Now for what you can work on to become a professional model. Facial expression, posing, make-up, hair styling and wardrobe are items that you can practice on your own. People talk about models spending a lot of time in front of a mirror. They are not looking into the mirror to admire themselves but to practice their expression & posing and to see how their make-up, hair style and wardrobe look. After you get past your genetics and business professionalism these become your modeling tools. By honing your skills in these areas to perfection and combining them in creative ways, a professional model is produced.
Working on Expression and Pose
In the old days of melodrama and vaudeville they made a science out of communicating with facial expression or body position. They exaggerated and standardized every emotion that one might want to express. They produced books showing these standard expressions and poses and when you studied theatrics this was part of what you learned. All of this early work was a bit over exaggerated and through the years has gone through a lot of refinement. When photographs began replacing drawings in fashion magazines the photo fashion industry came up with their own set of expressions and poses. These expressions and poses usually communicated beauty and grace. A model would learn a standard set of poses which told where the feet, hands, torso, and head would be positioned. One would work on one's cheery smile or surprise facial expression. By the early sixties it had become pretty regimented. But just as all the rules for being a model were set, along came the late sixties and a time for breaking all of the rules. It has been a muddled mess since. Today there are no set rules for models except all of the old rules still can apply except we want to break them all the time. The modeling schools say they will teach you the standard modeling poses but the agencies and fashion industry say that there are no standard poses; everything is creative and you either have it or you don't and we decide who has it.
As a working photographer I think it is great to have both. I like it when I can tell a model to look sad and she has practiced that look in the mirror and can do it on cue. I also like when we can play sad music or tell a side story and get an honest sad expression. I like when shooting a simple fashion shot and I ask the model to go through her short or long group of poses and she has a set routine that we can shoot through. I like it when we need something very different for a shot and I can tell the model how to stretch, twist, and reach and she is aware of her/his body and can do it. I think you should know the rules so you can break them. You should know your body so you are aware of how it moves, what lines it forms, and how it can be coached into different positions. I think you should know yourself and your emotions so you can show these to the camera and feel confident in what you are showing.
So how do you work on expressions and posing? One good way to start is doing activities that teach you how to move you body gracefully. For this I like dance and rhythmic gymnastics. Dancers and gymnasts move great in front of the camera. They know how to created a long sweeping line with their bodies. Other sports can help with kinesthetic knowledge and are good for conditioning but I favor dance to teach how to move and communicate with you body. Of course for expression theater is a great teacher. That is part of what an actor must do at times - communicate without words. If you have an opportunity take a class or participate in these activities, I encourage you to do so.
You can work on facial expressions by practicing them in a mirror. What do I mean by facial expressions? We are all capable of showing various emotions on our face. Most emotions that you can think of can show on your face. Hate, love, sadness, longing, happy, and more can be expressed on your face. What you should do is make a list of all key emotional words you can think of and practice those expressions in front of a mirror. After you have practiced for a while, try them on a friend and see if they can tell what emotion you are conveying. The idea is that when you are in front of the camera and the photographer wants you to look longingly into the distance you know how to do that.
You can work on posing by practicing in front of a full length mirror. To learn the basics you may have to track down a modeling book that covers this. I would say look at the fashion magazine to see how to stand but most of the poses are breaking the rule and at this point you need to be learning the rules. You may want to look at fashion catalogs for poses. They usually show the more standard poses(the most basic poses are based on the five positions of ballet). Pay attention to tilt of the head, position of the hand, and turn of the ankle. These little things can make a big difference. Just as with facial expressions your body posture can relate to an emotional word or phrase. Body posing is easy to show someone but it is hard to put in words.
With both expressions and with posing it is also good to practice with props, products and wardrobe. Props might be a floppy hat, a long shawl, a beach ball. You want to practice reacting to the prop and using the prop. Since the reason for doing these photographs is to sell something, it is good to practice with a product that might be sold. Practice holding the product so it shows well and you don't cover the label. With fashion you are selling the clothes. Practice showing important features of the clothing. Show off pockets, collar, belt, how the garment moves, what ever makes the garment interesting you want to call attention to it.