Tips for Finding a Model

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This is the last article in the series about turning pro, creating a portfolio and finding a model to photograph. After reading yesterday’s article I know that you’ve decided to create your photography portfolio. Of course, you’re also asking yourself how you’re going to get enough photos to fill the portfolio. The easy answer is to start shooting and keep shooting and shoot some more.

Somtimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes to get really great photos you may need a great model or at least a pretty darn good one. For some, finding a model can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never used one before.

Let’s place potential models in two broad categories – people you know and professional models. Each category has its advantages and disadvantages.

First people you know – family, neighbors, other friends and co-workers. Within this group there’s probably more than a handful of people that you’d like to photograph and that would like to be photographed. You’d probably be surprised how willing they would be if you asked. Of course, not everyone you know will say yes, but it’s still a large pool of people you can photograph. Remember, in the articles on creating a portfolio I suggested that you needed 20 to 30 photos in the portfolio. I didn’t say it had to be 20 to 30 different people. There isn’t anything wrong with having 3 or 4 different shots of the same model.

Now that’s all great if you’re building a portfolio to showcase your skills as a portrait photographer of people. What if you want to photograph animals such as dogs or horses? Same approach. If you want to photograph horses, you more than likely know more than a few people that own horses that will let you photograph them and the horses. All you have to do is ask.

Now the key here is that you’re basically working for free. That is, the subject isn’t paying you for your work. You are getting paid in that you’re building your portfolio. Call it an investment. Don’t expect your subjects to purchase anything. In fact, you’re going to give them some of the images. What I do is tell them before we shoot that I’ll provide them with a certain number of images on a flash drive after I’ve post processed them in Photoshop. I also let them know that if they want to purchase any prints we can discuss after the shoot. I don’t want them to think that if they agree to model for me that they’re somehow obligated to buy anything.

A huge advantage of shooting someone from this group is that you know them and you’re both comfortable together. You will probably have to get them comfortable being in front of the camera, but because you know each other, it won’t take very long. When the model is comfortable with the photographer and with being in front of the camera, everything is so much easier. A big disadvantage is that unless you’re very experienced with portraiture, in which case you’d probably already have a portfolio, your model is going to be as inexperienced at modeling as you are at portrait photography.

As an aside, while it would be great, you don’t have to have access to a studio. Photograph the model outdoors, indoors next to a north facing window – be creative. Oh, and that north facing window is especially effective if it has a shear curtain to help diffuse the light and serve as a prop. About a year ago I wrote in an article containing the words of wisdom from a professional, “In photography we have to work with what we have.” Don’t hesitate to start building your portfolio because you don’t have a studio.

Professional models make up the next category. You’re probably thinking that using a professional model is very expensive and where the heck would you find one anyway. First, expensive is a relative term and there are ways to manage that expense. Before you start looking for a professional model you should decide how much the portfolio is worth to you. It’s an investment in your business. If you’re starting out on a very short shoestring then stick with the first group until you start making some money. If you think that your portfolio is worth a thousand or so dollars to you then using professional models could be a big boost to the portfolio.

You can get some models for $200 or $300, or in some cases, less. Some, of course, are unaffordable. The more experienced the model, usually the higher the price. The greater the reputation, the higher the price. However, there are also beginner models, some of whom will trade their time to model for you in exchange for prints from you. They’re trying to build their portfolio, the same as you are.

There are a number of advantages that come from working with professional models. A professional model arrives expecting to be in front of a camera, not intimidated by the camera, lights or the photographer. Used to being photographed, a pro knows exactly what to do to get good photographs. A model will strike a pose and hold it for a few seconds while you snap a shot and then immediately move to another pose.

Finding a professional model is much easier than you might think. There are many websites that provide a means for you to find and contact models. An online search for photography models will return a large number of hits. One I really like is onemodelplace. Visit the website and you’ll find hundreds of potential models. Note that their experience level and desired type of compensation is listed.

A couple of hints. If you’re relatively new to photographing models, don’t try to hire one whose experience level is indicated as advanced or experienced. The model will know within about 10 seconds that you’re a rookie. If you want an moderately experienced model that can help teach you to work with a model, say so up front. It’ll probably cost more, but what the heck, it never hurts to ask.

When working with a model keep in mind that they’re a professional. It’s their job. They will act accordingly. They will also expect you to act in a professional manner. Treat them with the utmost respect and make the shoot a good experience for them.

It’s not hard to find a model. For the most part, all you have to do is ask. Most people love to have their photos taken. A bonus is if you’re taking really good photos the word spreads and clients begin coming to you. How great is that? If you haven’t already, give it a try. If being a professional photographer is your goal, the more photos you take, the better you will become.

One last item. Get a model release. You may or may not ever need it, but it’s better to have it and not need it than really, really need it and not have it. Professional models, in particular, are familiar with releases and will sign them. For more information on this subject you can go to the article model releases.

Photo credits:

All photos by Rick Marshall of Rick Marshall Photography

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  • Craig Mullenbach

    Friends of mine often use with great success for classes that they run.  They can easily find models that will do a shoot for photos.  The experience level of the models vary.