How to Find Models
A common question I receive from up and coming photographers is: how do I find a professional model to work with?
The answer to this question can vary depending on your current situation, and different people will give you different advice. I am going to lay out step-by-step how I was able to find top talent to work with on a regular basis. Please keep in mind that this is just my experience and your path may be similar or completely different. There are multiple ways to achieve your goal!
Here is the baseline I started with before I ever started taking photos of models:
- I owned a suitable camera and lens. In my case, a Sony A7ii and a 55mm, f 1.8 lens
- I understood how to shoot in manual mode
- I had a website and Instagram account to share my portfolio
Step 1: Understand the Dynamic at Play
Have you ever seen the episode of How I met Your Mother where Robin describes relationships as containing a "reacher" and a "settler"? Here's the clip:
Here's the situation. We have large population of both models and photographers, all at various levels of experience. To move on up in the network, it becomes imperative to work with people who are more experienced than you. How does a reacher find a settler? They need to offer value. (value offered by reacher > experience gap between reacher and settler) What can be offered as value? For a photographer: photos that at least as good as what the model currently has in her portfolio.
Step 2: Hone Your Craft
I recognized that before any model would be willing to shoot with me I would need to build up a portfolio and establish credibility. I needed to be able to prove that I could take incredible photos.
I reached out to my friend, Sara White, who at the time was just starting to teach Yoga Sculpt classes. The value here is obvious. I would get to practice photography, Sarah would get free content to use on social media to promote her classes. Win - win.
Step 3: Leverage Social Networking
I use the phrase "social networking" because word of mouth among your circle of friends also should be accounted for along with traditional social media channels. Once Sarah's photos were published, I was quickly able to shoot with other mutual friends and contacts from Sarah's network. I shot portraits, lifestyle, graduation photos and more yoga.
Step 4: Breaking into Swimwear
Step 4 is optional, or can be substituted for which ever niche you're looking to get into. Especially for swimwear, you obviously have to find someone who is comfortable modeling bikinis. If your network of friends fits the bill, that's great! If not, you can do what I did and hire a model. I'm not saying you have to shell out your hard-earned dollars. You can always reach out to people on Instagram and see if you have any takers, but for a newbie, you can accelerate this process with a little investment. The other advantage of hiring a model, is you get someone with experience and usually a strong social following. The quality of the final product will be stronger.
My first swimwear shoot was with Emily Pemberton. I hired her to shoot some Swim in Laguna Beach and was able to use the photos for my swimwear portfolio.
It proved to be one of the best investments I ever made. I hadn't realized it at the time, but I found my niche, or should I say my niche found me. People gravitated to my swimwear photos and the rest is history.
Step 5: Nurture the Network
The process never really ends. There is always someone more talented than me that I haven't met yet so my goal is to keep progressing forward.
If you're looking to just "find a model" I suppose you can spend time sending DMs until you get a reply, but I have found that it's much more effective to let the network do the work for you. If your work is solid and you build genuine relationships with everyone you meet, then the network will really take care of the heavy lifting. When you're in a pinch and need a model, you'll have hundreds of people and all of their contacts to tap into. Who wouldn't want to work with someone who consistently offers top notch photos and the value of a strong network?
- Always offer value to the people you want to work with
- Prove your value with a strong body of work
- Use your current network, your friends, and then expand from there
- The quality of your work will be the main driver of success
- Your ability to build a good reputation and nurture your relationships will cause your network to work for you.