The use of models in my travel and landscape photography is a new concept for me. I would take a photo of a building in a city, would wait (and wait) for people to clear out so I could get a pristine image of the building. When taking a picture of a landscape, again I would wait for people to move away so I could get a “clean” image. In Japan, we did the opposite. We hired our own model and included him/her in our image. The models we hired are not the models you hear of, fashion, glamour, runway, fitness, commercial, and many more. We made use of non-traditional modeling, both planned and spontaneous.
Planned Model Shoots
The planned model shoots are set up for our success. The model is positioned in a way that brings out the best of the scene and the model. But is a planned model shoot at a famous setting worth it? The next two images are from the gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its 12,000 orange gates along a hillside. The first image is without a model, the way I have been shooting for years. The second image includes our model.
In my opinion (which is the only one that counts) the image with the model is far superior. Why is this? Perhaps the model demonstrates more of the Japanese culture, or the model helps the image tell a story, or something as simple as providing a sense of scale. One thing it most certainly does, it makes my image unique.
Sometimes we photographers get lucky. The following image is of our new friend, Azu. She was invited to join us by our guide, she speaks English and Japanese, making food ordering much easier. As luck would have it, she is a professional model. After a great lunch where we were able to order foods we found acceptable, we set out to a very interesting building, Tokyo International Forum.
Spontaneous Model Shoots
Another type of model is the spontaneous variety where we find someone we don’t know to help us out. Picture seven photographers, big camera in hand, waiting for the right “model” to approach. I’m surprised anyone said yes.
Unexpected Model Shoots
Lastly, sometimes models show up when you least expect it. We were walking to Tokyo Station to catch a train when three weddings showed up. Here is a photo of a bride and groom doing a pose for me. All I did was point to my camera, they both smiled and nodded, then I got the shot.
After using models throughout our trip and seeing the results I achieved, I will now seek out models for my photo shoots going forward.
The models certainly add scale. In the photos of the gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine, the gates themselves are different.
You picked up on that! Most of the gates are just orange but there was a small set that has congee symbols. I think the gates with the symbols gives the photo more context. Regardless of which set, our model enhanced the photo greatly.
what a great insight on Japan. It is a great country that I love visiting. Very organised, good and polite people and food is very delicious. Hoping to travel there soon this year.
Hi Charles! Yes, we found Japan quite appealing. We always felt safe, everything was clean (including the major cities), and everyone was very helpful. We are looking forward to a visit in a year or so to do a lot more photography. See you in June!!
Beautiful shots! I have the same photo of the beautiful red gates in Kyoto and my photo is lacking a model. Because we enter PSA photo travel competitions, using a model is not allowed for images we enter in that division but they certainly are in other divisions other than photo journalism. But I can like your models. They add alot to show the culture of the area.
Thanks, Shirley. I was actually thinking about what category I could submit the photo during the shoot. I decided I would forgo the travel category, wanting to have our beautiful models in as many of my shots as possible.