We’re back! In Part 1, we worked through the booking process right up to having a plan. You could almost have called that the “pre-booking process,” since we were just up to the point of actually finding the model herself (or himself). So here goes:
Having a plan actually plays very well into the next issue, which is the biggest for most people: finding a model to work with. As I said before, sometimes you get lucky and have an attractive friend/relative/significant other who is up for anything and loves hamming it up in front of the camera. In which case, congratulations (and we all hate you now). For the rest of us, finding a model can be both difficult and daunting and really comes down to two options: finding one via some sort of modeling agency, or reaching out to your social network.
When I say “agency,” that can range from working with a real, professional modeling agency to getting a photographer’s account on ModelMayhem.com. Having a plan is crucial here, because most models have a well-defined list of what they will and will not do in front of the camera. At this level, you look unprofessional (and like an idiot) if you can’t tell a prospective model what you expect from them (or if you waste their time approaching them for a style of shoot that they clearly don’t do). There’s also a level of “you get what you pay for” inherent here. If you can afford to hire a professional model, you’ll most likely get professional results, whereas having a “trade for” agreement with someone on ModelMayhem may get you anything for a great, semi-pro model to someone with no experience and little talent (or the ever-popular no-show on the day of the shoot).
Tapping into your social network is the alternative, and is where I recruit nearly all of the models I work with. For the most part these people aren’t models – many of them have never posed for a real photo shoot before (you know, one with a plan, a style, big lights, etc). You’re getting cousins, friends of friends, and your neighbors – and you have to keep that in mind when you’re shooting. Usually these people don’t know what to do “on set.” They haven’t been taught how to move, or how to pose, and they don’t always know what you mean when you channel that movie photographer and shout “now show me sexy!” The good news is that the you get what you pay for” paradigm doesn’t apply here; so long as you pick someone with a real interest and some level of self-confidence, you usually get some great images that are worth far more than whatever deal you arranged with the model (more on that in a moment).
So you have a plan, you have some models in mind, now it’s time to talk business. Or turkey. Or whatever you have to offer that you think your model will be interested in. My point is that money doesn’t have to change hands, especially at the Facebook-friend-becomes-a-model level. Although there should be some level of recompense, just to keep your relationship on the level. If nothing else, the model is giving up their time to work with you, and I’ve always felt that, at the very least, it’s polite to shoot some of the final photos their way at the end.
Different models will want – and expect different things. Your friends may be okay with you posting some photos on Facebook and tagging them; they get a new profile shot and you get some free advertising. Cool. Agency models, on the other hand, will except some portraits of Andrew Jackson to come their way. An aspiring model may want to do a “trade for” (TF) deal, where in exchange for modeling (giving you practice and portfolio material) they get a disk of edited images (for their own portfolio).
You’ll hear varying opinions from different photographers as to how this should work. Some think you’re cheating yourself if the model doesn’t pay you, while at the other end of the spectrum are those who think you should be hiring the models and paying them. Whatever you do, you need to communicate it to your model when you start talking about booking them. They’ll either agree with what you’re offering or they won’t, and you’ll have a chance to negotiate. It’s business, whether money changes hands or not. Don’t try to cheat anybody and they probably won’t try to cheat you.
This is the perfect chance to throw out that dreaded word: releases. Yep, you should get a signed model release from any model you shoot with. Do I do this myself? Eh, well, not as well as I should – when I’m shooting with friends, I tend to let it slide. But I shouldn’t. A release is an extension of that business agreement. It keeps everything in writing, so that later on no one can come back and cry foul, because the terms are all laid out. You can find template online and in books, where again you’ll get varying levels of legal and quasi-legal advice. Pick one that’s not too complicated and make a few dozen copies. Put them in your photo bags (with a pen) and remember to use them. It saves headaches down the road, when you suddenly decide that you want to use the images in a gallery showing or something.
Time to review: we made a plan, we researched some models who seemed to fit that plan (if possible), and we put the call out and started talking to folks. We found a model we liked and made a deal with them. You met up ahead of time (or at the start of the shoot) and signed that damn release. Now comes the fun part – shoot the session!
It took two relative long posts to walk us through this. I think it was worth it; I hope it was to you, too. Returning to my original example, where I booked Sara to work with my this past week, the whole process of working that out took less time than I spent writing these posts. That’s the good news.
The first time you book a model, it may take some messages going back and forth. You’ll be nervous; chances are they’ll be nervous. Just remember to talk to them, before the shoot and during. Here’s more good news: if you have a great shoot together, where you both have fun and get some good images, then your model will probably be willing – and even excited – to work with you again. Every time after the first is easier. You start to build trust. You can try more complex ideas. Both you and your model can start to develop your skills. Everyone wins.
Okay, enough. I have photos to edit from my shoot. You should get some, too. Go book a model now!