for the equipment. As tempting as it is to bring your favorite portable strobe and modifier, it is probably best to go as minimalistic as possible. The added equipment is not only cumbersome to haul around, it can intimidate someone who has never modeled before as well as garner unwanted attention from those passing by.

Have a preset vision.

Know what it is that you want to photograph and where you want to capture it. This vision will often reveal itself upon the first glimmer of inspiration and if it doesn’t manifest immediately, sit back for a few minutes and observe the subject. Angles, lighting and mannerisms will often present themselves and instantaneously complete the imaginary mood board in one’s head.

Style it accordingly.

The aforementioned observations will typically inspire the overall look and mood of the shoot. Choose clothing and accessories that play up that vision and make the model feel comfortable at the same time. While reference images can always be exchanged beforehand with the overall aesthetic for clothing in hopes that the model possesses similar items, it is always a good idea to pull the exact wardrobe ahead of time from somewhere like H&M as a measure of safety.

Additionally, a good standard practice is to keep the hair simple and makeup minimal. The hair should be able to be worn up or down and makeup doesn’t need to be more than a little powder and/or under eye makeup, mascara and gloss. The look can always be built upon if desired.

Establish trust.

Communicate with and get to know the model prior to the shoot date by asking questions and genuinely becoming acquainted with them. This in tandem with sharing previous work and the overall goal of the upcoming shoot develops a rapport and level of trust, both of which are essential to a successful shoot.

Give clear and concise direction.

There is a good chance that there may be a language barrier when working in a different country and therefore clear and concise direction is essential. Provide visual cues such as physically demonstrating the exact pose and facial expression whenever possible and choose specificity and brevity over long-winded directions to make sure nothing is lost in translation.

The more straightforward and uncomplicated the entirety of everything is, the better. Also be sure to be very complimentary to the model when they are doing a great job and try not to let any frustrations rear their ugly head during the shoot.

Terms like beautiful and wonderful accompanied with a genuine smile are pretty universal in letting them know they are on the right track. This will keep the mood positive and light as well as encourage them to keep giving you their best efforts.

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