The Art of Photographing Women Part 1: Finding Models

Ansel Adams.  Eliot Porter.  John Blakemore.  These are a few of the names that come to mind when one thinks of landscape photography.  When it comes to the art of lands…  zzzzzzzzz.  Ooops.  Did I nod off there?  I’m sorry, but with all due respect to Ansel and the boys, I find shooting landscapes a bit… dull.  Oh sure, I go out and fire off shots of sunsets, and mountain ranges, and pretty little streams and creeks, here and there.  But, usually, it’s because I couldn’t find a person to photograph, and when I do find a beautiful scene to shoot, I still feel like it would look better with someone in the foreground.

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Now, I’m not trying to downplay the artistry it takes to nail a great landscape shot.  I’m just saying that, for me, working with people is so much more rewarding.  I like my photography to be interactive.  I love having a conversation with my subject while we shoot.  Drawing out the emotions I want to see.  You ever try to tell a mountain to move a little to the right?  They don’t listen.  Heck, even a well-trained dog will just stand there, looking goofy, when you ask him to give you a “sassy, playful, look”.  No, if you want to really have control of your shoot, you need a human.  And if that human happens to be of the female persuasion, all the better!  The way I see it, if you put a pretty girl in your shot, you’re ¾ of the way to a great photo!  Is that cheating?  Maybe, but I’m in it to win it baby, and no one told me the rules!

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So where do you find these lovely creatures who will grace your photography with their beauty and turn your hum drum snapshot of Lake Whogivsakrap into golden pixels that your fellow togs will envy?  Well, you could turn to a modeling agency if your town has one.  The upside is, you’re almost guaranteed to get a beautiful, professional lady with experience in her craft.  And believe me, there is a difference between a professional model and the girl next door, something I’ll get into another time.  The downside to this route is you’ll have to pay for this experience.  And, while I believe that a professional model is worth and deserves every dime she charges, the expense can be hard to justify if you yourself are not getting paid for the shoot.  If you have the disposable income, and are really keen on getting quality shots for your portfolio, then this might be the route for you, but first, let’s explore some other options.

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There are many online communities for models and photographers to meet up, the most known is probably Model Mayhem but there are others such as Broken Doll and My Model Career.  Where models, photographers, makeup artists, etc., create profiles and network with one another.  There are plenty of women on these sites who are still in the “amateur” phase of their career and need photos for their portfolios as much as you do for yours.  TFP, or “Time For Prints”, is a phrase you will become familiar with.  Basically, the model is giving you her time and you are providing photos that she can use to land potential, paying, jobs in the future.  This is a win-win for you and the model, and might be something worth looking in to.

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Don’t overlook the women in your life either. Be it your wife, girlfriend, cousin, cousin’s ex-wife…  well, maybe not her.  She did key his Trans-Am after they broke up after all.  But, you get the point, Right?  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a pretty girl, so chances are, you know at least a few.  Hell, the photo below is of my boss.  MY BOSS!  Can you believe that?  Maybe you’ve got a hot boss, too.  Why not ask her if you can take sexy pictures of her?  What do you have to lose? Well, besides your job.  And your house.  Car, dignity…on second thought, skip your boss.  Maybe your cousin’s ex-wife is free…

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Now I ended that last paragraph with a little tongue in cheek humor, but I should note: If you are going to be shooting with pretty women, DON’T BE A CREEPER!  Don’t get touchy feely, don’t ask the model if they need “help with their outfit”, don’t be douche!  I’m lucky in that I have built a reputation for being professional with my shoots and I have a list of girls that would be more than happy to vouch for me should a new model have any concerns.  I also try to bring my wife to my shoots when possible.  Not only is it nice to have a lovely assistant to help with lighting, swapping lenses, etc., but it also can help put a model at ease to have another woman on the set.  If you don’t have someone to bring with you, let them know that they are more than welcome to bring a friend.  It’s all about making your model feel comfortable and respected.  And again, If you want to find a booty call go to a dating site.  Otherwise, be professional and show up to make art, not get digits.

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That brings me to my last, and honestly, most fruitful source of models: Facebook.  Everybody is on Facebook , so no surprise that there are plenty of beautiful women there.  I’ll scroll through my feed, see a face that catches my eye, and send them a message.  Here’s where not being a creeper comes into play again!  If you already have a personal relationship with the lady, great!  Otherwise, you need to go out of your way to show that your intentions are purely professional.  Provide a link to some of your past work and give her references that she can contact if she’d like to check you out.  Unfortunately, it’s a crazy world out there so you can’t blame a woman if she’s a bit hesitant of a stranger contacting her.  If you’re respectful and understanding of any concerns she may have, and have some decent work to back up your talk, you might be surprised at how easy it is to find people to work with.  For example, when I decided I wanted to write a series of articles on the art of photographing women for PhotolisticLife, I tossed the idea up as a status on Facebook and tagged a handful of girls I hoped to work with.  Some I knew personally, some I didn’t, but nearly every one of them responded and either has or will be shooting with me.

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And that brings me to the end of this column.  There are other ways to go about finding models, I’m sure.  Craigslist, classifieds in magazines/newspapers, and probably a slew of others, but the above is what’s worked for me and should give you a good start.  The more you shoot and display professionalism in both your manners and your work, the more likely that word of mouth will start spreading and eventually the girls will be coming to you!  It’s really all about people skills, if you have them, great. If you don’t, work on them.  And if you can’t?  Well, there are plenty of open fields and waterfalls that need to be photographed :P.

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