I’ve seen and helped quite a few photographers get started in model photography and many of them seem to come across the same few issues so I’ve come up with a few tips to help.
If you are new to photographing models you’re probably going to come across these challenges:
- You need to build a portfolio to have images to show, but models can be wary if you don’t have anything to show them.
- You also need positive references as many models will require those to shoot with you.
- You need to network so you can find models.
Here are my tips to help you get started photographing models and to help you overcome the issues I mentioned above.
Tip #1 – Find and attend some local group shoots.
There is a reason why I list this tip first: I think it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself. Group shoots will allow you to work with at least a few models in a group setting which is beneficial in multiple ways. You’ll still usually get to shoot one on one, but the models may be more willing to work with you as a new photographer as it’s a secure location and there are usually staff members walking around to make sure things are going okay so models will feel more comfortable. Once you attend a couple of these you’ll hopefully have a good base of positive references so you can start moving forward. The other two big benefits of group shoots are that you’re paying much less than you’d probably pay to rent the location or a studio on your own and usually everyone shoots trade. Most of these events are very affordable, too.
Tip #2 – Start networking ASAP.
Networking is going to be very important for you. There are a few different places you can network to connect with models, but I think the two big ones are Model Mayhem and Facebook groups, especially local groups. No matter where you choose, make sure you are positive, honest, and present yourself as someone potential models would want to work with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a few other local photographers or models and ask them for advice or mentorship. Not everybody will be helpful, but if you keep trying you’ll find someone who is willing to help you if you are willing to learn. Start commenting on photos that you like to get your name out there. These groups can also help you find group shoots or workshops that might help you get started.
Tip #3 – Hire an experienced model or two.
If you are able to hire a model, I strongly suggest doing so. An experienced model can really give you a solid boost in terms of images since they can most likely pose themselves and often provide their own makeup, wardrobe, and hair (depending on the style), but also for a good reference, networking, and possibly even helping get your name out there if they post the resulting images on social media. If you’re unsure of who might be the best fit to hire, ask around. There are often at least a few local models who are willing to be hired and work with very new photographers.
Tip #4 – Keep it simple to start with, focus on learning composition and lighting first.
Don’t try to create some elaborate concept with no experience. Instead, start out with something simpler that will allow you to focus more on composition. Natural light portraits, especially those from window light, are often very beautiful, for example. If you know a bit more about lighting, or if it comes more naturally to you, you can try artificial light as well. Once you have a solid grasp of your lighting and composition, then you might move on to more elaborate things if you like, but starting off simple will allow you to build skills one at a time.
Tip #5 – Take a course, a workshop, read a book, watch YouTube, just learn!
This is especially helpful when it comes to lighting and control of your camera. We all learn differently, so if one approach doesn’t work for you, find one that does. When I first started with self portrait photography I was shooting on auto with a point and shoot and shop lights. I still have people who love those images and photographers asking me how I lit them. Just experiment. If you don’t have a family member or friend to practice with, use a stuffed animal or a cooperative pet. Lighting a model may be a bit different, but you’ll be able to learn camera controls and at least have a basis for your lighting this way.
Workshops can be great too, but make sure you get to set things up and be hands on, versus just snapping photos.
Tip #6 – Don’t let people discourage you on technical stuff.
Photographers love their tech. But as model, I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not really about the equipment or even the camera, it’s about the creative eye and abilities of the person holding them. Of course you need the basic skills to operate whatever you are using, but I’ve seen some stunning images created with the most bare bones basic equipment. I’ve also seen some kind of not so great stuff created with a lot of expensive equipment. I feel it’s better to start simple and learn, as I said before, than to jump in based on what people say is the very best and then be too confused to use any of it. Now once you get comfortable with your camera and such, sure, there are some cool pieces of equipment that can allow you to get some great effects, but having the basics down first usually helps a lot.
Also, don’t let anyone tell you there is one right way to do something. Photography is a creative thing and very, very little of it is absolute. You can get some great advice if you ask around, but please don’t assume everything you’re told is right or right for you.
Tip #7 – Remember that most models like to work with nice people they feel comfortable with.
This means that aside from any skill you have or payment your are offering, we want to feel like you respect us and are enjoying working with us. I have a few more tips on that in this article: Dekilah’s Guide to Initiating Contact with Models.
If you found this article helpful, please share it and consider supporting this blog via PayPal (you can choose any amount). I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and if you have tips of your own to share, please comment below!