How To Get Started and Be Ready….
When you are first starting out as a model, building your portfolio is key. One of the best ways to do this is to work with photographers on a TFP agreement. TFP stands for Trade For Pictures. This article will help you with the do’s and don’t’s of working with new photographers and how to build a professional looking portfolio that will help you find work in the industry.
When searching out photographers, word of mouth is the best way. Any person with a camera can call themselves a photographer but that doesn’t mean that is who you want to book. Ask models who have worked with that photographer about their experiences with him or her. Look at their portfolio and see what their work looks like. Have they been published or had their work displayed in any galleries or catalogs? If so, this is a great person to start with because they are seasoned and professional. If not, that’s okay too. They may be new to the industry as well and that is okay, provided the work you have seen of theirs is of great quality.
How do you know if their work is of great quality? This is something I get asked frequently. Even if a photographer has some publications, look at where they are published. Is the publication legitimate? Does the publication have a social media? If so, what is the following? Does the publication have a website? If so, are they selling their publications/magazines? Is the places they have been published something you would be comfortable being published in as well? And what of the work itself? When you look through a photographer’s portfolio, do you see glaring mistakes? Is the photograph under lit or over exposed? Are their glaring flaws on the models? Some poses will make a model look as though they are missing limbs, are you seeing this frequently where the angle of the model’s pic is unflattering or confusing? Do the models all look frigid and stiff? This could be due to one, the model being an amateur, or two, if you are seeing this with various models in their port, then it may be a sign that the photographer isn’t able to make his or her models comfortable when shooting or has them in posing positions that look very “Glamour Shots” or “Family Photo” style work.
My above paragraph touches on a lot of things so let’s start with the most important. Is the type of publications and/or the type of photos in the photographer’s portfolio something you would be comfortable and interested in doing? For example, if the photographer shoots artistic nudes and you are not comfortable with this, you need to look elsewhere. Also, maybe the photographer shoots high fashion and you are more interested in glamour, then you need to look elsewhere. Having versatility in your portfolio is wonderful and will help you get jobs in the future but you need to make sure that you only do what you are happy and comfortable doing.
Ask the photographer how many edited photos from each set (each outfit) that he or she will provide you. Make sure to get these on either a disk or have them sent to you by email or Dropbox. When photographs are sent over social media, they lose pixels and will not print properly. Make sure to get a sign release with your edited photos that allows you to print them and use them how you’d like so that you can have them printed for your portfolio.
Safety is extremely important. Make sure that you have spoken to models who have worked with the photographer in the past and about their experiences. Make sure to bring someone with you when you first meet up with the photographer so that you are not alone. Tell others where you are going and who you are shooting with. Make sure to have the contact information for the photographer and their credentials. This is important for safety purposes. There are situations out there where a model has gone to meet up with a photographer and was stolen and put into human trafficking. This sounds extreme and an exaggeration but unfortunately it is not. It is a common ruse used by human traffickers.
Also remember, TFP’s are not your only way to go. Investing in a seasoned, professional, and published photographer is always a great way to insure that the photos in your portfolio are of great quality, and will definitely help you to find work in the future. Most photographers will not charge more than $500 to shoot you, provide hair and makeup, and give you 2-3 edited photos from each set for your portfolio. Frequently these photographers will be interested in using the photos for publications so ask them if this is the case. If not you can certainly try and get your photos published yourself.
Let’s go back a minute and talk about the day of your shoot. Being prepared is vital. Whether working TFP or paying a photographer for their time, you need to display yourself in a professional manner and appear as experienced as possible. This can be achieved in a number of ways. To start, make sure you have confirmed with the photographer 24-48 hours before the agreed upon shoot day on not only the time and location but also wardrobe, hair and makeup. If the photographer is not providing hair and makeup, you need to make sure you both are in agreement on the look and style that you will be wearing. Make sure to arrive at the shoot with hair and makeup completed and bring makeup and hair products and a mirror with you for touch ups between sets.
Wardrobe is another important element. If the photographer is not providing wardrobe, you need to make sure you are both in agreement in advance on what style you are shooting in and what type of outfits to bring including accessories and shoes. The easiest way to do this in advance is to take pics in the outfits you have that you think will work, send them via email or social media to the photographer for his or her input. If this isn’t possible, bring more than you would need for the shoot. For example, if the photographer tells you to bring 3 sets, bring 6-7 so that he or she has options to choose from so that you are both happy with the captures. This needs to be in an extremely organized fashion. If you have one bag full of clothes and shoes and accessories that the photographer has to dig through, you are wasting valuable time for both of you. Have your outfits separated, on hangers with accessories in sandwich bags with each outfit. Have the shoes and any hats or props that go with that outfit set along with it. This will allow the photographer the opportunity to see what is available so that you can both agree on the look for the set.
Take care of yourself. Make sure to discuss in advance with the photographer how long the shoot will take. Make sure to bring water or Gatorade and a granola bar or small snack in case the shoot runs long. If you begin to tire, it will show in your shots and take away from the result. Don’t starve yourself or neglect drinking because it will make you ill. The night before, eat well and get lots of sleep. Sleep deprivation will not only show in your shots, make your skin look dull and tired and give you droopy eyes and under eye circles that will show up easier on camera than you will notice in the mirror, but it will also take away from the energy you need to bring to create beautiful captures or photographs.
During the shoot the best advice I can give is to relax and have fun. The worst photos I’ve seen are the ones where the model look uncomfortable or very posed. You need to believe in yourself and let go. If you are getting your pictures done, remember you ARE a model, which means you ARE definitely beautiful. You CAN do this and you HAVE to let go of any insecurities and have fun. Smile, laugh, and feel the setting. If you are shooting in a public place and have onlookers, just enjoy the audience. Trust me when I say that they are enthralled by you. Don’t stiffen or feel embarrassed because of two reasons. One it will show in your shot and two, you are beautiful and they are admiring you so there is no reason to be embarrassed. You should feel proud.
When the shoot is complete make sure to thank your photographer and any staff he or has with for their time. It is very important to be pleasant, professional, and easy to work with because the industry is tight and everyone talks. You want to be known as someone who is pleasurable to work with and not controlling or late or needing lots of direction. Before leaving make sure to review your agreement on how many edited pics you are getting from the set and the time frame for receiving them. This is usually up to two weeks. Make sure you have agreed on a method of receiving the pictures and that a release allowing you to print and use the pics as you please is included.
Your portfolio should be a hard covered book that can accommodate 8×10 photographs and has plastic sleeves to slip the photographs into. You need to only use one picture from each set you have available. Make sure the shot shows your face and features well lit and clear. You photos can have the watermark of the photographer as long as it is small and does not take away from you, the subject of the picture. Make sure you have at least one headshot and full body shots in your portfolio. You do not need to have hundreds of photos in your book. Less than a dozen very good photos that display you well will be easier for the client to look through.
Once that you have been working with multiple photographers and have started building your book, it will be time to start finding work and looking into publications as well as looking into agency representation. This is something I will talk about in another article. Good luck, stay safe, and be prepared. But most of all, have fun and remember you are beautiful, so stay relaxed and feel the moment so that you can be captured as the beautiful model that you are.