The right model is essential for a successful fashion photography shoot. Even if you’re a skilled photographer, it will be challenging to create Vogue-worthy photos without a good subject.
To help you find the right person for the job, we put together a list of tips that will make your first casting go smoothly.
1. Build a Mood Board
The first step in choosing the right model is creating a mood board. Just think of it as a collage where you pin or paste your favourite photos to build your concept. This will help you better visualise what you want to achieve in your photo shoot.
You can always create a physical mood board, but most people do them digitally these days, through Pinterest or Juxtapost.
What’s fantastic about these mood boards is that you can make them public and share them with other people. But you can also use them as reference as you progress with your project.
In fact, we even recommend you to bring it to the shoot so you can look at it in between taking photos.
2. Choose Where to Scout for Fashion Models
There are many ways to look for talent. The most obvious and easy one is simply asking your friends if they’d be interested to pose for you. Working with someone you already know can make you feel more at ease.
Nevertheless, you might also find it challenging to direct the model if they’re inexperienced. It wouldn’t hurt to use a friend when you’re just taking photos for fun. However, you’d be better off looking for experienced models for serious projects.
Alternatively, you can join local Facebook groups to find models in your area. Join a group and post about your project on their page. If you find anyone who’s interested, talk to them and ask them to collaborate.
You can also look for models’ Facebook profiles and contact them if they’d like to work with you. However, you need to be aware that Facebook groups often have a limited pool of talent, and unfortunately, most of them are amateurs.
Most photographers prefer to go on modelling websites such as Model Mayhem and One Model Place to cast models. Just think of these online platforms as social media sites made explicitly for models and photographers.
They offer an extensive collection of profiles that include everything from photos to vital statistics and resumes. You can find both beginners that might be willing to collaborate for free, as well as industry veterans you can hire for a fee.
3. Find the Right Look
Before you start looking for a fashion model, figure out your requirements and create a criteria list based on those. First, ask yourself what type of photo shoot you intend to do. Is it going to be a catalogue, street, editorial, or high fashion?
Next, think about what kind of clothes your model is going to wear. Are they going to be long or short? Wide or narrow? Do they feature patterns that might look unappealing on specific body types?
Even the prettiest models can look less interesting in the wrong outfit.
You should also think about the mood you want to capture. Do you want your photos to look sensual, gritty, sexy, serious, fun, or cute? Remember that attitude is just as important as clothes in fashion photography. Your model should know how to express different emotions as much as executing fashion poses.
List down the answers to these questions, and use them to guide you while browsing for models to hire. Most importantly, look through the images of your candidates, and visualise them in the outfit you want them to wear.
If you can’t imagine them in those clothes, you should probably look for someone else.
4. Know Your Models’ Work History
If you’re looking for a model through an established agency, then this wouldn’t be a big issue. However, if you’re still starting out, you’ll most likely use freelance model websites such as Model Mayhem.
If so, then it’s advisable to learn as much as you can about a talent’s work history. You’ll want to ensure that the model you choose is reliable and has the experience they say they have.
You should go through the model’s page and check what type of jobs they’ve done before. A good profile should list all the projects they’ve done and include all the people they’ve worked with. Most of all, they need to have accompanying photos to prove that they participated in the gigs they mentioned.
Also, go through the model’s “verified credits” to get a glimpse of what they’re like when collaborating with other people. These “credits” include photographs from different shoots, as well as testimonials from photographers or make-up artists that describe their experience with the person.
Reading the credits will help you gauge whether they’re the type of person you want to work with or not.
5. Check Their Portfolio
After you find a candidate you’re interested in, scrutinise their portfolio and ask them questions. Don’t think about the number of images they have, but look at the variation in their collection, instead. The pictures need to show that they’re capable of doing an assortment of female poses and can show different expressions.
Additionally, observe the different types of clothes they wear. If they look good in the style you want to feature in your shoot, then you may have found a good candidate.
If they look stiff, awkward, and emotionless, consider other profiles instead.
6. Discuss Your Project in Detail
Once you find your model, set up a meeting. Chatting on Skype or even exchanging messages on social media will often suffice. What matters is that you get to know each other better and talk about your plans for the shoot.
Offer a little background about your work to make them feel confident about your photo skills. In turn, ask them about their experience and what they can contribute to the photo shoot.
Make sure you talk about every detail of the shoot, especially if it may involve risque poses. Don’t ever put them in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Remember that it’s a collaboration, and both of you need to agree to everything before proceeding.
To help you better explain your ideas for your project, feel free to share the mood board you created. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask them if they can add new ideas to your concept.
7. Ask About Compensation
There are two main ways to compensate a model: Monetary payment, or Time For Print (commonly known as TFP). To avoid any confusion, discuss what they want in return before the shoot.
When you’re still expanding your portfolio and don’t have money to pay models, TFP is your best option. Upcoming models often do TFP since they need photos to add to their collection. Time For Print means they pose for free in exchange for the images that you shot of them. It’s a win-win situation, and you don’t have to spend a dime at all.
Unfortunately, some of these models also happen to be inexperienced. Therefore, you may not always get the best photos that you want from them. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to gain experience and grow your collection of fashion photos without spending money.
If you’re willing to take your photography to the next level, then consider hiring a more experienced model. Acquiring talent from agencies can be ridiculously expensive, so freelance model websites would be your next best choice.
Just remember that not everyone who’s asking for payment is a professional. So check their portfolio to see if they genuinely have the necessary experience.
8. Trust Your Gut
Looking for models takes a lot of skill and talent. In fact, agencies even hire model scouts to find individuals that they can hone to become the next fashion superstars.
Unfortunately, at this stage in your career, you can only rely on yourself to land the perfect person to shoot.
We’ve listed a lot of concrete methods to find the right model. However, in the end, you really just need to use your best judgement. There are certainly times when things aren’t what they seem.
In time, you’ll see a lot of upcoming models with terrible portfolios who are in fact, very talented. Sometimes, they just need the right photographer to produce powerful work.
Don’t be afraid to collaborate with someone if you sincerely believe they have potential. Remember that trust goes both ways. Models agree to work with you because they believe you can create impressive photos.
Casting your first photography model can be daunting. There’s a good chance that you may not get it right the first few times. The good news is, as you gain more experience, this process will get easier. Just keep trying and don’t give up.
Focus on expanding your portfolio. Once you have more work to show people, you’ll have more opportunities to collaborate with better talent. We have some great tips of how to post process photos of a model without overdoing it!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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