Catalog Modeling Lessons with Photographer Lesley Pedraza

Jacqueline contacted me requesting modeling lessons, explaining that she had delivered a poor performance on a catalog job, and requesting that I teach her how to model specifically for catalog.

I was intrigued.  Rather than fall into despair or call it quits Jacqueline used her acumen as a successful businesswoman to approach the situation as a problem needing a solution. And the solution was to gain expertise where it was lacking—and quickly.

Jacqueline’s request was unusual- I had never had a model contact me specifically for modeling training.  But it was also logical- before becoming a photographer I had modeled successfully for over 20 years, at first as a thin model in Europe and New York, and later as a plus model in Los Angeles.

By this time, however, my modeling moves were completely instinctual, developed from years of trial, error and practice. Jacqueline was requesting instruction, and in order to do it I really had to think about how I modeled and break it down into graspable bits.

bad catalog modeling technique
Bad catalog modeling technique

Lesson 1: The Body

I focused on catalog modeling for her category, which is something between young Mom and sophisticated, but approachable, classic woman. I pulled catalog images from major fashion brands that were both appropriate and inappropriate for her so that she could clearly see the difference, and had them ready on my computer when she arrived.

I set Jacqueline up against a white, seamless background and asked her to model for a few frames, without instruction. She enthusiastically went for it but looked a little lost.

We went to the computer together and examined the professional catalog images I had selected, breaking apart how the experienced models were moving, what would work for her, and what to avoid.

This time when she went back on set she had a better idea of what to do. We continued back and forth from computer to set, practicing moves in front of the camera – starting at the positioning of the feet, to the movements of the hands and torso, and up to how she held her head.

Jacqueline gained a lot of confidence that day.

These rules have now become the cornerstone for how I teach models to move in front of the camera.  In addition, there are subtler aspects, from tension in the body to how congruent one is from head to toe, to what one is thinking.  There is no hiding from the camera, it truly sees it all.

Lesson 2: The Face

Very soon after and much to my surprise Jacqueline approached me again, this time to focus specifically on doing beauty shots – or close-ups of the face. She explained that she felt comfortable with her body posing but was unsure of what she should do with her face.  Once again her strategic mind realized there was a piece missing, and she was determined to resolve it.

I came in close to her face this time, using my long lens. What I saw startled me. In front of me was a strikingly beautiful woman who either could not, or would not, believe that she was striking or beautiful, and it was written all over her face. The camera saw it, and now I saw it, too.

Once again we went back and forth between shooting, discussing what she was thinking and feeling, looking together at her images in the camera’s viewfinder, and honing in on the confidence that brings out one’s beauty. Jacqueline trusted me and had the courage to let go. The results were astonishing. The images were not only beautiful, but also powerful.

Good catalog modeling technique
Good catalog modeling technique

The Final Exam

Shortly thereafter, Jacqueline’s agent specifically requested shots with a soft catalog feel (think: Talbots or J. Jill catalogs). It was time to go on location and put all the pieces into play. We structured the shoot like a real catalog job, with hair and makeup artists, a lovely location, and the specific wardrobe needed to target catalog clients.

This time, Jacqueline knew what to do. Her long lines complemented the all-American wardrobe, the relaxation in her body created a natural flow with the clothing, and, most importantly, her loving “Mom” gaze breathed beauty into every shot. She had transcended her lessons and begun the dynamic dance that is modeling. Her agent was most pleased and her portfolio now shows her hard-earned confidence.

This process was such an innovative and beneficial experience that I decided to offer modeling lessons as a service to other models. I look forward to passing on the skills I learned in my modeling career to other models so that they can accelerate their own success.

Sincerely, Lesley Pedraza


Read more about Lesley, her 20 year career as a fashion model, and her current career as a photographer and modeling coach, here on the YBR blog.  You can also visit her website and her Facebook page. 
To read Jacqueline Depaul’s post about why she requested catalog lessons click here.



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