Model Testing

Todays post is in response to Aurora V Photography inquiring about how I test with models.

She mentioned there is not much online, but I do know it’s a hotly debated topic on Model Mayhem.

For anyone who cares;

I pick out all the images myself, I don’t offer the models choices.  I fully retouch them to portfolio quality for my book.  I determine how many images by how long I take on the
days shoot overall in the retouching department. My average retouching/editing/saving/posting/emailing time is about 45 minutes per image.  A days shoot on average is three or four images. If I do beauty the images would be fewer because of the retouching time, maybe only two.

Once in awhile I’ll have a shoot that is easily retouched with a lot of variety that are fun to work on.   I would definitely give more images, perhaps even make a collage.

We review all the images during the shoot and it seems that the model, makeup artist and I agree to which ones are our favorites but they never know what they’ll get.  I’m very fast with turn around time, I’m usually finished in no more than three days.  I cringe at the thought of working on images I don’t like.  Yes I know models like images for different reasons but it seems like my taste is so in line with the models’ it’s really not an issue.  Body lines and hands are so important to me they can rule over the models face, the model only looks at her face.

I do not take model requests like; I need a new headshot, more body shots ect.  Because I get paid for model shoots I don’t want to feel like I’m working for the model while testing.  I call the day “photographer driven”, it is not a “collaboration”.  I rarely ask for or want input, it puts a kink in my brain and derails me…

I send a detailed letter explaining the process and what they will get, which I think is the best piece of advice I could give to anyone.

I do not allow any retouching, re-cropping or any changes to the images.

I give the model a 9×12 clean high res image and 1 web size image with my watermark with the opacity dialed way down for web posting.  I email them as soon as I retouch them along with a printing release.  I put them on my website with their first name as the gallery title.  Agencies do know of this website and sometimes go their to look for talent.  The model is responsible for downloading and printing.  I also send the makeup artist the same files.  For their own personal website they can optimize the high res file to obtain a clean web file.

Detroit is a non-exclusive market and talent can sign with all the agencies in town so the agencies don’t keep track of the models much and the models are pretty free to do what they want.  Because of this models can and do shoot with all kinds of photographers.  I’m one of the few that actually shoots for the agencies and tests what a model needs for her book, which means, no mens magazine glamour.  Because I shoot images of a commercial nature models have no problems shooting on my terms.

I don’t do any crazy themes or shoots that take a lot of prep time ect.  I don’t meet with the models beforehand, no coffee at Starbucks to see if we jive or to talk about our shoot.  Years ago I would work with models from or Modelmayhem, I rarely do these days.

A lot of models have first paid me and if I really like them I explain testing at the end of the day.  The more experienced model wants more input into the shoot and asks for more things so I tend to shoot the newer models who still feel the pain of paying me.  With an experienced model I feel I have to deliver a certain level of images for the day and I don’t want to be in that position.  So I have no problem working with a new model.  I like models who are talkers and they rank high in my book.  I don’t really care what they talk about as long as they talk.  Karolina is pictured above and she is by far one of the chattiest, funniest models ever!  I want to be her when I grow up.

Since I can direct models and I like to work with the same models over and over again I want a model who I enjoy for the day and who I feel comfortable with “during” the struggle. I enjoy watching the model improve shoot after shoot and helping her grow in the industry.

I do have a select few favorite models I might work with on things they need for their book but it’s rare.  They don’t come out and ask for anything but if I mention something they need they say “YES” I could really use that for my book.

I do not take any requests for the day and I dictate the nature of everything, just like a paid shoot.

What is unusual about how I work is with the makeup artist.  I let them do “their” thing first.  I actually match them, which is unusual.  Once in awhile I might say what kind of lighting I want to practice but that’s pretty much it.  I make up the shoot ect after she finishes, which is backwards to most.  My makeup artist’ taste and my taste are so close I trust her to do something I’ll like.

I am more aware of building the makeup artist book over the models. I never have a problem getting a makeup artist for testing and when I do I heavily concentrate on images for their book.  I don’t allow any themes and everything is geared to building a commercial book for the makeup artist.  On a typical model shoot she will make $150-$225 but for a commercial shoot she averages $525.  I have built up quite a few makeup artists book for the commercial market of which they knew very little.  They now understand more is less, learn to be invisible, I don’t want to see your handiwork.

I don’t always have to have a makeup artist to test, but I won’t do any closeups for the day, I’ll shoot more full body, perhaps a lot of flair.  The model can never do as good of job as a pro mua so I will take that into consideration and shoot accordingly.  I prefer a makeup artist because they are such a big help on set and especially on location, but I can make do.

Testing with a makeup artist is a whole nother post.

Depending on how the model comes to me depends on what kind of model release I have them sign.  It could be anything from a simple release to a full blown all rights release.

1 comment category: Beauty,Comp cards,Makeup artist,modeling,Modeling Agencies,Photographing models,Testing

1 Aurora Vanderbosch June 26, 2010 at 9:42 am

WOW!!!! This is a TERRIFIC post, Mary–thank you so much, for taking the time to go into detail like this!!!

What’s useful is not only *what* you do, but *why* you do it. I always prefer posts (on anything!) that give me insight into why someone made the choices they did…it helps others make informed choices themselves, and encourages them to form their own opinions, rather than simply parroting someone else. 🙂

Funny you should mentioned this being hotly debated on MM… I’ve never really frequented the forums there–but when I was researching beauty dish usage, one of the things that came up was a loooong post on an MM forum where many photographers posted their beauty dish images, and talked about how they used them…along with some links to a few other sites explaining them more in depth… I was pleasantly surprised by it, as in the past, I’d found them to be less than helpful. Maybe I need to re-Google this subject, as it’s been a while since I have, and the web changes quickly.

Then again–maybe not–as you seem to have covered most of what I had questions about! 🙂

I’m pleased that most of what I’m doing is quite similar to you (nice reality check!), but think that you’ve saved yourself a WHOLE lot of headaches by simply picking the images yourself, and editing them. I had been mulling over doing this myself, and now I definitely think I’m going to do it–what a lot of headaches that will solve!!! 🙂

(Nice use of the Pbase site, too, btw! I’m in the process of building a more commercial looking website, but have wanted to keep my Pbase site due to the Google rank boost it provides…not to mention the automatic traffic flow you get, when you post new images–you’ve given me another way of thinking of using it. :))

Thanks, as always, for another thought-provoking post–and the marvelous answer to my questions! 🙂


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