What is Mirror Work and How Can Models Master It?
Any successful model knows that just staring blankly into a camera and having a pretty face is not nearly enough to be considered great at their job. The expressions you use when being photographed convey all sorts of emotions, and depending on the demands of the particular job you are doing, these expressions can make or break the success of the campaign. So, how can you know if the expressions you are making are conveying what you intend them to or if you are totally off-track and making a photographer’s job way harder than it has to be?
A photographer will often give you instructions and feedback on how you are posing and how your poses are translating on camera, but you can do your part by making sure you are working with them, rather than against their instructions. To save photographers the extra work of correcting everything you do, make sure you know your own face and how it moves before heading into a photo shoot. One of the best ways to master your expressions and movements is by doing mirror work. Mirror work is the practice of watching yourself in the mirror and doing several different poses and expressions so that you can gain muscle memory to recall what those poses feel like so you can easily re-create them when you’re in front of the camera.
Spend a Few Minutes Every Day on It
You certainly do not need to do mirror work for hours at a time, but spending a few minutes on it every day will gradually build up the muscle memory you need to master it and become a better model.
Before long, you will be able to do any pose or expression on command and without much coaching, thanks to the mirror work you put into it. You will also instinctively know if a pose or expression you are doing looks awkward, based on the way it feels.
Don’t Just Focus on Your Face
A full-length mirror will be an essential tool for a model working on their poses.
You can practice posing in the mirror and quickly rule out anything that looks awkward and unnatural and instead, focus on your most flattering and natural poses that photographers, model scouts, and agents are sure to love.
Work on Conveying Specific Emotions
With a specific emotion in mind, be it fear, happiness, or disdain, practice conveying it with only your facial expressions. All models can benefit from these skills, but this particular skill may be most useful for commercial models who are usually required to do more expressive facial work than fashion models.
Practice Mirror Work When You’re Alone
If someone else is in the room while you are practicing in the mirror, you will likely feel even sillier than you do making faces in the mirror to begin with! Make sure you have room to yourself so you can really focus on the mirror. Being alone will also prevent distractions from interrupting your work. Carving out a few minutes of alone time each day will also benefit your peace of mind!
It Will Feel Awkward at First
If you are expecting mirror work to feel totally natural at first, it likely won’t be. In the beginning, mirror work will feel silly and awkward, but eventually, you will become more comfortable with it.
Furthermore, the awkwardness is worth it for the skills you are gaining from it. The work you put in practicing your poses and expressions BEFORE a photo shoot will also prevent a lot of instruction and extra time at the photo shoot.
Agents, Scouts, and Photographers Can Tell If You Practice
Modeling professionals sometimes see hundreds of models each day which means they know talent when they see it! They will know right away if you have practiced your posing and expressions, and this will demonstrate your professionalism and work ethic. Shoots will go much faster when you’ve done this work, and your agent will be more likely to recommend you for tougher jobs or jobs on tight timelines if they know a lot of extra time won't be required for posing instructions.
Having these polished and perfected poses and expressions in your modeling toolkit will not only make your life as a model much easier, but it will also make photographers more likely to want to work with you! Just a few minutes of mirror work each day will have a very positive effect on the success of your modeling career.