Nigel Barker Reveals the Secrets to Being a (Really) Good Model

Just two days away from the hotly anticipated season 2 premiere of Oxygen Network’s “The Face,” we sat down with photographer, host, and show mentor Nigel Barker for an exclusive chat in which he reveals his top tips for being a great model, why Fashion Week is so important, and who he thinks are the best muses of our generation.

Nigel Barker Stylecaster

Nigel Barker taking StyleCaster’s #SCxTheFace Instagram contest winner for a spin between her makeover at Frédéric Fekkai and shopping spree at Henri Bendel.

What makes a successful supermodel?
The most important thing is to be willing to be free and try stuff out. If you look at the most iconic models —whether it be a Naomi Campbell, Christie Turlington, Linda Evangelista —you really can’t stop them, you can’t contain them and they give you so many angles to shoot. It becomes a question of moving, tweaking, changing.

[Second,] don’t freeze, be fluid. Think of a photo as a video and let the photographer shoot the moments. That fluidity makes it like a dance and like a routine or motion, then it feels natural and the picture looks good.

Believe in yourself and give yourself a narrative. If you actually create a character for yourself and play it out, it is so much more helpful because all of a sudden you’ve given yourself a motive. Are you hot? Are you cold? Are you sad? Are you the chaser are you the chased? All these things play in and all of a sudden the result is a still out of a movie with a cinematic quality, all the things that an editor looks for.

What’s the best way to calm your nerves before a big shoot?
Practice makes perfect, and sometimes the nerves are good and you can’t control them. I get nervous too and if the nerves are gone completely, you are dead. There is an element where being in the moment, if you’re anxious or nervous, it can be very endearing and a blush is charming. It is believable and authentic and you can’t fake that kind of stuff. The more honest you are, the more timeless you will be and the more cunning your pictures will be, than if you’re just rehearsed.

How is Fashion Week important to you as a photographer?
Fashion Week and runway shows are the moment where music, makeup, hair, styling, and design all come together in a crescendo and you hear and see it all at once. It is not always a photographic moment but it is everything we are about to grab and take as photographers and then grab and use. It all inspires me for things I want to shoot.

MORE: Nigel Barker on How to Take the Perfect Selfie

Which young model faces should we become longtime fans of?
I’m a big fan of Cara Delevigne, she’s really exciting. Jourdan Dunn is a spectacular model and is really interesting. Joan Smalls, I’m still obsessed with her. Lara Stone is always really gorgeous. There are lots of girls, the list goes on.

Who is your latest muse?
My wife is my number one muse, she is someone I’ve photographed for 20 some odd years. She is always my barometer for beauty, she is someone who is an extremely natural, gorgeous person inside and out. Whenever i’m shooting there’s always an element for me that goes back to what was it when I first fell in love, so it’s an interesting moment of inspiration. You have to feel a little bit of that in everyone you photograph. Coco Rocha for example, is extraordinary to photograph, she never stops moving and does a thousand poses.