My alarm is beeping. It’s 6:30am. I roll over and open my eyes. I glance at the bag I pre-packed last night lying by my shoes on the floor and I remember that today I am travelling a further two hours out of town to a shoot that was booked last month. I haul my body out of bed and gather my belongings besides the unfamiliar bathroom of the guest room walls. I pay for my stay at reception and make my way to the next job…
Life on the road can be daunting and sometimes lonely when working for yourself as a freelancer. But the work is eventful, packed with variety and excitement, providing a whole new adventure every day. If I didn’t love my job, there would be no amount of money that could persuade me to bring all my energy. But because my hobby is now my career, like all models and photographers, we all have to hustle to stay afloat.
So here are my top tips in the life of an everyday hustler – written by an average looking girl who continues to work in a competitive industry by blagging her way around the world as a model:
Aspiring models dream of being ‘found’ by an agency, often encouraged by the rare stories of being discovered in shopping malls and then shot to fame overnight. This may well have been the case for fourteen year old Kate Moss, spotted at JFK Airport or sixteen year old Twiggy on the wall of a barbers shop in the sixties. But for most young models, ‘being discovered’ comes only from hard work and intense networking, teamed with infinite dedication and persistence with the same rules applying to all photographers.
Want to be a photographer? Want to be a model? Then be proactive! Join clubs with like minded people to talk about your passion. Learn your craft and increase your confidence through competitions with images of friends and family, not forgetting Mother Nature herself in all her changeable glory. Shadowing other photographers is also a great way to network and observe how their business is run. Many wedding photographers invite unpaid assistants to their gigs, with the opportunity to learn for the inexperienced.
You can always build a portfolio by contacting local talent. For photographers in search of skillful models, speak to local acting classes, dancers and anyone else involved in the arts. Forget not that a model comes in all shapes and sizes with sometimes the most interesting characters be found on the street, by simply opening your eyes to what’s around.
For models seeking a photographer, join online portfolio hosting sites such as Model Mayhem or Purple Port and involve yourself in open discussions (but remember everything you say is representative of your professionalism and brand from the start). It is often worth the money to find a professional photographer to shoot your first pictures, to see if you enjoy it and to start off your book. This can be expensive, so make sure you are 100% happy with their style of work and that you are committed to it as an investment in your future. You will usually need between five and ten pictures to begin with, of both headshots and full length. If you are more interested in the commercial side of modelling, simply visit a reputable agency to see if you have what it takes. However, please be aware that there are ‘agencies’ out there who are also scam artists with notoriously poor reputations, hustling their victims in all the wrong ways. Be wise and do your research, asking as many questions as you can before signing a contract and enquiring the nature of each job put forward.
Studios are commonly expensive, with asking prices of anything between ten and two hundred pounds per hour dependant on its size, equipment availability and location. Hireable sets and working locations are often even more costly and regularly come with additional financial extras including insurance, damage protection etc. So how do we get around this dilemma on a small or non existent budget?
First and foremost, the world is a beautifully free option. Abandoned buildings teem with life (sometimes quite literally) projecting character and personality from the inside out. Forests, fields, cliff tops, sandbanks and rivers are the most obvious of natures great offerings. Car parks, bridges, cobbled streets, door frames and postmodern structures provide an urban source of location. Even your own home can provide space to work with and props most suitable for your story.
Dragging your old sofa across the living room to reveal a plain wall, is more than enough space for ‘studio’ fashion instead of a white paper backdrop. A bathtub full of flowers is a set. A bedroom with delicate natural light gracing the room through netted curtains is a set. A kitchen with a paddling pool on the floor is a set. A utility room stacked high with unironed clothes and a washing machine is another set…the majority of it comes down to your concept and if you’re willing to think outside the box.
This is my small living room floor, strategically covered in astroturf and fake flowers purchased at the local DIY store…
…that made this final picture…
(Photographer: Lauri Laukkanen, MUA: Sophie Battersby, Designer: Rosie Red Couture & Corsetry)
Indeed we used a designers dress that was previously shot in my garden in between the bouts of rain that fell heavily that cold winters day, but for a shot like this, tulle or net from a fabric shop would easily have sufficed, draped around the model in key places.
Being able to ‘build’ a dress in post processing might be the best investment you can make for fine art work. Swishing a dress from side to side and then using each image (shot from the same angle, most easily repeatable with a tripod) to construct a garment can lead your audience into believing the dress was far more expensive than it was when the reality is that it wasn’t even there to begin with. My greatest advice with regards to this, would be to observe and remember your source of light. If you add something into your shot, it is vital that the reference of light is continued in order for it to make sense (shadows are equally as important to sustain believability).
A simple plain bed sheet can be pinned and tucked in all the right places, then extended or liquified to form an outfit. Even newspaper and bubble wrap can be taped and stapled as a temporary ensemble!
Each of the images below were created by Brooke Shaden in California whilst I was wearing only a bedsheet held together by hair ties.
(Snapshot taken from a video by Devin Schiro, of my time in America with Brooke seen here)
Opportunities do not simply present themselves and luck doesn’t just happen to the lucky. Every single person you admire has worked hard for where they’ve been and that is why you admire them, even if their story doesn’t tell you the truth. Remember that the world doesn’t owe you anything and you can’t afford to wait.
Make things to happen; seek out your strengths, source your strategy…and every day keep hustling.