Great subjects help make great photographs - How I find great models
Ansel Adams was arguably the greatest landscape photographer of all time. He of course was a talented image maker, printer, and his compositions are glorious. Many would rightly claim he enough talent to create fabulous images of even the starkest of landscapes, yet his most well known work wasn't portraits of ordinary scenes; quite the contrary! Ansel Adams is most well known for his images of some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. Yosemite.
I can only assume that Ansel Adams chose this place because as a landscaper he understood the number secret to a stellar portfolio and that secret is simple, if you want stellar images then selecting stellar subjects to point your camera at is a great start
In the beginning of my photography pursuit I didn't have a solid body of work to stand on however, I had plenty of family and friends that would pose for me as I was learning to shoot in different light with different film and different lenses but I didn't dare work with strangers much. I suppose that's the same with many beginning photographers. Once you have a solid grasp on your camera and your light the next step is finding the best subjects.
Your taste in subjects absolutely should be reflected in your portfolio. The types of subjects in your work will be the types of clients and opportunities you attract. With that in mind investing time in discovering new locations and new models has yielded me so many fabulous images over the years but I can't help but share some of my favorite muses and how I found them.
Very rarely do I use agencies to find models, in fact, my favorite models are ones that don't have any experience shooting in the beginning. I find I can get more authentic, and real feeling images from regular people, rather than professional models or actors. I have been scouting models since 2001 and over the years I have found models many different ways and my favorite models are the ones I get to photograph over many years time. In that sense investing an EFFORT into discovering your own models will lend your work a very distinctive style over the years. I'm going to share a short list of muses I've had over the years and the story behind 'discovering' them along with some tips YOU can use to recruit more models for your art!
Katherine Franco Recruited with help from a friend. Photographed from 2001 - 2011.
Carly Stark Recruited with help from a friend. Photographed from 2007 - 2012.
Brynlee Grossenbach Discovered at a fast food place in a small town. Shot her from 2010-2014.
Sarah Laree Discovered on Myspace. Photographed her from 2010 - present.
Myspace was fairly new at the time and social media presented a new way to search for beautiful souls living nearby. Sarah was one of the first girls I contacted blindly on the internet, I sent her a message with a link to my images and asked if she would be down to collaborate. Luckily she said yes as she's become one of my favorite muses that I'm still shooting today!
TIP: At the time I contacted Sarah I had already had a photography website for 10 years with a solid body of work. An online portfolio with previous work is critical in establishing credibility with potential collaborators. I suggest putting your work up immediately and replacing the old images as you get better. Once you have a website you are proud of you can point strangers there and let them figure out for themselves if your style fits theirs.
Kianna Gunn Her mom found me on social media. Shot from 2010-present.
I absolutely adore shooting with Kianna. She has an exotic yet American look and with her dancing background she's great at holding very precise poses. She takes direction well and is a fabulous sport about getting the shot!
Tip: Early on I worked with her mom to coordinate and schedule the shoots, it is great to have patience when scheduling models that are quite busy with a lot of things going on, especially dancers and college goers. The demanding schedules means shoots may need to be cancelled and changed at the last minute but allowing for flexibility means when there IS time available you'll be able to have your model!
Kelli Mallory Submitted a model application to my photography page. Photographed from 2011- Present.
I don't think it is any coincidence that after shooting for about ten years I had an explosion of talented models looking to work with me. Kelli had been shooting with other photographers and I was ecstatic to start making images with her striking face and figure. She lived about an hours drive away most of the time I've known her so we didn't shoot a lot at the beginning but during the last few years I've been able to shoot her lots more.
Heather Lewin Attended a free photography class that I offered. Photographed 2011 - Present.
In about 2012 I offered a free photography class to aspiring photographers. I limited attendance to 70 people and that's how many showed up. Heather was sitting on the front row, I had seen her face before because I asked people to sign up through facebook and she was absolutely striking.
Tip: When you find a model that is already interested in photography odds are you've also found an enthusiastic collaborator. Heather has a fabulous imagination, great vision and launched me into a new way of looking at the world. It all started because I wanted to share the information I had about what I loved and that act attracted an amazing collaboration with one of my most recognizable models.