5 Tips to help you start shooting with Agency Models

#1 Start Small

Collect your best work and make a portfolio page. It doesn’t have to be extensive. Initially well put 4–5 images would suffice. (Suggest: https://www.behance.net/)

If I don’t have a portfolio where do I start?

It’s tricky to contact creatives on IG since they want to see who you have shot before they decide to work with you.

One way to get started is to look for photography workshops in your area. It’s an investment but worth the money since they provide you with direction, model and studio space. I got started by asking my friend to model for me since I found her appearance to look interesting on camera.

#2 Your Email

Keep it short and simple. Include the model’s name and possible shoot dates. Be sure to add the shoot concept board along with what you can provide for them in terms of delivery.

Include the following information:
- How many images you will provide.
- Time you’d take to deliver the final images.
- Short overview what the shoot is about.

At times your mood board can be quite vibrant. You can mention that you will start with more of a natural look and then move on to what’s in the mood board since agencies want shots with natural posing with minimal makeup.

For final images aim to deliver the result as per the concept board as much as possible. This shows a professional quality in your work since you are providing what you have promised. None of your work will look exactly like the mood board since you have a different vision of the world around you and that’s totally okay. But it’s good to practice since it will come in use for when you are working with brands.

photo credit: Priya Ayengar

#3 Always Style

Check out local vintage stores and approach them with styling requests. Most of the bigger stores offer a return policy. When picking outfits stay away from whites as you can leave marks.

Use a scarf over the model's head when changing to not leave any makeup smudges. Working with a professional stylist makes an incredible difference.

When shooting you are busy setting up the lighting and giving directions. There are various things that require your attention and it’s just difficult to control every single detail. And there is no reason you should.

That’s why it’s great to have a great team behind you. When starting out its important to build relationships and find team mates where you inspire each other. A good stylist will keep watch over the details that you are busy to pay attention to. Like moving the fabric on the model’s leg into the right place.

Aim to shoot as much as possible in camera in post rather than relying on post. If it includes moving the fabric to the right spot or fixing a blown-out highlight.

Discuss and send references to your team prior to the shoot. Remember that this is a creative shoot so pay attention to what your teammates want to get out of this creative.

If you are aiming for a publication then 5 looks is a good number to go for. Try to have a fair mix of outfits from different brands. If you start shooting and feel like you didn’t nail the first look down (happens often when everyone is getting used to each other) then ask the model to change back at the end of the set if time permits.

photo credit: Priya Ayengar

#4 Shoot Location

If you have a place in mind like a restaurant pick then pick an hour that would be least busy.

Will they agree to let you shoot there?

Well, you never know unless you ask. It can intimidating to come up to the manager. So far I haven’t heard a no. I tell them that I wouldn’t be disturbing anyone and that I will place an order while I take a couple of shots. And make sure to bring a minimal amount of gear with yourself.

To one of my sets I arrived fifteen minutes prior to the model. I asked the manager if we can shoot a few shots and that we will book a table while we are there. The pub had pool tables with vintage gaming machines. The diner area had window blinds that had the sunlight shining through. The only equipment I had here was my film Canon-AE 1.

Some places might ask you what you are shooting for and be sure to mention its non-commercial and that the shoot is for your portfolio only.

If you do have a small budget that you can allocate then look at thisopenspace.com or airbnb.com. On Airbnb you can message the property owner and mention that you will need this space only for a few hours for a creative shoot. Chances are if their place isn’t getting booked that particular day they should agree to rent it to you for a few hours.

When you are able separate your workspace from home. Some studio offers you monthly rent. You have a set number of hours at the studio or sometimes no limit at all and you pay a monthly fee for using it. If you are planning to shoot often this is a good option.

Photography is an investment in yourself like any other profession. Also investing for you might mean something completely different. Taking a vacation to another city to reach out to brands to build connections elsewhere. Or it can signing up for a photography course to build your confidence. Options are limitless.

photo credit: Priya Ayengar

#5 Finding Creatives

Quite often artists don’t want to work with you unless they know who else is on the team. The same goes for when approaching agencies. Send out a proposed team list and mention that this is the model or the make-up artist you are looking to work with, but they are yet to confirm. That way you are sparking interest and putting a creative team together. If someone won’t agree to work with you make sure to inform the rest of the team.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for advice. There is no clear way to becoming a photographer and it's best to talk to those that are already in this profession. If you are having a block in your head cause you don’t want to be rejected or this is something you haven’t ever done before then that’s absolutely normal. From my experience, turns out in most cases people are helpful and willing to share information with you.

First, genuinely compliment them about their work. And make sure to be specific about what you’d like to know about and thank them for their time.

photo credit: Priya Ayengar

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