Photography Model Calls and Working With Models

Have you ever worked with models? If it’s not something you’re used to, it can be a bit intimidating. That’s why I’m going to share with you some of my best tips for model calls and working with models! But first, let’s talk about why photographing models matters.

Models are important to your photography business even if you don’t do high fashion shoots.

Models are key to building your portfolio, shooting commercial imagery, and building a stock catalog. Knowing how to find and work with models is a part of almost every photographer’s business.

working with models

Models (or friends that are “modeling” for you) are just like you!

Please remember that models are people too. They have hopes, fears, anxieties, and dreams just like you or anyone else. They can get nervous before shoots, worry about whether their makeup/hair/clothes look right, and overthink everything.

Your model’s comfort is your top priority, and they deserve your respect at all times. Especially when working with horses, never ask a model to do anything on horseback or with a horse they aren’t comfortable doing.

working with models

If at any point a model isn’t feeling comfortable with what is happening, the shoot should stop, and the issue rectified immediately.

If you have a model who isn’t feeling the shoot, and who isn’t comfortable, that is going to show big time in the photos.

As a photographer be sure to conduct yourself in a professional manner before, during and after the shoot:

  • Be polite and respect boundaries.
  • Take photos that are flattering and suitable for the direction the model wants to head in with their career.
  • Edit the photos to a respectable standard.
  • Credit the model properly on social media.

You should be aiming to develop a strong, personal, and professional relationship with everyone you come into contact with.

Building a good professional working relationship with models and other creatives will help you get noticed, and help better your reputation. Be genuine. People will always value others who are honest, genuine, and passionate.

working with models

How to Find Models

If you’re starting from scratch, how do you find models?

  • Join your local area’s Modeling Facebook Group
  • Do a Model Call
  • Ask past clients or friends

Take the time to create a thoughtful and passionate post showcasing what you are all about. Be specific about what you are looking for and what you expect.

What is a photography model call?

A photography model call is a call for new subjects to serve as models for your work, usually with the expectation of some type of perk for participating. Essentially, you ask new or existing clients to participate in a session with you, either for free, for a discount or some other special incentive.

When you are promoting your model call, use social media to the full extent—posts, live video, stories and/or reels. Work your email list. Post repeatedly. Ask for clicks, likes, and shares. Send reminders. Plan your posts for the best times to maximize effectiveness, and be prepared to run your model call for about a week.

Professional models aren’t required for a photography model call. You simply want new people (subjects) willing to participate in a professional session.

working with models

Why should you do model calls?

  • New photographers, as well as established photographers, will benefit from model calls to help build and grow their portfolios.
  • Model call sessions give you images for your portfolio that will showcase your style and skill. You can use these images for your portfolio or marketing efforts to attract new clients.
  • Run a photography model call to practice your photography skills or to help make an idea for a themed shoot you’ve been thinking about come to fruition.
  • Model call sessions will help attract new clients and encourage old clients to try a different type of session with you.
  • Model call sessions can help you create some buzz about your business.

Model call sessions can generate income for your business.

If you are an established photographer with a good client base and recognition, you could run a model call for a discounted session. This way, you are still generating some income while trying something new.

If you’re a new photographer and just want people in the door, you could run a model call for a free session but leave yourself room to upsell products after the session.

You do need to be okay with a model taking their images, not making additional purchases or becoming a client. Run your model call in a way that still benefits you even if the client doesn’t make an additional purchase or become a client.

Having more potential models than sessions available is a great problem to have!

Tell your potential model the sessions are full and to follow your social media for future opportunities. Be sure you add them to your email list to receive information about future model call opportunities. You can also offer them some sort of perk for booking a full session with you instead! For example, a free print, images, or discount if they book a full session with you.

working with models

How do you run a successful photography model call?

A photography model call should benefit you and your participants. You need to make sure you are getting some benefit out of the session (portfolio images, experience, advertising) as well as provide some incentive to your participants (free images, free session, special perks).

Set clear expectations. Be specific with your audience about the details of your model call. Specify who you want, what the session entails, when it needs to take place, what clients will receive in return for their participation and any other obligations they must meet. Be extremely
clear about all the details and stick to your guidelines.

Think about duplicating the client experience even when you run a model call. Whatever you normally provide for a session is what you’ll want to provide for model calls—a contract, questionnaire and model release. Send them your marketing material and welcome guide. If you’re just starting out it’s a great way to practice your workflow, no matter what type of sales model you use.

Use an application to help determine which models will be a better fit for your business. You are not obligated to accept every applicant, just make sure you aren’t turning them away for the wrong reasons, like race, religion or disability. That’s a quick way to wreck your business. Be specific about who and what you need for your shoot.

You don’t have to run a public model call to ask someone to model for you! If you see someone that appeals to you for a shoot let them know, you can even have a Be My Guest Business card to hand them as an ice breaker.

I recommend that you offer a refundable retainer once the agreement and session has been met. A deposit ensures your client has some sort of financial investment in the process so they will follow through on participation, that they show up for the session and follow through with the other requirements. Require the model to post a review on your site before you release any of the files or products to them.

Be sure to provide your models with all the products, images, etc., you agreed on in the contract and in the time frame you discussed. This builds trust and confidence in your business. Also, I think it’s nice to provide a small thank you of some kind.

working with models

Tips for the Day of the Shoot

1. Chat with the model, a simple opener to help everyone relax is always good.

2. Remember to compliment the model. Models go to a lot of effort to prepare for a photoshoot, a simple “you look amazing!” from the photographer goes a long way and can be a perfect little confidence boost.

3. Ask the model thoughtful questions about their experience with photo shoots, and anything else that isn’t too personal.

4. Do not touch the model or their clothing without first asking permission, and only do so if it is necessary. Directing can be tough sometimes, and it does take time to get comfortable. If you are having a hard time trying to direct a model into a pose, do the pose you want yourself and then get the model to mimic you.

5. When it comes to directing, if you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t stress. Set clear expectations from the beginning. Also, let them know that they may need to do it multiple times. Be realistic with your models’ capabilities and the capabilities of the livestock.

Directing models can be tough, and you will find sometimes that a pose you think looks good in your head, won’t play out so well in real life.

7. If the model is going to be changing halfway through the shoot, respect their privacy and give them time and space to change.

8. Remember your model and property release forms. Model release forms are vital for a legal point of view and if you want to get published, stock agencies and magazines require them.

Phone Apps for Model Releases

1. Model Releaser iOS  |  Android  – Add a model photo to your form
2. Easy Release iOS  |  Android – Many release templates

working with models

Do you want to learn more about working with models?

Listen to our Cowgirls with Cameras podcast here!