OK, firstly, I’m not talking about high end/commercial photography where you are shooting magazine covers and billboards. I’m talking about the hobbyist market, people who just want to get better photographing other people and hopefully create some interesting images along the way. I’m talking about how to get to a place where you can easily find people who want to work with you and create images that you are happy with. So, you’ve got this camera, you want to go shoot a fashion model, how to start? I will intersperse random model pictures so the wall of text doesn’t look so boring.
1.Get to know that camera really well and learn to shoot on manual mode. If you end up shooting in the studio, you will absolutely have to be able to shoot in manual mode and understand the role aperture, shutter speed and ISO all play and when to use which values.
2.Don’t spend a ton of money on gear. Unless you are shooting events like weddings, or sports, you don’t need high end gear. Do not get sucked into GAS ( Gear Aquisition Syndrome ). Almost any modern DSLR or mirrorless camera will be fine for model photography/portraits. If you are trying to shoot kids running around that’s a different story, but again, knowing your camera well will help a lot ( zone focussing for example)
3. You need a basic portrait lens, which means something longer than 70mm. If you are only going to be shooting in a studio the aperture doesn’t need to be super wide, but if you want to shoot outdoors shots with lovely bokeh, then something like an 85mm 1.8 would be ideal. The 135mm f2 is also generally considered an excellent portrait lens if you have the space to use it. Zooms are great, but generally a lot more expensive so if you are starting out, maybe stick with primes. Get a 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 if you can afford it, as this is a very useful focal length and the 50mm primes are very good value.
4.Get on social media and set up a photography page. Once your work starts getting good, you can pick up a lot of shoots via social media.
5.Join an internet modelling site, like PurplePort in the UK, or Model Mayhem if you are abroad. There are others, but those two are the ones I use. Internet modelling sites come and go so find out which one is the hot one at the moment and use that.
6.To start with, you will need to pay models. There is no getting around this, and even further down the line, you will need to pay to shoot with the best models. Treat the people you work with with respect, don’t attempt to use the sites as a dating service. After about 10-20 shoots, you should start to have built a decent reputation as a non serial killer, and hopefully your images will be getting better. You can then try and get TFP shoots if money is an issue. TFP is Time for Print ( when you used to give prints in exchange for time ). These days it means time for images, effectively, as most of us are on digital. TFP is great, but there are many pitfalls. I’ll be writing an entirely separate article on that shortly.
7.Use the internet. Youtube is full of photography tutorials, many of them excellent. You will need to learn lighting, how to help models pose, and photoshop. It can be overwhelming, so I would start simple. Book a model for a natural light session, get the sun behind them and put a reflector in front of them and have a go. The best way of learning is to practice, and practice some more. Assuming you are paying the model, if you mess it up, it doesn’t matter, they won’t mind and most experienced models will be able to help you out with where to stand them etc.
8.Push yourself on every shoot, try something different every single time.
9.Find a photographer whose style you like, and invest some money into a one to one session with them, or go on a workshop. If you do go on a workshop, pick carefully, some are good, some not so good. The ones with huge numbers of people, not so good generally ( from personal experience, 6-8 is the maximum number of people I would want on an all day workshop ). A good training session can really accelerate your learning.
10.Use pinterest to make moodboards for shoots to give you ideas. You can share these with your model for the day to give them an idea of what to bring.
11.Network like crazy, if you want to shoot fashion then you will need a team, or at least need to know a few designers. There is only so much stuff from Primark you can shoot ( although I’m not knocking Primark, I’ve seen some amazing shots done with stuff from there ).
12.Related to the above point, get to know some good makeup artists, these can make a huge difference to your portraits, especially at the start when your photoshop skills are likely to be a bit basic. You will almost always need to pay for make up artists, because their material costs alone are quite high, but a good one is well worth it and will elevate your shoot to a new level. Just make sure you allow a lot of extra time for the shoot, the first set of makeup will usually take 60-90 minutes depending on how chatty the MUA is!
There is a lot more I could say, but this is just my first attempt at putting down some thoughts. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now. I don’t make any money from shooting models, but I’ve gained a lot of other things and it’s been amazing fun. One thing that may surprise you is how many new friends and contacts you make in this industry, that alone makes it worthwhile.