Endless phone calls, piles of comp cards and a photo shoot fast approaching can send any photographer into a panic. Securing excellent talent for a shoot may seem like an insurmountable task, however, like anything in life, having a well-thought out plan can make even the most daunting task doable.
Create a Realistic Plan
Allow for plenty of time to select the models and obtaining internal team approvals. If you are working with a professional agency, schedule a “go-see” where the models actually come to your studio for an in-person meeting. (1) You’ll discover how much retouching you’ll need in post-production, how old their headshots are and any radical change in hair or weight.
Be specific on what you would like the model to wear the day of the shoot. Have them bring extra options if possible and arrive “clean/clean” (no make-up or pre-styled hair). Always have additional wardrobe choices in the studio. You can always have a fashion stylist do wardrobe returns after the shoot to recoup monies.
See more: Tips and Tricks for Posing Models
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Walsh
Expect the Unexpected
Have a Back-up Plan
In addition to your first selects, choose a back-up in the event there are some unforeseen factors the day of the shoot.
If you’re using child models the rule of thumb is to have two back-up child models for each of your first selects. Sleeping and eating schedules along with short attention spans and unpredictable temperament are some of the many last minute conflicts you may face. Schedule breaks every 20-30 minutes so you don’t lose their interest. (2)
Using Professional Agencies
Agencies often charge a hefty fee (anywhere from 20-25%) for their talent and services. In return you’ll benefit from their having already vetted a large pool of talent, contacting and scheduling the talent and ensuring that the models are professionally trained.
Even better, the agencies are typically open to negotiation on the talent fees – you just need to know how to bargain. For your first time using any agency, ask for a hefty discount until they prove they are worth using. Can you show them you shoot steady catalog or agency work? Hash out a deal for a “X” amount of shoots/models per year. If they’re not willing to budge on fee, try gaining unlimited usage rights for your client and yourself. Being able to use images for multiple purposes – ads, packaging, online and even your own stock images – can be a cost-effective term.
Finding Model Talent On Your Own
These days there are so many choices available in lieu of using a professional agency. If you are near a major metro area such as New York, Chicago, LA or Miami, you’ll have even a better chance of finding fresh, eager-to-work models pursuing any avenue to get hired.
Contact local modeling schools and see if there are any top students they feel are ready for a professional shoot. Developing a long-term relationship with one school in particular could save you future headaches.
Place an Ad
If you have the time (and help) to troll through hundreds of submissions, try platforms such as Craigslist, Mandy.com, Model Mayhem and other community-based websites. If school is in session, advertise at local colleges either through their job placement office or by placing flyers around campus.
As a photographer we tend to be drawn to people’s faces and movements. Next time you’re sipping your Chai Latte at Starbuck’s or strolling through the local mall, scan the crowd. Here are just a few famous faces that were discovered serendipitously:
- Iman – walking down the street in Nairobi
- Gisele Bundchen – eating at a McDonald’s
- Kate Moss – sitting in JFK airport
- Naomi Campbell –the streets of London
To avoid any uneasiness with your future prospects, plan an open call day once a month so that potential models feel comfortable coming to the studio. Find a hair and make-up artist that is willing to do business in trade so they can build their portfolio. Having additional personnel on hand for the day will also put all attendees at ease.
With all these upfront efforts, eventually you’ll find yourself with a regular pool of talent and/or a preferred agency before you know it!