One of the first steps in preparing a shoot is to find the models.  Depending on your background and your budget, these might be professional, amateur, family, friends or even people off the street.


Should I work with professional models?

The value of a professional model has less to do with their good looks and more to do with the ability to pose naturally and communicate different emotions clearly.  Working with a professional will ensure that you get the good images quickly and frequently, since their experience enables them to anticipate what you want, avoid unflattering positions/expressions and come prepared to work hard during a shoot.  Modeling fees vary by country/city, so you can contact a local model agency in your area to find out the cost.  If you are just starting to shoot model-released people pictures, you might prefer to practice first with friends or family.

What if I can’t afford to pay a professional?

Working with free or low cost models is something that some stock photographers have made into an art form, by dedicating specific sections on their websites to attracting and instructing potential models to be.  Generally, photographers that work with amateur models will offer free images/prints for portfolio, the promise of payment after a certain number of successful test sessions or some other exchange.  To avoid future hassles, be sure that the model clearly understands what they will receive and what is expected of them (more below).

What to keep in mind with amateurs?

If working with amateurs (including family members and friends), you must explain clearly that they will need to sign a model release.  A model release (our standard releases here) is a legal agreement between you and a model that you may use their photos for commercial/editorial purposes around the world.  They should understand that their photos will be seen on the internet and sold for any use (excluding sensitive, derogatory, pornographic, or illicit uses) both now and in the future (even if they are no longer your girl/boyfriend/wife/husband!). 

Also keep in mind that amateurs might not know how to pose for photos.  YouTube has a number of videos on “Model posing” or “modeling tips” that might give them ideas, although be aware that there’s a big difference between fashion modeling and stock modeling.  You should be prepared to direct them during your photo-session.  To do that, you´ll need to know what photos you´d like to make and how to communicate that to your models.  For example, maybe you want a photo of an senior couple on a sofa that communicates security and comfort.  You should tell them where to sit, explain the feeling of security that you´re trying to get, encourage them to smile, look at each other/or the camera, and keep talking to them until they relax and begin to seem natural in the situation you´ve created. To achieve this with amateurs/nonmodels, a photographer must have the ability to connect easily with people, put them at ease and inspire confidence. 

If you´re still not really sure how to choose your models, don´t worry, we´ll be posting a top 10 dos and don´ts for models list next...


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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