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Putting Together a Model Shoot

November 28th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot  |  1 Comment

If you have never worked with models before, you are missing out! It’s a great vehicle for practicing with new lighting gear or exploring new direction in your work. I love working with models to strengthening my boudoir portfolio. I won’t publish client images from boudoir sessions and model shoots give me images with which to market. It’s also super fun and I experiment in every way I can imagine.

Earl Christie and I recently got together for a model shoot up in Maine. We wrangled our models using our tried and true (un)patented model system. We’ve been running models shoots in ShootStyle over the years and I wanted to share what works for us.

We use Model Mayhem, and love it. There’s a great community there and getting to know the models and other photographers has been fun and useful. :) There is a basic free account, which has some restrictions on numbers of images you can post on your portfolio and numbers of conversations you can start in a 24 hour period, but over all, I highly recommend opening an account.

Casting call:

When you are ready to get going, start by creating a casting call. Here is where you can specify who you are looking for and talk about the shoot a little bit. Go big! ShootStyle has managed to score some amazing locations, so we link to the venue. Even if you don’t have links to the space, be descriptive. Include links to your work too. Describe what you are looking for and be very specific about what you will be expecting from the models. You can imagine, some of the situations that have been posted have been sketchy, to say the least. Describing everything in as much detail as possible is going to allay any worries your models will have answering your call.

Throw down some cash if you can. You are much more likely to get models with a little bit of experience. Working with a model who has experience is fantastic when you are just getting going, they will help guide you in common practices in the industry. It also greatly reduces last-minute cancellations. But if you are short on cash, you should be able to find some models who are willing to do TFP (trade for prints, or these days, trade for files).

Some models prefer to bring an escort. Since ShootStyle so often does group shoots, with multiple photographers and models, we designate a room for escorts to hang out so as keep our models as comfortable as possible. If you are willing to have an escort present on the day of the shoot, indicate this in your casting call. Many photographers don’t like the extra person, so if you demonstrate your flexibility, this may win you some points.

Spread the Word:

You might think that once you’ve gotten your casting call up, all you have to do is sit back and answer the flood of emails about to come your way. It’s probably not going to happen that way.

Start searching for models on Model Mayhem that you want to work with, and personally invite them to look at your casting call. I look for models that are older and curvier than the typical model since I am looking to build my boudoir business, and want to find models closer to my clients age and body type. I usually settle for older or curvier. By “older”, I mean pushing thirty. And “curvy”, is anyone over 130 pounds. Being much older and much curvier than that, I have to laugh. But the truth is, this field is full of 98 pound 19 year old aspiring models.

If a model lists another way to get in touch, use it! Facebook, email, form-spring, anything! You are looking to carpet bomb your casting call to get as many eyes on it as possible.

Confirm Confirm Confirm:

Once a model expresses interest, get a cell phone number and an email address. We won’t confirm a spot on the day until we get those. You don’t want to run into a situation where a model has changed her mind about participating, but doesn’t bother to tell you.

Once we confirm with the models, we send them an email with all the information they need. We provide a google map link to the address, a street address, our starting time, what to expect when they arrive, clothing and make-up to bring, and if snacks or drinks will be provided. Include at least one phone number they can reach you at on the day of the shoot, and tell them to expect a phone call the evening before the shoot. If you are doing boudoir work, they must bring a photo ID with proof of age!!

We also ask them to reply to us when they’ve received the email, which also lets us know they’ve read it.

Don’t forget to make the call the day before the shoot! You may have to do some last minute changing around and this gives you a chance to tell the model how excited you are work with them, you can remind them to bring their ID. It also lets you know if you need to scramble to find another model.

On the Day of the Shoot:

While you are shooting, keep checking in with the model to make sure she is comfortable. Avail yourself to collaboration. Often the models get a particular portfolio going in a particular direction, and they may want some variety. If you can do it, it’s great to be able to meet their needs as well as your own.

Make sure you have a release all made up for the models to sign. It shows respect to the models to offer to give them a copy. We take a photo of the models ID and keep it with the files. Keep track of these ID’s. And don’t let them get posted online. The ID has a models personal identification on it and you need to keep them safe by not inadvertently publishing their home address. (This happened to a model-friend of mine. If one is doing boudoir work, you can imagine how terrifying it would be to have your street address out there on the internet!)

Let the models know when you will be delivering their edited images to them. Give yourself double the amount of time you think you’ll need to deliver them, and try like help to deliver earlier. It can be a nightmare for models to get images from photographers. Don’t be that guy.

Above all else:

Show mega-respect for the models. These models are putting themselves out there for you to practice your photography; it is a gift to you, even if you are paying them. The greater respect you can show the models, even in the face of last-minute cancellations, lateness or general dippiness. the easier time you will have with your shoot.

Have a blast out there! And I would LOVE it if you would let me know in the comments section of the blog what tips and tricks you have for working with models!

About Andree

Andree Kehn has written 38 post in this blog.

Andree is a fun Bethel Maine Wedding Photographer, who specializes in contemporary photojournalism. She eats shoots and leaves.



  1. Bed & Breakfast Boudoir | Boston Wedding Photographers says:

    December 6th, 2011 at 1:56 pm (#)

    [...] the way, Andree also used this shoot as an example of how to put together a model shoot for the ShootStyle blog. If you’re a photographer interested in hosting your own model shoot, you should check it [...]

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