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Unexpected Guest Arrives: “Oh, Hey Mom!” or “Can You Lend a Hand For This Shot?”

In the last week, I’ve had two male models show up for their photoshoot with a female where I was not notified in advance. Both times, I was caught off guard.

The first guy who had just turned 18 showed up with his mom. The expectation was we would be doing a more G rated shoot, so this seemed like it could still work. The other guy arrived with a girl his age that I assumed was either his girl friend or a good friend.

With the mom shoot, I think they were both in town for something different, so she probably thought why not tag along. In any case like this, I quickly try to bring the female into the discussion so that they feel welcome. She was encouraging her son to be more sexy as he removed his shirt and he seemed comfortable with having his mom there during the shoot.

With the younger girl, I didn’t engage her right away as I was still surprised a bit (we had discussed a full nude shoot) so at first she sat there awkwardly using her phone while the guy and I chatted. After a few minutes, I pivoted to chat with the three of them which immediately resulted in a better dynamic in the studio.

I’ve also had male models set to do a nude shoot bring male partners. In all cases, I let the guest know that as someone who is familiar with the model, they can be very helpful to me in several ways.

  1. They know what may make the model feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

  2. They can help see things I might miss (like a thread on the pants or hair out of place)

  3. They may be aware of better angles to catch the model’s face in the most flattering manner.

  4. Most importantly, they help put the model at ease by having someone familiar in the studio.

So back to the younger girl…

My assumption based on their body language was that she was more than a friend. My assumption in general is either girl friend or GBF. I asked at some point how long they have been a couple, and their answer confirmed my feeling that they were not just casual friends. As we started our shoot with a strip tease progression, she very quickly became comfortable with her role in the studio and he seemed pleased to have her support. The three of us build a team effort around getting great shots of him.

As we got to the full nudes, I asked if she wanted to be a hand model. He encouraged her to give a hand to the project and things got a bit more exciting for him at that point. After a brief hand model effort, she commented “that was awkward”. I think another guy would probably have been more at ease with that assignment, but he didn’t seem to mind and we got a stronger image as a result.

I always suspect that some girlfriends are present for protection. Either she feels threatened by her man being nude in front of another guy OR the model doesn’t want to risk having anything inappropriate occur, whether gay or straight. Other times, the person joining is just curious and wants to see what a photo shoot with their guy would be like.

Treating everyone with respect and professionalism goes a long way toward reducing any pre-session fears that either party may have had. After our recent shoot, the girl friend was appreciative of the way that I helped put everyone at ease and said thanks for not making it awkward.

In general, I prefer if a model is planning to bring a guest. However, as a photographer, you need to always remain flexible in situations and go with the flow. Whether a male model arrives with a female or male and the person is a parent, step granddad (had that with another model), or a friend or partner… you go with it and make the best of the situation. With this approach, you generally end up with stronger images and everyone can have fun in the process.

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