Shooting a model is considered a staple by many, if not most, photographers. Models are photographed for portraits, advertising, stock photography, etc. Most of us, especially when we start out, use family and friends as our models. It’s a great way to gain experience and practice. But at some point, you may want to shoot someone with modeling experience. I decided to do my first model shoot because I wanted to add more photos of people to my portfolio. After my first model photoshoot, I learned a lot that I can share with you. Here are some tips for finding and shooting a model.
Find a model.
Finding a model for your first model shoot is easier than you might think. You can, of course, rent one. But if you’re just starting out, you may not have a lot of resources to hire a model. But there’s a workaround for that, and it works well for both you and the model.
Look for models just starting out. For them, there is something they need more than money. Photos
In order for models to get paid work, they must be able to show what they have done in the past. In other words, they need a strong portfolio. Sounds familiar? It should be. Because as a photographer, you also need a strong portfolio to show if you intend to get a paid job. So, by finding a model that builds their portfolio, you can offer a deal-for-prints deal or TFP for short. Even though it’s called “bartering for prints,” you don’t actually have to provide prints unless it’s part of the deal you’re making. Many simply deliver the photos to the model on a DVD.
This worked out perfectly for my first model photo shoot. I went on Craigslist and checked under the “talent” section. I was actually looking for models to offer a TFP deal to, but I didn’t have to. An ad was placed by a model looking for a photographer for a TFP deal! I answered the ad, and after a few emails discussing details, we had a date and time for the shoot.
Modeling the Model
It’s a bit clunky when you think about it. You arrive at the location, and you are about to take pictures of a person you don’t know. You, as a photographer, are responsible for directing the model and taking the best possible photos, both for you and for your model. Lots of things will be running through your mind, hoping you get the job done right. But remember: if you seem nervous or tense, your model will get nervous and tense as well. If that happens, the photos will suffer.
It is best to take a moment to talk first. My model (Chrissy) had a friend with her (Ben), which helped a lot. By being there, he helped her with any nerves she had. (He also helped me with my gear. He carried my camera bag and tripod. Ben, if you’re reading this, you rock! LOL!)
Take a few test shots to get some shots in the bag, so to speak. This works wonders in helping anyone relax and really loosen up. Once your model is comfortable, they can do what they do. Chrissy made it so easy. That’s one of the biggest differences between shooting friends and family and shooting someone with modeling experience. Models know how to pose and give you a range of emotions. But they also know how to give direction. Don’t rely on them alone. The model poses, but they trust that you, as the photographer, are their eyes. They can’t see what the shot looks like. Check your viewfinder. Look for ways to improve. After your model has given you different poses, give them some more direction.
Also, don’t be afraid to try things. When you shoot digitally, shots cost you nothing but memory space. There were several shots I took where I said out loud, “I’m not sure if this will work, but let’s try.” Sometimes it didn’t work. But there were a few times when it worked great! So don’t be afraid to try things out. Especially if it is your first model photoshoot.
You’re familiar with your camera.
When you’re working with a model, you don’t want to waste time. That doesn’t mean you should rush. Take your time and do a good job. But you don’t want to play with your camera to get it to do something you’re not sure how to do. Have an idea in your head of how you want to photograph the model? Will the photos be portraits? Plan to shoot with a wide aperture to get soft backgrounds. Do the shots become more action-oriented, such as in sports or dance? Plan to shoot with a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action. Consider the type of photos you will be taking so that you don’t waste time trying different settings. This doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with different shots and settings. Keep those ideas in mind so you can set up and shoot quickly.
Knowing what kind of photos you’re going to take will help you know what to bring with you. For this shoot, I knew it would be clear, especially since I knew what time of day we would start shooting. So I made sure I had my lens hood with me. It turned out I didn’t need it. But it’s better to have something you don’t need than to need something you don’t.
Know where you are.
For my first model photoshoot, we went to the beach. Dauphin Island, Alabama has a great beach with several locations to take advantage of. I really like the dock there. It’s a bit weird because it doesn’t go far enough to reach the water. I’m not sure what the dock was for if it doesn’t reach the water, but I know it’s great for taking pictures! You can shoot on top of the dock. Upstairs, there are several pitches in full sun as well as covered areas for shade. There are stairs to shoot that will take you to the bottom of the dock. At the bottom, you can go under the dock and take some great photos using the shade and the pillars.
The point is, I knew my location. I had been there before, and I already had pictures in my head that I wanted to take. Nothing wastes more time than endlessly wandering around a location looking for a good spot to shoot. So keep your location in mind. I recommend getting there 30 minutes early so you can look around and get some more ideas about the photos to take.
Some other important things to keep in mind about the location are the terms and conditions. You probably won’t be able to plan this until the day of the shoot. Check the weather to get an idea of what you’ll be shooting in. You can only plan this well. My first model shoot was in the bright sun, and we started shooting at 2:00 PM. Not the best time to shoot. The lighting is very harsh. But you don’t always have control over when you shoot. You have to shoot when your model can. So you have to think of ways to shoot around the weather and lighting conditions.
One thing that caught me off guard was the wind. It was very windy during the shooting. There were a few shots where the wind worked in our favour.
Take lots of pictures. You’ll
want to take a lot of pictures. Especially if it is your first model photo shoot. This will give you lots of photos to flip through when you’re done. You never know when you’ll get a shot that captures the perfect expression or look. Later, when you go through the photos, you have to decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete. By taking a lot of photos, you will have several that are very similar from which you can choose the best one. For example, the model would give me a certain pose, and I would take 3 or 4 photos in a quick burst. Each of the photos would be slightly different. These subtle changes make a huge difference in selecting the best photos.
My first model photoshoot was a very positive and rewarding experience. It gave me an idea of what it’s like to shoot a model on location. It helped me understand the importance of communication between the photographer and the model. It gave me an idea of what kind of work would be involved after the shoot. Taking pictures is just part of that. You have to go through the hundreds of shots and try to narrow them down to the ones you want to keep.
During this particular shoot, I took about 350 photos in a span of 2 hours. I narrowed them down to what I believe were the top 50 shots. For both the model and I I made sure there were a variety of photos for us to use in our portfolios. Another reason to refine them is that you don’t want to process 350 photos in Photoshop! Don’t waste time editing photos you’re not going to keep. Select the best and go from there. Throw the rest away. Remember that the model will feature your work in their portfolio. Don’t give them bad images. It reflects on you! Only give them your best work to show.
On the DVD I gave the model, I had a folder with my top 50 high-resolution shots. These are the files Chrissy can use to make prints if she chooses to. I’ve also included a “Copyright Release Form” that gives her the right to print the photos for personal, non-commercial use. This is required because, in some places, the model cannot print the photos without the photographer’s signed permission. I’ve also included a folder with the 50 low-resolution photos. These are optimised for online use on places like Facebook. On the low-res photos, I’ve also added a small watermark in the bottom right corner of each photo. This watermark has my website address. So if the model puts the photos online, I get a little bit of free advertising. If you do this, make sure the watermark is legible but not obtrusive.
One of the biggest rewards was seeing Chrissy light up when she first saw the photos. I met her and Ben at a bookstore, and we looked at the photos on her laptop. She smiled from ear to ear and kept saying how happy she was with the pictures. It’s a great feeling when you work with a model on a photo shoot, deliver the photos, and walk away knowing that the model was more than happy with your work. It builds your confidence as a photographer.
So I can say that my first model photoshoot was a very positive experience. Follow these tips, and yours could be too!
By visiting my site, you can find more information about me, view my work, and learn more about improving your photography. Here’s how to become a commercial model.