How To Contact Modeling Agencies For Model Testing
Model testing is the foundation of nearly every career in beauty and fashion photography. From the swanky fashion photography on covers of Vogue Magazine and Harpers Bazaar to the flawless beauty photography on billboards and signage in Sephora - it’s a good bet every one of those beauty and fashion photographers started with model testing, and they likely continue to test with models today.
Model testing isn’t only for beginners, but it is the best way to start building a beauty or fashion portfolio. Many established beauty and fashion photographers continue model testing as a means to create new work, practice, or experiment with new lighting setups and equipment. For some photographers, model testing is a business. Just ask commercial fashion photographer, Elizabeth Wiseman. She actually built a business getting paid for model testing. 🤯
What Is Model Testing?
Model testing is an opportunity for a photographer and model to build their portfolios together. Don’t just think of model testing as a free, TFP (trade for print) photo shoot with professional models to make pretty pictures for Instagram. A true model test should serve a greater purpose and benefit the photographer, model, and modeling agency equally.
For photographers, model testing provides high-end portfolio work with professional models. For models, testing provides experience and exposure to a variety of photographers, styles, and directives. For modeling agencies, testing provides a library of fresh, marketable images they can use in their models' portfolios.
So what is the key difference? A photographer's goal is usually to showcase themselves- their technique, personal style, and creativity. A modeling agency’s only goal is to showcase their model. Of course, modeling agencies will appreciate your creativity and unique style, but your creative direction should never overpower the focus of the image which, to them, is always the model.
Modeling agencies want images that showcase their models' natural features and range of looks in an authentic and marketable fashion. Your job as the photographer is balancing the needs of the agency with your own. Of course get the images you need, but be sure to give agencies the images they need as well. This is especially important if you’re getting started. Fostering a relationship with the modeling agency should be your priority if you want to continue testing with their models. Play it safe the first couple times, and consider their needs first. It will go a long way.
How To Start Model Testing
In order to start model testing, you will need some work to show modeling agencies. This doesn't necessarily mean you need a portfolio full of professional models and high-end beauty and fashion photography, but you will need to convey your abilities as a photographer. Agencies aren't oblivious to the fact that in order to get models in your portfolio, you have to start somewhere. Models have to start somewhere too. Agencies bring on new models all the time, and there is a good chance they can pair you with a model who is also starting from scratch building their portfolio.
Maybe you've only ever photographed weddings, seniors portraits, or families. What type of work should you show a modeling agency if you don't have any models in your portfolio? For starters, you will need to show that you can photograph people. Portraits are important. If you only have landscape, product, or still life work, it likely won't be enough to convince an agency. If you don’t have any at all, start shooting some portraits.
Show portraits of interesting people and highlight their unique features and characteristics. Maybe it's someone with lots of freckles, a bride with a unique smile, or a child with remarkable green eyes. It could even be an old man or woman with interesting lines or wrinkles. Modeling agencies work in a creative space. They know how to visualize. Even if you don't have beauty or fashion images in your portfolio, they understand photography and will take notice of your ability to understand light and create portraits in beautiful and interesting ways.
How To Contact A Modeling Agency
Contacting modeling agencies can be intimidating, but by understanding their needs and speaking their language, they will see you as a peer and ally to their business. Much of the photography industry is all about relationships. Approaching agencies courteously, professionally, and with good intentions is the key to starting a relationship and creating opportunities for future collaborations.
What's the best way to contact a modeling agency? A well-crafted email usually works best. In fact, it's the industry standard. An email to a modeling agency should be concise and to the point. Be courteous of their time. Introduce yourself, your work, and your goals. Be open and honest if you've never worked with models or shot beauty or fashion photography. Talk about what you have done and what you want to do. Provide a link to your portfolio or website. If you have a specific idea or direction for photo shoot, include it (give examples), but be sure to use a collaborative tone in your language and express open-mindedness. Remember, a model test is collaborative. It should benefit both parties- you and the agency. Put the model and agencies needs first and it will go a long way.
Next Steps To Begin Your Model Testing Portfolio With Agencies
Once you've emailed a modeling agency and landed your first test shoot, there are still many considerations and decisions to make in order to ensure a successful collaboration. Wardrobe, styling, hair and makeup, lighting, posing, culling, retouching, file delivery… 😫 It can be a bit daunting. Don't worry, we covered it all in Elizabeth Wiseman's 3-hour comprehensive tutorial, Model Testing.
Whether you've never worked with models before or have been model testing for years, Elizabeth will give you everything you need to contact modeling agencies confidently and start shooting with agency-represented models. From there she will show you how she built a team, perfected her workflow, and now runs a business getting paid for model testing.
The Unlimited Pro Plan gives streaming access to our entire advanced photography & retouching tutorial library from Working Pros. Access includes practice files, RAW files, actions, and everything that is included with each tutorial. Perfect for photographers in the growth mindset to add every possible tool to their photography business. Join for less than $1 per day.
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