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3 Best Ways to Find Models for Free (A Photographers Guide!)

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This is the perfect post for all of you aspiring portrait and fashion photographers. There’s one thing that you can’t shoot photos without: the models.

‘Wannabe models’ are everywhere these days. And they need a photographer who helps them establish their portfolio.

You’ve only got to find them and convince them to pose for you. Here’s what I recommend if you want to find models for free.

A blonde model posing outdoors[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]

1. Work With Amateur/Inexperienced Models

Finding amateur models for photography has pros and cons. They’re free, but they’re not always that good.

I’ve experienced both good and bad photography 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 even be able to direct them as you want.

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, you are focusing on taking photos, changing the lighting, etc. It’s hard to pay enough attention to the actual photo.

The more photos you take, the easier it will be. Silly mistakes such as harsh shadows across the face will become a thing of the past.

You can look for amateur models in Facebook groups. Or approach modeling agencies to see if someone needs a starter portfolio.

A beautiful model posing for a photographer
Photo by Marcelo Chagas from Pexels

Photograph Friends

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 seem to fancy themselves a little bit. 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.

A beautiful model posing for a photographer

Search for a 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. 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. You don’t want to come across as a stalker.

A male model posing
Photo by Royal A from Pexels

Look for Strangers

This is pretty self-explanatory: search for someone you think would be good at modelling and ask them whether they’re interested.

It can be a little bit scary but 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 lack that, either bluff or build-up to it.

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.

A model with blonde hair posing for a photo shoot

Photograph Yourself

Self-portraits don’t have to consist of photos that you’ve taken in the mirror or at arm’s length. Use a tripod and either a timer or a remote to take the photo for you.

This is a good solution if you’re struggling with finding people. Or if you don’t want to waste other people’s time while you’re practising.

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.

A model against a dark background
Photo by Anderson Guerra from Pexels

Direct the Models

The difference in standard between a free model and a paid one is quite significant. Still, there are ways to help them relax and take better photos during the photo shoot.

Directing models is really important because they can’t see what you can. Even if they’re professionals, they will need you for minor adjustments. As a photographer, you need to direct them to find the best possible pose.

Practice helps a lot. If you don’t have time for that, take a few photos in front of a mirror so they can see what they look like when they’re posing.

Often the way they think they’re looking is not how they’re actually looking. Learn a couple of general poses that work for models.

My best advice is to take your time finding what works for the model. Amateurs are often nervous in front of the camera. Find a way to help them to relax. You can play music, tell a joke or ask them to do silly poses.

It can also help if you let your models choose their own outfit and makeup. They will feel more confident in dressing their own way.

Last but not least, don’t raise your expectations too high when you are working with inexperienced models.

A beautiful model posing for a photographer

2. Search for Aspiring Actors or Dancers

These are people who are always going to need a set of head-shots at some point during their career. If you can get it done right, you can start to make money from them.

Working with people like them is beneficial for both of you. They will have professional photos, and you can practise photographing models.

Plus, people who are used to being in the spotlight are more confident in front of the camera.

If your work shines through, you will be able to make money from taking the same types of photos in the future.

A male model posing for a photographer

Use Model Releases

One thing you should watch out for is using model releases. This is very important because, if they’re getting something out of it for free, you should too.

If they sign a model release form, 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 your models before the shoot to understand their requirements and what they want to get out of it.

When you approach them, make sure you show your portfolio, if you have one already. People like to see your style before they agree to pose for you. You can do this by showing your website or a social media platform.

Dancers and actors might have experience in posing and modelling. Even though you are the photographer, be open for collaborating with them.

Find a way to involve them during the shoot. Maybe they know a good posture or even a location to use.

A beautiful model posing outdoors for a photographer

3. Search for Models on Websites

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, gender, experience, etc. while viewing photos and emailing them, all for free.

The site that I like to use is called Model Mayhem. There are plenty of alternatives, such as Net-Model and Pure Storm.

A beautiful model posing for a photographer

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:

Hi BLANK

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 photographer 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: https://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.

Thanks,

Josh

An image of a model posing for a photo shoot
Photo by Bestbe Models from Pexels

Make Sure you Find a Suitable Model

The main thing to watch for is the standard of the model. They will still be doing it for free. This means they 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. Otherwise, you will struggle to produce good results.

It’s a good idea to meet up with the model before the shoot. You can get to know their vibes and see if they are really a good fit. A meeting also makes them trust you more.

Again, you’re going to want to make sure that you get a release signed by the model, but that’s pretty standard. A beautiful model posing for a photographer

Conclusion

Finding models for your shoot is the very first step to expand your portfolio. The next part is practising to work with them.

I’ve actually written all about how to work with a model in this post here. This should really help you out when the time comes.

More than anything, be professional and don’t push the limits of the model.

Alright so now you know how to find models. What about posing when it comes to the actual photo shoot? Check out our guide to posing women in photographs here, or our guide to posing men in photographs here

If you want to get ahead with your portrait photography business, then read our eBook – Profit from Portraits! 

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