Do you do it? Do you know what it is?
If you answered “no” to either of these questions – you shouldn’t be calling yourself a model. Top models practice daily and Mirror Work is how they do it.
Athletes, Musicians, Singers, Actors – they ALL practice to become good at what they do.
So what IS Mirror Work?
It is the process of building “Muscle Memory”
If you have ever played organized sports – your coaches talked to you about “muscle memory.” I’ll give you an example – in the sport of Baseball, players take batting practice before every game. Before each at bat – the player stands in the On Deck Circle and swings the bat over and over again. All of this practice is for the purpose of training the body and its muscles how to swing the bat.
Think about it – when a ball player is standing at home plate with someone throwing a ball at them at more than 90 miles per hour – they don’t want to be thinking about how to swing the bat – they need to think about where the ball is and where it is going.
This same principle applies to a piano player or a guitar player – they practice and practice the chords and locations of keys and strings, because when they are playing they need to concentrate on the tempo and music.
Models need to do mirror work for TWO reasons
The first and most obvious is posing. A smart model learns quickly that nobody has a perfect body. You must learn your best as well as your worst features and more importantly how to make them work for the camera. It is important to learn the basic bikini pose and more importantly understand why it makes the body look so good.
Every model should have an arsenal of at least 10 poses that they can do well and have the confidence of knowing that their body looks great in these poses.
Your goal while practicing in the mirror is not just to find attractive poses – but to concentrate on “how does your body feel” when you are doing a pose correctly. Remember that when you are in front of the camera, you don’t have a mirror in front of you to look at.
The second and most important reason for doing mirror work is facial expressions. Modeling is acting and your face is your MOST important communication tool.
First and foremost a model must learn how to smile. It is natural for people to tend to squint their eyes or show too much gum when smiling.
Mirror work allows you to learn how your face “feels” when you smile correctly. It also allows you to learn how your face feels when you do a big look of surprise or anger or the classic open mouth smile.
The purpose for all of this practice is just like that of the athletes and musicians – so that these skills become second nature. When you get in front of acamera if you have to think for just one second, “Does my smile look ok?”, “Does this pose make my butt look big?” then you have blown the shot. When you are in front of the camera you have to be thinking about the character you are portraying and the personality that is needed to sell that idea.
A few quick pointers for successful mirror work:
Do it alone – nobody else in the room, radio and TV turned off.
No more than 5 minutes at a time. Good mirror work takes lots of concentration. If you stay at it too long – you will start looking at the pile of wash that you see behind you or the books on your desk that are waiting to be read. (Feel free to do mirror work several times a day if your schedule permits – but still only for 5 minutes at a time.
Only work on one pose or expression in each session. Remember – anybody can look in the mirror and do a perfect smile in 2 seconds – your purpose is to learn how that smile feels. Keep your sessions short and focused.
When working on poses – be sure to do your mirror work in the nude from time to time. There is no better way to see how your body looks when posing then when you are naked. Additionally – it is a great way to learn how to pose your hands. With no clothes on – you have no place to put your hands.
(I challenge you to come up with poses that DON’T include placing your hands on your hips!)
Be critical but constructive. Nobody has a perfect body or perfect face. Don’t watch yourself in the mirror thinking that you are “all that” and don’t look in the mirror and totally tear yourself apart. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and in the words of Tyra Banks, “Work it girl!”
Recommended Reading about Photo Shoot Preparation
- How to prepare for a photo shoot
- What to wear: Proper clothing selection for your modeling portfolio shoot
- Things to remember on the day of a photo shoot
- What to bring to a photo shoot