So you finally decided to work with a photographer and start to work on your portfolio. The Internet is full of photographers willing to help you out. Some are willing to pay you, others want to be paid and the rest are looking to shoot you on a Time for Prints(TFP)/Time for CD(TFCD) basis. With all the choices which photographer do you choose? The purpose of this is to give you a brief introduction into choosing your first photographer.
A word of caution before proceeding any further. There have always existed and even more so with the advent of digital photography and the Internet: the infamous Guy with a Camera (GWC). The GWC holds the opinion that because they just dropped several thousands of dollars on a new camera they earned the right to call themselves a photographer.
A photographer is somebody who is committed to the craft of photography and advancing their talents. They ultimately call themselves photographers not because of the gear they own but of the photographs they put out. A photographer will talk about your confidence and comfort level and discuss ways of building it and speak in terms of themes and concepts. If your photographer makes you feel uneasy or views a photo session as an opportunity to get you naked then you are shooting with a GWC.
Avoid the GWC because in the end you will end up wasting your time and end up with terrible photos. Even worse is if the GWC publishes terrible photos of you that make you look bad. Besides do you really want to waste 2-3 hours of your life taking pictures you can not use.
I am choosing to address this first because its usually the question models want to ask but are afraid to. You should never under any circumstances be asked to or required to pose naked for a photographer. If you take on a paid shoot where this is a requirement then its different. Otherwise do not do it if you do not want to. Usually when I discuss nudity I talk first about why you should never do it. Never do it to impress me the photographer or because you feel pressured to do it. Only shoot nude because its something you want to do for yourself.
In the beginning you probably will not want to shoot nude and that is fine. Maybe a little later with some experience and the right photographer you will take it on and maybe you will not. Either way is fine. As long as you can say your choice was done with you in mind then you are fine. When you are talking to a photographer and you refuse to shoot nude then tell them straight away. The photographer will respect your decision and move on. The GWC will be disappointed and try to change your mind.
Finding a Photographer
The Internet is full of photographers of various skills and abilities. If you are on a budget and want to shoot cheap then you may want to take on a TFP photographer. If you can afford it you are better to pay a photographer and work with a professional otherwise you will be shooting with an emerging professional/serious amateur on a TFP basis.
Classified sites like Kijiji or Craigslist are full of TFP photographers. The first thing you want to see in the ad is the photographer’s name or studio name. If the photographer has nothing to hide and has some confidence in their abilities then they will have no problems publishing their name. Hopefully their ad has a link to their portfolio. If they do not then e-mail them and ask to see their portfolio.
I would urge any model to ignore a classified ad where the photographer refuses to include their name. They do not need to include their phone number or e-mail but the name they use to shoot should be there.
Evaluating a Photographer’s Portfolio
Before agreeing to shoot with a photographer always ask to see their portfolio. Ideally the portfolio should be a studio website or a modeling website or other serious photographic website. The first thing you want to see is an actual portfolio of models in a variety of situations. If their portfolio is nothing but a bunch of landscapes of public parks then turn them down. Also make sure their portfolio includes a shot or two of a style you want to do. If their portfolio only includes outdoor nudes then you may not want to shoot with them if that is a style you do not want to take on.
How to evaluate a photo requires a lot of careful study and experience. A lot could be written on how to judge a photo of a model but I will let you in on a very simple way that will let you know if the photographer knows what they are doing. Check the eyes in the photos and what you want to see is a near white light. It could be round or square but it should look like it was caused by a flash or some bright light source. These are called catch lights or specular highlights. Not seeing any highlights in the eyes is referred to as black eyes.
The sparkle caused by the light in the eye gives life to the subject. Without the lights the model will look dead and the absence of any catch lights in the eyes is the mark of an amateur photographer.
Finally the portfolio should inspire and excite you. The photos in the portfolio should inspire confidence that the photographer is going to take good photos of you. If the inspiration just is not there for you then you might consider not using the photographer.
Talking the to the Photographer
I usually correspond with my models through e-mail but I always push to get them on the phone because I think it’s better to explain myself and to get to know the model. I would strongly encourage you to get the photographer on the phone so you can get to know them better. The basic rule for talking to a photographer on the phone is if they inspire you then you want to shoot with them. If they make you uneasy then do not shoot with them.
You want a photographer who will explain the process to you and how you will fit into it. They should talk in terms of themes and present a vision for how it will work. If they seem really unsure of themselves or not sure how everything is going to work then it might be a cause for concern.
Also you should consider your personal safety. I encourage my models to think about their personal safety because if they feel secure then it will make them more confident leading to better pictures. The way I do this is with references from other models as well as encouraging models to bring escorts if they feel inclined. A lot of my models will not bring escorts only because I encouraged them to bring one.
That being said ask the photographer about bringing an escort. If they strongly discourage it then you are probably up against a GWC. If the photographer is open to it then you should feel more at ease with them. If you bring an escort to one of my shoots then they will sit in the corner and just watch everything. Make sure your escort knows they are not going to be entertained in any way shape or form. Also girlfriends are better escorts then boyfriends because your girlfriends will offer constructive criticism. You can also ask if the photographer has an model references and follow up with them if you feel so inclined.
When you talk to the photographer make sure they don’t talk about how hot you are and what a great body you have. Those are some very clear red flags the GWC is putting your physical features ahead of the photography. Look at this way, if you are going for an examination with a doctor you do not want the doctor to rave about how great you look down there and you should expect the same from your photographer. You should be under the impression that the photographer is taking a clinical approach to you and is more concerned about what kind of photos you will take as opposed to how great your physical features look.
Also the photographer should be somebody you want to confide in. If you are self conscious because you feel you have small breasts then you should be comfortable enough to communicate this fact with the photographer. The photographer should be able to offer posing and lighting ideas to help address your concerns. If they are at a loss as to how address a concern you have then you might want to find a photographer who can better address your concerns.
Also ask the photographer what kind of facilities are available to you such as a clean bathroom and a private place to get changed. If you are shooting TFP then ask the photographer how soon you can get the prints and if they offer an photo retouching of the prints for you. With my TFP sessions I hand over a CD of the session at the end that includes the sharpened, high resolution photos with my studio watermark in the corner.
After talking to the photographer for a bit you should have an idea whether you want to work with them or not. If you do book a shoot make sure your photographer tells you what to bring and covers makeup if you plan on doing your own.
That about wraps up how to go ahead finding your first photographer. Hopefully by now you have an idea of how to find a photographer, evaluate their work and how to speak to them and what some questions are you can ask them.
If you are reading this then its probably because you are trying to launch a modeling career so as a photographer I wish you the best of luck with it all.