How to get a model to pose for you (and where to find one).

Many amateurs ask me where I find the models, how much they charge, how to convince them to pose for free (that partially answers question #2).

Here is a guide to finding, convincing and working with models.

First of all, notice that I said working with, not hitting on, flirting or hooking up with models. This has to be very clear in your mind: if you want to obtain results and get people to work with you again, you must be professional. This implies that you are very clear with your motivations: I've met too many males self proclaimed photographers thinking "what a great opportunity to get hot chicks undressing at my place". Yes photography is in a way voyeurism and contemplation, but it's because it remains within the artistic frame (of the photographic activity) that it is interesting.

If you think you can hide your true intentions, well you're a fool. Experienced models can recognize a chancer (i.e some guy who'll make a move "just in case").

One more thing to keep in mind : models share opinions, list bad photographers etc. Quickly you'll only be able to hire only new comers, younger naive girls since the savvy ones will have blacklisted you.

If you think this is a dating activity, give up photography and buy this book. Then get a life.

1/ Where to get started?
This being said, let's start by the main site that I use : . It's free (of course some pay-to options but they are not essential), and you can search by geographic location. There are many more site, depending on your country, but I found them all either outdated (unactive models) or a little spammy. Modem Mayhem (or MM) is as far as I know the best. Its forums are pretty rich too.

An other option consists in asking around. We all know a girl that would look great and would be happy or flattered to help. However, the "hot chick" is not always the good model around you. Ask someone you sort of tested for her photogenic quality (by taking a few pics at some occasion).

I would recommend trying friends first for one reason : you want your first hired model pics to be useful and convincing to others. Friends are great because you can try more, still have a good time with them, no one 's wasting its time.

2/ The Importance of a good portfolio.
Now the most important thing: your portfolio. You will have models asking for you if you have a portfolio in which they want to be. There are as many photographic desires as there are models. A fetish model is likely to look at completely different portfolios than a catwalk / fashion model. Just do what you like to do as a photographer, and look for girls who share your sensitivity.

If you force a fetish model into a classic fashion shoot, she'll be bored and unable to use it in her portfolio. Pointless.

Back to the portfolio: a very clean professional looking site will help a lot. Why? because it means that you are serious enough about it to spend time & money on a nicely done site. Remember to only show your best work, even if it means only 15 photos on the site.

At this stage, I usually just need to say Hi and send my site URL to get an agreement, my work speaks for me.

3/ Asking strangers
Sometime you see the one girl in the street, in a shop, that would be fantastic. What you need there is a way to make a impression quick: a business card is more that recommended, same idea as the site.
It will be easier if you are a lady photographer of course, since the girl won't think it's a cheap trick. I personally only had one girl accepting to share her contact information, when I asked her with my GF around. It does help.

I asked that lady when buying from the store she works in. My GF backed me up :)

4/ What if you do want to shoot nude?
I've only done very few nude photo shoots, but I got some sense of what to avoid. First of all, even if you're hiring a girl that advertises nude posing, avoid the direct approach. Show your work first, ask for her terms, then introduce the idea. Even if she states that she does it doesn't mean you can't be a gentleman about it. In the end she will get naked in front of you; the more you show a class attitude, the better.

Some girls don't give a flying fuck, they'll just ask for a price. Ok, whatever.

In many cases for an amateur, it's better to work with the girl once, make her happy with both the shots and your attitude, then ask again.

If the model specifies she does not shoot nude, don't ask, she put it for a reason.

A few more things:

  • Have a clean room where she can change with a door that locks. 
  • Make her sign a right release contract. So both of you clearly know what they can / can't do with the pics.
  • During the photo shoot: don't stare like you've never seen boobies before. Please. You can look carefully when framing anyway, so once again, behave like a gentleman. Even if the girls seems to be playful, she is playing with the camera, not you. 
  • Always accept if she wants to bring a friend, suggest it actually, but prefer someone who is not 
    • the boyfriend or the dad, they might interfere for no reason (I've had a BF on a band shooting acting like he was the freaking artistic director)
    • 4 of them. They will be the dominating group of your workspace. 1 friend is enough.

5/ Should you pay?
It depends : can you ? what do you want?
If you're a pro, of course you'll pay. It's a job, you pay for assets and raw material. You might not pay only if she is no one and you are Ryan Mc Ginley and you're doing her a favor.

If you're an amateur, well you can pay if you are rich, or for nude / erotic shots, but otherwise you should be able to agree of a TPF kind of job. TFP = time for prints.

I'll be very clear here : not every one has talent. If you do, you won't have to pay amateur models because the shots they get from you are valuable. 
If you suck and persist, you might have to pay more often than desired.

How much? I've seen girls asking from $30/hour up to $200/hour (like my former flatmate who was doing runway modeling for Valentino, without being a super star model).
For nude, many will ask for at least 200 a session.