LeightonD, Photographer

LeightonD's Photographic life.

Model Monday: The Pressure to Perform

One of the things that I see affect most new models and photographers is a strong case of nerves or stage fright. Often, this can be for many reasons, but usually it’s out of fear. It could be a fear of rejection, or a fear of doing something wrong, or even a fear of looking like an amateur. Whatever the reason, it can be overwhelming to the point of being crippling.

Even the most gorgeous model might have stage fright, but the confidence comes from practicing before even getting in front of the camera.

I remember growing up, doing like so many kids do when playing neighborhood basketball, and pretending that I was Michael Jordan, taking that last second shot at the buzzer to win it all. Or maybe it was ALWAYS the bottom of the Ninth, down three runs, with bases loaded, and 2 outs, waiting on an O and 2 pitch at the World Series. Or Fourth and Goal for the at the 5 yard line needing a touchdown for the win, and either throwing or making the catch to win the game. What do all of these scenarios have in common? They are all high stress situations. Situations that require a need to perform.

I often wonder how many times Whitney Houston sang the Star Spangled Banner before her performance in Tampa Bay at Super Bowl 25? Or how many buzzer beaters MJ or Kobe practiced daily? I wonder if Tiger Woods, out of those hundreds of balls he practices with every morning, pretends that some are a 60 foot putt to win the Green Jacket.

How many match winning putts and drives do you think the greatest golfers in the world practice before competition?

When I was in the military, we had a saying; “You train to fight and you fight as you train.” When I played soccer, during practice we did “lightning” rounds of trying to press and offense or a defense in the last 5 minutes of the game. In football, we practiced the 2-Minute Drill. All of these things bring us to being able to do what is routine, in non-routine situations.

Train as you fight

You fight as you train. There is no pressure to perform as much as the pressures when you have to defend your country and your life.

As a Model or a Photographer, I always encourage practice. Of course, it is great to be in front of and behind the camera as often as possible, but that may not be afforded to us. To my photographers, I tell them to grab their favorite stuffed animal and use that as a model. When they see a location, shoot the stuffed animal first and pose it or position it. See what the light is doing. See what THEIR lights are doing, or what the sun is doing at that time of day. This often makes the actual shooting on set so much easier, because the only variable at that point is now the model, and not the environment. If things change, it makes it easier to adapt and overcome.

For the Models, while your mirror is your closest ally, it will often lie to you by showing you only what you want to see. A majority of us now carry advanced mobile phones which can not only take photos, but capture video. Take 30 seconds or so, and see how many facial expressions you can make on command. Can you transition from them? Why not do a monologue for 15 seconds. Post it on your favorite Social Media Networking site, and have your friends and followers critique your performance as well. Not only will it build up your abilities as a model, but it will make you more confident on set and in frame.

As you can see, it’s not just practice that is needed, but also the right kind of practicing. Getting ready for that situation; relieving the pressure to perform, and turning it into a situation that is routine. To this day, when I go flying, and I come in for a landing, I still verbally go through my check lists. The same way I do when I am at home, “chair flying” so that it is routine to me. I remember in flight school, walking around the living room with all kind of objects on the ground to simulate an airfield. Think of the pressure that is placed on you when you are trying to land a plane. In most movies, that is the climactic, chaotic event, but every day, pilots around the world make it seem easy. Everyday models and photographers around the world, do what you want to do, and make it seem easy.

Practice the moment, and then LIVE for the moment!

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About Leighton DaCosta, Photographer

International Wedding, Portrait, and Fashion photographer based in Miramar, Florida. Also a Pilot and a LEAN technician.

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