When I first started photography at 15 years old, I didn’t know anything about organizing a team. I would bribe my younger sister into being my model for the afternoon, pulling clothing from her wardrobe and doing the makeup (really badly) myself. I was worlds away from the average fashion photography set, which typically involves a team of agency represented models, a professional make up artist, hair stylist, set designer, wardrobe stylist, and assistants. This is how I conducted my photoshoots for years, and after a while I realized that I needed to expand.
Working with creatives who are at a similar level to you can not only take your work to the next level, but also help you gain experience in directing a team. However, when you are first beginning in fashion photography it can be difficult to connect with other creatives when you have little or no portfolio to show them. Here are several ways to find others to collaborate with when you are just starting out and don’t have enough experience to hire professionals.
Working Without a Professional Makeup Artist or Hair Stylist
This is one aspect I found difficult to begin with. I had never been into makeup and I struggled with doing the makeup myself. I quickly realized that I needed to work with someone more experienced, but I found it hard to find makeup artists at the same level as I was in my area. The best tip I discovered when working without a makeup artist is to ask the model to do the makeup themselves. Keep it simple. When I first started, I would show the model inspiration for an amazing and complicated makeup look I had seen online and then get disappointed when the outcome wasn't the same as I had envisioned. Unless the model is particularly talented at makeup, try and keep the look as natural as possible. The same goes for hair. Keep it natural. Stick to simple techniques that you know the model can easily do themselves. You can get great results from simple hair and makeup and a little bit of retouching.
Another option is to reach out to your friends to do the makeup and hair for you. Try making a simple post on Facebook calling for anyone who is good at makeup. You might be surprised at how many of your friends would be interested in getting involved. Also try searching for creative groups in your area on Facebook. In Melbourne, groups such as "Melbourne Creative Network" are great online communities with members ranging from amateurs to professionals, searching to collaborate with each other. There will likely be similar groups in your area too. The first makeup artists I worked with I discovered online, and I still work with them today. Approach as many people as possible, and try sending emails or direct messages introducing yourself and asking if they would be interested in collaborating with you. The worst thing that can happen is they will say no, so it is definitely worth trying.
Finding a Model
I found that models were probably the easiest team members to find when first getting started. I never knew how many aspiring models there were in my area who were more than happy to get some photos taken for their portfolios in exchange for their time.
First try looking around you. Do you have any siblings, cousins, friends, or acquaintances that could potentially model for you? When I started out, my first models were my sister and my neighbor. Neither of them had any modeling experience, but I could shoot with them as often as I wanted, so they quickly became comfortable in front of the camera. Working with models with no experience is a great way to learn how to direct models and communicate your ideas to them.
Another great place to start is model scout hashtags on Instagram. Most modeling agencies will have a hashtag of some sort (usually something along the lines of #scoutme) which they use to find new faces. This is a great place to find aspiring models who are likely not already signed to a modeling agency. Try leaving a friendly comment with your details on their photo (including your website and email address) and let them approach you if they are interested. It’s important not to spam anyone and to always be friendly and honest with your ideas.
Self-portraits are another great option if you can’t find a model, or decide to shoot last minute. Photographing yourself can also help you gain a better understanding of how a model moves, which will be helpful when directing models in the future.
Be Your Own Stylist
Secondhand shops and clothing sales were my best friend when I didn’t have access to professional styling; I still source my own clothing and keep a styling rack for test shoots and in case of emergencies on set. Keep a lookout for discounted items that you would be able to reuse in a number of different shoots. This is a great way to start building your own styling wardrobe. Keeping styling simple will not only mean that it can be used over and over again, but also helps prevent the clothing from going out of fashion. Secondhand clothing can be purchased very cheaply and many professional stylists also have used pieces in their styling kits.
If you don’t have any budget or can’t find what you are looking for, try asking the model to bring along her or his own clothing items. Don’t be afraid to ask the model if they own a specific clothing item, or give them a general idea of what you are after (color scheme, material, etc.) and ask them to bring along whatever they have. An advantage of doing this is that you already know the clothing will fit the model, and you might have access to pieces that you wouldn’t usually use.
Planning a photoshoot without a professional team is a great way to start developing your portfolio. With social media today, there are so many outlets for like-minded creatives to connect online, so don’t be afraid to take the next step and work with other people at your level. Working together with inexperienced models, aspiring makeup artists, and others new to the industry is a great way to start making connections without needing a professional portfolio to begin with. Also don’t be scared to try tackling other areas of a photoshoot yourself if you don’t have access to a team. You can create beautiful images with the simplest resources.
Looking for models
- Ask friends and family
- Model Mayhem or local modeling groups
Look for makeup artists and hair stylists
- Join local creative groups on Facebook
- Post open calls on Instagram
- Send creatives a friendly email or comment with your details
- Do it yourself: Use your own clothing, ask the model to bring along their own styling, purchase cheap clothing from secondhand shops
- Join local creative groups on Facebook