July 16, 2024

Have you ever needed to find a model for your photo work?  Perhaps you developed a great idea for a photography project – a project that needs a model.  Where do you go to find a model? Well,you could always call a local talent and model agency.  They’ll be happy to provide the right model for your project. Just remember to bring your big check book with you, because they will also be happy to charge you big bucks for the model.  This approach is great if you are shooting on assignment and your client is picking up the model fees.  It also works if you happen to be independently wealthy.  But let’s assume, just for the sake of discussion, that neither of these applies for your next photo project.  Instead, you have a great project but few resources.  Are you out of luck,or is it possible to find a model willing to work with you?

 There are several possibilities that might work when you are in need of a model.  The first, and easiest in some ways, is to consider the people you know – friends, family, associates.  Don’t be shy, go ahead and ask them. They may actually say yes!  But be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time with them prior to and during the shoot.  They will likely lack the skills and abilities that a professional model brings to a shoot.  You will need to help them feel more comfortable and less self-conscious. You will also have to give them lots of direction.  They will not be familiar with poses, eye contact, lighting, etc.  And they probably won’t be able to do their makeup in a photo ready fashion. Of course you could be lucky.  You may have a friend who is a “natural” – a person at ease with the camera, relaxed, and responsive to direction.  Such a friend is rare – if you find one – enjoy!



As for the rest of us, those without the “natural” friend/model,  we have to look elsewhere for our modeling talent.  We’re looking for individuals who will be willing to model for us and do so for a very modest fee (or maybe free?).  I can offer two specific options for you.  I have used both with success,and will again when I am next in need of a model for my own (unsubsidized) project.

 CRAIGS LIST –The first possibility to consider is Craigslist.  Many photographers look for modeling talent on Craigslist. They post their listings under “gigs-talent” for the most part.  The model candidates you will find via Craigslist are primarily individuals trying to break into the modeling business.  You never know who might respond.  Some may have talent and experience, some may not.  I find it helps to be clear in my listing about several details.  I explain the nature of the project.  I identify the type of model that I need, e.g. gender, age, height, hair color, body art, etc.  Basically, be as descriptive as possible to screen out inappropriate  candidates.  Be sure to indicate what (if anything) you are able to pay for model services.  This all saves time – theirs and yours.  If you have your own photo website, consider including it in your listing.  This lends credibility to you search, letting prospective candidates know that you are “legit” and not just some kook with a camera.



MODEL MAYHEM –The second possibility to consider is Model Mayhem This website serves as a listing and matching service for photographers and models.  You can establish your own free listing (up grades available for a fee of course), providing a self profile and small example portfolio of your work.  From there, you can search Model Mayhem’s rather extensive data base of models.  Again you can search by location, gender, etc.  If you find a possible prospect you can then view their portfolio and find other information including contact info.  Model Mayhem is a site used by a wide range of models – from the total “newbie” to the highly experienced.  They will list their fee expectations and these vary widely as well.  (I might add that I also find it informative to visit profiles of the other photographers on Model Mayhem.  There are some very accomplished photographers on the site and looking at their work can be a great learning experience.)

 Cautionary Advice –   As with any other internet interaction, looking for models via Craigslist or Model Mayhem needs to be approached in a careful and cautious manner.  You don’t want to set yourself up to be a victim.  And this is a consideration that you should extend to the model as well.  All models know that there are (unfortunately) some weird folks out there who own a camera and want to take “glamour” photos or such. We’ve all heard the stories about the types of bad things that can happen.   Considering this is the state of the world today I always first meet a model at a public place – coffee bar, café, etc.  This gives us a chance to get acquainted. We can discuss my project and the model can share more about their background and ideas as well as any questions they might have about the project.  Then, if everyone is comfortable, arrangements can be made to proceed with the shoot.  I make it a point to let the model know that I will be bringing an assistant to our first shoot and I let the model know that they should feel free to bring along a friend or companion as well.


photo by bwb-images

Financials –  If I am getting paid for a shoot I feel it is only fair to pay the model for their time.  I tailor that payment according to my income from the shoot.  When I am shooting my own projects there is typically no income for me.  This is when I try to find a model willing to “Trade For CD,” also known as TFCD.  Many new, aspiring models will do this if you also agree to give them a few “headshots” or images to add to their portfolio.  Of course they would like you to invite them back for your next paid shoot as well!  If you are shooting an interesting, different, or innovative project you may also find that more experienced models will shoot TFCD to add some unique images to their port.

 The Obvious –  Once you and your model agree on a shoot, be sure to conduct yourself in a professional manner and treat your models as the professionals they are.  There are a few too many “wanna be photographers” out there giving the profession a bad name.  

Share your ideas about contacting models.  Share your comments.

As always, remember to………….Enjoy The Adventure!

Dr.B, The Photo Trekker