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.
TALENT VS EXPERIENCE
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.
REPUTATION & REFERENCES
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.