A lot of newer models start out being told they need to pay photographers to build a portfolio or they won’t succeed. While this can be true, it’s not as simple as just hiring the first photographer who approaches you. I’d like to offer you some advice on this common tip specific to newer models. However, those more experienced models may find much of this advice can apply to them as well.
“You need to hire a photographer to shoot your portfolio if you want to be a successful model.”
I see new models being told this constantly online. Very rarely does anyone back the statement up with any additional advice. This is just presented as something new models should do. What I think people mean when they say this is that it can be faster to build a quality portfolio if you hire quality, professional photographers with the skills to shoot solid portfolio-worthy images with you. The trouble as a new model is that you may not know who can offer you what you want or need for your portfolio to get started. I’m hoping this blog post can help you start to navigate through that process.
Think About What Is Best for You
There is no shortage of photographers who will tell you that they can shoot portfolio images for you. However, only a few of the photographers approaching you may be able to give you what you need. Sometimes none of them can deliver what you need. This can be especially true if you are trying to focus on a specific, more niche genre. There is something to be said for a few very good general portraits when you are getting started. However, once you want to start focusing on a specific style, you will likely need to find photographers who can shoot that style well.
A lot of what happens for you as a model will depend on you and the decisions you make. You will need to do your homework on the styles you want to shoot. You need to know what to look for. This is another of those times when having an experienced model mentor can be incredibly valuable. A more experienced model can help you navigate through the styles you want to do. They can also tell you what to look for in a photographer specific to those styles.
I also suggest asking local experienced models for a list of local photographers they feel are worth hiring. They are more likely to give you a less biased, less self-serving opinion than a photographer might.
I think that paying the right photographers can definitely be worth it. It can be a great boost to your journey as a model as long as you do your research. You have to decide what is best for you and your situation.
What if I can’t hire anyone?
It is possible to be successful and not pay photographers. However, it will probably take longer to build your portfolio. You’re going to have to be more dedicated to going after what you want specifically. This is how I did things because I was not able to pay photographers. I can tell you from experience that there is a lot more trial and error, patience, and dedication required to go this route.
Can I hire photographers and shoot trade/TF?
Of course! It is quite likely that you might do a mixture of both hiring photographers and shooting trade. Maybe you might do a few trade shoots to see if you really want to pursue modeling and then hire a photographer or two to boost your portfolio. Or maybe you might hire a photographer or two to get a foundation for your portfolio, then you can trade with some other photographers to round out your portfolio. Or any of a number of other combinations. It is up to you to decide what you want to do.
Do Your Research
If you decide to hire a photographer, here are some things I suggest you do BEFORE you book with them:
- Find a few local models and ask them for references. If you ask the photographer to provide their own references, they are most likely to recommend only those who will give positive references.
- Ask to see their portfolio and make sure they shoot the styles you want.
- Find out what their rates are and ask exactly what you will get in terms of photos (how many, how can you use them, will they edit them) for those rates.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with the photographer. If you don’t, you have every right to keep looking for another photographer even if you like their work. Do not assume that skill, talent, or popularity means they’re a good person or a good fit for you. Go with your instincts.
Remember, you are investing in your modeling by hiring a photographer and it is up to you to make an informed, responsible decision.
Once you’ve decided on who you would like to hire, make sure you know what you plan to shoot. Go over their portfolio and let them know which specific images you like. You can also mention exactly what you like as well as that can help them plan. Help them help you to get the best images possible!
A few other tips:
- Discuss what wardrobe you plan to bring or what they may have in their collection.
- If you would like hair/makeup, ask for any artists the photographer recommends. Keep in mind that you will likely be hiring those artists separately.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the photographer any other questions you have. It’s better to be prepared than to end up scrambling or confused. Most times they will be happy to answer and put you at ease.
- I also suggest reading my posts on Preparing For Photo Shoots and Basic Modeling Etiquette as well as my New Model Guide.
So, in conclusion, paying a photographer to help you boost your portfolio is a great option as long as you choose someone who can help you meet your goals.
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