NOTE: This post is informational for photographers nearly as much as it is for young models.
It is universal knowledge that a model needs photos of herself in her portfolio; the only way to go about this is to collaborate with different photographers. How she goes about building a model portfolio depends on a few different factors and is up to her (and her agency) to decide.
A model will mainly begin building her portfolio either by hiring a photographer or collaborating on a (free) trade shoot or test shoot. As she begins shooting and building up her reputation, she has the position to be more choosy with who she shoots with. Only then, when she has a reputable portfolio, may she ask the photographers for compensation when she is requested for a shoot. However, there are some collaborations even an experienced model won’t want to pass up.
You can automatically assume any work with a designer needs to be paid, since they are advertising an actual product. With photographers, however, it gets tricky.
Here are 10 qualities an experienced model looks for in a photographer when testing for free
- Photographer is agency represented and/or works with mainly agencies and their models
- OR photographer’s work is that of an agency quality photographer
- Photographer uses minimal retouching to make images look raw and natural while maintaining an ethereal effect
- Photographer’s work matches up with the local industry (for example: lifestyle, natural, editorial, fitness etc)
- Photographer has a professional website
- If photographer in question has a fan page with more than 2,000 fans, this is a good sign
- Photographer works with reputable magazines or has published work that holds up to high enough standards
- Photographer is recommended by agency or like-minded individual
- Photographer’s work is consistent
- Photographer has everything from concept to creative team all lined up and is organized in creating a collaboration
If a model won’t work for free, no harm done. This is her job just as much as it may be the photographer’s job. In my case, I am a self-employed freelancer. Modeling supports me, so most of the time I have to filter through the unpaid work and politely provide a rate, or decline. It’s not a character flaw or a reflection on the photographer’s portfolio. It just means that said model feels she may not benefit from working for free.