I have been into portrait photography since two and a half years. Starting out anything at the beginning is difficult but we slowly understand the process. I had a difficult time finding and approaching models and often faced rejections so I shall tell you my experience how you can kick start your portrait photography. I have divided the sections into finding a model and then approaching them.
If you have just started photography and want to shoot portraits, finding a model could be quite a task for you. There are many ways in which you can do it:
Having friends/family members who aspire to be a model and are willing to pose in-front of a camera can be your starting point. You can take references from other photographers and try to create something inspiring. You don’t have to worry about anything, experiment the way you like. When I started out doing portraits, I called out few friends and just tried whatever I could.
Few of my Friends I shot:
In-frame: Riya, Omkar and Alekhya. Blessed to have friends who were willing to pose in-front of my camera and helped me grow!
The 7th most popular social media in the world would be the perfect place for you to find the models you are looking for. There are many ways you can find them:
The location tab provides all the top and recent posts of your local people in the city. This makes it easier for you to find them from your city or region. You can also narrow down your search to typical places.
For example Church street in Bangalore is one of the busiest and a very popular place. So I ran a search and found many models who posted pictures at the location “Church street”. In-fact I came across various people whom I have the privilege working with using the same technique.
One of the best ways to find people you want to work with. If I was to find a model in Bangalore, I’d simply search for #bangaloremodels and whoever has used this hashtag with their photo would show. You can also search for various photography hashtags which in-turn you can find models the photographers are working with.
One of the best ways to get a model to shoot with you is making good contacts with your fellow photographer friends. They must have worked with models which they could recommend to you. Once there’s a word of mouth message to a model, they will have confidence working with you.
How to approach them?
Decide what kind of photography you do
There are many types of photography genres you might be interested in but narrowing down to only few of them makes the model know what you are really good at. Your photography should speak to others, not you. I generally do natural light portraits. So if a model visits my profile, they get an idea of the kind of photography I do. Having a consistent feed is very important which shows your professionalism. A very random set of pictures can ruin your chances from getting a response from the model.
The set of pictures on the left are from my recent feed and on the right from my old account back in 2018. Now imagine you were a model and received collaboration messages from both these accounts- the old me and the new me! Whom would you be more interested in shooting with? Obviously the one on your left! Why? The posts are more organized and tells us that the person is a photographer specializing in portraits. This gives a clear picture of what they can really expect from you!
Know your value!
I’d rather stretch on this sentence again- Know your value. You know yourself more than anyone. Just keep in mind what kind of value you can provide with the amount of skills and experience you have before approaching any model.
I’d divide the models and photographers into three different categories: Amateur, Intermediate and Expert.
An ideal perspective would be an amateur photographer with zero experience approach a model who just started modelling or wants to model so that they can make content together. But generally its recommended for a model who’s starting to get a portfolio shoot get done from a reputed photographer. This will create more chances for them to work with other photographers.
Reaching out to inexperienced models is a win-win situation for you. They will want to get clicked and build their portfolio and so you.
Like-wise if you are an intermediate/professional photographer then you can definitely reach out to professional models for creative collaborations that can enhance your portfolio.
Amateur --> Amateur
Intermediate --> Intermediate
Expert --> Expert
Express yourself well
Lay down the concepts in a very profession manner. Always try to explain the concept with a moodboard. Whatever you are trying to get it visually must be thoroughly explained to avoid confusion.
For example I planned of doing a tennis themed shoot. I already had them visually imagined. I told my model to wear a full sleeved crop top, shorts, sports shoe and a cap. These were the essentials required for a tennis shoot. I sent a moodboard consisting of the look, outfit and props.
Pictures I shot:
Be a Professional
This is one of the most important aspects when it comes to photography. Always be polite and courteous while approaching them or laying down your concept. Don’t text them “hi Let’s shoot?” or “Hi you up for collab?”. This tells how lazy you are and not really confident in talking to them. Believe me you will never get a reply to these.
If I had to approach one “Hey, this is Siddharth. I’m a portrait photographer based out of Bengaluru. I just came across your profile recently and genuinely loved the way you express yourself. I have an interesting concept in mind that would suit your style, let me know if you’d be interested?” This would be really convincing and can get you on-board.
Please don’t try to flirt or show vulgarity in any way possible. This is your profession, treat it as a profession! If the models think they are not comfortable shooting with you, they will never shoot with you again nor recommend you to anyone. Therefore always maintain that professionalism and be as polite as possible.