Whether you are looking to start your family photography business or wanting to revamp your style and update your portfolio, model calls are an extremely important part of your journey as a family photographer.
When I first started my business I started by educating myself through free tutorials on Youtube, then moved on to paid courses from some of the photographers I admire and respect in the industry. One of the first people I learnt from was Elena S. Blair. Her laid back and authentic style comes across so beautifully and I just knew I had to invest in some education with her. What I didn’t know was that she was going to give me advice that would shape my business. Elena said during one of her courses –” do it at full price or do it for free”.
It was at that moment that I decided that I was not going to start charging for family photos until I could charge what I believed my work was worth. Following Elena’s advice and through a lot of trial and error I developed a system for model calls that lead me to getting in touch with people who truly value my work and my time. Want to know how? Here are some tips:
How to Advertise Model Calls
A lot of people ask me how to advertise for model calls. They tell me they have tried so many different things and they end up either not getting the ideal candidates or wasting time with families who don’t show up. I totally get it, that used to happen with me at the beginning too. So I decided to try different tactics and this is what’s worked best for me.
- Be very clear with your description when advertising – make sure to include details like how many photos the family will get for free, if they will be required to purchase clothes ( see some tips for styling here) for the session, the particular feel of the session you are looking to shoot.
- Make sure to include some examples of your work so that people can get excited about working with you
- Regardless of where you decide to advertise your model call, create a google form for them to apply through. ( here’s mine, you are welcome to copy it)
- Some great places to advertise your model calls are – Instagram ( if you have a good local following), Facebook mom groups (make sure to check the groups guidelines), Nextdoor and your email list
How to Choose the Right Family
If you follow the steps above, you are very likely to get a good number of applications for your model call, I usually get at least 30. Quantity is great, but what you really need is quality. Go through all the form answers and look for the following:
- people who do not give you much information – I eliminate those applications straight away. I want people who are excited and invested in the process
- those who say their main reason for applying for the model call is because it’s free. Of course I understand that is a big factor, but I want to work with people who want a photoshoot done by me because they like my work
- people who are super excited about working with YOU, talk about your work and use words to describe what they want that are similar to the words you use to describe your photos
- families who tell you about their stories, they will be more likely to be vulnerable during the session
- If they said they never had family photos before because they weren’t sure how their kids would behave or have body insecurities – this is your chance to show them they can have an amazing experience
Even if you are only looking for one family, make sure to shortlist at least three families. Talk to them, discuss in detail any investment requirements ( for clothing and accessories), the feel of the session you are looking to achieve ( specially if it includes nudity or little clothing). A lot of times people will apply for things like this without thinking much or won’t read the whole description before applying.
Now, this is very important – if you sense they are hesitant about one or more aspects of the shoot, try to understand why that is. Treat these families as you would treat your paying clients. Hear them out, be understanding and kind. However, that does not mean you have to compromise your artistic vision for the project.
For example, a lot of times families who apply to my model calls ask me if they can use items of clothing they already have. Even though I usually have a very specific look in mind, I hear them out, let them show me their choices.
If you can’t come to an agreement with the family you selected you can kindly and politely say something like “ for this particular project I have something very specific in mind. I completely understand if you are unable to purchase these pieces right now or if you don’t feel comfortable wearing them. I will be happy to contact you when I have another model call opportunity.”
Now you might ask me, why would I even bother with all of this for a free session?
Well, because I believe that everyone is worthy of being treated with respect and because anybody can be a potential client, one way or another. Maybe this person can’t afford your services right now but in a couple of years they might be in a different situation and will be able to. Maybe they know other people who might want a recommendation for a family photographer. So many different situations when this person might actually have an impact on your business. Be kind, you can’t go wrong with that.
After you Choose the Family
So you finally found a great family who is willing and able to purchase the outfits, travel to the location you chose, etc.
Make sure to send them very specific information for the styling, specific links for the pieces you want. Ask them to let you know when they receive the clothes so that you can set a date.
- Only set a date once they can send you a picture of all the outfits
- Send a model release contract ALWAYS. This will give you the rights to use the pictures as well as specify what the model is and isn’t allowed to do with them
- Make sure all adults sign the release and the names of the kids are in the contract
- I use a Law Tog contract that I send through my CRM system for ease of access
During the Session
Treat this family with the same respect and professionalism you would any of your paid clients. Like I said before, you never know if they might turn into clients, but also, it’s the right thing to do.
Having said that, here are some things you can do during a model session that you might not feel confident to do during a paid session:
- Try new techniques
- Try new lenses and other equipment
- New skills like video or gif making
After the Session
Make sure you let your models know to follow you on social media and that you will be posting sneak peaks there. They will be really excited about seeing the photos and will most likely share on their profile.
Let them know how long they expect to wait for their photos and stick with the due date. Always better to under promise and over deliver.
When the gallery is ready, specify on the email that it would be really helpful for them to post the pictures on social media and tag you (provide them with your links to make it easier).
Keep in touch via social media. Build a relationship with them. Even if they can’t afford to hire you, you will be on the top of their mind when someone mentions they need a photographer.
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