How to pick a good photographer to work with.

I am often asked by the models who shoot with me, “How do I pick the right photographers to work with?”, and I can understand why.

When you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to judge one photographer from another. Models who join OneModelPlace or ModelMayhem, for example, are often deluged with emails from amateur and professional photographers alike who all seek to work with the model (or aspiring model) in one capacity or another.

Depending on the model, their experience level, and the information they post in their OMP profile, requests from photographers vary from TFP requests to offers to pay the model for their time. With so many options coming in, how does one know who to work with or what priority to place on the various requests?

When it comes down to picking a photographer to work with, trust your intuition. If it seems like an amateur operation, it probably is. Being “full time” does not guarantee a true professional quality operation.

These are the things you need to consider before choosing to work with a photographer:


Do you actually like the photographer’s work? Does it appeal to you? You don’t have to know a lot about photography to judge a photographer’s work. Simply take a look at the photographer’s portfolio and ask yourself whether you can imagine the photographer’s images in a magazine, gallery, or commercial product? If so, what kinds of magazines or products? Are these the types of places you would like your photos to be?

Is the photographer using wrinkled bed sheets as backdrops, tacky props, poor lighting, or has photos looked like they were taken in the 70’s?


If anyone shoots enough photos, he or she is going to have a few lucky good shots to pick from. What you want to see in a photographer’s portfolio is consistency. This means you should look for several good shots done during a single shoot. If a photographer doesn’t have examples readily available on-line, see if he/she is willing to provide you with a few other good examples from a single photo shoot with a model. You should be confident that working with a particular photographer will yield work of a consistently high quality.


Most good photographers develop their own distinct style. This doesn’t mean one style is necessarily better than another in any absolute sense. But this does mean that you should pick a photographer who shows you examples of the kind of photography that you want in your portfolio.

Does the photographer have something to offer? Are you confident in the photographer’s work and abilities to the point that you believe working with the photographer will help advance your career in one fashion or another or somehow open up other opportunities?


Does the photographer have a particular style or a favorite kind of subject? If a photographer’s portfolio consists of mostly nudes or boudoir photos and this is something that doesn’t interest you, then be very clear about this during your correspondence with that photographer.


Many photographers will use their years of experience to attract your business (Ie. “I’ve been doing photography for 25 years”). It is not years of experience that necessarily makes a good photographer. I’ve seen a number of photographers claim to have several years of experience, yet their photography has yet to reach what could be called a professional level. I think the publishers of Rolling Stone Magazine sum it up best when they say, ” It’s not about the photographer’s experience, it’s about a photographer’s talent and eye. Lots of photographers have years of professional experience but their work isn’t for us. Others might not have years of experience, but they have this amazing eye.” As a general rule, judge a photographer by the work you see, not by any claims to years of experience.


Is the photographer reputable? Do they have references? Are they open with providing these references or additional information upon request? Any professional photographer should easily have 3 or more references they can provide upon request.


Is all contact made by the photographer handled in a professional fashion? Does the “tone” of the photographer’s correspondence leave you confident that you would be working with a quality and professional organization? Are all of your questions answered in a way that makes you feel comfortable?

Finding a photographer with whom you can communicate openly and who can understand your style and personality is important. Communication & comfort is critical to great photos. It is important that you’re comfortable and that your photographer is someone who can not only listen, learn, and react to your words, gestures and body language, but someone who you can listen to. When the photo shoot comes, you’ll be looking into a lens and will only hear the voice of your photographer, so you need to be comfortable with that voice.


Where does the photographer shoot? Do they shoot in a dedicated studio or a home studio? While it is true that many photographers work out of their own homes (to keep overhead low), it is good to discuss this before hand and get more information about exactly what type of environment you would be shooting in. You don’t want to be surprised when you show up to shoot. If they have a “home studio”, how often do they shoot there? Do they have clear examples of photos they have taken in that environment?


Does the photographer have a web site? Although you are working with a photographer and not necessarily a web page designer, something must be said about quality and attention to detail. Is the photographer’s web site presented in a professional fashion or is it simply an afterthought?

Are the web pages riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes? How do you feel about working with someone who doesn’t care enough about what their web site says about them to bother to spell check or present photos and/or information in a professional fashion? A good photographer should care about the quality of their work beyond just their photographs. Even photographers who are unable to create their own web sites can easily use web based software to put information and photos online. Or they can simply hire a company to design and maintain a web site for them.


Any professional photographer should have a copy of their model release handy. It is good to review this release prior to your shoot date.

What to look for in a photographer’s work. What makes a photo “good”?

A good photograph is intended to convey a message, theme, impression, or an emotion. This is done by drawing the viewer’s attention to the subject, a clear, distinct center of interest or emphasis without distractions.

It is generally by introducing or including a second element in a photograph that creates a “context” by which a message, impression, or emotion is conveyed. It is how these two elements work together and their relationship that creates impact. A good photograph is more than just the sum of its parts. An exceptional photograph will draw you in and capture your attention.

Just as important as knowing what to include in a photograph is knowing what to exclude. The message conveyed by a photograph can be ruined or lessened by unecessary distractions. When looking at a photographer’s work, do you find yourself regularly drawn away from the subjects by unnecessary elements?

In model photography & portraiture, attention should be very clearly drawn to the subject. The subject of the photograph should be sharp & clearly focused (unless otherwise intended). There is no excuse for fuzzy photography unless it is deliberately done.

The lighting in a scene or on a subject in a photograph has a tremendous impact. Lighting is used to draw attention to or away from elements in a photograph.

Questions that models should ask photographers.

Knowledge is power and your safety is important. Below are a number of questions to ask photographers and things to be aware of prior to working with a photographer…

Ask where the photographer shoots. If he works in a studio, is it a dedicated studio or is it a home studio? What is the environment like? Is there easy access to a changing room, mirror, and bathroom? Is there easy access to parking?

If not previously arranged, how long is the shoot expected to last?

Can the photographer provide at least 3 references?

Does the photographer work with an assistant? Will other people be present during the shoot? Is it ok for you to bring an escort?

If you are shooting on location or plan to travel from one location to the next, how will this be accomplished? Does the photographer have a portable changing room of some kind for wardrobe changes while on location?

Ask for a copy of their model release prior to working with them. Review this contract carefully and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Never sign anything you are not comfortable with. How will the photographer use the photos he takes of you?

How many photographs can you expect from a shoot? Does the photographer provide prints?

How many different looks & outfit changes are you allowed?

Is a make-up artist provided?

When can you expect your photos (or proofs or CD) to be delivered?

If you are paying a photographer, what forms of payments do they accept and when do they expect payment? Also be sure to determine exactly how much you are expected to pay prior to shooting.

If you are getting paid by a photographer, determine when you are going to get paid and how. Be sure that you are clear about exactly how much you are to be paid as well.


In most cases, a photographer should rarely have any reason to make physical contact with a model. In the event some type of contact is necessary, it should be clear how this is to be communicated to the model. I personally make it a point to announce & ask permission to make any kind of contact with a model prior to doing so. This leaves very little room for mis-interpretation and makes it very clear that all contact is necessary & purely professional.

Why you shouldn’t choose a photographer based on the quality of their website.

Why you shouldn’t choose a photographer based on the quality of their website.

Presentation and professionalism is important, but keep in mind that not all photographers have a knack for building or maintaining websites. Some of the crappiest looking websites showcase some amazing photographs.

And some amazing websites can make average, or even subpar, photography look better than it actually is.

Those who are truly serious about their photography business will find a way to present themselves online in a professional fashion — even if their photography is lacking.

Make sure it’s the photographs you’re putting most emphasis on when evaluating a photographer’s work.

Is every person who claims to be a “model” or “photographer” a model or photographer?

Is every person who claims to be a “model” or “photographer” a model or photographer?

No. Of course not.

Internet models are models whose sole experience with modeling is by working through the internet via such sites as ModelMayhem or OneModelPlace. Many internet models often claim to be “professional” or “semi-professional”, yet their only source of modeling income is through “internet photographers/GWCs”. They rarely work on project-specific ventures which are intended to make money and instead make money from internet photographers.

Internet photographers are photographers whose sole experience with model photography is by working through the internet via sites such as OneModelPlace. Many internet photographers often claim to be “professional” or “semi-professional” yet are rarely paid for their work. In fact, many internet photographers either offer their services for free or pay models to work with them. Many times they have no intention of making money from photography and simply use the fact that they have a camera as an opportunity to take pictures of “pretty girls”.

Internet photographers (also known as “GWCs : Guys/Girls With Cameras), more often than not, are simply hobbyists, not professionals and often lack the skills necessary to take professional-level photographs.

Internet models often work with internet photographers because they find the idea of getting paid for having their picture taken appealing. Internet models often have little concern over the actual quality of the photographs taken during these sessions.

A common mistake made my internet models is to work with photographers who provide poorly shot and unprofessional photos. Photos from these photographers are of very little value, often a complete waste of time, or can actually be detrimental to anyone serious about a career in modeling. Models should always select photographers based on their skill level.

Internet models tend to be very distrustful of photographers. This is most likely based on experiences they’ve had with “internet photographers” and initially groups all photographers she deals with into this same category, until proven otherwise. These experiences with internet photographers include inappropriate or unprofessional behavior, not receiving their photos, and more.

Internet models tend to think that they are in demand and making a career out of modeling because they are getting paid jobs with “internet photographers”. Not true. This is a dead-end street and should not be considered “professional” modeling nor anything you can make a career out of. True professional modeling most commonly involves working on projects which are used to bring in money (advertisements, brochures, catalogs, web sites, and more).

Photographers that pay models to work with them can only afford to do so if they are working on projects in which actual photos of the model are intended for some purpose that will generate money.

“TFP” (time for prints/cd) agreements typically do not allow for commercial use of photographs. If a photographer is providing the majority of their services for free, or worse, paying models to work with them, then they are likely not professionals because anyone whose sole source of income is photography could not afford to do this.

Professional photographers can and do pay models when/if they are working through a 3rd party on a specific product in which the photographer is paid (and the model either compensated by the photographer or the 3rd party).

Internet models tend to think that paying for photos is unnecessary or completely undesirable. Why pay for photos when there are “internet photographers” willing to shoot them for free? Anyone serious about modeling understands that paying professional photographers is a worthwhile investment and typical for anyone interested in attaining some degree of status in the field.

Professional photographers do occasionally provide TFP, but often do so with a specific purpose in mind. This is usually to test a new idea, new equipment, or try different techniques. It is also sometimes done to establish a working relationship with a model and determine their value for future paid projects.

Models who shoot TFP often do so to obtain experience, work with a new photographer, or add new photos to their portfolio.