A while back, working full-time and being somehow frustrated with my photographic progress, I decided to have at least one shoot per weekend. And now I can say with confidence: do this and you will inevitably make huge progress and have more fun shooting in the process.
Of course, shooting every weekend meant I needed a new model each week.There’s sites like Model Mayhem, but personally I much prefer using Instagram for model acquisition.
Why I use Instagram to find models: The philosophical argument
In short: Instagram puts the interaction and relationship between people first, on sites like Model Mayhem, this is secondary. If you’ve read anything on my blog (or follow me on Instagram) you’ll already know my core believe: The essence of people photography is to build an honest and kind relationship with your subject, so they can express their story and their being in your photographs. The relationship between you and your subject is the difference between a great photograph and a good (or even a bad) one. Now, what if you had a way of building that relationship from the moment of first contact? This is why I use Instagram.
The timid argument
I only realised why Instagram works for me after the 4th rewrite of this article. The truth is, I am a very timid and anxious person at times. So using Model Mayhem and identifying myself as a photographer in this single-minded and seemingly competitive space scared the sh*t out of me. I started using Instagram because I could start off liking and commenting on someones picture and because I could keep an eye out for people who frequently liked and commented on my pictures. Only after building this initial level of sympathy would I ask someone to shoot with me. This way, I had reduced the likeliness of rejection and I had made sure that I could not interpret their rejection as a reflection on my skills.
The nuts and bolts: How to contact models on Instagram
It’s all pretty easy, actually, though there are a few tricks you might not be aware of and that can help you lots. The basics, really, is this:
Find people in your area
Most cities have an active Instagram community organised around a set of hashtags. Using Vienna as an example, I would search for the hashtag #igersvienna („Instagramers Vienna“). You could also go for the city name (#wien or #vienna) – just be aware that this way you’ll also see tourist’s pics. See something you like? Follow them! Don’t know what your local hashtag is? Look what your friends are using. Even better: look what fashion blogger from your area are using, they are always quite well versed in Instagram etiquette.
Interact with the people who’s pictures you like
Don’t just like! Comment. Tell them what you like about their image. Or what an image makes you think of. Tag them in your own images (currently, the „what is @xyz doing right now?“-format is quite popular). It’s all good fun and perfectly normal. Just make sure you’re not stalking ;-)
Find and interact with your Fans
Equally important. Chances are, you’re already taking amazing pictures. I’m sure of it! See who is liking your images, reply to their comments, follow them, interact with them. If you need help sorting out your fans, you can try apps like CrowdFire or Iconosquare. Personally, however, I look at almost every account that likes my images to see what they’re doing.
Add a Call-To-Action
Here’s a little trick: You know the location you can add to every image (shows up above your image)? Turn off your phone’s location service and you can type in everything you want. The line above my images reads as follows:
Now don’t expect to get lots of requests right away. Instagram is not a very conversion-friendly medium. The idea, however, is to let people know you’re available. They will think about it. And when you do contact them, they will remember this. That being said, I do get requests this way as well – just know that you will have to start to contact models actively.
Once you built up a rapport with people you’d like to work with, the next step is easy: Tell them! Chances are they will say yes. How? Reply to a comment they’ve made on one of your images. Or spark up a conversion on of their images, eventually asking them for a shoot. You can even send them a direct message – though Instagram is not very DM-friendly so they might not see it.
Now this is important: I always tell people why I’m interested in working with them (I want to expand my portfolio, your profile inspires me,…) and a very brief outline what they’re getting themselves into.
Some photographers love to prepare for every detail of the shoot. While for some types of shoots that is absolutely necessary , you’re probably fine with thinking about style, light/time and location of the shoot and what outfit your models are going to wear. As you’re improving your skills you will eventually reach a point where you have to start preparing more thoroughly. For now, however, focus on building a relationship with your model
Now do your thing. Remember: You are amazing at what you do! And don’t worry if you don’t shoot your masterpiece in the first 5 Minutes of your first shoot. Keep shooting. Try out a few different things. „Work the scene“, as they say. I believe in you! And so does your model.
Word of Mouth
This, finally, is hugely important. I got some of my best models and quite a number of clients this way. After the shoot I ask them for one thing, and one thing only: „If you know anyone who you think I should photograph, or you think would be interested in working with me, please introduce them to me!“ Simple, eh?
From my Portfolio
Model: Marlene / Body and Soul
The model and the photographer conspire to trap their audience in strange little worlds. We call them pictures.
Feel the light breeze of a spring morning, listen to the distant waves, and smell the salt. And now scroll on and gaze at this model’s infinite beauty.
I’ve heard you’re pretty awesome. We should work together.
(Science has recently proven that writing an E-Mail doesn’t cost anything.)