How do I get started in Modeling? – PART 3

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Test Shoots – You Need Photos

Whether you are working with a modeling agency or working freelance you will need photos – photos for your composite, portfolio, and web presence. With a modeling agency, they may try to help you find test shoots. Working independently, you will have to track down your own test shoots.
Test shoots or testing has become a generic term for photographic shoots where a model acquires photographs to use for the model’s promotional materials. I will elaborate on this further on.

You have two basic goals when doing test shoots. One is to get good quality photos as fast as you can to start getting work. The better quality (more professional and creative) photos you have in your portfolio the better paying jobs you will get. The second is to get experience in front of the camera and learning how to find your way around a studio or location shoot.

Test Shoots – Advice for Models

My definition of a Test Shoot (also refereed to as a photographer’s test shoot and Time For Prints [TFP] shoot) is when a photographer wants to try out a new creative idea, test some new equipment or film, wants to build the photographer’s portfolio, or just wants to practice and figure out how to take pictures, he sets up a photo session. In the case of a fashion or people photographer he needs a warm body to put in front of the lens. This is where the volunteer model comes in. This can work out well for both parties. The photographer does not want to pay for a model and the model does not want to pay for a photographer, so by trading services both get images for their portfolio and gain experience. In some cases the photographer might give you a couple of prints for your services, in other cases you may have to pay for prints. In all cases you will not get the original and don’t even ask to borrow them.

There are several problems you will find with this arrangement. A beginning photographer may be eager to do test shoots, but he or she is still learning, so the quality of work may not be that good. You may end up with just so-so prints in your portfolio. In some cases they may forget to take the lens cap off or some other technical problem so you may end up with nothing (of course that can happen to a pro pushing the limits also). In the case of seasoned professional photographers, they are often too busy with paying jobs or burned-out on doing new-model tests to do any test shoots. Thus it might be hard to find someone who is capable of producing good work and wants to do a test shoot with a new model. On the occasion when a seasoned photographer has a burning desire to do something new and creative, he usually turns to a model he already knows and with whom he enjoys working. So for your first goal of getting quality photos fast, free test shoots may not be the best route.

Is it bad or a total waste to do a test shoot with a beginning photographer?

No. When you are starting out any chance you have to get in front of the camera and see some results is valuable. It is a chance to gain some experience, try new make-up, poses, expression, wardrobe, and see how the photographer sees you. And once in while you and the beginning photographer may even hit upon something that will produce an outstanding photograph. It seems to happen more by accident then design, but sometimes neat things can happen. For a model this ‘learning by doing’ is the best teacher. So you can build a portfolio by this approach but it can take a long time. But it does help to accomplish your second goal of gaining experience.

If you are lucky, you may be able to find an advance amateur photographer or a pro who is getting back into model shooting. In either of these cases you have a shooter who has the ability to produce good work but may not hit it on the first try. The photos they produce may not always be top tier shots but would give you good photos to start your career. This situation gives you good quality photos, very fast, for little money, and the experience of working with someone who knows something about the business. These types of shoots can also be the hardest to find.
This information applies to fashion models, life style models, and commercial models. If you are seeking adult glamour modeling, you it will be no problem finding free test shoot once you learn where to look for them.

Warning

This is where the warning should come in when looking for test shoots. There always seems to be these “semi-pro” photographers out there. These guys are more then willing to do test shoots with new young models. These guys are more interested in hanky-panky than in producing a great photograph. At some point they want to get your clothes off or they are all over you like an octopus, saying they are trying to show you how to pose. Now this is different from very young, starting photographers who just have raging hormones. They are most likely just looking for a date rather than anything lecherous. In either case you will not end up with any usable photos for your portfolio. This is where professionalism on both the model’s and photographer’s part is needed. And they take pictures or movies of you undressing without you knowing.

The Model Release

As you start to do photo shoots the need for a model release will come up. .

Finding Free Test Shoots

If you sign with a modeling agency they may already have a list of photographers that need that warm body to put in front of the camera. The agency may have checked out these photographers and feel they are of a professional quality that the agency can recommend. In some cases, even with an agency, you may be on your own to track down test shoots.

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