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How to contact Modelling Agencies for Photoshoots?

How to contact Modelling Agencies for Photoshoots?

November 4, 2016

At some stage, most fashion or portrait photographers want to get serious about working with the best in the industry. This means finding models who are signed to agencies, who have been hand-picked for their suitability. They are likely to be more experienced and more professional than most unsigned models out there, by virtue of the fact that they have the full training of the agency behind them. Many will even have worked as unsigned models before getting signed.

But how do you get to work with these models? You can pay them an hourly rate to appear in a photoshoot for you, which is a standard route to take if you have a particular job to fulfil. But for portfolio building purposes, you most likely want to shoot for free. To do that, you have to get in touch with the agency about test shooting. Here’s what you need to do to get a positive response.

Photo by Atikh Bana

Photo by Atikh Bana

Build a book

First of all, you need to build a book. You can get this done quickly by spending a little money, or you can try to build it up for free. These shots will have to be done with unsigned models to try and capture a portfolio which will impress the agency. But like any potential client, you have to dress up your portfolio to be something that attracts them specifically.

To do this, you can browse the agency site and get some idea of their expectations. What kind of shots do they use to showcase their models? Normally you will see a lot of plain portraits, often in black and white. Models may also pose in lingerie to show their body type, and extreme make-up or posing is normally only included if it is an impressive tearsheet.

This should give you some information about what you need to show the agency. Get together a collection of strong and interesting headshots and portraits. Make sure that your technical ability and post-production are up to scratch. You need around 8 to 10 perfect examples to send to them.

Find out who to contact

Who do you speak to at the agency? Well, first off, you’re most likely to be able to get a shoot booked in with a new face. New faces are newly signed models at the agency, and they often have limited books themselves. This makes them perfect candidates to shoot with you for free, as they will benefit from getting new images in their portfolio.

Find out who is in charge of new faces and get their email address plus their telephone number. This is who you are going to need to talk to, and you might need to try contacting them in more ways than one. If you can’t find the information on the website, consider calling in to get it. Agencies field these kinds of requests all the time, so you won’t have any problems.

Draft your email

Make sure that you put together an email which is short, sweet, and to the point. Agencies don’t like to have their time wasted, and it’s good to know that you are serious. Make a quick introduction to yourself, at which point you can name any significant recent achievements – but don’t tell them your life story. Let them know that you are enquiring about test shoots with new faces, and include a date and time that you would like to shoot.

It’s also a great idea to tell them what you intend to shoot. Let them know that you are able to provide a simple and clean headshot or two with minimal make up as this is what they are really looking for. If you are confident in your abilities, let them know that you would also like to try getting the finished images published in a magazine, as this will pique their interest.

Finally, attach your example images. These are best embedded in the email itself so that they can be seen at a glance. If you have to add them as attachments separate to the body, put them into a PDF file for easier viewing. A booker does not have time to individually download and view 10 images.

Follow up

If you don’t hear back from them, what do you do? You can chase up with a second polite email asking them if they have had a chance to review your first. It will be much more effective, however, if you give them a call. Let them know that you have already sent an email as they may wish to track it down in their inbox and check it while you talk. You can show them that you are dedicated and serious, as well as putting a bit of personality to your name. You can also request to meet up with them. If you do, be sure to have your portfolio ready and printed nicely to show them (or at least pre-prepared on your tablet).

At the meeting

Make sure that you treat the meeting like a job interview, because it kind of is. You want to show to the booker that you are a serious photographer that they can rely on to produce great images. Remember that setting up a working relationship could lead to great things in the future. If you are good at what you do, then test shoots today could turn into official agency photography down the road. Dress smartly, be professional, and emphasise your wish to create a working relationship.

Later on, whether you meet or just agree things over the phone or email, you’ll want to choose models. When you have been sent the comp cards, choose two models. Why? Because this is standard industry practice. One is your main model, and the other is your back-up. Doing it this way shows that you do know what you are doing. Be sure to include a call sheet as well to finalise everything.

Getting to work with an agency for the first time is nerve-wracking, and you may even receive some rejections before you get it right. But once you know what you are doing, you’ll be well positioned to work with some of the best emerging models in the industry. It’s well worth taking that plunge to working with signed professionals!


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