As I’m sure you’ve heard before, photos and videos with people in them tend to be among the most successful microstock sellers. And it’s not surprising. After all, we as viewers find ourselves stopping and being drawn in to an image when there is someone there we can relate to. We ask ourselves what they’re doing or feeling, or we picture ourselves in their situation. We can better relate to the story that the image or image is telling.
I’ve talked with many new and aspiring microstockers who want to try adding people into their photos. But at the same time they want to keep costs to a minimum. So the question I hear frequently from fellow photographers is “How do I find someone to model for me, and how much will I need to pay them?”.
Here are 4 approaches we use, and that we recommend to others, for finding low- or no-cost models for photo and video shoots:
1. Family and Friends
Many of us are fortunate to have a few people in our lives who are happy to help us out whenever we need them. We simply need to stop being too timid and just ask them. If you put the word out to your family or close friends, I bet you can find one or more willing and available people who will give “modeling” a try, free of charge.
Young children often love hamming it up for the camera. And parents and spouses are also often supportive and readily accessible. The photo above is of my mother- and father-in-law. They’ve been great models for us over the years. Shooting with people you know is the best way to start if you’ve never shot with models before. It’s a safe and comfortable way to learn and experiment with directing them and getting them to give you the look you want, and have fun in the process.
Don’t underestimate the use and re-use of a family member. Many microstockers have great success with hundreds of photos of the same family member doing different things. A look at my portfolio shows Dave as a doctor, a patient, a businessman, an optometrist, and Santa, among others. And many of these continue to be among my top sellers. Who knew?
Start letting others outside of your immediate circle know that you’re looking for people to photograph. It’s amazing how many people are interested in giving modeling a try, or know someone who is, either just for one-time fun or to see if it’s something they’d like to pursue longer term. Most of these people jump at the opportunity to model for free in exchange for copies of the photos (TFP or Trade For Photo). In exchange for a signed model release, you would just need to provide them with some of the photos from your shoot. I deliver my photos to my models via an online SmugMug gallery – no cd’s, no prints, no cost.
The trick to this one as well is to get the word out there. In addition to promoting this modeling trade opportunity through your website and social networking, you can join business leads groups, your local Chamber of Commerce, and photography Meetups in your area.
When we first meet a prospective model, we like to start with a simple “screen test” studio shoot with simple props. This gives us both a chance to see how we work together. We do this as a TFP. Then when we’ve found someone that we we really like, with a good look, attitude, and interest, we might pay them $20-25 per hour on specific shoots that we feel have higher return potential. This seems to be the going rate for models with some experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate differs by geography and model experience. I know some photographers in Utah and in Colorado that say the rate there is $10-15/hr.
3. Online Talent Call
The most popular online model agency seems to be ModelMayhem. We have sometimes had good results with models from this website, and I know others who use this service all the time. Once you register, you can review hundreds of profiles of available models in your area. You can do a talent call that is seen by all or you can direct message a specific person whose portfolio you like. Individuals state in their profile if they will shoot TFP or if they require payment, and how much.
In some areas, photographers find that craigslist is a successful avenue for finding models. You can either put out a general talent call, or have a specific shoot date that you’re working to fill. We honestly haven’t had luck there yet, but will likely give it a try again in the future.
Don’t forget that YOU can always be your own model. Who’s a more available subject (and costs nothing)? I know of several microstockers that primarily take photos of themselves, with great success. Just set up your tripod, put on the camera’s self-timer, and get in the frame.
And remember, whether taking pictures of yourself or others, often your composition may only call for hands, or an arm, or the back of a head. Even camera shy people are often willing to participate in these kinds of shoots.
So go ahead and find some models, and start shooting!
Do you have other suggestions for finding low- or no-cost models for shoots? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.