Throughout the years I have photographed with hundreds of photographers with varying levels of experience and dedication. I write this post to share with you what separates the ‘best from the rest’ in terms of choosing a photographer, building a portfolio and collaborating on ideas. This post will guide you in your decision making process; outlining steps you should take when forming a decision about who to work with in this complex industry. This post has excellent tips for established models but is mainly aimed at models entering the business. I am speaking from a lot of experience. I hope you find my tips useful.
Do your research. Check the photographer’s previous work. Find out what their style is, & what type of work they like best. This will tell you a lot about them. Verify they have cards, a website, and ask to see their work. In my opinion, having a place on the web, a business card, and a solid portfolio are deal-breakers. Aim high.
Be willing to compensate the photographer for time based on their experience level. It is up to you and the photographer to talk about it prior to the shoot taking place. A photographer, regardless of experience level, may simply want to build his or her portfolio & they may offer you ‘TFCD’ (Time/Trade, for CD), or ‘TFP’ (Time/Trade for Prints). Thus meaning as a model you do not have to pay the photographer & the photographer does not pay you; rather you will receive copies of unedited or finished photos after the shoot.
It is wise to look to your local College/University arts/film/photography course student body, as there are a lot of photographers looking to expand their portfolio at no cost to the model. Similarly, there are also websites such as Craigslist or Model Mayhem where you can find people to work with plentifully.
Personally, I only work with photographers after I have researched their work & they are recommended to me through a trusted source. I shoot with many professional photographers I am proud to now call friends.
Regardless of your experience level as a model, there are things you should always be mindful of; Your intuition & your inner voice are highly important to pay attention to. Your comfort level as a model is always top priority! If you are not comfortable with anything during a shoot, speak up. The best photographers will make you feel 100% comfortable. Gauge your comfort level around the photographer. This alone is probably the biggest thing to pay attention to when you are just starting out. A great photographer always has your collaborative best interests in mind. If a photographer requests a shot you are not interested in, simply say no. It’s Simple! There should be no convincing you to do something if you don’t really want to.Don’t EVER buy the line: ‘It will further your career,’ & be weary of photographers who make such promises to you.
Communication is key! Be able to stand tall and use your voice. You are completely in charge of your own voice, and your LOOK. Remember it’s your image out there! Only shoot what you would ever want everyone to see. I once paused a shoot because I wasn’t keen on my outfit. In the end the photographer applauded me for speaking up. I chose a different outfit and walked out of the studio feeling positive. Speak up.
Always important as a model to be polite and courteous when working with everyone. You must always bring your best attitude to work on projects. A Tip for Models: Try to refrain from asking excessively: ‘Can I see the photo?’. I rarely do this. Repeatedly asking to see your photo slows progress. Be 100% confident in yourself & your look. Another tip for models: When a photographer is kind enough to show you a photo, be respectful! Regardless of how you think you look, make a positive comment. If you aren’t happy about your look or your pose, talk to the photographer about how you can work to change that. Take control of the way you look.
If a photographer professes his love for you or says he ‘likes you more than a friend’ – it is definitely time for you to move on and distance yourself. If this happens, the working relationship is over. Sometimes it happens. It is not a bad thing, just the way things are sometimes. Moving on is ALWAYS the best solution. Use compassion and consideration. Everyone has feelings! Trust your gut. One flamboyant photographer, innocently puckered his lips to TRY to kiss mine as a way of greeting me. I thought it was gross & weird. Don’t be fooled by those things: people greet one another with side cheek kisses or a fist bumps…or a HANDSHAKE.
Personally I feel it is best to not work with someone who has an interest in you. It is definitely not okay for a photographer to try to kiss you or *heaven forbid* touch you inappropriately at any time during a shoot. I am so lucky to have never had anything bad happen during a shoot and I attribute this to being attentive & smart about who I work with.
Wise to avoid alcohol while shooting. I am intolerant to alcohol. When you first break into modeling it is so wise NEVER to imbibe alcohol while shooting. Ever. This is certainly not to say that on professional sets or on location I have never encountered alcohol. It is not a negative thing; rather, wise to ‘say no’ until you complete your camera time. Some occasions after a long day shooting I’ve enjoyed Moet or Bartenua Moscato with crew, but it’s a rarity.
Always let someone know exactly where you’ll be. When I was under 18 my mom and I would create a ‘code phrase’. The ‘code phrase’ is a phrase like ‘Is your fax machine working?’ (hahah sooo 90’s though!) – Anyway, the ‘code phrase’ meant something was wrong and she needed to call 911. All of this stuff is definitely not meant to scare you 🙂 Rather, all the tips should make you aware of ensuring your safety is always number 1 priority.
Remember the best photographers have your best interest in mind – bring a friend … without question!!
*TIP -> you can hire me to accompany you to your shoot! Click here for more info!*
As you gain additional experience and shoot professionally & commercially, much attention is automatically paid to your security on set. Know well in advance, call time, location and wardrobe information. You will be asked to sign a model release form. Whether you are work with friends, or if you are just breaking into the business, it is wise to carry a copy of your own version of a contract which clearly states the conditions under which you and the photographer agree to shoot.
I wish you utmost luck and success as you journey into the world of professional modeling.
Check out some of the awesome work by photographers I totally recommend: