This is the perfect post for all of you aspiring portrait and fashion photographers because there’s one thing that you can’t do without: models.
‘Wannabe models’ are everywhere these days, you’ve just got to find them and convince them to pose for you. Here’s what I recommend if you want to find models for free.
Finding amateurs to model for you has pros and cons: they’re free but they’re not always that good.
I’ve experienced both good and bad models. It can be a little bit hard to get started but, once you’ve taken a few photos, the model starts to ‘warm up’ to the camera and you’ll be able to direct them as you want.
Direction is really important when taking photos of models because they can’t see what you can see; even if they’re professionals, they will need you for minor adjustments.
Something I still struggle with is studying photos as I take them. I can transfer them onto a computer, look at them for a few minutes and know exactly what I need to do differently but, when you’re in the moment of photography, focusing on taking photos, changing the lighting, etc., it’s hard to focus enough attention on the actual photo.
The more photos you take, the easier it will be and silly mistakes such as harsh shadows across the face will become a thing of the past.
What to watch out for…
The difference in standard between a free model and a paid one is quite significant but there are ways to help them relax and take better photos.
Practice helps but, if you don’t have time for that, I would taking photos in front of a mirror to begin with so they can see what they look like when they’re posing.
More often than not, the way they think they’re posing is not how they’re actually posing.
- Take your time
- Play some music that they want to listen to to help them relax
- Allow them to choose their own clothes and makeup
- Don’t expect too much
This is probably how most people manage to find models when they’re starting out and it’s pretty easy to do; we’ve all got some good looking friends.
One thing I’ve found is that the ones who agree to do it all seem to fancy themselves a little bit, so it’s not really hard to convince them. If it takes too much convincing, you’re talking to the wrong person; they won’t be comfortable in front of a camera.
Friend of a Friend
This is where I find the majority of my models. Thinking about the friends of your friends really increases the number of potential models you have at your disposal. I just approach them in a social setting or ask for an introduction and, if there’s any doubt, my friends will always vouch for me.
I would say that I have about a 50% success rate of getting people who agree to model to actually model. For whatever reason, they may change their mind and that’s fine, I don’t even bother contacting them again if they fail to reply.
This is a little bit scary but surprisingly fun if you approach the right people. It’s a great way of meeting people but it does take a fair bit of confidence; if you’re lacking that, either bluff it or build up to this. It’s pretty self explanatory: find someone you think would be good at modelling and ask them whether they’re interested.
Carry business cards. This point is important for the two options above, especially so when you’re talking to strangers. Explain what you do and provide them with all the other details on the card. It will make you look professional and the ball is now in their court.
Self portraits don’t have to consist of photos that you’ve taken in the mirror or at an arms length. Use a tripod and either a timer or a remote to take the photo for you.
This is a good idea if you’re struggling to find people or if you don’t want to waste other people’s time while you’re practicing. My thumbnail image at the bottom of the page was set up by me in the camera, then I instructed a friend on how to compose the shot and when to take the photo.
Someone else did the snapping but it was still a self portrait.
Aspiring Actors, Dancers, Etc.
These are people who are always going to be in need of a set of head-shots at some point during their career and, if you can get it done right, you can start to make money from them.
Not only are they going to be willing, free models but you will have a sense of direction. If your work shines through, you will be able to make money from taking the same types of photos in the future.
What to watch out for…
Model releases. This is very important because, if they’re getting something out of it for free, you should too. If they sign a release, it means that you can do what you like with the photos and you won’t have any problems in the future, should they become super famous.
- Talk to them before to understand their requirements and what they want to get out of it.
- Find a good location for the photos; white backgrounds are boring.
This is a route that I’ve recently been looking into. I’ve managed to find some really good models who I’ve already set up some shoots with. You can search by age, location, style, sex, experience, etc. while viewing photos and emailing them, all for free.
The site that I like to use is called Model Mayhem but there are plenty of alternatives such as Net-Model and Pure Storm.
When you do find someone you want to work with, send them a friend request and a little message explaining what you’re trying to do. Half the time you won’t hear back from them, especially if you’re not offering to pay them anything but you will soon find people who are willing to do it for free.
Here’s the message that I send:
I’m just messaging to see if you’d be interested in doing some TF (TF stands for Time For, as in their time for your photos) modelling for my photography tutorial website? I like your STYLE; I think it would suit the style of my website really well. MENTION YOUR LOCATION
I own a photography tutorial site for which I’m constantly in need of photos so, every few weeks, I try to find a new model. It’s really relaxed and usually a pretty good laugh. There’s no pressure to get anything done, we just go with the flow and see what we come up with.
As far as shooting ideas go, I’m completely open to suggestions if there’s a certain style you’d like to try. I mainly adapt what we’re doing around different photographic techniques that I can then use on my website as examples. OFFER AN IDEA OF YOUR OWN.
My website is called Expert Photography and you can see it here: http://www.expertphotography.com/ as well as my fan page here: http://www.facebook.com/ExpertPhotography and twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/PhotoJosh
I’m getting around X visits a day at the moment but it’s still young so I’m expecting it to grow. You can have a look at some of my photos on the fan page here, where you’ll see some of the other model shoots that I’ve done. PROVIDE YOUR PORTFOLIO
If you’re interested, I can go into this in further detail with you.
What to watch out for…
Again, you’re going to want to make sure that you get a release signed by the model but that’s pretty standard.
The main thing to watch for is the standard of the model. They will still be doing it for free so may not have the most experience in the world but they’re likely to be better than your friends. Also, make sure you look through their portfolio and see that their style suits yours or you will struggle to produce good results.
I’ve actually written all about how to work with a model in this post here, which should really help you out when the time comes. More than anything, be professional and don’t push the limits of the model.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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