Do you want agency grade models in your portfolio but can't quite cut through the competition vying to test with the same talent? Do you want agency grade models in your portfolio but can't afford the agency rates? Modelling agencies are a fantastic source of top models but they are not the only way to acquire this elusive talent and build your portfolio very quickly to a professional standard.
Professional models have beautiful faces and bodies but they also have incredible control and awareness of their posing while maintaining a natural and comfortable feel on camera. These models can make all the difference in your images and ultimately your portfolio. Finding such models can prove to be much harder than it seems. The simple fact is that most people don't posses these qualities. That means photographers must search in places where such models are available. Agencies can be a great source to find reliable and experienced models but rates can be prohibitive for many who are simply building a portfolio and being accepted as an agency photographer puts you at competition with a lot of your peers vying for the same opportunity.
There is however a road less traveled and it offers MANY benefits.
Introducing The Model Scout
A talent scout is an individual in your community who has a knack for spotting the traits that are in demand by a particular industry. Talent scouts work in all varieties of industries. The music industry has talent scouts that attend local shows and venues on behalf of record labels looking for the next big sensation. Sports teams have talent scouts which scour local colleges looking for the next addition to their roster. Even corporate America has "talent scouts" that poach the top performers from their competition.
In the modelling industry we have model scouts. These are individuals who can spot a beautiful face in a crowd. They have the experience and know how to see modelling potential in a person. Model scouts will find these gems and polish them by offering them coaching and building up a portfolio for them. The model scout will do what it takes to prepare the model before they presents them to various agencies who will then buy the model from the scout. You heard that right. Most of the models these scouts find end up being agency models within a few short months.
By pairing up with a good model scout you have a chance to work with some agency grade models before they get snatched up by the agencies. You won't get paid for this but you also won't be paying to do this either. Just as much as you are looking to build your portfolio, the scout is looking to build each of the models portfolio's. It is a truly mutually beneficial relationship.
A Good Scout Makes The Difference
The scout I work with, Peggi LePage, was a successful model herself. She has graced the covers of magazines such as Vogue and Elle. This gives her a unique advantage over some model scouts due to her vast experience in the industry. She has the network in place to benefit many of her potentials and one look at her past roster will showcase her success in placing the models she works with into highly desirable positions. Since the model scout I work with was a model herself she also has incredible experience with posing and is able to coach and guide her potentials to very strict and world class standards. Pairing with a good model scout should offer you access to professional grade faces and training.
No Pressure Environment
Working with model scouts can offer a pretty relaxed shooting arrangement. Although you are always trying to capture each model at their best you also have the freedom to experiment and to get a bit creative. These are luxuries you may not have when working with clients or with agency models because of time constraints and pre-approved expectations. These shoots can be a great opportunity to test new techniques, equipment, or poses and expressions, many of which you can later transfer over to your paid work.
Model scouts have a constant supply of fresh talent. Their business revolves around finding undiscovered faces so in essence they are doing all the leg work for you. They are weeding out the ones who more than likely won't cut it in the real world leaving you to shoot with some truly talented and beautiful people before the rest of the camp gets there. If you've got a good rapport with your model scout by creating work that suits their style they will send you quite a bit of work and that can very quickly build up an incredibly diverse and professional portfolio.
Long Term Potential
Working with model scouts is a long term investment. In addition to being able to build up your portfolio you also have the added benefit of being the first person to ever professionally shoot some of these potential models. Should any of these models wind up crossing over into the supermodel sphere you will always have the original and first images of that person. I find that a neat commodity. Can you imagine being the first professional photographer to shoot with Heidi Klum or Gisele Bundchen?
The real long term potential however comes from having access to the model scouts network. They show your images directly to the modelling agencies and later to various potential clients which the model might be considered by. Your images are out there. Your work is being constantly evaluated. Your name is being engraved in the minds of the influential decision makers at the highest levels. If you put out a constant stream of quality work it is only a matter of time before a call trickles through to you for a paid job.
How To Approach
Approaching a model scout can be a very tricky proposition. They can be extremely selective when it comes to who they work with and rightfully so. Most of the talent they scout ranges from 15-20 years old. When I signed on with the model scout I work with I went in for a face to face interview where I presented my work, but I was also questioned about my intentions and personality. The model scout wants to keep their roster safe from predators and unfortunately our profession does not always have the cleanest reputation. If this is a road you pursue be prepared to answer questions, have references in place, and showcase your friendly personality.