Who isn’t a photographer in today’s society? I have grown up and lived in Paris most of my life – the city of love and fashion. Wherever I look I see people with cameras around their necks. When you are passionate about photography you tend to develop an obsession of identifying what kind of camera others are using. Especially after a few years in the business, as each camera type has got its history and memories. For example, it makes me sad every time I see someone with a Leica camera in his hands, because it reminds me of the day that someone stole mine. Today, an increasing number of people invest in camera equipment of high quality, which makes working as a professional photographer an even greater challenge.
Many people have asked me how to shoot models and how to work with model agencies. Therefore I decided to put together a descriptive 2-part guide based on years of experience. The first part will focus on preparation work before approaching professional model agencies.
Part 1: Preparation work before approaching model agencies as a photographer
Before you attempt to approach a model agency, you have first have to ask yourself the following:
Do I have a high-quality camera?
To start working in photography is expensive, because you have to invest in a professional camera. But if you choose wisely, this will be an investment that will last you for a long time. Just make sure that your camera has a “full-frame” capability. A full-frame camera is necessary for agency photographs that will be used for model’s books. The book is the face out for the model and the agency, thus these images must be of best quality.
If you have a limited budget, buy a 50mm fixed lenses. The least expensive is to purchase only one lens with an aperture of 2.8 for portraits and full-length. If you have the possibility to buy two, the second lens should be a 24-70mm, which is perfect to cover the whole range of portraits and full-length photographs. If you on the other hand prefer to focus on beauty-shots, you should get a 70-200mm lens or one 85mm.
Do you have a solid portfolio to present to agencies?
You cannot arrive to an agency only with your passion and belief that they will hire you empty-handed. For both your own sake and that of the agency, you need to have minimum experience in advance. If you have girls and boys in your surrounding that are wishing to pursue a career as models, ask them to make some trial shots. In exchange for their modelling you will give them the final shots for them to use for their portfolios and social medias. If you don’t know anyone you could ask, internet will quickly become your best friend. You will always find people online that are willing to pose for you!
Facebook for example, has a lot of groups for amateur and semi-professional models whom you can approach. First ask to join the group and then make a post with your request. Of course you also have other specialized sites for photographer and models to find each other. The most known one is Modelmayhem.
Your goal is to at least bring a few photographs to offer to the agency, but make sure to not show only different photographs with the same model! The skill is shown by photographing many different people in different settings. I may be harsh, but the most common error that amateur photographers do, is to start by spending a lot of money creating an online website. You feel the pressure to look “professional” and show that you are a photographer before you have even done a real shooting.
Always stay humble in relation to your work and focus on what is the most important: to take photographs. The more you work on your skill and style, the more work you will get. You will have all the time to create a new and beautiful website when you are ready.
Do you have a list of which agencies you want to contact?
If you are lucky to live in a city that is known for fashion, you have to be up to date with the names of the local model agencies. Do the research and note down the contact information of the agencies that interest you. If you have no idea where to start, I will give you a first hint of where to look: Models.com . This site will most likely be your future bible in the profession.
In the second part of this guide, you will learn how to best contact the model agencies.
To be efficient in your approach, will make you visible in a pool of 100 other applicants. You will also learn how you should talk about payments and finally how to keep your clients. Don’t feel scared by the agencies. Always remember that they are nothing without you and the models. If you have any questions about photography, or if you want me to explain any section in more detail – please leave a comment!