I was recently asked by an aspiring fashion photographer if I had any tips for how to work with agency models. When you’re building your book as a photographer, it’s important to know a few key points that will save you time and aggravation. These can help make your shoots more successful, allow you to continue to work with agencies, and shoot better and better models.
These tips are less on the technical side, and simply encompass good etiquette when working with models. A post that covers camera settings, lighting, and other photographic techniques will be covered in the future.
1. Start with Small Agencies then Build Up
The best advice I can give is to start with smaller agencies and work your way up. If you don’t know what agencies to contact, www.models.com is a great resource that shows the agencies for both men and women. For a shortlist of LA Agencies you can check out my last blog post.
2. The Images are Intended for Your Portfolio or Book
Although you may intend for these images to add value to your book or portfolio, remember, they are primarily for the model to use in her book to help her book clients.
As a photographer you should never use test shoots as a way to shoot your commissioned client work. It’s okay to incorporate a few clothing pieces that a brand might provide in order to assist the model with wardrobe (as this removes some effort on the model's part), but a full on campaign shoot is not advised. These photos are just for the mutual benefit of your portfolios.
3. No Photographic Nudity
If you're a photographer and you're about to shoot your first, second, third, or seventeenth agency model, respectfully do not shoot any nudity. It doesn't make you look professional, it takes away the "fashion" from "fashion photography," and the agency won't send you anyone else to shoot if you send them pictures that are deemed inappropriate.
Several famous and not-so-famous photographers have landed in hot water over nudity, implied nudity, or anything of the sort. Just. Don't. Do. It.
4. A Word on Creative Composition
Unless you've built your niche or portfolio around being the artsy type and are really really good at it, agencies usually won't give you a second glance if you try to get overly creative on set. Make sure you take photos that show clean lighting that agents can use to (no pun intended) show the model in the best light possible. Be sure to take a variety of headshot, full-body, horizontal, vertical photos, etc. Different compositions are always great as they can give agents more variety to choose from.
5. Keep Your Photoshoot Professional
Like a typical work environment, keep it on the professional side. Your interaction with the model is a job that you've been lucky enough to get. You should treat your models with respect! Especially if you're a new photographer, this is important to gain rapport and trust with agents, models, your team, and other photographers. If you're professional and good at your job, your work will go that much farther. People always appreciate a good team member.
6. Wait for Top Agencies
This is an on-going process for photographers, and something that you work on throughout your career. At the end of the day agencies value clients over tests, but that doesn’t mean that they still won’t need your talent to make the models look amazing.
Want to Learn More?
If you’re interested in learning more about a specific photography subject or idea, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org I’m always happy to answer additional questions or comments.
Morey Spellman is a Los Angeles based fashion photographer.
His work combines a love for beautiful light, authentic beauty, and natural scenery.