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 junkmail lesson of the day: No matter what you sell, sell it with a smile!

Many photographers take photos of people, but not too many make the images with a market use in mind. Yes, taking pictures of people is great and if the models are professionals, all the better, because usually they know better than the photographer what to wear, what expressions to make, in what context their images will fit and above all, they know how to smile… But do stock photographers know these things as well? To be honest I would not swear on it.

Let’s analyze some interesting spam ads that I received during last week. This one of the family is a great shot, although the background cleaning to accommodate the text was done pretty drastically. The family is natural looking with what looks like natural smiles. Also, the styling is consistent and looks appropriate for the surroundings.

And what about this couple? Again, a really big happy smile just like one on your first date. A nice blurred background, good styling with ordinary clothing and a great couple become a picture that can be done easily at home on an overcast day if you have a good window with natural light. It’s difficult to see the setting, but that doesn’t matter, because you only want the atmosphere the happy smile is creating. Again, there is negative diffused space, created by the graphic designer, but certainly an image with great dynamics that makes one tempted to call eHarmony without delay!

Medicine and chronic diseases, like diabetes, require regular control and thank God that today almost every chronic disease, from hypertension and asthma to diabetes has devices to monitor these conditions from home. The models here show that good control of their illness boosts their self-esteem and makes them confident in the future, hence the smile. The photo was shot from slightly below in order to give the models a predominant position, and well-lit from behind with great reflector in front to open up the foreground. Nothing to complain about.    

Some people don’t need a ton of cash to live; they only need enough to raise the family. Here is a picture that says it all. The negative space was artificially created with a brush of blue but the mother and kid do the job beautifully with a great smile. Sounds familiar? Nice neutral clothing and a very affectionate hug help emphasize the idea that she does need time to take care of her children. And all revolves around a natural smile.

The vendors that used these images had a clear idea in mind and looked for images that fit their idea. The images were carefully selected to match their products or services; in other words, they were looking for images that expressed the sentiments they needed to “wrap” their product around. They were not looking aimlessly, but were searching for very specific images. Those images are not that difficult to do, you just need to stop puttering around and start thinking about what you are going to produce next. Are you producing a product that the market will be able to use?


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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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