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How to Find and Work With Photography Models for Best Results

Working with photography models is a great way to experiment with photos that you couldn’t take on your own. It often leads to even better photos as you have someone to bounce ideas off.
This post covers everything you need to know about being a fashion photographer. And how to get the best possible model photography.
A female photography model posing outdoors

Finding Models

There are a few ways you can find potential models for your fashion photography. Here are a few of them:

Online Agency

One of the most lucrative places to find photography models is by using an online modeling agency. It is beneficial for models to have an agency that does all the background work for them.
Websites such as Model Mayhem and One Model Place are good places to start. Contact them and see if any of them need fashion, modelling or portrait photography.
You will find that no matter where you live, there are models around. Most will want some form of reimbursement for their time, but a lot of models will work for TFP.
These agencies show you images they have already and other collaborations they have already been a part of. All their measurements are there too.
The best thing about this route is these agencies work with a broad range of models. You can find models of all shapes, sizes, ages and those willing to experiment with alternative ideas. This makes it easier to find the ideal model for your photo sessions.
It can be the most expensive option, but you are getting professional photography models. They have had training and experience in front of the camera.
More experience means better and more professional model photography. This will start the ball rolling on how to become a model or portrait photographer. And you’ll have better chances of finding the right model.
This makes the whole process easier for you. It should go faster and can be more productive than working with amateurs or your friends.
A female model posing in front of a bright orange background - working with photography models

Assist a Fashion/Model Photographer

One great way to find photography models is to start by assisting. You will gain valuable knowledge. And you will also start building up an extensive contact list.
When I assisted a fashion photographer here in Budapest, I saw huge potential. I wasn’t so interested in fashion photography at that time of my life.
Not only did I learn technical skills, such as lighting and the use of props, I also learned how to behave behind the camera. How to treat the others with respect and appreciation.
Here, I met models, clothing, apparel and jewelry designers. I also met producers, creators and set designers. Not only the people behind the products but the hair and makeup team too.
I became close friends with the photographer, who offered me free use of his studio. He also guaranteed that he could get me an influx of models. They were just starting out, and needed headshots and portfolio images.
The idea is that you separate your time. 50% of what they want and then 50% of what you want. no one gets a financial reward, but both sides grow their portfolio and contacts.
These boys and girls of different ages and talents are always looking for modeling photographers. The more photos of models, the better for you.

Work With a Team

If you want to work with models, models aren’t the first part of the puzzle. Some might be suspicious if you are on your own, especially if they work with a team.
This is especially true if you are starting out, and there are no details of you or your work online.
Looking for like-minded hair and makeup artists first might give you a better chance. They might have contacts looking for a photographer.
Models are more likely to say yes if you are ready to go. Photographer and a stylist is pretty much all you need for a low key photography session.
Facebook, Linked In and other sites such as Craigslist are great places to find collaborations and team members. There is also nothing stopping you from using Model Mayhem either, or even Facebook groups and social media.
A black and white shot of photography models getting hair and make up done

Online Advertisements

There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t see studios and model photographers looking for people to photograph. They do this to beef up their portfolio.
They aren’t looking for photos of models. Anyone who is willing to stand in front of a camera and pose can apply. And they do, in droves.
It’s not often you can get free, professional images for free. The modeling photographers and studios won’t pay you, but they will give you prints and images.
You’ll often see that they post exactly what they are looking for. Some online advertisements are more specific. But I have seen some that are just looking for red-haired women.
This is something you can use to your advantage. You might need a few photos of models to show people what you can do. No one is going to reply if you have nothing to show.
This is a great way to find models and people with some spare time. Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are great platforms for this.
You will find that all sorts of people will apply. This is not the best if you are looking for someone with very specific attributes.

Before the Shoot

The first step is to find a photography model. This isn’t that hard and you have two options: paid or unpaid.

Professional models can provide better results, are easier to work with and less complacent. But, from my experience, you can get good results with amateurs and friends.

If your shoot has a budget for one, you may as well hire a pro. You can find them in a variety of directories through Google. Be sure to include the area in which you’re working in the search term.

Sometimes you’ll come across a model willing to work for you for free to improve and update their portfolio. This is rare for amateurs, unless the models themselves are amateurs too.

This is often referred to as TF (Time For) modelling.

An outdoor portrait of a female posing for the camera
Once you’ve found the model you want to use, talk to them about what you want to get out of the shoot. And ask them what they’re comfortable doing.
This step is especially important if they’re a friend of yours. If it’s a swimsuit shoot, they’re going to want to know that beforehand.
For professional photography models, this kind of information will be laid out when you’re hiring them. But I always like to go through it one more time to make sure they’re comfortable.
Here’s a few points you will want to discuss:

  • Confirm pay rates, travel expenses and accommodation
  • Date and time of the shoot
  • The sort of photo’s you’re going to be taking
  • Who’s supplying the clothing and makeup?

A long exposure night portrait of a female model posing on a merry go round
If you’ve never worked with a model before, find your best looking friend. Talk them into doing some photos with you while you’re still learning.
Some techniques can be time-consuming to begin with. So, it’s best to use a forgiving friend who’s not charging you by the hour to be there.
The final thing you’ll want to do before starting is to find a location. I don’t like using studios for fashion modelling photography. I find that the results tend to be sterile and boring.
There are much better locations where you can work compositional techniques into the photos.
That’s my 2 cents anyway. Whatever you choose do, make sure you find a good location. If it’s outdoors, make sure you have a dry alternative.
It’s best to plan this in advance. That way you’re not wasting time on the day and you have an idea of the sort of photos you want to take.
Ok, now that you’ve found yourself a model and a location, it’s time to start shooting.
An outdoor portrait of a female model holding purple flowers

During the Shoot

Rule number 1: Respect Privacy
This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway. Respect the model’s privacy – your reputation depends on it.
Make sure that your model is comfortable in their environment and has everything they need. Whatever you do, don’t touch them without permission.
If you want to adjust something, make sure you ask them first. For adjusting their clothing or taking something off, don’t be afraid to ask. Just be professional about it.
When it comes to them getting changed, give them space to do it privately. And stop taking photos of anything while they do it.
An outdoor model photography portrait of a female posing for the camera
The best results come from a happy and relaxed subject. So, when I’m working, I try to help them relax by talking to them and making them laugh.
Ask them how they are and try to be as funny as possible. The more comfortable they are around you, the better the results will be.
This is a great technique for the beginning of the session, but don’t carry it on too much. You’ll end up with a lot of photos of them mid sentence – not ideal.
An outdoor portrait of a female model lying on the ground and smiling at the camera
Models aren’t stupid. They know exactly what looks good on them. If they have an idea about how to pose or where to take a photo, they’re usually worth listening to.
I find that my best fashion photography tends to come from combining ideas with my model to improve on the last photo taken.
If you have an idea of how you want them to pose but struggle to describe it, adopt the pose yourself. Do it no matter how stupid you may feel.
Looking stupid yourself will only help to relax the model and break the ice. Taking the pose yourself will help get the shot you want sooner.
If you want to explore underwear/bikini/topless/nude photography, don’t dive straight in. Take some photos with clothes on first so that they’ve warmed up to the idea.
The photo below came at the end of a session. The model suggested that the shot might work better if she didn’t have a top on.
An outdoor nude portrait of a female model smiling at the camera

After the Shoot

Ask the model to sign a model release form stating what you can use the photos for. You should do this for all photos of models.
If you’re small time, you may not think of this is as a big deal. But you never know how your relationship with the model may change if one of you becomes more successful.
It’s always best to cover your ass now so you don’t have to worry about it in the future.
If you’re happy with your fashion modelling photography and model, make sure to recommend them. Or tell the organisation they work for.
This small gesture will go a long way and the model is likely to be more comfortable around you in the future.
If you agreed to share the photos with the model, make sure she gets them and thank her for her time.
An outdoor portrait of a female photography model posing on rocks and looking at the camera
A small note to end on: I love working with models.
The human side is good fun and allows more creativity in my results with someone who knows what they’re talking about to bounce ideas off.
I don’t typically use the same model more than twice as this will result in your photos looking a bit too similar.
If you’ve never shot with a model before, grab a friend and spend the afternoon with them, with the incentive that they’ll get an “awesome new Facebook profile picture” from it.
If you’re working with a model outdoors, Golden Hour lighting could be ideal to bring your images to life. We also have some great tips on how to post process photos of a model without overdoing it.

12 comments
  1. Hey,
    I really liked your model as well.. great choice..her eyes are what sets her apart.. I also really liked your photography and the information you provided, although it seemed to be common sense, it was provided in a clear, clean, way.. very attractive website.. kudos!

  2. This was great, it was informative like all of the articles on this site. It was also very helpful since I had just agreed to do a model shoot with one of my friends and nearly every aspect I was thinking of doing was covered in this article.
    thanks.

  3. I really like all the information you provided. I just went last week to a photo shoot at the beach with one of my friends to get the experience. I’m starting with my friends so I can get more used to working with people and taking portraits. Is there another note that you might talk about different poses because I don’t have money right now for a model but would still like to know which ones work out.

    1. Hey JD, I’m not a model so I couldn’t really say just yet, but I recommend experimenting as many positions as you can (after all, it is digital), and really having a good look at where you’re taking the photos. For example, the last photo in this post was meant to be an example of contrast and it’s shown by the distinct differences in the curved body of the soft skinned girl and the sharp, harsh jaggedness of the rocks. This position worked for the location i was working in, but may not work where you’re shooting so have a good look around and have fun with it. Thanks, Josh

  4. I like this article and think you touched all the bases. I do disagree with you on signing the model release after the shoot. I have the models sign the model release form, before the shoot.

  5. Great article. I’ve just started portraiture Photography and I wanted to add a comment about using pro or friends. On my first studio shoot I hired a pro. My reason is friends of mine have never posed for cameras other then holiday snaps. I’m not sure how to direct people to gain the shot I’m after, so by hiring a pro, means that she just ‘pops’ into a cracking pose every time. When it comes to experimenting, well, I would have told the model I’m new to studio work. This wasn’t a problem. But i wasn’t going to worry about keeping the flow going. This might sound wrong, but the model is getting paid for her time, whether it’s posing in front of the camera or waiting in the wings while I sort out lighting. This is also a time time for a chat, ask them about other work they do, or hobbies. Its also a chance to tell them what you’ve done in the past. Don’t get too personal though, don’t expect them to tell you their life story. I asked my first model for example, about her shoot on Nuts magazine although ive not seen the shot of the model i hired in the magazine, i found out just how experiened the model was. With that relaxed, non pressured chat, everything bacame relaxed and the flow naturally kept going. I will also regularly compliment the model – all girls like to be told how good they look.
    Graham.

  6. I always enjoy reading your articles! I am an amateur photographer, and right now I mostly do nature shots, but I’ve done a little experimenting with portraits and your posts always help me. Thank you so much

Comments are closed.
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