What are some strategies for tracking down photographers for free test shoots?
If you find some photographers in your area, email them and ask if they do any free photographer test shoots (TFP). They may say no, but you don’t know until you ask. You can also try calling around or visiting photographers’ studios but that will take more work. The yellow pages might be helpful for this approach.
If all of the current professional photographers in your area turn you down for free test shoots you may want to try the wannabe photographers. These are the student photographers. You can check to see if your local community college or university has a photography program. If they do you may find you can tell the instructor or place a notice on a bulletin board in the photography department that you are looking for test shoots. As a professional photographer I know we all had to get started somewhere and for many of us it was at college. As a beginning photographer if we wanted to learn any type of people photography we had to try and find a subject to photograph. This could be your place to connect with a student photographer. Keep in mind that the photographer is as new to photography as you are to modeling so you will both be trying to learn the business.
Some other fringe spots where you might make contact with a photographer for test shoots are camera stores and camera clubs. Sometimes the clerks at a photography store or photo lab might know of someone who is doing fashion or people photos. They may be able to keep an eye out for a photographer once you let them know you are looking for test shoots. Also, some camera clubs may have members who do people photos. Letting the head of the club know you are looking for test shoots may lead to something. With both of these you run a greater risk of running into the “semi-pro” photographer/lecher. Be extremely cautious about any leads you get this way, but you may find an amateur photographer who does good work.
I have started a web site I am calling Test Shoots.com. It is a place to post your need for a photographer to do test shoots. It has been up for a couple of years and has work for some. It is free so you may want to give it a try.
Another area that at first I thought held great promise to find test shoots but now I think is a long shot is one of the regional forums for models and photographers. I have been studying the one for the region I am in for several months. I think forums in other regions will be similar and I am not sure all regions will have such forums. It seams these forum tend to attract a lot of the “adult entertainment” wannabe photographers and not many fashion or commercial print photographers (although there maybe some lurking around). The photographers range from beginners to season pros. The photo interest can run from fashion but tend to be a lot of Playboy type glamour photography to web “adult entertainment” photography. So these Forums are not for those under 18 and please read the warnings below and use caution.
If you find a forum in your region that has not become a place for “adult entertainment” contacts or if you are looking to become an “adult entertainment” model then a forum will allow you to see what different photographers are shooting and what quality of work they are doing. The forums are a chance for photographers and models to post photos from their latest shoots, ask questions, share news, and get into lively debates. Those who post usually have email address and web sites. You can study the postings and hopefully find some photographers to contact about doing test shoots. You can also posts a notice on the forum saying you are looking for test shoots. If you are just starting, you can post without a picture but most of those postings get ignored. The forums work better if you can get some photos up on the web and be able to link to these photos when you post your message. Most photographers would like to see what you look like before committing to a shoot. This makes the forums a tough spot to get that first all important test shoot but they can be good for finding shoots to build your portfolio, gain experience and all for free. Forum photographers can be spread all over a region so you may need to be ready to do some traveling to get to shoots.
Warning – Making Internet Contacts
Warning when looking for test shoots on the web use caution. You do not know who is really who from postings, chats or websites on the Internet.
What You Can Work On
Now for what you can work on to become a professional model. Facial expression, posing, make-up, hair styling and wardrobe are items that you can practice on your own. People talk about models spending a lot of time in front of a mirror. They are not looking into the mirror to admire themselves but to practice their expression & posing and to see how their make-up, hairstyle, and wardrobe look. After you get past your genetics and business professionalism these become your modeling tools. By honing your skills in these areas to perfection and combining them in creative ways, a professional model is produced.
Working on Expression and Pose
In the old days of melodrama and vaudeville they made a science out of communicating with facial expression or body position. They exaggerated and standardized every emotion that one might want to express. They produced books showing these standard expressions and poses and when you studied theatrics this was part of what you learned. All of this early work was a bit over exaggerated and through the years has gone through a lot of refinement. When photographs began replacing drawings in fashion magazines the photo fashion industry came up with their own set of expressions and poses. These expressions and poses usually communicated beauty and grace. A model would learn a standard set of poses which told where the feet, hands, torso, and head would be positioned. One would work on one’s cheery smile or surprise facial expression. By the early sixties it had become pretty regimented. But just as all the rules for being a model were set, along came the late sixties and a time for breaking all of the rules. It has been a muddled mess since. Today there are no set rules for models except all of the old rules still can apply except we want to break them all the time. The modeling schools say they will teach you the standard modeling poses but the agencies and fashion industry say that there are no standard poses; everything is creative and you either have it or you don’t and we decide who has it.
As a working photographer I think it is great to have both. I like it when I can tell a model to look sad and she has practiced that look in the mirror and can do it on cue. I also like when we can play sad music or tell a side story and get an honest sad expression. I like when shooting a simple fashion shot and I ask the model to go through her short or long group of poses and she has a set routine that we can shoot through. I like it when we need something very different for a shot and I can tell the model how to stretch, twist, and reach and she is aware of her/his body and can do it. I think you should know the rules so you can break them. You should know your body so you are aware of how it moves, what lines it forms, and how it can be coached into different positions. I think you should know yourself and your emotions so you can show these to the camera and feel confident in what you are showing.
So how do you work on expressions and posing? One good way to start is doing activities that teach you how to move you body gracefully. For this I like dance and rhythmic gymnastics. Dancers and gymnasts move great in front of the camera. They know how to created a long sweeping line with their bodies. Other sports can help with kinesthetic knowledge and are good for conditioning but I favor dance to teach how to move and communicate with you body. Of course for expression theater is a great teacher. That is part of what an actor must do at times – communicate without words. If you have an opportunity take a class or participate in these activities, I encourage you to do so.
You can work on facial expressions by practicing them in a mirror. What do I mean by facial expressions? We are all capable of showing various emotions on our face. Most emotions that you can think of can show on your face. Hate, love, sadness, longing, happy, and more can be expressed on your face. What you should do is make a list of all key emotional words you can think of and practice those expressions in front of a mirror. After you have practiced for a while, try them on a friend and see if they can tell what emotion you are conveying. The idea is that when you are in front of the camera and the photographer wants you to look longingly into the distance you know how to do that.
You can work on posing by practicing in front of a full length mirror. To learn the basics you may have to track down a modeling book that covers this. I would say look at the fashion magazine to see how to stand but most of the poses are breaking the rule and at this point you need to be learning the rules. You may want to look at fashion catalogs for poses. They usually show the more standard poses (the most basic poses are based on the five positions of ballet). Pay attention to tilt of the head, position of the hand, and turn of the ankle. These little things can make a big difference. Just as with facial expressions your body posture can relate to an emotional word or phrase. Body posing is easy to show someone but it is hard to put in words.
With both expressions and with posing it is also good to practice with props, products and wardrobe. Props might be a floppy hat, a long shawl, and a beach ball. You want to practice reacting to the prop and using the prop. Since the reason for doing these photographs is to sell something, it is good to practice with a product that might be sold. Practice holding the product so it shows well and you don’t cover the label. With fashion you are selling the clothes. Practice showing important features of the clothing. Show off pockets, collar, belt, how the garment moves, what ever makes the garment interesting you want to call attention to it.