One of the most popular and sought after genres of photography is taking portraits of both male and female models. Getting started can be quite an uphill battle at times. So how do you really get started?
Where to Find Models
You want to start shooting portraits of models? Great! But where do you find them and how do you get them to shoot with you? This article is intended for those starting their journey in this genre. Here are a few options to find subjects to shoot with:
Most likely, you’ll start by asking your friends if they would be interested in shooting with you, or if you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend who models. I’d actually recommend starting by just shooting friends; you’ll likely be more comfortable shooting with them and it will help you become more comfortable with a subject in front of you. It’s great practice, so that way you won’t make as many rookie mistakes in front of a professional model.
I know, I know. I can already hear half of the crowd grunting as I write this. The fact is Model Mayhem is a resource where photographers can meet and collaborate with models, makeup artists, and stylists. There you can create a profile where you select what genres you're looking to shoot, showcase your portfolio and interact with other creatives. I personally have had some success when I was just starting out. I’ve heard both sides of the spectrum where there are some who swear by it, and others who haven’t had much luck on this platform. Needless to say it is worth a shot for you to at least try the website out.
Facebook and Facebook Groups
This option is where I found the most of my initial success collaborating with models. You can also throw in Instagram into this discussion. If you live near a metropolitan area, chances are there is a Facebook group that is set up for photographers and models near you. Simply search [Your City] Models and Photographers and there you will find dozens of models and photographers in your region. I'd suggest making a quick post stating that you're interested in collaborating with models and even photographers.
Word of Mouth
After trying at least one of these options, chances are that you will land a photoshoot or two. From that point, as you have successful shoots with friends or models that you’ve shot with, word of mouth will get around and from that point opportunities should arise for you. Do not underestimate tagging on social media; it’s a powerful way to get more eyeballs on your photos and expose your name. As you can tell, networking is crucial and the more people you meet, the more likely people will shoot with you.
How to Approach Them
OK, that’s all great, but how do you approach models? How do you increase your odds of them shooting with you?
Usually when you ask to collaborate or "test" with a model, the first question they will ask you is, “Do you have a portfolio I can look at?” This is where you can find yourself stuck if you have no set portfolio when starting out. Using these tips will help you land a photoshoot.
It really goes without saying that you should be professional right from the get-go. Since I’ve been told horror stories from models, this deserves to be at least mentioned. Be professional during every aspect of your shoot from prep to photo delivery. If you’re not professional, you will not make it too far.
Have A Plan
Simply saying “hey let's shoot” or some other passive aggressive inquiry will not help your chances. When reaching out to them, make sure to let them know who you are, where you're from, compliment their work, what you're looking to shoot, concept ideas, and so on. Treat it like you’re looking for a job, be prepared and have a plan in place.
Building mood boards is where you’ll begin to stand out from the amateur photographer crowd. A board that includes the model, location, styling, and the concept will make a great impression and help your chances. I usually use Google Images or 500px to find my inspiration images. After I cull images together, I go into Photoshop and create an 8.5-inch by 11-inch collage of images that inspire the shooting concept. Sending this to a model shows that you gave the shoot thought, preparation, and perhaps even selected that model for that specific concept. It is also a great tool for preparation and communication, everyone will be on the same page and more likely capture exactly what the team has in mind.
When shooting with a professional model, working with a makeup artist is almost a must. Some models have candidly told me that whenever a photographer reaches out to them for a TFP or "test" shoot, having a makeup artist at the shoot is a deal maker or a deal breaker. They may not exactly need a makeup artist if their good at their own makeup, but it shows that you're more legitimate and professional when assembling a team. A makeup artist is a portrait photographer’s best friend, so be prepared to work with them on a regular basis.
Hiring the Model
Don't be surprised if a model messages back with his/her rate. I'd recommend hiring one if you aren’t having any luck finding a model to test with; especially if you don’t have a portfolio or someone willing to take a chance on you. Hiring a professional model may work in your favor, they are experienced professionals and used to emoting in front a camera.
If you're interested in pursuing portraiture, the key is having human beings in front of your camera. So by any means possible, shoot as many people as you can when you start out. Once you get that one successful shoot out of the way it becomes easier. Using some of these tips will help you become successful in your journey.