If you’re a photographer who wants to work with models, chances are you are going to have initiate the discussion at least part of the time. I’ve put together this guide to help you out.
I strongly suggest you “pre-screen” models you are considering contacting. Take a look at their profile and make sure it looks like they are still actively modeling. Many models also include info on whether they are open to shoot trade or are only seeking paid work. If you are planning to shoot nudes or erotic content, see if it looks like they shoot that sort of work. This information can help you decide whether they are a good fit for your project or not and it can save you a lot of time in contacting models who won’t be interested or who aren’t active.
Your First Message/Initial Contact
First, keep in mind that some models, particularly experienced models, receive many messages and when that’s the case they’re going to be looking for those who give relevant information and don’t require them to spend a ton of time trying to find you or get you to tell them what you want to shoot. Newer models may be more willing to “chat” about it back and forth, and almost all of us are okay going back and forth once we start talking about specifics, but there are a few pieces of key information that are helpful to include in your first contact message:
- Your name & photography name (if they differ). This makes it easy to check references and find more of your work if we want to.
- A link to your portfolio or some of your work with models somewhere. That’s usually the first thing we want to see and having it right there saves us some time searching and boosts the chance of us taking a look.
- Let us know when and where (at least what city/area) you’d like to shoot. If you don’t have a specific time frame, that’s okay, and if you don’t have a space to shoot, let us know that too.
- Give an idea of what you want to shoot. You don’t have to lay out the whole concept, but if you’re wanting to shoot nudes or lingerie, or some specific idea, etc, please let us know that up front.
- Tell us what the photos will be used for. Are they just for portfolio use? Are you planning to exhibit them in shows? Submit to magazines?
- Clearly state whether you are interested in hiring us (for pay) or shooting trade.
I think it’s also important to keep a few things in mind in terms of the tone of your messages as well. Some photographers are more concise while others like to engage in a bit more conversation. Either of those can be totally fine, just remember that you are contacting the model as a collaborator or for business. Don’t be flirty or pushy, and be nice.
Now that I’ve given you a list, here are a couple examples for you:
In this case there is a specific concept in mind:
“Hi Miss Model, my name is Bob of Bob’s Photos. I’d love to shoot you in my backyard with these beautiful flowering trees I have, maybe in a long elegant dress or something similar? I’m located in City X and I’d like to shoot within the next couple weeks as the trees only bloom for so long. This would be a trade shoot for both of us to use for our portfolios and if the photos work out well I might submit to a couple magazines. Here is my portfolio: (portfolio link).”
Here is an example where the photographer is a bit less specific, but it still gives all of the information:
“Hi Miss Model, my name is Bob of Bob’s Photos. You can see some of my work here: (portfolio link). I’ve seen your photos around and I’d really love to hire you. Would you be available to shoot art nudes at my studio in City X? I don’t have a specific date in mind, but weekends are usually best for me. The photos would be for my portfolio and just to get some practice in.”
Neither of the messages is very long, but I can assure you that you are much more likely to get a response to a message like those than you to the “Let’s shoot!” or “We should shoot!”
I’d like to go over a couple of differences you might have depending on how and what you shoot.
What if you don’t have a concept in mind at all and you would rather work that out with the model? Just say that in your message “I don’t have a specific concept in mind, but I’d love to develop a concept with you.” Some models really enjoy collaborating on the concept and some prefer to just come in and shoot whatever it is you want to shoot, so just keep in mind that not every model may be up for developing concepts.
What if what I want to shoot involves nudity or erotic content and I’m not sure the model shoots that? Generally speaking, if a model doesn’t display that sort of thing in her portfolio, she doesn’t shoot it. Yes, there are exceptions, but those exceptions are pretty rare. A lot of new models are very put off by being asked to shoot nudes or erotic content and you may end up earning yourself a negative reputation if you keep asking models who don’t shoot that to shoot it. Also, please be upfront in telling the model, whether you are sure she shoots it or not, if you are wanting to shoot nude or erotic content. Even those of us who do shoot those things don’t usually like to have it sprung on us at the last second.
Waiting for a Response & Following Up
In most cases, you’ll probably get a response in 2 to 3 days or less if the model is interested. Some may check their messages less often and in that case you’ll want to arrange an alternate form of contact ASAP if the model is interested in shooting so you can stay in touch.
If you don’t receive a response, try not to take it personally and just move on to the next model. The worst thing you can do in that situation is to attack the model or send a passive aggressive follow up. It won’t get you any where at all and you’re just wasting time you could be spending finding the right model for your project.
When you get a response, the model may ask some other questions or you may just jump right in to booking. If there are questions, try to answer them and don’t be put off. Many models ask questions because they want to make sure they can deliver what you are looking for and that the shoot is a good fit for them.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and if you did, please share it and consider leaving a tip in my tip jar so I can keep this resource up and running.