Modeling In the Time of Pandemic

Model: Glass Olive; Photographer: Frank Ockenfels

As you know all too well, the Covid-19 lockdown has forced all of us out of our comfort zones, including huge upheavals in our work routines, and we’re having to adapt rapidly to this new and unusual environment.

As a full-time freelance model, my regular day job used to consist of traveling to sets, whether this was downtown LA or halfway across the world, and interacting all day directly with a team of talent and crew. This reality ended abruptly in March 2020, and will not be an option for the foreseeable future. I, like many other freelancers, had to get creative, fast. 

Welcome to the New Wild West: Virtual Photoshoots

Model: Glass Olive; Photographer: Frank Ockenfels

Although the coronavirus has kept us indoors and socially distanced, the show must go on. Many models and photographers have turned to platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to host virtual photoshoots. What used to primarily be the domain of adult content creators and cam models, is now being accessed by creative types from all genres of visual art. This new medium has been a source of experimentation and inspiration for thousands of visual artists across the world.

After having successfully wrapped my first virtual shoot over the Zoom app with the photographer, Frank Ockenfels, I was struck by how many variables I had to juggle while in front of the webcam lens. I was suddenly in charge of setting the lighting, installing a backdrop if necessary, and art directing, in addition to learning to pose for both a computer and a photographer. While we had a blast, and the photos turned out excellent, I certainly had my hands full. I was curious how other models were handling this new territory, to hear their thoughts, experiences, tips and tricks, and also, what advice would they give to photographers who want to book models for virtual shoots? I interviewed a number of very talented models with experience behind the Zoom lens, like model and content creator, Skye Blue.

Virtual Photoshoots: Advice for Models

Model: Glass Olive; Photographer: Frank Ockenfels

Skye has never used platforms like Zoom for photoshoots prior to the pandemic, but since then has had at least 20 shoots! She says her experience has been a “wonderful way to stay creative,” as well as socialize. She said, “It’s great for connecting with other humans, most shoots involve about 10-30 minutes of chit chat since most of us are starved for human connection. It’s been a great tool to shoot with photographers in different countries! I’ve shot with people from Germany, Italy, Brazil, and all over the US.”

She also has some great advice for models considering Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype shoots for the first time. “We [models] get to experiment with set design, wardrobe, and angles! Use every space in your house to shoot, there have been some really cool spots I wouldn’t of expected good photos to happen, like my washing machine and bathtub,” said Skye.

Skye isn’t the only model I spoke with that was excited about this newfound possibility of creating experimental work with photographers around the world. Freelance model, Erin Mae, says, “All of the shoots I’ve done have been really creatively fulfilling. I love the idea of meeting people from around the world, from the comfort of my own home. It has been a nice escape from the chaos of everything right now.”

I love this positive spin on creating images from home because the lockdown does give us a great opportunity to reach out to artists and photographers around the globe that we might not otherwise be motivated or have the opportunity to collaborate with.

However, with these opportunities come new boundaries. Penthouse Pet and creator, Anna Lisa Wagner, warns models, “Be selective in who you shoot with. Technology definitely makes you more accessible to creatives, but it doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every single opportunity that comes your way.”

She also gives some very practical tips for creating a conducive shoot environment. “Practice setting up some shots on your own before the call so that you can get comfortable and really maximize the space you’re working with.” Anna Lisa says, “Invest in a proper stand for your camera/phone. Less fumbling around while you’re setting up a shot means you stay in your creative flow.”

Model and performer, Cherie Deville, also makes a good point about how to make communication while shooting a little easier. She said, “Make sure you have a good webcam and don’t both talk or make noise at the same time. Unlike in real life, you can’t both be making noise at the same time and still be heard.”

Coming from personal experience, these are excellent tips for any model who is experimenting with these new platforms, and I encourage you to take note!

Virtual Photoshoots: Advice for Photographers

Model: Glass Olive; Photographer: Frank Ockenfels

Lastly, I asked what advice they would give to photographers who are interested in booking models for shoots. Communicating and collaborating over the internet can be a different ball game then scheduling shoots in person, and it might be confusing or somewhat intimidating to know how to proceed.

Model and performer, Casey Calvert, has this to say, “I would suggest a lot of the normal stuff. Discuss beforehand what you’d like to shoot, negotiate boundaries, talk about what will be delivered, usage, etc, and then, just be creative and let things flow. Make it a collaborative process. For Facetime specifically, I’d suggest both you and your model selecting “allow photos” in your Facetime settings because taking a photo via the app works much better than a screenshot. Things like this always work better via wifi as well. Be open-minded, it might not be perfect, but enjoy the process.”

I feel like these strange times can be summed up with that exact phrase, “It might not be perfect, but enjoy the process!” While we are all tackling the social distancing in our own ways, it’s very important to continue making time and space for art. Photography is a way of expressing yourself, and a way of documenting the times we live in, and this is certainly an unforgettable time.

As one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, said, “When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art.”

Model: Glass Olive; Photographer: Frank Ockenfels

Glass Olive

Olive Glass is an experienced and published, agency-represented model and actress based in Los Angeles, CA. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Patreon.

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5 Responses to “Modeling In the Time of Pandemic”

  1. May 11, 2020 at 10:15 am, Mark said:

    Nice article and full of can-do optimism: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I think some of the photos are pretty good but obviously limited because of the requirements of shooting this way. If it works for the photographer and model, then by all means have fun! For me, I’m spending a “sabbatical” going into depth with flowers and still lifes. I find it to be meditative and a great way to develop lighting techniques and artistic vision. I’m also going back through files of model shoots and seeing if I can reconceptualize them in post-production.


  2. May 09, 2020 at 1:48 pm, Rick McDaniel said:

    I seriously doubt anyone is getting any good photos by trying to do a photo shoot on line. Certainly, the odds are very low at best. I call that too bored to wait, until you can actually shoot again.


    • May 11, 2020 at 9:13 am, MM EDU said:

      You’re wrong! Check out the work being done by some of the models in the article, Samantha Mathias, and many others, along with Condé Nast editorial photographer, Alessio Albi.


    • May 12, 2020 at 12:49 am, Grant said:

      Have a look before saying sometihng so foolish.


  3. May 09, 2020 at 8:46 am, Tom Oliver said:

    Very impressive handling of this crisis and your career, Olive. It shows just how intelligent and rational thinking can find answers when others simply panic or sink back into the woodwork. It was great to read this article.



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