Before I jump into my love for group shoots let me first clarify a bit. The group shoots I am referring to are the type where a venue is rented by the host(s) of the shoot and models and photographers (and sometimes MUAs) set up shoots with each other. Everyone usually pays a fee at these to cover costs, everyone shoots trade, they’re generally one on one shoots (not 5 photographers and one model), and often at a place that would be more difficult to rent as an individual.
Why I Suggest Group Shoots for New Models (And Those Considering Nudes for the First Time)
New models need experience, they need to network, and they may be nervous, so having other people, especially other models, around might make them more at ease. I consider group shoots to be one of the #1 ways for a new model to build their portfolio, particularly if they cannot afford to hire individual photographers or if they’d like to try a variety of styles.
Group shoots can be great for new models to gain experience because not only will they get at least a handful of shoots in during the span of just a day or two, but they’ll also be able to see other models and how they “work,” so to speak. At most group shoots there is a dedicated model changing area where photographers are not allowed and this is a great place for new models to introduce themselves and perhaps ask questions.
I also think group shoots can be a great place to try nudes for the first time if a model has decided to try nudes as they are a good way for them to experiment with shooting nudes without worrying so much about being “alone” with the photographer (a feeling that often passes after the first nude shoot or two). In addition, all of the group shoots I’ve attended have rules of conduct and if a photographer (or model) acts inappropriately, they won’t be allowed to attend again once the incident is reported. Of course posing nude should still be carefully considered and it’s still a good idea for a model to check references if she’s unsure about working with someone even at a group shoot.
Group shoots can also be a good way for new models to meet photographers to shoot with in the future. Many photographers hand out business cards at these events and offer shoots to models they see and might like to work with in the future.
The Benefits of Group Shoots for Photographers
Many photographers seem a bit more hesitant about group shoots, but I think their are actually quite a lot of benefits for photographers who shoot at group shoots.
The first benefit I think of for photographers is a practical one: group shoots cost a lot less than booking a location/studio, paying a model, etc. Even if you work trade with a model, the photographer is most often the one who choose the location and I know from experience that booking safe, secure locations can be tough. Group shoots take care of that for you. They also usually have staff on hand to take care of outsiders wandering in or the location is blocked off from the public completely.
Another issue that photographers seem to run into is flakey models. While models can still flake at group shoots, they usually aren’t allowed to attend again if they do and many times there are other models who you might be able to work with if you do have a flake. And even if you can’t fill the time with another model, you can still network during the unintended break and you usually still have other models to shoot with later (or you shot some earlier) so the day isn’t a total bust.
It can be difficult for photographers to find models willing to pose nude, particularly if they don’t have a budget to pay a model or if they don’t have many nude photos to show. The group shoots I know of in my area cost much, much less than the average nude model workshop with the added benefit of being able to work with the model one on one and develop a concept ahead of time. Group shoots usually cost less than just a couple hours with a paid model and you can get in at least 4 or 5 shoots in the day.
While I do think that workshops have their place, I think group shoots are a great supplement to them, or a good “next step.” You can put to use what you’ve learned, you’ll have access to multiple models when you book, and you have one on one time with the model.
Group shoots are also a great way to “test shoot” with a model you might be considering hiring or shooting a more elaborate trade shoot with. You can see how you work together, how they pose, and get a better idea of their look before you commit more time and money to a future shoot.
Why I Love Group Shoots As A More Experienced Model
I love group shoots because I love networking, I love shooting in different locations, and I love being able to get 4 or 5+ shoots in a day. I also find group shoots as the perfect opportunity to shoot with newer photographers or to try styles I might not be as experienced in because if one shoot doesn’t work out, I still have at least a few others that probably did and don’t feel like my day was “wasted” (though I rarely feel that any shoot is a true waste of time).
One of the things I really love as well is the ability to shoot in a secure, often private location without the worry of trespassing or outsiders. The group shoots I attend are all in interesting buildings so it gives me a chance to shoot nude or less clothed on location and to mix up all the studio work I tend to shoot otherwise.
Group shoots are also great for my networking as I can meet new models and answer their questions, as well as meeting photographers for potential future shoots.
A Few Final Thoughts
If you are looking to build your portfolio, meet new creatives, and/or stretch those shooting muscles, group shoots are a great option to consider. However, I also realize that group shoots aren’t perfect for every shoot/concept or every person. Only you know what is best for you, but I do think that if you’ve never attended one it might be a good idea to give it a shot.
Bonus Tip: If you live in the Midwest, there is a great group on Facebook called Midwest Group Shoots that links to the events for area shoots. I’m also part of the Society of Models and Photographers (with shoots based in Detroit, MI) and I suggest joining that if you’re in the area.
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