COLLABORATIVE COMMUNICATION: Best Practices for Contacting a Model to Shoot - Live with Cassondra
May 13, 2019 | By: Justin Gamble
I’ve been trying to find time to write this post for a couple of weeks now. But as I’m sure a lot of you know, life happens and things like blogging just get pushed to the side. Either way, I’m finally getting around to it and I’m so excited to share this conversation I had with Cassondra on Instagram Live!
I'm going to paraphrase the live video as closely as I can and cover what I felt were the most important parts of our nearly hour long talk. There were honestly a lot of important talking points, but I felt like these thoughts needed to be shared longer than 24 hours on my story.
Setting the Stage for Collaborations:
J: What do you look for when deciding to work with a photographer who contacts you?
C: The first thing I look at is the person’s Instagram profile. If their profile isn’t a photography Instagram and it’s full of selfies, pictures of your car, or pictures of your dog, I safely can assume that it’s probably not worth my time and there’s a possibility it could be unsafe.
You can have a separate page for your family, pets, and cars, but if you claim to be a professional photographer, you need to have an Instagram portfolio. It should be pretty common knowledge that models will look through your work to see if it’s worth their time to collaborate or see what they might gain out of shooting with you.
J: What about messages? Like what should a photographer include in a message when they contact you to shoot?
C: Always include your name, especially if it’s not in your Instagram @.
J: I agree, I see a lot of photographers that use a business name on their page, but don’t include their first or last name anywhere on your profile. So how do you know who’s even contacting you? I think it’s important to have your name in your bio if it’s not your @ just so people know who they’re talking to, and not just a faceless business.
C: Yeah, tell me your name, tell me why you want to shoot with me… Message someone prepared with an idea for a shoot. If you’re asking someone to do a photo shoot with you whether a model or a photographer, you should be the one with the idea. Don’t depend on the person you contacted to be the driving force behind the shoot.
Give as many details about the shoot as you can (date, time, location, inspiration, outfit ideas) and keep it professional. You never need to call a model sexy. You can ask if they’re comfortable with doing a sexy shoot or if they can give you a sexy vibe during a shoot, but don’t sexualize the person you’re trying to work with on a professional level.
J: Honestly, sexy doesn’t ever need to be used as a descriptor. You can suggest doing a boudoir style shoot instead of calling it sexy and you’ll come off much more professional.
Back to the initial topic though. This idea works both ways. If a model contacts me, I decided if it’s someone worth collaborating with based off their profile and the content of their message. The message and the value they provide are my two determining factors.
Also, use proper grammar, and don’t call me baby in a message when asking me to shoot (that’s happened). There’s a certain level of professionalism that both parties need to uphold.
I’m sure female photographers get this all the time too. The “you’re beautiful let’s shoot” message. Okay… really don’t do this. This is the photographer, commenting on their appearance and physical attributes is not necessary.
C: A professional message will get me to look at your page. The next thing I do is look at your page to see who you’ve shot with. Do I know anyone you’ve worked with? Do I like the edits? Is your work high quality? Is it something that’s on par or better than what I’m doing? Because it’s not worth it for me or any other business person to go under par for free. I look at experience, I look at connections, I look at follower count, I look at engagement rate.
Collaboration Proposal (Collabing or Sending Rates):
C: If you’re a new photographer, don’t be offended if a model sends you their rates. Don’t be offended when I’ve been doing this for 4-5 years and I’m at the point where I can charge for my services. And if a model does send you their rates, handle your response professionally. A person who says, “Hey that’s really great that you’re charging, unfortunately I just don’t have that in my budget,” I’m a lot more likely to work with them in the future or figure something out than if they handle it in a poor way.
J: It’s the same way with photographers sending people rates. Don’t be offended if I send my rates. It could be a project that doesn’t fit into my portfolio, I may have booked enough collaborations this month, I may have more knowledge of the industry or experience than you do, or I may feel that what I’m offering you is very valuable. I’m way more likely to work with a person’s budget or make time for a collaboration if you’re respectful and ask for my rates initially or respond to my rates by being polite and asking to collaborate at a later date.
Be realistic. If you’re just starting out in photography or modeling, don’t expect someone who’s been doing this for years to just work with you for free. Think about what you offer them vs what they offer you. Cassondra has been modeling for years, she has a large following on social media, her followers are active and engaged, she has published work, and she has connections to brands, models and some of the best area photographers. Someone just starting out gets a lot more out of working with Cassondra than she does from them, even if they’re providing her with content and photos.
Alternatively, I’ve been doing photography for 8 years now, have spent thousands of dollars at college learning about photography, purchased thousands of dollars worth of equipment, this is my main source of income, and I will guarantee a successful shoot. As a model who may just be starting out it’s a lot more work on my end to help with posing, explaining working with lighting and emotions to convey.
C: This doesn’t mean don’t do things for free or don’t ask to collaborate. Many of us used to only do work for free and many people who charge will still take on certain collaborations. Don’t be afraid to DM someone with a large following and ask, just handle yourself professionally. You’ll be surprised by answers you might get back.
Don’t give up learning new techniques and learning how to edit or pose. Educate yourself, attend conferences and workshops. Create value for yourself.
Photo Shoot Prepping and Expectations:
C: Stick to what you plan. Typically I’ll bring 2-3 outfits per hour we shoot. You should communicate outfits with your photographer and the plans for them. You should know what you’re doing. Never go to a shoot and not know what you’re doing because that’s how you get stuck in a situation where they’re like, “well I thought we agreed on boudoir, or naked in the lake in a woods”. And that’s a murder waiting to happen, don’t do that. So be ready, know what you’re doing, always be prepared.
An awkward part of photography is being in public and needing to change. Bring a blanket or a towel to cover up with or change in your car. Photographers, it’s okay to ask and make sure a model is comfortable or offer a way to help make them feel more comfortable. Be conscious of things, help your models find a safe place to change, make sure they don’t feel at risk.
I worked with this guy for the first time, nobody was able to come with me, I’d shared my location with all my friends, sent his contact info to them all too. (Also a smart thing to do). I get there and we’re at a deserted beach, and he looked at me right away and was like honestly I thought there would be a lot of people here, if you don’t want to shoot here or don’t feel safe we can shoot somewhere else. And immediately when he said that, I was like I feel safe now. He was aware that this was something that could look a little creepy and he’s addressing it before I did and he’s even saying if this is too much we can go somewhere else. And you know what? We did our shoot, we had fun, and I would shoot with him again.
This goes for photographers as well. Models, don’t just assume photographers are going to be okay with you doing a naked shoot. You have to ask. Everybody involved has to be onboard with what you’re doing.
J: Another thing about making sure everyone comfortable is that if your model is uncomfortable, you’re not going to get good images out of a shoot. If the mode is uncomfortable your photos are going to look uncomfortable. So not only are you looking out for the person, you’re looking out for the greater good of the shoot too.
C: There are scary people in every industry, there’s a lot of scary people in the world. Ladies, gentlemen, anyone involved in modeling… you never need to take your clothes off EVER. You can if you’d like to, but you don’t need to. And any photographer who comes to you and says that the only way you will succeed in the business is by doing naked photoshoots, is a predator.
J: I’m gonna pause you again. Let’s talk a bit about this, because this is pretty relevant in both Columbus and Cleveland in regards to one specific photographer. Let’s talk about shoot behavior. Because a lot of what happened with this photographer took place at the shoots and not as much in initial contact with people.
C: This is true. Which is even scarier honestly because if this photographer would have messaged me these things, I would have never gone. But the messages were fine, his work was great, I saw that he worked with people that I knew…
Bring a friend if you’re shooting for the first time, always.
J: I’ll touch on that too. Photographers, if your model asks if they can bring someone with them to a shoot because they’ll be more comfortable, let them. It’s a safety thing, they’ll feel more comfortable about shooting, it’s not going to affect the shoot any differently. Whether it’s their boyfriend, their best friend, whoever they decide to bring, it shouldn’t matter.
C: Honestly, bring a reflector, give them something to do while you’re shooting. I’ve had friends come with me that have had to hold lights or reflectors and afterwards they’re always like that was so fun. And that’s another person who’s going to tell more people about you and your shoots. The only reason somebody wouldn’t want you to bring someone to a shoot is if something sketchy is happening.
Models, and photographers, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who’s worked with someone in the past that you’re thinking about working with. I’ve reached out to models and been like, hey I saw you worked with his guy, how did it go? What was it like? How did the shoot make you feel? And usually they’re like oh it was great.
I’ve had models reach out to me for that also and, yes, please do it. If you’re a model and have seen that I’ve worked with Justin or whoever, please dm me and ask me about it I will tell you how the shoot went. I will be honest with you and be like yeah I’ll shoot with them any time they ask or no do not shoot with that person. Don’t be afraid to do that.
J: And as a photographer, I would encourage models to do that as well. Especially because there are people out there who will take advantage if you. They’re out there and it’s something you need to be cautious of. Especially if you’re newer and don’t know a ton of people in the industry. It’s just important to ask and get a second opinion on a person before you get yourself into a situation. Because that’s how you get into situations like the guy we talked about earlier that went after a bunch of girls who had never modeled before, and invited them to shoot and put them in situations they weren’t comfortable in. It was not okay, but asking other people first can help you avoid things like that.
If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to follow me on Instagram - @whatsupimjustin for more and follow Cassondra - @cassondra_1118 to see more of her work.