Today I want to share some thoughts about the benefits of using amateur models for your photography. Let me emphasize that this is based on my personal experience, and that while I might make some generalizations, I acknowledge that everyone is going to be different. This article concerns models, human beings, thus by nature they might be unpredictable as they are all different. However, I've noticed some patterns in my own experiences, and I'd like to share them for those trying to get into People & Portraits photography. This is therefore mostly for beginner/amateur photographers.
Of course, as you might know, professional models almost always charge photographers to shoot with them. This is their career, after all. They will sometimes be willing to do TF (Trade for...) shoots, but only with photographers whom they think will add something special to their portfolios. If you're lucky and already have a unique style or skill-set demonstrated in your portfolio, you might be able to work with some of those professional models, but it's more likely that you're going to want to collaborate with upcoming or amateur models instead. Paying a professional model as a beginner photographer can be great as you don't have to worry about teaching your model to pose while you teach yourself how to shoot. However, you have to be willing to shell out a good amount of money for a photoshoot that may or may not be worth it. Practice is how we improve, but practice does not always have to be a costly thing.
When I first started photography, I had no clue what I was doing. My best friend Laure was my guinea-pig and she really didn't know what she was doing either but we learned a lot from each other.
This is one of those areas where I am largely drawing on my own experience. Amateur/upcoming models are some of the most enthusiastic people I have worked with. They're just starting out and they're excited about getting better. Every opportunity to work with a good photographer means a lot to them, because they might not get as many gigs as they'd like, but also simply because they love modeling. Something I've noticed is that a lot of agency represented models are a bit jaded. The majority of those I've worked with expressed at one point or another how difficult it was to model professionally, how exhausting it was, and how tired they've become of it all. Of course, they still love modeling, but they have real frustrations either with their agency or with the clients they're booked for. Many are starting to realize they might not make it as big as they were hoping. Many are sick and tired of hearing complaints about their weight. Being a professional model is no easy task. All the professional models I've worked with have been adorable and sweet, however I did clearly notice a difference in their enthusiasm about modeling.
Personal story time. Libby and I were searching for some models to shoot with because she had some items she wanted to showcase for her little shop. We randomly came across Mimi, a friend on Facebook we didn't personally know yet. She had never modeled before, but she was full of excitement and enthusiasm. This picture shows just how radiant her personality is:
With most professional models, especially if you are paying them, you're going to want to shoot pretty quickly. Some professional models would expect 2 hours, maybe 3 maximum, especially if you're not paying them (you agreed on a TF shoot). All in all, you need to be quick and efficient, which you should be anyways really. But, if you're a beginner/amateur photographer, you might not be at the point yet where you can wrap up a shoot within a couple of hours and come out of it with good images. You also might not want to feel rushed like that. You also might want more time to experiment freely. Amateur/upcoming models are far more likely to be interested in giving you that extra time to "do your thing" and try out anything experimental you were hoping to give a shot. As long as you make them aware of how long you might want to take for a shoot, they're more likely to be cool with it. Therefore overall, amateur/upcoming models have a better ability to be flexible and easier to work with when you're trying something new, being experimental, or hoping to be able to take your time.
Here's a quick example from my own experience. Most of my watchers are probably familiar with my model and now friend Libby. She's not a professional model, never really planned on seeking that out either. We met 6 years ago when I found her on Model Mayhem. She was one of the most chill and fun girl I had come across. Shooting with her is therefore always fun, and very flexible. Her excitement when she gets the images from each of our shoots is palpable. It's easy for me to try new things with her, experiment and toy around with ideas, and it never costs me a thing because she collects vintage clothing so we always have wardrobe, and we shoot outdoors in whichever cool location we can think of.
Word of Mouth:
When you shoot with a professional model, unless you really did something amazing/unique, it is a bit unlikely for them to tell all their model friends about you(Though if they do, it is a great marketing tool for you!). Amateur/upcoming models, however, will likely rave all about you (if you were in fact great to work with), share the images of your shoot, and talk you up to fellow upcoming models and friends. This will broaden your audience and potential model base. You might even be contacted by some beginner models who need to build their portfolio (they might not have any images whatsoever) and would be willing to pay you. There's a lot to be said about the photographers who help beginning models build a portfolio. Your photos will be shared and seen by many, and have the potential of really helping someone's career in modeling. You can start making a great reputation for yourself this way. And it's not like working with professionals wouldn't sometimes achieve the same things, but I suppose it reminds me of the expression "being a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond." You can be a big name in the realm of upcoming models, or you can be one of the many many many names in the realm of professional models. Now again, I am speaking for those beginning in photography. Not those who have made a name for themselves and are indeed one of the bigger names in the realm of professional models.
There are lots of ways to find both amateur and professional models, but with amateur or upcoming models there are some more unconventional ways that might make some photographers uncomfortable to try, but that are really great options. For example, as ridiculous as it might sound, Instagram is a great place to find potential amateur/upcoming models. No, I'm not talking about finding girls who post a bunch of silly selfies and food pics. But rather, there are many men/women who are trying to get into modeling and who start off by posting on Instagram. You can find local people by searching by location or using the hashtag of your city (it's also a fun way to stalk people in your area). When you contact them, just briefly introduce yourself, provide links to your portfolio/modelmayhem/whatever else you have, and offer them some quick ideas, dates and/or locations in terms of photoshoot possibilities for the both of you to collaborate on. The same can be done if you find people in your country/area on DeviantArt, 500px, Twitter, or whatever else you browse. Facebook is amazing in terms of finding amateur/upcoming and also professional models. Most models make a Facebook page for themselves, so that people can follow them easily, without needing to be their "friend" etc. There are also a plethora of photography/modeling groups made on Facebook for various areas throughout the world. Even here in North Carolina there are plenty, and I know there are dozens for the Parisian region and other European areas. These groups offer you the chance to network with other creative minds in your area, and you should embrace this opportunity!! Many of them also have professional photographers who host workshops to help upcoming photographers. You could find some amazing models to work with that you might have never come across otherwise. In my opinion this is easier than going through agencies, etc, but then again, this is just a matter of personal preference, and what you're looking for.
I'm gonna stop here so I don't end up babbling too much. I hope some of these tips will be helpful to someone, and that my opinion doesn't offend anyone too much