What aspiring models should look for in photographers

Professional photographers are the greatest resource for aspiring models. However, being a “professional” does not necessarily mean the photographer is good or reputable. And having lots of experience does not always translate to having lots of “skill”.

Some “professionals” that have been in the business for 20 years still take only average quality photos. Be sure to take a good look at the work of the photographer you plan to work with. The quality of the photos is what’s most important, not the number of years the photographer has been pushing a camera button.

When comparing photography photo shoot packages, it is again important to place more emphasis on their skill and style and the quality of the photos than it is to be concerned with the number of pictures they may provide with a given package.

Yes, of course, price matters and we’re all on a budget, but it makes little sense to spend money on a cheap photographer to only get a lot of average prints that are of little value to your career.

Remember, your portfolio is not a scapbook. One excellent print in your portfolio is much more valuable than several mediocre ones.

So remember, you should always be looking for photographers who will provide you with the best prints — not the most prints.

Images are forever, so before you decide to step in front of the camera, remember that you can’t take it back. Getting experience in front of the camera is important, but so is working with photographers that have the skill to make you look good.

What you should do before working with a new photographer.

Do your homework before booking any assignment. Always ask for references from people the photographer has worked with if the photographer is not well known.

When you are working with a new photographer who isn’t well known or an experienced professinoal, it is recommended that you take an escort to a shoot. However, you should not expect a photographer to pay for your escort’s travel expenses

Prior to a shoot, tell someone where you will be, provide the contact information of the photographer, and tell them that you will contact them during the shoot. When you get to your shoot, you should then make a point of checking in with that person to let them know exactly where you are, what the plan of action is, and when you expect to be home. If you don’t have a cell phone, then use the photographer’s phone. If he doesn’t let you use the phone, maybe you shouldn’t be there.

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.