In commercial advertising, editorial, and artistic photography, sometimes you will not see the entire model in full body view, but rather, just isolated parts such as beautiful hands, lips, feet, legs, back, neck, shoulders, etc. These models must treat their specialized parts with care to maintain a “ready-to-work” state for upcoming bookings. There are many types of models in the fashion industry, but this is open to those that have great body “parts” that meet the industry’s requirements and high standards. This type of specialty is NOT for just anyone that thinks that it’s easy.
For example, beautiful hands and feet need to be groomed well with frequent manicures and pedicures including proper moisturization so that they stay consistently groomed. These models know that their specialized parts are their way to make money, so they invest the extra effort into their livelihood. This also includes perhaps wearing gloves, booties, or anything that helps protect their part that is considered their specialty. There are many tendencies toward extreme protection from harsh or damaging elements.
The body part that is modeled should be well toned and defined with great skin, but without markings such as tattoos, piercings, fake nails, sunburned skin, dark suntans, scars, cuts, acne, cellulite, varicose veins, razor burn, stubble, or excessive hair. The model can’t just expect expensive and timely photo retouching for their imperfections to be modified. Genetics can only go so far before a model’s flaws are truly discovered, so it’s best to stay realistic and make the most out of what their body is. Certain procedures for attaining the best physique can help, but some may certainly make things worse, so leave it to the professionals to tell you your options for skin-care, hair removal, personal grooming, etc.
In the major modeling markets such as NYC there are specialized agencies for “Parts” modeling. In smaller and secondary modeling markets there may not be such a specialty division, so a full-service modeling agency will use its commercial models that represent the finest example of the best needed body part required for the booking. In the larger markets, the specialized agencies will deal with major catalog, television commercial bookings, as well as editorial print bookings, because there is a large demand versus smaller cities (secondary markets). The pay rate may range from just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on client and their usage of the model’s part.
We mentioned that proper maintenance is required to keep body parts smooth and healthy in appearance, but the model must have the commercially desired shapes and lengths of the showcased body parts to maximize its’ photogenic quality in print (& television). For example, long fingers and toes photograph well. Some feet models have had an average shoe size of 6 to size 8… and that’s not a typical shoe size of a model that’s 5’10”, so there is availability for all different types of models to work if they find their niche. This is also a way for a model to extend their career.
Now, the next step after a model discovers that they have the ideal parts for photography is the ability to know what to do with those parts in front of a camera and while promoting a product. The model needs to use the correct poses that include the advertised product naturally into the photograph. The same principle applies to other body parts such as legs, arms, and the back regarding posing and portraying the advertised product. The key is to make it “look” natural even though the pose may feel exaggerated or awkward.
In specialty parts posing, the story is told by a much smaller area of the body where a model may not be able to rely upon using their eyes and facial expressions, for instance, to show the mood. Subtle movements and changes of little angles can alter whether the body looks natural or oddly distorted. Distortion is something that looks like something is smaller, larger, wider, narrower, or even mis-shaped. The photographer controls a great deal of how a part will look with the angle of their camera, but the model must be aware of the camera placement and keep in mind what the photographer may be seeing versus what they really want you to do.
For instance, here’s a little exercise to try. Think about the moment that the camera catches your pose of perhaps your hand. Place and pose your hand in front of you. Look at your hand’s pose and position. Pretend that your eyes are the camera and place your hand ABOVE your eye level and carefully adjust the angle a little bit at a time to see how the shape of your hand in enhanced or distorted. If you are able to actually use a digital camera on your own, you’ll notice that some poses are more flattering than others. Now, bring your hand down to “eye level” and “lower” to observe how those same flattering poses from above are not as flattering when the camera is from below or at a different angle. The lesson to this tip is to just observe that EVERY angle of your body will appear different in a photographic pose dependent upon WHERE the angle of the camera is. If the model practices and becomes aware of their body’s angle and the product placement, the technical aspect should become second nature and the positions can flow during a photo-shoot so that any angle can be optimized with the assistance of the photographer.
A photographer may note to the model how they are seeing the body part’s pose and offer suggestions, but it’s helpful and more professional if you don’t need to be constantly reminded and told what to and not to do. The model learns that it’s a combination of posing, angle of camera, and the lighting that places shadows or reflects light in all the right or wrong places. That takes some time, but the model that can learn those tricks can make the most of their ability to be a specialty model. (The same concept is similar for whole body poses, too, but on a grander scale.)
After the model feels that they have what it takes to be photographed and dedicated to the maintenance as a specialty parts model… they’ll need some specific pictures of the parts to market themselves to find representation and be professionally presented to clients. Models that already have composite cards in secondary markets may even include them on their updated comp card to feature their specialty. For anyone seeking greater professional opportunities as a parts model, there may be specialized websites that can be found in your area if you do some research.