Whether you are just starting to do portrait photography or you are a wanting to expand your portfolio with new looks, finding models for your photoshoots can be a difficult task if you don’t know where to start. But don’t be discouraged, the effort is worth it. Working with local models has a lot of benefits. It’s cost effective (you don’t have to pay for airplane tickets to fly your models into town), it brings authenticity to your photo shoots, you are giving opportunities to people in your area to expand their portfolio and it’s easier to schedule or reschedule photoshoots than if you are working with models not in your local area.
Luckily, we’ve been there done that. Here are the six effective ways to find local models for your next photoshoot.
How to find local models
- Find Models in local Facebook groups
Facebook groups are a hotbed of collaboration. The trick here is to search for local groups. Try searching for “your city” + “models” in the Facebook search bar and then click on groups to see groups in your area or “your city” + “models and photographers”. Most groups that are set up for model, photographer collaboration will allow you to post details on what you are planning to shoot and what type of models you would like to work with.
- Create your own Facebook group for model + photographer collaboration
If you don’t find any groups start your own! We created a Facebook group for St. Louis models & photographers to connect with local models because we were not finding any groups that supported free collaborations. We now have over 1.3k active members & any time we need a model for free collaborations it’s the first place we go. The side benefit of doing this is that you are creating a community to support both photographers and models in your area.
- Search for models on social media hashtags
Most larger cities have a modeling hashtag. It might take a little creativity to figure out the hashtag but once you do, you can contact models you like via social media channels. Instagram and TikTok are great places to start. Try searching for your city (or it’s abbreviation) + model or models or modeling. For example, if you lived in Houston you could search for #houstonmodels which has over 300,000 results. We’ve found that this method may require you to contact more models as the response rate wasn’t quite as high as what we have found in Facebook groups, but it does give you the opportunity to find models whose look serves your project the best.
- Model Mayhem
Think of Model Mayhem as a search engine for models. You can search for models in your local area. Not only can you review each model’s portfolio, but you can use the profiles to get an idea of their experience level, expectations regarding pay and the genres they prefer. We honestly have not used this method often but do think it is a good way to find more experienced models and it saves you a little time by giving you more information upfront.
- Friends & Friends of Friends
When all else fails resort to friends. You would be surprised at how many people actually like getting their picture taken (says the photographer that truly hates being in front of the camera). Friends are also often very willing to refer you to someone they know who models or wants to get into modeling. While this method tends to result in working with less experienced models, it can be a very good skill building opportunity for learning how to direct models – one of the more difficult aspects of portrait photography.
- Meetups & Group Photoshoots
A great way to connect with local models is to attend a group photoshoot. These types of photoshoots are often put on by photographers and are usually themed. Typically, a large number of both photographers and models will attend these so they aren’t ideal if you are trying to get a specific image or work one on one with a model for an extended time period, but they do offer you the opportunity to get to know local models. If you find you work well with a model, you can always work with them one on one in the future. The best way to find these is to search for “group shoot” or “photoshoot event” on Fa cebook or Meetup.com.
- Modeling Agencies
All of the methods above can be done for cheap or even free but if you have money to spend or are working on a project for a company you can use local modeling agencies to find local models. Research the different modeling agencies in your area and take a look at their websites to get an idea of the type of models they represent. Once you have found a modeling agency you like, reach out to them and let them know you are looking for models for a project. Make sure that you understand the terms of working with their agency before scheduling anything – be sure to understand the rate for the models you will be working with and the usage rights for the images as well as who is responsible for things like hair and makeup.
Tips for you when working with local models:
- If you are not working through an agency, be sure to bring a contract for your model to sign and make sure you both understand the usage rights of your photos (what can they do with the photos, what can you do, does anyone need to be credited, etc). This protects both you and your models and helps each party understand exactly what the expectations are for the photoshoot.
- If you are looking to work with models without paying for their time, request a TFP session. TFP stands for time for print or trade for print and in a TFP shoot, neither the photographer nor the model pays. The photographer receives the model’s time and expertise, and the model typically receives a set number of prints and a license to use those prints.
Finding local models can be tough when you first start out, but these resources can help make it easier. Taking some of these steps will eventually leave you with a strong network of local models that you can contact for future shoots. We recommend using local models for both improving your skills/practicing photography techniques and for professional photoshoots. Not only is it a great way to support local models but it makes setting up photoshoots easier.