Booking models - the best ways to find the right people for your shoot


Matt Dowling from the Freelancer Club is back and wearing his fashion photographer hat to pass on some great advice about booking models...

“The secret to modeling is not being perfect. What one needs is a face that people can identify in a second. You have to be given what’s needed by nature, and what’s needed is to bring something new.”

Karl Lagerfeld

Scouting your model and securing your model are two very different things. When one produces fashion shoots or shows, one generally has a vision as to the type of model that will work for the piece. Reputation and money can provide wider scope to achieving that vision but when these two commodities aren’t available, how does one find the right model for the job?


The Vision.

Firstly, knowing what type of model you require is a skill in itself. Aside from understanding the differences between a commercial model (toothpaste advert) and an editorial model (sharper features with particular characteristics) there’s a lot to consider when choosing who to work with.


Have a clear idea of the look you’re going for and what you’d like to achieve. Create a model profile using images, cut outs and descriptive language. Pinterest is great for the visual side of this and jotting down the description can be done in an email (which you’ll use later).


Make a note of the hair and eye colour you require, the height and facial features. Should you be shooting fashion or producing a show, the model's measurements are extremely important and you should consult with your stylist or creative director as to the exact requirements. Great models can look awkward when wearing ill fitting clothing.


Model Agencies

Option one is to approach an agency. Pros: they generally have a high standard of model and can provide you with a shortlist to meet your requirements. Another pro is that if your model can’t make the job (which happens more than you might think), they can generally replace the model with another. In saying that, we’ve experienced times when the model booker doesn’t pick up the phone or can’t send anyone else down so it’s not a guarantee.


The cons: if you are test shooting, you’re at the mercy of the agency. A good agency won’t provide you with anyone if you and your team are not experienced or qualified enough to prove you can shoot at the level they expect. Presuming the job is not a test shoot, you’ll have to pay and depending on the usage, it can get very expensive.


Approach the agency with a brief via email. State when, where, with whom and for what purpose you require the model. Include a moodboard if there is one, the model profile you previously wrote out and the links to the rest of the shoot team. Where you plan on using the images, for how long and in what format will all determine the price so be as detailed as possible here.

Your model booker will send you a shortlist of models (also known as ‘selected ePortfolios’ or a package) available for the shoot that you’ll be able to choose from. Most of the time, this is done digitally although it pays to build a relationship with your booker.


You’ll pick your first choice, then second and so on. The booker will let you know what option you have with each model until everything is confirmed. Models move around a lot and if an agency gets a better offer, it’s not uncommon for them to pull the model and provide you with an alternative.


Freelance Models

Option two is to source an independent model. This approach is becoming more popular as freelance models are setting up online and making it easier for others to book them. It can take a while to be able to spot the professional models from the wannabes, but there are a few ways to figure out if you’re dealing with a pro or not. A website dedicated to their modelling is a good sign as is an active social media account with examples of work. The portfolio will generally tell you everything you need to know in terms of quality and experience. Another plus point is the price will almost always be cheaper as they’ve cut out the middleman.


One negative with freelance models is that there’s no backup. Should the model pull out of the shoot, you’re in trouble. It’s always worth having a couple of models on standby just in case.


Approaching a freelance model is more casual than approaching an agency although we’d always suggest retaining a level of professionalism regardless. You can approach via social media, through their site or via a profile they’ve set up online.



Unless it’s a test shoot, in which case it’s not as important, set up a casting to meet the model before hand. In an agency situation this is not always possible unless there is a large budget and the agency will arrange the casting for you. When it comes to freelance models, it’s always a good idea to cast so that you can see if they are an accurate representation of their portfolio and what colour or style their hair is.


Quick Tips

  • Be clear and specific about the type model you require and the shoot or show.
  • Include links to the rest of the team’s work.
  • The personality of a model plays a big part in a shoot so if you can, meet them first.
  • Don’t try to book an agency model directly, it’s why they have an agent and it can get you a bad reputation fast.
  • Show respect at all times. Models are people too and not just clotheshorses to move around.

The Freelancer Club houses hundreds of hard working, talented freelance models. Post a test shoot request or a job for free. Click here to get started.

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