So you’re just starting out in the photography world, have a limited portfolio and are bright eyed and bushy tailed. You’re eager to work with models and fresh faces…but you haven’t the faintest idea of where to start, what to say, or how to approach them in the first place. This guide covers the basic ins and outs of working your way up to signed and/or professional models, with a couple things I like to keep in mind as I scout for new faces and send out Instagram DM’s. Below I’ve also taken it upon myself to answer some commonly asked questions and touch on a few important topics that often are left unsaid in the male dominated world of portrait photography.
As a female, I can’t help but think about what it must be like to be approached by a random person you don’t know, travel to the location of the shoot, and leave yourself vulnerable to potential harm. The one thing to always consider, when working with models, is that their time and their safety should never ever be taken for granted. If you try to argue with me on this, I will fight you with the vengeance of a thousand angry women. Just kidding.
But not really.
When setting up a shoot, before you even begin to LOOK for a model, ask yourself if you have a concept or an idea for a photoshoot. As a beginner, you are the one with something to prove, and to show them that their time is not going to be wasted. Come up with an idea for a location, concept/moodboard, or overall look/feel before you even begin to message and search for people to fit that vision. You want to capitalize on why they should creatively work with you.
If you have a limited portfolio… it’s always a good idea to ask your friends to model, and slowly extend that circle to distant friends, acquaintances, and then eventually friends of friends, until you have a body of work that you’re proud of showing. Models want to ensure they are not putting themselves at risk and that the shoot will be worth their time.
So you have a portfolio? Now what…
Now you’re ready to start working with people you don’t know.
My biggest piece of advice? Don’t write anyone off just because they may not have any modeling experience. I’ve found that some of the best models I’ve worked with are girls with a limited portfolio, but who are fun, outgoing, and have great energy in their day to day lives. This often translates well on camera. Though I do work with my fair share of models with portfolios, I also enjoy working with friends and acquaintances as well to keep the creative energy flowing.
“But where do I find them?”
I find a lot of the new faces I work with through Instagram, by browsing location tags or by paying attention to people who may be tagged in photos by my friends or friends of friends. I’ve found that people who photograph well in candid shots often photograph incredibly well in posed-candid environments and photoshoots. I also always try to keep my options open, and am on the lookout for fresh faces in my day to day life. Sometimes I’ll visit a coffeeshop with a barista who I think would photograph well, so I’ll exchange contact information and follow up with them on Instagram. Other times, I look and see who is working with other local photographers and who may have interest in doing a shoot with me. Sometimes I’ll search geotags a town over and add them to a list of the models I have an interest in messaging. In short? I’m constantly on the lookout for people that inspire me to create art.
“So how do I work up the courage?”
There is no secret trick. You just do it.
Generally in my initial message, I like to introduce myself, add a small compliment (“I like your look”) and discuss potentially working with them in the future. In the next message I try to pitch my idea for the shoot, openly communicate what I’m looking for, what the shoot would entail, and a possible location to show that I’m being professional, serious, and courteous to their time.
As someone who has been both behind and in front of the camera, the effort a person shows in wanting to work with me shines right back. I can often tell if someone is trying to work with me for the sake of creating art, or for the wrong reasons. Always show all your cards so there are no surprises later on. If you are interested in doing nude/figure work, be up front about this, and be respectful if the model says no.
When you have a portfolio it also speaks volumes in terms of showing that you’d like to improve your craft.
JUST REMEMBER: YOUR ART IS WHAT YOU COMMUNICATE TO THE WORLD, AND ULTIMATELY HOW THE MODEL COMMUNICATES WITH YOU.
Newsflash: No girl likes the douchey male photographer who runs around with his big lens and just wants to shoot naked chicks all the time. Respect goes a long way.
Thanks for giving this a read, let me know in the comments below what you thought and other blog posts you’d like to see in the future!