As a freelance photographer, it’s important to keep generating content and while it can be a hustle, it’s a groove I want to be out on the dance floor getting down to for sure! The thing to be doing when your not out in the field actually shooting is to start thinking, “What do I shoot next? Where will I find talent for that shoot? Where will I do that shoot? How will that shoot look?” I’ll be sharing some ways to keep all those things bubbling and maybe help to inspire you to keep producing.
As a portrait and lifestyle photographer, I really need people in my frames and often locating folks who are comfortable in front of the camera can be a bit of a tough task. Over many years with quite a lot of patience and “stick-to-it-ness,” I feel like I’ve gained some insight and want to share.
If you take a look at my work, there definitely are some reoccurring people you will see as models in my images, namely my kids and family. When I first got into working as a stock photographer and I knew what I loved to shoot—people doing what they do—I used my best available resource: those around me. So when looking for folks to be in front of your glass, the first place to look is in your own backyard. Friends and family can be a super great place to farm talent. More often than not, these people want to help support what you do creatively and are up for signing model releases. Score!
The other ways? Outside of casting your family and friends, I see two other categories: online resources and “street casting.”
I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the online talent pool and have had success with a couple of resources, namely Model Mayhem and Backstage. Model Mayhem is an online resource for all aspects of the photo community and the parts that make it up. You can find make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, retouchers, other photographers, and talent/models to name a few. A free account is a super worthwhile thing. Another great component is the ability to post your own castings for shoots, as well as have line of sight on other castings posted by talent or make-up artists.
While navigating a site like Model Mayhem, it’s best to bear in mind that one needs to take it seriously and be professional, but don’t take it too serious. Know that when you endeavor to build using Model Mayhem as a resource that not everyone on the platform is as committed as you might be. You must be prepared for quite a bit of “flakeyness” and for you online daters out there, it might be akin to that. The upshot to the work you put in is the idea that you can usually get help for free or on a tight production budget. Also, by connecting with any and all facets of a produced shoot, you are gaining valuable experience as well as building community to potentially call upon at another time for another production.
The other place to start to check out is Backstage. My experience here is considerably less, but I have had great success so far with this platform. Backstage differs from Model Mayhem in the way that it provides a different type of talent pool. Where Model Mayhem is more focused on the print and modeling side of things, Backstage is more geared to theater and video/film. I remember getting advice from a fellow photographer, Andrew Lipovsky about changing the way to source talent and begin to consider actors about a year ago, but looked and couldn’t find a good resource. Then about three or four months ago, Backstage fell into my lap through some interweb searching. Pretty much all the talent I have approached have been very amiable to the idea of time for print shoots and willing to sign model releases. Also, these folks have been very professional and had a great presence in front of the camera. I will always have eyes and ears open to new and developing online resources and you should too. Diversity in the way you acquire your talent is a good thing!
Street casting is, to me, the most thrilling way of getting talent and by thrilling I mean somewhat stressful and pretty darn awkward. But don’t let that stop you! It’s great to get out of your comfort zone from time to time! Street casting is done fairly often by many agencies that produce visual content. The idea basically is you go out and look for the average person going about their business out on the street who looks like they might be of use in a future shoot. You approach said person and begin to try and get them on board with being your talent. Sounds easy right and kind of a “DUH!” moment, but I have found this to be tricky.
I have had the “I’m going head hunting today” approach and the totally off-the-cuff, wing it approach, both yielding results, but I still feel like I’m figuring the best way to go about it.
Here are a few ground rules though:
- Be confident in the idea that you are a professional photographer scouting for talent.
- Have business cards or some sort of leave-behind available before you engage potential talent.
- Try and get your verbiage down, but don’t make it too complicated.
- For example: “I’m always scouting for new talent for up coming projects and you have an amazing look!” What are you doing with the shots? “I’m using the images to build my portfolio and to contribute to a small stock library to be considered for possible sale. Of course I will be sharing edited images with you for social media, and promotional use…” Stuff along those lines.
- A thick skin and strong desire to produce go along way. You know what they say, you have to be ready to fall off the horse many times.