Taylor Wicks portrait session in Oswego, New York.

What is a photo “test” session?

One of the things I look forward to when I visit my hometown of Oswego, NY is working with new people as well as veterans. During my recent visit I was contacted by Taylor Wicks who worked with me once before during a previous winter visit. This time she wanted to do a session where we didn’t have to wear 3 layers of clothes and walk through a foot of snow.

During our pre-session discussion she expressed her desire to try a modeling “test” session to see if she wanted to pursue a future in the business. Knowing that, we decided to try several different looks in various locations to get as many different “looks” in the short time we had together.

Taylor Wicks portrait session in Oswego New York by Mark Knopp

One of the things a new model needs to figure out is where they fit in in the wide spectrum of modeling. What are they strongest in, what they were weakest in, what looks good, et cetera, This information shows them the path they should pursue in the field. They can then focus (no pun intended) on the areas they are best suited for plus work on the areas that aren’t as strong. A great model can pull off several different “looks” in several different genres of modeling. The more they can do, the more in demand they will be.

A “test” session helps out a model in two ways. One, if they are working with the right people, is that they will get strong images fast for their portfolio. Two, and more importantly in my opinion, is that it puts them to the test and shows them if it’s something they want to pursue further. Everyone dreams about modeling but very few actually can.

When the lights go on and the camera comes out, most people freeze up and can’t move. They can’t relax and the tensions shows up in their face and body. The ability to relax trumps posing, in my opinion. I can teach poses but if the person can’t open up and be at ease than no pose will ever work.

Being able to relax comes from being comfortable and confident. Being confident and comfortable comes from experience. Experience comes from doing something repeatedly. No one rode a bike successfully the first time. It takes time and effort. Once we got it we all got better the more we did it. We don’t even think about it anymore, it has become second nature to us. This is the same with modeling.

This is the main purpose of a “test” session. Each photographer is different so the more photographers they work with the more diverse they become. The model should learn the basics of not only modeling but also photography so they can learn how to move, what to watch out for, et cetera. The photographer gets a chance to experiment with new gear, try something new, hone their skills further, et cetera. Everyone gets something.

My strongest images come from those that I’ve worked with several times. They know how I work, I know how they work, there’s mutual trust and I can sit back and concentrate on my side of the camera more than someone that’s just starting out which means I spend a lot more time coaching than taking pictures.

This was Taylor’s first solo session. As always there was much more uncertainty at the beginning but, as the session went on, she relaxed, opened up and started to have more fun. This resulted in stronger images at the end than at the beginning as she had more confidence in herself.

I thought she did wonderfully and can’t wait to work with her again. Now that the first time jitters are gone, I know – as you do now – that the second session will be stronger.


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