Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hiring a Model and Photographing a Model

Hiring a model for the first time can be a difficult task when you are first venturing into this genre of photography!

How do you find them, what do you pay, are you going to have to rent a studio, what lighting do you need? All these questions rush through your head… and all are valid. This BLOG entry will address all these questions, and even some you haven’t thought of.

Models are normal people, just like you and me. Many are more than happy to work with amateurs and professionals alike as they too are in various levels of creating a career in their chosen field. There are new amateurs and there are seasoned professionals… you just have to decide which level of model you want to work with… and that depends on how much you want to invest… and frankly, what kind of photos you want to take.

Where do you find a model?

The easiest way is to register and look for a model on a site like Model Mayhem. These types of sites are dedicated to bringing models, make-up artists, hairstylists and photographers of all levels together. When I was first looking for a model I registered on Model Mayhem and went looking for models that were interested in “Time For Print” (TFP). You can find models young and old, make and female...

There are other ways such as placing an advert on Kiijiji or Craigslist. This will not guarantee you will get an experienced model, but its worth a shot. I got lucky last summer and found an awesome model on Kijiji for a Rick Sammon shoot my company sponsored. Lastly, you could use a modeling agency. Their models are experienced and reliable… but you will pay a premium for agency models.

What do you want to look for in a model?

I am not going to be the guy that professes you run and use models with perfect bodies and perfect skin… we should not be obsessed by looks in today’s world, but, if you are trying to build a portfolio and you want people to remember your work… well, unfortunately this is an area where looks do matter (photogenically speaking). But remember, sometimes a good photo can be of an old man playing a guitar, not just an attractive looking woman.

When you do read through profiles of models you are targeting, read it carefully.  It will contain very important information that is relevant to you. What styles they will shoot, what they will not shoot, ther experience, their price, and their age.  

Make sure her profile current and her photos up to date? Check that she lives close enough to you, or is somewhere you are willing to travel to. Models will expect travel expenses, so the further away she is, the more she will expect to be paid.

Look for feedback from other photographers, and then read it. It helps you establish how competent and reliable she is.

Is her complexion and hair good? Although, this is not always reliable as the photographer may have “cleaned them up.” It may sound overly fussy, but I have found myself spending hours on photos where I’ve had to remove blemishes and tattoos in post production.

You can sometimes be lucky and find a model who will work for you for just the fun of creating images. You can start hiring make up artists and stylists later on if you wish, but it can add a significant cost to a shoot.

You can expect to pay for their time in either good old fashioned cash, or by TFP/TFCD (Time for Prints or Time for CD). The TF option means that you supply the model with a number of images from the shoot for their portfolio either as a print, or as digital files on a CD or delivered to them online. However, unless you have photographed people before, do not expect to do TF* shoots as most models only do them if it benefits their portfolio, or they are beginners themselves. They will want to work with experienced photographers and digital editors.

As a beginner, I would recommend you pay for an experienced model. You will have no pressure on you to deliver satisfactory photos to her, and you will not have to worry so much about directing her into flattering poses. She or He should already know how to do this. You can also find that as she has worked with many photographers already, she can pass on some tips to you – never be too proud to accept advice from a model. The benefits and advice they can offer you is invaluable.

How much you pay them depends upon their look and their experience, and the “level” you are shooting. For fashion or portraiture you can expect to pay a lesser experienced model about $20 an hour – an experienced model expect $40 to $100 an hour on average, with some costing more. As a general rule of thumb, the less clothing the model is wearing, the more you will pay.

To give you a real world example; I am doing boudoir photos for a workshop that I will be running. The price where I live is $50 to $100/hour for a very experienced model to pose in lingerie. The price doubles for nudity.

What to Say, or not to Say to Your Model.

Models expect to be contacted, so don’t worry about writing to them. Be up front with them (never lie or be pushy, there’s no need to). Tell them what your experieince level is and what you want to shoot.

Now, they may not have said in their profile, but some higher end models may not work with amateurs as they will not want less than flattering photos of themselves floating around. Do not be offended or defeated if this does happen. It happens more time that you will think.
Some things to make sure you cover off before you shoot:
  • Confirm her rates and travelling expenses.
  • Confirm dates, times and locations.
  • Confirm that she can do her own hair and make up or if you are supplying a make up artist and/or stylists.
  • Discuss and confirm what clothing/outfits she will bring and what you will supply.
  • Show her examples of the photographs you would like to take so she has a good idea of where your head is at.

How long your shoot should be scheduled for?

I would recommend 2 hours for the first shoots you do – it’s long enough to allow for her to get ready, set up, and do a range of shots, yet short enough where you’re not as likely to run out of ideas or steam.
Please note that if you do book a model for four hours, and only shoot three, she will still expect to be paid for four hours. So be precise, pre plan your work flow and have all your props handy to maximize your shooting time.


The model will feel safer and more relaxed in a public place with a newbie photographer who isn’t known and doesn’t have a reputation built up. A good choice is a local park, which will have loads of props that you can use whether is there.

You could use a studio, but this will require you have knowledge of studio lighting or the help of someone who can set up the lights for you. A studio can cost upwards of $100 to $200 an hour, although many do discounts multiple hours.

What to take

Your camera (obviously), a spare body if you have one, a couple lens with focal lengths between 20 to 120mm focal length. These lenses preferably should have an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/20.  You should also bring plenty of memory cards, fully charged battery(ies), drinks and/or food if it’s a long shoot.

One extra that you will find invaluable is a large and medium sized reflector – you use this to shine some light back into the model’s face to avoid dark shadows. It does also help if you have someone to hold the reflector, but it is possible to manage without.

DO NOT TOUCH the Model without permission! This is the number one rule: Keep your hands to yourself. It may be okay with some models to adjust her hair or something slightly, but if you need to do so, ask first! Something like “do you mind if I adjust your hair?” is all you need to say. If she says no, let it go and let her do it.
·         Do talk to her, ask her questions, try and make her laugh and ahve some modern day music playing in the background. It will help her relax and you’ll get some better facial expressions.
·         Do be courteous. You don’t have to go overboard, but your reputation will depend upon how you treat her.
·         Do show the model a pose by doing it yourself. If you have a pose in mind and the model is not sure what you are after, just show her yourself.
·         Do not be crude – what seems an innocent joke to you may come across as crass and insulting and have a connotation that may be taken the wrong way.
·         Do not push her to do levels she does not do. If she does not do lingerie or art nude or higher, don’t push the issue.

Do You Need a Model Release?

The short answer is that in North America you do need a model release in most cases. If you plan to sell an image to a magazine or for stock, they will require a model release. The model release will indemnify you if she claims to be 18 and actually is not of legal age.

Besides, a model release will cover off the exact terms in writing and all will be covered for any future use of the images you took while you were together.

But Most Importantly…

Remember to have fun! When you are doing something that you love, it rarely feels like work and your images will be that much better!

If you want to come to one of our workshops and work with professional models in the studio and out in the field. See our workshop page here...