Possibly the most important element of a successful fashion photo is generally the model. Models are obviously the focus of a shot. So as photographers, we’ve got to be pretty on it with who we choose to shoot!
The best way to get the best models? Working with an agency.
When I first started out, working with agency models felt like such a difficult thing to achieve. Surely, I would never be good enough. I was only 20 at the time, had only two years experience, and a very small portfolio. However, I knew that I wanted to take the work I was doing up a notch… plus, I was super jealous of all the other photographers I admired getting to work with all these beautiful, professional girls!
I set out on a mission to book my first agency model… and it was surprisingly easy.
I’m going to tell you exactly how to work with agency models. Lets break it down.
Have an idea:
Before you can do anything, you need to have an idea for a shoot. What are you going to make? Do you want to produce something in studio, or on location? Will it be very naturally, or feature a lot of artificial light? Come up with your idea, and create a moodboard. If you’ve never shot with a model before, I’d recommend keeping your idea simple. Don’t go crazy and try to pull off an Annie Leibowitz shoot from day one!
Top Tip: most model agencies will generally want quite simple images of their models for their portfolios, so the simpler your concept, the more you’ll please the agent.
Have a team:
Next, gather your team. Generally, you at least want a make up artist and hair stylist on your team. The bigger your team, the better, but don’t worry too much if you can’t get a team together. If you’re just starting out, keep it simple! Find a make up artist you get along with, and build your way up slowly. Once you’re feeling confident, try to build things up to more complex and bigger teams.
Find agencies to contact:
You can begin to search for model agencies with a simple Google search. Something like: “London Model Agency” will garner hundreds of results. No matter where you are in the world, there will be a model agency somewhere near you.
Another place you can search is on Models.com, a website with a directory of all the big model agencies.
If you’re brand new to working with agencies, perhaps start with some of the smaller, more boutique agencies, just to get the ball rolling. As much as you might want to start working with big agencies like IMG straight off the bat, you might find that challenging, and even a bit intimidating. But honestly, you’ll know in yourself who feels good to contact, so if you’re really excited about something, go for it!
Find out who you need to speak to
This is a big one. Do NOT email the general email address of a model agency. 9/10 your email will be ignored. Your best bet is to make a super quick phone call to the agency, ask if you can speak to the “booker in charge of the new faces” and ask them what their name and email address is. New Faces are models who are up and coming, and have less experience. Don’t try and ask for a “main board” girl for a test, as it’s very rare.
Send your email pitch
Once you’ve made your phone call, and you know who you need to email, you can get to work on putting your pitch together. I’d recommend keeping your email short, and to the point. It could go something along the lines of this:
How are you? My name is ______ and I’m a photographer based in ________. Please see my portfolio here (insert direct link to your website).
I’m currently planning a test shoot with (insert MUA’s name + website), (insert hair stylists name + website), (insert stylists name + website) on the (insert date) in (insert location). The theme of the shoot is ____, and I’ve attached a moodboard for you to take a look at.
I’d love to know if you have any new faces who you think would be a good fit for the shoot.
Let me know if you need any more info.
All the best,
Important note Remember to make the links in your emails clickable! Agents are busy, and they will not take the time to Google search for people. Keep things easy.
Select your model
Normally, if the model agent is happy with your idea and likes your portfolio, they’ll send you a “package.” All this is, is a web page where they have included the portfolios of the models they’re able to offer you. You can take a look through the package, and send the link to you other team members to take a look at as well.
When you reply to the agent with who you’d like to book, I recommend including your first option, second option and third option, as the model you choose will not always be free to work with you on the date of your shoot. Sending back your first, second and third choice immediately saves time, and lots of annoying back and forth emailing between you and the agent.
Ask the agent what he/she needs in her book
This isn’t something I think that all photographers do, but whenever I work with an agency model on a test, I make sure to always ask the agent if the model needs any specific in their book. For example, you may have booked a model for a beauty shoot, but the agent says that the model could really do with some simple, black and white portraits. I always make sure to take note of that, and make time during the shoot day to take images like this. This way, the agent is happy because the model now has a stronger book, and you’re happy because you still get to do your beauty shoot, but you also made a model agent happy. This will help to ensure you’re more likely to be asked to shoot more new faces in future!
Check that you’re allowed to get the images published
Not every model you work with will be allowed to have her images published in online magazines. That’s not something that a lot of people know, but if she’s very new to the agency, they will want to spend time developing her before her face is seen publicly.
If you are shooting with the aim to get your images published, check that the model you’ve requested is ok to be published.
No matter what you do, you must always send the images over to the agent to check before you send them out for submission. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes agents will ask that images are not published.
There you have it! I hope that this blog post has been helpful, and if you have any further questions about working with agency models, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below, or email me.