For this blog, I thought I would do something a little different and write a blog that is aimed not at photographers but at the models we work with. Although, I hope it will be of interest to photographers too.
When you run events on a regular basis booking a model for a particular workshop is never as straightforward as you might think.
Things that affect the decision process
Here are some of the factors that come into the decision making:
Is the model appropriate for the workshop?
When I put up a casting I describe what I am looking for in a model – often in great detail. There is absolutely no point in a model applying if she/he doesn’t meet the criteria. I’ve had models apply for workshops who are not available on the date of the workshop. I’ve had models covered in tattoos apply for an event where I have specified no or minimal tattoos. I’ve had applicants for messy shoots specify that they need to keep their face and hair clean. And yes I have even had male models apply for female only castings!
When a model applies for a casting they are not appropriate for not only does it waste my time – I still have to reply if I want to keep my “nearly 100% response rate” on Purpleport, but it also is counterproductive for the model, I am far less likely to book such a model for other events because I can’t trust they will follow the brief.
So what is an appropriate model? Take a look at the image of Beth (aka SimplyB). Beth was the model for our recent messy glamour night and I was very impressed with her ability to create a character and give good expressions. I knew immediately that she would be an excellent model for stock photography where both skills are absolutely essential. I booked her on the spot for a forthcoming Stock Photography workshop.
Where is the model based?
I much prefer to work with local models, especially when they are reliant on public transport. I have had several models turn up late to workshops because of delays on trains or buses. Or even when coming by car hold up due to traffic jams.
While distance will never rule out a model the further he/she has to travel the greater the risk that there may be some unexpected delay. The ideal being someone like RachaelF (above) who is both local and who has her own transport.
Is the model good with his/her communications?
Communication is key. There are three different times where communication is vitally important. The first is when a model responds to a casting call. A one-word reply of “Interested” (and yes I have received those) will send a model direct to the reject pile.
I don’t expect a big long essay, but I do want to know that the model has read the casting properly. I’d like to know what he/she can bring to the shoot and if they have had any relevant experience in similar shoots to the ones I’m casting.
Next in the lead up to the shoot, I need to know that the model is still planning to come. I can be booking models months in advance and there can be little need for communication until a week or so before the event. There is nothing worse than a model going silent at that stage. Is she coming or isn’t she? A quick message is all it takes: “All OK for the shoot. See you on [day/time]” and I can relax.
Finally, keep me informed on the day. The best model ever for this Tatiana96 (see above). A quick text to tell me she was heading to the station. When the train had a minor delay she texted me details of the new arrival time and even a screenshot of the revised times from the TrainLine website. Armed with that information I was able to adjust my plans without any stress. And that is one of the many reasons I’ve rebooked her for an event in September.
How naked is the model going to be?
I need to address this one. Nudity is part of model photography whether you like it or not. And yes it does impact on who gets booked for a shoot.
I am aware that there are some photographers who will never come to an event where there is any form of nudity. I am also aware that there are some other photographers who appear to only book if the model is going to be naked. I need to run events that are suitable for both. And typically if a workshop is clothed I prioritise offering those events to models who don’t shoot nude.
How comfortable a model is being nude or topless is important – if the model isn’t totally comfortable with it, it will show in the images created. If a casting is for a nude shoot and you only shoot to topless, don’t bother applying. And please don’t bother offering ‘implied’ levels. Apart from the fact that ‘implied’ means different things to different people, with a workshop or group shoot, there is no way either you or I can check what the photographers have actually captured to ensure that it doesn’t show too much.
The image above is of model Dan Infinity, I booked her a nude shoot even though I knew that actually all we would be shooting was topless and implied nude. That way I knew she would be comfortable with the levels being shot at the workshop.
How often has the model been at the studio?
If I use a particular model too often at the studio some photographers won’t book for the event or workshop because they already have loads of images of that particular model. It is no secret that there are some models, like Rhianna Grey (above) that I use more often than others – and for good reason, they tick all the boxes for producing good images, reliability etc etc.
However, while talking with one photographer recently he wouldn’t be booking for a particular event if I booked Rhianna Grey again. He has nothing against her, but he had shot her a lot recently. As a result, there are times when much as I know a model like Rhianna would be brilliant for an event I need to give the shoot to a different model.
Will the model attract photographers to the event?
I am not just talking about a model’s looks here (although that can play a part in it) some models have a reputation for producing great images and you know if you book them they are likely to attract more people to book.
Other models can have the same effect just by how much they promote the event. I’ve run several events with model G.Broady (who is also a photographer), I know he has a big following and when he is booked for an event he will also help promote it. As a result, he’s on my list of models that will keep getting invited back to the studio.
Is the model reliable?
Reliability is of paramount importance. I need to know that the model is going to turn up, and have all the outfits and/or props that they need for the shoot. Once such model who is totally reliable is KarenR you only need to look at her feedback to know this she has over 600 positive references. When I work with Karen, I know 100% that I don’t need to worry if she is going to turn up or not. And that makes a huge difference to my stress levels.
It should be obvious why reliability is important but just so you understand the impact that unreliability can have let me tell you about how one no-show affected my business. I had booked a local model for a workshop (I’m not going to name her). The event sold out. Less than an hour before the start of the event she calls me to say that she is still in Birmingham working on a porn shoot (yes a porn shoot) that has overrun and she doesn’t know when it’s going to finish and she still has to get from Birmingham to Stockport. That is way too short notice for me to get a replacement. Some of the photographers have already set off for the studio. Eventually, I manage to contact everyone to cancel, but not before some had arrived at the studio after travelling a long way. I had to refund everyone – I effectively lost over £150 that night. Not only that but some of those photographers have never booked for another workshop.
How much will the model charge?
Let’s be honest this is a factor, but it is not about paying as little as possible. I do believe that models deserve a fair fee. Some models I am willing to pay more than others for because I know they have skills that warrant that premium or because I know the shoot will be hard work.
But whatever the model fee is, I still need to make a profit too. This means that if a model charges a high fee, I have to charge the photographers a higher fee. And if I set a price that is too high then not enough photographers will book for the event to take place.
Because costs for events vary and because model fees vary it’s not an exact correlation, but typically I need three photographers to book to break even on an event. The income from the first two photographers typically covers the model fees, the income from the third covers the overheads associated with the event such as printing notes, advertising, electricity, refreshments etc. So it’s only if I have 4 photographers booking that I am actually making a profit, 5 and I earn approximately the same as the model does. 7 is the maximum number that can shoot at an event.
The bottom line on this – if you don’t like the fee I offer in a casting call, please don’t apply asking for more or asking for travel on top. I just can’t afford it.
Although money isn’t everything Becky Kvittems (above) was willing to do a deal with me on fees where we split the income 50/50 so it was a ‘no brainer’ to book her.
So you still want to work with me?
If after reading all this you still want to model at one of my events how can you improve your chances of being booked?
Firstly only apply for the casting calls you know you will be good at and tell me why you know you will be good at them. Then if you are booked make sure you turn up and have good communications. I am far more likely to rebook a model who has done good shoot at the studio previously than go through a casting call process. 3 out of 4 of my latest events at the studio are with models I have invited back because they impressed me at their first workshops.
100% Guaranteed way to get booked for an event!
What if you keep applying for my casting calls and I don’t book you? It may be that I just haven’t found the right event for you yet. It might also be that I don’t think you will attract enough photographers to be able to run the event.
In either case, if you think I am wrong, I will make you an offer. If you are convinced that you have the right theme and the right look to model at an event at my studio. Here’s the deal:
I will run the event (ie host, do the lighting etc) and you pay me a flat fee upfront. For a three hour event that would be £65. You then publicise the event, handle the bookings and any money you take is yours. If you got 7 photographers booking at £35 each, that would £245 less the £65 paid to me – that would give you £180 profit. But if you only got two bookings you would be making a £5 loss.
The offer is only open to models who have applied to one of my casting calls but have never been booked for an event at the studio.
It is an offer I have made (in various forms) for eight years and not one model has taken me up on it. Will you be the first?
Until next time, keep MAKING great images,
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