All photographers dream about that steady stream of dream clients. There’s nothing sweeter than a booked-out calendar and galleries you’re consistently proud of — but if you’re still working toward that sweet spot, there’s nothing to worry about.
It takes time, work, and an awesome portfolio to generate steady bookings. You’re already putting in the time and work, but if your portfolio needs a little boost, model calls could be the golden ticket. When they’re done incorrectly, model calls can leave you with galleries you’ll never share from work you did for free. But when they’re done right? You can create the sessions of your dreams, grow your photography portfolio, and give families an incredible gift.
Model Call Prep Work
Before you start asking families to join you for a free or discounted session, take a look at your portfolio and decide what you’d like to add! Do you need more outdoor golden hour sessions with large families? Have you been itching to shoot on the beach, in a park, or on a restaurant patio? Decide when and where your session will take place — and scout out the location in person to make sure it’ll give you the photos you’re hoping to capture.
Once you’ve nailed down your locations, create a mood board that brings your vision to life! This can include color palette, textures and tones, and even outfit inspiration. This will come in handy when you’re bringing families into your vision for the session.
Finding Families for Your Model Call
With the session of your dreams in mind, it’s time to find some families to photograph! There are so many ways to go about this, so choose what feels comfortable for you, especially if it’s your first model call.
Friends + Family
If your best friend has an adorable family of her own, or your brother’s kids are fun to photograph, ask them first! They know you best, so chances are they’ll feel comfortable in front of your lens. This is a great way to dip your toe into the waters of a model call for the first time.
Your Social Circle
If your family and best friends aren’t local (or if you’ve already photographed them too many times to count), expand into your everyday life! Reach out to families in your neighborhood, coworkers, friends from church or the gym, or other parents on your kids’ sports teams. You’d be surprised by how many people you know, even casually, would be thrilled to get new family photos!
If you’re feeling brave, don’t be afraid to host an “open model call.” Instead of asking specific families you already know, open the opportunity up to your audience! Promote your model call on your Instagram account, Nextdoor community, or local moms group on Facebook.
Model calls can also be a fantastic opportunity to give back. I love to use my photography as a way to give other people a gift when I can (here’s how) – and there is no shortage of ways you can do this, too. Offer free sessions for single moms, military families, educators, or local families who are in a hard season.
Communicating with Model Call Families
No matter how you find families for your model call, communicate with them from the start! Make sure you tell them if their session will be discounted or free, along with how many photos they’ll get in return for participating.
If you’re working with people you don’t know well, or you opted for the “open model call” options, have potential families fill out a quick application through a Google Form. This way, you can chat with them about your vision for this specific session, give them outfit suggestions, and make sure they’re on board with your plan for the shoot. If they aren’t, that’s okay – tell them you’ll keep them in mind for future opportunities. But remember: model calls exist so that you can build your portfolio! It’s important to choose families who will get on board with your session goals.
Making Model Call Photo Sessions a Success
Whew, you did it — you scouted a location, created a vision, and found the perfect families to capture it with. Now, it’s time to actually take photos. Here’s how to make your time together a success.
When you start snapping photos, take your time. Remember, these photos are for your portfolio, so slow down and ensure you’re getting the content you need. Have a shot list ready, and consult it whenever you need to!
After you’ve edited and delivered the photos, don’t forget to update your portfolio and share the heck out of these beautiful images! This sounds obvious, I know — but so many of us do the work to create an incredible shoot, and then forget to share it with the world (which is the entire point of model calls in the first place). You’ve done great work! Be proud of it, and share it often. Model calls can truly be one of the most fun ways to build your portfolio and your business.
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