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Model Photography Tips from a DIY Fashion Photographer

by Rachel Gregg
featured, photo & video

Model photography quick tips

Bringing your vision to life as a professional photographer generally requires more than you, a Canon or Nikon camera and a photo session. You need a subject – and, if you’re a lifestyle or fashion photographer, that subject is often a real model. But where do you find the right model for fashion or portrait photography photo shoots?

Typically, fashion photographers connect with model agencies when finding models for their photo shoots and go through a casting call process. However, agencies can be expensive, and if you’re a beginner photographer, they may be hesitant to work with you. Instead, it’s best to steer away from professional models who might also need some experience — it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and will help keep your studio photography credit card expenses down.

Model-scouting is something fashion photographer Amanda Diaz knows very well. Amanda has spent a lot of time making other people look stunning – so stunning, in fact, that you’d be surprised to learn that they aren’t the paid agency models you’d expect them to be. Amanda built her portfolio of portrait photography by being resourceful about where she found everything from set pieces to apparel to the models themselves. During her CreativeLive course, DIY Fashion Photography,  she shared some quick tips on how to find models that are talented, easy to work with — and, often, bring an extra something special to a shoot.

1. Scour modeling Facebook groups.

The people you’ll find in Facebook groups for model photography subjects are generally freelance and non-agency models — but that doesn’t mean they can’t do the job, and do it well.

“These girls don’t belong to an agency because they are maybe an inch too short, but some of my best shoots have been non-agency girls,” Amanda says. Most modeling agencies have strict regulations and expectations, and can even cost money to join — thus, individuals who want to get experience modeling, or just like to work in fashion photography turn to these kinds of groups to get exposure. Additionally, non-agency models often have a slightly different look than traditional models, which can make your photo shoots really stand out.

Portrait photography setup

2. Find talent on established model networking sites.

If you’re not comfortable hunting through Facebook, or you’d like more information on the models before you book them, Amanda suggests using model networking sites, which offer a bit more background, and can feel more secure and reliable than Facebook.

If you’ve never worked with a networking site, here are a few Amanda thinks could help you find exactly what you need:

3. Ask your friends.

Got friends? Then you’ve got models. “Ask your friends to be models,” says Amanda “its great – its good practice before working with actual models.”

Shooting friends gives you experience with directing real people (which can be tricky) before you take on the higher stakes game of working with real models, who can be pricey. This is especially important if you plan to make fashion photography part of your regular work — as Amanda warns, even if you do get lucky “and an agency said you can work with their models, if they don’t like the photos, you probably won’t get the models again.”

Non-agency models can also help you define your brand’s look. Some of the best photographers like fashion retailer ModCloth’s brand photographer, Danielle Bouchette, recently talked with CreativeLive about how they’ve stuck with non-agency models, because of their community’s positive response to them in their online store.

“It started out that we were a start-up and it just came down to resources. We were using friends of friends and people that we knew and as we’ve grown as a company our community has really supported that so much, so we never moved away from it.”

And there you have it. You’ve got lots of options for getting a great shot during your photo shoots without overspending on your credit card for real models, or playing the major leagues before you’re quite ready.


Conquer lighting, posing, composition, and post-processing with Scott Robert Lim. Learn more.


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Rachel Gregg

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.